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Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

Thanks in large part to Abby Norman’s post at SheLoves Magazine back in June, I have finally come to terms with the knowledge that it is time to say goodbye to the dress that I have called my favorite for the better part of two decades.

I have had this dress for about 20 years:

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It’s a very simple dress. It’s easy to throw on over dance attire or a swimsuit. It’s also easy to dress up by wearing it with a string of pearls and some fancy shoes. Very few of my clothes have been this versatile or this well-loved.

The problem is that it doesn’t really fit my body anymore.

It fits in most places (and yes, that is gratifying), even though it doesn’t hang as flowy as it used to. But one place it really does not work for me any more is in the chest:

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My face cannot abide this dress and its unfortunate empire waist seam.

Many years ago, when I wasn’t quite as bountiful on top as I am now, this dress smoothed down nicely. Now, it’s not doing me any favors, which means it falls out of favor with me. I’ve been hoarding it in the back of my closet for a while, though. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.

Then Marie Kondo made me go through my clothes, piece by piece. Seriously, this book is ruining/saving my life.

And I held it in my hands and asked myself, “Does this give me joy?” The answer came pretty easily. No. No it does not. It gives me unnecessary angst.

So I let it go. I stuffed it in the bottom of one of the bags headed out for donation.

Even after admitting out loud that it was time to bid it adieu, I had to take this particular bag out to the car immediately so that I wouldn’t make an excuse for it and reclaim it.

Goodbye, old friend. I hope the next person who wears you enjoys you as much as I have.

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On Wearing Pearls

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I just love Denton. It’s home to two colleges. It has a thriving local music scene and tons of talented local artists. It is home to multiple festivals a year and its citizens are so fiercely protective of its unique downtown area that no national chain has any real hope of survival on the square (sorry-not-sorry, Subway).

Denton is a casual town. Most days, you could walk into almost any store downtown in your pajama pants, and no one would blink an eye (and thank goodness for that, because Saturdays are for pajamas, even if I have errands to run). When I moved here over twenty years ago from a small town in the panhandle, I had to adjust my perspective of what certain expectations meant. First, most invitations (and by “invitations,” I do mean “fliers”) didn’t mention dress at all.  That blew my mind. And when they did, they didn’t always mean what I grew up believing they meant. “Formal attire” could mean actual formal wear, but it was more likely that it was just a request to wear a dress or slacks. And “casual dress” was less likely a call for a nice shirt and slacks than it was a reminder to wear shoes.

I like that about Denton.

Sometimes, though, I wear pearls.

I shied away from them for a while when I first moved here, because pearls – even the costume strands that I wear most often – really fancy up an outfit. It’s hard to look casual in pearls. And when you don’t look as casual as the environment, it’s hard not to stick out. And it’s hard not to feel out of place when you stick out (and when you’re also 18 – in retrospect, that was probably more of a factor than the jewelry). And most of the time, I didn’t need any extra help feeling out of place.

But one day, I pulled my favorite earrings out of my jewelry box and put them on again. Just two little pearls – one in each ear. With such a simple change, I felt grounded. I felt like me.

Pearls understand me.

Pearls are troublemakers. They start out as an irritation. They are a grain of sand that sneaks into an oyster’s shell, and instead of feeling contrite and meekly excusing themselves when discovered, they stubbornly remain, forcing their environment to adjust to them and growing into something beautiful out of the impact they have.

Pearls are simple yet elegant. They know that they don’t have to make a big splash to be heard or noticed. Pearls are the kind of grown-up I aspire to be. In today’s episode of First World Problems, I admit that I find jewelry shows and stores challenging. Most of the pieces are much more complicated than my preferred style, which is all clean lines and simplicity. If I’m wearing something other than that, it is probably a gift, a uniform, a costume, or an obnoxious plea for attention.

[soapbox tangent] Lest anyone be tempted to make a preference into a rule, let me be clear. Some people look gorgeous in bold patterns and intricate designs, and I expect that their style, while different from mine, does exactly for them what mine does for me. It makes them feel beautiful. It is a visual reminder that they are a presence in this world and that said presence is a contribution, not a liability. There is not a best way to dress. Whatever makes you feel at home in your skin, do or wear that thing. I am 100% in favor of that. [/end soapbox]

A few months ago, I was driving home from an event that called for something a little dressier than my usual attire. It was a sunny day, but the air was chilly, just like I like it to be. When I got in my car, I took down my hair, rolled down my windows, and turned on the radio. With the sun on my arms, the wind in my hair, music in my ears, and pearls around my neck, I was at home in my soul long before I was home in reality.

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This year is going to be a great year, if for no other reason than I’m turning 40, and I plan to be obnoxious about it – even more obnoxious than I usually am. I already celebrate for a whole week. This year, I’m celebrating the whole year. I almost made “forty” my OneWord365. The only thing that stopped me is that there aren’t many songs that fit that theme, and I’m going to need a playlist.

But it’s totally in the back of my mind. It’s going to be a focus, even if it’s not the main focus. I can just tell.

As with every year, I have writing goals, reading goals, and one word that will be my theme of the year.

Writing:

1. Write an average of 5,000 words toward a work in progress per week. That’s 5-10 hours a week. That’s 260,000 words. That’s finishing Feast and Fishbowl and getting a good chunk of another project, whatever it will be, off to a good start.

2. On the blog, I’d like to continue some series, start some new ones, and get some more guest posts. I would like to consistently post three times a week, even in weeks when I’m feeling quiet, which means writing posts ahead of time and getting them scheduled. I just want to be more organized and intentional about it.

Reading – three sets of 40:

1. 40 books by people of color. In examining the diversity of my influences (friends, music, things I read, etc.), I do okay in most areas. My blog reader is especially diverse; only about 20% of the bloggers I read are white/straight/middle-class/etc. You know – me-ish. There is room for improvement across the board, though, and nowhere is this more obvious than in my book list from 2014, which is remarkably whitewashed. This year, I am going to be more intentional about diversifying my reading list, and I’m going to start with race as the diversifying factor.

2. 40 classics. Every time I see lists of 100 pieces of classic literature that pop up (you know the ones – the braggy ones that show up on your well-read friends’ Facebook pages that encourage you to compare your reading list to theirs), I can’t even say that I’ve read a majority of them. And I know that comparison is the thief of joy, but I also suspect that when I watch The Newsroom, I would probably enjoy it more (assuming that’s even possible) if I had a better grasp of Don Quixote. I also know that reading works that stand the test of time will assist in teaching me to write works that stand the test of time, and I am very much interested in that.

3. 40 miscellaneous books – just for fun. I am including a third category to pay homage to all those books I read as part of book clubs and lazy days off and other such times. I also think that fun is an important element of reading, particularly this year, because fun is my word of 2015.

Theme – fun:

My first thought when choosing my one word for this year was “responsible.” After all, I just spent a year chasing beauty. Gorgeous, lovely, magical beauty. So my reaction to that was that I should follow it up with something more serious. Something to bring me back down to earth. Not that I ever left, really.  It turns out, down on earth, it’s actually quite beautiful.

But I have goals for the year. Practical goals. Goals that require focus. Goals that require structure. Goals that embrace the quotidian (which is a word I also love, but for very different reasons).

The problem I kept running into when thinking about any of these words as my theme for the year is that I associate them with boredom. I think of them as dull. Lifeless. Scarce. What I hear is “Reign it in,” as if I haven’t done enough of that in my life already.

Enough.

Also, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m turning 40 this year. I am happy to be turning 40, because I have earned every year. I’m going to herald in this milestone. There might actually be trumpets involved.

There will probably come a year when I want to reclaim sensible words and focus on them, because they’re not bad words. There’s nothing inherently scarce about them. I just don’t think this is that year.

I considered making “Renaissance” my word. It encompasses both practicality and beauty, knowledge and art, form and function. But while I can definitely see all sorts of things being incorporated into my year (because learning is delightful), I can’t see it providing the sort of focus I’m going for.

This is a year for celebration. For a bit of decadence. For carousing and merriment and revelry. For indulgence. For liberality.

For fun.

Fun is so simple that I have the urge to pick another word for it. Merriment is a good word. Hullaballoo. Hoopla.

I don’t want to hide behind the word itself, though.  As fun as “fun” sounds, it’s not actually easy for me to do. It is much more like me (especially in the last ten years or so) to slip into that person who plans a great theme party and throws so much energy into planning and execution that I’m exhausted by the time the day of the party arrives. As you might imagine, parties aren’t so fun for me when I’m tired of them before they ever begin (reason #1 that I probably will hire a wedding planner if I ever get married, but that’s another blog post altogether).

So I’m keeping the plan – and the word – simple. Fun.

Are you setting New Year’s Resolutions?  If so, what are they?

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The Year of Beauty

This year has not gone exactly according to plan (do they ever with me?). I didn’t read 100 books (which is two books a week – really not hard for me if I just read every day). Or finish Fishbowl (started Feast, however, and I’m pretty psyched about that). Or try 100 new vegan recipes (or probably not, anyway. I did eat a lot of vegan food.  However, I also really love goat cheese).

But I did embrace beauty.

I had all these preconceived notions of what having beauty for my word for the year would mean. I set up a Pinterest board to track them. Take a few minutes and peruse it. There are some pretty awesome things there. Beauty longs to be found, and it was pretty easy to do.

I found beauty where it was hidden. I looked around my world and, with the help of Jennifer Upton’s Re-Frame course, found beauty hiding in all sorts of overlooked places.

I found beauty where it had been neglected. I rediscovered things I liked about the way I look and see things, and I discovered new ways to look and see things that make them even more beautiful.

Most of all, I found beauty in a way that evokes a response. The most important thing about beauty that I learned this year is that once you see it, it’s hard to ignore. Beauty makes me want to create. I want to honor and celebrate the beauty in my life and the world. I want to embody it. I want to share it with others.

I thought for a while that my word for 2015 would be dance. Because that’s what beauty makes me want to do, both figuratively and literally. I want to celebrate my way through the year, basking in all the beauty that has been unleashed around me.

But dance is only part of it. Stay tuned.

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Wisdom Streaks

In a few months, I will be turning 40. I plan on celebrating the whole year.  I plan on being thoroughly obnoxious about it.  So there’s that for you to look forward to.

I usually dye my hair, but this semester, partly out of curiosity as to what was really going on under there and partly out of the more pressing matter of dealing with the whale of semester it has been, I have let my natural hair grow in a little.

Observation: I have some pretty serious wisdom streaks going on.

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“Wisdom streaks” is the term one of my beloved friends uses for the effect created when gray hairs are growing among the rest of the hair. One of my residents called it “tinsel.” Acceptable.

I like to play with my hair color, so I’m not quite ready to go all gray. And really – neither is my hair.  As you can see in the picture above, there’s still some brown peeking through. But in another ten years, when I imagine the majority of it will have turned, I just might.

It is beautiful. The picture doesn’t do it justice. My tinsel hairs are shiny and silver. This means that when I am old enough for all my hairs to be gray, not only will I be even more well-rounded, well-read, and generally badass than I am now, I will have the metallic rock star hair to match.

For now, though, I am having fun with the mocha color.  And in the new year, I’m going red again. Or copper streaks. I haven’t decided. But I’m still having fun with colors.

I also love the little flippy thing the long bob (or lob, as it was called in the magazine I was reading while waiting for the color to set) does at the end. Observe:

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Underneath it all, though – I know. Shiny wisdom streaks. I’m going to look awesome when I’m old.

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December

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We are in the final two weeks of the semester.  I had grand plans for grading, decorating, writing, and art journaling last week that just didn’t happen. I had plans this year to get it together, to focus on beauty, and to read 100 books, and I feel like all of those have fallen short of expectation as well. It would be easy to be discouraged. It would be really easy to power through and forget about Advent for the next two weeks, but I am pretty sure that doing so would have the exact opposite of the intended effect.

So I am engaging in intentional reflections. I am reading, journaling, and poetry-ing my way through Isaiah. I am joining Susannah Conway’s community project called December Reflections, and I am finishing up my year of beauty by looking for beauty in the ordinary through Awake the Bones. They will mostly be found on Instagram, but I’m sure they will make an occasional appearance here.

Right now, I’m just going to mind the mug and drink my coffee in peace.

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Beauty is Hard

I find it easy to see beauty in the natural world.  For example, the weather today, while not beautiful by some people’s standards, is gorgeous to me. It’s overcast, a little rainy, and best of all – the predicted high is 70 degrees. HAPPY.

I find it easy to see beauty in others. We had a division-wide breakfast this morning, and as is my custom, I enjoyed people-watching. In the sea of green (Friday is pride day!), I noticed the special touches people added to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

Crowds, however, are not my friend when it comes to feeling beautiful myself. Being in a crowd makes me feel awkward and unattractive. It’s not so much a comparison thing as it is a matter of logistics.

Crowded rooms are not a friend to the hot-natured. I live in the wrong state. I have never in my life walked anywhere without sweating at least a little, no matter how cold it is outside, but as long as the weather hovers near 65 and isn’t too humid, I can usually still arrive at my destination generally presentable (i.e., not completely soaked through). Unfortunately, the temperature doesn’t dip that low in Texas for the majority of the year. I dress in layers, not because less clothing actually does anything to make me more comfortable and less sweaty, but because that way, I can add a sweater or a dark jacket once I get to my location to camouflage the fact that underneath it all, I just look like I’ve run a marathon. Of course, the sweater or jacket then makes me sweat more for the few minutes that I spend acclimating to the cooler climate of the building, making my face red and the people around me nervous that they’re about to have a medical situation on their hands. I haven’t figured out how to make the transition in a less awkward way, because there usually isn’t time (or a place) to spend ten minutes cooling off. I’m just herded into the crowd (some of which I noticed were experiencing the same problems, so it’s not just me. I feel your pain, friends!).

Also, crowded rooms are not staged for the rotund. I seriously contemplated not going back for a second cup of coffee this morning in order to avoid weaving through the tight spaces between the tables. In the end, of course, I went back (because please – what in the world is EVER going to keep me from more coffee?), but the thought of navigating the room layout gave me pause. And my hesitation was not without merit.  I did indeed bump some elbows and have to squish a little too close to people WHOM I DO NOT KNOW (*deep breaths*) in order to simply make it across the room. And I can’t help but remember that I never gave this any thought when I sported a healthier weight. I mean, I’m sure I worried about other beauty-adjacent topics, but the immense amount of space I require just to get through the room was not one of them.

Sometimes, beauty is hard.

I’m going to continue my 31 Days of Personal Beauty, but it’s going to be more of a cumulative endeavor than a consecutive one. Apparently.

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