Dear Forever Valentine, Thank You

Because you (I!) deserve a love letter today. Self, you are always by my side!

First, I am proud of you.

I see a woman who has nothing to prove this year. She is wearing overalls because they are what she feels comfortable wearing, and she’s STOKED at the ’90s are back in that style! With it, a pink and white baseball shirt because it’s a little feminine but also practical. Today she is wearing no make-up. Her hair is shorn in a pixie, which makes her feel free– she loves the feeling of the icy wind on her neck. She often goes without a hat, but zips her coat up to the hilt instead.

This year has been about realigning with what you need, and putting that into action. And you are making great strides every day! Even when you think I don’t notice the progress, I do. Even when no one else does, I see.

I believe in and admire you, Amee. I adore that name– your mother chose it with care. It’s not something to be found on pencils, which you used to resent. It’s singular and a little bit exotic–French. There is nothing typical about you. You forge your own way in every aspect of your life– you don’t do things like everyone else.

You are unafraid to sacrifice in the present for something you know will be better in the future. You are committed to what you need even when it’s not fun or popular. You are learning to value your own voice most. You can weather questions and the assumptions of others with increasing grace.

Like all humans, you have walls to protect yourself. Your heart is not impulsive as it once was, although sometimes I know you long for those days. Those were beautiful times of innocence, important to teach you lessons. Of loss, of how to lose yourself in giving. Of appreciating someone even when they don’t understand why you love them. You seek to understand others and comfort them.

You know how to love with abandon, commitment and safety.

You accept that not everyone deserves what you want to give– you are more patient. You demand that people prove to you that they are sincere. Never admonish yourself for that– it’s been learned with fire.

You always rise. You may slow down, you may hold yourself back with caution.

But conserving your energy and valuing what you possess to give others is something wonderful and smart.

Keep doing that.

Everything that you need is on its way to you. It is happening at exactly the right time and speed– just continue to trust in your judgement.

You are more real than many who put up a better facade. When you’re not happy, you don’t pretend. You’re polite and professional when needed, but never insincere. That is something glorious– the ability to know how you’re feeling and not be ashamed of it. That takes tremendous courage– it’s a skill not everyone has yet learned.

That writer heart of yours beats steady. I can always depend on you. We are always together.

Whatever comes your way, you will handle it with aplomb.

I am grateful that you preserve that delightful spark of silly, that propensity for wackiness. I am glad that you see beauty in the most ordinary circumstances.

You are loyal, affectionate, serious.

Thank you for not changing for anyone.

You are my favorite. I love you! You are beautiful and strong.

You are making peace with uncertainty and deciding to be your own hero.

And that is the best Valentine’s gift I could ever give you.

Always,

All the Love You Possess

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On Turning 34, Lauren Bacall, and Feminine Power

I turned 34-years-amazing on November 4.

Originally, I had planned to drive a nature preserve out of town and spend some time alone.

Instead I chose to stay local so that I could vote, enjoy my community, and see people I care about.

My first idea seemed cool. Except that I already am a bit of a loner, so the more challenging thing was to get out there and mingle for a change.

And I’m happy with my choice. I decided to put on something that made me feel glamorous and powerful: a suit.

I used separate pieces– a new maroon blazer I bought myself, along with a pencil skirt and my favorite boots. The blazer has sleeves that roll up with a pinstripe pattern, and two buttons. The night before I had gone shopping and decided I’ve been putting my money mostly toward necessities for so long: gas, food, bills. I can’t remember the last time I bought a new outfit or accessories. Usually what I do buy for myself has nothing to do with fashion or beauty: books and journals. I’ve become so intellectual and contemplative I’ve largely neglected my appearance for the past year.

In my younger days, every year I’d splurge and buy myself a fabulous birthday ensemble. I’d get my hair blown out, my nails done, I’d buy myself a sophisticated dress and some cute costume jewelry to match and probably some new shoes. I’d plan a big party for myself and take tons of pictures with my friends.

I used to love to go out! I still love to dance. I really enjoyed dressing up back then. The past few years, I’ve considered it tedious and a waste of money.

I don’t have the cash to treat myself this year the way I did back then. But I’ve still got style.

But sometimes it just really feels GOOD to spend money on yourself. And why shouldn’t I? I’m not supporting anyone besides myself.

I treated myself to mascara from Lancome, for the first time ever. Even the tube is beautiful.

And I put myself together, with a gold theme. My dangly earrings and bracelet were costume, but that’s fine by me. They’re still fabulous! I didn’t wear a jacket.

I stopped by the library cafe. I saw a business man, who looked at me and was impressed. He complimented my earrings. He asked if he could buy me lunch and I told him I’d already ordered, but he could sit with me. Normally I would have probably declined and sat alone.

And we had a lovely conversation. It wasn’t flirting– it was just two people having a respectful, delightful conversation. He’s traveled all over the world and done a lot of work for peace. We talked about faith. He gave me his card and asked for mine. I felt like an equal– not intimidated at all.

Why *shouldn’t* I have a card? I did as a reporter. I loved it.

Maybe it’s time to design my own.

Then I voted. On a political day, I felt like I fit in, dressed professionally.

I enjoyed dinner with my parents at a nice restaurant out of town, a victory! I got them to break routine.

I drank Voss sparkling water and adored it.

And after, my friend Kaela and I met at a local combination movie/dinner venue to see a classic: “To Have or Have Not,” with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. I wasn’t aware it was their first picture together, nor Bacall’s first film. She was only 19 in it.

The attendant lead us into an elevator, upstairs and down a hallway lined with movie poster memorabilia. We went into a small room with black leather couches! The movie was showing black and white, as well.

I was mesmerized. I am such a dork that I took two pictures of the movie with my phone. They came out great.

For such a young age, Bacall exudes poise. That unmistakable and unique Forties glamour– conservative. Unapologetically stylish. Her voice doesn’t have much cadence– she’s very still. You rarely see many facial expressions, except for a smirk. What’s riveting is her absence of action.

I’ve never seen a woman embody “playing it cool,” the way she did. WOW.

And I thought, “THAT is what I need to emulate.” The woman is a BOSS.

There is tremendous power in being quiet. In choosing your thoughts. In cultivating understated.

When you don’t demand attention, people are drawn in. I’ll pass on the smoking, however!

My friend had never seen the film either, and we marveled equally.

Afterward, we goofed around in the lobby, posing with movie posters and taking a few pictures of each other.

It was just a day where I felt in command of my femininity. Energized by it.

There’s something about taking yourself seriously– you command respect.

I’m glad I didn’t just throw on jeans and tromp into the woods on my 34th birthday. I can do that anytime.

Instead, I celebrated myself. I didn’t have a big party, but made plans to do things I really wanted. My birthday was on a Tuesday and I celebrated it that day. I spent time with my parents and one of my closest friends for the past four years.

I felt beautiful, strong, in control.

I’m glad I wore that suit to see this movie.

I’m going to rebuild a wardrobe of beautiful clothes that I love.

I’m going to take myself more seriously.

I’m going to own my beauty without apologizing.

And channel Bacall like a boss.

New Color, A Trim, and More Confidence

Yesterday, I colored my hair.

I know I praised my grays previously– and I did enjoy the The Gandalf Upgrade to white.

But we all go through phases where we just don’t care much about our looks. We stop trying. And there’s a certain comfort in that, because we attract less attention that way. Sometimes we don’t want attention. We just want a break from it. And it can be a welcome period of rest.

But I think when you start to care again, it’s a sign of growth. It’s a sign of self-respect, of wanting to look good for YOURSELF. Because it’s true– when you look better, you feel better.

I dyed my hair once, a few months ago. It turned out way too bright red– I wasn’t a fan. It faded to an orangey color. The cut was grown out– it was just a block of thick hair that I usually only put in ponytails, if I did anything at all with it.

I’m not one to fuss with styling long hair. I’m a tomboy in that way. I like to keep it simple.

But yesterday I tried a new stylist, and she was just what I needed!

I liked her because her own style was fantastic. And you want a stylist who IS stylish. Duh.

She ended up just thinning out my heavy locks a bit, giving me some layers around the face. I was going to try bangs, but ruled it out last-minute. I always end up pushing them back with my hands or slapping on a headband. I have a small forehead so I can’t pull off big fringe bangs, or most kind of bangs at all! They just get in my eyes and usually annoy me. And while the Bettie Page look is hot– it’s not for me.

I got a dark brown mixed with a bit of cherry. I love it. It warms up my pale complexion, and matches the winter mood. And I feel more confident! It’s a bob– practical.

I’m ready to go out and get things done in this hair!!

Taking care of yourself as a woman, splurging a bit on yourself– it just makes you feel better.

And while I know those gray and white hairs are still there– I’m 33, not 53. I’m gonna fight ’em!

The upkeep is annoying, yes. But I’m worth the effort.