Did I just buy a Mormon church dress?

I’m leaving for Portland in one week and I need to start packing. I’m only going to be there about 28 hours so I won’t need to bring much with me, but the most important item will be the dress I’m going to wear to the wedding reception. Since I’m flying to Oregon the morning of the reception (thank you, unpredictable work obligations) I thought about wearing my dress on the plane, but instead I think I’ll dress comfortably and then change after I arrive. I’ll travel with a duffel bag rather than a suitcase for such a short trip. (My suitcase has a more important job anyway – it needs to be ready for me to leave on a business trip to DC next Monday morning. Yikes!) I’m optimistically going to bring some workout clothes in case I find a free couple of hours to fit in some exercise. Doubtful, but at least I’ll be prepared. Other than that, I just need a single change of clothes for the flight back home on Sunday. The abbreviated nature of this trip will most definitely make it stressful, but I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to go and see a bunch of my friends who live all over the country. I am certain that we will laugh a lot, eat a lot (my brother has already told me which donut shop is a mist-visit), and take a lot of pictures. It’ll be a blast.

In preparation for the trip, I had dinner at my BFF’s house last weekend and I brought four dresses with me so she and her family could help me figure out what I should wear to the wedding reception. My goddaughter appropriately donned her astronaut jumpsuit and helmet add some much-needed variety to the mini fashion show. Without knowing what was going to fit or look good on me, I ordered a bunch of options from different stores online, like Amazon and Modcloth. Some of the dresses actually have a funny origin story, including the lace one I’m wearing in the above photo. I have a strange habit of keeping tabs on several semi-famous (or maybe infamous?) Christian fundamentalist families, like the irritating and infuriating Duggars, mostly because I’m fascinated by their views which are so diametrically opposed to my own One of those families has a recently married daughter who maintains her own blog, and in the header photo she is wearing a gorgeous red dress than I’ve been envious of for a long time. Based on the fact that she sewed her own wedding gown last year I assumed the red dress was another one of her personal creations. But recently this woman wrote a post all about the dress and where to buy it – surprisingly, Amazon! I immediately ordered the dress in two colors, red and teal, hoping that one of them would fit me and be perfect for the Portland wedding reception. At the same time I explored other dresses from the same company and also purchased the lace one shown in the picture above. (Sorry it’s in black and white, but the lighting was bad and a color version just didn’t look right.) Turns out the company that makes all three of these beautiful is an LDS modest clothing company. I actually bought three Mormon church dresses! How’s that for a laugh? Much to my chagrin, the red dress that I was so excited about was slightly too small (it was way too tight in the shoulders), and its teal equivalent looked more juvenile than I had hoped (more like my 8th grade dance dress than a 39 year-old woman should wear), so both of them will be going back. The red lace, knee-length dress with elbow-length sleeves, however, is lovely. It is comfortable and flattering. It didn’t come out on top of last Saturday’s fashion show, but my BFF advised me to keep it in case I need a special occasion dress in the future. So that’s how I became the unlikely owner of a Mormon church dress. Next weekend I’ll be wearing a navy blue Modcloth dress to the wedding reception, but you’ll have to wait until then for photos. One more week!

Focusing on success

“Some days getting out of bed and changing out of my pajamas is about all I’m able to do. This is not beneficial to my mental health, but I am trying to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt of resting as much as I need to.”
6/8/webpage post

After the last couple of posts about my health issues it probably won’t surprise you when I say that I’ve taken a break from the 6-week fat loss challenge. At some point last week I decided that being so strict with my food choices and having to post pictures of every meal and snack was more than I can handle right now. I’m exhausted and stressed all the time and I realized that I need to give myself a break in certain areas. There’s no use making myself crazy over something that’s not absolutely essential. Instead I’m going to focus on getting healthy and back to my normal, more energetic self. That doesn’t mean I’ve started hitting the Del Taco drive-thru on a regular basis again, though. I am endeavoring to stick to my new, healthier eating habits that I’ve been establishing over the last five weeks, with a small change here and there to make it more manageable. I did go to McDonald’s one day last week, but that was my weekly cheat meal. I’ve made enough progress (albeit minor) recently that I don’t want to revert back to my unhealthy ways and end up right back where I started. That would only add to my stress and make me feel terrible about myself again. Not worth it!

So for now, instead of worrying over the things I’m not doing, I’m trying to focus on some recent successes. They may be small, but they are most certainly steps in the right direction. Last week at boot camp one of our strength exercises was inverted rows, which have never been easy for me in the past. However, this time I was able to complete half of each set in a fully inverted position, with my back completely parallel to the floor. How’s that for progress! I was surprised, but super proud of myself. Obviously going to the gym three days a week consistently for the past six months has been paying off. I did have to take a step back, making the rows easier, in order to finish the set, but I’m OK with that. Also, I find myself reaching for heavier weights at the gym. In the same class as the inverted rows I was using an 88 lb kettlebell for deadlifts. I know that’s not a lot for most people, but it’s much more weight than I used to be able to comfortably deadlift. And I appreciate deadlifts because they have been strengthening my back, which makes just about every other exercise safer and easier. At a boot camp class later that week we did farmer carries (basically just walking across the room, slowly, with heavy weights in each hand) and I was able to hold a 53 lb kettlebell in each hand. It felt like my arms were about to pop out of their sockets, but I made it all the way across the gym floor and back! That’s a huge step up for me considering what I used to be capable of. I am certainly reaching for heavier weights almost every time I go to boot camp. I never thought I’d be able to use 20 lb dumbbells for chest presses, but I have done it more than once now, and I think I might actually try 25 lb weights next time! My running is also improving, albeit very gradually. In the spring I struggled to complete a 10-mile run (a distance that would have been easy for me at any point last year), but a few weeks ago I finished it with much less trouble. (And this was with the weather working against me. Summer in Los Angeles has been really miserable.) I have given up the idea of running a marathon this fall, mostly because I don’t want to train in the heat, but I have plenty of half marathons on my calendar to prepare for. My next one is in about three weeks. Yikes! While getting ready for a 10K last Sunday I had to tighten my hydration belt because my body shape has changed enough that it was too loose on my waist and hips. That certainly felt good! I don’t think I’ve lost much weight during this fat-loss challenge, but I am definitely seeing results in other areas. My final weigh-in is on Monday morning so I’ll find out the final verdict soon enough. I may not have lost the 20 lbs I wanted to, but I think I’m on the right path.

Women can have careers too!

“I don’t understand the line of thinking that says men are created to be all manner of things, with all manner of skill, temperament, and talent. They can do whatever they like as far as vocation is concerned. Yet women, despite having all sorts of gifts, temperaments, talents, and abilities, all get the same job.”
-5/15/18 reader comment

Believe it or not, there is sense to be found on my least favorite blogger’s Facebook page, but it’s not from her. Surprisingly, I seek wisdom from visitors in the comment sections. Granted, most of the comments are disgusting attempts from readers to ingratiate themselves with the blog author, which make me even more infuriated than the original post, but once in a while you find a comment like the one above and you suddenly have hope for the future of humanity again. These rays of sunshine poking through the haze of sexism and outdated gender roles remind me that not everyone buys into the fanciful belief that “the good ol’ days” were back in the 50’s and 60’s. Or even earlier! For some reason returning to the time before civil rights and women’s suffrage seems appealing to certain folks. The modern world just has too much equality, too many freedoms, and far too much tolerance for their tastes! But getting back to the topic of women’s careers, here’s what the “Christian” blogger has to say.

“There’s no command that tells women that they must get a job or even make money. Yes, there are examples of women who made money in the Bible but no commands from God that women are required to make money. Women going to college and making money are not biblical concepts so let’s not try to say that they are or are of any value to God.”
-8/1/18 blog post

So she’s the arbiter of what’s valuable to God? Sure thing, lady. But as easily as I could write a whole different post on this troubling idea, that’s not the part of this excerpt that I want to expound upon.

I am certainly no expert in this area, but how can something not be Biblical if it’s in the Bible? This seems like a flimsy argument. I mean, obviously there are things in he Bible that are meant to illustrate undesirable behavior, like conduct forbidden by the Ten Commandments, but I am not aware of any examples of working women that fall into this category. As long as those ladies who had jobs and made money weren’t being used as examples of sin or blasphemy, how can we interpret that what they were doing wasn’t Biblical? I am confused. In most cases these days we females aren’t married off when we turn 18 so we spend at least part of our adulthood single, assuming matrimony is even in the cards for us at all. How are we supposed to make a living while single? There is no guarantee that a woman will ever marry, and she may only have herself to rely on for food, clothing, and shelter. If she has a family, their support cannot last forever, and it’s unlikely that charity (religious or otherwise) will provide for her every need during her lifetime. And this isn’t even taking into account widows, wives who have been abandoned by their husbands, or women who have saved themselves from an abusive marriage. I fall into that last category. Thank goodness I am a career woman who can take care of myself. My least favorite blogger might not like it, but luckily I don’t have to live by her antiquated, misogynistic moral code!

Searching for the right combination

There was a time, not so long ago, that I wasn’t taking any prescription drugs. It was fantastic. But then 2018 came crashing onto the scene and now I am picking up one refill or another at the pharmacy just about every week. I’ve been on five different medications at one point or another since January and I’m still searching for the right one(s). In my post about my health last week I mentioned that I’ve been taking 1 mg of Requip, a Parkinson’s and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) treatment, to calm my legs at night so that I can fall asleep. While I believe that it has been somewhat effective, meaning I can go to sleep without leg spasms now, I am still not feeling 100% like myself again. Not only do I still have twitchy legs sometimes during the day, but I’m so tired all the time. And some days I just can’t get out of bed at all. I can sleep all day, and it doesn’t feel like a choice I’m making. I just wake up in the afternoon/evening and feel depressed that I’ve lost yet another day to my poor health. And the kicker is that I never feel rested no matter how much I sleep. For example, the other day I opened my eyes and the clock on my nightstand said 5:30 PM! I managed to drag myself out of bed, get dressed and go to my boot camp class at 8 PM, and then went back to sleep at 11:30 PM. I was only awake for 6 hours that day and I was still tired when I got up to go to work the next morning! It’s beyond ridiculous. I can’t afford for this to continue, both monetarily (I need to work to support myself!) and mentally (I am at the end of my rope!). Fortunately I had my long-awaited appointment with the neurologist yesterday afternoon. I explained all of my symptoms to him, showed him copies of my blood work from December and my sleep study in May, and told him what pharmaceuticals I have tried so far. After laying it all out on the table the doctor was a bit baffled by the whole picture. It was frustrating, but understandable. All of the other medical professionals I have seen so far have been baffled too. My symptoms don’t all fit into one nice, easy, predefined diagnosis. Of course it isn’t that simple! Some things point to RLS, but others suggest Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), while a few could be signs of a more serious affliction. So while I don’t have any definitive answers, the neurologist did write me a prescription for another drug to try in combination with the Requip. So I will be adding Gabapentin to my nightly pill dosage to see if it makes a difference. On top of that, I have instructions to double the dose in one week if the initial amount doesn’t seem to be working at all. I also have another appointment in September to report back on the results, and perhaps conduct some further tests. (The doctor seemed concerned that I could visually see my muscles contract during the leg spasms, so he might order some electrical stimulation tests to see what’s going on in there.) I’m still encouraged by this progress, even if it is small. Finding the right combination of medications is the key to relief and the neurologist told me that it might take a while. After two and a half years of dealing with this issue I will try to be patient as we zero in on a solution!

The unexpected benefits of online friendships

“Doree and Kate,
After hearing [on your podcast] that you two met on Tumblr I wanted to reiterate that online friendships can be very powerful! Thirteen years ago when I got engaged I started posting in a Craigslist forum about weddings. The group of brides there were all planning their weddings in the same time frame as I was. It didn’t take long for me to bond with all of them over our shared experiences. Fast forward to today and about 100 of us maintain a Facebook group and I consider them some of my closest friends. In fact, I met my BFF through the group and her daughter is now my beloved goddaughter. Fortunately we both live in the LA area so we can see each other regularly. So even if online friendships seem very modern and possibly impersonal, I have experienced the exact opposite. I love all of these women, I will do anything for them, and knowing them has changed my life for the better.”
-5/28/18 email

I wrote this email to the hosts of the Forever35 podcast a while back because I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to extol the virtues of online friendships. In this day and age as we are questioning the effects of extended virtual interactions on our mental health it’s easy to forget that beneficial things can come out of internet relationships as well. I often find myself thinking I should limit my exposure to social media in order to maintain my sanity, especially since I’ve had so many difficulties this year, but I keep finding myself back on Facebook in order to communicate with my wonderful online friends. They lift me up when I feel down, they give me advice when I feel lost, and they remind me that the world isn’t as bad a place as it seems. It is an invaluable connection. We’ve gone through so much together. Love and heartbreak, celebration and devastation, joys and sorrows. We even lost one of our members to cancer last year. Yes, we sometimes argue (politics is so polarizing!), and we disagree on occasion, but we always know that we will stand together no matter what.

Luckily for me these relationships haven’t been exclusively virtual. Most recently, on Saturday I had a girl’s night with two of my online friends who live in LA. We don’t get together nearly often enough so it was a significant achievement that all three of us were able to follow through on the plans we made a few weeks earlier. We ate dinner together (I had my weekly cheat meal that included a mountain of delicious sweet potato fries), they supported me as I tried on dresses at Ann Taylor and Loft (I am still two dress sizes larger than I want to be, which makes me sad), and we acted like crazy teenagers while walking around the clothes section of Target. We even put green bras with a weird combination of lace and netting on over our clothes and took pictures (which I will not be sharing in any public forum!). It was an amazing time. I have often thought that every woman needs a group of steadfastly supportive friends like the one I stumbled upon thirteen years ago on Craigslist, and outings like this one reaffirm my belief. I can’t always share all of the details of everything I’m going through with other people in my life, but these ladies have heard it all. I’ve ranted about my marriage, my divorce, my dating debacles, my work issues, my body insecurities, my illnesses (both mental and physical), and everything in between. And I’ve listened when they need to vent about what their circumstances too. I am extremely fortunate to have the trust of these lovely women and I don’t take that privilege lightly. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them.

Better living through pharmaceuticals

“I’m so thankful that my doctor has taken these symptoms seriously, unlike some other medical professionals I’ve seen, and is helping me map out a path forward. As a next step, she wrote me a prescription for Requip, a drug that’s used to treat not only restless legs, but Parkinson’s Disease as well. We’re not messing around with my crazy legs!
6/8/18 webpage post

It’s been nearly two months since I last saw my doctor and I am now taking 1 mg of Requip every night, an hour or two before I go to bed. It doesn’t make me feel great – there is some nausea and risk of vomiting, especially if I take it on an empty stomach – but it does seem to calm my Periodic Leg Movement Disorder (PLMD). Hallelujah! However, I’m not sure it is helping me get the quality sleep that I desperately need. I still have days where I’m completely exhausted and can sleep way more hours than any normal person should. Waking up in the late afternoon is not a good feeling when you had a long list of things you needed to accomplish during the day. Fortunately I have a neurologist appointment on Thursday to hopefully make more progress on a treatment plan. I definitely have some non-negligible, although mostly minor, side effects from the Requip so I’m not sure if it is going to end up being the best option for me. My quality of life has most definitely improved since starting this medication, though. I can fall asleep at night without worrying about infuriating and insomia-inducing leg spasms for the first time in over two years, which is a miracle. Thank goodness for modern medicine and ever-evolving pharmaceuticals to assist everyone in living life to the fullest. You almost never find the right combination of drugs the first time, and I’ve tried a few that certainly didn’t work for me, but my Lexapro and Requip are working wonders at the moment. I’m concerned about the possibility that the Requip will become less effective over time or make my symptoms worse, as many RLS and Parkinson’s medications have a tendency to do, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I know that in the grand scheme of things my medical problems are not nearly as devastating as other have to deal with, and for that I am grateful. That doesn’t mean I’m not worried about the future, though. What if this is a symptom of a more serious affliction? This is another bridge to cross later, if needed. For now I’m trying to make up for some serious sleep deprivation!

Debt and higher education (part 2)

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
-Brigham Young

Yesterday I wrote a post about the financial aspects of my undergraduate and graduate school education. I was attempting to refute claims from my least favorite blogger that men find women less desirable as potential wives if they have debt incurred from higher education. To take it even further, this woman doesn’t approve of college at all for those of us of the female persuasion. To use her own words, “There’s nothing biblical about young women going away to college.” It’s easy to unravel this argument, though. First of all, college as we know it today did not exist millennia ago when the Bible was written. Of course there were institutes of higher learning, especially in the more wealthy and powerful nations, but I don’t think even those are addressed in the Bible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Second, women had almost no rights or autonomy at that time so I’m sure they received little to no education. They had so few options in their lives simply because of their gender and the male-dominated society they were born into. (This is slightly off topic, but as always, I am unbelievably grateful to all of the women who came before me and made the world a more equitable place for future generations.) Later in her post this blogger continues her rant:

“They [women] will be taught to be strong apart from the Lord and independent of Him and in no need of a man. In fact, they will be taught that there are no differences between men and women and be encouraged to be a man and take on his role. They will be taught about birth control, overpopulation, and the inconvenience of having children. They will be taught to pursue careers so they can make a name for themselves and have money of their own. They will be taught nothing about God’s ordained role for them but instead, spend a lot of money for their college education and gain a mountain of debt.”

To start with, what individual could possibly have the right to determine what God’s ordained role for any person other than themselves? That’s arrogance of the highest order. There are a number of reasons that women want to further their education, but most want to prepare for a career. I was in a sorority at UF and a majority of my sisters had lofty professional dreams that they were pursing, similar to my own. In this day and age a college degree is almost a requirement for any line of work. Of course, I understand that this isn’t universally true, and that college isn’t right for everyone. And that’s perfectly OK! I don’t judge folks for their educational choices, unlike some “Christian” bloggers I know. (I read another article by a different author recently that got me all fired up on this subject, but I’ll have to address that at a later time.) On the other hand, most of my sorority sisters were also eager to fall in love, get married, and start having children. So even though they had ambitions outside the home, they still wanted the traditional house with a white picket fence and a loving family to go with it. We are lucky that thanks to women’s rights advocates and feminists that there’s no reason we can’t have both! For example, where would we be without female-dominated professions like nursing, teaching, and social work? Let me use another quote straight from my least favorite blogger herself. In a recent Instagram post she asked, “Many women believe they are being ‘called’ to their careers but are they really?” For myself the answer is a resounding YES! And I’m sure most of the working women that I know, many with husbands and children too, would have a similar response.

The last point I want to address is single women such as myself. How would I be able to support myself if I didn’t have a good job thanks to my college education? Granted, my situation is unique since I made the choice to be single rather than having singleness thrust upon me. I divorced my ex-husband because he was abusive and cheated on me, but not all women have that luxury. What about women who are widowed or whose husbands leave them? Also, what about married women whose husbands become disabled or unable to work? How do they feed their children, keep a roof over their head, and satisfy their most basic needs? As I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to get a good job without a college degree now. This is the reason I believe that all women who are inclined to go to college should do so, even if they plan to be a stay-at home wife and mother, just in case they are required to be their family’s breadwinner for one reason or another. It seems prudent to plan for whatever the future could bring rather than relying on a man to fulfill the provider role for the rest of your life. Of course this is just my opinion and I would encourage all women, couples, and families to figure out what works best for them. God gave us free will for a reason and he wanted all of his children to be happy, including members of the fairer sex!

P.S. In case you were wondering, one of the reasons I continue reading posts from this particular blogger is because they inspire me to think critically about the subject at hand and write these responses/rebuttals. Blogging has always been good for my soul. So even if I get angry reading her posts about how ladies these days are apparently loud, improper, and far too independent, I won’t let it affect how I feel about myself as a woman. I will simply use my visceral reaction as an opportunity to explain how not everyone fits into the same rigid box. Use your God-given gifts and live your life in whatever way you wish, ladies!

Debt and higher education (part 1)

“Imagine being born and finding out that because of your gender you’re expected to do one thing. Boys can be anything, but you, you’re only expected to stay home and cook and clean and make babies. I refuse to believe that that is my only purpose in life and my reason for existing.”
-7/3/18 Facebook comment

I was fairly young when I decided that I wanted to be an engineer. Math and science were always my favorite subjects and my parents, as well as all of my teachers, encouraged me to pursue my dreams. For me, college was a given. I never had any doubt that I would head straight to a university after graduating high school. However, I knew that my family wasn’t rich so my higher education options weren’t unlimited. I think I only applied to two schools, and one of them (Georgia Tech) fell off the list quickly because I didn’t get any substantial financial aid. Fortunately I grew up in Florida and our state has an amazing scholarship program called Bright Futures. When I finished high school over twenty years ago all you had to do to get money for college from the state was graduate from a Florida public high school, earn above a certain grade point average, and receive over a certain score on the SAT or ACT. So I had 100% of my tuition covered, plus a stipend for books every semester. (Granted, it was never enough to cover all of the insanely expensive textbooks I had to buy, but it certainly helped.) This means that I went to the University of Florida basically for free. Since I wasn’t living at home (Gainesville is about two hours away from Tallahassee) I did have room and board expenses, but I was extremely fortunate to have a college fund that my grandparents had sent up for me when I was young. They provided invaluable help to all four of their grandchildren in this manner. I got my Bachelor of Science degree with minimal cost to my parents, and without incurring any debt whatsoever. For this reason I know I am one of the lucky ones.

My least favorite blogger insists that men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos. I already addressed the purity aspect in my 7/27 post, and now I’m going to tackle the debt portion of this hypothesis. After college I had no debt, but then I headed to graduate school at UCLA for two reasons. 1) I always planned to earn a Master’s Degree, and 2) the job market wasn’t great in 2002. I already had my foot in the door at Boeing due to my three internships, but the managers I knew there weren’t hiring when I graduated. So in the fall of 2002 I started my out-of-state, meaning not cheap, graduate school experience. Fortunately I was offered a position as a research assistant, and sometimes teaching assistant, which covered my tuition (four times more expensive than at UF) and earned me a paycheck every month. The drawback is that it was a very meager salary that didn’t cover the rent on my studio apartment close to campus. I lived for two years on the money I earned working at Boeing in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Usually an internship is an unpaid position, but Boeing is extremely generous to their temporary employees. I had saved a significant amount before starting graduate school, but I still needed additional financial aid to afford my continued education. So for the first time I got student loans. I still count myself as one of the lucky ones because in two years I only racked up about $17k worth of debt. In contrast, my ex-husband had attended MIT for undergrad and his student loans were much more substantial than mine. However, since our education had assisted both of us in finding fulfilling and lucrative jobs, neither of us considered the other’s student loan debt to be a point of contention when thinking about our future. Not that you’ll ever get rich as an engineer, but it comfortably pays the bills. I’ll reiterate the neither of us was religious so we weren’t viewing each other through the lens of Biblical suitability for marriage.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but this post is already pretty long. Come back later this week so I can use my personal life experiences to refute some of the claims made by this “Christian” blogger about women and college. Educated women need to push back on the antiquated, male-dominated conventions that would prefer to limit our options. To be continued!