live each day

pedicures 3Her pedicure still looked pretty. Of all the details that are burned into my memory of this day five years ago, that image persists. By the time her body succumbed to the cancer, my mom did not look much like herself to me — she had fought a long, hard battle, and it showed. But even as she took her last shallow breath, her toes were exactly as I always remember them — pretty, painted, pink. Somehow that was comforting. I inherited her feet, among other features, and when I have a nice pedi I think of her every time I look down.

It seems impossible that she’s been gone five whole years, but also like an eternity since I’ve seen her. How’s that for typical? Who knew that this life-altering tragedy would be subject to the same paradox as every other memory that time pushes steadily into the past. So much has changed and there is so much joy in my life, but I still get as emotional about missing her as I did in year one. The gut-punch moments don’t come as often, but they sting just the same. And I still have nights like this one, in which I find myself awake at 3am beyond all reason. Everyone else in the house has been sleeping for hours and will not stir for many more, and I’m sitting in the dark going over all the details, trying to remember some, trying to forget others.

I’m happy that I had a more-than-amazing relationship with my mom in which we held nothing back. I have no regrets, no unspoken sentiments. Other than new experiences and thoughts and questions I want to share with her daily, I don’t worry that I should have said something important. But somehow, each year I go over all the things I would say and do differently if I were living this week in 2010 again. The ways I would shift my focus, choose a different response, or redirect my inner thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.

But I refuse to be sidetracked by my hangups. Today, I’m celebrating her life, honoring her legacy, and giving two of her grandchildren the extra hugs and kisses she would have showered on them. Which is not a bad way to spend the day.

my first stitch fix box!

“I’ve been wanting to try that.” Every time the personal styling service Stitch Fix comes up, I hear that comment. Until recently, it has been my own response. It seems every woman I know is itching to have a professional inject some life into their closet. (Not to mention avoiding shopping malls and getting a fun treat in the mail!)

After giving it a try, I am impressed with the ease and thoroughness of process, the quality of the items, and the presentation of the box. I won’t go in to the details of how it works, because their website does a great job of explaining it. They seem to have thought of everything, considering not only your style preferences but also your daily lifestyle and current wardrobe needs. You can even link to your fashion-themed Pinterest board to give your stylist a good idea of how you like to dress! I could tell my comments and pins were really considered. The only drawback is waiting for your first box. You get to pick your ship date, but for some reason the first available opening was four weeks away when I signed up.

So, without further ado, here is my first round of personal styling with Stitch Fix:

When I opened the box I immediately looked for the necklace my stylist, Jessica, had mentioned in her note…no, that’s not true. I went right for the invoice, first. Frugality is in my core, and I knew that this investment would mean stretching outside my normal supersale buying habits in order to get quality clothing that I actually like (for the style and not just the price). I was pleased to see that if I purchased every item in the box it would only set me back $200 (after the keep-all discount). Not bad. You can indicate budget preferences on your profile, but—as I understand it—the stylists are choosing from higher-end clothing brands.

stitch fic box

Included with the clothing items are perforated inspiration cards that show examples of each piece styled two different ways. This is a huge bonus for me. Not only has someone with fashion sense hand-picked clothing for me, but they’ve also shown me how to wear it! Yes! I tried to match the looks as closely as I could to get the best feel for if I liked the items.

In my “Fix” were two tops, two bottoms, and a piece of jewelry. The necklace didn’t have a card with photos, but Jessica mentioned in her note that she thought it could add interest to any outfit. At first it seemed a little dainty and unremarkable, but as soon as I put it on, I realized it is the necklace I never knew I always wanted. There are so many times that I can’t decide if I want to wear a neckline-skimming necklace or a long pendant—and this is both! I put it on with the t-shirt I was already wearing, and loved it immediately.

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 9.19.25 PM

stitch fix_triangle necklace

tee from Shop Good

The two tops are a similar style—both sleeveless and flowy—which might’ve been disappointing if I hadn’t asked for clothing that would be cool in the oppressive summer heat. The shirts are different enough in the cut that I don’t think they’ll be redundant in my closet if I keep them both.

First up is a silky shirt in a pretty red and grey print. There are some nice details that are difficult to see in the photos, like gathering at the shoulders and the tuxedo collar.

stitch fix_abstract print blouse cardThe casual look pairs the blouse with wide-leg drawstring pants and gladiator sandals, while the dressier style incorporates a white skirt and statement necklace. My take:

Yes, those are the same shoes and purse from my first style post three years ago. This is why I need Stitch Fix! I really like both outfits, here, even though I had to substitute pinstriped seersucker shorts for the skirt in the second look. As we’ve established, my wardrobe has its limitations. :)  Ironically, that linen skirt I got rid of would’ve done nicely. Always listen to your mother!

Next is a gauzy blouse in a gorgeous jade color. The angled hem, front pleat, and pockets really upgrade this from your average solid-color shirt.

stitch fix_natasha blouse cardThe casual look puts the blouse with cuffed straight-leg jeans and some chunky jewelry. The dressed-up look used the shirt to top a pale pencil skirt and delicate accessories. My take:

Don’t mind the awkward photo on the left. That is not a filter, something went wrong with the white balance and I couldn’t fix it in the editor. Also, I guess that facial expression is my “blue steel” look. Or, the timer on the camera ran out too fast. 😉 And as long as I’m apologizing for my unprofessional photos, several of these are tilted a bit because my Joby GorillaPod kept slipping. Oh well, you get the idea.

So I like both of these looks, as well, but the blouse is just a smidge too big. Enough that my bra shows through the armhole, and bending over to help a toddler all day would mean flashing some cleavage. If I keep it, I would probably have to always have a cami underneath.

On to dressing the bottom half! At first I thought these dark skinny jeans were black, but upon closer inspection, they are actually a deep blue. I was skeptical that they would fit perfectly, because jeans are so tricky. Imagine my surprise when this pair felt like a cozy second skin! They have just enough stretch and are actually the perfect length for my short legs! I rarely find pants that I don’t need to hem.

stitch fix_skinny jeans cardThe casual look was classic stripes and denim with flats, and the dressier option matched the jeans with a lacy scalloped sleeveless top and heels. Here is my take:

Both of those shirts came from my favorite local boutique, The Pocket Shop. And for those of you from the OK/TX area, that purse is from Harold’s! That is how long things stay in my possession! (I still carry it, it looks great!) So what can you say about classic skinny jeans? They are good quality, a good fit, a reasonable price, but I don’t know if I really need them. I do remember indicating on my style profile that I would be interested in staple items, though, and Jessica delivered. Both of the bottoms she picked are very versatile.

The last piece in my first Fix is a comfy black skirt in a thick & smooth rayon. The fabric has a good weight to it, and is so soft. And scoring bonus points right out of the box—pockets!

stitch fix_ponte skirt cardOne look combines a ruched shirt and long striped cardigan with a scarf and booties, and the other layers the skirt with a long-sleeve tunic and chic jewelry. My take:

Neither outfit on the inspiration card has a shirt intended to be tucked in to this skirt, but that is the only way it looks good to me. It may just be that I hate everything about the second outfit I put together. (Except my Titu‘s bracelet.) That cardi went straight into the consignment pile. I could’ve improved the whole look with some color in the shoes and necklace, as shown on the card. Note to self: buy lilac flats! I love purple as an alternative “neutral.” But back to the skirt—I did like how the gathering gave me a boost in the caboose. I went fairly flat back there when I started breastfeeding. 😉 Here’s a rear-view.

stitch fix_ponte skirt casual back

The skirt is a little pricier than I would usually like to spend for an item like this, but I can also see myself wearing it all summer with fitted tanks and all winter with colorful tights.

So that’s my first Stitch Fix Box! I would love your opinion on these items and which ones you think I should keep. I’ll send any unwanted items back tomorrow. If you decide to give the service a try, use my referral link and I’ll get a credit toward my next box! :)

Get Your Fix!

put yourself in HER shoes

In the past few years, I’ve written a bit about my evolving relationship with running. Running is a lot like writing for me: an outlet for energy and emotion, a challenging pursuit that inspires me to improve, an activity that stimulates creativity, and a fun diversion, and something I crave when I go too long without it. Also, “runner” and “writer” are two titles that I have been reluctant to claim, even though I avidly engage in and enjoy both things. But recognizing that I am, indeed, both a writer and runner, has been a significant part of my personal growth and my story.

Girls on the Run® is helping girls find this important perspective while in still in elementary school, inspiring 3rd-5th graders to be joyful, healthy, and confident. The positive youth development program creatively integrates running into a fun, experience-based curriculum that emphasizes competence, strength of character, compassion, and meaningful contribution to community. Girls discover their potential to be remarkable and learn that they can take charge of their own lives, develop the ability to think critically, and use their voice confidently.

Girls on the Run of Southern Oklahoma served 70 girls in Carter and Love Country last season, and is continuing to add teams each semester. The team meetings and lessons show pre-adolescent girls how to embrace their individual strengths, develop healthy relationships, successfully navigate life experiences, and positively connect with and shape the world.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article for their blog about what running means to me and how it has affected my life. Sharing my running story with pre-teen girls in my community made me realize what a powerful tool this simple sport can be to motivate, educate, inspire, and empower. I have experienced personally the effect on my physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being, and know that this influence could be even more beneficial for a young girl.

Right now the local chapter is participating in the “put yourself in HER shoes” campaign to generate support for the GOTR team activities and supplies. Your contribution could provide a program tee-shirt or 5k race entry for a participant, meeting snacks or finisher medals for a team, or scholarships for underprivileged girls. All of these things fuel a program that is guiding girls in developing skills that will serve them well for a lifetime.

Teach her she can fill any shoe she chooses.

Girls on the Run® of Southern Oklahoma is a 501(c)3

lessons learned from surviving four mother’s days without my mom

mother's day 2014For those of us who find mother’s day a little tricky—there are plenty of circumstances that complicate this fête—it’s natural to prepare for the fuss and bustle with a few coping mechanisms at the ready. In the past four years, I’ve employed a few tactics, with limited success.

I’ve tried avoiding all social media and sappy commercials. Blocking out the parade of sentimental mom tributes helps, but sticking your head in the sand isn’t the healthiest strategy.

I’ve tried focusing on my own motherhood to a sweet little one. That brings me joy, but it doesn’t satisfy the longing to honor my mom with a heartfelt gesture.

I’ve tried celebrating all the mothers in my life that I admire and appreciate. While I’m honestly thrilled to salute them, and am truly grateful for their influence on my life, I still feel the unfinished itchiness of needing to include one more person.

What I’ve learned is that these methods will never entirely soothe the mother’s day blues for me, because my unease isn’t due to the emphasis on moms making me miss mine more. That is not possible. What I feel on this day is more of a fidgety restlessness that comes with unexpressed sentiments.

On the day when everyone is professing that no, MY mom is the best!—I have things I want to say, and I want to say it to her (lovely) face! 😉 Nothing was left unsaid before my mom died (our relationship was not reserved), but becoming a mother has heightened my awe of her and increased my gratitude for everything she did for me. I have a new-found respect and wonder, and I want to gush at her.

So I’ve decided I’ve been doing it wrong. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be an exercise in divert, distract, deflect. Yes, I will continue to direct my attention toward cherishing being a mommy and esteeming the wonderful mothers around me. (And I’ll probably still give a wide berth to my online feeds.) But I’ll also deliberately spill my admiration of her. To my husband. To my family. To my friends, to God, or anyone else who will listen. And to her, even if I can never deliver the note.

This approach may not be helpful to those who dread Mother’s Day because they have a strained or absent relationship with their mom, or a yearning for a child unborn or lost. But I pray we can all find healthy ways to face the hubub, because mothers certainly deserve more than one day a year to be revered.

And this lucky mom feels very honored, loved, appreciated, and encouraged by my amazing husband, son, and family. It’s been a wonderful, near-perfect day.

Friday nights in OKC are never dull

original image via

original image via

I love my city. Oklahoma City, that is. I think fifteen years living and working and playing in the metro area earns us the right to claim it as our own, even though we reside a hundred miles away, now.

Our small town is great—really great. I love our church, our friends, our neighborhood, and being close to grandpa. But while there are certainly interesting and worthwhile cultural and business developments happening here, we miss being a part of the exciting community growth that is happening in the heart of the capital.

Oklahoma City has so much going for it, and a lot to be proud of. You don’t have to look hard to find the myriad of impressive, entertaining, beautiful, fascinating, unique attractions and organizations, so I won’t recount all of them here.

But the thing that has me missing my city right now—other than the electric NBA playoff atmosphere (get it, Thunder fans?! ;)) and a handful of shopping errands that are now out of reach—is the wonderful collaboration of several midtown districts to create fun and free street festivals every Friday of the month.

Each event is a stand-alone production, but the good neighbors have created magic by coordinating and cross-promoting rather than competing. There has been widespread restoration in once-neglected nooks of the city, and these districts are among those transforming their neighborhood into something special.

While searching for the details of each event, I was surprised that no single site had complete information including all four. Which seems impossible, since there are plenty of news outlets and blogs enthusiastic about OKC goings-on. But if I couldn’t easily find it, then it might take some extra browsing for you, too. So, for my own reference and yours, here is the scheduled monthly rotation of OKC street festivals:

First Friday: Paseo Gallery Walk , 6-10pm year-round (NW 28th & Walker Ave to NW 30th & Dewey Ave)

The arts district presents this monthly showcase of the new work of studio owners or guest artists. More than 60 artists are represented in 17 galleries along the curve of Paseo Street.

Second Friday: LIVE on the Plaza, 7-11pm year-round (along 16th St. between Penn & Classen Blvd)

There’s a block party every month in the Plaza District, featuring live music, featured artists, special events, and local shopping.

Third Friday: Premier on Film Row, 6-9pm year-round (along W Sheridan between Dewey & Shartel)

The businesses on Historic Film Row invite families to enjoy an evening featuring film screenings, live music, art exhibitions, kid’s activities, and good eats.

Fourth Friday: H&8th Night Market, 7-11pm May-Sept (along Hudson Ave between NW 7th & NW 8th St)

This family- and pet-friendly food market is built around a lineup of more than thirty of the city’s top gourmet food trucks (all in one block!) plus fresh Oklahoma craft beer.

The first Night Market of the season is this Friday (April 25th), and if we weren’t attending a fun benefit event right around the corner from our house, I might consider extending my planned day-trip to The City so I could include a visit to H&8th. If you’re looking for something to do, or just a delicious solution for dinner, you should check it out!

*I created an interactive google map that includes all four locations for those unfamiliar with the area.

View OKC Friday Street Festivals in a larger map