Reflections on St. Lucy and the “Plus” Sized Women’s Clothing Industry

…in this time of inclusiveness,

why should 80 million women be marginalized?

~ Tim Gunn, Fashion Designer on Project Runway

On the one hand, all I want to do during this month-long break from school is to rest and be lazy. On the other hand – I want to read and do things that have nothing to do with American Sign Language or interpreting.

The first thing that caught my eye on my Facebook feed this week was a short video clip from Tim Gunn, a fashion designer on the reality TV show “Project Runway.” A dear friend who lives at a distance has been helping me to come to terms with my poor fashion self – esteem, so this clip was perfect timing. Last August, just before classes started, I sent him a message that included a plea to help with ideas about how to organize my clothes. We have small closets and I had just finished adding a new bookshelf and organizing my growing piles of school books and materials. My desk and school things are in the same room that I have my closet. So, one day I went on a complete ninja culling marathon. I kept on finding ugly clothes that I never wear. I was stressed about my final and very busy year of classes for the ASL-English Interpreter Training Program that I am working on, so it makes sense that I was worrying about my looks as well.

Its interesting – it only took one hissy fit and one hour of pulling and dumping a pile of every single piece of clothing that I have in my dresser and those items plopped on the floor of the closet  – to know that I needed a friend. I was so upset with myself.

I found item after item that was either: 1: sloppy and huge, 2: impossible to fit into, 3: possible to wear, but don’t make me feel even close to good, or, 3: were totally unflattering.

So, my friend messaged: “We can do this together – do it! Garbage bags pronto!! Send me photos, I want proof that you are doing this.”

So, a few weepy fits later and about 15 garbage bags I started sending him photos.

“Good job, I’m proud of you – still too much shit there girl. Keep on dumping.”

And, it started to get fun, and I started trying things on. My friend, and then also my cousin, started chatting about specific fashion and colors that would work for me.

“You are amazing and I’m so proud!” said my cousin. “Get rid of those thick ass socks and show your legs!” said my friend.

So, the Tim Gunn clip I saw this week? It talked about how unfair it is that larger women’s clothing is not backed by the fashion industry, because it makes the industry less money and it is, well, “not fashionable” to be less than thin and fit.

Because of my classes and being mildly Hard of Hearing my self, equal access is on my mind and a part of my every single day – most often all day long. Then, the other day I stumbled onto some amazing sales at a store for larger sized women and I was incredibly excited to find some work clothes that looked and felt professional. So, the follow-up of stumbling onto this rant by Gunn about how unfair it is for my body type to not have equal access, not just to clothes, but clothes that fit right and feel spiffy – well, it cheered me up almost as much as the heeled boots I found. See for your self what the clip says:

Why the Fashion Industry Needs a Makeover

And what is the connection to the St. Lucy doodles I made a while back and included above? For the Catholic Church, St. Lucy is the Patron Saint of eyes. She was tough and blunt, and legend has it that being her own woman got her killed.

“Rather than accept the hand in marriage of a lover who desired her for the sake of her beautiful eyes, (Saint Lucy) she plucked them out, and sent them to him with this message: “Here hast thou what thou so much desirest; and for the rest, I beseech thee, leave me now in peace!” Nevertheless, as the legend expressly tells us, her sight was restored to her the next day. Her martyrdom, instigated by her rejected lover, was accomplished by a dagger thrust into her neck in AD 303.”

So…there you have it. The struggle is real, and I’m so very proud of my now very bare, but well fitted for the most part clothing collection. Moving on up!

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Burt’s Bees Ad: #LOVEYOURNATURE, “Silence”

pain let's the light in for all of us

I stumbled on, of all things, a lipstick ad that really speaks to this experience of adjusting to not singing in tune…and now occasionally right on task. I’ve never been a professional in music – but I dreamed of it as a girl. And, as far as coping with life goes, hitting all of the notes, especially in church, was a fail safe relief for almost all of my first forty some years. It wasn’t funny after a while when my kids had to break it to me that I was not just singing too loud in church, but I was way off key, more times than not. I rely on their honesty. But, it’s hard to explain how quickly I, for the most part, got over my fears about the fact that I may lose most of or all of my hearing at some point in time in my later life. Losing some or all of my ability to accurately hear music? That’s a tough one too, but this year I’ve learned to watch and listen and just enjoy. It’s less work anyway.

But, feeling left out, experiencing exile – it’s tough no matter how, or why, or for how long. It’s tough.

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(photo credit: Beth A. Richardson – thanks Beth 🙂 )

The closed captions are not totally accurate on the lipstick ad that I mentioned so here is a transcript. It is SO beautiful. You don’t have to be thinking about anything other than that life can be challenging to appreciate it – it just happens to also be about the Deaf experience and the joy of singing music in key.

Here is a link to the ad: #LOVEYOURNATURE “Silence”

Burt’s Bees “Silence” ad re: #LoveYourNature

Closed Caption Transcript

(Violin music)

 

In life you have a lot of barriers and you have two choices: you can allow yourself to stay stuck and do nothing, or you can find your way around and experience life.

 

I started performing when I was about four and I was always the singer, but I had problems with my hearing so, losing my hearing was always my biggest fear.

 

When I was in music school I started noticing that I couldn’t understand my teachers. Everything just got quieter and more muddled, and it was just….

 

“poof”…..

 

it was gone.

 

I lost all of my dreams.

 

I lost everything that makes sense.

 

I could have stayed angry and fearful, but I made a choice to face my fears and find happiness again.

(musical tuning sounds)

 

I had to start small, so…I wanted to find the notes.

I started on a journey of feeling vibrations. Through the floor I could feel the drums. And, the bass, I can feel through my chest, and the high frequencies I can feel on my skin, my arms, my face.

(Mandy to accompanist) “I can’t tell if you are playing lower or just louder, so I just kind of want to look. (finger snaps, 1-2-3-4 followed by music). Pull back just a little.”

 

Before I was just terrified to actually sing in front of people, but losing my hearing was my biggest fear. So, now I don’t have that fear holding me back and I just enjoy singing.

Now I feel the music, like I am a part of it, even though I can’t hear it.

 

And….I love that about myself.”

Online Lenten Guide: The Ignatian Solidarity Network

“Following Jesus means to incarnate an attitude, a disposition, an openness,

and a receptivity to the divine offer of grace actuated in loving service;

it means taking up a new way of being in the world for God and for

the flourishing of all God’s creation.” ~ M. Shawn Copeland

Found in The Ignation Solidarity Network Blog

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In Time I Will Fear Not the Day

“You find me where I can’t be seen…

image

(my Granny)

 

before you I’m fallin’,

if it weren’t for your wings I’d be gone…

to grow my own wings I have tried….

merton worthy

 

 

in time I will not fear the day…take me to where I can go.” ~ Kate Rusby, Falling

Patty Griffin: When it Don’t Come Easy

P Min projects 003

Patty Griffin:

” I don’t know nothin’ except change will come…..time keeps moving….

I don’t know if I’ll ever get home….sometimes you don’t know if you’re walking in the wrong direction.

If you break down, I’ll drive out and find you, if you forget my love, I’m going to try and remind you….

when it Don’t Come Easy.

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Jason Listman and “You’ll Be Okay” by A Great Big World

“Early morning singing signals to other birds

about the strength and vitality of the singer.

Singing is an essential part of bird life,

but it’s costly in terms of time and energy.

CND path

Singing loud and proud first thing in the morning

tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to

survive the night.”

~ Mary Bates, “Why Do Birds Sing in the Morning?”

Yesterday one of my best friends, one of two college roommates, posted a phenomenal music video to her high school American Sign Language students. She happens to have been hearing until age three, and Deaf ever since. I happen to have been fully hearing until of late and I’m proudly heading toward my fifties. She and I both took dance lessons for many years prior to college. But, with a huge buffet of academic and arts choices available when we arrived at college, she tended to study what she had always loved, and I tried to branch out. She majored in English and if I remember right she also enjoyed environmental science. I majored in Communication Arts/Theater and attempted to branch as far as my credits would allow into religion and all other performing and visual arts. We both still took dance classes most semesters and I enjoyed learning a little bit about choreography. One of my best memories was a final project in which she graciously put up with me trying to choreograph a dance for both she and I. I’m not sure what music we used other than wind chimes. Did I have a classmate read a story or poem? Could be. I don’t remember.

No matter. It was so fun and she raised the roof with applause at every student performance in which she performed.

Hmmm. That makes me wonder, did we think to tell her how loud the audience was hooting? Doesn’t matter now – we had a great time and our friendship is still solid.

So, this week I’ve been putting up with some most annoying ear pain that feels like infection. They took a peek and the insides look perfectly healthy. A few weeks ago the ENT said the same thing – “everything looks perfectly healthy…we don’t know why this discomfort happens.” I wasn’t in a questioning mood that day, but I managed to get an appointment again in a few weeks and I need to let him know that I have an inquiring mind and I won’t rest until he at least gives me some “it could be” scenarios.

After a good bit of research I think he is going to tell me that this discomfort is likely hypercusis : sound intolerance, frequently accompanied by tinnitus. If I do have otosclerosis  as suspected I will have won a prize in comparison to other hearing loss conditions because hearing aids, a specific surgery called a stapedectomy and sometimes cochlear implants are all practiced options to possibly restore some or a lot of hearing. I also have the choice to just let it go, which I consider a fine option as well. The trick is that I’m not yet sure if any of the hearing aid or surgical options treat the symptoms and some can make them worse.

Which stinks.

I am patient and my life is blessed though, and to some this will seem strange, to others it will really resonate:

What is bothering me right now is the realization that I’m losing my voice. Literally.

People more frequently say “huh?” and tell me that I pronounced one thing when it was another, or look at me all wonky about the sound of my voice.

I also can hit all the right notes of a song very, very rarely. It had been hurting my pride a bit for a while. Now that I understand why, I’m relieved to be able to kind of grieve the loss of a cherished companion. From my college years, graduate years, baby raising years (two out of three – the youngest hated lullabies) up until about 5 or 10 years ago I could hit almost every note, almost every time. And since performance isn’t the career I chose, harmonizing with James Taylor without effort was and is respite care – not grocery money.

Good things are happening though – I am learning to listen and let others sing for me because I certainly can hear the chords and technology gives me the option to look up the words if needed. JT hasn’t given up on me and I can still hit our harmonies if I am alone, rested, relaxed and hydrated.

And there is this – the video that my college Deaf bestie shared – it’s phenomenal in every single way. The performer is a professional video director, Deaf, and studied college at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Here you go, enjoy. And happy Remembrance Day: Jason Listman in

“You’ll Be Okay” by a Great Big World in American Sign Language with lyrics.

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About Loud Dishwashers and Quiet Strength

handsigns_K“Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

Well now, I hope that da Vinci is right, because the world around me seems to believe and behave otherwise. If I had time this morning, I would figure out what the sound level of my dishwasher is right now. At the moment, my house is silent other than

1: the dishwasher – a noisy one. Very noisy.

2: my dog Paul and the clinking of his dog tag on my feet. and

3: the pleasant chatter of NPR news which I’ve got at a low-level to keep me company and on task.

I’m pretty sure that I can also hear our dog Lennon chomping on some breakfast as well.

Probably this sound mix seems relaxing to some, boring, or maybe annoying as crap to others. My youngest son LOVES noise – he makes a lot of it, and feels anxious if he’s not surrounded by a clashing mix of various people and media streams. Oh, I think that most of us like the IDEA of silence – and maybe even envy those of us who are quiet and highly sensitive souls. I’ll let you research the statistics yourself, and they certainly are out there. Our world is getting louder. Commercials, radios, classrooms, churches, grocery stores. You name it. All of the day to day places we go to have been proven (in first world type of settings) to be really, really loud anymore. So with that in mind, indulge me as I start sharing some tough crap I’m up against of late.

I can’t be the authority of everything I want to control and change – and I can’t perfectly manage my sound environment – after all, I’m not cloistered and I’ve not yet taken a vow of silence. But I LOVE what Da Vinci says, and I want to switch his quote up to something more personal:

“Nothing can, nor has ever strengthened my authority better than silence.”

And, on the flip side – lore has it that the reason VanGogh cut his ear off is not because he1959461_10153074983048810_36322649183088841_n was insane, it was because he had tinnitus – sound that is not sound. It’s fake noise that is created by the brain of someone who is hard of hearing or deaf. It can be related to a lot of things – injury, stress, a reaction to environmental sound, tight jaw muscles, and from what I can tell – it always involves an out of the norm auditory system or event.

I still don’t know why it is true, but I found out a year ago that my hearing status, for now in one ear, is permanently out of the normal range. That may not sound (pun intended) like a big deal, but it really is. It’s a very big deal for me. What I’m up against isn’t as clear as the typical getting older and starting to hear less clearly.

Strangely enough, it is the symptoms that come with what ever is going on in my auditory system that is, I have to say, kind of maddening at times. And what I have going on isn’t even in the ball park of what many hard of hearing and Deaf folks go through. Thankfully, this isn’t my first unexpected life rodeo ride, so for the most part, it’s not too hard to take in stride. world has ended many times I read this morning that one way to deal with tangled feelings from our past is to accept our limitations as deeply and quickly as we can when these limitations become clear. I agree for the most part – I’m a fan of facing the truth, even when it sucks.

So, in a few weeks if at my 6 month hearing test the truth is that my hearing status is the same mild and mysterious scenario, my body is still going to keep telling me: things just are not right. If the ENT is dismissive and says again, “we don’t know what’s going on, there is nothing we can do yet, come back in another six months,” how should I respond?

The discomfort of constant ear pressure and the annoyance of mild tinnitus that I deal with 24/7, again, is nothing compared to many others. I am getting to know a lot of great people who have profoundly difficult symptoms such as frequent vertigo or severe tinnitus. Many of them can’t work, and many of them work anyway…how, I’m not yet sure.

I do know this:

I adore American Sign Language (ASL). It’s not just fun (which it is), it’s not just cute (which it can be) it IS – well, it is indescribably in written word. Because it’s not – it’s not English, and it isn’t written. It is something that we DO and SEE.

It is the BEST language ever, and I would say the same if my hearing was top notch. It conveys feeling, thought, time, time, space, story, history, and details in a way that no other language will ever be able to do.

So, “God willing, if the creek don’t flood,” hopefully between now and mid-April,  I will have the courage to face this ongoing physical limitation by allowing myself to reflect on these difficult questions and not feel ashamed of the resulting fears and anxieties that are about as normal as normal can be.

I’m out of time and brain juice to figure out a way to transition what I’m saying to a recommendation to read these two articles from a friend – so I’ll just add them as a Post Script here. They are all about the topic of this blog: grace.

Take care, and be warm, Kate

10429303_10153075073858810_8420602525960782671_nStaying open to Grace: http://wp.me/p3gSTz-T2

When ‘Happily Ever After’ Meets Life’s Hardships: http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/when-happily-ever-after-meets-lifes-hardships/

A Super Duper Beautiful poem: http://youtu.be/9GdawG7CBNo

 

 

 

Litany: Billy Collins

Litany by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,

The crystal goblet and the wine…

~Jacues Crickillon

 

You are the bread and the knife,

the crystal goblet and the wine,

You are the dew on the morning grass

and the burning wheel of the sun.

You are the white apron of the baker,

and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

 

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,

the plums on the counter,

or the houses of cards.

And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.

 

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,

maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,

but you are not even close

to being a field of cornflowers at dusk.

 

And a quick look in the mirror will show

that you are neither the boots in the corner

nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

 

It might interest you to know,

speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,

that I am the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

 

I am also the moon in the trees

and the blind woman’s tea cup.

But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife,

not to mention the crystal goblet and – somehow – the wine.