Beauty, health and wellness, lifestyle, That girl in the red coat, writing

It’s been a time

Here we are. March 22, 2020. I work in the Ladies department at a local shoe store. The shop finally made the decision to close up shop last Thursday evening. Let me tell you, it felt like 20 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t think I’ve meditated or gotten “right with Jesus” so much in my life as I did everyday last week. Every morning I would be getting ready to go to work with a sense of dread… not the usual retail job dread. Trying to quiet my mind from all the what if’s, what’s happening, it is safe questions swirling around in my head. I cannot even begin to imagine how all our beloved health care workers are feeling. My hat goes off to them and my heart goes out to them.

Many people are abiding by the new social rule of social distancing, self isolating and such… and many, I am sorry to say are not. This past week, with every world leader (except for Mr. Trump… yes, I said Mr., the buffoon has not earned the title of President… don’t get me started), radio station, television network and social media site declaring the rise of Coronavirus and what to do to decrease the impact and flatten the curve, there are still people out there that just don’t get it. Here are just a few things I personally heard and saw this past week;

  • Families with babies that aren’t even walking yet coming in to look at shoes.
  • People bringing their elderly parents, that have oxygen tanks in tow, in to shop for shoes.
  • People walking right past our sanitizing station.
  • Lady comes into the store. There are literally no customers, just her. I ask if she needs some help. “No. I was told to work from home, but I got bored so I thought I’d look at shoes.”.
  • Lady comes into the store, carrying her dog. Walks through the entire store, touching everything in her path. We ask if she needs help to which she tell us “Nope. Just looking. Just got off a plane from out West. I showered though, so it’s all good.”
  • A couple comes in looking for men’s sandals. They ask if this is all we have. I tell them “Yes. We will have more in April. We are closing until March 31st. to help flatten the curve.”. “Oh, well that’s good” the lady says. “If more people stayed home, the virus would get under control.”.  … lady…you are out of your house.
  • A lady came in the store, freshly tanned bragging about her trip that she just returned from. My coworker stood 6 feet from her and the lady laughed at her, going on about “are you doing what the news is telling you to do?”
  • A father and daughter… I think it was his daughter, came in looking for tall black boots… I hope it was his daughter. I passed them the boots then stood back. They asked how late we were open, and I told them our usual time that we close then added “it could change at anytime because of what’s going on.”. The Dad… I really hope it was the Dad, looks at me and laughs “I don’t get what the big deal is. I’m a nurse and I’m not worried. Everyone needs to calm down.” …sigh
  • A woman and her daughter came in to “look around”. I didn’t have the size she was looking for. She said she was going to go to the mall. I let her know all the stores in the Mall are closed until at least March 31st. Her exact words “Really? How come?”. I shit you not people. I had to explain about the closures to non essential services…then had to explain what non essential services meant.

I have also witnessed many acts of kindness and courtesy. Customers keeping their distance, telling me they can help themselves. Customers asking if I was alright and if my family was alright. Customers thanking us for putting a shoe aside for them to pick up and go. Maintenance workers thanking us for getting them the proper safety footwear. Nurses thanking us for helping them get new footwear. I even had a customer ask if I had my own hand sanitizer.

 

These days we wake up each morning to new stats, new “how to’s”, new rules. We may not be able to control much these days, but we can control ourselves. Our actions, our reactions, how we treat one another. Check on your neighbours. Check on your friends wherever they may be around the globe. Shoot them a text. Your phone does more than host your apps and filter your pics, it actually is a telephone. Once and a while, call someone. Let them hear a voice other than their own. If you hoarded toilet paper, redeem yourself and give out some rolls to the people in your building or on your street. Donate food to the food bank. Wash your damn hands. Take a breath.

Be kind. Be compassionate. Plain and Simple.

Beauty, health and wellness, lifestyle, That girl in the red coat, Women, writing

2020 Vision

Here we are. The first day of a new year and a new decade. Every time I scroll through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter I see post after post of the decade challenge, descriptions and memories of the past ten years. Achievements, celebrations, life changing moments, you name it, it’s been posted. Few posts celebrate the lows, the struggles, the set backs.

Over the past week, all I could think about was writing again. All I could think about was how I started this blog, all that had transpired in my life, professionally and personally that steered me away from writing. No matter how hard I tried to place blame on any and all events, I came to one irrefutable truth. I was the reason I wasn’t following my gut, my passion, my calling…name it what you will, it was me and me alone that allowed my circumstances to control my life, my actions or lack there of.

I look back on myself and my life 10 years ago. It began selling shoes, missing the beauty industry I adored and the shop I had run for many years. Then the powers that be gave me an opportunity and I grabbed it! Managing the Salon/Shop I adored. Soon after, I began my blog and opportunity after opportunity came my way. Writing for beauty sites and online magazines, consulting Salons on how to improve their retail presence and sales. Being invited to Beauty industry galas. Things kept falling into my lap. Sadly, in 2016, the shop closed. I tried to keep writing, but the fire within was slowly growing dim. A dear friend of mine had a cheese shop and she was looking for some help over the lunch hours. I thought it would be fun, so I said yes. 15 hours a week turned into 40 and I was enjoying it. Learning new things, helping increase the retail presence and forging relationships with the regulars. Yet I was still longing for something. I felt like the world was spinning around me and I was standing still. Sadly, the shop closed. I took a few months off from working. My husband has supported my writing and my drive from the start. He said “take this time to focus on your blog, your consulting, whatever it is you want.”. I found myself staring at my computer, re posting old blogs. I had no idea which road to take. Do I continue to consult? Do I continue to write about Beauty? Do I continue to review products? Do I write about parenting? Do I write about lifestyle? Do I write about kindness? Do I write about how not to be an asshole? …. exhausting reading this huh? Try thinking it all…the…time.  All the while having real life staring me in the face. Husband having a heart attack in 2012 at 39. Father having a heart attack a week later. ( I told them both to stop competing for my attention). My lovely, beautiful, intelligent daughter struggling with mental health issues and trying to get her the help she needed. Be a good wife. Be a good daughter. Be a good Mother. Laundry to be done, child to raise, marriage to keep intact, pay the bills, get the groceries. …this is how I know there is a higher power…god, the universe, the smurfs, whatever you call it, it’s real. I know it’s real because I firmly believe that is how I got through this past decade. There was many a morning I did not want to get out of bed, many a day I did not want to leave the house, but something helped me. Something got me moving, and I may think I’m all that, but even I’m not that good.

Even though I had the support of my family to focus on me, there were bills to be paid. My old employer at the shoe store heard I was free and offered me a job. Whatever hours or days I could give. So here I am, 10 years later, back where I started from. Funny thing, most people find that sad. I get many a “Oh…so you’re back there again huh?” comments. To be honest, I felt the same way for the first few months. Once again, a higher power knew what I did not. That this is exactly where I was and am supposed to be right now. My life for the last 18 months was turned upside down and all around. … a tale for another time.  Being back at this job allowed me to change my day off at a moments notice. Being able to tell my boss “I gotta go” in the middle of a shift and him responding “Do what you gotta do, see you tomorrow.”. It also gave me the time for me. I had time to read, to educate myself, to take a hard look at my life and my responsibilities. To take a hard look at myself, to be accountable about my part in how my life was going, professionally and personally, to own my shit if you will. I may physically be back where I started, emotionally and mentally, far from it.

I have no idea where my feet will land next. I do know this. It is up to me and me alone to decide. To do the work. To put forth the intentions AND the effort. No one, I mean no one is going to do it for me, nor is it anyone’s fault I am unfulfilled but my own. It is up to you and you alone to fill your cup, and today, it may just be a small drop, but my cup is beginning to fill.

 

Beauty, health and wellness, That girl in the red coat, Women, writing

Who knew?

Those of you who follow my blog and those of you who know me personally know all too well I always look for the positive in everything. I search for the underlying lessons. I seek out the light in the darkness. These past few months have been a true test to this. Someone dear and precious to me has been struggling…a story that is not mine to tell. Watching them struggle, seeing what it was doing to them and in turn to me and others was getting too much to bear. I found myself not being myself, or feeling like myself. Knots in my stomach, sleepless nights, lack of appetite…you name it, I had it. After a night of almost no sleep I reached a breaking point. Here I was, sleepless, bed head to the tenth degree, having a mental breakdown and it wasn’t even 7:30 a.m. I had been reading everything I could get my hands on to help spark my pilot light. I even reached for my bible…to no avail. Seriously, someone has to write a cliff notes for the bible. I scoured that sucker and couldn’t find any comfort. I am a spiritual person. I do believe in a higher power, and energy. There is something or someone greater than us. Call it God, the universe, the Smurfs, whatever. It’s there. In my frustration and down right tantrum I almost threw it across the room. Instead, I reached out to the husband of one of my best friends. He is a pastor. I asked him for guidance, for a scripture that may help me regain perspective. Within minutes, I mean minutes, I had a response. This was it,

“Don’t worry about anything;instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Well, let me tell you. The tears ran down my face, ugly face, snot nosed crying for over 30 minutes. A peace came over me. I cannot explain it, nor do I feel I have to. All I can tell you is reading that passage catapulted me back to myself. After I stopped crying and somewhat regained my composure, I started to feel that knot in my stomach again. I literally stopped walking through my living room, took a deep breath, and said a prayer about what I was worried about. I asked for strength and courage. I stated what I wanted for myself and others. I made myself picture it in my mind before I took another step…if I have a peeping Tom, he got quite a show. The knot went away. On my way to work that day, as I pulled into my parking spot, the knot came back and my mind flooded with all the what if’s and the memories of the past events. I put my car in park, shut of the engine and stated out loud to myself, the universe and the dude waiting at the bus stop what I needed. The knot went away. It’s been over 2 months now, and guess what? The knot went away.

I am not a guru on the mount, nor am I an expert. In the words of the beloved June Carter Cash, I am a woman who is “just trying to matter”. Praying, positive affirmations, whatever it is, only work if you do. Yes, the scripture made me feel better. Yes, praying made the knot go away. I also had to do the work, walk the walk and talk the talk if you will. I had to own my shit. Own my part in all the craziness going on. When you are honest with yourself, it may not be pretty, but trust me, you will feel beautiful.

Beauty, health and wellness, lifestyle, writing

Merciful Monday

Mercy – noun;

 

compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

 

I came across a beautiful sentiment yesterday. I was watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with Elizabeth Gilbert and one of her beautiful insights into life was mercy. Mercy for others, most importantly, mercy for yourself. Her statement about showing mercy towards yourself about your failures, your short comings, your bad decisions resonated within me. I felt a calmness wash over me the instant she uttered that word. Mercy.

It got me thinking. How often we forgive others, show mercy to them and for them, yet we seldom offer ourselves the same gift. When someone we hold dear stumbles and falls, we offer a hand to help them up. When we hear of a friend’s failure, personal or professional, we listen with an open heart and open mind. We try to help them figure out where a wrong turn was made and help them get back to the right road. Funny thing is, when we stumble and fall, we continue to kick ourselves when we are down. When we fail in life and love, we stop looking for a way out. Why is it what we will do for others, we seldom do for ourselves?

Over the years, there are many regrets. I found myself wondering “what if”, or “I should have” or “why didn’t I”. Who knew that a five letter word would clear all those thoughts away. Mercy. I gave myself some mercy. It was 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday night. I went outside, sat in my backyard, looked up to the heavens and got myself some mercy. When I woke up this morning, I have to admit some of my regrets woke up with me. Today was a little different. My regrets were followed by “you did the best you could at the time”. One of my favorite quotes is by the beloved Dr. Maya Angelou “When you know better, you do better.”. I came to realize that I couldn’t have done better in the past, I didn’t have the tools, I didn’t have the belief in myself, I let fear and ego drive my decisions and reactions. I didn’t have mercy. I now know that I do know better, so I can do better.

We all make mistakes. We all have dreams that didn’t come true. We all have been a pain in the ass teenager to our parents. We all have made mistakes as parents. We have all hurt people. We have all hurt ourselves. We all deserve to show ourselves some mercy.

health and wellness, lifestyle, That girl in the red coat, writing

Reminder

I woke up this morning with words and phrases swirling around in my head. Conversations I’ve had with friends, words that were spoken out of haste or anger, from me and directed at me from strangers, family and friends. Snapshots of memories, past and present playing like an after school special. I’ve been reading more than one book at at time this past month before bed, jumping between Unfu*k yourself! – Gary John Bishop, The Subtle Art of not Giving a Fuck – Mark Manson, Life will be the death of me – Chelsea Handler and Girl Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis, which is probably the reason for this morning’s array of thoughts, visions and emotions, all before 8 a.m..

As I shuffled into the kitchen for my first of many morning cups of coffee, I went to my “mug shelf “. Yes, I have a mug shelf. There’s just something wonderful about pretty mugs, or a mug that makes you smile or says something sassy or inspirational. Say what you want, side eye me if you will, we all have that something that we like. I like pretty things to look at when I start my day, because you never know what life is going to throw at you, so why not start your day your way. Enough about my mugs, As I reached for my “you did not wake up to mediocre” mug, a story that is not mine to tell popped into my head. Then another, and another. What I realized is all my stories and the stories from friends and family alike all had two things in common. #1 = Fear. Fear of not being enough. Fear of not being loved. Fear of not being able to love. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the opinions of others. Fear of not measuring up. The list of fears is endless. #2 = we all have the same fears. Not always at the same time or to the same extent, but we all feel the same way. The sad part of this commonality? More often than not, no one talks about it. We all are guilty of acting like everything’s fine, everything’s great, nothing to see here. Instagram posts with the “fun in the sun” hashtag, but the fight before the picture and the silent treatment after the picture didn’t happen. The “love your spouse” posts on Facebook, all the while your husband is sleeping on the couch. I am not the guru on the mount, nor am I an expert, but I’ve been around the block a time or two, and in my not so humble opinion, everyone showing the highlight reel of their life adds to everyone’s fear.

Life can be easy, beautiful and wondrous. It can also be hard and a shit show. We cannot control anything or anyone but ourselves. Most importantly, almost everything that is happening in your life is not about you. Your boss is a jerk to you, your child is struggling with life, your parents didn’t hug you enough, your friend isn’t texting you back, plans are cancelled – whatever it is, more often than not, I’m sorry to say, it’s not about you, it just feels like it is. You are overweight and don’t like your body? That is about you. Your friend is overweight and doesn’t like their body? That is not about you. In the past, and sorry to say even in the present I have been and am guilty of making the reactions and words of others personal. Hearing their words and automatically thinking about myself instead of listening and thinking about them. I would hear the words that fit my mood or my fear if you will, to solidify my reasoning of self doubt and to prove my fear was relevant. In the end, all that was left was two or more people feeling frustrated, ignored and scared.

What I have learned and am continuing to learn is this. It is okay to have fear, it is not okay to let that fear define you. Let yourself feel it, then face it. If you can’t do it on your own, ask for help, from a friend, a coworker, a counselor, your minister – take your pick. We all make mistakes, we all fear making them. Mistakes are going to happen. You will stumble, you will fail, you will forget to pick your kids up after school, you will miss a deadline. It may feel like the end of the world, trust me, it’s not. Take a breath. Take a hard look at the situation. Assess it. Look to see where there may be another answer or room for improvement. Ask yourself “what am I to learn from this?” instead of asking “why is this happening to me?”. I know, easier said then done. Trust me, I know. I. Know. One other thing I know, you and I did not wake up to be mediocre.

 

 

Beauty, Hair Care, health and wellness, That girl in the red coat, writing

Seven Year Itch

 

Yesterday as I plopped into my favorite chair with my morning cup of Joe I heard the all too familiar bottle cap notification coming from my phone. It was an email alerting me of my 7 year anniversary as a blogger. 7 years. Within seconds my mind was flooded with images from the past 7 years. Nervously circling the table, staring at the computer, deciding to just go for it and write. Coming home from work to find a laptop waiting for me, given to me by my hubby with a “Happy Birthday” screensaver (which is still my screensaver by the way). Kristen Johnston reading my blog and retweeting it. Wynonna Judd sharing my “Kindness 101” blog that ended up getting over 700 views within hours. https://thatgirlintheredcoat.com/2012/07/21/kindness-101/    Major hair companies following my tales. Magazine editor’s and Hollywood stars following my blog. Writing opportunities coming my way. Strangers thanking me for my hair advice. Strangers laughing at my “Tales of Truth” series. My blog being read across the globe. The list of memories is endless.

Fast forward to today. For those of you familiar with my blog, you are well aware of the struggles I have been having trying to decide which direction my blog and I should take. I began this blog while managing a Salon/retail shop and once the shop closed I felt I didn’t have a platform of which to write. Every single fear and anxiety reared it’s ugly head and I am sad to say, more often than not, they won the battle, not me. I was having coffee with a dear friend yesterday and when I told her of my blogging anniversary I received a high five. During our conversation I came to the realization that I started this blog to spread information and to educate and enlighten, not only for hair care, but for all aspects of daily life, from business to self care to parenting, speaking my truth in hopes that it may give others the courage to do the same. As a reminder that a little kindness goes a long way.

When I woke up this morning, I found myself wondering if my blog related trepidation was due to the 7 year mark. We’ve all heard of the 7 year itch where relationships/marriage is concerned. Maybe it’s the same with goals. It’s all nerves and excitement at the beginning. Lots of new and exciting things happen. Milestones are reached. Celebrations seem to be every other month. Then things slow down, hit a plateau. It doesn’t seem to be as exciting, the shine is off the diamond if you will. It begins to feel like a chore. Other avenues are catching your eye. You feel like throwing in the towel. At least that’s how it felt for me. What I have come to realize and accept is that things change. Who I was when I began this blog I will never be again, and that’s okay. 7 years have passed and I have more experience, in work and in life. I have more of an understanding of who I was, who I am and who I intend to be. I feel I am a good writer. I enjoy it. It’s cathartic. I came to realize my lack of posts for the past 12 months was due to one thing – I was trying to be something and someone I am not. Writing blogs with others opinions in mind, not my own. I began this blog without any thought of what people would think, just the hope that someone would enjoy it and get something out of it. It’s time to get back to that.

Thank you to all my readers, my followers, my family, my friends and those who have shared my tales. More are on the way… hope you enjoy them.

 

health and wellness, lifestyle, That girl in the red coat, writing

Step back

It may have taken 22 years, but yours truly took a vacation. Yes, you read that correctly, 22 years. My beloved and I flew across the country to Vancouver, rocked out to the Def Leppard/Journey concert, ate at Gotham, the best steak house in town, strolled the streets of GasTown, Burnaby, and the glorious waterfronts with mountains on every horizon. We ate breakfast at a “You gotta eat here” restaurant. It was lovely. Except for a few Facebook posts and Instagram stories for our family and friends, yours truly unplugged from social media, my blog, my job, my day to day stresses, my to do lists, everything. I was present in every hour and every minute of my day. My hubby and I were able to complete conversations, to sit in silence together and just be. Time moved slower in Vancouver, maybe I was in vacation mode, maybe it was the scent of Mary Jane in the air around every corner (I shit you not.). All I know is I felt more zen than I had in a while, and the lovely thing is that feeling of zen flew home with me back to Ontario.

Over the past months, as you are well aware, I have been trying to find my place in this blogging arena. I started as a beauty blogger, giving tips and tricks and product knowledge. I wrote of my daily retail experiences and customer dramas…the lady thinking I stole her light bulb, the countless ladies showing me their ingrown hairs along their bikini line, the gents asking me about how to trim their nether regions….check out my Tales of Truth series for the full effect. I also wrote about lifestyle, kindness, the ugly things we don’t talk about at parties – and to tell you the truth, those were the blogs that flowed out of me, that were the best received and that brought me the most fulfillment and in turn ,the most opportunities. One of the things I learned while in Vancouver, other than those folks like their marijuana, is that I wasn’t being true to myself where my writing is concerned. I was trying to hold on to who I used to be and what I used to write about. I am no longer that woman, career wise or in my own mind. She still resides within me, but she has changed. She has matured, She has been through some shit and come out clean on the other side. She has something to offer. I have something to offer. I cannot articulate my reasoning. All I know is that it is time to stop being afraid of what may or may not lie ahead. Change is a good thing. Stepping back makes inspiration move forward.

I will continue to write product reviews and how to’s, for I love to help women and men feel good about their hair and in turn their appearance. I will continue to tell my Tales of Truth because I find it amazing the things people say to complete strangers, it’s funny and quite frankly cathartic. I will continue to write about kindness, for I believe it makes the world go round and in these days, we need it more than ever. From time to time, I may get political, for there are events happening in this world that are morally wrong, plain and simple.

I have no idea where this will lead or what may transpire. My intention, as always is to educate and inspire. To help people think of things differently, not to agree with me, but to open the door a crack to peek at what is on the other side.

Be beautiful to each other.