It’s Questionable

Margaret Thatcher was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. The Falklands War highlighted her most significant international relationship, which was with Ronald Reagan. Thatcher and Reagan, who together made the 1980s the decade of conservatism, shared a vision that the Soviet Union was an evil enemy who deserved no compromise. Their partnership ensured that the Cold War continued until the rise to power of the reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. 

In 1976, Margaret Thatcher, in keeping with her strong anticommunism stance, gave a speech which earned her the nickname “Iron Lady” in the soviet press.

She was quite an impressive woman.

One of Thatcher’s famous quotes is this “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” I love that so much.

Today when I was shopping for mousetraps and toothpaste and vitamins, I walked through the clothing section and ran smack dab into this T-shirt. It brought to mind Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote.

Though I appreciate the ideology of the message and that “woman power”, “don’t think you can push me around” mentality, I’m still not a fan. 

If you have to wear a T-shirt that announces the message to not underestimate you, your value and admiration may already be in question. 

Elbows and Pantyhose

When I was a little girl visiting my grandmother, I remember thinking that she was so very old. My earliest memory of her is cooking at the stove, apron over her dress, singing church hymns. She was probably in her mid-60s. 

Just last night, I was telling a friend that I never saw my grandmother’s elbows. She always wore dresses and they were always the same style—a shirtwaist style that buttoned up the front with a belt, fullish  skirt and three-quarter length sleeves, meaning they hit between her elbows and her wrists. 

This sleeve length made sense because she was always working; cooking, washing dishes, gardening, doing laundry. And, she always wore hosiery, which involved wearing either a girdle or a garter belt. This was before the (brilliant) invention of pantyhose.

Here is a little trivia tidbit. Pantyhose were invented in 1959 by a MAN. Yep, it’s true. The story goes that the inventor, Allen Gant Sr., was on a train trip with his then pregnant wife, Ethel, when she told him she could no longer travel with him until after the birth of their baby. Managing her stockings and garter belt over her expanding belly had become too difficult.

Like all good husbands, Allen got to thinking about a way to make her more comfortable. He was, at that time, running textile company Glen Raven Mills and was inspired by his wife’s lament. “How would it be if we made a pair of panties and fastened the stockings to it?” He asked Ethel. She stitched some garments together and handed a crude mockup to her husband. “You have to figure out how to do this,” she said. 

Allen brought his wife’s experiment into his office and with the help of his colleagues, developed what they later called “Panti-Legs”. Their product, the world’s first pantyhose, began lining department store shelves in 1959. Ethel loved them.

Interestingly, the panty-stocking combo did not completely skyrocket until the mid-1960s with the rise (literally) of the miniskirt. For the fashion-conscious woman wanting to wear a skirt shorter than the length of her stockings, pantyhose were the perfect choice. 

Pantyhose have now fallen out of fashion. Today it is bare legs in the summer (with a little help from sunless tanners) and dark tights in the winter. It has been many years, probably at least 15, since I have purchased a pair of pantyhose. As designer, Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”

I actually remember wearing a girdle, (carefully) pulling on individual stockings and clumsily attaching them to the garters. That happened only a couple of times before I began wearing pantyhose. I was probably about 14 years of age, so that was circa 1971-72. What a great invention! It ranks right up there with the telephone, small pox vaccine, and air-conditioning. 

I am not yet a grandmother, though I am certainly old enough to be (hint, hint). I wear yoga pants and sneakers and a baseball cap with my pony tail pulled through the hole. A far cry from Grandma’s daily dresses, hose and sturdy shoes. 

But I do so very much appreciate Grandma’s values. She chose what she thought was right and best, in spite of discomfort. I guess that makes wearing an occasional Spanx seem not quite so dreadful.

Scrunchies and Hair Ribbons

Two things. This morning I was carrying my overnight bag, my computer bag, my purse and another small box to my car from Mama’s apartment. A gentleman stepped onto the elevator with me and he asked if I was moving in. Wait, what?

He thought I was MOVING IN!! “Do I look old enough to live here?” I was dying to ask! I’m sure a part of me was afraid to ask, fearing his answer. Though, the truth is, the minimum age to live in this retirement village is 55. So, technically I could move in…but still, c’mon on. 

Next, I stopped in the café on my way out the door to sit at a table and send a few work emails before I headed out. An 80ish year-old lady walked briskly past me (presumably a resident). She had her blond-trying-to-hide-gray neck-length hair pulled into two little ponytails, with patriotic scrunchies on both. 

I said to myself: “Girl, that is you in 20 years.” Yep. I will be the one still trying to fool everyone with my non-gray hair pulled into festive little ponytails with the closest holiday print scrunchies or ribbons tied around them. I will think I look cute bouncing down the hall in my saggy yoga pants and Easy Spirit white sneakers.

And the man in the elevator, well, I’m guessing he is a soothsayer and already envisioned me doing that very thing. 


Cookies and Other Things

I had the distinct pleasure to spend a truly lovely evening with a dear cousin of mine, JK. On a side note, she is one of my loyal blog readers, for which I am very grateful.

JK spends two weekends a month with Mama. She is an incredible help to our family and Mama loves her completely. JK is a gem. She is authentic and kind and loving and fun. Mama once told her she is a goddess. Mama has never called me a goddess, but maybe someday. 

I am so glad that Mama loves her. Though, Mama has always loved her. JK is the youngest of three daughters born to my Mama’s closest sister, Jane. JK and her sisters pretty much grew up with my siblings and me. We were like one big family, living next door to each other for a while and after that, moved only one street away. 

This evening we grilled burgers then sat on the deck to eat and talk and laugh. JK said she was surprised that I did not write about a national day yesterday, being Saturday. I asked her what day it was that was being observed. She told it was National No Underwear Day. I laughed and told her that I did not know. I utilize a website called National Day Calendar. I checked that website tonight but it was not listed.

I decided to “Google it” to see what I could find. 

Upon research, I discovered a website which stated that June 23 was indeed No Panty Day. This is not to be confused with National Underwear Day on August 5. 

As you can imagine, I am a bit befuddled to write a blog about No Panty Day. My writing mind is bare as I am unsure how to undress this subject.

However, I did find it interesting that No Panty Day  coincided with these other national remembering days ~ National Hydration Day, National Pecan Sandies Day and National Pink Day.

And on that note, I will bid goodnight and leave the rest up to your imagination. 

Fragility Fractures

When I was younger, in my forties, I remember hearing about ‘older’ women with fragile bones and how important it is to stay active and strong. That sounded nearly ridiculous to me, then. THEN, not now.

I used to think nothing of scrambling onto a counter top or the corner of a wobbly chair to hang a curtain rod or get cobwebs out of a corner. THEN, not now.

A simple fall from tripping over a rug or missing a step previously seemed somewhat harmless. THEN, not now.

A ‘fragility fracture’ occurs when bone mass is weakened by age or disease. Often, these fractures happen after normal activity. Once experienced, these fractures place a person at a ten-fold risk of it happening again. 

Jennifer Jerele, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio states “Fragility fractures are most common in women who have osteopenia and osteoporosis, which both occur as we age and our bone density stops accumulating. Unfortunately, osteoporosis is not a disease that can be felt or seen and therefore may go unnoticed until a fracture occurs.” 

The most common fragility fractures occur in the wrist, hip, or spine. The sad truth is that we accumulate bone density until we hit 30 years of age and after that, we gradually start losing it. THIRTY, not sixty or fifty or even forty. 

This malady especially affects women after menopause. Their bone density tends to drop dramatically unless they make lifestyle changes or begin medication. 

The best way for a woman to know if she is at risk for osteoporosis or fragility fractures is to have her bone density tested through a DEXA scan. The scan compares the density of a person’s spine and hip to that of a healthy 25-year-old. This provides a T-score, which helps guide future treatment.

So the lifestyle changes mentioned above are something we can all do, for free! Nutrition and exercise are important. Adding weights or strength training exercises to daily or weekly activities is a first, positive step. Also, taking calcium and vitamin supplements can be helpful. Increasing these vitamins provide a 25% risk reduction of hip fractures in older adults. That is pretty huge.

And lastly, try to reduce risk of falls at home; move furniture out of walkways, add a nightlight to pathways, remove or secure area rugs. Geez…do I sound old. 

Accepting the reality is difficult. However, denying it is worse. 

I will be purchasing a sturdy step-stool and stop using kitchen chairs and wobbly boxes for reaching up to complete tasks. I will try to keep my traffic pathways clear of stuff. I will secure precarious throw rugs.

I will also up my strength training and add calcium to my routine. And I will schedule a DEXA scan.

Bring it, 25-year-old. 

Paper Dolls and Expectations

When I was a little girl, one of my very favorite things was paper dolls. Oh, how I loved to cut (very carefully) along the hyphened sheets of clothing and hats and then dress my ‘doll’ for various events. 

I have previously blogged about my mother’s fashion design history. Whether it is genetics or environmental, I have an interest in clothing. Paper dolls, for a little girl with a clothing passion, is a dream come true.

I remember that my mother once made a hat for my Barbie from one of the cups in an egg carton. She carefully removed one of them and covered it in fabric. It fit Barbie’s head perfectly. I can see it still, orange and green tweed perched smartly on Barbie’s dark hair. 

I also remember, when I was a little girl, wondering if I would look like Barbie when I grew up. Now I am a big girl and still wondering.

If it is going to happen, I hope it kicks in soon.

When I last spent time with some of my cousins, I was talking with the oldest one in our group, Sandy, about paper dolls. She told me that she always loved them, too. She said she still has a box of paper dolls and now shares them with her granddaughters. 

A few days after we had been together, a large manila envelope arrived in my mailbox. Inside was this sheet of a paper doll. It was such a thrill to open the envelope and find it! 

The sheet is propped up on my desk and I see it every day while I work. I do not have the heart to cut out the clothes and the bow and the hat. It is much sweeter to look at and remember. 

Thank you, dear cousin Sandy, for such a thoughtful act of kindness. I love to discover a kindred fondness for something. 

And this little paper doll–well, put long dark hair on her and that, not Barbie, is more the picture of who I grew up to be.

Party tea and cupcakes, eyelet fabric and ribbons, and a straw hat and flowers. It’s all good.

Little Women

I was doing a little shopping today and I overhead a mother taking with her young daughter, who, I’m guessing was about five years old. The mother was telling her daughter that she was looking for a certain outfit. She described it to her young daughter. That little girl was incredibly precocious. She said “Okay, mommy, I’ve got it. I will help you.” 

A bit later I was in the fitting room and that same mother and daughter were in the room next to me. I recognized their voices. 

The mother asked her daughter: “What do you think about this?” Her mature daughter: “I’m not sure it is for you, Mom. It doesn’t fit exactly like it should. Let’s keep looking. We will find the right thing.”

Alexandre Dumas said: “It is rare to see, in a little boy*, the promise of a man, but in a little girl one can almost always see the threat of a woman.” 

Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) was a French writer. His works have been translated into nearly 100 languages. He is one of the most widely read French authors. Some of his most famous novels are The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and Twenty Years After.

Though married, in the tradition of Frenchmen of higher social class, Dumas had numerous affairs, allegedly as many as forty.

The English playwright Watts Phillips, who knew Dumas in his later life, described him as “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.”

Sounds like Dumas was quite a gregarious guy. The generous, large-hearted, delightfully amusing part of him attracted the women. The egotistical, tongue-like-a-windmill, favorite-theme-being-himself part of him couldn’t keep them. 

I do think Dumas was right about seeing the threat of a woman in a little girl. We are born as women. It simply takes our bodies a few years to catch up. 

*I must add a disclaimer to this statement. I saw, in my little boys, great depth and compassion and maturity. That is not hyperbole, it is pure fact. 

A Woman’s Woman

Speaking of women, this is the end of Women of Aviation Awareness Week.

Amelia Earhart (pictured) is kind of a hero to me. When I owned a small fitness studio for women, I had a large framed photo of Amelia hanging on my wall. It was a gift from my son.

Amelia Mary Earhart, born on July 24, 1897, was an American aviation pioneer and author. She was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Amelia and her younger sister, Grace, had an unconventional upbringing. Their mother, Amy, did not believe in moldering her children into “nice little girls.” Therefore, a spirit of adventure seemed to abide in the Earhart children.

They spent their days exploring and climbing trees and hunting rats with a rifle. They kept worms and moths and katydids and tree toads.

At age seven, with the help of an uncle, she put together a home-made ramp modeled after a roller coaster she had seen on a trip to St. Louis, and secured the ramp to the roof of the family toolshed. Her first flight ended dramatically. She emerged from the broken wooden box that had served as a sled with a busted lip, torn dress and a “sensation of exhilaration.” She exclaimed to her littler sister: “Oh Pidge (Grace’s nickname), it’s just like flying!”

In Long Beach, on December 28, 1920, Earhart and her father visited an airfield where Frank Hawks (who later gained fame as an air racer), gave her a ride that would forever change her life.

By the time I got two or three hundred feet off the ground,” she said, “I knew I had to fly.” She was extremely persistent in her goal, never losing sight of that love.

During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Electra, Earhart and navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.

Through a series of misunderstandings or errors, the final approach to Howland Island using radio navigation was not successful. Fred Noonan had earlier written about problems affecting the accuracy of radio direction finding in navigation.

There has been considerable speculation on what happened to Earhart and Noonan. Most historians hold to the simple “crash and sink” theory, but a number of other possibilities have been proposed.

A new forensic analysis suggests that bones found on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1940, and subsequently lost, could very well have been those of Amelia Earhart. The claims are that she died as an island castaway.

There have been twelve expeditions to Nikumaroro since 1989. Evidence of campfires, as well as remains of birds, fish, turtles and clams, indicating someone ate there. Based on the way clams were opened and the fish consumed (the heads weren’t eaten), that someone was probably not a Pacific islander. Fascinating.

Several 1930s-era glass bottles were also discovered at the site. One of them may have contained freckle cream, a cosmetic Earhart was known to use. Oh my goodness. She was fearless and tough as nails but still used freckle cream.

I love the story of Amelia Earhart. I also love the little tidbits about her. She wanted to fit in and wear a leather flying jacket like the male pilots. She purchased one and then slept in it for several days or weeks to make it look “worn”. She also chopped off her long hair to look like the other (few) female pilots of the time.

In every photo I see of Amelia, she has that beautiful closed lip smile. Research has unveiled that she had a gap between her two front teeth and photographers urged her to smile “closed lips” in order to hide the dental “flaw”.

Amelia was 40 years old when she disappeared. I am 60 years old and I still have not ridden a big roller coaster.

In her honor, I vow to get on one this summer. Or better yet, perhaps I will make one in my back yard. If I come away with only a busted lip and a torn dress, I will consider myself quite lucky.

Happy Women of Aviation Week to Amelia and to all of the other women aviators inspired by her.

May we all have a passion to soar.

International Women’s Day

Okay, so I am a day late. It’s a woman’s prerogative.

International Women’s Day was yesterday. It is observed annually on March 8. The global day celebrates cultural, political, social and economic achievements of women. The day also is intended to bring international awareness to gender parity. According to the World Economic Forum, global gender equality is estimated to be achieved by 2133.

Gender parity is defined as providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes.

So 2133 is 115 years from now. I can’t imagine celebrating International Women’s Day in 115 years. If we continue in the current direction, will there be a day dedicated to specifically women?

Having worked outside the home for many years during the rearing of my children, I am supportive of gender parity; equal pay for equal work, equal access to education, health care and political representation.

My family often has discussions about the progression of the Church. We are all deeply grateful for our roots and our tradition. We also see that the Church must progress. It must continue moving with technology and forward thinking. However, those things must be built on the foundation of the Church and on the foundation of Truth, that is never stagnant.

It is similar to the way I feel about International Women’s Day. We must always be moving forward in parity. But we must never forget the clawing, scratching, bleeding hands that brought us to this day.

For all of my life, I’ve had the honor and privilege of being surrounded by strong and beautiful women. My maternal grandmother worked harder than any woman I have known. Yet, she maintained her laughter and her femininity and her First Love. She deserved recognition. She deserved parity. She deserved to be honored at awards luncheons. She didn’t get any of those things. They were not within her reach. But she is the foundation on which I stand and the foundation on which every woman in her bloodline stands.

To my grandmothers and mother and mother-in-law and aunts and cousins and sisters and nieces and sisters in the Lord, thank you for showing me what it is like to be a honkin’ porterhouse steak and melting butter on a hot biscuit at the same time.

In the prophetic words of Rihanna: “Sometimes you gotta be a beauty and a beast.”

Every woman I know is a little bit of both. Now that, is parity.