Monthly Archives: June 2010

Fit for a King

From the age of 13 to 15 I wished beyond anything else that I could marry Prince William.  Yes, he was very cute in those days, but his being cute wasn’t nearly as attractive as his being royal.  I used to imagine the People magazine cover of our engagement and our soon-to-be wedding.  Laugh all you want, but Kate Middleton did nothing but prove that my fantasy wasn’t far from reality (just…not for me).

I had an entire wall of posters of him, postcards of his face from friends who visited the UK, and teen magazine tear-outs analyzing his moppy hair.  I even wrote a three-page letter to his fan club, which ranks among the most embarrassing acts of my entire life.

Needless to say, I developed an obsession with all things British-royalty.  The palaces, the houses in the country, the clothing, the peacock hats pinned to the sides of heads, the wealth, the formality, the etiquette, the travel.  But nothing held the same fantastical appeal as the creme de le creme: royal weddings.

Remember Diana’s?  I don’t.  I wasn’t alive.  But the pictures — my word, the pictures — showcase the over-the-top grandeur of it all.  It wasn’t their fault; as my friend Siri appropriately noted, “Diana’s wedding fell victim to the ’80s.” 

Look no further than her sleeves to understand why:

It’s madness.  She looks like she was swallowed whole by a pillow.

The entire wedding party is lost in a sea of fluff.  The wrings of flowers on the girls’ hair only causes further chaos.

All of this is freshly brought to mind because of the style triumph that was Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding last Saturday.  It was elegant, refined, opulent and undeniably royal (despite her marrying a commoner — gasp!).

My opinion of Swedes has skyrocketed due to the gorgeous representation of the people by their royals.

Look at the joyful bride and groom:

Not only are they both gorgeous, but their clothes are picture perfect.  She wore an off-the-shoulder, age-appropriate (she’s 32) cream-colored silk gown designed by Pär Engsheden.  He donned an undecorated white-tie tuxedo with tails.

What most impresses me, I believe, is that on the one day when she could have worn head-to-toe five-carat diamonds, sapphires and family jewels, she instead chose to wear the cameo tiara her mother wore on her wedding day in 1976.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s still stunning.  But it’s less obvious and ostentatious than the typical crown associated with royalty.  After all, what does she have to prove?  We know she’s going to be Queen; no need to flaunt it, I suppose.

What’s amazing about her groom, Daniel Westling, is that he was her personal trainer.  Not royal.  Not a billionaire.  Do you see why I employed fantasies of a girl from Seattle marrying the future King of England?

Question: can you imagine being the mother of a commoner marrying into royalty?  I honestly can’t conceive of a more daunting wardrobe situation.  The entire royal world will be attending your son’s wedding to an actual princess, 500 million people will be watching on TV, and you have to walk in there as the only woman without a crown.  Ouch.

I’m sad to report that Westling’s mother failed to rise to the occasion.  She’s wearing a dress any mother-of-the-groom could find at Moms, Maids and More.

After the ceremony, the bride lifted her 16-foot train and looped it around her arm so she could hit the dance floor.  It occurs to me that this seems like a hassle, and certainly a lot of fabric to keep track of, but then again royals don’t bustle their dresses.  They have giant trains for a reason — they’re royalty.

The handsome duo didn’t disappoint for their version of a rehearsal dinner, either.  A gala dinner and concert were given for the couple the evening prior to the wedding, and the results speak for themselves:

Impeccable.  I can’t help but note that the groom has to be the most modern-looking man to become a prince in recent memory.  Those glasses and that hair make him look as if he’s partner of a Manhattan design studio.

Clearly I’m already toe-tapping in anticipation of the next royal wedding, between my former flame and his commoner girlfriend.  It’s only a matter of time before he pops the question, and only a matter of taste whether their wedding will receive the Words Become One nod of approval.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

The Liturgy of Yoga

I think it would be fair to say that my experience with yoga has been somewhat of a stretch.  Pun most definitely intended.

It simply isn’t in my nature to submit myself to quiet focus, non-vigorous exercise, or anything that can be perceived as wishy-washy.  That’s the technical term, clearly.

As it turns out, yoga has been none of those things and sometimes all of those things.  I usually go through a range of emotion and physical exertion so broad that its like I’m standing on the stage at The Price is Right spinning the giant wheel to see how I’ll feel next.

One element of yoga that has remained slipperier than a wet fish has been its connection to God.  Initially I believed all of the stereotypes about this “Eastern practice” — that it was all Buddha, breathing and channeling my chi.  And it may be that for some people.  But largely the studio where I practice is void of any spirituality.  It’s much more focused on exercise, peace and doing whatever works for you.

On my first day in January, I walked across the hardwood floors of the serene room with my walls up, however.  I was determined not to let anything other than Christ be the focus of my practice.  I decided that I would do my breathing and my movements out of worship and discipline.

But it was hard.  I had a difficult time reminding myself to pray, to focus, to move in mindfulness.  It was easier to think about my day at work or an argument with a friend; or really, nothing at all.

Which is why when the studio offered a three-part series called “Practicing Yoga with Jesus” I nearly did a hand-spring across my mat.

It promised to teach how to incorporate Jesus into a practice that has traditionally left Him out of it.  I couldn’t wait.

Last Friday I walked across those same hardwood floors with my walls lowered, a bit.  I still felt apprehensive that the instructor might weaken the Lord into a nice “teacher” with flowers and sunshine and smiles for everyone; in technical terms, wishy-washy.

Imagine my surprise then, when the instructor announced that he was a very serious Catholic.

My jaw did a very limber stretch when he said that.   Then two of the four students said they were also Catholic, and I was elated.  Even though I am not Catholic, I honestly thought this class would be filled with people who had little regard for solid truth about Jesus, and here was a group from one of the most doctrine-focused churches on the planet.  Surely this wasn’t going to be wish-washy!

The instructor introduced himself and told a bit of his journey to incorporate Christian faith into a non-Christian practice.  He used the Psalms as an illustration to show that we are supposed to use our bodies, not just our lips, to worship God.  Sharing with us that his mother was dying, he pointed out that as her range of motion decreases, he is ever more aware that our ability to move is part of what makes us alive.  Not to use that ability is akin to rejecting the life He gave us.

This made perfect sense to me.  I honor God when I run.  I honor Him when I bike.  I show Him gratitude when I hike, or swim or walk a mile.  Yoga is another extension of that.

As we went through the motions of exalting God through yoga, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that a Catholic Chinese man was teaching an Eastern practice to a group of Christians in the most atheistic city in the US.  I took this as further proof that only in the Kingdom do these gatherings have any chance of occurring.

About halfway through I hit a snag.  We were supposed to do 12 sets of a motion that reflected the Doxology (see?  Liturgy in yoga!) and while I loved the concept, I just couldn’t break through.

“How is this going for you, Abby?” the instructor asked me, in a thick Chinese accent.

“Um, I’m having a little perfectionist’s problem,” I replied.  “I know I’m supposed to be thinking about God but all I can think about is my posture.”

“Ah, yes, we all do that,” he replied reassuringly.  “What you need to remember is that ‘Always, we begin again.'”  His twinkling eyes smiled at me behind circular, wire-frame glasses.

I stared back at him with a small smile.  Of course.  The phrase meant as much to yoga as it does to anyone who knows God.  As far as I think I have moved toward Him, as close as I think I am to Him, every single day I have to begin again.  I have to choose Him again.  That is why it is so hard.  But the fact that He promises always to choose us is what makes it so easy.

Normally at the end of every class the instructor bows, hands palms-together and says, “namaste” which is a term of respect and gratitude for having practiced together.  I have always withheld this word out of the fear of tip-toeing into non-Biblical territory.  I usually whisper “thank you” which is directed at both God and my teacher for instructing me.  On this Jesus Yoga night, however, I was lead to recite the Lord’s Prayer, complete with movement to represent each petition in the prayer:

Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Barely There

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want some decent people watching, look no further than the Seattle Symphony.

Last Sunday my in-loves took us to Benaroya Hall to celebrate my sister-in-love’s birthday.  Shortly after arriving, I was absent-mindedly sipping my champagne while silently eyeballing every outfit in the room.  Outfit?  That’s too generous a term; some of these women were in capris and Tevas.

I saw two young women (the only other people under 30, we noticed) in super-short dresses, bare legs and high heels.  I immediately recoiled at the display of flesh.  It’s 2PM, I thought; where are their nylons?

I was in a gray sweater dress with brown boots to the knee, and had worn nude nylons so I wouldn’t be flashing my thighs to the over-60 crowd on a Sunday afternoon.  I didn’t even think twice about it.  So as soon as I saw these women sans-pantyhose, I expressed my surprise.

The birthday girl quickly pointed out to me that not everybody wears pantyhose; in fact, she confirmed that she didn’t think she even owned any. 

This nonchalance provoked the obvious question:  are nylons necessary?  Is it just my East Coast upbringing that forces me into such propriety?

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t think of many times I had seen people my age in nylons.  The recent exception being last fall’s trend of dark black tights with any type of boot, bootie, or pump.  Aside from that, who wears them?  Am I being modest, or just 150 years old?

Before Rachel and I could discuss further, her husband interrupted us to tell us to stop saying “hose.”  “It sounds like you’re saying ho’s,” he said, looking around the room, “and you shouldn’t say ho’s at the symphony.”

Fair point — after all, the vast number of words for this sheer, leg-hugging fabric is mind-boggling.  Nylons/pantyhose/stockings/tights/leggings…and I’m sure they’re not interchangeable at all, but we toss them around like the underwear they are, regardless of accurate terminology.

As far back as I can remember, my mom insisted on tights for every occasion, for something as regular as church to formal family holidays.  They were always uncomfortable, always protested by me, and always required by her.  “Don’t you want to dress like a lady?” she’d ask.

Even when I was a teenager living on the West Coast, she would stare, horrified, as I left for the Homecoming dance in an above-the-knee dress without stockings.  But no one in Seattle ever wore nylons, so why would I? 

And yet here I am at 26-years-old pulling on my nylons to go to the symphony.  Apparently the stodgy East Coast formality stuck.

But midway through the show I got a run.  A huge run.  I leaned over to Rachel and informed her that my nylons were running so fast they could win a race.

Suddenly it occurred to me that getting a run takes all of the modesty and tastefulness I associate with nylons and rips them in two faster than the fabric itself.  Could anything look less classy? 

The run started at mid-thigh but by intermission was straight through my knee and headed for my ankle.  Mike looked at me like, seriously?  Don’t you carry a spare?

No.  No, I do not.  Instead I stood like a child preventing an accident:  one leg tucked behind the other out of desperation.

As soon as the performance concluded and we had been seated at The Brooklyn for happy hour, I dashed to the ladies room (the irony!) and dumped my nylons in the garbage. 

I am totally convinced that God had a hearty laugh at my expense as the woman who judged naked legs at Benaroya ended up sitting at a bar with bare thighs at The Brooklyn.

Update 7/26/11:  I rest my case.  Hosiery is back.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

A Closetoscopy

Seattle’s rainy Memorial Day weekend had its benefits.

I realize no one appreciated not being able to picnic, nor BBQ, nor lay in the sun to jump-start a summer tan.  I also realize some Seattleites have already closed this web page out of pure fury that I would tip my hat to a rainy holiday weekend in any way.

But the benefits of such a weekend are practical: I got so much done.

I ran tons of errands, had indoor drinks with girlfriends, read hundreds of pages of the book I’m reading, learned how to ride my bike in the rain, did household chores.  Plus I saw a movie (Sex and the City 2) without feeling guilty.  OK maybe I felt a little guilty that I was seeing SATC 2, but that’s an issue for another day.

But the best, most glorious task  that I completed this weekend:  I reorganized our storage unit.

Whew!  Back up!  I did not just blow your mind with something as insanely exciting as reorganization!  I’m just moments away from skydiving and lighting my hair on fire!  Somebody stop me!

If there is one hobby in my life that gives me goosebumps of pleasure, it is organization.  Look no further than here to further understand this compulsion.

And what better outlet for this organization fetish than a storage unit?  Ours is just down the hall from our condo, and is already heated, well-lit and painted a cheery yellow.  In fact Mike already bought sturdy five-level stand-alone shelves so that nothing is clustered on the floor.

But it still wasn’t good enough.  It still made me hyperventilate upon entry.  Allow me to show you why:

Do you see the cardboard boxes?  Do you see the chaos?  Do you have hives yet?

Maybe that’s just me.

Given the absence of BBQs and picnics, I had copious time to visit my favorite place on Earth:  The Container Store.

I am being completely honest when I say that if I were to win the lottery my first stop would not be Neiman Marcus, it would be this organizational mother-ship.  Of course I would be organizing our mansion in Madison Park, but we can discuss the details of my fantasy real estate another time.

I bought one large clear bin and two tall square bins, as well as two no-lid bins for things that are tall.  I also bought things for our bedroom closet, but posting a picture of our closet feels not unlike posting a picture of my delicates drawer.  Too personal.

Then I went to work.  This was 8:30PM Sunday night, and it took me three hours, so I’m not sure my neighbors were pleased.  But they never complained, so I never stopped.

I pulled almost everything out, sorted through it, and put it back in the new bins.  I also threw tons of things away.  In the end I eliminated six cardboard boxes.  YES.

Here is the result:

Paint and wallpaper supplies are gathered together and shelved on top due to their awkward shape.

Christmas items are stored together.

Bins are labeled.

My sister Sam asked me if I had a label-maker and I felt like someone asked me if I had a personal assistant.  Like, I didn’t know I could have one, but now that you’ve mentioned it I don’t think I can live without one.  And it was only after she mentioned this that I wanted to hide my homemade signs behind my back.

I can breathe again.  I can find things we need.  I don’t need the cello, but it’s important to Mike, so what can I do?

Maybe I could label it.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)