Where plenty of women have gone before.

Last night, I found myself wandering around in Kohl’s after picking out a few new items for my wardrobe. Visions of the cute dress I had just tried on and the stomach dimples that it revealed were flashing in and out of my head. I am still pretty far from being able to shape my body to look great in a dress with good old-fashioned exercise, and I found myself standing next to the pantyhose. It’s then that the thought “maybe I should see if they sell Spanx here” popped into my head.

They did. They do.

I pawed through the racks until I found a few different kinds and fits of “shapewear.”

For the record, I haven’t subjected myself to this since they were just called girdles. I decided I would start slowly.¬† From my pile of shapewear, I picked up the piece that was supposed to fit kind of like high-waisted bike shorts. Steeling myself, I put it on. And stopped at my knees.

“Wow. These are WAY small. But it’s the biggest size they have.” And then I thought, “Ohhh. They HAVE to be this tight. That’s where the shaping part comes in.”

5 minutes later, I was shoved in. They did actually fit. And then I thought, “What if I wear these to work and I have to go to the bathroom?” Then I decided to marvel at my new shape. Maybe it would be worth the added time to pull my pants up and down.

I didn’t like it. It was nothing like my normal shape, which, although I profess to loathe, is familiar to me. My hips were smooshed in, and I realized that although it’s not great, I do kind of know how to work with my body. I peeled the bike shorts off me and got dressed, taking the entire pile that I hadn’t tried on and putting them back on the rack.

After that, my first thought was, “I don’t want to have to wear a wetsuit under my clothes to feel good about myself.” Followed immediately by, “Maybe I should just look for some heels. They make me look more polished in clothes.”

I forgot to mention, all of this has been kicked off by a new job that I just got a few weeks ago. I like the job, I mean actually like it, maybe the first job I have ever liked. It’s in a corporatey-corporate environment, where it’s not uncommon for me to feel lost, bobbing in a sea of pantyhose and high heels and polyester dresses. I have a few passable outfits, but overall I feel pretty sloppy at work – so I have been trying to pick up a few pieces here and there to spruce up my saggy old wardrobe.

So. The heels.

There seems to be an entire section of stripper heels at Kohl’s. Nothing against strippers. Girls, you go on and do what you need to do. But what about me? What about the not-so-strippery among us? I’m relatively sure that strippers are a minority within the female population, and yet… the shoe section tells me something else entirely.

Usually, I just get overwhelmed after seeing the first few pairs of sky-high heels and leave. But I dug in. I really looked. And my conclusion is this: we are in a dark time for shoes. I did find a pair of black peep-toe platform shoes that I liked. I wore them around, feeling ridiculous with the withery tops of my disposable shoe liners sticking out. I looked at them from the front. I looked at them from the side. They were comfortable, but something was off. There was something holding me back. For some reason I couldn’t imagine myself wearing them to work. The silhouette was off.

They were stripper shoes, trying to masquerade as cute black peep-toe platforms.

I thought about this post all night last night. I thought about trying to make some statement about how this is jacked up, ask questions like, “why do we women feel the need to teeter around in 4-5″ shoes that look like they should be wrapped, upside down, around a pole?” Thought about how weird it is that we are trying to squeeze and shape ourselves and then elongate our lines with these damn ankle-breaker shoes.

But then I thought, “That’s not the point.” Everything doesn’t have to be molded until it means something, just because I want to write a poignant blog post about the state of… the state of what? Is fashion just fashion, and that’s it? Or does it reflect on who we are and what we value as a society? Clean and sleek, hide the lumps and smooth out the silhouette, put your best foot forward even if the shoe on it is making you wince.

And then I thought some more, until it hit me what is really at the heart of all of this. I have always looked at older women who seem to have a uniform. You know – polyester, elastic waist pants, floral shirts, sensible shoes that are a little odd-looking at the same time. And I have always wondered how it happens. Because that’s not the kind of look that just sneaks up on you. You do it all at once. One day you are putting together sassy outfits, and then you blink and you are driving a Rascal through Walmart with a taupe pocketbook that matches your taupe oxford comfort shoes. And I have always wondered what must be the breaking point. What puts you over the edge? What makes you think that maybe owning all ten colors of these pants is a fabulous idea?

I think¬† it might just be strutting around in a pair of high heels in the shoe section, and when trying to figure out what’s not quite right about them, you realize, “These look too young.”

I think I’ll start with the “royal jade” and “fresh strawberry” pants and build form there.


Clean your room.

“Most kind of stories save the best part for last.
Most stories have a hero who finds
you make your past your past”

Joshua Radin, Brand New Day

When I was younger, one of the biggest struggles I faced was keeping my room clean. It just seemed like it took so much time and energy to put things back where they belonged, or to make sure that my dirty clothes made it to the hamper instead of the floor.

To be honest, I still struggle with this a little bit. As I have gotten older, I find that I like my environment to be clean and organized. I like knowing where things are. I like knowing that if I get up in the middle of the night I am not going to break myself walking around the bed.

I like to put things in order, clean, straighten, organize, sort, donate. Things don’t get lost as often. Things don’t get broken as often. And I, clumsy as I am, don’t trip, stub, twist, puncture, or crunch myself as much.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from an old colleague asking if I knew some special secret to life. I was kind of baffled at the question, but then I realized that I did, in fact, have a secret.

I clean my room, constantly.

By that I mean, I put my past back behind me where it belongs. I let it go. I start over again. If it’s out, it’s not where it belongs, and it’s right there for me to keep on stumbling over.

When I answered my friend’s e-mail, here is what I said: “The best choice I make on a continual basis is to leave the past behind me. Honestly, if I had to give anyone only one piece of advice, that would be it. Leave it. It’s over. It can’t be changed, ever. So I could look back and see all of my failed attempts and let that define my reality – or I can look forward and see a blank page… the rest of my life waiting to be written, and I hold the pen.”

Or: Clean your room, and then get to work.

And try to enjoy it a little, if you can.


Railroad Earth.

Some of you know what an odd and wonderful musical journey I have been on since September 2011, when I accidentally attended my first bluegrass festival. I have written about it, I have talked about it, and I have positively baffled my friends with my discovery and subsequent fanaticism about this music.

What is so great about Bluegrass?

Collaboration. Mutual respect and admiration of musical greatness. Willingness to peek, grasp, and sometimes grab giant fistfulls of earth from outside the genre proper and mold it into something new and magical. Talent. Passion.

These are the things I see when I see live bluegrass shows. I have seen one of the best fiddle players ever just stand and stare, amazed, as Bela Fleck played a banjo solo.

So, now I have gotten to the stage in my fanaticism that I am actively seeking out live shows and festivals. I want in. This is my music. These are my people. They get what I get out of it.

And somehow, in all of this, one of the least likely bands ever reached out and grabbed my ankle as I tried to sneak by. I don’t like music that has “too much jamming.” I never was one for jam bands. Ever. Ask anyone, really.

So, imagine Mr. Thor’s surprise when I stood through my first Railroad Earth show, mouth half open. Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried. Sometimes I clapped my hands and closed my eyes. I have never heard music like this. I have never heard songs like this. I have never seen artists split themselves open on stage night after night and pour out what this band pours out.

They don’t fit into the tidy little slot created by the word “bluegrass.” But then again, neither do my other top contenders. They get served with bluegrass. If bluegrass is a backyard barbeque, Railroad Earth is that exotic but delicious dish that your new neighbors brought and you’re SO GLAD you tried.

They certainly aren’t the potato salad.

I have seen them late at night, I have seen them two nights in a row, multiple times. I drove 5 hours and burned an entire weekend to see one show of theirs. I recently went to see them in Lancaster, then Baltimore – two nights in a row.

It seems that I am planning my life around Railroad Earth concerts.

Right now, I am looking forward to this: in July, I will go to Colorado for the first time in my life. I will see Railroad Earth play Red Rocks, The Boulder Theater, and Belly Up. Three nights in a row.

They’re not the only band, but they are in my top three. This year, it works out that we will get to go to at least 9 shows, including one on my birthday. My brother has taken to calling me “hippie” and saying that I am going “on tour.”

I’m not though. I’m just living.

Railroad Earth_Lancaster25
Railroad Earth at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA