Thursday, November 12, 2015

Don't Grow Up

I keep thinking of the question presented to Meryl Streep in an interview asking her what advice she would give her younger self, now that she has so much life experience under her belt.  Her answer, as highlighted on a People Magazine ‘Quotes from the Stars’ page, didn’t particularly move me, something along the lines of she wouldn’t pay as much attention to how much she weighed, but the question keeps haunting me.

What would I tell my young self starting out, now having the adult perspective of how the world works and the various ways I’ve fit into it to date?  Hands down it would have to be to keep looking at the world through a young person’s perspective.  

The curiosity to learn about new ideas, people, places, and things.  The emotional immaturity that leads to the inability to hold back your thoughts.  The lack of judgement that lends to making mistakes.  The tender lack of life experience that allows you the freedom to say “I don’t know.” The sheer enthusiasm and devotion to pleasure.  The balls to think that you can change the world. 

Society tells us to grow up, pull it together, and settle down.  Think stability, commitment, procreation.  All incredibly important things.  But what about contribution, communication, and growth?  I think if we held on to more of our rose-colored young outlook on life we’d be better off as a society.  Learning doesn’t end at high school, college, or graduate school graduation….it’s  eternal if we’re lucky enough to keep an open mind.  When we stop looking for answers, we stop growing, period.  Yet there’s an interesting caveat attached to many when we stop learning.  The brain is shady, as it tricks us into believing we actually know everything since we’re no longer taking in new info.  We become self-proclaimed experts, and spend our lives digging our heels into the ground protecting what we think we know, instead of just opening our minds to hearing something new.

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Don't Grow Up
Somehow we have bought into the idea that we have to fit into the traditional societal norms of ‘becoming an adult’ by achieving the same way our classmates do, loving the same way everyone else does, parenting the same way our neighbors do, judging in the precise fashion our family taught us to, and living our life in a way that is packaged squarely for show.  Who does that benefit?  Not me, not you.  It simply supports structure of societal norms that will keep on keeping on until it’s pushed to the limit and broken. 

So today, or this week, or maybe even this year, put on your pre-adult glasses, and look at your world and your life through a young person's perspective.  What do see?  What can you learn?  What do you have the courage to change in yourself and the world?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Quick Fix

Human instinct dictates that we find solutions to the problems and challenges that cross our path.  As we get busy in life, whether it be with work, pleasure, family, or otherwise, we tend to add speed to that problem-solving skillset, so that we can move on to the next issue. When the situations start to pile up, though, the quick fix, although convenient, is not always the right answer.  More often than not, the accumulation of snags is simply an indication to slow the hell down in order to identify the real issue at hand, instead of quick fixing the ancillary hurdles that arise because of it.

Most folks have a lifelong record of quick fixing their way out of boredom, unhappiness or unfulfillment by simply changing the scenery.  A trip to the mall for clothes or makeup “fixes” the dissatisfaction of body image.  A night out drinking alleviates the intensity of a broken heart.  A one-night-stand pumps up the fragile ego after losing a job.  Each knee-jerk reaction temporarily fills an empty space, but doesn’t really address the actual problem. 

Just this week I found myself considering buying a new car, adding a puppy or rescue dog to our brood, and planning a family vacation over Christmas.  Whoa, trying to cover up much?  I was quickly trying to address the feeling of discontent I had been feeling for the last few months, and most recently after having a knee surgery that didn’t yield the results I had hoped for, leaving me still somewhat maimed and in need of some self-care. Stuff the negative feelings down by adding more shit on top so there’s no room for it to breath.

That’s what we do.  New job, new relationship, new house, new cause, new kid, new friend, new hobby, new church, new life. None of it takes away what’s really eating away at the core, as the second that newness if over, the same old worry rears its ugly head, still alive and kickin.’

What happens if we take the time to really address the reality of the situation and own it, feel it, try it on for size, before trying to cover it up or stifle it?  It’s not very pretty.  In fact, allowing oneself to be vulnerable and acknowledging imperfection is a pretty freakin’ unnatural state of being, if you ask me.  It’s uncomfortable just being and not doing, not having the fixes lined up in your court.

But feeling powerless has its advantages too.  It opens you up to creativity, change, and sometimes just acceptance, as every problem doesn’t have an automatic solution.  It also helps fosters real human interaction, as typically when we’re in a state of true susceptibility, we don’t have the capacity to participate in mindless chatter or repeat the same bullshit stories we tell people about ourselves and vice versa.  It’s actually a pretty empowering place to exist if we can just let ourselves.

I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, is the anctedote to my current discontent.  Maybe it is actually a new job or a new way of living.  Or maybe I’m right where I need to be and that’s just got to be enough for right now.  But what I do know is that history has repeated itself enough in my lifetime to show me that the quick fix is not usually the most efficient route.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Put the Phones Away!

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Put the Phones Away
As I rode through the lake-front trail this afternoon, I was enamored by the cool breeze, expansive blue body of water lapping up against the rocks, and the thick lane of dragonflys buzzing to my right the entire ride.  And then I saw the family of 4 in the grass, sitting intimately in a circle of lawn chairs they'd hauled from home, facing one another....that is if their four heads weren't each buried in their own electronic devices!

Say what?  I thought maybe they were just a freak family, until I looked across the trail and saw another group, three little kids with two adults, thoughtfully seated cross-legged atop a checkered picnic blanket with only a bowl of fruit connecting them in the middle of the blanket, as each person had their own phone, tablet, or computer, going to town individually.

What has happened in our world to make this a normal scene?  What's the point of packing up the car or the bike or the backpacks to head to the lake with a group, only to interact only individually with a device?  Why not just stay at home?

We took our kids to our favorite breakfast joint a few weeks ago.  As the waiter walked away from our tiny table after taking our grub order, a table of 4 guys next to us asked the waiter to take away all the condiments on the table as it was too tight.  Two seconds later, each of the 4 men had their cell phones whipped out in front of them, each individually active on their own device.  Startled by the sight, I decided to survey the restaurant to see if this was normal behavior, and sure enough, whole tables of kids, adults, babies, and seniors were all busy jacking with their phones, without a word being spoken or a glance being given to their table mates.

Who in the Sam Hill decided that this is acceptable?  We wonder why our kids can't interact well with others or pay attention to anything we say.  It's because we're teaching them by example that zoning out on their own while in the intimate company of others is acceptable social etiquette.

Folks, put your phones away.  Nothing's that freakin' important or entertaining that can't wait a few minutes while you converse with your spouse or chat with your buddies or interact with your family or co-workers.  Is this how you want to be remembered by the person sitting across from you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Get Your Money Back

Get Your Money Back - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
Living Large equates to living well within your means while thoroughly enjoying those thing in life that you love.  Making spending choices requires thought and consideration.  Once you've made a purchase, don't be afraid to change your mind.  When your money is on the line, you should be absolutely certain it's well spent. Whether its simply the wrong choice or an inferior product or service, don't be shy about asking for a refund.

Yes a return usually requires the extra step of contacting, visiting, or shipping items back to the company of origin, which keeps many from requesting a refund, but protecting your hard-earned resources is worth the effort in my book.  Sometimes you don't realize your purchase wasn't sound until well after the specified return timeline. Don't consider your money gone. It can often still be recouped. Case in point is my recent Quicken experience.

Spending within the boundaries of your income requires you to self-monitor, which starts with budgeting.  My long standing software choice for organizing my personal finances on a PC has been Quicken for Windows, made by Intuit.
Get Your Money Back - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder

As a PC owner, I've relied on Quicken for over a decade to accurately help me track, budget, and simplify my finances. Options such as manual entry or automatic downloads from financial institutions, quick pictures or detailed reports of current or projected financial status, and payment reminders or automatic entry make it super customizable.  While I still recommend Quicken wholeheartedly for PC users, my purchase of Quicken for Mac proved so substandard to its PC counterpart, that I don't even think there should be a charge for it.

I argued this point with Intuit recently and received a full refund of my purchase price, well outside of the 60 day refund period.  It took me 20 minutes to draft the letter, 5 minutes to research the address of the corporate office and a forever stamp and walk to the mailbox to process.  Completely worth the time and energy, not only for the actual money restored to me for an incompetent product, but in this case, to have my complaints and feedback ingested by the source.

If you dropped three Andrew Jacksons out of your pocket while walking, you'd take the time to zig zag back on your route to look for them in the name of being a decent steward of your money.  Do the same with your purchases.  If the product or service is not what you want, get your money back.  Otherwise you're throwing money away.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When to Skimp and When to Spend

 L'Artiste Spring Step Shoes
When you practice living within your means while wholeheartedly enjoying those things in life that are important to you, it forces you to identify your own priorities.  Living Large means making judgement calls on your personal expenses, based on those considerations. 

Financial priorities change throughout our lives.  For example, taking care of myself, on the inside and out, has always been important to me.  Skin and hair has always been a forerunner in personal care.  At certain points in my life the best I could afford was a daily double dosing of soap and water and a little store-bought moisturizer on the face and a free or discounted cut or color, sometimes as a hair model, but always at a top-notch salon, similar those offered at SalonApprentice.  Today I spend top dollar for Arbonne facial products and haircuts from Gia at Charles Ifergan, as the game has changed slightly.  Yes, I make more money than I did twenty years ago, but more importantly, I’ve learned how to skimp on other things that don’t hold as much weight for me, like name brand clothes, speciality groceries, and designer furniture in order to pay face value for other things that do. 

Good shoes matter to me, from the quality, to the fit, to the comfort and durability.  I have no problem whatsoever dropping a Franklin and a half on a pair of good shoes.  In fact, I do it with enthusiasm, as my investment saves me money in the long run in replacement value, as most of the shoes I buy last 5-10 years.  Dr. Martens, Steve Madden, FitFlop and Asics are on my short list when it comes to comfort and durability.

A new brand I’ve come to adore is Sping Step Shoes.  Not only do they have the word comfort in their tagline, but their style options are unique.  Looking through Spring/Summer shoe catalog after being referred to the company by a family member who works for them, I honestly wasn’t sure I would like the shoes, as many of the styles are super bright in color and intricately floral in design, which isn’t my usual go-to in footwear.  However, once I checked out the company website and saw the shoes paired with various garments and styles, I could see the appeal.  

I chose L'Artiste by Spring Step Soatico to sample and review, as the hand-painted leather sandal’s heel measured just over 2”, which is now my daytime threshold after a recent knee surgery has left my normal 3-4” everyday platforms collecting dust in the closet due to the pain they cause.  These sandals have a graduated platform that covers the entire bottom of the shoe, which is a necessity for me since it allows me to stably and comfortably walk distances of up to a few miles at a time without switching to sneakers.  The padded footbed, cushioned insole, and cork construction aid both in support and shock absorbency, while the nubbed rubber outsole, which is slightly smaller than the footprint of the entire shoe, allows for more traction and less clomp when it hits the pavement than most platform shoes.  Finally, and some may think most importantly, the flirty strappy style and phenomenal color combination, deep fuschia-purple and various shades of camel, turns heads and elicits compliments every time I wear them.

When to Skimp and When to Spend - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
I truly feel like I’ve hit the jackpot by being offered the courtesy of a test-drive on these sandals in exchange for an honest written review!  I have worn these warm weather shoes to death, tromping through all sorts of weather, terrain, and temperatures (I live in Chicago you know!), yet the leather straps have held their tension and the sturdy soles still look brand new.  I’m pumped to have a new shoe company to rely on for quality and comfort. 

You can hit the motherlode too, as Spring Step is giving away a free pair of L'Artiste sandals to one lucky ParentUnplugged winner.  Ride out the summer in style and comfort; enter below to win.

Required disclosure:  Spring Step will provide one randomly selected winner a pair of sandals, valued at $89.99  All opinions are my own.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Living Large in the Summer

Living Large in the Summer - Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged
Montrose Beach Volleyball Court
For someone like me, summer is the best time of the year.  Not only is the weather conducive to hanging outside 24/7 and the days are longer so you can fit more activities in, but it’s the easiest season to save money while still having fun.

Winter is tough, because if you’re watching your wallet by foregoing dining out, pricey movies, and paid events, inclimate weather may keep you stuck inside and potentially isolated.  Spring and fall fare better on the penny pinching scale, as you can at least more easily incorporate outdoor transportation such as walking, biking, or even waiting comfortably for the bus or train, when it comes to getting to and from fun events or activities.  Summer, on the other hand, offers a plethora of opportunity for fun in the sun on the cheap.  Check out these no-brainers for enjoying those things in life that are important to you while living comfortably within your means.
  • Put your gym membership on hold and get your fit on outdoors.  Exercise on your own or get a group together for community sweat.  You could save $20-$100 month on club dues alone.
  • Forego the cabs, UberX, cars, and public transportation and walk, run, skate, scoot, or bike to and from social outings.  Commute with your own legs for work also, and you could be saving $5-$50 per day.
  • Attend free organized events that interest you and keep a cool head when it comes to spending once you get there.  Many festivals and parties will suggest a donation of X dollars for entrance, but it’s just that, a suggestion.  There is not requirement to pay a dime.  Plan ahead by packing your own snacks/drinks if you want to go the extra mile and spend nothing at all, which is my preference.  
    Living Large in the Summer - Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged
    Andersonville Midsommarfest with own food and drink
  • Engage in your city’s free daily offerings.  In Chicago, I like to visit the free Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory with my kids, people watch by the hour at Navy Pier or Mag Mile, swim and play at the free park district beaches and pools, and attend free concerts and dance lessons at Millennium Park.  Investigate what your city’s offerings and get going!
  • When dining out, choose BYOB establishments.  Depending on your alcoholic intake preference, liquor can account for up to half of your tab.  A beer averages $6 at a restaurant, while you can usually buy the same quantity and take a few with you for less than $1.50 per beverage.
    Living Large in the Summer - Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged
    Lincoln Park Conservatory Garden Picnic
  • Lose the expensive organized sports, activities, and shows, and instead engage with your family one-on-one.  Take an extended family walk or bike ride to a new area or neighborhood, grill outdoors for meals, hit the outdoor courts for a game of tennis, basketball, or volleyball, work together in the garden or on an outdoor project, or build a campfire outdoors and tell ghost stories.
  • Get together with friends and plan events at free outdoor locations instead of restaurants, bars, or other venues.  Sit on the stoop with neighbors, meet friends at parks and public gathering places, and invite others over for dinner or drinks on the patio or yard.
There is no reason to overspend in the summer.  Use common sense when it comes to spending, plan ahead by researching free offerings in your area, and organize your outings.  How much can you set aside this summer while still having a ball?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Free Cone Day at Haagen-Dazs

I simply cannot pass up the 'FREE' in Free Cone Day at Haagen-Dazs without passing it on.  Today from 4-8pm, stop by any US Haagen-Dazs store for a free kiddie-sized cone per person, no purchase required.

Here in Chicago, looks like you're confined to the 'burbs today in either Naperville, Rosemont, or Lincolnwood.  If you're out that direction or live there, make sure to stop by for your cool sweet treat this afternoon.  Anywhere else in the US, click here for a list of store locations.

Here's the deal, go in, get your free ice cream, and hit it out the door.  Don't upgrade to a larger size or buy another treat or get a pint to take home.  Just grab and go for it to be truly FREE.  Spending money at a free offering defeats the entire purpose.  Living Large is engrained in my makeup.  Simply practice living well within your means while wholeheartedly enjoying those things in life that you love, and you too can be Living Large and enjoying Easy Street too!