I Learned More than Just How to Cinch a Waist on The Today Show

TodaySHowSo the title up there may be a bit of a stretch… sorta. Two weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure of being asked to help out with a Today Show style segment wherein Rockstar Stylist Denise Caldwell would teach the world some tricks for dressing slimmer.

I got to go hang out with some B List celebs (and Amy Adams) that were also there for taping, as I sat in the chaos of  what I’m guessing is the B List green room for a bunch of hours and absorb all there is to absorb backstage at my favorite morning show. It was all I could do not to totally FanGirl out and spend the entire morning taking pictures of name plates, sitting in Willie Geist’s chair and asking the hair and makeup people to dish on celebs. Holding in that enthusiasm was the greatest acting role I have ever had.

In the weeks leading up to my appearance, I had a bit of an existential crisis. I mean, I am just a church-working mom who isn’t particularly fit at the moment. Why the heck was I going on national television for a style segment? Granted, I wasn’t the one giving advice (Although, I could have. I’ve dressed this body for many years.) but I still somehow felt like they were going to figure out I didn’t belong and cancel the whole gig.

I have always loved fashion. When I was younger, I had every plan to make a career in it. Then, for whatever reason I went a different way and ever since, no matter how much I dabble,  I have felt unworthy of returning. Lately, it has been both because I’ve been out of the game for a while and I no longer see myself as someone who fits the mold. So I write the occasional piece here about clothes and I try to do makeup tutorials here and there, but I largely leave “Style Blogging” to the young and or skinny, accepting it is not my place in the world and then trying to justify it by the fact that my day job isn’t really in line with the frivolity of dresses, hand bags and mascara.

Then, that morning as I sat in that makeshift greenroom I realized it does all fit in line because it’s all me. The enthusiasm I felt that morning is the same one I feel when I really connect with a family at work or write a really good post about Social Good or cooking or money. That burning in my chest that day was the same one I feel whenever I am passionate about something and just because in this case it was something frilly and fun doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of my passion.

I can be a mom and a church lady and over 40 and not a size two and still have a deep love of all things designer. There is a difference between loving it and worshipping it and as long as I keep myself in the world of the former without letting it take over my life, all of these passions can live congruently within this one “bosomly blessed” girl.

I had to write about a reason that I loved a style website the other day and my answer was that the community was inclusive, meaning everyone had access to loving style, no matter who they are or where they come from. Maybe now that even includes me.

That means you can look forward to more posts about trends and fashion and all things frilly and fun right alongside the social good and money and food. Because, Reinvention is nothing if not inclusive, of all sides of you.

Post-Op: Lessons Learned

This is my life for the next two days. Books, remotes, (Thank God the new FIreStick arrived!) pills and a breathing apparatus. Good times.

This is my life for the next two days. Books, remotes, (Thank God the new FIreStick arrived!) pills and a breathing apparatus. Oh, and a GwynnieBee card for clothes shopping of course! Good times.

Last Tuesday I went to work for a few hours and abruptly dragged all of my kids out with me 60 minutes after we arrived because I felt like I had been hit by a truck and I was 99% sure I was having a heart attack. My chest hurt, my upper back hurt, I was having trouble breathing and I started sweating, just sitting there at my desk. The inner monologue raging in my head vacillated between berating myself for overreacting and managing how to write quick directions for the raising of children after I was gone.
Depending on your view point, either the reasonable or the overreacting part of me won out and I dropped my kids to a neighbor and got myself to the ER. Before you go crazy about me driving myself to the ER, know that I live about 3 blocks away so it was safe. Also, I’ve had an ambulance come and take my own mother away, and there was no way I would let that happen to my kids if I had any power to avoid it.
Long story short, the incredibly quick and competent people at the hospital ruled out any kind of coronary issues almost as soon as I walked in the door, and then nearly as quickly diagnosed this horrible pain as a gallbladder attack. After some more tests, and me putting two and two together and realizing that I’ve been suffering from these attacks (at much more mild levels) for two years, it was decided I should have surgery to remove my galllbladder. I managed to push them off for a few days so I could be home for Christmas and my Middle One’s birthday but surgery was scheduled for Monday.
Now, my Inner Health Coach was skeptical about removing part of my digestive system, even though everyone assured me it was no big deal. In the end though, the thought of eliminating the recurrence of that pain won out and I decided to go ahead with the procedure, even if it meant altering my diet going forward.
And now, in recovery mode where I am forced to sit on my couch and do nothing (ish) I have lots of time to sit and think. This is never good! What I learned is that maybe I need to push harder for medical solutions before I end up in the ER. I’ve been to the doctor multiple times complaining about this pain. I’ve been sent for chest xrays and cardiologist appointments but never once has the word galldbladder come up. Over time, I had just accepted the pain as a routine part of my life until the day it got so bad I didn’t even recognize it as the same.
At the hospital yesterday they just kept remarking on how “otherwise healthy” I was. They marveled at the fact that I was even in for this surgery for some reason. The surgeon took pictures to show us because it went so well. They sent me home very quickly after it because I was “healthy” enough to be better off at home.
I need to stop assuming I’m unhealthy.

I’m seeing that I let my weight gain literally weigh on me. I  blame myself and accept any ailment as some sort of punishment for my bad choices and lack of self control.

Pardon my language, but how F***** up is that?!?
What’s even crazier is that I am just now realizing it. I have always been a pretty happy girl, or at least I try to be. My weight, while it bothers me, has never really stopped me from doing anything. After, all I just the day before my ER trip took my plus-sized self onto television. (More on that later!)
But over the last week, this medical deal and the perfect timing of two blog posts that were illuminating to say the least, all have me thinking about myself in a very different way. While my weight has never really stopped me from doing activities, it may very well have stopped me from treating myself well. Blaming myself for everything. Refusing to take care of myself because I clearly “earned or deserved” whatever pain or ailments I experienced. I accepted mediocrity as a way of physical life when I’ve made it my mission to refuse to accept mediocrity in any other area of my life.
So, this week I’ll take the doctors’ advice and go slow and rest and maybe, even try to begin the process of healing, not just my gallbladder, but my whole sense of self.

Let’s Talk About White Privilege

I used to have a hard time entering conversations about racial inequality wherein whites are oppressors. I grew up the poor kid in the rich kid school and that school was not
Lily White. I had the great fortune of growing up in a culturally diverse school system. So I made the mistake of thinking my generation was “doing the race thing better”.
I was wrong.
See, I misunderstood Privilege. To me, privilege meant access to places not everyone could go. I didn’t attend the best colleges. I didn’t travel. I didn’t wear designer clothes. I had to work for what I had starting very young.
I thought that helped me understand being a minority. I thought simply because we were the have nots in a very have environment, that meant somehow I was closer to my black and brown friends.

I was pretty damn clueless.

This made me defensive and angry whenever anyone suggested I might be part of the ongoing racial problems. Somehow, I was the oppressor and I just refused to swallow that.
Then, I had kids and I started watching other moms to learn from them. That’s when I saw it.

Privilege has nothing to do with what is, and everything to do with what was and what could be.

In all our broke-ness as a family when I was young, we were never looked down on as if we somehow deserved our economic position. In fact, my mom was supported at every turn. She was given two jobs to help care for us. Did she deserve them? Probably, but not because she was white. Did she get them because she was white? Maybe not. But would she have gotten them if she wasn’t?

If my mother was a single mother of six who suddenly needed work after years of “doing nothing” at home with kids and she was black, would she have had two administrative jobs available to her immediately upon my father’s death? How about one where she was fully in charge of the money? Probably not.
That’s privilege.
How about those moms I watch now? My friends of color who raising kids right alongside me. When our babies are out together as teens, doing the stupid stuff kids are apt to do, will my kids fear for their lives if they’re caught? Probably not. Will theirs? You can be sure.
I’ve never had to teach my kids how to behave differently for authority. Sure, I teach them manners and proper behavior, just like my friends of color teach their kids. But I have never told my kids they can’t dress a certain way because it may warrant abuse by authority.

I’m sure my friends have.
That’s privilege.
In my town, my white friends worry about the safety of their kids on bikes at night because of busy traffic. My black and brown friends worry that if their kids are out at night they may be stopped by police because they look suspicious-in their own neighborhood.

My kids never look suspicious. I have never looked suspicious. That’s privilege.

So what? What now? This isn’t meant to shame or point fingers of illicit guilt. It’s meant to spur thought and action.
I hope we can all agree the stuff that’s going down in Ferguson is unacceptable. For all of us. Mostly because it’s not actually that rare, or surprising. That may be the worst part.
So what do we do about it?
I’m brought back to something a priest said when addressing our responsibilities for all the problems in the world.
Start small.
Have a conversation. A real one that may be horribly uncomfortable but is so, so necessary. Ask questions. I plan to . I don’t know what the heck I can do to be part of the change that is so necessary, but I know I have to be part of it, so I plan to find out how from all those friends of color I keep talking about.
For a long time I was afraid to say this stuff out loud. I lectured my kids about equality and fair treatment. But I was afraid to speak up in front of anyone else, afraid of confrontation, afraid I’d lose friends.
After all, I remember how terrible these facts of privilege made me feel and I was afraid of pushing them on others.
Over the years, I have removed people from my life that outwardly disagree with the way I feel about this. Currently, If you’re spewing outrage or justification on social media about 50cent cigar theft and looting, you’re probably not in my feed anymore. I’ve quietly removed you.

There is no justification for a boy being gunned down and left in the street like road kill. None.

I can’t sit here quiet anymore. This racism is real. It’s old and it’s deep and it’s real. Even if you and I don’t think we’re perpetuating it, we just might be through our tacit silence. It’s time we stand up with all those black friends we claim to have when we need them. It’s time us white folks did something.
Quiet nothing is no longer an option.
My kids should be just as cautious about stealing from a convenience store as my neighbors’ kids. Because stealing is wrong. Not because they might get shot for it.

Navigating a Heavy Heart

Lately, I’ve been galavanting around The country for various work opportunities. I want to write about them all. I want to tell you about fashion, and toys and apps for your finances and your fashion and your toys.
But it’s hard. Not hard in the way that work is always hard, time consuming and tedious, but hard in a perspective kinda way. See, in between all this galavanting, I’m reading news accounts of horrific anti-Semitism that is weighing on my heart and mind. Somehow writing about the week at Catholic camp, where talk of our history shows we’re one degree of separation from Jews yet seemingly doing nothing to curb the global violence, feels wrong.
When I begin to wonder if there isn’t something I could do to use this space to speak up, I check in on Facebook and see friends who have tragically lost loved ones to diseases that need cures and suddenly the latest fall-fashion trend feels a little frivolous.
Let’s not forget, in between work, I’m in school where I am immersed in mental illness and the multicultural inadequacies of our care for those in our systems.
Organic toothpaste review anyone?
I don’t write hard news so to cover these topics feels forced, like I’m not educated enough for it.
I’m also not very funny, so I can’t be the post-9-11 Saturday Night Live and continue doing what I do so people have a place to escape the real world.
I have the great fortune of being able to write about what I think about here on this blog. It is always a privilege and often very fun.
Except when all that I’m thinking about isn’t very fun at all.
I’ll get back to writing soon. I have a lot of cool things to share. I just need to work on how to balance them with all the larger thoughts in my head.

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