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Where “Together” Means Totally Out of Control

I've been getting a flood of emails from readers around the world lately.

I love it, I really do.

It's nice to know people are reading what I write, and even better to hear from them.  Seriously, if you've ever thought about writing me – please do.  It makes my day to hear from you. 

The other night, right before I fell asleep, I read a couple long emails from readers.  One commented on how "together" my life is in spite of my disability and chronic severe pain.

As much as I appreciate the thought, I kind of rolled my eyes when I read it because I am so not "together"!

I am, in fact, one of the least "together" people you could ever meet.

(You can put me into the "very chaotic life" category instead.)

Anyway, after reading the emails, I went to sleep.  I debated setting my alarm for the next morning but I decided not to.  I always wake up early.  Also, even if I do manage to sleep a few minutes later than normal, my retrievers wake me up because they get hungry.

There's absolutely no chance of me sleeping in late, in other words.

The next morning I partially opened one sleepy eye and saw my clock staring back at me.

It read 10:30.

TEN THIRTY!!

OMG!!  

TEN THIRTY AND I HAVE TO BE AT AN APPOINTMENT A HALF HOUR AWAY AT ELEVEN!!!!

I jumped out of bed, brushed my teeth, threw on my ugliest pair of yoga pants and an old black t-shirt and flew downstairs.  As I was doing this, I made a mental note:  "New pain meds make me sleep like a rock for hours on end!"

I fed my dogs, who were happily snoozing - instead of acting as my alarm clock as they usually do.

I had no make-up on, of course.  (You don't still think I have my life "together," do you?)  I ran my fingers through my hair, to replace brushing it, as I grabbed my keys and drove a half hour to my waxing salon.

Yes, that's right –

My eleven o'clock appointment was at my waxing salon.

"How are you?" they asked gleefully, as I ran in the door.

"I just woke up and I'm about to get my pubes yanked out, how do you think I am?" I asked in return.

Hahahahahahahahaha!

They all laughed.

Even other customers, in the waiting area, laughed.

The women who work at my waxing salon think I'm so funny.

(I was not joking.)

A few minutes later I was doing the naked frog for a way-too-cheery woman.

I hadn't even had a morning cup of coffee yet.

(As it turns out, having hot wax poured there right after you get out of bed will wake you up way faster than coffee will.)

I hadn't applied mascara, showered, or brushed my hair yet for the day.  I have blonde eyelashes so mascara is a must – you can't even tell I have eyes without it.

I was looking, and feeling, my ugliest.

A short while later, my appointment was over.

I walked out of the salon and ran smack into the hottest fireman who has ever existed anywhere in the universe.

And by "ran into him," I mean I ran into him.

(Yes, I'm really that together!)

Why are firemen always so good looking?

There's some hidden law, somewhere, that states:  You are not allowed to be a fireman unless you're exceedingly hot and make women swoon on sight.

He laughed at me.

I gaped at him.

Literally.

I couldn't even talk at first, I was so stunned at how good looking he was.

(He was probably just as stunned at how unattractive I was.)

Then he glanced up and saw I had just walked out the door of the waxing salon.

He instantly had a full-on grin on his face.

I blushed profusely, which is ridiculous because for all he knew I had just gotten my eyebrows waxed, right?

Except, if I had gotten my eyebrows waxed I probably wound not be blushing profusely?

Finally, I stammered out an apology for running into him, all the while wondering if I could ask him for permission to take his photo.  

(Yes, that really is how my brain works.)

Surely he wouldn't mind having his photo on the Internet with a caption reading, "Hottest fireman ever!" or, "Fireman I met when I had a freshly groomed twat and no make-up on." 

Before I could act on the thought, I heard someone call out to Hot Fireman.  It was one of his friends on … get this … a fire engine.

Hot Fireman turned, and quickly joined up with his friends.

The lights and sirens went on even before he climbed up on the engine ….

I watched as the truck pulled out of the parking lot and raced away. 

And just like that,

Hot Fireman was out of my life.

Sigh ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Sure, I’ll Take Your Gift

If you stopped by yesterday, I'm sure it was clear I was in a lot of pain.  In hindsight, it's amazing I was even able to write.  I was on a LOT of medication.

I'm happy to report the new pain med (Nucynta) worked pretty well for me once I took it Tuesday night. (More so than morphine and without the BLEH feeling morphine gives me.)  I think I may have, finally, found the "right" pain med for my body/my injuries.  It makes me very "wifty" though. (Wifty = lightheaded/foggy-brained, etc.)

Currently I'm sticking to my old meds during the day so I can drive/get things done and just using the Nucynta in the evenings.

Anyway, I'm not quite back to normal pain-wise but I'm getting better and I think I'm over the worst of this flare-up.  (I'm sure all that stuff the doc injected into me is starting to work it's magic too.)

In the midst of all that pain and bleh! on Tuesday, I came home to find a large cooler had been delivered to our front door by UPS.  

Imagine my surprise when I opened the cooler and something waved at me!

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Inside were four live (!!) lobsters, four large crab cakes, and a huge bag of fresh mussels.

The cooler was sent as a thank you gift to our family.

 We've had a lot of visitors this summer and we keep getting the most amazing "thank you" gifts.  (Just a few days prior a bourbon chocolate cake was delivered to our house.)

I couldn't have held my "real" camera if I tried on Tuesday, but I did manage to take a few iPhone photos for you:

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Lobsters on ice

The lobsters were packed with "seaweed" and ice.  I was a little worried about cooking them, but they went calmly into the pot.  (I thought they might put up a fight or something!)

It was the first time I'd ever cooked mussels.

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Steaming mussels

They were fabulous.  I'll be honest, I've never really liked mussels.  I don't know if New England has a different type of mussel?  They were much milder in flavor than what I've experienced in Southern California.

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Boiling lobsters

Bright red shells and curled tails mean the lobsters are done cooking.

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Crab cake, corn, lobster (mussels not yet on the plate)

It made for a delicious dinner.  

It was also so nice not to have to come up with a dinner idea when I was in so much pain.  The decision was made for me.  I asked my boys to lift the heavy pots which made everything very easy despite my out of control pain level that evening.  

Now I find myself wishing a cooler with dinner in it would show up on my doorstep every day ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Visualize THIS

I'm not in the best place, so to speak, to write a post.

I saw Dr. Painless yesterday.

I ended up getting three injections.  (Or was it one injection in three places?  Neck, upper back, top of shoulder-ish.)  

Either way?

It wasn't, and still isn't, fun.

The man knows what he's doing – he stuck that four hundred foot needle right into one of my worst trigger spots.

I'm pretending I'm back in Hawaii.

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Napili beach, Maui, Hawaii

Getting through pain is all about visualizing yourself somewhere else, right?

And breathing

Breathing is something I forget to do.  (I tend to hold my breath for as long as possible when I'm in pain because the very act of breathing hurts.)

The injections were a mix of pain killers, steroids, and maybe (?) something to force my spasming muscles to relax.  I can't quite remember because I'm suffering from pain-med induced brain-fuzziness right now.  

Since my arm doesn't work, when I move it, I'm really using surrounding muscles to do the work.  Those muscles don't like being asked to act as a shoulder and an arm.  They weren't built to do that type of work.  They spasm.  They freak out.  In other words, I always say my "arm" hurts, but really it's the entire upper right quadrant of my body and neck.  

Have I mentioned my life is lots of fun?

Dr. Painless put me on a new/different muscle relaxer because the one I was taking (Zanaflex) gave me bizarre nightmares.  I'd wake up after a night of fighting my sheets.  Sometimes the sheets would win, because I've only got one working arm.  It was exhausting.

He also gave me a new pain med to try.  It's called Nucynta.  

(I'm telling you the name of these drugs because if I don't, I will get several emails asking me which ones I'm talking about.)  

It's still too early to know if Nucynta will be a good fit for me.

Yes, I'm still on a host of other meds too.

Anyway, I've had injections (although, not this exact concoction) before.  My arm/neck/back/nerves always freak the hell out for a day or two and then, hopefully, start to feel better.

I'm not at the feel better stage yet.

I'm, in fact, at the polar opposite of feeling better even though I'm on pain meds.

In any case, I'm going to stop whining now.

I'm going to go sit in a corner and edit photos for the rest of the day.

I'll be really quiet, because if I'm not – I just might bite someone's head off.

P.S.  Does anyone know where Briefcase is hiding??

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Facing Reality

Today I'll be spending a chunk of the day with Dr. Painless.  You remember Dr. Painless, right?  He's the one who gave me my bionic arm.

I have to tell you up front, Dr. Painless is a nice guy.  He really is.

Also?

I dread every time I have to see him.

It isn't him, of course, it's me.

I spend most of my time, particularly when I'm around other people, acting as if everything is just fine.  

Yes, I still wake up regularly from nightmares of screeching tires and metal screaming.

Yes, I live with severe chronic pain.  

Yes, I lost the use of my dominant arm.  

Yes, I'm filled with metal and wires and electrodes –

But isn't life grand, anyway?

Also, hey look –

I took a pretty picture with only one fully functioning arm!

I may have to slip away to my hotel room at a conference for an hour or two when no one is looking though.  If you find me I'll likely be in my room, doubled over on the floor in pain with tears streaming down my face …

But you'll never see that.

You might read a tweet saying, "Bad pain flare up," to explain my absence though.

You might see another tweet saying, "Extra pain meds tonight – whee!"

But, in fact …

There's no "whee" to it.

Pain is an awful, ugly, living, demon, creature - that's the truth of it.  It will strangle the life out of you if you don't fight against it with everything you've got.  

And oh, the energy just to fight it. 

Sometimes, I just want to give up because it's so exhausting to fight this battle every moment of every day.

When I'm with Dr. Painless, it's Reality Time.

There's no bullshitting, there's no pulling punches, there's no denial.

(I've become such an expert at denial ….)

When I'm with Dr. Painless, he's very open and blunt about reality.

Conversations with him always surprise me like a sharp slap in the face.

No more pretending, 

Just full, out-right acknowledgment, this sucks.

It has sucked for five years and it is always going to suck.

Is there any way we can make it suck a little less?

Dr. Painless learned quickly not to soften the harshness of reality with me.  I suppose that's the most effective way of dealing with someone as stubborn as I am.

"Have you been able to get any fucking sleep?" he'll ask, staring deep into my eyes.

He's the only one who sees the truth.

He looks in my eyes and he stares into pools of despair.

He sees them, recognizes them, and appraises their depth.

For others, I hide the despair.  I put on an act.

Aren't I strong?

Aren't I brave?

I can do anything ….

And, I'm trying very hard to live just that.

But with Dr. Painless there's reality.

The reality of pain interfering with sleep, and pain interfering with life.  

The reality of a disability frustrating me and holding me back, even as I tell everyone I won't let it hold me back.

Sometimes, facing reality when I'm with Dr. Painless is too much.  

I've sobbed, uncontrollably, on him before.  Yes, I've done "the ugly cry" with mascara and snot running off my face onto his shirt.

I think, if I were him, I would have freaked the hell out.

Instead he just hugged me until I stopped crying and said, "This is part of it."

It

It is severe chronic pain.

It is permanent disability.

It is reality –

The reality "my situation" is forever

How can that be?

I'm dreading seeing Dr. Painless today,

Seeing him, means facing the truth.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Carlsbad – Funky and Fun

Yesterday found me in Carlsbad, a city about 35 miles north of San Diego.

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Garden and/or yard sculpture at the beach.

Because I live in South Orange County, it's about equal distance for me to travel north to Los Angeles or south to San Diego.  I tend to get restless easily.  I like to grab my camera and take off for a day of adventure and/or photography whenever I can.

Right now, like Orange County, Carlsbad is in the height of tourist season.  There were people everywhere.  There was also a craft/art festival going on which attracted even more people.

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Downtown Carlsbad, art festival in progress.

I like Carlsbad.

It's a fun, funky, beach town.

Funky is the key word for me.  The funkier a beach town is, the more I like it.

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Bike and surfboard rentals at the beach in Carlsbad.

I also know if I have a personal crisis, and blow out a flip flop, there's help nearby for only six dollars.

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Flip flops for sale in crates at a beach store.

The funny thing about the flip flop crates, is they were available on an honor system.  No one was outside the store to see if someone took them without paying.

I was walking down the street when I noticed even the cars in Carlsbad are beachy and funky.

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Old woodie beach car.

I only had a split second to react, but I was lucky enough to get a shot of this one to share with you.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Summer Fun

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Children jumping off the dock in Maui, Hawaii

For a long time, I watched these "island kids" jump off the dock in Maui.  It was a hot (muggier than usual) day due to a tropical storm hovering in the Pacific.  They'd jump off the dock with shouts of glee, swim across to the larger pier, and then do it all again.

For hours.

The joys of being a kid ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Let’s Talk Turkey

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My golden retriever eyeing our Thanksgiving turkey.

I don't usually cover publicity for local events on Twenty Four At Heart, but I'm making an exception today. 

Why am I making an exception?

Well, for two reasons.

First, I like to see money donated to good causes.

Second, I know how much fun this event is.

The people organizing The 34th Annual Dana Point Turkey Trot, the second largest Thanksgiving day run in California, have asked me to inform you registration is now open.  

They are also in search of local sponsors.  

The Turkey Trot consists of a 5K, a 10K, a Kids' Gobble Wobble, a two-day health and fitness expo and a fun finish line festival.

A portion of the money earned goes to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.  Every dollar donated from the race provides three meals for the hungry.

You can run in the morning, justify a second helping of food later Thanksgiving day, and at the same time feel like you've helped out a great cause!

For more information, and/or to register please click here.

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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More Than Just Beaches?

* I've been asked to start labeling my photos individually, I hope doing so doesn't detract from your reading enjoyment.  This information was brought to you from an OC woman with beached-out, bleached-out, hair.  *

Most of my time in Maui was spent on the beach.

I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you there are other things to do on Maui too.

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Whaler's Village, Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii

The above photo was taken at Whaler's Village, an upscale shopping mall in Kaanapali.  Isn't that tree amazing?  Whaler's Village is just a step or two off the beach but it's also the location of a Coach store, a Louis Vuitton store, numerous surfwear stores, etc.  

If you want even more high end shopping, Wailea has a ton of stores the majority of us I can't afford to shop in.

I like to stroll through the shops to get a break from the sun.  I don't think I've ever bought anything of great significance at Whaler's Village, but my daughter did purchase an adorable bikini this trip.

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Tourist shop at Whaler's Village, Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii

I don't wear bikinis anymore, do you?

In fact, if I could I would wear a tent.  Tents aren't very comfortable to swim in though and I do love to swim.

If you're ever at Whaler's Village and/or Kaanapali, make sure and visit Hula Grill also.  

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Hula Grill restaurant, Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii

It's such a relaxing spot to enjoy lunch (or a drink with a little umbrella in it). 

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Cocktail drink umbrellas

Not that I would know anything about drinks with little umbrellas in them.

Of course, Whaler's Village would not be complete without a whale …

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Skeleton of a California Sperm Whale at Whaler's Village, Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii

So, they brought this whale skeleton over from California to show off.

I always get a good laugh out of that. 

© Twenty Four At Heart

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My Terror-fying Travel Story

When I first returned from Hawaii, I mentioned I had a "shocking" travel story to share with you.

The airport on Maui is small, as airports go.

When our departure day had arrived (*sob*), we began the long drive from our remote little beach to the airport.  

My entire family was in the car, but my daughter had plans to travel to Kauai for a few additional days.  The rest of us were flying home via the San Diego airport.  My daughter's flight was departing about 40 minutes prior to ours so we dropped her off first, and then went to return our rental car.

As we drove to the car rental return, we noticed a line of hundreds upon hundreds of people winding out of the airport building.

A minute later, I got a text message from my daughter informing me at least one of the TSA screening machines was "down" resulting in an extremely long security line.

We returned our rental car, checked our bags, and made our way to the end of the long, long, long line for security.

How long was it?

(That's what she asked!)

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself ….!)

The security line was so long, it went the entire length of the airport, OUT of the airport and then into some weird type of never-ending spiral circle.

Also, there was only one line for everyone regardless of their airline, their flight, etc.

I've traveled a lot and I've never seen anything like it.

In addition to being spectacularly long, the line also wasn't moving.

At. All.

People continued to get in line behind us and we continued to stand there, and stand there, and stand there.

Someone near me went to check with "authorities" at the airport, and returned informing everyone (loudly) flights would not be delayed.  No, not even if all the passengers remained stranded in The Longest Security Line Ever In The History Of Mankind.

And that was when things got ugly.

People started pushing, cutting in line, and being as rude as possible.

There were no airport or security personnel monitoring the situation near us, whatsoever.

An almost-mob mentality set in with people complaining loudly, panicking about their flights, and deciding this was the perfect excuse to let the worst of their  inner asshole  personality shine through.

One woman, who had asked me where the end of the line was upon her arrival, suddenly tried to push her way in front of me.

I informed her, quite matter of factly, I had no intention of letting her get in line in front of me.

"Just keep walking," her asshole husband said.

"I'm not cutting in line," she said looking me straight in the eye.  "I've been here the entire time."

Seriously, bitch? 

[And no, she really didn't realize I was the same person she had asked (thirty minutes prior) where the end of the line was.]

Another woman told me, panicked, she was going to miss her flight.

"We all are," I answered as I gestured to the hundreds (thousands?) of people in line with us.

All of this, adds up to a travel nightmare but not much more.

Things got a lot worse though.

The airport porters (or baggage guys, as you might refer to them) began taking bribes to move people ahead in line.

How do I know this?

I saw it happening.

One porter even asked the woman behind me if she wanted to participate.  She thought about it for a minute because she was so worried about missing her flight, but then turned him down.

This is how it worked –

A panicked and/or totally irresponsible passenger would pay $20 to the porter.  The porter would then get a wheelchair and escort the completely able-bodied person to the front of the line.  

Things were in such a state of chaos at the front of the line, the wheelchaired passengers only got a slight, cursory, glance as they were wheeled past security.

Holy HELL folks!

Is that an opportunity for a terrorist or what?

And why?

Because totally irresponsible airport porters wanted to earn a few extra twenties!

One family had such a large group, I watched as they decided to put two members of their family in wheelchairs.  (I suppose they didn't want to take a chance some of them might be told to go back and get in line.)  

The mom of the family got into one wheelchair.  Her adult-sized teen son pulled off his shoe as he got into the second wheelchair.  He stuck his sock-only foot out and pretended his foot was hurt.  Their entire large group (with the help of porters) went to the front of the security line and whisked right by.

I was so disturbed by what was going on, I put out the following four messages on Twitter:

Porters at Maui airport are taking cash bribes to sneak people thru security line in wheelchairs

Hawaii? Maui? You should be ashamed of yourself. Terrorist threat made easy?

Mayor Arakaw what the hell? It's damn scary what's going on here. #Maui #hawaii

@GovernorAbercrombie. Are you aware of what's going on with bribes at the Maui airport?

I doubt if my tweets were read by anyone of importance but, not long after I sent them, airport security began monitoring the line.

(Eventually they even succeeded in creating order out of chaos.)

I'm still horrified ten days later.

How could this possibly happen post 9/11?

How can we keep it from happening again?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Can You See Me Now?

A woman named Darryle Pollack read one of her blog posts out loud at the conference last week.

I've met Darryle before, and the day after she spoke we spent about an hour together in deep discussion.

Darryle's post was about women becoming invisible in our society as they age.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about her words, or our conversation, since.  I'm a little younger than Darryle, but I'll be following in her footsteps in a blink of an eye.  (Yes, time does rush past faster than a speeding bullet ….)

Darryle is someone I admire and respect.  

She really got me thinking.

Let's back up for a minute, to a day earlier in the conference.

Readership numbers are something bloggers don't generally discuss with each other.  Most bloggers consider it rude, and guard their "numbers" as closely as they do their weight.

However, I've always considered myself a "small" blogger because …

Well, because I'm not The Pioneer Woman or Dooce.

And by those standards, I AM a small blogger.

However,

In talking with several bloggers, I realized the readership numbers I think of as "small" for Twenty Four At Heart are actually pretty decent.  In addition, my readership exceeds that of many popular "mom" blogs.  A few blogs I think of as being famous actually have a much smaller audience than Twenty Four At Heart.

It was a very surprising revelation.

I'm not sharing this information to you to brag, or to pat myself on the back.  After all, it's you, not me, creating the page views.

Instead,

A question began nagging at me –

Why are they ("mom" bloggers with smaller audiences than I have) getting the vast majority of private invitations to brand parties, why are they getting so many more business opportunities, why are they considered the Important People to the brands and marketing people?

I decided to talk to a few of the marketing people in the expo hall, and ask them.

I was shocked when one of the brand/marketing experts told me they don't have "very reliable" tools for measuring the reach of any particular blog.  Yes, they have tools – but they realize those tools often give them very unreliable information.

Not being a "mommy blogger" apparently immediately takes me off everybody's radar.

But should it?

Am I, because I'm not a young mom blogger, invisible?

Invisible on the private party lists.

Invisible on the pr/marketing lists.

Invisible even to many of my blogging peers (who would not, I suppose, think to invite me along when they make plans because I'm OLDER).  

I mention this, because in blogging networking is often everything.  

If you aren't THERE, if you're never invited – you're missing out on amazing opportunities.

Marketing companies are targeting young moms with blogs.  I don't think it even occurs to many of them to take a look at people who are not blogging about their families and/or do not have kids to blog about in the first place.

Now, don't get me wrong –

I do get a lot of PR/Advertising pitches.

Most pitches I receive are on products/ideas related to baby/young kid products which, clearly, do not relate to me at this point in my life.  (My youngest of three children is now 16 years old.)  

Having a background in PR, I understand the logic behind wanting to attract young buyers and build a lifetime loyalty to your brand.  Nonetheless, two minutes of research would provide them with the information to realize my blog isn't the right forum for their baby/young kid products.  When I get these pitches, I know I was just part of a mass emailing campaign.

Alternately, if the pitches I receive aren't about young kid/family products they tend to be about arthritis/alzheimers/vaginal dryness.  These pitches come from marketers who have done enough research to realize I'm not "young."

I wish I were joking, but I'm not.

Many of the brands at last week's conference would be ideal for my audience, but I've never heard from them.

The advertising/pr agencies have serious flaws in their marketing strategies and they are missing out on huge opportunities.  Has it ever occurred to them to target women in their late thirties and up?

I'm not "old" and I'm not "young."

I do, however, have an audience of extremely intelligent and largely affluent readers.  In addition, my readers trust me because they know I tell it like I see it.

(There is absolutely no chance my integrity will ever be compromised by a brand.)

At my not young and not old age, I also have more discretionary income than I did when my three kids were young.

The "baby boomers" are a HUGE buying force, but are largely being ignored and/or misunderstood by marketing companies.

I'm not interested in products for the elderly because I'm not elderly.

Nor am I interested in products aimed at toddlers.

Do I like wine?

Do I like chocolate? 

Do I like yogurt?  

Do I like FOOD in general?  

Do I like to travel?

Do I have an interest in beauty products?

Do I have an interest in health products?

Do I like creature comforts?

Do I send greeting cards?

Do I use technology products?

Do I like photography equipment and other "hobby" products?

Do I like to cook and have an interest in kitchen products?

Do I clean my house/my teeth/my clothes?

Do I ever redecorate my house and have an interest in furnishings, etc?

Do I like activities such as exercise, parties, boat trips, and adventures of all sorts?

YES I DO.

I did not stop doing any of those things when I turned 40.

In fact, I have more time (as well as more discretionary income) to enjoy all of the above than I ever have before.

This is not a "sour grapes" post about BlogHer.  

I attended the conference; I had a great time.  

I was nonstop busy in San Diego with events and (open to everyone) parties, friends, and conversations with marketing folks.

But ….

I'm wondering –

Did anyone there really SEE me?

More importantly,

Can they see me now?

© Twenty Four At Heart