How It All Began - Part One
Hey everyone! Hope all is going well in your world. In Lisa land, all is pretty good right now. I've just celebrated another trip around the sun with wonderful friends that made it very special for me. I have another celebration planned for this evening that will be with a different group of equally amazing friends and for that I am tremendously grateful. But, things could definitely be better, and I'd like to share with you why.
First and foremost, let me say that there are no words that express how grateful I am to be here, right now, in this moment, sharing my soul with whomever is out there reading it. Sharing is hard for many people, and I am no exception to that but I feel like the time has come for me to come clean about a few things, perhaps get a few other things off my chest, and also, give you some details about who I am. So, let's start with that.
This Lisa, the one up there, is a pretty cool chick if I do say so myself. In all honesty though, the amalgamation that makes up who I am today was a hard fought battle...but this gal....she was worth all of it. I think I'll keep her. Happy 57th Lady.
So let's take it all the way back to the 70's. Stick with me while I regale you with the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of my life.
After a tumultuous upbringing in Austin with four siblings, three sisters and an older brother, my parents divorced when I was 13. Although this is something that many children have faced and survived, for me, what that meant was that I would all of a sudden be thrust into adulthood. My mother had to go to work for the first time and that meant I was in charge of helping her raise my three younger sisters. It was sudden, and I was resentful and angry about this infringement on my teenage life, and soon I began to rebel and ultimately I became "a handful". Cue the teen drama and bad decision making.
Soon enough though, (thank goodness) those awkward years were behind me and I found myself at a tremendous crossroad right after my 23rd birthday. I was dating and in love, a high school dropout, and tremendously insecure, but I was making money hand over fist slinging beers at the local country bar that came into it's own on the heels of the movie Urban Cowboy.
Back in the early 80's everyone wanted to be a cowboy, or at least dress like one every Friday night so that they could go spin around the dance floor in a big circle with the cute girl or guy of the moment. I'd been working at this particular place for about three years and everything was chugging along fine. I'd worked my way up from "Beer Trough Girl" and was now the head bartender working 5 nights a week and I loved my job. Until that is, the boyfriend said to me one evening that he wanted to move back home to Pennsylvania, to be closer to his family. He wanted me to quit my job and join him, as his live in girlfriend. Not particularly the romantic ending that I'd been picturing in my head. I mean, like any other girl, was hoping for forever. Along with a big ring, the house with the white picket fence etc., but that didn't seem to be part of HIS plan. But he said he loved me and well, he LOVED me. That, back then, was enough for me.
So, off to pennsylvania I went. And just over a year later that relationship imploded after I found out he was engaging in regular trysts with his old high school flame (apparently the real reason he wanted to move back home) while I was working nights at the local hotspot.
So, there I am, now 25 years old, stuck in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, a suburb outside of Pittsburg, and I had two friends, both of whom I'd met because I worked at the local watering hole. One of these women had served in the military and she told me how they'd paid her way through college as well as nursing school, and well, that sounded like a good move to me. I mean, how hard could it be right? (Insert wicked laugh track here)
After almost a year of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself, and engaging in all sorts of shenanigans with my new friend, I finally decided that something had to change. I was homesick and missed Texas weather and felt pretty lost. I was also feeling the desire to do something bigger than myself, so couple that with wanting to finally get my GED and go to college, the military was starting to sound like a super good option. But, if I'm being honest, trying to prove to myself that I wasn't a total loser was probably the biggest reason why, five days before my 26th birthday, I sat down in a recruiters office and told him that I wanted to join the Army.
The hands down hardest thing that I've done in my life was Basic Training. By the time I got to my initial training site at Fort Dix, New Jersey, I was 26 years old, barely 100 pounds, had been a smoker for about 10 years, and was still, tremendously insecure. I'm also not the most graceful, nor was I very adept at outdoorsy things, like shooting guns, and running through obstacle courses. And let's not even get started on pushups! But, all that changed in an instant....or, in the matter of 8 weeks, depending on your perspective. As each day passed I would cry, complain about the frigid weather, think about food, ( I was always hungry in Basic Training although they fed us quite well ) and feel sorry for myself, but then somehow I found the inner strength to get through just that day.
Of course, another day would come and I would only look at getting through THAT day. Soon enough it was graduation day and I had gained 20 pounds of muscle, was officially a non-smoker, and had a newfound appreciation for my own abilities. I had actually finished something that I'd started, and that was definitely a first for me at that point. It felt really good. From there I went to South Carolina to learn my trade and then I would end up coming back to Austin and transferring into the Texas Army National Guard where I would remain as an Active Army Guard member for the next 25 years of my life. (off and on...long story but suffice to say, I waffled in my dedication to the armed forces for many reasons, one biggie of which you will read about in part three of this installment blog ) In 2015 I retired from the military with satisfaction at what I'd accomplished, but a bitter anger that propelled me into creating the next phase of my life.
I was 52 years old.
Now, during all those years that I served there were many things that happened in my life, just as you would imagine. A short lived marriage, several relocations, and many, many wonderful memories with friends made; but the one thing that remained constant was my love for people. Even in my insecure teenage years, I loved being around other people. Perhaps being raised in a large family ingrained the need in me to gather people around me, I'm not sure, but it is innately who I am; a people person.
My young days of bartending was a perfect job for me. I could showcase my knack for humor as well as make new friends in the process, all while raking in the cash. Then the military proved to be an even better place for me because it seemed that many of the people that I met there had similar stories to tell, of broken homes, and bad decisions, and the desire to find something that made them feel like they belonged. And boy did I love being accepted into that club. We were elite. We were special. We. Were. Soldiers. But, there was one big thing that made me stand out and that was my love for fashion.
There weren't a whole lot of gals that I worked with in the military that loved fashion the way that I did. I mean, come on. We had our outfits given to us. We knew each day what we would wear to work. We couldn't have weird hair, or colored nails, or wear jewelry or heavy makeup. I wore combat boots and men's undershirts everyday, and for a while, it just made things easy. But soon enough, this girly girl missed the rig-a-ma-roll of getting all gussied up to go out on the town and so the slow curation of my shoe collection began. And so did the cultivation of my personal style.
I went from long hair to short hair often. I was born a brunette but then in my 20's, became a red head for many , many years. After 40, I started the blond years and now, at 57, I am back to being a redhead again and loving it.
I loved clothes and trying different trends was something that I didn't just jump on, I went whole hog. Every new trend that came out of fashion week ended up on my person at some point over the last 40 years or so. Some, I still have in my closet, and many ended up being given away to friends or nieces, both of which are in abundance.
I also learned what worked on my lanky frame and what really didn't flatter me. And, because of the daily wearing of my military cap, hats became an obsession.
So, let's recap. I am a retired veteran, I love fashion, I am obsessed with hats, I have may friends, and I LOVE being around people.
To finish off the Part One of this multi blog segment, I want to share a few of those aforementioned insecurities.
First of all, I was, for most of my life, tremendously slender. I mean, like super skinny. I am 5'8 and from 16 years of age to about 48 or so (give or take) I weighed 112 - 115 lbs. I hated how my body had no shape. People had no problem telling me to "eat a sandwich" or asking if I was anorexic. (I wasn't by the way)
I also was very flat chested, much to my chagrin as all three of my younger sisters were well endowed by the age of 15 or 16 while I was the girl that "could wear my bra backwards and it would fit better" ( a slander thrown out from my brother one afternoon when I was 17 that I obviously still recall to this day). I also have a lazy eye, which , if you look at my photos, you'll notice, so I hated having my picture taken. Later in life I just adopted the cool, reserved, eyeglasses look to help conceal my lazy eye.
I know...some of you are saying right now, waa-waa poor skinny, lazy eyed, flat chested girl! Waa- Waa - Waa. But that's exactly why I am sharing this. Because we all have things that we just don't like about our physical appearance. At least, all of us except maybe Kim Kardashian. Seriously though, our insecurities are huge to us, because they are ours. Some of the things that we don't like, we can change. For example; I'd thought briefly about getting surgery to open my eye lid a bit more but it became my signature thing to a certain degree and well, I just never did it. Besides, my husband loves it.
I also wrestled with thoughts of breast augmentation for many years but being a soldier and being very active ie: a runner, it seemed that having larger, fuller breasts would impeded my active lifestyle so, I just never did that either.
And then there are things that plague us our whole life, like weight issues or scars that we can't hide. But, I'm here to tell you that although it took me well into my 40's to truly embrace me, for all my percieved flaws and imperfections, having insecurities about showing yourself to the world alongside women that, in my minds eye, have no flaws, is something that I never thought I would ever do, but...here I am. It's all about the smoke and mirrors.
In closing, I want to say that this journey that we call life is something that will continually build upon the person that we are. Constantly changing, hopefully growing emotionally, and becoming more self aware of who you are and your place in the world. This thing that I do now, this "Influencer" thing, is just another part of the growing for me. Which has led me to tell this story. I'm tremendoulsy grateful and very happy that you're along for the ride but hang on to your horses as they say....because Part Two gets a bit bumpy.
XOXO - We'll talk soon.