Friday, October 9, 2009

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kit...oh, who am I kidding?

It's been a really crappy couple of weeks. Really crappy. Bad weather, bad interviews, bad allergies, the list goes on. All of this bad reached it's culmination last weekend when my sister suffered a miscarriage at nearly five months. It made every other bad thing seem insignificant. I travelled home for an undetermined amount of time to do exactly what she needed me to do: sit, wait, cry, hold her hand, watch movies, clean her fridge (another blog, another time), and look for the silver lining.

Looking for the silver lining turned my attention from sadness to sunshine and made me seek out what it is that truly make me smile. So, here you go...these are a few of my favorite things:

My nephew. Joss. The J-Bear. He is amazing. Smart, funny, silly and cute to boot. I let him eat marshmallows for breakfast.

Being driven around. I hate driving. I'm not very good at it, either. This must be why I often opt for a cab.

Sunglasses. All of them. The bigger and darker the better. I like that no one can see my eyes.

Dairy. Sure, I'm lactose intolerant, but I like a little guilty pleasure and a Mocha Frappuccino every once in a while is totally worth it.

Motown. Those who know me well are aware of my Diana Ross obsession.

Clean bedding. I love the feeling of crawling into a bed just made with freshly laundered sheets. I also spray my comforter and pillows with lavender vanilla Febreeze before I put the duvet and pillow cases on. One more thing: before I get in to said clean bed, I have to take a shower and wash my hair.

Swear words. A high school/Facebook friend got me thinking about this today. He used the term "effin" in his status. I quickly posted a short rant about my appreciation for a well-timed, appropriate dropping of the F-bomb. I like 'em. I just do. I received validation when he then posted what he really wanted to say. Made me smile.

Genuine people. I don't care if you're outspoken, brash or even a little bit rude, just don't be fake. Be real with me. I like seeing who people really are. My friends run the gamut: bitches, douchebags, dumbasses, smartasses, princesses, possessors or superiority complexes, eternal optimists, realists, cynics, pushovers, you name it. I like all of them for who they are.

Television. I really like television. I especially like watching it late at night when it's too late to vacuum or walk around my neighborhood, which, incidentally, happen to be two more of my favorite things.

"If there are two things America needs right now, it's sunshine and optimism. Also angels." - Rachel Berry, Glee!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Everything old becomes new again.

dress: C & C California (3 years old!); sweater: Sleeping on Snow (bought last year for $22 at Anthropologie!); shoes: BCBG Girls (goin' on 4 years...super comfy and re-heeled twice!); necklace: Express (purchased with my sweet employee discount 5+ years ago)
floral top: French Connection (bought on major clearance at Bloomie's 2 years ago!); sweater: H & M (cute, cheap and 3 years old); pencil skirt: Express (another great employee purchase from 5 years back!) shoes: Madden Girl (God love DSW, still cute after 2 years)
blouse: Express (Ruffles. Been lovin' 'em for years!); sweater: Banana Republic ( a timeless classic bought last year); Express pencil skirt; shoes: Arturo Chang (my big shoe splurge last fall...can't wait to rock these with tights this year!)
dress: Jovovich/Hawk for Target (Twenty bucks two years ago!); sweater: (bought at The Garment District in Fort Collins, CO in 2001, pricey, but obviously worth it!); belt: Express (5+ years old and still awesome); boots: Fornarina (I have these in black, too. I'm normally against duplicates, but these are comfortable, versatile and my Shoe Girl at Nordstrom gave me an AWESOME deal!)
floral top: still French Connection and still one of my favorite pieces!; skirt: Gap (circa 2003, can you believe? A birthday gift from Aunt Patti); belt: came with a twenty dollar dress from Forever 21!; shoes: Aldo (purchased 2+ years ago, a black patent peep toe stiletto will ALWAYS be fabulous!)

I've been really in to trying to make the most of my wardrobe lately. A true fashionista, I've never cared much for the trends. I like to be current, but more important, I like to be me. I know what works for me. I know what works for you, too. It's great to love fashion and hit the streets in the hottest trends, but if those hot trends don't make you look your best, go back to the drawing board! I'm very sentimental about my clothes, so I've been reworking my oldies-but-goodies in Fashionista-turns-Recessionista style and I'm loving it! Check it out!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Musings on J. Crew...

I get a new J. Crew catalog every week in the mail. I won't lie. I love it. Every page is exciting, different, fresh and amazing. There's a coolness to J. Crew, once a company whose purpose was to provide moms everywhere with classic essentials, it has morphed into the definition of "street chic" and "effortless cool." We haven't seen a transformation of this magnitude since Christopher Bailey took the reigns at Burberry in 2002 taking it from uptight British countryside wardrobe staples to an international symbol of luxury and style. They tell us that it's ok to wear Chuck Taylor's and Jack Purcell's with business suits. They encourage us to wear argyle socks with peep toe heels (one of my favorites!) and destroyed denim.

The men are attainable and ubercool. The perfect mix of handsome: a little scruffy yet impeccably put together. Every woman wants to wake up, throw on her Boyfriend jeans and a tissue tee and walk into her breezy white kitchen to find him making scrambled eggs in a cast iron skillet. The women have that perfect look: effortless and comfortable, yet fabulous and chic. She takes fashion risks, but never goes too far. She's a real girl, too, often having crow's feet or a gap between her two front teeth. She always looks pulled together, but never looks as though she tries too hard.

So why does this feeling go away when I open those glass double doors and walk into the giant cedar closet that is a J. Crew store? I started thinking about this recently because I need to buy a dress for a wedding and, as usual, I hate everything that I was considering wearing. I don't actually hate it, I just hate it for this particular event. I yearn to look like one of those women in the catalog: Audrey Hepburn-esque, but with an edge.

Every time, I tear through the store like a hurricane, desperately seeking the fabulousness that gets delivered to my home weekly, but my heart drops. I don't see it. It's not there. It's never there. Sure, almost everything I see in the catalog is there...but it's not there. The catalog is fantasy and the store is reality. The catalog is the amazing appetizer that leads up to a mediocre dinner, the hilarious trailer at the movies before the C- film I just paid thirteen dollars (plus Sour Patch Kids) to see, the first date, the best book in a series, a discontinued lipstick whose replacement color is never as good.

It's so disappointing to me that a company whose product, styling, sense of humor and uniqueness fails to capture my heart, my attention and my dollars in the same way that their catalog does. Have merchants become so lazy in their roles that they have lost the ability to create or is it the corporate side of retail that puts so much value on a perfectly folded stack of sweaters that there is no time left for creativity. I wonder...

Anyway, I'm off to order the same dress in three sizes, five different jewelry options and two pairs of shoes from my fabulous J. Crew catalog. This would be so much easier if I was as inspired inside the store...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My life would be perfect if...

I had a job that I found fulfilling and rewarding; I had gotten accepted to Northwestern for grad school; I knew what I really wanted to do for a living; I was motivated enough to run every day; I weren't prone to sinus infections; the city of Chicago actually functioned; I was able to see friends who live elsewhere more often; I didn't procrastinate; I didn't care what others thought of me; I could cook; I could get my wardrobe consulting business up and running; I could keep my mouth shut; I was six inches taller; I didn't feel like Miranda on Sex and the City; I had a bigger bed; I could shop for home decor and actually buy what I love; I could get a blowout every week; I made time for yoga every morning; I went to bed before midnight; I made time to read every day; I committed to volunteering; my hair was wavy; my dog didn't snore; my teeth were whiter; I truly had an interest in art (I love museums, but I never feel like I understand the art); I could implant my blackberry in the palm of my hand; I could have closure with my first love; I had my own boat; I didn't have an addiction to over-priced but fabulous shoes; I could play the piano (well); I could write (and finish!) my memoir, get it published and become famous.

Just a little to-do list.  I love lists.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If chivalry is dead, customer service must be six feet under, getting eaten by worms.

Ever since I walked away from the retail world, I find that I have a heightened feeling of frustration with stores, sales associates and a general decline in something that I am very passionate about: customer service.  I find myself thinking, if I had behaved this way, I would have been fired!

So what's the cause for this rapid decline?  Has it really been a rapid decline or a slow decent into a consumer acceptance of poor service that I was too wrapped up in to notice?  After much thought, I realized that, although there are companies that do not prioritize great customer service, it has only just recently become "the norm."

It seems that every store that I walk in to, from my neighborhood Jewel to Barney's, is constantly reaching a new low.  I was at Jewel just the other day (grocery shopping for those of you non-Chicagoans) picking up a few pantry essentials.  I hopped into the express lane (15 items or less) hoping to avoid what is normally a hideously long wait at any time of the day. Annoyance set in after about ten minutes, as the cashier lazily scanned items while carrying on a conversation with the cashier manning the lane next to hers.  Realizing that it was too late to switch lanes, I continued to wait.  When I finally reached the checkout and pulled my debit card out of my wallet to pay, she rudely informed me that she was only accepting cash because she was having a problem with her "credit card thingy."  Excuse me?  Wouldn't this information have been helpful before I had gotten in this line?

Now, this situation really made me examine who and what is responsible for this kind of behavior.  Granted, the girl was rude, but really, this situation had little to do with her.  She wasn't the most poised or elegant messenger, but she was, simply, the messenger. There were at least ten customers in line and until I freaked out and passed the disturbing information I had just received on to the woman behind me and so on, nothing had been done to inform customers of the situation, remedy the problem or appease frustrated patrons.

This leads us to my theory:  You get back what you put out there.  There wasn't a manager, a supervisor, or even an employee who gave a damn about anything anywhere to be found.  The cashier clearly had no one to reach out to for help and most likely had received little if any instruction or training in customer service.  What a shame.  It's sad to see this decline and even worse to be slapped in the face by it every time you need to make a purchase.

Back to my theory.  The retail world, like most other professional arenas, is a cold, harsh place. Many retailers fail to explore what really hurts their business by playing what I call "the blame game."  The point is to find someone, anyone, to blame.  The sad thing is that the people who most often take the blame are the ones at the bottom of the totem pole, the ones who get paid the least, have the highest expectations and most often, receive the lowest quality training.  You get back what you put out there.  If you fail to properly train your staff, whose fault is it when they fail to live up to company standards?  When you pay your employees pennies above minimum wage, do they really feel valued and inspired to go above and beyond?  When the head honcho plays the blame game, does it set an acceptable standard for those running the daily operations?  

The disturbing decline in high customer service standards, or  any customer service standards as of late is due to a trickle down effect set in motion by a culture of people constantly seeking out opportunities to find someone else to blame, from the CEO, to the regional director, to the district manager, to the management team all the way down to the part time associates.  

I don't necessarily believe the mantra "the customer is always right," because in seven years of retail management, I have witnessed and experienced first hand more than a couple of situations where the customer was most definitely not right, but was still able to manage the situation and in most cases, resolve any issues while maintaining a positive relationship with those customers going forward.  My mantra is "treat challenging customers as you would wish to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot."

People wonder why retailers (even Target!) that sell necessities like groceries are struggling in these rough times.  It all comes down to CUSTOMER SERVICE.  Why should I pay to be disrespected?  My expendable income is not what it once was and I, like many, refuse to hand over my hard-earned dollars to some snotty sales associate, undoubtedly a product of low pay, poor training and a complete lack of leadership in the work environment.

Good customer service is the key.  This is so simple.  During a recession, the companies that are not only surviving, but growing and thriving are those who recognize the value of treating people with respect, both external and internal (employees) customers.  I know I'm not the only person out there who feels this way and hopefully, my next job with value customer service as much as I do. That is a place where I want to work!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Can we talk about Bravo TV for a minute?

OK, so I'm pretty much a late-night, just because I'm bored TV watcher.  I invest the fifteen bucks a month for DVR service because, although I do enjoy some television, I pity people whose lives revolve around watching it.  Sure, I partake in a weekly Bachelorette night with girlfriends, but that's much more about cocktails and bitching than the actual show.  I like to get out there and indulge in a little human interaction and then come home and see if I missed anything good. Ninety percent of the time, I wind up watching five minutes of a show and then deleting it.  This has been a pattern ever since I convinced my parents about four years ago that life was not livable without TiVo, and I must demand that they purchase one for me as a Christmas gift.  It was only recently that I found that the only things worth watching are on Bravo, and everything on the channel is amazing, and by amazing, I mean completely over the top, ridiculous and addictive.

I love it.  All of it.  From The Real Housewives franchise, to Top Chef, to my new favorite, NYC Prep.  I even watched The Fashion Show, and Isaac Mizrahi makes my stomach churn.  I do, however, like Kelly Rowland.  She seems nice.  Anyway, my point is, I've realized that aside from 30 Rock and The Office, both on hiatus for the summer and my favorite HBO  and Showtime series (which I Netflix), there's nothing on TV.  Nothing but theses fabulously juicy, completely unrealistic "reality shows" that much to my dismay, are the only thing keeping my attention as of late.  I even put down this month's Vogue last week in favor of catching up with my favorite spoiled, Upper East Side Manhattan teenagers.  What's wrong with me?

This recent obsession has forced me to question my own life, and I've decided that I am desperately in need of an escape from my reality.  I'm not saying that I want to be an over-indulged yet mildly vacant reality TV character, but there's something really fun about snuggling up on my couch and watching George and Lina fight on Miami Social or PC try to convince everyone watching that he's heterosexual on NYC Prep.  I used to scoff at these silly shows, but now I realize, they serve a purpose.  They're not supposed to be "real," or even funny, although they are funny in an uncomfortable, painful sort of way.  They're supposed to offer us a sneak peek into lives very different than the ones that most of us lead and show us that the grass isn't always greener.  

For me, my late-night Bravo TV rendezvous had made me cherish my life, my friends, my family, everthing, because,'s real. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Warning: If you're an ignorant asshole, this might offend you...

I've been catching a lot of flack lately for the fact that I am 31, unmarried and without children. Funny, right?  People are starting to look at me with pity and say things like, "Don't worry, it'll happen for you," "I'm sure you'll find're fabulous," and my personal favorite, "My girlfriend lost thirty pounds on the grapefruit juice diet and now she's engaged!!!"  You'd think that my ovaries are drying up, I'm starting to look like someone eligible for an AARP Card and I spend my evenings sitting alone on my couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry's every night watching Dance Your Ass Off on Oxygen.  Truth be told, I have plenty of time before I have to start harvesting and freezing my eggs, there isn't a wrinkle on my face, I'm lactose intolerant and I refuse to partake in the exploitation of fat people for the sake of tv aimed at making skinny people with low self esteem feel better about themselves. Sidenote: I cringed a little every time they ran the promo for that show where the adorable  but clearly unhappy blonde girl says, "I might just get a boyfriend!"

Anyway, let's get back to the situation at hand.  When did being unmarried and without children become incompetent, incapable and immature?  I SWEAR TO GOD, if one more person makes some stupid comment starting with "You wouldn't understand because you aren't married," or "You don't get it because you don't have kids," or "Just wait until you get married/have kids..." I'm going to lose my mind!!!

I don't appreciate people who are so ignorant that they equate intelligence, ability and maturity with marriage and motherhood.  Signing a piece of paper saying that you are legally bound to a man or woman or creating a life does not make you smarter, more understanding, more efficient and so on.  In fact, I know some incredibly stupid, immature people who have walked down the aisle, said "I do" and started a family.

I started feeling this way a few years back, six, to be exact, when my sister got married.  She had always been a bit of what some may call a black sheep.  I call her awesome.  A true individual, Sarah Kate has always been nothing less than 100% herself, never changing who she is and what she believes in to please others.  She ruffled many-a-feather back in the day, but the opinions of family and friends changed when she got married.  She was suddenly "a responsible adult." Hmm...interesting.  I had graduated from college, made the move to Chicago and was quickly establishing myself and beginning to build my career, but Sarah Kate, only three years my senior, was grown and I was still considered a child.

A couple of years passed and I found myself attending a family reunion.  For those who know me well,  you know that I avoid these things like the plague for this very reason.  I had an incredibly disturbing conversation with a family member only further proving my point.  He asked me what I was doing in Chicago and I pleasantly replied that I was working for a clothing retailer as a Visual Merchandising Manager and living in Lincoln Park.  I had been living in Chicago for nearly three years at this point and was doing quite well.  This was his response: "That's nice, but it's going to be really difficult to make it when your father isn't supporting you and paying your bills anymore."  Dumbfounded, I walked away thinking, this coming from a man whose 30-something son lives with and is supported by his grandmother?  Who the hell does he think he is?  Why would he possibly think that my father was supporting me and paying my bills?  Of course, I couldn't possibly be successful enough on my own to live alone in Chicago with no husband to support me.  I couldn't possibly be capable of that.

Fast-forward a couple of years.  One of my dearest friends gets engaged.  I have nothing but feelings of happiness for her as I absolutely adore her now husband and couldn't have been more ecstatic when she asked me to be a bridesmaid.  She was a dream bride: easygoing, fun and determined to make her wedding a great experience for everyone involved.  Unfortunately, most of her bridesmaids didn't share her vision.  I'm not saying everyone sucked, because that is truly not the case, but there were a couple who were hell-bent on disparaging everything that I said and suggested based on the fact that I wasn't married.  Never mind the fact that she was about my umpteenth friend to get married and I was no stranger to planning and attending showers, luncheons, bachelorette parties and weddings.  I thanked God when she chucked the whole thing and opted for a low-key destination wedding.

Now we find ourselves in the here and now.  I was at a bridal shower a couple of weeks back honoring a friend of mine who I have known for about five years.  She was a childhood friend of a great friend of mine whom I met while working at my first post-college job.  We've become closer in the past couple of years and, although I won't be standing up in her wedding, I did help pick the dress and I can assure you, it is fabulous!  Knowing her as well as we do, we spent an afternoon shopping for the perfect shower gift.  Choosing to forgo the Crate & Barrel registry, we bought an incredible hand-painted platter at one of her (and my) favorite stores, Anthropologie.  Wrapped elegantly, we proudly presented the gift at her shower and, despite her obvious excitement regarding this most gorgeous gift, one of the ladies sitting next to me leaned over to her friend and whispered (loudly), "They just don't know any better.  Clearly, neither of them has been married or they would know it was inappropriate of give a gift that wasn't on the registry.  And going in on it together is cheap!"  That's right.  The bitch called me cheap.  For the record, a $118 platter is hardly cheap, but her polyester pantsuit?  That's another story.

Now I'm all fired up and ready to go three rounds with anyone rude or ignorant enough to imply that because I have yet to get married or reproduce, I don't know how to give a gift, build a sucessful career (in progress), afford my own home (done), car (done) or toiletries (here's to hopin') or cook an edible meal.  Although I have yet to give birth, ( thank you, Depo Provera!) I do know how to hold (and soothe) a baby, fix a bottle and change a diaper.  I know that being a mother is both a blessing for those who choose that path and the most frustrating and difficult job any woman can take on.  Even though I'm not married or even engaged, I understand the complicated dynamic of a relationship, seeing as I have been involved in one or two of them.  I'm not a child.  I understand that life is messy, relationships are difficult and that there is a time and place to laugh and a time an place to be serious.  I know how to (although I rarely do) hold my tongue and am proud to have built an incredible relationship with my family.  Although many have shared their opinions regarding the fact that they view my closeness to my mom, dad and sister as immaturity and dependence, I consider them to be my rock, my support, my biggest cheerleaders and lately, the only people in my life who don't view me as incompetent, incapable and immature.  To all the haters I say, "You just wouldn't understand my life because when you got married and had kids, you forgot how to have fun and live life and you're just jealous that you can't be me!"

I'd like to dedicate this blog to everyone in my life who doesn't act like an ignorant asshole and chooses to support my life choices instead of bash them, especially Julia, who reminds me daily that I'm really not missing out on anything.


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