The Princess of “Pea” Fame Goes Car Shopping


The Princess of “Pea” Fame Goes Car Shopping

2016 Kia Optima Views

2016 Kia Optima Views

Let there be no question, my acute oversensitivity has qualified me, at times, to be referred to as a “princess,” not necessarily with a positive spin, but, nonetheless, accurate.

Mattress pile

The Princess and the Pea sits atop her mattresses

No question that I need a new car; I feel as though I’m on borrowed time as the mileage grows and new problems arise in my soon-to-be 14 year old chariot. Everyone has a recommendation for me – some knowing my finances, simply suggest an uncomplicated base model car, some commend the certified pre-owned cars, and some think I can afford an entry level Mercedes or a Lexus. The car salesmen think I can make a decision with one test drive and the promise of 6 air bags and “No Money Down.” WRONG!! First and foremost, what determines my choice of car is the seat (so I might as well be buying a mattress or sofa) because my comfort while sitting is going to affect me physically in and out of the car. I know I’m not alone in my suffering with back and neck conditions – but here’s the good news, when the seat is properly contoured for my body – I’m good. My current “old” car was the last one I explored when I shopped 14 years ago – and the seat won. I am not testing any base model cars – for the most part I want a good number of bells and whistles forcing me to look at the top of the line in most models, i.e., leather-upholstered, 8+ way power heated seats; navigation, and a sunroof. Please don’t assume I’m a “spoiled princess.” I am in no way a self-indulgent shopaholic. As a matter of fact, I am extremely frugal and will sacrifice all kinds of niceties as well as necessities in life just to afford the creature comforts in my automotive domain or should I say “princessipality.”

2016 Toyota Camry

2016 Toyota Camry

Some cars are more esthetically pleasing in appearance, yet, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between them. For now, it’s only the seat that I am exploring. Here’s how the examination goes: First I let the salesman know the situation, a warning that this will not be an easy sale. I’ve observed that most compact cars, e.g., Subaru Impreza and Nissan Sentra do not have power seats even if afforded with heat. Mid-size it is. The first thing I do when seat testing is:

Kia Optima

Kia Optima

  • deflate the lumbar support (turn off);
  • lower the steering wheel as low as it goes;
  • raise the seat so that I can see over the dash;
  • adjust the headrest (if possible) so that I can lean back into the seat; and, believe it or not,
  • check to see if I can reach the seatbelt without breaking my arm.

At this point in my evaluation I have seen almost every mid-size car, but am not yet committed to nor “in love” with any seat so far. Every time I return to my “old” car with the perfect seat (as helped by my magic cushion), it’s like returning to an old lover, but in a relationship whose days are numbered. Here’s a quick rundown of the positives and just a few negatives I can share, assessed from cars I have sat in and test drove:
Price range for all 2015/16 models: $28,000 – $31,000.
Toyota Camry: When I use my “magic foam wedge” the seat is possibly “doable” (at the $$ top). Very nice paint job. Steering could be stiffer.
Nissan Altima: Attractive inside and out. Best interior display and tech gadgetry. Unremarkable paint job and ride.
Subaru Legacy: Best driving and handling car. Unimpressive hard-to-see dash.
Chevy Malibu: Fun to drive, nice to look at.
Acura ILX: Beautiful exterior design, nice interior, unimpressive drive and wholly inaccessible seatbelt.
Kia Optima: Lots of bells and whistles – need to test drive.
Hyundai Sonata: Did not enjoy test drive, low ceiling. Need to revisit.
Ford Fusion: Very comfortable seat, headrest not in my way; but leather seat on the soft side and cheap-looking (very American). Too many trim levels. Rear passenger seat was horrible. Need to test drive.

Unfortunately, my back is not going to get better and car designers are configuring seats that are more intrusive than submissive and non-restricting, so I feel the “pea.” It’s bad enough to toss and turn all night in bed, but to drive with such discomfort is just dangerous. The princess has spoken.

The Princess and the Pea Back Pain

Another sleepless night for the Princess, pondering if she’ll ever be happy with a driver’s seat.

Waste Not, Want Not

Thoughts of luxuryWaste Not, Want Not A phrase that the working classes have instilled in their children from depression times on in the U.S. The “working class” is now the fortunate one, as the reduction of jobs across the board has become a way of life, setting a lower standard of living. The reality of “frugality” may take some time to set in for many of us who enjoyed spending – when a weekly paycheck funded the coffers of our discretionary income. Income, or the extreme lack thereof, has redefined the growing “unemployed” populace, now learning to edit lifestyle choices for the sake of economy. Despite the continual promotion of luxury goods and experiences in the media, a larger “budget-minded” audience is being targeted and capitalized on by some crafty and creative entrepreneurs and advertisers. “Sales” are a 24-7 business; the Blue Laws of yesteryear begone! Department stores open their doors at 6 a.m. and close after 1 a.m. for premature and/or last-minute holiday shopping.

Piggy Bank
Saving Bank

My natural predisposition to practice discipline manifested itself at an early age; rarely allowing me to stray from my preference to save rather than to purchase on a whim. Placing my allowance in a passbook account, and eventually investing in the market for increased wealth, has, on occasion, paid off. While sustaining all possible utility from clothing and devices even past their shelf life, when it comes to replacement, I want NEW. I am not a flea market shopper, nor an extreme couponer, but will happily accept “hand-me-down” clothing offered by a friend or relative if they fit.

A segment on a “newsy” TV program caught my attention the other evening. A “step-and-buck-saving beauty tipster” was demonstrating methods of extracting the last drops of make-up from myriad containers – I considered it worth a listen.

In order to get the last vestiges of seemingly dried mascara from its tube, add a drop or two of contact lens solution to the tube and replace the wand. Without pulling the wand out of the container, move it up and down to liquefy the caked mascara. It was recommended to avoid adding air to the mix, i.e., keep the wand in the container while mixing.

In order to salvage the sticky residue of lip gloss in a tube, hold the tube under a faucet, letting fairly warm water run onto it (keep the applicator wand inside and closed so that no water gets into the container). Once the gloss starts to liquefy enough to pour, remove the applicator and pour gloss into a tiny plastic or glass container with a screw lid about the size of a quarter. (You might even save and thoroughly clean an old lip gloss tub container and reuse for the remnants of a tube container.)

In order to extract every last trace of your foundation in a jar, find an itty-bitty, mini plastic spatula and insert into bottle to scoop out and apply to face.

As to the mascara:  It is well documented that it should be discarded after 6 months, especially if it has dried up. It would be unhealthy to continue to use and certainly if you added any potential contaminants to it. Not only would you incur the cost of contact lens solution, but a possible trip to an emergency room if an eye infection emerged.

Lip gloss is cheap enough, let it go. How much time do you need to invest in search of that “tiny container,” which would have to be sterilized before use. But as demonstrated on the program, you are to dip your pinky finger into the pot each time you needed to reapply – consider the sticky mess on your finger and the time to wash your hands before and after applying. “Time is money” and lip gloss comes in a tube container with applicator wand to address and simplify all the conditions you will now bring upon yourself. No recycling!

Turn your jar of foundation upside down and let it stay that way once the product is just too depleted to reach. (You may have to prop it up by leaning it against something else.) Carefully open the jar once foundation regroups into the cap and neck of jar. You will be able to use with dab of finger or Q-tip for another month or so. Done!

Brings to mind another wise saying: ”Penny wise and pound foolish.”  Back to my point – Waste Not, Want Not.


African Violet on the mend

African Violet on the mend

Recovery:  However relative to our lives, it’s a waiting game that we have all played – hoping to return to “normal” or to “break even” or to find a lost possession; not to mention the healing process from illness or emotional trauma. We are compelled to expedite our cause in whatever ways seem most effective, oftentimes relying on past history, medical cures, professional advisors and simply, on faith. The reassurances we receive from those we confide in along the journey only contribute a momentary balm. Who doesn’t resort to “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and prayin’ to St. Jude, for one. Sending good thoughts into the Universe, in combination with presenting one’s self as open and receptive to all methods of healing and guidance, however forthcoming, are all positive enablers. Hope springs eternal, allowing us the fortitude, confidence, trust and patience we need to further along the desired result we seek. “Ahhhhh,” the sigh of relief we take when we see the light at the end of the tunnel – progress in the form of  physical movement, an “up” day in the market, a pain that ceases to distract us and a glimmer of gold under a cushion – the missing earing found!

Violet bud

The fall and winter months passed for me with a sense of painful concern over my inability to rescue the few plants I own, some for over twenty years. From health to withering and death in a matter of weeks, two well-loved philodendruns had to be discarded. I also tried to sustain an African Violet (“AV”) which flowered last spring but then just continued to wilt and drop outer leaves. I tried a stick of plant food as well as watering the bottom of the pot. No, I do not have a ‘green thumb’ nor am I big on plant research, repotting or root surgery. I care though, never over-watering or exposing to extreme heat and cold. Observing no change from bottom watering, I once again top watered. A little more sun I felt would be good, so I put my AV on the window sill for a few hours each day.  A slow change:  the outer leaves remained a pale sickly mint color, but no leaf fall. There was an apparent density of center leaves, and could it be?  With my strongest glasses I peered into the plant, and noticed an embryonic flower bud. Life had begun!  Was this my harbinger of health for all my far-from-well and unfinished business?  In order to bring about any change, one has to be proactive, but, as recovery appears on the horizon, most of us repeatedly say, “Thank God,” “Thank you, God.” And some “Wishin’ and Hopin’” never hurt – sing it Dusty.

Mascara: The Art of Application

NefertitiEnhancing the eyes by darkened articulation has been an accepted aesthetic preference from as far back as 4000 BC in ancient Egypt. Over the millennia, the properties of the materials used to cosmetically blacken the eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes and moustache hairs (of men), while similar throughout the world, would never have been approved by today’s FDA guidelines. Not until the late 19th century, would a prototype for our current concept of mascara be developed by the French chemist, Eugene Rimmel, in England, using petroleum jelly. A similar, yet improved product was fashioned in the U.S. by T.L. Williams for his sister, Mabel, in 1913; and later sold through mail order by a company eventually known as Maybelline. As the 20th and 21st centuries progressed, so did the compelling desire for cosmetic manufacturers to create mascaras that promised long, longer, thick, thicker, black, blacker lashes.  If you look at giraffes and camels, these animals have luxurious, beautiful lashes – if only we could emulate theirs – oh, wait – we have. We have false eye lashes in every imaginable pattern and shape. But, for those of us born with modest, short, sparse and lightly-colored eyelashes, not into adhesive attachments – there is mascara.

I started wearing eye makeup at the age of 13. Over the decades, I have only made very minor changes to my look. Since fashion trends are often revisited a couple of generations later, the current eye fashion, (using excessive black eyeliner, smoky shades of eye shadow, pearlized highlighters, and lots of mascara) is pretty much the same as when I got started. Eye makeup should be dramatic and, I believe, sexy. I have always been complimented on my makeup application and, on occasion, asked to show a woman how to make up her eyes. I am not a “makeup artist.” I have no training outside of my own observations and lifetime of personal experience. When I did ballroom dance competition, I was given a few pointers in ballroom makeup, and, of course, have seen, many competitors and their amazing makeup – often done by professionals.

Women who generally don’t wear makeup, especially eye makeup, are often intimidated by the whole process of picking products – and complain that they are physically uncomfortable with “stuff” on their eyes. I agree that sensitivity to different products is very common, and it does take exploration to find those we can live in. I suggest buying inexpensive over-the-counter brands in chain stores, i.e., CVS and Harmons, where they also have liberal return policies.

Not all mascaras are created equal: some are watery and non-lengthening, some are volumnizing and allow you to build up your lashes significantly. Age changes the consistency of mascara, thickening it, making it more substantial and easier to apply. When asked to critique a woman’s makeup, by my standards, she is usually not wearing enough for me to see. I often comment that she needs eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush, lip liner and lipstick. I am then told that she put the components on in the morning, but they wore away during the day. I have never personally had this experience, except for lipstick, which needs re-application a minimum of 3-4 times a day. Because I’m writing about Mascara, I will not get into why makeup disappears, but simply advise: consider the products and the application. For women who claim their mascara is not noticeable – they usually do not understand “the art of mascara application.”

So, here we go: To properly apply mascara, one has to have patience and precision. Dip the wand into the case to coat with fresh mascara, but not excessively. Carefully apply to upper lashes starting from inside of eye (closest to your nose) moving to the outside (near cheekbone). Stroke gently upward from the base of the lash to the tip. Return wand to case to refill brush and keep putting fresh mascara on till you see your lashes turning black and lengthening. Yes, you should always buy black mascara unless you are an albino or have blonde lashes, and then brown would be OK. You may accidently smudge part of your eyelid or nose; clean up at the end with a cotton swab and eye makeup remover. Also, you may have to remove an obvious clump of mascara from some of your lashes; do so carefully with your finger tips (or a toothpick if your vision is exceptional). The key is to keep applying mascara to the lashes across the entire lid for as long as it takes them to become obviously thicker, blacker, and longer. If you were to count the strokes – you could easily do from 50 to 100 strokes per eye. In time, that’s a minimum of a minute per eye. The lower lashes (inside lid or outside lid)only need to be outlined with eyeliner.

There are many brands and types of mascara to choose from. At the higher end ($24-$35), Lancôme makes excellent mascara, in the $8 range, I like L’oréal Voluminous Original.


As the Ring Turns

Lyndhurst Estate

View from Lyndhurst Estate

My two annual creative pilgrimages, held a week apart from each other at the end of September are:  Crafts at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY and The Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY. Many of the same artisans return every year as well. These are juried events and the level of artistry and creativity is simply awesome. If happiness is a fleeting emotion, I am completely happy for the 3 hours I devote to each show, respectively; receiving spiritual and inspirational renewal as well. I have spontaneously made unique purchases of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and artwork, which I have never regretted. Most rewarding are my conversational exchanges with the artists, praising their work while being instructed in their techniques. There are a minimum of 200 exhibitors at each show and I manage to see them all.

Going about my merry way at the Art Show, I quickly perused a display of large sculptures. The sculptor addressed me unexpectedly as I was leaving his booth. He began a hard sell and the dialogue went something like this:

“You look like you’re ready to make a purchase and you need and want one of my sculptures.”

“They are beautiful,” I said, “but I don’t know why you think I’m ready to buy anything.”

“I’ll make you a good deal and I’ll help with delivery and set up.” He said.

“I don’t think so. I certainly don’t have the space to properly display such exquisite work.” I said.

“I’m sure you have a beautiful home.” He said.

“It’s a home – no room for sculpture though.” I said, finding his persistence off-putting. The conversation then refreshingly shifted to his State of origin.  “I used to live there too,” I told him, “when I was married.”

“And what about now, are you still married?” he asked.

Taken aback by such a personal question, I quietly said, “No, not currently.”

“But, you’re wearing a wedding ring,” he insisted, “what if someone wanted to approach you and ask you out? You’re making yourself unavailable.” He said with some irritation.

I was at a loss, so unprepared for this attack. Feeling and probably looking confused as well, I said, “But I’m not wearing a wedding ring.” At least I didn’t think I was. I started to feel my ring finger and realized that the simple, unpretentious gold signet ring I always wear had turned, revealing a skinny band of gold. “Well,” I said, with a hint of humor, “that can really come in handy at times if I don’t want to be approached.”

Not amused, he started on another rant. “You’re misrepresenting yourself and losing out on opportunities for men to talk to you.”

“But I talk to people all the time when there’s a topic of mutual interest. Whether anyone is married or not is of no concern to me.” I further added, “I’m just going to continue to enjoy the show. It’s been nice talking to you. Good luck.” I started to move off, feeling strangely violated and somewhat disoriented.

His points might have had a place at an event for “Singles” or at a Bar (where au contraire, a good many married people come sans their rings); but certainly his arrogant delivery was simply inappropriate. Here I was at a favorite venue for beauty, enlightenment and peace of mind, and I wind up getting judged and disciplined by an artist who should have been trying to gain my favor.

I will never know, after that bizarre exchange, if this guy really did want to ask me out – since he didn’t.  Alas, such a disquieting “to-do” because my ring turned.

You Wear It Well

There used to be something missing from my wardrobe.  It’s absence was mentioned to me from time to time, quite unexpectedly, usually by men whose presence I was quite unaware of.  I tried to quickly remedy the targeted omission, but without conviction – I didn’t feel like wearing something that didn’t feel natural, much like a child in a suit dressed for a holiday occasion.  I was in my mid-twenties at this time, and fortunately, I was put on notice.  It was at this juncture in my life that I began to study people’s behavior patterns, i.e., actions and reactions, manners and conduct that were either alien to me or just different.  Sometimes we aren’t able to employ a behavior we’ve been advised will benefit us, even when we see for ourselves how well it works for others. I admired various individuals for their ability to handle situations that I couldn’t.  Hence, I began to channel such traits and emulate them.  Once I learned to wear this amazing accessory, free to us all, my life not only improved, but I learned how to influence others around me – whether they could see me or not.  Making this addition to my general attire, regardless of whether I was taking out the garbage or dressed to the nines made me feel appealing and offered a sense of control – a camouflage of an untidy appearance or not-so-hot emotional state.  I even confused myself — that’s how powerful this simple enhancer is.  You must have guessed by now I’m talking about a smile.  It will dress up anything you are wearing and really make people notice you.  A great smile is an equalizer that allows you entry to places you might have been previously afraid to explore.  It’s a well received calling card.  One reason I am so impressed with the “smiling” advantage is that it gives you a confidence you didn’t know you had.  If you are alone, you can go anywhere, engage strangers and get assistance faster just by the warmth of a smile.  Another thing that occurs when you smile, and you can really enjoy this too, is that you project a positive attitude which is contagious.  Yes, good karma does travel.  A smile adds a radiance which makes the wearer beautiful and someone is sure to tell you, “you wear it well.”

I Stand Corrected

Why is it that most of us find it uncomfortably difficult to admit to defeat, to apologize for any misdeed, to acknowledge a wrongful assumption or to accept responsibility for an unsuccessful outcome due to our own bad judgment? What emotions come into play: vulnerability, ineptness, embarrassment, shame and/or self-directed anger? Probably all of these feelings are present to a degree. And yet, in situations such as a race or competition, where there can only be one winner, we are prepared to not necessarily be the victor; our acceptance of our loss is thereby mitigated. I believe the same is true when variables beyond our control negatively affect the final outcome of a task or project; we are disappointed in the results but we don’t assume personal responsibility for a less-than-perfect ending.

An often-encountered behavioral trait that I am also guilty of is being married to an opinion or belief. Adamantly holding on to an inflexible position, when, in fact, there is potential for an adjustment of thought, generally labels one as “stubborn” or “obstinate.” When you are wholly convinced that your thinking is right, based on early teachings, previous experiences and personal observations, you generally shut down to any alternative evidence. Recently, a relative whose opinion I value mentioned to me that the infamous Howard Stern of Sirius XM Radio had replaced Piers Morgan as a judge on the TV show America’s Got Talent. He went on to say that Stern had been praised for his fairness and professionalism. Upon hearing the name Howard Stern, I instantly cringed. I haven’t listened to any broadcast of Stern’s since his original television show was cancelled, maybe 10 years ago. I am not a fan of his arrogance, vulgarity and crude demeanor. I actually lose respect for men when I learn that they are regular listeners of his satellite radio program.

America's Got Talent
America’s Got Talent cast 2012

Now you know my feelings about Stern. I did watch America’s Got Talent a number of times this season, and was simply amazed. I was embarrassed by my initial reaction and assumption that I would see the same old Stern. He was articulate, encouraging, realistic, and in no way offensive. I liked him and appreciated his abilities in his new role on the judging panel. This experience really woke me up. Perhaps I am too restricted in my singular opinions about things. So, it happens – we misjudge or need to re-evaluate a person or situation. How do I plan to change my behavior in the future?  First, I will try to listen better to all that is being offered.  Secondly, I will try not to reveal a negative reaction, and lastly, I’ll just try to keep an open mind.  I stand corrected.