Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in the North Korean Demilitarized Zone

With Christmas just a few days away, we know we are so lucky to have our soldier home this year.  He finished his deployment to the combat zones of Afghanistan just before Thanksgiving.  Many more soldiers are coming home in the next few weeks - their families scurrying to move furniture out of storage, postpone holiday celebrations and begin to reclaim their lives.

Many more soldiers will be eating Christmas dinner in a chow hall far, far from home.  I've never done that.  Until 2002, it would have been the furthest thing from my mind on Christmas Day.  That's the year our daughter met and fell in love with a young soldier whose training and skills are in combat warfare.  Did you know there were many, many young men whose set of skills and value is based on their ability to kill quickly and efficiently?  It makes it difficult for them to transition to a career, lets say, in managing a convenience store back home.  At the same time, I have to be deeply, deeply thankful that there are men like him who can do this job on my behalf.  I can find someone to manage the convenience store.   

So, our daughter married this soldier and he continues to learn skills and gain experience in his profession.  Thanks to our current world situation, he's been fast-tracked.  It's a fact.

They announced a whirlwind wedding in the Spring of 2003, just a few days before the invasion of Iraq.  He was stationed in Korea, sleeping and working just a few yards from the North Korean border.  Pot shots were a daily occurence.  Soldiers knew to never go anywhere without their "battle buddy".  Later, I googled and read about soldiers who had been killed or injured when alone in that area.  A "battle buddy" seems like a fun, get-to-know-each-other, moral building idea.  It is not. 

He asked her to marry him on his leave in July, rather than wait until he could come home nearly a year later.  She said yes.  So, he flew home for two weeks to marry and honeymoon.  Then went back to isolation at Camp Garryowen.  As Christmas neared he asked her to come visit. 

A sixth generation girl from Kansas, who has rarely even been outside of her state's borders, bought a plane ticket for Korea.    She was the first in our family to ever need a passport.  She signed up for vaccinations we knew nothing about.  And we postponed our Christmas, waiting to swoop her back into our safety net.  His base is very remote.  Most wives never visit because there are no accomodations for them. 

At Christmas time, I think about her reflections from her visit.  She was excited as she reached Seoul.  Her new husband met her there.  His "battle buddy" had made arrangements to appropriately leave them in the safety of the city.  She stayed in a beautiful hotel.  They shopped and did touristy things in what might be called the "American GI" area of the city.  An extended honeymoon in an exotic city that was thriving and fun.  Then it was time for him to report back to the base.  They took a taxi.  For miles and miles the scenes outside the window became more desolate and depressing.  The further they traveled outside the city, the more bombed out structures they saw leftover from the war.  It was like a part of the world that was still at war.  At a certain point, they began driving past the many, many guard stations that still line the deserted road. 

At Camp Garryowen she was taken to the Commander's office right away.  He instructed her on what to do "in case."  Primarily, she was to pick up whatever belongings she could gather quickly and report to his office.  Anyone else like her that was currently on the base would also be there.  Since it was the holidays, she would be the only one.  She was to wait.  It might be a long wait.  Someone would come and get her and prepare her to be evacuated. 

When I heard this, as a mother, I was heartsick.  But then she told me what her husband would be doing if this same incident were to happen.  His group was one of the tank platoons that were to drive over THE bridge, bombing it behind them as they crossed.  This would ensure that North Korean troops couldn't use the bridge to gain access.  And of course, my next question was, "And then what is he supposed to do?"  to which there really is no answer.  And I am heartsick.

On Christmas Day, the young lovers ate together in the chow hall.  Camp Garryowen is a very small base so its a small chow hall.  She said the food was wonderful.  The chow hall was decorated.  But the atmosphere was undeniable.  The soldiers came in and ate.  And left.  Each one of them dealing with their own private loneliness on this day of family and friends.  Each looking at her, the only American woman they'd seen in a while, but looking away because it was too painful.  Each knowing they had loved ones waiting for them.  Each counting the months and days.  Each pondering whether or not they had made the right decision so long ago when choosing to volunteer to defend the country they loved.  These are the days our soldiers learn to just push through.  And that is exactly what they did at Camp Garryowen on Christmas Day in 2003. 

I am grateful because I understand the cost of the gift they give to me every day.

Daisy of the Flinthills: No Water!

This is the place where I am developing childrens stories about living in the Flint Hills of Kansas in the 1980's.  Original stories by Kitty Frank.  

My blogging on things like upcycling my wool coat has been copied over to 

No Water!

Daddy loves our house in the country.  He thinks it is fine that our house doesn't have rural water the same as everyone else.

Every week, he drives to town and buys one thousand gallons of water with a roll of quarters.  Sometimes my brother and I ride with him in the big two-ton truck.  The truck is the same age as my daddy.......and that is old!

When we get home, Daddy backs the truck up to the cistern and opens the valve to let the water spash out.  It goes down into our cistern.  A cistern is a hole in the ground made of concrete.  Ours is right next to our basement.  It will hold four thousand gallons of water but the truck can only carry one thousand gallons on each trip.  Water is very heavy.

Sometimes the roads are slick with ice and snow.  The big truck is too dangerous to drive with such a heavy load.  We are careful not to waste water during the winter!

Water is important at our house.  When we brush our teeth, we turn off the water until we are ready to rinse. 

I can run my own bath water and I know exactly how much to put in the tub so I don't waste any.

Everyone in my family listens for running water.  We check if we hear water running too long to make sure someone is using it.  When Grandma comes to visit, sometimes she leaves the water running in the sink while she cooks.  My brother and I climb up on a chair and help her turn it off and on when she needs it.

Daddy sings, "If its yellow, let it mellow.  It it's brown, flush is down."  But Momma says that is not our rule.  Our rule is to flush every time!

Sometimes Daddy works overtime at his job.  It is dark when he gets home.  He can't drive the two-ton truck to get more water in the dark because the headlights are not very good.  Momma tries to make our water last longer by taking our dirty clothes to town to wash them at the laundry mat.  We help!

One day we were getting ready to go to a party.  My brother and I wrapped a gift for the new baby we were going to meet.  Then we went outside to play while Momma got ready.

Momma was in the shower when the water pipes made loud, growling noises.  At our house, that means "Quick, the water tank is almost empty!".  Momma hurried to rinse the shampoo out of her hair with the last drops of water from the pipes.

She got dressed and came outside to tell us it was time to go.

Uh oh!  We were sort of dirty.  We were playing with Daisy and the kittens and forgot about the party.

Momma was upset.  Now we would just have to stay home.  There was no more water until Daddy could take the big truck to town to buy more.

Then I said, "What about the swimming pool?"

"Great idea!", Momma said.  "Hurry, both of you get ready to jump in.  I will bring some towels and soap."

The water in the swimming pool was nice and warm from the sun.  There was just enought water in our little pool for us to scrub and rinse off with our beach buckets.  Momma wrapped us in clean towels.  We ran inside to get dressed.  It was time to leave!

Daddy came home.  He laughed when he saw us running into the house in our towels.  He said, "Those are my kids!  I am so proud of you!  Who needs a bathtub anyway?"

"I'll go get more water now.  You will have water when you get back from the party.  Have fun!"

And we did!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beginning Sewing - A Simple Knit Skirt

My granddaughter has been asking to sew since she could talk.  She wants to use those machines.  She draws her "designs" with crayons and plans for the day when she can make her own clothing.

Over Thanksgiving we did our first real project.  She was extremely pleased!  I was nervous about setting her up on my industrial machine, but she got the rhythm of it right away and handled it well.  She used this machine to serge the side seams and go around the top and bottom to make a nice edge.  Then she switched to my regular straight stitch machine to make the casing for the elastic.  I finished up the elastic and hemmed it. 

She's come a long way from the days where she would spend close to an hour taking EACH straight pin out of my pincushion and inserting it into my sewing chair!  

Monday, December 12, 2011

When Do People Begin To Say, "I Can't Roller Skate?"

So, when does a person begin to say, "I can't roller skate?"  Is that the day they consider themselves an adult?  And what other parts of life are we missing when we accept that we can't?

My granddaughter turned six years old this Spring.  She asked to have her party at the roller rink.  I used to skate every Saturday as a child.  I wondered if I would still be able to skate at 52 years old.  It had been years since I'd tried.

We had such a fantastic time that I took my granddaughter skating several more times over the summer.  It's during the week day schedule so it's a small crowd each time - sometimes only ten skaters.  That works for me - as I am not so good at avoiding crashes when people starting darting in and out amongst each other.  

I found myself fascinated with the grade school age children who spend the entire afternoon trying to skate.  Why aren't they sitting on the side?  They definitely can't skate! 

The kids I watched each week were part of some sort of Summer program.  The two adults in charge would bring them in and then line them up for the count before loading them up to leave.  In the three hours of time in between, they would inch around the rink alone, or with a friend, and then go sit alongside the edge a few minutes before trying again.  They did this week after week.   

I guess no one told them they couldn't skate!  None of them, as far as I could tell, ever decided to just take off the skates and give it up.  None of them pointed out who could skate and who couldn't.  Many of them didn't seem to get any better at it over the Summer.   

At the same rink, there are maybe six adults who sit at tables around the edge and watch.  They "don't skate".   They never put on a pair of skates, never proclaimed that they did or didn't skate, but it was obvious to the children with them that they didn't come to skate.  They came to watch while the children skated.  So, is skating for children?  Is that why fewer and fewer adolescents are skating - its been downgraded to an activity only suitable for young children?

I skated all summer with my granddaughter.  Occasionally, there would be another adult who would skate too.  But, mostly the kids just watched me suspiciously - trying to figure out why I didn't know the unwritten rule, "adults don't skate."  I watched them, wondering how many times I could fall down in one loop around the rink before I would give up.  I have to admit that one time around would have been it for me.  I can't endure failure that many times especially when people are watching.  I don't participate in things where I don't see a good chance of success.

Am I really that afraid of failure?  It seems so.  So what other things am I missing in life because I chose to sit on the sidelines?   I need to rethink some things because even the things I do everyday really don't offer me much chance of success no matter how many loops I make around!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Slippery Slope Fallacy #10 - Stores That Cater to the Slippery Slope Crowd

This is the last installment in a series I wrote defining how I had slipped into frumpiness.  I started the series here:  My Slippery Slope to Frumpiness

10) Find solutions and camaraderie in the stores that cater to the slippery slope crowd. At a certain point in life (which remarkably coincides with my increased earning power), I surrendered to the marketing gurus of the American fashion culture for mature women. I was overwhelmed and confused and swiped my credit card month after month at stores such as Kohls, Gordmans and J C Penney. 70% off sale was my cue. At least I would retain some control over my wardrobe by not purchasing at full price. The rest was WAY out of control.

You know every problem has its tipping point.  My closet problem hit its all time low when I had access to the most disposable income I had ever had in my life.  I was working a job that paid well.  I was expected to travel and meet people in professional circles constantly.  So I bought and bought.  I understand that for many people $200 purchases are nothing.  But to someone who rarely was able to spend $50 on clothing to slide into the habit of dropping $200 or more at the departments stores several times a was a big change.  Kohls, J.C. Penney's, T.J. Maxx, Gordmans - these were my regular stops.  And whatever they had on sale, I bought more of.  I began to find things in my closet with the tags still attached.  Or worse, bags in my car that had never even been carried into the house.  But I was sure that I just needed to keep buying because there would be a point in the future when my closet would be full and I would be happy.

The interesting thing was that I VERY quickly became VERY unhappy with myself and my closet.  It was like turning up the volume on a bad song.     

Looking back, I feel like many of the big box stores specifically market to women just like me.  Confused, exhausted, and focused on our jobs - we know we don't have a good relationship with our clothes so we look outside of ourselves for help.  And these stores stand ready with late evening hours, relaxing atmospheres and plenty of low-priced alternatives arranged neatly on coordinating racks. 

Most of the women around me were reflecting this slippery slope too.  It became a contest - not in how confident we felt in ourselves and our clothing choices - but rather in who had the newest stuff and how they mixed it.   

In the Dallas meetings, I saw several leather laptop bags sitting neatly beside womens chairs in the conference rooms.  The next week I scoured each store looking until I found a similar one.  Another woman was wearing the new blouse I just bought at Cato but I had neglected to pack in my suitcase.  I made a mental note to include that in my suitcase next time.  Black capris with strappy sandals were everywhere in the plush conference rooms.  I carried two pair (short length and longer length) in my suitcase all summer with me.  I received many compliments.  I bought a brown pair....... and added brown sandals..... then realized I would need to search for some new coordinating polyester print blouses. 

I remember no one standing out as being dressed uniquely, but rather, I remember everyone mentally lining ourselves up into the obvious pecking order.  It becomes easy to judge those who do and those who don't have the latest laptop/shoes/phone/capris/bags when we are all buying the same mass produced stuff from the same handful of big box retailers.  And how I fell into feeling I needed to compete in this environment still puzzles me.

When my grant was complete, I was quickly to become unemployed, I worried myself into panic attacks.  But a couple of months went by and I realized how grateful I was to have closed out the project and not received the wished for funding. 

With time, I began tackling my closet.  The first things to go were the black capris in two lengths and all of the coordinating jackets, skirts, pants, shoes, bags.......   Luckily, there is still a demographic that feels the need for this stuff so I was able to sell it on ebay.  At least I was able to get a few dollars back!  And sometimes when I am out and about, I see "her", another women just like I was, struggling with her choices all the while completely attired in the full gear of the stores that are catering to her struggle.   The black polyester pants with just the right black shoes, accented by just a touch of  leopard print in her bag or blouse.   And I know how hard she's trying and I know how much effort she put into it.  I also now know that it was misguided effort.  And I feel happy in my mix and match, funky, vintage look that is uniquely me!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sorting My Stuff......

I  know I should be more excited about the holidays coming up.  But, I never have been a Christmassy type person.  I think it has to do with some "bad" Christmasses in my past.  Not every family in the 1960's was living like the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family.  So let's not go there.

I am still working on the "stuff" sorting - and its been over two years now of constantly sorting, thinking, selling, giving away.  Each time I peel off another layer and think I might be finished.  Instead, I find that the light and in-control feeling I get with each layer encourages me to start the next. I think with my daughter being married to a military man, its very clear that "stuff" is expensive to keep, move and store.  It would be extremely unfair of me to saddle her family and my son' family with my lack of decision making if someday it becomes their job to go through all this crap.  If I didn't know whether it was valuable or not, how are they supposed to decide? 

This week I found out that half my favorite set of dishes is missing (7 bowls, and 8 coffee cups and saucers).  They were in a box that had been carried out to either the garage or the shop years ago.  I've seen the box twice in about 10 years.  How it got separated is now a "he said, she said" debate in my household and possibly it was taken to the dump.  What is most discouraging about this is that four sets of dishes (not my favorites) are been carefully stored in prime kitchen storage space for those same ten years.  Exasperating!!!!!  Looks like a classic case of not getting my priorities straight, yet again!

I loved the link to George Carlin's routine on stuff that was shared today by  I must not be the only person who thinks about excess stuff during the holiday season. 

It reminds of a poem that was found in my friend, Esther's, stuff when she passed away in her 90's.  No one knew if Esther authored it herself or collected it from somewhere else.    

Every Fall I start stirring my stuff.  There is closet stuff, drawer stuff, attic stuff and basement stuff.  I separate the good stuff from the bad stuff, then I stuff the bad stuff anywhere the stuff is not too crowded until I decide if I will need the stuff.

When the Lord calls me home my children will want the good stuff, but the bad stuff, stuffed wherever there is room among all the other stuff, will be stuffed in bags and taken to the dump where all the other people's stuff has been taken.

This Fall I had an extra closet built so I would have a place for all the stuff too good to throw away and too bad to keep with my good stuff.

You may not have this problem but I seem to spend a lot of time with stuff, food stuff, cleaning stuff, medicine stuff, clothes stuff and outside stuff.  Whatever would life be like if we didn't have all this stuff?

Dear Santa,

Please do not bring me very much stuff this year.  I am 53 years old.  I am a big girl now.  I won't be hurt or offended if you focus on others this year as I have plenty. 

Love, Kitty Sue

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Clicking Our Heels to Bring Him Back to Kansas

Finally.......our soldier is home!  Any of you who have been reading my blog might have noticed that I fell into a huge slump these past months.  It wasn't a slump - it was a repurpose for my life - to be there everyday for my daughter and granddaughter as Travis fought for us in Afghanistan. 

America is still at war.  A Fort Riley soldier was killed the day before Veteran's Day.  Please move the closing out of these wars to the top of your agenda, no matter where you are or what kind of work you do!  Our combat soldiers are living with a bottle of water and 100 lbs of body armor while we are at the mall.  Read KaBoom by Matt Gallagher.  Do something to understand more about what America is doing TODAY that is changing the lives of our next generation of leaders.    If you aren't part of the 1% that is fighting this war, you are part of the 99% that are sitting on their shoulders. 

I do have happy photos to share of our soldier finishing up this deployment.  

......  "lots of kids have daddies who are soldiers"  (her observation to me a few days later)

Her sign......she's looking at her "dots and lines", but Granny (Greatgrandma) is asking to see it.

Delayed only one hour - which is fantastic in military time!  "I can find my daddy.  He's wearing his uniform."  Two little ones following soldiers in uniform who are working the ceremony while we wait. 

Taking off his hat so she will recognize him.  He held his leave time until the very latest he could take it - so when he had to leave them again it would only be for a very short time to finish the deployment.  So she had just seen him about six weeks prior. 

He's talking to her about her flag.  She carries it with her most all of the time - "to wave for Daddy."

Finally, he is getting close to being able to hug her.  I don't know how he keeps from just scooping her up, except he knows it scares her so he waits until she's ready. 

The awkward "must" kiss in front of family and friends.  My daughter has pointed out that even though we all love to see this, its awkward.  She hasn't seen him in (this time six weeks, usually its been six months).  He smells like the desert, or the plane, or weapons and duffle bags and different soaps.  Everyone is expecting something fantastic for their photo album.  And she would rather have a private first kiss.  I'd like to add that I am always amazed that he smells so good after spending two weeks living in a tent with 200 guys and then traveling 4 days on a plane.  How does he do that? 

And this last photo of our day....... 

"Not this time......soon."  J's Daddy won't be home for another month or more.  His platoon just lost a soldier.  He only gets to call/email home once every few weeks because he is a very remote location.  He's on his 4th deployment, home a year - gone a year - over and over throughout their marriage.  He works in the worst of places because he's trained in combat.  They wait.  Americans can change this, we can do better. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Wool Jacket Upcycle Project

I can't resist!  I pick up these great high quality wool jackets on ebay for just a few dollars and then upcycle them into something great!

This is the original jacket.  I was interested in it because it had sort of an ethnic vibe and it was 100% wool.  It had many of the colors I like to wear: cranberry, blues, pinks.  So many wool jackets are camel, black or gray.  This was a nice variation that I thought I could make work with some of the solid color sheath dresses I have been collecting. 

It was a size large.  And as you know, a size large can fit anywhere from about a 36 inch bust to about a 46 inch bust depending on the manufacturer.  When this jacket arrived - it was nearly 46 inches across the bustline. 

It sat on my cutting table for a few weeks as I decided whether or not it was worth the effort to recut it. Finally, I took the leap.  That first cut is always the hardest!  You have to come to terms with the facts.  It's possible you will hate it after you put alot of work into the upcycle.  And it's possible that even after the upcycle you might decide you really liked the jacket better in the original form. 

But I made the cuts! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's the Second One, Stupid!

So, in thinking about raising children these days, I have come to some interesting conclusions.  Please understand that I have no professional background or education in child rearing.  I am a mom.  I gave birth twice.  And both children are now in their twenties and normal, caring human beings raising their own families.  There was a time when I was pretty sure we would not be able to report this success. 

So what did I learn that I might be able to pass on to those of you who are still in the tunnel of darkness that covers the teen years?  (It is a tunnel.  It is dark in there.  And there is an end.) 

It's the second one, stupid! 

Let me explain.  The first child has an advantage.  Ours, a daughter, was born two and a half years before her brother came along.  I devoted myself to her as did my husband.  In fact, I was pretty sure that one child would be enough.  But my husband wanted to try for a son.  And my daughter joined in, asking constantly for a baby brother.  So I agreed...or well, lets say I think they outnumbered me and I woke up pregnant. 

Then the party began!  With one child, I was able to do most everything I had done before children.  I continued to sew and bake.  We packed a few extra diapers and went out to the lake.  We went to parties and she nodded off to sleep in my arms.  I would place her somewhere safe and stay at the party until we were ready to go home.  We would jostle her, turn her over, put her in a cold car, move her again to get her in her crib and still she would sleep through the night.  You know the type.  First babies.

But the second baby added a complex set of new problems.  First off, just logistically.  How to get two children PLUS groceries into our small pickup?  Should the play area be a second bedroom, or should both children sleep in the same space and play in the second place?  Are pink pajamas an absolute no-no for boys?  What if they are the only warm pair in the drawer that fit? 

Many, many small decisions.  But in looking back, those decisions made for the second child were never made only with the second child in mind.  It was about what was best for both of them.  This is such a slight difference, yet I have decided it was huge.  From the time child #2 arrived, my time, thoughts and energy were split between him and his sister.

So, why do I think this is important for you to think about now?  Fast forward fifteen years.  The first child is now in high school.  We have very carefully guided her to this point.  She is nearing the finish line.  Rarely in trouble, doing well in school, looking forward to applying to colleges.  She will be the first in either of our families to go directly to college after high school; the first to just go for her education without obstacles and struggle.  This is a huge accomplishment for both of our families.  And everyone is assuming her brother, who has been shadowing her all along, will soon also follow on to a bright future.  My intentions as his mother, were to get his sister up and over the hump - then directly focus all of my energy on finishing up with him to get him bridged over to the same success and happiness.  I was going to be 100% mom to him for those last few years of high school.  I was looking forward to it (well, except for the parts where I had already decided the value of the high school experience is way overrated).

And this was where I fell through on my plan.  You see, the second child was already in his most critical decision making phase of adolescence.  While I was trying to finish things off neatly with child #1,........ #2 was in crisis.  And he didn't wait for me to get to my great plan.  He assumed that I was showing how much I cared, right now, and with that information a part of him decided he was not as worthy as his sister.  And then he gave up his grades, his friends, his future and decided to play in alcohol and drugs.

Now, looking back....child #1 was already on her way before this point.  Even without her parents' holding her hand, she was going to make it.  Not without lumps and bumps, but her path was already chosen.  And the time I spent reassuring myself that she would indeed make it those last few laps was the EXACT time I should have been hoofing it with child #2 - doing the everyday teen raising work that is absolutely exhausting with very little love in return.  He needed us.  He was trying to wait his turn, but biologically, it was his time to decide what direction his life would take.  With no one watching, he thought he could play a while before deciding.  He had great parents, he knew that.  He could just play a while and we would circle back around for him soon.  But that's the thing about alcohol and drugs.  They're not really "a thing" to play with and then put away.   And that team is always recruiting.

He spent a decade recovering from drug use and all that surrounds it. Lost years of childhood and adolscence that can't be recovered.  Scars from physical and emotional wounds.  And he missed the direct link to higher education.  I'm not sure it will ever be his thing, but I'm also pretty sure that he eliminated it as an option before he gave himself permission to try it. 

So, my advice to parents everywhere is.....It's the second one.  Stop.  Assume the first child will be fine if they are about fourteen to sixteen and not in any real crisis.  If there were going to be problems there, you would already know in your heart.  If you are just fidgeting, fussing and wondering if there are problems you can resolve with child #1 - STOP.  Take notice.  Go directly to child #2 and see how much time and effort you can flood into the little window of time you have left to devote to their childhood.

As I say, I'm not an expert on anything except being a mom in my own family.  But, I swear, if I were to do it over again this is THE ONE THING I would change.  He deserved more from me.  I didn't see it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Really America? You're Going to Watch Combat Hospital (ABC) While My Soldier Is Still Over There?

Tonight my daughter is making some of her key calls.  Every couple of weeks she makes calls to about twenty wives whose husbands serve in the same unit as her husband.  The 116th from Fort Riley is now serving in southern Afghanistan, with their center located near Kandahar.  Most of the guys are out in remote locations with no water and very limited access to phone lines or internet.  They are working directly with small towns to try and build up security for families very similar to my own.  They've been there a while and they aren't going to get to come home anytime soon.

The wives are doing the best they can, raising children, trying to maintain family ties with their own and their spouses families, dealing with illnesses, checking accounts, lawns that need mowed and broken washing machines.  And they worry.  Because any day could bring news that no one wants to hear.  They find comfort in each other because no one else can truely understand what its like to live this day after day. 

America seems to be focused on their jobless rates and sagging stock values.  Although these are important to me also, (I lost my job over a year ago too), I am more concerned that America work hard on getting these soldiers back home.  Until these issues are resolved, military families have no chance of every having any sort of normal life in the future.  Deployment after deployment isn't a way to hold together a marriage.  They will never make it together to the life stage where they worry about their savings and retirement accounts.

Now, I must deal with COMBAT HOSPITAL premiering on ABC on June 21st.  Really?  Couldn't there be another topic that might entertain you while you distract yourself from the war that is a ghost in my home everyday?  The injured soldiers portrayed in the series are there today.  They could be someone I know.  Their injury or trauma could be something that my son-in-law will carry with him as an invisable wound the rest of his life as he tries to be a good husband and father. 

Really, aren't there other things you could entertain yourself with?  Don't you feel like you might be treading on the privacy and dignity of those who volunteered to go and fight for you?

Slippery Slope Fallacy #9 - Old Rules are Good Rules

This is another installment on my fashion journey.  At 52 years old I discovered that I disliked nearly everything in my closet.  I took about a year to notice those feelings and begin breaking old habits.   An added bonus was that I was able to bust up one area of my life that had become full of clutter; my closet.  This is Fallacy #9 that I discovered I had accepted as true: 

9) Old rules are good rules: No long sleeves under short sleeves. The goal is always to make your hips appear smaller. No exposed cleavage. Your jewelry must match. Certain colors work together - stay in color families. No teenager stuff. No cutesey stuff. No cheap stuff. Coordinate your closet. Buy items together that you intend to wear together. Vintage means old; it means out of style. Never wear cheap jewelry. Save your new stuff for special occasions. Round tummies can't wear belts. Dress for the position you hope to be in one day, not the one you are in currently. You must have the best watch you can afford. If you haven't worn it in a year, you probably never will. Every woman has to have a LBD. Invest in a black suit. Never put anything away that has been worn without washing it. Sleeveless is for summer. Short sleeves are for summer. Long sleeves are for winter.

It took me almost the full year to realize this script was running in my mind 24/7.  Every time I entered my closet it was playing.  If I was out running errands, it was playing.  And if I went shopping for clothing it was blaring at top volume.  I thought I just didn't have enough of these tips memorized yet.  Each one I came across I added to the script. 

It was so flawed with bad advice!  And advice that contradicted itself even!  Two basic facts about my human physical body were not accounted for in the script.  I am an inverted V shape.  We account for only about 10% of women in the U.S.  Most advice for women's fashion is written assuming that your problem areas are your hips and rear.  And that you wish you had a bustline to balance out the extra width in the hips.  I am built exactly opposite!  The last thing I want to emphasize is my bustline.  So instead of having fun with the hipline designs that I was one of the few women who could wear - I was beating myself up trying to look as slim as possible at the hip and then only making the bustline more impossible to work with. 

And black, camel, tan and gray are all colors that make me feel and look like a stern, cranky old maid with bags under her eyes.  The day I cleaned them out of my closet, I immediately felt lighter and happier.  It was actually kind of weird to think that just the process of pulling them out could cause an emotional response.    I wrote about it here:

This list of fashion advice was like a giant flowchart where I checked off "yes" and "no" until I ended up in exactly one of two squares each day - black, boring, mass produced, expensive and expendable - or - worthless.  Either way I felt unhappy, depressed, disconnected, and old. 

Now I make it a priority to break as many of these rules as possible!   Notice.  Choose.  Act.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Slippery Slope Fallacy #8 - Free T-Shirts

8) Free t-shirts: Everyone wears them, everyone seems to love them. Cool people who volunteer or have hobbies are always wearing one advertising their latest conquest. Collect them and make them work for your summer casual wardrobe.

This one was difficult for me to accept.  Everyone has these, right?  They are as much a part of the American uniform as jeans and sweats.  I had two drawers of them plus a stack on the closet shelf.  Sometimes I wore them to sleep in.  Sometimes to work in the yard or mop floors.  Otherwise they sat in neatly organized stacks.  And I continued to come home with new ones as I worked in youth organizations and received them free at events.

One day, I loaded them all up and delivered them to the thrift store. 

I kept three.

So these are the reasons I made the decision, finally....

1)  They have crew necklines.  Terrible for busty girls.

2) Most all of them are in men's sizing which means to get them around my bust they need to be too big everywhere else.  Hanging shoulders, odd-length sleeves, wide under the arms, and long hems that can't really be tucked in and can't really be left out. 

3)  Most are of 100% cotton or a cotton blend.  Cheap, cheap fabrics.  This is why organizations can give them away.  Underpaid workers in other countries crank these out by the thousands.  Your local screenprinting place is buying them for around $2 each and that includes the costs incurred in shipping them across the ocean and distributing them through the U.S marketers who need their percentage too.  

4)  Invariably, the best place to put the message of the shirt is on the left boob, or across both boobs front and center.  Just the place I want puzzled strangers trying to pick out letters to make a word. 

5)  The colors of the shirt are chosen for a multitude of reasons and absolutely none of those reasons includes human skin tones or hair coloring. 

After I donated all of my t-shirts, I did find one reason I should have kept a few more.  One of the bloggers (I'm sorry I can't remember who) rolls them up and uses a rubber band to hold them in shape so that they will slip into her boots for off-season storage.  

Now that is a great reason to volunteer and receive a free t-shirt! 

Slippery Slope Fallacy #7 - Clearance Sweaters

7) End of the aisle sweaters: After the holidays, clearance racks have an abundance of sweaters.  Why buy an expensive one? Pick one up for $4 the next time you're buying groceries at Walmart. 

I can't tell you how many of these have slipped through my life. Sweaters should be easy, right? I bought them in many, many colors and many weights over the years. I bought ones that were thick cable knit, ones with beautiful swooping mock necks, pink fuzzy tunic sweaters, long sweater coats.

The result was always the same.  If they were on top of the stack in my closet, I might have worn them once or twice before passing them on to goodwill.   They had a better chance of ending up left somewhere as I was constantly trying to get out of them before the day was over.  Every spring I would find a couple of crates of sweaters that never even were opened during the winter.  And then I would store them away to try again. 

I felt for several years that I wasn't happy with my collection because I didn't have expensive cashmere ones in the basic neutrals. Then with a better job I invested in a few. And never wore them either.

Many, many women are successful with following the advice of purchasing high quality turtlenecks or crewneck sweaters in those colors that can be mixed with anything......taupe, camel, white, black. I would suggest that if you are strawberry shaped (the inverted V shape) it just will not work. The high neckline leaves you with the giant uniboob look no matter how much you try and make it blend in.    Jackets might help, but you still have the silhouette problem plus one more layer of bulk. 

And if you are a bright and animated kind of woman, those drab neutrals around your face just suck the life out of you! Especially since sweater fabric is muted and soft, absorbing light. And if the sweater is of a thick weave, it might as well be a straight jacket to women who hate heavy clothes. 

Now, when I shop for sweaters (which is mostly at consignment and thrift stores), this is my checklist:

Fabric: I have finally learned that my first item on my sweater checklist is fabric content. The higher it is in natural fibers the more I will wear it. These fibers breathe and change as the temperature changes. So you don't immediately overheat when you step into a building. No matter the weather (which changes hourly in Kansas) you can usually get through the entire day with your sweater still intact if it is of natural fibers.

Cut: The second thing on my sweater checklist now days is cut. No more turtlenecks, crewnecks, cowl necks or really low v-necks. All of these create the uni-boob look for me. The best cut for me is a button up cardigan in a very light weight fabric. I find that I wear them over camisoles, over blouses and t-shirts, and even alone buttoned up as if they were a blouse.

Texture: No cable knit design that swoops in at the neckline, swoops out at the boobs, and then swoops back in at the waist. No thick knit to lay bulkily across my curves. Smooth, small textures work for me. Easy to layer, easy to pull my coat on and off over.

Color: Darker shades are better up against my face. Pastels wash me out. Camels, tans and blacks all make me look old and sullen. Because of these new guidelines, I now have two different green cardigans that are getting alot of wear. I never thought green was a color I could wear. But the "alive" type greens with brightness actually work out great.   Until I got rid of the "basic neutrals" the fashion industry was selling me, I wasn't able to see that this shade of green works as a great basic neutral for me. 

Only three more installments on my series about my own slippery slope journey to frumpiness! 

Slippery Slope Fallacy #6 - Dollar Store Tights and Socks

This is another in my series about my slippery slope to frumpiness.  At 52 years old, I realized I had entirely given up on ever feeling happy about my body or my clothing choices.  I methodically visited the regular mid-priced stores that cater to my demographic and laid down my credit card.  And I was miserable! 

These are a few of the points I now realize had sucked me under, slowly creeping into my lifestyle without me noticing.  Once I noticed, I had the ability to choose a different course of action! 

6) Dollar store tights and socks: 

This was my entire collection of socks when I finally "got it"!
This was quite a revelation!  That I could pay $10 for a pair of socks and then really, really enjoy more than $10 worth of use from them.  I wrote about it here

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daisy of the Flinthills - Healing from Tornadoes with the Gift of Music

We live about 20 miles from the recent tornado in Reading, Kansas.

Although only 200 people live there - it's still 200 people who are struggling with trying to balance their lives after the tornado sucked everything up and then dumped it back on their heads.   

Today my daughter and I cooked up a big batch of chili with our locally grown beef (and some homemade cornbread muffins).  Her Military Family Support Group (organized to support her and families like her of deployed soldiers) reached out to help others.  She delivered it to a group of families who are living in motel rooms in Emporia.  They had arrived at the motel with everything they owned which was nothing except whatever they had on their person when they took cover last Saturday night.

My step-brother's family survived the Greensburg, Kansas tornado. 

I happened to be in the general area for business meetings that night.  We met at a restaurant for supper.  Then they dropped me back off at my motel.  The next morning my co-worker woke me up to tell me that Greensburg had been destroyed.  I tried to call my step-brother.  He surprised me by immediately picking up his cell phone line.  They were all okay but they had been through a night that none of them will ever quite forget.  They were barracaded out of their town for the day and night while emergency crews searched homes and marked big X's with spray paint on the ones that had been cleared.  

I arranged for my co-workers to leave me there.  I called my husband to drive out to meet me the next day.  Then I made arrangements to spend time with Mike and his family.  But we were still several miles away from each other and neither one of us had a vehicle.  I was able to experience some of their challenges during the first days after the tornado.  There are things that non-tornado families don't understand and I hope to share here some  ideas with those of you who sincerely want to help.

"Everything" means everything.  Mike's family was so frustrated with the question, "So did you lose....?"  To which they would reply, "Everything".  To then be asked, "So does that mean you lost your car?    The truck?"  or  "Were you able to save any of your jewelry?"  or "That beautiful antique mirror in your living room?"   "EVERYTHING".  This question was so painful for them to answer over and over.  What did no one understand about the word everything?  And why didn't they realize that by verbalizing the list of lost, loved belongings, they were only stabbing at fresh wounds?  EVERYTHING.  

And a related well-meaning comment: "Maybe that would be a good way to think about it, that the tornado took everything and allowed you a fresh start on life," to which my niece replied ever so politely, "The problem was the tornado picked it all up, destroyed it, and then dumped it back on our heads."  Although the night of the tornado was like a horror movie for them, the two years of recovery and $1,000's of dollars clean up became a major part of her childhood, for better or for worse. 

So, how to really help?  I have some ideas from my experience with Greensburg. 

Vehicles:  Mike and family were without a vehicle.  They went from owning 3 to owning none in an hour.  So even though the Red Cross and others handed out debit cards, etc. there still was the obstacle of actually getting somewhere to get toothbrushes, underwear, etc.  And there were five people in their family.  So it became a shuttle type thing with the one small vehicle they could borrow a few hours a day from a relative.  A nightmare.  Which meant they were all stuck in a hotel room many hours a day, disoriented, with children reliving nightmares and eating whatever meals they could get by walking to the place or have delivered. 

Personal Items:  My nephew M (I'll call him M) was 10 years old.  He was very concerned about helping his family and he asked me to help.  He had made a list of the things that each family member needed most. I agreed to pay for his purchases.  I arranged to have us both dropped off at the mall on one of the shuttling trips.  We walked back over to the tv section twice during our visit because he needed to recheck the weather.  But he had a mission.

For Mom:  He picked out a bag - an overnight size pretty duffle bag.  She was carrying her brand new underwear and makeup in a Walmart bag and he thought she at least deserved to have something nice to put the few things she owned in.

For Dad:  A covered clipboard. The kind that the paper, pens and a calculator fit nicely inside and it can be closed up to keep it clean.  City people, insurance agents, FEMA people, social agencies - all were giving him phone numbers, business cards, and information that he would need as the days progressed.  But he had no where to keep it except his overstuffed wallet.

For his brother:  A portable music system - and I don't even know what it was.  But it was chosen with extra special care so that A could go to his cousin's house and download music quickly and easily.

A was 13 at the time.  He was at that awkward middle school age where music is his life; his escape, his center.  He went everywhere with earphones in his ears.  Except to the basement the night of the tornado.  Now he had silence.  Or music that adults listen to on the radio or tv.  And he was absolutely not going to whine about it to his parents who were also truely suffering.  But M, his younger brother, knew how much pain A was in.  They had both just survived an F5 tornado by holding on to each other in a tiny basement room.  A needed music to begin his healing.  M gave me the honor of helping to give this gift to his brother.  I am still so touched by the significance of him asking me to help.

So, a final thought - is there a way to begin a program for others like A who have recently survived a traumatic experience and are without their music?  My own son was in an oilfield accident at the age of 19 and spent months in surgeries and physical therapy learning to walk again.  His stereo system and his guitar were his coping mechanisms  He pushed through alot of pain by cranking up his favorite music to house-shattering levels.  I learned to love listening to it because I knew it soothed his soul.  Eventually it began to soothe mine.

Who's with me?  How do we start?  Surely iTunes or another online music download entrepreneur could see the value in linking up to help this unique over-looked age group heal through natural disasters by immediately replacing their music?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Living in the Flint Hills of Kansas

Just a photo of the transient cattle that live across the road from us.  They arrive shortly after the prairie fires are over.  The pastures turn to a brilliant green within a few days after they have been blackened by fire.  The cattle are shipped in from other places to spend their lazy summer days getting fat on the natural tall grass ecosystem.  And then.....well fall arrives......and they are gathered up and shipped out to their next destination which might be your grocery store.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mean Girls Grow Up

Teri at has opened a discussion about female relational aggression and I love it!  It's so great to hear the ideas and good thoughts about resolving one of the toughest issues in our culture! 

Pam at over50feeling40 also invited discussions on her blog today.  And Sally at is gathering a collection of resources for our daughters and granddaughters about positive body images which leads into the painful memories of women who were bullied. 

This is a topic which is so close to my heart.  I worked within a fantastic pilot program that was being developed across the nation to find ways that actually worked with real girls in combatting the bullying behavior.   The program was dissolved at its point of peak harvest.  It was devastating to watch as it disappeared in a corporate merger process.

My personal passion for anti-bullying developed after suffering through several years of workplace bullying.  Let's face it.  Mean girls grow up.  Those awful behaviors on the playground only get more devious and deadly as they practice their skills over the years.  And the leadership of the company never sees it.  hmmm......just like the teacher never sees it.  People who are good at hurting this way don't get caught.  Most corporations with this problem have at least one serial bully in the top leadership.  A serial bully cannot go more than 6 or 8 weeks without having a target.  One target leaves in a fit of tears and the next victim is chosen to fill the slot. 

Being an annonymous commenter on a blog also fits nicely in this category. 

I could go on for days.  But I would like to share a few points that seem to get lost in the discussion of our girls (and grown up girls) and their mean behaviors:

1.  Youth culture has changed DRASTICALLY in the past decade.  We continue to build programs and teach youth as if they were born twenty or more years ago.  It's not working!

2.  With children, the bully on the morning bus becomes the witness to bullying activity at morning recess and then becomes the target at lunch.  Very rarely is there one bully, one target.  Children switch roles throughout the day.  They only practice the behavior after they have experienced it themselves.

3.  An adult in the group (of children or youth) is (many? at least measureably some) times using bullying behavior themselves.  Once the young people see the behavior is being practiced and is tolerated, it escalates in that particular environment.   This is also true later in workplace culture.  If leadership practices and tolerates it, it will prevade the culture.  Think about the last job you left - did you leave because of the work?  or because of the culture?

4.  Focusing on changing the bully or the target (victim) rarely works.  As in item 1 above, we as adults would reason that you would take action against the bully or take action to protect the target in order to change the circumstance.  Neither has been proven to work.  The witnesses (anyone who was there when the event happened) are part of the event.  They are the only ones with the power to make change.  We would be so much better off as a culture if we focused on training them to take appropriate and immediate action each time they witnessed an event.  Sadly, we don't.

5.  Targets must clearly be seen as that - just targets.  They have little to nothing to do with why they were chosen.  Think of a group of kids with bb guns in the backyard.  They look for a target - anything will do.  Whatever pops up in front of them that is within the range that they think they can hit .....this is their target.

6.  Female relational aggression is the name given to the special ways females have developed to hurt each other.  Although physical violence among females is on the rise, most of the time they use much more devious and long-lasting ways to hurt each other.  This anecdotal story might help you remember how it starts.  Toddler children begin by hugging and loving on each other.  They then move to a phase where they will hit, bite and kick each other.  As they mature, the boys generally develop large muscle coordination and strength earliest.  Girls begin to lose in the hitting, biting and kicking episodes.  But, they rule the world of language earlier (in general).  So in order to hold their own, they begin to sharpen their language skills to hurt others. 

Thanks to Teri, Pam and Sally for keeping the conversation going!  The top expert in the field, I believe is Alison Hill at Critical Issues 4 Girls

Another over-the-top fantastic woman in the field is Yvonne St.John-Dutra, founder of Challenge Day.   And the work that was funded through the Colorado Trust after Columbine is wonderful if you can get your hands on it.    Alison of would know the status of using the material if you happen to be working with a group of girls and need resources. 

Thank you for reading!  Thank you for standing up as witnesses to the online bullying that happens on our blogs!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Slippery Slope to Frumpiness - Fallacy #5 - Nothing Constricting

5) Nothing constricting for foundation wear: 

In the 1970's, knitwear was exploding onto the fashion scene.  I probably weighed 95 lbs throughout high school but my mom insisted I wear girdle type panties, body suits that snapped at the crotch and other monstrosities to make smooth lines under the knits.   I hated it!  They pulled and squished and,dog forbid - you had to pee!  I ditched them as soon as I left home after high school vowing to never wear that stuff again.   

Guess what?  Foundation wear has changed alot since 1970!  Its comfortable, pretty and feminine.  You no longer have to try and stick your head between your legs to snap it!  Who knew? 

Since I had been deliberately avoiding this stuff for thirty years, it's fitting that I ended up with several bags of foundation wear from a local auction.   My future daughter-in-law was interested in several bridal gowns at our regional bridal salon.  Unexpectedly, the State of Kansas moved in and closed the place for non-payment of taxes.  Everything in the store was auctioned.  The wedding gowns were being sold off in lots of six dresses (for about $100 total!). Between, her, her mom and myself we brought home sixteen dresses.  Another story.....

But, there were bags and bags of panties, bras and other foundation wear.  No one was bidding on this stuff and I just couldn't stand it.  I bought several bags to resell on ebay.

In the bags, I found many pieces I love to wear!  They are so smooth and comfortable.  They make a huge difference in how sweaters and knits look - especially since some parts of my body seem to be shifting as I get older.  Nothing snaps under the crotch anymore.  Nothing gives me a wedgy part-way through the day.  I don't have to pack myself into them like a stuffed sausage.  They are just like underwear or slips - only they have a job to do and they do it well!  WOW! 

I'd say if you hated the foundation wear of the past - you have a good reason to try foundation wear again today!  It's a totally different animal now.  Friendlier, domesticated, even cuddly.

Flint Hills Prairie Fires

I've been a a bit busy!  If you happen to be driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas this week - the last of the prairie fires are a breathtaking site!  Its almost like we try to burn our selves silly for a couple of weeks around here!

The Kansas Turnpike is an excellent vantage point, running from the Oklahoma border in the south (the main route from Oklahoma City to Wichita) to Kansas City in the northeast corner.  The best views are between Emporia and Wichita.

And even if you miss it by a week, you will get to enjoy the beauty of the grass renewing itself - it seems like overnight!  The black burnt prairie becomes a brilliant green for miles and miles with nothing to block your view except the distant horizons in all directions.  The transient cattle are arriving now from all over the country to spend their lazy summer getting fat on the native grass.

We burnt our little ten acre patch last week!  Finally, after years and years of neglect we were able to hire someone to bring in equipment that would take out the overgrowth of cedars.  My husband spent a week on the four-wheeler dragging their carcasses up into piles.  Then comes the waiting as Kansas winds will quickly take a prairie fire out of control.  Last week the perfect wind from the perfect direction arrived at a time when neighbors could come and help. 

The cedars make the giant, hot fire you see in the photos.  Otherwise the prairie grass burns slowly and calmly.  And it's a neighboring event as people help each other burn especially on a place as small as ours.  It's easier to burn the huge unbroken patches of undeveloped prairie than it is a little place like ours.  On the 160+ acre places there is little chance of accidently burning down the neighbor's house or barn.  That is one of the reasons the tallgrass prairie conservation groups are working so hard to keep this area from being split up by developments. 

Evidently it takes a certain number of men, four wheelers and pickup trucks to make it all work out.  Plus a cooler of beverages.....

This is the way it has been done for centuries - spreading fire with a rake.....

And the past few decades have added some new ways to get the job done.......

Either way seems to work as this photo shows a few minutes later.....

The bonus cute Wranglers with boots were my sideshow.  Luckily I'm married to this one.

The near-miss evaluation committee meeting

I am very happy!  They didn't burn down my house.  And I can see our ponds from my upstairs bedroom window again!

The native Americans who lived on these prairies were very uncomfortable with places where they couldn't see for miles and miles around them.  The Kaw who lived in my area refused to move into the stone houses provided by the government in the late 1860's and instead used them to corral their horses.  They preferred to live in their more open housing structures so they would be aware of their surroundings.  I find myself feeling the same way every time I visit a large city.  In New York, I really had to keep breathing and reassuring myself as we traveled the train into the underground at Grand Central Station and then spent time downtown at Times Square.  I had fun, but I couldn't SEE!   It was a weird feeling and I was glad to be back on the prairie. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slippery Slope Fallacies - #4 - Whatever Bras

4)  Whatever bras.  My friend's mother passed away last year.  On her facebook status she wrote, "Burn your candles.  Wear your good clothes.  What are we saving them for?"  It's so true.  She had spent weeks going through her mother's stuff - stuff that her mother should have enjoyed during her lifetime when it was meaningful to her to collect it.  I am 52.  Am I saving my best fitting, prettiest bras for my childrens' inheritance?  hmmmm.......

Also, I learned from Brittany
about how uncomfortable your bra should be when you first put it on.  It means it fits!  It's doing some heavy lifting!  The important question is how does it feel to you several hours later?  The cheapy, too big, too sloppy bras show their true colors hours later (when you are out and about  - people are actually seeing you).  I searched through my drawer and separated my bras.  In the process I found many fantastic ones with even four hooks in the back (another good sign according to Brittany - this means they were designed for my body type).  I wrote about the experience here

I am now wearing my best bras everyday.  It feels great!  Next time I will write about a related topic....Fallacy #5 that I began to incorporate into my life years ago as a truth - Nothing Constricting!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Slippery Slope to Frumpiness - Fallacy #3 - Farmer Jeans

3)  Farmer jeans.

Kansas is celebrating its 150th birthday this year.  We think that's very important as our history began with violence and bloodshed.  The issue of slavery was up for vote in Congress.  The votes were split evenly - the states were divided.  The country was at a loss as what direction the future of America would be.  Enter Kansas.  Kansas was separating from the Nebraska Territory to become the 34th state.  Kansas voters would essentially decide the direction of the nation on the day they were accepted into statehood.  Would they arrive in favor of slaveholding or in favor of freeing the slaves?

In the mean time, organizations from across the East coast were offering assistance to anyone who would move to the new Kansas territory before the day of the vote.  Each eligible voter gave them one more chance of tipping the national scale in their favor.  As you can imagine, this environment led to dishonesty, violence and bloodshed.  My house is about 3 miles from Bloody Bill Anderson's home place and the hideout his gang returned to each time they raided Free State communities to instill fear.  

I tell you all of that because this is my heritage.  I am a fifth generation Kansan.  I am still not sure which side of the slavery issue my ancestors came to support but they came to carve out a new life in a place filled with flat prairies with no trees.  The winds blew everyday and the Flint Hills prairie refused to be tilled.  The native American groups were desperately clinging to their government assigned lands as everyday the new settlers hacked out pieces off the edges to claim for themselves.  Life was about survival. 

I remember my grandma washing dishes in a teacup full of water, peeling potatoes so thinly that granddad said he could read the newspaper through the peelings.  She reused every piece of plastic or wire that came into her life.  She also was known for living several years in the back of horse trailer (remember this is the 1920's - so I don't mean an RV!).  She once received a bounty of ground beef and didn't have refrigeration.  She knew how to cook it down and store it in its own grease in coffee cans so it could be kept edible.  Her home and all of her belongings went through three home fires where she lost nearly everything.  This is my heritage.

I tell you all of this because I think it defines my thoughts about jeans.  I am a working class person.  My body isn't shaped very standardly female, nor was it shaped standardly male.  I need jeans in my daily life.  Farmers and ranchers get their jeans at the local  Farm and Ranch Supply where we buy dogfood and motor oil. 

Since my body was obviously the problem (not the designer, patterner or manufacturer) I never had jeans that fit.  And in the grand scheme of life, the fit of my jeans didn't have much impact on important issues.  We rural people get quite a chuckle out of the things city folk will pay money for - $1000 for a visit to the Flint Hills to watch the prairie chicken mating dances, $500,000 for a house, $100 for a pair of jeans!  You've got to be kidding!  $100 would fix the brakes on the four wheel drive!

I started buying my jeans at the same place the farmers and ranchers do - Bluestem Farm & Ranch Supply.  When I was feeling really good about myself I might buy Levi's at JC Penney.  I accumulated quite a stack of jeans and rotated them often.  Now I realize the rotating was because they were always pinching at the waist and hanging at the butt.  I would wear them a few hours, change into another pair, repeat.  I run the whole lot of them through the washer and dryer over and over hoping for magic.  And I was busy raising a family and paying off a mortgage.  For about twenty years.     

Then my daughter took a photo of me that caused me to look again.  Really, I rarely see the backside of myself so the photo caught me by surprise.  I blogged about it here:

Thanks to all of you the blogging community I decided I deserved jeans that fit.  I thrifted several new-to-me pairs that I love!  So far I have found Aura - Made by the Women at Wrangler to be a great fit for my inverted triangle (strawberry) shape.  And they are sold at Bluestem Farm & Ranch - I just had to take time to try them on!  I have also liked A.N.A, and rediscovered Zena Jeans.  My most recent great find was a pair of Cruel Girl jeans I thrifted for $1.29. 

So the $100 can still go towards fixing my brakes.  But, I will feel cute while I sit in the waiting area!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Turn-Around from Frumpiness - Fallacy #2 - No Button Down Blouses

This is item number two that I feel pulled me down the slippery slope to frumpiness over the past decade.  It's a fallacy, an untruth, that I accepted as the truth and used to further limit my wardrobe choices. 

2)  No button down blouses.  I love button down blouses.  They fit my personality.  But they never fit my shape.  So, it was too risky and too much of a pain to wonder if this or that blouse would pop at the bustline all day.  Since I don't want to draw more attention to the bustline than necessary, I eliminated button down blouses from my wardrobe possibilities.  It happened slowly over time and without much conscious thought.      

Once I accepted that the corporations who design womens' fashion do not care what shape or size I am, I realized that I am exactly the size I should be.  They have their own set of problems which are not my problems!   One of those problems is their inability to hire or train good pattern people - thus relying on mass fitting solutions that might have worked in the past.

I have worked to find button down blouses built for curvy bustlines.  They are hard to find, but its not impossible.  I like the stretch woven fabrics because I tend to fall between the standard sizes.  The stretch woven fabrics have decreased in cost and increased in quality over the past decade.  It is worth your time to search them out and start trying them on from different brands.  That little bit of extra stretch will sometimes make it work.  Also, some bras are better than others to make the fit work.  This eliminates the need to always size up, which as you probably know, results in a blouse that looks like it's borrowed from your husband's closet and is almost impossible to style with a jacket. 

I carefully topstitch the placket of some of my blouses in just that spot (about a two inch section).  If you leave the button placket alone both above and below this trouble area and stitch directly over the existing stitch lines, no one ever suspects that the blouse now has to be pulled on over your head!   

Next time:  Fallacy #3  Farmer Jeans  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conquering the Slippery Slope to Frumpiness - Fallacy #1: No White or Light Colors Below the Waist

So yesterday I listed the ten ideas that led me to frumpiness.  10 Fallacies that Led Me Down the Slippery Slope to Frumpiness    This is how I am conquering them! 

1)  No white or light colors below the waist. 

After my second child was born, I started having heavier and heavier periods.  To the point of bleeding through clothes, coats and even upholstery.  I developed the habit of checking every time I stood up to see if I had bled through.  Because of this, I eliminated anything light color for pants, skirts, etc.  With irregular periods - the risk was just too high.  Black makes you look thinner anyway, right?

This was SO easily resolved especially after we finally were able to join a group health insurance.  (We raised our family for sixteen years without any health insurance - I can hear you gasp!  It is true.  I'd like to give a personal thank you to the Reagan administration for this lack of access, but I suppose they are all dead by now.)

This is a medical problem and I tried to believe it was only a fashion restriction.  

Get on board with a good ob/gyn and see what your options are.  I spent 2 days in a surgery center and another two weeks off work to solve a problem that had nearly taken over my life.  

As far as fashion goes, I happen to be an inverted triangle shape.  The last thing we want to do is try and make our hips look slimmer!  Black is not slimming for everyone.  Such a load of bull-hooey being sold to women!  Sometimes black just looks dead.  Inverted triangle shaped women look more balanced in darker blouses with lighter pants or skirts.  

My surgery was seven years ago.  Do you know that didn't notice until last summer's closet clean out that I had no light color bottoms?  I think it proves how slippery the slope is to frumpiness.  The first item I tried was a pair of white jeans from Goodwill.  I love them because they filled a gap - working so well with many of my favorite (darker) tops. 

I know by wearing more light color bottoms I have increased my feelings of happiness.  I am dressing my truth and it shows.  This opened up so many new possibilities for me! 

Next:  Fallacy #2  No button down blouses.

Why Did You Give Up? 10 Fallacies That Led Me Down the Slippery Slope to Frumpiness

Why did you give up on the whole fashion industry?  Do you remember things that discouraged you?  When did you decide that you were just too fat, too oddly shaped, too old or too ugly to look great?

I want to share the turning points of the last two decades that culminated my slippery slide to frumpy.    

1)   No white or light colors below the waist.  After my second child was born, I started having heavier and heavier periods.  To the point of bleeding through clothes, coats and even upholstery.  I developed the habit of checking every time I stood up to see if I had bled through.  Because of this, I eliminated anything light color for pants, skirts, etc.  With irregular periods - the risk was just too high.  Black makes you look thinner anyway, right?

2)  No button down blouses.  I love button down blouses but they never fit my shape.  So, it was too risky and too much of a pain to wonder if this or that blouse would pop at the bustline all day.  I eliminated them from my possibilities.   

3)  Farmer jeans.  Well, I live in a very rural area.  A woman who shipped something to me recently on ebay gave feedback that she had to pay an extra surcharge on the shipping because I live in "BFE".  For thirty years, my local choices include JC Penneys, Walmart, Cato or Bluestem Farm and Ranch.  None of them ever fit me right so I ceased to care.  I toughened up like the prairie women before me.  I had to cover my butt on a daily basis.

4)  Whatever bras.  My bra size has changed several times maybe even annually as some experts suggest.  Some of my bras are nice ones.  Some are cheap ones.  I gave up guessing what might fit today and just grabbed the ones on top, which usually were the cheap, too comfortable, ill-fitting ones even when they were new.

5) Nothing constricting for foundation wear:  In the 1970's, knitwear was exploding onto the fashion scene.  I probably weighed 95 lbs throughout high school but my mom insisted I wear girdle type panties, body suits that snapped at the crotch and other monstrosities to make smooth lines under the knits.   I hated it!  They pulled and squished and,dog forbid - you had to pee!  I ditched them as soon as I left home after high school vowing to never wear that stuff again.   

6) Dollar store tights and socks:  Socks, tights and hose don't show or at least not much, right?  You shouldn't have to spend money on them.  Watch the after holiday clearance bins and use those Santa ones under your boots all year long.  Save your holey tights and wear those with your long skirts and boots. 

7)  End of the aisle sweaters:  After holiday clearance racks have an abundance of sweaters, why buy an expensive one?  Pick one up for $4 the next time you're buying groceries at Walmart.

8) Free t-shirts:  Everyone wears them, everyone seems to love them.  Cool people who volunteer or have hobbies are always wearing one advertising their latest conquest.  Collect them and make them work for your summer casual wardrobe.

9)  Old rules are good rules:  No long sleeves under short sleeves.  The goal is always to make your hips appear smaller.  No exposed cleavage.  Your jewelry must match.  Certain colors work together - stay in color families.  No teenager stuff.  No cutesey stuff.   No cheap stuff.  Coordinate your closet.  Buy items together that you intend to wear together.  Vintage means old; it means out of style. Never wear cheap jewelry.  Save your new stuff for special occasions.  Round tummies can't wear belts.  Dress for the position you hope to be in one day, not the one you are in currently.  You must have the best watch you can afford.  If you haven't worn it in a year, you probably never will.  Every woman has to have a LBD.  Invest in a black suit.  Never put anything away that has been worn without washing it.  Sleeveless is for summer.  Short sleeves are for summer.  Long sleeves are for winter.

10)  Find solutions and camaraderie in the stores that cater to the slippery slope crowd.  At a certain point in life (which remarkably coincides with my increased earning power),  I surrendered to the marketing gurus of the American fashion culture for mature women.  I was overwhelmed and confused and swiped my credit card month after month at stores such as Kohls, Gordmans and J C Penney.  70% off sale was my cue.  At least I would retain some control over my wardrobe by not purchasing at full price.  The rest was WAY out of control.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Upcycled Child's Dress

This project involves a beautiful dress my granddaughter received for Christmas last year.  She wore it once when she was about eight months old.  Her great-grandma bought it for her at Kohl's.

Cute!  But one of those outfits that only fits for a very short while!  So I got to looking at it while it was hanging here in our storage closet.  The skirt is beautiful - crinkly with ribbon embroidery.......hmmmm...

I took it apart, saving the skirt, the sleeves and the tie around the waist.  Then I struggled to find a fabric that wasn't too cutsey (wedding looking) for the new bodice.  Saturday I bought a new sweater dress for myself at JC Penney on the clearance rack.  It had a huge cowl neck on it which I promptly cut off and rehemmed into a banded neckline.  The leftover piece of sweater neck ended up laying next to this red skirt on the cutting table.  Aha! 

This is the best photo I could get - she is very, very busy! 

This is her running over to see herself on the digital camera screen - except the camera hasn't exactly taken the picture yet.....

She also has on a pair of leggins I made her recently from the sleeves of this thrifted $1 sweater......

Now the socks, I can't explain - except its really, really cold here and we are all wearing lots of layers even in the house! 

And, in case you thought I do all of this design work by myself......