The Other Stages

sunsetstagesAt the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer and having many of you avoid reading this full post (but I hope you will hang in here with me), I’m going to state the obvious: Death, rather unfortunately, is an inevitable part of life. No matter how you slice it, it is going to happen. None of us will live forever.  But we all want to live as long as possible, and even more so, we want those we love to live for as long as possible right alongside us.

This past month, I’ve experienced a double-whammy of loss.  My oldest brother, after a long history of health issues, passed away. Nine days later, we were forced to help our beloved fur-son, our dog, cross the Rainbow Bridge.  We’ve all heard about, and likely experienced, the “official” stages of grief that envelope us after the death of a loved one. No matter the relationship, at least some of those stages are going to hit us – shock, pain, anger, depression… These losses in my life were not the first, and I’ve felt these pains before.  What was different this time is that for both, I was the main point of contact, or the main caregiver.   Post-life-first-responder, if you will.  And I now realize there are other stages to grief that many of us R.W.’s will at some point in our lives have to work through if we haven’t already. And we may not expect them.

  1. Immediate Decision Making.Whether we are present at the time of the passing or not, after we’ve had our moments of saying good bye, we must somehow pull ourselves together enough to make some decisions. Calling immediate family, reaching out to a Funeral Home, determining what is to happen with the body, calling out of work – all things that need to happen within minutes or hours of the event, while our heart is split into pieces.  This is the time to take that Wonder Woman cape out of the closet and put it on – except this time it is black, and we really don’t want to wear it.
  2. Zombie mode.  After the initial burst of activity, we reach a brief stage where there’s nothing really to do. We are attempting to get our head around what just happened, get a grip on our emotions and deal with total exhaustion because we have just entered Weird and Dark World. We become a zombie – not the kind that comes back from the dead, but the ones left behind because of the dead.  We put one foot in front of the other in a cloudy fog and keep plodding along.
  3. Second-guessing.  Also known as the Guilt stage of grief. No matter how logical we are, no matter how many times we’ve been told we “did all we could do”, the guilt and second-guessing seeps in.   We are women. It is natural to relive every moment of the last few weeks/days/minutes of a loved one’s life and worry about whether we could have done more, said more, comforted more, ya da ya da ya da. Only time and re-assurance will help that stuff fade.
  4. Kicking Into Action.  When that very brief lull of “what now” is over, we take on yet another second/third/fourth job – that of preparing for whatever appropriate ceremony is needed. No matter what our culture or beliefs dictate, there will be an event to help everyone say goodbye and formally send the loved one on their way. What I realized is this is actually kind of similar to planning a wedding or birthday celebration; except it isn’t for a happy reason, balloons are replaced with lilies, and it all has to be done in days or weeks instead of months. There’s the venue, the program, the invitations/notifications, décor, photos to find, budgets to handle, travel arrangements, etc. Much to be done in a short amount of time. And guess what, this all happens while we are attempting to carry on with some semblance of our regular life. Yeah, that black cape is still tied on.

And here’s where I interrupt my list for an important PSA: Please, we all need to promise that we will take time now, while we are healthy and aware, to leave instructions for the future. Yes, having a Will or Estate plan is vital. But I’m talking about the other, more personal stuff.  My brother kindly left instructions about what he wanted for his funeral, which made that part of my life much easier, and made me feel better that I was doing what he wanted. In the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, a celebrity wife leaves her very specific funeral wishes for her husband, including instructions to find a casket made out of driftwood and having Barbara Streisand sing at the Service. Our wishes will likely not be that extravagant. But got a favorite song to be played?  Want your ashes sprinkled in the ocean?  Got a piece of jewelry to go to a favorite niece?  Whatever it is, no matter how small, those who are left behind will appreciate the guidance, and it will avoid arguments and even more grief. Even if you think you are a grumpy, unlovable old sot, someone is going to care and is going to feel lost and zombie-like. Help them out.  Oh, and make sure someone in your life knows where all your passwords are listed.

Now, where was I…. oh, yes:

  1. Overwhelming gratitude. I know, this sounds weird.  But the love and support and assistance from everyone in our lives, and the lives of the one who has passed, can be mind-blowing and incredibly comforting.  Soak it in. And all of those people who are offering to help in some way really mean it.  We’ve all been in that place before, wanting to help but not knowing quite how.  Even if it is something small like running a quick errand, take advantage of those who want to do their part to help through the journey.  Then thank them profusely.
  2. Phantom limbs. It is said that individuals who have had an amputation experience phantom sensations in the missing limb, most of which are painful. Thankfully I’ve never experienced a physical amputation, but the death of a loved one seems to me to be pretty close. We expect to be able to visit them, expect the dog to greet us at the door, expect to get the loved one’s phone calls, and we automatically think of things to tell them or to do for them…especially if we have been a primary caregiver.  We may even “see” them as if our hearts and eyes are playing mind tricks on us.  I believe this is the most painful part of the whole process, and the one that lingers the longest.  We just plain miss them, and it hurts.
  3. Finding a new normal.There’s no good word for this. The “official” name is acceptance, but I’m not sure that is accurate. We never get “over” the loss. The mourning never ends.  As a matter of fact, it has a nasty way of sneaking up behind us when we least expect it, and wacks us in the back of the head. We don’t go back to normal, because our lives are forever changed – instead we have to adapt to a new normal.  Eventually, however, bit by bit, the zombie mode fades and the pain starts to ease. We start to laugh again, and we find joy in living, even without our loved one – because it is what they’d want us to do.

Best of all at some point all those memories start to bring smiles instead of tears. At that point, we know we’ve survived every stage.


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How About Now?

window sunDuring my usual morning routine today, with my brain running through my classic million or so worries, ponderings and plannings, I paused to flip open a lovely little book given to me by one of my RW BFFs last year: The Promise of a New Day by Karen Casey. Today’s WOW (Words of Wisdom) was an entry about living in present moments.  “We love to fantasize about the past and the future… But we get into trouble when we forget that “the past” and “the future” are inventions; the only reality is the present.  Yes, past events contribute to our now; yes, the present will help to determine the future. But we can’t do anything about them; the past and the future are out of our reach.”  Appropriately enough, this caused my muddled head to pause a moment and say “huh.”

We have just come through one of the busiest times of the year where people all over go into overdrive to get ready for Christmas, spending weeks if not months looking forward to the big day.  We finally stop for a few days of celebration and hopefully appreciate and enjoy our present moments… until BAM, here’s New Year’s Eve!   We tell tales of the past, and begin more planning and thinking about the future. We make resolutions about things we want to change, or do in the months ahead.  At work, we kick into plans for the year ahead, developing calendars, projects, budgets and set up deadlines to be reached.  Personally, we start planning events, activities, trips.   How many times have we made plans with friends and said “oh good, now I have something to look forward to?”  It is all about looking ahead.  Because we don’t want to admit that both the past and the future are out of our reach.  We R.W.’s especially don’t like to relinquish control, right?

In my own little world right now, sadly I have both a human loved one and a pet who are navigating their ways through their end phases of life… meandering towards that bridge to a peaceful place in the land of “whatever comes next”, leaving behind those of us who really don’t want them to go.  And through this process, I find that I am pretty well obsessed with what’s coming next.  Worrying whether I’m doing enough for them, am I preparing them, and myself, and my other loved ones, for the end.. how is it going to happen?  How much longer do we have? What do I do next?  I told my husband last night that I felt like all I am doing is waiting for horrible things to happen.

Because apparently that is what I’m doing. And I shouldn’t be.  Why are we so trained to focus on what in many ways is out of our hands, out of our control?  Why can’t we live for the present, and enjoy and appreciate what is happening right this very minute?  Instead of trying to plan when I’m going to clean my dirty windows, why don’t I just enjoy the way the sun is beaming through them?  Why don’t I stop and just watch the birds visiting the feeder in my garden?  Shouldn’t we all relish the moment when we share a laugh with a co-worker, or get a much-needed hug, savor a sip of cocoa, enjoy the smell of the top of a pet’s head, or get totally engulfed in a really good book?  Why can’t we be content with “right now, my time with this person, or this pet, is good and fine and lovely”?

The answer is we can — I think it is truly just a matter of re-programming, training ourselves, and having Faith.  We have to force ourselves to slow down and stop thinking ahead ALL the time, OR trying to relive past events.  And for goodness sakes, RW’s, slow down the worrying!   It is all we do.  We can’t enjoy the present if we are too wound up with worry about what’s ahead or what has already gone by.

I rarely make New Year Resolutions. Making a promise in January about some kind of change in my life is too much pressure – I’d rather set up goals as I move along.  But this time, thanks to that one little excerpt I read this morning, I do have one: to live in the present far more.  It can’t be that hard.  And I’ll bet it will feel a whole lot better.

Just like that famous tag line, we should ask ourselves:  Do you hear me now?  The answer: Yes, as long as we are listening.

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Santa’s Mixed Bag

santa_sackIt is just over a week until Christmas.  Like most R.W.’s, I’ve been hurtling towards the big day on Warp 10 Overdrive for several weeks.  I haven’t had any available time to write, and for someone who finds sanity in words, that’s not a good thing.  But here I am, spending several hours on a Sunday evening on a plane (more about that in a moment), with some forced sit and breath time, and it is making me consider what a wacky time of year this can be, and allowing me some time at the keyboard. I feel my heart rate calming already.  It’s funny how such a magical, lovely season can be so filled with stress and exhaustion. Every year many of us RW’s vow that “next year will be different” that we “will simplify”,  we will “start prepping earlier” and have “more relax time.” Hee hee, we make me giggle.

Then there’s the whole emotional side of the holidays, exaggerated of course by the aforementioned stress and exhaustion.  This year for me has especially felt like a mixed bag of emotions, and I know I’m not alone.  My older brother has had several health issues and hospital stays, our beloved pup is in his last days battling cancer, I’m fitting in a business trip right before Christmas, I still have some last bits of shopping and wrapping and cleaning to do, I’ve had a head cold, and oh yes, today happens to be the 26thanniversary of my mom’s passing.  Yet on the flip side, I love my job, we will have a full house of family for Christmas, my son amazes me every day as he works his way through his Senior year of high school, and we have not only a roof over our heads, but a beautiful home that I love to decorate for the season.

Nearly every other RW I know is trying to carry around a mixed bag of challenges.   Caring for elderly parents, coping with cancer, worrying about wayward loved ones, dealing with financial issues, mourning a loss, hosting a hoard of people for festivities… and yet all knocking themselves out to make the holidays special.  Why?  Because in the end it makes us feel better, and makes us feel like we are in control of our lives when so much we are carrying in that sack is out of our control.

We want our lives to resemble a Hallmark movie during the holidays with the amazing outfits, perfect scenes and happy endings, and we yearn to find the magic and wonder we felt as kids. Speaking of kids, we desperately want them to have an amazing Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, filled with fun and traditions and family and memories.  So we pick up that heavy bag and we keep hustling along, singing our favorite carol as we go.  We remind ourselves what the holiday is truly about, and reprimand ourselves when we start to lose sight of that and get cranky or anxious.

The lesson I’ve learned, especially this year, is we have to all cut ourselves, and each other, some slack. There are many out there who are suffering in some way, and this is a very difficult time of year for them.  We need to be sensitive to that, and lend a helping hand when we can.  There are even more out there who are lugging that big mixed bag of issues, and we have to recognize that some days are joyful, filled with laughter and amusement, and other days are going to be deeply sad, frustrating and anxiety-inducing. We need to determine when it is ok to offer platitudes and quote the Grinch, and when it is better to say “it’s ok, you aren’t alone — and you’ll get through this.”    We can offer to carry that big satchel, or better yet, lift out some of the heavy things and focus on the light fun ones.

My wish for all RW’s out there is that at some point, even if it is at midnight on Christmas Eve, or two days later when the hustle and bustle has settled down, that we all have a moment to just stop.  To breathe out the bad, and breathe in the good. To admire the beauty and joy we’ve created.  To hug loved ones.  To think of each other, and this journey we travel together. Put down that heavy sack, pick up a cup o’ cocoa, put up our feet, and be thankful that we have this wacky, mixed bag life.

Merry Christmas!!




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Getting Lost on Sleep Street

highway messWe all know that a woman’s brain is wired like a super highway system with dangerous corners and intersections, where the minimum speed limit is somewhere around 90mph. We are supposed to have off-ramps and rest stops that allow us to do that re-fueling thing called sleep.  But most of us seem to have a challenge with taking those exits successfully on a regular basis – even if we manage to get off the highway, we somehow mess up and hop right back on again.

These road blocks seem to come in two pretty darn annoying formats.  The first one is good ol’ fashioned insomnia.  This is the classic case of jumping off the highway and shutting down right away, only to wake up again somewhere between 2:00 – 4:00am (because nothing good ever happens during those hours), seemingly for no reason at all. Insomnia can happen for a multitude of reasons, like stress, life changes, and – my favorite – menopause. Our brain doesn’t really care why, it only cares that it no longer has to come up with those pesky bizarre dreams and says  “oh, hey, great, you’re perky.  Let’s worry and think too much.”

The second road block is our bladder.  The middle of the night get-up-and-pee syndrome.  As women, we train ourselves to develop a delicate and difficult skill: to accomplish this task without becoming fully awake, and more importantly, without letting that brain engage.  If we are lucky, we crawl back into bed and tell our minds “ssshhhh, all’s fine…think of fluffy clouds and waves….that’s a good little brain….back to the rest stop…”  If however, we miss that itsy bitsy tiny window of opportunity to not poke the beast, there it is again “oh, hey!  Great! Let’s ruminate!”

The stretch of highway that the brain chooses to travel during those hours is totally out of our control.  The most common roadway is Worry Street.  Did my son do his homework?  Oh, I have to remember to finish that project at work. I hear the dog wheezing, is he ok?  Will the fires in CA stop?  Geez, I hope I turned off the oven…wonder if I should check.  Am I going to get a call from the hospital about a loved one? Why can’t I sleep, I need sleep, I’ll be a mess tomorrow. What time is it now?   This often heads us over to Irrational Concerns Drive, where literally anything horrible can happen because it only makes sense at 2 am.  I had a headache today – do I have a brain tumor?  My partner is restless and snoring, is he planning to leave me?  If I have one hour’s notice of a natural disaster, what would I pack in the car?  Could we have an earthquake?

This time of year we can also expect a detour over to Holiday Stress Avenue.  Should I have bought an extra ham?  What am I going to buy that person who is impossible to shop for? Ugh, I still need to get wrapping paper and ribbon and boxes.  If I ship gifts on the 21st, will they get there in time?  I really need to finish decorating. Where did I put the mistletoe ball?  Should we have a party? Will 10 different types of cookies be enough?

And finally, the route that can drive us the most crazy when it happens, but makes us all laugh when shared with other R.W’s later: Totally Random Road.  Should I change the curtains in the living room or go with a valance?  Freddy Mercury was born in Zanzibar, where is Zanzibar? What time is my dental appointment? Did I miss it? Wait, did I flush?  If I start tomorrow and consume only water and carrots, I think I could lose 20 pounds by Christmas.  What was that noise?  I should paint this room blue. Maybe I should get up and go clean the kitchen… I mean, I’m awake, may as well be productive.

A couple of my BFFs and I have agreed that some night we should just text or call each other, because the others are likely awake as well, ruminating, worrying, or solving the world’s problems.  Or just having really bad night sweats.  We are not alone in our late night sleepless cruising.

Maybe, just maybe, Santa will bring us what we want for Christmas – a full night’s sleep or even a good nap. Besides, who do you think came up with the cookies for Santa tradition? Every real woman knows it is important to pack road trip snacks to share.

Sleepless woman face cartoon character suffers from insomnia problem


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In Celebration of… Appetites

dinner food“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes.  Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.”  – Erma Bombeck

Lo and Behold, in the blink of an eye, the holidays are upon us once again.  And you know what that means….  excitement with hustle and bustle, time with family and friends, taking the time to be thankful, celebrating our Faiths and looking forward to a new year…..yes, yes, it means all of that.  But the holidays also mean something else:  Food.  Lots and lots of food.

Sure, food is always important to us. But at this time of year, it is as if it becomes all consuming.  It is on our minds ALL THE TIME.  We start out with the grand-daddy of all food holidays, Thanksgiving.  We literally will plan this giant meal for weeks in advance, and will spend hours preparing the traditional fare so we can all quite literally belly-up to the table together to indulge.   Even the food prep itself can be a social occasion, with Real Women banding together in the kitchen to make the magic happen.  (Yes, I realize that is a stereo-typical comment to make…yes, many men out there assist and participate in the cooking…but really, without R.W’s taking the lead, how likely is it that the meal would include multiple dishes, all ready at the same time?)

But this one day, this festival of turkey and pies, is not all to blame for our Food Fanaticism this time of year.  No holiday social gathering, no matter how large or small, is complete without tasty nourishment.  Social food is fun.  It is festive.  And, oh, boy, is it yummy.  Combine that with the fact that we are spending more hours in the cold and dark, looking for ways to boost our moods, and we have the perfect gastronomic storm.

During this season, certain flavors and mixtures emerge, designed to communicate directly to our taste buds and our yearning for comfort food and calories.  As a matter of fact, certain combinations suddenly seem appealing when at any other time of year we wouldn’t even consider them.  “oooh, look, eggnog tea, that sounds good…..pumpkin bagels, sure!….cranberry and jalapeno relish, why not?”   And some how, I swear food just looks more inviting.  Walking through the grocery store, my head is turned every time I see cheerful packaging, and I’m tempted to buy anything that is a “limited time offer”.  What if I won’t be able to get that flavor snack item in a couple of weeks?  I better stock up now!


At restaurants, and even at home, cooked meals become colorful palates of steaming deliciousness and beverages turn either creamy or warm…and all together they shout “check me out!  I taste even better than I look! Come and get it!”

Of course, let us not forget the other prominent ingredient this time of year: sugar.  Like that mama bear fattening up for hibernation, we start piling on the sweets, bringing any willing accomplices with us.  We use the excuse of Christmas cookies to splurge on confections with a bazillion calories and fat content — all in the name of holiday.  Some of us who really enjoy baking gleefully pull out piles of cookie recipes weeks in advance to plan out what to create….there are the traditional treats that are requested by family members, then there are always a few new ones that just look so tantalizing on the cover of magazines at the check out counter that we’ve just GOT to try them.   Christmas spice-cakes with chocolate

Many of us believe we have a hidden Martha Stewart inside of us, aching to get out and create something amazing… a sumptuous meal to go down in family history, or incredibly beautiful and delicious pastries just waiting for ooh’s and aaah’s.

The one most beneficial aspect of this sordid love affair with holiday sustenance is that we all seem to realize the vital need to share with others less fortunate.  Although Food Pantries need our help year round, we all kick into gear a bit more now, as we remember that there are so many out there who may go hungry without our help… and the thought that someone could NOT have a good hot meal for Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas is too horrifying to imagine.  So we step up to the plate (pun intended) and donate our time, food and money so everyone can feel the joy and comfort of this time of year.  All it takes is purchasing a few more items at the store, checking our own pantries for what we can share, or even better, donating some time to help out.  Then even more importantly, we should all set reminders on our calendars to do it again throughout the year, not just now during gluttony season.

And those of us who are lucky enough to be able to indulge too heavily and wallow our way through the holidays, we can be thankful that the winter season makes it more acceptable to wear stretchy pants and long sweaters to hide our resulting bulges.  We vow each morning to have a healthier lighter eating day – until the first whiff of a nutmeg-cinnamon-eggnog latte or fresh baked cranberry-carrot-pecan-muffin reaches our nostrils, and we weaken and drop to our knees to pay homage to the culinary yumminess that is the holidays.   Hey, this season only happens once a year – why not splurge?   After all, we know what comes next:  New Years Resolutions.


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There Are Reasons I Don’t Care

face palm emojiI don’t pay much attention to celebrity gossip.  I’m pretty clueless as to who’s married to who, who’s divorcing who, who’s in rehab, who’s in trouble with the law… mostly because for the large part, I just don’t care. Big life events in my friends’ and family’s lives, those I care about.   But “news” about people I’ll never meet who live starkly different lives than all of us Real Women?   I have no desire to keep track.  I have enough to worry about in my own life.  I don’t wish ill-will on any of them, and I have a few celeb’s I’d call my favorites, and even fewer who I think seem to be cool, fairly normal people I’d like to have dinner with.  But most often, when some hot celeb topic makes the newscasts, or the covers of the magazines in the check-out line, I find myself saying “why am I supposed to care about this?”

True, some of the blah-blah about the beautiful and famous can be a nice diversion from all the horrendously ugly news we get every day… so seeing photos of some lavish wedding can be fun, in a fairy tale way.  For the most part, celebrity topics are kind of just fluffy background noise to me. But once in a while, I’ll hear something that stops me in my tracks.

This morning the Today Show team felt the need to share a story about Joanna Gaines, and her upcoming People Magazine cover and article.  I believe this is because it had been a whole 5 minutes since the last time they talked about Chip or Joanna.  Seriously, I don’t think either of those two can pass gas without the Today Show gushing about how wonderful it was.  Again, I have nothing against either Chip or Joanne. They made it big, and then managed to make the news of their “retirement” bigger than any news during their previous HGTV career and mega-business.  Whatever.  Celebrities. Marginal interest on my part.

But this morning, the discussion was around Joanna’s interview about the birth of their 5th (yes, I said 5th) child.  Ok, so 5 children is fairly unusual these days, so as I was putting on my makeup before heading out the door to work, with the usual R.W. 194 things spinning around in my head, they had piqued my curiosity and I paused to listen. She was then quoted as saying that “typically you feel tired, but this baby, he’s just like my second wind.”  What?!?  Really??  A forty year old woman with four children, gives birth to a fifth, and has extra energy?? Come oooooonnn.   But wait. The ridiculousness of this “news” got worse.  “I love the labor part.  This is the moment we get to meet this little baby. It’s so much fun. I want to do it again.” EXCUSE ME??   Did she just call labor and giving birth FUN?   And after 5 children she wants to do it AGAIN??  With all due respect, Joanna, you are clearly a freak of nature.  She did attempt to toss in one scrap as a concession to us normal folk when she added that being pregnant at 40 was more challenging, because she was “out of breath a lot.”  Awwww…. Poor dear, how traumatic.  But they likely will continue to have more children while running all of their businesses and their Magnolia empire and oh, and by the way, she just wrote a design book too.   Freak.

After I shut off the TV in amazement and headed out for my very normal, real woman day, I began to wonder once again why this kind of story was being shared.  Yes, those who are big fans can be happy for the ever-growing Team Gaines.  But beyond that, like every other story about those who are more beautiful, more successful, more “something” than the rest of us, what good does it do?  I thought of how many women I’ve known or I’ve heard of who have had really truly difficult child births.  Or those who have struggled just be get pregnant in the first place.  The number of women who suffered so much during labor, and those who give birth to babies with health issues.  None of them had “fun.”   I thought of the mom’s who go through their days battling post-partum depression, or just plain ‘ol exhaustion, and those of us who many years later are still exhausted. No second, third, or even fourth, wind. And finally, those real women out there struggling to make ends meet with “just” two children, trying to keep them fed and clothed.  And I wondered how any of them feel when they hear this story, or if they decide to pick up the magazine to read the article.  How is this at all supportive, or anything anyone can truly relate to? How are we NOT going to compare ourselves to the unusual and seemingly “perfect” others?   As I said before, yes, some positive news is always welcome. But isn’t there a fine line between good news and rub-your-face-in-the-lack-of-reality news?

I guess it is fine to pick up an issue of People, or any other glossy, unrealistic magazine to browse the pages as a form of escapism.  But let’s not for a minute forget about how much more inspirational real life can be.  I’m more impressed by the real woman who is juggling children, aging parents, and a lack of sleep, cleans up the cat or dog puke on her way out the door to get to work after locating a clean and unwrinkled outfit that is at least mildly flattering and comfortable, finds time to fit in doctors appointments, events and family time and is everyone’s go-to resource for medical and emotional support — yet still manages to keep her job because she doesn’t have 3 businesses and a best-selling book to fall back on.  She is the same woman who will tell you the truth that childbirth is excruciating and life is exhausting, but she wouldn’t change it for anything.

Not even to be a cover model.


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Time to Find Some Calvins

pile-of-jeansWe recently got the news at my workplace that we are welcome to wear jeans most days if we so choose. I’m betting that many of you just said “oooh, lucky!”    Yes, I feel fortunate to have the flexibility and atmosphere to be casual.  Yet after nearly three decades of business attire, this announcement has me a bit… befuddled.

Mind you, when Business Casual became a thing, it was pretty easy for me to happily shed my suits, double-breasted suit dresses (yes, I had one or two), and my nylons.  Especially the nylons. Hate those things.  But this adjustment seems to be posing a bit of a challenge for me.  First of all, it has forced me to take a closer look at my denim collection in my closet.  I have the old beat-on pair of jeans that are reserved for projects like painting or yard work, and the pair I purchased a few years ago when the distressed and torn look was just becoming a thing and I wanted to feel trendy – neither of which I can wear to work.

Beyond those, I have two pairs that I’ve had for at least 10 years (perhaps more like 15+), previously referred to as my “nice” jeans for those used-to-be-rare Casual Friday occasions, because they look good with heeled boots and a blazer.

Other than that, I have the basic Levi’s dark blues that apparently no one wears anymore, one private label brand that are not especially attractive, and a pair of Eddie Bauer that I purchased at a consignment store.

Hmmm, not exactly anything that screams funky, fun, or on-trend.  All of the jeans in my closet are there for two very important reasons: 1. They fit (more or less), and 2. They are at least moderately comfortable.  One would think that all jeans are comfy and look great. WRONG.  Ask any R.W. how easy it is to find well-fitting attractive jeans and the response will likely include an eye roll and a groan.

Guys have it easier. They find a brand they prefer – like Nautica, Levi’s or Lucky, pick their preferred shade of blueness, find their waist and length size and bada-bing, done.  They then have two varieties of jeans in their collection: stained with paint, oil and grime, or those they can be seen wearing out in public.

Not so easy for us women. As with all of our clothing, jeans seem to need to make some sort of statement, or carry some style.  And so, with visions of going shopping for cool new jeans dancing in my head, I started to browse the trends.  My very first “h-ll no” was Mom Jeans.  Sorry, ladies, I lived through the high-waisted, narrow legged version the first time it came around (was that in the 80’s?) and it wasn’t attractive back then either.  Mom Jeans have the potential to only look good on a 20-something who weighs 110 pounds. No good can come of putting a pair on someone over the age of 50.  You don’t want something that accentuates all that we hate about our mature bodies: menopausal muffins, heavy hips and thick thighs.  When I hear Mom Jeans, in my minds eye, all I can see is the iconic SNL Skit.

According to Harpers Bazaar, there are “13 Types of Jeans to Try This Season”. Oh, my.   I’ve always liked the look of a bootcut, yet apparently now I need the “new” bootcut, whatever that is.  Harpers also surprisingly encourages matching denim in full outfit combinations.  The other day I had on a pair of jeans, grabbed an antique jean jacket I’ve had since before my son was born, and left the house worrying that I looked like I had on a Canadian Tuxedo and was dangerously close to O-D’ing (Over Deniming).

I perked up with Harper’s suggested flared jeans – heck, I rocked those in the 70’s – until I saw that this is what they meant. flare jeans

Even if I could get those over my thighs, I’d probably trip on the ruffles.

But wait, it gets worse.

The Roll Down??  Holy 90’s Flashback… and not a good one.  Again, a style that only looks good on someone young and thin as a rail.  Then the top prize of all, the Double Down look.  I have no words for that one.

Ok, so apparently checking out the hottest new styles online is unrealistic.  As an alternative, I’ve begun try to update my denim look by turning to old retail friends like Macy’s, Cato, DressBarn, Kohls – you know, those shops where R.W.’s can actually afford to buy clothes… but so far I’ve seen that the most common styles are Skinny, Boyfriend, and Cropped/Ankle length. Really?   Skinny jeans??  Those look good on about 1/16thof the R.W. population.  The rest of us prefer to NOT look like we are walking on stuffed sausages — and p.s. we enjoy being able to breathe.   Boyfriend?  Ok, at least breathing and comfort are more possible, but on a mature figure the Boyfriend jean can end up looking blah and baggie and ill-fitting.  As if instead of climbing into our Mom Jeans, we threw on our husband’s Dad Jeans.  And cropped pants are cute in the summer, but when the cold weather hits and you have to add socks and boots, they end up just looking kind of odd, like old school high-waters. At least on me they do.

Maybe I’m being too picky. After all, jeans are supposed to be casual, comfy and easy.  News that I can wear them more often should be a good thing.  Is anyone really going to care what they look like as long as they are not torn and stained?  No, probably not.  And I always have my back-up of a whole lotta dress pants, skirts and business casual items waiting in the wings for the days I give up and go back to them.  Some days I’m sure I’ll do just that, because those outfits hang in my closet like grown-up Garanimals.  After years of accumulation, they are the no brainer option.

Perhaps the issue is not necessarily the jeans themselves, but the full ensemble.  The cute and casual work thing requires some sort of appropriate top that strikes a balance between an old T-Shirt and a silk shirt.  And oh boy, don’t even get me started on how I look in flannel.

I’m sure that soon I will embrace and love our new casual atmosphere, and my dress pants and skirts will become lonely.  I’ll hop comfortably on the train just in time for the next new work attire standard to go into effect — who knows, maybe next it will be acceptable to show up in yoga pants and slouchy hoodies.  If that’s the case, game on. I’m ready.


mom jeans





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