Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back in Bloomington #4

I have been looking for a place to get my eyebrows waxed now that I am back in Bloomington. That combined with my friend Alicia Lynn's blog post mentioning her eyebrows caused me to recall a specific eyebrow adventure of mine. What follows is an account of that very eyebrow adventure.

Self inflicted pain was never a forte of mine. 
I was a big sissy.                                                                    
I couldn’t even pluck my eyebrows. 
I shaved them. 
With a pink Lady Bic.

Now in my defense, I figured it would work for the following extremely logical reason: my Grandmother constantly carried a Lady Bic in her purse, even hid away a couple in the glove compartment of the Maroon Lebaron she and my Grandfather drove.  She did this so that at any given time, situation or place, she could easily remove her lady stache.

This caused me to not only shave my eyebrows, but also my lady stache, from the 7th grade on. It seemed practical and functional. Like a lawnmower cutting the grass or vacuuming the carpet, it was extremely satisfying to see the instant results.

Only a few times did I actually lather up with some Skintimate Raspberry Rain shave gel on my lady stache. To be truthful it burnt quite a bit with added things so I preferred (who are we kidding, prefer) dry face shaving as it also exfoliates a layer of dead skin cells quite easily.

Once I started in on the eyebrows as well as the lady stache things got a little “hairy” (pun highly intended). 

This is how I felt about not having luxurious eyebrows.
As a 6ft tall 120 pounder during the summer between 7th and 8th grade, with a Louise Brooks bob and bangs that while highly stylish in the fashion world, were not intentional, just "practical", not much was needed to draw attention to my person. Add in the dark circles under my eyes genetics and allergies had kindly thrown me, plus pale skin and dark hair and I looked more like a Bosnian refugee than the blonde bomshell I was on the inside.

So what makes the most sense for a girl like me to do?

 Shave off her eyebrows. 

I didn’t start out with that goal in mind. A mix between Elizabeth Taylor and Cleopatra (really the same thing since my visual was from Elizabeth Taylor AS Cleopatra) was my desired result.
what junior high girl doesn't want to look like this?

I was perched on all fours on the formica bathroom countertop staring intently into the mirror, pink Lady Bic in my hand, and I was convinced that a life changing moment was about to take place. 

This would be what would catapult me from not being asked out by anyone to being asked out by everyone. I didn’t need boobs. I didn’t need calf definition. I didn’t need clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch ( I had 5 different outfits total that I rotated each week. I thought that if I didn’t wear the same thing on Friday and then Monday that no one would notice. . .) I didn’t even need blonde hair. (What would have served me well was the knowledge that all I needed to say was “Yes you can feel me up even though there is nothing there to feel.” and  I would have had them).

 I knew that the key to winning any of the tall boys hearts was defined Elizabeth Tayloresque eyebrows! 

I triumphantly began:
a little off on the left one,

a little off on the right,

a little more off on the right.

Wait. . .are they even?

I need to do a little more,

wait, wait, wait. . .

 oh, oh, oh, oh, OH MY GOD!

The right one was gone.

Well two eyebrow hairs remained. The early hints of my extremist behavior emerged as my twelve year old self thought "Oh what the hell! (I probably felt very cool for thinking a swear word). I can draw on my Cleopatra eyebrows and no one will be the wiser."

So I shaved off the left one as well.

 Oddly enough I don’t remember my mothers reaction. Maybe she felt self loathing since she herself used a lady bic for her lady stache and the generational curse had seeped its pink plastic flower fangs upon me.

 I spent hours in the bathroom that summer. Trying the Cleopartra brow, the skinny tattooed brow, the lipstick brow, the eyeshadow brow, the lipsmackers brow, the stickers brow. You name it, I put it where my eyebrows had been. 

 My friends were as gracious as one can be expected to be when you are forced to walk around with Jr. High Meredith PLUS painted on eyebrows.

Taunting me in front of the neighborhood boys as we ran rambunctiously around the Pleasant Hills subdivision (right behind College Hills mall, now the illustrious Shoppes at College Hills), my friend Laura simply said:

“Do you guys notice anything different about Meredith?”

 These were the same boys that were friends with me I believe for the sheer fact that they felt guilty for calling me Lurch the majority of my 7th grade year when I would take my lunch tray up.

They had their chance, they had ammo they could have obliterated me with in a single blow.

Instead Simon just said “I don’t know, is your hair different?”

To which I said:

“No silly, I have no eyebrows! These are painted on!”

Yes, as a good Christian girl, I knew honesty was good, but maybe in Jr. High God gives us grace about it not being "the best policy". I guess I hadn't developed my theology of grace yet.

 I told them I had plucked them as I knew to reveal the women of my families secret of the lady bic was right next to denying God, or beasteality.

By the grace of God almighty, my eyebrows grew back.


 Every now and then in the bathroom a disposable plastic razor will taunt me.

 It will speak in a women’s voice with a French accent “Sink of zee power you could hold een your hand” One minute I could look in the mirror with a full set (albeit not that thick due to that summer) set of eyebrows on my face and the next they could be gone. In a matter of mere seconds.

But I resist the urge, pick up the razor, and destroy the lady stache that I just noticed on my upper lip.  And as I smile in the mirror stache free I pray to God I have the willpower to make it to my eyebrow waxing appointment. And my husband, who I do let feel me up, does as well. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back in Bloomington #3

Scars, both emotional and physical, begin to heal with time.

This is a promise that I hold to be true.

Mustn't we all?

If we don't, then we can't make it through the pain, or the puss, or the stitches, or the staples.

We try to ignore that we were inflicted with the incision wound (be it with a scalpel, an inanimate object, or an unkind word) but when we look down, or up, or inside, the wound is there. . .
but it is beginning to heal.

Growing up, I always thought that one special day I would find out why God had made me the way I was (physically).

I would find out why God had made me with huge feet (size twelve by 6th grade, now a solid 13), taller than most boys and until the latter half of my senior year in high school, flat chested.

While it didn't seem fair, I knew that God had a purpose for everything He did.

So whenever I was called Lurch everyday as I took my tray up after lunch in the cafeteria during Junior High (hell must be a lot like Jr. High, right? I heard you all say yes as you were reading this, thank you for the affirmation), I said in my head "God made you this way for a reason, one day, when He reveals it, they will all be sorry, really sorry". In fact if someone got too close as I was taking my tray up, they would probably be able to hear it coming through my gritted teeth.

I kept waiting. . .and waiting. . .and waiting for this big reveal.

I imagined numerous times posing in front of the bathroom mirror with full makeup and slicked back hair, that it was going to be me as a high-fashion model (and maybe although too old, I'm still holding out hope for this one. . . :) ).

In fact, while we were living in Chicago, my dear friend Lindsay was with Elite Model Management. This meant I was able to peruse the other models with Elite when she wanted to show me new pictures in her portfolio. I noticed that I had the same measurements as the Plus-Size models. Lindsay and I figured I should see about doing Plus -Size modeling. I went in and spoke with an agent at Elite, had my polaroids taken, the whole bit. Then he had to discuss with the other agents about my marketability. I waited for the phone call, all the while thinking, "Is this it God? This is why I am 6 feet tall?"

It wasn't.

I got a call from Stephen the agent, and he shared with me that while my measurements were indeed the same as the other plus-size models they represented, I did not look "plus" enough. I looked too small.

Lindsay and I during our time in Chicago!

My whole life, I am told I am too tall, too big, too me, to do things, and then the one thing I should be fit for, I am TOO SMALL ?

Needless to say, Nate had a night class, I had probably a little too much of a bottle of white wine, an entire loaf of french bread, and watched Georgia Rule a HORRIBLE Jane Fonda/Lindsay Lohan film while I intermittently muttered things at God about this highly ironic turn of events.

But. . .
I got over it.

I must have been slightly masochistic about the whole situation, because when the Bridal Show was happening at The Merchandise Mart (this is where tons of dress designers come in for an expo of sorts) Lindsay suggested I try freelance modeling. She said that the Designers were always disappointed because the normal fashion models didn't have "Womanly" bodies (I wasn't flat chested anymore).

I figured this wouldn't be the big reveal of why God had designed me the way He had, but might be a little "pick me up" to get  me to the big reveal whenever it was coming.
Just a nice little self esteem boost along the way.

Well. . .we got there, and Lindsay basically became my agent. She was already booked through Elite with Jessica McClintock for the whole weekend but she knew not all the designers came with models.

Three different designers had me try on dresses, only to have them not even go over my hips.

The fourth designer had me try on a free flowing wedding dress. After some adjusting of the chestal region, I sucked in my breath, zipped it up, and triumphantly threw back the fitting room curtain! Everyone was overjoyed, until. . ."We also need you to model the prom-wear" the designer calmly and cheerfully said as she handed me a mermaid style satin red gown.

I began to furiously pray.

"Maybe it will be stretchy, maybe it isn't as tight as it looks, maybe it will fit. . "

Optimist that I am/was, I took a go at it. When it was apparent that I couldn't breathe and I hadn't even attempted to pull the zipper up, I decided to raise my white (or red as it were) flag.

I went to take the dress off, and I was stuck. Absolutely, irrevocably, stuck. With my arms straight up in the air and my control top tights showing, the dress had situated itself in my middle region, in a way that my left eye could peek out of the arm hole, but that was all of my face that was left uncovered. Looking like an Amazonian Cycloptic Lobster I gingerly began to call "Lindsay, Lindsay, could you come here for a moment?"

She obliged.

I shimmied, I shook, I jumped, I twisted.

Lindsay tugged, she pulled.

We prayed.

And eventually, by the grace of God, the dress came off, unscathed.

I walked out, again told a designer that "I'm sorry, it didn't fit" and bid them adieu.

Lindsay had to leave for another appointment, but always the encourager she suggested I try a few more designers.

I went to a very high end Italian Design House and they gave me a beautiful (at least) $15,000 gown to try on. I was delusional enough to think that if they exclusively did wedding dresses, I might be in luck.

I didn't have Lindsay this time.

What I did have was a thirty-plus pound dress that I had pulled over my head because God knows it wasn't going to go over my hips.

Lo and behold, it wouldn't zip.

Lo and behold, it is pretty hard to lift a thirty pound dress off of yourself, over your head when your arms are contorted just so.

I did a lot of praying that day. Only this time I literally found myself on my knees as I prayed, hoping that odd body contortions would help disperse the weight, making it easier for me to lift the dress above my head.

When I did, again, by the grace of God, get the dress off, I began my fifth defeated exit of the dressing room . I told the designer it didn't fit, and in a thick Italian accent he repeatedly said "Just one, can't we just get one that will fit her? Try them on and see if you can't just get one."


Are you kidding me?

You didn't see me under the curtain making all those crazy movements?

So I gave it my best.

And none of the dresses fit.

A defeating/deflating/crushing day,
but. . .
I got over it.

Lindsay giving me a black cashmere Burberry scarf she had received at a fashion show didn't hurt.

So skip a few years, and I am in a hospital birthing room. I have at least ten nurses around me, my midwife, and my husband.

I am standing, squatting on top of the hospital bed, COMPLETELY naked.
*to this day, neither Nate or I know how I got naked. Really. It just happened.

And all these nurses around me are abuzz, saying "Did you know she hasn't had ANY pain medication!" and "Look at those hips, she was built for this" and "look at those feet, she has such a good strong base for giving birth".

Inside I was sure that this was it.

This was to be the big reveal.

After two hours of pushing after a nineteen hour labor, squatting, standing, getting on all fours and some attempted hand maneuvers by my midwife, God spoke to me.


"This is not going to happen how you thought it would, you will have a C-Section"

You have to understand that I had never been more excited about anything in my life than having a completely natural child birth (OK, wedding night was pretty exciting, and as a result of that going well, I was found in an exciting place again, just different).

I had read tons of Ina May Gaskin, I had watched and made Nate watch The Business of Being Born, I had re-read The Red Tent the week before I gave birth.

I wanted to feel everything that my body had been made to do in the act of giving birth.

In that moment, it would have made sense for me to be angry, frustrated, and defeated.

But I wasn't.

I looked over at Nate, and we looked at each other, God had told him the same thing.

My midwife came back in, after she had slipped out for a moment, where she was praying about the same thing.

I am so extremely thankful that God spoke to Nate and I before someone else attempted to make the decision for me.

 Midwife Lila & Eleonore
And so preparations were made, the Dr. was called, and during my last contraction as I sat on an operating table, I was given my first taste of drugs in the entire process andI won't lie, people use them for a reason, it was nice.

A beautiful baby girl came out.

The incision that was made was stapled up.

Are you surprised that this wasn't the big reveal about why I was made the way I am?

I was too, but. . .
I got over it.

There may never be any "BIG REVEAL".

Because each day God is teaching me to see that it is what he chooses to do through me and in me, not my physicality and physical appearance that matter.

But ughhhhhh I am human, and I want the "BIG REVEAL".

As I was taking a luxurious, relaxing bath tonight, I saw that my C-Section scar is healing and fading.
And inside the scars are healing and fading.
Scars of a Junior High Girls insecurities.
Scars of a Young Woman's insecurities.
Scars of a First Time Mother's insecurities.

They only fade with the growing knowledge that my Savior is my Healer.

And in time He will make all things new.

Even me.

But for now, He doesn't get mad at me for crying in the bathtub as I mourn a birth experience that didn't go the way I had planned it.

He is simply there.


That's what He does, and He does it well.

peace to you,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back in Bloomington #2

The past few days I have had the opportunity to see some extended family on the Owens side of things!
Being back in Bloomington means being blessed to be near my parents in Pontiac, IL.

Grandma Sue Ella
My Grandma Sue Ella Owens is having an extended stay in Pontiac due to falling at my Fathers Church in May and breaking both ankles. She normally resides in Montana.

Due to this, we have been able to see her, she has been able to see Eleonore, and extended family have come to visit her!

The first treat was my Great Aunt Rae her sister who lives in Michigan. I have always viewed my Aunt Rae as absolutely lovely. Just a lovely older woman. I also had a special affinity for her husband, my Great Uncle Ron before he passed away. And then just yesterday we were able to see my Aunt Cindy and Uncle Joe from Oklahoma. Aunt Cindy is my Grandma's eldest of five children, and at sixty-two, I can only pray to look as good as she does, I think her skin is smoother than mine! She has become a Southern Belle from her humble roots in Rantoul, IL, and is another lovely woman in my life.
Great Aunt Ra

All this has my mind whirling a bit. With family extended all over the country, the meetings are more infrequent than everyone would like. And, oddly enough, as I continue to get older, so does everyone else.

I wonder with my Aunt Rae if I will see her again in my lifetime here on earth. I wonder this with my Grandma Owens at each visit from Montana.

Is this morbid?


And I have to admit, it does make it hard to focus on the present, and the person, in the short time that you get with them.

So, all I can do is try to focus more, try to listen more, try to experience more in these brief moments, and be thankful for the blessing that they are.

With seeing some of the Owens family, I was trying to remember the last time EVERYONE (all five siblings) were all together, and I think it was my Grandpa Albert Owens funeral.

For my Father's birthday a few years ago, and for personal recollection, I wrote a recount of that experience.

How my fashion philosophy has been formed (to some extent)

My love of fashion started at an early age and I believe can be coincided with my obsession of JC Penney catalogs. At about age 5 I would take the JC Penney catalog into my room and look at all the pages and make up stories in my head about everything.

I would choose outfits I would wear for specific occasions and to this day I can still recall some of them. (I think I suffer from “selective” photographic memory. Useless information to minute detail I can retain for years, but anything I need to remember like the fact that Seattle is indeed not in Oregon will continue to evade me).

In particular there was a black dress. This lovely slender woman with long blonde hair, long legs and a toothpaste smile wearing a large brimmed black hat was leaning against the side of a building, one leg slightly bent peeking out from under her hat with a look that signaled to me anything could happen and she was ready for it all. In my five year old mind this was due to the fact that she was wearing a classic black sheath dress with cap sleeves. In a dress like that everyone must look like that and be ready for the unexpected. But I had to delve deeper. In my imaginary story, I was wearing the dress and with semi realistic expectations had grown up to have long dark not blonde hair. But I had everything else, the legs, the smile the hat. Little did I know then that I would always have baby teeth and that thanks to my mother and father both, calf definition would be something that would always evade me. But as a five year old noone could tell me what I would look like. The only event that I could think of to correlate with a black dress was a funeral. And the only person in my life at the time that I didn’t think I would care if they died was my Grandpa Owens. I had trouble understanding why he didn’t play with me like Grandpa Molloy and why he just sat in his chair watching T.V. during my visits when there was so much to be explored in his old Victorian house (I would learn later that he had had brain surgery, as well as very traumatic experiences during WWII).

So I made up a story that I was off to Grandpa’s funeral as a young woman and perhaps I might meet a man there to help me with my sorrow, but I would tell him I wasn’t really sad that I was just acting because Grandpa was never nice to me. This was all well and fine and my story kept me entertained for a while. Then bedtime came and I was racked with guilt for having Grandpa Owens die in my story just so I could wear a black sheath dress and meet a nice man. One disappointing thing that wasn't worth the guilt was that the men in my stories never had faces because the men in the JC Penney catalog were extremely unattractive in my opinion, especially the underwear models, which didn’t help when I was doing my imaginary wedding night stories (but don’t worry, those didn’t come until I was 6 and a half).

I couldn’t fall asleep, and for about three days I was positive that I was going to kill Grandpa Owens with my imaginary stories and so I would compulsively ask how he was everyday.

The reason it only lasted for three days is because on the fourth day a new catalog came. And my imaginary house needed a new bedroom set, so Grandpa’s death was lost somewhere between maroon satin comforters and country blue duck quilts. I think I chose the maroon for that particular bedroom.

When my Grandpa did die I was a sophomore in high school.

When we got to the hospital he was already pretty much out of it but this would last for three days.

When we got to the hospital there were already others there.
It might be wrong to say that I had never really had a relationship with my Grandfather, but I didn’t. There was a hug when I came in and a hug when I left and as I got older I would simply situate myself in the kitchen in front of that TV or on the porch swing to read the newest book I had gotten my hands on.

I would sit paralyzed when he came in to the kitchen from the living room and saw me there, thinking he was going to hit me or something. And my mind would go a flutter with my retaliations from scolding him to throwing Grandmas strawberry shaped cookie jar at the wall, to say to him, look buddy I got the Owens temper too so you better know who you’re dealing with.

Of course my Grandfather never laid a finger on me. My imagination took that route because he had spanked my father and Aunts and Uncles with a belt and growing up I figured he could do it to me as well. Only one time did I start actually moving toward the cookie jar when he came in. Because he got very close to me and then turned the TV down and said it was too loud, even though I knew everything that was going on with the plot line of 
Murder She Wrote blaring in the living room. He said “it’s too loud” again in exactly the same monotone cigar scratched voice as he ad the first time, and went back in the living room.

I was sitting in his hospital room scared that someone was going to find me out. They would realize I was an imposter and perhaps my Aunt Dana would jump up, point and yell, “you never really loved your Grandpa, get out of that uncomfortable orange vinyl seat, you don’t deserve to sit there.” That never happened though. Instead, during a lull in the conversation, my mother said, “do you want to hold Grandpa’s hand?”

I thought perhaps I could communicate NO to her with my eyes. That for once the mother daughter bond could allow me to telepathically connect with her but good old Mom insisted and I realized that if I didn’t perform this task they would immediately find me out. And what worried me most about that was perhaps not getting to eat at the hospital cafeteria. With family histories of horrible health and a mother who was a nurse for a while, plus a father who was a minister and would make numerous hospital visits, (although I only got to go into the hospital on rare occasions. The majority of the time I got stuck in the Omni with my older brother Brian and I was left to his what I considered evil torture, but I would get rewarded for good behavior with a Nehi soda. Even then I could convince myself that cheaper things, close to generic sodas, could be just as spectacular if I just willed them to be. I can still do that with Payless shoes if I try with all my might). I developed an appetite for overly processed overly priced things. I especially appreciated the dinnerware that was disposable yet had no insignias, only little abstract swiggles. This unified a lot of the cafeterias as if it was their own logo, the sign of economy bulk bought paper goods.

So I held my Grandpas hand and something happened.
I started bawling like a baby.
Staring at this close to catatonic man who had smoked Dutch Masters and worn zip up boot loafers and turned the kitchen tv down. In that one moment he did have his eyes open. And whatever overcame me was a combination of this.
Of growing up in an instant for being so near to death.
Realizing that this man gave my father life.
That this man was my Daddy’s Daddy, and that he really had loved me regardless of what my imagination or myself had led me to believe.

I leaned over him crying and said
“I love you Grandpa.”

I think one of my Aunts or maybe even my mother saying “well of course you do”.
As if it might have been silly to say that then, like Grandpa knows plus he probably can’t hear you. But I think he did. Because right after I said it he squeezed my hand. And in his eyes I knew that he was saying it too.

His was the first of many funerals I would sing at.
I didn’t get to wear a black sheath dress.
I wore a polyester black top and a paisley print skirt bought from the Famous Barr that had just come to our local mall.
I didn’t meet any nice men, I didn’t get to wear a hat.
But I got to watch my father do the funeral of his father.
And I got to be a skinny white girl in the back of the funeral home singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, something much more fit for Ella Fitzgerald, or if we need something more modern to attach it to, Jennifer Hudson .
Nonetheless, I sang it, because it was my Grandfathers favorite song and I cried while I did. It was one time I would perform, not do so perfectly, and be ok with it.

Because having told my Grandpa I loved him, and knowing he loved me was much more happiness and contentment than a $39.99 JC Penney sheath dress ever could have given me.

Besides, now at 23, I would rather have a Chanel one anyways.

(originally posted/published May 29, 2007)

*I would also accept many vintage black dresses, just in case anyone is needing to know!

peace to you,
Eleonore Bay with her
Great Grandma Sue Ella
Eleonore Bay with her
Great Great Aunt Ra