Worth 1000 Words #12: Monochrome

Despite my complete lack of fashion sense, which is an affliction I have suffered from for the duration of my life, I watched Project Runway for a handful of seasons, binged my fair share of ANTM back in the day, and have seen enough episodes of What Not To Wear that I should genuinely know what not to wear by now. I admire seeing folks with an eye for fashion piece outfits together, craft incredible looks out of bizarre materials, tell someone what clothing works for their body type and comfort level, or strut down a runway in unique garb with palpable confidence. I was also a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race for the first 5 or 6 seasons, and it’s a bandwagon I’ve been meaning to climb back on, because those queens know how to make a look.

img_20170405_133629_423113918457.jpgHowever, listening to Tim Gunn’s irreverent “make it work!”, inspirational speeches from Tyra Banks, and Stacey and Clint clapping at the results of their handiwork has not been enough for me to take any meaningful risks when it comes to my personal wardrobe. My clothing choices often trend in a more… monochromatic direction.

Almost every day, I wear something black. If not black, my next choice is gray. If not gray, a different shade of gray. Then, if I must, I go for white. You get the picture. Mostly, my outfits consist of some combination of those three colors (or lack thereof) on a day to day basis, though I am known to add a splash of color (I love a good pink or green, and especially purple) and even a floral pattern if I’m feeling especially wild. Upon a recent purging of my drawers and closet, I counted 15 black shirts, including 2 black 3/4 sleeve shirts, 2 black long sleeve shirts, 2 black v-necks…the list goes on. Though, I will say I am not opposed to a blending of these options. A black and gray shirt is more or less my ideal, because then I don’t have to choose between them.

I don’t quite know when this happened to my sense of fashion, where my appreciation for color dulled and I strayed in a significantly more monochrome direction. I’ve always liked wearing black, I suppose. I mean… it goes with everything, except most shades of blue, so what’s not to like? Black, gray, and white are super adaptable. I can coordinate my wardrobe so easily because approximately 85% of it looks like it’s being broadcast before the days of technicolor.

But I can’t pinpoint when this started. I used to wear much more color, and I usually see brighter and more vibrantly-patterned clothing in shop windows or on sales racks that I’m drawn to, but can’t bring myself to even consider trying on. I’ve gone so far as to buy some “risky” clothing but never summoned the courage to actually wear them, so they sit in my closet and collect dust. Now, several colors have been shunned from my closet and drawers entirely…keep orange, yellow, and most pastel shades away from my pale, pale self. But whenever I go shopping, if I’ve got someone with me (usually my mom) when I start pawing through all the black, grey, and white clothing, I get asked, “Don’t you have enough of those shades?” And I inevitably buy more, anyway. Even my graphic tees usually have a black base, though it helps that my favorite is Batman and black/gray are key colors for him.

I know I’m not the only one with this habit. I work with some folks who wear a lot of black as well – some days, 4 or 5 of us will be wearing similar outfits – but I doubt our reasons for doing so are the same. Some folks just genuinely like black, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Although I do prefer dark and neutral colors overall just as a matter of preference, I think I started dressing in a monochrome scheme because it’s safe. Nondescript. Bland. I don’t like drawing attention to myself, and that color scheme helps me achieve that goal. Wearing drab, uninspired colors makes it easier to blend in, to make it through the day without standing out, to more or less ensure that no one will pass me on the street and say, “What is she wearing?” with an accompanying look of disgust and/or horror. I mean… in reality, no one would do that, because they have lives and more important things to do than critique the clothing choices of strangers, but it’s easy to project onto others when you’re feeling insecure. When I select an outfit for the day, one thought that passes through my mind before I give it the go-ahead is, “Will other people think this looks stupid?” and this habit has made it so there is very little variety in my day-to-day appearance.

In recent months, I have been making an effort to add some life and color into my clothing choices. One of my favorite new shirts is technically black, BUT it has colorful stripes on it! Baby steps, right? In the same shopping session, I also bought a blue sweater with tiny gold stars sewn into it, and I am obsessed. Sadly, now that the weather has gotten warmer I can’t wear it until autumn, but still…

Now, when I pass a bright shirt or colorful cardigan in a store that piques my interest, I don’t just shrug it off. I might try it on, give it a chance to sway me. Because it doesn’t matter what other people think – all that matters is what I think. I will never eschew black or gray from my wardrobe – in fact, they are likely to remain staples for the foreseeable future – but I’m trying to make a more sincere effort to include colored shirts, patterned pants, and other clothes I would typically ignore into my options. Some risks, even if they are small, are worth taking, especially if they might aid in boosting confidence and self-assurance.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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Allergies

Friday evening, I worked until 7PM and decided to do some grocery shopping on my way home from work, so I wouldn’t have to contend with weekend crowds. I generally loathe grocery shopping, so I ensure I get in and out as soon as possible. The whole “scan it” and bag your own stuff revolution is a marvelous thing.

In total, I had about re-usable five bags full of food and a jug of milk. I wheeled my cart back to the vestibule and weighed my options. I could take the cart out to my car, or I could risk it and carry all my bags with my spindly noodle arms. I think you can discern what choice I made, because I imagine myself to be a moderately self-reliant person who can handle her own groceries. I don’t need a cart. Spoiler alert: I needed a cart.

So, I hooked two bags onto one arm, two onto the other, had the milk jug in one hand and the final bag in my other hand, and my purse over one shoulder. I was somewhat overburdened, but it was manageable. I just had to make the long trek across the parking lot as the setting sun cast an orange-gold glow over the land.

I made it across the crosswalk just fine, and then they struck. The dreaded allergies.

Pennsylvania has had a temperamental spring thus far, as we can’t seem to shake the last remnants of winter. But the last couple of days have been practically balmy compared to some. One might say that spring has sprung. I was fine all day on Friday, but as I was journeying to my car, arms laden with bags of sustenance, my eyes began to water and my nose started to run.

And this wasn’t just a couple of tears and a sniffle or two. It was a full-on assault, both nasal and optical. I also am one of those people who park their car far away from everyone else because I can’t stand the way people drive in parking lots, so my little Nissan was WAY out in the distance. I have never hated my parking habits more than in that moment.

I couldn’t back out, or slow down. My eyes grew so blurry with tears behind my glasses they started coursing down my face. My nose was running so badly I could barely breathe. My arms were weighed down with bags, milk, and my purse, and I don’t exactly give the impression that I am the pinnacle of strength. I am sure, to the strangers who witnessed this event, I looked like I was having a public breakdown on a Friday night in a grocery store parking lot with my weak, struggling arms full of bags. Quite a picture.

When I finally made it to my car, I slammed the milk down on my trunk, dug my keys out of my purse, propped my bags against the side of my car and threw open my driver’s side door and scrambled for my tissues. It took me two minutes to get myself under control, eyes red and stinging and nose stuffy, then I packed up my bags and thankfully remembered to retrieve my milk from the trunk. With a deep breath, I drove off, and made it home without another strike from the dreaded allergies.

But, while this was happening to me, my parents were at a child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. So, I suppose, it could always be worse.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Lucille

One of the proudest days of my academic career was being placed in the “advanced” group after a reading assessment in first grade. As such, I was permitted to read books marked with a daunting “5.” The most challenging books set aside for young, aspiring readers – the first small steps on the way to much larger feats, like The Lord of the Rings and To Kill A Mockingbird.

But before I would be able to tackle hobbits and other, more advanced literature, I had to grapple with a purple horse named Lucille.

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In retrospect, it’s very clear to me that 5-year-old Allie picked Lucille by Arnold Lobel because it was about a horse, and I’ve been an animal lover my whole life. But 5-year-old Allie should not have picked this book – she should have run far, far away, and made a different selection. And why is that?

Because I couldn’t pronounce “Lucille.”

You would think I’d pick a book with a title I could pronounce with my limited child vocabulary, but nooooooo, that would make too much sense. I’m half-sure I didn’t even look at the title when I chose it, I just saw a purple horse and was like, “YES, THIS ONE.” Kids are so impulsive. And stupid.

It was only after I got home, yanked the book out of my backpack, and scanned the front, that I realized I couldn’t read the title. And my stomach sank, because I knew at the end of the week I was going to have to read the book aloud to the teacher, and being able to read the title is a pretty big part of that. I was terrified I’d get demoted out of the advanced reading group, forever scorned by my classmates, mocked for my lack of knowledge. I’d never be able to look at horses the same way again.

I suppose I probably hoped that it was just the title, and the name didn’t pop up too much in the actual book… but that was not to be. And it’s not like I could just bloop over it, like they teach you at that age to do with words you can’t pronounce. It was like, 50% of the book. Should have watched all those reruns of I Love Lucy on TV Land when I was younger, but I was more of a Brady Bunch person.

So, what did I do? Did I ask my mom for help, which would have been the most logical thing to do? No, no. Stubborn Child-Allie had far too much pride, and that careless hubris was her downfall.

Instead of asking for help, I guessed. To be fair, I used the typically tried-and-true method of “sound it out,” and I was 100% certain that I got it right, so I didn’t bother double-checking with anyone who could, you know… actually read.

Therefore, I called the horse “Luckily.” Which, at least, is a real word. The rest of the book, after that minor snafu, was a total breeze. “Luckily” the horse has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s completely wrong, but not way out in left field. More like… on the third base line. Or in foul territory.

So, I went into my next reading assessment super confident that I was going to nail it… until I sat down in an uncomfortable plastic chair in front of my first grade teacher, Lucille in hand, and the doubts began to swoop in. My certainty wavered, then snapped like a brittle twig. So when she told me to begin, I just sat there, staring at that damn purple horse, and I said nothing for a long time.

Until I finally admitted, “Um… I don’t know how to say this.”

“It’s Lucille,” my teacher explained, pronouncing it perfectly.

And then I read the book through, cover to cover, and didn’t mess up once. No damage to my reading reputation was done by the gaffe, by admitting my weakness. I wasn’t placed in a lower reading level, I continued to foster an intense love of reading and literature, and in the following years, I moved on to bigger books about worlds in wardrobes, dashing heroes, clever young detectives, and a troupe of creative babysitters.

Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help, or to mess up a bit on an initial attempt. It’s okay to not know everything, especially if you’re five/six years old and only just learning to read proper books. You don’t need to hit a homerun your first turn at bat or score a goal your first time on the field. I might have struggled a bit with a purple horse named Lucille, but luckily, I learned from the experience – and to this day, I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know how to pronounce a word, or can’t puzzle out a definition.

Sick of It

Now that Oscar season is over, and I’ve returned to my regular style of posting, I had big plans for this Friday blog post. I was going to do something eloquent, compelling, perhaps a story about life or loss, or a pearl of wisdom from my (admittedly shallow) pool of life experience…

But no, that will not happen today. And do you want to know why?

Because I am sick.

And not sick as in the slang term for “cool,” like people used to toss out in the 90’s. Sick as in ill, complete with head-pounding, sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. Woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday, and hoped – no, prayed to all the deities I don’t believe in – that it was just an allergy-related side-effect due to the crazy weather that’s beleaguered my neck of the woods for the past couple of weeks. Seriously, not too long ago it was 70 degrees, and then two days later, we got four inches of snow, which promptly all melted the following day and caused minor flooding. So my allergies have been a bit of a tizzy.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Tuesday was mostly fine, to the point where I hoped I could just brush it off as a tickle, but Wednesday, in spite of my best efforts to fend it off, I was sniffling and sneezing and suffering from a massive headache by the end of my work shift. It was undeniable, at that point.

I’ve got a cold.

I suppose when some people come down with a cold, as oft happens at the junction between seasons or due to other outside factors, they use it as an excuse to curl up in bed and wallow in their warm blankets surrounded by piles of crinkled tissues, sipping soup and stewing in misery, binging a new or favorite series on Netflix.

Not I – I do not feel miserable when I get sick. No, I get pissed.

I think, in general, that I have a pretty strong immune system. I mean, I eat fruit every day – that’s supposed to help, right? And that’s no easy feat, since I’m allergic to pineapple and recently discovered a mild sensitivity to citrus. I work out at least 5 days a week, sometimes more, though my arms still have the muscle-strength of a pool noodle. I endeavor to get enough sleep, in spite of my cat’s best efforts to foil those efforts. I wash my hands at a near obsessive rate and avoid germs whenever possible, and keep away from folks I know have a contagious illness until they are cleared by a trained physician. So when my health fails, and I am struck down by the snot demons, my rage-meter hits a solid ten.

It’s worse when I can attribute the illness to a specific cause, because then, I have somewhere to direct my rage. One time, in college, one of my coworkers – who was sick – was using our communal computer to do homework. I used it shortly after, assuming that most sick people have the common decency to disinfect the surfaces/items they use when they know someone else will also be using it, but APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE IRREDEEMABLE HEATHENS WITH HORRENDOUS MANNERS WHO ENJOY SPREADING THE PLAGUE WITHOUT ANY THOUGHT OF THE REPERCUSSIONS.

But I digress… this time, there is no certain target for the brunt of my fury. I’m pretty sure it was either the wonky weather or the fact that at least half of my coworkers have been sick over the last month, not to mention the fact that I work with the public and so many people don’t cover their mouths when they cough/sneeze, so, though I valiantly staved colds off for the majority of winter, my formidable immune system has at last failed me.

So I’ve been enraged for about two days now. I’ve tried not to let it hinder me – I went to the gym today, did some grocery shopping, and managed some chores – but I have indulged a bit, and have spent the past few hours watching reruns of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown in bed. But I also have a method for combating illness, which has worked quite well for me in the past. And in order to fight the germs, certain supplies are needed…

1.) Water. Hydration is important at all times, but especially when you can only breathe out of your mouth.

2.) Orange Juice. Or other fruit juice, probably. But the good stuff, not stuff like Sunny D. If you have issues with citric acid, there are low acid brands, and make sure to use a straw. The straw is vital.

3.) Comfy clothes. I’m uncomfortably warm at the moment, but sweating it out helps. Fleece-lined leggings and bulky sweatshirts are my go-to.

4.) Tissues. And splurge on the ones with aloe. Your nose will thank you.

5.) Meds. Depends on what works for you/symptoms and MAKE SURE TO READ THE DIRECTIONS. I’m a quil person, myself. Both Day and Ny.

6.) Heating pad. For aches and pains.

7.) Soup. I get won-ton soup for the Chinese food joint at my local grocery store, and I swear it has medicinal properties. It’s become a go-to for other members of my family, now, that’s how well it works.

8.) Sleep. As much as possible.

9.) Hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes. I try and wipe down/clean surfaces and items that I use when I am ill and know someone else will be touching it. Because that is what DECENT PEOPLE DO. THEY DON’T TOUCH THINGS WITH THEIR SICK HANDS AND ALLOW THEIR GERMS TO SPREAD WITHOUT ATTEMPTED PREVENTION.

10.) Ice Cream. This one is optional, but after spending an entire day taking care of myself and being steamed over the state of my health, some Tonight Dough is necessary. It does help soothe a sore throat, as well.

Following this method, I have at times been able to conquer a cold before it truly has time to manifest in full glory. A few years back, I realized a cold was brewing, so I stocked up on meds, OJ, and soup, partook in all three in acceptable doses throughout the day, and then swaddled myself in several blankets and warm clothes and slept for 12 hours. Pretty sure I sweated the cold out over the course of the night, because I felt fine the next day. I’ve never been able to replicate such speedy results, but following these guidelines, I am usually able to defeat illnesses within a couple of days, so my life can then resume as normal.

Thankfully today (It’s Thursday March 8th as I write this) I didn’t have to work, so I have consumed 2 quarts of magical won-ton soup, two large glasses of OJ, some meds, a whole ton of water, and I’m wrapped up in my GoT hoodie and comfy leggings and relaxing. So let’s hope this cold is quashed by tomorrow, or when I venture out into the world, some folks are bound to face my wrath…

The Dolphin Statue

Every day, on my way to work, I pass a house with a dolphin statue featured proudly in the front yard.

It’s a curious thing. I’m pretty sure it’s made of wood. It’s cute, and the dolphin looks friendly.

But most of the time, when I glance out the window at it as I drive past, I can’t help but wonder, “….Why?”

I mean, it’s not a conventional choice for a lawn decoration. It’s no garden gnome, or one of those goose statues, or one of those fake deer used for archery practice that I constantly think are real. But how did the person who lives in that house come to own such a curious thing?

Is the person a hero to porpoises, and he was gifted the statue for some commendable deed?

Did the person receive it as an unusual present, and, unsure of where to put it, just stuck it in the front yard for passersby to admire?

Is the owner a carpenter of some kind, and the dolphin is a work they are especially proud of, so they put it on display?

Or… does the person just really like dolphins?

I may never have the answers to these questions, and that’s okay. Though, really, I am very curious to know the origins of the dolphin statue.

But even if I’ll never know, it gives me reason to wonder. And when I find things to wonder about – to theorize endlessly on the countless possibilities – I know that it’s still possible to find inspiration, even in such little things, and great stories can come from simple curiosities.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

 

What’s in a Name?

Nicknames are a curious thing. Monikers earned due to a specific event, a casual simplification of a name, or a specific trait. Though I’m mostly referred to by my actual given name, I’ve had a few nicknames over the years, and while some have lingered, others have faded away – for the better, in some cases.

Briefly, in my later years of elementary school, I was called “Alf.” It’s a shortening of my first name and the first initial of my last name. It’s also the name of a furry extraterrestrial sitcom character from the 80’s, to whom I like to think I bear no resemblance. This one didn’t last very long, though – only a year or so, if that.

After an accident during a track meet when I was fifteen, I was plagued by a recurring injury that resulted in the disastrous end to my athletic career, a few stints with crutches, and reconstructive knee surgery. Due to my less than stellar walking ability for those months, a handful of friends dubbed me “Gimpy.” Other variations of this name were used, but “Gimpy” was the most frequent, and that stuck from sophomore year of high school through senior year, long after my limping stopped. Fortunately, I have since shed it, and no one has referred to me this way . Looking back, though the nickname was imposed upon me with a measure of friendly affection, it’s actually pretty offensive, so I’m glad I don’t look over my shoulder at a shout of “Gimpy!” anymore.

In college, a friend gave me the nickname “Allenson.” The impetus of this one is foggy, but I think it had something to do with Vikings? I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances, but I do remember it was hilarious.

I actually used to detest being called “Allie.” I used to think it was too “girly” sounding for me since I was a huge tomboy growing up, so whenever folks called me “Allie” in an effort to be nice or spark a rapport, they were met with my wrath. It’s a variant of my actual name, but none of my family ever called me Allie in my early years. However, when I got to kindergarten there was another little girl with the same first name, and she ended up with the shortened moniker while I got to keep the long version, a distinction which lasted through the entirety of high school. Now, I do not mind being called “Allie” as an adult – I wouldn’t have chosen it as my pseudonym, otherwise. Most people in my life don’t call me Allie anyway, except for the few folks who only know me for my writing – it’s actually made it somewhat easier to separate my personal/business life. As a writer, I also give a lot of my characters nicknames – either due to their actions, or traits, or because I can’t be bothered to type their full name out all the time.

People closest to me (family, close friends) commonly refer to me as “Al.” It’s the kind of nickname that sounds wrong when it comes from the lips of an acquaintance, or from someone I’m not very familiar with. If I go out and meet someone who proceeds to call me “Al” without prompting, or without knowing much about it, it grates on me – in a “You have not earned the right to refer to me as such” type of way. I’m not sure why that is, or why I’m so particular about it – perhaps because “Al” is the most personal nickname I’ve ever had. It’s an “If you don’t know me, don’t call me that” nickname.

Nicknames can be adored, abhorred, earned, given, or inherent – and some carry a unique origin story with them. What’s your unique nickname story?

 

Pancakes

For a very long time – like, half of my life – I hated pancakes.

I refused to eat them, even at the annual pancake dinner fundraiser held at my church. The very thought of them – and their fluffy, syrupy goodness – made me feel nauseous. Same goes for waffles and any other similar breakfast foods. I straight-up hated them and wouldn’t touch them with a four-pronged fork. Because those are the only legitimate forks, by the way. Don’t come at me with that three-pronged fork nonsense. Four-prong all the way.

Truth be told, I’m not sure where my pancake hatred began, or what the impetus was. I just know that up until a few years ago, the word “pancake” equated to “EW,” in my brain, so I always skipped over them on diner menus and whenever they were offered up as a breakfast option at a sleepover or something.

Then, one fateful day when I was in my late teens, I somehow ended up at an IHOP. And, of course, you can’t not order pancakes at IHOP. It’s the International House of Pancakes, for crying out loud. I mean, it’s not like it’s the NHOP, or National House of Pancakes. It is a force not restricted by national borders – you cannot forsake the cake at an IHOP, end of story.

So I ordered the most generic pancakes available on the menu and figured I could just slather them with syrup, suck it up, and suffer through it. But when they arrived at the table, an odd thing happened. My nose twitched, enticed by the sweet scent of maple. And my mouth began to water, instead of my mind blaring, “EW” over and over again like a siren. My stomach growled, too.

So, I took a hesitant bite. Then another, and another. And wouldn’t you know it?

As it turns out, I kind of like pancakes.

Now, I order them for breakfast all the time! I prefer the oat-bran variety, though, because I am secretly an old woman concerned about my digestive system. But I never would have known this if I hadn’t given pancakes a second chance. Inspired by my quick turnaround in opinion when it comes to pancakes, I have also tried to see if my opinion has changed on other foods, but alas, I still hate watermelon (all melons, actually), pears, squash, pretzels, and animal crackers, among others. But I have made an effort to give the things I once dismissed a fair chance to prove me wrong.

So, what’s the moral of this pancake-based tale, you might ask? Is it to always give those you have spurned a second chance?

In a way, yes. Pancakes deserved a shot at redemption in my eyes, to prove their worth to me. I granted them that chance, and they effectively reshaped my opinion, to the point where they are now one of my favorite breakfast foods.

However, people don’t always deserve a second chance. That would be ridiculous. It’s a case-by-case basis when it comes to human beings – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Some people deserve a chance to right a wrong or mend a bridge or whatever. You’re not obligated to give people a second chance if you don’t want to, though. Because people aren’t pancakes.

Always, always give pancakes a second chance.

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If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.