Slapped Style-less in Seattle

You can imagine, I was looking forward to my trip to Seattle, using airports as my personal social petri-dish. Excited for the first in many planned opportunities to gain creative perspective.

Only the perspective I glimpsed wasn’t flattering. It smacked me in the face hard, laughed, and walked away.

Let me start by telling you, this is not an issue of vanity. Consider it instead an issue of maybe self-value, definitely self-awareness. Really it’s about being all of me and not merely one of my life roles …

I never considered myself frumpy (dare I make an Ugly Betty reference here), but I wasn’t haute couture either. I wasn’t a fashionista or a trendsetter but I would have called myself stylish.

I liked what I liked and stayed in tune with the what’s-hot-what’s-not type of lists, you can find in magazines like Glamour and IN Style, to avoid embarrassing myself much.

People who knew me in my formative years, could probably pick things out and say, “This is something Gail would wear.” I had my favorites within every trend. My style was definitive.

Post kids I said, I wouldn’t be one of “those” women who “let herself go” because their role in life evolved and they added a new title to their resume: mom.

SMACK!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

The truth is I’m a little less Gail-tastic and a lot more Ugly Betty (this is the best place for this reference). I did the very thing I said I wouldn’t do. I became one of “those” women.

While I still frequent the salon for my hair and nails, leave the house wearing makeup and give off the air of being put together, my wardrobe is lacking.

Here’s what happened in Seattle … I walked through a high-end department store watching my colleague shop and thinking: “I don’t get these trends,” and “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that.”

SLAP!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

As I touched various items: dresses and skirts, shorts and shoes, scarves and necklaces, I realized I have NO style. Style-less in Seattle.

Strolling through the women’s department, with a dismissive attitude, I systematically wrote off every option. I mean we’re back to parachute pants?

Okay, I found a few things I liked: grey cardigan, kelly-green scarf with bright yellow polka dots, and a hot pink D&G trench coat (not an ensemble people, individual items to weave into my wardrobe). All of which were left adorning their chrome racks.

I was too shocked to impulse buy and sensible enough to forego the buyer’s remorse.

My closet can be divided into two categories: work and not work; nothing in between, neither of which is inspired or gives the sense of “who is Gail Hanson?” and if it does I’m afraid of what story it’s telling.

SMACK!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

When did this migration from bright creative frippery to functional clothing happen?

Even my shoe lust waned. I started looking for comfortable shoes rather than the type of shoes that aren’t for walking but for showcasing with crossed legs or ankles?

I guess partly, in a world open toed shoes, which I can no longer wear, it’s hard to find a cute closed toe high heel. Shoe shopping is less fun when your options are limited to a quarter of the available selection. But I digress.

Maybe the migration can be attributed to the yo-yo 20 pounds I drop and gain annually. Regardless, my style revelation mortified me.

DOUBLE SMACK!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I need an intervention. I am that mom.

Why did What Not To Wear have to choose 2013 as the year to call it quits. I need Stacy and Clinton’s help, desperately. What are their style rules again?

  • Fit the body you have now.
  • Shine, texture, pattern, color.

Dramatic, but I was freaked out to recognize my wardrobe is “safe”. Where were the iconic colors and silhouettes of a daring, zealous woman with wildly imaginative streak?

I said this wasn’t about vanity and it’s not, please understand … There was a time when appearance was priority and I measured all aspects of life by outer beauty, the objects I could put on to mask the virtues I lacked.

In my teens, I wanted to be with the “pretty people”, perfectly coiffed, polished and poised, wearing the latest and greatest, so that everyone would know I was somebody.

A poor measure but often in our teens we want to fit in and to be popular. We don’t want to be laughed at or mocked, our self-esteem wrapped up in the way we look. Appearance gave us a false sense of control.

Shallow and ignorant. I didn’t just want to be with the “pretty people”, I wanted to be one. Sad, I know, judging a book by the cover (I had to have a bookish reference). I was in my twenties when I learned that true beauty comes from the inside out; that the dust cover is a mirror image of what’s inside.

BACK-HANDED SLAP!

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Yet, I’m real enough to know that our culture, our world values beauty. It’s an extension of high school that I didn’t anticipate. I acknowledge that to be relevant my style matters.

Although I’ve come back from Seattle a little bruised and battered, I also come back aware. Aware that my style needs an upgrade but it can be unique and trend breaking and appealing.

I need a revival. My style should be reflective of the artsy, bolder, wiser, and sassier self.

*HAND TO FOREHEAD, AH-HA MOMENT*

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Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Art by one of my dude’s

The first time I heard this phrase was from my fifth grade teacher. I don’t know why I remember it.

She used to read out loud to us and each character had its own voice. It was the coolest thing.

One day a disagreement bubbled up about one of the stories she was reading us. I don’t remember what book it was or what caused the dispute. (The mind keeps what it wants.) But I remember her response.

She said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you know what that means?”

Wagging our heads in ignorance she explained that beauty can be determined by the individual. That we didn’t have to agree that the words in the story were beautiful. WOW! I didn’t even know I needed a new point of view. Who does at the age of 9 or 10?

It changed my world. Or better yet … it opened my world wide. It helped me know that art is the artist’s expression but beauty is the observer’s impression. I understand that beauty is as varied and unique as a sea of snowflakes just as we are all different.

Learning such a simple but powerful phrase allowed me to create my own definition of beauty. One that would no longer be limited by popular culture.

It was the start of me being able to decide what beauty looked like. Even I could be beautiful. A girl who didn’t look like “valued beauty”. A girl who didn’t look like Barbie. Even a girl like me could be beauty.

Amazing!

Fifth grade was the year I learned to not just accept everything as it was presented to me, but to challenge myself and my beliefs. It was the year I learned to not just enjoy our school outings to concerts, plays, and the ballet. I learned to search for the beauty and meaning in them. My beauty. What I valued.

Every year at Christmas we had a school field trip to see a production of the Nutcracker Ballet. To this day, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, is my favorite. But the fifth grade found me wonder what makes it so beautiful to me?

I still don’t know the answer to the question. Maybe the beauty in it was the possibility in it. You see I wanted to be a dancer back than. And I would imagine myself dancing in the Nutcracker.

I hold the memories in my heart like snapshots in a photo album.

Grateful doesn’t describe what I feel for the teacher who shared these words with me. Now I work at helping my boys find what beauty is to them. In our house we have a saying, “Don’t yuck my yum.” It started out a way of teaching our kids to appreciate others food choices but it extends beyond that.

Maybe you have your own phrase as well … feel free to share in the comments.

I am reading the book, Matched, by Ally Condie. A dystopian story where a government structure defines appropriate beauty:  100 poems, 100 songs, 100 books, 100 paintings … All for the sake of control and keeping order.

Could you imagine living in a world where you couldn’t create new artist’s expressions? Or, a world in which you couldn’t share an observer’s impression unless it’s the “appropriate” impression?

There certainly wouldn’t be a blogosphere for you to hang out in. If you’d like, share your favorite poem, song, book, painting, play, etc. that you’d miss if it was no longer available to you …

This post is a round about way of reminding us to value the beauty you see in the world even if no one else values the same thing.

Signature Color: What Does It Say About Me?

When I was little I was a tomboy. My favorite pastime was climbing trees. Much to my Dad’s chagrin. He ended up cutting all the lower branches off the trees in an attempt to keep me from climbing.

We had eight trees in our front yard. One big one in the back yard along with several smaller fruit trees. Life was good for me.

Despite his efforts, his little girl persevered. Sorry Dad. I learned to shimmy up the tree trunk until I could reach a branch. Then I would climb to my heart’s content.

Then one day … It just ended.

Knowing me now you would never get that I was a tree hugger (literally) in my youth. Now I appreciate the outdoors from a window. I consider camping a stay in a starred hotel.

I’ve turned into a girly girl in some respects. So you won’t be surprised to know that when I left the tree climbing behind that I picked up the color pink as my favorite; as my signature. Kind of like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Everything I purchased I wanted to be pink. Clothes. Hair accessories. Jewelry. And eventually, make up.

In elementary school, it was all shades of pink. In junior high, it was light pink. In high school, it was hot pink. But as pink is the sorority color of all things GIRL, it was every where. Every girl had pink. It was overdone. Dare I say, saturated?

And I wanted to be different. I wanted to be the non-conformist, conformist. You know as much as I like to claim that I move to my own beat, I often find that I want to belong all at the same time. LOL!

Apparently, wearing pink represents calmness, relaxation and peace. Whether or not I was any of those things in my Pink Haze, I don’t know. (For those who work with me you may still consider me in a pink phase since my office is decorated in tones of: cotton candy, silver spoon, and chocolate.)

Anyway, my favorite color, now, is:  BURGUNDY. It has been for almost 15 years.

My seven year old still has trouble wrapping his mind around this color choice. He calls it, “a sophisticated pink”.

But burgundy really isn’t pink. Depending on how or where you find it, burgundy is a mixture of red, pink, purple, and brown.

My new color phase ushered in a new era. Burgundy wasn’t as prevalent in the marketplace. At first it was hard to find things in that color.

For a while I would buy burgundy ink refills for my Sensa® and write on pink paper but it just looked like dark red ink. Also, I found some clothing that falls in this bucket of paint color.

Apparently, wearing burgundy represents:  elegance, richness, refinement, and leadership. Whether or not I am those things is for someone else to judge.

My goal right now is to determine if this color is still my signature. I think 15 years per color is a long time. Maybe I need to change it up. I’m still kind of a girly girl but I think I am entering a new phase of life.

What’s your signature color? Remember that imitation is the highest form of flattery. So if I sample your style consider it a compliment.

Maybe I’ll be into shades of orange next … enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation … hmmm … stay tuned.

DIY: You’re Worth It

 Spring is in the air!

Spring brings beautiful blooms. I love fresh cut flowers for my desk and on my dining room table.

While my husband was in school, it was an indulgence that we couldn’t afford. So I went without for about 3 years; waiting for special occasions to treat myself to bright bouquets. My favorite flower arrangements include sunflowers and red roses because they were my Dad’s favorites.

Thankfully, my husband is done with school and we are in a position to have some “just because flowers”. My sweet husband sent me red roses at work for Valentine’s this year along with a box of gourmet chocolates. Of course I was giddy about it.

But I also believe in doing things for myself. So a couple of times this Spring I’ve treated myself to flowers because I am worth it. I found a long time ago that I can’t expect someone to do for me what I am not willing to do for myself.

Before meeting my husband I worked retail. Invariably, I have met women who would state:  I want this dress or ring or perfume or [insert girly girl dream item here] but I want my boyfriend or husband to buy it for me. On one such occasion the object of desire was a ring:

Me:  Does your boyfriend know the kind of jewelry you like?
Ring-less Woman:  No
Me:  Well do you own any rings, you’re not wearing any today?
Ring-less Woman:  No, I’m waiting for him to get one for me.
Me:  Have you told him you’re waiting on him?
Ring-less Woman:  No.
Me:  Then how will know you like rings if you don’t wear them and you haven’t told him?
Ring-less Woman:  He should know.

Needless to say I didn’t close the sale. If anything I was confused. I couldn’t follow this woman’s logic. She wanted something specific. She had not communicated it. She wasn’t a walking billboard for it. Yet she expected someone else to guess about it. YIKES!

Let me tell you it’s not about the money because at every income level there are options. I’m not advocating that people operate in fiscally irresponsible manner. As a child I improvised:

  • Ring – Tie a piece of yarn around your finger.
  • Perfume – I would put on Tickle Deodorant, (Remember that brand? It was a roll-on that left ugly white marks on your skin but it smelled good and had a cute name.)
  • High Heels – I would step on soda pop cans so that they would form to my feet.
  • Flowers – Dandelions would do in a pinch.

Even in playing dress up I could find substitutes for the things I really wanted until I was able to get the real deal.

I applied that same principle to life when I started working full time. When I met my husband I think I had a ring on each finger. Gold earrings, necklace, and bracelet with my birthstone in it. To round out my jewelry wardrobe I had a gold-plated bangle watch. It was not the one I really wanted because I was eying a Gucci bangle bracelet style watch at the time. But the brand I had was billboard for the dream watch I wanted. Building an outfit started with the shoes and I worked my way up. I had clothes hanging in my closet that still had tags on them (working retail had its advantages).

And when we started dating here’s what I told him (right or wrong):  I don’t need a man that can’t do for me what I do for myself.

I was accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Thankfully, he loved me enough to look past my brash words.

The point is if you are waiting for someone else to get you something stop and think … would they know that you believe you are worth it. Because you are! They should be able to see that about you.

      •  Buy yourself something (within your means)
      • Make yourself something (using what you already have)
      • YOU’RE SOMETHING (fearfully and wonderfully made)!

 

Show-N-Tell

The six original Power Rangers.

As the school year draws to an end for my five year old, his teacher gave each student the opportunity to bring a special item to share with the class. She sent home a canvas bag with a note attached stating:

Parents – Please help your child select one item to bring in the bag and to think of two things to tell about the item. Thank you! 

What a great way to get to know someone. Have them share a single important item. Needless to say, my little dude was super-excited.

He chose his RED Samurai Power Ranger action figure. Naturally! It’s what both of my boys are into right now. We are living, breathing, walking and talking all things Power Rangers at my house. This is their interest. This is their world.

And thanks to the age of Netflix they can watch every season and variation ever made since the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers inception in 1993.

His choice makes sense. It shows who my youngest is right now in life.

Well of course that got me thinking. What if my boss decided to do show and tell week? What if I had to choose something? What would it be and why?

I don’t know what I am so passionate about that I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to share it with others. As an adult, do I have something that I could say I am “super-excited” about [fill in the blank]?

Here are the things that I considered but wasn’t able to narrow it down to just one. For those of you who know me well … you will understand this list. They are addictions for me really. I wish I could help it.

Pen

The challenge would be which pen. I have more pens in my purse than most people have on their desk or in their home. It could be an expensive pen (Mont Blanc) or a cheap one (BIC® Cristal® Bold). Then I would have to decide on color (standard:  black, blue, red or non-traditional:  orange, pink, purple) and point size (0.7mm, 1.0mm, 1.6mm) and style (ballpoint, roller, porous). Two Reasons:

  • I love to write and the pen matters.
  • It’s an addiction I share with my sisters.

Paper

A notebook or stationery or planner pages? How do you decide? I carry these with me at all times. Paper weight matters. Recycled or not. Recently, I found a notebook where the paper was made of stone instead of tree material. Cool right? Not to write on. Reasons:

  • For keeping my thoughts; you never know when inspiration will hit.
  • For jotting down important stuff like appointments and schedules; things I need to remember.

Shoes

High heels? Can’t live without them. I am short so every little bit helps. And they just keep getting higher. My favorite shoe is patent leather. Pretty much anything as long as it has that shine. I have a pair that is red patent leather with a tortoise shell heel and quarter inch platform. They are gorgeous. Two things:

  • They are colorful and pretty; shoes make or break an ensemble.
  • Height … like I said every bit counts.

Handbags

Need I say more? Big, beautiful and full of surprises. For a while I collected them. Now I focus on quality rather than quality. Currently, I am carrying a denim blue colored leather bag that barely holds all my stuff. Things:

  • Like shoes – They are colorful and pretty; make or break an outfit.
  • Conversation pieces.

These four areas have been passions of mine for years. Life actually. I guess they are definers of who I am. If you didn’t know these things … just consider it insight into the psychology of Gail. My “isms” if you will.

Anyway … what would be your one item? What would you show and tell in order to help people get to know you better?