Accumulate Less in a Material World

Uncluttered: beautiful & relaxing

Living a less-is-more lifestyle can be challenging. I aspire to let go of material things and live more minimal, but I’m also not fooling myself – I can’t survive with one pair of shoes. Or even six pairs of shoes. What’s a girl to do when they all spark joy? Not to worry, I have a couple of tips to help you accumulate less in a material world.

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Really Facebook, do we need another dating app?

In a perfect world, this is what online dating would look like.

Do we really need another dating app? I typed “dating” into my app store and here is a sampling of what popped up:

OkCupid, Hinge, Cougar, Bumble, Hily, Loveplanet, Kinkoo, POF Dating, Curvy Singles Dating, Clover Dating App, Tinder, Match, Adult Affair Finder, Zoosk, Badoo, Hud, Gaper, Christian Dating, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hookup App, DateMyAge, and this is not the complete list!

Clearly, some of these apps are not actually for dating in the sense that many of us define the word. And let me be very clear: I am neither endorsing nor advocating any of these apps or services. If you’re in the market, you need to do your own research. And then research more.

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Say My Name…Again

It’s been a running joke that there doesn’t seem to be a soul in the world who can pronounce my last name correctly. Or anyone who can spell it correctly, for that matter. People say and spell Grope, Group, Groop, Gropt, Grott. Here’s my post from 2014 about this. It is fascinating to me how many ways my name can be misspelled with no hits on a correct spelling. What are the odds? Isn’t this mathematically impossible? Where are my statisticians?

This has been going on my. entire. life.

Last week I contacted a call center for tech assistance (not related to my employer). I gave call center Fred (not his real name, but at this point I’m calling him whatever I want) my first name and I quickly spelled Kelly so as to not be branded Callie as I often am. Because Callie is a ridiculously common name, right?  Then I spelled my last name slowly and clearly, as I always do. I enunciated like nobody’s freaking business. And when I spelled it out I said it like this: “G as in George, R as in Robert, O, PP—that’s two Ps as in Peter.” I said that. “That’s two Ps as in Peter.” After searching for my profile for 18 minutes, EIGHTEEN minutes, he says to me, “that was G-R-O-O-P, right?” What in the world, y’all? What in the WOORLD?

How difficult can it be to put five letters together? But wait, there’s more. Fred got Gropp vs. Groop straight, but at 23 minutes he determined he could not help me and said, “Karen, I have to transfer you to one of the profile managers.” Who the heck is Karen? There’s no Y in Karen. How does this even happen? I said to him, more curtly than I wish I had, “Kelly. My name is Kelly.” “Oh, sorry, the last caller was Karen.” Was that supposed to make me feel better—the fact that he could recall the name of the caller before me but not my name? I should have called him Fred right there to is face. The call was 33 minutes total, my problem was not resolved, and I lost 18 minutes of my life to a search for Karen Groop’s profile.

After the call ended, I got to wondering if there actually was anyone out there named Kelly Groop. What a hoot that would be to ask her if she gets mail for Kelly Gropp! So I did a Google search and BAM, there was one hit for Kelly Groop. You’ve got to be kidding me! Then I looked closer and nearly fell out of my chair. Check out this little write-up by the Wandering Sheppard about one of Raleigh’s first food truck rodeos in 2015. He spoke to Kelly Groop in line at the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck.


I just can’t even with this.

Cheers! (this time I’m actually having a beverage)

Cardinals Appear When Angels are Near

Cardinals appear when angels are near. Have you heard this saying? Or that a cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed away? I’ve heard people say these things, but never gave it much merit. Not until about a year ago.

Before I tell my cardinal story, let me give a little background as to why I was so dismissive of the notion of cardinals being spiritual messengers. It’s no secret that my Mom was very much into the spiritual world. She read tarot cards for forty years or so, participated in a seance or two (that I can recall), and on one occasion I watched her become a physical medium for a spirit. I was twelve, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. It is my fear that keeps me from giving the spiritual world much thought. If I don’t believe in it, if I don’t dwell on it, then nothing scary will happen, right?

As far as the cardinal thing, my thought was that there are more cardinals in certain regions and thus more sightings. Seeing a cardinal in North Carolina is common. No big deal. It’s our state bird for crying out loud. But what I hadn’t keyed in on is the difference between a sighting and a visit. It’s not merely a sighting that constitutes a visit from a loved one, it’s how the bird behaves.

The first anniversary of my Mom’s passing is just two weeks away. It was this time last year that Mom took a turn for the worse, and also when I started getting visits.

When Dad passed away nearly twenty years ago, I was heartbroken. Dad and I were close, and I still think of him every day. Mom said when I was growing up that if she needed to find me, she knew to look wherever Dad was. In the years after Dad died, the bond between Mom and I became strong. Sometimes we were like oil and water but also like best friends. That lady sure put me through the paces in her last years, but we had a relationship that I’ll hold in my heart forever. I don’t know if it’s more difficult losing your second parent–it’s tough to gauge grief–it’s hard and not something you can prepare for. So when Mom became ill and I felt it was the beginning of the end, I was heartsick. There was a sadness in my soul that ran deep, and there was nothing to be done about it.

When I got the phone call at work that Mom wasn’t doing well, I left the office for the privacy and comfort of home. I’m an introvert and draw strength from within, and I was too rattled to be any use at work anyway. I remember that day clearly–I stepped onto my front porch and sat on the top stair, knees to chest, arms hugging my legs. I felt a sadness envelop me, and my heart ached. As I sat there, I noticed a rotund cardinal perched in the crepe myrtle tree that was just feet from my deck.

This guy started perching in my crepe myrtle about two weeks before Mom passed away.

Like I said, it’s common to see cardinals here, so at first I didn’t think much of it. But he was behaving differently than any other cardinal I had seen. He wasn’t leaving. Typically, they light on a branch for a moment or three and flit away just as quickly. This guy stayed. I watched him for a couple of minutes before going into the house to get my camera, thinking he would certainly be gone by the time I got back outside. Nope. He was still there. I took my seat on the top stair and snapped a few photos. I changed lenses so that I could zoom in–still there. It still hadn’t hit me what this might be.

I talked to my sister that afternoon, about Mom and what to do, and what we would do without her, and I mentioned the cardinal. My sister said “Oh, that’s an angel, Kelly. It’s probably Dad.” I said no, there are cardinals everywhere here. Nothing out of the ordinary. But I kept seeing the cardinal, or at least a cardinal, every day. Sometimes perched on my fence, other times in that tree, and I started to think maybe there was something to this.

As I said, Mom passed away just about two weeks after the cardinal started visiting. I live more than a thousand miles from my family, so the morning after Mom died, I conference called my siblings to discuss arrangements. I sat at my desk in front of a bank of windows that look out toward the crepe myrtle tree, and as I was going over the list of things Mom wanted at her funeral (she had been planning this event with me for decades), the puffy cardinal perched on a branch that reached nearest to the window. He sat so precariously toward the end of the branch that it bobbed slightly from his weight. He looked straight at me and held his gaze nearly the whole time I was on the phone. I kept saying to my brother and sisters how I couldn’t believe this cardinal was still staring at me.

Well, color me a believer.

When Dad was alive, we looked out for each other–he sometimes stayed at my house when he had early dialysis before he and Mom moved closer to the hospital. We would have breakfast together on Friday mornings. Any time he was admitted to the VA hospital in Iron Mountain, Michigan I would visit on my way to or from work. We never talked much, but we liked each other’s company. I truly believe that cardinal was Dad trying to ease my pain, making sure I was not alone.

After Mom’s funeral and when I was back in North Carolina, the cardinal sightings continued, but not as intensely as in the two weeks before Mom’s death. Shortly after I returned home, toward the end of a walk with my dog and as I rounded the corner to my house, there were four cardinals in a bush. I have never seen a group of cardinals before, but I’ve read that cardinals will flock during winter months. This was late April in North Carolina when the temp was rising. There was one bright red (male) and three tan with light red tails (females).

I stopped and caught my breath, because not only are my parents deceased, but two of my sisters are as well. A male and three female cardinals. They didn’t stay long. It was as though they wanted me to see them, and they flew off. I felt this time that it wasn’t Dad making sure I was okay, rather a message that they were okay–they were together.

About five months after Mom’s passing, I came home from work to a light red feather lying on my welcome mat. I smiled and thought, thanks for stopping by, Mom. I miss you too. I’m still not open to the spiritual world by any stretch, but I now take comfort in my cardinal angels.


My First Mother’s Day Without Mom

This is the first Mother’s Day since Mom passed away. One month ago today, actually. Ironically, today was going to be our first Mother’s Day together in over a decade.

Since I adopted my sweet baby girl, Grace, Mom had wanted to meet her. For over three years, I sent pictures of Grace to Mom, showed Mom videos of Grace, and I told her what a comfort Grace had been to me since the day I brought her home from the shelter. Nearly every time we talked, Mom would say she wanted nothing more in life than to meet her grand-dog. It sounds dramatic, but trust me, Mom had a flair for it.

Grace even signed cards to Mom

With me living 1,200 miles away and Mom no longer traveling, it was almost impossible for Mom to meet Grace. Almost.

This year I planned to drive from North Carolina to Illinois and rendezvous with Mom at my sister’s place in May (sister was going to pick up Mom a few days prior and bring her to Illinois). After a few days in Illinois, I would drive Mom home to Wisconsin, all with Grace at our side. Finally, Grace and I would make the trek from Wisconsin back to North Carolina on our own…all Thelma and Louise, but without the cliff.

Mom was beside herself about meeting Grace. She talked about finally meeting the grand-dog every time we spoke. Then she would say she didn’t think she would live that long, and I would say in a teasing yet gentle way, “Mom, surely you can hold on until Mother’s Day to meet Grace!” And Mom would chuckle and say “Okay, I’ll wait until May.”

But Mom couldn’t wait until May. She passed away on April 14, which makes this first Mother’s Day without Mom that much more sad. The thing she talked about for over three years, I missed by a month. Things happen the way they happen, and I’m not blaming myself, but it hurts my heart. I would have loved to have done that for Mom. I would have loved to have seen her face light up and her heart swell when she met my sweet, lovable, snuggly Grace.

In the week leading up to today, my friend Karen asked what I was doing this weekend, and invited me to visit with her and her Mom who lives in an assisted living facility. Karen is gaga over Grace, and her Mom loves dogs as well, so of course Grace was invited.

I think Grace is gaga for Karen as well!

A couple of years ago I took Grace to a therapy dog class in hopes that we could visit nursing homes and such spreading Grace-style cheer. It’s something I feel Grace would do well, and something I would enjoy. Maybe because I surprised my parents late in life and they were older than the typical Mom and Dad–it’s hard to say–but I definitely have a soft spot for the older folks.

The problem was, Grace and I didn’t do well in the class. Grace was easily distracted and began to lose her manners as the weeks went by, so I pulled her from the program.

Fast forward to our invitation this weekend, where Grace was the life of the party at the senior living facility. I was so proud of my girl and Mom would have been, too. We spent time with Karen’s Mom in her private quarters, where Grace gently took treats, snuggled, and gave kisses. Karen’s Mom was delighted.


Being the perfect pup for Miss Dolly

We joined other residents and their families for a Mother’s Day Tea in one of the common areas. The place was packed like a Friday night happy hour and with the noise level to match. In all the chaos, Grace didn’t miss a beat. She sat when I asked her to, she let people awe over her and pet her, she had her picture made with several folks, ignored another pooch who walked through the room, and sat nicely while a little fellow of about three timidly pet her and ran off squealing.

Giving the facility director some puppy love

The staff gushed over her, sat with her, loved on her. This is exactly how I imagined she would behave in this environment. Grace was made for making people smile, for bringing them comfort, and it brought me as much joy as it did the residents.

Grace loved everyone she met

To bring this back to Mom, and the ache in my heart that she is gone, that I did not get to be with her today and watch her face light up at the sight of my smiling dog–my first Mother’s Day without Mom was made less painful knowing that a few other Moms enjoyed the company of a sweet, little red shelter dog who loves as big as the world.

I am blown away by the people in my life who made sure I was not grieving alone this weekend. Whether you reached out to me in person, or simply held me in your thoughts, thank you.

To Mom: I miss you more than words can say, but I take comfort in believing that you’re smiling. Smiling because your grand-dog and I did some good in the world today. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.


My Dog Grace: Grief Counselor

Anyone who knows the love of a dog will likely tell you that dog is their baby. What many folks don’t share is that said dog is their world. I’ve been admitting that since the day I found Little Miss on the Wake County Animal Center website. I met her, and my heart melted. She was mine, but more importantly, I was hers.

I was going through a tough time when I adopted Grace, and it is no secret that she rescued me as much as I rescued her. She was homeless, emaciated, and had heart worm disease. I had just moved back to my condo and found myself alone for the first time in decades, and I was only beginning to deal with the psychological aspect of breast cancer. Grace and I were destined to save each other, and you will not convince me otherwise.

That was over three years ago. Fast forward to two weeks ago when I lost my Mom, my first best friend, and I couldn’t conjure the emotional strength to leave my bed. I got up at 7 a.m. to let Grace out for her morning business, but then went right back to bed and curled up with my heart aching. I could have stayed there until it was time for Grace’s evening break.

Typically, Grace will fuse to the sofa or the bed right along with me during a Netflix binge or while I read a book, but on that particular day, she got restless. She had stretched out next to me with her snout on my chest long enough. Around 10 a.m., she made a show of jumping out of bed and left the room. I could hear her huffing somewhere in the house. Large inhales followed by audible exhales.

I got out of bed to see what was going on, and this is what I found right outside my bedroom door:

Waiting for her Mum

She was feet from my bedroom, impatiently waiting, giving me the gentle signal of her huffing and puffing until I got myself out of bed. As soon as I stood in the doorway looking like an extra from The Walking Dead with bed head, puffy eyes, and still in my PJs, Grace jumped up and greeted me as she always does. With joy, gratitude, excitement, and unconditional love.

With her beautiful, soft brown eyes, and her gentle flicking of my hand with her muzzle, she convinced me that a walk was the best thing for us. And so I got dressed and we walked. Exercise, fresh air, and my whole world walking next to me. Just what the doctor dog ordered.

I recommend letting your friends and family help you through difficult times, and talking with a professional counselor. I’ll likely seek that out in the weeks to come. Also, I highly recommend adopting a dog.


That Time I Wore Slippers to Work

I did it. I wore slippers to work — to my upscale, traditional, business professional office. Not intentionally, of course. It all began with a trip to SteinMart with a friend who had never been. I went specifically to look for a chair, and in perfect SteinMart fashion, left with an arm load of things that were definitely not a chair. Does anyone else identify with that?

My faux UGGs (FUGGs?)

Anywho, on our way to the back of the store where the home goods live, a wallet caught my eye, and then the scarves, and then a pair of boots. Cute little UGG-like boots by Isaac Mizrahi named Short Boot with Faux Shearling Lining. What I did not know is that these are found online under Women’s and then Slippers. I was enamored with the darlings and with the deal. The boots were $14.98 – less than $15! Sold. Let me check out before they realize their mis-pricing.

My faux UGGs (FUGGs?)

I wore my fake UGGs to kick around town, meaning the Lowe’s, Home Depot, Costco, Target circuit. It was a little concerning that the soles were already looking tattered after just a couple of wears, but I still wore them to work on a colder-than-usual morning. I carried my heels and wore the boots, changed at my desk, and did the same when it was time to go home that evening. No big. But on my way to the elevator in our lobby with its glossy, marble-esque floor, I shouted goodbye to the ladies in our reception area and slid past them with a whoosh like Tom Cruise in Risky Business (except with pants).

My suspicions about these fantastic $15 boots were rising. I was telling a friend about how the soles felt like cardboard, had no tread, were already worn, and that I was surprised because the SteinMart I know has always sold quality merchandise. She loved the boots, forgave them their apparent cheapness, and had also never been to a SteinMart (gasp, two friends in one week who had never been!), so she asked where in the store was the shoe department located.

As I began telling her, as the word balloon left my mouth — “the boots aren’t in the shoe department, they’re with the accessories” — it hit me. These are not boots at all, they are slippers! Slippers! Giant palm to face, smh, rofl, etc.

And that, my friends, is how it came to be that I wore slippers to work. Well heck, I’ve worn them in public this much, I may as well keep on, right? It’s like when you order a Margherita and realize it’s only 11:30 a.m. You know it’s poor form to drink before Noon, so do you leave it sit for 30 minutes and drink a watered-down, room temperature Margherita mid-day, or do you tip your glass like nobody’s looking? I thought so.



The Christmas Cards That Got Away

The tricky thing about Christmas cards is that you can’t take your eyes off them. Not for a minute. It’s true.

Not a creature was stirring…but the cards were still there!

I love receiving the notecards of yule, unless there is glitter. Hold the glitter, please. Regarding the non-glittered, when I open the mailbox and peruse the return addresses from near and far, and slide the cards out to see…is it a Christmas tree, a snowman, maybe Santa himself…it’s like Christmas arriving early! They bring a smile to my face as I read the sweet messages and swiftly put them on display as part of the holiday decor. I hope my cards bring that little spark of joy to the folks on my list, too.

Speaking of which, I sat down at my desk to write my cards (yes, I still write a personal note or at least sign my name), and I was incredibly pleased with myself for having finished and put them in the mail nearly two weeks before Christmas. This. Never. Happens. I was proud! I high-fived Kimmy Schmidt! Ha! As if.

Anywho, about two weeks later, I walked past my desk and saw my little box of cards sitting there atop my pile of notebooks and bills, along with stamps and my Christmas card list. That was curious.

Well, apparently I walked away when [insert a number of things that could have distracted me] and forgot to finish the cards. For the love! Most of my list was crossed off, but there were a few names plain as day, without a line through them, mocking me. No line, no card. Oh dear.

I’m not one to let deficiency prevail, so some folks received a nice “Happy New Year” message this year. It’s the thought that counts and not so much the timeliness, right? Just wondering–how late is too late to send Christmas cards? Mine are in the mail…

Cheers! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

New Year – New Name (and a logo, too!)

I’ve been tossing around the idea of a new name for a while. I love Chubs Lived Here because it holds meaning for me (my Sweet Baby Chubs kitty I adored for 17 years), but it’s not particularly meaningful or catchy to anyone else, especially potential new readers. So after four years, it’s time for a change.

The search for the perfect name has been playing out in my head for over a year. I have lists of names, most of which are already taken. One of my favorites is Miss Imperfection, but alas, it belongs to someone else. Sigh.

I thought up Half Fast and Classy about a month ago and it felt right from the moment I said it. My first instinct is to say “sadly, it’s so me!” However, I’m proud of my flaws and improvisational ways. Letting go of perfectionism took decades, and I’m finally okay with it. Go, Me! There’s no “sadly” about this. I am proud to be Half Fast and Classy. If you don’t get it, say it quickly. There you go!

Styling life and home on a shoestring budget

A big shout out to Billy Parker at ComiXed for the logo that captures me and Miss Grace perfectly. Well, more than perfectly – Logo Me is way taller than Real Me. Thank you, Billy! One day I’ll figure out how to integrate the logo into my site. Minor detail.

What I write isn’t going to change, because what you see is truly who I am and the projects are real. I still have an aversion to reading directions, but life doesn’t come with an instruction booklet, does it? It’s a new name; same strong, caring, intelligent, and sometimes dippy Lady Boss winging it and getting it done…with a dash of class!


Personal stylist helps heal after loss

A little more than a year ago, my good friend Debra lost her husband suddenly and tragically. She lost her husband, Ron–her best friend of 25 years. It’s difficult to imagine what you would do, how you would cope, in the face of this unimaginable heartbreak. I watched my friend grieve, and there was little I could do. Cards, phone calls, and sitting at her kitchen table felt feeble. Inadequate. Yet, I watched Debra find strength she didn’t know existed. She put one foot in front of the other month after month, day after day, and sometimes just minute after minute.

Debra is a giving person who has always cared for others, seldom thinking of herself. It was Ron who pushed her, on the rare occasion, to treat herself. So, when she told me she needed to find who she was now, and that she hired a personal stylist to help her with that, I was thrilled for her. To say Debra dislikes shopping is an understatement. But, she lost weight and her clothes no longer fit. On top of that, her occasional trip to the store was something she and Ron did together. This was a huge step in her healing process. Not knowing where to begin, she searched “personal stylist” and found Suzanne Libfraind of Wardrobe Consulting.

The two of them spoke on the phone, Debra completed a profile and provided a snapshot to give Suzanne a sense of her current style, and they scheduled a time to meet at Debra’s home. Suzanne brought fabric swatches to determine what colors look best on Debra, she assessed Debra’s wardrobe (shoes included) as Debra tried on each item, and gave advice on what should be donated, what could be altered, and what could be kept as-is. Suzanne accompanied Debra to the tailor, and then they went shopping.

Suzanne chose pieces of the correct fit, color, and style based on their conversations and her expertise. Debra tried them on, and the two of them decided what looked fabulous and what did not. Debra told me what a positive experience this has been for her, and as she showed me her updated look, she lit up. It was clear how good she felt about herself in that moment. It was wonderful to watch my friend experience a snippet of joy.

Career pieces to mix and match
Career pieces to mix and match

Shoes, shoes, and more shoes!

Lavender and gold necklace
Suzanne even provided jewelry options

White pants and blue top
A casual weekend look, but more importantly, a smile

I don’t know that anyone ever stops grieving after losing the person they loved most in their life. It seems unlikely. But, to live and find pleasure, even when there is grief, is okay. I am over-the-moon happy for my friend that she had the courage to take this step in her healing process. And that her smile is returning, one moment at a time.