29 July 2015

She's Got Legs, and She Used Them

It was a typical Wednesday morning. Running late, I ducked into the neighborhood Starbucks, and emerged with my regular quad grande skinny mocha and a spinach feta wrap.


Uh huh. Quad. I have a little caffeine issue.


But back to our story. I got back into the Honda I drove that day, set up my breakfast “table” so as not to drip spinach juice on my dress, and checked my mirrors, pulling out of the spot in the busy lot. I backed up, watching the Honda behind me, checked next to me, and stopped. A man waited to pass.


He motioned for me to pause. Thinking I had a car issue, I rolled down the window. I recognized him from inside the ‘bux (big sunglasses and a man-bun are remarkable in suburban Maryland), but I was still a teensy bit cautious.


“I just wanted to tell you that you have wonderful legs.”


Gape.


Apparently it wasn’t a break light out.


Recovery. Smile. “Thank you,” I said. It took many fibers of my being not to dismiss it with a deflective statement. I thanked him deliberately and purposefully. “You made my morning. Thank you.”


“No, thank you,” he said.


“You’re welcome,” I retorted, as I pulled away and buzzed up my window again. Somehow, that simple nicety felt like a retort instead of a mannerful response.


I drove out of the shopping center parking lot a smidge thoughtful and mildly conflicted.


“Good thing I put on a dress this morning, or I wouldn’t have gotten that compliment.”


“Was I just cat-called?”


“If I was just cat-called, am I OK with it?”


“But I like my legs, their shape, and their strength. How could someone complimenting me on them be bad?”


“I have on small wedge heels today, and I still got a compliment on my legs. Didn’t even need the 5” heels to get it.”


“Did I want a compliment?”


“Interesting that I got the legs compliment on the day I wore a dress slightly shorter than I’d usually wear to the office. I wonder if I’d have gotten the compliment in a longer skirt.”


“Is it OK that I’m happy I got a compliment?”


Let me set the record straight. My hipster-in-the-burbs complimenter had zero creep factor. His words were respectful and straightforward. My gut is that he was doing nothing more than trying to share a little happiness at 8 in the morning.


So why was my brain going a mile a minute, dissecting the encounter?


Part of my mental state is certainly feminist rhetoric. Then again, I’m not one to spurn physical attributes or their application for concern over objectification. As I’ve written before, I’m happy and confident in my physical presence.


There is a difference between understanding the power of your own physical impression and being objectified. Pages and pages have been written about how much first (and ongoing) impressions matter, and how we need to be aware of the message we send with our appearance. When someone turns that appearance against us, particularly openly and purposely, however, is where we we push up against objectification and discrimination.


Whether my simple, practical choice led to an almost cat-call, I'm not sure.

From a strictly office fashion perspective, the dress I chose to throw on this morning was just that: a dress I threw on. We’re still unpacking, it’s a quiet day in the office, and it’ll be 102 degrees today. A straight, sleeveless shift dress that doesn’t cling to any part of my body is a purely practical move. I thought briefly about my hem length, but dismissed the temporary concern because of the dress’ demure cut and picked a lower heeled shoe.

Whether my dress choice opened me up to, shall we say, closer observation, I’ll never know. Any speculation about man-bun-man’s choice to say something to me is just that: speculation. I choose to accept the compliment as such. While it set my brain a-hummin’ with some pretty juicy considerations, I’ll take the smile it put on my face and the reminder of my physical strength as a source of power, and use it kick today’s virtual ass.

27 July 2015

In the Eye of the Beholder

“I like your earrings, Mama.”

“Thank you, baby.”

I smiled, congratulating myself mentally for choosing to wear long, dangly earrings different than my usual suspects. I tucked him into the car seat. He watched me buckle him in, then looked up at me.

“I’m going to get you some better ones for Christmas,” said my 5 and a half year old. He sat tall in his seat, somehow coming across as far older those 5 years.

I'm fairly certain I've had these earrings languishing in my drawer for nigh on 10 years.

This past Saturday, H took him on a Target run before we had people over. We’ve been reveling in our new space, and vowed to have people over every 2 weeks. We needed hot dog buns and beer and paper plates.

So when my boys came back, piling the plastic bags on the kitchen floor, I wondered at the shimmery straw baseball cap tumbling out.

“[He] wanted to buy that for you,” H said. “He insisted.”

I didn’t wear it for the party, but put it on to play tourist with friends the next day. I wouldn’t have picked it out for myself, but you can bet your booties I’ll wear it if my boy buys it for me. He was thrilled, and beamed with a sort of surprised pride when he saw it on my head.

I pause here, in writing. I could go a couple of ways. I could go all “mamas should wear the things their babies make and give them.” There are plenty of clay pots and macaroni bracelets to go around. I could also write about how our babies see us as much more beautiful than we see ourselves, and gee, shouldn’t we take some of that with us throughout the day. It’s Instagram-quote worthy, probably.

But what really gets to me about what my boy - and my girl - sees is that he sees me so much more clearly than I see myself. That clarity manifested in a baseball cap this weekend. It cleared the outfield wall, in my mind.

With our recent move, our new jobs, and the end of a school year, the mood has been tenuous at home. Some days we are giddy over the newness. Some days we simmer with the tumult change brings. If one of us bubbles over, the rest of us take it on. Even if I think I’m keeping myself on an even keel, managing the stress and staying cool, I forget that my family, and especially my babies, see me with x-ray vision. They see through any facade I’m using to managing my adulthood, and see me for who I am and what I’m feeling in exactly that moment. They take on my fears, no matter how far beneath the surface I might I’ve tucked my worries.

Standing in my underwear on a mildly tense Monday morning - and just before I got my earring compliment - H reminded me: when you’re tense, they feed off of it.

I might have bucked the idea, and wasn’t willing to hear it at the time.

And he’s right.

My children see me clearly, and know me better than I know myself. Sometimes, they share that knowledge by talking their father into buying me something new. Sometimes, they can voice it, in wanting to do my job or go to the office with me. Sometimes they aren’t even aware of their vision, but it shows in their moods, both light and heavy.

I need to pay attention to what they’re saying. There is no responsibility greater than honoring my babies’ sense of being. It’s a weighty one, for sure. But sometimes, it means I get to wear a sparkly gold baseball cap.

20 July 2015

Old Friends and New Beginnings

A little over 3 years ago, I embarked on a fairly radical trip. I left a company I’d been with for nearly a decade, jumped to a drastically different industry, and into a new role. I used that break with my own history to jump start my HealthyMe journey. Within a year, I had lost more weight than I ever imagined I would, and was stronger than I had ever been, even as a teenage athlete. I’d even started running, which I claimed to hate. Professionally, I was making waves - the best kind - that moved an organization forward and in directions it not only needed to go, but, like me, had never thought it would.


During those 3 years, I shed quite a bit. I casted off pounds and I released images and perceptions I’d had of myself in my career and personally. I opened up doors I never wanted to open, and found that, while there was meaty, juicy stuff inside, to get to access it, I’d have to grow.


Growing is painful, people. So is change, and so is loss.


There were more tears than in most other phases of my life (well, maybe not more than when I was a sleep-deprived mother to a newborn, but you get the picture), and there was an immense amount of joy. Sometimes, the joyful tears mixed with those from mourning.


While many of those tears were deep, emotional ones, some of them were for what seem like trivial things. There was the time I bawled in the J. Crew dressing room because I tried on a button down shirt - and it fit. One day, I lost it because I was playing around with the Beans, made muscles, looked in the mirror, and I was RIPPED.


I also let ‘er rip when I gave away some clothes that had been in my closet for years. Some I didn’t wear any longer, but I held onto them as remnants of a different life, and couldn’t let them go. Then, one day, my friend Rosana came over, worked her insane stylist magic, and with a single look, helped me release a pile of those clothes with tears of laughter vice sadness.


I was going to consign a bunch of those pieces. I’d never done it before, but they were in too good shape to let them go. So I put them in my car, intending to call the consignment store and schedule an appointment. That was a year and a half ago.


Since then, they’ve moved from car to car, in and out of garbage bags, and even back into our home again. Finally, I decided I’d do good with them, and instead of unmet promises to consign them, I’d take them to Goodwill, where they’d serve both with the money they’d bring for their sale with the service they’d give their next owner.


They’re still in the back of my car.


The other day, I made a rash and admittedly painful decision on those clothes. I’m going to take them out of my car and try them on again. They might fit.


After training for my first half marathon, I went through some stressful times. I turned back to my coping mechanism (one of them), and let major sugar back in my life. I let my psyche try to hide from itself behind a second helping here, and another one there. I gained back nearly a quarter of what I’d lost. Some of my new wardrobe was starting to get tight, so I kicked it back into gear. I kept running, and I went to yoga. I ate clean (or cleaner), and I used a gala as a goal to get back to where I wanted to be. I made it.


Our prom picture...remember the marigold dress?

And then I let it creep back up. Again.


I’m still strong. I still know what food fuels me. I know better than I did 3 years ago what cuts and styles I can rock. And I’m incredibly glad right now, when, up nearly half of what I’d lost, I never did follow Stacy & Clinton’s advice and get rid of things that didn’t fit. I’m not feeling great about myself right now physically, frustrated by the lack of time I have to focus on my health - but all for good changes (another step farther in my career, a new home, and changes for our whole family). Having a cushion of things that might let me follow Stacy’s recommendation to me personally (remember this?) and having a few things that fit me well where I am now? That opportunity, born out of procrastination, feels downright like a rescue at the moment.

I don’t know whether any of the pieces in my car will fit me. And I certainly don’t advocate hanging onto clothing “just in case.” But I can tell you that, right now, for me, I’m grateful for the possibility that some of my “in between” clothing might be that for me again - a stepping stone and a tool in my getting back on the path to where I feel best about myself.

12 May 2015

The Universe Shouted Today

I worked from home today. Most of those days, I walk the Beans to school, giving H from his morning duties (he drops off, I pick up). Today was no different. I also usually wander up the street to a favorite neighborhood spot, Little Red Fox, for a coffee I didn't make myself. Today, I had my favorite steamed Gouter U-hoo with espresso (double double this time). After coffee, I pass Politics & Prose. It's an independent bookstore. How could I not stop?

It was staring right at me as I meandered past the new fiction tables.

Image via

H has long said, and we've been together 15 years, that I have a novel in me. He's always telling me that I write so much better than a book he's read. He's my biggest cheerleader in writing. Heck, he's the reason I started the blog in the first place.

It won't be today, and it certainly won't be tomorrow. I have a husband, a family, a demanding day job, and I try to keep myself healthy physically. I know, though, that writing is part of what keeps me well mentally and emotionally. I write here. I write on my Weight Watchers blog. I write for Wardrobe Oxygen and Glass. I don't write as often as I'd like, or as often as would be good for me, but I write.

I am a writer.

There. I had the courage to say it. I wrote it, even.

My newly appointed "office," with pictures hung.

16 April 2015

Give in Style: Shield & Honor Jewelry Gives Thanks for Those Who've Served

Not too long ago, my mommy sent a text to my sister, my brother, and me:

"Just got a message from [my mommy's cousin] that Uncle Bill passed away on Saturday night. 91 years."

We lost another one.

Uncle Bill was one of the dwindling servicemen and women who defended not just American, but other nations', soil, in World War II. A medal-winning college gymnast, he left school and ended up on Normandy's beaches. As his obituary reads, "after 92 days of near continuous combat," German forces captured him. Like so many others, he spent his 21st birthday not just in the armed forces, but as a prisoner of war.



Eventually, even as his family thought him dead, Uncle Bill and eleven other soldiers escaped the camp near Poland, ended up in Odessa, and made their way home. The rest of his life, he continued to serve those around him: as a teammate (1948 London Olympics), a professor, a coach, an advocate, a father, a husband, and a brother.

We're blessed, in our family, to have another World War II veteran. At 92, Uncle Toby (Uncle Bill's oldest sister's husband), was part of Patton's Army. His stories are still there for us, and my mother and stepdad visit with him weekly. H and some friends have gone to visit him, as have we. There's not much we can do at this point to thank him for his service, but we can be there. We can send pictures, and we can make sure he has what he needs.

And then, the other day, a friend sent me a link. She sent it to me because she knows I love fashion - and unique fashion, especially. She was already addicted to both the style and the story - and the salute - jewelry maker Shield & Honor weaves into every piece.

"No legacy, no matter how small, should go untold."

I bought two. I'll wear them daily, I think, because remembering the promise our nation and its heroes hold is so very important.