Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Geniuses at Bonnie Bell Cosmetics

By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 27, 2013

 I am convinced that in the seventies, there were marketing geniuses at work for Bonnie Bell Cosmetics. They systematically talked me out of my folded money and quarters I’d earned from rubbing my Dad’s feet. I was in the fifth grade, and spent most of my time with my best friend Chrissy.

Fifth grade girls have a hardwired need for a best friend. It’s when we start noticing the extreme differences between ourselves and other girls, and the ache of that sends us out on a hunt for that other girl who makes us feel safe, and happy, and un-weird. She’s the person you can talk to about nothing or everything in the five minutes you wait for the bus. She’s the person who knows why your hands get sweaty in the lunch line when a certain blonde-haired boy gets in line in front of you. She sits on your bed and looks at album covers with you, while you fold a paper fortune teller out of a sheet of notebook paper.

Chrissy and I lived on the same street in sunny Arcadia, California, home of Santa Anita racetrack, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. We rode our bikes back and forth between our houses, and to the shady, green park at the end of our street to watch her little brother Jeff play little league. There, we sat on bleachers, in an aromatic cloud of cooking hotdogs and dust from the boys running bases. We would systematically nibble on our candy necklaces, biting carefully into the centers with our eye teeth to keep from getting the dreaded “sticky neck.”

A few short blocks from the park was a shopping center where those Bonnie Bell geniuses pedaled their wares. There was a record store, Jackpot Records, a McDonalds, where we anxiously awaited the spring arrival of the Shamrock Shake, and pooled our Monopoly pieces to try to win stuff. And there was Save-On Drugs, home of my very first addiction to cosmetics, the Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker.

The geniuses at Bonnie Bell knew a thing or two about pre-pubescent girls. Primarily, they like to collect things and they like to put stuff that tastes good on their lips because they are imagining kissing boys if they can ever quit giggling. These marketing geniuses figured out that if they kept their price point reasonable, girls would part with their foot rub and car washing money in order to own the latest and greatest flavor they could come up with, no matter how disgusting it might be.

I had a collection that included watermelon, black cherry, caramel corn, sugar plum, Dr. Pepper, and green apple. There was also one in a dark green tube that was so “gross,” I had to hide it in a bottom drawer, but still somehow couldn’t throw it away. This may explain the fourteen lipsticks I own today, but never use.

I saw some Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers at the store the other day. I noticed a couple things that had changed, and it made me wonder if their sales were down compared to when I was a regular customer. First, the tubes are smaller, meaning they are the same size as a regular tube of Chapstick. In the throes of my addiction, they were big, maybe two to three times bigger than the regular lip balms. They were so big they never ran out. You could use one to lube the chassis on a Chevy Impala and still have plenty left over. Now, they don’t stand out from the crowd. Today they’re packaged on a cardboard backer with a clear plastic bubble over the front. You can’t even smell them. I know, because I tried but that plastic bubble was in the way. It was the smelling that always sucked us into the deal.

The lady behind the counter at Save On Drugs, did double duty, dipping ice cream cones, and like a savvy carnie at the local fair, called out to those of us passing by, by simply jiggling the keys to the sliding doors of the glass display case. Inside that glass lived our beloved Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers. We’d stand there, shifting from one foot to the other, contemplating the new arrivals. Oooh! Candy Apple! “Can we smell that one, please?” And then, as if she were pulling out a black pillow bearing engagement rings, she would present us with the goods. Slowly, she would remove the cap, and waft it back and forth under our noses. We’d stare at the sheen at the top of the tube, unused, perfect in every way. And then we’d dig our hands down into our jeans pockets to make sure we had enough cash, after french fries, to make the deal.

The next day at school was our opportunity to be everyone’s best friend. It was the thrill of having a new Lip Smacker, which good manners dictated we let all the other girls smell at recess. As we all know, you only let your best friend actually use your Lip Smackers, because she clearly does not have any cooties. If one of the other girls was so crass as to break the code, right there in front of you, well, then you were forced to give her a dirty look and scrape the top layer off in disgust. I mean really. No one can be quite as condescending as a fifth grade girl. It’s in the handbook and everything.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Books Will Change You



By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 24, 2013

There is so much to be said for the value of books. They really are among the greatest treasures we will ever enjoy in life. They belong with:





Our Five Senses



Books are pure magic. They provide travel to spaces, places and times we would miss without them and their enchantment. Books reach out a hand to us wherever we are, and pull us up and out and over, to another place, sometimes so suddenly that our breath catches.

How did I come to be here? To believe this? To see it this way? Suddenly a book linked it’s hand with mine and showed me a different path than I’d been on before.

Once on the new path, we may never remember which path precisely brought us to this new place of thought, but we seldom forget that the new place we’ve discovered exists.

It’s hard to not think about a penguin in a bowtie after someone calls it to your attention. Books call so many things to our attention, and then those ideas take up their tiny picket signs in our minds and remind us, at appropriate and inappropriate moments, that we saw…we heard…we now believe.

Books will change you.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

What I Have Learned (So Far) About Gratitude


By Vicki Hughes  Posted May 15, 2013

In December of 2009 I broke by leg. Badly. Not that there’s a great way to break your leg, but I snapped both bones just above my left ankle, and had to have a small hardware store installed to put it back together again.

Part of the misery was that I was also about eighty pounds overweight at the time, which ruled out crutches for getting around. Enter, The Walker. If you would ever like to know how it feels to be eighty or ninety years old, try relying on a walker to get around. It’s educational to say the least. My orthopedic surgeon forbid me to place weight on it for six full weeks, and thus began a spiral of events that sucked, not to put too fine a point on it.

Let’s see…during my recovery process, I was fat, broken, John’s work was a misery to him, and was financially unpredictable, I was out of work, the snow that had caused me to break my leg in the first place, continued to fall for the next several months, and each day, while John was at work, and I sat around with my left leg in the air, our three goats would break out of their pen, and stand on the table on our front porch and try to break the front window of the house with their hooves, hoping to come inside and play with me.

I was having a hard time feeling thankful. I was feeling a tad unthankful. But one thing I was thankful for was the new laptop my Dad bought me (to replace the one that BLEW UP a week after I broke my leg!) Somehow, in this shitstorm of unhappy circumstances, I decided that the only thing that might keep me from taking my walker into the kitchen and sticking my head in the oven, was figuring out a way to refocus on the things that were good in my life. I vaguely knew they existed, but I was having a hard time remembering any of them. Between the pain pills and the crappy circumstances, I was having a challenge focusing on the good stuff.

It can be hard to feel thankful when you can’t take yourself to the bathroom, or bathe yourself without help, while you worry about losing your house, and it snows in your face. It’s hard, but not impossible.

And so I began an experiment. I created a group on Facebook called Life Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to be Thankful. Several years earlier, I’d been reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance, and I had been intrigued with her suggestion to create a Gratitude Journal. I had dabbled with that, and found it to be very encouraging. I thought that creating my own Gratitude Journal online, in a setting where I was putting it out there daily, might be the ticket to becoming more consistent. It turns out, I was right.

I invited a few of my friends and family members to join in, and they did. Some of them knew how challenging it was for me to find things to be thankful for at that point in my life, and some didn’t. Some people thought it was easy. It was not. It was necessary, and therapeutic, but it was hard. Sometimes I would sit there all day, trying to think up five things I could honestly feel thankful for. And then one of my online friends would post their five things…and I could remember again.

Here is what I have learned so far about belonging to a community of people who try to focus on what they are thankful for.

a) It’s contagious. You will cause other people to feel thankful to.

b) There is so much to be thankful for, you could never write it all down, even when life seems really crappy.

c) Tapping into gratitude opens you up for good things to begin showing up in your life, while ignoring the things that are wonderful shuts down the process

d) There are lots of people going through lots of challenges, and they still manage to share the good stuff, and that’s valuable.

Some people come and read what others post, and they don’t ever become part of the conversation. That’s okay. I believe they will join in when the time is right. It blesses me to know they stop by, and get a dose of gratitude, like a multi-vitamin to strengthen them through the day.

Other people tell us a little something now and then, and it’s like getting a card in the mail from an old friend. It reminds me that they are still there, still connected, still a part of this adventure with me.

And some people are actively helping me create what I consider the happiest place on Facebook. They tell us the big and the little blessings, five things at a time, that they recognize as the icing on the cake. And all of these 548+ people make me realize every day, that out of a really bad set of circumstances, you can make something really amazing. To all of you who are a part of the goodness, thank you. You are at the top of my list, everyday.

© Vicki Hughes 2013


What’s The Plan?

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

By Vicki Hughes   Posted May 3, 2013

Have you ever heard words come out of your mouth and then wondered how exactly your mother was living inside of your larynx? It’s a phenomenon we really can’t explain, but it happens. Tiny versions of our mothers take root in our voice boxes and occasionally broadcast some long-standing motherly statement.

Some are standard issue, sort of the ten commandments of mother talk:

-If you sit that close to the TV, it will ruin your eyes

-Have you finished your homework?

-Where is your father, and why are fourteen of your friends here?

-What is that smell?

-Roll your eyes at me one more time, and let’s see what happens

But some of them are unique to an individual family. A phrase gets started, and it just settles in to become a staple. Ours is: What’s The Plan?

This seemingly simple phrase is a catch-all for times when we want to know all the details and have a full sense of control of all variables, and an iron clad guarantee that everything will be perfect, and nothing has been overlooked or will go awry.

When I hear myself say this, I don’t even hear it in my own voice. I hear it in my Mom’s voice. It’s like looking at a picture of George W. Bush with a funny quote of his over it. You end up reading it to yourself in your best George W. Bush impersonation.

What’s The Plan? (You just read that in George W. Bush’s voice, didn’t you?)

In my growing up years, I soon learned that this common question was going to require some actual, factual answers. To reply, “I dunno,” was a one way ticket to, “Well then, you’re not going.” I quickly figured out that details, and the more details the better, were the magic pixie dust to getting my way.

The Plan must include, in no particular order: Where am I going, a list of all attendees, a brief, colorful description of those people, their background and how I know them, what time the festivities will begin, what time preparations for leaving for the festivities will begin, what will I be wearing to the festivities, is it ironed, will I need a snack before I leave in case the food doesn’t arrive in a timely fashion, will the food be spicy/garlicky/salty/raw/Cantonese/jiggling, what time will I leave, how many miles is it to the place where I am going, which route will I take, is it the safest route in case of a tsunami/tornado/flash flood/Sasquatch attack, do I have my driver’s license, an emergency road kit, my AAA card, a snake bite kit, and emergency whistle, and bottled water in the car, and the mandatory, CALL ME WHEN YOU GET THERE!

All these years later, as a mom, I realize that the quiz about The Plan is an automatic, knee jerk response that mothers develop as a way to feel some tiny bit of okay when our children leave the imaginary safety of being in our line of sight, where we believe nothing bad is ever allowed to happen. Knowing The Plan feels like the antidote to bad ju-ju. It’s how mothers cope.

Unfortunately, no amount of knowing The Plan is ever as effective as we imagine. Things change, life is unpredictable, and even if we know The Plan, it almost always changes. It can be frustrating to not have a Money Back Guarantee that all will go as planned, but it rarely does. We have to learn to roll with the punches, adapt, and re-route when necessary. But you still need to call me when you get there.

© Vicki Hughes 2013





What if….

hokey pokey

By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 1, 2013

It occurs to me that there’s a reason folks used to say, “Idle hands are the devils’ workshop.” When we aren’t busy, actively engaged in something, our minds often go rogue and turn against us.

I never seem to spend much time worrying about anything when I am super-busy (most of you know, that is most of the time!) I have too much to do to worry! I’ve got to roll. All the activity is good for me, and keeps me making progress. If I’m idle too long, my mind slides over into “what-if mode.” I’ve discovered that “what-if mode” never suggests things like, “What if all of my bills got paid off mysteriously?” or “What if I live to be 100 in perfect health, with the wit of Betty White?” or “What if everyone I love has the best year ever?” Nope.

“What-if mode” tends to concoct lots of scenarios, most of which would make excellent horror movies or at least really bad country songs. “What if my house caught on fire while I was stuck in the bathroom with food poisoning, and all of my clothes burned up before I could grab something to put on?” Hmmmm? What then? “What if an asteroid hit, and there was a tsunami, and I don’t have a life raft, or one of those little flare guns and bottled water…will I have to drink my own urine while I bob around in a watery wasteland, and will my cell phone even work under those conditions?” We don’t know. It’s a conundrum.

“What-if mode is heavy on the problem and light on the solutions, and works extremely well at 2:15 am, when you are in no particular position to solve the quandary you are being challenged with. I have learned to avoid watching overly dramatic, or traumatic subject matter before bed, and always attempt to put myself to bed on a funny, happy note. I consider it preventive maintenance, to provide my brain with a cheat sheet of good stuff to draw from, so that my subconscious doesn’t need to rifle through the horror drawers to amuse itself while I sleep.

And when I am awake, the best thing I know to do to stay happy is to keep rolling. Stay busy, stay productive, keep moving. The more I do, the better I feel, because my “what-if mode” stays a lot quieter, and then, when I fall into bed at night, I’m just thankful to feel the sheets, and get horizontal for a few hours.

© Vicki Hughes 2013