Unwearables

Something’s been bothering me. Why are there are so very many lovely people who believe that they cannot or should not wear things like shorts or leggings? That sleeveless shirts or non-maxi skirts aren’t for them, even if they love them?

Hogwash. (Respectfully.)

Whatever your body’s shape in this moment, there is no aesthetically unwearable garment. If you love a style and you don’t have a physical condition that makes wearing it painful or dangerous, then there is a way, and a place*, to wear it.

I don’t have a lethal allergy to gathered or pleated skirts, for example. Or above-the-knee shorts. I love them. They’re awesome and comfortable and practical. But I’ve spent years of my life believing that wearing them was just not for me, because they didn’t “work” on my shape. But … hang on. What does that mean, that it “works”? For what? For whom? 

“No one wants to see that.” That’s what I’d say about myself wearing shorts. Without a second thought. For years. (And I even call myself a feminist. For shame.)

But — seriously, why’s it always all about the hypothetical viewers, hm? Why is most fashion advice so very others-centric? Why is the baseline assumption that we dress to impress, protect, entice, or influence?

Blech. In my opinion, clothing “works” when it meets the needs and promotes the goals of the person wearing it. Yes, sometimes those goals do involve other people’s choices and opinions. And sometimes they don’t. Both are fine. Regardless, I should start with myself — with what I want. Because fashion — besides being a collection of things to want in themselves — is more importantly a tool to help you get what you want, and if you don’t know what that is it’s highly unlikely you’ll get it.

I think that what we want from others, if anything, comes from what we want for ourselves. But that is a surprisingly difficult — but important — thing to unearth, at least for me, because the desires we’re taught by our culture are okay to have are usually (like the advice we’re force-fed) totally others-centric.

When digging through the strata of my own wants, for example, I first come up with things like these: I want to matter, I want to be admired, heard, appreciated, respected … and every last one depends on the reactions or opinions of other people. So if these are really my goals, their accomplishment is actually out of my hands, because others’ choices belong to them, not to me. And a culture that coerces me to pin my hopes on such things removes the actual power I have over my own emotional (and physical, and social) wellbeing — while smarmily pretending to be useful or virtuous.

So that’s no good. Instead, I must delve further into those ideas and risk wanting wants that are not “okay” — wants for which I will be, inevitably, judged by someone. Am I willing to risk it?

I am. Yes. The only way not to be judged is not to exist. Some folks aren’t — willing to risk it, I mean. That’s okay, too. But I am. I want to be heard, because I want to speak. I want to be appreciated and admired … because I want to do, make, and say valuable things. Meaningful things.

I believe that what we each want matters — what we want for, and from, ourselves. What we want to do and say. The people we want to be. What we want from our life and experiences. It’s okay to want what we want — and to pursue it, as healthily and ethically as possible.

What does this have to do with unwearable things, though? Rather a lot, really.

I think those of us who care about what we wear can — should, must — trust our own taste. We should invest time and work into exploring and refining it. It’s okay to like, and follow, trends. When neon brights became the thing a little while ago, I discovered that I love the way chartreuse looks on me; I would never have tried it had it not been ubiquitous. It’s also okay not to care about, even to actively avoid, trends.

… It’s probably not the healthiest thing to stop liking things that you do like just because they become popular, but if that’s what gives you pleasure, awesome sauce.

I think we should do ourselves the favor of not appending every sentence that that begins “I like …” with “… but maybe …”

I like these moto leggings! … but maybe they’re just the thing right now.
What a great print! … but maybe it’d be too busy, all over like that. (Does it remind anyone else of the Eye of Sauron?)
I love that sweater dress! … but maybe (definitely!) it’d look better once I lost those last twenty pounds.

Puh-leez. Why do I feel like I have to qualify or equivocate so much? To get my self-doubt on record before someone else says it first? If I’m hanging out with people who pounce on everything I say I like with reasons I shouldn’t, maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong people. If I’m not hanging out with people like that (I’m not; life’s too short), whom am I trying to defend myself against with such things?

I think we should remember that of all the people who have designs on — er, who voice opinions on and have a stake in — what we wear and buy, we ourselves are the only ones inextricably involved in our own happiness. Our fashion choices should be driven by what we want from our lives, not by the whims and blather of opinionated strangers.

*A word about modesty. Lots of communities and organizations — and individuals — regard clothes as having moral value, usually based on how tightly it fits and how much of the (usually female) wearer’s skin it covers. Pffft. I mean, fine, if that’s your thing. Because there is value in understanding the expectations of communities to which you do or would like to belong (or visit). But there is nothing wrong with, or frightening about, your body. Everybody has one — that’s why we use the word.

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NBT: HOW TO PAINT A CONCRETE FLOOR. (Or, an introduction to special needs parenting)

Next Big Thing: Floor Painting!

My son is moving, in fits and starts, towards potty training. It’s … a process. And it’s a process that’s been particularly hard on the carpet in his room. I hate carpet, anyway — the dust, the staining, the general grossness. The popcorn.


So I decided to take it out and just paint the slab under it, since whenever we sell the house (however many years from now that will be), we’ll probably have to put carpet back in it. So this project doesn’t have to be perfect, just relatively cheap. And of course safe, very easy to clean, and not look, you know, too terrible.

Let’s do this one as a how-to, hm?

PROJECT HOW TO: PAINTING A CONCRETE FLOOR

Step 1: The Battle Plan

Figure out what to do with the kids. See, some projects the Acrobat will ignore and let you get on with; some projects the Empress might even help with. Some you can do with the two of them at home, at least. But some, like ones with wet paint on the floor of the Acrobat’s favorite room for TWENTY-FOUR HOURS’ DRYING TIME BEFORE MOVING FURNITURE BACK IN?! Not so much.

My husband and I are lucky that we have both sets of parents fairly close to us, so we were able to foist the littles off on them for a couple of nights. After the prerequisite scheduling maneuvers, of course — with six adults, one teenager, and two little ones to account for, with all the various doctor’s/therapy appointments, out-of-state trips, work and school and sleepovers, I’m surprised it came together as easily as it did. We only had to reschedule once! They took a kiddo each, Friday night and Saturday night, so I could paint it Friday and have all of Saturday for drying time.

Also, figure out what you’ll need to get, and get it before game time.

  1. The paint, obviously. I used Behr Premium Plus Porch & Floor paint in SW Naval.
  2. Concrete patch compound (in the paint department at Home Depot)
  3. A floor scraper that would make an excellent murder weapon in a mystery novel.
  4. Coarse (60 grit?) Sandpaper.
  5. A paint roller frame with an extendable handle.
  6. Fine-nap rollers. Buy the 9/16 nap, rather than 5/16, because you can’t find 5/16. Also buy the three pack because it’s a cheaper per-item price, but only use of them, because you’re a genius like that.
  7. A pole sander, but you already have a pole, so don’t buy one, risking the side-eye of the cashier, and just kind of hope it works when you get it home. (It, luckily, does.)

Step 2: Prep

Prep in stages, and admit to yourself (but no one else) that it’ll take longer than you expect. Do as much prep work beforehand as possible — remove the carpet on Sunday, in fact, because you’re impatient. Your husband, despite feeling sick that day, will valiantly keep the kids out of the room while you rip the stained and smelly mess up, cut the carpet into strips to roll up, and tear the pad up to put in bags. Haul them all to your trunk (leaving it open to keep from stinking up your entire car; it won’t work, but it’ll make you feel better) to be thrown away later that day.

DON’T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR WORK GLOVES.

Go to Home Depot somewhere in the middle because you forgot to get a crowbar for the tack strips. Figure out, slowly, that it’s a lot easier to bust the strips out in one piece if you place the wedge of the bar in front of each nail and tap it in with a rubber mallet, rather than trying to wriggle it underneath the strips and then pry them up by hand. Try not to think about the cramping in your hands. Use the floor scraper to damage the eardrums of everyone in a four-block radius scraping up the glue, gunk, dirt, etc. on the floor.

Sweep. Try not to cry at how little difference sweeping makes.

Try not to cry at the futility of the human experience.

The next day, patch the holes as well as you can after your Acrobat goes to school. Get your eager-to-help Empress to go around with a wet washcloth to wet the dents before you patch them with the gunk and hope against hope they’ll dry before he gets home. Also patch the TEACUP-SIZED HOLE in the floor that the builder just carpeted over.

Realize, too late, that you forgot to wet the teacup sized hole first. And then re-patch it while Kim rinses the patch compound off the Empress’s shoe after the Empress stepped in it while twirling around to show off all the work she helped with.

Reassure your daughter, when she apologizes later that afternoon, that you’re not at all mad at her for stepping in the patch — reassure her (and yourself) that accidents happen to everyone, and that you have done the same thing yourself, more than once. That we can fix it, and we’ll just try again next time.

Try not to scream when the patches are not dry by the time the Acrobat gets home, and he thinks it’s super cool to smoosh them with his fingers and peel up at least one.

Do this again Tuesday. Then Wednesday, too, just in case. Finally resign yourself to your son having a dented floor.

Step 3: Sand

To ensure maximum family hearing loss, sand when everybody’s home. 

Sand with the door open so that both children can come in and run in literal giggling circles around you while you sand the floor one way, then sweep (“JUST DON’T … oh, okay. That’s — okay; just don’t … oh, never mind. I’ll sweep again.”) then sand the other way, then sweep (“NO, Acrobat, please don’t lick the dust …! Empress, let go of his shirt, please –“)

Step 4: GAME TIME!!

Friday morning, after taking the Acrobat to school and coming home to get to work, when the Empress asks to help again, remember vividly when you were tiny, and could start helping your dad build (and occasionally destroy) things. Show her how to change the sandpaper out of the sander; do it together. Thank her for throwing the used paper away. Sand again, just for fun. Be unsurprised when it’s not as fun for her when there’s no Acrobat to follow around and laugh with. After the noise from sanding dies down — or you can no longer hear anything, ever — and you’re sweeping, again, and she asks to help again, ask if she could take the paper off the sander again, “the way we did just a minute ago.”

Realize that she can do it all by herself. In the other room. Without waiting for you, slowpoke mommy.

Tape off the baseboards. Say goodbye to the Empress, wishing her well on her library and sleepover adventures, and start cutting in the edges of the floor.

Once you’re wondering if your back will ever be straight again (haha — no) it’ll be time to start sloshing paint on the floor and rolling it out. Important: Start away from the door, and work your way back. Also, don’t open the window; it will inevitably be a dusty, windy day, and you will be sad.

Shut the door — let’s not have little Loki prints all over the house. And relish four kid-free hours. Eat something. Then do it again — two coats at least.

Don’t do a coat of polyurethane — it’ll just be, you know, so much longer, and it’ll be more expensive (and you’ll miss out on the delight of actually scraping up bits of the paint you painted next week when your son has another accident in his room and you’re a bit too zealous with the scrub brush/scraper).


And then you’re done! And it looks fab, as long as you don’t mind the dents (adds character …?) or worry too much about the photo lighting.

He loves it; it makes a satisfying chinking when he plays with a swing chain in his room. What, you don’t let your kids play with chains? Why on earth not?

Oh. One more thing. Put “polyurethane the Acrobat’s room” on the list of future projects.

Halloween 2015 — Agent Carter Prep

I don’t often dress up for Halloween. I like dressing up, it’s just that it’s become this hyper-competitive, overly complex ordeal these days. And who has time for that, really? Of course, the fact that I don’t’s probably implied by my saying “dressing up” rather than “cosplay” — seriously, even the vocabulary is unnecessarily involved.

Also, get off my lawn.

But I am, as the title suggests, dressing up as Agent Peggy Carter from Marvel’s Agent Carter, and also from the gloriously corny first Captain America … and anywhere else they feel marginally justified in putting a cameo, because she may be the most lovable, not to mention moving, vivid, and beautiful, character [besides Loki] they’ve recreated lately — but — AGENT CARTER ZOMG!!!

My husband’s Grandpa wore hats — lots of hats — hats all the time. My kind of human. When he passed away, my mother-in-law asked if I would like one of them, a beautiful red wool fedora with a white rope band. It’s a fabulous hat which I treasure. So, naturally, when I watched the premier of Agent Carter, it came immediately to mind. (Yes, you can buy the actual hat Hayley Atwell wears, but what’s the fun in that? Also, $83 would blow the entire costume budget.) And … in watching the rest of the show, I fell in love with the wardrobe, and decided to dress up this Halloween. Halloween, which is today. Eesh.

Watch out — I’m comin’ for your patriarchies.

My husband has graciously agreed to be Jarvis, which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you makes my little heart go pitter pat.

Three-piece suits … Le sigh. Also, the bookcases and wall moulding. So much pretty.

I’ve studied more pin curl and vintage makeup tutorials, scoured more thrift stores, and done more thinking about pocket squares and collar shapes than I have since I organized my wedding, from New Zealand, in the dark days (as I believe I’ve already mentioned) before Pinterest. (Long, but not very interesting, story.) I also feel vindicated, by now, in my impression that cosplay is far too involved of a thing.

On the other hand, fun! Pretties! Lipstick! Hats! So it evens out.

For Jarvis’s costume, I took the second picture as my guide and I decided to use the gray tweed suit my husband already has, despite its tragically modern lapels and un-pleated, un-high-waisted trousers. I’d just find a similar tweed, or possibly plaid, vest to pair with it, and a yellowish, vintage-ish tie. And a white dress shirt. Who doesn’t have a white dress shirt?! Well, we don’t. Or rather, we didn’t — now he has one, and I have … well. I’ll get to that. I also tried to find a brown fedora. Something with nice structure and a wide-enough brim, that wasn’t too expensive, and that I could buy in person to make sure it fit.

And tried. And tried.

I gave up on the grosgrain band and non-stitched brim after a while (that’s a seriously expensive hat there, folks). And all the brown ones were either too clumsy-looking or just too Indiana Jones. I eventually found a reasonable grey approximation instead at (of all places) Pacsun, which I haven’t been into since my angsty teenage days. It’s posher now, but still caters loyally to the angsty teen.

The vest was a similar story — I gave up, at length, on vintage — then on tweed — then almost altogether after about the eighth or tenth store. Oh, there certainly are vests available, but … for that much, I think I’d rather get something he would actually wear more than once.

Just before I gave up for good (as it usually happens) I found it — at Target, grocery shopping with my daughter and trying to convince her that she really has quite enough Froot Loops for the foreseeable future. A perfect, subtle gray plaid mens’ vest. For (a still-extortionate, but more justifiable) half the price of the others I’d seen during the previous days’ frustrating quest. I got the wrong size, though, then exchanged it for another wrong size because the hanger was a lying liar who lies. So at last I just dragged my longsuffering husband to the store in person to try it on already, and got the size I’d tried to buy the second go around — but for real this time.

I went a little overboard, predictably, shopping for my own costume. So now I have three new skirts: a khaki one, a deep navy one, and the lighter navy, below-the-knee one I’m actually going to wear (after taking it in a little, as it was comically baggy, as you’ll see) because it’s part of a suit. Well, actually a two-piece dress, but it looks enough like a suit. And suits are kind of Carter’s thing. I also snagged a bright blue nip-waist blazer, very 50s-inspired 80s, before I found the suit and couldn’t bear to take back. It’ll look good with skinny jeans and a modern blouse. I have three white blouses, now, too — two that I bought, and one I borrowed from my Mom because the collar shape was almost right, but I’m not going to actually wear because the sleeves are too full. And instead of any of them, I’m probably going to wear a sleeveless cowl-neck blouse I already had, because the 3/4 length sleeves of the jacket just don’t look right with sleeves rolled up inside. Like going with Jarvis’s regrettably modern existing suit, I feel the overall silhouette and color palette is rather more important than the particulars of collar shape …

Hmph.

I also got a green shawl-collar jacket because it looked like something she’d wear, and because it fit beautifully.

I took some (crappy) pictures of the in-process arrangements, trying to get a feel for how they’d look — hijacking my daughter’s door mirror and being completely okay with the reflection’s wonky, vertically-stretched distortion. Here are the preliminary ensembles:

Blue Separates
The bright jacket and dark skirt, with the silk notch-collar blouse. I wish this jacket had had a matching skirt, because it really is such a lovely color.
Hunter Jacket
The most abstract costume — more “inspired by Carter” than imitating her. Dark green is just so lovely, and I loved the notched hem on this jacket. The red hat — while fabulous — isn’t quite as wide-brimmed as the one Carter wears, so I thought I’d see how my Panama hat looked with it. While I like the shape, it’s really too late in the year for a straw hat, for me.
Blouse and Skirt
Vaguely reminiscent of an outfit she wore in Captain America; the belt is too wide and detailed, I know, but this skirt has a quite hideous elastic waist I wanted to make sure was covered.
Navy Suit
Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner. (And a Loki. Every winner needs a Loki.) See the baggy wrinkles on the skirt? I sewed up the sides a bit and it’s much better now. No, I’m not going to wear the bangles. Yes, I’ll be wearing my hair down and curled.

And then there’s the makeup. Do you know how many Agent Carter makeup tutorials there are out there? A gazillion. They’re all fabulous. Ditto pin-curls. I have nothing to add to them; just second the recommendation to get the duckbill clips. They’re great. And you can use them like robot puppets when you take them out to make your daughter laugh.

Below was my first trial run for the pin curls. They turned out okay, actually, but as you can see, after several games of chase and maybe a nap, they were a bit worse for wear. It was also my trial run for the makeup. I used NYX’s Matte Lipstick in Alabama (allegedly a good copycat for the Besame Red Velvet that Atwell wears) — I’m a fan. A bit darker than I normally wear, but I like the matte finish and I really like that it didn’t rub off on my teeth. It’s darker in person than in the picture.

ELF eye makeup, because that’s what I had, a sort of toned-down smokey eye with grey-brown nudes and a dark seal brown brow. I’ve been doing my eyeliner as a narrow penciled line, then with a bit of darker brown (or black, in this case) shadow over it to soften it, which I think works well enough here and saves me trying to poke my eyes out with that whole inside-the-lashes trick.

Carter-esque Makeup

Anyway, I hope to con someone into taking some pictures of us this evening, and if they turn out well, I’ll show you how it turned out.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone!

3 changes that kicked my weight loss into high gear

You know that Robert Frost poem?The one that’s an obviously perfect setup for a bloody paranormal massacre or a good serial killer chase scene — that’s really just a lengthy rumination on taking a walk?

I … didn’t actually have a point with that. I’ve just always felt that way about “The Road Not Taken,” and I wanted to tell somebody.

Wait — no — I did have a point. There are an awful lot of directions to take when you’re trying to lose weight. From others, and from our own heads. Some of those directions or strategies are better than others; most of them are right for someone. But honestly, I don’t have the time or energy (or, you know, money) for a lot of them. (Eat five — FIVE?! — eggs every morning within thirty minutes of waking up? Seriously?) So they’re not right for me.

I’ve been working to lose weight — without going too insane or upsetting the balance of my delicate family routine too much, which rather tempers the drama of my numbers — since January. Sometime around mid-June, I made a few changes to my strategy, and my progress increased dramatically. Between January and mid-June, I’d lost a measly 7.6 pounds. Sadface. From mid-June to mid-October, I lost seventeen. Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causality, and it’s, objectively, still an embarrassingly small number, but at least it’s a bigger small number. And, you know, doesn’t slow and steady win the race?

Don’t answer that.

Also … the changes I made are kind of weird. But hey, they’re working for me, for now, so I won’t knock it. I’ll just share how it’s going, and hope it helps someone.

Change #1: Black Coffee.

No, I’m not kidding. I’ve been drinking coffee-flavored sugar milk most of my life. It’s delicious. We both know it. I was eventually able to move to just milk (or cream …) and I did, indeed, grow to love it, too. (Caffeine’s a drug, did you know?) Lattes are the best. Whole milk lattes. Mmmm … But black?! No way.

Yes, way. I realized that I was drinking so much milkfat in my daily coffees I might as well be eating a whole ‘nother meal, and wondered if I cut that out, if it would make any difference. So I started by taking an undoctored sip of my morning brew, shuddering violently, and then putting in the half-n-half as usual. Then two sips. Then four. After a couple of weeks, I was drinking it black. I’ve started treating lattes as the indulgence they are — and getting them sparingly enough to truly enjoy them. (And yes, I still enjoy the heck out of them. But I don’t like sweet coffee drinks at all anymore. Go figure.)

Change #2: Less Cardio, More Yoga

Not me. Not even close. But honestly, once I knew this picture existed, there was no possible way I would not share it with you. You’re welcome.

Yep, you read that right, too. I’ve discovered that doing a four- or five-hundred calorie workout every day (or so) makes me hungry. Really hungry. Eat-every-scrap-in-the-house hungry. Yoga, on the other hand, doesn’t. So I’m doing yoga most mornings instead of riding my exercise bike, usually just picking a youtube video at random based on how long I have until it’s time to get ready. I think I’m averaging four or five mornings a week, usually a thirty-minute practice or so? Something like that. And I’ve never been, or felt, stronger in my life. I can tell a huge difference in the muscle tone — and stability — of my arms and even more in my legs. It’s most evident, to me, when I’m carrying my six year old (the Acrobat) because he’s pretending to be too sleepy for school, or when I’m getting up off the ground for the latest game of Angry Minnie with my daughter, the Empress. (In Angry Minnie — the Empress’s idea — I make her Minnie Mouse have a pretend tantrum so that she can be the mommy and help her calm down. It’s the most confusing game ever.)

I’m not saying I don’t do anything cardiovascular — just that I’m not really doing it for its own sake (or to up my daily calorie allotment) anymore. I’m sometimes going for a walk in the park or around the neighborhood at lunchtime, because October, amiright? I also want to get my bike out more often, but something’s up with the wheels, and I need to get it fixed, and … okay, that’s probably going to have to be a different Next Big Thing, most likely. Anyway, less cardio, more yoga.

I’ll be adding the higher-intensity cardio back in — I’m actually missing running, in fact, which is highly astonishing — either when I get close to my goal weight or when my loss starts slowing down; I’ll let you know how it goes.

And finally, Change #3: Soylent, Cake Batter of the Gods.

I told you about the MyFitnessPal recipe importer; I had this whole elaborate evil plan, doing all sorts of cooking for myself most meals, and basing my menu on recipes I’d saved. Well …

Best-laid plans, etc. And I forgot to recruit any minions. Turns out they’re pretty necessary.

I’ve done a lot of the strategizing work, but I’m finding that for myself, the time preparing and cleaning up from meals I make just for me is just enough of a hassle to make me not actually make them, no matter how delicious the recipes sound. Because it’s so much easier (and faster, and less messy) to make mac and cheese or grab a Schlotzsky’s Original. Which, done often enough, becomes rather hard on the wallet, among other things.

So, enter Soylent. Now, on the whole, I regard meal replacement shakes with roughly the same level of appreciation as, say, cockroaches. The Lone Surviving Cockroach was cute in Wall-E, but in real life the ubiquitous buggers can die in a fire. I was also deeply repulsed by the “cupcake — in a cup!” from that movie.

I evidently hadn’t tried Soylent yet.

Soylent is a(n allegedly) nutritionally-complete meal replacement shake. It’s not designed for weight loss specifically, just for sustenance. Keeping us alive. I’ve been drinking it for breakfast/lunch a few meals a week for the past few months and haven’t died yet. Which just shows you.

Food-as-fuel is not my cup of tea (or cupcake). Food is an experience, a pleasure, a thrilling, wonderful, beautiful part of our all-too-brief stint in corporeality. It’s one of the few things that we can share wholeheartedly, no matter how little else we have in common. Even if we agree on nothing else, I bet we can find something we both love to eat if we try.

So why on earth am I drinking a beige slush for lunch?

Because it’s good. (Especially with a bit of cinnamon, or cocoa powder, or PB2, but on its own, too. It really tastes like cake batter. Without the [unheeded] fear of salmonella.) Because it’s filling, fast, and easy. And most of all, because the more of my dollars and calories I save when I eat on my own, the more I can indulge on my shared meals. So the easier it is to actually enjoy the nine hundred and eighty-seventh time we go to Whataburger because it’s one of the — literally — five restaurants at which the Acrobat will eat. (Their Monterey Melt is pretty amazing, I’ve got to say. I get the junior size. Jalapeños make everything better.)

On the days when I do Soylent, I’m drinking a glass of it — a 9 oz. glass is about half a serving, roughly 250 calories — for breakfast around 10:30, then another for lunch at about 12:30 or 1:00. Then I have a small snack, 100-200 calories or so, around 2 (and another cup of coffee, naturally), and then I’m definitely ready for dinner come 5:30 or so. And since I’ve only had about 6-700 calories for the day thus far, I can indulge a bit more at dinner, when I’m hungriest. And if I don’t go too crazy with dinner, I’ll have a snack or a nightcap after the kids go to bed.

It’s working for me, for now.

I’ll let you know when I get tired of it, or try something new. (If I remember.)

Fashion, via Listmaking

It is okay not to give two hoots what you wear. It’s okay to have no emotional or intellectual connection with your clothing apart from its utility (or keeping-you-from-being-arrested-ity, or whatever). There is nothing wrong with not caring about your attire.

I do care about mine. That’s okay, too. I find a great deal of gleeful passion in [… I really am going to rhyme, aren’t I? I’m sorry about this …] fashion. I love wearing beautiful things. I love thinking about and refining my own tastes in clothing and accessories, and what looks most pleasing (in my opinion) on my own silhouette, with my own coloring.

I believe that attire is in itself a language. It is a tool for communication and influence. It’s also a medium of creative self-expression. And the more nuanced a grasp we have of this language and the ways it can be used, the more control we have over what we “say” with it. The better we understand the language, the more effective our expression.

HOWEVER.

This does not mean, in any way, that there is ever any justification for treating someone poorly based on their appearance. It’s great to like what you like, sartorially-speaking. (And otherwise.) To explore and ethically pursue, to shop for and design, what you like. But it’s never okay to hurt or belittle other people because their choices are different from yours, or because they aren’t, or don’t look like, what you like. This is something that bothers me greatly about so much fashion advice and discussion — the notion that to talk about what you like, you have to denigrate what you don’t.

You really don’t.

***

I’m a list maker. Of course I am.

And I’m losing weight rather steadily at the moment, which is a new, surprising, and mostly lovely experience. However, less lovely-ly, that means that fewer and fewer of my clothes actually fit. So I’m slowly losing the wardrobe I’ve spent my entire adult life assembling. This is not a problem — it’s just happening, I’m dealing with it, so I’m sharing it with you. Some of my things can be taken in, if I get around to it (odds are … less-than-favorable on that) but most of them can’t.

What does this mean for me? More lists, of course! And eventual shopping, hopefully. But first, lists!

I’m wanting to rebuild my wardrobe, little by little. I’m not a minimalist, but I do like the idea of keeping my closet relatively streamlined; for me that means having a (flexible) strategy lined out before leaping in, wallet blazing.

Have you ever read Nina Garcia’s lovely little book The One Hundred? It’s a list of the pieces she sees as essential for a stylish wardrobe. And I wondered, of course, what would be my 100 pieces? Or, in some cases, categories — because there is no chance I’d limit myself to a single hat, for instance. Come on.

I also wondered, returning to the real (well, real-ish) world for a teeny moment, what would be the best allocation of funds for those pieces? Where might it make the most impact to spend a bit (a little bit — Nine West, say, not Louboutin) more, and what pieces could be clearance, second-hand, discount store, etc.? I believe that the most visible, durable, and/or outfit-defining pieces should be the ones on which to splurge. Getting my money’s worth, to me, means personal emotional impact each time I wear a piece, being able to wear it often, and being able to wear it for many years.

So I’ve put together a checklist of the essentials for my wardrobe. I’ve broken it into two sections, SPEND and SAVE, because I’m helpful like that and this seemed like a surprisingly logical place to use the poor, overused 80/20 rule.

So, without further ado, here you are! My list:

80-20-pieces

Allow myself to introduce … my family!

Family time! I don’t think I’ve really introduced my family yet. Let’s do it! I live with my husband, two kids, and a beautiful, oversized cat named Loki. (No, he isn’t named after the god or the heartthrob, though he’s as mischievous as both and [almost] as gorgeous as the latter. His name’s Lachlyn, actually, but we call him Loki, because I was in college when he adopted us and it –like majoring in English — made sense at the time.)

I’ll probably connive my brilliant, long-suffering husband into guest posting here at some point, assuming I can actually keep up with the blog this time (and he promises not to admit just how irritating it can be to live with someone this enamored with new projects) so I’ll let him introduce himself as he chooses then.

My son is a first grader with his dad’s vivid blue eyes and a truly daunting love of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. He’s also an expert climber … which is beginning to pose a problem, see, because he’s discovered that the back fence is totally climbable. He has mild to moderate autism and pretty severe sensory processing disorder (SPD, a disorder that makes your brain interpret your senses differently than most others do; I didn’t know, either). He is six, and doesn’t speak, though he’s beginning to make progress using his iPad as a communication device. (The app he uses is ProloquoToGo, which I’m sure I’ll post about at some point.)

He also hates wearing pants. Can’t say that I blame him, really.

My daughter is an extroverted, highly verbal three-year-old; she has a vocabulary of a much older child, and with an intuitive grasp of the nuances of expressive inflection that puts most adults to shame. She’s also really into play doh — not only, you know, playing with it, but also watching videos of people making things with it. It’s apparently a big thing these days. Who knew? She loves to paint and play hide and seek (though she’s fond of shouting, “HI! I’M IN MY ROOM!” whenever it’s her turn for hiding).

There’s something quite delightful in the way the two of them interact. They chase each other around the backyard — he looks behind him to make sure she’s following, she sometimes takes his hand and they walk around together. He turns on the sprinkler for them to run through. When he gets upset, she’s started looking through their toys and bringing him things to chew on or fidget with, or sitting with him and petting his hair (which may or may not be what he wants at the time, but hey).

We also have a part-time nanny who watches them during the weekday afternoons so I can write. She has been a godsend — for both of them. (And for us.) I’m sure there’s a lengthy and effusive post in my future about our childcare decisions, but for now I’ll just let you draw your own conclusions from the fact that I introduce her in the “this is our family” section.

So … yeah. This is our family.

Why — and How — I’m Using MyFitnessPal

It’s all about calories.

There. I said it. I didn’t want it to be. I spent years of my life believing weight loss was all about activity — that if you just keep moving, you’ll be thin no matter what you eat. But that, apparently, is not the case. At least, it hasn’t been for me*.

I’m finding, for myself, that recording my calories — even imprecisely — is the ticket when it comes to losing weight. I’m shooting for, and mostly hitting, about 1600 calories a day or fewer. And I’m finding that on the weeks when I log what I eat, the number on my scale drops. Weeks when I don’t, it rises or holds steady.

Hardly a clinical study, I admit, but compelling enough for me.

I’m using MyFitnessPal on my phone as my meal tracker, and like it a lot. You can use it to record your meals (I do), how much water you drink (pffft — nah), your weight (I … grudgingly do), and I’m sure many other valuable things that I don’t have or make time for. Oh, and if you work out, you can add the workout and it will adjust the number of calories you “can” have that day. It also has a pedometer, and you can have it adjust your target calories as you take more steps during the day.

MyFitnessPal also has a very useful tool on their website (MyFitnessPal.com > Food > Recipes) where you can upload your recipes or import ones from other sites and it’ll calculate the calories per serving. If you’re just linking to a recipe on someone else’s site, though, you want to take a quick look at the ingredients before saving it. It sometimes likes to decide that, instead of a teaspoon of sea salt, you’re adding a cupful of sweet potato fries with sea salt. Which, as you might imagine, does affect the outcome a tad. But it’s still a much easier process than I’d expected, even having to change a few ingredients back to their intended form now and then.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries (Courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction and included merely because I like food porn; I haven’t tried this actual recipe yet, but it’s a good bet I will.)

What’s interesting is that I often eat more food when I’m logging what I eat. Fewer calories, but more food. I snack more, my meals are more interesting and colorful, and I generally feel better about the food itself.

The trouble, of course, is when eating out. It’s quite easy to plan a <500 calorie meal for yourself (notice I didn’t say shop for, prepare, package, store, serve, or clean up from that meal — those things I’ll discuss a bit, hopefully, in a later post). It’s less easy to eat a <500 calorie meal at, say, Buffalo Wild Wings. Especially if you’ve come to regard the salads at such deep-frier-topias with a hefty amount of suspicion. I do eat out a fair amount, though, and often at national chains, so I thought I’d occasionally do posts on what options I have when eating at some of them. No promises, though.

*Okay, okay, there are many paths to weight loss, and different strategies work better for some people, others for others. And there is definitely much more to nutrition than mere caloric content. And I am also exercising, yes, most days of the week, doing yoga most mornings before anyone else is up. But doing so has more to do with strength and stamina (not to mention shape) than weight itself, I’m reading lately. The thing is, calorie counting is working for me whether I work out or not. 

Food + Beauty + Pleasure + Health

My grandfather infested our house while I was at school one day. I was in, what, seventh grade? Eighth? Many years before “meme” was in widespread non-academic use.

I came home, the dented blue Bronco was parked outside, and Grandpa sat enthroned in the front room. Over the sound of Western No. 1 (of the 5,987,345 that would echo, deafeningly, through our house while he lived there) he rasped, “Well, Melissa, you’re getting fat.” Before saying hello or anything.

I’ve thought I was fat most of my life. Not because of him, just in general. It’s a sort of guiding obsession among the women in my family … and at the schools I attended … and everywhere I’ve worked.

Or talked with anyone.

Or been.

A bearded stranger at a coffeeshop today, an older man, garrulous (to the point of obnoxiousness), told me without provocation that coffee would stunt my growth and ruin my basketball career. He then — because I apparently hadn’t yet been sufficiently reminded that my body is available for comment and censure by virtue of its recognizable femaleness —  assured me that there were absolutely no calories in the pastries on display. Because all women are on diets. Or perhaps all who look like me ought to be.

You know — well, you probably don’t, so I’ll tell you — I’ve actually been fat a couple of times. After each of my two children were born. Not health-threateningly obese, but, you know, quite fat enough to be invisible. If you’ve been there, you know; there’s a fat invisibility threshold, and once you pass it you become The Invisible Woman. No one makes small talk with you while you check out at the grocery store. People avert their eyes, hoping if they ignore you, you’ll go away. I can say from personal experience that this is a very unwelcoming world to be fat in. But I am not, in fact, fat at the moment.

Talking about dieting, or counting calories, or working out is almost always … fraught. And doubly so if someone in the conversation blithely assumes (protip: NEVER ASSUME) that the other(s) are dissatisfied with their own health or appearance, or are primarily concerned about their food from a health or weight-management stance.

But even if you’re not assuming that — even if, in fact, you’re just talking about your own weight, your own food, your own metabolism or exercise regimen, the discussion’s almost always antagonistic anyway. Like you’re always outside of your body, hollering at it, drill-sergeant-style, to be better already. And if you don’t have that tone, others will helpfully provide it.

So the fact that one of my Next Big Things — my endeavors, my projects, call them what you will — is, in fact, losing weight, seems kind of disingenuous. Because I’m so stridently opposed to the body policing, particularly of female bodies, that pervades our culture. And it’s so pervasive that even talking solely about my own body and choices somehow gets added to that pile.

See, I’m working to go from the higher side of pleasantly average, weight- and size-wise, to the lower side. And I have found that any time I talk about that pursuit outside my inner circle, the response is almost always, “You don’t want to …” or “But you’re not fat” or the ubiquitous, defensive “I just love food too much.”

So I don’t talk about it, because who has time for that? and I’ve decided … that’s not really okay. That’s not helpful, not for me or anyone else. Sure, not talking about it with particular people, yeah. But in general? As a rule? No.

I hate that our culture makes us into the custodians of our insecurities and dissatisfactions, and then demonizes us not only for addressing them, and also for talking about them. Even for having them. It’s ridiculous. But I don’t feel that, for myself, the appropriate or healthy response to my society’s machinations is not to care. Because I do care — I care about how I look, I care about how I feel, I care about how people treat and see me. (I care, indeed, about a truly staggering number of things, both internal and external. This will likely become a theme.)

I suggest a new strategy.* I suggest that we all have the right to our own relationship with our bodies, and the right to choose how we care for and adorn them. We do not have the right to define that relationship, or make those choices, for anyone else. We also have the right to discuss our physical choices, and ideas, and desires — but not the right to use those discussions to hurt or use others.

So I’m going to talk about it. Here, with you.

*Let the Wookie win. What? Someone had to say it.

Hello there!

Hi! I’m Mel. This is my blog. It (like its author) is a jumble of insight, aspirations, smart-assery, and noise. I have many interests; I start many projects. I even finish some of them. I’d like to share a few with you.