10.25.2017

For Leslie & Gayle...











Vest: Ivy & Leo, Bodysuit: Forever 21, Pants: Page 6, Shoes: Can't remember (7 years old), Watch: Apple Store, Purse: Criv, Necklace: Chloe + Isabel


I saw this quote the other day... 
 "Empowered women, empower women." 
... and it made me think of how incredibly important it is to lift one another up. I know it sounds cheesy, and perhaps we have all heard that in some way shape or form over the years, but I've been thinking about a lot lately. Remembering certain instances in my life where I was empowered by women who did not have to go out of their way to encourage, thank, or express their belief in me.

I have some GREAT women in my family. Strong women. Fighters. Survivors. They have supported me. However, because they are my family, I kind of expect that from them. I mean, they love me. I love them. That's what you do when you love someone. I'm talking about strangers, or acquaintances, or just anyone who has no personal gain from your success. They don't love you like your family or "framily" (friends who are family) they are just bomb-ass people who lift one another up. (The quote mentions "women", but of course it applies to everyone.)
When I look at my life right now there are 2 women who stand out in my memory, women who started as strangers. They are just two of the people in my adult life who gave me the tools that I needed to become the woman I am right at this very moment. 
If I were in one of those awkward situations where a person asked me to stand up and tell the room a little bit about myself I might say something like... 
Hello. My name is Melissa. 
I am married to a wonderful man who I love (and am incredibly grateful for). 
I am an entrepreneur. I own my own business and coach other people who are creating businesses for themselves. 
I am also a Pilates teacher.  Pilates changed my life and teaching it gives me more joy than anything else.
Maybe that description is super high level, way too corny and positive for your liking, but it is accurate. When I write that out and look at it, it hits me that 0 out of those 3 descriptors (wife/business owner/Pilates instructor) were true a few years ago. 
I know a lot of little things have happened in my life to get me here and I believe that God opened up doors and introduced me to people (who introduced me to opportunities) that allowed me to be at this place, BUT (and it's a big BUT), you have to be ready for those people and you have to actually have courage enough to walk through the doors that are opened for you. You have to have faith and a belief in yourself that you can do hard things. That you are deserving of the kind of life that brings you joy. That you can heal, start over, go through rebirth. That you can survive. Forgive and be forgiven. That you can create your life. It is is not something that happens TO you, but that you are the master craftsman. You DESIGN it. You steer the proverbial ship.     

When I was volunteering at a woman's leadership event a few years ago around the time of the Democratic National Convention I met a woman named Leslie Black Morton. She introduced herself to me and something VERY weird happened. It was truly like love at first sight. I was so curiously drawn to this woman. She is beautiful, energetic, soothing, loving, hilarious, authentic, and warm. We exchanged contact info and went to dinner. At dinner I found out that she has had a life that resembles a movie. More joy and tragedy than most of us would experience in 10 lifetimes. She is a master healer, life coach, and all around bad ass mama-jamma. As we were talking she was asking me what I want for my life. Where I've been and where I want to go. I didn't know how to answer her. I was not clear on what I wanted. I knew where I had been, but all that did was scare me into fearing that the bottom would drop out of my life if I verbalized my hopes for the future. She was not this blunt, but essentially she said... "how can you get to where you want to be, and become who you want to become, if you have never given any thought, time or energy to figuring out what that looks, feels, tastes and smells like"? << head explodes >> "Uh... yeah. I don't know. You're right." was my lame-ass answer. She tasked me with an exercise. She asked that I write down where I want to be in 5 years. Be specific. What do I want to smell, see, taste, experience? What do I want to do when I wake up in the morning? Who do I want to be with? What kind of house do I want to live in? Car to drive? What kind of work do I want to do? How am I of service to others? 
I put the task off for a while, but about a week later I laid on top of my bed with a journal and I did it. I wrote a letter, to myself, describing what my day to day life looked like 5 years in the future. I had never dared to do that before. I did not know anything about The Law of Attraction. I was spending more time thinking about what I didn't want to happen to me versus what I did. That one simple exercise was SO powerful. It is not an overstatement to say that it truly changed my life. I felt like I had a plan. A picture. That I had put something out in the Universe and that since I had, there was this hope that the Universe was going to open up to me. Maybe you think this is a crock of horse shit, but if you don't think it's a crock of shit, try it. What can it hurt? It just may be the most powerful thing you've ever done for yourself. Leslie taught me to open up, to ask for what what I want. Not to be scared of the future, not to be defined by the past. That anyone, at any point, can decide how their story is written. For that, I will forever be grateful.

The second woman who has changed my life, is, without a doubt, Gayle Stefanelli. I walked into a Pilates class about 5 years ago and this pint-sized woman with abs of steel greeted me with a big smile. I felt completely out of place. I had NEVER done Pilates before. The class was small and the students made a circle around her with our mats. There was no hiding. I had no idea what I was doing for that hour. I listened to Gayle, fought with my body, trying to coax it into doing things it had never done before, and left (not completely convinced I would ever go back). Not because of the class. The class was awesome, and so was Gayle. But, because of me. I was a solid 40lbs heavier than everyone in that room. I felt completely out of tune with my body next to these woman who moved so gracefully and with such fluidity. I was embarrassed. Scared to be a beginner. Scared that I didn't "look the part". I did go back though. Quite regularly in fact. And one day, after months of practice, Gayle said to me... "Melissa, you should really think about teaching Pilates. I think you would be great at it. You naturally help people, you seem to love the practice, and you've gotten really strong". "Ummm... huh? Me? A Pilates teacher???" I smiled, looked at the floor, shook my head like "no way" and dismissed it. I didn't dismiss it though. I went home and I thought about it. A lot. For days, non-stop. I knew Gayle by then and I knew she did not bullshit. She did not shove sunshine up people's butts unless she meant it. I started looking into it and I've been teaching Pilates for years now. If it had not been for Gayle encouraging me, believing in me, and bringing the opportunity up to me I would never, ever have become a Pilates teacher. I would have listened to all of the voices in my head telling me that I would never succeed at something like that. I would have let my own bullshit story guide my life instead of trying something new. Gayle Stefanelli, a powerhouse Pilates and Yoga teacher from Boston, was one of the greatest, most unexpected blessings to my life.

I guess what I am trying to say is that sometimes people see things in us before we see them in ourselves. Sometimes the Universe, God, Divine Energy opens up doors for you that you never (consciously) asked to be opened. Sometimes these people, ideas, and opportunities scare the shit out of you and come in packages, from people, and at times that you would never have anticipated. Listen to those nudges. Believe those people. Allow empowered women to empower you. Maybe... just maybe... they are on to something.

9.21.2017

Scantily Clad Traveller










Earrings: CRIV, Dress: Vestique, Shoes: Jessica Simpson, Vest: Target, Purse: Tory Burch


This outfit started as just the dress. I ran out for what I thought was going to be a quick errand to the passport office in it.

Much of the time I wear dresses as an easy option and not necessarily to "look dressed up".

They are one piece, have no legs, no waistband (to remind you that you may or may not have eaten too much), and no matching (or intentional mismatching) to think about. All around minimal effort required. The day I wore this it was 90 degrees outside. If you know me, you know that I sweat. A lot. Like a hairy, obese, dude. As in, if it's over 75 degrees, beads of upper lip sweat are a standard accessory on my face. Homegirl needs all of the ventilation she can get. Know what I am sayin'? I love dresses, and it never crossed my mind that this one was going to cause me any problems. I was wrong.

I set out on my way to update my passport with my married name which required a new photo, an updated application, and marriage license documentation. I went to the drugstore, got a new picture, drove 35 minutes (deep into the country) to the passport office, submitted my documentation, filled out the new application, and was thinking to myself... "Man, it is not often that you go to a government office and get in and out without any sort of snafu. Today was a good day." < cue Ice Cube >

The woman who was helping me gathered all of my paperwork, got it ready to mail it off for me, and took one last look at everything. It was then that she furrowed her brow, cocked her head to the side in deep thought, made a weird sound between her pursed lips, then called her co-worker over to the counter.

Passport Office Lady #1:
"Nance, can you come here, please? What do you think about this photo, do you think it is acceptable or do you think they are going to decline her application?"

Me:
"Huhhhhh? Why???"

Passport Lady #2:
"Ahhhh, yeah. < stops for effect and looks me up and down >  I'm afraid this photo is unacceptable. See here, you are wearing these spaghetti straps, and "they" require that a woman wear a bit more clothing than that. You need thicker straps, or sleeves, something.  < Insert judgmental glare at my shoulders. >

WHAT . THE . ACTUAL . FK?
I need thicker straps???
For a passport photo??
For a photo of my face that will be used to identify me when I travel?
There are requirements around the FKing diameter, girth, span, and breadth of a STRAP on my shoulder???
Is this even a real thing?
Am I being punked?
I felt like I was being shamed. Nance and her co-worker were slut shaming me with their eyes and tones. Over the flimsiness of my scant dress straps.

Apparently, this.... "straps not being substantial enough" is indeed a real thing in the passport world.

So, I go to my car, assuming that there is SOMETHING, surely, in my car that I can drape around my shoulders. Assuming also that there is a drug store close by. At least closer than the 35 minutes it took me to get there from my house.

I go to my car. Nothing. I had recently cleaned it out (see previous post about purging). I find a CVS 10 miles away. I figured I'd borrow, or worst case, have to buy a tourist t-shirt from CVS to cover my scandalous shoulders up with. I get to the drug store, have a t-shirt in hand, am at the register, tell the cashier that I also need a quick passport photo taken and she tells me "I'm sorry, baby, our camera is broken". I nod with a tense jaw. (Anger oozing from my pores.) I put the shirt back. I go to my car. I drive 35 minutes home. I grab this vest. I go to another drug store near my house, get another photo taken. I drive 35 minutes BACK to the passport office, where Nance and her co-worker "thoroughly review", approve,  and finally send everything off for me.

I check the mail about a week later and see an envelope from the US Passport Office.
Score! At least  got my new passport back in record time! Uh no. The application (that "Nance" thoroughly reviewed for accuracy) was missing a signature. Sweet and gentle, geezus. ARE.YOU.FKN.SEROIOUS??? ? I just had to laugh.

Anyway, that experience, while not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, was so annoying and baffling, that I'll never look at this dress without thinking of that first-world fiasco. Sometimes articles of clothing get tied to a memory. This will forever be the "dress I was slut-shamed at the passport office in" dress.

I know that Nance is sitting there in that passport office right now, beige cardigan draped over her chaste shoulders, laughing at me. Fkin Nance.

8.31.2017

The Joy of Trashing Shit








Romper: Vestique, Shoes: Versona, Purse: Gift from Rodan + Fields, Bracelets: Kate Spade, Necklace: Chloe + Isabel (obsessed - haven't taken it off)


In the last week I have held every piece of what I am wearing in my hands and asked myself if it "bring me joy".

I've stopped to consider whether I feel good in it; whether I truly like it or not, and if I feel comfortable wearing it.

This is not an exercise I have ever done before.

I have never taken the time to really consider the things I own. The objects that I have in my home, that I put on my body, that sit on my dresser, surround my sinks, counters, shelves, and asked if they bring me joy or not.

Disclaimer: I have not gone off the deep end.

I have not started having actual, out loud conversations with inanimate objects, but I have been working on an exercise to be more conscious about what I surround myself with. I am doing  a MAJOR purge. Total haul of every nook and cranny of my house, including my closets, "junk drawers", pantry, bathroom sink, dresser drawers, everything. I am going through my accessories, books, furniture, the linens in my closets... EVVVUURRRYTHING. I am not doing this all at once, but I am ALL in. I am hooked. I am obsessed. Nothing is safe.

I keep a pretty clean house. And, by pretty clean... I mean, REALLY, clean (to the naked eye). Any of my friends will tell you that they can walk in at any time of day, day of the week, month of the year, and my house will be clean. There may be a few dishes in the sink as the dishwasher finishes a cycle, and yes, my laundry room is a fking nightmare, but what they see when they come in is really tidy. Like... if I ever have a cleaning lady or team come in, it really doesn't look much different when they are done, kind of clean house.

I like a tidy house. It makes me happy. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Brings me peace. Gives me a sense of calm. I can only relax in a clean house. Mess makes me uneasy.  (I blame my mother, who, when I was growing up, was a "clean freak".) The problem was/is that I have dirty little secrets everywhere.

The hallway closet filled with suitcases, a vacuum, random picture frames, and sneakers that my husband wore 5 years ago. So full that I jump back when I open it up so the avalanche hurling towards me doesn't cause bodily harm. Under my bathroom sink? Shampoo and half used bottles of conditioner from 3 years ago. My wedding after-party dress? Dirty and still hanging in my laundry room (from APRIL). My kitchen sink? I have no earthly idea what's under there. Could be dish detergent, could be a community of Fraggles. An interconnected system of caves could be under there... like, Fraggle Rock. Fraggle Rock could quite possibly exist under my kitchen sink. Hell if I know.

See... when I was young we moved all of the time. I LOVE moving. I love throwing shit out, packing up only what you really care about, exploring a new place, decorating, redecorating, creating a new vibe, giving old things a new place to live. I LOVE to move. It's like a fresh start every time you move. Some hate it. I LOVE it. As a kid, before I went to college, my mom and I counted and between her houses and and my dad's houses,  I had lived in 20+ places in 18 years. That may sound awful to some, but not me. It's one of the things I miss most about being young. Moving into a new place every year or so.

Now that I don't move all of the time, things collect. They build up. I hang on to objects in case I, you know.... "ever need to wear/use them again". I have boxes and bins. Piles. Drawers of clothes I don't ever select. Until recently, the closet in our guest room was FULL (and I mean, full) of home decor that I accumulated over the last 10 years. Throw pillows, books, lamp shades, comforters, twelve elephant statues. Twelve. (I have a thing for elephants.)

I wasn't really conscious of it until recently, but my house never truly felt settled, calm, or like the peaceful sanctuary I crave because of all of the junk. So... when I was browsing Audible (an app that will read you audio-books) I found myself selecting, purchasing, and immediately listening to this book by Marie Kondo called

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

It is the decluttering bible.  If you're not into reading or listening, here are some highlights: 

- Tackle categories, not rooms (ie: Go to every room you have your clothes in and go through all of your clothes before moving on to anything else.)
- Respect your belongings 
- Nostalgia is not your friend 
- Purging feels so good 
- Only keep what you truly love, want, and appreciate

So far I have donated... wait for it... over 550 items. YUP. FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY plus items. I have been keeping a tally. 

Pillows, lamp shades, shirts, shorts, workout clothes, dresses, pants, shoes, accessories, bras (I have had 2 breast reduction surgeries and I had yet to get rid of my old bras. I donated 20 bras.), handbags, bathing suits, coats, a couch, and more to come. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to leave "no stone unturned". 

Now... I know what you're thinking. "Good for you, Melissa. You don't have kids. Of course your house is clean, and your things are tidy." Fk off. 

Granted, it is WAY easier to do this when you don't have kids, and their toys, and clothes you're holding on to because their brother is a year away from fitting into everything they just outgrew. However, everyone can do this to one degree or another. 

Look at something, ask if it brings you joy, decide if it really adds value to your life, comfort, confidence, and make the call as to whether it stays or goes. It's incredibly liberating. I feel like I have lost weight almost. I guess I have in a sense. I may just take up skipping. 

I'm just going to skip from one room to the next filling garbage bags and frolicking in the joy that I get from purging shit.

8.17.2017

Begin...









Jumper: Marshalls ($24 freaking dollars), Shoes: $20 bought in NYC circa 2010 (no idea which store - cute, but finally biting the dust), Bracelets: Mantrabands, Earrings: Kendra Scott, Bag: this gorgeous, huge, dusty rose tote, with "butta" soft, leather and rose gold hardware is a Tory Burch (a gift from R+F)

Do you ever feel like you're getting the same message over and over again from The Universe?

It's like once you get a new car. You start seeing that same make, model, and color EVERYWHERE you look. Are there really more 2015 gray Jeep Cherokees in your town, or are you now just more aware of them so you're noticing what has always been there?

I've been feeling that way lately about the idea of "beginning". I've been seeing quotes, reading books, and hearing pieces of conversations that have gotten me thinking about "beginning"... A LOT.

Beginning, or being a beginner. It's something we do all of the time when we are young. We begin. Every day, or week, or month. We try things, ask questions, ask for help, get coached, solicit advice. We fall, get up, try again. We are cool with starting. With not being good at something. Not knowing everything. We give ourselves permission to learn, be embarrassingly terrible at something, and just work through it until we get better. Like... when you're really young and learning to walk. You never think to yourself... "Ah man, this may not be for me. I have fallen A LOT. Perhaps this whole walking thing is overrated. I think I'll just give up on it and you know, stick to crawling." When does that change? When do we decide that we have learned enough? Tried enough? Fallen enough? Failed enough? When do we get too embarrassed to be a beginner? When do we outgrow humility?

I meet so many adults who can't remember the last time they did something for the first time. They may want to start a new exercise routine, take a class, learn a new language, start a business, go back to school, or change careers but they won't. They're scared. Risk adverse. Embarrassed. WAY too in their heads. It's weird. It's as if our egos get too big, but our confidence somehow simultaneously plummets.

To be honest, I am guilty. Being scared of being a beginner. Failing. I am going through the process of getting certified to teach a new fitness class and for some reason I am incredibly worried that I am going to suck at it. That I am going to fail my video audition, or not do a good job if do get through the extensive certification process. That I'll FK up. Get stuck. Completely blank. Straight up suck at it.

It wasn't until I realized that every single thing that has made my life worthwhile required me to be a beginner. To start with knees shaking, with zero assurance that it would "work".

In order to meet someone you love, you have to risk that it won't work. You've got to go on your first few dates. Before I taught Pilates, I had to find the courage to walk into my first class (never having been to one in my life). As for my skincare business. I knew NOTHING about skincare before I started. I just had to jump. Learn. Be horribly bad at it. Make mistakes. Ask people for help. Start. Stop. Start again. This blog (even though I've been SUPER slack with it lately) required me to do something that people would most certainly talk shit about.

So... (Note To Self):
If there is something you want to do, no matter how big or small. Maybe you should just do it. Be a beginner, man. Find someone who has been there and done it. Ask them for help. Get a mentor. Be lousy. Laugh at yourself. Be okay with doing a shit job until you "get it".  Stop waiting and talking yourself out of it. While you are sitting there over-thinking, planning, studying up on it, researching, and analyzing, and practicing, you're being lapped by people who are out there. People who are falling. Failing. Embarrassing themselves. They are doing. The world is propelled by "doers" (who were all once... wait for it... beginners).

"The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried." - Stephen McCranie

4.23.2017

Introducing.... Dr. & Mrs. Herriott!









 





























For the first time in my life, I don't know what to say. Saturday, April 15th, 2017 was truly the very best day of my life.