New Year! New Shoes!

I finally have one room back to its pre-holiday condition. The twinkling lights are dark once more, and the faux-fir has been smashed into its canvas carrier where it will rest peacefully for the next 10 months. I’ll eventually get around to unwinding the garland strung so elegantly on my banister and mantel, but for now I feel extremely productive having finally found a home for the presents Santa left under the tree.

In this post-holiday let-down period, I admit to getting a little distracted as I admired all the newness I rediscovered while putting away Christmas. I sorted out stacks of sweaters, games and toys and wondered which of these gifts from friends and family will still make me smile come December 31, 2015.

Maybe it will be the fancy Fitbit bracelet from the Hubs. Its golden finish complements my workday attire quite a bit more than the silicone band that came with my wearable fitness device. I’m sure it will be in heavy rotation in my jewelry wardrobe, but with fitness device accessories still in their infancy, I expect a new generation of workout bling to eventually attract my attention.

The Starbuck’s gift card from the Older One has some potential. It will definitely see some heavy use over the next few days as I return to the office and remember how easy it is to walk across the street for an afternoon java jolt. So easy, that I anticipate exceeding the balance on that card well before the end of the month.

The Young One and I have definitely enjoyed discovering the joys of Easy Bake Oven desserts, but I’m not sure how much enjoyment savoring a chocolate chip cookie the size of a quarter can bring in the dead of winter.

No sooner did I dismiss these gifts of providing total-year pleasure than my hand reached for a shoe–gold, shiny and pointed in all the right places. It was perfect–in a two-dimensional kind of way.

Shoes

This gift, a calendar full of shoes, came from my parents, and offers unending joy every time I turn the page–365 new shoes! What more could a woman who calls herself Stiletto Momma possibly want.

The introduction to the calendar alone makes my pulse race:

More than any other retail pleasure, shoe shopping leaves us breathless. It is akin to bringing new toys home from the store when you were a child: You play with them endlessly, trying them on with every outfit you have, then wearing them perhaps too much at the start. Few purchases induce such euphoria.

A little daily dose of euphoria might just be the treatment for surviving the ups and downs in store for me and my family in 2015. We have plenty of those in the works already, and we’re only on day four. This will definitely be an eventful year, and with any lucky, I’ll get through it with a smile on my face and, quite possibly, a new pair of shoes on my feet!

**Today’s post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge to celebrate what is new.

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Still a Birthday Girl

I still enjoy birthdays.

StillI don’t enjoy the getting older part of birthdays, but the anticipation and celebration of one day made special just for me is still pretty high on the list of things I enjoy. I like them even more when I can stretch the celebration out over a few days or even a week.

Tomorrow I’ll celebrate the official day with family and friends.  The Young One has had a special present picked out and wrapped up for three weeks now, and she has tried very hard to keep it a secret. However, she has asked if she can give it to me every day since the Hubs took her shopping, and sometimes she slips and hints at what is buried inside the gift bag under a mound of tissue paper.

But that’s tomorrow. We still have today to kickoff the festivities.

Today, we’ll start the celebration with an afternoon just for girls. I’ll read to the Young One’s class and then spend the rest of the afternoon with her at the mall. She has basketball tryouts tomorrow morning and insists she needs high-tops on her feet, so the coaches know she really does play basketball. She’s been using my iPad and Siri to Google these coveted shoes, and she grew frustrated with me yesterday when I dared to use my iPad to listen to music while I worked from home.

She stamped her foot, and shook her head at me. “But Momma,” she pouted, “shoes are more important than music!” She may yearn for high-tops like I never have, but she is still my daughter.  I have taught her well.

So, today we read, and then we shoe shop–two of my favorite things. Tomorrow I’ll finally get that present along with a few hugs and kisses, and I’ll remember why I still enjoy birthdays.

Five Minute Friday**Today’s post was brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “still”. Check out more great posts on the prompt at Kate Motaung’s site.

Advice to a Teenaged Me

The radio is normally my companion in the car. On the way home from work, I usually catch up on the day’s news with 45 minutes of CNN and Wolfe Blitzer in the Situation Room.

If I’m just driving from errand to errand on the weekends, I’ll switch to the iPod and jam to Katy Perry, Pink or Adele. I need a regular dose of girl power anthems.

This morning, like most mornings, I tuned into my favorite local radio station to catch the end of the morning show. It’s usual mindless babble quite frequently evokes a chuckle on the way to work and helps clear the fog that my first cup of coffee didn’t quite get.

Today, the DJ asked listeners to call in and tell the world…okay, maybe just the city and surrounding areas…what advice they would give if they could go back in time to their high school years and have a heart-to-heart with their teenaged selves.

I had just pulled into my parking spot when the first callers starting commenting, so unfortunately I missed most of the sage words of the now-wizened. I couldn’t get the question out of my head, though, and as I walked toward the building, I pondered what I would actually tell the quiet, freckle-faced, curly haired red-headed me.

Buy the Shoes!

I buy shoes of all kinds, even cute little shoe-themed note pads!

Within two steps, I knew without a doubt what I would tell her.

“BUY THE SHOES!”

Does that sound superficial? Yes, I suppose it does, but the fact remains that’s the best thing I could say to my young self–the girl trying to find herself, the one trying to discover who she is and where she fits in.

When I look back over the decades since I graduated from high school, I know exactly when I found my confidence. Odd as it may seem, it was in a hospital room shortly following my IBD diagnosis. This was well before the internet, satellite TV and an endless selection of iPad apps. I had nothing to do to occupy my time until my mom showed up with a stack of magazines.

On the top, in all its glossy glory, was the latest issue of Glamour. I flipped through the pages, turned back to the beginning and read it cover-to-cover again. I’m pretty sure I mailed in the subscription coupon on my way home after being discharged.

The pictures and articles inside made me happy at a time when I desperately needed something to evoke a smile. A life-changing diagnosis tends to make little things like that seem huge.

When I felt up to it, I went in search of some new shoes…a new sweater…a new skirt…and I was happy. Pretty soon I was walking taller in my new shoes, and happy was turning into confident. I spoke up more. I took more chances, and I started to define myself as a strong woman with a vision.

So, yes, if I could travel back in time to my high school years, I would stop that girl in the hall, take her by the shoulders, and tell her, “Buy the shoes.” It’s a version of what I’ve told my son as I’ve tried to counsel him through hard decisions, and I’ll tell my daughter the same thing when life inevitably gets in her way too.

“If it makes you happy,” I’d say, “buy the shoes…change your path…take a risk. Life is too short and will have too many rough patches to be stuck doing the things that meet someone else’s goals. Do the things that make you happy. Do the things that make you glow and smile and sparkle like the brilliant jewel you are. Do the things that make you YOU!”

Buy the shoes!

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2**Today’s post is the first in a series of assignments for WordPress Daily Post’s Blogging University June course, Writing 101:Building a Blogging Habit.

See Anything New?

Take a look around. See anything new…anything different…anything interesting?

I bet you saw it as soon as you clicked the link to this post because my brand new header image is right there at the top in all it’s fabulous footwear glory!

You probably see some other new things too–like a whole new theme and a new sub-title. If you click around, you’ll see some other new things too. Like the “Meet Stiletto Momma” section to the right on the home page and the brand new “About” page at the top.

The newness I like best is that header image. I took the picture myself. I spent all afternoon selecting the right shoes, the right location, the right focus. But this picture almost wasn’t because somebody stole a little pink sneaker!

I started my photo session outside on the front porch in an attempt to get the best light.

Stiletto Momma

The scene of the first photo shoot. See the two little pink shoes in the background?

My second location was a room inside just off the foyer–a mere four steps from that front porch. I gathered up as many shoes as I could and began staging them inside. On my second trip back, I noticed something missing.

A missing shoe!

A missing shoe!

In the 20 seconds it took me to walk back to the porch for the second load of shoes and return, one of my shoes (actually one of the Young One’s shoes) had vanished. I glanced around the room, but I couldn’t see it anywhere.

I retraced my steps to the porch…no pink shoe out there either.

I know I had two pink shoes. I have photographic evidence from location shoot one (see above)!

“Where’s my shoe?” I asked the quiet house.

In the hallway…”Where’s my shoe?”

In the dining room…”Where’s my shoe?”

In the kitchen…”Where’s my shoe?”

In the great room…”There’s my shoe!”

Pink Shoe

Found it!

And next to the missing shoe, I could finally see the culprit–the Fluffy One, all four pounds of her had swooped in while my back was turned and made off with the one prop I needed for the perfect shot.

Caught

Caught red-pawed!

I finally persuaded her to give it back, but not without a chase around the living room. (For a fluff ball, she sure is fast!)

As you can see, I love my new header, and I love it even more now for the doggy story that goes with it.

What do you think of the changes at Stiletto Momma? I’d love to hear what you think.

Five Minute Fridayzero-to-hero-badge***This post is brought to you today by Five Minute Friday and the word “See”.  The changes are brought to you by several of this week’s WordPress Zero to Hero challenge assignments.

If the Shoe Fits

Polar vortexes, ice, snow, wind chills…they are all conspiring against me and putting a serious cramp in not only my style, but my sense of self as well.

I don’t like the cold. I definitely prefer balmy ocean breezes to the frigid gusts that have been rattling my window panes the past two days. I’ve been bundled in turtlenecks, scraping frost from the inside of my bedroom windows and spending far more time with my faux fur lined snow boots than my beloved stilettos.

Lunch-time shoe shopping is exhausting these days, but so totally worth it! #retailtherapy

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I’m feeling clunky and slow, curiously like my footwear.

The Polar Vortex is cramping my style! #stilettomomma

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I didn’t quite understand this feeling of rugged darkness until I ran across some words of wisdom from a red soled hero of mine.

“Shoes transform your body language and attitude. They lift you physically and emotionally” – Christian Louboutin

I need some warm weather and an occasion to don the perfect pair of pumps to lift my spirits and put an end to this gloominess. In lieu of that, I’ve spent the last few hours on the photo editing and sharing wonder that is Instagram preparing a tribute to all things high-heeled.

Such as the ultimate in desk accessories–the cherry red stiletto tape dispenser. I never go to work without it. I remember when I saw it from across a crowded Staples aisle while shopping on a lunch break. It was love at first sight. I laughed out loud and declared to the everyone within hearing distance, “I have to have that!” I made the purchase, rushed back to my office and showed it off to all my co-workers.

Love my tape dispenser! #stilettomomma

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It was my favorite non-wearable shoe until two Christmases ago, when I participated in an ornament exchange with a group of West Point moms. It was a secret Santa-style of gift-giving, and while I didn’t know who would send me a pretty new trimming for my tree, my Santa certainly knew who I was. The small package was addressed to “Stiletto Momma”, and inside I found an Audrey Hepburn inspired ornament I am sure to treasure for holiday seasons to come.

One of my all time favorite Christmas ornaments. #stilettomomma

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As much as I would love to, I can’t carry that shoe with me every day, but I sure can tote the one that arrived for me with this year’s exchange. The sparkles on the key chain bring a smile to my lips not only because the crystal encrusted open-toed stiletto perfectly fits my personality if not my foot, but because the woman who sent it knew how much I would cherish it.

Finally took the last of my Christmas gifts out of the package. #stiletto #keychain #stilettomomma

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I love my shoes, not because of the height of the heel or for their color or even for the way they click smartly as I strut about my day. I love my shoes because they make me feel like me. They lift my mood and my confidence, and I miss them when the weather calls for low rubber soles and rounded toes.

So today, as the wind swirled and the temperature plummeted, I eased my chilly toes into a pair of thick socks before I stuffed them snuggly into my warm brown boots. My feet thumped as I headed out the door, but I smiled to myself because I knew what the Young One and I had planned on my return.

We were baking cookies, with pretty little princess pumps stamped on the top!

Stiletto cookies! Yum! #cookies #stiletto #pillsbury

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What are you doing to keep your spirits up during the Polar Vortex of 2014?

Observations From The Boardroom

I take it as a point of pride and a testiment to my business acumen that I am invited to participate in my company’s quarterly board meeting reviews.  Someone in the chain of command believes the work I do on a daily basis is significant enough to warrant review and discussion with business leaders across the company as well as the CEO himself.  It is a great boost to the ego, and if all goes well, it offers an injection of self-confidence that lasts at least until the next conference call or project meeting.

But as much as I enjoy being invited to these elite board meetings, I hate the fact that I am the only woman in the room.

Stilettos

My torture device of choice.

Until not that long ago, I worked for a Fortune 100 company that saw the need for diversity in the work place to be a priority almost on par with the need to aggressively drive up our stock price. I rarely attended a meeting where I didn’t see someone else in the room who looked like me. In many cases, that person who looked like me was the most senior leader in her business. These were the women I aspired to be. Like them, I wanted to be one of the women invited to the board meeting.

When I interviewed with my new company, I commented to the executive recruiter I was working with that I was concerned because everyone I interviewed with was white and male. He  assured me that generating a more diverse workforce was one of the company’s initiatives. Needless to say, a few more people have been hired into leadership positions since me–all of them male. So, as I sat in the boardroom last week and looked around to see one man after the next take a seat at the table, I began to make some observations on what it is like to be the only girl in the club.

1. The Suit – At the proclamation that the board meeting attire was “business” (as opposed to “business casual”), a collective groan was heard down the hall. “I hate wearing a wearing a jacket all day,” one collegue complained. To me, the attire declaration went almost unnoticed.  On most days in the office, you’ll find my clothing choice to include a jacket or a “completor piece”, as my friends on TLC’s What Not To Wear describe how a jacket or sweater is used to to elevate an outfit to a different level.  That elevation is exactly the inequality I have felt for years.  In order for a woman to be taken as professionally as her male counterpart, she must routinely dress herself at a higher level. I learned this lesson while at that diverse Fortune 100 company, as most of those women I admired were always seen wearing a suit or jacket even when not presenting to senior leadership. The men, on the other hand, wear their golf shirts and button-downs as their daily uniform.

2. Torture Devices – As I walked down the hall to the boardroom, I met up with a sales vice president.  He took in my business attire (a truly sharp, brand new, tan pant suit over a silk tank in a tasteful reptile print with coordinating accessories), and said, “You didn’t wear a tie? That’s not fair!”  My response?  “No. No tie for me, but I am wearing four-inch pointy toe pumps. Would you like to trade?”  For the dinner following the meeting, my boss respectfully told everyone, myself included, “No tie for dinner.”  It was very nice of him to consider his team’s comfort at dinner.  We really can’t expect the guys to have to deal with a little adversity while they eat.  I, however, kept my four-inch pointy toe shoes on my aching feet throughout the entire meal!

3. Bio-Breaks – Board meetings at my company are all-day events with two miserly breaks distributed throughout the day.  The only thing that saves me from some serious bladder issues is the fact that our CEO is a chain smoker whose need for a cigarette happens just about as often as my need for a trip to the little girl’s room.  The guys it seems, can sit there four hours straight without a care in the world.  On the plus side, the smoking area and the restrooms are in the same general direction, so I was able to get some extra face-time with the CEO on the way out the door, while the men stayed behind loosening their ties.

4. Language – Prior to my first board meeting appearance last year, I was prepped by my peers to expect our CEO to launch several “F-Bombs” during the course of the meeting.  I don’t think their warning was a concern for my gentle nature so much as a statement of things to come.  When the first meeting ended without a single utterance of anything that would be considered colorful, I commented about the lack of four-letter words.  One collegue quickly joined the conversation to declare that the only reason our illustrious CEO was so tame was because I was in the room, and he probably didn’t want to offend a woman.  There may be some truth to that, as I have participated in four board meetings now and have yet to be a victim of his notorious F-Bomb attacks.

Regardless of the lack of estrogen in the boardroom, I don’t regret my decision to leave the Fortune 100 company for the smaller, less diverse employer.  While I am one of only a handful of women who work in my office, I don’t feel discriminated against, just a little lonely to not have another female to make these observations with while sitting in that boardroom.

Hopefully, one day soon, I will be able to add someone to my team, and I intend to make sure that person looks like me.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your observations from the boardroom.

Be comfortable in your pointy toe pumps!

Stiletto Momma