Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Quest for Jeans That Fit

I will be 52 years old in a few weeks and I'm smart enough to pick out jeans that fit - or so I thought.  In the past year I made decisions about clearing my closet.  I am making mistakes, but am focused on learning from them.  I am getting better at dressing myself!  These are things I just didn't have time for while raising kids and working too many hours.   

So a year has passed since I started this closet clearing journey.  I thought my jean situation was fine.  Not great, but fine.  Last fall, I eliminated about half of the jeans in my closet that I knew didn't fit right.  Now I am seeing with fresh eyes the ones I kept - the ones I thought fit me. 

My daughter took this photo a few weeks ago........

This is not a view I see of myself very often.  That could be problem #1.  I don't have good full-length mirrors in my dressing area.  I am closest to an inverted triangle in shape, (which sounds better when its called the strawberry shape) and short to boot.  That means I am round through the middle with no rear.  Strawberries have slim legs though - our plus.  This photo clearly shows me that my jean fit belief system......"if it sort-of fits around the hips and I can button the waistband without being in pain, buy them" isn't working for me.  I see that my standards have been very low!   

The great thing is that my birthday is in a few weeks.  I know exactly what I need.  I guess if it takes eight hours to find a brand that fits, at 52 years old I should finally take that time and find it!    I sure wish I could do it online though.......the mall stresses me out!  I'll probably wander for hours and come home with another pair of boots. 

My mom has been telling me for 35 years, "Your jeans don't fit."    Mom, you're right.  My jeans don't fit.  Yep, I said it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The 1970's Trailer Home Blues

So many of you are trying to buy your first home when the economic conditions are sh**, the world seems to be collapsing.  This is the second part of a series.  Part One is here

 I wrote this in my journal in 1985 when we were preparing to move to our first home.  We had lived in our little mobile home since marriage but now had a baby and a toddler.  My husband was making $8.25 an hour and bringing home $300 a week with overtime.  He was and still is a carpenter.  I was home caring for babies.  We knew this was exactly the house we wanted so we made an offer during a time when the best interest rates were 14% variable.  We signed the offer papers then immediately called my parents to make sure they would "buy" our mobile home from us for $6,000 so that we could put that money down on the loan if it were approved.  They agreed, but weren't happy about it.  We had nothing in the bank but love.  It was a very scary time and I felt I needed to write about it - hoping it would be funny looking back at how scared we were!

When I sew or do bookwork I have to use the kitchen table which means everyone eats over the top of it.  they yard is nice except Sabra won't go out by herself and there is a pack of dogs running loose all of the time.  Everyone in the trailer park drives to the trash bins which means we can always hear cars in our front yard.  The pack of dogs like to come up on my front step and attack the cats.  In the winter, we have coats, boots, firewood and ash buckets in the living room.  The furniture is moved to anywhere I can stash it. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flats in Kansas

Most of Kansas is flat - but this post is about non-flat women who wear flat shoes!
In Kansas, everyday, everywhere, I see women in flats.  Because we are carrying children, groceries or bookbags.  The streets, sidewalks and gravel driveways are too wet, too dusty or too lumpy.  We have work to do!

Wearing flats that is - as in shoes - isn't really popular among the blogger world.  But then I stumbled upon Kyla at bluecollarcatwalk and was entranced!  In the past, I couldn't make the leap from my wish to look more "put together" to the examples I was seeing that all included four inch heels.  I think I must have subconsciously just shut down over it.  I quit trying somewhere along the way.  I know I had decided that short, strawberry shaped women are just never going to look beautiful like that so it wasn't worth worrying about anymore.  

I used to wear alot of heels and loved them.  But I just don't have the time for it anymore.  The change for me has been owning up to the fact that it is my decision.  I no longer feel like I need to apologize to myself over it.  And thanks to Kyla, I am serious this fall about planning my clothes around my flat heeled boots and shoes to start with, rather than changing into them at the last minute as I leave the house.  Short legs are cute too! 

According to Energy Profiling,  a signature style for me as a dominant type 1 is probably "cute shoes".  And to think I thought I needed to grow up!  I have always loved funky weird shoes and I wear a small enough size that I sometimes get great deals on little girls styles.  But then my corporate type (black) work wardrobe demanded boring shoes.  I tried to blend in and be serious for over a decade.  How depressing!

Luckily I hung on to many of my favorite weird cute flat shoes over the years!  Now to start finding good tights or leggins combinations again........

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Again with the Cardigans!

I have been planning and planning all summer to wear little tshirts or camisole under lightweight cardigans.  Its tricky to get a coordinated look, yet not be all matchy-matchy.  So today was a new combination with jeans.

We're picking sunflowers from the ditch across from the house.

Navy cotton cardigan, ebay "buy it now" for $4.99, Dolce
Purple crinkle camisole, the very old (Brown?) hotel's giftshop in downtown Louisville, Kentucky  $16.99.  I wish I would have bought every color they had - the tag says Scala.
Jeans, my old stretchy Zena's.  I finally hemmed so they wouldn't drag with my flats.
Shoes, Stuart Madeleine I bought at an outlet place that sold display shoes for $5 because they have small holes in the bottom where they were attached. 
Gold hoop earrings and butterfly pin were both ebay but separate purchases.  The pin was 50 cents!
Gold chain bracelet I think was a gift from my mom

Vintage Western Loafers Go With?

Another closet find!  I picked up these vintage orange western Circle S loafers, new in their original box, at either Goodwill or Salvation Army several years ago.  They look and feel handmade.  So many times I have almost given them away again because I don't wear orange.  But then, an on my feet is not the same as orange up close to my face! 

..........Gma is saying something about shoes...........


My granddaughter is very interested in shoes now that she can walk!  So to continue....I decided that maybe neutrals with some purple would be good and not compete with the soft orange of the shoes.

Blouse, Riders Slimming, clearance $3
Shorts, J C Penney Worthington, clearance a couple of years ago but they had been buried in a drawer
Sweater, Goodwill $2.99
Shoes, Vintage Circle S western with silver accent
Cuff silver watch, Big Lots closeout $5
Shell dangle earrings that just matched the shell buttons on the purple cardigan, ebay, 15cents-SCORE!

I look rather wrinkled here.  I spent half the day sitting in the waiting room while my husband had some tests.  He passed them all with flying colors.

And the baby shoes are called squeakers.  If you have a grandchild learning to walk you just have to get a pair of these.  I found many choices on ebay.  We have laughed and laughed at her!  They squeak like a dog toy every step she takes and, of course, they are her favorites!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Cobbler's Children Go Without Shoes

........and the carpenter's wife goes without shower walls.  Be prepared for what you are about to see!  I don't live in a dollhouse, that's for sure!

Anyone who struck up a conversation with me over the past decade has probably heard the bathroom remodel saga.  Or, you have been here and asked, "When are you guys going to finish this bathroom?" 

Circa 2000 (as best we can place it), we pulled off the existing shower wall covering because it was so gross.  And then I discovered that there was mildew between the tub and the floor so I pulled out several layers of old flooring while Kenny was gone one weekend.  The kids said that I was like our rat terrier - leave me at home too long by myself and I will find something to tear up!

But I had high hopes.......and a husband who builds new, beautiful stuff everyday for people with the money to buy only the best.  So he began to talk about $2,000 two piece tub enclosures, new sheetrock and new subflooring.  I just wanted the original look back that the bathroom might have had when it was built.  And I was dead set against his shiny spaceship tub enclosure idea!   So we did nothing.......for ten years......

except staple up shower curtains to the three walls and tiptoe in and out to use it.......

Wow that's embarrassing to post!  I don't know why because this is THE main bathroom on the main floor of our 1,000 sq ft house.  Anyone who has been here in the past decade has already seen it!

In late fall 2008, my "loves everything new, slick and shiny" husband had a change of heart.  He started talking about replacing the bad places in the original oak flooring.  He talked about ceramic tile tub walls he had seen.  We were off!  We tackled the previously uncleanable floor and made arrangement to get a tile guy here. 

But now it is much, much better!  I saved $1,000's of dollars by being married to my carpenter!  (The tile guy requested real money.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You Do All Have Your Deer Heads Up, Right?

I am told that all classy homes have deerheads hanging in the living room.  Actually the conversation went something like this.....

Him:  Look, its ready.  Isn't it cool? (as he's preparing to put a nail in the wall in the living room) (answers himself)  It's awesome! 

Me:  Oh, wait.  Couldn't it go somewhere else?

Him:  But, then how would people see it when they come in?

Followed by random visitors' comments:

Female visitors:  Why do you have a dead deer hanging in your living room?

Male visitors:  (who nearly run over me at the doorway once they spot it)  Wow!  How many points is that?  Where did he get it?   Bow or rifle?  He's so lucky!  My wife would never let me hang that in the living room! 

And just fair warning to you - really, once you have one dead deer on the wall - it looks lopsided without a second one on the other end!  

Oh, well, it was cheaper than marriage counseling! 

Selling Books on Amazon

I was bitten by the clutterless bug and I just keep going!  A couple weeks ago I cleared out a cabinet in my office.  It was full of great research books I used in my former career(s).  With fresh eyes, I noticed that they were taking up prime working space for my new endeavors.  I went on to see how hard it would be to sell a few of them.  Wow!  One of the first ones I checked on was worth $32!  And the first morning I listed books I sold five of them.  I was bitten!

So, room by room I have been sifting through the house - each time I dig a little deeper.  Yesterday I listed a book I bought for my husband in the late 1980's that I thought he would treasure.  He never read it.  Turns out its worth from $125 - $225!  Lucky me!

Today I got into the attic and pulled out these school primers from the 1940's.  Checking on amazon to see what I can get for them. 

My advice?  If the book is worth more than about $5-$6, it might be worth listing it.  If not, the fees will eat up whatever you sell it for so donate it to your local library! 

Feel the freedom!  The great thing about is that if you find out you really miss one after its can just buy back a used copy and it will arrive in a few days!  (bonus - you'll know where to find it!)

Kaw Nation Heritage Project

This is the Kaw (Kansa) nation tribal project near my home.

It's exciting that they are coming back to this small section of their home area after the squatters pushed them out in 1873.  The site is near Council Grove, just off the Santa Fe Trail (Highway 56).  

Vintage Child's Leather Chaps and Vests

Please take a minute to check out my etsy shop!  I listed my stash of leather chaps and vests, child size 6.  These are the authentic thing - designed by Gerald Roberts who is famous for being the World Champion All-Around Cowboy twice.  He hails from the Strong City (Flint Hills) Kansas Rodeo heritage.

These were saleman's samples from 1977.  That's why I only have the one size and one color.  They were recently uncovered from storage and won't last long!  Thanks! 

Apple Days at Fort Riley

Even though the little girl in the photo doesn't understand that the tank behind her is a massive weapon of the United States Army - her mommy wanted to get a photo of them in front of it.  Her daddy was very nearly not her daddy - the tank just like this one he was in in Iraq 2005 set off an IED which completely destroyed it.  Had there been all four soldiers in the tank that day, at least one would not have lived through it.  I'm behind the camera and its about as close as I can get without feeling creeped out.

Our young military families are carrying huge emotional burdens that haven't been around since we left Vietnam.  Please, step forward and shake the hand of a soldier today.  Look him or her in the eyes and give a sincere thank you.  That's all they are asking for!  There will be years and years of healing!

Clearing Closet Clutter - Be Cute For You!

So many online bloggers talk about clearing out there homes.  But as I snoop through their stories, many of them are under 30 years old.  I crave photos and examples of women my age who are beginning the process after years of just ignoring it.  This is what I did over the weekend.  Its been a long journey but I can see progress daily now!  I encourage you to keep at it!

This is what goes this time.  A big decision for me was the t-shirt/sweatshirt inventory.  I wear them around the house.  Okay.....well I put them on when I don't have anywhere important to go and then I end up wearing them all day everywhere I go.  So most of the time if people saw me outside of work they would see me in what I should have been calling my pj's.  It was difficult to get rid of them.  I have put them in the stack before but rescued them and hauled them back up to my closet.  This time they are out!  This forces me to wear my nice things everyday - which feels very awkward this week.  But who am I saving the good stuff for if its not for me?  I can be cute for me! 

Busting Out the Seams in our 1970's Trailer!

Or - buying your first home when the economic conditions are sh**!  So many young families are ready to get into a home and the world around them seems to be collapsing.  This is for them! 

I wrote this in my journal in 1985 when we were preparing to move to our first home.  We had lived in our little mobile home since marriage but now had a baby and a toddler.  My husband was making $8.25 an hour and bringing home $300 a week with overtime.  He was and still is a carpenter.  I was home caring for babies.  We knew this was exactly the house we wanted so we made an offer during a time when the best interest rates were 14% variable.  We signed the offer papers then immediately called my parents to make sure they would "buy" our mobile home from us for $6,000 so that we could put that money down on the loan if it were approved.  They agreed, but weren't happy about it.  We had nothing in the bank but love.  It was a very scary time and I felt I needed to write about it - hoping it would be funny looking back at how scared we were!

July 22, 1985

One more week!  Can I make it?  And how much worse is it going to get before it gets better?  Have I set my hopes too high on how much better it will be?  I have decided to write down all of the things that drive me crazy about this trailer so I can look back and know that spending all of our money on a house is worth it.  Okay here goes.....   I can't reach but the bottom shelf of the top cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom.  I have all of my spices, food, foil, baking supplies, cereal boxes and chips in three cabinet doors plus in there is a large butter tub of nails and screws for the house.  My drawers (all four of them) are about 3" high.  I do good to stack three dishtowels in one and the bottom two are always full of mouseturds.  My oven doesn't bake right.  The freezer on the fridge never works right and now the plastic door fell off so my eggs freeze if I put them in the slots in the door.  My dishwasher is right in front of the two cabinets where I keep dishes so I have to unload the dishes onto the countertop, shut the dishwasher door and then put the dishes away.  My trash can has no where to be except in front of the cabinet where I keep all of my skillets, pots and pans, pitchers, potatoes and cleaning supplies.  My potatoes and onions have to be stored in my mop bucket so they will fit under the sink.  I would rather not use my mop bucket, but everytime I try to go without it the first time I put my mop in the sink to rinse it out the strings catch on the sink stopper and all of my mop water drains.  Then I have to take the sink stopper completely out and work on it several tries before it will hold water again. 

I sort my dirty laundry in the three foot by three foot hallway that has four doors going out of it.  That's plenty of room considering the clean laundry is all folded mostly on top of the washer and dryer in the bathroom, then scooted back and forth to reload the washer.  The diaper pail stays in the bathtub most of the time unless someone needs to use the bathtub/shower, then the diaper pail is put on top of the toilet.  Zachary's (my one year old son) room is where I keep all of my bookwork, the freezer, my sewing machine (no sewing supplies anymore - they have all been packed away or thrown away and I have no idea where to even look).  So, if he takes a nap I can't sew, do bookwork, make a cold drink or get out something to thaw for supper.  My living room always has a shredded newspaper covering the floor.   The tv is covered with fingerprints and my plants droop because the only place to keep them is on top of the wooden speaker cases that will get ruined if I water the plants and it seeps through.  My front entryway is three foot by three foot which means you have to open the front door then step out of the entryway to get the door completely open.   If you are carrying a basket of laundry this is almost impossible, especially if Sabra (my three year old daughter) is helping which means her head is just under the laundry basket.  Sabra's room isn't bad, mostly because all of her toys are in the living room.  Our room is fine as long as you don't use it for anything except sleeping.  It is wall-to-wall bed (double size bed even!).  What dresser drawers I do have are, again, about three inches tall.  and if I'd like to wear a belt or a scarf or nightgown, its tough luck.  All of those things have since been packed away somewhere along with any clothes that aren't worn everyday.  Kenny's side of the closet is also his space for his hunting supplies, guns, work boots, coveralls and his hat collection. 

My new couch in the living room has been the only place to sit for the past year.  My new pots and pans have to be stacked on top of the stove at all times.  They make quite a racket when the washing machine is in the spin cycle.  The dishwasher is old and won't clean plastic cups (which is all we use), pots or pans, large bowls, baby bottle nipples, good knives, large spoons and spatulas, melmac bowls or plates.  It takes a long time to get a full load at that rate and when they are clean I have to wait until we dirty enough out of the cabinets before there is space to put the clean ones away. 

More later.......

My Lighter and Happier Closet

These are some of the clothes that went on ebay this summer:

Cute stuff.  Much of it I had just bought in the past year because I was trudging through airports every few weeks to sit in business meetings all over the US.  Dream job......maybe.......I realize now it wasn't a good fit for me even though I was good at it.  

This is my closet after the corporate black was lifted:

As you can see, I am working on my happy colors - pinks, blues, purples, browns - even a little pale yellow I am experimenting with.  To be fair, this is half of my closet.  But it is my new dress-up space!  I look forward to choosing something every day.  And I don't seem so hung up on whether the hem is in the exact right location or whether the pinks are exactly the same hue.  I have brought every storage crate from the far corners of the house and put the contents through the happy test.  My new rule means my closet is my designated place for clothing - Everything will be in there - I will love everything in there.  As I edit, the items I am keeping are all just ME - so they seem to be playing together nicely in the sandbox for a change!  Best of all, any new-to-me items are thrifted!

For those of you who study Carol Tuttle and Dressing Your Truth - I am convinced I am a dominant Type 1 - bright and animated.  My family is relieved to know there is a name for it.   And if I had found her website months or years ago, I know I would have saved a stack of cash by signing up for her online courses.

Vintage Boots from BB (before babies)

Vintage boots from 1980 - and I didn't have to go anywhere to find them.  They have been in my house for 30 years - stuffed in various crates.  Each fall I would look them over, try them on, and then put them back in the crate because......darn it!  I really like them!  So why haven't I been wearing them?  Who knows.  The color is unusual, they have a western flair and they are comfortable like cowboy boots.  They also have a unique woven leather top to them but I am making myself wait to photo it until I find a way to wear them with a skirt.

The jeans are Aura brand.  We have them at our local farm and ranch supply place - Bluestem (the menfolk love to shop there - they call it Bluestem Kansas as it is the only place like it in the world).  Since I am feeling thin this fall with my gluten-free foods - they fit!  The top is something I thrifted this summer at Goodwill (the tags have been cut out) and I have a thrifted New York & Co cami in nearly the same color underneath.

Bracelet:  Says Mother in several languages.  Gift from my mom.  Originally from Avon, mid 1980's
Watch:  Thrifted and I haven't put a new battery in it.  I just continue to wear it cause I like the style.  Ever do that?

The Myth of the Little Black Dress

This summer I ran across Carol Tuttle's youtube video and have been reading her books on Energy Profiling and Dressing Your Truth ever since.  After ten years working in a corporate job I was absolutely burned out on fashion and Carol's viewpoint was such a breath of fresh air!  I had already determined that I was basically an inverted triangle shape (which sounds cuter when you say I'm a strawberry shape!).  But I was still struggling with dressing myself and feeling good about the results.  All of this while I was spending $100's of dollars each month at stores like Kohls and JC Penney to boost my wardrobe to match my career level.  My income was a nice windfall for us and I just assumed that EVENTUALLY I would catch up with the constant clothing purchases and have less stress in the mornings.  It never happened.  Instead I felt more lost and invisible.

I began to edit and eliminate using Carol's advice this summer.  It was a kick in the pants!  On her vlog she challenged me to ask myself a simple question.  Did I feel good in black clothing?  Did it make me feel confident and ready to tackle the day?  After a few days of pondering I realized the answer was a resounding NO! 

I began by pulling a few pieces of black clothing from my closet.  Its difficult to explain but it was a physical sensation of lightness - of feeling a weight lifted from my shoulders and my over-stressed mind.  It felt great.  So I went in for more.  And more.  I listed lots and lots of great, nearly new clothes on ebay and sold them all.  It's a shame that I spent my dollars on an extensive coordinating black wardrobe because I was told by the retail fashion industry that it would make me happy.  Shipping those items in neat little packages to new owners was what made me happy!

Now, when I see any fashion advice that begins with black as the essential starting point - I immediately know it was written to influence women to keep buying more stuff!  You know the ones.........the need for one LBD, black slacks, black capris, black walking shorts, black camis, black sweaters, a black blazer, black wool coat, black riding boots, black pumps, black flats.........yes, I had them all and I SOLD THEM ALL!

Try it yourself!  Put black up around your face.  Then try to find yourself!  

Am I in there somewhere?  By using the camera, I can see the black is zapping my skin color - making me look older and WAY too serious.   I can also FEEL the loss of energy when I have it on.  This is not true for all women as you well know.  But it is true for many.  So - what colors make me feel energized and happy?  What makes me feel excitement about my closet these days?  More to come.........

Overalls are for Work!

Overalls:  Old Navy, thrifted at Salvation Army for $2
Tshirt:  thrifted earlier this summer at Goodwill, $2.99
No shoes

I am excited!  This is the first year in decades that I all of my clothes are going to fit in my closet!  I have been downsizing for over a year now in slow, steady steps.  I will post some photos soon.  I got out my boots and sweaters today.  I am determined to make tough decisions so that they will fit into their designated closet space.  Designated is the key word I am working!  After years of just stuffing things wherever there was open space - I have vowed to keep working the change!

Fall is here finally, mostly, sometimes!  Indian summer I suppose is more like it.  We live about 10 miles from the last Kaw lands in Kansas.  I understand why they were so unhappy about being forced to leave this beautiful place in 1873.  It was just a little over 100 years ago when Chief Al-le-ga-wa-ho said to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano: "You whites treat us Kon-zey like a flock of turkeys; you chase us from one stream, then to another stream - soon you will chase us over the mountains and into the ocean."

Is $673 a month too much to pay for housing?

Is this for real?  Every time my husband and I run across people talking about how much it costs to rent a place these days - we remember how very lucky we are.  Even with all of the screw-ups and years of living on less-than-a-living wage, we have continued to pound out payments every month on our original mortgage of $40,500.  So today, including taxes and insurance, we pay $673 per month to live on ten acres with no neighbors in any direction.  The house is small - 1000 square feet on the main floor with a half story upstairs - but now that its just the two of us again I wouldn't want to be cleaning more square feet every week anyway! 

I suppose the downside is that I insist we can't be paying more for vehicles than we are for housing.  So, we drive a truck with over 200,000 miles on it and my Bravada with 187,000 miles.  Four wheel drive is a necessity.  We have two miles of gravel to get to the first paved road out of here.  And we have learned in our twenty-five years of life on the prairie that the inevitable cracked windshield, grime, dust and dings don't sting so bad if we buy sturdy over pretty to begin with.   

What would you give up to have a $600 per month house payment?  Would you live in little house on the prairie?

We've finished some improvements since this photo was taken last winter - most satisfying was a fresh coating on that old chimney!    Another check off on our thirty year home improvement project list!