Simplifying my wardrobe

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Last month I quietly joined a little Fall 10x10 challenge, wherein you pick 10 items from your closet and wear only those items for 10 days. If you've talked to me about clothes or fashion lately, you may have heard that I'm fixated on simplifying my wardrobe. Having too many choices in the morning freaks me out and wastes precious time. Looking through clothes that don't fit or that I don't feel good in is demoralizing. Since becoming a mama, the urge to simplify my closet has only gotten stronger. No time for fashion crises, I just want a few good clothes that make me feel great and let me spend time on other things.

Sometime soon, I'll write about the minimalism trend and how it reeks of privilege but how it also shouldn't be dismissed because I think it's only way forward and how it's also an important blow to our capitalist consumer society. I wanted to include it here, but it's taking me too long and all of the sudden six more months will pass and I won't have posted anything. Gotta start pressing publish more often.

The 10x10 "rules" are:

Pick 10 items of clothing from your closet. Include tops, bottoms, and shoes for your everyday life. Don’t include accessories, bags, PJs, or gym clothes — they can flow in and out freely. Then, for 10 days, create a new outfit each day using your 10 items.

I chose not to include shoes so I could have a little more wiggle room to accomodate two weekend days plus eight work days of outfits. The weather for my ten days was all over the map, with some days nearly reaching 80 degrees and others more seasonably in the 50s.

The result? Totally easy. This challenge is probably a lot more challenging for people who are really into fashion. I, however, have no problem wearing the same outfit over and over, or at least really similar outfits, so it turns out this challenge was just sort of an interesting twist on how I already dress. I tried to take outfit photos but deleted all of them out of pure embarassment. How do you take outfit photos that aren't mortifying? I tried, I really did, but no.

Here's what I wore those 10 days:

  1. Gray tee + navy pants
  2. Navy tee + pencil skirt
  3. Navy dolman sweater + maroon pants
  4. Black dress
  5. Tan sweater + navy pants
  6. Navy dolman sweater + jeans
  7. Gray tee + jeans
  8. Striped shirt + navy pants
  9. Black dress (as shirt) + maroon pants
  10. Navy tee + navy pants

No big deal, right? Completely boring. Blissfully simple. Thinking about going full force with a Winter Capsule this season, which is basically just a simple, seasonal approach to a minimalist closet. Because I need more time for playing with Clark, drinking coffee and reading books under a blanket :)

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It's ok if...

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Real quick, in case you're waiting for permission, I hereby declare that it's ok if:

  • Your baby/toddler doesn't sleep through the night
  • You're not as interested in dropping those last few pounds of baby weight as you thought you'd be by now
  • You breastfeed your 14-month-old 
  • ...but you wish you could wear regular, non-nursing bras again
  • You can't imagine having another baby yet
  • You haven't taken a romantic vacation away with your husband since the baby
  • You don't enforce a strict schedule at home like the internet says you should
  • You are ready for bed by 9pm
  • You are both addicted to and paralyzed by to-do lists
  • You don't daydream of staying home full-time with your baby
  • You spend too much time on Instagram
  • You're worried your blog is going to turn into a mommy blog
  • You are ready to donate 75% of your pre-baby wardrobe
  • You are grateful for a wonderful daycare but your heart still hurts a tiny bit when you drop your baby off in the morning
  • You are happy and tired and grateful but sometimes quite whiny
  • You still try to control everything, even though you can't

And, of course, it's ok if the opposite of these things are true for you. It's all ok, and you're ok and you look nice today even though that dress doesn't fit quite the way it used to but it's hugging those mom curves and there's something kind of nice about that. Grab a cider doughnut and make this week a good one :)

Clark's first year

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I'm a writer. I entered poetry and essay contests in middle school, started my first blog 15 years ago (!) and am ever loyal to my journals. So you can imagine how out of sorts I've felt this first year of motherhood having written only a handful of journal entries and even fewer posts here. Every day I've thought, oh! I need to write this down. I need to remember this. And yet... those words have remained largely unwritten. The joy, the amazement and wonder, the heart full of love and the moments of loneliness of our baby's first year have come and gone. I don't have heartfelt monthly letters to Clark or even notes about when he reached major milestones.

But I do have a wonderful hazy year of memories. I've decided to stop bemoaning the lack of documentation and to be grateful for the natural editing that time has afforded me. I may not have written down every thought or reflection, but now, on my son's first birthday, the important ones remain clear in my heart.

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The early days are a blur. You were born at 12:31pm. We waited until the midwives left to call our parents and tell them about you. That first night we stayed up late even though we were so tired. You fell asleep at the foot of our bed, so we moved our pillows and slept there with you. The next morning we woke up as a family of three. You and I stayed upstairs in bed a lot in the first few days. Your dad would bring up snacks and then at night, he'd shut off the lights and lock up the house and join us. It was so dreamy, so magical. Your first few days here were a rainy reprieve in the middle of a scorching summer. When the sun came out, we'd open up the dining room doors to the yard and let the breeze in. Your dad would play Fleetwood Mac or Cat Stevens and we'd dance around and laugh and think about how very lucky we were. On your second or third day, your dad ran out to get a coffee and you and I were alone together. I put you in your basket and brought you into the bathroom so I could shower. It felt very brave, to do something, anything, with a baby. Our first trip out of the house was to city hall to get you a birth certificate. I was so nervous. I made your dad drive us all and had to bite my lip to keep from crying. How silly! I just couldn't bare the thought of you being out in the real world, outside of our bubble. Afterwards we took you to the park for a picnic. What I remember from the early days was a fridge full of food-- fruit salad, pasta, bagels, baked french toast and everything in between. My heart swelled each time we opened it and found the nourishment we needed. I remember your dad and I laughing so much and looking at you in amazement. It was a dream world and I loved every minute of it. You were such a charming newborn. You slept well at night. We were spoiled!

During a September trip to the co-op for some fancy cheeses, you bewitched and charmed the entire store. You were a sun beam, a bundle of star dust and every person we passed smiled said hello to you. Before we left, a woman declared you would be a great novelist one day and another asked if she could pray for us before putting her hands on your little body and praying for your health and telling you how lucky you were to have me as your mama. I'll admit I was embarrassed but knew that a prayer couldn't hurt.

One rainy Saturday night in October I woke to nurse you. The three of us lay in bed and as you and your dad dozed back off to sleep, I lay awake listening to the rain and watching the tree branches blow, realizing that there was nowhere else in the world I'd rather be. I'll always remember the way that felt.

You came to work with me when you were little and I'd wear you around the office and catch up on budgets and emails and meetings with you tucked right on my chest. I promised myself not to romanticize #babiesatwork but the fog of time has left only the good memories of my worlds colliding, of feeling whole, of de-compartmentalizing and embracing my overlapping role as mother and as a leader.

There was the Friday night when your dad was at work so I settled in to watch a movie. You curled up on me to sleep. I watched your chest rise and your fingers twitch and barely noticed the movie playing in the background.

Christmas morning you screamed and howled the entire two hour + drive to dinner. We pulled over at a rest area and with two of the three of us in tears, I thought, oh! I can't do this anymore. This is too hard. Babies are too hard. I want my life back.

The first time we dropped you off at daycare, after months of bringing you to work or to Nana's, was tough. Your dad and I went to get breakfast empanadas afterwards so we could delay the work day a little bit longer. I quickly saw, though, that you found a whole extra group of people to love and be loved by, and that's a very good thing, isn't it? You are thriving at "school" and I love how much you love people, especially other kids.

I remember when you stopped sleeping so well at night and started sleeping like, well, a baby. Some mornings you wake up so early that your dad and I have to take turns bringing you downstairs to play while the other sleeps a little longer. When it's my turn I sometimes cover myself up with a blanket on the floor and let you crawl all over, stopping by to hug and cuddle before finding a new toy to amuse yourself until the sun comes up.

Clark, I remember the hours spent nursing you and rocking you to sleep, the time spent frantically looking up a symptom or question on my phone. I remember how even on the hardest nights, as soon as you were asleep I dreamed about cuddling you. In the hazy first year I remember the moments when I finally felt like a mother:  when I shhhhd and rocked you in the lobby of a diner; when I went to pay at the grocery store and a pacifier fell out of my purse; when I surprised myself by loving my postpartum body and all it has done for us; when my heart grew a thousand times stronger and softer all at once.

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For years we dreamed of you and made plans for you and then finally watched you grow from the size of a poppyseed in my belly to a watermelon and into a baby boy. One year ago, we met you and our universe shifted. Happy birthday, my love. You have my heart, always.

Letters to a young mother

When I was pregnant, I read a wonderful collection called Great with Child:  Letters to a Young Mother. It's a series of letters from the author Beth Ann Fennelly to her newly pregnant friend, and they are exactly the type of letters that a pregnant woman needs. She writes about the mundane, the ridiculous, the serious and the beautiful. She shares the heartbreak of her miscarriage and the experience of her daughter's birth and first days with such jaw-dropping perfection that, on more than one occasion, I had to set the book down and walk away in tears, with laughter, or both.

Here are a few of my favorite passages, excluding her wonderful rallying cry for mamas going into labor that I won't ruin for you.

On becoming a mother

"You'll exchange independence for the benefits of community, the needing and being needed. Fo you will be needed as well; a new mother and child are a powerful renewing force."

On feeling deeply

"You feel more deeply. You become capable of a raw, scary fullness of emotion that tenderizes the hardened muscles of the heart. And it endangers you. Because you feel for other people's suffering more than you used to, especially for the suffering of children, as if the love you bear for your child is so outsized that it can't be contained but splashes out into the world, your salty tears brimming the salty oceans... Your new sensitivity is a strength, and you should see it that way."

On babies and the passage of time

"Truly, babies are hyphenated-- they are endearing-exasperating; they are amusing-annoying. But the phases go so quickly that nothing is unbearably bad (or good) for long. That's why every phase is so bittersweet..

...so their infancy passes in a wave of nostalgia that swells and swells but never crests, never recedes."

Goodness, that last quote is exactly right, isn't it? If you're pregnant, or have a young child, please read this book. You can borrow my dog-eared copy with underlines and exclamation points in the margin, if you'd like.

On feeling deeply

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I feel more deeply now that Clark is here. Many of you possess this superpower without having kids. You are next-level feelers and empathizers. I salute you, and assure you that I don't think this ability belongs only to parents. Yes, I've dedicated much of my professional and personal time to social justice but I have to be straight with you, it wasn't because of a particularly deep human connection but rather a vague framework of and belief in justice and fairness and equality. But Clark came along, and now when the newspapers show photos of babies who died from sarin gas or from drowning trying to flee their country or starving from government-created famine, I see Clark's face. I see his little chubby hands grabbing up for me and I hear my whispers that I'll always keep him safe, always. I think about what it must be like to know with absolute certainty that I won't be able to keep that promise. I think about not being able to feed him or protect him from violence. I see his innocent eyes twinkle and picture them looking at me as bombs drop or the boogymen come. Many of you have always been able to see this, to feel this, but it's a new experience for me. Whether I want to or not, I feel everything so deeply and painfully these days.

Which is why I call bullshit on the border wall and the refugee ban and the lack of empathy and compassion being broadcast from the highest levels of government in our country. You can't take military action in Syria and pretend it's to save Syrian babies, and then deny them and their families refuge. You can't cut off foreign aid because you believe that American babies are worthier than non-American babies. You can't slash social services and health care because you believe poor babies deserve less than middle-class or rich babies. You can't make the choice for a woman about whether or not she even has a baby.

Today, I stand with #womenforsyria. I mourn for the mothers who can't protect their babes in Syria and also in Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and South Sudan and here in the United States. I mourn for the mothers in my own country who think that these other babies deserve their starvation, trauma and fear, who don't yet feel the tug of sisterhood imploring them to act with compassion. I mourn for the damage that nationalism continues to inflict on our world and our neighbors.

I've always lost sleep over "world news".  But now my mind plays a reel of Clark's face in every desperate situation, and then it's the burning anger when I think how if he were a different race, religion, from a different country or born to another family... the world might turn a blind eye to his suffering. That is as unacceptable for my baby as it is for babies and women and men all over the world.

Photo above of my beautiful, smiley, delicious baby boy who is already eight months old. Parenthood is a time warp, and I feel like time is slipping away from me like never before. Every day I feel more urgency to not only write, but to share, to search for common ground, to tell truth, to dismantle shame and to let light shine in. So, less editing, more publishing. Maybe.