Playing Dress Up.


A little over a year ago, I moved to a different position at work, one where the staff tends to dress a little more nicely than the jeans and sweatshirts I was used to before.  Look – I’m a comfort dresser.  I’ve never been stylish, I don’t wear makeup, and I can best be described as ‘low maintenance.’  So this move has forced me to rethink my wardrobe and make some changes.

Let me just say that I love my new job, but the hardest part by far is having to figure out what to wear each day.  More than once, I’ve complained to Mr. Stuck that it is exhausting for me to select the next day’s outfit.  This does not come naturally to me.  Mr. Stuck has sisters who can look good in anything and who look stylish even when they’re camping in the woods.  I’m not like that.  I second-guess myself constantly, and even when I do manage to put an outfit together, I’m never really sure about it.

Many years ago, when I was expecting my first son, I was working in an office with several other women.  I didn’t have much in the way of maternity wear, so I did what I could to make my existing wardrobe work. One day, I chose a pair of bright blue cotton pants because they sported an elastic waist. The top I paired with it was a lovely shade of emerald green.  Now, in my simple mind, blue and green are complementary colors; however, not those particular shades, apparently.  I came in to work and Jill, my very outspoken coworker, was horrified. “WHAT are you wearing?  Don’t you know that blue and green don’t go together?” she exclaimed.

Obviously, I didn’t.  I was terribly embarrassed to have been called out on my wardrobe choices, feeling very exposed and pregnant, anyway — and that very evening, I put both the pants and the shirt in the donation box.  I would never make that mistake again.

I’ve never liked dressing up, partly because I never liked shaving my legs to wear dresses, but mostly because it doesn’t come naturally to me.  In my head, I imagine my ‘style’ as a cross between the Stevie Nicks gypsy queen and the Katharine Hepburn tomboy.  In reality, it’s more like a cross between thrift store and ‘mom in a mop commercial.’  I just can’t get the hang of it.  Getting all dolled up, to me, means brushing my teeth and hair, tossing my clothes in the dryer to smooth out the biggest wrinkles, and maybe adding some lip gloss before I head out the door.

Thankfully, Mr. Stuck prefers my no-makeup look to a painted face, so I’m off the hook there.  I never could apply it, anyway.  My sister tried to help me with that when I was a teen, but I never felt confident with makeup.  I’m sure the foundation, mascara, and blush in my makeup bag are all over 10 (uh, 15?) years old.  Not sure why I haven’t thrown it all away yet.  Note to self: throw it all away.

Going shopping for new clothes should be fun, and sometimes it is, but mostly I feel like I’m settling for things I don’t really like and that don’t really suit me.  Clothes that I like on the rack are often not right for me when I put them on.  And now that I’m a woman of a certain age, I’ve decided some things are off-limits.  I’m not trying to look twenty-five or even thirty-five.

Then again, I don’t want to wear lavender pantsuits, either.

Life was easier with jeans and sweatshirts.  Having to step up my game is an ongoing challenge, so I’ve had to adopt some basic rules for work clothes.  Slacks are fine, as long as the length is right and they don’t make me look like I’m 6 months pregnant.  (I yearn for pockets in all of my pants, but I am willing to forego them for just this reason.)  Sweaters are my staple, as long as they’re not itchy.  I tend to stick with black, grey and navy, but I’ll throw in red or blue once in a while.  I love scarves, so that’s where I mostly use color.  Color, as I explained earlier, is a minefield for me.

I once met a lady who came to my home as a guest.  I’ve long since forgotten her name, but I will never forget how she looked:  she was a natural redhead of the bronze variety, and everything about her outfit, hair, makeup and nails complemented her coloring perfectly.  In talking with her, I found out that she was a color consultant.  This was back in the 1980’s, when seasonal color analysis was very popular, and the book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson was everywhere.  The bronze bombshell offered to consult with me, but her fee was far more than I could afford at the time, so I declined.  In light of my subsequent wardrobe malfunctions, I wish I had hired her.

Maybe I would still look like Mop Mom in a Macklemore video, but at least I’d be color-coordinated.

Thank goodness for Casual Fridays.



image credit: wjarrettc

Voices in My Head.


Dad says, Don’t get overconfident.

Mom says, You’re too smart for your own good.

Grade school me says, Why are they so mean to me?

Middle school me says, I’ll never be one of them.  I hate myself.

High school me says, I wish I was beautiful and popular instead of dorky.

College me says, You’re a dropout.  You can’t finish anything you start.

Mom me says, I wish I had been a better mom.  I have so many regrets.

Conscience says, Follow the rules.

The child says, It’s too hard.  I don’t want to do it anymore.

Work me says, I hope I don’t screw up.

Fat Girl says, You’ll never be good enough.  You’ll always be fat.

Orphan says, I wonder if they’re proud of me.

Insomniac me says, I feel like a fake.  What if they find out what I really am?

Wife me says, I’m not who I used to be.

The mirror says, I look and sound like my mother.  I’m getting old.


Optimist me says,

“Keep your head up. You can do it. It gets easier. Don’t listen to them.”



image credit frankieleon

It’s Okay To Be Sad.

Dad, Wendy, and Mom - Dec 1996
Dad, Wendy, and Mom – Dec 1996


It’s nearing the 16-year anniversary of the train crash, which is always a time of great emotion and introspection for me. I think a lot about what life has been like for me and my family since that day, and I think about how far we’ve come. As time has passed, the loss has become easier to bear, and I’ve been able to view more clearly the blessings it carried.

I wanted to write my post about that, about blessings, but I fought for every word that I typed. It felt like I was choking. I hate that. If it’s not there, it’s just not there. I can’t force it. So, I changed direction.

Talked to my sis about it a little. She lives in the folks’ old homestead and she says she feels them there all the time. That makes it tough for her sometimes, but it is a comfort, as well. I think we’ve all moved on enough in our lives that the anniversary is not as profoundly difficult as it was. We all observe it differently, anyway. It’s a day where I do a lot of navel-gazing and thinking.

Last year, going to my friend’s wedding was the best thing that could have happened. It really helped me manage my feelings. It’s not as if I hide under the covers and sob all day like I used to, but I am still so very sad and lonely on that day. Well, to be honest, the whole month is kind of blue. With the possible exception of my birthday, I just have an underlying emptiness this time of year.

I just miss them so damned much.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or anything – that’s not it at all. I just feel the need to say it out loud. It’s a validation of the love and the loss and the empty space.

The whole month carries a kind of fog that descends at the end of February. I have to consciously redirect my thoughts to happier things, which often is more easily said than done. I coach myself to put on a smile and be cheerful when I feel it coming on. I talk myself through the day, a moment at a time. When I’m at work, sometimes I take a walk for a few minutes to get some fresh air and clear my head. Sometimes that works, and sometimes I end up in the bathroom stall with tears rolling down my face. That has happened more times than I care to admit.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with grief. I’m not the only one who has lost a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse. I know you’re out there, crying silently in the dark, biting your quivering lip, wishing you could turn back time. I know you still want to hear their voices and feel their hugs. I know you steal glances at families and couples and happy strangers and your face burns with envy or regret. I know the ache that really does feel like your heart has broken in two. And whether it’s been a week, or a year, or a decade or two, it doesn’t matter — because sometimes, it feels like now and it feels like then at the same damned time.

It’s been 16 years, and I still hurt, and the depth of my grief still scares me. I’ve come to accept that it will always be there, and I’ve even come to the realization that it has done me some good, but it’s still unwelcome. I mean, come on — by this time, I’m supposed to be done with it, right?

Wrong. Five years, ten years, twenty years down the road, it’ll still be there, and I’ll still struggle with it. There is no closure. I don’t care what people say — I don’t believe it. You move on, you get past the worst of it, and your life takes a different turn. But the issue isn’t closed and it isn’t resolved. It’s unfinished, like a half-built highway overpass that looms ahead – a bridge to nowhere. There is no end.

I wrote back in October that I have sort of an inner governor that keeps me from going off the deep end and drowning in my sorrow. That’s true. But it doesn’t protect me from the heartache. Most of the time, I function at the level I’m supposed to. But sometimes, a big rolling wave crashes over me, and it’s a day or two before I can breathe again.

I miss them with every hair and bone and piece of flesh that I am.

I’m here to say that it does get better, yes. The worst passes, even when we are quite certain we won’t survive. Healing is slow, and a broken heart is never quite whole again, but I think that’s okay.

And it’s okay that sometimes I still break down in the ladies’ room, and it’s okay that my throat catches when I talk about my Daddy.

It’s okay to be emotional when you need to be.

It’s okay to be sad. It won’t last forever.





The Launch.

Confession: while I am not wallowing in the slop called self-pity, I have dipped a toe or two in the last number of weeks.  I admit to some intermittent navel gazing and heavy sighing.  You see, I have just joined the legion of parents whose offspring has done flown the nest.  Number Young Son just moved out.

It’s been coming for a while now, so it’s no surprise, but it’s been hard for me to let go (also no surprise).  He’s smart and capable and has a direction he wants to go; it’s time to let him take the reins.  But still, as many, perhaps most or all, mothers can attest — it is nice to be needed.  Necessary, even.  So although I’m proud of him and happy for him, I’m also feeling sorry for myself that it came so soon.  Even though it didn’t.  My sister says I’m experiencing the early stages of the ‘launch’ syndrome.  I suppose that would be the opposite of the ‘failure to launch’ syndrome, right?

He and his best friend went out and applied for work together.  They snagged a couple of jobs at the same place.  They scouted around for a place to live near where they want to attend college; once they found it, they worked while waiting for it.  Now they’re moved in, living the life.

I’ve been remembering how it was when I moved out (ahem – thirty years ago); first I lived with my boyfriend’s sister, whose cat loathed me, and then I moved out alone.  For awhile I had a roommate and a view of the water, but mostly I liked having my own place.  I loved being the mistress of my domain.  I wanted to prove that I was capable of making good decisions and showing maturity.  I had a good job, and I had a good time; I stayed up too late and I spent too much money.  I hope NYS has the same great experiences.

Okay, enough of the reverie.

So, as any mother would, I shopped for things that I thought the apartment would need, that maybe the guys wouldn’t think of.  I’m sure they would have done fine; they had been given a great deal already.  Yes, I went a little crazy, but I was at the thrift store and the outlet store, so I got good deals.  I think I did it more for me than for them; it seemed therapeutic at the time.

Besides, while I was at the outlet store, I saw a large selection of orange cookware.  My niece is gaga over orange.  So I let her know, and she’s headed there this weekend.  I should get a commission!

Mr. Stuck is all for this change.  He’s more pragmatic than I.  He has been coaching me for years to relax and let go, and I’m just not very good at it.  Life with teenagers is all ups and downs and very confusing.  You don’t know from one day to the next whether your kid loves you or hates you; you realize you no longer speak the same language as the kid does; and you realize that the only thing that will help is opening the door, standing back and letting it happen.  The cycle of life continues.

Boy, is it tough.



photo credit mikebaird