Friday, May 31, 2013

keep off the grass

you owned the neighborhood as a kid
wandering from yard to yard
never considering
such inconsequential matters as privacy
or the vague intricacies of lawn care
it was all yours, except
for the yard belonging to that mean man
the one every street had
the one who didn’t let you walk
on his immaculately groomed grass
and who called your mother if he ever caught you
he was the one your parents even thought
was kind of a jerk
except they never said it, of course
never agreed with you, of course
but, as they reprimanded you
telling you for the umpteenth time
to stay away from his yard
or you’d be confined indefinitely to your own
significantly reducing the size and scope
of the entire universe
they seemed to exchange secret, knowing looks
as if perhaps, remembering
their own childhoods
their own mean men
they secretly understood, maybe
they sympathized in silent camaraderie
when you moaned about how unfair it was
because he had the nicest grass to play on 

Monday, May 27, 2013

define this

Someone asked me recently if I was going to go back to posting daily outfit pix. I don’t think so, though I’m sure I’ll do one now and then. I guess the nature of this blog has changed a I have, certainly. Then came the question, are you going to change your blog name? I hadn’t really thought about that.  Does the name, Fashionably Later still fit?  

I’ve been getting back to basics on many fronts in my life so maybe I should try including this blog in that effort, too. Since one of the first rules of blogging is to find your niche, that means you need to define yourself. I decided to start there.  For inspiration I searched on the present name of this blog, Fashionably Later, and I got...well, my blog, but after that came a review in the Boston Globe of the Sex In The City movie from 2008 and some tumblr picture of a person wearing cut-off denim shorts. Not exactly helpful. So instead I tried Googling the phrase of origin, Fashionably Late.  Here is some of what came up from that:
-The refined art of being just late enough.
-When you show up late, so everyone will think you have a life.
-Getting noticed by arriving at that time, in other words standing out by being late.
-Arriving late to an event to give the impression that you are a busy, popular person.
I kinda like the first one. The second one made me laugh -- none of them really helped, though.  Maybe I should go back to the beginning. When I started Fashionably Later it was supposed to be a fun little wardrobe diary for a middle-aged mom, with a small slice of life tossed in now and then. I wanted to rebuild my confidence and prove that style was something any woman could create regardless of her size, vocation, budget or age. It wasn’t about making a major fashion wasn’t about fashion at all, not in the sense that word is typically used. For me this was about one woman’s "re-found" desire to look her best as a simple act of personal empowerment, and doing so a little later in life. I shared it for entertainment, and because I thought just maybe it would inspire someone else in a similar never know.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the style blog – I got diagnosed with breast cancer. And what I had intended as a positive but fairly lighthearted endeavor quickly became something very different.
I wrote about my cancer journey, about my life, about things way beyond what I was wearing. And the people who once commented on outfit choices or accessories now were leaving me the most amazing comments that carried me through the worst time of my entire life. They gave me hope, they cried with me, they uplifted me and some even kept vigil when I wasn’t here. I “met” other women with cancer as well as a slew of talented and supportive writers...a diverse little gathering coalesced for me here. The outpouring from my tiny corner of the blogosphere was one of the most touching things that has ever happened to me. I’ll never forget it. Never.
A lot has changed since my cancer diagnosis four years ago. I’ve changed, my body has changed, my goals, even my tastes have changed. In some ways perhaps for the better, but to be honest, in many ways I still mourn for the woman I once was. I miss her. Of course, everything always don’t need cancer to have that happen. That’s just life.
As I try to find my voice again and recreate myself I don’t completely know what is in store for this blog (let alone anything else). I don’t see it returning exclusively to style commentary or a wardrobe diary, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to all that completely either. There are so many other things I want to write about, too, things I've got on my mind.  Perhaps despite typical blogging advice I shouldn’t focus on finding my niche or defining this blog any more than I should try to strictly define myself. I don't need any more limitations at this point in my life.
I've decided for now not to worry about descriptions anymore.  This is who I am, this is what I like and here’s what I feel like writing about. It might not always be cohesive, but I'm still doing it with my own sense of style...and definitely a little later than I had originally planned. Based on that, the name Fashionably Later still fits pretty well, I think -- so I guess in the end some things haven’t changed that much after all ;)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

six words: first exhibition

Megan's beautiful sketch won Honorable Mention!
sketch close-up
happy girl, proud father

Join the fun --
click the button!

(hey, that was six words too!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

the proper attire

I donated the dress I wore to my father’s funeral
gave it away
placed it in the bottom of a bag
under an old coat and some shirts
the dress was nice
but I have no need to wear it again 

my father died in spring
and it was difficult at a time like that
to figure out what to wear
the lightness of the season counterbalanced
with the needs of a somber occasion
but it wasn't a somber dress
in fact, it was almost exuberant
a large scale print of abstract flowers
splashed across a flouncy skirt
it was sleeveless, with an exaggerated collar 

my choice for necklace 
was the only jewelry he ever gave me
hematite beads,
once known as blood stone
the strand doubled around to fill in the empty space
created by the open V-neck 

his death was a surprise, he wasn’t sick,
they say my father died in his sleep,
peacefully, on a warm spring evening
flowers blooming in the dark outside his window
as colorful as my pretty dress
he hated that dress
so I don't need it anymore 

Monday, May 20, 2013

how many dishes do we need?

Twenty-three years ago when I first moved into Michael’s small urban apartment he had 4 plates, 3 bowls and a few mismatched mugs. So I added a set of dinnerware to the growing list of things we should buy. He looked confused and said, “There’s just two of us, how many dishes do we need?” I laughed and thought, typical guy. Not long after, we bought a nice service for eight...eight of everything -- bowls, dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates, cups & saucers. The set filled our kitchen’s minimal cupboard to bursting, but I knew someday we’d have a house to put it all in. Besides, what if company came? 

But, we never entertained in that tiny apartment, so it was just the two of us. We were a lazy busy couple with no dishwasher.  Every plate and bowl would get used before someone would break down have time to wash them. Dirty dishes often overflowed from the small sink. The kitchen was cluttered with all the things we had no room for in the overstuffed cabinet. It was a constant battle against chaos. 
When we finally moved into our house years later the dishes no longer went with my changing tastes. But rather than relegate them to the donation pile they were stored in the basement in case. In case maybe I’d grow to like them again...or perhaps our future children might want them someday. The set was one of the first things their father and I bought together as a couple so they were special, and you are supposed to keep special things. That’s what my grandmother always did.
My late grandmother was an antiques and collectibles dealer. She taught me the fine art of treasure hunting. She was also a hoarder that taught me the not so fine art of attaching emotional value to every object you own. It can be a pleasant notion, at first; that each item in your home tells a little story. I am by nature a story lover, so the idea of passing down heirlooms and tales that go with them has innate appeal. But other things get passed down sometimes, too. Things like habits and sensibilities that may not be practical, or worse -- can become unhealthy.  

My grandmother could have lived to see my children born. She could have told them her many stories, with or without her vast "collections". But tragically the year before I became pregnant with Megan she fell down the stairs in her home and died as a result of her injuries. It was horrific.  She lived alone in a large multilevel dwelling and refused to downsize because it would mean getting rid of too many things. When I previously wrote about her death it was with the mindset that she died where she wanted to, after a long life, in her “beloved” (and stuffed to the rafters) house. That is one way to look at it, but I am not quite so easily reconciled to that today.  
I have thought about my own death, for obvious reasons.  Amidst those unpleasant thoughts about my mortality comes the realization that my family will have to deal with my stuff. I am not a hoarder by any means. But I do have a lot of stuff, especially for the small house we have chosen to continue living in. And in that light many of my belongings tell different stories to me now.  Along with anecdotes and recollections, some of my things also tell the story of lost time...time spent searching for items I cannot find in clutter, time spent trying to keep up with cleaning and caring for objects instead of pursuing activities that nourish my creative spirit, not to mention the time and energy used to acquire these things in the first place. Frankly, I’m not sure I can afford to waste that much time. Then again, can anyone? 
It has dawned on me that not every belonging has the potential to be treasure, in fact, much of it could be more akin to burden. I also realize that by striving to have less I can work towards getting more – as in getting more out of my life.  
How often do we say we have too much on our plates? In my case I had too many plates and not enough on them. So now whenever I consider buying anything I ask many dishes do I need? This mental shorthand reminds me about what is important. I only need enough – what is sufficient to feed my soul and the souls of my loved ones with. And in that regard, I already have plenty...I already have everything I need.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

six words: star magnolia


one last bloom 
poignant triumph
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

angelina jolie

I thought about doing a blog post regarding Angelina Jolie's prophylactic mastectomy.  It goes without saying that we have very little in common, though...even cancer-wise.  I had cancer, she didn't, I tested BRCA negative, she didn't, my mother is still a alive, still surviving, sadly hers is not.  Even our mastectomies were different -- hers was bilateral and used implants, mine was unilateral and used my own tissue for immediate reconstruction

Yet it occurs to me in the most fundamental way she and I do share the important issues.  We are both mothers.  Cancer has touched us.  We both did whatever we could to keep it from taking our lives. 

There is a lot more to say on this subject, especially from the perspective of those whose lives have been touched by cancer...but perhaps no one has said it quite so well as Nancy, from the blog Nancy's Point.  I urge you to read her piece on Ms. Jolie.  It really gets to the heart of the matter.

Of course I'm hoping for a future where our daughters (and sons) never have to face these impossibly difficult decisions...a future with nothing to fear from breast cancer.  But until that day, staying informed is our best weapon. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

thoughts, one month later

a pressure cooker
was used as an explosive device
this cooking pot
for the creation of nourishment
to butcher an innocent crowd
once a harmless vessel
now filled to the brim
with agony
and simmering hate
to be doled out with terror
what kind of hunger
drives someone to invent
such a recipe?


Monday, May 13, 2013

in the eyes of the beholder

Beauty is by nature objective.  And like the old 1970's song says, everyone is beautiful in their own way.  Yet rarely do I ever appreciate my own beauty in the present tense.  Instead I tend to see it most in images from the past.  Whenever I see photos of myself  I think wow, I didn’t realize how nice I looked then.  The mirror of today often tells me a much different story than the lens of yesterday. 

When I created this blog and began posting outfit pix here it was an attempt at self-acceptance.  I was trying to appreciate my inherent beauty...a beauty I believe everyone possesses.  While society often has unrealistic ideals for what is considered attractive, I’m not interested in that.  As a nearly 50 year old woman those impossible standards left me in the dust years ago.  I’m talking about the kind of beauty that is personal.  The kind where you are pleased with the image in the mirror because you look your best and it represents who you are as a whole, real person -- not some narrowed view based on arbitrarily defined criteria meant for a ridiculously select few. 

But lately beautiful is a bit far from how I feel.  When I look in the mirror today I see a woman radically altered.  From a 40+ pound weight gain due to ongoing cancer meds, to a head of hair grown back after chemo that doesn’t feel like my own, not to mention the accelerated progression of aging as a result of treatment -- all have left me feeling a little less than pretty at the moment.  I confess, I’ve been avoiding the mirror, let alone the lens. 
I remember feeling this way before.  Sandwiched between my late twenties and thirties I began a weight gain spiral that eventually resulted in "significant obesity."  I disliked my reflection in the mirror then, too.  I don’t even have any pictures of myself from that period, but other people have one or two.  I saw them not long ago and you know what?  Once again, in the rearview mirror of history I could see myself as attractive...I could find plenty to recognize as beautiful.  What a shame I didn’t see it back then.  I would have gained so much from even a little bit more self-esteem. 

Maybe part of how we judge our own appearance should also be relative to our experience, to what is going on in our lives.  For me that means focusing on how I feel, on making  positive strides every day to regain my health.  I want to reclaim wellness post-cancer.  Meanwhile I will try harder to embrace the body I am in right now because it sure has been through a lot and served me pretty well in the process, all things considered. 

So I took these pictures. I posed on my back deck for the first time in years.  I may not immediately love what I see.  It may be obvious how cancer has changed me, and unwanted change is never easy.  But now I will always have these images to look at and remember I was beautiful...I was beautiful today.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

six words: motherhood

blessed twice, and twice as blessed

May all devoted to the art of mothering,
in any way...have a lovely mother's day tomorrow!!!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

foggy morning

what can you say 
about the fog
that hasn’t already been written 

that it rolls in like a blanket
soft gray tufts drape the ground
in slinky damp 

that it disguises some features
while others glow
against its dull backdrop 

that it drifts away
taking with it the otherworld
created or revealed 

there is nothing new to write
about the fog
but I did it anyway

Monday, May 6, 2013

rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated

--Mark Twain

Several people who used to read this blog feared I had died when I stopped posting, thus the infamous quote for a title. 

Of course it's more than understandable they thought that. If I read a blog written by someone with breast cancer and they abruptly stopped posting, my mind would go there. It is where anyone’s mind would go.

But I’m still alive and doing well, cancer-wise. Four years have passed since my Stage II-b  diagnosis. You know, when I first heard “II-b” it sounded like "to be" and I was immediately reminded of, “to be, or not to be, that is the question.” Silly, I know. Besides, and with all due respect to Will Shakespeare...that really wasn’t the question I was asking myself, at least not at the time.

It wasn’t the question that rattled around in my head the last couple years since the end of treatment, either. That one was: Now what? As in, this destroyed my life as I knew do I move on now?

In the midst of an extended crisis I always wish I could hit some magical button and fast-forward to the time just beyond it...naturally, who wouldn’t? During chemo I would lie in bed, feeling sick and weak, and try to send my mind into that future. I kept thinking, what did I want my life to look like after this was over? What was really important to me? Those were better questions. All I needed were the answers.

Turns out it wasn’t grand ideas or unfinished dreams I longed to spend my future accomplishing. What I wanted most was just a return to the little day to day stuff. I missed the gentle rhythm of my life. Morning routines, mealtimes, bedtime rituals, those quiet patterns that weave in and out of an average day – all those moments, those times I could no longer ebb and flow with because I was suspended in another time, a time out of time...a time to be ill.

And then something vaguely resembling an epiphany came to me. The insight was pretty simple that you may find it obvious. But at the time it felt very important to me. It still does.

The way you spend most of your days is how you end up living your life.

That is the sum total when all is said and done. I didn’t care about checking anything exciting off my bucket list. I didn’t care about fixing my laundry list of regrets. And they were long lists, let me tell you. Instead I just wanted to go back to doing the simple things I already spent most of my days engaged in.  That was enough because what really mattered most were all the tiny, precious daily moments of just being.

I thought I’d hold on to these poignant little realizations and after cancer treatment my life would be filled with deeper appreciation. But that’s not what happened. In fact, it was the total opposite. By the end of treatment I became bitter, morose and riddled with self-pity. I’m not sure why...maybe the hard knocks of a cancer journey fraught with some bad luck finally took its toll. Maybe it was a stage in the natural healing process. Or maybe those sorts of crystalline realizations about existential reality are just illusive by nature. Probably a little bit of each.

Just like for good ole Sam Clemens, someday the reports of my demise won’t be an exaggeration, they’ll be true. And so it will be for everyone eventually. But for today I'm still around. I get more time to heal, more time to question, more time for savoring the sweetness of life when I find it, for appreciating the many chances I have just to be here, just to be. In regards to "the question" certainly sounds like the best answer.