to cut my hair or not to cut my hair

Coinciding with the angst over what to wear to Kaitlan’s wedding is a healthy internal debate over whether to grow out or cut my hair. It is not an unfamiliar conversation. I’ve been on this cut my hair short, grow it long roller coaster since Snowmaggedon 2010.

In February 2010, after toying with the idea for a year and getting progressively shorter in the process, I finally took the plunge. The very day Mickey, owner/stylist of Michael Anthony Salon and my long-time hair stylist (not to mention longest DC relationship) finally indulged my pixie-request, the second of too-many-to-count snowstorms ravaged DC. While I left his salon loving my cut and felt totally chic out at a bar later that night, I woke up the next morning to two feet of snow on the ground, horrible bedhead, and no power. No power meant, aside from no heat, no ability to style my new hair. By day three of no electricity, I couldn’t walk by a mirror without crying. Once power was restored, it was too late; the storm had robbed me of those critical first few days of playing with the hairdryer and bonding with my new short do.

Once enough snow was cleared for me to make way back to his salon (sadly on the eve of yet another storm) Mickey came to the rescue. He reshaped the cut, which had the effect of providing me a redo of those first few days of practice. I was happy. But then, on my next regularly scheduled visit, he wouldn’t even trim it. I had scarred him with my reaction to the first cut more than I had scarred myself. In fact, it took an entire year for me to convince Mickey that I really did want short hair. I came to his salon armed with pictures of Selma Blair and Michelle Williams. He looked me in the eyes and made sure I was serious. Then we did it. And it was awesome.

With short hair I feel more stylish, even though most models have waist-length locks. With short hair, I feel more sassy, even though my bed head is a fright. With short hair, I feel more sexy, even though I’m constantly told (by women) that guys prefer long hair. But I think I disagree. I love my hair on the shorter side in spite of the drawbacks. And there are downsides. For example, there’s no pulling it back into a ponytail for the gym, the soccer field or post-pool lounging. You have to wash and blow dry it everyday, no exceptions. No loose and messy buns for those of us with short locks. I started to think a few months ago that perhaps, for summer, I should grow it a few inches.

Thus longer hair became my goal, but then I saw a recent picture of myself and I think I want it short again. I’m tempted by this gorgeous hair style (and the sunglasses they highlight). But then again, if I cut my hair short, I can’t dream of carrying off this perfect poolside hat by Helen Kaminski.  Of course, ever since contemplating a dramatic change, I’ve had a number of good hair days in a row. I’m conflicted. I’m also plagued by the age old question: which length is more 40s soccer-mom-ish?

As Mickey knows all too well, I fear soccer mom hair almost as much as I fear mom jeans.

Operation Chelsea: an order is placed

After much deliberation and internal questioning over my guest of a wedding style dilemma, I went with my gut and ordered the top contender: the dark teal (navy in my book) DVF Zarita Lace Dress. I had also intended to order the dress that was runner-up in my head all day, the red Alice + Olivia Esme Ruched Dress, but then some late night activity had me second guessing this as my sure second choice. By way of backup, the Nicole Miller Open Back Jersey Sheath Dress had been running a steady third place (safety school position) if neither of these options work, but now it has easily slipped to fourth place. (See, Alison, I can depart from my comfort zone.)

What dress has jumped ranks to grab my attention? The Black Halo Alexandra Sheath Dress, pinned by two contributors, Elizabeth, a childhood friend I haven’t seen in probably 20 years (but she gets my style nonetheless) and KC, my DC fashion crush for her gorgeous yet effortless chic.

How did I narrow down 79 pins (with a few repeats) to a handful of dresses?

First I eliminated silhouettes that I didn’t think would be totally flattering on me (though I appreciate the aesthetic of the pinners who thought they would work on my frame). And while a number of orange dresses were presented as options, the shade didn’t feel right for the occasion. (And remember, green is my new orange.) I considered for about 45 seconds a totally budget-busting option suggested by Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen, but the financial planning gods mercifully ensured it’s no longer available in my size. (Although their rivals, the fashion gods, did in the process lead me to my future second wedding dress, if I ever go down that road again.)

I thought for a long time about the Xscape Ruffle Collar Stretch Satin Sheath Dress but I was afraid the taffeta combined with the style was too bridesmaid-y. I’d have considered it if I could have also bought these ridiculously out of the question shoes to go with it. Of these Prada pumps the financial planning gods would most certainly not approve.

Operation Chelsea: interesting side note

Yes, I check out how many hits I get on my blog. I still get excited when the number tops 100. This figure might be abysmal to a quote-unquote real blogger but given that I write for fun, don’t have regular columns and routinely let myself be overtaken by writer’s block, busy schedules, and fatigue (in other words, I’m undisciplined) seeing the proof that I have any readers is affirming.

Sometimes, in addition to looking at the hard numbers, I also check out what search terms bring people to my blog. I like to see it when “chelsea chronicles” appears; it’s good to know not all readers happen upon me by accident or through Facebook. Other popular search terms that direct people to my blog’s door are lillybee or  lillybee sizing, kate spade scout (I think I wrote about this purse a lot last summer) and even back brace styling.

As I sat down at the computer this morning to check out any additional dresses or comments that might have been posted to the guest of a wedding style dilemma board on Pinterest, I decided to check out my blog stats. Today’s stats page revealed that of my four readers thus far, three were directed to me by Facebook and one from a search engine. Imagine my surprise when, only one cup of coffee into the day, I scrolled down to see that the search term used was: milf gallery hot baby.

Do we think the googler of this phrase was disappointed in what he/she found? Of these four readers, three read Operation Chelsea: 24 Hours Later and one read Operation Chelsea. Was Mister milf gallery hot baby (yes, I am going to assume it was a dude) sorely disappointed to find a discussion of what to wear to a wedding? How many results pages deep did the guy have to go to find my blog? Out of curiosity, I ran the search myself and five pages in (which is much farther than I ever go in any Google search) my blog still hadn’t appeared. Was the mention of one dress being potentially too milf-y all it took to even register?

For those looking for a dress update, I didn’t place any orders yesterday. A combination of the flurry of late afternoon Pinterest activity, having two extra kids stay the night, and a complete and utter lack of decisiveness waylaid my intentions.

You (and Mr. MGHB) will just have to wait.

Operation Chelsea: 24 hours later

Alison did it. She got the guest of a wedding style dilemma dialog going. It’s amazing how I can feel so close to a community of women who for the most part don’t know each other and in some cases don’t know or barely know me. Regardless of whether they are strangers or dear friends, they understood my style needs immediately, suggesting dresses that I adore as well as making suggestions that push my style envelope a little. They were honest when they didn’t like something, and even Kaitlan (the Bride) weighed in.

Since I am on a deadline, I need to start narrowing choices, and today will be about doing that. My goal is to choose three dresses to ship (not keep) to me. From the comfort of my own room I will play twitter (and Facebook) fashion show. The rejects will be returned (even if I love them all) and a winner will be declared. While I know it would be more traditional to gather some locals with a good eye and have a shopping excursion, my schedule between now and the wedding looks something like this:

Today: kids

Sunday: kids

Monday-Wednesday: Boston (no shopping time)

Thursday: New York (no shopping time though wouldn’t it be great to take a later train back and carve some such time out?)

Friday: Kaitlan’s last day in the office (i.e. work)

Saturday until ten days from Saturday: kids

This 21st Century version of brick and mortar shopping will have to do.

I know you are dying to know the top contenders, so here they are:

1. The Nicole Miller Open Back Jersey Sheath Dress: This dress was pinned to my board in a couple of different colors, including this gorgeous red version. In the spirit of full disclosure, I own this dress in black and wore it to the first #BlackChampagne fake funeral event where I first met Alison and other valued pinners in this community fashion building experiment. It feels a tad anticlimactic since I have this dress and know it works, but it’s also a relief to have an option regardless of what happens with the other selections.

2. Navy lace: After getting the blessing of the bride that a navy lace dress is fine even though I happen to know her bridesmaids are wearing navy, this dress jumped to the top of the contender list.

3. Wildcards: I haven’t narrowed down a wildcard yet, but in a nutshell they range from pink and swingy to totally vavavoom (but hopefully not too MILF-y) to channeling the esteemed Jacqueline Kennedy’s classic style. And I still can’t get this one out of my head.

Contributors, you have until mid-afternoon, when I hope to place an order, to bring new options to my attention.

For the moment, I’m burned out on dresses. It’s time to start contemplating shoes.

Operation Chelsea

Remember a year ago when Kaitlan got engaged under the cherry blossoms? Remember when I said I was going to be entirely focused on helping her find a dress but that I had plenty of time to find my own?

Yeah, well, that wedding is in two weeks, and I have nothing to wear.

With nothing appropriate in my closet (I swear) to wear to a wedding such as Kaitlan is throwing, a few weeks ago I started my on-line search for the perfect dress. Rather quickly, I identified a particular DVF as being “the dress.” I already own shoes that would work perfect with it. Within days, it went on sale at Bloomingdales, but by the time I tried to order it in my size, it was sold out. But luckily, it went on sale on the DVF retail site and was available in my size. I nabbed it.

But it was wrong. So very wrong.

Yesterday, I issued a call for help to my favorite DC “I’m a smart and savvy mom who loves style too” blogger, DC Celine. I tweeted her. She tweeted back. We took the conversation to email. Our messages were flying back and forth so quickly (yes, we have jobs, but we are great multitaskers) that I suggested g-chat. She asked if I’d be game to take the project one step further. Of course. I’m always up for a challenge. She advised that I needed to create a public board on Pinterest. Check. I immediately set up a new board, The great “guest of a wedding” dress search, and if you want to be part of the conversation, I can ordain you contributor privileges. We (and by “we” I mean she) created a few #hashtags for those who want to follow the discussion on Twitter (#guestofawedding #styledilemma). There will be Facebooking for those who do not tweet or pin. But most special to me of all, DC Celine wrote this post: Style Dilemma: Guest of a Wedding. I’ve never been anyone’s social media project before (at least not that I’ve been told).

She promised readers I’d post pictures (twitter fashion show anyone?) and I can’t let her public down. But I need to get on it. I need help. I need suggestions. I need a dress.

Help me rock Kaitlan’s wedding.

Then Kassie and the angels at SimplySoles can help me find the shoes.

a girl’s gotta run

It has been 15 months since I laced up my sneakers and hit the road for a run. 15 long months of being crazy because I don’t have an effective replacement outlet for my emotions. 15 long months of feeling bigger than my skinny jeans like me to be because running is the only cardio workout that makes me feel close to svelte. 15 long months of envy, agony and depression when I see other runners getting to do what I so miss.

Being in San Francisco drives my desire to run more than any other place. I love the fog. I love the temperature. Running along the Embarcadero, exactly four miles from my hotel to Fisherman’s Wharf and back, there’s an eerie morning silence juxtaposed by the companionship of other committed runners.

As I sit here and glare at the cross-training shoes I brought so I could use what passes for a fitness center at the hotel, I know that if I had my running shoes this morning, I’d risk increased back pain for the joy of running. I’d kill to feel the dampness of the fog on my face and to experience the exhilaration of pushing myself to a faster pace. Because of my training sessions at Fitness Together, I’m much stronger now than I was 15 months ago, and I want to test that out too. Would I run faster? Could I run longer? Would I be able to attack hills with greater ease?

Oddly, I don’t even remember the Last Run. I doubt I knew at the time that it would be the last one. I’m sure I got up one morning before taking the back procedure journey and headed out the door for my morning run assuming I’d do the same the next day. Then the next day, I most likely couldn’t get out of bed.

I feel like I deserve a Last Run do over. I deserve a chance to bid running adieu. The hardest thing about not being in pain like I used to is accepting that I can’t pick back up and train for the Boston Marathon. I can’t even do the Capitol Hill Classic, a 10k which in the past I found “not long enough” but would do “for fun.”

If you are the worrying type, stop. I’m not going to do it. I know my doctor would kill me if I went back to him and had to explain what I’d done. I know my cross-trainers would not give me the support I need to make the run pleasant. And I know that I’m so very lucky to have been relatively pain-free recently and that I’m lucky I get to wear heels.

A quick run down the hallway in said heels is going to have to suffice for now.

chasing the sunset

I don’t know if it’s always like this when you fly west in the evening, but from my usual window seat I witnessed a two-hour sunset. How I wanted the plane to catch up to these brilliant shades of orange, blue, purple, moss and brown, all fading into the blackness of night. My mental race toward this sunset became my survival tool for the first few hours the flight, which my travel companion jinxed at take-off.

See, there’s this little known fact about me is that I have a totally irrational fear of flying. Irrational, that is, for someone who flies as frequently as I do. Take-offs are rough and I usually cry. Mid-flight turbulence sends me into fits of anxiety. Every single time I fly, I’m convinced my plane is going to make the evening news. Since I have no control over what happens on these flights, I instead have rituals. I must buy a magazine. I must drink a tomato juice. I try my hardest to not sit in a row that has the number 4 in it. (I usually book a seat in a row number that corresponds to a special day or month in my life.) These rituals make flying moderately bearable. One of my best defense mechanisms is to fall asleep before the flight even takes off. But rarely do I sleep the entire flight, and most often, I’m jolted awake from my safety net somewhere over Oklahoma.

Until last night, there was really only one person in my life who knows the true extent of my flying neuroses and it wasn’t Amy, as evidenced by this conversation:

Me (getting teary): I hate take-offs.

Amy (scowling): Why?

Me: I’m scared to fly.

Amy: Oh, come on! God won’t let this plane crash with you on it.

We were doomed for sure. I had no wood to knock on, no available course of action but to squeeze my fists tight, close my eyes and hope for the best.

Once I dared open my eyes, the sunset served as a distraction for me. I made outfits out of the color combinations. I pictured prints infused with these hues. I imagined what it would be like to see this sunset with feet actually touching soil. I wondered how long it would last. Eventually, it lulled me to sleep until the plane started to make its initial descent.

A very turbulent landing left even the cavalier Amy a little white-knuckled.

Once safely on the runway, I realized I never drank my tomato juice. I never read my magazine. Which means only one thing: I will need two of each on the return flight.

green is my new orange decided that tangerine tango is the color of 2012. I have one response to that: I found it first.

Who sported a neon orange cross-body bag all last summer? That would be me.

Who owns two orange (okay, I’m going to call tangerine tango by its given name) silk blouses, an orange cashmere sweater, orange (coral) espadrilles, orange suede wedges (a new addition, granted), an orange DVF from a few years ago, two orange scarves, and various orange t-shirts?

You know it.

While there is some personal satisfaction in knowing you are ahead of trend, it’s also annoying when the one color you are most drawn to is apparent everywhere. I will still buy it because it is my color. For example, I just have to have the orange version of my favorite dress, known affectionately as the zipper dress, but if it’s navy sister is any indication, it’s a classic piece that will outlive fashion whimsy. Otherwise, when available, from now on, green in my new orange.

Still fresh in shades for spring (this is not your St. Patrick’s Day kelly or the early 90s forest) and honestly something that will pair well with my existing sweaters and shoes, green is still eye-catching. And it’s so versatile, working with many of its friends on the color spectrum.

But if Pantone’s 2013 color of the year is cilantro or grassy knoll or tulip leaf, I’m going to be green with pissed-off-ness.

And will promptly move on to purple.

the Easter dress gap

I believe I was nine years old the last time I had a real Easter dress. I can see the picture taken that morning of me and my brother Nathan. My hair was more than halfway down my back in those days (well, in all days until I graduated from college) and in this particular picture, it’s curled in ringlets that probably lasted all of 15 minutes since my super straight hair does not take curl.

It’s been more than 30 years and I haven’t had what I would call an Easter dress since, primarily because it isn’t like I actually go anywhere on Easter that requires dressing up. But for some reason, I always wake up on Easter morning and wonder, with a little more angst than I do on a typical Sunday, “what am I going to wear today?” As I had this conversation with my sleepy self a few minutes ago, it occurred to me that the real problem is that I don’t have what others would call brunch attire.

My brunch outfits, depending on who I’m meeting and where we’re going, usually revolve around my regular weekend staple: jeans. If it’s a casual brunch, I throw on a t-shirt. I might add a blazer, a chunky necklace, a scarf or all three. If I want to dress it up a little, I swap the tee for a blouse.  And I’m comfortable with this look – it reflects who I am. I wear a skirt or a dress every day of the work week, so weekends are for jeans. In fact, the dresses in my closet are primarily for work or evening and would look out of place on a Saturday or Sunday. Or rather, I should say, I would feel out of place in them since they are part of my work uniform.

I can already read the comment, “wear a sundress and a cardigan to brunch” but I’m definitely not the sundress type. Trust me, when you get to be my age, floral dresses move quickly from flirty to frumpy, so it isn’t like I feel I am missing the grown-up version of this long ago dress from my youth. At the same time, when it comes to brunch, the other end of the scale (think grandmotherly tweed suit and pearls) is not right either, though if I had a Chanel suit, I’d wear the blazer (with jeans) at every opportunity.

So again I am stuck at: what to wear today?

We’re going to Nancy’s for brunch this morning where our collective four boys will run around in shorts and t-shirts, collecting dirt, rocks, sticks and sweat. Her daughter Tess will undoubtedly have two or three dresses she rotates in and out of as the day progresses, her face stickier with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans with each wardrobe change.

The jury it out on what I will be wearing, except when it comes to my feet.

I might not have an Easter dress, but I do have Easter shoes.

stop pinning and start writing

I never thought it would happen, but in the last 48 hours I have turned into a Pinterest monster. Finally.

Admittedly, I have come late to every social media craze. I resisted Facebook initially, but then I realized I could write really amusing updates. A blog? I barely ever read any before I started my own last year. I figured out Polyvore so that my blog readers would have something visual to connect to some of my posts, but I was going to draw the line at Twitter. Then one bored day, I bit the bullet. The Twittersphere is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but the friends I have made from this universe compel me to stick with it (plus it has great cyber-stalking capabilities).

I don’t remember when I was first invited to join Pinterest, but I do remember it was my friend Janna who said “you will love this.” However, like all interweb-related crazes, I took one look and was scared. Too complicated. Too time consuming. And what’s the point?

Then on Thursday night, as I was making my internet window shopping rounds searching for a dress for Kaitlan’s wedding, I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have a clearinghouse where I could keep track of all the looks and clothes and shoes I desire. Three hours later, I had finally given the scores of Pinterest followers I already had amassed something to actually look at. Friends were re-pinning my pins, liking my pins, commenting on my pins… all fuel for my Pinter-ego.

Friday morning, instead of making pancakes for my kids or heading straight out the door for the strep culture that would register positive when I finally went to the minute clinic later in the day, I pinned more. I organized my pins. I put thought into what categories I would like to pin. Pinterest is going to be the home of a humongous Chelsea wish list with economy-improving capabilities. After all, it’s fantasy. I don’t know how often I will pin recipes, inspirational quotes or arts and crafts, but if you want to know what dresses I covet or what lipstick I like to wear, look no further.

After 24 hours of being a Pinterest-aholic, I lamented to a real blogger, DC Celine (one of the dear friends I thank Twitter for) that Pinterest was going to be the death of my neglected blog. She had the brilliant idea of writing about Pinterest to break the writer’s block that has plagued me. She encouraged me to read her post on pinning and crib her idea.

I am proud to say that my writing took a different direction, but I’m happy for her inspiration. If I could pin her as a friend, I would.

But then that would be Facebook.