Vulnerability 101

Posted: December 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Clothing, Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Style, Working World | 10 Comments »

We do more than drink wine in my book club. We also eat. And talk about our kids. And sure, there’s some book talk too.

Last time we met our conversation led to my friend Margot mentioning Brene Brown’s 2010 TED Talk, which she’d just seen on YouTube. It’s worth watching if you haven’t checked it out.

Margot was telling us how Brene’s research is centered around shame, vulnerability, and imperfection. If I’m getting this right, she says that being vulnerable—something a lot of people tend to think of as negative—actually allows you to make human connections. And it turns out that human connections are what bring us joy. A surprising, and very cool, cycle.

So I started a new freelance gig a few weeks back. (Hence my shameful blog neglect. Apologies if you’ve been forced to read a good book during my hiatus.) I’m doing some client relationship management for a creative agency in San Francisco. And even though I know a couple folks there, I’ve never worked with anyone on the team I’m on. So I’m in that mode where I’m hyper-aware of the first impressions I make. You know, sharpening my pencils and brushing my teeth even more than usual.

Now, creative workplaces present a special kind of fashion quandary. As the new freelancer you want to look professional and polished, but nearly everyone in the office has jeans on. Over-dressing is downright dorkish. Under-dressing can come off as cavalier—especially if you’re in a management role. So for my first day, I attempted to strike the right balance. As I left the house the girls and Mark gave me a thumbs up. I had on wool pants, boots, a white long-sleeved t-shirt, and a chunky necklace. As I dashed out the door I grabbed a cardigan.

As my first meeting started, the project manager launched into an overview of the work we’d be doing. She mentioned that Sam—another employee at the agency—had been invited to join us, but she wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.

About 10 minutes in, this Sam guy arrives. He slides into a seat at the conference table, smiles, and holds out his hand to introduce himself. He’s in a hoodie, but it’s probably cashmere. He’s got on jeans and some huge watch that’s sporty and probably pretty schmancy. He’s clearly clearly cracked the clothing code of the place, and for that alone I am humbled.

After a brief pause before launching back into our agenda I asked, “So, Sam, what do you do here?”

“Brand strategy,” he said brightly. And then he added more quietly, “And, I’m also the founder.”

Yes, boys and girls, I asked the president of the company I’m working at what he does. As if he was like, the Latte Boy or something.

By gum, I was off to a good start.

I got home later that afternoon feeling excited about my new gig. The agency folks were smart, the client was cutting edge. There were cute dogs and good snacks in the office.

The Husband was in the kitchen. He’d been working from home. He looked up from the sandwich he was assembling and said, “Hey! How was your meeting? Your sweater’s on inside-out.”

I looked down in a panic. Two bright white tags emerged from the waist of my chocolate brown cardigan. Ridiculous. Why do they even need those Care Instruction tags anyway? For God sakes, don’t people know how to manage wool at this point?

As Mark sliced his sandwich in two he said, “You’ll get the hang of this work thing soon, honey.”

I dashed to the bathroom mirror and twisted to see my back, hoping my hair covered the label at the top of the sweater. But OF COURSE IT DIDN’T. It was sticking out proudly just below my hairline.

I also saw that the exposed seams were jagged and thready-looking. I mean, Helen Keller would have noticed this sweater was on inside-out.

I could only hope that I distracted the meeting attendees from my madwoman fashion stylings by asking the president what he did at the company. I mean, if I was lucky one of my humiliating faux-pas might have overshadowed the other one.

In bed that night I whispered to Mark in the dark, “Do you think I should tell them I was recently struck by lightning? Maybe that could explain the sweater thing at least.”

Last weekend we went to a weird fun performance called Mummenschanz with Lily and her fam. In the endless concession line at intermission I stood behind a heavyset woman and her young daughter. As the three tones rang out indicating our break was ending—as was our hope of getting a snack—I noticed the mom in front of us had her long, tan cardigan on inside-out. I didn’t know her, but in that spinach-in-your-teeth way of the sisterhood of woman, I felt it was my duty to tap her on the arm and quietly point it out.

“Oh God,” she harrumphed, as she peeled her sweater off to turn it around. “Thank you.”

“Trust me,” I said as I took Kate’s hand to head back to our seats. “I’ve been there.”

What I really wanted to say was, “I too am seeking joy by making myself vulnerable! The clothing trick is only one of my moves.” But I thought there was a good chance she’d have no idea what I was talking about.


Thrift Queen

Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Clothing, Housewife Fashion Tips, Money, Shopping | 20 Comments »

When I was eight I had an interview to get into a private school. It was with the head of the lower school, a woman known as Miss Page.

Miss Page was in her late fifties, and wore thick woolen dresses with flat, sensible shoes. She had stocky calves and styled her hair in a blunt page-boy. She was, I would come to learn, one of those rare, wonderful institutional legends. She worked at the school for decades, taught in the classrooms, cheered alongside playing fields, and in her clipped New England way, greeted students by name as she bustled through the campus.

Because my sisters attended the school a decade before, I sensed–whether it was real or imagined—a genteel familiarity she had with my mother. I got the feeling that our “little talk”–an important step in the admissions process—was something only I could fuck up.

Which, I’m happy to report I didn’t do.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall looking back on that day. I’d love to remember the questions she asked me, and of course, how I answered. I know I had to do some memory exercises and a few puzzles. Probably some math too. The only thing I recall specifically is she asked me what “thrifty” meant.

And I had no idea.

Which, if you knew me today, might shock you. It’s not that I’m a penny pincher. On certain things I’m more than happy to spend spend spend. But I also love a good thrift store. I veer to the side of roads for yard sales. There’s nothing more thrilling or satisfying to me than a good bargain, a good find.

Yet I’ll also spend lavishly on dinners out. I’m an experience junkie and a whore for travel—whatever the cost. I shop infrequently for clothing but when I do I tend buy in bulk and gravitate towards expensive “quality items” that I rationalize are worth it because, well, cashmere never goes out of style.

But lately my psyche has embraced this idea that I can scale back across the board. This, it turns out, is one of the silver linings of unemployment. Along with having less money to spend, I have a lot of time these days to simply re-assess my modus operandi.

Last week I took my mother-in-law (an obliging sidekick shopper) to Nordstrom on a quest for new jeans. I’ve lost some weight recently, and as much as I’m trying not to spend money, all my jeans are now too big. I think I need to repeat that, MY JEANS ARE TOO BIG FOR ME. They’re actually—wait for it—BAGGY IN THE ASS.

Hold on a sec while I go high-five myself in the mirror.

It seemed somewhat Draconian to deny myself the glory of buying a new, smaller size of jeans. Especially since, given my current stay-at-home mom status, I wear those frickin’ jeans EVERY SINGLE DAY.

See? My amortized-over-time rationale is kicking in again.

I have a brand I like, but I was curious about what else was out there. While Peggy waited on a Gothic-looking wood-carved couch, I tried on roughly two zillion pairs of jeans. Even Peggy, a seasoned fitting room advisor with solid Midwestern staying power, had to wander into another department at one point to relieve herself of my relentless asking, “Wait, I think I look slightly thinner in these than I did in the ones three pairs ago. Do you?”

I finally settled on a fabulous dark blue “skinny” pair that cost a whopping $180. Well, that minus the $50 gift card I had.

I told myself this was thrifty.

But at home later, I tucked the pants and receipt carefully into my dresser and questioned whether they were there to stay. Two of my O-town besties had mentioned a mall-store that had good-fitting, cheap jeans. And, although skeptical—could a woman my age really shop in that store?—I was curious.

So two days later I took my dear, patient mother-in-law to some Godforsaken suburban shopping complex a half-hour away to TRY ON MORE JEANS. (If you saw a gray-haired woman pawing at the window of a silver Subaru heading to Pleasanton last week, that was her.)

But guess WHAT? Cheap jeans look cute too! And you can still feel cool about getting them in your new smaller size! In fact, you can get one pair that works with flip flops and another to wear with boots—all for $80!

Woo hoo!

High on my jeans buy I made another, possibly rash cost-cutting call. I decided to cheat on my hairdresser—the extremely talented, extremely gay, extremely expensive guy I ADORE and go to in San Francisco (a not extremely convenient location). I have my first low-to-the-ground local cut and color in less than an hour. And when they don’t hand me a mug of organic mint tea or offer to put money in my meter when it runs low, I’m going to be okay with that.


If I don’t come out looking like pre-makeover Kate Gosselin, that is.

Oh and yesterday? Getting a new prescription for my contacts the doc tells me there’s another brand of daily-disposables that are much cheaper and just as good. It’s like SHE KNEW I’m high on a money-saving binge. I’m all, “Hook a sister UP!”

When you see me next you won’t even notice the lenses I’m wearing are less expensive than my old ones. As long as I’m able to see you back, that is.

There’s really no telling how long I’ll ride this austerity wave. I’m fearful I’m just in the honeymoon phase and I could go back to my old ways faster than you can say “new pair of fall boots.” But in the meantime I’m enjoying my newfound thriftiness.

Miss Page would be so proud.


Into the Night

Posted: June 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: City Livin', Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Other Mothers, Scary Stuff, Sleep | 8 Comments »

Last Saturday night I was woken from a dead sleep by a woman’s voice calling out, “Help me! Help me!” It sounded like she was on the sidewalk in front of our house.

It wasn’t a frantic in-the-moment scream—more of a weak, plaintive call. More after-the-fact, if you know what I mean. And it was terrifying.

It seemed clear that it was up to me to do something. And on behalf of all women in need, I wanted to put a superhero cape and come to that woman’s rescue.

I sprang out of bed, yelped something at Mark, then grabbed the phone and dialed 4-1-1. From the other end I heard, “City and listing.”

This is why you don’t want me around in an emergency situation.

I came to my senses, hung up, and dialed 9-1-1.

Mark took a moment to rouse. He had four huge pork butts cooking in our back yard smoker—an overnight process. He’d likely gotten to sleep late because he was out tending to them in the back yard.

So I was alert and ready to react first, but I faltered. I was too petrified to walk outside and suss out the situation. It’s horribly selfish, but I was afraid of what I’d find when I got there. And, ashamed as I am to admit it, I was scared that whatever had gotten her might get me too.

Plus, two men broke into a house on my block a few weeks ago. The guy who lives there was home at the time, and chased the intruders away with a knife. (I know, time to move to Montana, right?) We actually live in a lovely, charming neighborhood—despite what you may have heard about Oakland—but with this other incident fresh in my mind I was worried that the calling-out voice was part of some no-good plot to get us to open our door.

And then, who knows what.

Mark was peering out the living room blinds as I sputtered our address into the phone to the police dispatcher. Then Mark walked past me onto our front porch and I frantically whispered, “Wait—you’re going out there?! Be careful, honey!”

The calm 911 lady was asking me good basic questions I could answer, and assured me “a unit” was on the way. Then from the porch Mark said in a somewhat surprised tone, “It’s an old woman. She looks disoriented, but I don’t think she’s hurt.”

And since I had on a nightshirt and long underwear bottoms (sexy beast that I am), I ventured out to the sidewalk, still clutching the phone to my ear, while Mark ran in to pull jeans on over his boxer shorts.

The woman was in our neighbor’s driveway. A plump white-haired lady in her eighties wearing a pale blue nightgown and with a scared, lost look in her eyes. I recognized her as someone who lives one block over with her husband and caregiver. I don’t know her, but I’d heard she has Alzheimer’s.

“I’m here. I’m going to help you,” I cooed as I walked up to her. She was leaning against our neighbor’s steel blue Toyota Camry, with her hands on the back fender to steady herself. Their driveway slopes down to their garage, and she was sort of inching along, heading downhill, and wedging herself further between the car and a retaining wall.

“Don’t walk down there,” I said gently. “Just stay where you are. Help is coming.”

My new best friend at 911—who I was still on the phone with—asked me to get her name, then told me the elderly woman’s husband had just called the police to report her missing. This was reassuring, hearing that the police were connecting the dots.

Apparently she just wandered out of her house in the middle of the night. I’ve heard people with dementia sometimes do that.

Next thing I know a squad car came slowly down the street, scanning a flashlight up and down the sidewalk. Mark ran up and waved them over as the woman clutched my arm and stepped out from the driveway, back on level ground.

Maybe I’ve been reading too many fairytales, but I have to say that suddenly being surrounded by four tall, strapping police officers in perfectly-pressed navy blue uniforms drained the last drops of adrenaline from my system. And made me suddenly feel a bit self-conscious about my own get-up.

I told the nice 911 lady that help had arrived. Then she thanked me, and asked my name before we hung up. (Maybe she wants to get together for lunch some time?)

In my best attempt to exude a lighthearted everything’s-going-to-be-alright vibe, I said, “Dorothy, these handsome men are going to walk you home now, okay?”

I looked down and noticed that she was barefoot. Her toes where curled over each other in way that I guess toes get when they’ve been around for so long. I was shivering in my PJs and fleece slippers. Who knows how long she’d been outside, barefoot and confused in a thin cotton nightgown.

Back in our house, our hand-off of Dorothy complete, I hopped into bed as Mark stripped off his sweatshirt and jeans and flung them on a chair by his bedside table.

“Let’s not get really old like that and have Alzheimer’s,” I said.

He mumbled some form of agreement as he peeled back the covers, and we nestled into our familiar mattress grooves.

After a few minutes I said, “You know, that pork you’re smoking is going to be really good I think. I mean, the smoky meat smell appears to be drawing old women out of their beds and into the night.”

Mark groaned and rolled over.

“I’m just saying,” I added. “Imagine by morning… A whole group of neighbors could be gathered by the back yard fence trying to get in—like zombies or something.”

“Good night, honey,” he sighed, like a teacher whose patience was wearing thin.

And I knew it was time for me to stop talking and try to fall back asleep.


Miami Heat

Posted: May 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Discoveries, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Fashion Tips, Other Mothers, Travel | 8 Comments »

Don’t tell Oakland, but I’ve been cheating on it. With Miami.

And it was a hot, steamy affair.

I was there for the Mom 2.0 Summit, a gathering of mom bloggers, media mavens, and marketers. And mark my words, this was no tragic conference like in that movie Cedar Rapids. No, I went to white parties poolside, a throw-down at the Versace mansion, and spent three gloriously muggy days shashaying around the Key Biscayne Ritz.

If you’ve never stayed at a Ritz Carlton, I assure you it’s got Howard Johnsons beat.

I also stayed at my friend’s parents’ crazy-sick digs for a night. Their backyard is a manicured jungle paradise. An orchid thief’s wet dream. They’ve got a lagoony swimming pool, a waterfall, a dense thatch of palm trees, and the perfect number of tropical flowers so as not to be tacky.

I half-expected Christopher Atkins to swim out from the faux rock formation in an ultra-suede man-thong and crack open a coconut for my drinking pleasure.

Hey, a gal can dream.

There was even gunfire and explosions in the near distance. I thought my hosts just wanted me to feel at home, but it turns out the show Burn Notice was filming in their swank ‘hood. I took the dog for a walk to suss out the scene, but sadly wasn’t discovered by any talent scouts.

But lest you think all this indulgence was for naught, I actually learned something on this trip too.

Like, did you know it smells like poo in the bathroom of the Versace mansion? Yuh-huh it does. I mean, prolly not all the time, but it certainly did when I was in it. They also have a bidet in there, in case you want to hose down the ole undercarriage. So thoughtful.

From chatting with others at the conference I realized I’m missing a child. These days everyone seems to have three. Apparently three kids is the new chai latte. Some overachievers even have SIX. And they’re still stylish, not Basset-Hound droopy with exhaustion, or rocking on the floor of a closet clutching a bottle of bourbon. Go figure. Good for them.

I learned this scary stat: 60% of girls don’t engage in daily activities because they don’t like how they look. SIXTY percent. Terrifying, no? Dove soap is doing extremely cool work about girls and self-esteem that you should check out. And they didn’t even pay me to say that. Hell, I use Ivory for God’s sake.

Another thing I found out—one of the most hilarious bloggers battles crippling depression. Sometimes she can’t even get out of bed for a week at a time. Totally intense hearing the Goddess of Funny talk so candidly about that.

If you enlist a few hundred mamas to break a Twitter record set by Justin Beiber, they will fail. And their friends will all wonder what the bejesus got into them that they were tweeting “I admire you” to everyone they knew for an hour. (The sangria helped.)

Brene Brown is as likeable, warm, and wise in person as she was in her Ted talk. (Okay so I actually haven’t seen her Ted talk yet, but plan too really soon.) Her Mom 2.0 keynote on “The Power to Fail” was dazzling. And, at long last, it justified my Calculus grade in high school.

Didja know every Ritz has a dramatic open staircase? They think women should always be able to make a grand entrance. My friend Meg who usedta work there told me this. It’s good of them to look out for us gals that way. I’ll be sure to pack a ball gown and tiara for my next Ritz vacation.

I found out that maternity fashion diva Liz Lange responds to all her customer service questions HERSELF. And she looks fabulous in turquoise.

And then, get this—at the Ritz there’s a guy who walks around with a wooden xylophone playing a ding-dang-dong tune when a session’s about to start. FOR REAL this is what he does. It’s like when the lights at the library flash when it’s about to close, but it’s a grown man in a uniform ding-dang-donging. I didn’t request any wake-up calls while I was there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if instead of your phone ringing that dude comes into your room and leans over your bed to xylophone you awake.

I’d love to share more about my trip to Miami, but I’m too busy strapping on my stiletto sandals and wiggling into my bikini top for this afternoon’s school pick-up.

See how much I’ve learned?

That hippie preschool in Berkeley has no idea what’s coming.


Mama Needs a New Pair of Boobs

Posted: May 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Discoveries, Friends and Strangers, Housewife Fashion Tips, My Body, My Temple, Other Mothers, Travel | 3 Comments »

Dear Readers:

Welcome to today’s post, which doesn’t happen to live here. But trust me, it’s so damn good you’ll want to track it down like it’s Osama bin Laden.

I’ll actually tell you where you can find it, but first, here’s the back story: I met a dazzlingly funny and friendly woman named Leslie at that Erma Bombeck workshop I went to and keep yacking about. She writes the fabulous, hilarious blog The Bearded Iris: A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All, which you probably already read since it seems like EVERYONE does, including The Huffington Post. (Not that I’m bitter.)

Anyway, she and I got to emailing since returning home from the conference, and now it turns out that… We’re getting married!!!

Okay, so not REALLY.

But nearly as intimate as that—at least in the blogosphere—which is to say that she asked if I’d write a guest post for her blog. And I’m the FIRST EVER guest blogger on The Bearded Iris. So I’m incredibly honored. And I’m pretty sure she’s having a commemorative tiara custom-crafted for me right now. Which I will wear to my grave. If it goes with whatever I’m wearing at the time. Hopefully she picks out something I can dress up or dress down…

Anyway, so the post is called Mama Needs a New Pair of Boobs. It’s about some, uh, physical concerns I was wrangling with before leaving for the Mom 2.0 conference in Miami (where I am right now). The post is up on her site today.

So then, please CLICK RIGHT HERE to read it, muse over how delightful it was, comment on it, and share the love.

And I’ll be back with a fresh new *motherload* post when I return from Miami on Monday.

Or Tuesday.

But right now I’ve got to re-apply some lipstick and get back into the mosh pit at the Versace Mansion. This town is wild.



My Good Egg

Posted: October 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Miss Kate, Mom, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Sleep, Travel | 4 Comments »

I’ve not always been the best bed mate.

Mark may not often admit that, the dear, unless you catch him on a morning when I’ve had what he refers to with restraint as “a particularly active night’s sleep.”

You see, he’s a light-as-a-feather sleeper. And I could slumber heavily alongside a train track. I’m a deep deep sleeper who’s also on the move, stretching, flopping over then back like a fish, pedaling an imaginary bike, or curling fetally into what Mark calls my “comma position.”

I do sleep as a high-impact sport.

Mornings, the volume of my hair snarl and the intensity of Mark’s bloodshot eyes are the indicators of  just how fervidly I’ve thrashed through the night. Usually without ever pulling out of my corpse-like slumber.

I am not a night-time tinkler. (In fact, I hold mortals who speak of “getting up at night to pee” in mild to moderate disdain.) Before kids became part of our traveling show, I’d fall asleep on planes prior to take-off, and be nudged awake before landing by flight attendants insisting I “return my seat to the full upright position.” At the dramatic height of a movie or TV show, I could suddenly nod my head, let my jaw hang lax, and conk out cold.

Sleep is my super power.

Of course, I’ve been pregnant twice too. So Mark’s also suffered through months of me engaged in nighttime aerobics, but wielding a large inner baby and scads of assorted pillows I’d pack around myself like I was some fragile teapot being sent through the mail.

I suddenly discovered what it was like to wake up in the night, uncomfortable with a hip that seemed it was being crushed in a vice. Add to that, I was having to pee. (Me!) My pillows were my desperate effort to defend my long-cherished run of failure-proof sleep. They were my mental and physical support. Like a full-body nighttime bra.

Yet even they failed me. Because whenever I rolled over I’d need to reconfigure the innumerable group of them on the new side.

As if that weren’t bad enough, once I’d finally get settled the skin on the soles of my feet would feel dry. (My own personal crazy-lady pregnancy thing.) So I’d reach to my bedside table for lotion, sweeping my glasses to the floor, clanging my glass of water, and ultimately, upsetting my strategic pillow array. Waah!

Poor Mark. A frat boy after a night celebrating his 21st birthday couldn’t sleep through that.

Often, understandably, Mark would give up and schlep to the couch. And as long as his pillow and blanket were gone by daybreak, so friends or house cleaners wouldn’t question the health of our marriage, I was admittedly happy to be alone. Doing snow angels in the sheets with my immense baby-filled body. Not worrying about moving too much and keeping Mark up, I’d fall asleep nearly instantly.

Alas, it’s likely Mark’s days of pregnancy-induced couch sleeping are over. (Sniff!). But this week I’ve had a cold. I NEVER get sick. My take on colds is akin to the mortal weakness of night peeing.

And Mark’s been so horribly busy at work. At night he gets to crawl into bed with me sniffling, snorfling, coughing, and worst—doing the Bruno triple throat clear. From my lump on the left sife of the bed I radiate germs and self-pity like rays from the sun. And my already unsexy cadre of nighttime attire has bottomed out with the cold-weather return of my flannel Lanz of Salzburg granny gown.

Let’s just say I’m no Betty Draper.

But through it all Mark’s been the attentive tough-love nurse. “Have you even taken zinc? Or Vitamin C?” he’ll ask, then sigh, trundle off, and return with a handful of pills and a tall glass of water.

This morning he delivered a cold pill and some decongestant or other before I even got out of bed. I mean, at least that’s what he SAID he was giving me.

But seriously, if you haven’t met my husband, let me tell you. He’s a good egg.

When the girls were wee babes and I was getting up a lot at night to nurse, since Mark holds the title of World Featherweight Sleeper, he’d be up too. In fact, he’d be the one shaking me to consciousness when the monitor was blaring baby cries and crackling static at Volume 11, right at my ear.

“Uh, honey? Kristen? The baby is up.” And I’d've been on such another stratosphere of deep sleep I’d walk heavy-legged and dull-faced down the hall towards the crying.

But when I got back into bed, without fail, he’d have fluffed my pillows.

I know it seems like a small thing. But it was such a sweet act of I-wish-I-had-boobies-and-could-help-out-more kindness. If I weren’t so damn tired, I’d have taken his face in my hands, planted a big smooch on his forehead, and blubbered happy words of appreciation.

Turns out having one’s head drift down into two perfectly fluffed pillows is an exceptional simple pleasure. Especially when you’re months into no more than three or four hours of sleep at a stretch.

And another thing about that man, because I’m on a roll now. When he’s cooking? And cutting up carrots for something? He chops off a little nubbin of one and brings it over to me wherever I am. You know, like where I’m setting the table, or digging in the bottom of the closet for my other clog.

I don’t even remember how it is that I told him about this, but the reason he does it is it’s something my mother would do. She spent 70% of my childhood cutting up raw vegetables to set in front of me. Or handing me a piece of celery off the cutting board, before dumping the rest into a pot.

Speaking of her, I had that phone thing happen today. The thing people talk about when someone close to them dies—still getting the impulse to pick up the phone and call the person, then having the realization that you can’t.

Google really should work on that.

Anyway, what’s weird is that it’s been ages, like, over five years, since mom and I have had one of our meandering, sometimes only mildly-interesting daily phone calls. So I’ve been over that phone call habit for a while now. Or so I thought, at least.

But earlier tonight, after Kate’s dance performance and before dinnertime, I was tired. I’d been on Mama duty all day, with a ragged voice, goopy cough, mounting headache, and two young unsympathetic charges. I was summoning my last bits of patience and energy to get a bare-bones frozen ravioli and salad dinner on the table.

I was cutting up carrots to steam—’cause it turns out my mother’s veggie-pushing got passed down in the genes—and as I turned on the oven to warm some bread, it started. Not that I thought I wanted to call her per se. It’s more that this string of thoughts about feeling worn out, and the girls arguing over books in the other room, and it starting to get really cold at night here now that it’s fall—this series of thoughts I was running through in my head were things that were somehow sort of customized for her. The kinds of things I’d be telling my mother if I could.

And then that one part of your brain that can be sitting back when another part is doing something else, it prompted me with the thought, “Hey, seems like you want to be calling your mother right now.”

Which had the potential to take me to the brink of feeling far worse about the state of things than I already felt. I mean, feeling sick and tired is one thing. But the dead mother trump emotional card always beats out everything else.

But blessedly, before I could even go there, the lock on the door clicked in that barely audible way it does when Mark comes home. And Kate sprang off the couch with an amped-up need to tell a story, and Paige, from her spot on the floor stretched out her arms for her tragic pick-me-up-you-don’t-KNOW-how-much i-missed-you act.

In a snap, that little door click redistributed all the energy in the house. And when the door swung open, it was like all the thoughts swirling around in my head got sucked outside in the back draft.

Sometimes that man has just got perfect timing.


The Give and the Get

Posted: June 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio, Discoveries, Friends and Strangers, Holidays, Housewife Fashion Tips, Housewife Superhero, Husbandry, Miss Kate, Mom, Shopping | 1 Comment »

One of the things Kate gave me for Mother’s Day this year was a large pack of multicolored plastic beads and some stringing thread. Beads exactly like the ones she’d used in a project at school a few weeks earlier, but clearly hadn’t gotten her fill of.

It was one of those gifts like lingerie from a boyfriend. Not intended for the recipient at all.

Alas, at Kate’s age, I’m willing to forgive the misdirected sentiment. As long as I don’t get doll house furniture for Christmas.

This year for my birthday (which regretfully fell on Mother’s Day), I also received the BEST PRESENT EVER. My from-womb-to-tomb friend Amelia sent it. Just to make me love her even more.

Some expectation setting. This gift ain’t for everyone. But it’s silly it’s so perfect for me. Which is what makes it such a home run, right?

Okay, so this perfect pressie was a pair of flip flops that have Velcro over the strap part. And, like the Pappagallo bag that was the fashion peak experience of my tweendom, there are all different colored and patterned straps you can buy to stick on them. For me, Amelia generously got me tan stripey Burberry-esque ones, some black ones with white polka dots, a red and orange kinda floral pattern, and, as an obvious nod to my early days of over-achieving preppydom, (which Amelia won’t let me forget, and why should she), some with pink lobsters.

I know, I know. Wrenching Velcro straps off your flip flops to change out the look is absurdly hokey. But as a stay at home mother, I’m the Imelda Marcos of flip flops. I mean, in a strange reverse of dorm living, the only time I’m not wearing flip flops is when I’m showering. Oh, well and sleeping of course too. At least, as far as you know.

A couple months ago I saw UGG flip flops at Nordstrom. They had furry soles, and a plain rubbery strap. My brain was churning madly to process them and determine whether it was brilliance or blasphemy. And really, it’s only in the Bay Area that it could ever be warm enough for flip flops and concurrently chilly enough for faux fur. But I seem to remember there being something dumb or ugly looking about the straps. I mean, aside from how blisteringly absurd and cavewoman-like the overall look of the shoes were.

Anyway, I didn’t try them on. If I had, I might be wearing them right now, and lamenting that they don’t make a high-heeled version for the party I’m going to tonight.

At any rate, my fabulous Amelia-given mood flip flops delighted me from the moment I spotted the package on my front porch. The only downfall of their coming into my life being that, when I opened them, my impassioned exclamation “These are the best. Present. Ever.” appeared to hurt Mark’s feelings.

Mark has, it’s true, given me some divine gifts. One Christmas at my dad’s, I tried on a jacket from Mark I’d long coveted and spun around the living room, happily modeling it over my PJs. What I failed to do before slipping it off, was put my hands in the pockets. Where a blue Tiffany box was waiting, housing a stunning ring. (We were married at the time, in case this comes off as some weird in-the-presence-of-my-father engagement scenario.)

I was thrilled with my gift, but it was my father who shook his head for days marveling over Mark’s clever romanticism. It’d seemed impossible for Dad to like my hubbie more that he already had, but that move sent Mark into the stratosphere of adored sons-in-law.

Ah well. I only wish poor Mark was able to experience a level of gift recipiency (how’s that for a word?) akin to mine. I mean, you never think you’re a bad driver, right? But God knows they’re all over the roads (so some of you people must be). And, well, you never think you’re bad at buying presents, but recently I feel like, despite myself, I’m being led to that conclusion.

For Mark’s birthday in November, I got him a bunch of different things, big and small. Some from me, some from the girls. One thing I’d seen in the back of a magazine—I know, I know, this should have been my cue to retreat—was a, God this is so embarrassing to even say, well, a t-shirt that said Dunder Mifflin. You know, the name of the paper company they work for in the show The Office. Mark loves that show. Mark often wears t-shirts on the weekends. I thought, this is funny! This is good! He will like this!

But then, a few months passed by, and one night I realized he’d never worn it. And it hit me. “That shirt,” I said to him, amazed it’d taken so long for me to figure it out. “It’s utterly dorky, right? I mean, you’re pretty much embarrassed to ever wear it. I’m right, aren’t I? Am I right?”

His two second pause and slow, “Well, no….” said it all.

I was howling with laughter. Literally slapping my thighs, amused and amazed that I’d somehow totally missed its immense dorkosity.(Though, a few weeks ago, a good six months after his birthday, when he’d splattered something on the shirt he was wearing and we were safely home for the night, Mark did, charitably, toss it on.)

What else? For our first Valentine’s Day, less than two months into our love thing, Mark got me a hope-it’s-not-too-much-this-early-on watch. (I loved it. It wasn’t at all too much.) Me? I bought him a silver cigar cutter. Is he a cigar smoker? Why, no! What then compelled me to purchase this gift? I’ve got no idea. He’s literally used it ONCE.

Then there’s the tragic Wine Spectator subscription that keeps coming and coming. Piling up on our coffee table. Sitting around in its large-formatted glory. Taunting me that Mark (or I) never manage to read more than the cover lines. (And “Great Reds Under $20″ seems like the kind of thing you’d want to know about too, right?)

I can rattle off other bombs of gifts I’ve given Mark. I’ve also struck out grandiosely on gifts for my dad. Tartan vests, genealogy tracking software, phone headsets for home use. The list goes on.

Along the way I must have done some good work, but I’ve watched enough Law & Order and CSI to know that you need to stand back and look at the evidence unemotionally. Let it speak for itself. And these things, well, they clearly indicate I don’t have much of a gift for, well, giving gifts.

But I’m a die-hard optimist. And egomaniac. I refuse to feel that all hope’s lost.

Maybe I’m better at buying gifts for females? Maybe I subconsciously give some good gifts and some bad ones, to underscore the goodness of the keepers?

And maybe with some luck I can alter fate. There may be some adult ed class out there where I can sharpen my gift-giving skills. I mean, if grown men and women can learn to flirt in classroom settings, there must be hope for me.

If not, for our wedding anniversary this summer, I can always enlist Kate to help me shop for Mark. I think a pink Hello Kitty change purse may just turn the tide on my poor track record. Besides, it’d look real nice with his gray Dunder Mifflin shirt.

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The Weepies

Posted: May 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Drink, Extended Family, Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Mom, Other Mothers, Shopping, Travel | 4 Comments »

For the last day or so I’ve had a mild case of the weepies.

I mean, nothing that’s even resulted in actual tears, but some intermittent on-the-verge-of moments that come about suddenly and vaguely, unrelated to anything that’s even happening at the time. You know, putting the sliced turkey back in the fridge, handing Mark a washcloth for the kids’ bath, driving on the highway through a torrential thunderstorm when we arrived in Kentucky tonight.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking, and NO, I don’t have PMS. I’m not sure what’s to blame, but it ain’t hormones.

Though I wish that it was, because frankly this wimpish state of neither glee (my default) nor despondency is so not for me. I prefer my emotions with more dramatic flourish, thank you. At least more decisiveness, for God’s sake.

If there is crying to do, better to have an all-out bawl sesh like Holly Hunter’s daily one in Broadcast News. Sob and wail like a baby, then take a breath, wipe your face, smooth out your shirt, and get on with your day.

God, I loved that movie.

Anyway, I’m certain that my bulletproof chipperness is bound to be back by daybreak. We’re settled into a gracious old hotel in downtown Lexington—center stage for Mark’s favorite cousin’s long-awaited wedding. Which isn’t to say we’ve all been wondering when the hell she’d finally git hitched, but that ever since she and her fine fellow got engaged the family’s been champing at the bit awaiting this opulent Southern shindig. (Equine pun intended. Hey, it is Kentucky, after all.)

It also should be noted that the dress-shoe-and-accessory shopping that Mark’s relatives have done in preparation for this event has likely had a significant impact on stimulating our nation’s tragic economy. So, you’re welcome.

As for me, resolved to not spend money on something new (per the aforementioned recession, and that my dress closet overfloweth), I buckled at the last minute, but decided to be thrifty and went to Nordstrom Rack. Where, as luck had it, a fabulous frock for a fraction of the retail price fell off the rack at my feet and squawked, “Take me home!”

Okay, okay, so I actually got three dresses—and three pairs of shoes—but they were all dirt cheap. And if I don’t release the shopping pressure valve a little bit every once and a while I could fall prey to some unanticipated retail incident that’s far far more devastating.

So, I’m not sure really where this is all going, but why not come along for the ride because it could eventually get interesting.

Okay, so just to prove to you what a BAR-GAIN this dress is I’m wearing to the wedding—because I’m quite certain you’re sitting there desperate to have some way to understand more deeply just how much money I saved. Just to be able to illustrate that for you I’ll out and admit that I went out and bought my first, uh, well, girdle.

I mean, when I talked to my friends about this I’d actually thought it was a legitimately seismic confession. But everyone’s all “Spanx this” and “Spanx that,” like they’ve been wearing some form of corseture under God knows what clothes for God knows how long when I’d just been going along thinking that exercise and watching what I eat are the best ammo against a fat ass. Hell, they’re all downing 8-foot subs at lunch and just wedging their lower halves into girdles.

So the fact that my deep dark confession made everyone turn to me and say, “Duh,” made me feel like I’d told them I hadn’t read Eat, Pray, Love yet or something. Which, by the way, I have. So my ass might have naively been shakin’ around unclenched by Spandex all this time, but I have kept up with some other realms of modern female life. Sheesh.

Okay, so but what I was trying to get at was, this girdle, this gut-and-ass-confining contraption that I bought? It cost MORE than the dress I’m wearing over it. And just how many bourbons does this Northern lass have to drink under a tent at a schmancy reception at Keeneland before she’s admitting that to everyone?

Well, I’ll be sure to report back and let you know.

Again, taking my patented Pressure Valve Release Approach, I was hoping that if I admitted it here, it might mitigate my need to inform the pastor of this fact after the ceremony on Saturday.

Yes, this is what it’s like being me.

And speaking of the wedding, I can’t help but wonder now if there’s some little emotional nugget inside me that can attribute my recent state of sometimes-not-estatic, to the dismal fact that the groom—whom I truly think is the bee’s proverbial patellas—is mourning the recent death of his mother. A thing that, if it weren’t so altogether crappy on its very own, unfortunately happens to be a situation which is very damn similar to the one that I found myself in on my wedding day.

So before tomorrow morning’s hotel breakfast where we’ll descend into a slew of family and friends, before that slings me into extroverted socializing heaven, and this little case of the droop is whisked away never to be thought of again… Before all that happens, I’m here now, on the hotel bed in the shirt Mark wore today, him next to me, sleeping with a pillow over his head. And I’m sending out some thoughts the groom’s way.

Hoping that he manages, like I did, to spend his wedding day in a flurried blitz of joy and love and luck. And that without too much guilt or sorrow, he’s able to make this grown up, big boy, life-rocking move happily. Even without his Mama there.

As for me, I’m hoping the next wave of weepiness I contend with is during that inevitable hand-squeeze that Mark and I—and likely every other twosome who still takes a shine to each other—will make at some uncontrived and true, love-drenched point in the ceremony.

And I plan to follow that up promptly with a nice large glass of local bourbon.

Did I mention how cheap babysitters are here?


Shameful Legacy

Posted: October 20th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Fashion Tips, Miss Kate | No Comments »

Dear Kate:

I confess. Well, it won’t take long for you to figure this out on your own anyway.

My genes are totally responsible for how your hair looks when you wake up in the morning.

All I can say is I’m so very sorry.


My morning glory:

And yours:

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I Was Funny

Posted: August 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Fashion Tips | No Comments »

When Mark got home from work the other night we were having a beer in the kitchen as Kate ran around like a wild child, Paige kicked in her bouncy seat, and our dinner finished cooking.

At one point I turned to Mark and said, “Hold that thought. I have got to get out of these work clothes.” I was wearing a t-shirt, yoga pants, and flip flops.

Mark cracked up.

Nothing better to me than making that man laugh.

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