Recently I was in a labor and delivery unit of a hospital in my hometown. Thankfully, this time I was just a visitor. Last time I had been in the maternity ward was just nine months ago when I gave birth to my youngest son, Asher. I look pretty different now; I stand much taller. You see, I had postpartum depression. Now, my emotional balance is much more stable, and I’m actually smiling (I didn’t smile much as a patient there).

As I walked in to greet my friend and meet the new bundle of “joy,” I pushed the hard, cold steel doors and immediately heard the familiar buzzing and smelled the hospital anti-bacterial smell. As I knocked on my friend’s door, I was greeted with the scent of flowers. The flowers and balloons reminded me of my times in the hospital. That recognizable scent took me back to my own babies and their birth stories.

On the drive home, I reminisced about my sons’ births. It’s too bad that my babies’ birth stories are always plagued with my own memories of the postpartum depression that inevitably followed. I had my first son, Dylan, at the eager age of 27. Looking back, I realize that ignorance really is bliss, and recognize just how little I knew then about the sacrifice that motherhood entails. To say that my husband and I were blindsided would be the understatement of the century. We walked into the hospital excited to start our new life with our new “accessory” or “playmate” of sorts, and we walked out of the hospital petrified, sleepless and begging our mothers to allow us (and our offspring) back into their homes.

Looking back, Dylan was a sweet and relatively easy baby. At the time, however, I thought he had every type of reflux, colic and new baby syndrome that I could find on WebMD. I was a fish out of water and anything and everything that Dylan did scared and alienated me. Thank goodness my own mother has an infinite amount of patience. I must have called her name and asked her the same questions thousands of times. I was sure I was doing something wrong. With each day I felt more hopeless and distant from my previous life. I remember waking up to Dylan’s little “kitten like noises.” He was not a big crier (thank goodness for that). As he made his hunger noises, I slowly dragged myself out of bed. I had every intention of brushing my teeth and hair and starting the day on the right foot, but one look at myself in the mirror, and I was horrified. My eyes were puffy from lack of sleep and from crying, and my hair was a total mess from falling asleep on a wet head of uncombed hair. I had one earring in and the other must have fallen off somewhere along the way. I was wearing one of three t-shirts that I wore during this postpartum period. Ironically, it was a faded and loose “Life is Good” t-shirt. Looking at the words “Life is Good” on my t-shirt was like a daily reminder (or guilt trip, depending on the state of mind). My mom and sisters used to joke that the “Life is Good” t-shirts and an old pair of George Washington University sweatpants were my uniform. The sight of myself in the mirror threatened my already fragile state.

I had never been overly self-conscious or vain, but I’ve always taken care of myself. Whether it was going to the gym or a quick stop at the mall for window shopping, I took pride in my appearance. Now, I was failing at the “Life is Good” part. Despite my feelings of sadness, I adored my son. Unlike some women struggling with postpartum mood disorders, I made sure Dylan was my first priority. But I struggled with the feeling that the shoes I had to fill were too big and that the show would have to go on without me. I depended wholly on my mom and became a shadow of my former self.

Days became weeks, and weeks became months. My mother finally looked at me, in my “Life is Good” t-shirt and sweats, and said it was time to see a professional and figure out why I felt so out of sync. I began to see a psychiatrist who promised that I was still me, and that I was just experiencing postpartum depression. He asked me to trust him, and he prescribed an antidepressant for me to “try.” He said I did not need to sign a contract or promise to love and always take the antidepressant, but he did think I should give it a try. I think back to the visit now, and I know I looked desperate and sad. I had my “Life is Good” t-shirt and some black yoga pants. (I justified wearing the shirt because at least I now had on nicer pants!) The minimal effort on my outside appearance was nothing compared to the sluggish and distant feelings and thoughts that filled my head. I kept wondering why I felt that everything was falling apart?

This story does actually have a happy ending. I got through this sad and helpless phase, and I went on to enjoy my son. My doctor was right, and the combination of the therapy and anti-depressant was successful in “gluing me” back together. With time, not only did I connect with Dylan, but I absolutely loved my baby (he is now almost six years old). The postpartum — as bad as it was — did not mean that Dylan was destined to be an only child. As a matter of fact, I went on and had two more wonderful boys. The hormonal changes were never easy for me, and the sleepless nights and new demands were taxing. But I found my rhythm (sort of) and learned what works and what doesn’t work for me. One thing is for sure, that being comfortable and wearing my old, wrinkled “Life is Good” t-shirts are no longer a tribute to my failed attempt to get dressed. I actually do feel that life is good (mostly when the boys are well-behaved). I look at my friend and her new baby girl and wish I could warn her of the highs and lows, and why each phase is, in fact, worthy of the next. In the same vein, I look at myself, my husband and our three boys, and I know that my question has been answered: Things do fall apart, but what we rebuild is always stronger than what we had before.

Source: http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/postpartum-depression-symptom_b_1862300.html

This year, more than any other year, I woke up starving. I was fasting. The smell of my kids‘ bagels in the toaster forced me to stay in my room and linger in bed just a bit longer (I don’t do well with temptation). You see, I don’t fast on a regular basis. But, I am Jewish and my family and I observe the holiday of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and prayer. This is the holiest of holidays and we make the obligatory visit to the temple. It’s ironic (or actually sad) that the Temple is normally less-than-full. However, on Yom Kippur, the sanctuary is standing room only. By the looks of the overflowing parking lot, most of us would do Billy Joel proud as we have chosen to “laugh with the sinners rather than cry with the saints.

As I got dressed and applied a little makeup, I cursed the headache that was taking over. Apparently, my head (and energy level) missed my morning cup of coffee. However, fear, tradition and a guilty conscience reminded me that fasting (and repenting) was not a choice. I grew up in a traditional Jewish home. My own (always stylish) mother always led the way by example. A simple, classic black or beige St.John suit was as “flashy” as my mom got on this holy day. This holiday was about repentance, she often reminded me. No need for too much makeup, or a fussy dress. I often looked at the Jewish women who had chosen not to fast, or not to participate in prayer. I did not recognize many of the faces, and wondered if they were new to the community? Draped in their fanciest frocks, which often included a large and elaborate hat-and-purse combo, a fashion show of sorts often took place in the sanctuary. I remembered my mom’s elegant and appropriate style, and got dressed in a loose-fitting black Tahari dress. No belt or ruffles, just a plain dress.

As I walked out my front door, my friend-slash-confidant-slash-keeper of secrets, the UPS man, bumped right into me. I could not resist the urge to open the box right away, and boy, was I glad I did. The box contained a highly anticipated pair of black patent leather peep-toe Prada pumps. It would be a sin not to wear my new shoes! I put them on right away. I thought about my mom’s flat sandals. She often reminded me that this holiday required a lot of repeated sitting and standing. Never mind, I thought. I can still wear these new shoes. Like I said, I’m not great with temptation.

This year, my husband and I were given an honor, and we needed to be standing on the bimah at 11 a.m. sharp (the bimah is a pedestal located in the front and center of the temple). As I jumped out of my car and started to walk, I realized that these new pumps were extremely tall and dare I say — uncomfortable. My legs shook and my toes started to ache. I was already regretting more than just my sins; how would I sit and stand all day in temple? How would I ever walk in front of the entire congregation without falling? I barely made it inside the temple before my name was called out, and my husband and I walked to the bimah to read from the Torah. Not only was my walk up to the front of the temple painful and scary, but my time standing on the bimah was even more difficult. As I read the passages, all I could think about were my shoes. I was in pain and hoped nobody could tell.

Thankfully, I did make it back to my seat without falling. Throughout the rest of the service I complained (internally) and wondered: Should I sit down and rest my feet, or take my shoes off and remain barefoot? I did neither, and opted instead to suck it up and deal with this ridiculous situation. I mentally chastised myself and wondered if perhaps this same shoe existed with a lower heel, or if my new shoes were even refundable? Of course, this question led me to do a quick search on my iPhone. (Don’t worry: The sound was off and the entire search lasted no more than five minutes). It wasn’t long after my Google search that we were back in the car on the way home. I couldn’t help but to feel badly about the morning’s service. Yes, I had fasted, and I had attended the Yom Kippur service. However, while I had been physically present, my mind and thoughts were not where they needed to be. I obviously had more in common with the fancy-frock females than I wanted to admit.

I used my time in temple to worry, complain and Google my style choices and quandaries. I am ashamed of this, and wrote this post as a confession (I know, it’s a little late). This whole Yom Kippur/shoe episode got me thinking about a bumper sticker I recently saw. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do.” Prior to this Yom Kippur, I had not understood the elaborate hats or makeup. Now I get it: We have to each make a conscious effort to be present and honest with ourselves. I knew where I needed to be, and Saks.com was not it. So, I apologize now for the sins of last year, and promise to do an extra good deed (or two) to make up for style sins.

Source: http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/temple-yom-kippur-prada_b_1936264.html

It’s midnight the night before we are taking our three young boys, ages five, three and ten months to Orlando. I should be in bed. Instead, I’m standing in my closet, staring at my empty Tumi suitcase. I was supposed to be packing, but somehow my mind wandered and I am thinking about how I can get out of going on this trip. I know I sound ungrateful (please don’t judge me for it). Traveling is a luxury and I am usually a happy-ish traveler. But, the whole Disney World itinerary in 90 degree heat and 100 percent humidity with three young children does not excite me. I catch a glimpse of the duffle bags, backpacks and lunchboxes my two older children have packed and I smile. Their good efforts do not go unnoticed. They have each selected three or four pairs of shoes, approximately nine or ten bathing suits and a few pairs of underpants. The rest of the stuff is just a huge mess: Legos, Hot Wheels, books and nerf guns. I’m secretly envious of how easy it is to be young and carefree. The boys know they will be swimming and playing. That’s all they care about, and that’s all they pack for. I shuffle back to my closet and throw in the most casual, lightweight clothing I can find. My vacation wardrobe is limited to capri pants, bathing suits, tank tops, shorts and sandals. I get in bed and don’t allow myself to have any anxiety-provoking thoughts. I remind myself that Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on earth.

Upon arrival at Disney World we are greeted by (a very loud) Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. (Can anyone even understand Donald Duck?) Too bad my oldest son is petrified of dressed-up characters. We decline the photo opportunity and head straight to the lobby. Immediately, I am struck by the energy and movement in the lobby. There’s a din of various languages, and many scents waft about (not all pleasant). The visitors are excited and their eagerness to check in and get to the park of their choice is almost contagious. Many are dressed in head-to-toe Disney gear. I can appreciate a child who loves a character and wants to dress accordingly, but what I will never understand is the adult couple who is dressed in matching Disney attire. Never mind that they are here alone, sans children! I nod and give a friendly smile to a lady who wears a large pin on her shirt. The pin reads, “It’s my first time at Disney World, and it’s my birthday.” She is proud of her button and her Minnie Mouse headband. Her male friend is also pleased — he clicks away and takes one picture after another of the birthday girl in all her glory. I am pulled away from the scene, as my middle and youngest son want Winnie the Pooh’s autograph. (Ironically enough, my boys will not get near Pooh or Tigger. Instead, I have to stand in line, ask for the autograph and hug the furry friends).

We are finally in the Magic Kingdom, and before we even get our hands stamped or sunscreen on, my boys are begging for a popsicle and a balloon. I remember how magical this kingdom was for me, and I smile and get in yet another long, hot line. The boys stare in awe at the many people, characters and nearby attractions. They can’t wait to get a map and to walk all over the park. (This is highly unlikely, as they refused to rent a stroller for the day.) As the heat index rises, I retire to the shade with my sleeping 10-month-old baby. I love to people watch and can’t think of a better place to do so. Many women, of all ages and sizes, have used the heat as the perfect excuse to dress as scantily as possible. T-shirts and tank tops are tucked, folded and knotted in more creative ways than I have ever seen. I am equally as intrigued by the sheer amount of tattoos. Every language, design and color is on display. Bikini tops and bottoms are the uniform of choice, and I suddenly feel very overdressed in my Banana Republic tank-and-shorts combo. I watch as whole families play in the water attractions. Kids, mostly barefoot, are happily running and splashing around. As long as my son isn’t woken up, I am happy to quietly watch and play along. The shrunken tie-dye shirt and neon pink visor on grown women (and the Chipmunks’ grating voices), all seem to go away and blend in to the bigger scene.

In that moment, I realize just what people mean when they say “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Maybe Disney World actually is a magical place, not for the attractions and the entertainment, and certainly not for the fashion and style on display. Maybe, just maybe, days at Disney take on a magical quality because of the carefree attitude we must embrace when there. Lines, heat, unpleasant odors and even grown women in princess attire can’t spoil the real treat. Disney World is the perfect excuse many of us need to engage in behaviors that might otherwise be seen as childish or inappropriate. Now, you won’t ever see us in matching Disney World hats and t-shirts. I’ve realized that going to the Disney parks is not about judging others. Rather, it’s about having your own agenda, and enjoying the moments you and your family create and letting all style rules fall to the wayside while you enjoy the rides.

Source: http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/disney-world-princess-gear-photos_b_1948397.html

Growing up, I did not have an easy time with style and fashion. I always knew exactly what I liked, and which trends were appealing. However, puberty was not so kind to me: My body, face, hair (and attitude) went through many phases and changes (most of which were not too attractive). It was about fitting in, in a place and time when my body and taste in clothes was in flux (not to mention those pesky teenage hormones).

So now, as an adult, I’d like to think that I have picked up a new approach to fashion. I refuse to be stressed about what doesn’t look good and I am determined to abide by my own rules for what works. I can look at magazines (and I do), and I can write about the amazing purchases that stars make. But, I know that my time — especially in my closet and in front of a mirror — is limited (unless I want my three children with me). I decided long ago to stick with what works for me. Here are my top ten rules for a smooth routine and stress-free attitude about fashion.

  1. Wide leg pants may look amazing on Rachel Zoe and Gwyneth Paltrow. I love the sophisticated, yet casual look. However, as with any trend, I have to be realistic. If it’s not right for my petite, pear-shaped body, then it’s not a style for me. I may fall head over heels for a certain look, but after many disappointing shopping trips, I have learned to move on. My amazing tailor can’t make them look good and a short version won’t work either.
  2. Exercise gear and yoga clothes can be worn for just about any activity. I’m not a failure or an imposter if I wear the clothes and don’t do the activity! (Confession: I know many people love yoga, but I can’t think of anything that is more boring). I do, however, love yoga clothes. The stretchy fabrics are always versatile and comfortable. Whether I find myself at Barnes and Noble on the floor reading a book, or at a lunch date with my mom, I still know that my trustworthy yoga look can be dressed up or dressed down. Bonus: If I ever do make it into a yoga class, I’ll be prepared.
  3. My mom has always carried an extra pair of comfortable, flat sandals with her wherever she goes. I used to get mad because she put the shoes in an old CVS bag. (I wanted her to at least carry the shoes in a Longchamp or Prada bag). Now, my days are unpredictable, and I often end up being out with the kids for longer than I anticipated. I have taken a page from my mom’s book and I keep an extra pair of shoes with me (albeit in my Lululemmon bag). Certain errands and activities call for comfortable shoes, especially in Florida, where sand and humidity are never too far away.
  4. No matter how little desire I have to attend the birthday party, lunch or meeting that I’ve committed to, I convince myself to at least apply lip gloss and mascara. That’s it. If I’m feeling up to the whole nine-step moisturizer-and-foundation process, great. But, I learned awhile ago, that this “all or nothing” school of thought doesn’t work for me. A little mascara and some blush and/or lip gloss goes a long way. It helps me feel more comfortable knowing I look good and that I didn’t spend all morning getting ready.
  5. I have always liked the monochromatic, simple look (some people may call it boring). I love to admire the accessories that women put together. But, for me, my diamond earrings and a plain necklace is the way to go. I don’t have to worry about which bracelet matches the earrings. The few times that I have attempted to accessorize have been a disaster. A cute pair of small hoop earrings left me with an infection, and nothing is more embarrassing than a finger that is stained from a silver ring. While the boys love to pull and play with my accessories as though they were tethers and Frisbees, I must say “no thank you” to big, bold accessories.
  6. My mom will be proud of me for this: I truly believe that you should always have a sweater at hand. I like to have a black cardigan or a blazer to ensure that I’m never cold, and that if needed, I can look a bit more dressed up if necessary. Worst-case scenario, I can leave the sweater around my shoulders or drape it over the back of a chair.
  7. When in doubt, I have learned that it is always better to err on the side of caution. If I think the dress, pants or top are see-through, then they probably are. Nothing is more embarrassing than realizing my whole extended family and everyone at the restaurant knows exactly what I’m wearing (or not wearing) under my clothes.
  8. No matter how good I want to look, or how badly I want to wear a certain outfit, nothing is worth my sanity (and comfort). Shoes that cause blisters, or dresses that don’t really feel “me”, aren’t worth it. At the end of the night I want to remember what I did and the lively conversations I had, not the dress that kept riding up.
  9. Nothing makes me happier than finding a two-for-one, like concealer that is also a corrector or lip gloss which promises to plump up my pout. Who knows if it actually works? But, honestly, I don’t care. If I believe it works, then I put it on and wear it with confidence. Truthfully, half the battle is believing. So, wear what you want and have faith in your choices.
  10. Last but not least, do what makes you feel good. If I feel comfortable, chances are I will smile and be a more pleasant person. A smile is no fad or passing trend. Look the part, play the part and if it’s genuine, you are sure to stress less and smile more.

Source: http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/get-dressed-avoid-stress_b_2046437.html

It was 2008 and I was very pregnant with my first son. I had moved back to Florida, and in an effort to deal with my anticipatory anxiety, I looked for new friends who had just had babies themselves. Luckily, I live in a small town and it took no time for me to be introduced to Maria Florencia. Our first “meeting” took place at at a restaurant. At 36 weeks pregnant I was hot, bothered, bitchy and ready to pop. Maria Florencia (aka the Martha Stewart of Florida), looked the complete opposite. She carried her baby in the car seat, and was calm and collected. Right from the start, I stared at Maria Florencia and wondered how on earth someone could have just given birth and still looked that slim. As Maria Florencia sat chowing on nachos and a soft taco, I rubbed my aching back and looked at my swollen feet, squished into my Gucci thong sandals. I chewed on my healthy salad-and-beans dish and watched Maria Florencia.

For starters, I noticed my new friend was easy going, sweet and, well, low-maintenance. Her cargo pants hung loosely on her hips, and she wore a breastfeeding-friendly top. New Balance sneakers were her footwear of choice. I had pushed through most of my pregnancy without buying a single piece of maternity clothes because I couldn’t stand the designs and cuts. Maria Florencia, however, was practical, and had no problem wearing simple, comfortable clothes. (Maybe that’s why she was also able to breastfeed easily — no matter where she was.)

She was happy to carry her diapers and bottles in her plain, brown, no-name purse. I, on the other hand, could not wait to be a mother, not just for the baby, but also for the amazing accessories, strollers and bags that would accompany said child. Maria Florencia smiled as I used my iPhone to show her the Louis Vuitton diaper bag I had been stalking. I think my new friend was shocked to find that someone would go to such lengths to find a baby bag (not to mention pay such an outrageous price). It became obvious, fairly quickly, that Maria Florencia did not think or care too much about accessories. When I asked what her husband was getting her for her birthday, Maria Florencia excitedly announced that he was buying her a sewing machine.

I don’t sew my own clothes and never plan on putting a vacuum on my wishlist. But, thanks to Maria Florencia, I do have a new appreciation for her practical and sensible ways. From her, I have learned that with patience and a good eye, shopping a sale rack is akin to searching for hidden treasure: unique items can be found with enough persistence. I now understand that patience is a virtue, and that finding the correct size and color on sale provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Maria Florencia would argue that the reward is in the savings. I’m still working on that part. I’m just happy I have extra cash for the makeup I wanted.

Maria Florencia’s down-to-earth style has also taught me that brand names and price tags are (mostly) for show. Maria Florencia often appears at a get-together wearing a stylish look. I am always amazed to hear the ridiculously low price she paid for her clothes. She is pleased to announce that the piece I am admiring was purchased at Target or T.J. Maxx. From far away (and even close up), I could have sworn the sweater was from Armani or Elie Tahari.

Maybe Paula Abdul’s hit song “Opposites Attract” was not solely about romantic partners. I can’t help but wonder if maybe we do each look for friends who will teach us to create a new balance and order within ourselves. I will continue to hope that someday Maria Florencia will learn to appreciate the fine art of shopping, purchasing and finally wearing the perfectly overpriced and non-handmade Gucci pumps. Until then, I will take her advice, and try to spend a little more time browsing and comparing prices. And if nothing else, I’ll put all that saved money in my very own personal shoe fund.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/get-dressed-less-stress_b_2198387.html

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Some of my best memories are our girls’ shopping weekends. These quick, yet significant getaways were always an opportunity to overindulge, eat, shop, laugh and laugh some more. These trips still happen, but with fiancés, babies, husbands and work demands, it has been more difficult for the girls to get away alone.

So when my youngest sister sent out a girls-only group email, I couldn’t help but smile at the dilemma she described. Abby spoke about her upcoming wedding in August 2013, and that she couldn’t possibly pick a wedding dress unless we were all present and all agreed that the dress was “the one.” The main issue was that the dress she had her eye on had a “schedule.” It was part of a new collection, and thus was traveling to various bridal boutiques as part of a trunk show. (As if our lives aren’t complicated enough, we were now trying to catch a glimpse of a traveling dress). In her email, Abby said that she has just found out the dress would be in Miami for a few days, right after Thanksgiving. Because we were all meeting for the holidays in Florida, she wondered if we could possibly sneak away for a quick girls-only day trip to give our opinion on said dress.

I’m not going to lie. I was happy at the thought of getting a break from my daily responsibilities as a wife and mother of three boys. In fact, I was probably the first to reply. We all agreed to go, and before our conscience could get the best of us, we were halfway to Miami.

We’re a gregarious bunch, so we walked into the wedding boutique expecting to get somewhat rowdy. Of course, we were all focused on the dress mission, but we were also focused on enjoying our time together. But as soon as I set foot into the upscale boutique, I got a sense that our boisterous group may not be so welcome. First, we weren’t exactly dressed the part (I was wearing comfy sneakers and black sweats). Immediately I was struck by the structure and order in the store. I’m not talking about the dresses being hung properly. No, the salesladies all looked, dressed and spoke in the same manner, in fact, I could barely tell them apart. It was like the Stepford Wives: Wedding Dress Edition.

As we waited for my sister to get settled in, we started to take a look around ourselves. I touched the dresses, and started to joke with my older sister and sister-in-law. Some of the dresses reminded me of prom circa 1995, yet others looked like they would be perfect for a cabaret (white feathers galore). The more we perused the wares, the louder our laughs and comments became.

Finally our consultant, Peggy, ushered us behind “the curtain.” Almost immediately, we all gasped in unison. The showroom was more like a museum. The dresses were divided by style and craftsmanship, and they were all protected behind a glass door.

Like children, we followed Peggy in a single-file line. She pointed to a smallish couch, told us to sit down, and pulled Abby into a large dressing room. Maybe everyone who shops here follows the same diet routine, but we don’t, and we were not able to all fit comfortably on the couch. I took the liberty of sitting on the floor. The showroom was dimly lit and the sales consultants all wore black clothing and stilettos, and their hair was tightly pulled back. Suffice it to say that my Nike sneakers didn’t measure up.

Peggy came out first, and like a meal at a fancy restaurant, she began describing in detail each gown that Abby was trying on. I didn’t hear a word she said. I was too busy peeking my head into the dressing room to see how Abby looked. We all stared at Abby and waited patiently until we could say what we thought. Even so, we were a bit intimidated by Peggy’s description and opinion.

Usually, trying on clothes is a group effort in my family, but not in this instance. Peggy was the official dresser, undresser, hair dresser and apparently, she was the only one who could touch the dresses.

Abby did find her perfect dress and veil. She looked amazing in it, and even though it was probably forbidden, I took many pictures. Then we left and started to unwind from the very stressful shopping excursion we had just experienced. Upon toasting our girls’ day with champagne, we vowed to never ever take ourselves or our shopping too seriously.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/wedding-dress-shopping_b_2239389.html