Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Open Letter Of Request To Hospitals For Discharge Plans, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:20am

Waking up in the morning to a blue-skyed Northern California is wonderful. Especially when there is almost nothing I have to do. Makes me gleefully and quietly happy.

This was quite the week. And far harder than I expected.

Imagine someone gets out of the hospital post-almost-dying and comes home. Early. Imagine no preparations have been made. No time to make any. Imagine that the only information you (the care-givers) receive is colored flyers about no salt and low fat and progressive walking, along with hand-scrawled doctors' notations of medications. Imagine you are faced with a row of prescription vials, a walker, and a styrofoam chest of IV antibiotic hookups sitting on the antique dining room table.

Imagine that the only other information comes from the patient, who is weak, and his wife, who is exhausted.

Imagine the visiting nurse is not due until the next day.

It was all harder than I expected. I want to ask any doctors reading here, or anyone who knows a doctor, or works in a hospital, why, if the information technology exists to create a customized discharge plan for patients recovering from serious procedures, it didn't happen. Was our experience an anomaly?

If you doctors, or you hospital administrators could arrange for everyone who leaves the hospital to have a plan including the following information, that would be very helpful. The plan should be typed. It should be readable. It should be simple. It should have all the information in one place. Please.
  • A typed list of medications with instructions and risks. Handwriting is hard to read, and vials of pills that say, "Take as directed," aren't too useful. Cover everything. No fair including mysterious pills in packets along with the colored flyers. Also please tell us if aspirin or throat lozenges or over the counter stomach remedies are OK.
  • A list of priorities for care. What matters more, no salt or low fat? How important is it that the patient carry out the breathing exercises on that colored flyer. How soon?
  • A list of risks, in priority order. What do we need to watch out for? We know this is serious business and we don't know what to do about it.
  • A day in the life. How should his day go? Best to take all pills at once? Morning and night? Regular meal schedules? When will he need to meet again with doctors?
  • What home changes ought to be made? Raising chairs, toilets? Building supports and hand grasps?
  • A list of all the doctors involved and their nurses, and the liaisons, along with phone numbers. We will probably need to call you, and it makes us anxious to have multiple little business cards that might get lost.
  • If home care is involved, when will they be coming and what will they be doing? We love the visiting nurses, once they arrive. But that first night is crazy.
Thanks in advance. Let me also say that the medical care received was extraordinary, and I didn't talk to one person who was anything but kind, intelligent, competent, and eager to help. My stepfather feels better every day. It's not the people, it's something else that made this so difficult.

And to all of you who left kind words for me and my family here, more thanks. One thing I have to confess, though, before we return to style, to house furnishings, to careers and raptures and Privilege, is that I am not selfless by nature. Nor am I sweet by default. In fact, I've always been somewhat of a bull in a china shop. Prone to say what I think, even when others all around are resolutely avoiding exactly that. I learned High WASP growing up. I learned careful, square-jawed, corporate style over years of hard work. Wasn't native. If it were native, I probably wouldn't be writing here. I'm a bit like the immigrant, an observer in a country of precise behavior, taking notes and reporting to the homeland.

So I can't take much credit for caring for my mother and stepfather. I love them but there's nothing extraordinary in that. When you are the only sibling without employment or small children, it's your job to step in. And you do it as best as possible, using all your capabilities and resources. I got my reward in being able to do a good job.

Have a lovely weekend. And thank you, again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Stepfather Is Doing Well, And We Send Thanks

Many of you who will read this know that my stepfather had emergency heart surgery about a week and a half ago. I came down to Santa Barbara to help my mother when he was released from the hospital.

He does a little better every day. It was an extremely serious situation, and is by no means now routine, but the trajectory, if I can use that word, is good. To illustrate, he is sitting in his usual chair, paying bills, as I write.

My mother's sister arrives today to take over. I will go home tomorrow, and am planning a return to -Privilege posting very soon. I wanted to be sure to let you all know, however, that my family and I think it is lovely, wonderful, that you have left so many well wishes. Thank you very much.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

An Unexpected Trip To My Mother's House, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:03am

I will be leaving for Santa Barbara in an hour or so. My mother's husband had surprise successful heart surgery last week. Successful is good, surprise is never what you want. He comes home today, so I'm going to drive down and help my mother get used to the new routine.

My intent is to participate in the blogosphere in any case, as the situation permits. I have no doubt that you dear people will understand. None at all. You've been very supportive of so many things and I thank you in advance.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

What We Older Women Hope You Younger Women Wear To Your First Big Job

I am at Corporette today. A topic dear to my heart. The starter wardrobe for corporate jobs.

In which we learn:

a) Your clothing sends signals about who you are. Into very distinct cultures. Which vary from corporation to corporation because CEOs want it that way.
b) Your professional image is your brand, and it’s got to be one you can deliver.
c) The women senior to you are hoping you succeed. Just don't talk about shoes in front of the guys.
d) Shy away from too much fabric, as well as too little.
e) Extra points for knowing that, on TV, we all look best in earth tones.

Corporette is a great site, one I've subscribed to for almost a year. Woven throughout talk about cute shoes, or cowl neck sweaters on sale, is a rational and amused discussion of corporate workplace dynamics for women. What could be better?

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Key Pieces For Casual Style, But Comfortable

I have struggled, a tad, with how to look casually presentable. Wasn't previously necessary, given I spent the majority of my time in corporate gear. Last year I asked Corporette how to do casual and remain networking-presentable, in case I was surprised at the supermarket by a venture capitalist. Squeezing avocados, let's say. Corporette, those good souls, answered with remarkable restraint. No audible guffaws. A fitted jacket in a casual fabric, said they. But did I act immediately? Of course not.

I look back now and laugh. Like a horse let out to pasture after her life under saddle, "I don't have to wear corporate executive gear? I will dress like a skateboarder! I will wear sneakers!" While I'm at it, "I will throw all good sense to the wind, all style out the window! In one fell swoop! Satorial hari kari!" Let us be clear. There is nothing immoral about the outfit below. But giving up the attempt to look presentable didn't make me feel liberated and creative. More like a 50-year old woman wearing her son's clothes. Goofy. Fun for a few days but not a good life strategy. Not for me.

Turns out I am not the only one struggling with casual. Albeit, perhaps, the only one over 50 who actually left the house wearing a Santa Barbara Surf Shop sweatshirt. Recently, a blog commenter in my age cohort asked this question,
...I wonder what you think is appropriate attire for casual wear for a woman of "our age". Thank you so much! I would love to see you do a post on the "mature woman" and her casual wear. How to look great, without trying to look like our daughters!

Well, what does Imogen say? She writes the remarkably useful blog, Inside Out Style. Highly recommended. Good soul that she is, Imogen responded to a similar query on my part just the other week. With remarkably similar advice. "Get thee some decent outerwear!" Oh. OK. Softly structured jackets.

This time, I was ready. A Christmas credit at Saks Fifth Avenue? Commence gleeful hand-rubbing. First step? Internet window shopping. I poked, I clicked, I followed. And found myself looking at a James Perse fleece peacoat. Fleece + peacoat = soft + structure. I didn't take calculus in business school for nothing. Saks carries James Perse. Game on.

Push open the heavy glass doors. Employees by the cosmetics counters greet you at the entrance. Without seeming to want to sell you anything. Just a sort of, "Oh, hello honored guest." Nice touch. The smell of department store cosmetics counters in full bloom. The light that special gold fluorescent tint. Time to shop. With a credit, time to shop without fretting.

Up the escalators I went. Up. And up. Past all the Dolce and Gabbana, St. John's, Prada. Today I'm doing casual. And they put casual all the way up in the attic. Heaven forbid you might want to look nice at the grocery store. We know you are all far more interested in what to wear when attending the Golden Globes or crashing a Presidential Dinner.

I wander around a little bit, wondering why the two sales guys laughing about their weekend don't jump to attention, sensing my intent to buy. Who knows. A young woman asks if she can help. Why, yes, you can. She points me in the right direction.

Ha! Bingo! Score!

They don't carry the peacoat I saw on the Internet, but they've got another one. And it's made from SWEATSHIRT fabric! I cannot possibly communicate the enormity of that fact. I love sweatshirts. They are my fuffies. Were I ever to have sucked my thumb in my entire life, it would have been while holding a sweatshirt to my face. To say nothing of their extreme suitability for life lived in California. Which is to say, subject to weather that is sometimes cool, rarely cold. A lot of driving. You know how uncomfortable it is to drive wearing something bulky?

I was so happy I even bought something I didn't need. Just because it was cute. Hip. And on sale for $93.oo. I'm not quite ready to give up on hip. I may be a Sturdy Gal in sweatie but when I want to go Artsy it's urban rather than multi-colored. Largely because I'm simple-minded when it comes to hues. No judgment on pink. Or aubergine. Or Desert Sunset.
I bought this cropped military jacket. A trend that would in otherwise have passed me over like wind in the treetops. But this was made of, yes, SWEATSHIRT fabric. Hosanna in excelsis. To be worn with jeans, a long white t-shirt, and those ever-useful Manolo quilted ballet flats. Don't forget the diamond studs.

Mission more than accomplished. I learned the ins and outs of corporate style a while back. These jackets, as unimportant as they are in the grand scheme of things, make me feel in the grocery store like I did at work. Intelligent, competent, individual. Not bad for two fancy little sweatshirts.

On to tea at Cafe de la Presse. With a friend. Which turned into wine and Salade Nicoise. Sensible cafe, to have a license to serve Sauvignon Blanc. Quite sensible.

By me, except the cropped Casual Couture by Green Envelope jacket, via StyleCaster. And Imogen's Polyvore.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Classic (New) Clothing For Pre-Fall 2010

It's time for seasonal fashion. Pre-Fall 2010. Goodness. Does the industry never stop?

New is fine, new drives the economy, new is new. Some of us want to wear clothing that might be called new AND classic. Luckily, some designers oblige. I find it ironic, of course, that they are dubbed, "minimalists." I'd be more inclined to call the rest of fashion, "maximalists." Or even, "over-the-top-ists." Be that as it may,

Not that our ilk won't often revert to navy cable cardigans, Ferragamo loafers, and white button downs. We will. But we, like many, also want to feel that we are participating in the ebb and flow of history. Or its decorative friend, fashion.

For us, in 2010, there are bags,

There are trousers. That's what my mother calls pants. Anyone else out there broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted, short-legged? If so, this is a good look. Wide legs, high-ish waist, vertical columns of color. Trust me.

There are dresses, which perhaps we would wear with different shoes, or without unnecessary sheepskin, but still, there are dresses. Sheaths, in a newish color, or scuba patterns. Scuba. That's new, I suppose, but it reminds me of a Geoffrey Beene color block dress my mother wore in London. In 1968.

And, finally, frocks. As we all have days or occasions when we cannot resist going over the top, we can go monochrome, preserving color serenity amidst structural frenzy. When we are under 25. For a Very Fancy Party.

We will, however, smile. And are unlikely to ink our ankles.

Images: (edited to repair omission of trousers link)
Valhalla Brooklyn bags via Carolyn, No.
Celine Trousers via
Celine Scuba Dress and Calvin Klein Sheath via simple + pretty
Marchesa Purple Ruffles via Couture Carrie

*Columns of color idea from Imogen at Inside Out Style

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Martin Luther King On Non-Violent Resistance

We're all familiar with the moving cadences of Martin Luther King's speeches. Here we see his sheer intelligence.

History is irrefutable, the impact of slavery still felt, responsibility shared across the country. Not yet time to put it all behind us.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lip Balm, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am

I sent my daughter a package this week. She had hit a rough patch, and asked me to send a care package the way I did when she was in college. I love it when my kids need me. Probably because they are, on the whole, independent. Grown.

Besides, this gave me a good excuse to go and buy beauty products. I sent her Aveda lip balm in Peony, along with some serious hand lotion, and two tubes of stuff for de-frizzing curls. She lives in New Jersey. Apparently they have real winter in New Jersey, and your lips, hair and hands come under attack.

Aveda products smell delicious. The lip balm has just the right degree of color. No mirror required to avoid clown mouth. I love things that add no worry to our existence.

The package was scheduled to arrive Thursday. And, come Thursday, I waited. The days when I was content to mother without thank yous have passed. I almost called her under the pretense of making sure everything had arrived.

Restraint. I thought, "I have to step back. Give her a little time to thank me. Or not." I waited.

Friday she called. "Thank you Mom. It was perfect." Effusive. Happy. If I had called her I would have wrecked everything. Skin of my teeth.

It's always a question, with adult kids. What relationship prevails? Who are we to them? How authentic? I'm clear, I'm no longer the hand into which they get to put their empty candy wrappers. But I haven't won the golden ticket to be a big baby, either. My real self may feel needy but my real self also wants the best for them.

It made me think.

In my corporate life, I had to create a fairly tough persona. Man up, only, um, I'm a woman. In my parenting life, calm, rational mamahood, only, um, I'm fairly high-strung. Even in social media we manage personas. Are these all false? Is the psychological model right? I had an underlying desire to call my daughter right away and ask, "Did you get the package?" just so I could hear her say, "Thank you, Mom." Is that our real self?

I used to think so. Now, not so much. Maybe when we're young. The physical swings, impulses, needs, are stronger. The raw materials, well, rawer. The learned self of late childhood still only rough, and hard to see clearly. You're right down in it.

But at 53, it seems possible that what I love is as much my authentic self as what I need. That restraint can be as true as confession. That pauses are almost movement.

*And no, no compensation has exchanged hands. Provoked a thought. But that's free.


Friday, January 15, 2010

How To Get Started On Twitter, Even If You Are Over 50

Little known fact. I joined Twitter in August of 2008, when a sales lead came in, source marked, "Twitter." One must do one's research, after all. I had no idea what the point was.

Fast forward to December of 2009. I tried again. Different account. This time I did better. How? You just have to remember that Twitter is like an enormous cocktail party held in a barn. You either want to go with friends, or make arrangements to meet up when you arrive. Best case, your friends know other people at the party.

It's up to you whether you stand in the corner, drink in hand, observing, or get out there and meet and mingle. By the way, celebrities will be present. You can listen to them talk. Or not. They are unlikely to listen to you. Your friends, however, will laugh even at your bad jokes.

How to get started?
  • Go to
  • Click the green button that says, "Sign up"
  • You will be asked for your full name, the user name you would like to be known as on Twitter, a password, and your email address.
  • They will tell you if your user name is available. I'm AmidPrivilege. Nice to meet you. See, just like a party.
  • They will tell you if the email address has been used, in case you are like me and forget you have signed up already:).
  • They will not tell you that the full name you enter will be visible to the Twitterverse. Muffy had to tell me. You might not want to use your real name. Unless you are famous, and then you really should.
  • Choose that user name carefully. If you're a blogger, choose something that is as close to your Google profile name, or your blog name, or your blog URL, as you can find. You are adding to your online persona, and no need to confuse everyone. We're confused enough as it is.
  • Then the Twitter gods will ask you if people you know on other services already have a Twitter account. Automatically. The Twitter site accesses your contact lists and tells you who is out there. Yes. You can skip this step if you have a horror of the Internet finding its way too deeply into your private business.
  • Then you can invite people you know that the Twitter gods don't think have accounts. You can skip this step too.
  • Then, do you want to follow Jimmy Buffet, Newt Gingrich, or Maria Shriver? Or other popular Twitterers.
  • You can always see what Jimmy Buffet has to say and then unfollow him later.
  • Twitter sends your email account a confirmation message.
  • Tada!
  • You will now, every time you go to, see a list of 140 character statements, known as tweets, in time order, from you and all the people you have followed.
  • You might prefer to read tweets from people you know and trust. Go to the blogs of people you read and follow them.
  • Read their tweets.
  • Reply. There's a little button just for replying. Isn't that sweet?
  • Find some things to say that are a) funny b) useful c) inspiring. Tweet. I tend to tweet about what I am wearing or the fact that all my toilets are overflowing. You can tell I'm not aiming for inspiring.
  • Click through on the profiles of the people who reply to the people you are following. These can be found by clicking any time you see @someoneorother.
  • Follow more people.
  • People will start to follow you.
  • Some people will be like Sally Crystal, who says she is a buddhist and tweets in ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME AND SENT ME A DIRECT MESSAGE SAYING OM MANI PADME HUM HRI! TONG GI THRAM CHU DOK!
  • Unfollow them. Click!
There. Now you are on Twitter.

The only remaining issue is that you will at first want to spend way too much time there. Don't do it. Open Twitter 3-4 times/day only. Otherwise your life will go down a rabbit hole, never to return.

There you have it. Twitter for beginners. Old beginners. But we all have to start somewhere, if only to know that we haven't been left behind. We might change our minds later and say Bah! Humbug! But at least we get the joke.

Have a good weekend.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

All The Days Of Your Pearls

Did any of you watch soap operas? In the days before reality TV, YouTube, and Twitter/Facebook, they were the only way to indulge in daily, trivial, calming time spent on other people's supposed problems. Remember the guy intoning, "All The Days Of Your Lives..."?

Those are my pearls. Up above. Really more than necessary. I'd say I didn't know how I got what seems to be so many, but I do. I know.

Like this.

In the last century, High WASPs had so much money they had jewelry made for their babies. Yes. They did. That bar pin? For a baby. I wear it on lapels now. Plunder from my mother's jewelry box, something I engaged in as a teenager as often as possible. I don't know why she let me. Oh the diamond stick pins I have lost. One in Buffalo, New York, of all places.

When I turned 21, I asked my father for a pearl necklace. Instead, he gave me pearl studs. I cried. There were mitigating circumstances. My parents had just divorced and many things otherwise tolerable made me cry. Being the sort of father who really didn't mean to make me sad, he then took me to visit the pearl dealer a friend of mine had recommended. And bought a strand of matched 7mm Mikimotos. Which you will see below, because I had them made into something else. What? Pearls are flexible like that.

Finally, a friend of mine got married a year or so after we graduated college. The little freshwater bracelet was a bridesmaid's present. The groom wore a kilt. Our bridesmaid dresses were yellow gauze with green edging on lettuce ruffles. They are no longer married. She is quite happy with husband number two.

Above we see the pearls of middle adulthood. The earrings from a modern day gypsy, for my wedding. Mabe pearls from my sister, given her by a friend, daughter of an alcohol fortune. The friend died, in a scuba accident. These things sound flippant, made up, but they weren't. Even the random parts of life eventually mean something.

I wore the earrings to sell nitrogen to semiconductor companies in the 1980's. Do we think large button earrings will return, in the wake of leggings? They did confer a certain authority, even on those of us scared to death by our negotiation responsibilities.

The pendant from my stepsister. She had kindly asked me to be the maid of honor at her wedding. Not one of my finest hours, in retrospect. Sometimes people don't want highly intellectual toasts at their rehearsal dinners. In which laughter on the eve of marriage is somehow celebrated by references to death. I think I meant well.

I bought a bracelet in India but the pearls disintegrated. I'm thinking they weren't pearls. The purchase was fun, however, and the tea I drank while sitting on pillows in the afternoon sun, delicious.

And finally, the pearls of our 50's. It's possible to gain confidence with age. Pearl audacity may follow. Purple gray earrings in 22k, with diamonds, a present from my mother. Daniel Gibbings, Santa Barbara. An 8.5mm necklace, 8.5-9mm earrings with small diamond accents, the original necklace from my father now a 3-strand bracelet. And yes, I will wear all the white ones together for the right occasion. With impunity. Because I play the Grande Dame as often as I can carry it off. For work, however, just the necklace, with diamond studs. Took me into the New York Stock Exchange and back out alive in September 2008. As the stock market fell around us. A cameraman tried to interview me as I walked down Wall Street. I told him I had nothing to say. Seriously.

I suppose it's time to do with the pearls what we do with everything in our 50's, throw away or transform. I'm leaning towards transformation. Thinking about having something made, an over-the-top pair of earrings, or a brooch. Maybe with the random little bitty diamonds that have also accumulated. Less room for clutter at this stage, even when it's opalescent. Even though it turns out to be awfully fun to rummage around in pearls with one's fingers.

*And if the gray earrings in the last photo appear to be Photoshopped in, that's because they are. Not due to non-existence, but because I am a forgetter-head and forgot to include them and by that point had reached the end of my patience for fidgeting with multiple pearls in a light box. Not sure whether to celebrate my new technical skills or mourn my lost capability to remember.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

What To Wear Instead Of A Scrunchie

In my opinion, Scrunchies get a bad rap. Perpetrated by wearers who pulled ponytails higher than they should. Permed their bangs into a frizz no longer resembling hair.

I still love my Scrunchies.

They are great for the realities of ponytails. The reality vs. what we see in magazines, that is. Lovely neat but messy creations. Must last all of 4 minutes before the hairbrush guy and the hairspray guy have to fight it out for reconstruction rights. Don't models or celebrities ever touch their heads? I'm not a savage and I still touch my head. A lot. Which means then I have to pull out the elastic, run a brush through my hair, and put the elastic back in. Scrunchies forgive me for touching my head. Thanks guys.

However. I understand the need to put away childish things when one becomes a woman. At least a 50 year old woman. I went in search of replacements. Muffy told me she wears Goody Ouchless Elastics.

Here we run into the problem. At 50, you don't have youth any more to compensate. As in, my hair elastic is plain brown? No, problem, I'll just be young over here and you will forget. As in, my hair elastic is over-stretched and wisps of hair float round my face? No problem, I will just be YOUNG over here, and you will forget. All that fluid still plumping cheeks and redding lips on the young has magic powers. Never forget.

So I was looking for something with a little teeny bit more style. Here's what I found. It's called a Hair Glove. In leather.
Um, well, more style, yes. Maybe not MY style. Although I am a firm believer in an open mind, the time when I might have found my inner biker chick has probably passed.

Etsy has some cute things. But again, cute, 50, my inner Grande Dame rebels.

Or, from Carolee. Hey, pearls! I'm on board.
Then I went to yoga. And, everyone knows, yoga is not really for spiritual growth, or calming the mind, or even sweating. It's for buying cute clothes so you can pretend to be doing yoga. At the yoga studio I found this.

Houndstooth. A cousin to tartan. I might be keeping the little dangly part. Working up to leather is not a bad thing. Even if one never actually gets there.

Edited: Ha! The yoga studio hair elastics have a website...


LPC Is At "The Entertaining House" Today

Today I, along with The Blushing Hostess and Miss Janice, am over at The Entertaining House. We are talking about children and manners. I am the last to speak. Which is probably for the best. For example, on how to teach small ones,
Start small. Think globally, act locally. Really. Use the words, "In This House The Rules Are..."

• In this house we keep our bottoms on the chairs while we eat.

• In this house we taste everything on our plates. You don't have to finish, but you have to try to see if your taste changed. Grownups like different foods than kids, and we need to know when you are becoming more grownup. (That said, no springing calamari or kale on them too early.) more...
I believe that realistic expectations may help us save civilization.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Which We Discover That Laundry Is The Meaning Of Life, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:30am.

Seems like that moment in the year when the Ferris wheel scrapes bottom. That small instant when we wonder, "Are we going up again?' Skies particularly gray. Air particularly still. Or windy. Either way. This is the time all that holiday festivity is supposed to prepare us for.

Except we're just creatures, and the passage of time and seasons is strong. Given that I'm innately, almost stupidly cheerful, this doesn't make me too sad. Reflective, yes. A little yearny. Bear with me, if I can ask your forbearance. When the cyclical process of being human pauses in the down notch, go there. Reflect. Or read other people who are doing the same thing. Because, in the way of animal species, much of what is meaningful we share.

Some young women are getting married. Mouse at Souris Mariage. Hannah, at i doux. Congratulations, girlikins. I have always loved weddings. Late summer afternoon, sweet white flowers hither and thither, strains of music over the stucco walls of a courtyard, clink of silverware on plates, high heels in gravel. The grandmother, standing by her chair, caught looking away, large South American topaz earrings visible.

Some people are having babies. Our Little Haus. A Suburban Housewife in Training. I Pick Pretty. Except right now she's I Pick Feeling Fat And Like This May Never End. That Wife. Make Mine A Mojito is staying off the baby train. If she got on, I guess she'd be Make Mine A Vanilla Whey Protein Smoothie No Wait I Hate Vanilla It Makes Me Barf. La Belette Rouge is, after some time, thinking about adopting. Congratulations.

Maxminimus's friend had a baby. So he who loves Weejuns (in the way of Like Water for Chocolate), wrote about his own fatherhood. Evidently fathers love their daughters. So far beyond reason that reason is teeing up at the 15th hole while fathers are blitzing the quarterback then getting up one more time covered in mud.

Some people are rearing children. Cate Subrosa. Who is moving her baby away from pacifiers. Entertaining Mom, who wouldn't really leave her kids at school over night, but jokes about it on Twitter. That's a good strategy for the bottom, look around and mock the barren, nasty, gravel-filled desert with no gas station in sight. Mock it good.

Penelope Trunk. Perhaps one of the most brilliant and peculiar bloggers out there. I've been reading her since before there were blogs. She made waffles for her boys and then cursed at them when she couldn't get everyone out the door in time for school. Felt bad. I don't know a mother who hasn't been there. We all told her that. But mutuality doesn't always make it OK. She doesn't want to swear at her kids, even though it's better than hitting them. When we hit bottom, even while swimming upwards barely holding our breath, we look down and vow to do better next time. Take a short, clear-eyed look at the sea floor.

And, then, now, some people are dying. Entertaining Mom's sister-in-law is dying of ovarian cancer. I am so sorry. Some have died. Miss Whistle's father-in-law died last week.

It's very difficult to say much of anything about death. It's both incomprehensible and irrefutable. All I can do is look out the window at wet yellow leaves on the gray slate patio and shake my head. Or leave Miss Whistle a comment and say, "I'm sorry for your loss. I'm thinking of you." Solitary musing doesn't get us very close to meaning. The social contract does.

I had a reader email me the other day. Her elderly neighbor had lost his wife after 45 years of marriage. She wanted to write him a note. Her usual monogrammed stationery was on order, not yet arrived. All she had was cards with one initial, gold, and lined envelopes, gold. She wondered if that paper would make her note of condolence too much About Me. I agreed. Send a plain folded note. Cream. White. Ivory. "I am so sorry for your loss." Bring food.

I should get those leaves off the patio. My Christmas tree is recycled, the ornaments down. I should organize them into the right boxes. The sheets from my son's bed are clean, in a heap on the daybed. He's back at school. I should fold laundry. One can sit on the sofa, rueful at the passage of time. But not for long. If there were an answer, surely, someone would know it. I am fully aware of concurrent futility and joy. This is most likely why yoga focuses so entirely on breathing.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

On The Ground; San Francisco Street Style.

Went to the city yesterday. Yes, that's what we in Northern California call San Francisco. What? It's not the only city in the world? Well, yes. We know. Never mind.

Here's the final word on San Francisco street style.


Yes, hunting. Apparently, either on horse, or on foot. Otherwise, why would absolutely everyone be wearing boots? As in, everyone.

All kinds. Over the knee? Yup, saw some of those. Up to the knee, with the boots' uppers either quilted or embossed in a pattern? Yup, saw some of those. Mid-calf, sort of rustic-looking, including buckled straps? Yup, saw SO MANY of those.

In closing, if you're going to San Francisco, forget the flowers in your hair. Foot leather. That's where it's at.

Have a wonderful weekend. I might have to lock myself in the house to avoid buying boots. Or a bow and arrow. Peer pressure is a powerful thing.

Edited for expansion of horizons: For more on-the-street boots, this time in the City of Lights, AKA Paris, take a look at Une Femme's post on her visit this fall.

Barney's New York Sartore Belted Over-the-Knee Boot $1,155
Barney's New York Co-Op Studded Buckle Ankle Boot $580


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Simple Thank You Will Suffice

My father reads this blog. (Hey, I had to enlist his counsel when I reviewed Cheerful Money. He used to review books all the time. Still writes them. I wasn't going out on that limb without expert advice.)

So, in the course of time, he read Monday's post about his dog chair birthday. And, in particular, your comments. He was quite touched, and happy to answer your questions about the paintings, writing,
"Would you pass on thanks to your very kind readers for their good wishes. I appreciate them all.

As for the paintings, the one on the left (as you look at them) is by a minor French painter named Rene Cadeau, early 19th century, of some unknown relative. The one on the right is of your great-great-grandfather, probably by a southern painter, identity unknown, also early 19th century. Your readers are in the right ballpark."
From a man who bleeds Dodger blue, the ballpark reference is deeply felt. I echo his words. Thank you very much.

Can You Wear A Simple Pearl Strand With Simple Pearl Studs?

Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, a reader of this blog and, more importantly, a writer for the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times, asked me this question in a comment. (Wait. Small aside. Is that cool or what? She writes about Hong Kong and China. OK. Onwards.)
Question: Would you wear simple pearl earrings with a simple pearl necklace?
Well, no, I wouldn't. Does that mean that no one can do so? No. Does it even mean that no High WASP would do so? No. It means that High WASPs from California (we like a little counter-culture) by way of New York (we like a little flash) and New England (we like a little quirky), wouldn't wear little pearl studs and a 16-inch 7.0mm pearl necklace. Not together.

I have good data, however, indicating that winds blow differently down South. First, way back when, I mentioned, "wearing pearls irresponsibly." I meant the pearl stud with pearl strand combination. Mint Juleps and Magnolias took me to task. Wore her pearls irresponsibly with impunity. Quailing not one whit in the face of my pronouncement. Hmm.

Data point number two. One of my son's best friends was recruited to play tennis at a highly-regarded Southern university. She left California with wavy blonde hair, t-shirt and shorts. She returned with straight, even blonder hair, and dresses. Also pearls. She may even wear them to play tennis. I don't know. So let's assume that what I am about to say may possibly NOT apply south of the Mason-Dixon line. (Wait. Where IS the Mason-Dixon line? Hold on. Oh, OK. Onwards.)

Here's what my sub-species of High WASPs thinks about pearls. If you wear a simple strand, punk up the earrings. Or flash, or bling. Something. If you wear simple studs, elevate the necklace. Or do without, and wear a pin instead. Pearl pins are one of the great cross-cultural inventions of all times. Artsy Cousins, Sturdy Gals, Grandes Dames, we can all find a pearl pin that speaks our language.

Earrings to Wear with a Simple Strand

From Mary Jo Matsumoto. These are among my all-time favorites. I don't own them. Yet. But I love the contrast of shiny smooth pearl and rougher fittings. To say nothing of whimsical sea creatures. Sturdy Gals are addicted to whimsy. We are guilty of almost every single present of Santa underwear you will ever receive. Onward.

(Much as I love the chocolate pearls at top, I wouldn't mix them with a white strand. Looks too accidental. But these earrings in white, with the starfish fittings, and a simple white strand. Yes. Would do it.)

Another option? Go vintage. They knew from pearl earrings in the Mad Men era.

Wouldn't those clusters look nice with, say, these?

Necklaces to Wear with Pearl Studs

Add chain links to pearls for a little motorcycle debutante chic. Or, for the Grande Dames who would not be seen dead on, or even near, a motorcycle, add a clasp. Simple.

Or one you notice.

Finally, pearl pins.
Tell me that's not cute. Go on. Try.

And before you buy any pearls at all, read this post.

Mary Jo Matsumoto 12MM Chocolate South Sea Starfish $2,400
Mary Jo Matsumoto 15MM White South Sea Shells $4,000
Beladora 2 Cluster Earrings $395
Blue Nile 16-inch 6.5-7mm Akoya $860
Beladora Pearls With Links $470.25
The Pearl Outlet Square $110
House of Clasps Toggle $1280
Beladora 2 Pearl Pin $295


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

4 Ways NOT To Shop At Big Box Stores

Big box stores make me whimper.

I think I know why. We've all got our ways to understand the world. My professor father taught me to read very early, and I must have decided reading was such an efficient system that it ought to work on everything. I was little. Little ones think like that.


I go by shapes and words. Big box stores aren't friendly environments. This weekend I made an extended foray through Fry's (a local, 100% full concentration computer geek store), Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Crate and Barrel. Just saying those names makes me reel and stumble.

Walk into Fry's. This is what it looks like. At least this was what it looked like once I could finally open my eyes. The problem compounded by relative ignorance of technical terminology.

When I am asked, "Have you found what you are looking for," how can I know? I am still trying to differentiate rectangles from triangles. All I know is that I am in the land of irregular shapes. I can only tell the sales person, "I am looking for cable, which is tubular, and everything here seems to have been unnaturally made into squares." The only words I can see mean very little. I know USB. Universal Serial Bus. Otherwise, gibberish. If they hung large graphic representations of the cables within, like those abstractions of people crossing the street, I would maybe be OK. Maybe.

The sign below is made for people like me. Lost in a useless scan for meaning, we catch sight of this sign, and our last flash of neural activity says "Yes! Yes, I can ASK someone! Words are available! Nouns I can make sense of!" We will ignore the fact that the friendly sign appears to be pointing only to another sign.

The retail equivalent of Papua New Guinea. Goodness.

Next, Best Buy. OK. The boxes' shapes correspond a little bit to what they contain. The words are bigger. I can walk on in hope. Maybe I've made it to Poland.

Then Bed Bath and Beyond. Aha. Scotland. My language will be spoken. Fewer boxes. These shapes I know. Those are things you find in kitchens. See? I'm doing better. The Book of Bed Bath and Beyond I can read.

Crate and Barrel. The traveler finds comfort. They are taking even more things OUT of the boxes. Thank you! Not only can I read, I can take notes. I can perform exigesis. The shopping equivalent of Chicago. And yes, please, I would like a shiny new ice cream scoop. Whether I eat much ice cream or not.

Were I to have wandered a little further into the Stanford Shopping Center, say, to Neiman Marcus, or Wilkes Bashford, I would have come home. No boxes at all. No need for words. I can recognize articles of clothing at first glance, especially when displayed so lovingly on mannequins. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Clearly I lack skills required for 2010. And dwindling fortunes.

Helpful hints? Anyone? How do you shop in large retail outlets? Are there strategies? I can't shop Frette forever.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Family Portraits. In The Year 2010.

My father turned 79 the other day. We gathered, some of us, for dinner.

We ate in the dining room.

Among family.

We gave my dad a birthday present. All the kids contributed. As I have said, we're talking a rather dwindling sort of fortune.

What do you give a man who feels like this about his dog?

Why this, of course.

I wasn't sure it he would like it. He did.

"Family," and "Portrait," broadly defined.

First 3, LPC, 4th, family, 5th, Hoop Dog Studio via Stuff in St. Louis, MO. They have more dogs of all kinds. And Casey, one of the owners, is extra nice.
First seen here at Miss Cavendish's lovely blog, which I had forgotten!

*I feel the usual odd mix of embarrassment and pride in the family artifacts. But never mind. That's for me to manage. And you to tell me if I overstep. We aren't related to the African statues, as far as I know.

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10 Things That Make Me Happy, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:10am. In 2010.

I have been tagged, for 10 things that make me happy, by One Fabulous Mom. She of the tummy tuck that worked, a writing career, and the newly-launched 40 Things To Do Before You Turn 40 blog. Thank you One Fabulous...

Let us consider happiness.

Not contentment. Happiness. As it turns out, I'm a natively contented person, for better or for worse. Just genetics, not praiseworthy. I don't do depression, tending on my difficult days towards anxiety. Nor rage, tending in those moments of annoyance towards snaps of irritation.

So happy, to me, is the feeling that rises unbidden in your heart. That which begins a smile. Unasked. Surprising.

Definition achieved, here is my list. For today. Tomorrow will almost certainly be different.

1. Hot water.
Hot showers, hot baths, hot dishwater on my hands. Don't know why, but it releases a noticeable burst of endorphins. Those pesky little hormones have a lot to do with the elusive bird of happiness.

2. Completion.
The satisfying stroke of a pen through an item on the to do list. Click of the customer service agent hanging up, her final words, "Yes, it's all taken care of," ringing happily in my ears.

3. Resonance.
Sitting next to someone I love, realizing in that moment we resonate. That were we to vibrate, cellos. Or trumpets, on occasion.

4. Diamonds.
Sparkle. The more the better. 1 large one, 2 medium ones, 50 small ones. Pins, necklaces, earrings, rings. I'd like nothing more than to spend the day at a diamond broker, sitting in the corner, watching. Maybe touching once or twice. Oh who am I kidding? I'd want to plunge my hand into a large bowl of them and run diamonds through my fingers. Do you think they have large bowls like this in the diamond district anywhere? That they'd be willing to let a slightly cracked middle-aged Californian indulge her fantasies?

5. Clear surfaces.
That moment when no laundry is left on the table, no dishes on the counter, no smudges on the mirror.

6. Sky.
Blue, gray, white, roiled by clouds, caught between high buildings, long and low over a freeway. Lighted. Except when I'm in an airplane. Then I pretend there's no such thing.

7. Certain foods.
Clouds of steam off the plate. The first bite, heat. Next bite, rough garlic. Third bite, ginger. Final trace of something vegetal. Or Sichuan numbing spice. Om nom nom nom.

8. Your comments.
Makes me happy to read the stories people tell of what they wore or thought or did. Questions. Questions make me really happy.

9. Waiting with anticipation in the lobby of a spa.
Who invented spas? I need to find them and thank them. Is there anything better, in the immediate sense, than knowing that someone is going to smooth lotions on you any minute now? It will smell good. It will feel good. And for the next few hours, you are on leave from any to do list.

10. Waking up in the morning.
Oh, hello! World! Thank you!

For the 11th, which is probably the 11th on an infinite list, let me add other people's writing. This morning it was ELS at Mon Avis, Mes Amis. I've mentioned her before, but let me do it again. This is only a small, small sample. Click for more.
"We went out one night onto the frozen lake, riding snowmobiles under the stars. We stopped in the middle and listened to the moaning of the ice, sitting huddled on reindeer skins, drinking hot berry juice and hoping to buggery that the damn lights would show. Did they hell. The Colonel took a spectacular tumble on the ice and snapped a thigh muscle, so we enjoyed a more earthly son et lumiere. There are now Samis in Bjorkliden who can swear like English squaddies."
Yeah. What she said. Have a wonderful weekend.