Tag Archives: Project Runway

99 Problems (Minus 96 or So)

Generally speaking, my inability to make progress in life boils down to three chronic problems, all of which I have written about on this blog before:

Problem 1:  I spend money I don’t have. (See “Woe Is Money”, 11/3/16, and others.)  My current financial situation is dire because I was lazy all summer, and if I don’t put in the hours, I don’t make any money.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m always hounding Darian about making a budget and sticking to it, but clearly I need to follow my own advice.  Yes, I’m not an extravagant person, and I don’t usually go around willy-nilly buying unnecessary items I can’t afford, but I certainly don’t deny myself or my daughter anything.  I need to go on an austerity budget.  And while this problem is especially acute now, it is something I have struggled with all my life, even when I was making a healthy salary as a full-time (but thoroughly miserable) lawyer.

Problem 2:  Another lifelong problem of mine is that I eat what I should not eat, and way too much of it. (See “Weighty Management”, 3/1/17, among others).  The corollary to that problem is that I don’t move enough.  In recently months I have engaged in no substantive exercise whatsoever.  I take in too many calories and I don’t burn any, so I’m fat and staying that way.  It has health effects beyond just making me feel bloated and balloony.  The overeating and the lack of activity create a vicious cycle, because lethargy just feeds more lethargy.  Yes, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have been dedicated to movement – power-walking, yoga, even going to the gym when I had money and a gift certificate for six months of a personal trainer.  But the longer I go without exercise, the harder it is to get back on track.  Of course, even if I start exercising (and I will, I swear!  I honestly enjoy working up a sweat – when I can manage to get off my ass to do it!), I still need to make major changes in my eating habits.  I can’t help that I prefer sweet things like cookies and ice cream to, say, vegetables of any kind.  Thus it feels like I have to deprive myself of something I enjoy and force myself to endure something I find unpleasant.  Why does it have to be so difficult?  Why does taking care of my body feel like torture?  I have to boil it down to a pro-and-con situation:  Pro – I have a few moments of joy and deliciousness.  Con – I’m doing damage to my body, which needs to last a lifetime.

Problem 3:  My worst problem of all – the one that ties in to everything else – is my overwhelming tendency to procrastinate, in every sphere of my life, for big items and small. (See “Procrastination Station”, 10/14/15.)  I put off tasks and action items in the deluded hope that they will go away or miraculously resolve themselves.  But by procrastinating, I also potentially deprive myself of personal development, forward movement and perhaps even the chance to achieve something wonderful.  My procrastination has its roots in my utter lack of ambition, which (with few exceptions) has been a lifelong affliction.  No drive, no motivation, no PASSION.  This contributes to the procrastination in a major way because, if I could find something that I felt passionate about, I wouldn’t procrastinate.  Right?  For instance, I love hockey, so I never miss a hockey game.  If I must, I record it and watch it on delay but I will ALWAYS make time to watch it.  It’s the same with all my favorite shows.  I also make time for my pets (permanent and foster) and for volunteering at the shelter, even though every once in a while I just want to spend a lazy weekend holed up in my jammies and give the shelter a miss (but then I’d also miss out on spending quality cuddle time with my favorite “away” kitties).

Unfortunately, my procrastinating has gotten in the way of keeping up with my blog – hence, the lamentable three-week gap between posts – despite the fact that blogging is something I love to do.  I do blame work for some of that, because I’ve had to put in more billable hours in the past couple of months to make up for my “lazy grasshopper” summer.  If I didn’t have to worry so much about my next paycheck (which frankly is always already spent by the time it comes), I would write at great length every day, including more in-depth pieces for this blog rather than the quickie jobs I’ve been putting together just so I can keep up with my commitment (to myself) to post.

Where do I begin to fix this?  Well, for starters, I have to make a dent in the procrastination problem and “make it work”, like Tim Gunn says on Project Runway (which is one of my TV show passions that I never miss, especially this season with the adorable Brandon, who is destined to be a star; I only wish I’ll be able to afford his clothes when he becomes a famous designer).  I’ve just been to the doctor this week and, while she didn’t berate me for not losing any weight or bringing down my A1C, she easily could have.  I do enough berating for the both of us – often while I’m in the actual process of stuffing my face (“Nan, stop eating these candy corn!  Nan, don’t go back for another bowl of ice cream!  Nan, you will sorely regret eating this whole box of cookies as soon as the last one crosses your lips!”) – not that it does any good.  The doctor actually said something like “You’re not ready,” which is absolutely true, but also just another example of procrastination.  What am I waiting for??  A freakin’ heart attack?

On the money front, I should listen to my own advice and come up with a budget and then do my best to live within it.  I only have another six weeks or so to get my kid through college, and then she’ll come home and start earning her own money.  She is contemplating another field research program in Costa Rica for the summer and she has already been informed that, as much as the Board would like to support her higher education, the Bank of Mom is officially closed for business.  So that particular expense can be eliminated, although there will be a concomitant increase in the grocery and utility budgets now that she’ll be home full time.  I’m also going to have to increase my health insurance premiums because I’ll have to cover my kid as well as myself, and they’re discontinuing my current plan so I have to find a new (and inevitably more expensive) one in the limited 45-day window that the government has generously allotted for us to do so.  (I guess I should just be grateful that I still have the ability to buy insurance at all.)

I liken my cycle of self-destructive inactivity to the situation being experienced by the 2017-18 New York Rangers, ten games into the season.  They have been distinctly awful in spurts on defense and every mistake has cost them a goal.  On the offensive side of the puck, they do many good things but don’t get rewarded.  (Prime example:  Rick Nash alone has more shots on goal than almost everyone else in the league, with only one goal to show for it.)  So the frustration sets in and they try to do too much and end up doing themselves more harm than good.  It’s a vicious cycle that has resulted in a 2-6-2 record.  Eventually they will have to pull themselves out of this slump.  According to their coach, Alain Vigneault (who might be feeling a bit in the hot seat these days), the boys just have to take it one shift at a time, do the things they know they need to do, and trust that their efforts will pay off.  Then they can build on that.

That is certainly advice that I should take to heart.  One step in the right direction will lead to another, and so on and so on, and just keep on plowing forward till I get where I need to be.  Evidently, I get my best life counsel from Tim Gunn and AV:  Focus on doing the right things one shift at a time, and just make it work.  Ha!  That should be my actualization mantra!

P.S.  My permanent family has increased by one:  I have officially adopted Polly Wobbles as the newest member of the squad.  My foster kitten Gigi was adopted last weekend, and my other foster dog, the adorable Penny, blew up the Posh Pets website with applications for her adoption, so it is only a matter of time before we find the right fit for her.  After that, then maybe I’ll take a break from fostering – until the next one comes along, of course!

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Living in the Moment

I’ve been trying very hard lately to stop and smell the roses.  I know, it’s one of the most trite clichés ever, but it’s true:  If your brain is always racing, worrying about the future and regretting the past, you’re not appreciating what is right in front of you, be it roses, or a hockey game, or a great book, or a sunset, or a new signature scent (YES!!  I bought the Penhaligon’s Empressa eau de toilette  – happy birthday to me!  It smells so damn good!  Even the box is luxe!) – whatever it might be that gives you, if only for a little while, a moment of peace and inner happiness, when the world stops whirling on its axis for few seconds and you can just take it all in.

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In general, these efforts have resulted in me feeling a lot calmer lately.  There’s so much less rushing around, fewer stress-inducing chicken-without-a-head situations.  Even on a day like yesterday, which was mildly chaotic, chock full of unplanned-for occurrences, I just worked through them, dealing quickly and efficiently with the inconveniences (multiple pet “accidents”, for example) and enjoying the pleasantries.  A friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while stopped by for a welcome visit, and my ex also came over to choose a hotel for our daughter’s graduation ceremony in December and also to beef about the New York Giants’ considerable lack of offense in another poor outing.  (Ian is one of the reasons I don’t really like football anymore.  See “Am I Ready for Some Football?”, 9/2/15).  In between were a quickie conversation with my sister and a call from a potential adopter for Polly Wobbles (who was wildly unsuitable as Polly’s future mom and clearly did not read her online bio).  At some point I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day, so I grabbed a yummy frozen dinner (a new discovery:  Devour™ meals, very tasty, especially the bacon-topped meatloaf with garlic mac and cheese; product’s genius tag line – “Food You Want to Fork”).  Sandwiched amid all the activity was the return of New York Rangers hockey, the team’s first 2017-18 pre-season game – hooray!  By this time, it was only nine o’clock but to me it felt like midnight.

It had been a long but satisfying day.  I went into the city to do my “9/11 day of service” (something my firm does to honor a fallen partner, also a volunteer firefighter, who ran toward the World Trade Center on that fateful day rather than away like everyone else) at God’s Love We Deliver, a non-profit organization that cooks and home-delivers nutritious, customized meals to people in the New York City metropolitan area living with severe illnesses.  I really enjoy doing that, even though I ended up with a blister on my knuckle from repeatedly handling a giant soup ladle.  There’s something about the assembly-line work and following explicit instructions (for example, swirl the soup in the plastic container before you put the lid on so it creates a bubble, and then the next guy on the line has to squeeze out the bubble so the contents are essentially vacuum packed and can be more effectively frozen) that I really enjoy and actually find rather calming.  It’s mindless work and yet I still feel like I’m doing something good, and I always leave there feeling a little better about the state of the human race.

Before leaving for the city on the 11:09 train, I had sent my secretary a few items I needed taken care of while I was away from my computer for most of the day.  I had evidently forgotten that she was going to be out of the office, so upon emerging from the God’s Love We Deliver kitchen at 4 p.m. after our food prep shift , I realized that NOTHING HAD BEEN DONE.  I had a brief panic attack, but fortunately, my friend and back-up secretary was able to do the work and soothed the temporarily rough waters of an otherwise smooth-sailing day.

Even just a few months ago, a day like yesterday would have brought on a tension headache and a bout of mental self-flagellation.  Not the new-and-improved Nan, who takes a few deep breaths and “makes it work,” in the immortal words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn – who, by the way, was great on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday and kind of put Bill in his place when Bill brought up the obesity epidemic in a way that made it seem like it was all the fat people’s fault, and letting the fat people have fashionable clothes is just giving them carte blanche to stay fat.  I find Bill Maher amusing and intelligent but he can also be a bit of a pig.  [An aside:  I am loving this season of Project Runway for a couple of reasons:  one, they’re using models of all shapes and sizes, which the designers find challenging but good for Heidi Klum and Tim that they’re addressing the body image issue, if even just superficially.  And second, one of the designers is just the cutest little Zen master fellow named Brandon who wears (and designs) baggy but intriguing tunics and shower shoes with socks.  All the models and designers have a little crush on him, so I’m just one among many (my sister likes him, too).  There’s something so sweet and gentle about him, with his an angelic face and round blue eyes, but he’s also really soothing in his manner, calm and patient, unlike some of the other contestants, two of whom – twins, remarkably – are so phony and affected that they kind of make you want to punch them in the face.]

I still write in my “joy book” every night about all those things that made me happy during the day, but my new focus is to feel the happiness as it happens, too.  I read a quote today attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire in my “Seeds 4 Life” daily affirmation blog that perfectly captures this new attitude:  “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”  Take a bike ride, chat with a friend, walk the dog (or dogs, as the case may be – by the way, we have YET ANOTHER foster living with us, but she won’t be here for long because she’s an adorable year-old shih tzu who will get adopted as soon as her skin condition clears up and she gets spayed, probably next week), bake some cookies and make the whole house smell delicious.  Whatever you choose to do, just take that moment to appreciate what makes you content for as long as it lasts.  There’s just too much ugliness in the world, especially these days, to not enjoy a much-needed counterbalance.

Some Thoughts on Fashion

I am a big fan of “Project Runway”.  I wasn’t on board from Day 1 but my friend Sue raved about the show so I started watching in Season 4 and I’ve been hooked ever since.  This season, a miracle occurred when a designer who creates chic clothing for “real women,” not pin-thin models and socialites, finally won!  Ashley Nell Tipton had her ups and downs and probably shed more tears than anyone I have ever seen on “Project Runway,” but she was a most deserving champion.  I am certain we will see much more of her beautiful, innovative designs in the months and years to come.  She is a true talent, at age 24, unafraid to use vivid colors and unique materials and bold enough to put crop tops and sleek catsuits on big girls.  Big girls deserve to look cute too, you know!

My fondness for “Project Runway” is a bit contradictory, though, as I am probably the least fashion-conscious person of anyone I know.  As mentioned in last week’s blog, my personal style could be most accurately described as ragamuffin. On any given day, I could be easily mistaken for one of the Little Rascals.  Frankly, it’s highly unlikely that my distinctive non-fashion, which I’ve been rocking for nearly my entire life, will ever be supplanted unless a friend or family member arranges an all-expenses-paid “make-over” for me on a show like “What Not to Wear” or “Ellen”, in which case I’d suffer the re-do with a smile on my public face but would inevitably fall back to my old-standby style a day or so later in the privacy of my own closet.

The primary wardrobe concern for me is COMFORT.  If clothes are not comfortable, I do not want to wear them.  It boggles my mind how women torture themselves in a misguided attempt to “look good”, but evidently there are psychological and sociological reasons at the root of the teetering high heels and skin-tight skirts and push-up bras that working women seem to feel the need to wear every day.  (And that doesn’t even take into consideration “evening wear”; I wonder sometimes if these women have to stand all night in their stilettos because they literally cannot sit.)

Not long ago I read the first volume of an impressive, meticulously researched tome by Marilyn French called From Eve to Dawn:  A History of Woman in the World, Vol. 1:  Origins (The Feminist Press, 2008).  At the risk of handing over the reins of my blog to a far superior writer, here is French’s assessment of women’s fashion:

“To escape this general disparagement [from men, primarily, but also from other women], women try to present themselves as above criticism or contempt.  Such presentation is fostered by apparel that is clearly not designed for everyday life ….  Women who adopt uncomfortable attire are desperate to distinguish themselves from the scorned common run.  High fashion turns women into works of art, and women have always been willing to sacrifice freedom for the appearance of transcendence.  What power is to a man, illusion is to a woman.  You can count on this:  in any society, in any period, whatever style emerges to distinguish the elite from ordinary women will physically constrict.”

But what of those who are NOT elite, who fall into the “other” categories (including, in the words of French, “fat women, old women … women with pendulous breasts or bellies or buttocks” and “little old ladies in tennis shoes“)?  Well, if they’re not being subjected to ridicule, they are otherwise completely unseen.  In a very amusing article I read recently, “The insults of age:  A one-woman assault on condescension” [The Monthly website, 5/28/15, https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2015/may/1430402400/helen-garner/insults-age], writer Helen Garner points out that such invisibility carries hidden benefits:  “I had known for years, of course, that beyond a certain age women become invisible in public spaces.  The famous erotic gaze is withdrawn.  You are no longer, in the eyes of the world, a sexual being.”  But Ms. Garner finds this oddly liberating:  “Oh, the relief! You have nothing to prove.  You can saunter about the world in overalls.”

I long ago decided I didn’t care what I looked like.  It might have something to do with having sworn off romantic relationships but, truth be told, even in my “randy” years, my outfits may have been edgy (and of course comfortable) but not in any way sexy.  I’ve always had slim legs, so I didn’t mind wearing short skirts, but high heels just weren’t in my repertoire.  They’re still not.  I prefer boots in the winter, sneakers for walking or working at the shelter, and flip-flops basically from April through October.  I only wear stretchy pants that you don’t have to hold your breath to button, although I recently purchased a pair of Jennifer Lopez “boyfriend” jeans that are at least two sizes too big, so I don’t even need to open them to pull them up and down.  T-shirts – both short- and long-sleeved, depending on the weather – and sweatshirts are my go-to top wear.  And the less said about bras, the better – the ones I wear offer little to no support because otherwise they would be too pinchy and restrictive; even with my loose, saggy bras, the first thing I do when I come home after wearing one all day is to TAKE IT THE HELL OFF.

Even though I’m admittedly on the large side (especially in the breastal region), I have a tendency to wear clothes that are oversized and baggy, perhaps figuring that big clothes will somehow make me look smaller than I actually am.  It might even be a subconscious attempt to make myself – or my body, at least – disappear into a mass of cloth.  My body has always felt alien to me – not in a Caitlin Jenner kind of way, but that’s another blog post for another day.  The idea of exposing this strange corpus to the light of day is mortifying!  Ergo, the larger the clothes, the more I am swallowed up and the better I feel.

And please don’t get me started on clothes shopping, not only because I despise spending a lot of money on my attire (and yet I’m also troubled by the fact that the cheapest items of clothing are made by children in Southeast Asian sweatshops) but also because the fashion industry seems to think that fat women only like to wear loud prints and vertical stripes and pants in varying shades of black made of fabrics not found in nature which make skin-crawling squeaky sounds when the ladies’ legs rub together (as they will).

So thank the stars for Ashley Nell Tipton and her plum-colored crop tops and lacy rompers and flirty little skirts with comfy waistbands!  Finally, a designer who thinks that even big girls – ESPECIALLY big girls – should feel good in their clothes!