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only this.

My dad died in a car accident thirteen years ago. The lasting effect of that loss is that I have a very keen awareness that bad things can happen to me and mine. Some people, having lost, turn to faith. But I’m not religious. Instead, I look to ritual. And so, over time, I’ve adopted a habit of carrying around a cautious respect for the possibility of harm, hoping that respect will keep the wolves at bay.

I learned the hard way. Before I lost my dad, I’d absorb others’ tragedies with sadness, but from a remove. Bad things happened to others, but could never happen to me. The night I got the phone call about my dad, I was at college, out with friends, celebrating our impending graduation. I giddily told my friends that we were lucky, that we were going places, and that nothing bad could happen to us. I distinctly remember those words, because of what was to come. Three hours later, in the middle of the night, I got the call from my brother, who was 19 and so young.

A small part of me still believes that my dad was taken away because of my hubris.

I no longer assume the best. I just try to prepare for the worst. Now that I have kids, the anxiety is almost omnipresent, and the stakes are so much higher. My blogger friend Joan wrote movingly about this phenomenon in a recent post.

Last week, Tate had routine surgery to have his second set of ear tubes put in and his adenoids taken out. I say routine, but no surgery is routine in my world. Bad things happen, even during routine surgery. And how can surgery ever be routine, when the patient weighs 25 pounds, most of it noggin? Friends checked in throughout the day, assuring me that things would be fine. And they were, but I stopped breathing when they wheeled Tate away from me, and only started up again when I saw his eyes fluttering awake, 45 minutes later.

In that bustling, beeping recovery room, I felt a rare calm run through me, like that first sublime moment when an epidural kicks in. And then, there was only this. This cheek, this tiny hand. A moment to be grateful– for my child, delivered safe; for the time I had with my dad; for every other sweet, good thing that I have ever known.


People ask me a lot of questions about this blog, but the most common one is whether I have problems coming up with new things to write about.  And there are times that I experience a little panic, but they never last long, because I have Tom, who is a constant, unwitting source of rich blogging material.

For instance, today, in the shower, I noticed this:

What IS that, you ask.  What that is, is Tom’s side of the shower, with the remnants of three bars of soap.  Tom’s no product whore, but he does have a serious soap problem.  He considers himself a soap connoisseur (his favorites are here and here, although I think it would stress him out to know that the latter is advertised as “sensuous”) and demands that fresh, expensive cakes be produced at regular intervals.  When he stays in nice hotels, the first thing he does is walk into the bathroom and dump the hotel soaps into his dopp kit, to take home.  If he’s lucky, housekeeping will replace the soaps at turndown and he can do it all over again.

Anyway, back to the soap chips.  I observe them with amusement.  In case you’re worried that there’s not enough soap for tomorrow’s shower, don’t fret, there are backups in the wings.

stuff i like: maybelline mascara

Is there anything as unchanging and reassuring as a magazine article on “beauty steals?”  It’s always the same products: Cetaphil for cleaning, Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream for “anything and everything,” Rosebud Salve, and the perennial pick, Maybelline Great Lash mascara.  I’ve never tried the 8 Hour Cream because apparently I don’t need a cream for “anything and everything.”  Rosebud Salve is fine if you don’t need your lip product to actually adhere to your lips, and you also don’t mind the taste of soap.  As for Cetaphil, it’s just gross.  It’s like washing your face with vichyssoise.  It’s always touted as being gentle, but I’m sorry, I don’t require gentleness from a cleanser.  What I require is something that leaves my skin so clean that it squeaks.  If I could wash my face with a brillo pad, I would.  If you like that feeling too, try this.

As for the mascara, it takes a lot more than Maybelline Great Lash to make something of my Asian eyelashes, which are short, fine, and sparse, like the eyelashes you might find on a 6-pound mini pinscher.  I had to overcome a strong visceral reaction to that particular combo of green and pink in order to purchase a tube of Great Lash, and it turns out I needn’t have bothered, because it sucks.  I mean, if you are Caucasian and/or are already blessed with visible eyelashes, maybe it cuts the mustard.  But if that’s the case, certainly any mascara will work, including those that don’t look like they were conceived for a 12-year old.

There IS a Maybelline mascara that actually works for the eyelash-challenged.  I can’t even type the name here because it’s so terrible, but I’ve provided a photo.  A month ago, this mascara prevented me from killing myself when I learned that Shiseido is no longer selling its Lasting Lift mascara in the states.  Forget Dior Show, forget Lancome, forget the $35 tube of Chanel–all of which I have tried, some twice because I forgot I had tried them before.  If you are Asian, a Shu Uemura curler warmed under a hair dryer + Shiseido Lasting Lift = all-day curl and volume.  But no longer.  I am starting to feel hysterical writing this, because it’s really hitting me that it’s over.  I took my mascara for granted, and now it’s gone.  Those pathetic people who hoard their favorite beauty products?  Sages, every damn one of them.

Anyway, my friend Davia is no slouch with mascara, and she suggested the purple Maybelline, and it works.  It’s no Lasting Lift, but it’ll have to do.  It makes my eyelashes visible, keeps them curled up for a while, and the waterproof version doesn’t smudge too much.  If you like subtlety in a mascara, this one’s not for you.  But for the rest of us: at $7.99, it’s worth a shot.

ways to wear: boyfriend jeans

A few years ago, some fashion people got together and decided to produce and sell women’s jeans that looked like men’s jeans.  And it’s a smart concept, because who doesn’t have fond memories of the “vintage” 501s they wore in high school?  Mine had Phish patches, and I knew like one Phish song.

But for me, the execution of boyfriend jeans by the denim companies has been awkward.  To begin with, the sizing is usually wack.  Secondly, the leg is always too big–I want to look slouchy, not messy.  Thirdly, most pairs either just look like really baggy women’s jeans, or like you actually borrowed your boyfriend’s jeans, except your boyfriend is Bob Vila, and he wears terrible jeans.

This spring, boyfriend jeans are once again calling to me.  And probably out of desperation, I had an epiphany.  Why not skip the middleman and just go straight to men’s jeans?  I knew what I wanted: a higher rise, loose at the middle, with a dropped crotch and a slim, straight leg for rolling.  And I found the perfect men’s jeans, at Diesel, natch.  Diesel even has a name for that exact silhouette: the “Carrot.”  Not kidding.  Google it.

Don’t try to buy men’s jeans in the size you’d buy your usual jeans in, thinking since they’re made for guys, they must already be oversized.  I’m going to save you a lot of anxiety and stress by assuring you that they are making jeans for some really skinny men these days.  I went up two sizes to get the fit I wanted.

They are not for everyone.  But I don’t know anything, fashion-wise, that will work for everyone.  If you’re on the fence, give them a shot, because as the photos below demonstrate, they’re versatile as all-get-out.

Some ideas for how to wear your boyfriend jeans…and a Pinterest board with a few pairs designed for the ladies.

a donut for gwyneth

I subscribe to Us Weekly; I have for years.  And it’s not, like, an ironic subscription.  Forget weekends–I look forward to Fridays mostly because that’s the day of the week that Us Weekly is delivered.  So I’m not above wallowing in a little celebrity worship.

But not for Gwyneth Paltrow.

When it comes down to it, I just find her offensive.  She makes a joke out of all us normal people who are just trying to get by.  I don’t begrudge her her wealth or her fame, although gee, it must be nice to be born to wealth and then be able to parlay your parents’ connections into an acting career.  I don’t even resent that her wealth and fame make it easy for her to do things like leisurely roast a free range chicken on a Tuesday.  What I do resent is that she is so committed to maintaining the fiction that it is easy to live a “mindful” life like hers, without ever acknowledging how much easier it is to be mindful when you have millions in the bank and an army of servants.  It’s called fronting, and given where my head is at, it’s offensive.

I get to the gym four days a week if I’m lucky, and every time I get there, it’s a miracle.  I have to run yellow lights and eat in the car and sometimes I get to the gym and I’ve forgotten my running shoes or worse, my gym pants.  And when that happens, I sit on a bench and I cry, because at moments like that, it can feel like life is just one never-ending episode of chasing a bus that’s pulling away with the bus driver smirking at you in the rearview mirror.  On the other hand, if I have the pants and I make it to Zumba, I’m feeling guilty most of the workout because I feel like I should be spending that time with my kids.  That’s the reality of my life, and maybe yours too.  So I resent it when Gwyneth says stuff like “I can eat whatever I want to” while tossing off the fact that she works out for two hours a day.  F you, Gwyneth.  First of all, who cares what you eat?  Second of all, I bet I could eat whatever I wanted too, if I had two hours a day to pump the jams with Tracy Anderson and stretch my pasty limbs on a reformer.

relax, coworkers. it’s not hemorrhoids 

The working out stuff is probably particularly annoying to me right now because I’m going to trial in two months and have been so sedentary that my doctor gave me a donut to sit on at work so my tailbone doesn’t break.  But I think GP has the potential, like head lice, to be pretty universally offensive.  What really gets me is how her comments often reflect a special mix of condescension and subtle classlessness that is unique to her.  Perhaps the best example of this is when she told a reporter that she would “rather smoke crack than eat cheese out of a tin.”  I mean, who talks like that?  I guess you might talk like that to your partner in the safety of your home after a couple beers, but who says that to a reporter??  In any event, I’m sure all the people who can’t afford any cheese but Cheez Whiz appreciate her thoughtful implication that they’re on a level below crack addicts.

I don’t get how she continues to have an audience.  When I told my friend Courtney that I was writing this post, she texted: “Plz mention how bad her veggie chili recipe is.  I got duped into giving her 4 hours of my life w that recipe.”  So I’m mentioning it.  Why does GP continue to invade my personal space at the airport by appearing on the cover of every women’s magazine?  Or in the cookbook aisle, or on Travel TV?  Mario Batali, who I already suspect to be sort of an asshole, isn’t doing himself any PR favors by associating himself with her.  WHY WON’T SHE GO AWAY??  We can make it happen, if we put our minds to it.  I remember a dark period about five years ago when it was hard to believe that there would ever come a time when Paris Hilton wouldn’t be plaguing us.  But now, she’s practically gone.

We can make it happen again.

There’s nothing admirable about superiority.  There’s nothing admirable about condescension.  Let’s sprinkle our celebrity love on someone who needs and deserves it.  Like Khloe Kardashian, who’s dealing with a lot in her life (infertility, Lamar’s iffy trade to Dallas, better looking older sisters, borderline taste) and not fronting about any of it.

Happy Us Weekly day.

a whiter shade of pale

To know Tom is to know that he is pale.  On the spectrum of skin colors, I’d put him somewhere between George Will and Anthony Michael Hall.  In addition to being very fair, he has the kind of skin that is impervious to tanning.  But that hasn’t stopped him from trying to harness his inner George Hamilton.

Ten years ago, when we were in the last crucial months of wedding planning, Tom devoted a fair amount of annoying mindspace to the concept of creating a “base tan” for our honeymoon to Bali.  Not having dated anyone that pale before, I assumed he knew what he was talking about and didn’t really think anything of his trip to the tanning salon.  Until he got back from the tanning salon, and was vermillion.  It looked like he had fallen asleep in the tanning bed for two hours.  Turns out he had been in it for six minutes.  I suspect he asked for more time, and that, like the barkeep who refuses to serve you that last drink, the tanning bed operator took one look at Tom and refused to let him go any longer.

On any beach vacation, I watch Tom’s tanning routine with equal parts amusement and alarm.  The first day always starts with him asking whether he should start with the SPF 8 or the SPF 12.  I don’t know why he even consults me.  I respond as I always do, that he might instead opt to begin with the SPF 45.  He waves me off and, having settled on the SPF 8, begins the careful process of application.  This part always takes a good 20 minutes.  He starts from the tops of his feet and works all the way up to the backs of his ears.  It’s all for naught, though, because as I said, it’s SPF 8, which is essentially Crisco.  So that first day of the vacation, he will fry to a crisp, and spend the rest of the vacation tossing and turning in his sleep and popping Advil like M&Ms.

The sad thing is, for all the trouble he goes through, after the initial burn, he still looks pretty damn pale.  The awkwardly cropped (Tom-mandated cropping) photo of us was taken on the fourth day of a trip to Cabo, the one directly above, on the seventh day of a trip to Maui.  SEVENTH DAY.  Take me out of the photo and you might believe that the photo was taken in Newfoundland.  Whatever tan/burn Tom has managed to work up by the end of the vacation will inevitably fade away during the flight home.  So I think he often returns to work and hears comments along the lines of “Hey man, didn’t you say you were going on vacation?”  And that’s gotta be frustrating.  So I sympathize with him, and try to be supportive of his struggle.

The skin color thing is funny.  My kids are starting to notice that all four of us are different colors.  Finn is almost as pale as Tom, although he does not burn.  Tate came out of the womb looking like he’d spent his third trimester in the Bahamas.  If we were L’eggs pantyhose colors, we’d be Alabaster (Tom), Ivory (Finn), Nude (me), and Suntan (Tate).  Soon, I’ll turn Tom’s color into a teaching moment.  I’ll explain to the boys that in spite of how he looks on the outside, their Dad, on the inside, is the same as the rest of us, and has the same worth.  Except that he’s paler.

stuff i like: gap pure tank

I have written before about my struggles with my midsection. It’s not big but it is proportionately bigger than the rest of me. In any event, what my disproportionate middle has made me, over the years, is a master at layering. Not to brag, but I’m so skilled at layering to conceal that I could have a goat under my shirt and you’d never know.

For layering, you need a grip of tanks. But not just any tank. It’s gotta be long enough to cover the top of the skinny jeans. Loose enough to drape nicely over the chest, without getting caught on the belly. Slim enough to flatter. The neckline has to be a low enough to show the collarbone and some decolletage. The armholes have to be generous enough to give it that offhanded mens’ tank feel, but not so generous that you are showing sideboob. With white, things get even trickier, because sometimes you can get an otherwise-ideal tank that happens to be the wrong shade of white. You notice the problem in the store, but you ignore it, buy it, and hope for the best. And then, you don’t wear it. It sounds crazy, but if it’s happened to you, you know I speak truth.

So difficult is it to find a perfect tank that my otherwise rational friends will pay more than $100 bucks in the pursuit. I get it. I do. The perfect tank is a workhorse, and you’ll wear it every day. But it’s so much better when you can get something great for cheap. Which is where the Gap comes in.

the haggard late-night iphone blog photo in all its glory. but at least my cactus bloomed

At lunch today, my friend Mo started talking about the Gap, and before she could finish her sentence, I knew exactly where she was going. The Gap has launched a new line called Pure, and it is essentially a capsule collection of t-shirts, tanks, and long sleeve tops in a limited range of colors. Imagine Vince and James Perse, at 1/4 the price. The racerback tank I’m wearing above is as close to tank perfection as I have been in a very long time. The neck is deep, the length is long, and it has a fishtail hem, which I appreciate because it gives me more butt coverage while keeping things neat in front. It’s 100% rayon and skims the body with perfect drape, but does not cling. It’s got a couple interesting details, like the bound hems on the neck and armholes. Forget all that though, because there’s this: I washed and tumble dried it and it did not shrink. DID NOT SHRINK. The holy grail.

It’s $24. What are you waiting for?

*Check me out on Pinterest for more perfect tanks

my kid’s ugly clothes

When I was pregnant with my first, I self-righteously informed Tom that I considered dressing to be a form of self-expression, and that I’d let my kid dress however he wanted, in order to help foster a sense of self-confidence.  Of course, when I said that, I had no idea that my kid would have bad taste.

That’s right, I’m judging my own kid for his lack of fashion sense.  I guess I assumed that, at worst, my kid would put together some colorful yet whimsical outfits, kind of like the one below, from two years ago.  Crocs + socks aside, I really wish I had this outfit in my size even though the shirt features a cat and I hate cats.  The ‘stache is all Finn, because he is physically incapable of drinking an Izze without sucking his upper lip into the bottle and forming a moustache made of broken capillaries.  The Izze ‘stache always lasts way longer than you think it will, is impossible to cover up with concealer, and usually makes an appearance right before Picture Day.

Anyway, I was prepared for crazy kid color.  What I was not prepared for was a five-year old who gravitates towards neutrals.  Left to his own devices, Finn now prefers monochromatic outfits in dung brown or dark gray, which usually leaves him looking like the world’s smallest UPS delivery person.

fashion weeps

My hatred for the outfit above is particularly intense.  Finn’s worn that shirt maybe 300 times, and only twice has he NOT worn it backwards.  As for the pants, I’d burn them if I thought Old Navy Performance Fleece was a material capable of being burned.  I don’t know what it’s made out of, but I’m certain that the only things that will survive the coming apocalypse are Old Navy Performance Fleece and cockroaches.

Even more paining to me than his penchant for drab neutrals is the fact that Finn has no natural sense of proportion.  He loves baggy sweatshirts and jerseys that are unflattering to his figure.  While he loves to go big on top, he prefers to go two sizes too small on bottom.

thanks dad for the dart gun--a solid montessori purchase

I’m hoping that he didn’t pick up the cropped pants from me, because if he did, his execution is really shoddy.  Surely, if I’ve taught him anything in life, it is that you never wear cropped pants with tube socks.  The outfit above is also a good example of Finn’s misplaced focus on “matching.”  To Finn’s way of thinking, why wear a blue shirt, when you can wear a blue shirt with blue pants and blue shoes?  Why indeed.  When he first came downstairs in this outfit, I crammed my fist into my mouth and bit down on my knuckles to stifle the scream of pure terror.

If you are wondering why I care what my kid’s clothes look like, join the club.  I don’t know why I care.  Probably it’s because kids, like handbags, have become an extension of one’s personal style.  I have stylish friends with kids so well-dressed that I want to date them.  But let’s be real, most kids look pretty cute no matter what they are wearing.  And no matter how much my kid’s clothes bug me, I don’t want to end up being the mom who’s picking out clothes for her 17-year old.  So here’s me, letting Finn be Finn, and trying to take Yoona out of the equation.