Philosophy of Clothing

IMG_1455In the first years of being married, I ran the gamut from being a teacher, a student, a professional, to a full-time mother.  I’d always been a bit of a clothes horse. I recall a whisper about me as I walked by my classmates in grad school. I’d just hopped off my eggplant purple scooter in a leopard-print skirt: “She always looks so put together.”  After living in Seattle for a few years where the homeless lady next to you in PCC could actually be a Boeing exec, I learned to enjoy a more “laid back” style.

Three years later I moved south and was thrown into a social circle with gals from Mississippi and Louisiana. The first time I showed up at a playgroup for our babies, I was the only one in yoga pants and sneakers.  Every other mommy had on boots. With heels.  Did I even put on lip gloss? I can’t remember.  My girls were still in their sleepers and the other babes wore Gap outfits.  Wow, I’d let things slide!

Eventually, my kids grew up and started walking.  They got so dirty playing outside that I developed what I called a “philosophy of clothing”.  I bought half their clothes, which were bound to be ruined, at the thrift store.  A quarter of their clothes came from a clearance rack and the rest were more intentional purchases from nice catalogs.  I had graduated to skinny jeans, tees from J. Crew, and boots with heels.  When I threw in a scarf and earrings, I was dressed up.

My kids are in school part time now, and sending them in their “grubbies” isn’t a great idea.  I can still find great things for my son at the thrift store, but my girls need a few new pieces. As for me, I’m turning 38 soon. It’s harder (and more costly) to look nice as I age.  Yoga pants only come out when I’m doing yoga.  A friend has demanded that I raise the bar, and I’m trying. Garnet Hill seems to have captured a nice look for women my age.  I like Boden, but a lot of their stuff is just boring design that looks good on swizzle stick models.  J. Crew’s last catalog was somewhat inspirational. For a couple of seasons there, they looked like they dressed their models and styled their hair in a dark closet. Where can a formerly “put together”  grown woman go to look fashionable, but not freakish? Elegant, but not old?

The Only Song That Fits Today

IMG_0811By Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

No more questions,
No more tests.
Comes the day you say, “What for?”
Please- no more.
They disappoint,
They disappear,
They die but they don’t…

They disappoint
In turn, I fear.
Forgive, though, they won’t…

No more riddles.
No more jests.
No more curses you can’t undo,
Left by fathers you never knew.
No more quests.

No more feelings.
Time to shut the door.
Just- no more.

Running away- let’s do it,
Free from the ties that bind.
No more depair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder.

Running away- go to it.
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care:
Unless there’s a “where,”
You’ll only be wandering blind.
Just more questions.
Different kind.

Where are we to go?
Where are we ever to go?

Running away- we’ll do it.
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son,
The farther you run,
The more you feel undefined
For what you’ve left undone
And, more, what you’ve left behind.

We disappoint,
We leave a mess,
We die but we don’t…

We disappoint
In turn, I guess.
Forget, though, we won’t…

Like father, like son.

No more giants
Waging war.
Can’t we just pursue out lives
With our children and our wives?
‘Till that happy day arrives,
How do you ignore
All the witches,
All the curses,
All the wolves, all the lies,
The false hopes, the goodbyes,
The reverses,
All the wondering what even worse is
Still in store?

All the children…
All the giants…

No more.


IMG_1394I took off with a good friend last week for a Girls’ Only trip to Savannah.  If ever a town was made for wandering! On our tour of squares, we found E. Shaver Bookseller. While my friend had a book wrapped for her daughter, I perused the bargain section. I found a vivid photographic book on the nomadic tribes of Niger. One image caught my attention most: a mother, devoid of expression, nursing her little baby. A child of three or so, wearing a hint of fear on her face, sat leaning against the mother.  The captions explained in these tribes, immediate families don’t show affection to their children until they are two years old. Infant mortality is high, so it makes sense. The next page showed photos of smiling aunts and uncles filling in to snuggle, play and laugh with them.

Since I’m an only child and my husband’s siblings are 2,000 miles away, we are our children’s main source of bonding and physical closeness.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, but looking at those images did cause me to reflect on how I want to be my children’s everything.  It may eventually drive them bonkers.  I’m happy, though, that they are showing a physical attachment to one another.  I watched my baby toddle up to one of my girls today and raise his arms to get picked up.  She was so delighted!  This same daughter kicked my bedcovers off last night and then snuggled up to me when she got cold. For now, at least, I still make the grade for snuggle duty.

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INTERVIEW WITH CAROLINE: “The sad thing about my mom is she has outrun her usefulness.”

Caroline’s mother bears some similarities to my own, and I appreciated her candor in this interview.

What’s your age?


Are both of your parents living?


What’s their marital status?

They were separated for my whole childhood.  I think they got divorced when I was 16.  I never knew my father; he left before I was born.  I’ve seen him three times.

How many siblings do you have?

I have two half sisters and two half brothers.

How often do you see your parents?

I’ve only ever seen my father three times, and my mother I usually see every three years, maybe.

What are some of the ways you spend time together? 

(Laughs) Arguing!  About the only way we can spend together not arguing is playing a game.  I’m a really good speller and she can’t spell worth a dime, but she likes to play spelling games with me.  Or Monopoly.  Most of the time she picks fights.  She’s very easily offended when no offense is intended.

On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy her company?

Three, and that’s giving her the benefit of the doubt.  It’s very difficult for me to be around her.

What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with her?

The only positive outcome I can see is, if I can love her as Christ loves her, she can see that and be saved.  It does nothing for me.  If she weren’t my mother, I wouldn’t talk to her.

What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with her?

Everything.  Often, when I leave a conversation with her, it puts me in a funk for a couple of days.  I guess I see my own flaws in her.  I have all the same tendencies, it’s just that I have Christ and she doesn’t.  There isn’t anything to soften the edges, she just lets it all hang out there.  For instance, she’s just selfish—there’s nothing to moderate it.


How did her parenting contribute to a fractured relationship as adults?

She was irresponsible, she didn’t protect me, and I don’t trust her because of that.  I never know when she’s going to blow up now, so I never can trust her, even though I can forgive her for the past.  I couldn’t trust her then and I can’t trust her now.  I don’t think she ever developed interests on her own.  She played computer games and went out drinking. There’s nothing to talk to her about.  We have nothing in common, she doesn’t share my worldview, we never see eye to eye.

Do you appreciate anything about her parenting?

Somehow, she taught me to be resourceful.  Regardless of whether it was a negative thing or if she did it, I know how.  She did always insist that we eat dinner together as a family.  She always let me make my own mistakes, and she probably shouldn’t have, but she let me learn from them.  My sister lived in the same house and she suffered from that, but for me it was a good thing.

What do you wish she had done differently?

I guess it boils down to . . . I wish she hadn’t been so selfish.  Everything was about her pain and her pleasure.  As a kid, I thought she would sacrifice everything, but now I realize you don’t leave your kids in the house after they fall asleep so you can go out drinking!  I think she did all those things because she was in pain.  I don’t think she knew what to do.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

My father’s children from his previous marriage–they are so much older than me.  We get along fine, I just don’t see them very often.  My older half-sister has lately taken to looking out for me on Facebook.  My younger half sister, we are very different, but we have a connection because we both lived with my mother.

Do you think they share your same reflections on your mom?


Can you share a defining story with your mom?

I remember when I stopped really sharing anything important with my mother. It was after college and I had been dating my soon-to-be husband and I was getting impatient.  He hadn’t asked me to marry him and I called her for advice.  She said, “Why don’t you just ask him?”  That was SO not what I needed to hear.  I needed her to encourage me to be patient.  I realized we would never see eye to eye, and from that day on I stopped really talking to her.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?

I feel more negatively about her as an adult than I did as a child.  In college, I read a book called From Bondage to Bonding.  Reading the book made me extremely angry.  I realized whether she did it on purpose or not she enslaved me in a way.  She did it worse to my sister because I had the good sense go to college 800 miles away.

The other thing is I started going to counseling in high school.  I thought I was going for abandonment issues with my father, but I found out I had more issues with my mother.  I used to give my mother all these gushy cards and tell her she was the best mother ever.  She would just say, “One day you’ll find out the truth.”  That became a self-fulfilling prophecy because it just made me look for things.

While my relationship with my mother has left scars and continues to leave scars, I think throughout my life, God has left numerous life-lines.  People who provided love and support and got me through when my mother couldn’t.  The best gift besides my husband has been his mother.  I never knew you could have a mother like that.  She is the picture of what it means to love with no strings attached.  She’s secure enough to not need anything from me, and that makes me want to give to her.  The sad thing about my mom is she has outrun her usefulness.  She has no wisdom; she has nothing to offer me except pain and more pain.

Best Blog Post on Parenting

Best Blog Post on Parenting

This post is the best I’ve read on how parents can maintain a sustainable relationship with their children.



This month marks ten years since we found out I was pregnant.  It would be nearly four months before we discovered I was carrying twin girls.  I should have been suspicious when my mom, upon seeing me three months pregnant exclaimed, “Gosh, you’re big!  Are you sure you don’t have twins in there?”  I chalked it up to being sort of a small person.  At 20 weeks gestation, two babies were declared and I spent 24 hours in a sobbing shock.

How things change.  Now a mother, my four living children are tenuous treasures.  I live in a near-constant state of Code Orange, especially after this month has reached critical mass for violence in our country.  I was proud to hear President Obama speak from the heart of a parent when he addressed our grieving nation from Newtown.  Never since mass shootings became commonplace have I seen or heard a president so broken for the families of the victims.  He is not a perfect man, but I appreciated him in that moment the same way I appreciated George W. Bush after September 11.  Love him or hate him, no one wants to be the president in a time of great suffering that requires great decision.

There is suffering and then there is horror.  It’s not new, but more rare and more destructive. The horror of the Israelites in Egypt when Pharaoh massacred the baby boys. The horror of the Jewish people when King Herod did the same thing thousands of years later.  And much more throughout history.

What sort of enemy do we have that would seek to destroy a thing so sweet as a little child? What sort of fame does that kind of monster seek?  How long must the blood of innocents cry out until there is justice?

Suffering I am slowly learning to abide with, but I don’t know how to live with it’s evil twin: the threat of horror.

Interview with Gabriella: ” The only thing I learned was the Southern Baptist way.”

Ouch.  That’s what I was thinking while interviewing Gabriella.  As far as the perfection/cleanliness obsession goes, I’m a lot like her mother. I’m thankful for Gabriella’s honesty–it gives me  insight into what my kids might think about me after they are grown.  We see here, though, that grandchildren can bring some healing into the parent/adult child relationship.

What’s your age? 


Are both of your parents living?


What’s their marital status?

Married, 37 years

How many siblings do you have?

One sister

How often do you see your parents?

Twice a month

What are some of the ways you spend time together? 

Going to sporting events, football, softball, dinner, taking my daughter different places to do stuff with her.  We go to the beach a lot.

On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy their company?

I was always Daddy’s girl, for sure.  My dad and I have that silent rapport together.  He’s a 10, I’d say.  A 7 for my mom because I’m more like her and we wind up butting heads a lot.  But, she’s been my savior since my daughter was born, so I put up with more.

Does spending time with them as a unit affect the dynamic of the visit?

No, it usually makes it better.  If I spend too much time with my mother, I’m ready to go home.

What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?

It was a benefit to me to be raised in a Christian home.  I was raised under strict discipline and to take care and pride of anything that I own.  In retrospect, there were a lot of times I was frustrated at how strict they were, but now I am proud and it has prepared me for motherhood.

What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?

Because they were so strict, I didn’t feel like I could be honest and open with them.  I’m thankful for the religious background that I have, but there was a lot of guilt and lying because I was afraid to mess up.

Which is weightier, the positive or negative?

Positive.  I have a good relationship with them.  We’ve never been estranged; my mother is just black and white.

What are some of the aspects that contributed to a healthy relationship as adults?

Always keeping Christianity in your life, really taking the moral lessons that my parents taught me with me.  My dad has only told me that he loves me three times in my life, but now that I have my daughter, he always tells me.  He is a quiet man.  I always felt loved, but it wasn’t a touchy-feely family.  I’m trying to instill affection in my relationship with my daughter.  But, respect is what holds us all together.

What do you wish they had done differently?

I wish they would have shown me more physical affection, but they were always busy.  But they might not be those people, anyway.  I wish they had been more open with me and shared things with me.  I’m a more liberal thinker, and more world views and issues would have been good.  The only thing I learned was the Southern Baptist way.

How well do you relate to your sister?

We are only 18 months apart.  I see benefits and negatives to that.  We are much closer now that we don’t live together.  We can talk about anything. Growing up, we fought and she was my shadow and I didn’t like it.  I found out that in college, she felt that she was in my shadow and that she wouldn’t been as good as me at anything.

Does she share your same reflections on your parents?

I would think so.  She didn’t have as close a relationship to my father as I did, though.

Can you share a defining moment with your parents?

Growing up, I was always outside.  Mom pretty much made me that way because she would lock us outside while she cleaned.  I was practicing the piano and I knocked a plant off the piano.  She yelled at me about getting dirt on the floor. When she would get mad at us, she would be passive aggressive, in a room yelling and cussing at any other family member for making a mess while we could all hear her.  She would do it intentionally instead of coming directly to us and confronting us about it.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?

When I was 16, my mother brought my sister and I to my room and told me she had had an affair on my father.  Those were some really dark years and I hated her for a  long time.  It happened when I was 10—I can even think back to the day because my parents never fought or yelled at each other. But, that day I heard it.  My dad said he was going to stay with my grandmother, but he stayed, I think, because of us.  I can’t imagine how we would have turned out if my parents had divorced when I was 10.

Interview with Paul: I guess sometimes I’d like to do more than I can do for her.

Paul, a tri-athelete and man of few words, shares his thoughts about how much he cares about his mother.  I hope my sons think the same of me one day.  Apparently, she’s flawless!

What’s your age? 


Are both of your parents living?

My genetic dad is deceased. I have 2 step dads that are alive and my mom’s alive

What’s their marital status?

Divorced and remarried

How many siblings do you have? 

I have one brother. And then I have 2 half brothers, a half sister, a step sister; I don’t know them that well.

How often do you see your parents?

I see my mom a couple of times a week.  I talk to her almost every day.

What are some of the ways you spend time together? 

We just hang out and talk.  She’ll go to my functions sometimes, we’ll eat dinner together, we’ll go walking and running.  She walks and I run. She’s very supportive for all my racing and always growing up.

On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy her company?


What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with her?

I feel like she’s more than my mom—she’s my best friend.  We help support each other.  If we need something, we try to do it for each other.  We are supportive of each others goals as well.

What are some of the negative aspects?

I don’t really see any.

What contributed to such a healthy relationship as adults?

I guess her support and always being there when I was growing up whereas my “father figures” changed.  She was a consistent person in my life.

What do you appreciate most about her parenting?

She encouraged us to do a variety of things.

What do you wish she had done differently?


How well do you relate to your siblings?

My brother, pretty well.  It’s kind of weird because some of the mannerisms are similar.

Do you think he shares your same reflections on your parents?

It’s pretty close.  I’m probably a little tighter with my mom.  He went off in the military, so his distance was greater, where mine was pretty close.

Can you share a defining moment with your mom?

There are always things you remember as examples of the quality of person that your mom is—I remember her in college, we didn’t have a lot of money. My mom didn’t get any support; she would work very hard and somehow manage to get to all my sporting events.  One time, she took a train to New York City from the Midwest to see what I was doing.  I’m sure it was a long journey and a strain on her financial situation, but she felt that I was worth it.  I remember when I was in college and had to student teach, the place they gave me was between five and ten miles away.  It was in the winter and I didn’t have a car.  She took out a loan and got me a car.  It was special because of how difficult it must have been for her to afford that.  I worked at the school, but my money went back to the school so I didn’t get any of it.  She knew I had to get around to student teaching events.  If you didn’t live in my shoes, you wouldn’t know.   That’s why I try to do things for her now. She doesn’t expect it—it’s that I want to.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about her as a child?

My maturity to develop and understand all that she did, and having a child. Realizing all the effort it took, I guess that strengthens things.  I guess sometimes I’d like to do more than I can do for her.  She can certainly take care of herself, but that understanding and appreciation has grown.

Other People’s Underwear

Can I get a IV drip of Midazolam until the election is over?  Actually, I love Midazolam–it’s the only reason to get a colonoscopy.  And screening for cancer–that’s good, too . . .

I digress.

It seems to me that we think of our personal politics as our most prized jewelry and election season as gala time. We flaunt what we’ve got all the way down the red carpet and into the voting booth. And why shouldn’t we?  Who hides their sparkly diamonds at a big party? They make us look glorious! Do we show up in our frumpiest attire looking slovenly so others can shine? No. We wear something that we believe to be beautiful and flattering. I’m not saying that people choose their politics for how they look in them per se, but I am saying that I never hear anyone express embarrassment or meekness about them. To date, I cannot recall someone referring to their politics with, “Oh, this old thing?”

It’s nice when folks treat their political convictions the way they do their underwear: it holds things in place, but it’s not for anyone and everyone to see.  It can be full-coverage or demi-, beautiful or basic.  We can’t see it on each other, but we’re pretty sure it’s there.  Some people wear none. And a handful–JUST a handful–of people look fantastic in their underwear.  But we hate those people, right? Well, I do.

There are only a few people on the planet who see me in my underwear. The responses can run the entire spectrum of happy-to-see-me to horror.  Best I spare the general population from seeing either my underwear or my politics.  Both of them do little more by themselves than reveal my aging flaws.

Interview with Daisy: “She commanded a lot of respect in an effortless way.”

I never tire of hearing grown women talk about how much they enjoy their mothers.   Even though Daisy was ultimately disappointed by her father, her relationship with her mother has righted a multitude of wrongs.

What’s your age? 


Are both of your parents living?


What’s their marital status?

Divorced and remarried

How many siblings do you have?

One sister and one step brother

How often do you see your parents?

My mom lives in San Diego, so not as much as I’d like—every few months.  She’s the only one I still consider a parent.  I haven’t seen my dad since I was 10 and I don’t care for my stepmother, so I never see them. They divorced when I was around three. My stepdad I see when I see my mom.  He is a different stepdad than the one who raised me.  That stepdad died.

What are some of the ways you spend time together? 

We went to the wedding of a childhood friend in Florida most recently, we go out to dinner, we sit at home and just talk.  We do those things no matter where we are.  Going to dinner, staying in, having a glass of wine and chatting. Sometimes my stepdad tags along, sometimes he lets me, my mom, and my sister have some girl time.

On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy their company?

Mom, 9

Birth Dad, 0

What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?

With Mom, it’s very open and trusting. I can tell her anything, and as I have become an adult, I think she feels that openness, too.  She’s fun, positive, and we are similar in a lot of ways.  She understands me and we like to do similar things.

I can’t see any positive aspect about my dad except that he isn’t in my life.  I think I would be a worse person if he were.  I think my mom and the rest of my family did a better job than he could have.

What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with her?

Sometimes, not that often, as I became  an adult, she began to think of me more as a friend.  That can become burdensome.  She’s experiencing a little empty nest syndrome and I can’t be responsible for her happiness.

Which is weightier, the positive or negative?


What are some of the aspects that contributed to a healthy relationship as adults?

Growing up, she set a really good example as far as work ethic, family, how you treat people.  She made us compassionate, loving people.  We were her top, number-one priority.  She worked three jobs so we could have the things we needed.  She commanded a lot of respect in an effortless way.  Now, we’ve maintained that.  It’s a constant evolution, but there is a constant respect.

What do you appreciate most about her parenting?

Her work ethic has really influenced me.  I didn’t even realize it until I was an adult.  Her openness, we always felt that we could come to her, even if it was something we might get in trouble for.  We always had an honest relationship. She makes you want to be around her.

What do you wish she had done differently?

I haven’t thought much about that.  I think she did the best she could and I can’t say that I wish things had been different.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

Very well.  My sister and I are 18 months apart, and she’s my best friend after my mom.  I feel very protective over her, but we really are best friends.

Do you think she shares your same reflections on your parents?

Yes, I think she had a little more trouble relating to my mom growing up.  Their personalities are a little more different.  She probably took the divorce a little harder.  She wanted to have a relationship with our father longer.

Can you share a defining moment with her?

I was in a long-term relationship for six years.  We were high school sweethearts and stayed together through college.  I was on the pill, but one night a condom randomly broke, so I grabbed a towel, wrapped it around myself and ran downstairs, banging on my mom’s door freaking out and saying “What am I going to do?”  My mom just said calmly, “Well, what’s ever meant to be will be.  Maybe I’m meant to have a grandchild.”  Most people would say that’s crossing a lot of boundaries with your mom, but it sums up how there is a lot of closeness between us.

Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?

I’d say it’s been pretty consistent, although there is a time when you realize that your mom is just a human being.  She is still a super-hero because she is my mom, but I know now she’s a flawed person just like anyone else.

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