Saturday, April 25, 2015

There are so many reasons why I should hate this photo, but I don't.

I am participating tomorrow in a photo shoot for an event called the #suitupcampaign.  It is the hope of the women organizing it to have a more varied representation of body types in swim suits, which will hopefully invite other women to feel comfortable "suiting up" for summer.  I was asked to submit a picture of my suit and so I set out to take a couple selfies.  I was going through them and I started to notice something; I looked beautiful.

As a fat, white, cisgender, femme presenting, often mis-identified queer woman partnered with a cisgender man, I have received many messages about my body over the course of my life. From a very young age my body was labeled as fat.  I understood the resounding message that my worth was directly tied up in how much space I was supposed to take up in the world.  I understood that is was always open season on my body - from family, friends, doctors and even strangers.  Sometimes couched in love, sometimes in fear and other times it just felt like hatred - it always felt hurtful.

I was a happy active child.  I rode bikes, played hard in the huge empty fields that littered our rural community.  I played soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball and was on the swim team.  I was in Girl Scouts, Job's Daughters, University of Oregon Children's Choir, local theater and played in the school band.  I got leads in plays and sang solos.  I got good grades, had lots of friends and was in a loving family, yet I very clearly understood that all of that was not good enough.  It did not matter if I traveled to the moon and back in a spaceship I created myself, my body was not ok.  I was not ok.

I remember hearing, "you have such a pretty face, now if you just lost "the weight.""I remember the stark white walls and awful florescent lights of the Weight Watchers office.  I remember going to the hospital and listening to a talk about a medically monitored liquid diet. I remember a pediatrician that had my parents take a picture of me, standing sheepishly and feeling ashamed, on our pool deck in my navy blue Speedo as a "before picture."  That picture followed me all the way to college, where I hope it was eventually shredded with my medical records long after I left.  All this to say the message that my body wasn't beautiful, therefore I wasn't beautiful was loud and clear.  These feelings of shame, embarrassment, unworthiness and ugliness stuck around for a very long time and interfered with me feeling truly comfortable in my skin.

Yet, I was out there living.  I was participating.  I was smart and successful.  I was outgoing and adventurous.  I was good at making friends and keeping them.  In fact some of the people I love the most in my life have been my friends since childhood.  I was never told I couldn't do something, in fact it was just the opposite.  My family expected so much from me.  They encouraged me to shine, to be whatever I wanted. Yet some how the constant message that I was not good enough, not pretty enough, not worthy of being loved by someone also existed in my psyche.

Perhaps that is why I love dialectics in behavioral therapy so much today.  I know that often two seemingly opposite ideas can exist.  I know now that I am fat and I am beautiful.  One does not exclude the other from existing.  It wasn't an easy journey to where I am today.  I have many more stories of struggling with my own self-worth, however tonight as I scrolled through these pictures of myself clad in nothing but a bathing suit and a smile, I just saw beauty.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Oh, heeeeyyyy...

It's been a minute since we last chatted.  I'll admit I have been having loads of fun on Instagram as a means to explore fashion, HAES and the world around me.  I keep meaning to come back and actually blog and I get myself so worked up over the idea that I just let it go.  So I am going to try to come here more.  Share some of my fun fashion stuff.  Explore my thoughts on books I am currently reading.  Here's to new adventures together!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Playing with fashion...

I remember as a young girl hating to go shopping.  I was a fat kid and a relatively small town.  Mind you, this was long before Lane Bryant, Torrid, The Avenue or anything like them existed on the West coast, if at all.  There was no hopping on the internet and having the latest fashions shipped to you in two days time.  In fact, it often took several weeks when ordering from a catalog, assuming there was anything that I liked.

Shopping was a chore.  It was a time that I was reminded that my body was broken and that I must be immoral, lazy, and cheating on my diet, because if I wasn't then I should have been able to shop in the "right" section.

But I couldn't.

When I was a little kid, I was wearing teen sizes.  When I was a teen, I was wearing larger women's sizes.  In 1989, when Guess jeans, Vuarnet tank tops and Keds were in style, I was wearing Sears women's jeans, men's cut Vuarnet shirts and knock-off Keds from the K-mart.  It was fine.  I survived, however I never truly understood what it was like to go shopping with friends, pouring over the latest fashions and figuring out what I liked.

There was one time a year that life came close to that.  It was when I would get a giant box of clothes and accessories in the mail! My mom's parents lived in a suburb of Washington DC.  Their neighbor's granddaughter was a few years older than me and plus sized too.  Every year around the holiday's, she would pack up a box of hand-me-downs and ship them to me.  I WAS IN HEAVEN!  Fashionable, fun, young-looking and like nothing I could find in Springfield, Oregon.  I would pour through every item, trying to figure out how I would put outfits together. For those first few days, it always felt so amazing.  I felt trendy and chic.

Finally in the early 90's we got Petries Plus and Lane Bryant.  I was able to purchase items that were a bit more reflective of who I was, and still, I felt so far behind my peers.  I had two options and they were stores that catered to my size, so it wasn't as if I could even shop with my peers.

I've come a long way since 1990.  I have slowly but surely grown into my fashion skin.  With the help of many fashionable friends, I feel like I have honed my skills and on occasion have been able to help others "love the skin they're in." Clothes are funny that way.  It's so amazing how a comfortable and well fitting bra can change the way my clothes hang and then that influences how I accessorize.  Next I am exploring funky hair and maybe throwing on some make-up.  All this can completely change the way I feel about myself and how I walk through the world.  It helps me feel empowered and when I feel more able to empower others.  When we are all empowered, we change the world.  Fashion certainly changed my world...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Budding fashionista!

Yesterday I got to play dress up all afternoon.  It was sooooo much fun.  Through some luck and random connections, I was introduced to the fabulous Jessica Kane who is an amazing fashion blogger, owner/publisher of Skorch Magazine, talented photographer/model and loving mama and wife - so basically a really cool role model and inspiration.  We spent the afternoon shooting some basic shots and details on several really cute dresses and tunics from SWAK Designs and Simply Be.  Jessica, along with her lovely friend Brit, and I had some great conversations about how fatshion often misses the mark.  It has a difficult time finding space for a verity of bodies, in my case, bodies farther up the size scale.  We are often overlooked and not marketed to, even though 1) we exist 2) we have to clothe our bodies 3) like everyone else we want to look and feel good in our clothing.

Needless to say, it was an amazing afternoon and I am looking forward to many more conversations about fatshion, body pos movement, inclusion and intersectionality!  2015 is starting out pretty great!

Just one example of what we did yesterday.
Styled by Jessica Kane. Photo by Brit Evans.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Go Ducks!

It's Rose Bowl day!  Woohoo! I have to work this morning, and it doesn't mean I can't get into the spirit.   Notice the shirt, necklace and earrings.   GO DUCKS!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taylor Swift's Gift Giving of 2014

This furthers my desire to have Taylor as a little sister.  I think we would have so much fun being Pollyannas together! :-)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays from Mongoose Manor!

I swear I meant to send out cards this year.  Since I hadn't had the time last year, I actually bought cards in October this year to ensure that I would get them out.  I even bought stamps!  Yet, life doesn't always play out the way you think it will. Anyway, on with the year end update!

The year started pretty slow.  Gage was plugging along through his first year of High School.  It was a big adjustment from a tiny K-8 to on of Oregon's largest high schools.  He was involved in stage craft class and got to assist in several school productions.   We also learned that Alan's job would be ending in June.  Knowledge Universe, the company he's spent almost 11 years working for, decided to outsource his department to the Philippines.  Alan seemed to take it all in stride and was looking forward to the change, and I'll admit, I spent the next 6 months worrying about what was going to happen!  I also took a part-time job at the National College of Natural Medicine working in the Student Counseling Center.  This was wonderful opportunity for me, personally and professionally.  I has given me the opportunity to use my skills in non-profit management as I get to participate as a part of the leadership team, I get to build solid clinic relationships with the student interns in the clinic and the students accessing services and do my best to assist in their growth and change and I get some of the best clinical supervision around through the Center Director, Dr. Wolmark.  This makes me a very lucky lady for sure!

February was an exciting month for me.  After deciding to go back to grad school in 2009 and getting my Masters in Social Work in 2011, I had finally completed all my clinical hours toward licensure and past the national exam.  I officially became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker!

In March we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to rent a beach house in Astoria for Spring Break.  Gage brought his friend William along and my parents came with us too.  It was a gorgeous couple of days exploring the NW part of the Oregon coast.  We had gorgeous weather the whole time.  We could not have asked for a better break!
Gage and Alan at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Gorgeous spring sunset!

Can't beat view from the Oregon Coast!
Nena soaking up the sun at Cape Disappointment 

Gage and William riding the trolley through Astoria, Oregon

Alan, Gage and William at
The Shipwreck at Ft. Stevens State Park , Oregon

Nena and Pa at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Alan and I at the Astoria Column 

Nena and Alan, great explorers!

Mom and I with the Astoria Bay in the background
The spring brought even more adventures.  In April, Alan found out that he was a finalist for The Ford Family Foundation Scholarship. This scholarship would allow him to attend college full-time and earn at least a Bachelors degree. In May he had his final interview and in June was awarded the scholarship.

Alan and I after accepting his scholarship award 
 He also found out that he would get the opportunity to travel internationally for the first time to the Philippines.  He spent most of the month of May living and working in Manila.  He had a great time, got to see some amazing sights, made some new friends - however ended up with food poisoning and spent multiple days in the hospital.  That being said, he says he would like to go back and do more exploring of the county.

Alan at the Taal Volcano.
A complex volcano located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.
It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines with 33 historical eruptions. 
In July, we were able to take our first big family vacation.  We headed south to Arizona to see both Alan and my family.  We spent a week in Tucson.  While we were there we were able to meet Alan's Uncle Pat and Aunt Karena for lunch one day and were able to get up to Meza to see his Aunt Shelly and Grandma Jackie.  We were so happy to get to see his grandmother one more time as she passed later that month at an amazing 95 years old.  We also had the opportunity to spend time with my brother and his beautiful family.  We had lots of fun exploring Tucson, grilling out, swimming and just being in each others company.  After a great week in the sun, we flew home bringing 3 of our four nephews with us.  We all were able to attend my side of the family reunion together.

The Linhares Crew - Alan, Gage, Aunt Shelly and Grandma Jackie
Gage, me, Alan, Uncle Pat and Aunt Karena

The boys hanging out together!

Nena with her grandbabies - Camren, Skyler, Tristen and Jaden.  
In August we spent time working on projects around the house including Alan pulling up, patching and repairing part of our hardwood floors.  Alan was officially unemployed and adjusting to life before starting back to school for the first time in 15 years.  My hours at the college increased, which was exciting and allowed for more professional growth.  Alan and I got away to Redmond, Oregon for a weekend to attend my cousin's wedding and enjoyed the warmth of the high desert and spending time with family.  Mom and I traveled over to Fruitland, ID to check in on Grandma Thomas and spend a lovely weekend with Aunt Bette and Uncle Woz.  I always love the opportunity to travel with my mom.  We are best friends and don't often get time together, just the two of us.  It's always special.

Alan and his assistant Coco, patching the floor. 
Alan getting the last of the boards in. 
Alan and I in Redmond, OR
Mom and I road trippin!
Mom and I on the Columbia River Gorge.
September was back to school for both Gage and Alan.  Gage started his Sophomore year at David Douglas High School and Alan his freshman year at Portland Community College.  The fall continued to be filled with LOTS of studying, cheering our Ducks on to victory, more house projects and trying to squeeze in time with friends.  All this hard work paid off as Alan finished his first term in college with a 4.0.  We are all so proud of him and all his hard work.  He is such a great role model for Gage.  And it will be exciting to see where this wonderful opportunity will take him.
Alan's first day of school!
Gage, 10th grade
And for now, we will keep plugging along.  It is such a great privilege to watch Gage grow into a thoughtful and caring young man.  I have no doubt that he will grow into an even more wonderful person in the next few years.  He is slowly figuring out how he wants to fit into the world and like many other teens his age, starting to stretch those growth muscles even more.  As challenging as balancing our lives the way they currently our, between two jobs, two full-time students and normal daily life, I really do feel blessed and cannot imagine my life without these two wonderful men.  They do make my life much richer.

Lastly, before I close this update out, I am sad to report that we had to lay Marty, out 16 year old Japanese Chin to rest this month.  Many of you had the opportunity to meet this sweet little guy over the 12 years I had the honor of spending with him.  He was a lovely old man, right up til the end and this was one of the hardest things that Alan and I have had to do together.  I was so glad that Alan was with me for support.  Sweet Marty dog is missed daily and has left a big void in our family...

So from our little piece of the universe to yours, here's wishing you all the happiest of holidays and the best in 2015!