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The Freedom of Aging: Personal Style

Growing up in the sixties through the mid seventies it was not uncommon to wear home made clothes. In fact, I don’t even remember buying clothes other than under garments until I was a senior in high school. It is possible it happened, but I truly don’t remember. 

Simplicity…Butterick…and Vogue, Oh My!

Every year before school started, my mom and I would pour over pattern books and decide what I wanted to wear that year. I know I got to help plan but my memory is foggy. I wasn’t devoted to clothes and the times were just so different. Even in junior high, a time when conformity is mandatory for survival, I don’t remember comparing my clothes to other people or having to have a certain look. I continued this tradition of making my own clothes right through most of my first marriage. In fact, I didn’t put the machine into time out until after my divorce in 1987. Since then, an occasional hem or repair is all the action that machine has seen. It was time for change in all areas of my life.

Round Body In A Skinny Jeans World

I became a devoted watcher of “What Not To Wear.” I secretly wished that someone in my life would arrange for Stacy and Clinton to surprise me at work, whisk me off to New York and then teach me what to do with my this short, round body I inherited from my Scottish-Irish ancestors. I understand that this body type is designed to survive the harsh climate of the North Sea, but let’s get real…I live in tropical Houston, Texas, how do I make this look good? I watch Outlander and think to myself, in real life Scotland in the 1700’s Claire would not have been a svelte woman. But, then Jamie wouldn’t have looked that good either. But, back to me.

Of course I tried most every diet in the world, but it seemed that no matter my weight and the distribution of said weight, I never was able to dress myself in a way that I felt reflected who I am on the inside. This dilemma led to many different styles through the years until I finally just gave up. I gave up trying to create a persona via my clothing. I think there is something very telling in that last sentence but I don’t wish to dig through that psychological mess at the moment. It was in the giving up that I think I found myself. I had arrived at an age where I accept that I am who I am and I need to make the best of that rather than trying to be something or someone else. As I have said many times, I’m a slow learner.

My Pinterest boards Aging Beautifully and My Style are the places I record visual reminders of what I love and who I admire. I recently logged back in to Polyvore and designed my go to fall outfit.          

Polyvore, like Instagram can be a black hole where people like me fall never to be heard from again. But, it is also a wonderful tool to see what is possible and passively get the shopping experience without spending a dime or being woefully disappointed by what is looking back at you from the mirror. In this fantasy can look just the way I want to look.

You can see evidence of my 1970’s Southern California Boho taste in this ensemble. Somethings never change. In a world that seems upside down and backwards, I take great comfort in a little bit of status quo.




The Freedom of Aging: Acceptance

I am about six months away from a major birthday. Forty was fabulous; I freaked out at fifty; and now I’m staring at sixty. 

The Culture of Aging

The American culture is devoted to youth and perceived perfection.  It is an inevitable fact that at some point this earthly vessel will wither and die. So isn’t it a show of honor to the life we have been given to accept, relax and enjoy the journey? Now before any of you are tempted to jump on a soapbox, I am not talking about letting one’s health go to hell in a hand-basket filled with fried chicken, pizza and hamburgers. We should all take the best care possible of our bodies. Eat in moderation, be physically active, and keep our brain and spirit active as well. I’m advocating a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for the outward appearance of the physical wear and tear on our bodies. Face it, the folks advertising anti aging anything do not have your best interest in mind. They are looking to make money from your fear. We have been given a gift, and I was taught to always say thank you and cherish what has been given to me. 

My Crowning Jewel

Ahhh….my hair. The one physical attribute that I have loved, cherished and obsessed over my entire life. As a third grader I desperately wanted a pixie. I have no recollection of why, probably because my best friend from the third through fifth grade had shorter hair. No amount of pleading with my mom could make it happen. Next I tried asking for bangs. Still the answer was no. My hair and how it was styled took on a whole new meaning in the my life. It represented power. 

Having a drop of Chinese blood in me is the genetic marker I associate with the appearance of my hair. It may not be true, but I’m sticking with the theory. My mom has told me stories of trying to comb out my hair after a shampoo and how I screamed and cried through it all. About once a year she would trim the ends, but that is as close as I ever got to a hair cut. I was stuck with long, thick, straight hair. By the time the early seventies rolled around and I was in junior high, my hair had become my crowning jewel. While friends with wavy hair were using giant rollers or ironing their hair, mine was wash and go fabulous. The length might vary from waist length to just below the shoulders, but that is as close to short hair as I ever got…until the spring of 1976.

I was a senior in high school, eighteen years old, had a job, money, and access to a car. After senior pictures were taken I took the first bold step of my fledging adult life. In one short trip to the JC Penney hair salon I discovered a kind of power I would never relinquish. Fortunately for all concerned I do not have photographic documentation of this step. It lives on only in my mind. The act was far more impressive than the hair cut itself. 

For over forty years my hair has still been the place where I exert control and authority in my life. When I perceive someone or something is trying to control me…I change my hair. Need a change in persona? Color the hair. Now that I am planning for the decade of being stunningly sixty, it is time for my hair to represent who I am today. I remember Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy) telling Johnny Carson one time that the secret to her looking ageless is that she never dramatically changed her hairstyle. That clearly has not been my philosophy, until now. Ageless isn’t the goal, authenticity is. 

For ten years I have said that when I turn sixty I’m going to stop coloring my hair. I’m not even sure what my real hair color is. I know there is some gray up there, but that is about the extent of my knowledge. At my current length and rate of growth it will probably take almost six months to have all natural hair again. This coincides perfectly with my birthday. I am ready to embrace reality instead of covering it up. This place in life can only come by paying the dues and doing the time. I am reaping the rewards of many years of life; some of it good, some not so good. So, if these good things come with age, who am I to deny it or hide it? It is time to embrace the freedom of aging. Unlike when I was fifty and I thought I could trick the world into thinking I was younger, I now know better. One look at my neck or hands and it no longer matters what color my hair is…I’m no kid anymore. 

My Hair And Life Lessons

Like everything else in life there are lessons that can be learned from my hair journey. Here are mine.

  • A hairstylist can make or break the next six weeks of your life…choose wisely.
  • There are very few things that a little time and really good product can’t solve. 
  • Hair grows out, life moves forward.
  • You are never too old for a pixie!

Until next time….


Table For One, Please

When do we out grow high school? It took me a very long time to break free from some of the stigmas associated with adolescence. 

I did things kind of backwards. Junior high was a breeze for me. I had a strong circle of friends, got good grades and did well in band. Other than the occasional girl drama, life at Coakley Jr. High School rocked. My first year of high school was in the same town. I didn’t continue in band so I wasn’t as connected but I still belonged. 

Then we moved. We actually moved back to the exact neighborhood where had lived five years earlier. I had stayed in touch with at least one friend so I wasn’t terribly worried about fitting in. How precious and naive of me. 

It didn’t take long to realize that in those formative years I was no longer like the rest of them. I dressed and spoke differently. Apparently I had a Texas accent. Who knew?

Introverted by nature, I became quite insecure around all these super cool California kids. The group from fifth grade had now splintered into several cliques all dominated by one of the original quintet. They were the usual high school stereotypes: the cheerleader, most likely to succeed, band nerd, and the brainy one. And then there was me. I didn’t fit in anywhere. As a result nearly every lunch was spent alone. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. I think I was quite successful as even by graduation, very few people really knew I existed. 

For years I viewed eating alone in public as a sign that I am a social outcast; a person to be mocked or pitied. I always reverted back to that high school girl who just wanted to fade into the background. 

I broke this curse by forcing myself to go out to lunch by myself. This was in the days before cell phones and at first it didn’t dawn on me to take a book. I was exposed for the world to see. I hadn’t let myself be that vulnerable in years. I couldn’t eat fast enough. I just wanted to get out of there and into the safe anonymity of my car. 

Through the years I forced myself outside my comfortable cocoon and subjected myself to a type of  aversion therapy. 

I went out to eat by myself. 

This didn’t happen until I was divorced and having to learn so much about my grown up self. At first I asked for an out of the way table, so I could be pitiful in private. 
Soon I got to the point of looking up from my food to notice the people around me. They were busily eating and chatting. No one really seemed to notice me. It was then that I discovered a wonderful sense of freedom and some important life lessons:

  1. Most people are busy with their own lives and don’t notice that I am dining alone. 
  2. Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. 
  3. I am really quite good company. 
  4. Never leave home without a book. 
  5. Sheryl, you aren’t in high school anymore. 

And life moves on. 


Higher Ground

The drive to Katy began just as it had for the past eleven years. To break the monotony, I often took different routes for my daily drive to Yarntopia; so the fact that I wasn’t on the most common of my routes didn’t even seem abnormal. Traffic was flowing, birds were singing, and there was a delightful, cool, humidity-free breeze gracing the water weary residents of metro Houston.

Despite my familiarity with the general area I had rarely ventured into the neighborhoods. I was carefully following the voice commands coming from Google Maps. I was so focused on finding the street where I needed to turn I didn’t even realize where I was because something seemed so different. I looked up ahead and saw some trucks in the road ahead and what seemed to be a white film on the street. The sound of my navigator grabbed my attention again screaming at me to turn left.

The cross traffic cleared and I proceeded across the intersection into another world. Nothing I had seem on television prepared me for this experience. 

What was visible of the streets beneath the mounds of rubble was coated in a white powdery film. House after house laid bare, evicerated and on display for all to see…sheetrock, doors, carpet, padding, the literal guts of the house piled up waiting to be hauled away. Once the shock of that wore off I was then able to see the thing that made my heart stop. Peeking out from under the rubble were deeply personal items…furniture, toys, an upright piano, high chairs and bouncy seats, cribs and beds. All these things, just a few days earlier, had been a part of someone’s home. Their sacred space. Their refuge from a crazy and scary world. Now, it was all rubbish on the side of the road. 

I wanted to turn the car around and run away. I felt my chest tighten and I was having a hard time breathing. Was it the mold, the dust, or sheer overwhelming panic? I didn’t care I just wanted to get out. The suffering is too much. I’m not strong enough for this. We all try to imagine how we would react in a crisis. I just found out and I’m not proud. A panic attack is not attractive and is certainly not helpful to the people who really have a reason to panic. 

It’s impossible to see house numbers and because of the debris. I didn’t see cars in front of the houses so I wasn’t sure which house I was looking for. I was still in a state of near confusion. Then I saw a familiar face and they recognized me. I parked and got out. I didn’t think I was going to be of any help. Everyone there knew something was wrong. I was in a daze and couldn’t communicate. Finally when I saw my friend who we were all there to help come down the stairs I couldn’t help it. I just started crying. She wrapped her arms around me and said, “It’s OK. Everyone is is safe.” 

Great. Here I was there to help her and she ends up comforting me. What a pathetic weakling I am. In someone’s time of need I break down. I felt like that stereotypical character in a movie who just dissolves into an emotional mess and everyone around them has to pick up and carry their load as well. Have you ever noticed that often those characters are women or over weight men? Well, here I am an over weight woman living up to my worst nightmare about myself. I am indeed the weakest link.

Once that inner voice got done with the pity party the other portion of my brain took over. I was there. For me and my social and performance anxieties, this is an accomplishment all on its own. I pushed through instead of staying on the couch. So, I am not the strongest or most physically capable person in the world, I’m here and I’ll do what I can. So I crawled through a couple of 2×4 studs and started moving small items out of what I’m guessing was a closet. With each small thing that I moved I felt a little better.

After filling all the vehicles with the kinds of things that have value to my friend and couldn’t just be shoved in a U-Haul van, we traveled to her new home and unloaded. And then we left. We could go back to our homes all relatively unaffected by Harvey. Back to streets lined with homes intact rather than the skeletal remains of a life that is no more. Because, one can rebuild, but life is never the same after this kind of loss. This is a kind of death just as real as any other.

So what is my take away from this experience? You know I always have some kind of greater lesson in the midst of everything.

  • God is present in all situations. We will never understand the whys, it is our job to listen and trust.
  • The emotional anticipation of how to face a difficult situation is often worse than the situation itself. When urged to help…help. After the fact it is all worth the pain.
  • Let yourself receive comfort.
  • If at all possible…move to higher ground.


Well, This Is Embarrassing

My brother doesn’t get the blogging thing. While watching television, the Progressive commercial where Flo tries to gain access with a secret code word came on which led to the following conversation:

“I wrote a blog post using this commercial, did you read it?”

“Yeah” the brother replied, “but I don’t get it.”

“Get what?” I asked, not sure I really wanted to know the answer.

“The personality type that feels it necessary to tell the world embarrassing things. Who do you think reads it? Who do you write for?” He was genuinely perplexed. I don’t think he meant it as accusational as it sounded. I surprised myself by having an immediate and polished comeback.

“I write for myself, and if what I write, and the experiences I’ve had help someone else, then a little public humiliation is worth it.” I could tell my explanation did nothing to help him understand why I’m driven to do what I do. But that’s ok. I’m finally beginning to accept my “weirdness” and that in that difference, I have something to offer. If nothing else, I crack myself up on a regular basis. Silence is isolating. Sharing builds community. If I can persevere past certain things then so can you. I’m nothing special.

It isn’t only the funny or goofy things I want to share. I want to share the darker side of being me. I struggle with anxiety and depression. This was not diagnosed until I had been through some tough places but in time to save my life and allow me to have the life I have today. I hope this helps someone who has felt as I did in a time of great stress or crisis.

The past two weeks have given me much material to contemplate as I mindlessly scroll through posts on various forms of social media. Hurricane Harvey left a path of wind and water destruction throughout much of the coastline of southeast Texas. Rockport, where the hurricane made land fall, is one of my happiest places. We owned a small home there for a while, and the degree of devastation there left me heartbroken. Living in suburban Houston my neighborhood did flood, but our home was not damaged. We were blessed beyond belief. 

When the county judge issued a mandatory evacuation for our area, we decided it was time to go. Our daughter came closer than ever to telling her parents what to do. She was very concerned we would be those folks determined not to leave then end up being rescued with their dog in the middle of the night in their underwear. Not ever pretty, but survival doesn’t care about pretty. We navigated our way out of town and stayed with friends about fifty miles south of here. We will be forever grateful for their hospitality. 

Once we got home and life for us began to return to normal, I noticed that I was not right. I know what those of you who know me well might be thinking about now, “How could you tell you’re not right…you’re not right on good days.” That’s OK, sometimes the truth hurts, but in this case, I own it. One of ways I deal with my anxiety issues is to talk…and talk…and talk. When I’m not talking these things roll through my brain like the perverbial hamster in a wheel. I try to spread the joy, but know that I wear folks out. Sorry to those I have burdened with my long winded diatribes. Sometimes to protect you I just withdraw. So, don’t take it personally. I’m really just taking care of both you and me.

But, I digress. I was trying to figure out what was going on with me. So many people I know were suffering and I couldn’t force myself out of the house. All the rationalizations only sounded like hollow excuses. Why didn’t I go help move and clean? Why didn’t I reach out? What kind of lousy person am I? Instead of doing that I sat at home watching the devastation on television feeling overwhelmed and sad. 

People who had lost everything were thanking God. I laid on the couch. I donated some money but never left my house. Stories all over the news of the selfless giving around me…and I laid on the couch.

Then Thursday night Chey called me upset because she desperately wanted to go with a church group to help flood victims. She said, nearly in tears, “We just sat here during the storm doing NOTHING while people were suffering.” We continued to talk and ultimately she was able to go help and had a great time doing it. But this conversation made me really think about somethings about being authentic and unapologetic. 

I believe that God gives different gifts to people to be used to help others and show them His love. For many years I forced myself to do things foreign to my gifts and personality because it was what I thought I was supposed to do. I was miserable and I’m pretty sure my efforts were not as effective as if I had waited for the thing I was supposed to do. I don’t understand Chey’s activist personality. She will be the person marching for social justice and fighting the system so that things will be fair. Bless her heart. God has given her an incredibly strong sense of right and wrong and the drive to do something about it. I don’t have that. It doesn’t even cross my mind to be upset. But I do have other gifts and abilities which would go wasted if I spent my time chasing after the wrong things. 

Suddenly yesterday the metaphorical clouds cleared and sun shone through my fog. I left the house gathering with friends for a small knitting group. One had been flooded and one had been in the thick of things helping her and other folks as well. I was embarrassed and a little afraid they would ask me why I hadn’t been around. They didn’t ask that, they asked how I was doing. It was simply a time to support friends. A huge group of National Guard soldiers came in for lunch and we applauded them for their service and sacrifice. It was a good afternoon.

Tomorrow I’m helping someone who is moving into a new house after flooding and bringing food for her family so she doesn’t have to cook. Why now? Why am I able to do this now and not in the thick of the suffering? I think it is partly how my brain is wired. Despite the fact that nothing bad happened to our house I was overwhelmed by evacuating and being out of control of my life. I needed time to heal myself before I could do anything for anyone else. God was providing for folks in need with the people like Chey who respond in the moment of the crisis while he was helping me heal. Now, I can step in to help carry the load. I’m OK. I’m where I need to be and I am thankful to God for helping me learn this lesson.

Be gentle with yourself. Love yourself then you can love and help others.