The Art Of Clothing

I’ve been thinking a lot about clothing and style lately. Your clothes are the way you deliver a message to the world around you. “This is who I am.” So many times I see clothes on women I love and think: YES. THAT OUTFIT IS EXACTLY HER. I could shop for these women. I see stuff out and about and think: Colleen would rock that dress. Or Chelsea would LURVE those earrings Or Lisa would totally buy that top! Clothing is like your moment to quickly introduce yourself to the world and I just find it SO FASCINATING when it’s done well, when a person’s clothing really reflects themselves. It’s an amazing thing and I love that so many of the women in my life have such unique styles that are beautiful and personal to them.

I only think I’m successful in dressing myself in that way once in a blue moon.

I spent 12 years going to a school that had a uniform. During that time I was also raised by a man who had

A) No interest in clothing or style beyond function AND
B) No understanding of why other people would care about such things.

This meant that a few times a year we hit up this weird Goody’s Warehouse store (Goody’s originated in Knoxville where I grew up, I don’t think those stores were anywhere else) for outfits for specific purposes and events. We always needed a few church outfits because we went to church and because on the rare days we were allowed out of uniform at school, it had to be church clothes. I had a crapton of hand-me-downs but they rarely fit right because I was short and my friends and family were all tall. And I think we hit up Kmart for the summer clothes that we needed every year since our summer day care did not have a uniform.

(Sidenote: We did have field trip t-shirts we had to wear. One year they had big neon green frogs on them that said “Jesus Makes Me Hoppy”. I was 12 and plenty old enough to understand that hitting up the water park in that thing was not going to win me any cool points.)

My point? From birth to age 15 or 16 I had no concept of shopping or clothing or personal style. By the time I was 15 or 16 I would at least start asking for specific articles of clothing for birthdays and Christmas. I got a “LIMITED” sweatshirt one year. And a “rugby” shirt one year. I also begged…BEGGED…for this ruffle white shirt (ruffles on sleeves and color) for a dance. I basically saw things my friends wore to school, asked them where they got them, and gave my Dad specific instructions in how to buy that thing for me for a birthday or Christmas.

It was never EXACTLY right. The rugby shirt was not a “Coca-Cola” one like I wanted. The Vuarnet t-shirt was from the girls section so it wasn’t the cool one like all the other kids had. I didn’t know the difference enough to have been specific to tell Dad “boys section” when I told him what store to go to. But he tried.

My senior year I started making my own money working at a catering company and started buying my own clothes. But I still didn’t really know HOW to shop or find clothes I liked. I never quit hit the mark, usually just floundered around “grunge” or “goth” but still always looked a little bit awkward in all of it. I would see this cool girl at school wearing combat boots so I shopped around at the mall until I thought I found them but they were not quite right because I didn’t know the brand “Doc Martens” yet. I didn’t understand brands at all probably until my 20s.

I tell you all of this because, if you grew up with parents who took you shopping periodically, like at the change of seasons or something – you don’t realize how much that gave you in terms of understanding clothing and fashion and style. Nikki and Wes both have their own sense of style. We give them $100 at the change of season for clothes (Nikki is going to need an increase as she’s moving to the “Juniors” section now) and they go to Target or Old Navy and pick out what they want. They walk around, try stuff on etc. There’s something about that process that helps you understand fit and style that I didn’t develop probably until my 30s.

When I was in college I spent too much time making note of what people wore. I had this distinct feeling that everyone had a “style” and that they never strayed from that. I didn’t have such a thing and felt like my wardrobe was a hodgepodge of weird phases from the last few years. I had polyester dresses from the “Thrift Store” phase which I would wear with fishenets and Doc Martens. I had long flowing skirts from the Hippie phase which I would wear with my Birkenstocks. I wore baggy jeans with my Addidas skater shoes. I wore concert t-shirts. I had North Face hiking pants from my Camping/Hiking phase – which was probably a constant thread through all of my life. I just never felt like I had a specific style which meant I always felt like I was walking around in someone else’s clothing and that every day I looked like a completely different person.

I remember REALLY struggling after college putting together outfits for work. I hit up the Goody’s in Huntsville (Old habits die hard) and tried my best to find work clothes that matched my personality, but I still was so freakin’ clueless about how to shop and piece together outfits and…well…it was a challenge.

Hell – even now I struggle. I needed an outfit recently because I don’t fit into a lot of my old stuff. So, I pieced together something at Target that was a little more “trendy” than I usually go. I usually buy pieces that I can still wear in a few years. I adored the outfit and Nikki FREAKED OUT about it. She loved it! And I felt good in it. And I thought, Oh yeah. You can buy clothes that are interesting and stylish too sometimes. I get so worried about longevity in clothing I forget that sometimes the trendier items can be fun and more personal and therefore make you feel better about yourself.

I think clothing is amazing. No matter what your body type, there’s an outfit out there that will make you feel FLAWLESS. And I find that walking out the door feeling like you look AMAZING can do wonders to your attitude and mood throughout the day. I’m just still not good at figuring out how to find that clothing when I want to buy it. I basically buy 85% of my stuff at Target.

So, if you periodically give your kids a budget to let them shop for their own clothes…know that you’re teaching them valuable life lessons that this 41-year old women still has yet to learn. I still feel awkward in my own clothes some days. And still don’t really understand how fashion works.

The Hardest Entry I’ve Ever Had To Write

I get embarrassed SUPER-easily. And that embarrassment haunts me for DECADES. I was trying to impress a guy in high school once with my smoking and lit the cigarette wrong looking like a dumbass and IT STILL BOTHERS ME. I honest-to-god DO NOT even remember the guy’s name, but I remember the moment and the shame and I wanted to die 1000 deaths.

So, please know, if I am openly drawing attention to something embarrassing I’ve done then I am REALLY STRUGGLING WITH IT.

But today I’m motivated by a few things.

1) Maybe other people can be brave and be open about similar hard lessons and
2) Maybe my embarrassment can save someone else from making the same mistake

I was very politely and kindly corrected about my post yesterday that using “illegal” immigrant instead of “undocumented” was problematic to the people to which I was referring.

The funny thing is that I considered the phrase “undocumented worker” which I had heard before but since I was not writing about these people in my community in their “worker” capacity, I wrote it off. And it’s not that the term “illegal immigrant” is wrong – but when I really sat down and thought about it – it is a harsh phrasing in reference to another human. “Undocumented” is much kinder if I really sit back and think about it. And in a post trying to write about kindness to humans? DUDE. I SHOULD HAVE USED THE KINDER PHRASING. DUH.

But damn, y’all. I’ll be honest. I cried. I’m so grateful that I was corrected BUT IT IS STILL VERY DIFFICULT. I was so embarrassed and worried I might have upset or offended someone that I spontaneously started sobbing in shame.

I will say this – the fact that I only had a flicker of defensiveness means I’ve really grown as a human. 10+ years ago when someone politely called me out for casually using the word “retarded” I got A LOT DEFENSIVE. It was not pretty. Eventually I sat with that and corrected my behavior but I WAS SUPER DEFENSIVE AT FIRST. And last night? When I read that very kind comment? I only had one teeny tiny flicker of defensiveness. The rest was shame and embarrassment and concern that I might have upset someone.

So, I’m learning. Still. Forgive me for any missteps along the way.

A Smorgasbord Of Topics

The one bad thing about not writing on Tuesday mornings (to work on my newsletter) is that I typically have a whole 48 hours worth of blog topic ideas to contend with Wednesday morning. I keep starting writing, stopping, and starting over. Since the “One Topic” thing isn’t working, we’re going to do this one several parts today. WHEEEEE!

Part 1: Toxic Stubbornness

We’ve made progress with Wesley and his anger and the types and levels of his outburst have gotten very manageable. There’s no more destruction in physical or emotional categories, there’s just some short quick outbursts we need to contend with. And he still gets irrationally pissed off, but it doesn’t present itself in such catastrophic ways anymore. BUT – we have entered the world of Toxic Stubbornness. Where he is just REFUSING to abide by things that ARE NOT A BIG DEAL AT ALL – like brushing his teeth. I mean: REFUSING. Like he has to stick to his guns or die trying. AND IT IS KILLING ME. I think I miss the days of him screaming that he hates me, this simple REFUSAL to do something when asked has sent me to my bedroom in tears of frustration multiple times the last few weeks. This is new to us, anyone out there have a kid who just sticks to his/her guns for no other reason other than to be RIGHT or to be IN CHARGE or to just MAKE THEIR MOTHERS CRAZY?

Part 2: Fighting Discrimination Outside Of Protect Classes

We’ve got a law in our State being proposed that would allow faith-based Adoption/Foster agencies to deny LGBTQ families. It’s being defended as “free speech” similar to the “I won’t make a cake for that gay couple” situation. I have a hard time arguing this successfully because we still don’t have legislation or federal amendments protecting the LGBTQ community as a “protected class” so it can be rationalized as simply a refusal to do business with someone like you would an asshole who walked into your store. But, as we all know, the government doesn’t just wake up one day and create a protected class before laws like this ever get enacted. Jim Crow laws allowed discrimination to happen legally until the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing all in the 60s. So, just because something is “legal” doesn’t mean it’s “moral” and until we have federal level protections, the best we can do is fight this type of legalized discrimination. If Hillary had been elected, LGBTQ groups would have started pushing for legislation to created a protected class for the LGBTQ community. Since we can’t be optimistic about that for awhile, we are on the defense and simply trying to protect people in the LGBTQ community from being legally discriminated against.

There’s no other point other than to put this in perspective and in context for past battles of discrimination against groups of people. I’m frustrated with this because the “First Amendment” argument has power until the LGBTQ community becomes a protected class and – especially in the South – that’s a hard power to go up against.

Part 3: Things I Can’t Ignore

I’m learning I have limits to what I can and can not work with when it comes to discussing things with people on the other side of the political aisle. And those limits relate to – what I think – is underlying feelings that people are not recognizing about their fellow humans. For example, when people start defending bathroom bills to protect the children, I really believe deep down inside they’re scared of people in the Trans community, or people who don’t fall into a specific end of the gender binary. Because there is nothing to back up predatory behavior occurring in a manner that this bathroom legislation would defend against. And if someone would just say to me, “I find transgender people to be creepy and scary and there’s something wrong with them,” then I could direct them to documentaries or YouTube channels (Skylar is my favorite) or something to help them instead of arguing about bathroom bills. But no one does that, no one looks deep down at what makes them REALLY uncomfortable.

It’s similar with racism. I can usually hit home with those as my transition from “Unaware Racist” to “Aware Racist Trying to Learn” has been well-documented. But still, there are many issues in which I feel like the underlying problem is someone’s refusal to acknowledge their own privilege (“But my life has been hard!” “Dude. Me too. But not as hard as if I did not have white skin.”) or the existence of systemic racism. When I know those are the underlying conflicts I want to do things like recommend reading of The New Jim Crow or watching of 13th.

But then we hit the point: What if they refuse to watch Skylar’s YouTube videos and see him as a human instead of as a “freaK”, what if they refuse to watch the documentary on our prison system? Or worse – what if they watch it all and STILL refuse to budge on issues?

I think it’s just I have an easier time when my disagreements are economic or religious. I disagree with a lot of people on abortion because I don’t believe in a soul so I don’t have this method of assigning value to a life that can’t live outside of the Mother. That I can accept. I don’t believe trickle-down economics works. I’m pro-tax. People who DO believe it works and who are anti-tax, I can accept because there’s not a lot of human factor. You can find economic reports to support your view and I can find some to support mine.

But human issues – human issues are the ones I really struggle with. I feel like you can’t ignore systemic racism if you open yourself up to some of these books and documentaries. I feel like you can’t judge a gay person or a non-gender conforming person if you just get to know them. I feel like you can’t want to send away illegal immigrants who have been law-abiding members of our community for 20 years, if you would just take a minute to realize that they’re just trying to take care of their family. I feel like you can’t turn away refugees if you remove politics from the issue.

I’m just struggling to realize I have limits. On human issues I want to push…I really want to convert the non-believer. I guess it’s like religion? I feel like, “If you just meet the right person, or hear the right story, your heart will change.” ACCEPT JESUS INTO YOUR HEART!

Anyway. No point, really, just something I’ve been thinking about.

Part 4: I Need A Reset

I can’t get on track with food and exercise lately. I think I need to start some sort of tracking program or something. That stuff has never really worked for long for me, but it usually helps get me focused for a few weeks. Like maybe I need to photograph my food. Or log my calories or something just to force me to think about what I’m eating (and why) because I have gained 20+ lbs in the last year, 10+ just since November, and I feel TERRIBLE. Like, SO SO TERRIBLE. I hate running because this body is heavier, I hate putting on clothes because nothing fits, I hate looking in the mirror because I can see the change. And it would be one thing if it was just from age or something but I know it’s because I’m stress eating and drinking more than I used to. I know I’m making bad choices. I JUST CAN’T STOP. And a lot of it is because my anxiety and depression have been rising up again since the election and my default treatment is: FOOD AND BEER.

So I need a reset. I need a new therapist. (We’ve had insurance changes AND I think I need to find one who can give prescriptions as we’re out of manageable territory.) I need to stop drinking beer every night to help me sleep. I need to stop eating potato wedges and candy. RESET. How do I reboot my health? I need to force a restart.

Conclusion

My head’s a mess.
Politics are exhausting.
Parenting is killing me.

PMFV

Several people have asked me to explain this tradition at the University of Montevallo that I reference a lot this time of year on instagram and Twitter and Facebook. It’s called College Night and there’s usually official coverage of it randomly that I’ll share out as an explanation. Here’s one from 2015.

But I’ll break it down for you now as the Mom of the Male Purple Leader.

(In some circles, that sentence gets me MAJOR cool points.)

So, first. As a freshmen students are invited to join a family/side. Since Eliah chose Purple, that’s where all of my knowledge lies. You don’t have to, obviously, and people on the SGA can’t officially, but if you want to be involved with all of the School Spirit/Homecoming TYPE things associated with College Night, you choose a color. There are athletic teams but there’s no Football team so this is their Homecoming. You want to choose a side so you can be part of the festivities. And there’s a recruitment process and spirit events and I got reports almost daily this year. In the end, you find your family. And a family it truly is.

Purple has a few “things” – their animal is a cow and their “greeting” is the peace sign. It’s almost a tic that they all have this time of year. They “PV” each other with the peace sign everywhere they go. They throw it up in photos and use that emoji constantly. PV means “Purple Victory” and sometimes you throw an MF in there if you want to REALLY mean it.

They do things like have Purple Weddings. There are small ceremonies officiated by the Purple Leaders of that year. Then, all Freshmen are “adopted” by an older Purple so you have Purple Babies. They even have a cabinet position for someone kinda in charge of the Purple Babies.

Oh, yeah, there’s a cabinet, I’ll get back to that.

While being a Purple is a year-round thing, it mostly exists for College Night. College Night has being going since 1919 is is something like the “oldest Homecoming tradition in Alabama” or something like that. Basically Purple and Gold sides write, cast, costume, set dress, direct MUSICALS to compete against each other.

YES. IT IS A BATTLE OF THE MUSICALS.

It’s amazing.

There is a point tally involved and there are other ways besides the musical to earn points, but for the most part, the best musical wins College Night. But – there are tons of other ways to earn points. There’s several athletic events (as of right now, Purple won Volleyball and Women’s Basketball but lost Ultimate Frisbee) and there are several things they won’t know who won until after they see the point totals at the end of the entire thing.

One of those things is the SIGN competition.

This is kinda the “start” of the festivities and I went to see it 2 weeks ago.

Wait. Let me back up.

Eliah of course loves Purple Side and has been on the cabinet every year he could and in the show 3 years. He desperately wanted to be Purple Leader his Senior Year but it’s an election process and he had to campaign. As a Mom? THIS WAS SO HARD. I wanted him to win so bad because he wanted it so bad. Obviously, since my intro, he got it – but it was tough and I contributed to his campaign so he could buy buttons and stickers and such. He had to give speeches and win hearts. It was crazy and awesome. This was his campaign cover photo. (There’s a Purple Side Cheer that goes: Moo Psi Moo, Milk it, Milk it, Milk it!)

He got Male Purple Leader and the Female Leader is lovely and they’ll probably always be connected on a deep spiritual level after surviving this together. It’s a LOT, guys. I never knew until I went down there.

SO! I was there for the Sign Reveal/Pep Rally. The two sides build these signs (by someone on their cabinet) and it’s supposed to relate to the show in some way. Up until this point (this was late January) everything is TOP SECRET. While the show has been rehearsing for months, the cast is secret, the topic is secret, even the Purple Cabinet is secret. This sign reveal is the FIRST glimpse of what each side is doing. And this is Eliah and I standing in front of the MOST AMAZING SIGN IN THE WORLD. I’m hoping to take better pictures today in the daylight.

As soon as the signs are revealed, everyone goes to the gym for the pep rally. This is where each side takes turns “Circling Up” and the leaders give a pep talk and then they sing their side song. It’s a real song with harmonies and movies and it’s such a cool thing to watch. I watched Eliah and Giselle get everyone pumped up and it was this HUGE spirited family and I was just IN AWE. There are songs and cheers and then they reveal the cast and the cabinet.

And this weekend? Is when we find out who wins.

The show opened last night and here’s the kicker: Not only is my kid the purple leader but HE ALSO WROTE THE SHOW.

I wasn’t really allowed to talk about that until after it opened.

To say Eliah needs to win College Night is an understatement. His entire heart is in this event both as the leader and as the writer of the musical. I mean, one glance at his Facebook page and it’s basically taken over his entire life for the last year.

And it comes to an end this weekend.

Nikki and I are going tonight to see the show, then we’ll come back up to Huntsville tomorrow to get Donnie and Wesley to head back down again. I will see the show Friday night by myself. Then my brother and his wife are coming in all the way from Colorado and we’re going to see the final sporting event (Men’s Basketball) and then the final show Saturday night. Then, after both shows have performed, we stay in the auditorium and cheer and sing and wait until someone comes out and then both cabinets get on stage in their formal attire and stand holding hands while the person (SGA President? Maybe? I CAN’T REMEMBER.) reads SOMETHING. One year it was a passage from Harry Potter. But what both sides have done is given them their “token line” from their own show. And they are listening intently because the reader works that line into whatever they’re reading. That’s how they reveal the College Night winner. And so you know because the side reacts INSTANTLY and it’s like you’re knocked over by the wave of emotion/screaming/crying that rolls off the stage.

Purple side has to win, y’all.

So think all of your Purple thoughts this weekend. The show is AMAZING. I want a cast recording of it, I love it so much. (I got to see some rehearsals and Eliah has been sending me audio recordings as they work on the songs.) There’s a jailbreak song with some amazeballs choreography and I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I’m not biased or anything.

When I was there for the pep rally I got to shadow Eliah as he went to watch rehearsal and cheer them on, and then watched Volleyball practice and we cheered them on, and then we went to watch the cheer team and they showed us their dance routine as they were practicing. Eliah’s job is to be a part of ALL of it. He looks at all of these teams like they’re his children. He’s so proud of all of them. He can tell you something special about every person on every team and it’s BANANAS. I’ve never seen anything like it.

So throw your PVs in the air and wear your purple and know you’ve been adopted by me – Grandma Purple – into the most amazing family on any college campus. The Purple Side Family at the University of Montevallo. Because as their saying goes: A UNITED CIRCLE, IS A UNITED SIDE.

Remember when I used to be funny?

I linked to something I wrote a long time ago recently and I thought, Damn. I used to be really funny.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. About how this place used to have a lot more goofs and a lot less pontificating on grief and politics and racism and gender norms and boob sweat.

(DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I STILL GOT IT.)

I guess I’ve been thinking about change in general lately. I don’t like the trope that “People Never Change” because I’ve changed in 100 different ways in my lifetime. Hell, in 2016 alone I’ve changed at least 20 different ways. This time last year I hadn’t been to therapy, I was still parenting Wesley in regard to his anger instead of his anxiety, my marriage was low on my priority list, and I was running like a crazy woman training for my first 100K.

And now? Jeezus. I don’t even know. But none of that is true anymore.

Some days I’m so proud of where I am right now. I’m a better Mom and a Wife. Since the election I’m constantly trying to soak in politics and current events and educating myself on history and racism and gender norms so that I can be in a position to speak about issues affecting marginalized communities. This makes me VERY proud. I’m glad that I’m relearning American History from non-White perspectives. I’m proud I’ve found ways to keep up with local communities I didn’t know existed before. I’m proud I’m following writers that make me uncomfortable as I confront my own privilege.

Proud.

But then other days I’m disappointed that I’m not as funny as I used to be. I know that sounds silly but this place used to be a more entertaining start to my day. And now? Well – let’s put it this way: I started 3 different blog posts this morning on the following topics:

1) Suicide
2) Racism
3) Adult Bullying

WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F*CK, KIM? Are you TRYING to depress yourself to start your day?

But then I look at the world and I think: Well. What do you expect?

I mean – there are still people in my circles that don’t believe in systemic racism. There are people who think someone who is Transgender is something to be afraid of. There are people who believe the country would be better if we applied Christian teachings and religious practices to our government. There are people who don’t believe LGBTQ people should be allowed to get married. There are people who believe that every citizen has the same opportunities to be great in this country. There are people who believe that the solution to crime and discipline is to suspend from schools and jail indefinitely. There are people who believe we should keep out anyone trying to get into our country and we should kick out everyone who isn’t a citizen, even if they’ve been here for their entire lives.

I think I worry I’ll become complacent during a Trump Presidency because the policies he campaigned on will probably not affect me. Our insurance is through our company and we have no pre-existing conditions. We’re white middle class people in a heterosexual marriage. I worry I’ll just stop paying attention because it won’t affect me and so I wake up every day and think What do I do today to stay alert? How do I listen to marginalized communities? What do I need to talk about today?

And none of that shit is funny. I mean, I am the person who could make pregnancy loss darkly humorous and yet…I can’t do shit with this.

I’m sad a lot. Not in the “needs therapy” or “needs medication” kind of way – but in the “needs to find something to hope in again” kind of way. I live in a red state run by red government and now my country is led by a red President and a red Congress and I suddenly feel like my voice and my cares are not going to be addressed at ANY level. And that is hard to wake up to every day. That is hard to laugh at.

Except in that…insanse HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! kind of crazy way. Which, I’ll be honest, I kinda fall into every time the President Elect tweets something. I’m like HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA! He’s our President! HAHAHAHAHAH and then I go for another cookie.

I’ve gained 10lbs since the election y’all.

Now that is some funny shit, right there.

Anyway. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m not as funny as I used to be. Part of me wants to promise you I’ll be better. But then another part of me wants to point out that there’s not a lot to laugh at lately.

(EXCEPT FOR CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE, OF COURSE.)

Thank you for hanging in there. I have found with this new since of gloom that’s descended over me that I’m desperate for more real-world socializing. I’m trying to resist the urge to text my friends and say, “PLEASE. COME EAT LUNCH WITH ME. WE ALWAYS LAUGH TOGETHER.” But that’s a good thing, me…wanting to socialize. Not with everyone. Just with people who like me even when I’m awkward.

(And now is when some of my friends who have only recently given me their cell phone numbers are thinking…Oh, shit. I hope she’s not talking about me. PLEASE DON’T TEXT ME.)

For now though, this is me, I guess. I have seen some good movies lately, and watched some weird TV (HAVE YOU SEEN THE OA YET? I LOVE IT AND HATE IT SIMULTANEOUSLY.) and listened to some great podcasts. I do plan to at least do a year-end “Things I discovered I love in 2016” post which should be way funnier than this crap.

Here’s to finding things that make us laugh. Even if it’s not on this depressing blog.