Winter Layering with Summer Crop Tops

I’ll let you in on something – I haven’t always adored being female. There are just so many rules! As a kid I ran around in my brother’s hand-me-down basketball shorts all morning and then had afternoon tea in a fake silk ballgown my mother stitched up, but the romantic comedies I watched and the novels I read told me that women needed men in order to be confident, whole people and that, above all else, we’re supposed to be pretty – devoting our lives to finding a mate. This didn’t jive with me even in my adolescence, so I wore ridiculous, ostentatiously feminine outfits – playing dress up everyday with high heels and makeup in an attempt to find clothes in which I actually felt like myself.

And this, my friends, is why I love androgyny – a blending of gender concepts and styles and feelings and traits that allows men to be emotional and women to be intelligent and all of us to wear whatever the hell we please.

Sometimes I feel like dressing like a boy. A boy who has my closet and my tastes and my figure. When the mood strikes, I’ll layer my black summer crop tops over button downs for a comfy boyish sweater vest look. I just love it, and there’s so much variety to be found within it, depending on how far I want to go – necklace or no, silky top or flannel.

close up layering pajama top

I like to balance masculine and feminine elements, so I put the edgy leather leggings with the silky pajama top –

androgynous girl winter layering style

The lumberjack flannel with the beanie, pencil skirt, and bulky boots –

androgynous girl winter style flannel

androgynous flannel girl winter layering style

And the sweet lilac suede with simple black pants, a necklace, and my loafers –

androgynous female winter style

People might do a double take when you step out like this, but so what? What really matters is that your clothes honestly represent who you are. Personally, I find it liberating.

androgynous female purple winter layering style

What are your thoughts on this baby step into androgyny? Not for you? Down to try it?

Love, calm, & care –

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Moon Boots!

Form and function, right? Well, where I currently live, the conditions are icy, snowy, subzero – like the winter x-games on my sidewalk. So I had no choice – I needed snow boots…or moon boots…or, as I’ve been affectionately calling them – moots!

Harbin boasts shopping malls not only on every corner, but underground, too. I stroll through one when I pass by now and then, and, upon finding one marked OUTLETS – I perused. I have yet to find a thrift store here, but this place was the closest thing. First floor was all shoes, something like forty different vendors with different types of boots and sneakers.

winter style moon boots

It was love at first sight.

love moon boots

I didn’t try them on, but I did think about them all week. I like to step back before making a purchase – give myself at least 4 days to think about it, let it simmer, mentally match it with everything I own. And if it sticks – it sticks for many good reasons, and, budget permitting, I proceed. These only cost the equivalent of 13USD, but as far as I can tell they’re great quality. #MADEINCHINA. Lined with fake fur, they are cozy and comfy.

cozy comfy moon boots

I’ll admit that these are not as orthopedic as I like my shoes to be, but, given the harsh conditions out here, I had to compromise. I do have a slice of Dr. Scholl in there, and that makes a difference.

winter boot girl style

What I love about these – they look sleek, even futuristic. Black goes with everything, but the words on the back add somethin special. I love that the word is love – that sealed the deal for me. All the tread on these acts as a platform, too, which, since I don’t much wear heels, is a fun boost.

winter girl moon boot style love

I browsed around the internet and found a swanky DSW deal, a fancy Euro lookin moon boot, and a website called moon-boot.com. Go nuts.

pretty girl skirt winter moon boot

I’ve worn these all week, and I haven’t slipped on ice once. Mission accomplished.

moon boots winter style

Love, calm, & care –

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Cozy Cashmere Sweater

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Harbin it has been c-c-c-COLD. Like below 0. Constantly. Celsius or Fahrenheit. It’s just extra freezing, all the time. The redeeming quality of cold weather – apart from a constant excuse to stay in and read books – is the cozy clothing. Sweater weather. One of my favorite pieces is my cashmere sweater.

girl in cashmere sweater

Soft and roomy, with a pattern and color scheme that match just about anything – it’s a staple. I love having pieces that I can wear with my entire wardrobe, and this is absolutely one of those. It’s great by itself or fantastic for layering. Anytime I don’t feel quite cozy enough in my outfit to go outside, I throw this on under my coat and I feel like I’m wearing a blanket.

winter style girl woman

It’s the adult version of a blanky that I take with me everywhere. Because why does that have to end when you start 1st grade?

cashmere sweater

girl in cashmere sweater

I found this at J. Crew three years ago and haven’t looked back, but I found a couple similar ones online. J. Crew, of course, has a gorgeous one that is currently on clearance, Everlane has a couple mid-range price options, and Uniqlo has an okay one on the lower end. Cashmere won’t be cheap, but I swear it’s worth every penny – it’s warm as shit, and it lasts forever.

cashmere sweater winter style girl

When thinking of getting your own sweater – what are your priorities? I wanted to be able to layer, so I got mine in a bigger size. I wear a lot of black and white with the occasional pop of color, so I wanted something that would go with everything. Take into account the rest of your wardrobe, the type of silhouette you want, etc.

girl in cashmere sweater

And, once you’ve got your sweater, enjoy drinking tea in it and watching the snow fall. Because we still have three more months of this.

girl in cashmere sweater winter style

Love, calm, & care –

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Saying Goodbye with Grace

2016 is ending, and with it, a phase in all our lives. Years neatly section off time so that we can all have an ending and a new beginning together, but endings come around more often than every 365 days.  Whether it’s January 1st or May 24th or August 8th or whenever –

A phase in your life is over.

throw up your deuces to 2016

Maybe you’re moving to a new city, a new country even. Maybe you’re leaving a job, or maybe you’re ending a relationship. Little endings happen every day as we walk out of buildings, get out of cars or buses, leave movies, check out at stores, finish essays or books or tv shows, but these don’t get much attention. Maybe you think about what you just did for a moment or two, make a comment about something you noticed to a person you’re with, but leaving the grocery store doesn’t typically make the news feed. But big things – these take quite a bit of our attention. And they’re often quite painful.

Whether you’re happy to go or your heart’s breaking, grief happens. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to walk around a town wondering when you’ll ever be in it again, it’s okay to cry yourself to sleep replaying memories of you and someone who’s no longer in your life.

You’re allowed to celebrate, too. Even if you’re going through a nasty breakup or ending something awful – there were good parts about it, right? You treated yourself to a fancy coffee once a week at a certain coffee shop, say, or he made you laugh til you peed your pants – just because it’s over doesn’t mean the good things go away, and it doesn’t mean you have to be sad.

Endings are bittersweet, and forgetting to balance the bitter with the sweet tips us off kilter, sets us up to begin in a strange, unhealthy way. To get closure, even from the sharpest pains, you’ve got to hold the sadness with the joy. When something’s over, you get a bit of distance from it – you’re no longer in the midst of it, so you can see clearly – without the bias you held while you were living that reality. Now you get a chance to see the whole experience as a montage, to view yourself acting in situations that already happened. You can think about it. Maybe you like how you acted or maybe you don’t, but see it. Understand it without judgment. Since the phase is over, you are no longer that person. Yes, it’s you, it looks like you and said all the things you said, but now – now you’re not in that situation. You’re no longer impacted by its stresses or joys. The part of you that actively does that thing is gone – dead. So really when you’re grieving a phase in your life, you’re grieving a former version of your self.

maybe i'm not who i thought i was abstract drawing

I’ll use myself as an example here – I just recently moved from the town where I graduated college, where my family lives, where I fell in love twice, where I learned to be kind to myself. This was also the town where I felt more depressed than I ever have, worked through conflicts with my parents, ended a destructive relationship, and had moments of truly hating myself. In leaving it, I had to see it for what it was. I had to recognize the sadness of some of the times I went through, and feel joy to be leaving, but, at the same damn time, I saw all the beautiful moments, the wonderful job I had, the community I relished – and I had to feel sad. I had to grieve that I couldn’t be there any more, that I was leaving, and that those joyous moments were gone.

Flipping through my rolodex of memories before I left, I saw some clear images – beautiful evenings with people I love, moments alone in my favorite places – and I realized that the girl I saw in those moments, while Bethany, was no longer me. I saw myself being happy in the past, and at the same time I knew – I’m not her anymore. She’s a part of me, of course, and all my past experiences – positive and negative – inform who I am now. But, looking back, I saw a girl who hadn’t learned lessons that I’ve since learned, who hadn’t endured trials I’ve since endured, and who didn’t know she would be living in China right now, typing this out in her very own apartment. And for a few moments, I felt sad. I loved her. I felt true joy in those moments, and now they’re gone, never to be lived again. And that can be difficult to let go of. But what good would living in the past do me? Seeing her, that version of myself that I was truly happy being, I know that she is a part of me. And I trust her to build an incredible future for herself, to move forward into new upgrades of herself and to never let yesterday or last week or last month be her prime. Even if it was really fucking great – tomorrow always holds potential to be better.

stylish girl says goodbye peace out 2016

Endings are hard. There’s no way around that. But beginnings are beautiful. And the purity and freshness of a new beginning can be tainted if the past hangs around too closely. For now – it’s over. Cry about it, laugh about it, comfort yourself with the memories you’ll always have, and turn forward – hold your head high and carry on.

Love, calm, & care –

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Christmas Spirit

It’s the holidays – the most wonderful time of the year. Parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, caroling out in the snow, etc, etc. But why do we care, and what does one wear?

pattern skirt funky long mid thigh tea length thrift store boots winterOf course we all like to look festive for Christmas parties, throwing on sequins and red dresses – really doing ourselves up. I went to a couple events, and, for the first big buffet I went for a big high-waisted skirt. I found it at a thrift store a couple years ago, and sewed two snaps in the waistband, so it’s expandable. It’s a great deal of material, so I save it for special occasions or when I’m in a particularly flashy mood, but I find that I wear it most around the holidays. I keep it simple with black, my necklace, and my tall boots. A bold lip sets the whole thing off. It’s simple, comfortable, but still interesting enough to merit complements at a holiday party.

bold lip holiday festive necklace black simple

skirt holiday party outfit festive beautiful girl

over the knee boots tall winter gold zipper suede heel

The holidays are a big time – a series of days with high expectations attached. Expectations are a sure-fire way to set yourself up for disappointment, so why do we always insist on having them? Why is it that Christmas must be the most wonderful time of the year? Supposedly you’re with the people you love most, giving and receiving a few thoughtful gifts, eating delicious foods, and all laughing and wearing santa hats like you’re living the reality of whatever Christmas card you sent out. But what actually happens on Christmas, and why are we celebrating?

To many people, Christmas is nothing more than a chore – a day to be around people you call family by blood, not by choice – to eat and drink and try to be merry, to give and receive gifts that not much thought were put into, to attempt to enjoy each other’s company. For others, it’s a break in the monotony of everyday life – something to look forward to, a day to set aside for nothing – for fun. A day to be calm, relax, socialize with people whose company you enjoy, and forget about the rest. We throw parties because we can – here in China no one knows what Christmas means or where it originates – stores put Santa Claus stickers in their windows, and people use the day as an excuse to have a party, to go shopping – to treat themselves. Because they need a reason.

It began as Saturnalia – a week-long pagan festival of debauchery, something like The Purge movies – where anything and everything was indulged, and a human sacrifice set it all right at the end; gingerbread cookies started as human shaped biscuits to symbolize the human sacrifice. If you’re curious to know more, I read through this page and found it fascinating. But then Jesus came – supposedly the ultimate [human] sacrifice. He was born, and Christians placed his birth on this day – somewhat arbitrarily – in an attempt to redeem the pagan holiday. Then it became an excuse to persecute Jews – a day to mock them for being wrong about the messiah’s arrival.

art drawing caption love came down

Growing up, we always read the Christmas story straight out of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and celebrated the whole thing as a day of hope – a day when, as the Christian band Point of Grace pointed out on a Christmas album we played every year – love came down. Regardless of why we celebrate, I hope we can all latch on to that phrase. Whatever or whoever love is to you – let it come today. Let it be a day to give, to enjoy, to embrace – to extend love to those you might not naturally extend love to. And let that pervade your daily existence. I think that’s the true spirit of Christmas, and what is there to lose by practicing it? It can bring joy all year round, and it doesn’t even require the trees or the presents or the feasts.

Feasts are a blast, though, and I really got to go HAM this weekend. I took time to care for my body in between meals with a 20 minute yoga vid especially for holiday meal digestion – it’s a gem, especially with all this rich food. For the Christmas day festivities, I wore dressed up pajamas – a second buffet within 24 hours required an elastic waist, and this top literally came from a pajama set at Target. I’ve been incredibly comfortable for games and meals, and I look cool to boot – at least I think so, and that’s what makes it true.

sweatpants pajamas boots winter christmas comfort holiday

sweatpants pajamas comfort function utility christmas style

sweatpants pajama ass sideview girl pretty christmas holiday

What do the holidays mean to you? What do you like to wear for a party or a day of opening presents? Please comment down below, and enjoy your holiday!

Love, calm, & care –

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Short Skirts in Siberia

I wrote a summer post about this skirt, so now I can use it as an example of how to winterize your wardrobe! I live in a place where they decorate the streets and parks with actual ice sculptures, so I have to bundle up. Any time I leave my home, I need my down coat, gloves, and loads of layers.

down coat earmuffs bundled up style

So how does one wear a short skirt in -5°C/23°F weather [the warmest it’s been all week]?

solving outfit problems

Start with magic tights – these are lined with velour, and I swear I can stand outside in them waiting for a bus for twenty minutes and barely feel a draft. They sell them all over the place here, and I found these in one of the many shopping malls. In Colorado I would wear fleece tights [found on Amazon] with skirts and it worked fine, but that doesn’t quite cut it here.

warm tights for winter

This is the velour side. Heaven on my skin.

On top, I’ve found that layering a shirt with a sweater is the best bet. I got this heat tech long sleeve from Uniqlo shortly after arriving here for around $15, and it’s already paying for itself. Good thing I also bought a turtleneck version. It’s fitted, so it’s perfect for layering or wearing on its own.

button front skirt and fitted black top

I can’t tell you how handy a length of black ribbon can be. I use it for loads of things from headbands to neckties, and here it works as a belt. Found in my mother’s ribbon bag.

ribbon belt cocked hip short skirt

My dear mother bought me this sweater before I left Colorado. She might feel chagrined to see that I tore off the entire bottom half of it, but what would a piece of clothing in my wardrobe be without some sort of adaptation?

warm white winter sweater outfit

As for the skirt – I love the pockets. Wrist deep. Easily the best feature.

deep skirt pockets tattoo watch girl

An adjustment I made more recently was adding this invisible magnetic snap between the first two buttons. It had a tendency to gape, and I didn’t like the look of that, so I sewed a little magic in and now it’s good as gold.

easy at home fix for gaping skirt

I found this skirt at a thrift store, but I did a bit of digging online and came up with a couple options that are available now. This one costs less, this one is mid-range, and this one costs more. The key with things like this is to find your version of it. I had in mind that I wanted a button front skirt, and this one is exactly my own. Every single person could wear a different one – do you.

I pin curled my hair today because I washed it in the morning and taught classes all day. I came home, threw on a headscarf, and when I take it out tomorrow it’ll be bouncy and glorious.

pin curl hair short hair style

Teaching the children has me on my feet all day, so a quick yoga video upon arriving home is just the thing. My favorite Youtube yoga instructor has one for people who work in the service industry. It’s barely 20 minutes, doesn’t even require a yoga mat, and leaves you feeling unwound in the best way.

Love, calm, and care –

Conquering Depression

I remember seeing those commercials that said, “Depression hurts. Symbalta can help.” It’s true that depression hurts, and it seems like more and more people are dealing with it as our culture encourages internet connection over human connection. I don’t know if Symbalta helps, but I do know that Abilify and an assortment of other pharmaceuticals did not help me. What did help was group therapy, connecting with other people and learning the skills of mindfulness and meditation. I hope this list will help you.

  1. Look. Listen. Take a moment to realize that you’re depressed. This sounds elementary, but there have been times when I’ve eaten a few too many cookies mindlessly, only to feel worse at the end and be forced to acknowledge what I was trying to avoid all along – that I feel like shit. So stay one step ahead of the game, and call yourself out. See how it feels.
  1. Remember the truth about yourself. Depression has a nasty way of clearing out everything good from your brain, lying to you and insisting that you’re not important and a slew of other negative ideas. Look in the mirror and say, “You are a worthwhile person. You matter. You are intelligent, kind, strong, etc.” Don’t say et cetera, or do and then recognize yourself as hilarious. Just keep speaking the truth to yourself. Because you are.
  1. Do something. Meditate for ten minutes. Dance around your room. Write in your journal. Draw a picture. Box. Play a song. Go outside. Breathe deeply. Remember that you’re alive, and choose to live.

There you go, three easy steps and you’ll never be depressed again! Obviously I’m joking, that’s impossible. And implementing this is not easy. But, with practice, it does get easier, and maybe you’re able to recognize depression in a day instead of in a month. Neuroplasticity is a real thing – your brain can be rewired. And it remembers good decisions, as long as you keep making them.

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A message from myself to myself – I wrote it and got it done in the summer of 2014.

Warning: you will slip up. I sure do. Why do you think I’m writing this? But have grace. Be kind. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says “be kind to yourself.” It’s literally tattooed onto my body and I still forget! Eventually I always remember, and it doesn’t take nearly as long as it used to. It can be difficult, but kindness is what we all deserve.

Mind that this list is by no means conclusive. I do plenty of things that I didn’t write here, and it’s imperative to find what works for you – everyone is different! But this is a strong start. Now meditate your way out of those end-of-winter blues. Spring is here.

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