The Scent of New Year’s Resolutions

Now that Christmas is behind us, the next big holiday is New Year’s Day. With that usually comes the list of New Year’s resolutions. If, at the beginning of each year, New Year’s resolutions had a smell, it would smell like hope and resolve.

We begin looking over the past year and deciding where we went wrong. Here are some of the resolutions we may have tried to keep this year:

  1. Join a gym. (Nope.)
  2. Make amends with those who offended us. (Nope.)
  3. Read at least one of the classics. (Nope.)
  4. Help out at a food kitchen. (Nope.)
  5. Clean out the basement. (Nope.)
  6. Start a diet. (Nope.)
  7. Grow our hair long, then cut it off to donate to Locks of Love. (Nope.)
  8. Take piano lessons. (Nope.)
  9. Find a better job. (Nope.)
  10. Make friends with the neighbor across the street with the yappy dog; hoping that friendship will somehow make the neighbor realize that the dang dog from being so yappy. (Nope.)

If you flunked out on any or all of these, be of good cheer. Most of us don’t make our resolutions stick because we hoped rather than planned. 

If, at the end of each year, New Year’s resolutions had a smell, it would smell like shame and regret.

As 2016 winds down to its end, I have decided to make my own resolutions easy; that is, be a better me than I was last year. This includes pretty simple things, such as:

  1. Initiate kindness – it doesn’t have to be a big deal, either. Just a smile or holding a door for someone will do.
  2. Listen to those mental hints and nudges; they happen for a reason.
  3. Start each day by doing something useful, such as making the bed right away.
  4. *Each morning, look into the mirror and say, “**Hiya, good-looking!”
  5. Do something productive each day; it doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something.
  6. Whistle more; it’s a cheery kind of thing.
  7. Treat yourself to a really good cup of coffee (or tea, etc.) now and then; take the time to really enjoy it.
  8. Call your mom and/or dad, or a dear relative or friend at least once a week.
  9. Take up an easy hobby that makes you happy.
  10. Say your thanks often.

By the end of 2017, let’s check in with ourselves and see how we did. I’m in—how about you?

*Over time, you will be amazed at the long-standing good feeling you get from doing this.

**or “gorgeous,” or “beautiful,” or “handsome,” or el Fabuloso;” your choice.

Sometimes the Clothes are at Fault, Not You

How many times have we filled our shopping cart with “hopefuls;” beautiful tops, snazzy slacks, cute skirts and darling dresses—only to dump them all back in the cart after trying them on?

‘It’s my stupid body!’ we wail. “If only I were <thinner, taller, etc.> then I could wear whatever I wanted. I hate my body!” Please—I’ve been down that road and trust me; it is rarely your body that’s at fault, often it really is the clothing that are at fault.

Oh, and please don’t make that classic mistake of saying, ‘when I was <insert favorite age here>, I could wear this and look GREAT!’ I know how it is; I look at some of the drop-dead cute stuff that’s currently in style and think, ‘oh, when I was 16, I would have looked GREAT in that!’

But I am no longer 16, and you know what? That’s ok. Over the years I’ve developed my own style, and I often tailor my clothes to fit my shape.

Example: if I wear a top that ends below my butt, it accentuates my hips, making me look twice as wide as I already am. So any top I wear gets tailored to end at mid-hip, which gives the impression that I am thinner than I actually am.

When you buy an article of clothing, there’s no law that says that you must wear this article of clothing “as is.” (Same with those scary tags on pillows; once you buy ’em, rip those tags right off. They’re yours now.)

You are absolutely free to tailor that new top, pants, hoodie, etc. any way you want to. You can make these simple alterations yourself either on a sewing machine or hand-stitch them, or take them to a tailor; it’s well worth it.

Then there is the whole “size whatever” issue, depending on the manufacturer. A size 12 for one shirt maybe an actual size 14 in another shirt. If so, take a couple different sizes into the dressing room and see which one looks best on you.

And please, please, PUH-LEEZE: do not let a tiny little size tag intimidate you. You may be a size 10 for most of your clothes, but a size 12 in other clothes made by another maker. So what? There’s no sense in saying, “I have NEVER been a size <insert number here>!”

The size tag doesn’t care. Your family doesn’t care. The manufacturer sure doesn’t care. So why should you?

Just try on different sizes of the article of clothing, find one that works for you, then call it good. Remember, WE are in charge here, not the clothes, and certainly not the size tag. Just keep remembering that you’re the boss of the clothes, not the other way around.

One more thing: if you have shopped your brains out and couldn’t find one thing you liked, then call it a day. Take yourself out for a nice lunch, a great movie, or a walk in the sunshine. Trust me, if today was not your day to find new clothes, another day will be the one.

 

Your True Colors

Does anyone remember the “*Color Me Beautiful” beauty movement? This was based on the book by Carole Jackson, which started the whole “find your true colors” phenomenon in 1973. The concept was based on finding the right colors that suited your skin tone.

If you went to a Color Me Beautiful consultant, you learned what your “true colors” were. Included in the cost of the consultation, you received a color swatch book of “your” colors.

When my mother heard about this, she let me know immediately, and, Mom being Mom; booked us both for a consult. It was a lot of fun, and our own colors swatches became our “fashion bibles.” We found out that Mom was a “Spring/Summer” and that I was a “Winter.”

The concept was pretty ground-breaking. It was amazing to see how good you could look when wearing “your” colors. For example, my winter colors; jewel tones and bright whites look great on me, and complement my skin tone. But if I wear anything brown, beige, ivory; in fact, any earth tone; I look washed-out.

In high school, the “in” girls always favored brown, gold, beige, navy, etc. So many of us wore those same colors to fit in. However, on me they looked awful. Once I found my own colors, I looked (and felt) great.

I got to thinking more about what our “true colors” say about us. Whether or not we are wearing the “right” colors for our skin tones, we are drawn to specific colors like a magnet.

You could say that the colors you like mean this, that or the other thing. In fact, there are many books and web sites that can tell you what it means if you are attracted to a particular color.

I know that, for me, bright vibrant colors make me happy. If I am not feeling wonderful, I wear “my” colors and feel better.

One of Mom’s dearest friends made her a gorgeous knitted shawl of deep purples and indigo last year. Following Mom’s death last December, I took it home with me.

I like to drape it over my shoulders on cool mornings as I have coffee. Not only does its warmth comfort me, but the beautiful shades of purple make me feel uplifted somehow.

So, what are your  true colors? What colors make you happy? What colors are you drawn to? When you start looking, you will find that some colors will appeal to you; others may not.

There are some colors we just resonate with; I remember a woman I knew in Texas who always wore a bit of bright blue. She said it made her feel both happy and safe.

So whether you are a summer, fall, winter or spring, there are colors that have special meaning to you. It’s funny, but nearly everyone I’ve asked what their favorite color is just lights up. My oldest granddaughter, Ava, loves pink and purple, but then again, most little girls do.  Nowadays when I ask her she says, “pink and purple. And blue. And green. Oh, and yellow.”

When we color together, she always starts with a pink crayon; I start with a purple one.

I absolutely love this quote from Alice Walker, who wrote “The Color Purple:”

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

I’ll bet it does, too.

*From Carole Jackson’s book, here are the seasonal colors and text:

Spring – “bright cheerful tones like salmon, turquoise, and teal. Your coloring will be enhanced by clothing with a bit of “sunshine” in their colors. You should never dress stark white or black, for they will make you look washed out. Your neutrals should have a hint of warmth like stone, khaki, warm white.”

Summer – “toned-down colors like subdued navy blue, a grey green or blue-grays, charcoals, and rose browns. Your image will be complimented by these dusty colors. You should never dress in vivid or saturated colors, for they will disrupt the serenity that the summer needs in her look. Your shirt colors should be somewhat soft like powder blue, dusty pink or soft white.”

Fall – “olives, golden browns and rich warm grays. You will glow in these harmonious environmental colors. Avoid clear bright shades, pure white and black which will make you look tired and faded. Also, avoid true pastel colors which will look cold against your complexion, giving you a pale and sickly appearance. Your blouses, in particular, should never be true white for this reason. Choose oyster and ecru (eggshell) instead.”

Winter – “deep, rich colors accented with jewel tones, and even wear bright white or icy pastels. A dark suit with cool undertones like dark navy, charcoal or black will complement your dynamic coloring. Avoid earth tones which can make you look sallow, and muted or powdery colors which can make you look shadowed. Remember, accents should be vibrant, and intense jewel tones.”

“Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Already Taken” Oscar Wilde

How I love that quote! Just imagine if there were no you in this world. Think of the family and friends and experiences you’d have missed, the jokes and songs unheard, the sights of nature unseen, the emotions not felt.

I’ll bet that most of us start out in life unsure of ourselves, unfairly compare ourselves to others, and imagine that we are not ‘as good as’ or ‘worthy of’ this, that or the other thing. Or we worry about our looks, our clothes, our speech, our habits and hobbies. Girls and women seem to take this to a higher proving ground, and feel bad if they don’t measure up to the current celebrity or musician, etc.

Before I forget, here’s a great observation from a well-known celebrity: when asked if the “normal woman” could look just like her, she laughed. She went on to say, “I am very lucky to have made it in this business; it’s not easy. For me to look the way I do requires makeup artists, people who pick out my outfits, jewelry and shoes, a dietitian, exercise coach, and more. The average person generally doesn’t have the resources that I have. Believe me, when I’m home I don’t look anything like this!”

I am fascinated by cooking shows and cooking challenges, such as “Chopped,” “Master Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” and so on. But my favorites are the ones featuring kids who love to cook. I recently watched a challenge with kids chosen from all parts of the country. The one who touched my heart the most was an 11-year old girl named Lauren, who claimed to adore heavy metal music, and especially Ozzy Osbourne.

You could not possibly find a less likely-looking young rocker than this girl. She was short, skinny, with mousey fly-away brown hair, a wide mouth full of braces, and was an awkward speaker. But she was absolutely passionate about cooking—and rock and roll. She admitted to being shy and said that speaking in front of people made her nervous. But you could tell that her idea of wit was far more advanced that your average 11-year old. This alone probably marked her as a weirdo in school.

All I could see was a passionate youngster who loved preparing food, and who would eventually grow into her own looks and style. She looked like what I imagine Julia Roberts looked like as a child. Just think of the impact Lauren will make on this world with all those gifts. And I’ll bet that sooner than she thinks, she will grow into her own looks and style and bloom like the beautiful rose she is.

Make the most of you—you are here for a reason and a purpose. Your looks, your style, your feelings, your passions, your interests; these make up who you are in this world. You are important, and you are here to be present for all that this life has to offer. Let’s just talk about looks, too, while we are on the subject. The Chinese in their wisdom have a wonderful quote about beauty: “Marrying a woman for her looks is like buying a house for its paint.”

This is not to say that you can’t “*foo-foo” up; make your own style. I can’t tell you how many women over the years have snarkily said to me, ‘oh, I don’t know how you manage to wear all that jewelry each day. I would be sooooo tired!’ Meaning: ‘why can’t you be less visible, less showy, less YOU?’

My response has always been to smile widely and say, “Duly noted!”

Looks, possessions and jobs are transitory things. The essential “you” is unique, precious, valuable and infinitely worthy. You are here for a reason and a purpose, and yes—your best bet is to be all the you you can be. Everyone one else is already taken, so just be you.

*Jane-speak for makeup, hair, accessories, etc.

The Definition of Beauty

I think that where we are born determines our concept of beauty. Being born in Maine, then living most of my life in New Hampshire, what I call “beautiful” is different than what someone born, say, in Oahu. For them, it might be the incredible rainbows, the heart-stopping  pink and gold sunsets over the sea, the black sand beaches, the fabulous exotic flowers, and limber palm trees swaying in the fragrant breezes that constitutes beauty for them.

For me, “beautiful” is the rocky coasts of Maine, the cold and angry Atlantic ocean with its icy gray-green waves, and the bits of jewel-like sea glass it grudging leaves on the shores. Or the incredible seasonal changes in New Hampshire; the tender green grass and daffodils in spring, the lush peonies and garden produce in summer and the little brown bats that fly at sunset, the striking colors of fall with its amber, orange, red and yellow leaves, and winter with its stark, austere white, gray and ice-blue beauty.

The beauty of where we come from maps our idea of beauty forever. I lived in various places in Texas for many years, and I grew to love the immense and lavish sunsets of fire-y golds, reds and pinks reaching from end to end of the larger-than-life sky, the surprising loveliness of the desert places, the chatter of mockingbirds at twilight, and the smell of pinyan on the wind. It was both strange and wonderful; breath-taking, in fact. But it wasn’t what I was used to at home. I’d think, ‘oh, this is lovely! But it’s not as lovely as home.’

No matter where we come from or where we go in life, I think we all have our own idea of beauty. This concept applies to people as well. When I was growing up, all the women in magazines had a certain look; that was the “template” most of us females strove to look like in those days. I shudder to think of all the hours I wasted in feeling that I didn’t fit in as a ‘beautiful’ person simply because I didn’t measure up to all those magazine women.

It wasn’t until I was off on my own and looking back at pictures of myself that I realized that I actually had been a good-looking person. Age and perspective will do that for you; you aren’t so hard and demanding on yourself. Plus you learn to recognize true beauty the older you get.

I love it that at this time we all seem to have undergone a sea change of what ‘beautiful’ can mean. Now we are seeing images of people who are unique—and beautiful. There are models with vitiligo, a skin condition in which white patches develop on the skin (this is what Michael Jackson had). Many women with this condition call themselves “Appaloosa women,” after the Appaloosa horses:

There are also male and female models of those who have lost limbs and now proudly show off their prosthetic legs and arms. They are a vision of not only beauty, but strength, courage and sacrifice. There are men and women of all colors, races, sizes and ages. The more exposed we are to these multitudes of unique beauty, the more enraptured we become with each other.

Think of those whom we see—look beyond the obvious. “Beautiful” can describe an old woman in a wheelchair. She has many wrinkles in her face and neck, her arms and hands are liberally sprinkled with dark spots, and some of her fingers are bent by arthritis. Her shrunken and bent body is a testament to hard work and sacrifice, and yet, her smile (with many missing teeth) is warm, welcoming and radiates happiness.

How many meals has she prepared and served in her lifetime? How many babies and children has she soothed in her arms? How many animals accepted her kindness and gentleness with them? How many hearts and minds has she touched in her long life? This is real beauty; a life lived well.

Seeing these images, we may learn to accept many varieties of beauty, and I am hopeful that all of us, young and old, can come to appreciate our own magnificence and beauty.

Don’t Buy the Lie

We are being bombarded daily by advertising that tells us how we should live, what we should wear, what kind of house we should get, what school we must attend, what lifestyle we ought to have, what doctor we should see, what cell phone/television/vehicle/makeup/etc. we should buy and so on.

We become so used to this that we may automatically start craving those things we keep seeing and hearing about. That’s the whole point of advertising–to make you want and to make you buy.

I remember my teen years, when I believed with all my heart and soul that a certain brand of mascara would make all my dreams come true. The same with hair products, clothing, shoes, toothpaste; you name it, if it was on TV, I believed it. I was convinced (make that brainwashed) that having and using all these things would make me popular, successful and smart. Fortunately, I had parents to set me straight on that score. “Be who you are!” they would say.

The plain fact is that advertising exists to sell us stuff, and that is its sole and complete purpose. The most popular skincare product, the most expensive makeup, the $600 stilettos, the fabulous designer dress, the current ‘must-have’ car–none of it will make or break our essential “us-ness.”

The fact is that we all come in various shapes, skin and eye colors, sizes, mannerisms, backgrounds and so on–we are not meant to be all the same. It is a privilege to be unique, and this is the kind of ‘brand’ we ought to be selling. Be who you are, and don’t buy the lie.

I am an admirer of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and many of his quotes really hit the mark, especially these:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

“It is not the length of life, but the depth.”

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”

And my favorite: “Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.”

 

Personal Style

I remember when I was young that I was terribly concerned about fashion, makeup, hair styles, perfume, shoes and so on. I wanted to look as fashion-forward as possible. I went through the Carnaby Street British look in the ’60s when English rock groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones ruled the music world. I also developed a mild form of dress to fit in with the hippie crowd. Not that I wanted to be a hippie per se; I just liked their long dresses, flowers in the hair and tie-dyed t-shirts.

Styles come and go, and if you live long enough, the old fashions come back. Then you will laugh about how you wore this or that way back when it was  all new. Each year I get a kick out of seeing that last year’s long shorts have now become this year’s denim underpants, then the next year it goes back to long shorts and so on.

However, you get to a point in life where what other people are wearing doesn’t seem to matter much any more. Priorities change. I gave up my 3″ high heels decades ago, along with panty hose and those ubiquitous business suits. These days I wear what I like and what’s comfortable.

As more of my body has gone to wobbly bits, freckles, sun spots and other age-related weirdness, I cover up more than I used to. I do NOT wear anything that shows my upper arms, cleavage (which, sadly, has become wrinkled), or thighs. These days my casual warm weather wear is silky capris, usually black (actually they are pajama bottoms, but who’d know? Well, now YOU do.), and one of several loose-fitting short-sleeved cotton tops I like in solid colors like hot pink, turquoise, lime, purple and cherry.

As for footwear, I have a pair of those stretchy sneaker-like casual shoes (my Good Feet arch supports fit fine in them) for most days, and a couple pairs of nice sandals. As always, I seldom wear less than 16-17 items of jewelry. Why? Why not? I love the jangle of silver bangles I wear, lots of “statement” rings, dangly earrings and so on.

I’m thinking that, when I turn 70 I may just start a new fashion trend of wearing colorful saris, salwars, and floaty, filmy kimonos. In fact, I’ve always preferred costumes to clothes any way! Let people say what they will–this is my own style and I’m sticking to it.

After decades of dressing for a job, other people and being a slave to the current fashion, it’s a pure pleasure to wear whatever the heck I want to wear. My priority these days is to be comfortable, not stylish. I find myself these days looking at older women who have their own style and panache; they are amazing.

The following women have the look I aspire to–and aren’t they fabulous?

Iris Apfel, age 93.

Linda Rhodin, age 68.

The incomparable Helen Mirren, age 70.

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