Best dressed

1:57 p.m.

The fashion world has been in the news a lot lately with New York, London and Paris Fashion Weeks, as well as the recent Oscars.

But there’s something important missing from the media coverage: freelancer fashion.

Yes, it’s a thing. And just like the real fashion world, anything goes.

Do you know why yoga pants took off? Do you know why there’s even a yoga pant industry?

No, not because of yogis.

My statistically valid research (two friends) shows freelancers are the reason for the yoga pant explosion. As a rule, freelancers live in black yoga pants. And most of us don’t really do downward dog, tree pose or even stretch on a regular basis.

I kinda feel like you owe me, lululemon.

That brings me to the next fashion fad freelancers embrace – vintage clothing. My own work-from-home wardrobe consists of a rotation of sweatshirts and hoodies that stem from an undergrad program that may have wrapped in the late 1990s.

There’s no shame.

Then there’s the last – and most critical piece of freelancer fashion: accessories. Or accessory – because there’s really only one you need to know about: the blanket.

Or as I call it, the freelancer pashmina.

In the spirit of transparency, you should know my pashmina isn’t really a blanket. It’s a Snuggie playing the role of a blanket. It’s covered in little Mizzou logos and warms me up when fullsizerender-6my black yoga pants and vintage sweatshirts just don’t cut it.

I think it was Coco Chanel who said you should always take off one accessory before leaving the house. But she’s wrong. In this case anyway. My Snuggie pulls all my work-from-home outfits together.

Anything goes in freelancer fashion but not everyone has the vision.

I see it in my hubby’s eyes when he comes home at night. He stares at me unsure if he should celebrate my “unique” style or if today is the day to gather friends and family, and
make that call to A&E’s Intervention so we can have the talk.

My hubby calls me a haute mess. I see myself as haute stuff.

3:15 p.m.

Shades of crazy

10:45 a.m.

I have this thing. I don’t like certain colors in my closet to touch.

Blues and reds don’t come in contact. I separate them by a yellow, a green, an orange or a purple.

So as I type this, really, it’s just the blues and reds that don’t touch.

And, no, it’s not a political thing. Though if you’ve spent seven seconds on Facebook in the last day, you might also think that blues and red don’t touch. They certainly can’t seem to talk with each other.

My blue-red phobia – or red-blue phobia – dates back to high school. So, five years ago. We learned about symbolism in literary works. Blue was sadness. Red was love.

Clearly, I would only tolerate joy in my love life. So, the executive decision was made: From age 18 forward, the blues and reds in my closet would not touch.

The type of clothing isn’t a factor – shirts, skirts, dresses or pants. (Yes, I have red pants. Who doesn’t?) Fabric also doesn’t matter – silk, wool, poly or cotton. They all “hang” together – as long as the blues and reds don’t touch.

For a while, I put yellows next to greens to foster the whole spring/renewal vibe in my life. (I have green pants, too!) There was also a focus on pulling forward the purples in my closet because the color represents royalty, and well, obviously, that’s me.

Turns out there are more important things to do in life so I stopped that nonsense. But the blues and reds still don’t touch.

Why am I still doing this five years later? Well, obviously it’s because this “strategy” continues to shield me from great heart break and loss.

11:15 a.m.

On approach

2 p.m.

In my family, I’m known for having a bladder of steel. I can hold it. Forever.

Until I can’t.

I had a bumpy landing on a flight to Vegas. I was in one emergency exit row and my hubby was in the other. Precious real estate when you’re 6’2 and 6’4 respectively.

A quick PSA for gymnasts or those who don’t meet minimum height requirements at amusement parks: If you sit in the emergency exit row, I am glaring at you.

Back to my story.

I read. I wrote. I ate. (Every three hours. Everywhere I go. Rain or shine.)

I drank a 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke. And, another can of the deliciousness when the beverage service came cruising down the aisle.

This is probably where common sense comes in. Or lack thereof.

Fast forward to cabin clean up time. I kinda have to “go” but I’m looking out the window and we’re close. I can make it.

Laptops away. Trash collected. Tray tables up.

Yep, I can still make it. I think.

How much time is left? Come on, dude. Fly this bird.

I surrender. I can’t make it.

We’re “on approach” and I go for it.

Up the aisle I charge, a blur to the restroom at the front of the plane.

The flight attendants are seated and strapped in. We’re about to land.

I see the confusion on their faces. I quickly apologize and say, “I had two options and I picked this one.”

I slam the lavatory door.

I hold the bathroom railing. Because, yes, we’re landing as I am going. The phrase, “Please don’t let the blue water touch me,” is on loop in my head.

Sweet relief. I stay in the lavatory waiting to hear, “Welcome to Las Vegas. The local time is….”

Only the announcement never comes. But I can tell we’re at the gate. I very carefully open the bathroom door and immediately hear, “No!”

I slam the door and sit back down. Yes, on that seat.

I’m not going to lie. At this point, I’m laughing in the lavatory. I’ve just landed sitting on the toilet in an airplane – while holding on for dear life.

Who does that? Oh, yeah. Me.

I know my laughter won’t be well-received so I clean it up. And, slowly open the door again.

One of the attendants is on the phone with the pilot – talking about me.

It dawns on me that I may soon be my own PR client. I could be arrested and have to defend myself on TV.

I immediately start writing key messages in my head.

The other flight attendant – who stands about 4’10 in heels – magically grows 10 inches and has a finger in my face. She orders me to sit down and tells me the plane won’t move until I’m in a seat.

And so I start.

The long, slow, walk-of-shame back to my emergency row seat. Everyone on the plane knows what just happened. And, everyone on the plane is waiting for me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see my husband shaking his head. No thought bubble necessary. I could read his thoughts: “Could you follow the rules just one time? Just once?”

But maybe with some more colorful words mixed in.

It’s my turn to de-plane. I apologize profusely. The 4’10 “giant” flight attendant forgives me.

The other flight attendant is clearly still processing. I get it, she just needs some time.

She says something that sounds like, “Don’t ever do that again,” but I can’t be sure.

2:46 p.m.

My Hall of Fame speech

One of the coolest things happened to me in November. I was inducted into my college’s athletic hall of fame. I played volleyball at the University of Central Oklahoma – a D-2 school in Edmond, just outside of OKC.

When I was 18, my parents drove me five hours south on I-35. I arrived on campus knowing really no one, only having briefly met my future teammates.

Playing college sports is awesome but I wouldn’t call it glamorous. You’re always on the road, in strange towns (West Texas, anyone?) and you spend a lot of “quality time” with teammates.

Just like every other family road trip, there are ups and downs. Fortunately, my UCO experience was definitely more highs than lows, thanks to a never-ending supply of patience shown to me by coaches and players.

As one of six athletes inducted in the Hall of Fame, I was asked to give a speech. It was by far the toughest speech I’ve written.

There was so much I wanted to say and so much I wanted to convey, and words seemed so inadequate. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know where to stop. I only knew I wanted one to express one theme: gratitude.

I wanted the university, my coaches, teammates, mentor and friends to know that all these years later (Like five years. Okay, six.), I’m still grateful for the opportunity and for how they welcomed me to the family.

I hope you have a tribe that challenges you, fights for you and most importantly, accepts you, like mine did. I still can’t believe they picked me for the Hall of Fame and that my name will forever be in the school’s history books.

Here are my comments from the ceremony.

 First, I want to recognize the current UCO volleyball team. They’re ranked ninth in the nation. Congratulations to these women – I know in a decade, one of them will be standing at this podium where I am tonight.

 I am grateful and honored to be inducted into UCO’s Athletic Hall of Fame. I moved to Edmond when I was 18. I knew no one. And, I didn’t have a car.

 But like every great team, I had a deep bench.

 People who took care of me, put up with me, looked out for me and treated me like their own.

People like Summer Skinner, the first teammate I met, who let me sleep in her dorm the first week of college so I wouldn’t be alone.

Or my coach, Mark Herrin. He should be in the Hall of Fame for putting up with me. You can’t imagine what it was like to coach me when I was 18 – or at any age, for that matter.

Also, Mike Kirk, the sports information director who nominated me for the Hall of Fame. He saw potential in me and always tried to open doors of opportunity.

My friend and nominator, Mike Kirk

With my friend Mike Kirk

And, George Johnson, who gave me my first PR job at the state capitol when I was 19-years old. He is my “Oklahoma Dad” and still a mentor to me all these years later.

These four were strangers when I moved to Oklahoma. I will always remember their kindness, their generosity and their support.

There are four others with me tonight who comprise my deep bench. I’d like to take a moment to recognize them.

First, my parents.

I started playing sports when I was four. I was on an all-boys soccer team and my dad was the coach. In all my years of competing, I honestly can’t remember a game when my parents weren’t there.

My parents paid for a lot of volleyball camps. They put a lot of miles on their cars driving I-35 to watch me play here. Hundreds of games I played as a kid, in high school, through AAU and in college, and they were always there.

Thank you, mom and dad.

My best friend is here, along with her two kids. We met when we were 14, in line to shoot lay-ups at basketball practice.

Katie, you’ve always supported me and after 25 years, you’re more my sister than my friend. We share a name and a lot of secrets.

Finally, my hubby. We met after my playing days. I’m glad you’re getting to meet more of the team and bench who made me perfect for you.

I can’t believe I was lucky enough to go to school here and represent UCO across the country.

The opportunity made a positive and lasting impact on my life. And, I will forever be grateful.

Thank you, UCO, and thank you Mike Kirk, for nominating me and once again, opening a door on my behalf.

The choke

It was everywhere. Images of Jordan Spieth choking. He ended the 12th hole with a quadruple bogey and saw his shot at winning the Masters slip away.

I could barely watch.

Have you ever choked?

I have. Maybe that’s why it was so hard for me to see Spieth in that place.

I’m not a pro golfer. But I choked big time on a big stage.

It was two years ago. As part of a business I started, I was asked to do my pitch in front of a team of potential investors – including Steve Case.

Yes, that Steve Case. The founder of AOL.

I’d done this pitch at least ten times in front of sizable crowds. This particular event had 200+ in the audience.

I rehearsed. I practiced in the mirror. (A necessary but painful step. Like trying on bathing suits.) I knew my presentation inside and out.

I applied every bit of coaching I’d ever given a client during presentation training.

I was the first of ten speakers. They introduced me. I was called to the stage. And, then, it happened.

My head started buzzing. My heart started pounding. I started sweating. And. Everyone. Was. Staring.

For a solid 10 seconds, I actually contemplated leaving the stage. I figured I could walk off, go right to the car and pretend the whole thing never happened.

Good plan, right?

It was only a three-minute pitch but it felt like 300 minutes of me stumbling through a presentation about a business I started.

After I finished the presentation, the judges had three minutes to ask questions. The worst part came when a judge asked, “So what is your product?”

Translation: You just spent three minutes pitching me your business and I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I couldn’t get off the stage fast enough.

For months, I replayed it in my head. I shied away from additional presentations. I even found myself not speaking up in meetings for fear it would happen again.

I kept thinking: “Kater, you’re a professional communicator, for cryin’ out loud!”

(Yes, like Bob Dole, I use third-person when talking to myself. Always Kater. Never Kate.)

I was convinced I was an extrovert who’d become an introvert and would forever be plagued with stage fright.

Slowly, though, I started to shed the skin of the choke.

I regained my footing and started speaking up again in meetings. I sought opportunities to present to groups.

Along the way, something unexpected happened: I gained a better understanding of my clients. Those who come to me for presentation or media training nervous that they, too, will choke on a big stage.

I’ll likely never get a chance to redeem myself in front of Steve Case. But, I now better relate to my clients. I know first-hand what it feels like to be in the limelight and not at my best.

Have you ever choked? Did it give you better perspective professionally or otherwise?

The cool aunt

gigi-note9 p.m.

I’ve been called a lot of things. A lot.

But the name that means the most is Aunt Kate.

I love being an aunt. Love it. It’s all perks, no problems.

I’m not the cool aunt, though. That’s my sister.

I’m the accountable aunt (read: bossy) who won’t buy my nieces anything pink or with a princess on it.

Admittedly, I can get a little crazy with the gender stuff.

If we play “school” I insist my niece be the principal and someone else be the teacher.

A few Christmases ago, I bought my youngest niece, who was then five, a work bench with tools and a cash register so she could play “business” instead of “house.”

A work bench and a cash register. It’s on every girl’s Christmas list, right?

This year, I gave that same niece, who’s now nine, three books.

One book is about a girl architect. The second is about Abigail Adams. And, the third book is called, “So you want to be president.” It gives kids interesting facts about our nation’s leaders.

I told you: I’m not the cool aunt.

Now, some people (my husband) don’t think I have a heart. But, I do. And, today it melted when we received a handwritten note from my niece.

It was written in pencil. (They still make those?)

And, she thanked us for the books. She said her favorite was the one about the presidents.

But, the best part?

She signed it, “Present (president) Grace.”

Next year we’ll get her the spelling book.

There’s no moral to this story. There’s no “so what?” to this blog. I just love knowing a seed was planted.

9:17 p.m.

Note to self

2 p.m.

I recently received a letter from my 18-year old self.

Cue the “Dawson’s Creek” theme song.

I can’t decide if the letter is sweet and innocent or downright mortifying.

It was one of those, “I wanna read but I don’t wanna read” things and when I finally did read it, I made a pained face.

Parts of the handwritten note were riddled with teen angst. In fact, a good two pages focused on boy/girl drama.

Other parts were hilariously endearing with gems like:

“As you enter the business world, Kate, use your charm, knowledge and personality to obtain success.”

Did I really say “charm?”

I was also deeply philosophical and clearly wise beyond my 18 years with profound statements such as, “Remember, Kate, success isn’t measured in monetary terms but in happiness.”

If you’re not rolling your eyes, you should be. Because I am. And, I’m starting to wonder if I had any friends in high school. I mean, I wouldn’t hang out with me.

Other parts of the letter were downright ridiculous. I thought it necessary to include a list of my favorite foods at the time. Among the winners:

  • Ocean Spray’s Cran-Grape. I guess it’s better than vodka.
  • Chicken and rice. Adventurous!
  • Cookie Crisp cereal. What mother buys their kid that crap?

Are you wowed by my worldly palette?

(If you’re wondering why Diet Coke isn’t on the list. It would be another few years before I forged that relationship.)

Other critical details the letter included:

  • My height and weight. I was lying about it then, too. At least I’m consistent.
  • My shoe size. Still big.
  • And, quips such as, “Never forget where you’re from.” Because I was raised on the mean streets of Overland Park, Kan.?

My mentor encouraged me to write another letter to myself to open a decade from now.

Cran-Grape probably won’t make that list but another grape “juice” will.

3:05 p.m.