Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas

***NOTE: I just now saw this in draft mode and realized I never worked up the nerve to publish it after I wrote it during Christmas. I figured since everyone is talking about resolutions right now, it’s still relevant. It’s something I don’t really like talking about with others, but maybe putting it out there will be another reminder to me and help as I resolve this year to count my blessings along with my challenges.****

 

God is good, all the time.

I’m writing this now because that is what I feel at this very moment and know to be true. (And sometimes I need the reminder.)

2016 has been one FULL year. That is the best way I can think to describe it. It has been so very challenging and there have been so many times I wanted to just call it a day, curl up in bed, and have a good cry/pass out/while simultaneously drinking wine from a straw because I’m too tired to sit up and drink.

But it has also been SO incredibly full of blessings, the moment I want to give it to exhaustion and self pity, I know how very wrong it would be.

I have a healthy, happy, sweet, wonderful, SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT one year old. I have a one-year old (minus about two months) new job that has made me feel appreciated, intelligent, useful, creative, loved, valued, EXCITED to be there. Everything I could ever ask for, and a schedule that allows me to be home on nights and weekends to spend that precious time with said one year old.

But then after a weekend of catching up on house work and 24/7 full-speed toddler time (every. single. weekend.) with not a babysitter in sight or family member in town to give us a break, I feel drained.

And then from that wearing weekend I go on to have weeks like this. When laundry is everywhere and none of it is clean. And the dishes are endless and I often go home on my lunch break just to reduce the pile up in the sink. And at the end of the day I race home after work to catch 10 minutes of glorious alone time, collapsed on the bed, before my husband gets home with the baby. Only I discover the dog has thrown up on our bed. So I am changing sheets and cursing him when my husband rolls in. And we have nothing to fix for dinner. And the washer now smells weird after I was the sheets. And the baby just shoved dog toy bits in his mouth.2b36f1bb7f495482bf865a97ed55f6cf

And it doesn’t really feel like Christmas, it just feels like a countdown to putting the baby to bed at 7 and collapsing into bed about 7:30 because I’m too tired to really enjoy any sort of “me” time.

And I feel sad because we don’t have enough time off this year to travel and spend the holidays with our families. And I feel lonely. And like there is no relief. And I want things from my parents they are unable to give because of distance and illness and things none of us have any control over.

And in my head is a future so idyllic that nothing in reality could ever live up to it.

But then I remember.

I have a job I love. A husband I love. With a job he loves. And two dogs I love like children. And a happy, healthy child that made my heart grow in ways I didn’t know it could. And we have a nice roof over our heads that we can call our own. Cars we can rely on to get us to work, and trafficless commutes each day. A daycare full of people that love on our little one like one of their own.

How dare I think my life anything less than absolutely wonderful? How dare I be anything but thankful for every minute?

I share the quote in the photo here not because I feel like I’m waiting for God to open a door, but more because I feel like I am in the hallway of life right now. (A crowded middle school hallway after the bell rings and everything is chaos, haha.)

I share it because even when we have trouble seeing it, God is good, all the time.

 

In The Middle

About two months ago, I bought a new car.

Yeah, I know, I’m really good about announcing things as they happen. Long story short: the Jetta lived a good nine years and 99,870 miles, but in the last year of our relationship, she cost me over $3,200 in repairs, which was coincidentally more than the value of the entire car.

After being stranded in 100 degree weather with a baby in the backseat, and a $1,400 “doctor” visit in July, we parted ways.

Since then, I’ve been using my three-month free trial of XM Radio to relive my youth and listen to all the music I couldn’t afford to buy on CD in middle school. Yep, the dial pretty much never leaves the 90s and Pop2k stations.

Driving home today, a 2002 “classic” from Jimmy Eat World came on, and suddenly I was seventeen again and the memory of the newness of driving came back to me in a flood.

I had completely forgotten.

Remember the novelty of being in the car alone? How scary and exhilarating and liberating to be the only one? Totally fresh, brand new freedom? Taking to the streets, I was like a wobbly-legged baby deer (and just as good at navigation).

I’m now on my 15th year of driving and my fourth car, and yet the lyrics of that song still mean everything they did when I first heard them:

(I know, posting lyrics to a song – a total throwback move in itself…)

Hey
Don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best
Try everything you can
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

Hey
You know they’re all the same
You know you’re doing better on your own so don’t buy in
Live right now
Just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

Almost 31 years old (in just four more days) and I’m still right there in the middle of the ride. And things are crazy. And I feel stressed. And sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself or my life or that new little creature that calls me mom. But I know everything will be just fine. Everything will be all right.

 

Das Boot

From IMDB: The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

From my life: Claustrophobic? Check. Boredom? Check. Filth? Eh. I suppose more than usual.

Because I’ve been in this lovely contraption:

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And rocking one of these:

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For precisely… 24 days. (Or in Lauren time, 8 million years.) All because of this tiny little issue:

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Which I did how? Oh, by tripping stepping off a curb and rolling my ankle. On Halloween. Dressed as Batgirl. Wearing a black tutu and yellow cape. Because I’m awesome. But at least had the presence of mind to change out of the tutu and cape before going to the hospital.

Now after my brief and tragic stint as a caped superhero, I’m relegated to the much less glamorous world. One where I attempt to do my very mobile job from my immobile desk chair. One where I must face my own OCD, neat-freak, independent demons because cleaning, organizing, and generally doing anything that involves carrying things while scooting isn’t really possible.

After nearly a month, I’ve resigned to my new state of existence to the point I no longer feel shame from people starring at me and have no issue rockin’ the wheels off motorized wheelchairs through the grocery store:

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One month down, two to go…

Sensory Deprivation

Lately, I’ve been trying that whole “live life rather than just writing/tweeting/facebooking/constantly cataloguing everything about it” thing.

Last weekend, that culminated in a completely unplanned, without-even-trying, full-on sensory deprivation period of 48 hours in which I only looked at my phone once to text my family lunch plans.

THAT’S how out of touch I’ve been.

And it was refreshing, but I’ve decided all of that is for the birds. Because the truth is even without blogging in practically a year, I have a stockpile of ideas that have been building like plaque on teeth. My mind and desktop need to be brushed.

(Coincidentally, I went to the dentist yesterday.)

Maybe if I begin again and blog repeatedly my mind won’t bleed like unflossed gums and I will come up with less weird metaphors.

The Things I Needed To Express Today:

1. I finally bought the exorbitantly overpriced candle that gives Anthropologie its distinct smell. Just sitting unlit on my desk, it brings me to my happy place. The problem is that happy place costs me a lot of money, and I finally had to move the thing to curb the urge to visit the Anthro website and buy everything I’ve been attempting to forget existed. It’s kind of like how every time I hear Tejano or mariachi music I immediately crave Tex Mex. Powerful stuff.

Make your mental note: it’s this one.

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2. I just realized my top story is me buying a candle. This blog is doomed.

Running The Relay

For those of you who have been wondering about how my new job is going these days, here’s what you’ve missed:

I organized.

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I accessorized.

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I observed national Relay kickoff day with the rest of my team.

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I took a trip to the main office in Lubbock (and fell in love with the artwork).

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I took a tour of Texas’ first Hope Lodge.

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Visited the local TV station to promote our community kickoff event.

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Then dressed the part for our “Relay Around The World” themed kickoff.

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And that was just the first two months. If only I had time to write in more detail on all the wonderful things happening, but at least that gives you a ten-second run down. Now on to month three…

Do Good Today: Help Create A World With More Birthdays!

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As many of you know or have figured out from reading old blog posts, I’ve recently become a full-time employee of the American Cancer Society (ACS) as a Relay For Life specialist.

In the past four years in my work at MMI with MD Anderson, I’ve seen first-hand the amazing programs ACS has offered survivors and their families as they go through something so unimaginably difficult. Now I have the privilege of spending my entire 9-5, M-F working towards creating more of those opportunities and funding cancer research.

Seriously, who could ask for more?

Well, I am.

I’m asking for more birthdays. From you. My friends and my family and everyone in between.

What I ask you to do:

Think about how many birthdays you’ve been fortunate to celebrate, and donate a dollar for every birthday you’ve had to help support my Relay team: donate here.

Some reasons you should:

  • Right now, 1 in every 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer. As 1 of 3 sisters, I am not okay with this, and neither should you be.
  • Even worse, 1 in every 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer. If you are lucky enough like me to have both a husband and a father in your life, those odds are equally unacceptable.
  • ACS has funded 46 Nobel Laureates, honored for their breakthroughs in cancer research, which is helping to change those stats every. single. day.
  • ACS is a great steward of your money – it’s rated one of the top 10 best-managed nonprofits and strictly adheres to standards on how money gets spent once it is donated. Here’s a breakdown from 2012:

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  • ACS is the only cancer control organization that operates on a community (that’s me!), statewide and national level, and has given $3.6 billion towards cancer research – second only to the federal government.
  • Unless you are over a 100 and incredibly computer-savvy, your donation is no more than giving up approx. 5-15 trips to Starbucks. Totally doable for contributing towards Finishing The Fight against cancer.
  • Birthdays rule.

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I’m proud to say I’ve already donated my $28 in honor of my 10,378 days on Earth. Here’s a look back at some of the birthdays I’ve celebrated on this here blog:

 

28 – AKA “Twenty Bajillion and Eight” (It’s all a matter of perspective, huh?)

27 – 27 things I’m still learning – apparently the age I grew insight (at least temporarily)

26 – Through the Wormhole – doubting my own chances at feats of genius

25 – reflecting on the highlights on 24

24 – Early birthday presents and then reflecting on them

23 – “If you’re going through hell, just keep going” may have been a more appropriate title

Snow Day

Yesterday, we had a record-breaking six inches of snow hit our Texas town. Why is it the world looks so much more idyllic with the addition of just a few inches of frozen fluff?

Time elapse: one hour between photos (crazy!)

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Snow  puppies

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Snow bunnies buddies?

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Furry and flurries

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And the peaceful wonderland…

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Don’t know why the exposure on these got messed up and turned all seventies yellow, but I kind of like it… 

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And then of course, we decided to ruin all that beautiful nature with our awesome snowman:

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Personality Quirks

I have a number of them. And the odd part is, most of them are at odds with each other. Like the fact that I am an introvert whose job is to make friends and cold calls and meet people (and I kinda sorta really like it). Or how I’m a neat freak that still never, ever, EVER makes her bed, waits several hours to do dishes after a meal, and loses her cell phone at least seven times a day.

Or my extreme cheapskateness. (Notice those words are not capitalized, because I still have not reached full TLC-special status.) However, nothing excites me more than the prospect of getting a deal. Free samples are my opiate, and I am a total hoarder.
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Except that when I am visiting places to get those deals (aka, TJ Maxx, one of my favorite places to shop) I have this terrible little habit of falling in love with THE most expensive thing within grasp (physical, not financial). Case in point –

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Seriously? When was the last time you saw $359 Fendi shoes in the CLEARANCE shoe section at TJ Maxx? Talk about a red herring. Or blue suede herring, as it were.

Then there’s the juxtaposition of my Gloria Steinem-loving feminist self, who even at the overripe age of 28, almost bought history’s most profitable sexist, body-image-destroying toy because Barbie (particularly brunette Barbie/Midge) will always have a special place in my heart, and she looks awesome as retro Catwoman.

But don’t get me started on pink and purple Lego’s for girls. (Go women engineers!)

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Then of course there’s my creepy obsession with small dogs, in contrast to my moderate dislike/mostly apathy towards small children.

(This picture always cracks me up because to me it looks like they are flying in formation while napping…)

IMG_5562Sometimes I wonder if having these opposite and competing aspects of personality makes me/us/the proverbial “we” a more well-rounded person, or just completely nuts.

A Farewell Toast to the Holidays

I realize it’s long overdue, but I’d like to take a moment to remember the holidays (and the pictures I never shared…)

my attempt at garland + beautiful wreath from Christmas Magic

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Gifts passed from one friend to the other – I guess best friends think alike?
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My amazing sister’s amazing gift wrap – can you believe she actually handmade paper snowflakes for everyone’s gift tags?

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Holiday pups.
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Christmas morning. Nothing is more endearing then the dishevelment and coffee shared between family awaiting unopened presents.
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Then back to home for a farewell New Year’s toast to all the green and red glow.

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Then finally the moment was upon us. And the tree was disassembled and in its place a giant gaping sad little empty cheerless hole. That required some immediate redecorating.

Behold:

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MY 600-lb. Life

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In an earlier post maybe a year or so ago, I admitted one of the least flattering things about myself – the fact that I sometimes like to watch shows about obesity, and in particular Newhaven Obesity Clinic (which ironically is in my hometown of Houston), because it makes me feel a little better. Like “hey, I just ate 5 cookies today but at least I didn’t XYZ.”

Well, I’m getting my just desserts (pun intended) because apparently, me and 597-pound Zsalynn from San Antonio share all the same vices.

me: (shouting towards the kitchen at my husband from the couch)  She’s buying Blue Bell!

me: Oh God, she’s eating Shipley’s Donuts!!!

a: You sound like you’re watching 9-11 unfold.

Maybe I am.

Photo credit: Dave Whitley

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

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Whew.

It’s been a hellofa who-knows-how-many weeks since I last actually WROTE something on here. (So much for that good streak where I was posting several times a week…)

Dear Pen Pals,

Since we last wrote, I’ve been working hard, and meeting lots of new people. I’ve also driven lots of new places, like Munday, TX, population 1,300 (coincidentally ON a Monday, which made my geeky heart supremely happy).

A brief aside on small towns – it seems that in all my years of living in Texas, driving all over Texas, watching Hope Floats and Friday Night Lights every time it comes on TV, and visiting Richmond/Rosenberg for some antiquing, I’d never really allowed myself to internalize what living in a small town is really like. Having about six hours of alone time on country roads to contemplate it, I can tell you the idea is both terrifying and strangely comforting.

There’s a definite charm to each I’ve visited, and the people I’ve met have all been so wonderful, it makes me think I could really do it. Then of course the city girl in me tries to imagine a world without easy access to Anthropologie and non-smoking bars that offer champagne cocktails and charcuterie plates and the panic sets in.

The lingering question in my mind is this – without easy access to such things, how exactly do people in smaller towns define “Keeping Up With the Joneses.” In Houston, this meant luxury cars, brunches served on Arthur Court and the latest Tori flats. I imagine it means something quite different here, but I am more than a little curious to learn what, in an anthropological sort of way.

Other things that happened: two big scares – one major and one minor.

Minor – Our landlords told us they were planning to put our perfect rental house on the market at the beginning of March. Having painted no less than three rooms, hung curtain rods and pictures, and just about carved my name into a tree in the backyard (don’t worry, Kristi, I didn’t), my mourning period was considerable, and consisted of taking an eight-hour nap one Saturday, waking to shed many tears while wandering around the house reveling in its perfection then going to Realtor.com and weeping over the unaffordability of anything similar and currently on the market.

(Sidenote -this scare also prompted me to finish this long-stalled project, which I reveal soon in a future post!)

Major – My best friend in the entire world, whom I’ve known since birth (our moms were friends and pregnant together – I’ve known her longer than my own sisters!), was HIT BY A CAR while jogging one morning and spent the past week in the ICU with a broken pelvis, leg, sternum, etc., etc., more unimaginable awfulness, etc.  My heart still aches that I can’t be with her in Houston, but I can’t stop sending up prayers of thanksgiving that she is alive and getting better little by little each day.

And then there are all the other things.

Like stalking Ree Drummond aka Pioneer Woman as part of my duties for serving on the auction committee for this year’s Cattle Baron’s Ball (shout out to Kendra Scott for donating to such a wonderful cause!!!!) and Junior League starting back up for the New Year,  and deciding to take my Etsy store into the brick-and-mortar realm by teaming up with my friend Vanessa and sharing space at Alley Cat Vintage Mercantile.

Oh, and I also just found out I’ll be making my very first ever LIVE TV appearance next Wednesday for my job. So there’s that. (Holy introverted, band nerd panic attack.)

I also have less than a week to find a wedding present for a friend, a costume for an “Around the World” theme party, and a red dress for the American Heart Association’s Heart of a Woman brunch.

Yep, I think that about sums it up.

Who have I become?

(Answer: A person with a two-paged, single-spaced “To Do” list that includes both work and personal agenda items. At least I can cross off writing this blog post, right? haha)

Prepare to be shocked and amazed.

Because I’m updating my blog for the first time in a million, cadrillion days. Actually, if I would have waited just a couple more, it would be an entirely different year.

PS, to make it up to you, here’s a really cute picture of Oscar my dad took over Christmas. You’re welcome.

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2013.

Never in my adult life have I given myself more than a year to just exist, without some big life change.

Subconsciously bound to making this year no exception, I decided to quit my job and start a new one, just two weeks before the end of the year (and tragically two weeks shy of my Christmas bonus). And so, instead of hobbling out with the old year, I’m ending 2013 like the New Year’s baby – refreshed, eager, a little bit nervous and overwhelmed, but mostly just joyful.

That’s right. I’m choosing that my word from 2014 will be “joyful.” Not only because it’s what I want to be, but it’s what I spent the better half of 2013 being taught lessons on how to be.

Ever tried praying so hard for one specific thing to happen that you had almost convinced yourself there was no alternative way of living? Hello, 2013 – the year I prayed for everything I ever wanted and was repetitively given what I needed instead.

Looking back at the past five adult years of my life, there are so many things I could check on the list as ones I never wanted, asked for, or expected to go another way, but what I’m finally, finally, FINALLY learning is that I am exactly where I need to be. Not because it’s my final destination, but because it’s part of something larger that will all make sense in the end. (I hope.)

Behold, the whirlwind thus far:

2008

  • started my first agency internship (LatinWorks)
  • got a dog (Ruby)
  • graduated college
  • moved (Austin to Sugar Land)
  • got married
  • moved (Sugar Land to Houston)
  • started my first agency job (MMI)
  • supported my husband as he started law school
  • weathered a hurricane (Ike)

2009

  • started a second job (Houston Press)
  • learned about my mom having fibromyalgia
  • got promoted (Account Executive, PR at MMI)
  • quit second job (bye, bye Houston Press)
  • went on a winter cruise with my family

2010

  • moved (Galleria to Inner Loop)
  • got another dog (Oscar)
  • learned how to care for a dog who has seizures
  • got my tonsils out (and learned just how horrible a reaction to narcotics one can have…)

2011

  • celebrated my husband’s graduation from law school (then did the exact opposite of celebrate while my husband job searched for almost a year)
  • moved in with parents
  • survived my husband studying for the Texas BAR exam
  • went to Jamaica to celebrate the end of the BAR exam

2012

  • continued living with my parents
  • moved 400 miles (Houston to Wichita Falls)
  • became MMI’s second-ever remote employee
  • took upwards of 30 flights between Wichita Falls and Houston
  • threw my sister a wedding shower
  • became surrogate wedding planner for my sister

2013

  • celebrated my sister’s wedding
  • joined Junior League
  • got promoted (Senior Account Executive, PR at MMI)
  • continued my record-breaking travel schedule, and reached Elite Gold status for American Airlines
  • got a root canal
  • survived a bee swarm in our backyard (and an acute bout of hypochondria)
  • joined Cattle Baron’s Ball committee
  • called 911 for the fourth time in my life and spent a week with my husband in the hospital, then helped him recover from back surgery
  • quit job (MMI)
  • started new job (Relay for Life)

Dear 2014, I  know I can take whatever you throw at me, but take it easy, won’t you?

Celebrating Survivors, New Stages in Life

What now feels like 80 bajillion years ago, I went to Houston. (For those not prone to hyperbole, that would be October.) I had my little food, shopping, friends, events photos all collected nice and neatly on my phone, but two iOs updates and too many weeks later, I’ve given up.

So I’ve reduced it to just a small handful. I feel like the most noteworthy things I should mention about my travels to Houston this October are still worth looking back at, not only because they are events supporting cancer survivors, but because they segue so nicely into a huge change in my life…

On Friday, November 15 (exactly 5 years and one month from when I started at the little advertising agency that could) I resigned my position and accepted a new job at the American Cancer Society. (Although I was smart enough to not do things in that order.)

I have so many mixed emotions and thoughts about leaving my first “real” job out of college, it’s hard to know where to begin. But the practical things I can set straight in my head are this:

  • Traveling 40-50% of your work life is hard, and so is being a remote employee. It’s hard to have your heart in two places, always feel like you’re missing something when you’re in that other city, and feel slowly yet increasingly disconnected from your coworkers when working from home 400 miles away.
  • Five years is a long time to sit still. I used to not think of myself as a particularly ambitious person because I am not a loud, overt leader or aggressive in my demeanor. But I do want people to recognize my skills and talents, I want to feel creatively and intellectually challenged, and be pushed out of my comfort zone to become stronger. Although my current/almost former job gave me so much freedom to grow – and Lord KNOWS I was challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone for the betterment of my introverted atrophied social skills – sometimes just getting comfortable working somewhere, with a specific culture and way of doing things can limit your world view.
  • It’s the American Cancer Society. After spending four of my five years at the agency representing MD Anderson in the Greater Houston community, I’ve seen and heard some amazing, gut-wrenching, awe-inspiring things. I’ve heard so many personal stories of people going through cancer, and I’ve seen how the programs ACS provides benefit the lives of MD Anderson’s patients and others. When you get the opportunity to be a part of something that truly MEANS something, that enriches and even saves people’s lives, how can you say no?

So, the pictures below really mean something. They represent the last time I dawned my pink MD Anderson shirt for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (at least in an official capacity). From now on, I’ll be sporting purple, and I couldn’t be more nervous, excited, blessed, and a million other things I still can’t seem to compile all together.

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Are you eating your feelings again?

My best friend asked me this on the phone a few weeks ago. She knows me way too well.

Lately, I’ve felt completely disgusted with myself and have been trying to pull myself from the depths a cycle of emotional overeating in response to being overweight.

So I answered her in the affirmative. In a whimper. Which was returned with full sympathy until I told her my weight. Which then turned to anger over the fact that she considered that her “normal to skinny” weight.

But she’s 5’7”, and I’m 5’3”, and somewhere in those four inches lies the entire world of difference.

Though this was not enough to sway her from mentally hexing me at the time, I’ve since done some truly disturbing research. That I needed this here slice of cake to complete. (Later tonight, I plan to pay some bills over a bottle of wine, so let’s just call this whole week a bust.)

According to the BMI scale – the #3 biggest threat to my life’s happiness (#1 and 2 being skin caliper tests and European sizing), these are my guidelines:

Underweight (18.5% BMI or less): 104 pounds or less

Normal (18.5–24.9% BMI): 105 – 140 pounds

Overweight (25–29.9% BMI): 141-169 pounds

Obese (30% BMI or more): 170 pounds or more

Yes. According to this guideline, if I weighed 105 pounds, I would still be considered “normal.” Which I find interesting, because I’m not sure how healthy I would be as an amputee. Also, the skinniest I have ever been in my adult life was 118 pounds. I was a freshman in college, was very active, and lived off about 600 calories a day in granola bars and went to bed hungry every night because I didn’t like my dorm food/was terrified to eat by myself.

It was a dark time. But then again, I wore a size four.

Given this fact, my current state and the tags on my clothes these days, I can confirm that if you are a shorty like me, every 5 pounds off or on your body is an entire dress size.

Think about that, tall people.

Five pounds.

So the next time your horizontally challenged friend complains about their weight, just remember the battle of the bulge is harder fought from the ground floor.

As for me, I’ve got 6 or 7 dress sizes to go.

Is it time for that drink yet?