OH MY! I DID IT!: The Commencement Speech

January 1, 2012 (A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!)

Items Purchased: 1, Temptation Radar: 0 (What’s temptation anyway?)

“You must begin to see that in every acorn there is an oak tree.”  This, a simple but profound truth,  has changed my heart and restructured my life’s course.  I heard it during a time when I was busy admiring statuesque dreams….and firmly planted tree-like people who seemed to me successful in discovering a better way of living.  I guess you could say I began hanging from the branches of their journey, basking in the shade of their knowledge, and of course trying my best to keep the pace of what “successful families & people do”. In general, I think folks go along in life believing in a list of things they should do, should achieve, and should  aspire toward.  The List is based often times on a variety of content: spiritual/religious heritage, inspiration of others, mistakes of the pasts, wounds, failures, successes and even social pressures. Sometimes, in our attempts to arrive at the grown-up, well-defined and successful version of ourselves, we spend more time basking in distractions and acquiring milestones, than asking the important questions which yield the answers we really need; the answers that hold the key to who we really are and where we are destined to travel. I realized that I was admiring endless avenues of oaks, yet ignored my own seed, its components and even the barriers hindering its growth.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, these concepts are not alien to you. Pressed tightly in a sandwich of self-revelation, humor and questions, you’ll remember that these are the type discoveries that have peeked through the words of my posts. In late 2010, I was astounded to realize that I’d become a caricature of sorts, with regard to fashion and shopping. It was funny and cute to be the girl who always had an eye for what was “in”, who shopped as a means of personal nutrition, and to laugh off credit card debt, impulse shopping, and piling on stuff. “That’s just Aimee”, they’d say. But somewhere, lodged deep inside, was a dissatisfaction with this crazy facade I’d created based solely on a series of humorous, yet rather sad behaviors. Deep down, a longing to know “How did I get here? “began to surface Certainly, there is more to life than clothes and cuteness?  Right? Have I allowed this love of fashion and shopping to take over? A 10 year anniversary trip to Paris sent me searching. It was unexpected.  I looked back at the course of my life and realized that I’d placed life-threatening emphasis on shopping and acquiring stuff.

I told my husband the last week of 2010 that I was going on a 1 year shopping sabaticle. I would not purchase clothes for 1 year. He rolled his eyes. He does this a lot where my ideas are concerned. Excited and fully believing, I shared the news with my mother who said “Don’t you think you could select a more realistic New Year’s Resolution?” Ugh. It is not really a RESOLUTION. I had the whole Jerry Mcguire,  “It’s a Mission Statement” sort of feeling about it. I could sense that she’d stamped failure on me before I’d even sealed the envelope.  I shared with others who had similar responses, and even more simple ones like, “Why???? Why in the world would you want to do that?” At the time, it was difficult to articulate the “whys” because they were unclear to me. It seemed like very few others could relate. But, I ventured out one day at a time.

I remembered monumental gifts or purchases I received as I child and assessed the emotional value of those. Out of these memories, posts  like “Take A Walk in My Keds” were born, and it became a reader favorite. I also felt the frustration very early on; the yearning of my flesh to cave in. But, instead of crumbling, I invited the opportunity to analyze shopping triggers. From this discovery, posts such as “Gain De Pain” and “The Retail Preservationist” sprang forth.  I’d unearthed a treasure.  I was learning about  myself and how to become a better me: all seemingly contingent on the depth of surrender on this one vice. Temptation creeped again when I was enamoured, unsuspectingly,  by a Kay Unger Fashion Show last spring. I stood in my kitchen with big crocodile tears telling the story of  “Buying bulimia, Fashion Shows, Flattery & Meltdowns” to my husband before penning it to you.  I’ve shared the pain of buyer’s remorse and the glee of the perfect purchase.  It’s been fun to observe glimpses of me in my children; my favorite reflection of this in posts like “Much Ado About Shoes” and“Livirella.”

By the time the summer came, I’d spent a few gift cards, yet felt the tantalizing pull of the mall waning. I trashed catalogs, went out browsing less often, stopped internet stalking, and added more weight to my fast. I decided in late July to also forgo purchases of shoes, and accessories. Some people thought, she’s NEVER going to make it now.  So did I, quite frankly.  I remember feeling assured that people were as bored with my shopfast and my rambling as I was, and decided to try to do things differently: Maybe the blog could be about my style, or good deals, or finding treasures? Maybe I could simply give fashion advice while not shopping, or better yet, just indulge in link love and promoting other bloggers? Yes. That would be WAY more fun. But, I couldn’t get away with that. This blog was never about being published or adored by a community of bloggers.  It was never about how many followers, likes, comments (although always welcome) or linking to twitter/blogger/linked in… whatever.  It was never about fashion or style, because seeing past those things was clearly part of the personal metamorphosis.

This blog became, quite evolutionarily, about overcoming.

By the end of the year, I’d become quite accustomed to enjoying the things I have, paying off a couple of credit cards (although I still have 1). I said to my husband last night, “I believe the reason I couldn’t pay off that last card was because then this journey could easily have been mistaken for a debt reduction program.” You see, I still have a little debt and I still have  a little love for a sale, but I’m not ruled by either. That’s the real victory. I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do, which was overcome a shopping addiction, and enjoy more of life’s offerings. I’ve read more, studied more, tried new things (even organic diet and Pilates) and widened the plane of perspective. I still find it amazing, that this unpublished project has captured 35,000 hits since January 1 2011. So, I thank you, the readers, for loving me during this very powerful time. I trust you laughed a lot. I hope you can look into the seed-like nature of what either propels you or slows your own personal growth, and face it….unafraid.

So, what now? Who knows. I went out for a little bit with my sister yesterday who was eager to test the validity of my transformation. What she really wanted was to see me BLOW IT OUT! BUY SOMETHING BIG!

“BUY SOMETHING!”, she exclaimed.

Nothing seemed good enough. Nothing was, in this case, really WORTH it. I remembered the $20 bucks of Kohl’s cash tucked securely in my wallet. It expires tomorrow. So,  in the spirit of breaking fast, I bought a knock-off version of the pleated chiffon skirt I admired at Nordstrom a few months back. It was nearly the same color, shorter in length and discounted by 70%. I paid $15..in Kohl’s bucks. The irony. Kristin, being way too smart to let me get away with that, chimes “You didn’t even break your fast.” Thanks, sister.

The Eve Of The End…

Day 365: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar:0

December 31, 2011 10:27pm

Tis the eve of the end. Or, perhaps the beginning?  Isn’t this always the way we look on, with anticipation, the dawning of a new year. The last 2 hours of my 2011 Shopfast is upon me, and I can scarcely collect and deliver the thoughts I want to share. I’m overwhelmed.

I don’t believe in omens, bad luck, or luck at all for that matter. Yet something restrains me from writing about “the end” before its time. Therefore, I will save my final thoughts for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will be free of the Shopfast committment, but feel assured that many of my new habits along with thoughts on life, love and priorities will remain. Although I will be permitted to purchase once again, I won’t be held prisoner of an addiction. I’m confident in this proclamation. I’ve outgrown the closet of insecurity where I once hid, clothed in wounds of inadequacy, and into an expanse of truth and insight that reminds me dressing in a wardrobe of love and freedom is the most comfortable outfitting. Tomorrow, we shall reminisce and celebrate that.

Happy New Year.

Almost there….

Day 363: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar: 0 

Thursday, December 29

Well, I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. But two weeks home on vacation from work with your family, a crazed Christmas holiday and minor health ailment will do that to you. Expecting to be fully operational soon. What an amazing year it has been!   A year ago today, I was mentally gearing up for what I imagined would be the greatest challenge (and perhaps the most pain-staking decision of my life): to give up shopping for one year. Actually, the last clothing purchase I made, with my own money and not a gift card, was this:

A Greyline blouse, purchased from Hattie’s Branches on December 22, 2010. I wore it on  Christmas Eve.  I remember the the looming sense of anguish sensed, as I paid salesperson The anxiety was mulit-layered. First, the realization that I was purchasing yet again on a whim, a quite expensive top, 3 days before Christmas, with no regard for my current financial situation settled in. Second, it was abundantly clear to me at this point that I had a bit of an compulsive shopping struggle. Third, I finalized the decision in my heart, painful as it was, to do something about it. This, the very last purchase for clothing out of my bank account in over a year was, and still is, a very significant and memorable one.

I walked from the store, clutching the bag as tightly as possible, knowing that this one would need to last awhile.

Fashionable Beyond Their Years: The Young Ones Teach Us A Lesson

Day 362: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar 0

December 28, 2011

A couple of days ago, we had the opportunity to celebrate my sister-in-law Stephanie! Interestingly enough, her birthday falls on Christmas day, so we are all extremely deliberate about stepping outside the guise of Christmas to honor her special day.  To sum it up, Stephanie enjoys the lavish romanticism of all things traditional, feminine, and lovely.  She appreciates beauty in every element from the individual artistry of an oil painting, to shining sterling and fine porcelain. She loves sparkly crystal and over-the-top fancy; Lilly Pulitzer, her style icon. To know Stephanie, is to know this very well.  So, it would be no surprise to her family that they’d receive an invitation to the 2nd annual Garden Birthday Soiree for the belle of the ball.  We were notified of the dress code, ladies: pretty dresses, gents: bow ties.

For me, the evening was delightful. I, in true shop-starved form, had nothing quite lovely enough to fit the party (historically, I would have bought something), so I just wore an old favorite of mine…a hype dress from Hattie’s. During the evening I realized that I was being style-influenced by two extremely beautiful and young ladies: 17 and 19 years of age.  I have to say, in a culture where our youth decides that less on their body is more, that grunge and hipster is dressed up enough for a church service, or dinner out, I’m comforted and inspired by the sweet feminine simplicity of this….

Caroline and Aarik are, in my opinion, the epitome of class and demure femininity. They are fashionable beyond their years. I’m proud of these girls, not just for their keen fashion sense, but also for what they represent on the inside.

And, of course when I see something photo worthy, I have to get myself in on the opportunity. lol

Aarika and I pictured with the Birthday Girl.

Check out the cutest dancers at the party….

It Would Be My Joy…..

Day 361: Items Purchased: 0, Temptation Radar:0

December 27, 2011

It just occurred to me that it may be a good idea to begin some preliminary retail scavenging.  After all, at some point I will be able to buy some things if I so desire and as of late, I’ve no idea what I would choose.  I’ve not kept up with the latest trends, nor do I have a good handle on what I need (save some bare necessities.)  So, I went to Marshall’s to have a peek. Feeling uninspired, I left with some fashionable dish gloves for my mom: lime green trimmed in leopard print plastic.. You know, the rubber kind for goofing around with chemicals and dishwashing detergent.  Exciting, I know.

I’m actually feeling an underlying sense of pressure with the commencement of Shopfast looming.  I did not anticipate it at all. I truly thought I’d be chomping at the bit to buy something….anything….and quickly. Yet my anxiety has shifted from “not buying” to “making the first purchase. A number of the blog readers have messaged me about “What will you buy?” Or, they say, “I can hardly wait to see what you will purchase.”

Truth is, I doubt, actually, that there will be a significant “first purchase.” I fear there will be disappointment in the fact that there is not necessarily a grand finale to this year of crazed restraint. My husband and I had discussed taking a trip to Milan, as a reward for finishing the year strong. With the way our year has progressed, and the added family responsibilities, I don’t see that as a possibility in 2012. Yet, I don’t even feel discouraged about it. Weird.

As I race through the last 4 days of this Shopfast, and ponder the past year of tremendous personal growth, I would like to invite your feedback.  If you’ve been reading about my adventure and it’s touched you in some way, please share it with me.  I invite your comments. If you have a suggestion of what you think I should buy or a guess about what I may gravitate towards, go ahead and post it here.  If you had a favorite story, I’d love to know it. It would be my joy, and mean so much to hear from you.

Thank you for journeying with me….

Ho! Ho! Ho! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Day 358: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar:0 0

 

Christmas Blessings to you all!  What a wonderful celebration of my Savior, family and love!  I could get all wrapped up in oozing sweet sentiments about my very favorite holiday. But, I’ll spare you and get right to the point.  Although, I’ve started MANY new Christmas traditions with my family (i.e. a mischievous elf, a santa key, cookies for Santa, etc…), my favorite tradition is the SANTA PILE.  The Santa Pile has a long-running, multi-generational place in our family’s history.  It is an extremely important element of the “gifting” process in our home.  Each Christmas, Santa leaves a personal pile of presents, some wrapped and some exposed for EVERY member of the family.  Of course, he always has a huge hole in his bag so candy and fruit are left scattered in a trail from the front door to the back door. We can identify his path pretty easily.  It was remarkable when the kids awoke to his surprise. Magical, really.  I had my parents, grandmother, siblings and their families over for breakfast and gifts.  Later, we went to my mother’s for lunch and then met up with Steve’s family at Disney World.  Talk about a power packed day!  Who has time to think about shopping with all this craziness!  I trust you and your family had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the people you value and experiencing the special time of year we all look forward to year after year.

Now Presenting……

THE PILE!

The kids were pretty pumped about their bikes!!!!

Livie always striking a pose. Mommy needs coffee. Fast.

Olivia busting into her stocking, “STICKERS!!!”

Owen says, “Hooray for CANDY!!!!!”

The Santa Pile!  My peeps must have been really good.

Olivia loves princesses! She received Belle and the Beast from Santa. She and I also received matching aprons! Hers is pictured here.

Grandma Sara being rescued by Captain America!

My niece Annabelle’s first Christmas!!!!

Christmas Eve

December 24, 2011

Day:  300-something. Items Purchased: 0 Temptation Radar: )

I’d like to give a shout out to Jesus. Who could do anything greater than die for us so that we may live? No one.  I love Christmas and everything it represents: new life, mystery, surprises, hope, graciousness, blessing, generosity, family, and togetherness. This evening, after attending our candlelight service at church, we ate CDB’s (my brother-in-law Steve drove all the way to Tampa to get it for us) and opened gifts with the Reed/Madden side of the family! Fantastic!  You can see here, these cousins are fit-to-be-tied!

Merry Christmas Eve!

The children (at least the little ones) anxiously awaiting the gift reveal!

Olivia was Amelia’s “Secret Santa” and gave her an awesome new stroller for her baby!

Olivia was Thomas’s “Secret Santa” and she is mighty proud of the Halo blocks she chose for him!  Thomas looks pretty stoked too!

George was Owen’s “Secret Santa” and hooked him up with some pretty sweet Wii games.

The children are mesmerized by Aunt Stephanie, who is telling them how to prepare for Santa’s arrival by offering Reindeer food. they actually sprinkled the food out on the lawn. So cute!

LMSIS: Last Minute Shop Impulse Syndrome.

Friday December 23, 2011

Day 356: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar: 0 (too stressed for temptation)

What a crazed week of shopping it’s been! Of course, the most unenjoyable kind: for last-minute Christmas gifts. On Thursday, I still had 60% of my gift list unaccounted for. I also lacked inspiration for some VIPers (i.e. MY HUSBAND & MY MOM) and still suffered tremendously from impaired shop mojo.

After endless wandering, hem-hawing, tearing up (christmas time female issues–the worst. ugh), and a few mild retaliative incidences against insane road rage-ers, I FINALLY scored a gift for Steve.  Obviously, I’m unable to share with you here. You should know that I was so giddy at the counter, the sales person just stared at me as if I was the most bizarre customer of the day. The gift, clearly lacking luster equivalent to my glee, caused the clerk to look at the present while looking back at me and scratch his head quite bewildered.  Nonetheless, I skipped out singing, to the tune of  Deck the Halls, “I-found-Steve-the-perfect-gift…Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!” 

Next, I went to Target and it was a PAR-TAY! Normally prey to an insidious case of  LMSIS: “Last Minute Shop Impulse Syndrome”, I was able to conquer the twitch by focusing on the weeks ahead. I reminded myself AGAIN that each member of the family  has plenty to open. I took further precaution by asking Steve to stuff his own stocking. Is that a problem? Nevertheless, I rolled out of Target with 2 stocking stuffers for the kids, mistletoe and an extra roll of wrapping paper.

After at least 3 hours of wrapping, some cleaning, hiding an elf , and watching Steve’s toy assembly (another blog post entirely), I was out cold on the couch…mouth wide open with, perhaps, a snore. But,  I’ll never tell.

It’s almost here! Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

A Warm Gathering Of Friends

December 21, 2011

Day 354: Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar:0

I never want to take for granted the gift of friendship.  Over the years, my husband and I have been richly blessed by remarkable couples who have spoken into our lives volumes of love, wisdom and encouragement. They have, in many ways, been the folks who inspire and enrich us, sharpen us and make us smile. They are kind, gracious, trustworthy, uplifting and most of all…just allow us to be who we are. This kind of comfort, transparency and authenticity in friendship is difficult to find. I must say, we are abundantly blessed.

Each year, at this time, I host a Christmas gathering…a celebration of these treasured relationships. I love the sound of their voices and laughter filling my home. I enjoy hugging necks and catching up. Last night, we were together again, celebrating the joy of the season and spirit of Christmas. I hope this holiday  you are able to honor the ones you love, in the way that suits you best. For me, it’s an evening at home blanketed in the warmth of friendship and yummy desserts.

 
My first guest (who only stayed a few minutes) was Annabelle, our niece.
The dessert spread which included homemade strawberry cheesecake, toffee chip cookies, almond cluster, red velvet whoopie pies, and chocolate peanut butter brownies. YUM!
This was the first year that all of my desserts were homemade!
This last photo was taken of me, by Steve, at the end of the party. Note to self: Never opt for photos after the soiree. I’m beat!

The 12 Days of Shopfast (Last Days, that is): The Clothes in Review

Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar 0

It is December 19th. The 353rd day of the year. For me, this means 353 days spent resisting any and all temptation to purchase clothing for myself with the exception of an occasional item purchased via gift card given to me.  Those occasions have been very few and far between. In fact, I can itemize for you:

1. Red Zara jeans ,blue & white striped Tee (Last year’s Christmas Gift Card)

3. White Current Elliot Jeans (Amex Christmas GC) : You can read about them here…http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/emergency-conference-call-seriously-huge-emergency

3. Black Party Dress (Nordstrom Notes/GC): Check it out here:  pfast.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/the-perfect-party-dress/

4. Coral Striped Dress (Nordstrom Notes/GC) http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/adieu-notes/

5. Dress & Blouse (Hattie’s Branches GC….http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/breaking-news-shopfast-girl-spotted-leaving-hatties-branches-with-bags-wait-i-can-explain/  )

Then there were the gifts…..

1. A Birthday Gift from Mom : Kohl’s Birthday Extravaganza (pictured here…http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/help-me-rhonda-help-help-me-rhonda/

2.. A Birthday Gift from Steve: J. Crew Skirt http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/zara-gift-card-spent-and-i-got-the-jeans-to-prove-it/

3.   A Birthday Gift from the Maddens: Pumpkin Esley Dress from Hattie’s (http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/my-hats-off-to-ya/

4.  An anonymous Gift: http://shopfast.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/well-surprise-surprise/

This is not a bad lineup, if I really think about it, all things considered.