I want to let you know that you’re beautiful. Just. the. way. you. are.
Is anyone else questioning this fact? Do you look in the mirror and ask, what can I do to be thinner? or just more toned? Or immune to gravity? I do. More than I’d like to admit. I analyze. Critisize. Then I tell myself, I am my perfect weight. I love my body. I love what it’s capable of. And I don’t need to change a thing.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time and can’t decide how to approach it. Fitness. Exercise. Diet. Body Image. Women feeling judged for how they look, not for what they do. And how we’re passing these messages on to our children.
I’d really like to have all the answers, and then package them up and give them to you. But I decided instead that I’d take you along on the journey. I don’t have all the answers. I do have a lot of the questions.
I will share what I do to be healthy. I’ve developed a few good habits over the years. You might not agree with me but that’s okay. Some thing might be triggering. I could say something wrong. I just going to go ahead anyway. Besides, I think only 5-10 people will read this.
I’m also going to share with you what works for other people. I have some friends who are willing to share their own health and fitness practices. I think it will be a good cross-section.
This was such an enjoyable read. It was so different from what I usually choose. From the beginning, I was immersed into a world that didn’t make sense. I’d loved how the author set the mood and tone of the place. For the rest of the story, I was just trying to figure out, “How?” and “Why?” By the time I came back to reality I missed being there.
Evvie Drake Starts Over Linda Holmes
Evvie, rhymes with Chevy. How do I keep choosing Romance novels? It wasn’t my thing really but I did enjoy it. Light, relatable, sweet. The kind of book to read when your brain needs a break.
Fifty Words for Rain Asha Lemmie
I enjoyed this book a lot. It had some similarities with Pachinko. At one point I thought I’d have to stop reading it. It veered into the area of sex trafficking and I can’t go there. (It’s why I abandoned Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement)
Fifty Words follows a little girl, Japanese, and how she survives an abusive family of aristocrats. Her love of her half brother and their shared love of music help her endure.
Rules of Civility Amor Towles
This might be my favorite book of the year. Not surprising since I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. I love the writing, especially the witty repartee, which seems typical of the 1930s. Towles really does a great job of transporting you to the time and place (NYC) without it feeling redone. Really lovely. Really enjoyable.
What Are You Going Through Sigrid Nunez
Everyone is going through something. As much as I love a good escape, sometimes a relatable, real story makes life feel less lonely. Because we’re all experiencing heavy stuff. It wasn’t my favorite book, but pretty solid.
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
I loved that this book took me somewhere so interesting, so different from what I’ve experienced. A small island off of Korea where women make the money to support their families by diving for sea urchin, abalone, octopus and other delicacies. I learned about this rich tradition in such beautiful detail. The story time jumps from present day back to the 1930s as it tells about the life of Young-sook and her best friend Mi-ja. We move through the decades and learn about the history of the region. Some of the events are so harrowing, so unthinkable, I wish I hadn’t read about them. But it was very educational and worth it.
28 Summers Elin Hilderbrand
While I was vacationing at the beach, I took a break from The Island of Sea Women and picked up 28 Summers. I’ve never read anything by this quintessential beach-read author. It was the break I was looking for. Why don’t we all live on Nantucket?
I find that the weather can really dictate my mood, and my motivation. If I don’t see blue sky or sun for a while, I feel … not good. So, when that happened recently, I thought, maybe there’s something I can do. I sat down and wrote this list:
FLOWERS CANDLES EXERCISE OUTSIDE FRIENDS VITAMINS MUSIC PERFUME
Some of these things are obvious and I do them fairly regularly. But some of them surprised me. Like, where did that come from? So I know these things help improve mood, but the thing about a cloudy day is I forget about all the things that can make me feel better. I need to remember to use them when sluggishness started to settle in. And the sooner the better. Usually taking simple action works well, like taking a walk. And, the more often I do these things, the easier it is to do them.
Since I work from home, which I love, don’t get me wrong, I need to find excuses to get out of the house. I also need to connect with people (other than the three I live with.) Calling a friend is super helpful. Seeing them in person is even better! Making plans with your people is so, so important. I think we all learned how important human connection is after being deprived of it during the pandemic. I can’t make plans with someone, I usually go out by myself. I highly recommend strolling through stores just to look at stuff. Or better yet, an art museum.
Exercise is also essential. Luckily I’m already in a good habit of prioritizing workouts. Usually I do it first thing in the morning. Right now I have a routine that I walk the dog then I go for a longer walk by myself. On some days I do Jazzercise from home. I started doing Jazzercise on-demand at the start of the pandemic and I love it. Don’t judge my old lady workouts! They’re awesome. When the days get shorter and colder and I’m less willing to go outside, I have to really make myself get outside. I know it makes a big difference in my energy level.
I definitely believe in vitamins. I just never remember to take them. Not only are they good for physical health, they are good for mental as well. Studies have shown that calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3s, vitamin B, vitamin D, and zinc all help to boost mood. I take Garden of Life but there are obviously many to choose from.
Adding light, artificial light if it’s cloudy or dark, is supposed to regulate circadian rhythms (like your body’s reaction to light and how it effects energy). I got therapy lamp a few years ago to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). “Symptoms of SAD include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods.” – Harvard Health Blog. I’m not sure if the one I have is good or if it’s making a difference but I thought it was worth a try. I find that turning on lights and lighting candles can also make me feel better.
I found it really interesting how many things on my list were sensory. Flowers and candles – sight, music – hearing, perfume (and flowers, and candles if they’re scented) – smell. Enlivening the senses can make us feel more alive. So often people are tempted to numb out to combat depression; bingeing on alcohol, sugar, social media, or TV. Feel less. I never realized that feeling more could be much more effective.
The idea of buying myself flowers is very new to me. So is wearing perfume. I think I got my new love of fragrance from my daughter who is constantly asking for essential oils, candles and perfumes. It feels very indulgent and I’m surprised I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy it more before now. I learned a lot about happiness and self-care from reading The Year of Living Danishly. Lighting candles, drinking hot tea, listening to music, setting a mood. How did I not know about these things?
It’s so easy to get caught up in doing all the things. We feel compelled to clean and work, to take care of others and be “productive.” But if we’re feeling down or tired maybe we need to take a step back, slow down and do something that really creates beauty and wonder. Maybe a cloudy day is just the universe saying, your to-do list just got a lot shorter.
Some books I’ve read lately. I’ve read NINE! books since February. Ah, COVID. These are they. Enjoy.
The News of the World
by Paulette Jiles
This was a really nice read. It’s set in Texas, 5 years after the conclusion of the Civil War. It had me looking up words, timelines and facts as I went along… I realized that historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. This book gave me a little bit of All the Pretty Horses vibes, and of course True Grit. I did guess at the ending but I still enjoyed it all the way through.
The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
I’ve been telling everyone about this book. And so many people are reading it! It’s not that it’s the best written book, but it has such a great concept — the chance to relive your life by changing the decisions you made. Extremely enjoyable!
Today Will Be Different
by Maria Semple
I chose this book because I enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by the same author. Today is a view into the life of Eleanor, a restless wife and mother who has an overactive mind. Basically me. It felt good to get drawn into her comical malcontent. The end of the book seemed to arrive quickly and I almost felt like I had watched the first episode of a TV show with no more episodes available.
by Charlotte Brontë
Do I even need to review this book? It’s the sort of classic fiction I was made to read in high school, but I wasn’t. It was referenced in two different books I read this year and I decided I had to read it. If you aren’t used to reading 19th century English Lit, it may be a lot. It was challenging for me, but so worth it. I see why it’s so beloved. The writing is so descriptive, so artful, so unlike anything written nowadays. But I think the best thing about it is getting to know Jane, a woman who has every reason for not being virtuous or true to herself and yet, is.
Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid
This was a good in every way. Easy to read, plot twists, authentic characters, good writing that you aren’t even aware of as you’re reading it. The story felt so modern and relatable. I enjoyed the settings – New York, Philadelphia, Allentown – all so familiar. My favorite part: the dialog between the three-year-old girl and her babysitter who just ‘gets’ her.
by Emily Henry
I did, actually, read this at the beach. It was okay. But, I think I’m just not that into romance or YA and this was a little bit of both. It is a book written about authors writing books. Which takes place on a lake. There’s a fair amount of history of family disfunction. Then there’s super steamy luv scenes. All in all a good vaca read.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
This was a weird book. But weird is good. Spoiler: Eleanor is NOT fine. I found it somewhat interesting and reassuring to go on the journey with her, about her past, her trauma and then her slow renewal.
The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield
This was my cup of tea. Family disfunction, multigenerational saga, mystery… It was thoroughly enjoyable and richly descriptive. I was engaged all the way through. Tried to guess the ending but was still surprised.
The Woman in the Window
by A.J. Finn
I don’t usually read suspense but this was very good. I wanted a good page turner after reading Awakening the Heroes Within. Obviously it pays homage to Rear Window and Noir in general but is it’s own story. Has you guessing who dun it as well as is she imagining it all? Recommend!
This is an account of how my sense of style came to be. When I wonder why I’m so preoccupied with clothing, I only have to look back on my childhood and it’s pretty clear I how I grew up to be obsessed.
Vintage kilt and saddle shoes
Alice in Wonderland look.
Pretty epic pair of overalls.
When I was very small, my mother dressed me, as I like to joke, “like a character in a Truffaut film.” She scoured yard sales and the like for simple, understated items she considered cool. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I just wore whatever she picked. I do have one early memory where I insisted on picking out my own outfit and I’m pretty sure it was a checked top and stripped pants and she said it did not look good, that I couldn’t wear two patterns at once. We got into a heated debate about it which ended with her saying, “Well it doesn’t matter what you think you look like, it’s what others think because they’re looking at you!” Other than that, my early childhood was a blissful time filled with shopping together, handmade dresses from Marimekko fabric and the seasonal tradition of taking clothes out of the attic and making me try every single thing on to see if it still fit.
When I was seven, my mom left my dad and went to California. My brother and I stayed in DC with my dad. My stepmother arrived soon after and a new chapter in my fashion life began. Now all my clothes came from Sears and the only criteria for them was they were 1) inexpensive and 2) covered my body. This time from age eight to about 14—those very critical years for a girl—were very bleak but ultimately formative.
Hardy Boys t-shirt.
Dead shirt and jeans.
Strapless crop top and cut offs.
Every time I asked my dad for clothes he’d say, “Let’s look at what you have.” I’d have to open my dresser, take out all my jeans and explain why they weren’t perfectly good or try them on.” If it was determined I needed new ones, we’d walk four blocks to Sears and I got to pick out a pair of Toughskins or something similar. It was horrible. And that was the good part. A lot of my clothes were hand me downs from my older brother. My sneakers were Sears brand and everyone knew it. My shoes had 4 stripes on them, not 3 and definitely not a swoosh. I did everything I could to talk my dad into cooler shoes. He said, “We’ll see” which obviously meant “Probably not, or no, never.” But when my sneakers finally got holes in them, (I might have dragged my feet while bike riding), he relented and I got my Nikes.
My stepmother made an effort to intervene in the clothing department, insisting to my father that “Girls need pretty things.” She was an accomplished seamstress and would occasionally let me pick out patterns and fabric and then she would sew things for me. One item that I remember distinctly was a full length wrap skirt made out of baby blue satin. One Christmas she bought me a book of Japanese fashion and I fell in love with Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. I know, right?
It wasn’t until I had my first jobs, at Subway, then Baskin-Robbins, that I had the money and the power to buy what I wanted. I feel like I bought a pair of Jordache jeans with my own money. I distinctly remember trying them on and thinking I looked amazing. I don’t have any photos of me in them so maybe I just imagined it. I didn’t have much to spend in high school so I mostly shopped at thrift stores. Or wore my friend’s clothes. In these days my peers were wearing Polo and Izod shirts, Tretorns and Bass shoes. Some of them were Goth, but mostly just very plain and somewhat anti-fashion. We dubbed our style “the no-style style.”
College and the years after are one long, painful string of bad choices. With clothing, I mean. Okay, with everything, but mostly I bought many odd and unrelated items, from Ross or Marshall’s or maybe the Gap sales rack that I look back on and wonder, “What on earth was I thinking?”
Ever budget conscious, I shopped at H&M, Gap, Banana Republic and J.Crew either at their factory stores or if it was on sale. I found pieces I liked but nothing really went together, at least not the way I wanted. My style looked hodge-podge and cheap.
A french bulldog.
Argyle looks French, right?
In 2007, I got to fulfill a lifetime dream of visiting Paris. I always imagined how I’d look like a native and feel like a character in a Camus novel, or again, a Truffaut film. It didn’t really work out that way. Still struggling with what to wear and still on a budget.
After Paris came a long-awaited and very joyful pregnancy and birth of twins. From then on, there weren’t many photos taken of me. Just me taking thousands of pix of the kids. And really I didn’t think a lot about clothes. I just wanted to get back in shape and maybe have a full night’s sleep.
It was 2011 that I took my first mirror selfie. I had started looking at stuff online about putting together outfits. I followed J’s Everyday Style, Kendi Everyday and Unfancy to name a few.
In January of 2012 I started the blog “Women’s Work”, originally as a place to discuss the challenges of balancing work, childcare, etc. but it was really just a place to explore random thoughts and teach myself WordPress and blogging in addition to working as a Graphic Designer and being a mom of twins. Later I renamed it LeighFeather and committed to focusing on my three favorite things: Fitness, Fashion & Food, posting sporadically. And now it’s seven years later! I feel like I’m just starting to know my style and like what I wear. And it’s funny, I’ve probably known it all along. It’s simple and understated, sort of vintage/retro and a little masculine. It’s jeans and t-shirts and a good amount of black. And I feel good.