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Sweat is the great beauty equalizer…
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It is hot in Alabama. And humid. Amd when people from “up north” get off a plane in mid-July (or May, August, September, October…and sometimes April) it’s like stepping into an oven.

This weekend there is a music festival in my town. My sister’s in-laws are sponsoring it, and it’s a big, disorganized production. I agreed to help because my current mantra is saying yes to things I wouldn’t normally say use to.

I dressed appropriately cool, minimal makeup, easy hair…and boy was I underdressed…at least for the organizers who, it seems, fancy themselves as stars themselves. They had on boots lol…designer jeans, tons of makeup, cute little shorts, spray tans…the works.

My daughter, who is 26, was there in cutoffs, t shirt, little mascara, lipgloss, and a pony tail. As we were standing there while the organizers were directing us…another lol…their make up started to crumble and run. One spray tan left streaks on a white blouse one of them had on…and carefully fixed and sprayed hair took on interesting shapes and hues. Bless their hearts, they were trying too hard. I leaned over to my gorgeous, smart, self assured daughter and said, “sweat is the great equalizer.”

I wouldn’t normally be this catty, but these ladies? were snotty, condescending, pseudo socialites. Am I going back? Of course. I get in free. Being around this women makes me so very grateful for my true women friends…

Sharon Lee 123
Are you poor?
News, Work & Money
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Are you poor? Socio economic levels are measured in a variety of ways and by various groups of people. Government statisticians, private research groups, entities interested in particular segments of society, and so forth. From country to country and culture to culture it can mean vastly different things to information gatherers. Sometimes the results are critical to assist people in dire need of help. Sometimes the results appeal to product marketing. Yet, what is “poverty” beyond the numbers assigned to that group? When do the “poor” slip into official “poverty” or are the two terms the same? Researchers do know millions are not counted at all. They fall between the cracks.

I grew up in a home that by today’s standards would be considered poor. It was after WWII and everyone lived like we did, mostly. We never reached middle class the entire time I lived at home. My dad died at 38 and only after my mom remarried many years later did she finally arrive at what we might call “middle class.” I was grown then and on my own.

Sadly, my stepdad has been in a nursing home for about eight years and by some standards today at age 86 mom might be considered poor—again. Not at a poverty level but poor. She doesn’t think so when she compares how she lives to the rest of the world. In fact, she feels comfortable compared to most of her previous life, the part before and after I was born. Her life didn’t change to a more comfortable level until she met and married my stepdad and they combined incomes. My stepdad has a pension and so she remains at home living somewhat independently, but modestly.

When raising my own kids as a divorced mom I had many hilarious conversations with other divorced moms. Our kids all thought we were poverty stricken because none of us single parents could match the consumption level of two-parent families. Designer jeans, trendy colorful watches, snazzy sneakers, and the like. Fortunately, there were no electronics nor cell phones in those days. Those items slowly crept into our lives around the time my kids were grown, thankfully. I didn’t own a home after the divorce and it was challenging to find rentals in nice neighborhoods that I could afford. But I did. I spent three-quarters of my income on housing to keep us safe. I didn’t think I was poor but most of my friends did which I didn’t learn until many years later. They have often told me how sorry they felt for us. I guess when you are living in “the moment” labels aren’t significant. I kept us housed and fed. I didn’t think then—and still don’t think—that’s poor. Statistics gatherers do, however, because my spending did not match the middle class norm. I was a statistic and didn’t know it!

We had limitations two-parent families didn’t have. We had normal home amenities, a modest car that got us from Point A to Point B, and pizza and a video every Friday night. Still, our disposable income was disposed of rapidly. I had a decent job and paid the bills. That isn’t poor but it isn’t the middle class dream. I went to night school for five years and that helped some with a promotion at work but it was too little too late and soon the kids were gone. By the time I started earning more the kids were on their own.

My dad had employment issues when I was growing up and he died young and it was hard on my mom so she worked in a cannery at night so she could be with me during the day time. My grandmother lived with us and she worked alternate shifts to cover time when my mom was gone. Due to employment depression my dad developed alcohol problems which is common. He dropped out of high school at 16 to join the Navy during World War II like many men in his era. Many veterans returning from war—then and now—are poorly educated, untrained, and almost unemployable. He eventually moved the family and bought a small business but it was sadly too late for his declining health and he passed away before he could realize his dream.

When dad found employment it didn’t last long but while it did our standard of living skyrocketed. I can pinpoint the times he was employed by memories of huge family dinners and long drives and picnics and new purchases for the family. But there were many more dim times without the skyrockets. I had no idea we were considered poor.

Poor families are defined by percentage of their consumption as applied to their income. I learned while researching this piece that technically “relative poverty” means having significantly less access to income and wealth than other members of society. That was us growing up and for many years for my own kids. I’m glad I didn’t know that then.

Poverty is also defined demographically and by race, by family status, age (seniors who lived relative comfy lives before retiring are often plunged into poverty because of housing and poor health care coverage), and other factors. Some folks slip from the middle class to poverty almost overnight with the loss of a job, divorce, illness, death of a primary family earner, and sometimes natural disasters. This happens in a healthy economy and is devastating in a poor economy.

The most important factors in determining if people are poor or living in poverty is whether or not they have adequate housing and most importantly adequate food (which is why I never thought I was poor because I always had adequate—albeit modest—housing and food). Some studies narrow that consideration to food only. Homeless people living in certain areas have access to food banks and kitchens. Some homeless people have poor access and some no access whatsoever. Some can’t access it if it’s staring them in the face due to mental health issues.

Today more than ever in history, including the “great depression,” we have the “working poor” who are homeless. They have menial jobs they go to each day which might pay for a few items but they live in shelters or on the street. This group often includes families.

An office I worked for adopted a room in a shelter many years ago. This shelter provided emergency housing for families who lost their homes via foreclosure, eviction, job loss, death of a wage earner, etc. As an adoptive “parent,” we provided goods and cash to the shelter to outfit the rooms with furniture, clothing for a variety of sizes and ages, mattresses, toiletries, diapers, blankets, and so forth. During the time the families stayed in these rooms at the shelter counselors worked with them to find permanent housing, employment, got the kids back in school, and generally counseled the entire family and attempted to get them back on their feet. Sometimes large families would occupy one small room. But they were happy to be there and off the streets. They had nutritious meals and they were safe. Many shelters can no longer manage the huge numbers that have come to them for help. Donations have evaporated along with jobs and housing.

Poverty can alter behavior. Poor nutrition can alter behavior. Being cold 24 hours a day can alter behavior. Being covered with lice and living with rats can alter behavior. Being sick can alter behavior. Being scared can alter behavior. Being poor can turn some to criminal acts. Being poor can turn some people violent. Being so poor school isn’t an option is a disaster waiting to happen.

We have 14 million unemployed who have lost everything. That number will soon grow with the estimated 2 million foreclosures expected in California alone in 2012 and the promise of jobs may be too late for some. In addition to the number of people entering poverty statistics, crime statistics, especially opportunistic thievery like home break-ins and muggings and drug use, will increase proportionately. Besides being sad, it’s downright scary.

B.P. and mortgage finance institutions and corporations moving abroad and/or outsourcing have destroyed huge parts of the world yet some people are mad because a few protesters have befouled public parks. That’s a disconnect that feeds the downward spiral of life as we know it (or knew it) in our country. Dr. King had the same issues with a few protesters but he didn’t give up the movement because of the actions of a few. He pressed on.

Trick or treat.

[Note: Here’s a link that says it far better than my feeble attempt.]

Carol Orsborn
Going buggy: Swearing off of thrift stores
Fashion & Beauty
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Unless you’ve been on another planet this Fall (like Los Angeles or Nashville), you’ve undoubtedly heard that New York City is having a bed bug epidemic.

Suggestible as I am, and reading that you can pick these tiny, pesky bugs up from theatre and subway seats, I find myself hysterical every time anything itches anywhere on me.

No sign of infestation in our brand new building, bedding and mattress yet (hopefully never) but the ubiquitous posters selling miracle cures — everything from chemical treatments and deep cleaning to electronic repellents — are keeping this epidemic top-of-mind.

But that’s not even the worst of it. The worst of it is that an article ran in the New York Times reporting that shoppers are shying away from shopping at thrift stores. Not only thrift stores, but antique, consignment and used clothing stores. Even second-hand designer stores. The majority of these stores are doing their best, the article reported. And some of my favorite stores were specifically cited as being bug free at least as of a couple of weeks ago. But even so: You try ignoring the giant pink bed bug in the dressing room the next time you find a vintage Dior at a steal!

So, to make a long story short, like a starving woman on a diet, of course I can think of nothing but the amazing things I’ve found “slightly used” in seasons past — and what may be awaiting my discovery, with less competition at the cash register than ever before.

I wouldn’t dare bring home the faux fur vest that was so popular in the eighties, and is this season’s hottest look, that I bought last year. It will look great with the designer jeans I bought not just from a thrift store, but the sweetest score of all: on the thrift store’s sales rack! J Brand jeans that fit like a glove, originally one hundred something at least, mine for under $15.

And the sweaters! OMG! Big oversized tan sweaters with big brown buttons just like my Dad used to wear, and fancy schmancy black knits with big furry collars. Of course, just how many of these does one girl need in her closet? But I just know there’s something just as wonderful, or even better, hanging in a corner of an empty store: something that has my, or at least St. John’s, name on it.

Something with black and white stripes, for instance. Or a sweater coat so soft it feels like cashmere — and in this season of collectible mark-downs, maybe it even is!

So here I am, a new arrival in New York City, having purchased the book on bargains before I even got here, wandering up and down cool, hip and chic neighborhoods, my nose to the window, drooling.

I may yet break down. That same article said that if you wash whatever you purchase on the hottest temperature then fry it in your dryer for 60 minutes, you’ll get rid of everything — even the bed bug eggs. However, considering the shrinkage factor, you may also end up with a cashmere shrug instead of the full-length coat you just couldn’t live without.

Until then, I do my best to assuage my hunger with the next best thing: Nordstrom’s Rack. And please, please, please don’t tell me I’ve got to worry about bed bugs there, too!

menopause and me
Healthy Living
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I had a hysterectomy eleven years ago and found the weight gain an onslaught despite my exercise habits. I had been one size most of my adult life and even after childbirth regained my figure. This was good since I had always enjoyed the cut and feel of not-so-inexpensive clothing. However, after menopause the maintaining of weight became a battle that demanded a more aggressive tool. So I went to a friend and he suggested a supplement based on the physiology of aging in women. The product is called “Maturenergy” (made by YouthAddict) and it has not only improved the results of my continuing workouts and occasional powerwalks but it also provided me with increased stamina, metabolism, and muscle toning capacity. I have been on the product a year now and I just wanted to share this product that does not promise to make you young but it does allow you to feel youthful. BTW I am now a size 4-6 in designer jeans which is a size I had not seen in literally decades. I can actually admire the reflection in the mirror when I step out of my shower. Love it!!

Carol Orsborn
Boom and bust: Top ways Boomer women are adapting to recessionary times
Work & Money
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Many of the Boomer women in the Vibrant Nation community are great planners. In fact, seeking mastery over our lives has been a driving theme for many of us—tracing its roots as far back as our pioneer roles in liberating our workplaces, politics and organizations of al kinds. We managed to juggle child-raising, career, relationships and self-improvement simultaneously. And the one thing we dislike most of all is losing control.

So how are we faring in this economic melt-down, where even the top minds in the world are being forced to operate over the edge in the unknown? Clearly, at this “come as you are” party, many of us had plans—large and small—that are in question or derailed. Of course, there are the big ones, as in can we still retire on schedule—or at all? And the little ones: do we go on the vacation we’d planned? Should I still buy the designer bag I’d promised myself this year—especially now that it’s on sale?

The answer to how we’re doing is this: surprisingly well. In fact, many of the qualities and characteristics we’ve honed as managers and decision-makers over the course of our long lives are serving us well in these challenging times.

Let’s take how we’re doing on the micro-level, the level of greatest interest to many brand managers, whose success at selling products and services depend on how adaptive this increasingly popular–and often previously overlooked–consumer is proving to be.

When it comes to shopping, decades of purchasing experience are serving Boomer women well. Boomer women, in general, and particularly the coveted upscale 50+ women of the community, have always been discerning and demanding value shoppers, even in the best of times. Now, they are bringing added creativity and resourcefulness as they aim to keep their style as high and their budgets as low as possible.

For example, they will continue to mix and match a basic t-shirt bought at a big box discount store with designer jeans purchased at full-price at their favorite boutique. While they may no longer be willing to spend on expensive trendy items, that might last only one season due to construction and material of the garment, the durability, image and superior styling of that particular brand of jeans–may help them justify the purchase, even when they are making cuts elsewhere.

While some women in this demographic still enjoy visiting retail stores, an increasing number of high-end women are doing their shopping online. This was true before the full force of the financial melt-down hit home, with up-scale Boomer women comprising the top purchaser of luxury goods online, a trend that has only accelerated. Part of this is for the convenience and price-comparison purposes, but part can be attributed to the desire for anonymity. With sensitivity to the split between those who still have jobs, savings and discretionary income—and those the majority who have been impacted—some much of the fun has gone out of the in-person shopping experience, especially when it comes to higher-end items. This woman may still purchase what she wants, but she doesn’t want to feel guilty or even observed while doing so.

Even many upscale women who have suffered reduced or lost income and savings continue to make shopping an important part of their lives. The trade-off for many at having been downsized or laid off is having more time and/or impetus to make up the gaps with on and off-line research. While much of the entertainment aspect of shopping is gone for this consumer, if she needs a sweater, she’ll figure out a way to get exactly what she wants at a price she can afford. And given that many of these women will now be hoping to re-enter the workforce, she may be needing to keep her wardrobe in job-hunting shape. This may mean spending hours going store to store, searching online and hitting resale, thrift shops and garage sales items she perceives as essential. She takes on the hunter/gatherer role in her purchasing behavior, feeling increased pleasure and satisfaction when she has “bagged” her find.

Upscale Boomer women are being impacted by the recession, but she is adapting. And even if she is buying less or differently, she is still amongst the most recession-resistant of all the demographics.