Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My unfashionable side: What would Coco say?

Like most Moms who aren't working in a glamorous industry (part-time academia anyone?), attention to fashion is a long-lost memory. But I just finished reading a novel for the svmoms online book club about Coco Chanel called Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky that called to mind why I sometimes love beautiful clothes. And when I say "sometimes," I mean "once in a blue moon". (As I type this, I am wearing hot pink flannel pajama pants with sheep on them and a cotton turtleneck sweater with a mystery stain on the front). But every now and then, I decide I need to look good. I want to look good. So I delve deep into the bowels of my closet and find... something or other.

Reading descriptions of Coco's simple yet elegant style in this novel: her pairing of crisp whites with timeless blacks, recalling her use of beautiful fabric and attention to detail makes me want to own one or two timeless pieces of clothing myself. So maybe for next year's big birthday, I will treat myself to a classy, classic piece of clothing. (And I promise, I won't wear either of them with my pink pajama pants.)

The occasional need for beautiful clothes hit home on my recent birthday. A few weeks ago, my sainted hubby told me he was surprising me for my 39th. He's not a surprise kind of guy, so I was excited. He arranged the sitter (my Mom) and made the reservations. All I had to do was be ready to go around 7 PM on Friday night.

I couldn't remember the last time I had made a major effort with my appearance so I ditched my usual going-out-in-winter look (flouncy silver and black wool skirt, black cardigan and black boots) for my cranberry colored sleeveless dress. When I first brought it home, my hubby dubbed it my Michelle Obama dress because I bought it in Chicago. Plus it's classy and tailored and sleeveless -- a style our First Lady often wears. I put it on for our night out and felt great. And it was a good thing too. Because the surprise was that we went to Manresa for dinner. A place I have longed to go since I first read about it in Switzerland more than five years ago. And Manresa did not disappoint. Oh my. Did it ever not disappoint. We both loved our first amuse bouche (a soft-cooked egg with cream, sherry vinegar and maple syrup) so much that we threatened to order a dozen more and eat them as our first, second and third courses.

Part of what we both loved about Manresa was the casual-elegant yet warm and refined atmosphere. Some of the art on the walls in the restroom consisted of real menus from restaurants in France (presumably where Chef David Kinch used to work?). Looking at them, I was reminded of some of the things I loved about living in France. The wonderful food. The beautiful clothes and sense of style of the residents, the beauty of the vineyards, cycling with friends in the Loire Valley, a lazy trip with my husband and dear friends across Champagne...

It seems that this January, between the novel about Chanel and a transporting evening of eating at Manresa, I've remembered a few things: that I used to live in Europe and even managed to blend in. That I occasionally love to wear beautiful clothes. That I always love a nice glass of champagne. And that taking time with my appearance can elevate my mood and lead to an unforgettable night out.

Note: I received a free copy of the novel Coco Chanel & Ivor Stravinsky as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group Book Club. This post was inspired by thoughts I had reading the novel, while noting my decidedly unfashionable attire.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pearl Up Ladies! (It's for your health)

Sometimes really horrible things happen to good people. Like Michelle Whitlock, a remarkable woman who is working on a global campaign called “Pearl of Wisdom” to educate and spread the word about cervical cancer. Michelle’s story is shocking. She was abandoned by her mother at age three and helped to raise her siblings while her father struggled with drug and alcohol dependence. She went on to college and a career. But when she was 26 years old, she was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer that led to extremely invasive treatments, surgeries, pain and anguish. Years later, she is a survivor, an advocate and very recently, a mother.

But horrible things don’t necessarily have to happen if we are well informed and vigilant. The Pearl of Wisdom campaign aims to prevent more people from getting this disease by informing women – and especially mothers – about the options for avoiding this heartbreaking disease. I participated in a conference call a few weeks ago with Michelle Whitlock and Dr. Marie Savard, a doctor, author and medical contributor to ABC News, in which we learned about cervical cancer, the vaccine that prevents it and the tests we may need to ask for at our OB’s offices.

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is caused by "high-risk" types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, about 3 of every 4 adults will have had HPV at some time in their lives. Most HPV infections go away without treatment. Infections that do not go away can cause cells on the cervix to change and become abnormal. Over time, abnormal cells can slowly develop into cervical cancer.

The good news is with proper screening and vaccination, almost every case of cervical cancer can be prevented.

If you’ve heard of the vaccine for cervical cancer (Gardasil) but don’t know much about it, it’s time to get informed -- especially if you have a daughter. Because who wouldn’t want to get their child vaccinated against a deadly cancer? The vaccine is both safe and very effective and has been given to 40 million people already. It is recommended to give it to girls before they become sexually active (ages 11-12) and up to age 26. This is a vaccine that prevents the virus that later causes up to 70% of all cervical cancers.

There are steps all women can take to reduce their risk of this disease too. If you are over 30, the next time you go for your annual check-up with your OB, ask whether you have had a test for HPV in addition to your Pap. In some cases, the Pap test misses cervical cancer, but a simple HPV test can detect it.

Lastly, take the pledge to protect yourself against cervical cancer and spread the word to the ladies you love.