I Love America–The Band

I do love America…but I’d never seen them in concert. I also love Bread, but I missed the boat on that band…two key members died of cancer shortly after they did their 25 year reunion tour in 1997. As you know, I’m 50…so I was just a child, between 6 and 7, when America hit the airwaves, three American boys with British moms in England…they named themselves America so no one would think a bunch of British kids were pretending to American musical roots. I call their music, and that of Bread and CS&N (or CSNY), American Folk Rock. I love it. I love the stories, the melodies, and the sweet, melodic rock. I love America.

Detroit puts on a series of riverfront rock concerts each summer. Last year, I learned about these concerts at the end of summer with the last of the concerts, America. I wanted to go, but had no one to go with. I thought of taking my kids, but was still intimidated with the endeavor…I have a night-vision problem and when you combine that with taking an unfamiliar path to an unfamiliar place…well, I chickened out. That night there was a huge thunderstorm, and the next day I learned that the concert had been canceled. At least, I thought, I didn’t miss anything.

This year, I looked over the summer concert schedule, but with my younger daughter’s travel basketball and travel softball schedule, I would certainly miss most of the concerts. Additionally, I hadn’t addressed my concerns with driving downtown in the dark by myself. I semi-resigned myself to not going. Then one day, I mentioned it to a friend of mine and she told me she was all in! Not only that, but she offered to drive.

Suddenly, going to the America concert was a reality. In the end, three of us went. Although the concert was free, a restaurant on the riverfront offered an inexpensive buffet with “VIP” seating. We were too late to get reservations, but we did get reservations at the same restaurant “on the patio”. This turned out to be temporary sidewalk seating. They were pleased to let us sit there for hours so that we could enjoy the show.

I learned a lot, to be utilized next summer. Eating on the patio was pleasant, but quite expensive. Next year, we’ll get the buffet tickets (although they are inside). We had access to the restaurant’s restroom…highly desirable compared to the port-a-john alternative. The VIP seats that went with the buffet appeared to be right next to the stage. Truly VIP seats! We also discovered the best parking…validated by the restaurant for a 40% discount and just two quick turns from the highway home.

The concert? It was ideal. America has been playing a hundred concerts a year for 44 years…talk about knowing your stuff! They’ve long passed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to mastery. I taped Ventura Highway on my cell phone. The video portion was lackluster, but the audio is great. Two days later, when I woke up after my younger daughter had gone to the One Direction concert with her dad, we traded recordings. She played a selection which featured a lot of screaming girls with a song in the background. I played her my recording and she marveled that it sounded like I was playing the radio.

The best part of the concert was staying until the last encore was over…a luxury I’ve been denied for decades. So, let me leave you with that song, A Horse With No Name. It tossed me back to my youth…ROCK ON!

Find the Joy in the Journey…A journey that never ends!

Going Back to Middle School as a Grown-Up

Memorial Weekend is also the town homecoming festival where I come from. It is a tradition to bundle the kids in the car and drive three hours and stay for the weekend. Traditionally, we’d leave on Saturday morning to avoid an extra night in a hotel. The last few years, however, I’ve opted to go on Friday since my kids have been out of school that day. This year, my older daughter has her first job and it started just before the weekend. She got a lot of weekend hours, and decided to stay behind and work. It was our first trip without her. My son came home so that he could come along, so it was just three of us this year.

After checking into our hotel, we drove to town and met up with my sister, nephew, and dad. It was my younger daughter’s birthday, so she opened a few presents before we split up. My sister and I headed over to what we think of as the Middle School for a 100 year anniversary of the school, although much of it was built as under the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in 1939. My sister attended the school from fifth through eighth grade and my other sister and I attended sixth through eighth grade since fifth had been moved back to the elementary school by then. I knew that my parents attended the school when the building was Kindergarten through twelfth grade, so I’m not sure why I was so surprised to find that they’d re-purposed it again and it was now the Intermediate School for fourth through sixth grades.

We had sixth grade guide who, with much seriousness and poise, gave us a tour. Well, as soon as she could tell us that we were passing the art room, we couldn’t help remarking, hey, that was the shop! I asked the guide if there were still a shop, and she said, maybe in the gym (thinking I was referring to a retail shop for the occasion). The home economics room and school office were gone too, making way for more classrooms. By rearranging things, a few classrooms had been turned into offices for various things such as special needs and gifted education.

The school lunch room, place of much middle school drama, was the same. It seemed smaller though and less worthy. A friend late remarked that it was turned into a wrestling room after school, sparking a latent memory. I wandered into the theater and up onto the stage. As a high school student I had worked the stage lights from the light cage…the cage was gone. Off stage more memories flooded back of being in a play and preparing in the music room, then coming up the back way the wings to await an entrance. Back in the gym, I saw that the dreaded climbing rope was gone. Looking up to the ceiling I realized that it was not smaller than in my memory…that really would have been a thirty-foot climb to reach the metal I-beams over head. I think I made it once, to impress a boy who was then nowhere in sight as I touched the beam and shakily made my way back down.

I found my eighth grade photo in a yearbook and saw that I still had glasses. Contacts must have been after picture day. What memories, mostly forgotten! My sister and I, not knowing the current restaurant situation, checked Urban Spoon and were soon dining on sushi at a sidewalk table with no drink service. The menu was limited, but the food was divine. After that “snack” we walked a few blocks to a bistro/bar new to us and had a glass of wine before the “all class reunion” where we rejoined our dad and tried to find some former classmates.

All-and-all it was a lovely start to the weekend. I gathered my children back up (my son, meanwhile had won a pizza eating contest) and we went back to our hotel to rest up for the events ahead!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy in memories of youth!

 

Movie Mania

imageThere is something about movies that is magical to me. I struggle sometimes to unearth early memories, and so it is with movies. My earliest movie memories are going to the local drive-in with my family and another which had four children. They had a woodie station wagon and we had a VW Bug. The adults would sit in the VW and we seven kids would sprawl-out in the station wagon in our PJ’s. In my memory, it was always a double feature and I was most definitely nodding off half-way through the second feature.

Most movies I watch once or twice, but some I’ve watched many times over. I started to wonder what it was about these movies that drew me to re-watching them. Of course, I’ve watched many children’s movies with my kids, and as each child was old enough for a movie I’d watch it all over again. Lately, I watch my younger daughter’s favorites with her over and over again. We’ve probably watched The Hunger Games half a dozen times. We’re only on round two of Catching Fire

I re-watch some movies because they are seasonal and a way to recapture past holidays or share a tradition with my children. It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas, Ground Hog Day on February 2nd, Jesus Christ Superstar at Easter. But what about the movies that I choose to watch over and over again with no special purpose in mind?

It’s been years since I’ve watched Romancing the Stone (1984), but I’ve seen it many times. It stars a young Kathleen Turner as a shy, reclusive, romance-novel writer. She is drawn out of her comfort zone to rescue her sister from kidnappers in Columbia. This movie touched on many things for me. Since I learned to read as a child, I always dreamed of being a successful novelist, so the main character drew me in. I love action/adventure movies and this one fits that genre. It’s also a romance, a plus.

The next movie I got hooked on was a classic film-noir, Gaslight (1944) starring the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. Her character moves into her murdered aunt’s home with her new husband. He systematically starts to convince her that she’s insane and we follow her slow, sad decent into seeming madness before the mystery is resolved and her sanity is affirmed. Even knowing the ending of the movie, I love to watch it again just to see it all unfold. The phrase “gaslighting” has come to mean altering someone’s perception of reality. It is a very abusive behavior and having been on the receiving end, the movie has taken on even more significance to me.

On to more light-hearted fair, a have probably seen the The Princess Bride (1987) more times than any other movie and each time I watch it I enjoy it more than the last. The crew is heavily populated with talented comics with Robin Wright as the straightwoman playing Princess Buttercup. It is a swashbuckling, comedic, love story and easily the most quotable film ever made. I suppose it was made as a children’s movie, but it is a movie with so many layers of humor that it is enjoyable at any age. 

Another love of mine is science fiction. Contact (1997) was an instant hit for me. It stars Jody Foster, a favorite actress of mine, as a scientist set on discovering proof of extra-terrestrial life. Even though she has a PhD and is incredibly intelligent, she doesn’t get much respect from the scientific community. This is also the first movie I saw starring Matthew McConaughey. He plays a sexy preacher. The non-religious scientist and the preacher develop a great appreciation for an all-encompassing, common view of awe and wonder, science and God. This movie just hit the sweet spot for  me and I watch it about once a year.

I have other favorites, too, like Bend It Like Beckham  (2002) and Akeelah And The Bee (2007) both of which involve breaking from tradition and stereotype. There is difficulty and there is triumph. These are feel-good, young-adult films made before the current wave of dystopian films. I don’t know why I am so drawn to the young adult genre…maybe because it allows me to imagine a different experience growing up without actually having to be a teenager again.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the joy in discovering a new, must-watch movie!

A Tale Of Two Home Openers

A few years ago, my sister and her son came for a spring break visit. They came to frigid Michigan from hot and sunny Florida. In retrospect, I should have gone to visit them instead. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun on their vacation and my staycation. The highlight was to attend a professional baseball game. Unfortunately, the only Tigers home game during their stay was the home opener and I couldn’t get tickets.

I tried to get tickets, sitting in front of my computer for two hours clicking through the buying process over and over again only to be bumped out. Clearly the system was not robust enough to handle selling all the tickets for all the games for all the teams all at once. Once I gave up on Tigers tickets, I took a shot at buying opening day tickets to the Mud Hens. I was worried about not being able to get tickets, so I opted to buy a package available prior to the regular tickets going on sale. The tickets included a buffet lunch for not a lot more.

On game day, it was bitterly cold and windy. We went through the buffet line and sat down at a picnic table straight back from second base. Due to the shape of the stadium, the wind whistled most fiercely through the picnic area. Once we finished our lunch we tried to find our seats only to discover that the picnic benches were our seats. Although I’d brought several stadium blankets with me, very soon my sister and her son slipped away and bought sweatshirts and stocking caps. In the end, it was so cold that we left before the end of the game.

This week, I had my first opportunity to attend a Tigers home opener and what a contrast. I worked through the morning and then left around 11 a.m. intending to meet up with my colleagues at 11:30. I soon learned that I had waited too long. The entire area around the stadium for about a one mile radius was packed with cars and people. Music was blaring and clearly many people had been partying all morning.

All the parking lots and garages were full, but I finally found a lot which allowed me to park in an unmarked spot because my car was small enough to fit. I felt relieved to only hand over $20 since I’d been quoted $40 elsewhere and I only had $28 on me.

I walked to the stadium, trying to memorize where I’d left my car. Pressing through the crowd, I struggled to find my group, but with a lot of text messaging we ultimately found each other. We then got in line for the stadium. Calling it a line is misleading, as it was really just an enormous crowd all pressing towards the doors. It was the first game with walk-through metal detectors and things were going very slowly. Eventually we made it in and found our seats.

The next few hours were pure heaven, especially given the extremely cold and snowy winter we were still trying to escape. The sun was out, the temperature was in the high fifties, I drank my first shandy, and we reveled in the warmth of the almost-imageforgotten sun. The game was exciting with a tie going into the bottom of the ninth. The winning run emptied the bench and got all of the fans up and out of our seats to cheer. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to share the day with my sister and nephew.

Find the Joy in the Journey…revel in every glorious day that you find!

Flashback to the 80’s—Sneaking Out

This weekend I went back to my hometown for the Memorial Day weekend. It is also our town’s festival weekend and the time for all the high school reunions. It wasn’t a big reunion year for me, but there is always an all-class reunion and I went to that. I was friends with a lot of people the year behind me, and it was their reunion year, so I wanted to touch base with some people I hadn’t seen in 31 years!

I also ran into high school friends that I hadn’t seen in as long and enjoyed catching up in real life, after having gotten reacquainted via Facebook over the last few years. I told one woman, that one of my highlight memories was of the two of us sneaking out to a concert one night. This was quite an adventure for me, but it turns out she did many similar things in high school and had even forgotten about our adventures that night.

The set up was that her parents were out of town (true) and that she had to stay home with her younger brother (true) and that she was uneasy being home with just the two of them (not true). Of course she couldn’t stay over with me, because of the younger brother, so I got permission from my parents to stay with her. We were both 18…another key to the story.

I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but according to ClevelandRockAndRoll.com, it must have happened just before I went off to college, on August 24, 1982. A week later I would be doing as I pleased at night without my parents’ permission!

My friend had an older brother in Ohio City, which back in 1982 wasn’t the safest place to hang around at night. Joining up with her much older brother, we traveled to the Cleveland Agora, historically the number one rock club in the country. As we entered, I showed my ID proving I was 18, and we were allowed in. Even though we were 18, and could legally drink “low beer”, I’m pretty sure that my friend’s brother bought us some “real” beers.

We drank our beers and wandered around the lobby, sighting the legendary, Daffy Dan. At least he was a local legend, having virtually invented the concert T-shirt in the early 70’s and becoming incredibly rich in the process…but you wouldn’t know it to see him, an aging hippy with very long, brown hair and, of course, wearing a Daffy Dan T-shirt. We all knew his slogan, “If your T-shirt doesn’t have a DD on the sleeve, it’s just underwear!”

More excitement was ahead as we sat down to see Billy Idol up close and personal. He’d just released his debut, eponymous, solo-album and sang all the hits, including Dancing With Myself, a song I listen to several times a week these days as it is in my running playlist. And now, thanks to my friend taking me on one of her adventures, I can say that I was there at the beginning of the “Second British Invasion” coincident with the dawning of MTV.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the richness in your own history!

Happy 120 Years to This Old House of Ours

Twenty years ago, my husband and I bought our first and only house. This past week, she turned 120 years old.  She is a dear old lady of a house, with “good bones”. We nicknamed her The Money Pit after the Tom Hanks/Shelley Long movie. When my husband grabbed the handle to the screened door as we entered our new home for the first time, the door came off the hinges into his arms.

We were house-poor; able to pay our mortgage, but little else. We loved the old gal and immediately started working on rehabbing and renovating, efforts which continue to this day. I had our first child 8 and a half months later and over time we filled the bedrooms with two more children. The spare bedroom was filled for 16 years with exchange visitors from all over the world.

A friend, early on, asked us about the ghosts…surely there must be some in a house so old. No, no ghosts at all, although some mysterious noises that took us a while to figure out. There was the squeaky board in the hallway that recorded a ghostly step, over and over, night after night. It wasn’t until I mentioned it to my mother and she remarked that it sounded mechanical that I figured it out. The only mechanical thing near my room was an air purifier and sure enough, it was making a rhythmic squeak that sounded just like a foot on a squeaky floor board. The only other nightly visitors turned out to be raccoons in our attic.

When we finally had the ability to do major repairs to the house, we decided to expand the tiny kitchen and add a master bedroom too. The process took much longer than anticipated, mostly due to unscrupulous neighbors with “connections”. In the process, the house was mostly torn apart, right down to those “good bones”. We only found a few clues to her past. A check to the milkman for $5, a military photo, and a few round playing cards were the only clues to the prior owner and his parents, who combined owned the house for close to 50 years.

The best find was when the siding was off, way up high on the front of the house, were the date and signatures of the men who built the house back in 1892. I took pictures of it before the new siding went up, but the pencil markings are hard to distinguish, and now it’s covered over and hidden again.

When we lost our rental home before our renovations were finished, we moved back in even though we didn’t have a kitchen. It was a lot of work to deal with meals and dishes, but we were relieved to be home again. Many elements that made our house special were lost in the demolition phase; we were too inexperienced to realize we couldn’t selectively save things without removing them ourselves before the job started. Here are a few of the wonderful little things that I love about our house:  fireplace detail (featured picture), moldings, finished and unfinished, and one of two stained glass windows.

Find the Joy in the Journey, and if you know a beautiful old home with “good bones”, ask her about the journeys she has observed!

One of two stained glass panels

Rosette molding…under 10+ layers of paint

Bullseye molding, stripped and refinished

Morgan Freeman Is Not Dead—But Freeman Morgan Probably Is

I read the sad news on Facebook the other day that Morgan Freeman had died of a ruptured aorta last Thursday. I wondered, why wouldn’t that have been big news by Friday? I was instantly suspicious, but didn’t have time to think about it until my younger daughter brought it up on the way home from school yesterday. She was upset that such a great actor could die and hardly anyone even knew about it; most of her friends hadn’t heard of the tragedy.

When we got home, we did an internet search and we found that for some reason a hoax was being perpetrated on Facebook about the supposed death of Morgan Freeman. It takes all kinds. I’m quite relieved that Mr. Freeman is alive and well and I hope that he makes more classic films in the future, but at the least, I hope he lives out the rest of his life in good health.

Every time I think of Morgan Freeman, I can’t help but recall Freeman Morgan. He built our family’s deck when I was 16. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the whole goings on, but I do remember that I was impressed with his abilities and work ethic.

Mr. Freeman lived about 30 miles away in an Amish town. He didn’t drive, but wasn’t opposed to being driven to a job. He was married, and therefore sported a long beard. He wore a black hat and drab clothing. He could build a relatively complicated deck with no drawings. He had no issues with spec’ing out the materials, also with no drawings.

I’m not sure how Mr. Freeman got to and from our home, but I suppose my mother picked him up and dropped him back off again every day. Maybe my dad did the driving. All I know is that one day, I was drafted to drive him home. I was appalled! I was supposed to spend almost an hour in the car driving a stranger home. He was old…to my 16-year-old mind, he was REALLY old, with grey hair and all! Probably in his 60’s!

Well, in the end, it wasn’t as awkward as I’d feared. Almost as soon as we got going, he fell asleep. He was building the deck all by himself, so I suppose he worked very hard and was exhausted by the time he went home. We got to his farm eventually, and I watched curiously as a young woman hung up the laundry while carrying a baby. I supposed this was his daughter, but it turned out to be his second wife…his first having died.

I was 16; I wasn’t looking at his lifestyle with a sense of distance. No, I was 16 and looking at his wife who was probably around 30. I thought about how difficult a life this was, especially for women…everything done manually. I thought, no wonder that his first wife died…probably from her rough lifestyle. I thought that, gee, it was hard on men too…but not as hard as for the women. Afterall, he went off and worked hard for a day focusing on one thing…but she had to deal with 8 or 9 children, often pregnant, laundry done manually, food prep done the old-fashioned way…a lifestyle on a farm with no electricity, no modern conveniences.

I suppose this episode had an impact on my young, feminist mind…but not as much as you might suppose. I recognized that the Amish have a different way of living and that it is hard…hard enough to impact their life expectancies, especially for the women. But, more than that, I looked at my own culture and knew that in the non-Amish world, women are still put in a position where they  are at a disadvantage…but they do have choices.

I love that we, American woman, have so many choices…including the choice to be domestic goddesses…and the choice to juggle our roles in infinite variety!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and celebrate the lives of the Morgan Freeman’s and the Freeman Morgan’s alike!

Some Films Are Worth The Sub-Titles

I was recently reminded of one of my favorite, but mostly neglected things. I love to watch foreign films. I love to watch movies in general, but since having children I mostly watch them on DVD. Long ago and far away, my husband and I watched all the new releases as they came out…even children’s movies and foreign films. Once our first child was born, we found it almost impossible to get away to see a movie.

Yesterday, I went to a routine meeting and before the others joined the meeting, the organizer and I started talking about other work experiences. I’m not sure how we got on the subject, but she mentioned working at a Japanese joint venture of our company twenty odd years ago. She was sent to Japan for some training and regaled me with a story about cultural difference. It seems that back in the 80’s, there was a policy in the company where if the husband (all line workers were men in the Japanese factories of the company), squandered his paycheck and didn’t properly support his family, his wife could petition the company to have his paycheck reassigned to her!

Her story made me think of my all-time favorite foreign film, the 1996 Japanese film, Shall We Dance? Now, most of the foreign films I’ve seen are either French or Spanish films; few are Japanese…but this one was not only funny and real, but poignant and a window on a different culture. We are fortunate to have three theaters nearby which play foreign films, and one screened this film when it came out in the U.S. in 1997. It must have been a rare night out for my husband and me, with two preschoolers to keep us busy.

I had long searched in vain for this movie on DVD, but it wasn’t released until the Hollywood remake, starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon, came out. I’ve never seen the remake because I just can’t imagine how it would translate culturally; it’s the Japanese culture that creates the conflicts and therefore the storyline of this movie. I’ve also found that I rarely like Hollywood remakes of foreign films.

As I listened to my co-worker, I remembered the film and realized that it had finally come out on DVD and that I’d purchased it but never watched it once I’d gotten it. I offered to loan it to her and she was enthusiastic about watching it with her daughters, subtitles being no impediment to her girls when it came to a movie about dance. So, of course, I decided to watch it when I got home from work so that I could lend it out the following week.

My daughters both feigned interest in the film, but it wasn’t at the top of their lists for the weekend, so I watched it by myself. It was everything and more that I remembered. I’m so glad that a random conversation led me to re-watch this film and share it with someone else who will enjoy it too.

Find the Joy in the Journey!

Baseball Memories–Or How I Got My Dad To Take Me To A CSN&Y Concert

I’m not a big baseball fan, well, I’m really not a fan at all, but I do enjoy my outings to the ball field. I have many happy memories and no bad ones about going to games. Maybe I even enjoy the outings more because I am not overly disappointed if the local team loses. Even the super-hot or rainy events hold fond memories for me. I usually attend at least one game a season with my co-workers, usually we go to see the local pro team and sometimes we go out and see our farm team play.

With two daughters who enjoy playing softball, I’ve become more aware of the strategy of the game and that has made watching baseball more fun too. I found myself explaining some of the rules and strategy at a Major League game last year to some of my German colleagues…I found that quite ironic!

I don’t remember my first ball game, but I remember that once when I was in my late teens I found out that Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were going to play a concert after the game. I decided to try to charm my father with CSN and CSNY’s music and convince him to take me. Now, I wouldn’t need to convince my dad to go to a ballgame with me, but I didn’t really care about the game and I wanted to be there for the concert.

I played my albums while he was around so he could see that it was lyric and folksy and not rock-and-roll loud. I also told him of the social meaning behind some of the songs and how they tied into local history.  I don’t think it took much to convince him, but I was elated. The day before, the game got rained out, so our game became a double-header. I wasn’t too thrilled about having to sit through two games before the concert, but that was the price I had to pay. During the first game, the stadium was practically empty, but by the end of the second game, the stadium was at capacity.

After the double-header, we had to wait while a stage was built in the outfield and all the equipment was brought on. Finally, the band came out to play and a crazed fan jumped over the infield railings and ran towards the band! We watched in fascination as security guards raced across the field to intercept him and get him off the field. How exciting! I thought the man was incredibly stupid…now he was going to miss the concert about which he was so fanatic!

Finally, the band started to play and the music was amazing. It was also incredibly, ear-splittingly loud. Poor dad…also, poor me. I loved the music, but wished it weren’t so loud that it was detracting from my enjoyment.  I even agreed to leave a little bit early to “beat the crowd”. (My husband has this same character flaw…don’t they know that bands save their best songs for the encores?)

I’ll never forget that day, a rare day spent one-on-one with my dad doing a little of what he loved and a little of what I loved.

Find the Joy in the Journey and don’t be afraid to try new things!

When Did Dress-For-Success Go From Job Hunt To Man Hunt?

As I struggled to figure out what to wear to work the other day, I thought back to how things have changed in women’s work wardrobes since I first stepped through the door at my company 23 years ago. It was 1989 and the bible for women’s work dress was written back in 1977 by John T. Molloy who, building on the popularity of his book Dress for Success had come out with a new book, The Woman’s Dress For Success Book. He later updated the books, but they are over a decade out-of-date these days.

Meanwhile, he seems to have moved on from helping women succeed in business…in 2004 he came out with the book Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others: The Fascinating Research That Can Land You the Husband of Your DreamsI’m not sure what that says about women these days…but I’m sure I don’t like it. Fortunately, jeans and a T-shirt were successful for me! As a matter of fact, I was wearing my then boyfriend’s old basketball camp T-shirt when his mom first clapped eyes on me, and she took that as a good sign! Then again, neither my husband nor I were ever vying for a match to propel us up the social ladder…

I still love jeans and T’s, but not for work. When I started at the office, I wore the standard uniform: dark skirt-suit, nude hose, crisp blouse buttoned to the top, demure jewelry, and dark shoes with a 2 and a half inch heel. I fit right in. You could wear a dress, but you’d get some looks and maybe even a comment on your professionalism. Shopping was an important part of my life back then; trying to build up a wardrobe on a post-college budget was a challenge.

One memorable day, I went on a tour of one of our plants with a large group of other new people. We all wore our best business dress, as required. This worked well for the men, but I was really put out at the impositions it made upon me…common sense would have dictated that I could have worn flats and pants that day, but no, that would have been outside of the existing dress code for women. So, I wore a skirt-suit and heels. I stepped gingerly through the plant and wore my poor feet out on the cement floor. At one point, we were to attend a meeting in a room in the middle of the plant. To get there, we had to climb an open metal-mesh stairway. So, picture me with my left hand clutching all the excess fabric at the side of my skirt, my right hand on the railing, climbing the stairs on tip-toe for fear of getting a heel stuck in the stairs. Oh, and don’t forget the men passing by trying to get a peak up said suit skirt…

Of course, as soon as I had built-up a decent wardrobe and even some very nice “classic” pieces, I got pregnant. My body has never fit back into that wardrobe again. I struggled in that first pregnancy to look polished and professional. Unfortunately there were no helpful hints for dressing for success for pregnant women with swollen ankles and a swelling belly. I ended up buying two business-worthy suits that ended up being too small for me in my next pregnancy.

Between my first two pregnancies, my company instituted “casual Fridays”, the first Fortune 500 company to do so, as far as I know. Meanwhile, I’d been trying to buy myself a pantsuit but had trouble finding anything. I was really ticked when another woman in my department wore a pantsuit on the first casual Friday…she was completely undermining the definition of “casual”…suits are business attire, not business casual!  But, on the opposite side of the spectrum, some (non-professional) women started wearing hand-painted silk pantsuits on casual day…pricey and arguably “nice”, but definitely NOT business casual. Growing pains I guess, but I say just really poor judgment.

When the first casual day came around, the men were all set…a few pair of Dockers and several Polo shirts and they were all set! We women had it much harder. Of course, we could wear Dockers and Polo’s too…but that’s pretty bland for a woman’s business wardrobe. We struggled for a while until the fashion industry finally caught on to a new market.  Then my company, again the first as far as I know, went business casual all the time.

These days, I know exactly what to and what not to wear to work, but as I’ve gained weight, I’ve held myself back from making any major investments in my wardrobe. This is what led me to my latest wardrobe dilemma…what to wear when the only 2 pairs of pants that fit are in the laundry!  No one commented on, or even looked askance, at the black jeans I wore with my heels and jacket…but I really need to either lose weight or buy new clothes!

Find the Joy in the Journey…realizing that women are making progress in the workplace (except for that scary “finding a husband of your dreams” thing) brings a smile to my face!