summer getaway, treehouse getaway, treehouse vacation

Running To The Treehouse

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A common thread weaved through the best fiction ever written is truth.  A place of authenticity stripped down to the bare bones, laid out for the world to devour.  The reader connects, not to the words, but to the spirit behind the words.  The author’s soul.

Winnie the Pooh, who had the coolest treehouse of all, is a series of tales based on a real bear.  Each of his friends … Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Christopher Robin, Kanga, and Roo … were based on actual people.  That’s why the story affects us.  Infects us.  With hope, dreams, and memories of yesteryear when life was much simpler.  It’s genuine, and as humans, we long for things that are real.

This past weekend, I escaped to a real life treehouse.  Out in the middle of what appears to be a world of its own, perched within the safe confines of four towering pines, is Morrison’s Treehouse Getaway.  It’s not a place to go when you’re running away from something, but a place you run to … because something you long for is missing.

 

Remember when summer meant exploring a grand forest?  It may have been half an acre of woods behind your house, but through eyes that have yet to be jaded, those straggly trees provide hours of fantasy.  Climbing on rocks.  Collecting treasures in your pocket that you’ve picked up from around the base of evergreens.  Splashing in a creek.  Returning home for dinner, covered head to toe in dirt and grass stains.  Staying up late, lying outside on the ground, sharing your heart with your best friend … paying no attention to the time or how much sleep is needed before greeting the rising sun.  Just living life.

 

If the best tales are written from an honest place that has been stripped down … then perhaps the best memories are written in a similar way.  When our surroundings are stripped down and laid bare.  A few days without Netflix, cell phone coverage, and the need for a car.  Allowing our truest selves to shine forth.  Re-discovering what we knew in our youth.  This world is what we make it, and we have the power to write our own stories every day.

 

The best thing about Morrison’s Treehouse is that it’s simple.  Yes, it’s beautiful in every way, but in a very relaxing sort of way.  The owners have gone to great lengths to make the space comfortable and welcoming.  It feels like home.  They open the door, and have left it up to the visitors to find their way.

 

On our journey, we sang songs on the grand deck around a fire.  We explored the stream, climbed on rocks, and made our way down every trail.  We saw bear prints and imagined how big the bear might be.  The girls slept in the loft above me, and when lights were out, we stayed up late into the night talking about nothing … and everything … not paying attention to how much sleep we might need until the sun rose to bring on the morning.  For a couple of days, we unplugged from life and reunited on a different level.  On the base human level we all share, regardless of whether we’re family, friends, neighbors, or even strangers.

“…what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

~A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

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Run to the treehouse!
Run to the treehouse!
Run!
Just my thoughts,
~Melanie

 

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Fitness

Ten Seconds A Day To Change A Life: Why A 50 Year Old Special Needs Mom Is Competing For The Title Of Ms. Health & Fitness 2018

What would make a 50 year old special needs mom enter a competition called Ms Health And Fitness?  Is it a mid-life crisis?  A shot at fifteen seconds of fame?  Nah.

I entered this competition because of Kaylee.

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Kaylee is a good friend, she’s funny, loves to give hugs, always has her nails perfectly painted, and is also a dancer.  She’s part of a dance class with other girls who have special needs, and I’ve had the awesome opportunity to be a spectator at one of Kaylee’s performances.  Upon just a single glance, it’s immediately obvious how the entire dance crew feels music down deep in a place the rest of us haven’t experienced.  Kaylee’s big sister spins her around on stage in her wheelchair, and I promise, there’s not a dry eye to be found.  It’s an unforgettable sight to see as joy always radiates from this beauty’s face.

Speaking of the wheelchair, Kaylee is confined to it … and her home isn’t handicap accessible.  Her momma, as a result, has to carry her when moving her from room to room.  Recently, her family was scammed by a person who was supposedly printing and selling t-shirts to fundraise for Kaylee.  The money was going to be used to widen hallways and doorways in their small mobile home to give Kaylee and her wheelchair more freedom.  Family and friends pitched in to purchase the t-shirts, and more than one-thousand dollars was raised.  But it was a con.  The money is now gone right along with the man who crafted the scheme.  In his terrible wake is Kaylee, who is in need of money to make improvements to her home.

I entered this competition because of Jessica, Leslie, Graham, Hannah, Nick, Dustin, Amber, Jared, Heather, and Kevin:

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These silly willies are my best buddies.  They’re quick-witted, charming, kind, loyal, hard-working … and they have intellectual disabilities.   Graham is in charge of recycling at the Trousdale School, and he is always spreading the message of saving the earth.  Leslie was recently honored the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame “Heart of a Champion” award for being a multi-sport Special Olympic superstar.  Hannah has Autism, and she is a brilliant actress.  Jessica is an artist.  Nick and Jared can sing every word to most country music songs.  Dustin and Kevin have Down syndrome, and both have dance moves rivaling anyone on Dancing With The Stars.  I guess you could say each are differently abled in the most spectacular sort of way.

As they’re getting older, though, their parents are aging too.  And the worry of what the future will look like is a viable concern.  Every special needs family faces the burdensome reality of the circle of life.  In response, the Trousdale School in Cleveland, TN is getting ready to build an incredible residential center that will house my best friends.  It will have around the clock supervision and care while encouraging independence, creativity, friendship, and personal growth.  But money is needed to get this project completed.

The winner of Ms Health And Fitness 2018 gets a whopping $20,000.00.  And if I win, half the winnings will go to Kaylee and half will go toward the Trousdale School’s residential center.  That’s the reason a 50 year old special needs mom would enter this kind of competition.  I mean, let’s get real.  The rules encourage contestants to use professional photos.  And as a mom of two cuties who have special needs, I barely have time to snap pictures with my iPhone.  Want to see what I’m up against?

These are my fellow competitors:

 

This is Anna Neal, the very fit young woman who won the competition last year:

 

Aaaaaaaand.  This is me. (You guessed it, a picture snapped with my iPhone):

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While I totally think I could rock this title … and while I’d love to have the opportunity to showcase the special needs community … I realize it’s a looooong shot.  haha.  The greatest stories and victories, however, usually come from the longest shots.

I’m not as young and beautiful as the other contenders, but I definitely qualify because health and fitness are life to me.  Four years ago, I was so overwhelmed with many different things life was throwing at me.  It got to a point where I was I living each moment waiting for the next panic attack.   Anxiety looks different for every person.  For me, panic attacks would come out of nowhere and would cause my body to start shaking violently.  It was completely out of my control and frightening.  Finally, I reached a point where I had to make a change.

My choices were to spill my guts to a therapist or to hire a trainer who would push me physically to a point of spilling my guts out on the gym floor.  Studies show it only takes five minutes of aerobic exercise to stimulate anti-anxiety effects in our bodies, so I chose the trainer and have never looked back.  Panic attacks, fear, and feelings of inadequacy are a distant memory.  I work out with my trainer five days a week and run at least one mile a day.  So far this year, I’ve competed in ten races … I earned first place in one of the races in my age group and took second in two others

 

I entered this competition because of Hope and Charlie:

One day, I may be in Kaylee’s mom’s shoes and find myself needing assistance in widening a doorway or in buying a piece of therapy equipment for my own kiddos.

One day, I may not be able to care for Hope and Charlie, and they may need a residential center where they can thrive while being loved and kept safe.

Kaylee represents my life.

The Trousdale School represents my life.

I also entered this competition because I’m proud to be part of the differently abled community.  Daily, I see all the special needs mommas on social media who are in the trenches … loving, serving, and spilling themselves out for those who have been placed in their care.  Advocating.  Training.  Celebrating.  Holding out hope for the brightest future.

Those moms represent my life too.

It only takes 10 seconds per day for the next six weeks … and voting is free:

click here to vote!

And remember to vote every single day for Kaylee and for my best buddies!!!!

(A big thanks to all who have already voted!!!)

Just my thoughts,

~Mel

 

For all who have asked, here are the official rules:

Round 1: TOP 25 (Starts June 19th and Ends June 28th, 2018) – Selected Entrants will be divided equally into seventy two (72) groups. Public voting will help reduce each group to the top twenty-five (25) models.

Round 2: TOP 10 (Starts June 28th and Ends July 5th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top twenty-five (25) to the top ten (10) models in each group.

Round 3: TOP 5 (Starts July 5th and Ends July 12th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top ten (10) to the top five (5) models in each group.

Round 4: Group Winners (Starts July 12th and Ends July 19th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top five (5) models to one (1) preliminary winner in each group. Second place group finishers will advance to the Wildcard Round.

WILDCARD ROUND (VOTING RESETS)

Round 5: Wildcard Round (Starts July 20th and Ends July 22nd, 2018) – Second place group finishers will be divided evenly into twelve (12) groups. Public voting will determine one (1) winner from each Wildcard group. Wildcard winners advance to the semi-finals.

SEMI-FINALS (VOTING RESETS)

Round 6: Semi-finals (Starts July 23rd and Ends August 2nd, 2018) – Preliminary group winners and Wildcard winners will be divided evenly into twelve (12) semi-final groups. Public voting will determine one (1) winner from each semi-finals group that will advance into the finals.

FINALS (VOTING RESETS)

Round 7: Finals (Starts August 3rd and Ends August 9th, 2018) – Public voting will help reduce the top twelve (12) finalists to the one (1) winner of the Ms Health and Fitness competition (the “Grand Prize Winner”), subject to such individuals compliance with the Rules and any other applicable terms and conditions in connection with the Competition.

 

 

Fitness, get fit, get healthy, self care, skin care, Summer Fashion, Summer Style

Hats, Baths, & Masks

HATS:

Hats are a must have for the summer months.  Not only do they protect our faces from the sun, they protect our hair too.  UVA rays dry out and damage the outer layer of our hair, making it appear brittle.  Add in the daily humidity, and summer hair can be the worst.  If you’re not having that great of a hair day, put your hair in loose braids or pull it back into a low pony and sock a cute hat on for instant style.  If you have short hair, you’re already ready to just wear a hat and go.  Most females overthink hats, but it’s actually a simple addition.  Solid colors are easier to coordinate and straw hats go with everything.  Just have fun with it.

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My black hat sort of reminds me of Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies, but I really like it.  haha.  It’s a bit stretchy, not too tight, and is lightweight.  I’ve paired it with a shirt I pulled off the sale rack at American Eagle for $10.00 and some cut-off jean shorts (also from American Eagle).  With black sandals, I’m ready for any outdoor event.  Here’s a link to the tops currently on Clearance at American Eagle.

BATHS:

Do you sweat?  I’m a fitness freak.  Every day I do high intensity interval training and also run a couple of miles.  In the summer, especially, I sweat a lot.  Exercising to the point of producing lots of sweat is so good for us.  It manufactures happy feelings, gives us an energy rush, reduces aches and pains, and releases toxins from our bodies.  But getting that sweat off of our bodies is equally important.  The bathtub is a perfect solution.  Not only will it cleanse your body, but it will also restore and relax your body.

After a long day outside, it’s important to pamper our skin.  Again, the sun will do some damage.  Find a good moisturizing bubble bath, light a candle, turn on some soft music, and relax.  I experiment with different kinds of bubble baths, bath bombs, and body washes.  This one from Caress really does have a buttery burnt brown sugar smell as advertised.  It. Is. Yummy.  Here’s the link … I picked it up at Target.

 

 

Masks:   

If caring for our entire body is important, our faces should be at the top of the list as the most important part of our bodies.  Caring for our faces every day needs to be a priority.  I’ve said it before, and will say it again, don’t ever go to bed with makeup on.  It will age your skin.  Cleanse your face everyday.  Exfoliate often.  Pamper it with moisturizer two times a day, morning and night.  And try to make time for a mask once a week.

 

This mask is by a company called Yes To.   I’d heard the company was started by two guys who played soccer, and was definitely curious to find out what these dudes know about skincare.  As it turns out, they apparently know a lot.  They use 95% natural ingredients in their products and make sure all are free of toxins.  This was my first time using one of their masks, and I have to say I might be hooked.  It was thick and creamy, had a nice gentle scent, went on easy, and left my skin feeling so soft.  If you aren’t married to a certain type of mask, give it a try.  Target carries this product too!

The takeaway is self care.  As women, we’re so adept at taking care of others, aren’t we?  We check off lists all day every day.  It’s part of our DNA.  I swear, when God made Eve, that woman probably opened her eyes and immediately got to work sprucing up the Garden of Eden.

Adam was like:  “Hey, God made sex, and He says it’s very good … wanna have a go at it?”

Eve:  “Ummmm, yeh, sure thing.  But first I need to figure out how I can turn a pile of palm leaves into cute throw pillows for our bed, clear away all the brush so our outdoor digs will be tidy, prune a couple of trees to give some sharp curb appeal, and gather more fruit and veggies in case the Lord stops by for dinner … plus, don’t we have babies to tend to?”

Adam:  “Well, no … we have to have the sex first.”

Can you relate?  The housekeeping and the lists will wait.  The kids will wait too.  It took me fifty years, but I’ve finally embraced the importance of putting myself first for a couple of hours a day.  Living in the moment.  I’m very type-A … if I can do it, so can you.

Exercise, take baths, experiment with different beauty products, and love yourself.  Age is just a number, but life is short.  You’re worth the extra effort!

Just my thoughts,

Melanie

Disney Vacation, Summer Style, Vacation

Where To Stay & How To Play On Your Summer Disney Vacay!

The kiddos and I just returned from the most magical place on earth.  While my tattered and worn-out body is back home, I think my heart stayed behind at Cinderella’s castle.  If you are a Disney fanatic like I am, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Gaaaaaah, why didn’t I just push that freezer full of Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bars back home?

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In the past, out of necessity, my family has opted for two or three bedroom suites at Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and the Tree Houses.  With Hope and Charlie, my two youngest who have Down syndrome, we’ve always needed those extra rooms.  Up until fairly recently, both battled major sleep issues.  Especially Charlie.  So if I wanted any sleep at all after walking 15,000+ steps a day at the parks, I had to have some separation from them at night.  A door to close.  A reliable lock.  And my own bed.

Things in the sleeping department are finally looking up with the little hooligans, though … Praise Jesus!!!  So this time, my crew stepped out of our comfort zone and visited Port Orleans Riverside.  It was finally our time to be close to all the action, so I requested that we be put in the middle of it all.  And let me tell you, the action was awesome!

Steps away from our room was:

  • a huge swimming pool with a slide
  • an excellent food court that serves create your own pasta, burgers, salads, and ice cream sundaes
  • a nice sit down restaurant with live entertainment
  • a General Store that has everything from aspirin and peanut butter to flips flops and jewelry
  • a water taxi that sails regularly to Disney Springs
  • and a running/walking path

If we’d had more time, we could’ve roasted marshmallows over an open fire while catching a movie on the expansive lawn.  Again, only steps away from our room.  The downside to our stay, of course, is that we didn’t have as much space.  But who goes to Disney to stay in a room?  The price difference?  $250.00 vs. $700.00 per night.  Let me tell you, the savings is still feeling really good.

As annual pass holders, we go to Disney at least three to four times a year.  It’s like our second home … the one I love far more than my primary home.   I couldn’t count the number of times we’ve been even if I tried to piece it together.  As a result, people are always asking me for Disney advice.  And since it’s one of my favorite subjects to talk about, I’m more than happy to oblige.

Summer, because kiddos aren’t in school, is typically known as the time of year when the parks are the busiest.  However, from my experience, the parks are always hopping no matter the season.  By following some simple tips, though, Walt Disney World can be thoroughly enjoyed without a lot of stress and anxiety.  So put on your mouse ears and listen up:

  1. Pack light
  2. Wear comfy shoes
  3. Visit every park and thoughtfully take in all the nuances that make each one unique
  4. Say no to the dining plan unless your family, as a group, eats a whole heckuva lot
  5. Learn to use the Fast Pass system and stay on schedule
  6. Reserve your spot at a Disney Resort — the benefits are worth the extra $$$
  7. Utilize every single extra magic hour
  8. Go to the pool during the heat of the day while everyone else is melting in the parks
  9. If your child has special needs, get a Disability Access Pass
  10. Opt for the magic band and load a credit card on it to save time
  11. Eat at the resort … snack at the parks
  12. Bring a back pack into the parks to carry bottled water and snacks
  13. It’s worth the wait to visit the characters
  14. The fireworks, shows, and parades are a must
  15. Ride every ride at least one time, except Mission: SPACE  (you’d have to be crazy to ride that ride!)
  16. Eat the Mickey Ice Cream Bar
  17. Leave your troubles behind and allow yourself to escape to another world … Walt Disney World!

What shoes to wear?

In warmer months, I wear these Taos sandals to Disney.  True to form, I wore them this last trip.  In three days, I walked nearly 50,000 steps and my feet didn’t bother me once.  Some people refuse to pay $100.00 for a pair of sandals, but for the sake of your feet, it’s at least something to consider.  This is my second pair of these exact same sandals, by the way.  In the summer, they are my go-to when walking long distances.  They come in multiple colors, but I prefer the pewter color because they match everything:

disney 80What clothes to wear?

Shorts, of course …  OR.  YOU.  WILL.  DIE!!!  Seriously, ladies, you’ll die.

As for shirts, I pack tops that don’t require a bra.  haha.  But that’s how I roll.  For me, less is more when the temperature is reaching for that one-hundred degree mark.  American Eagle has a conservative version of the tube top right now.  They are super soft, priced right, and fit perfectly.  I’ve purchased two so far (see photos below).  I wore them for hours at Disney.  Stayed cool.  And didn’t have to tug at them once.   All of my clothes on this trip were from American Eagle:

As for the kiddos,  I pack a very good fitting pair of sneakers for each and loose clothing.  In addition, I throw an extra set of clothes into the backpack for Hope and Charlie, just in case they need to change in the parks.  You never know.  Big spills happen.  Most important is the obvious:  hydrate, hydrate, and keep hydrating is the key with children during the summer.  Florida sunshine, concrete, big crowds, and long lines mean you heat up fast.

In three days, we rode every ride on our list while still spending a couple of hours at the pool each day.  It’s possible if you utilize the extra magic hours, the Fast Pass system, and stay on schedule.  Also, to make the most of our time, we ate every meal at our resort.  The food was so yummy.  To top it all, even though we ended each night by dividing a ginormous triple scoop ice cream sundae, I still lost two pounds.  Walt Disney World truly is a magical place!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

Just my thoughts,

Melanie

 

 

gingham, romper, Summer Fashion

A Summer Of Gingham

Gingham is as vintage as Dorothy’s iconic dress, but still manages to remain fresh each year when Summer rolls around.  Lemonade stands, picnics, baseball games, parties by the pool, sandy beaches, and gingham.  It’s what we crave when the sunshine arrives to free us from cold weather.  This year, though, gingham is more than a traditional summer staple.  It has stepped up and is being rolled out as a fashion trend.  Old is somehow new again.

There are words we write in stone, aren’t there?  They are our character signatures.  Honesty, kindness, love, hope … caring for our children, looking after a friend in need, and believing in a power that is much higher than ourselves … those are a few we probably all share.  Other things, however, we write in the sand.  Those things are wiped away when the next wave comes in, never to be seen again.  Perhaps they are dreams meant for only our eyes.  Or maybe they are plans that are still in the building phase.  As summer makes her way in, even though you may be as vintage as gingham, be new again.  Take one of those dreams you’ve been writing in the sand, and dare to put it in stone.

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Since gingham is this season’s hottest fashion trend, you must put a piece in your wardrobe.  Pronto!  I found this cute off-the-shoulder black and white gingham romper at Lizard Thicket.  The fabric is cool, breezy, and wrinkle resistant.  Easy to pack for vacation.  And the draw string tie at the waist makes this romper adjustable for nearly every body type.

Rompers are so practical, by the way … they are a whole outfit that’s already put together.  It’s like getting two pieces of clothing for the price of one.  And no thinking or planning is ever required.  You simply slip it on like a summer dress and go.  The romper can be dressed up or down, and will always remain a classic.

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When I wear anything off the shoulders, I toss my hair up.  For this quick up-do, I started with a high pony and loosely wrapped my hair around and into a loose bun, not worrying about stray strands of hair.  Then I secured it with a few bobby pins.  It’s not perfect, but that’s the point.

This lightweight fabric teemed with a classic style I didn’t have to piece together is a winner.  Channel your inner Dorothy this season with some gingham.  While it’s true that there really is no place like home, you can still step out of your box with a romper and have an adventure or two.  This season is yours to seize.  Write something in stone, but don’t stop doodling in the sand.  Like vintage gingham, re-establish your place in the world.  And be new again.

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Just my thoughts,

~Melanie

 

 

Fashion, Summer Fashion

A Big Bag, A Swingy Dress, & Pink Shades

With the onset of summer, I always gravitate toward carrying a bigger bag.  Do you?  I mean, there’s something to be said for being prepared when the weather warms up.  Throw in a bathing suit … a pack of peanut butter and crackers … a water bottle … a pair of flip flops … a Little Debbie or two or three  (give me a break, I am from the south!) … and you’re prepared for anything the day may bring.

For me, there’s no better choice for summer than a crochet bag that goes with everything.  This hobo bag, offered by The Sak, is the perfect size for slipping in those extra somethings.  The long slender handle welcomes you to carry your belongings comfortably beneath your arm.  This bag is roomy, spacious, and can be dressed up or down.  And best of all, on Amazon, you can get it for a steal by clicking here.

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While most of the time I’m touting the fit and flare dress, every summer wardrobe must have a solid colored, semi-short, swingy dress.  I chose black, because I’m so basic, but any solid color will work.  Gently kissing your knees when you walk, this timeless style is subtly flirtatious and can be utilized in many ways.  Do you need to wear your bathing suit to and from the pool or the beach?  Well, lucky for you, this dress stands in perfectly as a cover up.  (From much experience, by the way, I know that no one will ever guess you’re wearing a bathing suit underneath it) …. Are you planning to attend an outdoor concert or to have dinner at your favorite restaurant?  Pair this dress with some fun jewelry, a dressy belt, and cute sandals to have a romantic night out on the town while looking fantastic.  Running errands?  No problem.  Pull on a pair of Converse chuck sneakers and go.  I wash and hang my dress so the cotton won’t wear.  It will be on my body once a week during the months of May thru August.  It’s a must have.

Summer Purse

Last, but not least, let’s talk about sunglasses.  Confession:  The most I’ve ever spent on a pair of shades is fifty dollars.  (Do the words fifty and shades, when used in the same sentence, make you stop in your tracks for a moment?  Or is it just me?  haha.).  Anyway, some eyes will roll right here, because fashionistas take their designer sunglasses seriously.  But my top end falls far short of the higher end price tags, because I’m the worst about losing and/or misplacing them.  Most often, to be honest, I pick up a few pair for fifteen or twenty bucks each and keep them all in the glove compartment of my car.  I’m functional that way.

These rose colored sunglasses by Nine West are my latest find:

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For thirty dollars, they are also a great deal!  They look very trendy, and in my humble opinion, rival the top brands.  The pop of color makes them more interesting than a traditional brown, black, or gold … while the rose shade compliments most any hair color and skin tone.  They can be found here  .

So there you have it, peeps.  Allow a crochet hobo bag, a swingy dress, and some rose colored shades to be your inexpensive solution to versatility, comfort, and style.  Don’t dawdle for too long, because the heat is rolling in.  And for gosh sakes, don’t forget the Little Debbie’s.  They won’t improve your swimsuit body, but they sure do taste awfully yummy.  Treat yourself!

Just my thoughts,

~Melanie

Summer Fashion, Summer Sandals

Choose The Dress

“I can’t afford to dress the way you do.”

“I can’t wear a sleeveless summer dress, because my arms look gross.  What would you suggest I wear instead?”

“Do you ever wear any bright colors?  Or do you always stick to basics?”

Those are some questions I’ve recently been asked by peeps who read my blog.  And in this post, I’m going to offer an answer to all.

First, I’m a bargain shopper.  In my former life, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and worked as a series seven licensed financial planner. (Big yawn, I know.)  Let’s just say the value of money has been chiseled into my brain by a professor or two.

Before finishing college, though, I worked extensively in retail.  My favorite and most valuable experience was when I went to work for a small fashion boutique.  It was there that I was allowed to see behind the wizard’s curtain.  Until that time, I’d walked into retail wonderland with a skewed belief that each price tag represented true value.  The owner of that sweet boutique, however, took me under her wing and showed me everything that had made her a success … including the mark-up in clothing.

The fit and flair dress I’m wearing in this blog post is made by Elle .  I got it at Kohl’s for five dollars.  So basically, I could’ve had a Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Venti OR this cute dress.  Same price.  And I chose the dress.  You should choose the dress too!

I understand the value of money and am unashamed of my penchant for hunting down a good bargain.  So if you believe you can’t afford to dress like me, you are 100% incorrect.  It may take some time to uncover a good deal, but if I can do it, you can too.

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Second, if you’re not comfortable wearing a sleeveless summer dress, then go for capped sleeves like the ones on this dress.  A benefit of capped sleeves is that they draw the eye away from the rest of your body … in addition, they make your shoulders appear more broad, which makes your waist and hips appear smaller.  Win. Win.

Third, on the question about color, I do wear color sparingly.  I typically prefer solids, and my go-to colors are black, gray, army green, white, and navy.  However, I make exceptions, and my exception is usually red.  This dress is coral, out of my color comfort zone, but it was too cute to pass up.

Since I’m calling this upcoming season “The Summer Of The Dress”, I’m pairing most of my dresses with flat sandals to dress them down and to make them more sensible for every day errands.  While any flat will do, choosing a nude color tone will make your legs appear longer.  I think this goes without saying, but legs, ladies, are important when wearing a dress.  Take good care of them!  I’ve gone crazy over the vanilla shaving cream by EOS.  It smells like a sugar cookie and leaves your legs feeling smooth and super moisturized.  You can find it for a great price on Amazon by clicking here.

To close, this week has been one filled with the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  My two youngest kiddos, both who have Down syndrome, began regular school this week.  And to my utter delight, they rocked it!!!  My house and my car were broken into.  Two laptops were taken, one of which held a 100+ page novel I’ve been writing for six months and the back-up USB thumb drive.  Someone I dearly love moved away.  Someone I once held in great regard pushed a boundary and disappointed me beyond words.  A friend stepped up and honored me by offering the act of selfless love.  And to top it all, I was given the opportunity to watch in utter amazement as an adult friend of mine who has Down syndrome carried his beloved father’s casket to what would be his grave site.  Before walking away, he kissed the casket and looked toward heaven.  Tears literally popped from my eyes.

Aren’t the highs and lows what make the journey so interesting?  Life is too short to worry about what to wear or what not to wear.  There’s too much to see and experience to be concerned about what others may think or say.  Choose the dress. Wear the dress.  Feel good.  Know that you are special because you are uniquely you.

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Just my thoughts!

~Melanie

Fashion, Summer Fashion

The Perfect White Pants For Summer

hue pants 2Finding the perfect pair of white pants for summer is not an easy task.  Can we all agree white pants are a summer necessity?  And can we also agree they are a short term purchase?  I mean, white pants collect dirt like the local public swimming pool collects toddler pee, old man body hair, and buckets of sweat.  (Insert a gag here.)  Please, for the love of all things somewhat sanitary, tell me we’re advancing beyond the masses gathering to public bathe.  I know I’m digressing here … but are any of you now picturing those little gray curly hairs floating in the water?  Oh my Lord, chills!!!!  (And not the good kind).  Back to the short lifespan of white pants, what I’m trying to point out is this:  We know going in that we’re gonna chuck those puppies come September when Labor day rolls around.  No matter how much Tide, All, Gain, or bleach we use on those pants, by the end of summer, they will look dingy.  It’s a fact of life.

So.  Should we just buy a cheap pair of white pants and not have high expectations on style?  No, no, no!!!  That’s definitely not the answer.  I’d argue we should keep the cost down, but that we always strive for a look that reflects who we are … and especially for a style that isn’t outdated.  Summer’s heat brings on the time of year when we feel more daring and free with our fashion choices … when we can show more skin and embrace sexy.  Settling for a pair of white pants that are so cheap you can see every dimple in your behind is not a choice. Purchasing a pair of white pants that look like they belong on Aunt Pearl isn’t an option either.   But no worries, ladies.  I’ve searched and have found the holy grail of white pants:

 

 

Made by Hue, these cute ripped knee jeggings are less than $50.00.  And if you don’t like the ripped knees or the frayed ankles, Hue carries them without those trendy extras.  First, they’re super comfortable, don’t sag or bag, and look way more like jeans than leggings.  Second, because they’re stretchy, you can pour that extra butter on your bag of popcorn when you wear them out to the movies without worry.  Third, they are wash and wear.  I wash and hang, because I don’t want to take a chance on them losing their shape … but the point is, they’re easy-peasy to take care of.  And fourth, for all the ladies who like to be nicely squeezed in when you wear pants, these suckers will tuck you in like a newborn in a swaddle blanket.  You will look a size smaller.  I promise.

On that topic, if you are of the mindset that loose, flowing clothing will hide what you perceive as flaws, it doesn’t.  No matter your size, tighter fitting clothing will always make you appear more fit.  And jeggings that have been designed with that goal in mind, do the trick even more.  So … try to avoid going for big and baggy … instead, show off your curves.  If you’re too self-conscious to get over the hump, as a compromise, you can always pair your jeggings and tank with a light and airy button down shirt or a breezy duster.  The key is to believe in yourself.  You can pull off any look if you’ll see yourself for the beautiful creation you truly are.  It’s how I see all of you.  There is no such thing as a perfect body shape or size … only a perfect heart, which is the most valuable fashion staple of all.

I paired the white jeggings with a buttery soft tie dye tank from American Eagle.  So plush, this shirt honestly feels like something you’d sleep in.  Underneath the tank, I’m wearing a white lacy bralette from Altar’d State.  I’m a 36C and can get away with wearing bralettes all summer long.  Full disclosure, yes, they do flatten your chest a bit and don’t offer a lot of support, but bralettes are much more comfortable than bras … and comfort counts when it’s as hot as Hades outside.  Last but far from least, my comfy clunky sandals are Dansko.

What are you waiting for?  Go get yourself some white pants!

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Just my thoughts,

Melanie

Fashion, Fitness, get healthy, Turning Fifty

On Turning 50

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I’ve had a year to prepare.  Actually, I guess I’ve had forty-nine years to prepare.  But who can ever be adequately equipped to reach the age society refers to with such doom and gloom?  I mean, the latest studies agree.  By age fifty, we should drop flip flops, ditch denim, toss tanks, swap shorts for capris, and chop our hair into an age-appropriate bob or pixie.  And the latest trend?  Don’t even get me started.  “Just allow your hair to go graaaaay,” they say.  “Gray is the new black,” they say.  And my favorite:  “Gray is sexy!”  Hmmmmmm.  On Jamie Lee Curtis, a gray pixie cut is sexy.  On Jamie Lee Curtis, capri pants may even have a snow ball’s chance at looking hot.  But can we agree that she’s been an exception to a whole slew of rules for many many years?  Say this with me out loud:  “I, (insert your name here), am not Jamie Lee Curtis … and no matter how much ACTIVA I ingest, I will never ever ever be Jamie Lee Curtis.”

(Deep breath)  I’ve actually had well-meaning women tell me that I need to cut my hair and throw out my denim shorts because I’m “getting too old”.  Please, for the love of all things good and true, can we at least agree to give denim a break?  Denim has been with us through thick and thin … literally.  And has stood the test of time as much as we have.  Maybe more than we have.  If I can say anything here today about fashion, it would be that we should ALL own some denim.  Until. We. Die.

I’m sorry, but the thought of all the false fashion notions that are prevalent on the internet brings on a mild panic attack with me.  Even right now, my heart is in a rush as I picture myself being yanked away, kicking and screaming, from the gorgeous diva who colors my hair.  Can anyone else relate?  As long as my hair is perfect, I can take hold of satan himself by his pointy ears and firmly place him behind me.  In the south, after all, hair is everything.  Gray is not the new black.  It’s just not!

Let’s be real.  When a person reaches fifty or sixty or seventy … or even eighty … the last thing we should be discussing is age appropriate fashion and/or hairstyles.  That person has lived five or more decades of life, which these days, is a feat.  And because of their years on the planet, they’ve earned the right to look however they want to look.  I may be waging war against capri pants and pixie cuts for myself, but for whoever chooses them, I’ll give 100% support (as long as the pixie cut, gray hair, AND capri pants aren’t paired together — a fifty year old female can only be stretched so far.)  My gripe is when the fashion police puts us into a middle-aged box of do’s and don’ts when what should truly matter is the sum of our experiences.

For instance.

At age fifty,  I’ve experienced two marriages and divorce … healthy relationships and abuse … having a successful career and being a stay at home mom … raising typical kiddos and raising kiddos who are differently abled.  I know what it’s like to have a close knit family, but I also know what it feels like when the family unit crumbles with estrangement.  I’m the very proud momma of two adopted kiddos, and can tell you that my love for those two is the exact same as it is for the three I birthed.

I’ve weighed too much and too little, and now have determined the scale doesn’t matter near as much as choosing good health.  Reveling in the highest of highs one moment, I’ve also walked through the deepest valleys of depression the next.  I’ve written books and songs, have earned my place in 5k races, attended law school for two years, and ran for state senate as a write-in candidate to bring light to a law that would have been unfavorable to the special needs community.

I’ve been fortunate to have formed associations with individuals who, just by their very existence, make me dare to believe there is a God.  At the same time, though, I still wrestle with the heavy weight of disbelief.   I’ve mourned the loss of loved ones.  I fear for the future of my children who have Down syndrome.  What if I die first?  And as the former owner of a non-profit that provided free clothing to teenage girls who are fighting through the ravages of poverty, the foster care system, and an addiction to self harm, I can tell you without a moment’s hesitation that “those kids” are amazing young women who are striving for a better future.  They cling to hope, as do I, for a society that will choose the attitude of love, peace, and charity over selfishness, fighting, and suffering.

These are the things that matter.

I get it.  I’m fifty.

And in the eyes of much of society, that means I’m now over the hill.

Regardless, my fifty years of life has mattered.

And your life matters too.

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Happy Birthday to me!!!!

~Mel