Monday, November 8, 2010

Exciting Developments

I never meant to let more than two months pass without at least dropping by to post a picture or a quick update, but it's been a crazy few months.

First, as you already know, my new grandson Caleb came along at the end of August, just a few days before my last post. Here's a picture of Caleb, even though you've already seen him, because I just like to look at him they change so fast at this age.

Naturally, all that hanging out waiting for Caleb to be born and then hanging out looking at Caleb cut into my work schedule a little bit, which left me playing catch-up a bit. It wasn't so bad at my day job, since I work for Total Attorneys, a company that made a name for itself with concepts like corporate culture and work / life balance and puts its money where its mouth is. But, as luck would have it, I also had a freelance project in the works with a hard deadline at the end of September.

I was working with the founder of, editing an eye-opening book called Re-Made in the USA: How We Can Restore Jobs, Retool Manufacturing, and Compete with the World. The tight deadline was a downside in the wake of Caleb's more-time-consuming-than-anticipated arrival and all of the other things that had fallen by the wayside in the interim, but the material was both fascinating and frightening and I'm very glad to have been a part of the project. I hope everyone in America takes the time to read this book and think about the decisions most of us make without conscious thought every day.

With that wrapped and homeschooling back on track, I kept telling friends who wanted to get together that things would be back to normal in late October, and we did manage to fit in a little bit of Halloween fun:

But then, just when I thought it was over, it was right back to work. Tori landed a strange role in a crazy movie, Motivational Growth. Thus, she spent more than ten hours on Friday vomiting repeatedly while sitting on a cheerful looking couch with a bunch of kids playing video games. Nah, I'm not going to explain--you'll have to see the movie. Little inside bit of humor, though: she accidentally puked on the knee of the kid in the striped sweater. He was very good-natured about it.
I thought I had time for a breather, now, but it turns out Tori's entertainment schedule is going to break November for me. The "one day only" Les Mis tribute concert is on the 17th, and Harry Potter 7A comes out at midnight the next night...and then we're going to see Miranda Lambert on the 19th. Anyone want to borrow a teenager for a few days? The week before Thanksgiving looks good....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stuff I Wish I Wouldn't Notice

Okay, I haven't even gotten started and...the title is a lie. A more appropriate title would be "Stuff I Wish People Weren't Dumb Enough to Do, But Since They Can't Get It Right I Guess I Wish I Didn't Catch It". But that would be too long.

The other night, far too tired after our adventures in waiting for Caleb to do anything productive, Tori and I went to see The Switch. She wanted to see Inception for the third time, but I nixed that because I didn't want to have to think.

Oh, the irony.

Since the whole premise of the movie is divulged in the previews and summaries, I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that Jennifer Aniston's character believes she's had a baby with a paid donor, but in fact someone has switched the samples.

When Aniston sits down across from the donor years later, the flaw is instantly obvious--they're sitting there flashing pale blue eyes at one another and the child has brown eyes. I thought it was a clue. I thought it was brilliant. Anyone who went to 7th grade would know that two blue-eyed people couldn't produce a brown-eyed child! And to top it all off, the kid was something of a medical geek...he'd probably know that!

Nice touch, I was thinking. Good close-ups on the faces of both alleged parents to make this crystal clear. Great set-up with the kid previously spouting medical information.

And then my world came crashing down. Or not, actually, but my ability to enjoy the movie took a big hit. See, a minute later the "real" father popped up on the screen and...he, too, had blue eyes. Yep, all three of them. Not a chance in hell that old Jen could have produced that puppy-dog-eyed boy with either one of them.

How could everyone involved with the film possibly have missed that? How? And why, oh why, couldn't I have joined them?

Random Thought about Garbage

Is generating thousands of disposable paper stickers each week really a good way to handle trash disposal?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Conversations With My Daughter

So we're hanging out in my stepdaughter's hospital room chatting and staring at my new grandbaby (in order to set the scene, I'm compelled, quite against my will, to post this video)

when Tori casually tosses out "Mom, we should get DVR."

I'm tired, and (though I didn't tell her this) not even entirely sure what DVR is, so I said, "Why?"

A moment of silence while she stares at me as if she doesn't quite know what to do with that, and then she says, "'Cause...then we'd have DVR."

I guess that's a good thing. After we had that whole conversation and everyone laughed at her response, I can't bring myself to say, "By the way...what IS DVR?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Margo's Birthday

Today is my friend Margo's birthday. I won't say which one, but I'm sure that when you get a look at the range of photos and the hairstyles here, you'll have some idea.

I'm not, as I've mentioned before, big on fuss and celebration. Greeting cards make my brain explode. $4.50 for a piece of paper you're going to recycle fifteen minutes after opening? Really? How does the tree feel about that? But that doesn't mean that I don't recognize that there are certain days that bear celebration. A birthday, after all, marks the day a person came to exist...and for those of us in that person's life, that's kind of a big deal.

This is what I looked like when I met Margo:

Well, not exactly. I didn't wear a toga made out of one of my bedsheets all of the time, of course. The purpose of this photo is really just to show you my hair, but I chose this one intentionally, because this night (Halloween night, 1984) was a very special one in my history with Margo...

as you will soon see.

My hair had never been shorter than shoulder-length in my whole entire life, and even that was short-lived, so without Margo, I might never have found out what I looked like with short hair.

Because clearly, that long wavy hair I was originally sporting just DID NOT GO with a toga. We had absolutely no choice but to cut it off in our dorm room bathroom before going out for the night, and Margo was perfectly qualified to do the job...after all, her mom owned a beauty shop.

(It was only years later that she mentioned that she'd never actually worked in the beauty shop or learned to cut hair from her mother...but by that time, it was funny. And my hair had grown back.)

Of course, without Margo (and a bomb threat, but we had nothing to do with that) I'd never have met Jim Belushi, either.
Margo, of course, took this picture...and we're not even out of our freshman year of college yet. You might want to get a cup of coffee, because we have more than a quarter of a century to go.

Speaking of being dorky freshmen:

When my daughter saw this picture, she said, "I notice you both have some interesting hair stuff going on." It was the eighties, but somehow even that seems inadequate to explain...

Margo's always been full of words of wisdom, too.
But there's much more. Without Margo, I'd never have been suspected of contemplating Hari Krishna; I'd never have carried a legendary set of red and black marbles in my pocket; I'd never have perfected the art of looking someone in the eye and, with a perfectly straight face, saying something so outrageous that we'd still be laughing about it two decades later.

We were really cool when we managed to buy wine (2 half gallon bottles for $5!) at Jewel-Osco when I was 18 and she was 19. I use "we" loosely here, since part of our strategy was for me to get the hell out of sight while she bought them since it was clear that I'd never pass for 21.

We were so cool, in fact, that my MOM took this picture, in her kitchen, right before telling us that we couldn't drink the wine unless we committed to staying in the house for the night.

So eight or nine years later, when Margo was working in Chicago and I was practicing law out of state and came visiting for BluesFest, we couldn't resist recreating the moment in our hotel room.

We didn't actually drink the wine at BluesFest--nowhere near as much fun if it's not contraband, I guess--just grabbed it from the hotel room bar to snap the picture and then put it right back. That was the weekend that I met Margo's fiance and also that I learned that my soon-to-be fiance had picked up a family ring from his mother to give to me. Neither of us actually ended up marrying those men, though, proving that friendship is far more enduring than romantic love.

Without Margo, I'd never have known how to walk into a newspaper office and talk my way into freelance work ("stringing," she emphasized. "Don't say freelance, or they'll know you don't write for newspapers.") when my only previous professional writing experience was in the legal field. And without that experience, I might never have written my book.

I suppose that there are many things I could point to over the past 26 years and say, "Without Margo, I would never have..." Many of them are mischievous, impulsive, highly-entertaining-only-to-us events like improving the signage at the River Walk in Naperville.

I mean, seriously--what's the point of putting up maps all along a miles-long River Walk but not giving you any indication of where along the route you might be?

We saw this as a public service. Really.

Of course, we felt the same way about taping "This too shall pass" and "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" up in the hallway of our dorm, and that netted us a $25 "vandalism" fine. Seriously. I mean, it was TAPE. It peeled right off with no damage whatsoever. Just like the tape flags we used on the maps.

Most of all, though...without Margo I would have had much less laughter in my life. So happy birthday, Marg. I'm glad you were born.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Waiting Game

Waiting really isn't all that bad.

Circles of Life

Last night, I spent a very long night at the hospital with my stepdaughter, Beth. We were hoping (in vain, it turned out) to transform that very large bump in her midsection into a very small child we could hand around and coo over and share the burden of carrying. Being pregnant when it's 93 degrees at 6 p.m. is no picnic, even without the contractions and odd compulsion to clean.

With Beth, Beth's husband Shawn and me all at the hospital, my 18-year-old stepson and 14-year-old daughter stepped up to take care of Andrew, Beth and Shawn's older child (older being a relative term that sounds a little silly when applied to a 2-year-old).

They did a great job, and even managed to get him calmed down to sleep in a strange hotel room with mom and dad both away. And that's when my life retrospective unexpectedly began.

As I sat in the hospital thinking about Beth at five, playing mother to her younger brother, and listening to the heartbeat of her second child, Tori sent me a text message. It said, "I don't know how Beth ever sleeps. I think I would just look at Andrew all the time. He's so beautiful."
I couldn't argue with that, but I have to admit that my beautiful grandson didn't have my full attention. Because in that moment I was transported back to Valentine's Day of 1996. At daybreak, my little sister tiptoed into my bedroom, looked at my 37-hour-old daughter and said, "Have you slept at all, or do you just look at her?"

My sister was 23 that morning. She wore silver shorts that zipped all the way around and had her new boyfriend in tow; his rainbow-snow-cone tinted hair was covered by a red velvet hat and although he insists to this day that it was a crooked smile he had painted on his face, I know that it was a fishhook coming out of the corner of his mouth.

Today, my sister is a 36-year-old librarian at a Catholic College. I haven't seen the silver shorts in years, and she's handed off her fishnets.

The infant she joined me in gazing upon that morning has become the babysitter, sitting up late at night watching her nephew sleep.

And the boy who trailed into my bedroom behind my sister in the early-morning hours, carrying a black rose, is married and about to become a father himself.

And, of course, that baby my daughter sat up watching last night is just days--or even hours--from becoming the big brother. And after that, the babysitter...the bridegroom...the expectant father himself. It may seem strange to think that far ahead--to look at a toddler and see new generations--but it would have seemed just as strange to think about the four-year-old wishing on a star at the drive-in as the mother, or the little boy whose "best birthday ever" happened at Chuck E. Cheese in July of 1997 as the 18-year-old babysitter, or my own infant daughter as the teenager who would get out of bed to comfort her nephew when he missed his mother in the middle of the night.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Going Home Again

I live in the town I grew up in, less than a mile from the house I grew up in and my parents' current home and the elementary school I attended. And I'll admit that sometimes I enjoy the parallel experiences, the flash of memory that comes as I set ice cream in front of my daughter at the green picnic table outside Dairy Queen and remember doing the same for my sister the summer I was thirteen and babysitting her while my mother worked, or the familiar crunch of gravel under my feet as I carried my toddler to the concession stand at the same drive-in where my cousin Richie and I watched the Planet of the Apes movies side-by-side in early childhood. But the sad fact is, this isn't home.

Home, in my mind, is the little town my daughter grew up in. It's a place of Christmas walks where you know everyone on the street and local businesses owned by your neighbors and restaurants that aren't franchises. It's only 40 miles away, but traveling there is more like journeying back in time than a 45-minute commute. We don't visit very often. Even when we lived there, most of my friends were in the suburbs--I'd grown up here and I worked here. And the years between 3rd grade and 8th are big ones; my daughter has lost touch with most of her childhood friends as well.

But every once in a while, she'll turn to me late at night and say, "It's a good night for a drive." It's always a cool, summery night, and it's always well after dark. Last night, she followed that up with "We could take the dog. He's never been there." The "there" made me smile; apparently, all drives end in the same place.

So just after 10 p.m. we gathered the dog and the cord that attaches Tori's iPod to the car radio and bottles of water and hit the road. First stop, always, is Tori's elementary school playground. It's small and quiet and the grass is soft, and we both have fond memories of our first late-night visit there, when Tori hadn't yet started school and she and my sister and I played on the swings in the dark and talked about her upcoming kindergarten days.

The place is changing, but slowly. It hasn't yet been overrun with franchises and look-alike signs. A new video store has moved in; Tom & Jerry's has moved across the street. The school has done some new landscaping. But the late-night sounds are the same: frogs and trains and a slight breeze in the trees. The parking lot where I drew fake sidewalks in blue chalk so that Tori could learn to turn corners on her two-wheeler still stands open and welcoming; the pier at the tiny lake is just as rickety and yet somehow always holds. Our church is unchanged, and at midnight there are four or five cars in the lot--something I've never seen in the suburbs. The swimming pool where we sat day after day when Tori wanted desperately to learn how to swim but was too frightened by her early "drowning" experience to jump in (and where she eventually let me hold her in the water, and then jumped into my waiting arms, and then one day swam to the deep end and back all alone) still carries the same soft scent of chlorine and sunshine.

But more important than the specific places, more important than the way the town moves more slowly and appears to exist in an earlier era, is the way walking its quiet streets carries us back. My daughter is 14 now, but on her grade-school playground we both touch, for a moment, the days when she walked by my side, holding my hand and looking up and me and talking about her day on the way home from kindergarten.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference a Quarter of a Century Makes

The first time I saw the movie The Big Chill, I was in college. Being in the midst of those heady days of intimate relationships with those whose lives overlapped my own minute by minute, it was easy for me to believe not only in the depth of connection the main characters shared, but in the implication that nothing better had ever come along. When Glenn Close's character said that she'd been the best she ever was back in those days, with those friends, it seemed only natural to me. College was, after all, the best time of your life, right? That's the way it looked to me, sitting in the Student Center movie theater watching The Big Chill for a dollar. That's what seemed to be suggested by authors like Anton Myrer and Erich Segal. That's what my friends and I anticipated when we camped out on the bridge on a starlit night or drank wine coolers from 2-liter bottles by the lagoon and sang old Supremes and Van Morrison songs to one another. It was the underlying assumption in the writings I so carefully preserved from those days, the descriptions of the moments I'd never want to forget.

At 19, I thought the way those characters came back together and the things they shared were romantic and touching. In some ways, they were. But at 44, Glenn Close's line made me sad. Not, as it might have made me sad the first time through, with nostalgia for those lovely lost days, but because with a quarter of a century of additional life experience under my belt, it struck me as tragic that a woman in her mid-thirties would have peaked during her college days (or even feel that she had).

I loved college, and I had an amazing group of interesting, eclectic, talented and supportive friends whose influence in my life I will always cherish. But I was just beginning when I spent those long winter afternoons in the dorm with them, talking about art and philosophy and politics. I was just beginning to learn how to do something about the things I believed, and the things I saw as most important in those days were informed in part by a lack of information. I like to think that I'm the best I've ever been with my daughter; I like to think the best I'll ever be has yet to come.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's Not Nice to Laugh at Your Old Mother

At least, that's what my mom tells me. Fortunately, my mom isn't all that old, so stll consider her fair game.

Because we live in a split-level townhouse and our living room and kitchen are below ground, there is approximately one month out of every year that we have an earwig problem. Since we have a dog only marginally larger than an earwig, I'm afraid to spray, so we just have to deal with it and count the days until they die off for the year.

Unfortunately, my daughter has a fear of earwigs that borders on phobic. This was undoubtedly triggered by the fact that when she was little, we were sleeping over at a lock-in in the children's department of the Rochelle Public Library when she saw an earwig crossing the floor toward me. I was asleep. She shined her flashlight on it and one of the library workers ran over to tell her to turn it off and go back to bed. She reported the earwig and the woman said "Okay" and turned away. Tori thought she was going to get something to kill it with, but instead she just went on about her business and the earwig finished its journey and bit me on the arm (or pinched me or whatever they do), leaving my arm red and sore and swollen for days. That's a lot of responsibility for a pre-schooler.

Her fear, in fact, is so great that she won't say "earwig" and doesn't want anyone else to. It conjures up anxiety. Every year, she comes up with a different name for them, but this year she's settled on "devil bugs". She says that she refuses to believe that God could have created them, so they must be minions of the devil. She often invites them to go back "home" where they belong.

The other day I was out and she was on the phone with my mother when she spotted one. She exclaimed, "devil bug! devil bug!" Then told my mother to hang on because she had to kill a devil bug and needed both hands. When she returned to the phone, she said something like "Okay, I killed the devil bug."

My mother asked what a devil bug was, then said, "Oh, are they those ones you don't like? What are they, earwigs?"

Tori said, "we don't use that word" and my mom said...

"Oh, okay. What do we call them?"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

I'm not a fan of birthdays. It's not that I mind getting older--I'm actually pretty comfortable with being a middle-aged grandma, and I come by the gray in my hair honestly. The thing is, for some reason things go wrong around my birthday. Someone suggested recently that it might be a curse, and if I believed in such things I'd be inclined to think that it was: for five years my birthday has brought everything from sewage backing up into my kitchen to a friend's house burning down to my father ending up in the hospital with heart trouble (and that's just a random sampling). I've reached the point where I try to keep the whole thing low key, as if perhaps if I gloss over it, the fates won't notice and nothing terrible will happen.

This year (thus far) I did manage to avoid catastrophe, even though my family refused to let the whole thing slide by unmarked and couldn't resist putting together a few presents and some cards and a strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries from my dad's garden. We also had a nice dinner out, and I can't really complain (now that I know they didn't trigger a flood or plane crash with their efforts). But the best part of the celebration for me was when my daughter sang this song for me, making all of the women in my family cry.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Life-Sized Jenga

I'm hoping to find time to write a longer post about the holiday weekend in the next couple of days, but definitely wanted to share this with anyone who might be looking. At the Saturday party I attended this weekend, the family had a life-sized Jenga game in the backyard. It would be easy to make--it's just uniform-sized blocks of wood--and kids and adults alike really enjoyed it (even the spectators).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Curly Fries, Too??

Yesterday evening, I went to meet an old friend for dinner and my daughter ate with my parents. When I called to let Tori know I was on the way home, she picked up on the first ring and said, "Mommy??" My stomach twisted just a little. She was with my parents, no one had called me...surely nothing could be seriously wrong? And then she followed up: "Are french fries made of potatoes?"

"Yes," I said, not quite laughing yet. Apparently, there are some gaps in her education, even now that we're home schooling.

"Dude," she said. "What about hashed browns?"

"Yes," I told her, unable to entirely keep a straight voice. "Hashed browns are shredded potatoes."

"Dude," she said again. Then, hopefully, "I'm going to ask dad."

By the time I arrived to pick her up, she'd checked it out with her father by text message and he'd confirmed that the tricky french had in fact passed off potatoes as something called french fries and she'd been eating them without complaint for years.

She chose not to give it too much thought, but apparently it was haunting her. At dinner tonight, she held up a Crispy Crown and said, "So, is this made out of potatoes?" When I confirmed that it was, she said, "No." And then, it seems, continued to stew on the issue. Minutes later, when my mind had turned to other (frankly, more interesting) things, she said with something like resignation, "Curly fries, too?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sinking Flagship: Macy's Kills the Magic of Marshall Field's

I'm from Chicago, so naturally I was a little disturbed by the whole "Macy's buying out Marshall Field & Co." thing. The flagship store on State Street was class and good smells, matchless chocolate and the essence of Christmas. The green-tinged plaque on the cornerstone, the aging clock on the street, the view of the Christmas tree from the seven-story was, in a strange twist of fate, exactly the image that the mention of Macy's in New York conjured up. Wouldn't a store famous for its Santa Clauses and its Thanksgiving Day parade have that kind of glamour? The well-dressed clerks who virtually melted into the background, only to magically appear at your elbow with the size or color you needed or a gesture toward a register with no waiting?

When I was in college, my cousin (a flight attendant) did her Christmas shopping at Macy's one year. I never wore the sweater she gave me without thinking about the fact that it had come from the glamorous department store I'd IMAGINED Macy's to be.

And then reality struck.

I'll admit that I wasn't entirely objective. The classic green turning red, the change in bags and logos and all of the little trappings was unwelcome for me. But Macy's talked a good game about maintaining everything we loved about our flagship store, and I was inclied to believe they'd come close, because even though they weren't Marshall Field's, they were MACY'S.

Last week, on the Quest for Navy Shoes, I shopped at Macy's for the first time since the changeover. Fickle though it might be, I didn't expect much difference. I needed to stop on one, pick up a pair of hose, then pop up to four for shoes.

I entered the building through the pedway, since it connects the store with the building where I work. The first thing I discovered was that the elevators across from the book section didn't work. There was a floor-by-floor directory in front of them, but pushing the buttons didn't seem to summon a car. After a few minutes, a clerk in books called out "None of them elevators works. Go down there." She gestured vaguely to the other side of the food court and I thanked her and moved on. I should have paid more attention, because it turned out that was stellar service for Macy's.

I finally made my way to the first floor and went looking for hose. I checked two directories without anyone offering directions (something that would never have happened in Marshall Fields), but was virtually assaulted by no fewer than four women who wanted to push perfume samples on me. I was reminded of the jewelry-peddlars we used to encounter on the street when my mother visited her old doctor at 95th and Stony Island--the ones my father advised us never to speak to or even look in the eyes.

It turns out that navy hose aren't much easier to find than navy shoes these days, and it took me upwards of 15 minutes to find a brand that offered navy. I spent that time alone in the department with a clerk who studiously focused on some busywork and avoided acknowledging me. Yes, I could have asked for help, but as I discovered a few floors later, it probably wouldn't have yielded much. As it was, I didn't make contact with the clerk until I carried my purchase over to the counter and she brusquely said, "Got to go over there" and made a sweeping gesture a little like she was shooing a fly.

I found an open register feeling a bit depressed. Perhaps I was glamourizing the old Marshall Field's help in my mind. Perhaps they didn't really glide more than they walked; perhaps they hadn't really always appeared at just the moment when having my clothes hung in a dressing room was really appreciated. But I KNEW not one of them had ever said, "Got to go over there" to me. I knew I'd never been shooed like a fly when the shopping bags were green.

Still, I had only twenty minutes until my meeting and I wanted navy shoes. The fourth floor was my only option, so I headed that way (this time taking the escalators to avoid any confusion with non-operational but unmarked elevators). A quick circle around the shoe department didn't reveal a single navy dress shoe, so I carried a black shoe over to a clerk and asked her whether it came in blue. No, she said, only black, brown and red. She was already turning away when I asked whether she had any other navy pumps.

"Not really," she said, turning away again.

As it turned out, I did find navy shoes in time to save myself from wearing black and navy together, but I left the store sorry I'd ever stepped inside. If I had it to do over again, I'd remember the magical Marshall Fields of my youth and carry on, happily oblivious to the third-rate discount store it's becoming.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Black Shoes DON'T Go With Navy. They Just Don't.

Several years ago, a secret underground movement began: a movement to persuade all Americans that it was perfectly fine to wear black shoes with navy clothing. This movement has been so successful, in fact, that if you are under the age of thirty you are probably furrowing your brow right now, wondering why I might think that was not okay.

If you've read my writing blog (or know me in real life), you might think I'm just a bit of a stickler. But the truth is, I'm not a color purist. I'm really not the kind of person who fusses much about appearances, and I haven't an artistic bone in my body. What's more, I LIKE the new acceptability of brown and black together--I love my chocolate-brown suit with a black blouse and black shoes. But certain lines must be drawn, and this one is definite: black shoes do not go with navy clothing.

Perhaps you're thinking that it should be a matter of personal choice. I don't disagree. The problem is that since the Myth that Black Goes with Navy has begun to seep into popular consciousness, it's almost impossible to find a good pair of navy shoes.

Earlier this week, I had occasion to wear a suit. A navy suit. Suits aren't often required in my current profession, so I hadn't worn the suit in a couple of years and it had slipped my mind that I hadn't been able to find any good navy shoes the last time around. Reluctantly, I put on some black shoes and set off for the city, worrying about them every step of the way. But on the train, I had a revelation: I work in the same building as Macy's (formerly the flagship Marshall Field & Co.). I can buy new shoes!

This shouldn't have come as a surprise to me. After all, it's not the first time I've had to go emergency shoe shopping at work. So there I was, all relieved. I could just pop into Macy's and buy a pair of navy pumps!


Obviously, I'd forgotten the Endless But Unsuccessful Quest for Navy Heels I'd undertaken a couple of years earlier.

The first shoe clerk I asked at Macy's told me they didn't really have any navy shoes (more on the whole Macy's experience to come in my next post). The second was able to find me a few options, but said that they really didn't have much navy. "It's odd," she said, "because I get a lot of requests for navy dress shoes."

I laughed and asked her whether those requests mostly came from women my age. The poor girl looked hesitantly at me--she was approximately half my age and probably wasn't sure whether or not "women my age" was an insult. I didn't want to leave her hanging, so I added "We haven't really bought in to that whole 'black shoes go with navy' thing." She smiled and said, "Yeah, that could be it." And then she found me some lovely navy slingback pumps that know...THE SAME COLOR AS MY SUIT.

So what's your take? Do you wear black shoes with navy? Was it a tough adjustment? Or are you too young to know better?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Want to Look at 7,346 Pictures of My Kid?

I promise I'm not going to make this blog a copy of Tori's YouTube channel. Really. I do. But the video the other day was her first world issues video, and this is her first music video. After this, I'll scale it back. Probably.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conversations With My Daughter - The Bible

This afternoon I was washing dishes when my daughter came down and sat on the stairs. Our townhouse is split-level, and the stairway runs into the kitchen, so she often sits there to talk to me or play her guitar or pet the dog while I'm in the kitchen. This time, though, she had a purpose.

As soon as she sat down, she said, "Mom, I have a problem with the Bible."

To be honest, I was a tiny bit concerned. I encourage independent thought, but I also tend to take Jesus' word for stuff, so it seemed like a couple of core values were about to hit head on.

"Okay..." I said neutrally, waiting for explanation.

"Well, you know how Herod made everyone go to the place they were from to be counted?"

"Mm hmm..." I'm thinking maybe this isn't so dangerous after all. We all knew Herod was a bad guy, right?

"Well, I don't think Mary and Joseph were from the same place, but they were traveling to the same place to be counted."

I didn't laugh. Instead, I said seriously, "Well, they really only counted the men. If Mary was counted it would have been as part of his family."

"Ah," she said, and then there was a pause. And then she said, "Mom, I have a problem with the Bible."chil

Thursday, April 8, 2010

One Day Without Shoes

Tori decided to accept the TOMS Shoes challenge to go one day without shoes in honor of the millions of people worldwide who don't own shoes at all. She learned how challenging even the little things can be when you're missing something as basic as shoes, and documented her journey.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Confessions of a Non-Romantic

I was thinking last night about teenage emotions. I think this was triggered by the fact that my 36-year-old sister copped to a crush on Edward Cullen. She explained the concept of "Twilight Moms" to me by claiming that Stephanie Meyer managed to resurrect all of those "teenage emotions". I was dumbfounded.

Not about Stephanie Meyer--I haven't read the books and have no idea whether or not what my sister says is true. It was the idea that resurrecting teenage emotions was a good thing that blew my mind.

It's not that I don't remember those overpowering emotions. I knew how to wallow in those emotions with the best of them. In fact, I had little choice: I came of age in the era of Air Supply.

If you're too young to remember Air Supply or have engaged in hypno-therapy to help you forget, the band made a big smash in the early 80s with the ingenious branding strategy of recording the same song over and over again and changing the title slightly. After "Lost in Love" and "All Out of Love" they attempted to mix it up a bit with "Every Woman in the World", but it didn't make much difference: even though they'd taken the radical step of deleting "love" from the title, their third hit was largely interchangeable with the first two, and even their theoretically positive songs were mournful. In any case, the departure was apparently too extreme for them, and the next release put them back on more familiar ground wtih "The One that You Love". Recognizing how easily we might have confused their songs, the band stepped up and helped us out by repeating the title line ad nauseum in each one so we could remember exactly where we were.

The musical backdrop to our lives reminded us all day, every day that we'd never get over that one special guy--that the heartaches we were feeling now would never fade and in our golden years we'd still be looking back on that one special guy from the summer after our freshman years in high school and knowing that life had never been what it might have if we hadn't lost him. And that thrilled us. It made our romances so much more important to believe they'd have a lifelong impact. We wanted to keep them going for as long as we could, even if "keeping them going" meant crying ourselves to sleep.

We knew, in fact, that Olivia Newton-John was LYING when she claimed that she didn't want that "button pushing cowboy" playing the song she'd shared with her ex. What better way to wiggle the sore tooth of lost romance than to listen to "your song" over and over again?

Oddly, this certainty wasn't shaken in the slightest by the fact that the targets of our lifelong love kept changing, that we did, in fact, get over the guy we were never going to get over and then connect with another one we were sure we'd never get over and then get over him...

A funny thing happens as we age, though. It's called "reality". One day, you open up a box of old heartfelt letters (unsent) and love poems (horrendous) and find that you're not entirely sure to whom you wrote them. Barry Manilow lied to us! Did he even remember who "Even Now" was about?

It took most of us a long time to apply this information to our present lives, though. Those old near-forgotten romances were so easily distinguishable from our present ones, which--unlike our teenage loves--were "real". This time it really was the relationship we'd never get over!

Eventually, though, most of us caught on. Eventually, we began to recognize that while we felt like crap in the moment when a relationship ended, odds were that the sun would shine again and we would love again and, in short, life would go on. And reality was liberating. So when an adult woman talks to me wistfully about being swept back to the "good" old days in which she thought the world would end with every relationship and lived in fear of losing some boy whose name she's since forgotten, I just don't get it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

I usually try to keep the lines pretty clean--I don't think that most of my writing blog readers care about my personal life or my dog blog readers want to hear my philosophizing on Catholicism or...well, you get the idea. But since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd break tradition and remind you all (or maybe tell you for the first time) about my dating and relationship blog at

In addition to the obvious irony of the fact that I even have a relationship blog, my co-author is pretty entertaining (even if he does seem to think he has something up on Tiger Woods because he can operate a jackhammer...or something).

While you're in the Valentine's Day spirit (or the anti-Valentine's Day spirit), stop by and check us out. And while you're there, weigh in on our Valentine's Day Poll.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What the Heck is This?

No, really.

Kathy over at The Junk Drawer does this cool thing where she'll show us a photo of some crazy thing you feel like she must have unearthed in her grandmother's attic and ask us to figure out what it is...but this isn't that game. This is a sincere, "What on earth could this possibly be?"

While I hope you'll volunteer answers, I can't possibly offer up a prize (or even kudos to the first person who gets it right), because I won't have the slightest idea whether you're right or not.

I have a terrible fear about what it might be, but I'm not even going to say it out loud because it's more of an indictment of our society than I'm willing to make without evidence.

So here it is. If the context isn't clear from the photo, this is a part of a new grocery cart, and is positioned between the area where you place your baby (or your purse, if you don't have a baby) and the handles you use to push the cart.

Tell me it's not what I think it is. Please.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We're Not Going to Make it to 2012

In fact, our world has just about 15 months remaining. D-day falls in the spring of 2011, though I haven't taken the time to calculate the exact date. That will become apparent as time passes.

I can understand why you might be skeptical. There have, after all, been a lot of false alarms. And if you're inclined to believe in a doomsday prophecy, 2012 has a lot going for it. It's not just a trendy, flash-in-the-pan sort of end-of-the-world philosophy. It's been around for centuries, and has the (theoretical) backing of some pretty smart people (who aren't around to jump up onto soap boxes and take to the Internet yelling, "Wait...WAIT! That's not what we meant AT ALL!"). It even had a successful box office run.

But I have proof:

I know this probably isn't what you thought the Doomsday Clock would look like. You might have imagined it black, for instance. You probably thought it would be bigger. You may not have envisioned sticky fingerprints. And I'm almost sure you didn't expect it to be branded by a national test prep company. But be honest: haven't a lot of things in life worked out quite a bit differently than you'd expected?

Back in January of 2008, I went to work on a special project at Kaplan, a project that (I can now tell you, though it was top secret then) launched on August 7, 2008. Shortly after I started, I received the "countdown clock" you see pictured above. It was running backward, counting down the then (roughly) 200 days until our launch. And let me tell you, it ran fast. Nothing like watching the tenths-of-a-second spin backward when you're on a deadline.

I actually really enjoyed the countdown clock but, like all good things, it came to an end. August 7, 2008 arrived. All of the numbers on the clock hit zero. It flashed zeroes for a day and then, on August 8, it was a regular clock, running in the right direction.

Or so it appeared. Of course, I now know that it was simply dormant, awaiting the right moment to share its true message with the world. One morning I looked at the clock and it was running backward again, racing toward a new, unexplained date that hadn't been programmed in by some corporate project manager.

451 days.

Use them wisely.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Forks in the Road

This morning, I sat in the cafeteria of a small private high school my daughter might attend next year and stared--discreetly, I hope--at a man. It's happened to all of us, hasn't it? In some unexpected place, you suddenly spot someone you're 95% sure is someone from your past--someone who was once so significant that you wouldn't have believed you'd ever be unsure--but you are unsure. Unsure enough that you're afraid to speak, not because you're afraid that you're wrong, but because the question mark you'd have to attach to his name would be unforgivable if you were right.

We were both early. I had plenty of time to study him (discreetly, I hope) before the meeting commenced. I thought about walking in the snow with him, about eating rhubarb straight from the garden and blackberries plucked from a bush. I summoned up the one time I'd seen him with his wife and children, years earlier, and tried to remember exactly how he'd looked then, but it was futile. I could only see him refusing to dance with me under the first disco ball I'd ever seen, jumping to defend me during a basketball game in his friend's driveway, appearing at my side with a delicate, powdered-sugar laced Christmas cookie after some silly spat.

I come from a large family. I have cousins I've never met and cousins I've seen only once or twice in my life. I probably have cousins I don't even know exist. But this cousin, I loved. We played with Play-Dough and crayons together, imagined arctic expeditions in his back yard and went to movie matinees together every Wednesday in summer. It was to his house that I took my brand new Pong game and my handheld electronic football game; we made tattoos with marker and applied them to one another and to our younger siblings. I remember what I bought him for his ninth birthday, the day he brought his new puppy to my house, the first time I walked to his house alone. I even remember waiting impatiently for him to get up from his nap when he was still in his crib but I had achieved the lofty age of three.

And now I don't know what he looks like.

I sat in a room for two hours this morning and didn't know whether or not he was sitting thirty feet from me. And somehow, not knowing whether or not I was seeing him made me sad in a way that knowing I wasn't never did.