Courage and Beauty


Debby and her life love, Josh Dun, threw a New Year’s party for family, close friends, and loved ones to meet and to ring in 2020. It was a surprise wedding and the perfect opportunity for their three loved ones to meet and know one another. I decided to splurge on a dress. Little did I know that the dress would play a part in my decision to begin how I want to live it this year, with courage and beauty.


I was beginning to feel well after years of chronic pain precipitated by cancer and its treatment. I wanted to look my best. While packing and planning outfits for our upcoming NYE party and anniversary trip, I noticed “Old Sparkly” hanging in my closet. Old Sparkly was a tiny, black velvet dress I had kept for over 30 years. She was embedded with pure, small crystals and adorned with a double slender belt with sweet silver loops. It looked like a New Year’s party, so I tossed her in the garment bag just in case.


I specifically splurged on the most gorgeous, floor-length, burgundy beauty by Ralph Lauren for the wedding. It was stunningly beautiful, fit me perfectly, and I planned on donning it all night. At around 10 pm, I went to the hotel room to freshen up. Then, a glimmer from Old Sparkly reached out and held my eye. At that moment, I considered changing to ring in the new year in a different dress. Immediately, my thoughts chided me, “Who do you think you are to do a dress change in the middle of an event? You don’t have a ton of dresses to expend willy-nilly.” (Sometimes, my self-talk uses lingo from the show Happy Days.)


My cancer battle showed me the necessity of recognizing and dealing with demeaning self-talk. While in the room, Old Sparkly’s crystals gleamed in the light as if begging me to take her dancing. I ignored her and returned to the party, thinking I should save her for another special occasion. After all, my Burgundy Beauty was so stunning. I was halfway to the elevator when courage came welling up. I thought, “Life isn’t getting any shorter, I may not go to another New Year’s party, I’m taking Sparkly for a spin.” This was my Declaration of Independence from those negative voices trying to define me or my actions.


With shoes in hand, I darted back to the room. I felt almost magical with my Ralph Lauren flowing after my brisk walk. I tried on Sparkly for the first time in over 15 years. She fit me like a glove, reminding me of all the hard work I’ve put into my body. I didn’t plan on the Sparkly being shorter than Beauty. I didn’t pack the pantyhose that I desperately needed due to the new 20-plus bruises I had on my shins. “Hose smoze,” I threw makeup on my legs and whisked myself back to the party.


I looked better in Burgundy Beauty, but that was no longer the point. I was ringing in a new decade, a new way of life, and it had little to do with looking perfect. It had everything to do with banishing that negative talk, putting on my courage, and owning my decision. This made me feel strong, courageous, bold, and thus beautiful. Writing this story inspired me to start posting this blog, which has been a private journal. Like Old Sparkly, this site isn’t perfect. It’s not fully prepared with all the bells and whistles, but that will eventually come. It’s the time to seize the moment, put on my courage, and dance into 2020 with beauty and boldness. Welcome to my blog!

I, Old Sparkly, my daughter Debby Ryan, and my daughter-in-law Sarah in the NYE 2020 Photobooth.

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