"A Good Dressing-Down" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (FranciscanMom.com)

A Good Dressing-Down

My maternal grandmother never wore pants a day in her life until she was in her 80s and had to go to physical therapy following surgery. They wouldn’t let her wear a dress for that.

Around her home, she wore “house dresses” (dusters) and “house slippers.” She never left the house in these. If she went anywhere–the supermarket, the beautician, the dentist’s office–she put on a dress or a skirt and blouse, stockings, and dress shoes.

When I was in public grade school in the early 1970s, my mother made me wear dresses and knee socks and nice shoes every day. Not just on picture day, but every day. When I got to fourth grade and we had gym class twice a week, I wasn’t allowed to wear my gym suit (those awful blue one-piece numbers) under a pair of jeans. Mom always said, “You’re not going out of here looking like a slob.”

I didn’t even own a pair of jeans. I had pants, but they were generally corduroys that came with a top that had an appliqué made of the same corduroy as the pants. So stylish in 1974.

Right now I’m wearing sweat pants. I work from home, so I can do that. But other than driving my kid to school in the morning when he’s missed the bus, I don’t leave my house in these.

I was surprised yesterday when I read about #leggingsgate: United Airlines didn’t allow two young women wearing leggings to board a flight. They were apparently in violation of a dress code associated with the employee-perk tickets they were using. From what I read, the terms of the dress code were known to the passengers in question.

I don’t have a problem with that dress code. I wish it applied to all passengers. If you’re old enough not to require a car seat on the flight, you’re old enough to get out of your pajamas. And leggings? NOT pants. Put a skirt on, ladies.

Last summer I flew both for vacation and for work, and I saw far too many people wandering around the airport in workout wear and pajama pants. Many of them were also not wearing shoes. Sloppy AND unsanitary!

Over the weekend, the Street Urchins made an appearance. One of them arrived, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, in pajama pants. Those were all the clothes he had–when Hubs took the boys to the diner Sunday morning, that’s what this kid wore.

It’s about time we upped our standards for dress. I’m not suggesting we return to my grandmother’s way of doing things, but it’s time to take a little more care about what we look like when we venture beyond our own front doors.

Image via Flickr by Emma, 2011. All rights reserved. Text added by author.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

A Tale of Greed, Roulette and Rhinestone Boots

Last night Hubs and I attended a charity event our neighbor was hosting. It was a Casino Night party, with dinner and tables for blackjack, roulette and poker. Each guest brought a new, unwrapped toy, to be given to one of two local organizations that distribute toys to children in need.

Upon arrival, we were given our admission ticket with our names on the back, to be handed in for a chance at the door prizes. That ticket entitled us to a certain dollar amount in poker chips. More chips could be had for additional donations of real money (which would also be given to those charities.)

Via Pixabay (2012), CC0 Public Domain.

I’m not familiar with casino games, and I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my foot, so I didn’t spend too much time playing roulette–the only game I dared to try to play. I doled out my small pile of chips one or two at a time as long as I dared to stand up at the table. Our group wasn’t a high-betting bunch and the dealer was nice, so it was a good time, even as my pile of chips got smaller and smaller.

I returned to my table to sit and rest my sore foot and do some people-watching. I’d been told that the dress code for the event was “casual” but all the shoes I have that aren’t sneakers don’t support my foot enough right now, so I went shopping in the morning for a pair of boots to wear with leggings and a long sweater. I was feeling uncharacteristically stylish.


That feeling evaporated when I noticed the boots one of the other guests was wearing. They had rhinestone-studded spike heels and ribbons of rhinestone swirling up the leg of the boots. The pointed toe was not flat to the ground, and it made my feet hurt just to look at them. I tried to find a photo of those boots, but my knowledge of upscale shoe designers is limited to what’s in one scene from Legally Blonde:


After the tables closed for the night, guests cashed in their chips for prize tickets, which we could place in buckets labeled with the names of the prizes, which ranged from luggage sets to a designer handbag to giant TVs to vacuum cleaners.

I did not put any of my tickets in the buckets for either of the vacuum cleaners, for the record. (Priorities.)

Hubs had pooled his chips and mine and split the tickets in half between us, so I dumped tickets in buckets corresponding to prizes I wanted for myself (the Kate Spade tote, Williams-Sonoma gift basket, small kitchen appliances) or family members (a smaller TV, laptop, luggage).

While the event coordinators called out the winning numbers for the prizes, I allowed myself to imagine winning each of those items.

I let myself dream greedy daydreams.

I didn’t win any of the prizes, and wound up with a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t like that feeling. I didn’t need any of the prizes on the table. Sure, some of them would have been nice to have, but I have food and clothes and heat and electricity and a roof over my head. I don’t need a Cuisinart, Kate Spade bag, Tiffany bracelet or a big TV.

My greedy daydreams tried to steal the enjoyment of an evening out with my husband and friends. They sought to cancel out the nice dinner, the pie, the music and the laughter. They tempted me to forget the good stuff and focus on wanting things I don’t need, and feeling sad when I didn’t get them.

I don’t like what happens to me when I dream greedy daydreams. I worked to cancel them out by remembering the fun I had choosing two toys for Hubs and me to bring to the party, toys that helped fill two vans to overflowing with gifts for children who otherwise might do without. I remembered hearing the testimony of a college student who’s been running a community charity since the 7th grade, and her overwhelmed gratitude at seeing the toys her organization would get to give to the children of her city. I remembered the laughter of friends, the music, the dinner and, yes, the pie.

I kicked the greedy daydreams to the curb with my stylish-enough-for-me new boots.

Take that, greedy daydreams.

Small Success: Reach for It

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I feel like I’m really reaching to find successes today. Yesterday kicked my butt for reasons I won’t go into here. I’m trying to reboot, a little, today.

It’s been a good week at work…I learned a couple of new things, (mostly) stuck with the workflow plan I designed for myself a couple of weeks ago, and saw a brainstorm come to fruition. It’s really cool to offer an idea and then be allowed to run with the ball.

Next week Hubs and I will be going to a long-term service awards dinner his company is hosting. That meant (eeek!) I have to dress up. My work-at-home/occasional-substitute-teacher/church-on-Sunday wardrobe isn’t going to cut it. I asked one of my folk-group friends for fashion advice because she always is beautifully dressed and looks so put together. She works part-time and offered to go shopping with me one afternoon. We had a fun time; I got a flowy sweater to go over my little black dress, a pencil skirt and blouse (which I’d never have chosen if I was shopping on my own) for TheKid’s graduation, and a pair of foot-friendly shoes–HALF PRICE. They’re too casual for the business dinner, but I can wear them just about everywhere else.

These go with just about everything!
These go with just about everything!

Speaking of graduation, yesterday I got a notice from the school asking for a photo for the “Guess the Graduate” bulletin board–always a fun feature! I dipped into the digital archives and found this gem. TheKid is more than OK with using this one.

summer 2004
This is probably my most favorite photo of TheKid.

I’m hoping for a better day today. And I won’t say no to a Memorare for a special intention, if you’re prayerfully-inclined. (Thanks!)

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Small (Desk) Success

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I went to the mall with my daughter yesterday. Not only did not one leave angry, but I actually bought two garments, both of which were Stylish-Teenage-Daughter approved! What did I get? “Skinny jeans.” (Well, one pair is really “skinny khakis.”) I didn’t think I could wear these, or would like how they look, but I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. Icing on the cake? Middle Sister told me they looked good! Worth every penny, though I’m still not ready to post a photo of myself in said skinny jeans on the Internet.


Fitbit oneI had an excellent customer-service experience with Fitbit. Hubs had gotten me one for Christmas, but it was the kind that strapped around the wrist, and I had a skin reaction to whatever was in that strap. The awesome folks at Fitbit hooked me up with the kind of device that clips onto your pocket and has all the same features as my previous wrist-worn model.


desk BEFORE 030415I cleaned my (small) desk. It was getting out of hand. I have an organizer, but then I pile stuff next to the organizer and stack clipboards on top of each other and, well, it wasn’t working for me at all.

I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement and food for thought via a series of blog posts on organizational styles and tools at Lisa Lawmaster Hess’s blog, The Porch Swing Chronicles. (In fact, she’s just started up a new blog just for this ongoing series! I’m definitely going to be following that.) What I’d really like to do is hang a bunch of clipboards on a wall, assigning each clipboard a category, and have a big hanging tickler file. As you can see from my photo, however, I only have a wall space that’s 24 inches wide behind the desk and 18 inches wide next to it. All the rest is open to below, which is nice when you’re supervising Street Urchins but not so nice when you need to see stuff you’re working on.

desk AFTERAt the same time, I wanted to add a computer riser so I could have a standing desk. I removed the basket of stuff from the top of the organizer (mostly cords for various electronic gadgets) and found homes for that stuff in other spots (mostly inside my desk). I’m down to just my planner and ONE clipboard on the desktop, and I can remove that riser if I decide I’ve had enough standing for one day. I’m not thrilled with the look of the riser, but it does the job.

desk organizer 030415Then I emptied out my entire organizer thingamabob and found new homes for anything I don’t use frequently. I have decided that if I don’t use something on a weekly basis (or more often) then it doesn’t deserve space on my desktop. There’s just not that much real estate to go around, so I’m going to be stingy with it.

We’ll see how this works for me going forward, but I do love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I organize something that’s staring me in the face every day!

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© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.