Friday, February 25, 2011

Things Our Kids Know...

So I was invited personally last Thursday to submit a video audition for an upcoming TV show last week and the deadline for submission was this past Wednesday.   I informed the producer that any lingerie store would be at market in NY that weekend and it was going to be tough to get a video done that quick.  (at least the way I envisioned it...)  She allowed me a few extra days (thank you very very much) as I returned home Tuesday night from NY.

So we had two days to gather all the troops and do some shooting.  And I was working.  So we shot footage Friday night and then my cast of characters dropped in throughout Saturday to sneak filming around customers (whom I think thought we were crazy).  At one point, we had eight people in the store who were not customers.  Nick, my buddy police officer who had helped me the prior week with a potential "incident" in the store, came in with his partner to tell me that the man who came into my store and was subsequently arrested, told him that the reason he left "without" incident" was because of a "look" I had given him.

Apparently I had scared HIM.  Which both of my sons responded with "Oh, you must have given him the "look" ".  I am told I have a "look" (which I inherited from my dad) that can scare off the bravest of souls.

I love my customers.  They make me laugh, I make them laugh.  Most days it is a party here in the store.  As it should be according to me.  Life shouldn't be so serious and everyone needs to laugh more.  Life here in the store is like a Sunday dinner with the family, complete with arguments, hooting and hollering, joking, cutting each other up... you get the picture.

So, like most things I have never done before, I don't ask how someone else would do it.  I just come up with my own version of how I think it should go.  So we got some really good footage and headed off to New York for the next 3 days with my 17 year old son.  (My son decided he didn't need to attend the lingerie show with me, even when I said there would be models walking around in their underwear.  I guess it doesn't affect him anymore.  He said he sees enough right in his own home and in my store...

So Wednesday night we start editing the footage.  My son is an expert on audio and film production.  He wants to do this for a living after college.  He's a veritable Cecil B DeMille.  He got very demanding and fussy about the video the further we got into it.  It had to be around 5 minutes long and we had to cut, cut, cut.

As we are trying to finish up Thursday night (I had wanted to finish the night before but it was after midnight and my son actually begged me to go to bed, reminding me he had to get up for school the next day), we are editing the "tool shed" section, which is about dildos and vibrators.  We are arguing about what to leave in and what to cut out of that section, and he says, "I wonder what other kids are doing with their parents right now."

My husband and I busted up.  It never dawned on us that some topics should not be discussed with children.  My older son said the other day that our discussion was bordering on stuff that shouldn't be discussed between parents and kids.  But who makes up those borders?  Obviously, my hubby and I (ok, it's probably just me we're talking about here) aren't aware that these lines of demarcation between appropriate and inappropriate exist and we need our children to remind us.

In my household growing up, the lines were not straight; they were jagged, and most of the time, there were no lines at all.  So my "filter" was never properly installed.  And I would find myself saying things that would shock the crap out of most people.  I was known as the truth sayer and big mouth in my family.  If you wanted to know what was really going on, I would happily provide the details.  So my family had to put a stop to this and they labeled me as crazy.  "Don't listen to her.  She's crazy.  She makes up stories."

I have to say, though, and I will speak for my children here, and say that their lives are much more exciting without my filters.  Nothing really shocks them.  They have done, seen and heard things that most parents would NEVER have allowed their children to see, hear and do.  I told my son that last  night.  I said, stop complaining.  You have led a very interesting life and you aren't even 20 yet. They know it.  They just like to give us crap about how we have horrified them but I know they love it and wouldn' have it any other way.

I WANT their lives and experiences to be broad.  Who says a child can't understand complicated things?  When we first moved to our neighborhood, I joined a book club and during a meeting about a scary book, I divulged that I let my kids watch scary movies and had taken them to haunted houses as young children.  (Ok, maybe I should have gotten the picture that my older son was NOT ready for the haunted house when he did not lift his head out of my shoulder the whole time we were there - I think he was 7.  But he is 24 now and appears to have gotten over that just fine - no damage done.  Besides, I love horror and haunted houses and I had no babysitter so we took him along.)

Anyway, during that first meeting, I got gasps and horror from the other women's faces who thought I was a terrible parent for letting my children watch horror films.  Luckily, my friend told them that my children were probably the most stable children she knew.  But she did ask me please not to put those movies on when her kids were over at our house.....

We took our children to rock concerts and to our own gigs and parties.  When they are tired, they will just fall asleep.  They don't know that they are up past their bedtimes!  So both my boys are very well-adjusted, bright, very well informed guys.  It amazes me  how insightful and smart they are.  They have seen so much and been a part of most of our conversations.  We involved them in everything we have done.  They helped me open the store.  They were not impressed with the deliveries of lingerie at our house before we opened the store.  And the fact that I was going to have a "tool shed" in the store did not shock them at all.  They actually talk to their friends about it.

Our older son asked us one day if we had noticed that there are breasts all over our house - in art and literature.  Oh, yeah!  You stop noticing that maybe we as a family are a bit odd.  But we are a hell of a lot of fun, too!  There is a great painting of some scantily clad women hanging over his piano, which he played every day. 

I can say honestly that my children are two of the coolest, smartest and sassiest guys I have ever met.  We all do things as a family all the time, in work and play.  We laugh hysterically at each other and our lives all the time.  So of course my younger son would be a part of this project of editing a video about the lingerie store and the "toys" in the back.  He is very well-rounded and quite the funny guy.  And very now and then they remind us of our oddities.  And we laugh and continue on on way!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Trusting in Your Gut

Trusting our intuition often saves us from disaster.  - Anne Wilson Schaef

Trust your gut.  You hear it all the time.  I've heard it time and time again on Oprah.  Trust the feeling.  You'll know it.  Just listen.

I know my gut.  It talks to me all the time.  Maybe that's why I have "stomach issues" of which I won't go into.  It is really sensitive.  Maybe having huge gut instincts adds to the sensitivity.

I thought a lot about this the other day when my gut was screaming at me. I was near the end of the night at the store and was alone when a man came in.  My gut screamed at me.  Then the next man came in and I could swear they could hear my gut screaming at me.  I immediately grabbed the key fob that has the alarm buttons on it and I pushed.  They hadn't even spoken to me yet and I was pushing every button I had.  I knew this was trouble about to happen.  This was the second time I have ever pressed the alarm. 

The first time I wasn't listening close enough to my gut and got caught, literally in a corner with no way out.  I made my way to the alarm eventually.  I'm going to cut myself some slack, though, on that "event".  The police told me his behavior was abnormal for a "normal" robbery (tell me exactly what a NORMAL robbery is please.)

I feel there are two people inside of me-me and my intuition. If I go against her, she'll screw me every time, and if I follow her, we get along quite nicely.
- Kim Basinger

Over the past few years and surviving a few "incidents", my gut is well-honed.  And I was right this time.  While fortunately I was able to get them out of the store without incident, they were picked up and arrested.  My buddy Nick, the officer on duty that night thankfully, helped me to make the right decision.  He said he wished more people would work through their fears and make arrests so we could get these bad folks off the street.

Nick said I had strong instincts that came from a strong personality and did all the right things to avoid danger.  Lord knows I have had enough experience (unfortunately) throughout my years to hone those instincts.  And is that how your gut is trained?  Or is gut instinct in you from the very beginning of your life?

“Learn to let your intuition—gut instinct—tell you when the food, the relationship, the job isn’t good for you (and conversely, when what you’re doing is just right).”
- Oprah Winfrey

According to Psychology Today, intuitions, or gut feelings, are sudden, strong judgments whose origin we can't immediately explain. Although they seem to emerge from an obscure inner force, they actually begin with a perception of something outside—a facial expression, a tone of voice, a visual inconsistency so fleeting you're not even aware you noticed.
The brain takes in a situation, does a very quick search of its files, and then finds its best analogue among the stored sprawl of memories and knowledge.

So, it appears that the gut is something that is fine-tuned by experience and emotion. The gut itself literally feeds gut feelings; think of butterflies in the stomach when a decision is pending. The gut has millions of nerve cells and, through them, a "mind of its own," says Michael Gershon, author of The Second Brain and a professor at Columbia University. Still, gut feelings do not originate there, but in signals from the brain.

The truth of a thing is the feel of it, not the think of it.  - Stanley Kubrick

Your brain stores up all of your experiences and when a similar experience comes up for you, your brain responds, kind of like sifting through a file cabinet to find the file that fits the project!  Okay, THAT shows my age!  Think of it as searching through your computer database.  Darn!  I thought I was special!  That I had special skills that other people don't.  But it's just my old age and living through so many different things that has been stored up in my brain.  No wonder I can't remember anything anymore.  There's no more room!

The more experience you have in a particular domain, the more reliable your intuitions, because they arise out of the richest array of collected patterns of experience.  So I am making the asumption that the more experiences you "experience" in life, the better your gut instinct will be.  I belive they call that "street smart".  At least that's what they called it in my youth.  And it wasn't a compliment.  If you were street smart as a woman back in my earlier days, it meant you had spent a bit of time outside of the safe confines of your home and family and you had probably picked up some bad habits and hung with the wrong people. 

Women were supposed to be sweet and kind and quiet.  Yeah, and also get yourself killed or raped or kidnapped or one of those nasty things.  Now you can't get along without some street smarts.  You'll get eaten up by business, and just plain people around you.  Or just plain simple get taken advantage of big time.

One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses.- Henry Miller

So, I am sorry to say that gut instinct is not hocus pocus or something the gods have blessed you with solely.  It takes work, good listening skills and a large storage capacity from what I learned!  The good thing is that I know as I get older, my instincts are getting more honed, more accurate and more trustworthy.  We DO age like fine wine and get better and better.  At least I know I will not waste time trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.  I will just intrinsically search my very large database and it will make the decision for me in a flash!  So all you young people out there.  Listen up!  Pay attention to what the old folks are telling you.  They have lived to tell their tales and can probably help you avoid serious trouble.   Then again, if you don't make the mistakes yourself, how will you ever learn??  Never mind.  See you youngsters on the other end of life after you have many many Aha moments under your belt.

"You just go with your gut instinct, because your gut is smarter than your heart."  — Gerard Way

Monday, February 14, 2011

Angels in our Midst....again.

I was reading another blog post today.  it was written by the woman who works for me.  So much has happened since I hired her.  And so much has happened to her since that time as well. It got me thinking about how angels are right in front of you all the time, all you have to do is pay attention.

Christina was one of those angels.  She dropped into my life out of the blue.  Well, seems she knew me before I really knew her.  She had shopped at the store prior to me really noticing her. (It is hard to remember everyone that comes into the store unless you make such a hullabaloo that it is impossible NOT to remember.)

When she contacted me about a job, I had no need for help but there was something in her demeanor that told me to not let this pass by without some more investigation.  So I took a chance.  And that chance turned out to be a huge blessing to me and the store.  It seems that when the two of us are together, the energy or vibe or something blows up big and amazing things happen.

We created a huge project together on breast cancer awareness, sales increased at the store, as did the customer base.  I wasn't sure when we met, but my gut told me to take a leap of faith.  she was, IS an angel in my life.  She has no idea what she has done for me personally as well as what she does at the store.  I don't know if she ever will understand it totally.

We banter back and forth about many things, laugh hysterically and talk about our very similar lives.  It feels like she is a younger version of me.  And now she is a staff writer for a local newspaper and fashion blogger.  She loves to write and is excellent at it.  Of course, in her growth spurt of this year, she told me she couldn't work for me like she had in the past.  It broke my heart but I know it is the right thing for her and I will be okay at the store.  I trust that our lives will be connected in one way or another and I thank her for coming into my life.

Prior to Christina, there was another "angel" who popped in at the worst personal time for me.  He helped me out of the funk and into the world of online newsletters, which has become a huge part of my information railway at the store and beyond.  I have added many options to the newsletter that are above and beyond a traditional retail store newsletter.

And just a few days ago, a new angel came into the store.  She was a new customer and there wasn't anything outstanding about our encounter until I handed her the bag of just purchased goodies.  I was wearing a silver charm bracelet and one of the charms is an angel.  That charm's outstretched arm hooked onto the handle of the bag as I was handing it to the customer.  We laughed when we looked down and she gasped as she told me she believes in angels and knows they surround her all the time.  She said she can tap into their goodness, power, wisdom at any time.

We laughed at this mishap and chatted a while about angels in our midst, knowing that they indeed are with us always.  I know I will see her again and I look forward to our next conversation with all four of us!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Oh, the Quiet of Mother Nature

Okay, who loves it when the snow first falls and all the noise of the world is buffered under a cover of fluffy snow?  Me! 

Even driving home in first night of the Blizzard of 2011 in Chicago, at midnight, after attending a spectacular, intimate Shelby Lynne concert, when there was few souls brave enough to tackle the roads; even after the stress of finding out that my son had arrived at the venue with no gas in the car, the quiet was deafening.  In a wonderful way.

In the white quiet, with the roads to ourself, blanketed in a snowfall, my stress lessened, my ears perked up to listen to the wind, the snow falling.  We left the radio off, we said nothing on our drive home.  Peace.

And the next morning, I woke to that peacefulness.  Unfortunately, it was quickly dashed as the roars of the snow blowers began.  And the scraping of the shovels on the pavement.  Mother Nature had decided it was time for everyone to stop and be still.  The schools were closed, businesses were closed, people were given a day off from the chaos of our too hectic worlds. 

And that appeared to be too much to take for some people.  The quiet for too long.  The need to be in contact all the time, engaged in human interaction. The frantic rush to clear the sidewalks, driveways and roads.  For what?  No one was going anywhere that day.  But the words I saw on Facebook and twitter were words of people who didn't know what to do with a time out from life.  Did they not realize that Mother Nature had given us this gift?

Or maybe it was a warning.  Slow down, enjoy life.  I saw it as both.  A gift of a couple of hours in the morning to listen to the quiet, to contemplate life and all it really has to offer without asking much in return.  I also saw it as a warning.  That we are messing with dear old Mom Nature and she is protecting her dear earth by blanketing it's wounds in a soft covering of snow.  Next time she might not be so "giving".  Unheeded warnings lead to larger and larger warnings.  Taps on the shoulder become bops to the head.  Life will make itself known to us regardless of whether we are listening or not.  We WILL listen at some point.

So, thank you, Ms. Nature.  For a short moment to pause, reflect and revel in the beauty you have created for us.

(My boys and I got outside to clear the snow as others were heading off to bed.  We played all day! )

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Show Must Go On!!

It's still in me. I haven't performed in a band for too many years now. Yes, I have done theatre in the interim to keep my sanity and need to perform in check, but the musical stage has been empty of me for a while. Yet, it is still in me. The show must go on. Doesn't matter about the weather or if you are sick, you have a gig to make, and that's that. So it was last night with Shelby Lynne, one of my favorite performers. She was playing the Space last night in Evanston.

As the snow started accumulating, I started calling to see if the concert was being canceled or postponed. Nope, she had made it here from Bloomington, IL and she was ready. When the venue didn't post any info on their web site, I actually posted to Shelby's Facebook wall asking if she was still performing!! She actually answered! Wow, social media in action here!

So instead of driving to Evanston (side note: The Space is a great musical venue! Acoustics, ambiance, nice stage - great space!) it was suggested that I take the train there. Which ended up being a really good decision. She performed to a really small audience who, like me, for whatever their own reason also trailblazed it over there to hear some really great music on a really arctic night.

It was her and another guitarist performing an intimate evening of a smattering of her music over the years. I sat there, had a glass on wine ( or two maybe), closed my eyes, and listened. When you close your eyes, the music becomes more intense and you hear what the eyes would see. The notes pop, you hear the nuances that you would normally miss because the senses are sharing. And I felt okay with the world. Some of the music brought tears. Emotions came to the forefront of my brain to be dealt with at that moment. I thought, oh please, not now. Can't you see I am busy listening to this wonderful sound?? But they came, and I said, okay, yes, you may sit with me now if you must. And just saying those words, yes, made it easier to sit with those old friends of the past. They didn't need any more attention than that, just the invitation to sit with me.

Shelby played for two hours. Part of me knew this would happen. That the evening would become a more intimate concert than would have if Mother Nature hadn't attended in full regalia. And the musician in me wanted to be a part of that. Even my son, also a musician, who had been driving all day in the blizzard of 2011 for this and that, who came in place of my husband, who was stuck in New York, and had never heard more than a couple of tunes from Shelby, agreed with me.

After our long and treacherous drive home, after knowing he was spending the night and not trying to make it back to his apartment, my son agreed it was a great concert. When music is good, it doesn't matter where and whom it comes from. It touches your soul for a brief moment. So, we both went, as crazy as that seems to everyone else. Because I had spent money on tickets and am too cheap to lose out on my purchase? Nah. Life is an adventure and playing it safe is boring and too much is missed in fear and safety. I choose life in all its glory. But mostly-----it's because we are musicians and we know that the show must go on.