Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stitch Fix #2 (But My First Review!)

Hi everybody! I thought I'd take a break from my usual reflective posts and show you some fashion. A few months ago I signed up for a styling service called Stitch Fix. What is that? Well, I'm glad you asked.

When you sign up with Stitch Fix, you fill out an extensive online survey about your size and body shape (be honest; it's only going to help you!) and your style preferences. I especially liked rating the sample styles so they would know my preferences. (For the record, I'm mostly classic/preppy with a little romantic and boho style thrown in--or at least I wanted to try some of those items.) You also specify how often you need casual, business casual, date night, and special occasion clothes. Finally, you can exclude certain colors and items.

Once you get your items, you have three business days to try them on and decide. There is a $20 styling fee--but if you decide to keep anything, the fee goes toward that, which makes keeping at least one item totally worth it. Also great: if you keep all 5 items, you get a 25% discount. I wasn't going to keep the earrings (see below) but it was $50 cheaper to keep them, so I did!

As far as the price, I know some people won't pay this much for clothes. (You can specify a range of price or "As cheap as possible.") I am pretty cheap but these clothes are a) boutique quality so I doubt they will fall apart after a few wears like some things from Target;
b) unique yet designed to fit into my existing wardrobe--the stylists look back at other Fixes to find items that will mix and match with their selections. I almost didn't keep the blazer but once I saw how many ways I can wear it, I decided the cost-per-wear ratio would make it worth keeping.

Finally, I would highly recommend making a Pinterest board and sharing the link with your stylist. I think that is partly why my two Fixes have been so successful. I mean, I know my stylist is good, but giving her some visuals of the clothes I am drawn to really helps, I'm sure.

Kaylie French Terry Blazer, $128.

I love this blazer! I have long wanted a navy blazer and the soft, soft fabric makes this one perfect for my lifestyle--not too dressed up. My tween daughter may steal it; she tried it on and it almost fits her. Never would have thought a blazer would be her style, but that's how cool this one is.
(Note: the lighting makes it look darker than it is. It's actually a lighter navy.)

Poppa Open Cardigan, $58.00

Also a huge win! I needed a cardigan like this and this one is so lightweight, I can wear it even though it's still hot here. My stylist was right; it looks lovely with the coral top from my last Fix, but lots of others will work as well. I will have to wear a color underneath so it doesn't wash me out, but I can do that. I think it will look great with skinnies and brown boots or booties in the fall and winter.

Haven Dress, $64.00

OMG, this dress is PERFECT. Comfy, flattering, versatile, and a perfect fit. I wore it to church on Sunday and it was so comfortable. No ironing needed, ever. Next time I will wear my red heels with it. I can see layering it with a blazer or cardigan or my jean jacket for sure. I would take more of this dress in a different color/pattern!

Arturo Plaid V-Neck Top, $48.00

I like this top too! I thought maybe it would  be too loose on me but the pictures say otherwise, don't you think? Another great top in fall colors but lightweight. I wore it with white jeans here because my dark skinnies were too dark. C thinks yellow or red (both are in the plaid) would work. I can also layer it under a jacket in the winter, preferably an olive green military jacket like I keep seeing everywhere and have requested if Stitch Fix gets one. (I won't wear it with red pants if I wear a military jacket! Talk about Christmas!)

Mayla Stone Crystal Stud Earrings, $38.00

These were very pretty but more than I would normally pay for earrings. However, the discount made it possible for me to keep them. I can probably wear them with more than I think.

Overall thoughts:
Kiersten totally nailed it! She got my style and added some fun things I might not have picked but love. I'd love to have her style me again!

If you would like to try Stitch Fix, please consider signing up with this link:

For every person who signs up, I get a credit to be used towards my next Fix... a big thanks to my pastor's wife who signed up after my last Fix!

Finally, I know I didn't do a review of my first Fix, but here is a picture of my husband and me in which I am wearing a coral top and statement necklace from it. As you can see from the previous pictures, I will be able to layer this top on into the fall.

I can hardly wait until my next Fix. My budget says it will have to be in November (I am on the every two months plan) but it's so fun, I would love to do it every month...and blog about it, of course!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

She's Got This

Four weeks of school are now behind us. Since 7th grade is the first year students can participate in Athletics, it's also our first year in the wonderful world of middle school sports.

For girls in our district, the choices are volleyball, basketball, cross-country, tennis, and track and field (I think--remember I'm getting almost all of my information second-hand). You have to do two sports; right now it's volleyball season so the concurrent activity is cross-country. 

All of this is completely foreign to me since 
     a) I attended a tiny private school with only one sport for girls--volleyball. I'm 5'2". 'Nuff said.
     b) I don't have an athletic bone in my body. Since I was a high school teacher for several years, I know a little bit about extracurricular activities--mainly, that when you are absent for a game, you should always get your makeup work ASAP. 

I still stand by that, by the way. Academics shouldn't suffer due to participation in a sport.

Anyway, we left it up to C to decide if she wanted to try out for volleyball. She hasn't played much, but I thought she had a decent chance of making one of the teams. I think she was a little nervous about trying out, though, because instead she chose cross-country, which has no tryouts. After her Athletics coach explained what was involved, she told me, "Coach K said it's great for people who like to push themselves. I can't wait!"

It's true, she does like a challenge.

And she got one. In the first week, she ran more than I probably have in all the years of my life combined. Besides the running in cross-country, which happens before school, in Athletics, they do strength and conditioning and more running. At this point I think she's doing at least 2 miles a day.


Last week she started saying that her knee hurt. After the first week of athletics, the coaches sent out an email saying that they were not accepting parent notes to excuse students from working out. (Translation: the kids were sore because even the most active ones probably hadn't ever worked out this much, but the coaches weren't having it.) If a student thought they were injured, they should go to the trainer, or go to the doctor and bring back a note. Period.

After a day or so, C went to the trainer, who told her it was tendinitis, due to repetitive stress, and that a special brace thingy that puts pressure on the spot would help, and that she should take ibuprofen and stretch. We did that.

Remember she's still running 2 miles a day and doing squats, lunges, and I don't know what all.

Web MD said when you have tendinitis you should rest it completely. Meanwhile the coaches are telling her to "take it easy" but I'm not sure that's in my daughter's vocabulary. I could feel the worry circling in my mind, not yet becoming full-fledged anxiety, but I went back and forth on whether I should email the coaches, or the trainer...or go ahead and take her to the doctor even though I knew what the doctor would say and since we don't have traditional insurance, it would be out of pocket...and then she's on the list for the meet on Friday...should she bow out and let someone else go?

Then I felt this rising up in me: Let her talk to the coaches and visit the trainer. She's got this.

Sure, I couldn't help mentioning what she needed to hear from the trainer (namely, was she or was she not fit to continue running?) Then when I found myself telling her what to say to the coach and getting an impatient response, I got the message (finally) and bit my tongue.

That day she got in the car saying, "The trainer did some kind of voodoo magic on my knee!" (It's a machine that sends an electrical pulse through electrodes to relieve pain.) She had talked to the coaches. In Athletics that talk happened after she was trying to do the whole workout and started crying. The coaches said she needed to tell them she was hurting BEFORE it got to that point. Her knee started feeling better. But by the time of the meet on Friday, it was hurting again, and she and her coach decided that she should wait until she's healthy to compete. She was disappointed at first but rallied to cheer her teammates on.

What a lot of lessons she had an opportunity to learn. If I had stepped in and taken over with my anxious-mother emails, she wouldn't have learned any of them. 

Now, I am NOT saying that we shouldn't listen to our mommy-radar when it pings, "This doesn't seem right! I should check it out!" Most of the time when we listen to our deepest intuitions, it turns out we were right. 

However, I AM saying that I actually did listen to my intuition, the one that lies beneath my knee-jerk worried-mom reaction. Admittedly, C makes it easier for me, a certified wimp who hates taking risks, to let her be independent because she tells me to. This is the child who was so excited on the first day of kindergarten that we got there before anyone else except the student teacher (her actual teacher wasn't even in the room yet.) And once C had a puzzle in front of her, she looked at me and said matter-of-factly, "You can go now."

"What? Are you...are you sure you don't want me to stay at least until someone else gets here?"

"No. You can go." And I was dismissed with a wave of her hand. 

I walked away a little stunned, but knowing instinctively that she wasn't unattached to me, and that she did still need me for some things.

Just not this time.

I was right when I decided, She's got this. I just have to let her handle it.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

7 Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Wow, I was surprised and humbled to see that several women commented on Facebook about yesterday's blog post that they felt inspired to start their own gratitude journal. I was thinking about that this morning while I ate breakfast and got the idea to share a few quick tips that have been helping me keep up with my gratitude journal. 

1. Write in something that makes you happy. That way, the first thing you can write down is your journal itself! I wrote about how a cute, but relatively inexpensive, notebook from Target is good for me. For you it might be a Moleskine notebook (rumored to be used by Hemingway himself and beloved by reporters) or a 1-subject spiral with an adorable kitten on it. You don't have to spend much money on it. Just make sure it's a dedicated notebook used only for these entries. The point I'm getting to: if your journal makes you happy, you're more likely to write in it! 

2. That being said, don't put off starting until you find the "perfect" notebook. The book doesn't matter nearly as much as your words do.

3. Keep a writing instrument with it at all times. I use a pencil because I'm a grammar freak who hates to cross out when I make corrections, but a pen is fine. Hide it if you need to, if the "pen fairies" visit your house and steal all your pens, the way they do at mine. I tend to write in my journal right before bedtime or if I get a minute during the day. If I have to spend ten minutes looking for something to write with and probably getting distracted while I'm looking, the moment may be lost. If you have a pen handy, you're more likely to write in your journal!

4. Don't be overly concerned with "correctness." This journal is for YOU. It doesn't matter if you spell every word correctly (just ignore what I said up there about making corrections. I'm a freak and you shouldn't follow my example. Plus it's quick and easy for me to make quick edits.) I don't even use complete sentences most of the time (gasp!) I use a bulleted list like this:

  • I had more energy today & I felt so much happier. Thankful.
  • Went through the school uniforms . Also decluttered closets, which inspired Justin to get a bunch of his clothes ready to donate.
  • Fun conversations playing 94% [an iPhone trivia app] and just talking with L.

 5. I like my entries to be as specific as possible. In the example above, obviously the first entry was pretty general. The second two, though, named specific activities and help me remember exactly what went on that made me happy. The great part about this is that your gratitude journal helps capture little moments of this stage in your life that you might otherwise have missed! The third bullet reminds me that my son loved playing this game with me and how it started lots of fun conversations.

6. Try to write in it regularly. I usually don't do it every day, but I still make it a habit to jot something down every 2 or 3 days at least. If I don't, I'm pretty sure I'll stop doing it. 

7. Occasionally read back over your entries and smile!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why I'm Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Justin asked me the other day why I hadn’t been writing 750 words a day like I had been doing on a website called, which is designed to help you write every day by giving you little checkmarks for every day you write in a row and also notifying you when you reach 750 words. It’s all private and is exactly like writing on your own computer except for the desire to keep those check marks uninterrupted and the fact that it costs $5.00 a month. For a couple of months I was meeting my goal most days. So why did I stop?

I stopped writing when my depression and anxiety overtook me a few months ago, and writing was not on my agenda at all, not even a little bit. I felt I shouldn’t spend even $5.00 a month when I wasn’t writing for the foreseeable future. In fact, at the time I felt I wouldn’t ever be able to write, or enjoy reading, or actually enjoy anything ever again, because that is the kind of lie that depression tells.

Then I saw my doctor and added a new medication. I got better, and I reveled in reading again. Every book seemed better than the last! I enjoyed the heck out of lots of things that had become meaningless while I was in the grip of the Black Dog, including shopping, eating, and social media. At first I only wrote comments on Facebook and Twitter because I still felt fragile and didn’t know what to write about, even in a private journal. A few weeks later, I decided to start and keep a gratitude journal, as the research is conclusive that keeping one does help stave off the grim demon called Depression. I’ve started several such records in the past, only to quit when things got so busy that I didn’t write anything for months. Sometimes life was good-busy and sometimes it was stressful-busy. That, I tell myself with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, is exactly when you need a gratitude journal.
This is a brain after the person has been keeping a gratitude journal. The highlighted area shows increased dopamine, which is a "reward" neurotransmitter that feels goooood.
So now I keep it on my nightstand beside my bed. A few days may go between recording something, but at least a couple of times a week I take a few minutes to count my blessings--not just general ones, like family, friends, and a roof over my head. Specific things, like this entry from July 13:
  • I had more energy today & I felt so much happier. Thankful.
  • Went through the school uniforms . Also decluttered closets, which inspired Justin to get a bunch of his clothes ready to donate.
  • Fun conversations playing 94% [an iPhone trivia app] and just talking with L.

Probably my favorite entry so far, though, is this one from July 18:
  • Great talk with L about angels (good and evil) and Minecraft. Longish car rides are perfect to get kids to open up.

[And if you are wondering what angels have to do with Minecraft--well, I am right there with you. I think there’s really no connection, except that my 9 yo son is currently incapable of talking for more than 45 seconds before he says, “Well, in Minecraft…” And that’s when I nod and say “Uh-huh” and “Wow” while he talks about things I do not understand at all. Unlike angels. This preacher’s daughter can expound on heavenly beings.]

I want to remember those little moments that are going on in my life right now, at this specific stage. I wish I had done this all through my kids’ babyhood so I wouldn’t be wondering, “Which one of them insisted that a stuffed Chihuahua Beanie Baby was a cat, and in the middle of an argument about it, I had an epiphany that it wasn’t worth arguing with a toddler about?” If I’d recorded that epiphany, I’d know.

Oh well, I can always start now. And there’s always Facebook.

As far as keeping up with the fragmented yet continuous record of our lives: it helps that the little notebook I’m writing in is small and pretty, but not so fancy that I feel my words have to live up to its binding. I love beautiful journals, but I’ve faltered about 25% of the way through so many gorgeous leather-bound blank books. This one has a cardstock cover, mint green, with Chapter 1 printed on the front in gold. It came in a pack of 3 from Target; the other two are white and pink, and (you guessed it) say Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. Cost: about $6.00 at Target. I bought them for some other reason but they are perfect for this.

For some reason the lighting in my bedroom didn't make it look green!

Besides this fragmented journaling, which admittedly seeks out the good at the expense of the very real irritations and sorrows of life (mind you, I don’t need reminding to dwell on the negative), I do intend to write at least 750 words a day. My job gives me plenty of time in which to do so, and it’s a much better use of my time than endlessly refreshing Facebook and watching cute animal videos. Even if I don’t have time at work, I no longer have to spend my evenings grading papers, and my husband and offspring often vanish after dinner to spend time with their electronic devices; I might as well do the same with mine.

All that to say, I have hope that out of 750 words a day, a few of them will be worth putting on this here blog. And that is going to be the first sentence in tonight’s gratitude journal entry.


Monday, July 20, 2015


I'm back! Well, actually I've been back on the Internet for several weeks, but I didn't have anything I wanted to write about until this weekend. That's the way it goes when I have a bout with anxiety: first I withdraw from Pinterest, then blogs and Twitter, then Facebook, then actual books (gasp) and even my friends and family. I suppose I should view lack of interest in social media as an early warning sign.

I  want to write more about my struggle with anxiety and depression, including some encouraging information in a book I'm currently reading, but I'm still processing what I want to share. For now, I'll just say that I'm feeling much better, after going back to my doctor and saying, "I downplayed how I was feeling two weeks ago, and then things got worse. I do need to make a change." He added another antidepressant (later we will probably try to increase the dosage on this one and taper off the one I've been on, which apparently stopped being fully effective--a reasonable assumption given my symptoms and the fact that I've been on it for nine years.) 

So. Today I want to write about how my struggle with mental illness has given me a gift. 

It's really freaking hard to be thankful for anxiety and depression, because this silent illness has stolen big chunks of my life. 

This time it was a month. If that doesn't seem like a long time to you, imagine spending almost every minute wishing it would pass and that you could take your medicine and go to sleep since that means you don't have to feel your horrible feelings any more. Wishing you could tear off your own tensed-up skin and float away. Fighting away thoughts of how much you are ruining your family and how much better off they'd be without you. Constantly, for thirty days.

It sucks when you can't enjoy anything in your life, even when you know you have so much to be thankful for . No wonder that when I feel better, everything seems so much more precious and my gratitude overflows.

But I have always known that human beings can bear almost anything if they can find a purpose in their pain. I knew that others had found that purpose in helping others on the same journey. But I couldn't see how that was supposed to happen, if I couldn't see any glimmer of hope for myself, much less anyone else. 

"If you want me to help other broken people, You're going to have to hold me together a little better," I told God through floods of tears one night. "Because I'm way too broken to help anyone right now."

It's so much fun to live with me.

Then I went to the doctor and gradually started climbing out of the pit. And I had two opportunities within three days of each other to help women who were struggling.

Interestingly, neither of them seem to suffer from a mental illness themselves. They are dealing with diagnoses their children have received and trying to do the best they can for their kids. One mom whom I'd never met before told me about how her going-into-sixth-grade son, who has ADHD and Asperger's, has been consistently bullied at school. Another mom shared her mixed feelings about medicating her six-year-old, who has just been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). 

It turns out I'm a pretty good person to tell such things to, for the following reasons:

1. I'm familiar with conditions and diagnoses many people aren't conversant with. I was a psychology major, then a teacher, so I have some experience with children and parents who are dealing with such challenges. 

2. The Internets have educated me about what it's like to walk in these parents' shoes. If not for the stories I've read, I would very likely make some of the ignorant assumptions many people make (although I hope I wouldn't be as mean-spirited or selfish). Thank you, everyone who has written about your reality with painful honesty. I recently started following The Mighty, a blog written by people who deal with disabilities, either their own or their children's. It has changed the way I look at these children and their amazing parents.

3. There's some evidence that depression and anxiety affect highly sensitive people more than others. While this is a bummer when it strikes, it means that I can deeply feel others' pain and empathetically connect with them, like fellow veterans in the war with faulty brain wiring. I listened to both of these wonderful mothers, both of whom were trying with all their might (along with their husbands) to help their children. I listened, and asked questions, and empathized.

And then I did something that isn't always a good idea. I shared my opinion. 

I did it because both of them were experiencing self-doubt that they were doing the right thing for their child. Whereas I, the momentary observer they had briefly invited into their world, could immediately see that they were absolutely doing the right things for their kid. 

"I'm just not sure about the medication," the mom of the six-year-old said, "because it feels like I'm giving up on him."

I felt like an old, wise woman, even though I'm only about five years older than she is. "Oh, honey, no, you're not! You are not giving up on him at all! You've done the hardest thing and admitted to yourself that your kid needs help--and then you are getting him that help. You're not just saying, 'Medicate my kid so I don't have to deal with his issues.' You're taking him to an expert who can help y'all develop strategies that he can use later in life rather than staying on ADHD meds. But he may need to be on the medication for now just so he can get to a level playing field. But you are not giving up on him if you and your doctor decide he needs it," I declared, trying to be as convincing as I possibly could.

The other mom, whom I'd just met at a birthday party that evening, reached to hug me, her eyes filled with quick tears when I said, "I believe your son is going to be all right. The very best people I know had a hard time in middle and high school. And from what you said, he has you and his dad to talk to. Most importantly, he knows you are on his side. He doesn't have to face this alone."

I hope something I said resonated with those wonderful moms, because depression and anxiety have showed me that just feeling that you're not alone, that you will not be abandoned, that you are loved by someone who won't give up on enough to keep you going for another day.

And if I can help one person feel that life will not have been in vain.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Head Above Water

Sometimes, I just barely keep my head above water. This is one of those times. I just can't do social media or blog. I am doing self care and focusing on the people in my house who love me and am seeing my doctor tomorrow. I hope to be back soon. xo


Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Last night my son informed me, "We're not doing schoolwork anymore, Mom." His backpack was full of all the folders and notebooks that have been in his desk all year, lending credence to his statement. (Of course he was happy about that.)

Now, you might think that as a former schoolteacher, I would disagree with the elementary teachers' decision to give up. You would be wrong.

I completely understand why the last week (really, more like two weeks) are designated for field days, play days, movie days and the like. The teachers are every bit as done as the kids. Why fight it? 

Last Friday was field day (which had to be held in the gym due to mud from the continuous rain we've uncharacteristically had), and yesterday was Vertical Team party day (each team of multiple grades had 2 hours to do carnival-type activities including bounce houses and dunking booths). Thursday is the class party for everyone who read 20 books outside of class (and we barely made it as of Monday night--yay!) Friday is the last day of school, so with an awards assembly in the morning, they will just be cleaning up for early dismissal at 11:45. 

Today, however, was the day for the last project of third grade: to learn about and dress as a historic character for a Living Museum. I have to say, when I got the email, I heaved a sigh. I have to help my child create a decent costume in MAY? Even though my schedule is more flexible and I'm not bombarded by stress the way I was a few months ago, May is no time to ask parents for creativity. This post by Jen Hatmaker is hilarious and explains exactly how I feel in May.

However, this not being my first rodeo, I Googled Living Museum and looked at pictures. At least the teacher had them do all their research and write-up at school. All I had to do was assemble a costume requiring as little effort and expense as possible. Anything involving sewing was obviously out since I can only sew on buttons, and even simple things that involved clothes not currently in his closet (like, say, a black suit) were out.

Luckily my son is very easy-going about these things. "Hey, how would you like to dress up as Vincent Van Gogh?" I asked him. "Sure," he said.  

I fully intended to be the one to help him splatter paint all over one of his dad's shirts to make a smock. But his sister was right there, with no homework since finals don't start till Thursday...and she's more artistic than I am any day...

So without further ado, here is my little artiste:

Van Gogh probably didn't wear a beret, but that says "artist," and other people (online) did that. He didn't want to tuck the shirt in--fine. It's got plenty of dried paint on it and on the palette and brush, which we already owned. Note the bandage around his ear. C wanted to have visible blood so I allowed her to use a red Sharpie this morning underneath the top layer of gauze so it wouldn't look too gory. 

I feel pretty good that I didn't just write a character's name on a piece of paper and tape it on his shirt. And best of all... it's the last assignment until September.