Over the last six months my daughter has had her friends over more often. Especially her friends who are boys. This is not a problem as they are all perfectly nice, well-mannered kids who are even sometimes amusing to listen to and/or hassle.

Two things that took getting used to with teen boys: First, they seem to take up so much more space than girls. They are all a lot bigger than my petite sized daughter but even the ones who only as tall as me seem to take up more space. In my opinion, three boys are a crowd. Continue reading

Trusty is one of those words that seems lonely without the “my” as in “I have my trusty…” whatever. Wrench. Horse. Sidekick. Duct tape if you’re Red Green. That thing that never lets us down.

I have never heard anyone say the phrase “My trusty truth-teller” but that is the seed a wise friend planted in my head recently. There are levels of trust, and levels of truth (if we get down to the nitty gritty), but one constant seems to be my impulse to dismiss the truthy-ness of those I trust when they care about me. A school of thought known as “But you have to say I’m beautiful because you’re my mother!!!!”

Their love (or like) makes their opinion suspect.

I think love goggles, unlike beer goggles, only distort the truth slightly. When you love someone their good traits can be magnified – by the same token on a bad day that same magnification can cause you to use words like “throttle” and “thrash” – but neither thing is untrue. And I think that is where the caution lives, for me at least. How much is love, how much is truth and how high are the stakes.

That’s where trusty comes in.

I have a friend I clothes shop with and we have a stringent no-lies-in-the-dressing-room policy combined with a rule about only buying it if its perfect on you and goes with one thing you already own, which means we have had many a “trusty truth-teller” moment at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. But when she tells me how she admires my skills in another area I dismiss a good 70% of it cuz that’s just the luv talking.

The bigger the luv, the less trusty the truth-telling. Its twisted. Should be the other way around. Maybe for other people it is.  My poor long-suffering, trusty husband. He should have read the marriage contract more closely. Speaking Truth to Power is a breeze compared with Speaking Truth to Love.

I am working on changing the formula for the acceptance of praise (P) so that truth-telling (TG) by someone normally trusty (Ty) does not get deflated (-) depending on the ratio of love (%L) the truth-teller has for me. My goal is inverse ratio. So my husband (H), with 95% (the highest possible love ratio available to humans), would normally have a formula like this: [(HTy) + (TG)] – (95%L) = P5% is objectively true, 90% love goggles

The new and improved husband formula would be simply: [(HTy) + (TG)] + 95%L = P95% objectively true, 5% love goggles.

It could work. I may have some some trouble applying the formula depending on the truth, but I am hopeful. I realized that I almost never fudge praise just to “be nice” so I’m not sure why I assume others do. I have several people, in addition to my husband and my girlfriend, that I trust and admire who deserve to be in the “trusty truth-teller” category, so I’ll give it a go. And now of course I have my objective, trusty formula.

It occurs to me that if love goggles were real they would have to be steampunk.

I live in a place where we get a lot of weather.

Cold weather, hot weather, rainy weather, snowy weather and most especially cloudy weather. The skies can be gray for days on end no matter the temperature. The upside to daily life being monochromatic is that when we do get a Kodachrome day everyone goes insane.

Carpe Diem does not quite capture the zeal with which people take to the outdoors around here when the sun shines. Parks, lakes, sidewalks, front yards, young & old, everyone is out biking, running or just taking a walk. If you have lived here for more than a year you know that every mild, sunny day may be “the last nice day” so you go outside.

People are giddy. We smile, talk to the neighbors and make the most of it. I got some more caulking done, along with a few more of the never-ending fall chores. Did some shopping, poking in the bookstore and cleaned three shelves that the sunny day revealed were coated in dust.

All in all an excellent use of of a Saturday that may be the last nice day we have for a while. I guess you have to have the gray to appreciate the color.

I am torn about my blog post today. I am suffering from split focus, attention deficit, mommy syndrome, something.

On the one hand I am busy stimulating the economy for President Obama. Purchasing binders, index cards, graph paper and boxes of Ticonderoga. Trying to figure out when to get the god-awful “spandies” required for volleyball, spending hours at Target watching my daughter try on clothes, and further hours discussing other stores that must be visited and the impending first day of school. This is all fine. Its the process and procedure of back to school.

Just to make things interesting, I’ve added a new complication this year. We gave my daughter a budget for the academic year for clothes, gifts, and extras. We went through, line by line (her father made an excel spreadsheet), and estimated what needs, what she does and how much it all costs and rounded up generously.

We explained the concept of fungible and the fact that a balance in the bank account at the end goes into her savings, we don’t take it back. Incredibly traumatic for all of us. I consider it a pilot year.

On the other hand I keep getting interrupted by news of Todd Akin.

Now he is saying he didn’t mean “legitimate rape”, what he really meant was that women lie about rape. And the GOP, scrambling to make lemonade since the lemon won’t quit, is declaring a no-exceptions abortion plank for their convention. Apparently is it a ‘self-evident truth’ in the Declaration of Independence that we should protect the unborn, and only the unborn, so help us God. If you can’t beat em, join em.

At least until the news cycle is over. Akin could still have a mysterious heart attack in his swimming pool (remember Wag the Dog?), or compromising pictures with his boyfriend could be revealed. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I ask you – don’t these God-fearing, excessively procreating, republicans ever take a break from their generalized assholery so normal people can get their work done?  I know I should look away from the Akin idiocy and focus on the duties of motherhood, but since I’m not pregnant at the moment my child’s needs don’t really matter.

And I feel like if God didn’t want women to have it all he wouldn’t have given us Yahoo, CNN, Huff Post and a Twitter feed. Not to mention all that elitist propaganda at NYT, WashPost & the BBC.

Boy! It feels good to blame God for stuff! I may do it more often.

I used to wear vintage hats once upon a time. I have a dozen hat boxes in the attic filled with impractical, whimsical creations that I take out and look at occasionally but have not worn in 15 years. My daughter and her friends will occasionally go through them, trying on and posing the way they do in the department stores before the saleslady gives them the fish eye.

Each and every hat was worn to one party or another back when I had a much funkier job (and freakier friends) than I do now. Black turtleneck, black skirt, black boots and dynamite hat and I was dressed to the nines. One or two hats could possibly make an appearance in the future, but mostly they are “too much” for our modern lifestyle. More subtle statements are the order of the day.

Summer is easier for hat wearing because even a flashy straw looks practical. Still, a woman wearing a hat, baseball caps and sun visors excluded, garners a certain level of attention that can only be attributed to the hat. And it doesn’t have to be Gaga-worthy or Sunday Church Lady fancy to convey “hatitude”. I think there must be something different in the way you walk when wearing a hat, or maybe society has gotten so far past the hat as accessory that it looks special.

The most common comment I get from women after they say that they love my hat is, “but I couldn’t carry it off”. I never have understood that phrase. I am a big believer in you can carry off whatever you want to wear if you act like you mean it. Just find the right hat and you are in business.

A side benefit is that men seem to flirt more when you are wearing a hat. I guess the hat says “look at me” and they do. Its an invitation to offer a compliment, engage in conversation. By the same token I do love a man in a nice brim. I hope the Mad Men craze hangs in there long enough to get men besides Tom Waits and movie stars wearing hats without team logos, messages or a kangaroo.

We could all use a little more hatitude. A little more personal power.

A current object of desire from one of my favorite  millinery’s – what do you think? In Lilac or Chiffon Yellow?

I need a scientific name for the bi-yearly sickness precipitated by switching from cold season to warm season clothing after which you discover that you have “nothing to wear”.

I am sure I managed to get dressed and go out of the house all spring and summer last year, and yet when I look in my closet, and my sparsely filled drawers, I can no longer imagine how this can be so. I am afflicted with the syndrome know as “I have nothing to wear”.

My inventory is as follows:

  • 5-6 long sleeve white linen shirts
  • 1 blue long sleeve linen shirt
  • 4-5 white cotton scoop neck shirts, 3/4 sleeve
  • 2-3 blue cotton scoop neck shirts, 3/4 sleeve
  • half dozen black tank tops (for layering)
  • half dozen white, coral and blue tank tops (for layering)
  • 1 pair black crop pants
  • 1 pair cream crop pants
  • 2 pair cropped jeans

and… a whole lotta assorted clothes that are really only appropriate for gardening or hanging out on the deck. Some of these clothes can’t even be inflicted on neighbors in the front yard, they are reserved for painting and car washing.

And yet I couldn’t say with any clarity what clothes I need to feel like “I have something to wear”. I must be missing something, surely there are cute little tops or candy colored sweaters hiding in an attic bin. Maybe that is part of the disease, your vision narrows, your choices seem reduced and you turn into a teenager on the verge of a tantrum.

I dub this syndrome – Vestimentum paralisis based on the fact that I open the closet and stand there. Staring. As if something will change if I stare long enough.

Maybe I can start a conspiracy theory: They (the magic They that is the foundation of all good conspiracy theories) put something in the water, or subliminal messages on the TV, convincing you that you have nothing to wear so you need to go shopping and stimulate the economy. Its all a [Government, Republican, Communist, Chinese, Apple] plot to manipulate you!

Resist! Don’t shop! Based on experience the paralysis clears up with no intervention whatsoever. However, randomized, double-blind studies show that symptoms may be reduced or relieved by the purchase of new summer shoes…


When my daughter was a toddler she developed a fascination with Band-Aids.

Every scrape, bump or tumble required attention. In response I bought a couple of boxes of character Band-Aids, like Elmo and Hello Kitty and put them in a cupboard in the kitchen where she could reach them. Anytime she felt the need, she could help herself, unrestricted.

This worked so fabulously to lessen the attraction that I deliberately tried the same with sweets. She had (and still has) a treat box in the kitchen with whatever candy she is into at the moment. Sometimes its Twizzlers or Now & Later, sometimes its Kit-Kats or Twix, lately its Dove moments. She has free access to sweets at all times, and knows she can have a dessert every single day. There is no forbidden food, just food with or without nutrition.

The result of this seeming insanity is that she doesn’t act greedy with treats. She can stop eating when she has had enough cake. She can put down half a cookie. The jury is still out, but it is possible I have succeeded in not passing on my food compulsion. On the other hand it may just be her personality. Other parents hearing about this policy look aghast and insist it would never work with their children.

Her newest fascination, now that Band-Aids and candy have been demystified, are smelly soaps and lotions from a body store at the mall. This phase will require some stamina. I have to remember to add fortitude to my parenting logic model.

She has a collection of a dozen hand lotions each smellier than the last, and half a dozen kinds of body washes and hand sanitizers. The clash of fruits, flowers and foods is stunning. S’Mores and Fresh Baked Cookies are but two examples. I tried to gently explain how using the same wash and lotion layered your scent and she gleefully replied that she liked smelling like two or three kinds at the same time.

I would love to forbid her spending her babysitting money on yet another flavor of lotion, but I will stick with my system of benign acceptance and hope she settles on a “signature scent” very soon. It may be that its the shopping and buying she really likes, in which case there could be worse choices.

I am not sure how much longer the self-regulating/not forbidden system will apply as she encounters more complex choices as a teenager. I am hoping all that work and attention during the toddler years laid some kind of parenting foundation we can lean on in the future.

For the time being, I just smile and breath through my mouth.

Sometimes I am a sucker for design.

I recently tossed out an ancient tin of Durkee dry mustard that I think I borrowed from my mother years ago. And, while Durkee spices seem to last generations, this mustard had flavored its last soup. Its shelf mate, the Cream of Tartar was sad, but it had to be done.

I was dismayed at the grocery selection because I know I will be looking at that new mustard for the next five years, minimum. There was quite an array of plastic jars with plastic lids and identical labels and then, near the bottom with other obscure items like organic stevia, there was the Coleman’s double super-fine Mustard powder.

A lovely golden tin with red script lettering. SOLD! for double the price of the plastic Durkee.

In my decision making for purchases practicality wins most often, but sometimes design wins. With mundane objects I usually lean toward design for two reasons: first, why shouldn’t lowly things be beautiful as well as useful, and second, somebody spent time and effort thinking about the design of the thing.

Without going all Franny and Zooey, that anonymous person may have started out wanting to be a visual artist and ended up in industrial design. We benefit because the mug we are holding is elegant and balanced as well as useful. Victor Schreckengost was a designer whose objects I always love. The lawn chair is an excellent example. And his art wasn’t bad either. He thought everything he designed – even his sculpture – should be beautiful and useful.

The person that designed the Coleman’s tin may be long dead, but I still appreciate that their tin is lovely.

Not to start down the global warming/climate change road, but the snowy place I live in has had astoundingly fluctuating weather this winter. A 3-day winter weather advisory with wicked wind chill followed by 48 degrees and rain today.

The snow is gone and my seriously confused daffodils are poking up in the garden.

Walking in to work today I noticed two things: every ones spring flowers are confused and there is a distinct lack of umbrella etiquette on a college campus. Add in the fact that most of the students have earphones while they are texting and you get an occasional pile up at cross walks.

While this is a limited study in a specialized location, I think I have identified several umbrella “types”. Just like you can bet the Indian men will raise their umbrella above yours as they pass on the sidewalk, there are a couple of umbrella fashions you can always count on.

High Fashion: If there is a clear bubble umbrella walking toward you it will invariably be held by young Asian woman wearing high heels and carrying a Hello Kitty backpack. These students are incredibly well-dressed and make a bee line for the Management School.

Low Fashion: If there is an umbrella with a broken spoke, it will be carried by a scraggly art student whose too-long jeans hems are soaked black with muddy water. This umbrella is not to protect the person carrying it but an attempt to keep their portfolio and tackle box dry.

Piggy Fashion: Golf umbrellas that can cover three people are invariably carried by a single person talking on a cell phone. The air of entitlement does not end with the solo occupancy but extends to their indiscriminately bumping others umbrellas as they breeze along the sidewalk like the prow of a ship.

Practical Fashion: Compact and cheerful portable umbrellas are carried by nursing students. I know they are nursing students because they wear their scrubs tucked into their candy colored wellies, and they are always smiling and walking in packs. The dental students, who also wear scrubs, don’t smile or walk in groups. Don’t know why.

There are always assorted frat boys who wear only hoodies when it rains, and the freaky guys who think rain = warm weather and put on shorts and sandals. These are the students who will so generously share their viruses with the rest of the campus in a few weeks.

One sight that never gets old for me on a rainy day is the guy holding an umbrella over his girlfriend while his back gets all wet. I find this sweet and considerate. Sting just needed a golf umbrella and a nicer girlfriend in the ’80s.

No Christmas doesn’t come from a store, it comes from Amazon.

I must have broken down 10 Amazon boxes in the last couple days as I took inventory of the Hanukkah/Christmas gifts to make sure I hadn’t missed somebody. I remember visiting the mall and our local independent stores, but somehow my office is still filled with Amazon boxes.

He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

And he puzzled and puzzed, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

The holiday lesson his Grinchy-ness learns, it’s really about Free Shipping and Easy Returns!

One of the hazards of holiday shopping is finding things for yourself.

I have so far purchased two items for me, two for the house and a Skeem sweet pea candle that I bought for someone else and I don’t think I can give up. Too cute by half.

A further hazard of this self-gifting is that it reduces the number of gift ideas that my husband has compiled. After his heavy sigh and look of frustration when I showed him an item that was clearly on his list, I offered to let him wrap it up because it was just what I wanted. He declined.

I promised to not buy one more thing for myself until the after Christmas sales.

This issue with the holidays comes up every year. Essentially because he goes out to buy specific pre-selected gifts, while I go out to shop and browse with a vague idea of the “theme” of what I am looking for. Clothes for this one, jewelry for that one, and so on.

I think that Shopping v Buying may be a gendered outlook. There may be men who like to shop, but I don’t know any of them.

And that number is $48.

That’s what I threw down today for Origins Starting Over Age Erasing oil free moisturizer with mimosa

It’s a slow process. It creeps up and sneaks. I’m not talking about the wrinkles I’ve accumulated on account of stacking up birthdays, I’m talking about the willingness to spend obscene amounts of money on things like moisturizer.

I am not looking for miracles or considering Botox or a face lift. I have no illusions of ever regaining my formerly dewy skin unless I move to the tropics. What keeps me buying “products”, as the earnest sales staff refer to them, is the hope that I can wear less makeup day-to-day.

I never wore makeup on a daily basis until I took this job in 2004. For years I curled my eyelashes put on some lipstick and I was out the door. A few months in I started putting on a little mascara and eye shadow when I had a meeting and before you know it I am wearing full makeup everyday.

And now I need $48 moisturizer.

I think this is caused by the fact that once you start wearing full makeup your skin sort of gives up. I think it gets addicted to products and requires ever more complex steps in cleansing, exfoliating, toning and moisturizing. And back to the counter you go. It’s a cycle that can support national economies.

Maybe if I had a sabbatical and could go without makeup (or stress) for 6 months, I would stop looking haggard without makeup. Maybe that is wishful thinking now that I on the wrong side of 40. Since that sabbatical is not on the horizon, I am stuck with “hope in a jar”.

At least it smells good.

I was about to title this post “A Visit from the Closet Fairy” but thought that might be misleading.

The Closet Fairy you see is not someone who is LGBT in hiding, it is one of the “Small Gods” (a la Terry Pratchett) that bestows gifts twice a year to frugal and thrifty women who shop end-of-season sales.

I lead a bi-polar shopping life swinging wildly between being cheap and buying expensive. I once visited a pair of $100+ shoes at Nordstrom over several months waiting for the magic moment when they would be marked down. Even a little bit. Or earn double-rewards points or some such thing that might justify the purchase. Wait and see is a gamble for me because I wear a size 10 shoe. Manufacturers make a small number of shoes at the ends of the size curve where I live. Sizes 6, 7, and 8 rule the world. I did manage to snag those particular shoes on sale. I remember my mother-in-law was with me that day and was shocked at the price. Please. They were marked down.

My recent visit by the Closet Fairy happened one evening when we were minutes from leaving the house, my husband completely dressed and jangling the car keys in a not-so-subtle reminder that the clock was ticking, and I went back to my closet and said ‘I just need a light jacket or blazer so I don’t have to wear a coat’ – and behold.

My hand reached out and touched a lightweight blazer. Gray, casual for wearing with jeans. Tags still on. Marked down.

I swear I looked in that closet a dozen times earlier that day and the blazer wasn’t there. And then it was. The Closet Fairy rewarding the frugal, thrifty and desperate.

I have to remember to fulfill my seasonal religious obligations at the after-Christmas sales.

My daughter currently has a hate-hate relationship with clothes. She wants to look hip and in-style, but refuses to look “different” or odd. She also hates to shop. This may be a symptom of being 12, or it may be that she will always hate shopping. Either way, no matter what I do I. Am. Wrong.

I buy her the wrong jeans, I make the wrong suggestions, I fix her hair wrong, like I said before, I am just wrong.

I now its a middle-school struggle to figure out how to stand out so you are noticed and yet not stand out too much so you become marginalized. Her struggle is made tougher by the fact that her mother’s impulse is to flaunt it, be original. Probably a symptom of shopping in thrift stores and antique shops and being “shabby chic” before it was chic.

I am sure back to school shopping will provide endless blog fodder this year.