Speak Up!

This may sound redundant to some, but if something upsets you or is confusing to you, speak up. I say this because for years I did not speak up.

Recently the Crankee Yankee and I looked at cabinets and counter tops for our decidedly old-fashioned kitchen. It was fun, and we decided on light maple cabinets with doors (our old ones have no doors) and gray and white quartz counter tops.

We got an estimate on everything, and, since the cabinets are now on a great sale, we decided to buy them and store them until we are ready to install them. All was well up to that point.

Then the Crankee Yankee (a fan of total deconstruction) said that, if we were going to do that, we might as well take down the old ceiling, remove a few doors and put in pocket doors instead, tear down all the wallpaper, sheetrock and paint, and so on.

Well—that was not what I was expecting. For me, new cabinets (with doors) and new counter tops as well as new flooring (I love this house, but that yucky green linoleum has got to go!) was PLENTY. But the Crankee Yankee likes to start fresh. This is when I started hyperventilating. All that noise and mess; just thinking about it made me feel nauseous.

Recently I asked the Crankee Yankee how he felt when on a construction site; he said “invigorated!” I get that; I feel that way when I get on a roll with writing. Suddenly I feel lit up from inside and the words flow like Niagra Falls. I get it, I really do.

However, kitchen renovation doesn’t do for me what it does for the Crankee Yankee. So I spoke up when he told me that the most important room in the house is the kitchen. I disagreed; the most important room for me is the bedroom. That’s the place where I read, find peace, snooze and wake up with at least three cats on the bed with me.

The kitchen IS important, but we have come to an agreement of sorts. The cabinets and new flooring first, then a bit at a time. To think that all I had to do was just—speak up.

Who knew?

 

Finding Our Own Style

Does anyone remember (and MISS as much as I do?!) the TLC show, “What Not To Wear?” I loved that show; the premise being that someone who badly needed a makeover (and a boost to their self-confidence) gets one.

The lucky winner was offered $5,000 dollars to go to New York and let Stacy London and Clinton Kelly help find her own personal style. However, the terms of spending the money was based on Stacy and Clinton going through the all winner’s “regular” clothing.

This always meant that every single item went right into the trashcan, along with many snarky-but-truthful comments on style, fit, etc.

Not only did the lucky woman get to shop in fabulous stores in New York city; her hair and makeup were also updated. The winner always looked wonderful afterwards, and would go home to surprise family and friends with her new look.

If I had a dime for each time I sighed, ‘oh, if only I could have Stacy and Clinton dress me!’ I would be swimming in dimes. However, I finally found my own style by myself, and here’s how I did it, one step at a time:

Step 1: I took a long, hard look at my body, and made this assessment: I am “apple-shaped,” which means that I carry my extra weight in my stomach and hips. The tops I wear are either tunics (love the “shark bite” ones) that end mid-thigh, or tops that stop at mid-hip and disguise the width at hips and cover the stomach. For me, it creates the illusion of thinness.

Step 2: I learned to wear the colors that look great on me. Does anyone remember “*Color Me Beautiful?” It goes on the premise that our coloring defines us as Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. I am a “winter,” which means that I look best in bright white, black, and jewel tones; red, purple, turquoise, cobalt, lime, etc.

Step 3: I stopped worrying about what the current fashion trends were; now I wear what I love, not what is necessarily “in fashion.” I lean toward leggings, drape-y tops, kimono jackets, long scarves or pashminas, and loads of jewelry. I like my clothes to be more “costume-y” than current.

Step 4: I don’t wear anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. Period. I gave up high heels decades ago. These days I buy shoes and boots with low heels that work with my orthotics.

What I have learned over time is this: beauty and style are illusions. Very few of us are born perfectly and permanently beautiful. Looking good is finding what works for you and your own shape and style.

One more thing, as we grow older, our makeup needs to change. The makeup I used to wear stopped working for me, so I set up a makeover appointment with the experts at Sephora. I learned to use a more subtle, gentle look that fits my age and style. I found that less truly is more.

If you should tell yourself that this is a luxury you can’t afford, tell yourself to shut up. Just do it; you are worth it!

*Check out http://www.colormebeautiful.com/seasons/findyourseason.html. A simple online quiz can show you what your best colors are.

 

 

We Can Only Be Who We Are

Just a quick note here: I often write posts about something I’ve experienced. I do this not to make myself a star in my own story, but with the hope that what I’ve learned may help others who read my blog. And to all who do read my blog, I’m grateful for your time and interest.

It is said that, prior to birth, we choose the parents we need. My mother always told me that her growing up was hard and very nearly loveless, but that she was grateful because it made her the strong person she became.

Her mother, Effie, was divorced by the time my mother was born (and she was a ‘surprise’ that Effie was not happy about, either). Mom had an older sister from her mother’s first marriage, and three brothers all much older than she was. Effie had at least two jobs going at any time, and there was very little time for her to pay much attention to Mom. I remember Mom telling me how much she wished for her mother to just put her arms around her, but that rarely happened.

As a little girl, Mom vowed that when she became a mother herself, she would shower her child with love and affection and attention. And she did; she was always hugging and kissing me, and telling me how much she loved me. I never had to wonder if she cared for me; I knew she did.

As we all know, when we are children we adore our parents; our protectors, our cheerleaders and our fixed point on the Earth. As we grow older, we see our parents’ very human flaws, and realize that they are just people after all; not gods. We may or may not forgive them for this.

We may find that the mother or father we looked up to had flaws. We may be dismayed and disappointed in them at times, but we are part of each other. Sometimes we have to just go along to get along. Often the ones we love the most push us to be better, or browbeat us for not being what they think we should be.

It is then that we realize that our lives may not always be in balance together; sad but true. It doesn’t make us better or worse; it just IS. Part of living is accepting who we are, and often grieving that our parents or siblings don’t accept us as we are. That’s the time when we may have to say that we are sorry, but we just can’t be what they want us to be.

Deep down, we are what we are. We are here at this time and in these circumstances to be all that it is in us to be. And if that doesn’t always work with our families, then we have to find our own ways of balancing who we are against who and what our families may want us to be.

Sad but true.

 

Stand Tall

Does anyone remember Burton Cummings song, “Stand Tall?” One of the main verses is this:

“Stand tall, don’t you fall oh, don’t go and do something foolish
You’re feeling it like everyone, it’s silly human pride
Stand tall, don’t you fall. don’t go do something you’ll regret later
You’re feeling it like everyone, it’s silly human pride.”

I think of this often when I feel bowed down with worry or grief or doubt. When my inside feels burdened down I stand as tall as I can, hoping that my outside will override my inside. Amazingly, it helps.

I had a very short grandmother (my dad’s mom), who, when I was a teenager, used to grab my shoulders from behind, put a knee in my back, and exclaim, “stand up straight! Be proud of your height!”

So when I let my body sag, I remember her, and straighten up. I find that walking tall helps my confidence, too. When I’m in public I tend to stand as tall as I can; shoulders back, stomach in, and chin up. I may look like an ostrich in a kimono doing it, but it makes me feel better.

When we stand tall, we are standing up for ourselves and our right to be here, and to follow our own course. Whether we are caretakers, biologists, teachers, nurses, actors, truck drivers, doctors, writers, nuns, vets, parents, etc.—we are here for a reason. We are here to be fully who we are, no matter what that might be.

Standing tall is a reminder to ourselves every day that we matter, that we count, that we care and that we have a purpose. For me, it’s that knee in my back that reminds me of who I am and who stood tall for me.

 

 

“What’s the Point?”

I’ve heard more people say, “you’re born, you live, you die; what’s the point?” What’s the point?! The point is that we have been given life and a finite time in which to live it. The point is that no one has ever been like us, or ever will be again. The point is that there is only one of us. The point is to live this life the best way we can.

Certainly there are parts of our lives that have or will give us pain and misery. There may be physical or mental or spiritual damage we have to endure. We will lose people and pets along that way that we cherish, and feel bereft without them. Terrible, awful, horrible and hurtful things can happen to us. We can’t know what’s coming in our lives; all we can know is what’s in the NOW.

The Now is all we really have, and the whole point of that is to be fully present in it. That is the point of this life we have been given. Even if we have long stretches of hours and days where we may only breathe, eat, sleep, watch TV, play games on our devices, or just sit staring at the wall—the point is to appreciate that time.

Like every other person on this planet, I have and do spend a lot of time worrying about what might happen instead of staying in the moment. I lose sleep worrying about things that may never happen to me; and yet, I still worry.

Someone I once knew had an uncle who was told by a fortune teller to stay away from airplanes. She told him that an airplane would end his life, so he never flew anywhere.

Guess how he died: he was walking in a field, and an airplane was passing overhead. For some reason, a panel on the side of the airplane came loose, fell on him and killed him. What are the odds? Was this foreordained or just something random that happened? What was the point of that? Who knows?

What I do know is that I am right here, right now, and I am doing my best to live in the moment and be in the moment. That’s not easy to do when you have spent a goodly chunk of life worrying, but I’m trying to change.

So yes, it’s true that we are born, we live and eventually we die. The point of it all is the living part. Living our lives doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to travel the world, ride an elephant, find a cure for cancer, go to Mars, write the most amazing novel, paint a picture that changes the world, or save the environment. It can be enough to simply live our lives well.

Living our lives means just that; living it. Oscar Wilde once said, “be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” As no one can be you but you, live life as best you can. That is the point.

Leggings, Jeggings, and the Fashion Police

I know I’m not the first person to discover leggings or “jeggings” (denim (“jeans”) leggings). They’ve been in fashion for quite a while, but I just never thought of trying on a pair. Well—I love them. As of right now, I own over a dozen of them; full length, ankle length, capri, stretch denim, cotton, bamboo; in white, navy, pink, cobalt and black.

Seriously, they look great, and I love the way they fit. I have had more people ask me if I’ve lost weight; I swear it’s the leggings. And I’ll tell you something else; I’m going to keep right on wearing them even when they go out of style.

Keeping up with fashion trends are not only expensive but always seem to cause unnecessary anxiety. When I was a lot younger, it meant a lot to me to be right into the current fashions. I guess I was afraid of not looking “current.”

But these days I don’t give the fuzzy crack of a rat’s rear end if what I’m wearing is in style or not. Now I wear what I love. I say that if you wear or do something you love and are confident about it, you’ll always look and feel good. As long as you have your own good opinion of yourself, no one else’s matters.

I remember back in high school there was a girl who used to follow the edgiest fashions. As we were in rural New Hampshire, not many of us knew or cared what the high-gloss fashion magazines insisted was fashionable. As if in silent agreement, we all pretty much followed the preppy look, or when the Beatles had us all on fire to look British, we did our best to mimic the Carnaby Street look.

This girl sort of became a pariah as she was so out of the main stream with which we were comfortable. One day she came to school in a mini dress, fishnet stockings, platform shoes, lots of silver chains and dangly earrings—and a white curly wig.

Poor thing; it was the wig that finally did her in. I felt bad for her, especially when she ducked into the girls bathroom to escape the ribbing she was getting, took off the wig and stuffed it into her handbag. I remember thinking that if she had just had the courage to wear the thing all day, the laughter might have stopped.

Even if she felt embarrassed, she would have appeared not to have cared what anyone else thought.

As long as you have the conviction that you look good to you, your confidence speaks for itself. Again, I present the fabulous, unique and magnificent Iris Apfel, my favorite fashion icon. She is 95 years old, and wears what she damn well pleases.

This is exactly who I want to look like if I am lucky enough to live that long.

Image result for iris apfel

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.