Thursday, October 30, 2014

Celebrate Everyday and Wear Something that Makes Your Heart Sing!

Brahmin Wallet - LOVE IT!

Since I started working from home 95% of the time, I could plop down at my desk and computer wearing sweats or pajamas and slippers and nobody would know – except me. I would know and feel less professional, less competent,  and certainly less spectacular.

My mom has always encouraged my sister and me to get up, shower, get dressed and put on make-up at the start of the day.  She professed that doing so would help us feel better even on a dreary day. And she was right. While I may not subscribed to the character played by Billy Crystal on Saturday Night Live – Fernando – who always expressed that is was better to look good than to feel good – I do believe that if we look good, we feel better.

A lot of women my age or even younger essentially give up. They don’t like their menopausal bodies and choose to disguise themselves in blandness. But I’m a firm believer that the confidence we’ve built through the years of living life gives us a beauty and character that younger women envy. And if they don’t, they should. Those of us who have survived the turmoil of the 1970’s and 1980’s, broke barriers for women, worked twice as hard, tried to be superstars at home and at work, learned lessons from life, made decisions, and still stayed true to ourselves through it all deserve to celebrate the women we have become, the bodies that have served us, the minds we have cultivated and the face that we have earned.

Calypso St. Barth Cashmere

Although it was first published in 1999, I highly recommend that every woman of a certain age locate a copy of Brenda Kinsel’s book “40 Over 40” – “40 Things Every Women Over 40 Needs to Know About Getting Dressed”. It is still available on

Brenda’s writing style is engaging and encouraging. She advocates that we women should dress to please ourselves and have a right to look fabulous everyday. And she doesn’t mean the fabulous that fashion magazines present. She means the fabulous that each one of us has within us.  She encourages us to celebrate who we are and the body we live in today. That is why I always wear beautiful underwear. Her books taught me to only buy and wear what I love. So I love my yoga clothes, my coats, my handbags, my makeup, my vanishing back Soma bras, and my Tieks ballet flats.

Soma Vanishing Back Bra

So embrace your beauty as the awesome woman you are today. Shape, size, perceived defects, wrinkles – don’t matter. Remember that Helen Mirren is now the face of Lore’al in Europe! Over 40 is fabulous! And as one of my friends pointed out – the hot flashes cause my skin to glow!
Tieks Lovestruck

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Struggling With The Change of Seasons With Winter Approaching

Although I was born and raised in north central Indiana with frigid icy winters that often had temperatures that dipped well below zero Fahrenheit, I was born in July, the midst of summer and love hot, humid, sultry weather. My feet feel numb when the temperature dips below 55 F. I need shearling lined boots, down comforters or duvets, cashmere shawls in the house and office, a fur or shearling long coat and hat, a fireplace, a scarf that wraps around my head, face and neck, and a cat to sit on my feet.  That is, until I get a hot flash. Then I have to shed the layers, turn on all of the fans, and walk outside in my yoga clothes, barefoot, until the heat subsides. Then – I’m back to freezing. And I’m sweaty. Yuk!

So, the change in weather affects my mood. Despite the good fortune of having a lovely Indian summer this October, the approaching winter makes me want to hibernate. I feel tired, out of sorts, discombobulated, off-kilter, frustrated, overwhelmed by work and somewhat apathetic.

While I know I am extremely blessed and do feel gratitude that I no longer have to spend 6 hours in a car or train commuting each day, that my job affords me a significant amount of autonomy, that I have the respect of my team, and that I truly am at the top of my game, I’ve had to actively remind myself of my good fortune and let the stress go. It has been a struggle the last several weeks. I do not work outside in the elements. Nobody will die if something falls through the cracks. I do not have to fear illness from treating Ebola patients. So what is the source of my angst?

It is the change of seasons. While there is beauty around me as the leaves turn vibrant colors and the air is till somewhat warm – I know that just around the corner is winter – when the trees are bare, the air is cold, the mornings and evenings are dark, and the landscape is gray.

I know this too shall pass. And I have to accept what is. But I don’t have to embrace it with gusto. I just need to adapt and look forward to the spring that will come, the daffodils, roses, iris, and tulips. That will get me through the darkness. The memories of what will come.

Monday, October 27, 2014

My 12 Commandments for Women Civil War Re-enactors!

No wire hangers.  Gotcha!

1.              Wear a corset! Really! It makes a difference and it not uncomfortable. A corset holds the “girls” in place, provides the period correct silhouette, and gives one back support;
2.              No bangs! No ringlets! Part ye hair in the center pull it into a neat roll;
3.              No synthetic fabrics! Synthetics are flammable, shiny and inappropriate; if it is shiny, don’t buy it! No matter how good the deal! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
4.              No obvious makeup.  Avoid looking like a trollop!
5.              No zippers!
6.              Please to avoid inappropriate footwear! No visible tennis shoes, crocs, sandals or stiletto heels. Square toe ankle boots or dancing slippers (for the correct occasion) or square toe flats only.
7.              Unless you are a sweet young thing (defined as under 20 years of age) please don a one piece dress with the same pattern on the bodice and skirt of wool or silk or cotton. No white shirtwaist and patterned calico skirts! Also, unless a young girl no Swiss waist!
8.              Again, repeat after me – unless you are a maiden or hunting, at the shore, a ball, a dinner, or at home, please wear a silk or straw bonnet or a wool or cotton sunbonnet when out and about.  At the shore one may wear a wide brimmed hat. While hunting one may don a narrow brimmed hat; indoors one may wear a decorated hairnet or lace cap or festive hair ornament. Otherwise – mutton dressed as lamb!
9.              All sad rayon snoods should be burned – or melted. I have short, baby fine hair, but I can still find period appropriate ways to disguise my 21st Century locks. Make an effort. It is not expensive or challenging. Purveyors of awful hair coverings should be shot with Nerf balls! Charlatans I say!
10.          Discard all of those tapestry shoulder bags! Yikes!
11.          Battenberg lace was not used in the 1860’s! Unless you have traveled back in a time machine, your Battenberg lace parasol is of the future!
12.          Just because somebody sells it on Sutler row, that does not mean it is period correct. Many sutlers are clueless about what the people of the time actually wore and used. Some sutlers are stuck in the sad days of the 1970’s or don’t care if they can make a buck.  

Okay, so I figure if I repeat these guidelines over and over again somebody may listen. I work in insurance claims so I am used to misguided people disagreeing with me or ignoring me. But while re-enacting is a fun family activity – it is not a game. It is educating the public on the way things were and we have a duty to represent an authentic persona – not a caricature! 

Why do I care? Because we owe it to posterity!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I’ve Developed Antipathy For Outlet Malls or Any Mega Shopping Destination

It came upon me gradually. I used to love shopping at outlet malls and upscale shopping centers. In fact, when I first moved to the Dallas area in the mid 1980’s, I learned my way around by driving to North Park Mall or The Galleria or Los Colinas.  On my way home from work I would often stop at the Plano Mall and wander through Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s and Foleys.  That was before leveraged buyouts and the homogenization of department stores. Each store had its own character and the store’s labeled items were often as high in quality as the national brands. (Of course, I later learned they were all made at the same factories).  Now, most department stores offer the same merchandize. I’ve grown to hate visiting shopping malls. They all now seem boring, soulless and uninspiring.

Outlets carried merchandise from the front line stores that were from a past a season or two, or returns or overruns or seconds. It was possible with some diligence to find a gem, a bargain so delicious that my heart would sing for days. My best find was an Albert Nipon tea length black whisper silk dress with gold embroidery marked down from $980 to $75 at Loehmann’s Back Room. I wore it for black tie events for 10 years! Every time I wore it I felt like royalty!

Today, however, outlet malls are populated with stores that manufacture merchandise just for the outlet store. While the clothes may look similar, they are not. The fabrics look cheaper, feel cheaper, the fit is inconsistent, and the prices are not great.  Outlet stores also seem to have perpetual “sales” so that the consumer believes they are getting a bargain. However, I’ve found, that the sales prices at most front line stores are ultimately better because the merchandise is better. 

Friday afternoon I went to the Prime Outlets in Hagerstown, Maryland specifically to visit the Soma outlet. One of my friends had said she’d gotten some great deals there and I was intrigued. She was right about Soma. The Soma at the Hagerstown outlet mall sold first line store merchandize at full price as well as discounts on styles no longer sold in the front line stores. The prices were about the same as if I were buying at the sale price online – but there was a greater selection.

But Soma was the only store worth visiting. The Chico’s outlet sells only “outlet” merchandize. The Talbot’s outlet only sells items manufactured for the outlets. The merchandize at the Ann Taylor outlet was sub-par. The items at the Ralph Lauren outlet seemed the same as what is sold at T.J. Maxx under that label rather than what one would find at Neiman’s. Seriously, with the exception of my purchases at Soma, the experience was completely uninspiring.

So, other than the occasional foray into Chico’s, Soma, Talbot’s or Nordstrom, I shop online.  There are no crowds. The prices are good. Shipping is fast.  Returns are easy. And the selection is amazing. It is necessary to check often and always Google for coupon codes.  But, I believe I’ll continue to avoid the shopping centers to keep my sanity.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Civil War Military Re-enactors of a Certain Age – It is Time to Portray a Civilian!

Civil War Military Re-enactors of a Certain Age – It is Time to Portray a Civilian!

As historic process photographers who have taken images at the major 150th Anniversary Civil War re-enactments, we have seen good, bad, ugly, uglier and scary impressions. While I normally focus on civilian impressions, it is time to consider the state of the hobby in the military sector.

This is an aging hobby and many military re-enactors have continued to portray soldiers long after any actual mid-19th Century male would have been considered qualified to serve in the Home Guard. There has been many an event where we pitied the horses that were drafted to serve as rides for cavalry impersonators of zaftig proportions. Women who make no effort to pass as male soldiers defile the ranks at reenactments. Even children with toy guns join infantry units. 

While I am all for family fun, a re-enactment that is marketed to the general public as a living history event should aspire to some level of authenticity. The 150th Cedar Creek re-enactment this weekend purported to have standards of authenticity; however, it is clear that nobody made any effort to enforce the standards. Visitors that were charged $18 a head to watch the battles were treated to badly executed skirmishes in which unfit, couch potato, weekend warrior, poorly accoutered, aged soldiers who fired their weapons at point blank range resulting in- no casualties.

Yes, another challenge in staging even a pseudo authentic re-enactment, there is a significant number of re-enactors who want to “burn powder” rather than recreate history. As such, they refuse to die or fall wounded.  At a properly choreographed re-enactment, the commanding officers direct certain persons under their command to portray casualties. That is authentic. People must die.

For those men and women who have reached a certain age – say over 45 – and have continued to portray a soldier, it is time to clean that military uniform (or burn it), stow it in mothballs (or burn it,) and morph into a civilian impression. This could be your opportunity to improve an impression. One can portray a civilian with authenticity as an older, less fit, softer, slower, and more rotund human. The possibilities are endless. So, you’ll have to hang up your Henry, Spencer, Sharps or Enfield rifle and carry a walking stick instead. But think of the delightful patterned trousers and fabulous civilian frock coats that one can wear! Not to mention you can enjoy portraying civilians with your spouse or significant other and you can decamp to a hotel with a shower and eat really good food while enjoying heat or air conditioning rather than camping in unpleasant weather.

It is time to move into the Civilian world if you attended any of the 125th re-enactments (or could have) as an adult. Really. I’m not joking. It is time!