Style Me March – Hemming Things Up

When I embarked on the #stylememarch challenge on March 1, I was hesitant. I DM’d Hilary Rushford, its creator and author of the bow ties and bettys blog, proposing that I was too middle-aged and my fashion budget was too strapped for me to participate. Hilary encouraged me to join, stressing the fact that the challenge was open to all ages, and that one of the main tenets was to do the challenge primarily with items we already owned.

I dove in on March 1 with “favorite color” day:

And rounded out the month on March 31 with “plays up your best feature” day:

It took a few plays on words and coaxing some rarely worn items out of the deep recesses of my closet, but I did the challenge every day except “hair braid day.” Here is the entire list:

Now that the challenge is over, I have a few observations by way of closure:

My earrings are in a conspiracy to remain separated from one another. It is almost impossible to find two matching earrings when said earrings would be perfect with an outfit. Ditto for earring backs. Yikes.

It is seriously difficult to take pictures of yourself. I don’t know how teenagers do it (and they seem to do it all the time!). This process resulted in a lot of outtakes. Like this:

and this:

On the bright side, though:

Twenty Pounds Later. Oh my gosh I have lost almost 20 pounds over the past year! I knew that (because I weigh myself every day) but I have really focused on my fitness goals and haven’t been fixated on the numbers so much. It really hit me when I grabbed items that I had not fit into in so long, put them on to see if they could be used for a particular day’s theme, and they fit!

This white dress is an example, both of the weight loss (read above)
and the “power of the belt” (read below).
Belts! I haven’t been giving belts enough credit. When your hips are disproportionately larger than your bust, some styles are horrible ideas. It’s nice to accentuate a (relatively) narrow waist) but accentuate it too much and it only makes your hips look bigger. But belts make it possible to manipulate the top of an outfit in a way that balances out the bottom. That adds quite a few options I had not considered previously.

Confidence. One of the most powerful moments in therapy for me (when I was in my 20’s) was a visualization where I looked at my (selfless, humble, incredible) mother as she carried herself and dressed, juxtaposed with the same wonderful person dressed confidently, carrying herself with a clear aura of “deservedness.” It is so easy to feel like you are helping everyone else by “going without” but the price is heavy. Our daughters don’t need mothers who constantly tamp down their own needs and sense of self in deference to everyone else in their lives.

Our daughters need mothers who (in Hilary’s words) approach each day with grace and gumption. Thank you, Hilary, for reminding me to take a second look at my closet as well as my psyche.

If you want to see pictures of me ad nauseum (ha ha), here are all of my #stylememarch posts:

Week One is here.

Week Two is here.

Week Three is here.

Week Four is here.

Week Five is here.

Wordless Wednesday (#StyleMeMarch – Week Five)

Week Five of the “#StyleMeMarch” challenge from Hilary Rushford of the Bow Ties and Bettys Style Blog may have been abbreviated but it packed some fun challenges into four quick days!

Here’s the entire month’s plan:

On Wednesday, our directive was “two patterns.” I combined an abstract floral with an art deco motif  pendant:
This day proved that this one skirt in my closet is probably my most versatile piece. It starred in Parisian Day in Week One and Stripes or Dots Day in Week Two. Reversible can be good.
And here’s the view of the whole outfit.
My coworkers Beth and Karen got in on the “two patterns” fun too, mixing textures, stripes, and florals:
For “whites or neutrals” day, I had a run planned before work. I usually run before work on Thursdays anyway, but this time I was participating in a Daily Mile “virtual challenge,” a 3.1 mile run (wherever we were geographically) in memory of fellow DailyMiler Martin A. I chose a white shirt and a white headband.

Takng pictures backwards, one-handed, in the dark, doesn’t yield the best angles but here I am heading out in memory of Martin A.

When it came time to get dressed for work, I had to chuck Plan A because the white dress was at the cleaners, so I chose a tan linen cropped blouse, brown pants, and a brown jacket.  As neutral as I could get without a trip to the dry cleaner.
Friday was “color on your feet” day. I have had these shoes since my friend Mary Jane got married in 1999. They have held up so well; they may not be super-vivid colorful, but they’re the best I can do! I love the tuck detail.
On that same day, I was looking ahead to my 10K run the following day. Springtime Tallahassee is one of our biggest runs here, and I decided to coordinate my toes with the race shirt. First nail decals I have purchased in a while! Oh! It’s also important to note the name of the nail color: Spring Street (every color in the line had a New York name (sigh)).
Saturday, the grand finale, was “plays up my best feature” day. I have always liked having small dainty wrists. They may be small but they do a lot for me, like announce a favorite cause. (This bracelet supports the cause of Fanconi Anemia.) Read more about how the Kidz1stFund works to help kids with Fanconi Anemia by clicking on this link.
And then there are all the miles run where my wrists help me keep track of my time.
There’s also the awesome watch my husband bought me for our 10th anniversary. Most valuable watch I have ever owned but it doesn’t work right now so it is relegated to a drawer. But it still looks nice!
Is this the end of StyleMeMarch? Not quite. I’ll be doing a wrap-up post soon to discuss a few lessons learned and to properly thank Hilary Rushford for being such a great fashion guide and enthusiastic supporter. For now, I will sign off.
After all, I need to figure out what to wear tomorrow!

Wordless Wednesday (#StyleMeMarch – Week Four Edition)

Week Four of the “#StyleMeMarch” challenge from Hilary Rushford of the Bow Ties and Bettys Style Blog had me digging deep — into my closet and into my imagination.

Here’s the entire month’s plan:

Week four started last Wednesday with “so my city” day. We love our institutions of higher learning here in Tallahassee. I donned my garnet and gold, and topped off the day at boot camp climbing the stairs of Doak Campbell stadium over and over, reliving decades of FSU memories.

Thursday was “hair accessory” day. I didn’t go out and buy anything new; I don’t have a lot of “accessorizing” options for workday hair. But it was the perfect day to give an homage to the unsung hero of my active fitness life: the humble little “Effortless Beauty” headband.

I usually only wear one at a time, of course! But they keep the sweat and my bangs out of my eyes. They do their job, day in and day out, with little fanfare. So thanks, rainbow of knit headbands, for helping me stay fit (and for occasionally actually coordinating with my outfit).
Red Hills Cross Country Equestrian Course

On Friday, our theme was “your least expensive piece.” Next to the number of run-related tshirts I own (enough to clothe a small army), I own a lot of Florida Healthy Kids and KidCare apparel. Here’s one:
Saturday was “fresh faced” day; that was perfect since the day was a typically active one for me. It started with me lacing up my shoes for a 9.7K race (wearing one of the aforementioned coordinating headbands!):

and flowed* into yin yoga at Journeys in Yoga for Journeys’s fifth birthday party:

Sunday was “saw on a style blog” day. The best I could do was to incorporate tangerine (or the closest I could get); I have been reading a lot about how tangerine is the “it” color this spring (here’s one example):
Along the way I learned about other spring trends, and now I see them everywhere – peplums, huge florals, nude shoes.

Monday was “layer over/under a dress” day and that was another one that I found pretty difficult. None of my dresses and separates really lent themselves to layering, so I went with this dress/sweater combo.

When I read that today (Tuesday) would be “statement necklace” day, I knew immediately what I would choose. It may not make the biggest fashion statement, but I love this cross I bought in Guatemala last summer. I almost didn’t get it — as the trip wound down I was trying to conserve quetzals (Guatemalan currency) but I am so glad I made the relatively small splurge. I love it and it reminds me of the people I love, especially Silvia and Estela who we sponsor through CFCA.

I’d like to thank my coworkers for getting in on the “#StyleMeMarch” fun:

Beth’s Hair Accessory
Beth’s “Least Expensive Piece” Day
($5 tshirt/$6 overshirt)
Beth’s Accessories for Least Expensive Day
(Handmade by a Young Friend!)
Beth’s statement necklace (from Quarter Moon Imports
of Tallahassee).
 Karen’s “Dollar Store” Socks for Least Expensive Day
($1 for 5 pair – Fifty Cents Per Sock!)

It has been a lot of fun playing with these clothes and accessories, and rediscovering a few neglected items stuck in the dark hinterlands of my closet, but hands down the best part has been sharing the #StyleMeMarch fun with my coworkers. Thanks ladies for playing along – we may not have big budgets but that doesn’t mean we can’t have big hopes for looking great!

*little yoga joke!

Seven Sentences to 25 Year Old Me

We learned this week that Wayne’s current job is ending on Thursday, March 29. Although we knew the position was time-limited (scheduled to end after the legislative session concluded), I have been surprised by the emotional/anxiety quagmire I plunged right back into.

I thought at some point during my 6 mile trail run/race on Saturday, my brain would let go of the “what if’s” and “how come’s” and “there has to be a way out of this’s.” It didn’t happen. An hour of yin yoga with live guitar helped me have a brief emotional/spiritual escape later that day. Seven and a half minutes (when you added it all up) of planks at core yoga today were so difficult they knocked it out of my mind through the sheer physical exertion.

To give a bit of the backstory, Wayne was informed in August of 2010 that his position was being downsized. The official end of his employment with the legislature was in November 2010. There has been sporadic independent work since then, some very promising job opportunities that fell through, and then over the last few months he was working in the legislative affairs office of a state agency (that position was always slated to end concurrently with session).

I guess if I had a private diary I could pour out my heart and really vent but my blog has become my diary, in a way, even though I apply a lot more filters to it than I would to something that would never see the light of day.

If you prefer “lighter” from me, come back on Wednesday for the latest update on “#stylememarch.” (Week one is here, week two is here, and week three is here.)

I know it’s impossible to go back and re-do history, and how each of us got to the point where we are today. As I was running Saturday morning, I was wondering how I could write about something so incredibly personal without it just being an emotion-dump or something that a potential employer of either Wayne or me would see as weakness. I decided maybe it would work to do a “seven sentences” statement that I would have told 25 year old me if I had the life experience I have now to go by.

As you enter the 2nd quarter century of your life, you need to face up to the ways in which you habitually defer to others who you perceive have more power than you. Being “nice” will smooth some social pathways for you but will also obscure your vision when you need to be blunt, with strangers, as well as with the people you love the most. Things that seem minor now can be the warning signs of ways in which you may “muck up” the bigger things. Paying attention to details can be interesting and informative; putting on a persona of “working hard” and being dedicated will help you make some progress professionally, but your aversion to strategy and your tendency to give the benefit of the doubt will make you “lose,” and despite the “nice,” the “methodical,” and the “sincere” parts of you, you’ve gotta let your competitive side have some victories once in a while. And about money – make sure you learn to talk about it constructively, candidly, and realistically with your significant other; if the two of you have trouble figuring out what part of a weekend trip to put on credit and what to pay cash for, that model is going to repeat itself about much bigger things over the years, and will weigh you down in ways you can’t yet understand. Through all of that, though, your tenacious determination to grasp the merest threads of hope that your faith has to offer will support you. Have those children you want so badly to have; even when you think you haven’t done enough for them, listened well enough to their issues as they grow up, or given them the material things they need/want, they will know even when they can’t acknowledge it that you love them for who they are, because you will have given them the best you have to give.

**

If you have made it this far, I appreciate you reading my seven sentences.

Whatever your particular belief systems are, I would appreciate your prayers and/or positive affirmations as we deal with this latest phase of “Adventures in Adjusting to Job Loss.”

Cash would work too. {grin}

Paula

Wordless Wednesday (#StyleMeMarch – Week Three Edition)

Week Three of the “#StyleMeMarch” challenge from Hilary Rushford of the Bow Ties and Bettys Style Blog is behind me, “sexy” and all.

As a reminder, here’s each day’s theme:

Week three started last Wednesday with “one of my oldest pieces” day. No problem. There’s plenty of old stuff in my closet! But I had the unusual combination of a field trip with my son and a business meeting that day. I bought this jacket at Macy’s in New York City, in 1991.

Lunch in the Capitol Courtyard
(It’s a miracle that my son was wearing a polo, but that’s a subject for a different post!)
Then followed what I consider one of the toughest challenges of #StyleMeMarch: “sexy” day.
This dress may not scream “sexy,” but I feel good in it, and we all know feeling good in something is one of the keys to feeling sexy, right?
With “sexy” out of the way (phew!), I faced the challenge of “top knot hair” day. Top knot? With this inch of hair?! Fortunately, I had a hair appointment with Bonnie at Polished Effects that day. Bonnie has been doing my hair for a really long time, probably about fifteen years, so she always gives me “top ‘knot’ch” hair.
I scheduled the haircut and style to coincide with “top knot” hair day but also with a day when I was going to see my friend Fred, who I haven’t seen in over thirty years. He and his wife Marsha were at Disney celebrating their wedding anniversary, so we had a gathering of people from high school to celebrate.
Happy anniversary, Fred and Marsha!
And of course the irony is that I was happy to have a good hair day when I was seeing people I had not seen since the days of big hair and acne, but they are the kind of friends who really don’t care about the hair; it was a gift just to be together.
After “top knot hair” day, it was o’sequins or o’sparkle day for St. Patrick’s. Since I was traveling and didn’t have super-big plans, I was stumped a little. I originally went with these green earrings (bought at the City Market in Charleston), thinking we wouldn’t be going anywhere that would be dressy at all:

But our dinner outing ended up necessitating a step up from my denim crop pants so I was able to slip into the sparkly green shirt I had packed.

On Sunday, I had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of me to return from Palm Coast to Tallahassee, so comfort was key. Good thing it was “cozy” day!

I bought these black pants last summer when Tenley were preparing to go to Guatemala and ended up wearing them home on the plane. Turns out they are good traveling pants. The shirt is made of a super soft cotton and carries great memories of my run last September on Roosevelt Island for Women for Women International.

This pillow in the room where I was sleeping would not be denied being featured for cozy day. Fluffy = Cozy.

On Monday, I wondered what to do for “black and white” day. Most of the options involved a lot of black with highlights of white, but I experimented with an off-white dress, the black belt from Week Two, and a black jacket. It turned out really nicely!!
Last but not least, today was “colored eye shadow” day. I kept thinking of a friend from my Fordham days (late 80’s) always saying, “you were wearing blue eye shadow when you interviewed.” I always argued that it was actually silver maybe that wasn’t that much better!
I went with purple today (a departure from my usual neutrals), and followed all the little directions on the package – where to put the “allover lid,” where to put the contour, the crease, and the highlight.

 I was pretty pleased with the end result (and it wasn’t 80’s blue!):

Next up: “So ‘my city'” day. Cue the Marching Chiefs for that one:

It’s not too late to join! For a cool summary of #StyleMeMarch up till now, check out this blog.
And then take a peek in your closet with a fresh eye; you may be surprised what you’ll find!

Wordless Wednesday (#StyleMeMarch – Week Two Edition)

Week Two of the “#StyleMeMarch” challenge from Hilary Rushford of the Bow Ties and Bettys Style Blog is being hung up in the closet now.

As a reminder, here’s the breakdown of what each day’s theme is:

Week two started last Wednesday with “LBD to Work” day. The “B” had to be for blue in order for it to work for me. My “LBD” was a little (lot) dressy for work:

But this is the LBD…

…and I put a shell over it that goes with an entirely different suit. It’s a great color of seafoam green. Not a perfect match with navy but it worked well enough:
With “LBD to work” day behind me, I moved on to the equally challenging and out-of-comfort-zoneish “tease that hair” day. This one involved a lot of “product” and a lot of forehead. One thing I did like about “tease that hair” day was the fact that it was International Women’s Day and I was wearing a necklace made by Ugandan women and sold by Bead for Life.

For “stripes or dots” day on Friday, March 9, the first (but certainly not last) repeat item of the month appeared (the skirt I had worn on “Parisian Day”):

What on earth to do for “rock star” day on Saturday, March 10? I was participating in the Shamrock Scurry 5K that day, so I experimented with a St. Patrick’s Day themed  “tattoo sleeve”:

But it was a pain and I didn’t want to run in it. So I tattooed (temporarily) something else:

Sunday saw me move from Ireland to France. It was “something borrowed” day and Tenley and I had an “Afternoon in Paris” women’s luncheon with my mother-in-law, so Tenley loaned me her Eiffel Tower necklace.

On Monday, I walked in and my co-worker said, “Oh I see you are doing belt day!” People are sometimes more observant than you think! All of my belts were pretty boring so Goodwill came to the rescue:
Finally, to accent the final day of the (style) week, I needed my teenager’s help for “dramatic eyeliner” day. The girl is a pro after all these years of “wings” as part of her dancer makeup. She applied liquid eyeliner on my top lid, and I filled out the rest with a darker pencil than I usually use. Great reaction when I walked onto the track for my weekly intervals workout tonight and one of my friends said, “Oh, did you get made up for track tonight?” It was a fun comment and led to another explanation of #stylememarch.
The spectrum of my eyeliner choices ranges from the usual (on the right – nothing!) to the modest one I have been using during #stylememarch to the pencil I used today after Tenley applied the “heavy artillery” liquid liner.
Yes, as a matter of fact I did wear this same shirt five days ago. Oops! Different jewelry each day though – maybe that mitigates the duplicativeness a bit.
Another week of #stylememarch behind me and a week ahead of digging deep in my limitless imagination to create something interesting out of my not-so-limitless closet.
Care to join me?

Wordless Wednesday (#StyleMeMarch – Week One Edition)

With the Poetic Winter Photo Challenge over, I am left to my own devices for Wordless Wednesdays once again. That is why I was all too happy to join the “#StyleMeMarch” challenge from Hilary Rushford of the Bow Ties and Bettys Style Blog.
I was intrigued when my friend Annie tweeted that she was considering going out of her comfort zone and joining the challenge. Here’s the deal:
The goal is to achieve each day’s challenge without spending lots of money (good thing).
So far here’s what March has held for me.
On favorite color day (March 1), nothing in my favorite color (red) was work-appropriate, so I dressed in a color I gravitate to often:
[March 2 was “hair braid” day. I took a pass on that one!]

On “Parisian” day (March 3), I was stumped. Hilary encouraged sophisticated black and white, along with pearls. I didn’t really arrive at “sophisticated,” but I checked off black, white, and pearls. The salesperson at Coach complimented me on my skirt. Ooh la la!

For “bought on sale” day (March 4), that was a breeze since pretty much everything I own qualifies! I got this dress for $10 from Marshall’s. These things that hang off it are weird but once you wrap them around your waist and knot them, it works! I love the fact that I can wear navy, black, or gray shoes with the dress. And of course that green color surfaces again.

Even though we are encouraged not to buy anything new, “bold lipstick day” (March 5) necessitated a purchase. This “ruby” lipstick definitely ratchets things up. (Old color on top, ruby on bottom.)

Today (March 6) was “pattern” day, so I wore argyle:
I’ll never be a fashion plate but I have really let things deteriorate, blaming family budget issues, time crunches, and a host of other things.
The challenge is making me pay attention. Being in touch with the little details doesn’t take a credit card with a high limit or a wad of cash. It takes caring about yourself. That doesn’t cost a cent.