Category Archives: friends

Careful What You Wish For… (Working From Home)

I’m very thankful to work remotely for a great company, and there are definite advantages in working from home.  But, it’s just like any relationship.  The advantages can eventually become the disadvantages.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy… like the fact that you can’t control when people mow their lawn, or when a loud truck drives by your house.  It can be disastrous if someone knocks when you are on the phone, so my dogs go in a closed room faaaar from the desk and a sign goes on the door when I have important conference calls.

Working over telephones, it’s hard to tell when the speaker is finished or someone new is going to pipe up, so there is the frequent unintended interruption of your colleagues.  You also have to work a little harder at interpreting meaning since you can’t see facial expressions.

You learn to not have overnight guests during the week since most people don’t really get what it means to ‘work from home’.  They bang kitchen cabinets, get ice from the dispenser, and walk into the room talking all the while risking your professionalism.  They don’t mean to cause trouble; they just haven’t experienced working for a paycheck from home.

The obvious differences are not having to dress professionally and the lack of office socialization.  Working in an office brought some of the best relationships I’ll ever have.  My girlfriends from work have shared many tear-producing laughing spells and gotten me through many crises.  I miss them.  I have to try a little harder to get my regular dose of friends.

It is true that I don’t spend as much money on clothes, shoes, and jewelry as I did when I worked in an office.  The result is that now I never have the right clothes to wear, anywhere.  You see, I hate to shop.  Needing to shop for work clothes got me in the stores, and then I bought all kinds of clothes and shoes.  Now, I just keep putting it off and will eventually be that oddly-dressed lady who generates chuckles.

Wearing comfortable clothes while working brought its own harsh reality when I put on ‘real’ clothes a few weeks after starting the remote job.  It’s harder to notice that you are gaining weight.  I couldn’t believe it until I started realizing that I didn’t walk from the parking garage to the office anymore, from my desk to lunch, to meeting rooms, to the kitchen,…

It’ is great to avoid commuting in rush hour.  But that evening-hour commute gave me opportunities to stop by the grocery store or the drug store.  Now, it seems I’m perpetually out of the basics.  In the old days, I would not venture out of the house without makeup applied and hair done at least a little.  I no longer consider it worth the time to ‘get ready’ just to run to the store.  So, I tend to put off going altogether or pretend I’m invisible and run into the store looking like an embarrassment to my younger self.

In the end, the biggest difference is freedom in where you live.  I’m thankful to the now-friend who offered the original position to me.  It allowed me to move back to the southeast.  Now, I can have a casual weekend dinner with my Mother and Grandmother, and that’s the best advantage.  Now, if I can just figure out what to wear…….

~Lori

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Meet Me In St. Louis

My friends are coming back to St. Louis for our 3rd annual girl’s weekend.  This annual convergence is proving to be the necessary kick in the ass to complete my spring cleaning.   This means cleaning out every room, closet, and drawer plus the cabinets and fridge.   Not to mention sprucing up the yard, getting the windows washed, and cleaning out the car for sightseeing trips. 

As the centrally located gal in the group (they come in from Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and California) it makes sense for everyone to come here.  And, I love hosting my friends.  Along with getting my spring cleaning Totally Completed (I’m pretty much done with closet and drawer cleaning until next spring) we get to take in the awesome things there are to do in St. Louis. 

It is so true that you don’t really appreciate what you have in your own city – I was somewhere in Tuscany waiting to go into yet another church when a lady in front of me asked me where I was from.  When I said St. Louis, she immediately started raving about the Cathedral Basilica and how it was one of the most beautiful churches she had ever seen.   At the time, I had never been there even though I’d easily been to more than 100 churches in Italy (seriously – 5 trips = lots of churches!!)  So, the first girl’s weekend we went to the Basilica (and it truly is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever been in) and walked around the park at the St. Louis Arch which I hadn’t been to since I was a kid.  

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Last year, we went to the Washington University / Forest Park area of town because Michaela had been reading about the 1904 World’s Fair and wanted to see the buildings that were donated to the city after.  The architecture of the buildings was amazing (I beg you to take the virtual tour provided in the link – it takes you building by building and you can see why Michaela wanted us to go).  I used to golf every week at Forest Park and I’m embarrassed to say that I still have never been into one of the museums which are now housed in the World’s Fair buildings.  We also went back to the Arch and toured the Museum of Westward Expansion.  Walking around the area made me appreciate how very pretty the waterfront park is. 

This year the group has already made their list – it will be the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour.  You guessed it.  Never been to the Botanical Garden (can’t wait after looking on the Garden’s internet site) and even though I worked for A-B for years, have never gone on the brewery tour. 

Missouri Botanical Garden

So, again this year during girl’s weekend I will get to visit two more spots that visitors come to St. Louis to do but I’ve never done.  I’m thinking I need to have a lot more girl’s weekends in St. Louis as there is a lot to see and do.  Maybe we need to up the weekends to twice a year.  YIKES – that would mean spring cleaning again in the fall.  I love my friends but spring cleaning once a year is enough for me …….  

 ~ Susan

What Doesn’t Kill You……….

Last week held a personal milestone…the 20th anniversary of my wedding, and I’m single now.  I don’t think I’m a bitter person, but the anniversary made me contemplative.

I was surprised how devastating a divorce is.  Before my own, it seemed a sad, but routine, part of life.  Ours was relatively simple and not unexpected.  And still, divorcing ripped out my core.  I lost a lot of weight, couldn’t think straight, cried until I looked like an alien.  There was such a sense of loss and rejection.  It was the death of a dream.

It is the only time in my life I truly SCREAMED at someone.  Not in anger; I never really got angry at him even though my friends did.  I was questioning the way it unfolded.  He had been emotionally checked out for two years.  I yelled because I wanted to know why he wasted my time when he knew he was over me.

In your forties, two years make a big difference.  I went through the painful, slow death of his Mother followed quickly by that of his Father.  My face and knees got wrinkled, my breasts sagged and other similarly wonderful things happened in those two years.

Most damaging was sharing a home and bed with the husband I knew was slipping away, begging a man to love me while he shunned me.  I prayed, read self-help books, went to counseling, and focused my life on him in a desperate attempt to save our marriage when I should have been moving on with my life, as he already had!

I couldn’t attend church for a while. Waiting for the service routinely left me in tears.  Seeing families made me feel broken, like a failure, and reminded me I was single and would never have a child.  In other public places, I wondered what was so wrong with me that I didn’t deserve someone… like she did… or he did.

My ex had taken my chance to have children, though he promised otherwise before we married.  There were other fundamental promises replaced with excuses.  He thought it was a temporary phase, thought he could change me…  Really?  The awful truth was that what I wanted, what he’d promised, just wasn’t that important to him…. and maybe our 15-year relationship had been based on misconceptions.

Sadly, divorce affects your social network.  My ex made it easier by leaving town; I could even afford to stay in my home.  But some married couples, some even close friends, weren’t so comfortable around me anymore.  I lost the work friends, but that was expected for multiple reasons.

The hardest part was losing family.  I have no full siblings and a small family, but he was close to his two siblings and had a large extended family.  They were my family; and then… nothing.  Most concerning was losing my stepparent relationships.  But, I’m blessed to know my stepson’s family.    For that, I am very thankful to him and his wonderful wife.

The divorce taught me not to be afraid to reach out and not to waste time, eventually made me a better friend and daughter.  I’m healthy and happy, but would like to be married again.  I’m trying to be smarter this time.  I realize it might not happen, and I’m taking steps to make sure I remain okay with that.

~Lori

Potentially Useful Links

After a While (Poem)

Spiritual Divorce (book)

Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay (book)

Discovering a Diamond in a Discount Store (An Open Letter to Straight Women)

This is a guest post from one of our friends……

I have been a gay man for a long, long time. I have a lot of straight women friends. Whether it’s similar interests and objectives, less competition or less estrogen flying around, this type of relationship can be strong – often stronger than relationships between straight women.

We are true friends.  We will NOT let you leave the house looking all wrong. We tell you when that dress doesn’t look right, that color is not for you, or it’s time for that diet you said you’d start. Why? Because we have your best interests in mind.  We will remind you of what you said last week, or even 10 years ago… not because we like to be right (we do) but we too have a need to cultivate something.  Our product tends to be well-adjusted, confident and fashionable women who avoid the wrong men, bad outfits, uncomplimentary lighting and tacky accessories. Is that so wrong?

Many of us gay men were raised by strong women.  We are not threatened by strong (and fashionable) women and like to help develop the species. We give back through our friends and relatives by nurturing self-confident individuals to go out into the world and compete with, and live with, straight males. We freely share some of the male psyche for better insight. We can empathize with female subjugation and often envy “a little” female objectification (How many of us still hum the words to Madonna’s famous song – “make you feel like a queen on a throne, make him love you till you can’t come down”). Unfortunately, my boyfriend does not understand these prophetic lyrics. I will have to start singing them in French.

Is there a straight fashion designer out there that has done more to flatter the female form than gay men? It is because we’ve walked in your shoes – and we have!

I am proud to be a gay man and three memories will always stay with me. The time a gay friend and I dressed our friend for a college party and all heads turned when she walked in (the men in admiration, the women in envy). Or when my mother awaited my arrival to select her outfit for my grandmother’s funeral.  My mother needed the right outfit that dually signified somberness but also the celebration of a 107-year life – navy blue pleated skirt, a crème Chanel jacket, pearl necklace and a clutch – what else? And lastly, when a friend sent photos of herself at a wedding and queried if she should keep yet another bridesmaid gown.  I returned a shot of her from behind with three words: “keep the dress”.

The shoes may be high and the pencil skirt uncomfortable – it’s fashion!  Life can be hard and uncompromising.  Perhaps having a gay friend or relative makes the world a better place.

Finally, I believe this relationship is so strong because we are able to share, without judgment or competitiveness that idealized vision of you! And that is why you assist willingly and lovingly with the circus that a gay wedding can be… or simply because you are giving back for the gay man who may have designed your wedding gown, arranged your flowers or created perfection in hair and make-up on your special day.

Jeremy

Shopping for Milk at the Hardware Store

On June 24th the Marriage Equality Act was passed in the State of NY and since then I have already been invited to the weddings of three gay couples. This seems like a lot for someone who is neither a gay man nor a professional wedding planner. But I have a lot of gay friends. A lot. I even have a lot of gay ex-boyfriends. My high school boyfriend, my college boyfriend and the guy after that all turned out to be gay (well the guy after that’s conservative voters don’t know, but the rest of us do). When I write my autobiography it will be called, “Jen, I’m Gay.” Subtitle: “The life and times of the world’s biggest fag hag.”  It used to really upset me, especially the boyfriend part. What was wrong with me that I was such a gay magnet? It was like I had the kiss of queer. My gay friends used to make me go stand next to hot straight men to see if I would change them purely by proximity.  Then as I got older, I came to realize that the things that all gay men have in common – they like all things fashionable, fun and fabulous – must mean that I must just be extra awesome.

Always Outnumbered

I don’t doubt that spending so much time with gay men is not good for my dating life. My very concerned mother figure at work used to tell me, “Darling, you’re shopping for milk at the hardware store.” Which was true, gay and straight men do not tend to travel in the same circles. They eat at different restaurants, go to different bars and go to the gym for very different reasons. And I have a much higher standard for hygiene and style for straight men than I probably should.   

So with this in mind, I made a decision a few years ago not to take on any new gays. When I meet new ones who start to become attached, I simply have to tell them that I currently do not have any openings but if they would like to submit an application, someone would be in touch should I have an opening.  I have had to grandfather in a few who I’ve known for a very long time and then they came out after I made the rule. Who expects guys to still be coming out in their 40s? I mean it’s sucking a dick, not Proust, how long does it take to figure out?

Accessory Approval

I am always trying to come up with ideas as to what to do with my growing gay surplus. One of my oldest gay friends (chapter 2 in my autobiography) thought it would be a good idea to start my own fag/hag online match service.  I didn’t get it. Why would anyone need something like that just to find themselves a fag to hag with? His response was, “Jen you can’t understand – it’s like a Saudi not understanding why people need oil.” So if any of you ladies out there are in the market for a sassy gay friend who will dress you, cook for you and force you to wear uncomfortable shoes –  or any gays out there are looking for a girl that you can dress up and take to family gatherings in Arkansas, let me know. I am doing market research. – Jen

Drinking the clearance kool-aid

I’ve been packing the last few days for an upcoming vacation.  Since we planned this trip last fall, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder my wardrobe.  Over the past few months I’ve perused clearance racks for summer clothes for both my husband and I thinking they would be great for vacation – and a steal at that.

As I started pulling out things to pack, I quickly realized we both have more new outfits (daytime, nighttime and swim time) than number of days we will be gone.  For some bizarre reason, I feel every vacation requires buying a completely new wardrobe.   Needless to say, I have totally drank the ‘clearance’ kool-aid and feel if there is an $100 dress on clearance for $10, I would simply be an idiot if I didn’t take it home.  Besides, I have a vacation coming up where this dress would be fabulous, right? 

The worst part of my clearance rack purchasing sprees is that I would never wear these clothes during normal life.  So everything I’ve purchased will be for a one-time (or no time as some of my finds aren’t even making it to my suitcase) wearing as I will most likely buy new clothes for the next vacation. 

So the next time I am pulling items from my closet for the local charity clothing drive, there will be a fabulous $100 dress, and many other special summer items (many with the tag still on) that will be filling the boxes I set out on my porch. 

When will I learn that I’m blowing hard earned cash for clearance items that I simply must purchase only to donate to charity?  Hopefully, someone will benefit from my inability to refrain from bringing these steals home.  BTW — Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Chico’s,  I know you were waiting for a chump like me to come in and take a lot of clearance items off your hands and you’re welcome.

Oh, and this is the third time we’ve gone to the Dominican to an all-inclusive.  I know (absolutely am positive) that I’ll wear the same flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt to breakfast every morning, quickly change into a bathing suit and may or may not dress up for dinner.  I could travel with a carryon that has sunscreen, a bathing suit and visor and be all set.  Anything else I need I could pick up at the local Wal-Mart.

– Susan

Say WHAT???

I am repeatedly struck by the impact tone of voice has on any one remark. Whether from a spouse, friend, family member or co-worker, the same sentence or phrase said with an ounce of care will carry your message much further and it really isn’t all that hard. Seems that all it takes is a little bit of awareness and keeping kindness and/or that person at the center of your mind, vs the specific desire to be right and/or make your point.


This seems to ring true especially with spouses or other close one who you spend a lot of time with, somehow concentrated in times of stress or over holidays! Take the common situation where you and said person are in a conversation either which each other or another third party and one of you says something incorrectly. Possible responses are (bold used for emphasis of tone):

No, that isn’t right, it was…
..that isn’t right, it was …
..that isn’t right, it was…
Actually, what I remember is

Amazing what a good choice of words and a kind tone will do for you.

My husband and I have agreed to call each other on these kinds of things when we see them and this is one area we are actively working on. The way I see it, I aspire for our dialog (and relationship) to be one couched in mutual respect and kindness that shines through… and therefore I am working on making that last option more of a default reaction.

I’ve also found this whole tone thing to be key when talking to our lil puppy Zuger (who is topping the scales at 100lbs now). It is too easy to be angry/impatient with a puppy when they have no idea what they are doing… for example, when you want them to come,  are you basically yelling their name or are you saying it in a very excited tone that indicates that if they do come, there will be so much fun in your current location that they shouldn’t miss it? I continue to work on that one.

So in a world where voice to voice conversations are diminishing in favor of the typed message… how do you work on this? Can you get do-overs? The best advice I’ve seen lately is as follows:

How can we guard against that tone?  If you feel it creeping into your voice, slow down or stop, take a deep breath, and start again.  Or, if you realize ,after the fact, that your tone may have garbled your message, make amends by apologizing for sending out a mixed message, clarify it, and then move forward.

… And I have to say, in a conversation with an employee recently, I stopped mid-sentence and apologized for the tone that was coming out of my mouth and said I wanted to start again. Repeating my words in a different tone changed the conversation.

I can’t say I’m advanced in this area.. But I am aware at least and isn’t that the first step to sustained change?

A very happy new year to you and your family!

~Michaela