Damn you, picture day.

Tomorrow is picture day at school.

I hate picture day with all I am, and all I will be.

Each year, I spend a ridiculous amount of money for school pictures, of which I give away just a couple. It just never occurs to me to carry around pictures of my kids to give away. It almost seems like a bit of an odd tradition, considering we now have cell phones with amazing cameras where we can take spontaneous, candid, amazing photos. Still, I shell out a stupid amount of money for my children to force a smile and inevitably not look quite like themselves, and me to get documented proof of this. Yet that’s not even why I hate picture day.

Picture day is a day where we break out of school uniform, and somehow that makes it seem a bit more special. On top of that, I have a young daughter who loves clothing and fashion. Her style can best be described as Vegas with a touch of redneck. She loves all things sparkly, bright, and leopard print is an ultimate favorite. She also loves cowboy boots and flannel shirts. Things don’t have to match with her, and growing up if she was allowed free reign on her clothes she would look like she stepped out of a carnival. Add to that the fact she is stubborn and strong willed, we have had our fair share of disagreements when it comes to picture day choices.

This year, I decided to cave a little. I wanted to be the awesome mom. I wanted this year to go smoothly and to make that smile on picture day a bit more genuine.

I decided to step back, and allow my little girl to go pick out an outfit from the store. Her choice. She was beaming as we hopped into the car.

An hour later, I was consoling her and wiping away tears.

What set out to be an awesome bonding experience where I could allow her to express herself (and also I could learn a bit about what her style really is before the holidays roll around) turned out to be rather defeatist and upsetting.

You see, folks, she’s built like I was when I was a kid. As a little kid, I was short, stocky, and I had a little belly. I was solid. I envied those tall, lithe girls who could fit in anything and always looked stylish. I never grew that tall and frankly, I’m still a little stocky. Now, full disclosure….I’m about a size 10-14 depending on the brand and the item. I like to joke I’m a potato body. I suppose they call it an apple body. I have big boobs, a bit of a pooch, and sort of a flat butt. My legs are pretty thin, and I’ve always gotten compliments on them, but if you ask me, they don’t quite match the top of me. Now add to this the fact I barely hit 5’3. For the most part, I’ve come to terms with my body and am actually quite amazed at all it has accomplished and gone through. There are moments, however, when I get frustrated at how difficult it is to DRESS this body, because sometimes what I like is not what this body looks good in.

My daughter is petite, has a little belly and is solid. She has a little round butt I would have loved to have had when I was a kid (and would still love to have as an adult!) and of course, puberty is around the corner. Her body is strong and fierce. It does splits, handsprings, cartwheels, and balances on a beam. It stands tall in the stirrups and holds a sense of confidence on a horse. When she sits in the saddle, the horse relaxes as they feel a tiny, solid and confident little person up there. She has long, curly blond hair with streaks of the summer running through it, greenish blue eyes, and a huge smile. She is all the things I wish I was when I was her age.

Yet when we went from dressing room to dressing room, trying on all types of items and sizes, my girl felt like her body didn’t fit in. The jeans all were too long. The shirts were cropped and boxy, which weren’t flattering. If it fit in one place, it didn’t fit in another. And my sweet girl began to cry.

“Mama, I’m fat” “I’m too short, and too fat”.

And my heart shattered into a million pieces.

I try to be very careful about how I speak about myself to my kids. They often make fun of how short I am, and both have outwardly said they hope they get my husband’s height. I have always been quite unbothered by being short, and tell them so all the time. In fact, for me, I’m happy being short (except for the fact I have to find an evening gown and NONE are cut for short people). I’m usually ok about my body, and I always promote being healthy and strong over being skinny. Of course, I have had my bad moments. I got really hard on myself the other week after gaining some weight, and when I said something my husband jumped on me about it, reminding that she hears me and I shouldn’t say things like that about myself anyway, but certainly not in front of her. I sat down and had a long conversation with her about it. I explained I was upset with myself because I wasn’t treating myself well, and wasn’t being as healthy as I should. I regret my initial failure though, because I’m sure some of it stuck with her.

The girls on tv, in magazines, online and everywhere around her, well they are all sort of typecast as tall, thin, stick straight girls. Everywhere she looks, and even in the stores, the world is telling her that tall and thin is in. It’s no different that being a grown woman. The clothes are all for taller people, skinny people, and really not cut for me. She tried on item after item, and nothing made her feel great. She cried. We talked.

I explained that she is beautiful and strong. I went over all the amazing and difficult things she can do with her body. I explained how I wish I had her butt, her long beautiful hair, and her strength. I also explained how her body is gearing up for changes, and that the next year or so might get a little frustrating clothing wise, but she’ll find her element. We also discussed marketing, and how companies photoshop people.

She thanked me for taking her. She thanked me for the shirt she picked out, and we planned her outfit together. I think she was happy. I’m just sad that what could have been a great experience was frustrating, exhausting, and sad for her, as well as me.

Side note, I’m hardly on Instagram but I did find a cool page called (I believe) @beauty.false. The page shows you the unphotoshopped version and the photoshopped version of people. It’s pretty eye opening that what we see isn’t even what we are really seeing.

Now where can one get short length jeans for a young girl?

In the meantime, I hope that the positives of today outweigh the negatives, and that my girl has a big, real smile on picture day. I think she’s beautiful just the way she is.

Grief and ramblings

I’ve sat down many a day and mulled over what to write. I feel a sense of writer’s block and nothing seems to flow as it usually does. I’ve been out of sorts the past few weeks. Death will do that to you. It brings on a flurry of emotions, and I’ll be honest in saying that I usually prefer to keep the physical part of grief to myself. That being said, sometimes when you don’t know what to write, you just have to start someplace, be honest, and see where the old brain takes you.

I realized the other day how grief when you’re a parent is a different ballgame. At least for me it is. I have so many responsibilities that there simply isn’t time for me to have a meltdown, or a big deep cry. I’ve also become fairly distrusting of people’s motivations over the past few years and prefer not to let people see me sad. I don’t need to give people fodder for gossip. I think it’s important for my kids to see my grieve, but sometimes when I am in the thick of it, I know that my tears will bring questions, and sometimes I’m not always ready for those questions. Sometimes I need to just process my own feelings before I am ready to handle my feelings with everyone else’s feelings layered on top, if that makes sense.

The day my grandfather died was a weird mix of emotions. The usual grief of losing someone was there. The grief of losing my last grandparent, and knowing that it was sort of an end to an era. The knowledge that with his death would eventually mean the sale of his house, which made me sad too, since I had a lifetime of memories within those walls. I felt sadness for my dad too. He lost my mom and now both of his parents. There was some relief on his behalf, as I know he wouldn’t have appreciated how that last month went for him. Death often feels rather undignified, and my grandfather was a very dignified person. It was a veritable onion of emotions, and I wasn’t quite ready to start peeling the layers. I knew I wanted to go to the funeral, so I allowed myself an hour or so to try to get composed and set off to work, since I didn’t have much vacation time left. I arrived, started to cry, caught myself, and headed home. I stayed pretty stoic and held it together quite well through telling the kids, and navigating arrangements.

Each time I started to get upset, I’d rein it in. I had a job to do, kids to look after, a husband. I had friends going through their own troubles. And through all of it, I held it together. Life is just to busy and I have too many people to be responsible for than to fall apart.

I started to crack when the hearse pulled up outside my grandfather’s house. I pulled it together quickly. I decided I would try to grab a few moments with his casket after the church service. I made it through the service quite well. I held it together even when I learned I wouldn’t get the chance to have a few moments alone with my grandfather to say goodbye due to a lack of communication on my behalf with the FD. I held it together at the gathering after. I allowed myself a quick few minutes to cry when I stepped out of his house for the very last time.

There really hasn’t been any proper grief that I’ve allowed myself.

I remember that when my mom died, I went into a type of shock and into survival mode. I was a new mom, with a new husband, a new home, and I went back to work. My world crashed down and I had to stay strong to keep everyone else ok, and keep myself above water. I allowed myself just a few minutes to privately grieve here and there. I managed. That being said, I felt like the grieving process dragged out for ages, where perhaps if I had allowed myself to really feel it in it’s entirety up front, I’d have processed it better.

I need to have a good, old fashioned, soul cleansing, ugly, red faced, boo hoo sobbing cry.

Sometimes a good old cry can work wonders.

On the brighter side, my trip had some really lovely moments. I spent time with family. I learned that certain people in my family will always show for me, and I felt really loved. I stayed with my cousin and the two of us had loads of laughs. I got to hold baby puppies and pet older dogs. (If you’re having a bad day, go look at some baby German Shepherds and listen to them grunt, it’s adorable and will brighten you right up.) I got to see and bring home my great grandparents’ marriage license, as well as numerous other pictures and documents. I brought home a suitcase from WW2 that belonged to a little Jewish boy my great grandparents took in during the war. I learned to cook some new dishes. I walked outside in the freshest of country air. I had people come up to tell me they went to school with my mom, and how amazing they always thought she was. I had folks come up to tell me what a fantastic person my dad is. I worked on our family tree. I got to call my husband and kids and hear that they were doing ok, but that I was missed a lot. I got to meet family at the pubs for pints of well poured Guinness and old stories. I got to go to my mom’s grave, and catch out of the corner of my eye a beautiful sunflower growing out of the top of a building, making me feel comforted and happy. I had late night chats and hot cups of perfectly brewed tea to combat the chill.

In other words, I felt at home, surrounded by family who have known me my whole life and love me, plus I found a lot of happy, joy filled moments during a sad time.

Having family on two continents means that my heart is always split between the two. I always feel like something is slightly missing, but also feel that regardless of which place I land in, I am at home. I feel at home walking the streets of my town here in the US, but also feel perfectly at home walking the fields of a village 3000+ miles away.

In summation, my grandfather, who had admittedly and vocally grown rather tired of this life, has passed. Perhaps he is back with my grandmother, perhaps death is all there is. Regardless, he is not suffering, and for that I am thankful. A trip caused by a sad loss was also filled with joy and laughter, because life is always a balance of the two. If we do not experience sadness, how do we truly appreciate joy? And lastly, I need a good cry once in a while. Grieve the loss, but celebrate the life.

Body Says No.

It’s been a busy…well, lifetime, really. I know, I jest (sort of) but the past several months have really kicked into full gear. I won’t bore you all with the details, as I have been honest about my chaotic, messy life in many posts, but there are days when I miss simply plopping on the couch to watch TV that isn’t Disney related. Other days, I miss feeling like I had all the time in the world to get chores done.

The reality is that I am constantly running from task to task, which seems odd because my very goal was to never be one of those moms. I never wanted to be that mom who scheduled her kids for tons of activities. I never wanted to be super scheduled. I swore I wouldn’t overschedule myself or race from place to place. I wanted to be the calm, laid back mom. The very concept of racing from sport to sport, activity to activity looked exhausting. I have friends that do it, and as they list off their schedules I cringe. While I have limited the kids’ activities to usually one thing a season (which still took up crazy amounts of time…football I’m talking to you!) which suited them perfectly, I still feel like I am always on the go. The little does gymnastics and horseback riding, and has done so for some time. Those take up relatively little amount of time, but she does really well at both and loves both as well. The boy child has taken time off from sports, and is practicing the whole teenager goal of hanging with friends, riding his bike, or skateboarding. This means that much of my time is spent driving kids places on the weekends, or working on the closet donations at night. The fact is, I’ve done well at not overscheduling the kids. The problem is that it’s me who feels overscheduled.

The other day someone asked me a question, and I pulled out my phone to check my calendar. Trying to coordinate things is becoming more and more difficult. I’m a full time working mom, working on a big project doing most of the physical work myself, and also trying to mom up. It’s a lot. Add on those unforseen life moments that are hard and stressful in and of themselves, and I wore myself too thin. When I refused to acknowledge that I was overextending myself, and that I had to pause to do right by myself, my body stepped in and brought things to a halt.

It was quite funny and quite disturbing, all at once.

I awoke Friday feeling stuffy and out of sorts. By Friday night, I had pins and needles throughout my left hand. Numbness set in. I believe it was last year (time just rolls on these days and I have to constantly check dates) I started losing feeling in my ring and pinkie finger on my left hand. I would awaken with numb fingers a few times a week. Then one day, the numbness didn’t go away. Several dr visits later, I was told my nerve was getting pinched in my elbow. The Dr’s recommendation? Keep my arm straight. Do you have any idea how awkward and unnatural it is to keep your arm straight all the time? I wore a brace to keep it straight, and we hoped the nerve would repair itself. Fortunately it did. Then last week is started creeping up again, only then the whole hand went numb. This unnerved me, but I assumed it may be combination of carpal tunnel plus the elbow issue. In other words, I am a hot boo boo mess.

Saturday, my bestie, who knows all of what’s going on in my life, invited me over to test out her new hot tub. I settled in and we talked for ages. I hadn’t paused myself like that to do something so luxurious in quite some time. All the jobs at home went undone, because I felt like perhaps I needed to pause life a bit and just try to relax. By Saturday night, my son arrived home and I mentioned how tired I felt, but I had to wait for my daughter to get home. He looked me in the eye and said “mom, I love you but you look like garbage. Go lay down and I’ll wait up for her”. I was so grateful. Just then my husband came home, and I was sent to rest.

Sunday, I was still stuffy and numb, but felt more rested. My knees decided they’d had enough as well, and both started to ache. Ahh the joys of getting older, eh? Today I worked, but tonight I’m resting again. To hell with the jobs around the house. I’m stuffy, numb, and limping. I’m afraid if I don’t listen to what my body is saying it’s going to take me out completely.

I knew I was struggling to quiet my mind when I was kept up the other night by the random thought of “what is the etymology of Orange?” “Who came up with the word orange, both as a color and as a fruit? Who said it first?”

When the brain is overworked, the body will crap out and put a stop to things. Mine has decided it needs an episode of Love Island Uk, some family chats with my cousins and an early night. I’m renaming myself BitchyMcNumbFingers for the time being.

Drag me to filth. Please?

This past weekend (and the past few years) I attended DragCon in New York City. Every year, I make the trek out there via train, and the experience is always a fabulous one. This year was no exception.

Part of the reason I love traveling so much is to get out of my comfort zone a bit, but also to see new things. I’ve never much understood people who don’t want to expand their horizons and viewpoints. Drag to me is fun, exciting, and an art form. I love the illusion of it. I love watching the skill of the makeup techniques and clothing designs. There is so much care, thought and artistry, especially with seasoned drag queens, that it is pure energy. The queens are bold, bright, and glittery. They wear their art. I have always perked up when seeing a drag queen, but was always interested by RuPaul as he/she broke into the mainstream, which was quite groundbreaking. Everyone seems to know who RuPaul is! Well, when Drag Race, Rupaul’s competition show came out, I was front row and center by the TV watching. I’ve watched (and loved) every season. (If you’re one of those people who still gets offended in this day and age, I’m clearly not one of your people. You don’t know what you are missing, and I can tell you as a straight woman, the LGBTQ community is amazing and just wants the same rights as you. They know you’re not gay, they don’t want to convert you. They just want to be treated like everyone else. Hate has no home here.)

When I saw there was not only a drag convention, but that it was in the northeast, I was incredibly excited. I’m close enough to NY that I could go. I came, I saw, I LOVED it, and I’ve been going ever since. Sadly I can usually only go for one day, normally a Sunday, but I manage to pack in quite a lot during the time I am there.

This year, as in some years past, I went with one of my sister in laws. Her and I both have a love of all things drag, and we were both excited to go. Unfortunately, I initially missed the train I was supposed to meet her on, so I had to drive about 20 minutes to “outrun” the train and catch it at a further station. I JUST made it, and we sat chatting and planning what we wanted to do and see. My first goal? CAFFEINE. I had been out late the night before seeing the movie IT with a big group of family and friends, and I didn’t get to bed until 3AM. As soon as we arrived, I popped into Starbucks for a drink I had seen people raving about called a pumpkin cream cold brew.

Y’all…..

It’s DELISH. Not too sweet, perfectly smooth, and it lived up to the hype. I also love the new cups Starbucks has for them which is basically an adult sippy cup. No straw needed and it’s perfect. Once we got our coffee, we cabbed it to the Javits center.

When you arrive at DragCon, there is an electric energy that pulses around the room. The convention was held at the Javits center which is MASSIVE. As you enter the convention area, you can see an enormous pink carpet down the middle. Sequins, sparkles, bright colors abound. What you also sense upon walking in is a sense of freedom to be unequivocally oneself. In a world where so many live in the prison of worrying about what other’s think or spending time keeping up with the Jones’, this environment feels electrifying.

Drag queens from the show RupPaul’s Drag Race are located in booths throughout the venue. The queens most recently on the show, or recent winners typically had the busiest booths. Some who I believe would have been busier had shorter lines due to a high minimum amount to take a picture with the queen and meet them. That seemed to be a theme. The queens with lower minimums (buy something for $5 and still get a meet and picture) had quick, massive lines while others had shorter, expensive minimum lines. People were making money, but I can’t help but wonder which style of handling the merch and meet came up ahead. Vanjie had a long line with a $40 minimum to meet her. Scarlett Envy had a shorter line, but still a $30 or so minimum. Both were recent members of the show. Willam, a queen has had quite some controversy, was a queen we were surprised but excited to see. Willam’s booth had a decent sized line that moved quickly and efficiently. The helper’s kept things moving, and gave instructions. Willam took really well done selfies with each person, with Willam holding the phone. Honestly, the pics were great. Some queens I wanted to meet, I didn’t because I do get rather shy and awkward. I never really know what to say. Some had booths that kept them hidden behind curtains, so your only chance to see them was to pay up. This always makes me a bit sad, but I get it. Drag is not only an art form, but a business as well. It’s a fine line to keep your fans feeling appreciated while still bringing in the money. Every queen we encountered was lovely.

While the convention focuses on queens from the show, my favorite part is to look for local, non show queens, as this is often where the magic is. Local queens roam the floor and are often very eager to take pictures with attendees. One year I met Kari Kerning, who made me giggle with her amazing bee keeper outfit. Last year I met Selma Nilla, who donned a pig nose and smile. This year I had two favorites, but I didn’t catch their names. I loved their creativity and execution. Part Halloweeny, part art, Both caught my eye and I just HAD to take a picture.

I roamed the booths and ended up near the stage where they held a pole dancing competition in which both men and women competed. The MC was fantastic and made me laugh. One of the dancers, a male, was so impressive I had to take a video to show my sister in law, who had gone to another section. The strength, grace, and skill he had was unmatched. I don’t know how he didn’t win because I was mesmerized watching him maneuver seemingly effortlessly. It’s not everyone that can hold a pole and position themselves parallel to the floor at the top of the pole and wave like a flag using only their hands to hold on. It was UNREAL.

Did I buy anything? Yes, I did. I stepped out of my comfort zone and bought a wig. It’s long with big curls and it’s sassy. I love it. It’s the first lace front wig I have ever owned and while I need to practice at putting it on, I love it. I also bought some gorgeous fake lashes. I came home with loads of complimentary free hair care and skin care samples, pots of glitter, and other goodies.

There was so much to see and do that we worked up quite an appetite. After bidding some lovely friends of my SIL goodbye, she and I grabbed a cab to surprise my daughter and my niece who were on a special trip to NY with my daughter’s aunt and uncle. We walked into the restaurant to big smiles and hurried chatter of their day’s events. After hugs and kisses, they headed off to the train while we headed to Tea and Sympathy, my favorite British tea shop. Located on Greenwich Ave, there is a small shop that sells British sweets and items. To the left is A Salt and Battery, an authentic British fish and chip shop. It’s one of my favorite places in NY. It’s not fancy, but I can confirm that it feels and tastes just like a local fish and chip shop in England. It takes me right back to childhood when we would arrive in England and run to the “chippy” for fish and chips wrapped in paper. To the right of the shop is Tea and Sympathy, a litte tea shop that makes all sorts of British food, my most favorite being the Rhubarb crumble drowned in hot custard. It’s an expats dream. The bread there is divine, and everything tastes great. The rhubarb crumble has now become a post drag con staple. We settled in to choose our meals while discussing the days’ events. We also commented how we had seen a drag legend, Lady Bunny, on instagram frequenting T&S and mentioned how great it would be if the famous Bunny might stop by. We knew she lived locally, but wondered if we might even recognize Bunny out of drag. It’s very rare to see or hear of LB out of drag. This night, my SIL were ravenous because neither of us had eaten all day. We each got the “Sunday Roast” which had hot roast beef, fresh peas, broccoli, roasted potatoes and yorkshire pudding. It was filling and divine. While surprisingly a bit pricy compared to what I’m used to, it hit the spot and was really delicious.

When we left, I think we then had one of my favorite moments of the day. While wandering down a street, my SIL paused to get her bearings. As she paused to look at the signs, something shiny caught my eye. It was a sequined dress. I glanced up and saw that the person had the BIGGEST blond wig I had ever seen. It looked just like….could it be? LADY BUNNY. “Bunny! Lady Bunny! Bunny!” I tried to say quickly to my SIL. She spun around to see what I was looking at. I swear we thought we had seen a unicorn. We rushed over by the door she had slipped through and through the window we saw the tail end of a shiny sequined dress step through another doorway. Just like that, the person was gone. Now I can’t say for sure it was LB, but the odds are quite good considering the size of that wig. To honor Bunny’s privacy, I won’t say where exactly we saw her, but for us it was quite a magical moment. After all, hadn’t we just been saying how amazing it would be to see Lady Bunny out and about, in or out of drag? For us it was like seeing a favorite actor or actress out in public. It always makes you wonder “was that really them?”. So one of the highlights of my day? A wild spotting of a Bunny.

We took a long stroll back towards the train station but hopped the subway to get there faster. We just caught the earlier train home, and settled in for the long ride back.

Art, style, glitter, crystals, rhinestones, chaps, wigs, gowns, bodysuits, makeup, lashes, support, pride, comfort, self, drag, selfies, poledancing, jokes, laughs, smiles, coffee, thrills, walks, giggles, food, possibly bunny sightings, subway, lights, action, people watching….New York had it all.

Until next year, NY.