A Phantasmic Journey

Day dresses for summer 1919 from Vogue magazine

Day dresses for summer 1919 from Vogue magazine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my weekly column, expanding on something I mentioned in my blog recently about the September issue of Vogue:

  Fashionista? Not I. (Or me.) But I could not resist the 902 page tome which is the September issue of Vogue magazine. I was ready to parody the magazine. To make fun of its raison d’etre. But as I turned the pages, I found myself fascinated and maybe a bit overwhelmed. But then I got comfortable with it. Comfortable with the fact that the list of contents of the magazine did not start until page 108. And all the pages before that were beautifully, artistically, and dramatically shot advertisements.

  Admittedly the magazine is mostly ads. At least 700 pages of it (I did not count but it is my best guesstimate.)  But, oh……. the ads. Sometimes I was confused as to what exactly the focus of some of the ads was but for the most part they were focused on clothes, clothes, and more glorious clothes, with some shoes and purses thrown in for good measure. I have to admit though, there were a few of the ads that made it almost impossible to know for certain what was being shilled. 

 Many of the clothes were not something you and I would generally wear.  This statement is an obvious one — anyone who has ever picked up a Vogue magazine knows that they are not going to see clothes that one would generally wear to a PTA meeting or your kid’s soccer meet. Contrary to the rest of the magazine there was one ad from Kmart. Yes, Kmart. In Vogue magazine. And it said: “Money Can’t Buy Style”. This ad is the very antithesis of the rest of the magazine. Guess Kmart’s ad money is as good as Chanel’s or Ralph Laren’s.

  Several things struck me as I read the magazine and I thought I would share them with you. They are random, but interesting:

1.  First, in an ad about Cointreau, (you can’t wear high fashion without a fashionable drink I guess) this little blurb caught my attention. Called the “Art of Parisian Entertaining” it read as follows: “The kiss of a refreshing cocktail, the unconventional charge of Parisian energy, how the evening becomes draped in the extraordinary. This is quintessentially Cointreau, the perfect spirit for every at-home soiree.” So now I know what to serve at my next soiree when I want to drape my evening in the extraordinary.

2. Even though the feature articles do not come even a close second (or third) in importance to the ads and fashions, the writing is wonderfully lush. Here is an example of some posh writing that described a store I will probably never set foot in: “Despite the evocative setting and the rare, highly curated things within it, the atmosphere is unintimidating.” (I somehow doubt this—it is probably one of those places where if you have to ask the price of their wares, then you cannot afford it.)

hat making--another batch.

(Photo credit: Marie the Bee)

3. Off the wall statements: Lily Collins, for no apparent reason said this about hats: “I’ve always been fascinated by hats because they can change the shape of your face. I have men’s hats I’ve found at flea markets, page-boy hats, top hats, wide-brimmed ones for the beach that you can pull over one eye. Quite a collection!” Now anywhere else Lily might sound a bit pretentious and shallow, but hey, it is a fashion magazine, not the Journal of Great Scientific Discoveries and All Things Physics.

  So, what did I learn from my foray into fashion?

1. I need to buy some straight-legged jeans.

2. I need to save my pennies to buy a Vera Wang (love her stuff). If I succeed in saving my pennies, I will then have to figure out where to wear one of her creations. I am assuming that I would be overdressed at the Dairy Freeze or Mickey D’s, but maybe I can make a fashion statement in the aisles of one of our local grocery stores.

3. I can pretend to be beyond the lure of pretty clothes, shoes, purses and jewellery—but I am not.

4. Some of the fashions that were shown were facsimiles of clothes and shoes I wore in another life ~ about ———- years ago. (Not going to admit how many).

  I am now left with a mag the size of a small house. Maybe I should rent it out as a helicopter landing pad. If you are interested call 555-5304.

Something New

My column for this week’s paper incorporates a couple of blog posts I wrote in the last week or so but in a new way–so thank you for persevering through some repeated “wisdom” slanted a new way:


September (Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi)

   The nostalgia that September and the new school year brings is so palatable, you can almost taste it. It is something that probably 98% of us share. Yet we tend to remember school in idealized terms—the new clothes for the first day, the new books and pencils, the sharpened pencil crayons and shiny new math set all meant that we had a new chance to begin again. And beginnings are exciting. Every September during our school age years was another chance to be the brightest and best. I had a spotty academic career—I lost a few years in teenage angst, but I came back, brought my grades up and spent what I look back on now as wonderful years at university.

            I was perhaps an odd duck when it came to school. In grade school I was always in the top 10, usually the top five in my class. But high school changed that and it took me a few years to adapt, to realize that I had to study. I still got by because I could write a mean essay—but that did not bode well for French class, math, science, or an ill-fated attempt to learn shorthand (I thought that would be easier than Latin—but it wasn’t for me). I still regret not putting a little more effort into those classes—but it was history and English, political science and sociology that caught my interest and by grades 12 and 13, I was back to getting good grades, once I got to leave behind those pesky subjects that did not come “naturally”.

                I am again excited come this September—but this time for my youngest son, who will be taking a “graduate” course at college in communications and public relations. He has a business marketing college diploma under his belt, but he was not all that enamoured with the course. His new program looks exciting in the syllabus and I think it is right up his alley—and I am playing the encouraging parent to the hilt—or at least as much as I think he can put up with. He too, though, is pretty happy about the new courses.

            We all need a challenge. When we went to school, each year was a new challenge, but as adults we have to set our own course, find new things to conquer, new things to learn. The latest challenge I have set for myself is to learn to “Let It Be”—those wonderful words of wisdom from the Beatles. And in doing so I am going to put this little exercise to work. It comes from the book, “One Minute Mindfulness” by Donald Altman. His subtitle: “50 simple ways to find peace, clarity, and new possibilities in a stressed-out world,” caught my attention, because let’s face it, who doesn’t want peace and clarity?

            Anyway, the exercise is this: “For one minute during the day, let go of one belief or behaviour that you typically cling to. If you always eat all the food on your plate, leave some and learn how to let it be. If you normally expect your partner to do something in a certain way, try to take on the task yourself or surrender to the way it is even if you don’t feel it’s as it should be. Let it be. Every day, let one more thing be, just for the fun of it.”I do not always eat everything on my plate so it is the second half of his exercise I have to concentrate on: Let it be. Not as simple as it sounds. At all.

            I have come to the realization that just because something purports to be simple, it does not mean it is easy. Simple and easy are not synonyms even if my thesaurus disagrees with me.  Simple and wise concepts are sometimes the hardest things to apply. They seem straightforward. How much more straightforward could something be than to “Let it be”? But how many of us can actually incorporate this into our lives?

            While I will not be returning to a school of mortar and bricks this September, I will be continuing my education in an ongoing effort to improve myself, my situation in life, and my endeavour to do what Oscar Wilde calls the rarest thing in life: to live. Here he says it in his own inimitable way: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

            I don’t think Wilde was having a good day when he said this, although I do not think he was known for his sunny disposition as he had challenges of his own. So I will take his words and combine it with the Beatles’ sage advice, and learn to: “Live and let it be”, rather than take the James Bond attitude, “Live and let die.”

Published in: on August 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm  Comments (14)  
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Then and Now

As many of you know, I occasionally include my newspaper column on this blog. It is the 14th anniversary of my column “On The Homefront….and Beyond”, so I thought I would share it with you. It appears on p. 5 of the Kingsville Reporter:

I have been writing this column for fourteen years now. It started out as a joint venture with another writer friend of mine, Liz Moore, but after about ten months she moved to London and this space became mine. A lot has changed in 14 years. I was a young (young being relative here) mother then, with a 7 year old and 12 year old. The topics I wrote about then were a bit different than the topics I write about now.

Then, I wrote about sending my kids back to the first day of class in September, and performing a ritual “happy dance” until my oldest asked me not to do it anymore because it made him feel like I wanted to get rid of him. I understood, and I stopped doing the happy dance. And I quit humming “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of Year” to boot. After a summer of wracking my brain to find things to do to keep my kids from being perpetually bored, I was probably ready to have them back at school, but I did not want them to know that. And if I were honest, they were pretty good at keeping themselves busy and happy.

Today, my kids are in their twenties. One is away at college and is a computer genius (which you have to realize that to me, anyone who knows the ins and outs of a computer is a computer genius— still, I think he is brilliant—but I am his mother after all.) I call my eldest son a Rock God, which he is not really comfortable with, but he is getting used to me referring to him as such. And he does play a mean lead guitar. His band is called Rodents & Rebels. Not a name a mother would choose, but hey, they like it.

Then, I would write about our adventures in the soccer field, at the baseball diamond, and on the basketball court. Today, my kids talk about being “buff”, which I think means there is a six-pack in their future, whether it be the liquid kind, or the “arrangement of six bulges in the human abdomen” kind (this definition thanks to all-knowing, all-seeing Wikipedia).

Vacations back then took the form of camping trips, which was and is not a favourite past-time of mine. But in retrospect, with the nostalgia factor kicking in, camping really was a great family time—even if you had to sleep on the ground and walk half a block to a washroom where the showers were always cold. I remember waking up in the morning to coffee and eggs and bacon being cooked over an open fire in order to get me to “stay just one more day mom” and of course I would acquiesce.

English: Camping by Barriere Lake, Barriere, ,...

English: Camping by Barriere Lake, Barriere, , Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, organized vacations take the guise of attending out-of-town weddings or celebrations together, and are not necessarily vacations, but as a mom, I will take any time together with my grown-up kids.

Fourteen years ago things were different. Fourteen years are admittedly a long time in a family’s life—we have all grown a little older—some us have to dye our hair now, some of us do not have as much hair as we did then, and some of us are not home all the time. Sometimes I would give my eye teeth to have that time back, but I also like things as they are now. We still have a long way to go on our journey, and I will continue to let you in on our lives as they change over time.