BARGAIN HUNTING – THE SPORT

I have acquired a lot of sweaters over the years. This is New England. Winters are long. Heat is expensive. Sweaters fill the gap.

This morning I noticed more than half my sweaters are purple. I’ve got a few in black, a couple in red, but purple dominates. The sweaters used to be all black. I’m from New York where women wear black. It’s a thing. A co-worker in Israel once told me I dressed like a nun. I could never wear the bright colors she wore. I’d feel like I was wearing a neon sign.

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If you surmise from this that I love purple, you’d be wrong. Purple sweaters scream “final mark-down.” As a habitue of end-of-the-season sales, I know what to expect. Lots of purple, white, orange and some nasty shades of green in which no one looks healthy.

Leftovers also include “specialty colors” designers were sure would be the next big thing. They are inevitably named after fruits or veggies. They never sell well, so there are plenty of whatever it was in the clearance aisle.

All the normal, neutral colors are gone, but you’ll find cantaloupe , mango, kiwi, aubergine, honeydew, sugarplum, pumpkin, mocha and vanilla bean. We all knew they were tan, orange, coral and lavender. New names did not make old colors the next big anything.

I’m a big fan of neutrals. In addition to being essentially conservative where color is concerned, I spent many decades working and commuting. If I wanted to have a life outside of work, dressing had to be fast, mindless.

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Neutral colors are the backbone of a working woman’s wardrobe. If almost all of your clothing is black, grey, off-white, taupe, brown, or khaki, putting together an outfit is a piece of cake. Grab a top, grab a bottom, attach earrings to lobes and voilà. It’s a go-anywhere wardrobe for the fashion-challenged. In other words, me.

After I stopped working, I didn’t have money to spend on clothing. The percentage of purple and orange in my wardrobe rose accordingly. Which explains the orange dress in my closet. I’ve had it for almost two years, but the tags are still attached. It was a 2012 leftover bought the spring of 2013. It’s still waiting to be worn as the spring of 2015 is well underway. It’s got short sleeves and is basically a long tee-shirt, so I’ll give it whirl as a nightie.

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Lack of money has honed my bargain hunting skills, but I have always been a bargain shopper.

I shop final sales and closeouts, even when I am not strapped for funds. It’s a family tradition. My mother raised me to hold fast to one unyielding principle: Never pay full price. 

I take pride in scoring a great buy. You aren’t supposed to brag about how much you pay. You’re supposed to brag about how much you didn’t pay. The less you pay, the greater your bragging rights. I was astonished to discover that some people are proud of paying a lot for something they could have gotten for half off if they’d waited a couple of days. They might have had to take it in purple or orange, but think of all the money they’d save!

Would I have different attitude towards shopping if I were rich?

To put it in perspective, back in the early 1990s, I got into a tug of war with Carly Simon for possession of a 70% off clearance sale silk blouse in a very chi-chi shop in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The blouse was orange.

I won. Fantastic blouse.

Bargain hunting is not just for people on a tight budget. For some of us, it’s a contact sport.

Somewhere, in Heaven, Mom is smiling proudly.

GUILTY OF SUNGLASSES

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When the snow melts after a long winter, all kinds of stuff shows up. Dog toys and the flower pots I meant to throw away but didn’t get to it before the first blizzard. A hat and a single glove. The other snow shovel and a missing broom. It also signaled the reappearance of our 2002 yellow Pontiac Sunbird that disappeared at the end of January.

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After all the aggravation and expense of replacing my missing sunglasses, they were in the glove compartment of the yellow car. Garry said he thought they were in the car. I was so utterly convinced I’d looked for (and not found) them before the first blizzard, I bought a new pair.

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During the past ten days, it has often rained. The snow finally melted allowing Garry to get into the car to look around. And, there were my sunglasses. The beloved sunglasses I’ve had forever, or nearly forever.

My favorite sunglasses were in the glove box the whole time.

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Now, I own two pairs of sunglasses. I know it’s okay to own two pair of prescription eyeglasses. I have two pair of computer glasses, two pair of regular distance glasses. I don’t think they are a luxury.

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I have two pair of prescription sunglasses, and I feel like a criminal. Guilty about spending the money, as if I’d bought a frivolous, expensive item I don’t need.

I’ve been poor too long.

NON SEQUITUR AND TRIUMPH

After a long string of relatively aimless, free-range days, yesterday came with a mission. I needed sunglasses and was determined to end the day with a new pair.

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I lost my prescription sunglasses during the wild and crazy weeks of October 2014 during which we were on the road most of the time. I don’t know precisely when they vanished or where. If I knew that, I could find them. I would not need new ones.

Did they fall out of my bag? Had I — as I am wont to do — shoved them in the side panel of the car door and they fell out along the way? Perhaps at a gas station or a diner? It has happened before, but always I noticed and retrieved them.

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I’ve been ultra protective of those glasses. I have worn the same frame for close to 15 years. Flattering. Comfortable. Elegant. I felt like a movie star when I wore them and I was sure I looked 25 years younger. And glamorous.

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Losing them was a minor tragedy. I have been in denial, sure they were hiding from me, but would appear magically somewhere I never thought to look.

But the days came and went … and as the sun gets brighter, I knew I had lost them for good. Like losing a friend with whom you share many memories. They’d been with me at Disney World. Ridden the Cyclone and Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens. Climbed hills in New Hampshire and Maine, and helped me take pictures up and down the east coast.

I swam with them in the azure waters off Haiti. They protected my eyes while I gazed, awe-struck, at the Grand Canyon. Now, they were gone. Mourning time was finished. I needed sunglasses.

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I couldn’t go back to Walmart because I’ve been banned … not by Walmart, but by the crook who runs the Vision department for having the temerity to report his crookery to Medicare for double … maybe triple … billing. Whistle blowers always take a hit, but this was not such a big hit.

I had to buy my glasses at Lenscrafters instead of Walmart. Some might consider it an upgrade.

Yesterday I discovered the gorgeous new Ray-Bans I ordered 12 days ago would never appear. My prescription was incompatible with the frames. Only slightly daunted, we hauled ourselves back the Lenscrafters in Auburn. Where I ordered new frames and lenses. I would only buy a frame for which the lenses could be made “in-house” because my patience for waiting while the glasses when out to a lab was all used up. I was feeling downright cranky about it.

I explained that I would end the day with sunglasses. No option B.

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Determination won the day and I have a lovely pair of Ralph Lauren frames. The lenses are not the pure gray I expected but have a hint of rose in them. I can tell by the sky, which looks so much bluer than it does with my eyes alone. Although I’m still grieving for those I lost, I will learn to love the ones I’m near.

In the course of this longest day in months, we found ourselves needing to fill a 4 hour intermission while Lenscrafters tinted and ground my lenses. Garry and I are not mall rats, but we had a list of errands, many of them long deferred — as in have been waiting to get done for years.

First, though, we took a long walk to the other end of the mall to by a couple of Annie’s Pretzels … the absolutely best pretzels anywhere.

As I limped along, I though about Pat at CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS. Pat has been taking daily walks, trying to regain her lost mobility. It has been working for her and she looks terrific whereas I look like a proper marshmallow. Thus I pushed myself from one end of the mall to the other and I though of her as I trudged along.

We are very close in age, similar in other ways too. If she can do it, I can do it. I kept walking. Remarkably, I began to feel better by the end of the walk. Maybe it is time for my long-delayed rehabilitation.

We ate our pretzels in the big massage chairs in the middle of the mall. Then we hiked back to the watch kiosk and Garry had new batteries put in his two favorite watches, neither of which has worked in a couple of years. Ticktock. Garry’s watches are telling time. Another check in the win column.

Three more hours to fill. In our senior version of mall hopping, we drove to Millbury where we hit PetSmart for dog food (bravely buying a different flavor — let no one say we are not adventurous) and biscuits to feed the ever-hungry pack.

One more stop.Target.

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It’s spring. The dust and the dirt of winter somehow seems dustier and dirtier than it did in February. I need to clean. And it’s long overdue for buying new mops, dusters, and various cleansers. Two and a half hours left to go. We went home to drop off all the stuff. Garry was bushed. Me too, but I had a bug in my brain. I wanted those sunglasses, damn it.

I called Lenscrafters. Ready!! Garry reluctantly hauled himself to his feet and off we went. Again.

I have sunglasses!

Our to-do list is completed. Exhausted but triumphant, we had survived our longest day. I’m ready for you, world. I’m safe from sun and prepared for the upcoming (or so rumor has it) warm weather with plenty of sunshine!

(Afterwards, the ballerina called her husband on a cell phone and told him to meet her at the two-story McDonald’s in the middle of Shanghai to celebrate ...)


Daily Prompt: Third from the Top 

OVERCOMING TECHNO-LUST

When you love cameras, there’s always a danger you may decide you need another, even though you don’t have enough time to use the ones you already own and can’t afford a new one.

It’s no different than other forms of techno-obsessive behavior.

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It’s all techno-lust, the almost physical need to acquire the newest piece of technology.

Over time, most of us learn — the hard way — that newer isn’t inherently better. That there are a lot of reasons to wait and see if the latest really is the greatest — or is actually a step backward from what you own.

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What to do when the desire to shop for something shiny and new, with the all the bells and whistles hits you? Your hand begins to shake on the mouse. You want it. You want it now. You don’t even know what it is, but that’s not the point. You are overwhelmed by techno-lust.

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I get my jollies by going on Amazon. I look up cameras I already own. Read hundreds of favorable reviews about my cameras. Discover this one is a marvel of optics and photographic technology. That it has a viewfinder with 100% field of vision. Never mind whether or not I use a viewfinder. What’s important is that I have one. This camera can shoot a leaf on a tree 1000 feet away with perfect detail and no significant image deterioration. I know, I’ve done it.

I can pat myself on the back for my astuteness in purchasing this modern marvel.

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Then, if I must buy something — just because — I always need an extra battery, a new SD card, or a filter. In the end, I’ve spent less than $20. I’ve fed my obsession, had my shopping fix, and reinforced my fundamental belief that I am a Shopping Goddess.

The danger is I might discover something I didn’t know was out there, which I absolutely must have, if not today, then eventually.  So I have to stay focused, only look at cameras I own or those which are equivalent  but inferior to the ones I own.

Putting stuff on a wish list is almost as good as buying it because it satisfies ones urge to click.

I advise you not use this remedy when you are half asleep or under the influence of anything. It’s alarming to wake up in the morning and discover you are the proud owner of something you will be paying off for the rest of your natural life. Or longer.

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Cancelling and returning stuff is such a pain. Especially when you would rather keep it.

Meanwhile, my money remains where it belongs. In my account. Does this count as a vicarious or virtual shopping experience? Both?

IN PRAISE OF YOGA PANTS

With all the serious issues in the world today, why am I writing about pants? Maybe it’s frivolous, but my lifelong search for comfortable, well-fitting pants has finally come to an end. Throughout my life, I have sought two things: shoes that look good and in which I can walk … and perfectly fitted slacks I can throw into the washer and dryer.

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My feet are happy since discovering Uggs for winter, FitFlop clogs, and Clark’s sandals for warm weather. Perfect pants eluded me. Jeans, the iconic garment of my generation, look better than they feel. As soon as I sit, they pull down in the back, ride up in the front, and dig into my waistline all the way around. The better they look standing, the more uncomfortable they are sitting. Stretch denim improves the comfort factor, but my body has never been shaped right for jeans. I’ve been thin, not-so-thin, fat, and all sizes in between. Never found a pair which fit quite right.

Too loose or tight, waist too high or low enough to slide off my hips. I could wear a belt, but I hate belts. Add them to brassieres with steel bones for garment-based misery. Complete the picture with spike heels and a thong and you have head-to-toe discomfort.

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I can’t be happy if I’m uncomfortable. If my shoes pinch, if underwear is up my butt, the waistband of the jeans is sawing its way through my mid-section, I’m not going to be my scintillating self. I will twitch, pull, and rearrange garments in a never-ending and increasingly desperate attempt to get comfortable. Eventually, I will look as if I have a weird nervous disorder.

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Some years back, an end of season clearance on Land’s End featured yoga pants. I’ve owned stretch pants. They’re okay, but never looked quite right. But yoga pants. From the moment I slid into them, I knew I’d found it. Boot cut, so my short legs appear long and graceful. Forgiving fabric which stretches every which way, but bounces back to its original shape without a saggy butt or droopy knees. They wash like a dream, have no issues with the dryer.

Gradually, I stopped wearing anything else. My size hasn’t changed in years, so I have a lot of clothing, much more than I need. All of it fits.

Fortune has smiled on me. My best friend and I wear exactly the same size, right down to shoes. When my wardrobe threatens to explode, I can pass the goodies to the one person on earth I know will appreciate and like them. Did I mention we also have the same taste?

I need to visit her very soon.

Yesterday, I slipped into jeans. They fit well, even a bit loose. I wore them for almost two hours before I changed back into yoga pants. I guess there’s no turning back. Yoga pants forever.

WHEN THE MACHINES WENT DOWN

Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts 

It was an ordinary day. A sunny day in southern New England. Cool. Almost crisp. The leaves had changed and shone bright yellow and orange. Autumn. The best time of the year.

An ordinary day. Except, we ran out of half-and-half.

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In most homes, this would have been no big deal. It would surely not have been an emergency requiring an immediate trip to town. But in this household of addicted coffee drinkers, no way we could get through 24 hours without half-and-half for our coffee. Someone — okay, Garry — would have to buy half-and-half.

The nearest shop only sells tiny containers and sometimes, has none at all. So it was off to Hannaford’s.

Hannaford’s is our grocery store. We don’t own it (I wish), but it’s the one we patronize. Not big or fancy. Even for Uxbridge, it’s a modest store, but that’s one of the reasons we like it. It’s part of a small Maine-based chain. Prices are pretty good and the produce is usually fresh. They offer locally grown products in season. You don’t need a special card to get discounts and they offer a 5% discount to Senior Citizens every Tuesday. Most important, they are close to home, easy to get to, and have ample parking.

I was in the middle of a book — I usually am — so I didn’t pay a lot of attention as Garry went out. Not a big deal. Just half-and-half. Maybe pick up something for dinner. He came back a couple of hours later, a bit longer than an errand like this should take. Garry looked amused. Maybe bemused.

“There is shock and confusion in downtown Uxbridge, today,” he announced.

“Shock and confusion?”

“Yes,” Garry said. “I thought it might be delayed PTSD from 9/11 or changing seasons. Everyone in Hannaford’s looked stunned.”

“Stunned? Because?” I questioned.

“The credit card readers were down. You couldn’t pay with your bank or credit card. Everyone had to pay cash or use a check. They looked shell-shocked. Thousand-yard stares. Stumbling, vacant-eyed around the store.”

“Holy mackerel,” I said. “I can only imagine.”

“You could see them mumbling to themselves. They kept saying ‘cash!’ I could tell they were confused and unsure what to do.”

“Wow,” I said. “How dreadful! What did you do?” I asked. Garry seemed to have survived with his sense of humor intact and brought home the half-and-half.

“Oh, I paid with cash. I had enough on me.”

He went off to the kitchen chuckling to himself. I hoped everyone would be okay back in town. A shock like that can haunt people for a long time. Cash. Imagine that. Everyone will be talking about this for weeks.

The day the machines went down at Hannaford’s. That’s huge.


Weekly Writing Challenge: LOCAL FLAVOR

A PLEA FROM THE WOMAN WITH THE VISA

Marilyn Armstrong:

Ah, the holidays. Oh the joys of shopping. All I can say is ‘THANK YOU ONLINE WORLD” because I no longer need to go to the mall for my holiday shopping. It gets delivered to my door and usually, it’s on time and in the same number of pieces it started out its journey. Sometimes, change is good.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

imagesDEAR TRENDY CLOTHING STORE EMPLOYEE:

I know that everything in your store has been designed to fit and flatter my teenage daughters and that my presence is an unappreciated reminder that you will all someday sacrifice beauty for comfortable footwear.  However, as the woman with the VISA, I have no choice but to lurk around the racks and there will be occasions when verbal communication between you and I will be unavoidable.

To reduce my stress levels as well as yours I plea with you to consider lowering the music volume and perhaps turning up the lighting.  I could potentially lip read over the pounding, highly-synthesized rhythm, if only there was enough light for me to make out your facial features.  Alternatively, I could have my children verbally guide me through the store if I could make out their voices over the dance-party “mash up” that is playing at a stadium-concert…

View original 450 more words

DO YOU COME HERE OFTEN?

Greetings, Stranger 

I’m sitting at a café when a stranger approaches me. He asks my name. “Marilyn,” I answer.

The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.”

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I gaze into his soft, brown eyes “Well,” I reply, with a hint of teasing, “I’ve been looking for you, too. Do you come here often?”

“Not nearly often enough, it would seem,” he says, juggling the bags he’s carrying. He pulls me to my feet and loops an arm through mine. “I think there’s a burger joint over there. I’m hungry. How about you?”

As I rise to my feet, he continues: “You were supposed to meet me by Kohl’s. Where were you?”

I organize my own packages. “I’ll never tell you. You’ll have to kill me first.”

Garry and I go hand in hand through the crowded mall. He says: “I hate shopping this close to Christmas. It’s a madhouse.”

“I know,” I respond, giving his hand a squeeze. “But it’s worth it  … because I get to meet such a handsome stranger.”