Thursday, April 16, 2015

Born With Our Resting Bitch Face

This post is part Throwback Thursday, part Oh What Have I Done?

I got braces y'all. Invisible braces, meaning the clear kind you can pop on and off, irritate your tongue, wear for most of the day for at least a year braces. This is my reality for the next 14 months. Fingers crossed I get used to it. Pictures of the process to follow.

So, the Throwback Thursday photo is of simpler times, when my Resting Bitch Face game was strong and I had no worries about teeth or eye wrinkles if I smiled too hard. Just keep it coming with the applesauce.

Ah, simpler times.



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I Left My House For Life On A Boat | Secret Life

If you're lucky enough to escape onto a boat in the hot days of summer, you might fantasize about life on the water. Meet Varina, a woman who lives on a boat 24/7 with her family, winter or summer, and wouldn't have it any other way. Here's her Secret Life interview about the benefits and dangers:

varina, life on a boat, winter ocean
Meet Varina. Say hi guys, she's fun.

What Kind of Boat Do You Live On? An Atlantic 47, which is a 47’ trawler. It has one master cabin that was expanded by the previous owner by knocking out a wall to the guest cabin, where he installed additional closets (cedar lined to prevent mildew) and a washer/dryer. The forward cabin, with bunks, is our son’s room. Then we have the main salon (livingroom) and galley (kitchen). The updeck area is enclosed with soft windows (they zip open, versus glass enclosure), giving us a whole other level of living space that is essentially a giant mudroom in winter and a glorious indoor/outdoor patio in warm weather. It is furnished and has all of our son’s toy shelves. We each have our own head (bathroom), albeit small. There is one bathtub/shower that separates the his & her heads. The second shower stall in our son’s room has been converted to a pantry, as it is immediately off the galley. This has greatly increased our storage and ease of living! The entire boat has mirrors everywhere, giving it a much larger appearance.

varina, life on a boat, winter ocean, sailboat
Who Lives There With You? Our family of three; I steadfastly refuse to welcome a dog unless it is a retired working dog. Even then… heavy negotiations shall ensue! We have a sailboat next door that is often used as the “guest house.” Once it was suggested as the “dog house” for when my husband and I are at odds, but banishing someone to their favorite place in the world can hardly earn itself the name of  dog house.
Did you grow up in a house/apartment, and if so, when did the switch to living on water happen? My husband and I both grew up in houses. His was right on the water, where he built his first boat out of milk crates with his friend at the age of 10, and was out fishing in the family power boat before school (5am by himself!)  at the same age. Indeed, times were different then!
I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, which is known as “Canada’s Ocean Playground.” Located on the Atlantic coast, you’d be hard pressed to grow up not knowing how to swim. I did not grow up sailing but I did grow up with a love for the ocean. And, yes; the water IS cold. But only the adults notice.

varina, life on a boat, Halloween
I know you are married with a young son, did you live on the boat prior to his birth, or was this a new development? My husband and I decided to become liveaboards prior to our son’s arrival, but we bought our boat with the specific knowledge that it would one day be home to a future son or daughter. We signed the papers the week before Christmas, and four weeks later, I learned I was pregnant. We moved on board as I began my second trimester.
Do you and your husband work, and are visit-the-office kind of jobs? My husband works in a traditional office setting, with a bookshelf of sailing trophies decorating his wall. There’s no room at home for these and it gives him a sense of his true self while at the office. For the record, he does very well (I say, proudly J)
Currently, I am a SAHM, and will remain so until re-entering the workforce makes sense for our circumstances. Currently, it would cost more to work and pay for after-school childcare than it does to live in this “traditional” dynamic. I work on many projects and committees at my son’s school, among other personally fulfilling endeavors in lieu of employment. Acting is my passion, so most of my energy goes there. I keep busy and I work hard.
Do you miss anything about a brick and mortar home? No. We love the water. I used to dream of living in a big home with lots of kids and a dog or two. Dodged that bullet! I am not a homemaker. Another blessing of this lifestyle is that there is far less to keep clean and, frankly, I still struggle. If I had a large home, it would have to come with a large income to pay for cleaners, because I’m sure as hell not going to do it. I much prefer our comfortable space with all the basic creature comforts, but without the pressures and responsibilities of yard maintenance, driveway shoveling, upstairs and downstairs to clean or maintain, etc. Not my style.
Our son has occasionally voiced a desire for a yard, until last fall when we moved to land for two months while repairs were being done. It was a small cottage with its own little beach. He hardly used it, and after a few weeks, started asking when we could move back to the boat. He’s been content ever since. We also had a little trap door made for his bunk when he was still a toddler. We felt that if he was going to have the smallest bedroom of all his friends, it should at least be a cool one. And his friends do respond as we’d hoped. We work to ensure he’s happy and not missing out on the important experiences of his peers. So far, so good!
varina, life on a boat, ocean

What benefit does a houseboat have? First, it is not a houseboat! Everyone makes that mistake, but living on a boat is not the same as living on a houseboat. A houseboat is a (mostly) traditionally styled house that floats -- like a boat. Ours IS a boat. An actual boat with a diesel engine that is ocean-ready.
To answer the question: it keeps you mindful of what truly matters. There isn’t room for “stuff” (although we do live with a degree of clutter); it forces you to really consider the gifts you give on birthdays and holidays, because you’ve got to find a place for them; so experiences rise to the forefront-- something I’ve always wanted to focus on anyway. That said it’s still a mindful adjustment. Sometimes, gifts must have a practical element to them (as distasteful as that sounds, it can be accomplished and still be well-received).
Also, we happen to live in a marina with a boardwalk that passes through a small nature reserve, so we’re reminded daily of our connection to Nature. This is no small thing! It’s a bit of a hike in winter (and not my favorite experience in heavy rain but hardly a disaster), but what it does, is remind us to breathe and of how connected we all are with Nature. This is so important to me for my 5yo to experience is his developing years. I want him to miss it and seek it out when he’s older, if he has strayed too far from it. I also want him to defend and protect it; the further we, as a society, get away from experiencing Nature first-hand, the fewer defenders and protectors we have. 

varina, life on a boat, winter ocean, cold water
How does very cold or storm weather affect your living? We hunker down. We are well protected from the elements, and get bounced around a bit in high winds, but we don’t notice it like our guests do. We don’t get many guests in winter, by the way. Lol. But everyone wants to visit come summer. At all hours, I might add .We let them, of course. We have a whole winter season to make up for, so c’mon down!
In winter, we are shrink-wrapped, which is a translucent, thick plastic, wrapped around the boat to keep the foul weather off.  It also has the greenhouse effect during daylight hours. Our first winter, I had to buy a sundress because it was 85–95 degrees in here and I had unwittingly packed away all my summer clothes. We cut holes in the wrap so we could let some of the day-heat out. At night, the temperatures dip drastically, but we have heaters throughout, so we’re rather toasty.
One area of living we didn’t anticipate was how dangerous it can be to leave. There have been mornings when I’ve called our son’s school to let them know he wouldn’t be in until later due to high winds or a low tide. The ramp to the boardwalk is very steep at low tide, so if it’s too windy or slippery, we don’t risk the walk. Although we both wear life vests to and from the boat, you don’t have much time to survive in frigid waters if you fall in. So we don’t leave if we feel there’s a risk. The school is understanding and we err on the side of caution.
Question: Do you see yourself living on a boat into the far future? Absolutely. If you know how to work on boat engines and such, then it’s an amazing lifestyle. My husband has that knowledge. Otherwise, you could end up spending a LOT of money on problems/repairs, making it something of a money pit. I recommend renting a boat for this lifestyle if you don’t already know how to do your own repairs. But for us, yes; we absolutely plan to live on board for many years to come!
Question: You still have neighbors! What kind of characters live around you guys on your boats? Well, that’s a double-edged question to respond to. First, there’s a certain kind of person who chooses this lifestyle. We don’t fit into the typical mold, and we like that. It is definitely a community. And everyone comes together to help and take care of each other at the first sign of crisis. Hurricane Sandy was a big event, and everyone got packed up and off their boats, but most of the men stayed on-site. Our son, at the time, was 3, so I couldn’t stay (otherwise I wouldn’t have left the boathouse, either). We were in a mandatory evacuation area, but a handful of men stayed so they could adjust lines as the winds changed – not a small feat! They were exhausted by storm’s end, but no one lost a boat (we had all expected to).
On a more regular basis, people come together to help out when someone is out of town, or away for the day when water tanks are getting refilled; or if someone has an electrical/system problem, there’s always someone in the marina who knows how to fix it; and they will always help out. An unspoken code of camaraderie, I suppose, and a wonderful demonstration of community values for our son to witness as he grows up.
Question: Where do you get your mail / do your laundry? We have a PO Box for our mail, but online purchases are delivered to my husband’s office. Laundry we do on board. We have a full size washer and dryer, also a compact dishwasher. We use only biodegradable, green products for all aspects of cleaning, be it clothing, dishes, floors, decks, etc.

Question: Have you ever fallen over the side on accident, had a maritime mishap? No. May it ever remain so!
And there you have it, life on a boat can be as rewarding and similar to our homes. Big thanks to Varina, who you can all checkout on Twitter @Imstillafloat. She's a lot of fun, stop by and say hello.

Happy sails to you,


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Burlesque: Why We Need More of It

A few nights back I was lucky enough to watch a burlesque show. From my limited knowledge, burlesque meant Dita Von Teese, feathers, sequins and dancing. Turns out it really means female empowerment, beauty, fun and yes, all the other stuff.

I think we could all use a little more burlesque in our lives. Here's why:

Photoshop Has Fucked Us Up
I have come to terms with the fact I will never look like a Victoria Secret model. You know why? Because Victoria Secret models don't look like Victoria Secret models. Photoshop, airbrushing and makeup have conned us into thinking perfect people are the standard of beauty.

The burlesque show I saw had women of all sizes, in lingerie, being confident, beautiful and free. I appreciate that. It was refreshing to see women without picture-perfect bodies enjoying themselves without shame or concern. True, none of them were in bad shape, but there was less than perfect six-pack abs, smaller and bigger breasts, and ::Gasp:: cellulite. None of that mattered. They were all beautiful and talented. We could use more beautiful and talented women who are more aesthetically representative of the population.

burlesque, women, sex, sexy, feminism, plus size, big boobs, plus size woman sexy, curvy women

Before you shake your head and say that print ads can be enhanced, but not real, moving women, please let me mention that the TV show American Horror Story enhanced Jessica Lange's looks to make her appear decades younger for flashback scenes. So do music videos; Photoshop and its insidious reach is everywhere and it's changed what we think is real. I think we should get back to appreciating real people instead of fabricated standards of perfection. Pro-body image.

Sexual Humor Can be Smart Humor
The burlesque show had a Sci-Fi theme that I found entertaining, as I am a big Doctor Who fan. It also dabbled into political and historical humor, while wearing pasties in G-strings. Jokes were made about the Cold War, Prince Charles abdicating the throne and Abraham Lincoln. In my own ignorance, I was surprised to see smart, satirical humor at the show, as if I would only see loud music and dancing. But the acts were diverse. And because of the visual of nearly naked women acting so animated with costumes and props, I think some of the themes were better received. Sex is thrown in our faces so gratuitously in the media, I enjoy it more when paired with some intellectual stimulation.

Dita Von Teese, burlesque, women, beauty, sex, curvy woman, big boobs

Talent Without Feminist Disdain
Feminism, simply put, is the belief that women and men should have equal opportunity and rights. But feminism has many factions, some believing in complete openness and others rife with slut-shaming. I do not often engage with the slut-shamers because I am more concerned with women having equality and freedom of choice; how you feel about a woman who wears short skirts or whom chooses not to have children is your business. As long as she has the option to do either, I consider that a win.

Burlesque does not care if you love sluts or condemn them. It isn't promoting sex as much as you think, as performers remain on stage and have little audience physical interaction. It is a platform for women to sing, dance, enjoy performing primarily in glamorous, revealing clothing for the sake of feeling beautiful and free. It also allows you to enjoy such music and performance without participation. It doesn't look to corrupt or hurt you.

Burlesque serves a dual purpose of entertaining an audience and allowing its performers to sexy and confident while earning a living. It provides a way of life and financial gain for women who choose to dance and wear what they like. It also creates a community for those who enjoy the art form. I see it as a great lesson in feeling liberated and finding opportunity to support yourself while doing what you love. To me, that's feminism succeeding.

Less is More - And it's Sexy
Burlesque is mostly done in bra and panties. When it's not, it's often done in pasties and a G-string. During one act, one of the performers had black tape in the form of X's across her nipples and what appeared to be a taped on thong, barely hiding her genitalia. But after awhile, the risque mellows into the fact that these women have real talent, many of them being professionally-trained dancers and singers. The skimpy costumes somehow serve as a device to make you appreciate the woman as a beautiful, intimate person who is sharing her talent with me.

burlesque, women, sex, sexy, feminism, plus size, plus size woman sexy, curvy women

Sex and nudity do provide shock value, but to me burlesque feels different. I have been to strip clubs; the aim of being nearly naked in a burlesque show feels different here. Strip clubs want you to continually pay cash, because you want more and it's clear you are getting closer to a one-on-one intimate experience with a stripper who is happy to spend time with you, on your lap, for $20 a song. Or in one of the back rooms, where I have only heard stories about.

Burlesque is a sexy, provocative experience for an audience and dancers. There is a barrier, as money isn't exchanged per song, per piece of clothing or per touch. It's not the point for you to have physical contact with these women. You are supposed to be entertained by the entire experience, in your seat, with her onstage. If you feel aroused that's great, but it won't be heightened by a lap dance. That sexy feeling might linger with you for the rest of the night, positively affecting your evening.

Serious Attitudes Are Left At the Door
This is not exclusive to burlesque shows, but it is a lighthearted good time. In a world of consistent problems that need our empathy and attention, it's nice to spend an hour appreciating something else. The performers are performing acts in their underwear, with humor and provocative dancing. There is no room for soliloquies or death scenes. There is room for talent, beauty and fun. The dancers know this and you should know this before buying a ticket. Go enjoy yourself for a bit, you can save the world once the house lights come up.

burlesque, women, sex, sexy

The Female Form is Beautiful, And Maybe We Should See More To Stop Talking About It
This is my soapbox point, as I know there are strong opinions, but I feel like if we treated the human body with a little more openness and less taboo, women would be safer. And we could all be more calm.

burlesque, women, sex, sexy, feminism, plus size, plus size woman sexy, curvy women

America is a hyper-sexualized culture, but it's also very quick to condemn sexual behavior: That's confusing.

Without giving her anymore publicity, a certain celebrity with a name that rhymes with Riley Byrus, got a lot of criticism about skimpy costumes and lewd behavior at an MTV awards show with Robin Thicke. Whether you love her or hate her, I'm really sick of hearing about her. We hear about her, because she acts hyper sexualized to get attention, and we as a culture love it, but we love to talk shit about anyone portraying that behavior, too. Same goes for the porn industry, lingerie modelling and R-rated movies.

During the burlesque show, after awhile, the rush of seeing nearly naked women wore off. It was less taboo and my attention was more on the performance themselves. Imagine if we could do this as a country? If we stopped giving people a hard time because they wore short dresses or went topless at the beach. If sex shocked us less, we could choose to pay attention to it when we wanted, and stop it from dominating advertisement and the media. Sex sells because it's jarring -- but the "sex" that's selling often lacks substance.

If we cared less about people acting sexy, we stop it from controlling us in a matter that is meant to make us spend out money on things like music and movies. Or making us angry at people who really have done nothing personal against us, for the sake of diverting attention to trivial matters and ignore bigger issues like climate change and failing healthcare. OR using clothing and looks as somehow and excuse for the now scary term: rape culture. That, right there, is reason enough why we need to stop making sex and the human body so taboo.

--End of soap box portion of the show--


So, I think we could all use a little more burlesque in our lives. See you at the next show!

What do you think about burlesque culture?

Wish you well,


Copyright © 2015 Lady J
All rights reserved

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Again: Something to Get Us Through

It's Monday. Again. It also snowed in Chicago so that glimmering hope of spring has been put on hold.

To remind all of us that there's happiness in the world, I complied a few of my favorite things. I made this post mostly pictures, to make it easier to digest on this heinous Monday. Hang in there, lovely.

That Time I Got A Sting Ray To Give Me A High Five at Brookfield Zoo:

sting ray, zoo

The Fact That I Will Never Be Too Old To Miss Photo-Ops of Humping Animals:

zoo, humping animals

The Fact That I Have Questionable Taste in Movies--Jaws1-4 Are Among My Favorites--and This Slot Machine Took My Money But Entertained Me Oh So Much:

jaws, casino, plus size, ladyjwanderlust

That Time At Shakepeare in the Park When I Had Perfect Timing and Caught Will Staring At Us:

shakespeare in the park, chicago shakespeare theater, william shakespeare

That Someone Took The Time and Tenacity To Make This Awesome Sign. Burn, Bike Thief:

funny, bike thief

That I Live In A City That Has the Potential To Look Like This... Eventually:

chicago, boat cruise, sunset, chicago sunset

Happy week everyone. I hope you're all warm and in the sunshine. Preferably making important decisions without pants on (a personal favorite on the days I work from home). Maybe Mondays don't have to be so bad after all.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Was A Misguided Kindergartener

When I was in kindergarten, I thought being a waitress was the coolest job on the planet. It was the career I said I longed for at my kindergarten graduation, to the entire crowd.

I should really explain the context of that last statement.

At the age of 5 I never really honed in on what I needed to become.  I had wanted to be an actress like many other little girls: getting ready for close-ups and pretending to be other people, trying on fancy dresses and attending premieres. Or a ballerina like my ballet teacher (to this day I am still obsessed with ballerinas)--the problem was, I knew there were no chubby ballerinas, so I was going to have to give up pizza and ice cream. At age 5, this was a deal breaker. 

This is not a body that enjoys pizza or ice cream. Beautiful

So, I thought maybe I could become a princess because I had watched too many Disney movies. However, even at age 5, I noticed that the princesses didn't really do anything--they sang and folded laundry and inevitably became sick or injured by an evil force. This bitch wanted a career, not an escape plan.

No, I would have to find inspiration elsewhere. In the real world, I could see something I liked. Hmm... What did I see that I liked? Oh yes, a waitress.

Yep, waitresses again. Let it sink in.

Jean had a Golden Girls' Childhood: When I was little, I spent a lot of time at my grandma's house, who lived with her three sisters.

My Aunt Dorothy even looked like Bea Arthur, true story.

My elementary school was in Chicago, close to their home, so they could take me to and from school, via public transportation (none of them drove). This afforded me lots of people-watching time and adventures. This also made our commute less than direct and therefore taking up more time.... leading one of my aunts to always believe I must be hungry so we should eat something after picking me up from school. (Or they were hungry and blamed it on me, who knows.)

There were two restaurants (and a McDonalds) in between my school and home that we often visited. If you visit the same places over and over, people begin to know your name and face. Usually, these people are waitresses.

Hence, I often saw and talked to the same waitresses. They told me how pretty my big green eyes and strawberry blonde hair were (of course I loved these women). One even went to Walgreen's on her break and bought me chamomile lotion when during my linner (lunch-dinner) when we discovered I had indeed contracted chicken pox. Waitresses are humanitarians.

Many of the waitresses also told my aunt(s) and I stories of celebrities they had served, upcoming vacations they were planning to take and generally interesting chatter. Also, they always wore sparkly jewelry, bright colored makeup and teased hair. I thought they were the most glamorous people on the planet. I wanted to be one of them.

See how pretty!?
So, I side-stepped the logistics of what waitresses do (take orders and bring people their food) and decided it was the most glamorous job on the planet and I needed to make it my own. And I told this to everyone.

My parents, although they might have thought it cute, were concerned. I did not waiver.

Around this time, I was ready to graduate kindergarten. A segment of our graduation skit was that we needed to tell the audience what we wanted to be when we grew up. I knew what my answer was. I was sure of it. I did not feel the need to rehearse with the other misguided children. (Astronaut? Bitch, please. You eat glue during Arts & Crafts.)

At graduation, I was excited like everyone else. And I did tell the audience I wanted to be a waitress when I grew up. I don't remember if anyone laughed--as a child I had the confidence of a serial killer and couldn't have cared less. What I do remember is the boy next to me, whom I will call Jason (that's because Jason is his real name and the little brat doesn't deserve protecting) whispered, "A waitress? You're stupid."

PENIS-SHOWING BACK STORY: Jason was a jerk. He was also a pervert. He would show all the girls his penis during story time. He and his penis were usually not in close proximity to anyone, so the girls would scoot away from him on the story time carpet. HOWEVER, he once showed me his penis during Spelling and offered me candy if I touched it, while sitting at our desks, and since I could not easily scoot away from him I did the only reasonable thing: I punched him the face.

When the teacher told my Aunt Audrey I punched Jason she asked me why I did it. I told her (I had not told the teacher, embarrassed) and she said "Good. I hope you do it again."

BACK TO GRADUATION: Jason was being a jerk again. He was trying to crush my dreams. So I did the only reasonable thing: I punched him in the face. Again. At our kindergarten graduation.

This time, no one noticed or had grown sick of Jason. I didn't get in trouble as he held the side of his face and cried during our rendition of "Here Comes Mr. Sunshine."

Somehow his judgment bothered me. Were my glamorous, exciting, kind waitresses stupid? No! But, I decided I needed a big sample size before filling out a job application.

This is likely the kind of waitress you'll find in her 20's
As the years went on. I realized not all waitresses were so amazing as the ones from my youth. Many of my friends are or have been waitresses, but I grew to understand this wasn't my calling--maybe a side job.

Somehow this once-loved career became a phobia. As an adult, I am terrified to work in the food industry. I cook well, and like to have dinner parties, but don't want to do it for a living. Somehow becoming a waitress seems like a terribly difficult job, full of missteps and judgment from people who will most likely be rude to you. How odd and sad.

My 5-year-old career ambition has become more of a quirky story than a game plan. And now I'm trying to figure out the real thing.

Here are some other career paths I have considered:
  • After visiting the Renaissance Faire I decided I wanted to be Queen of the World (since my first name is Jean, Queen Jean had a nice ring to it). --My mother informed me the world had no absolute government system so perhaps I should aim to be President of the United States of America. No, if the world is not willing to call me 'Queen Jean' I am not willing to govern it.
  • After seeing Honeymoon in Vegas (Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicolas Cage and James Caan's masterpiece) I wanted to be a Las Vegas Show Girl. My father informed me I probably wouldn't be tall enough. I decided to put this aspiration on the back burner until seeing what height puberty afforded me. At about 5'8, I think I can pull it off if I take more dance lessons. 
  • After enrolling in DePaul University to finish my college degree, I was at a crossroads whether I should finish up in Journalism, or get what I heard was a better writing degree in the English department. Or, should I go crazy and head over to Commerce. Confused, I walked towards my first class in the English building. Once I opened the door I saw two students break dancing in the lobby and a man dressed as Waldo from Where's Waldo running up the stairs distributing flyers. Yes, I thought. I belong here. With my wackadoos. I am the proud recipient of a bachelor's degree in English with honors.
  • After seeing Mary Louise Parker on "Weeds".... well, you know where I'm going with that.
What did you want to be when you were little? Go on, it's therapeutic.

Reach for the Stars,