Personal style is a journey (with or without Birkenstocks).

target style 2015 thirty grown up fashion personal style

My mom wore Birks when I was a kid. My aunts did too. It was the only shoe I probably could name and I saw them on many people (think, early 90s) and my mom had them too.

As I grew up I realized this would only happen when something was fantastically made and comfortable, reasonably priced (keeping quality in mind) AND trendy. For my mom to purchase and wear them and me to recognize them. So it was a rare occurance.

Who would have thought I’d grow up to care about clothes and style and fashion? Or, how could I not? Maybe it’s because I notice everything. I take in all available information and I chronicle it and refer to it later for further information or–often–analyzing. Style and appearance say so much.

(Two other things I’d like to say right here are: style also hides so much; the line between inferring and judging is awful hard to discern.)

My personal style is fluid, always. But I’ve come to know a few things about myself (or, “become able to know” because style is heavily influenced by other personal factors: age, income, culture, religion, body shape/size/function, etc.) and that includes a love for: cognac shoes, comfort and quality, items that work multiple seasons and occasions, and some kind of perpetual formal/casual combo. Also, bright nails and color coordination. And fit and flattery. And I’m working really hard to figure out this “invest in classics and signature items (buy back-ups!), but go to Fovever 21 for trends and to test ride”.

I may have just summed up my personal style for the first time since I would have considered myself to have one–and it would entail an answer beyond: “Zumiez” or “Charlotte Russe”.

So anyway, Birkenstocks came back like a year or so ago and I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always noticed people who continued to wear Birks and watched with some semblance of sadness as the women in my life slowly drifted in a different fashion direction. There’s something nostalgic in me about them. Obviously. And they are pretty much totally my personal style. Talked about it even brings out my inner valley girl.

There’s one thing about growing up and into yourself and that’s knowing that you can’t wear everything anymore (actually, very few of us ever could). And that “making it work” with something you love but don’t feel great in just isn’t worth it over the long term. And then there’s the financial investment/misstep piece of it.

Plus, seasons. Seasons and weather are a big part of fashion and often heavily influence style. So when I began thinking Birks late last summer and didn’t really need them and the price was something to consider, I held off.

But the days are growing longer now. And my toes are freshly self-painted as of yesterday. I’m looking ahead at a road trip to Cali next week and happened to be out at Target this morning, my first brush with society since I went home sick from work Thursday. These definitely cute knock-offs were on sale for $20 and I snatched them right up. For all the reasons mentioned thus far.

Also, I’m thirty now and that means sometimes I try a trend on for size (or comfort or appropriateness or frequency of use) and then upgrade to the “real”/better/nicer/etc. thing.

This blog post is dedicated to my dear husband who will likely never understand the multifaceted role clothes and accessories and style and appearance play for me, but also never mentions my credit card bill. He only mildly roles his eyes when I get multiple packages delivered and return the majority of it and was the first person to tell me I might like Stitch Fix.

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Productivity Junkie

Please tell me many of you out there have a constant and at times intrusive need to “do something” with your day. The intensity of this urge has ebbed and flowed through my life thus far. In recent years I have been able to understand and implement the need for rest and recovery. Thus, I’ve discovered the battle of productivity now versus productivity later (please also tell me it is standard that this takes approximately thirty years or two children, or one child and a full-time job, whichever comes first) and the conflicting classification of rest as something productive.

Please tell me that sorta-not-really dichotomy throws others.

productivity junkie quote paul j. meyerSometimes I get the productivity urge on days or during times when I’m prioritizing rest (rest can and should be occasionally synonymous with “de-stress”). When I’ve lifted enough, worked enough, cooked enough, slept enough, mothered and partnered and socialized enough (or cut my losses in one or more of any given category). That window of an hour or the fleetingly rare day of minimal responsibility. It is my chance. To read a book, to watch a trashy TV show, to start a project, to stare at my phone, to numb out, to stretch out, to take a walk, to clean/organize, to cook for leisure, to shop. To write.

Please tell me I’m not the only one that longs for an expanse of that. A vacation of joy and fulfillment and choice and connection. And comfort. And potentially children in places and spaces and doses (but mostly volume) of my choosing.

Sometimes when I want to do something with my day I also want to do a few things with my day. Now, I know I’m not the only one who tends to multitask. And so there’s the writing. The way I can be productive with the resting. When I can stretch my mind and my voice while resting my body. When I can hear from my heart and check in on my soul and be sure that I am still myself, at least in some parts and some spaces.

And afterward it’s not too far off from that post-workout high. Or crossing something you’ve been kinda dreading doing off your list. With something immediate to show for it. And, in my case, share. Because some days nothing comes.

And, like anything else, you get out the time you put in. The more I am able to write, the more I want to, the more confident I become and the more risks I’m willing to take. The bigger my dreams become. Like anything else.

On that note, I’m feeling this little infographic today. If that’s even what this would be called. This very accurately depicts the fluid and rigid, temporary and/or constant–potentially situational–confines within which I am perpetually: living, pushing, experimenting, striving, minimizing and/or ignoring.

It’s no wonder sometimes exhaustion sets in and immune systems fail us and I find myself sitting and resting and being…and writing.

productivity junkie biohack wellness health life balance work goals sleep simplicity intention quote infographic working woman mom motherhood modern day life

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Sunday Night.

I’m not a fan. Because, working mom now. Maybe stay at home moms aren’t fans either. But in my experience there’s some level of relief, of a return to normalcy, at least a chance to tackle the laundry.

Not anymore. But we get by.

And Sunday evenings become next to sacred. Often we are borderline comatose before a family friendly movie with either a “snack dinner” or whatever I’ve made to eat all week (or, more likely, both since our kids eat like two things I cook. Bacon is one of them. Nachos are the other); sometimes any one person could have an oddly timed nap or we are shaking off a social engagement. Occasionally (and unfortunately!) we are still working on chores like laundry or cooking or prepping for our bi-weekly house cleaning. And that’s just because second grade homework is due on Fridays.

Tonight I made a dinner. My littlest girl (4) helped. Her sister and dad tried it, perhaps even liked it. We ate together at the table. We had a happy mix of productive and restorative day. Sprinkled with many conversations that I’m always sure have changed the course of my daughters’ lives or at the very least allowed me to dust of my shoulder and feel like I’m not doing such a bad job at the mom thing.

And after dinner we listened to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. Ali (7.5) danced with and innocence I can practically see evaporating off of her, an intensity I hope never leaves her, and yet an awareness I recognize and reflexively return Emmy played with playdough and bopped happily and turned on a dime when provoked. She spent all weekend showing her honed differences from her sister. And intriguing me in four all over again. And the dog whined and played and cuddled and slept. And we watched and were. Parents. Building and giving this life to them, that we then began/have to survive and slap together and occasionally muddle through. With those rare moments where time stops and we are okay and this will forever be a part of us.

And our kids are growing up. And will never stop.

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#momwrinkles

I posted this picture on Facebook and Instagram this weekend. Actually, on Valentine’s Day. I commented on how big my second grader looks, both in general and specifically with her hair pulled back. And then I looked at the picture a bit longer. And I commented: #momwrinkles.

It wasn’t a slight on myself in the least. It was merely an observation…and, yeah, a bit of a loaded one. I have a lot of thoughts about those wrinkles. I have a lot of feelings about this whole getting older thing.  And both come up looking at this photo.

First of all, my kid is huge. And yet, she’s still a kid. She’s the smallest she’ll ever be again and she’s the biggest kid I’ve had. She’ll always be. When I look at her in this picture I see myself, my sisters, her little girl self and her not too far into the future adolescent self. I see a young lady that is sweet and strong and very serious (but still silly). She feels big and wonders wide. She sisters incredibly. She may have a tendency to go from zero to sixty in a flash. She’s every part of me I longed to mother and nearly every piece that I’d venture made me hard to mother.

I see her face changing. I see her permanent teeth and her freckles that grow by the year. I see the budding knowledge behind her eyes. I see my eight and almost a half years of living my life for her. I see all the sacrifice and none of the pain. I see the successes. I carry the happy memories and the lessons learned and the strength added to the people and the relationships and the family. Often, we wear the pride. And our kids know don’t even know that’s part of the being them, being us–the pride we wear for having made it here.

And then I look at me. In some ways I’m at my best. In some ways I’ve begun to show my wear and tear. But not, like in a falling-apart way. More like a worn-in way. Like a pair of leather shoes. Settling in for the long haul. Blurring at the edges for your own benefit (and for some, sanity). Signaling the living. That knowing.

I also see the unknown in my eyes. I am not sure where this kid will take us. But I still see the trust in hers. That she will be taken care of. That her parents still [mostly] know best.

I don’t love the wrinkles. But I don’t mind their meaning. I am grown now. I may not want to be, but to have a girl like this it must mean I am. I am happy with where the years have taken me, or…where I have taken the years. You don’t hit thirty with a second grader without wrinkles and gray to show for it (or if you do/did, I don’t fucking want to know). The sentiments of age and growth–and especially wisdom–are beyond beauty.

But I can still cringe a teeny bit.

Or smile a tad less in photos.

Also my eyebrows are on point, my hair is kind of amazing, and the lipstick polka dot dress combo (with a trench on top?!) cannot be beat. I might need to start wearing that every day.

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That really important thing I didn’t learn in social work school.

This post came to me last night as I was flirting with sleep. The past few months have tortured me in a way I’ve struggled to put my finger on or put words to. I am constantly looking inside myself to figure out why I care so much, why I am holding on so tight, why I feel this so deeply and experience attachment so intensely.

working mom health dinner happy fit trim boundaries limits perfect imageAm I the problem?

Is there something so off in my life that I need this to go smoothly?

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure of my answer to either of the above questions. But I am certain I’ve stumbled upon a life/career truth that is integral to the work I’ve done, am doing, and have seen my peers do.

And no one is talking about it.

No, it’s not work/life balance. It’s not even a modern-day working mom-type thing.

But both of those plays parts.

It’s about investing in the work you do…and inevitably leaving a piece of yourself behind. It’s about walking away. It’s about “changing assignments” and “budget reductions” and hopefully not for many out there: layoffs. It’s even about promotions, lateral transfers, job offers. It goes hand-in-hand with opportunities that one cannot pass up.

How do you love the work, sacrifice for the job, care for the population, enmesh with the co-workers, depend on the predictable…and then move on. How?

In grad school we talked a ton about landing that first job. Because I was in a leadership track we even talked about moving up the ladder. But the focus was always on the next rung, the new workplace, the completely attainable integration. Not on the shift, the detaching, the disconnect, the empty promises, the halfhearted attempts, the fond memories. Likely the relief. The process of a professional good-bye.

I’m lucky to not work directly with clients. So in that regard I have no current comment. I can only hope the client portion of this piece is taught on, trained on, talked upon and about often. And that the affect this has on the professional is trumpeted just as loudly.

I’m currently in the middle of an upcoming career change that has me stopped in my tracks, frozen. Maybe it would be better if I knew which direction the wind was about to blow. Maybe if that was the case I’d know which foot to lead with, which world to invest in. But I don’t. And I’m stuck.

I’m surprised at how it’s affected me. I’ve both disengaged and overcompensated. I’m sitting with incredible ambiguity and intense clarity. I’ve swam through more waves of apathy in the first five weeks of 2015 than the past eight years combined. It’s possible I care so much that I’ve somehow beckoned the winter blues (or: February Fuck Yous), welcomed the faded but still familiar flood of feelings over uncertainty.

(Side note: apathy is a very active feeling. It’s hard fucking work not to care amidst a life you love, blessings you’ve built, chances you’ve taken, and opportunities you face. It’s a daring dress to slip into when you’ve grown yourself up to cherish the moments, herald the present, adore the children, revere the life.)

So I sit here, for the present (yes, that is a Ramona reference). This has to pay off right? I will be stronger for it. I am amidst an opportunity to gaze for a moment deeper into that which makes me…me (and at times definitely not you). And it won’t be long before my direction is clear.

bold opportunity knock

But for this moment, I am half-invested with all that I have to invest. I am standing watch on professional grief. I am building walls and feeling out allies and reassessing enemies. I’ve gone somewhat primal and protective. And I’m crazy interested in every second of it, even as it tears me up (like a paper, or a heart; how funny that sentence can be unclear).

Mostly, I want us to talk about it. I want to explain it to people (mostly without the internet-appropriate vagueness) and how amazing and confusing and exhilarating and deflating it is. I want to study the moment and it’s infinite implications. I want to hold my breath and/or go underground until the kettle boils and I can safely read the leaves in my tea. If you’re good with analogies.

I want to be a good little social worker, public employee, professional “helper” and fully invest. I want to be plan-full and prepared and calm and whole. I want to be centered. I want to look people in the eye and lay my cards on the table (always!). I want to love my work, and spring out of bed Monday morning, and know I’ll miss my co-workers and workflow on a long weekend (though I’ll enjoy it). I’ve had that. That’s the kind of employee, social worker, working mother and woman I want to be.

I want to talk about the times when we can’t do that, can’t get there, can’t access that. And how we move forward then. Where we draw the lines and if there might be some eraser marks as we adjust where those lines fall.

And how we ever move them back again.

I worry a piece of us chips away each time. We’re slowly able to access less of our hope, spirit, excitement, passion, vitality, self. We begin to believe we know better, have seen more, “manage” more efficiently. We disengage gradually…or wildly swing back and forth. We internalize and countertransfer (as they say in grad school). We upgrade walls to forts. Our boundaries evolve to have holes the sizes of large animals. I worry about that.

I think I should go read Trauma Stewardship again. And write more. And quit making excuses not to meditate. And accept.

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