Dressing UP

Today’s the day I’ve been waiting for to share something very exciting with you!  My friend wrote a book. And it is a goodie!

This post is a shamelessly enthusiastic plug*  for it. It’s an e-book and it’s packed FULL of stuff you thought you already knew, but then realise you had no idea about. See, she’s that girl who knows her stuff when it comes to organising your wardrobe and your personal style at the same time. And she has put it together in a big bundle of colourful info and useful printables, just for girls like us!

I’m telling you about it because when you find a good thing, woman-code demands it is only right to share it with your friends.
This may just be exactly what you need to inject some calm into your New Year.
I know it has already changed mine.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of this before it went on sale. It got me from the morning ‘what do I wear?’ sigh …to a wardrobe high!   If you need some clever ideas on how to make your clothes work for you, this book may well become your new best friend (it even ‘reads’ like your good friend, the one who is practical but savvy, kind and smart).  If you need to know how to sort your wardrobe or even discover what your style is, in the first place, then it’s for you, too!

For years, my ‘style’ was all about dressing down. Trying to make myself invisible with various combinations of black or, on a daring day, neutrals.  I’d cover it all with a voluminous scarf and hope that no-one noticed me. Have you ever dressed like this?  Back then, my sense of self and fashion had been significantly de-railed by Pandysautonomia; six years of struggling to deal with nasty symptoms and the search for answers and treatment. I spent a lot of time in my pyjamas, or if I was going out, in jeans and t-shirts. I dressed up only occasionally.

Maybe you’re also unwell, or a busy mum (also challenging!) or uninspired. I can’t be the only one who has ever surveyed their wardrobe and lost the will to make an effort.  Over time I forgot how much I used to love fashion.  Forgot that colour makes me happy.

Since going into remission and discovering modelling, I’ve been converted into dressing UP; maybe it is all that trying on of things I would never necessarily pick up in a shop. It broke me out of my old habits. It makes me feel good now, to dress up. Better about myself. More put together. Stronger, more confident. To say that my wardrobe is fit to busting with the most ridiculous array of items now is an understatement because when I got well, I hit the shops running.

But could I find all this loveliness when I needed it? No. My wardrobe itself is sooo small, that’s an issue for sure, but there was no organisation or system going on in there. It was a scary place where all my fashion dreams went to die. I hated trying to come up with outfits I was happy with.

That’s why, when I heard that Monique would be sharing her wardrobe expertise via an e-book, I eagerly waved my hand and asked if I could preview it!  If you haven’t come across her before (she’s the boss lady who convinced me to do that swimsuit shoot), you can check out her style on her instagram feed or her blog. She’s got skills and she is a genuinely lovely person! You’ll like her, I promise.

 

But back to the issue at hand. You see my problem is,

I don’t like people seeing my bedroom.

Even my closest friends. It’s the bottom of my priority list in our home …and looks it, mostly because I can shut the door on it. The shortage of decent clothing storage has meant piles of things overflow from our tiny wardrobe into various stacks and baskets that litter the floor. The ironing table is permanently up, and serves as another place to ‘store’ things.  Argh! It’s a big mess.

I realise I have basically let you all see it, now I have described it!

I’ve dreamed about getting Monique over in her stylist capacity to do a ‘wardrobe edit’ but I can’t bear her seeing the way things are in here! The shame!

Well, Monique doesn’t want any of us to miss out on fashion freedom because of silly reasons like that! So she wrote her book for all of us. People who want to feel in control of their style, their wardrobe and their mornings but might feel embarrassed about their ‘before’ state. Her e-book is a kind, reassuring friendly voice full of practical and fascinating insight. You will thank yourself for getting into it.  I learned so much! I started clearing out that overwhelming fashion wilderness and I’m excited again about dressing up.  So many options I forgot were mine! Are you keen to fall in love with forgotten favourites again, too?

If you’d like to buy Monique’s e-book, there is an early bird special running for this week, where you can buy it for $20. That’s only like five coffees …or three smoothies. And it is worth every cent!  It has already saved me from buying more clothes.  The hubster is ecstatic!!

After the first week it will cost $24 (and is still totally worth it) but get in on the advance price and then you’ll have spare cash to buy me a thank you coffee later (!) Better make it takeaway so we can drink it while we take a tour through the wardrobe in my bedroom. Because now, you can come on in!

click here to check it out!

 

*full disclosure: if you make that (excellent) decision to click through from my blog and buy Monique’s e-book, I will receive an affiliate commission on the sale. I like to know these things when I am reading posts on other people’s blogs, so I’m telling you in case you do too.

Weightless

This is not a diet post. But it is all about how I shed some dead weight that was keeping me down.

It all began with blogging.

Some of my friends didn’t like me blogging, they felt it was too public, others commented that I had too much time on my hands or that it was narcissistic. Those comments stung. But blogging has proved to be one of the chief delights of my life. You see, as my health declined, so did my self esteem.  I felt that I grew less useful and more of a burden as time progressed. I watched myself get sicker and less mobile as if I was watching from outside of myself. And there was, at times, a kind of loathing I felt for the girl I saw living in my skin and dealing with those problems. She was living on a different planet, with a gravitational field ten times the weight of earth’s normal. She had sunk low, very low into the quagmire. And she didn’t think she would ever re-surface.

But blogging threw me a lifeline, it kept me present, it forced me to examine what was happening in my life. I smile now to think that becoming a blogger was actually accidental.

Building a blog was a brilliant thing for me to focus on. It brought me out of myself utterly and forced my brain to work in new ways. It gave me further writing opportunities and I had the chance to dabble again with rudimentary graphics, something I love to do. Almost as much as writing the posts!  And the writing was therapeutic. I was on a roll, but still interrupted by self doubt. Then, a few weeks into the course, I discovered blog stats.  A lot of bloggers don’t pay them any mind at all, they don’t like to look at them and they don’t like to attach meaning to them.  But for me, it was like an objective, definitive message every time I looked at them. For the first time in years, I had performance feedback. It was like water in the desert! And then people began to comment on my posts, and I had connection and conversation about my writing. It blew me away.

Since I started blogging (if you average it out) I’ve had 4000 hits a day, according to the stats provided by my web host.  So that is how it began.  My confidence started to grow because something as meaningless as numbers on a screen showed me that I don’t have to be cool to have something of worth to offer.  Well that is how I interpreted it. Every click on my site felt like validation! Blog stats are a funny thing. There’s a big difference between hits and page views, and purists who crunch numbers get really into all the permutations and details of all those stats. I actually don’t give a rats about the technical meaning of those stats. What they meant to me, was that I had something to give. People wanted to read my words.  And that was the beginning of seeing my worth as separate from my health.

Writing a blog opened up other opportunities for me too. I was accepted on to a Leadership Programme for people in the disability community. I was very excited to learn more about social leadership in the field of chronic and invisible illness. I hoped the leadership programme would help me to step into something much bigger than myself.  I listened to some of New Zealand’s most influential leaders in social change.  Every speaker gave me food for thought. Every reading taught me something new. But even better, that programme taught me something you only learn from experience. I learned in a very real way how to stand up for what I believe in. I learned that I can survive judgement and criticism, that it can help me to focus on my core values and test the things that I say are true for me.  I learned that sticking up for myself is empowering and builds strength. I learned that I can cop flak and carry on.  The lesson was painful, but it healed, and I grew.

That particular lesson would prove a very useful tool in my personal growth.  In August last year, I got the opportunity to embark on a new line of work; plus size modelling. It was extremely left field.  I have not felt beautiful for a long time, I wasn’t sure if my outer package could be considered a bankable commodity. But I got signed by Vivien’s Model Management at 41, older and fatter than I have ever been… yet healthier and happier than I remember being.

My year in the Leadership Programme had coincided with six months of immune modulation therapy and a further six months of oral steroid support. It kicked my immune system into line. I was in remission! And modelling, a preposterous concept the year before, was actually a possibility. I went for a test shoot in Sydney. I started work as a model for the agency 62Models.  In October, I volunteered to do a breast cancer fundraising lingerie calendar.  Something well outside of my comfort zone. We were photographed out at Ambury Park Farm on a blustery Sunday, lying in the grass in our bras and knickers. But I did not expect the publicity that it would bring.

 

Photograph by Mike Mikha for the NZ Plus Size Calendar by Regina and Peachtree
Photograph by Mike Mikha for the NZ Plus Size Calendar by Regina and Peachtree

Fatness is a fact of western society. We live in a world of plenty, we are time poor and we are sedentary. We are yet to grapple with the problems that obesity brings us as a country, but let me just address the elephant in the room (no pun intended), it is a real problem.  More than 60% of women are over size 14 and considered ‘plus size’ by our fashion industry; but that doesn’t mean over 60% of women are obese. My own fatness is the result of six years of illness, medications and an inability to exercise. And my love of cake!  I acknowledge the facts of my fat. It would be better for my body if I was not this heavy, yet I am. And my size does not dictate my worth. I don’t celebrate my fat. But I do celebrate having womanly curves and stepping into body confidence regardless of size. I do celebrate honouring our bodies for what they do for us instead of putting ourselves down. These bodies go through so much, and often things out of our control. Fat is a complex issue.

Media interest in the plus size lingerie calendar resulted in a long discussion on TV3s facebook page. A number of people wrote deeply hateful things about fat girls in their comments. I watched with dismay as the brave, lovely ladies who posed with me for such a good cause, became targeted by the comments levelled at the models.

“They should all be taken back to the farm and trained like the pigs they are”

“I would not want any of these women to be role models for my daughter”

My dismay was not about the comments, although they are awful. My dismay was that some of the girls were letting nasty words decimate their sense of self. Opinions are cheap. I see now that any person delivering criticism at my door has to be someone I really respect for it to hurt. I know this, because I wasn’t hurt in the slightest. In fact, I wanted everyone to ignore those comments rather than bite back. I have reached a place where criticism has found it’s proper place in my head. Realising that I wasn’t hurt by those words made me pause and think about how far I have come.

I’m just being me. Doing my thing. Using my voice about the things that I feel strongly about. My voice won’t always agree with everyone else’s. My thing won’t always be your cup of tea. Who I am might cause you discomfort or make you feel like judging me. And finally, at this ripe old age, I am okay with that. When I started blogging in May of 2014, I had no idea that I was really starting a journey in knowing who I am, what I stand for, and what I will put up with. I had no idea that I was girding myself with the truth of who I am as a human being. Learning how to activate my force field and deflect the worthless words of detractors.

If you are feeling weighed down and your self esteem is at an all time low, please find something to do that brings you joy. Take a step into the passions that give you a sense of success and provide you with useful feedback about who you truly are. Every single person on this planet is worthy, has something to give and a soul purpose.  Ignore those stupid detractors in your head or in your ear. Tell them where to go. You have much more to do than spend your life anchored to a negative perception of yourself. Find your thing. Find your self.  Let go of the shackles and heavy burdens you carry, you’d be surprised how much easier it is to travel without the weight of all that.

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Here is one of my favourite songs of all time, oh James Taylor! I referred to it in a competition I entered the other day run by a NZ designer label, Euphoria, it’s all about how confidence is beautiful. If you are interested in helping me out with a vote,  you can find my entry heremine is the one titled ‘Up On the Roof’. 🙂

…and listen to this soul-weight-lifting song all about getting away from the quagmire, here:

Hope Floats

_...just give hope a chance to float up.

There’s always something happening.  Something threatening to pull us under.

Sometimes it is big enough or politically scary enough to warrant getting onto our news service. Where we can watch it through our shiny big screens and then turn away, horrified.  Soundbytes of a few seconds aimed at providing the juiciest details, so that even children can grasp it all. But we can carry on breathing air, scented with the pine Christmas tree; we get up and move into another room.  Guiltily move our thumbs across to the ‘off’ button.  Get on with our pre-Christmas to do lists.

It’s overwhelming to think of the things that are always going on, somewhere in our world. When I contemplate the number of human beings that are being tortured, raped, imprisoned, separated forever from their loved ones, killed. I don’t want to stay with those thoughts.  I don’t want to consider the reality of all that bad news.  My mother heart feels it personally.  Knows, that for the people inside those news stories, it won’t finish in time for the next headline. Their stories will go on to affect them and their families for generations. It’s a big and painful reality. Small wonder we choose not to watch.  How fortunate we are that we get to choose not to, to postpone considering these harsh realities… until later, when we don’t have the small ones beside us, asking questions from those beautiful, wide-eyed faces.  Not yet.  I don’t want to explain all that to them yet.

In my own little world, I cling to the presence of a strange hope that is always there, tugging me upward.  It is such a buoyant human trait. It is an odd thing, when we are all mortal, that we have developed this protection mechanism from the brutal truth.  We are all subject to tragedy, suffering, loss.  At some point in our lives, our exemption cards will run out and we will be visited by human heartache.  It’s a guarantee. It might not reach the news. It might not be considered newsworthy. But that moment might carry the worth of our entire human experience, or those of our loved ones. In that moment when suffering comes to visit, the worthiness of our own story will be carried by us, or by our loved ones.  In the fragility of our fragment of mortality.

I am always staggered by how hope renews itself, in the face of terrible odds. I remember, that movie with Harry Connick Junior and Sandra Bullock …not the storyline, but the title… ‘Hope Floats’, it has always stayed with me, that title.  How true it is.  We can be sinking in the quagmire, far from the light, drowning in despair.  We can be pulled under by the terrible things that have been hitting the headlines.  The realities of life with a progressive illness. The sadnesses and tragedies experienced by friends in our close circles this year, and the wider circles in our community, our country, our world.  We can think about all those difficult things, and when we feel ourselves going under, we can grab hold of our flotation device and float back up to the surface.  Our lungs fill with fresh air, our faces turning to the sunlight. We can believe that it is possible, all over again.

It’s not perfect.  But sometimes I reckon hope might just be the best mechanism our human race has as we hurtle through time on this little blue planet. Hope is bigger than love, because it comes in when we love is lost to us. Hope is bigger than peace, because it makes it possible for wars to end.  Hope is bigger than understanding, because we can’t always understand why people hurt people. Why people get sick.  Why suffering happens. Hope keeps us afloat when our own humanity pulls us down into the depths. Peace, love and understanding are the tenets for a brighter future. But we will never reach them if we don’t allow ourselves to be buoyed up with hope.

Hang on to hope.  Give it a chance. Let it pull you up from the depths.