Sunday, December 15, 2013

Size is Relative

I came across a post today on Already Pretty about style and wearing tights. This is a fun blog and I like that she not only knows her stuff, but promotes other bloggers who know their stuff too. I am a fan of tights, usually black, but sometimes colorful. Surprisingly, I am already doing what she advises in wearing them, so I guess I'm not that far off in the style department.

But, seriously, tights are warm too. When I see all the photos of women with bare legs or open toe boots or shoes in the middle of winter, I know I don't see that in the northern region where I live. When you're dealing with twenty below zero temperatures and snow and ice, it really doesn't make a lot of sense. But, I'm also a huge fan of tall boots as well, so it's an excuse to wear more of them with the tights.

In the aforementioned post, the guest blogger was Gracey, from Fashion for Giants. Not only is Gracey informative, she is also very funny, and I enjoyed some of her other posts as well. However, although I think her blog title is clever, I can't see her as a giant or plus-sized. Perhaps it is because at a little over 5'9" I not only almost always wear heels, making me even taller, but I'm actually shorter than anyone else in my family. So, tall is clearly relative to me.

But, for her to be a Size 14 at over six feet tall, does not equal plus-size to me. A Size 14 at that height is actually quite healthy. It's the stick skinny models who are her height and starving themselves to be a Size 0 that are NOT healthy (and I'm not talking about people who are naturally really thin here). At my height, I naturally fall somewhere in between the Size 0 and the Size 14.
In the real world, there are many different types of beauty and they should all be celebrated. After all, the goal should be to be healthy, feel good about ourselves, and embrace our individuality. I've always been one to see the best in people - their eyes, their hair, their skin color...their unique thing that makes them stand out from everyone else. To me, Gracey looks great as she is. Because no matter what we wear or what size it's in, we're all beautiful in our own way.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

On Reading

I just finished a book today that I really enjoyed. It's one of those books that pulled my interest so much that as I got about halfway through it, I just had to finish it. So, after a leisurely breakfast at a local restaurant, I settled in on a cold Sunday afternoon, wrapped a blanket around myself, and just continued to read.

I was so absorbed in the characters and the situations they were in, I forgot it was cold and dreary outside. The book was "Hidden in Paris," by Corine Gantz. Granted, I love anything to do with Paris, but it's more than that. Ms Gantz is a wonderful writer and her characters were interesting and complex - and the way their lives intertwined with each other made it an engaging story. Her characters developed and grew, and the ending was satisfying without being too predictable. I enjoyed it and it was definitely one I had folded a few pages back on for quotes I like to write down in my journal later - which I always do upon finishing a book.

After I put it down, it made me think of someone I once worked with. She would quite often say she didn't read and that no one does anymore. She was actually proud of this. Perhaps people read differently than they did before (there are millions of Kindles and other electronic readers sold each year, as well as people reading on their computers and Smartphones), but people are still reading. We also still have many crowded bookstores for the people who still love paper books. I am generally around intelligent people of all ages who love to read, and when I have mentioned this comment people have generally been as puzzled by it as I was. I am also a writer, and any good writer should be reading to fuel their creative juices, as well as for inspiration. 

But reading is more than that. Reading is a way to learn about other lifestyles, other cultures, other places. It is a way to continue learning, to be drawn into a story, to be in a different country, understand different backgrounds, and to be pulled out of your own life and into an entirely different one. I find it sad to not do that. Although I love movies, it isn't the same as the imagination and education you get by reading a good book. To never have that escape or intellectual stimulation closes you off to so much.

To each his or her own, of course, but I've been reading since I was a little kid, and I can't imagine not doing it at all. Even in the busy lives we all lead now, there are just too many things you miss out on by not pulling out a good book. Besides, it keeps your mind sharp and young. Why limit yourself that way?

This weekend I was in my favorite bookstore, Magers and Quinn, which was busy, as usual. One of the fun things about bookstores is not only checking out books, but observing the people who are in there. As I looked for my next book to read, I observed two teenagers going through the stacks and marveling at the titles. There was a lot of: "But, have you read this one? It's so awesome," and "I can't wait to get to that one." 

I smiled to myself as I headed toward the counter with my next book, where the salesclerk assured me that I had made a great choice. Yes, people most definitely still read - old and young alike. And, although there might be some that don't, it's ignorant to say no one does.  Because, no matter what the medium of choice is, there's just as much excitement and joy in it as there always has been.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Young Woman's Courage to Fight for Education

When I was growing up, it was just understood that I would go to college. With the exception of my mother, everyone in my family got a college education. As a kid, you don't often realize how fortunate you are to have that kind of support - especially as a woman.

My mother was born in a different time. She still had regret in her eighties about not going to college. She is gone now, but I always wished she would have gone later in her life. Her father told her no woman needed to go to college. I'm so glad times have least for the most part.  And we just don't have the same obstacles here that women face in other parts of the world.

When I first read about Malala Yousafzai several months ago, I realized what a shining example she is of someone who not only had a father who believed in her, but he did it in a country where that just isn't done. His courage was clearly passed on to his daughter. Although they had made some strides with education in her country, it was taken away. When she fought for it publicly, she was almost killed.

In an article in the BBC News Magazine, it is obvious the support she had from her father contributed to her own bravery:
By the time Malala was born, her father had realized his dream of founding his own school, which began with just a few pupils and mushroomed into an establishment educating more than 1,000 girls and boys.
This was Malala's world - not one of wealth or privilege but an atmosphere dominated by learning. And she flourished. "She was precocious, confident, assertive," says Adnan Aurangzeb. "A young person with the drive to achieve something in life."
"For my brothers it was easy to think about the future," Malala tells me when we meet in Birmingham. "They can be anything they want. But for me it was hard and for that reason I wanted to become educated and empower myself with knowledge."
She is an extraordinary young woman, wise beyond her years, sensible, sensitive and focused. She has experienced the worst of humanity, and the best of humanity - both from the medics who cared for her and the messages from many thousands of well-wishers.
Women need to continue their fight for their rights to an education everywhere. There are even difficulties in the United States when it comes to poverty or obstacles being thrown in by people who are threatened by women who are more educated, outspoken, and powerful in business and politics. But, in the case of Malala, it is even more important. Because she is fighting as a very young woman who is also in real danger. She is wise, tough, and knows the fight ahead of her. For that she should not only be admired, but be honored as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Memory of an Attack We'll Never Forget

I write this in memory of all those who lost their lives twelve years ago, and all those who lost someone they loved. I will never forget where I was, watching it unfold on television right outside of Boston. I was acutely aware that two of the four airplanes that crashed that day flew out of Logan Airport. 

A year prior to 9/11, I had flown to New York with a friend who worked for United Airlines. The plane flew right over lower Manhattan. The World Trade Center was majestic, the view was clear, and the day was sunny and bright. That was the last time I ever saw the towers. I remember what a beautiful view it was of New York City.

One year after the attack I was in Europe visiting several countries with some friends. In a small bar in a tiny town in Germany, a niece of a friend we were visiting cried softly as she told me that her father had died in one of those buildings. It reminded me that the impact was felt throughout the world...and that it's truly a much smaller world than we realize.

A couple years later, on another visit to New York, I walked around lower Manhattan, circling the still empty hole where the buildings had been. All around the fenced off area were signs and written memorials posted by friends and family that had lost loved ones in the attack. The Statue of Liberty sat nearby out in the water, seemingly lonely and quiet - especially in a place as great as New York City. The day brought drizzling rain, along with colder temperatures and strong winds. It seemed rather appropriate for a very somber fall afternoon.

I remember how I had planned to relocate to Boston three months before the terrorist attack. Of all the states I had lived in growing up, Massachusetts was my favorite. But, as 9/11 took lives, it also instilled fear and trepidation at the time. The jobs that had been offered were pulled back, and a solid job offer back in the Midwest - where most of my belongings were still being stored - regrettably drew me back. Driving west, with such disappointment and hesitation, made me want to take the fork in the road to the right toward New York City, instead of continuing west. When I got as far as Chicago a couple days later, I looked up at the then Sear's Tower as the highway wrapped around it - realizing its height compared to the two fallen buildings in New York City.

Twelve years later, after way too much delay, the tallest building of the new World Trade Center is taking shape where the rest will follow. It isn't the same, nor will it ever be the same. But, at least there is something there again signifying the country's strength and perseverance. Because despite all the loss, all the disappointments, and all the pain, it did not destroy our spirit. And it did not destroy our resolve or fight to move forward. And, most importantly, it did not even begin to destroy our hope.

A picture of what the new World Trade Center Site will look like when everything is finished by 2015.
Almost completed is One World Trade Center (left). It's the tallest structure in the United States.
 (courtesy of

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mermaid Hair

I've been told more than once that I have mermaid hair. As an avid swimmer since I was really young, I guess I always take it as a compliment. I'm not blonde - in fact, I'm quite happy to be a natural redhead - so, it's not like it's referring to the old joke of blonde hair looking green from too much chlorine. Besides, mermaid hair is actually much more about "beachy" hair. It's a bit wavy like ocean waves, very natural, and pretty long. Guess that's me. And I love the quote on the mermaid necklace pictured above (it's from Crafting4Cause) with the quote by Anais Nin on it. I agree with that philosophy as well.

I always have to laugh when women tell me they would have long hair if it wasn't so much work. In reality, I put very little effort into my hair. Most days I don't even dry it. When I do, I dry the top slightly, and leave the back wet to dry naturally during the day. 

On the Free People Blog, they go into more detail about styling more elaborate Mermaid Hair. In their version, it does take more work to create the long curls that flow down your back, along with using varying colors. It looks really beautiful and fun. But, at least for me, part of the attitude of having the long mermaid hair is that it isn't a lot of work. It's down, or in a long braid, or pulled back into a ponytail. It's easy and simple to change for the weather or what I am doing at the time.

And, by the way, I plan on doing this until I'm old and gray. Who cares what people say about it being inappropriate to have long hair when you're older anyway. Never tell a redhead she can't do something...  

In the real scheme of things, I admire women who put more effort into their hairstyles, and I appreciate the work that Free People demonstrates on their blog. But, let's be honest, I am - and will always be - a very low maintenance kind of girl, with a definite dislike of shallow living. I'll take the deep end that you can dive into...and the long, natural, and often wet, hair any day.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Forever Missing Mom

My mother told me once that you never stop missing your mother. My grandmother died when I was fourteen. My mother never stopped wanting to call her, wanting to hear her voice, and thought about her all the time.

In June, my mother would have turned 85. She has been gone for almost three years now. I have never stopped wanting to call her, wanting to hear her voice, and I think about her all the time. This morning I woke up thinking I wanted to give her a call. But the phone doesn't reach that far. If only it did.

She was right. I will never stop missing her. She was one of the sweetest souls I have ever known. She was warm and friendly with everyone, always supported me, and always believed in me - even when no one else did. I miss her laugh most of all, and I remember that even in the hardest of times, her sense of humor carried her through.

She would have loved the job I started in June - in fact, not only is it a direction she wanted me to go in, I think she somehow had a hand in it. And she knew I wanted to write since I was three years old, and she never let that dream die.

It's funny how we always want just a little more time with people we have lost. We love them so much and think if we could just have that extra time...But, we know deep down, no matter how much time we were granted, it would still never be enough.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Flea Markets

There's something cool about finding old things and giving them a new home. I love books that belonged to someone else first, vintage clothes and jewelry can be really beautiful and chic, and great finds in old furniture can be fun when they're given a fresh coat of paint decorated with your own personal style. As much as I like modern furniture, it just becomes more interesting when you mix it with renewed, classic pieces.

I live near a corner of some pretty unique antique shops. Although I only shop in them on occasion, two places in particular are fun to visit. One carries seasoned, quality items, and the second is almost like an old flea market - which I loved in Europe and on the East Coast. For some strange reason, flea markets are illegal in the city I currently live in. Although there are some great farmer's markets, they will not sell anything other than food and arts and crafts. There is, however, a current movement to change the law. In an article in MPR in April, they were finally moving to repeal it after sixty years.

I admittedly miss flea markets because I love to paint and fix up old pieces. I painted my grandmother's dark, stained corner bookshelf a bright red. I found a great old metal toolbox to hold paints and brushes that is now a weathered blue...and dining room chairs seem to change color when the mood strikes. I also like to paint the frames holding my photography in a unique way to give them a pop of color and more depth.

I recently came across an article on a favorite site, Apartment Therapy, listing some of the best flea markets in the world. In the article, Awesome Flea Markets Across the Globe, it lists some great places to visit when you're traveling:
Do you check out flea markets when you travel or do you travel for flea markets? If you fall into either category, AFAR has a list of 17 awesome flea markets all over the world that are worth a visit:
Since I've yet to visit any of these, consider this my travel bucket list. The top 5 are:
  1. Portobello Road, London, England
  2. Mauerpark Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  3. Jaffa Flea Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
  4. Jeu de Balles, Brussels, Belgium
  5. Bazar el Rastro, Madrid, Spain
Now, granted, for someone who loves to travel and would like to find any excuse to get on a plane...oh, how I miss the days when I flew on buddy passes...these are pretty interesting locations to begin with. 

I'm not into clutter, but I am into interesting finds. Maybe call it an excuse to travel or an excuse to create - or maybe it's the writer in me that just loves how something might have a story. Because you can buy a lot of cool things to reflect your personality, but isn't there just something really special about finding the right piece that brings a little history along with it?  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Not Being a Mom

It took me awhile to get over the fact I would never become a mother. Not because it's the way it's supposed to be in modern society - I've never been one to follow that anyway. Not because I was always told I had a high probability of having twins. Not because I was always told I would be good at it. It was hard to get over because the choice was made for me. 

Once a decision is made for you, there are a lot of "what ifs" that go through your mind. Mother's Day is hard, and the idea that you're not complete if you don't have a child is in your face all the time. I've always thought adoption is really me, adopted kids are so wanted. But, I either have a broken biological clock, or it just never got set. I just don't have that yearning that many women have. My life, my legacy has a different meaning - and a different focus.

My friends and family know what an independent spirit I am. And I've always been so much more drawn to animals. I mean, what can I say? I don't "ooh" and "aww" over babies like I do animals, especially dogs. My former job had me taking care of disabled people, which more than took care of any nurturing need, and my new job is working in a business with those aforementioned furry friends as service dogs. I'll be working as a writer and photographer for a company that really makes a difference in people's lives. 

After losing my own mother a couple of years ago, Mother's Day has a different sort of sadness now. Admittedly, I'm glad it's over for another year, and even though I have my sad moments when I think about not being a mom myself, they're pretty rare now. Most of the time, I'm actually quite relieved. I have a freedom and open-mindedness that is liberating (not to mention an entire aisle in the pharmacy that I don't have to look at). In other words, even if the choice hadn't been made for me, I don't think I would have had children, anyway. 

I know there are a lot of women out there - including some friends - who feel the same way. Women have more options now than they did years ago. They can choose how many kids they want to have, whether it's several, one, or none.

In reading comedian Jen Kirkman's new book, "I Can Barely Take Care of Myself," I found someone else who feels the same way. Our lives have no less meaning, no less depth, and no less importance because we aren't mothers. There are many other things in life. In her book, Kirkman says that people who come to see her comedy routine offer strong, unsolicited opinions about her choice to not have kids. In her interview about the book in Marie Claire magazine, "I Don't Want Kids - Get Over It!" Kirkman says people tell her she'll regret it:
"The first one I always get, which I wanted to name my book, is: "You'll change your mind." Or people come up to me and say, "Who will take care of you when you're old?" which I take to mean, "You'll die alone." My short answer to those people is, "Have you ever watched the Golden Girls?"
I can say from many years of experience working in social services with elderly clients: There's no guarantee your children will be there for you. The majority of people I worked with had kids who had little to do with their care or even had time for them. We also live in a society that is constantly changing with people living all over the world, so expecting a child to be there for you later in life, is a nice thought, but not always a realistic one. The truth is, true friends can be there for you just as often.

There's also that freedom you have when you aren't held back at all with kids. When Kirkman was asked about her child-free inspiration in the Marie Claire interview, she talked about Miriam. Both of them are an inspiration to me now:
"I was 22, broke, single, and miserable. She was 62, broke, single, and fabulous. She did her own thing, never asked permission, never apologized. I always knew I was a Miriam. Parents talk a lot about how much strength and dedication it takes to raise a child. I think it also takes a lot of strength and dedication to carve out a life that doesn't seem normal to anyone else." 
I came across an old card from a friend written a few years ago when I became very ill and had to have an immediate surgery that made the choice for me - there would be no children. Ever. In the card she wrote: "It takes a strong and intelligent woman to resolve not to bear children. It takes a woman with a lot of love in her life to be at peace knowing that the decision has been made for her." 

The card is tattered and slightly ripped now, but it's still very clear - and very treasured. The truth is, it isn't so much that the choice was made for me anymore, it is more that different choices and a different life that I didn't even see is pretty clear now...and it appears that it's the one I wanted in the first place.