"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Sunday, April 15, 2012

May threads not kill me dead

Oh my word, I'm back. I survived the deadline, emerged somewhat shell shocked and battle weary, spent some time with family for Easter, then had another (much smaller) deadline, and now I'm back.


I've got much on my mind to share, but one of the things that seems foremost right now, due to the positively fantastic lovely weather that gets everyone's sap flowing and everyone's best duds out on display, is fashion.

Specifically my fashion. Or rather, complete lack thereof.

Having worked at home now for nearly two years (another halleluiah!), and before that having worked in publishing and/or academia and/or nonprofits, I can say that the following drawing accurately illustrates my life.

I'm usually somewhere between Worksuit and Hobo-chic. I wear fleece-lined slippers and fingerless gloves in the house when it's cold, like some kind of wan Dickensian orphan. True story.

As I have lived a life in pursuit of the cerebral, I have--either willingly or circumstantially (I think a little of both)--fallen into a non-fashion rut. My life is now spent living out the wisdom of Walden Pond resident Henry David Thoreau:

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.

Apparently, my caution has infected my closets so much so that I no longer remember how to dress myself when a situation requires more than jeans and a T-shirt/sweater (or, in more usual and sadly NOT dire circumstances, elastic-waistband yoga pants and a hoodie). I look at skirts in confusion, blouses in puzzlement, and anything with buttons perplexedly.

And dresses! Oh dresses. Don't get me started. I love dresses, but: SAD FACE. It took me SIX MONTHS to find a dress to wear to my wedding. It takes me about half as long to find a cute cocktail dress to wear to someone ELSE'S wedding. Which is sort of ridiculous. I'm sad that I can't just save myself the search for cocktail dresses and recycle my wedding dress at future weddings--not because of the color, because it's purple and doesn't look like a wedding dress, but because it's too damn FANCY to wear anywhere else. GAH. MORE BLACK TIE WEDDINGS, PLEASE. That or I have to teleport myself into Downton Abbey, where everyone dressed for dinner.

Add to that the fact that I can no longer wear shoes that don't provide firm orthopedic support AND the fact that I am an unapologetically plus-size lady (your state of readiness for my jelliness is a subject for another entry), and I am whole-heartedly flummoxed when it comes to effortlessly looking cute, put-together, or fashionable. How do people make it look so easy?

The other day at a department store, I tried on eight pairs of pants, six tops of assorted styles, and about twelve dresses. I bought one pair of jeans and one dress--the only items that didn't look ghastly on me (either because of size issues or because of OMG WHY DID I PICK UP A MULLET DRESS/STRAIGHT-LEG JEANS issues). I got home thoroughly exhausted and it took all my willpower not to use a layer cake for a pillow.

Who knew it was this effing taxing to get some new threads?

What's a gal to do when she's not given a shit about clothes for so long that she is now confused by them? What's a gal to do when she's got a fat ass and magnificent thighs in a world still firmly built for waifish nymphs, however much people are saying that there's more acceptance of all body shapes and sizes? (It's still decidedly NOT widespread, especially in clothing stores, where often anything larger than a size 12 somewhat resembles a sack, as if we fat chicks had no figure to speak of.)

When you've spent so much time in your head, how do you remember that you have a body?

Now, I don't really, REALLY think that clothes make the gal. I don't. Mostly I wear clothes because they are a practical necessity. If I sat naked at my desk each day, the chair cushion would stamp an unattractive waffle pattern on my ample buttocks, and the neighbors might faint when I went to get the mail. But I do also think that what we choose to wear can be an expression of ourselves, if we want it to be--and I think I am wanting it to be.

Mostly this change comes about because for a long while I was ashamed of my body. It didn't fit the societal mold of beauty, so I saw it as flawed. Bad. Other. Alien. Undesirable. I tried to call as little attention to myself as possible.

Now I'm slowly but surely, with love and support from hubs and friends and a group of supportive ladies going through the same thing, starting to realize that I really am okay, just as I am. Big bottom, ample thighs, round belly and all. And I shouldn't hide myself from the world, or from myself. I should treat myself as a person worthy and deserving of fanfare, decoration, fun, and sass. I am a person deserving of notice, deserving of presence, deserving of space.

But goddamn if I know how on earth to do that if it doesn't involve jeans and a T-shirt. Or fingerless gloves. Or pajama pants.

So bear with me here as I bare it all and try to figure out how on earth I, as a 31-year-old woman, am supposed to dress myself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Never trust a word like deadline....

... because much like "diet" consists of "die" with a "t" at the end, it has the word "dead" in it.

Which is what I swear I'll be before this book is over!

I haven't already abandoned my newly revived blog. I'm just mired in a deadline that is taking up all my time. I have many thoughts swirling around in my head but no time to sit and peruse them in blog posts. So I'll be back next week once the insanity is over!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ask and ye shall receive

I am not a person of faith--or at least an organized faith in terms of religion, or the conventional definition of faith--but I am constantly amazed at how the universe responds when you put things out there. So I suppose I am a believer in or espouser of the put-it-out-there-and-see-what-happens philosophy.

Just a few days after I found myself deeply troubled and then finally at peace with my financial situation, I have just found out that our business is doing so much better this year than last year that I'm getting a raise and a bonus.

Obviously I'm thrilled that I'm going to be making more money, but I'm also completely at peace with the idea that financial currency is not the way to measure the worth of a job, or a life. And I truly believe that if that hadn't been the case, this might not have worked out this way.

Allowing myself to truly reflect upon my situation helped me work through the issues I had with my finances. I made peace with things. I put it out there that I'd made peace with things. I find that it's when I accept things and make peace with them and admit that I've made that peace that change can happen.

This applies to anything in life. Relationships, body image, job situations, physical ailments. As soon as I say to myself, Okay, this situation is causing me a lot of tension, so I need to just let myself get down in it, accept it, make peace, and turn it over to the universe. As soon as that happens, real change can begin. True change. The kind of change that turns your situation on its head and amazes you because it seems to happen to naturally, it almost looks magical.

Magical realism at work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Team Incredible

Today I dedicate my blog post to my friend, Alison Beier, and her son, Evan. Who also goes by Mr. Incredible, a moniker well earned, in my opinion.

Alison's little boy is 2 1/2 years old and today she is donating one of her kidneys to him. He has had numerous medical problems since he was born and doctors didn't think he'd live more than a few days. Time and again he has proved them wrong, earning him the Incredible name. If the transplant today is a success, things will really be looking up for Evan and his health.

I met Alison in high school and was delighted to reconnect with her over Facebook years later. I remember getting to know her in freshman honors biology, where we spent quite a lot of class splitting our sides laughing (and avoiding the scary fridge filled with ancient experiments directly behind our lab table). She re-enacted a scene from "Bosom Buddies" for one of the innumerable talent shows that all-girls' Catholic high school seem to put on that was an audience favorite and used to tell people, "My last name is 'Beer' with an 'i' in the middle." In fact, Alison was always smiling and laughing, even when things were rough. She was one of the most positive people I knew. I was sad when she had to leave our high school to finish her senior year elsewhere, but am glad that thanks to the internet, we've been able to get back in touch. She is still just as funny, positive, and full of life. She loves her son fiercely.

Now that I've been keeping up with her and her son's lives over the past year or two, I never cease to be inspired by how much love and hope there is in her family, even in the face of sometimes extremely daunting odds. I am not the praying type, but today (and for many days recently) I've been sending her and Evan and her entire family positive, healing vibes and have been thinking about them a lot. I and countless other supporters of Team Incredible have been plastering Facebook and the internet with messages about their story and inspiring others. It's such a small world that when another high school classmate posted about today's surgery in her status update, one of her friends said, "Hey, we're praying for a little boy having a kidney transplant tomorrow at the school where I work. I wonder if it's the same one?" It is. She had never met Alison but someone at her school had spread the word. It amazes me how much this one boy's story has touched so many people.

I invite you to keep Alison, Evan, and their family in your hearts, thoughts, prayers--however it is that you roll--today and for the next few days. To learn more about Evan and see photos of this remarkable, adorable little boy, check out his website: Prayers for Evan.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I was feeling positively abysmal yesterday when I started thinking of how much money I make each year.

This might be enough to make anyone down in the dumps, regardless of how many figures are in her salary, because we live in a culture where more is never enough and less is cause for despair. But it got me thinking about the kinds of currency we use to measure our lives.

In July of 2010, I left my corporatesque job with an academic/trade publisher to become a partner in a small, custom-publishing company founded by a dear friend and decade-long professional colleague. It was a leap of faith: I knew it wouldn't be as grand financially or come with benefits (no 401(k), no PTO), but it had other benefits. I would work from home. I would not be required to work mandated hours, fill out a time card, or make requests for time off. I could take some time off every day, if desired. I could work 7 days a week if I wanted. I would be trusted to make decisions and work independently. I would have ownership of the company and my work. I would have a say. I would be allowed to be fully myself.

And in addition to a modest weekly check, I'd have my health insurance paid for, which ended up being key when I needed to have foot surgery. (It is extremely helpful to be able to recover from foot surgery when you have a home office and have no need to leave your house to go to work.) And I'd have partial ownership in the company, increasing every year, as well as extra income depending on how many projects came in. I'd get to do the writing on some of those projects, finally.

I love my work. I no longer feel that I have a job. I have work. It is meaningful, interesting, fulfilling, sometimes mundane and frustrating, at times incredibly stressful, but I never regret making this choice. My worst day now is better than my best day at my last job. There are so many other ways I'm compensated for making this choice.

Why, then, did I allow myself to feel down in the dumps when I thought about the fact that I make less now than I did at the corporatesque job that nearly drove me to insanity? (And I don't mean that entirely metaphorically, as staying there much longer would likely have driven me to a therapist.) Why, when my husband did some calculating and told me that based on a 40-hour work week, what I make hourly averages out to a sum that is a little more than minimum wage, did I feel a roiling in my gut?

Why do we allow ourselves to put a numerical value on what we do? Why do we let dirty green paper dictate our worth, our contribution to society, our mood when we get out of bed?

I don't, usually, and in fact, since I started this work in July 2010, I've never once paused to think about things in these terms. Instead, I've delighted in the fact that I work at home, set my own hours, am valued and trusted by my partners, and no longer feel dread when thinking about the answer to people's question, "What do you do?" I am glad that working at home meant I could heal from my foot surgery in comfort, work during hours that are most productive (hello, nighttime!), take time each day to relax, ease into the day, cook myself lunch. I don't feel guilty or like I'll have a pissed-off boss on days when I'm less productive. I don't count down the hours to Friday or feel soul-shattering dread on Sunday nights. I usually greatly enjoy the things on my to-do list.

Sometimes I get lonely and wish I had colleagues to chat with. Sometimes I have to remind myself to get up and leave the house for a while. Sometimes I am so relieved that I don't have to deal with anyone else's bullshit or printouts or memos or meetings that I could weep in relief. Most days I don't, but on occasional days, I do wear pajamas at my desk. (Today is one of them.)

People are often interested in hearing more about what I do. They think it sounds cool. They think it sounds challenging. They are wistful that they don't work at home, or alternately, in awe that I work at home because they don't think they could ever have the discipline to do it. (Secret: it's mostly not about discipline, but that's a post for another day.) 

I am thrilled that I'm finally living my dream of writing and working for a publisher that produces meaningful work and am free of the lunacy of a 9-to-5 office structure. So why use my paycheck as a yardstick to measure my days? I thought about it for a while, and it made me feel bad, and when my husband reminded me of all the things I love about my work life, and how he'd take a pay cut if it meant having the freedom and fulfillment I have, I realized he was right. I realized that dollars are a bad way to value what we do. When you don't dread sitting at your desk, when you feel fulfilled at least a bit every day, when you think of it as work you want to do and not just a job you have to do, you have won. You have all the riches you could desire. You have a life that is priceless.

Whether it is a hobby, a job, a family role, or a cause you passionately support, what brings joy and meaning to your days should be measured in spiritual, emotional, or mental currency. Don't measure the worth of your days by your paycheck. 

It seems obvious, but it clearly bears repeating. Sometimes it's good to remind our minds of what our hearts already know.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The prodigal blogger

My husband told me recently that he missed my blog.

My heart softened like butter.

I abandoned/walked away from/got too busy for this blog about a year ago, actually almost exactly a year ago when I was in the midst of planning a wedding and writing a book and having/recovering from foot surgery. I figured I had too much going on and I convinced myself I had nothing to write about, nothing worth penning, nothing anyone would care to read anyway.

Now I'm in the midst of a crazy editing deadline and am in the process of writing my second book and am apartment-hunting and have been too busy to cook or clean or do much of anything fun, even read a book. Now I am married and walking on two feet and a published author (well, collaborator, anyway). And I realize that I'll always be busy and in the midst of stuff, so why not hop to it and get writing? Why not make time for writing? Why not make it a priority to do the thing I've wanted to do since I was 5 years old and firmly decided that nothing else in the world could ever be as awesome as writing?

So here I am. Back. Unsure of how to proceed or what to say, but dedicated to writing it, all thanks to the partner by my side, who believed enough in me to think that what I have to say is worth the space.

The butter to my bread, the breath to my life.