Mighty Life List
Aug 20 2012

The Best Parts of Blue Nights by Joan Didion

The Best Parts of Blue Nights by Joan Didion | Mighty Girl

My favorite parts of Blue Nights, Joan Didion’s memoir on her daughter Quintana’s death.

Do not whine, I write on an index card. Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.

I have watched tears flood the eyes of grown women, loved women, women of talent and accomplishment, for no reason other than that a small child in the room, more often than not an adored niece or newphew, as just described them as “wrinkly,” or asked how old they are.

It was a time of my life during which I actually believed that somewhere between frying the chicken to serve on Sara Mankiewicz’s Minton dinner plates and buying the Porthault parasol to shade the beautiful baby girl in Saigon I had covered the main “motherhood” points.

The very definition of success as a parent has undergone a telling transformation: we used to define success as the ability to encourage the child to grow into independent (which is to say into adult) life, to “raise” the child, to let the child go.

A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.

My mother’s name was already on the marble wall at St. John the Divine.
John’s name was already on it.
There had been two spaces remaining, the names not yet engraved.
Now there was one.

Vocabulary
baffle (n.) Something that balks, checks, or deflects.

Jan 5 2011

An Object of Beauty

The best parts of Object of Beauty by Steve Martin:

“Lacey was just as happy alone as with company. When she was lone, she was potential; with others she was realized.”

“… a young man, Jamaican, perhaps, his head circled in a scarf with sunbleached dreadlocks on piled on top, looking like a plate of softshell crabs.”

“He brought the Van Gogh out to the offices, where ambient sunlight would make any flaws in the drawing more visible. He hovered around Lacey’s desk, tilting it this way and that, looking for fading, looking for foxing. Lacey presumed he didn’t notice her, but when he said, “A beautiful thing… a beautiful thing,” Lacey, at her desk, said, “I do my best.”

“Auctions were, and still are, spectator sports, where the contestants are money.”

“Lacey squeezed back into her slot across from [Jonah], with Patrice having to turn sideways to sit down. She seemed genuinely in love with Patrice, and genuinely trying to rekindle Jonah’s fleeting interest of three years ago. Looking back, I think that both behaviors were valid. To her this was natural, to Patrice it was unsettling, to me it was bewildering, and to Tanya Ross, who had matured normally, it was creepy.”

Vocabulary

malfeasant – one guilty of malfeasance, an offender
incised – cut into a surface; engraved
prestidigitation – sleight of hand
feint – a movement made in order to deceive an adversary
vitrines – a glass display case or cabinet for works of art, curios, etc.
ovoid – egg shaped
argot – a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations

Apr 20 2010

Relationship Hacks

I love this Ask MetaFilter thread on relationship hacks (via Not Martha). I recommend reading through the whole thing, but these are the points I’ve used to good effect. If you have any good advice, let me know.

-”Have a set ‘date night’ every week and don’t deviate from it unless you HAVE to. This is especially important if you have roommates or children.” -Unicorn on the Cob

-”Never yell. Heck, never even raise your voice.” -teg4rvn

-”…People often start negotiating from what they think they can get, not what they really want–so even if the other person says yes, they are still disappointed. …People should start by being honest about 100% of what they want. My partner and I use this all the time, for things big and small. ‘My 100% would be having dinner before we see the movie.’ ‘My 100% would be to move to a bigger house in two years.’
…One thing that is surprising is how often you can have your 100%–and then you feel really lucky and happy and loved. And you also have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave your partner what they _really_ wanted. On the other hand, if the 100% isn’t possible and you have to negotiate down from there you at least know that what you wanted was heard.” -Not that Girl

-”Don’t tell people they’re wrong about trivial things. Inevitably someone will insist something silly, like that Kevin Costner starred in The Fifth Element or whatnot. You’ll know they’re wrong, but saying so is just going to be taken as adversarial and lead to ill feelings that turn into fights… It’s not worth upsetting each other over something so unimportant.” -Pufferish

- “If you have friends of the indecisive sort, learn how to play 5-3-1. It’s a trick to settle the ‘where do you want to eat?’ ‘I don’t care, where do you want to eat?’ game. One partner names 5 places, the other eliminates two of those choices, and the first one eliminates the remaining two. It’s decision making in turns, and it works just as well as anything else.” -Alice Ayres

That last one has saved me hours just in the last week. Apparently I am the indecisive friend. How about you? Tell your secrets.

Jun 5 2009

Ask Maggie: Nine Toddler Things I Can’t Live Without

Hi team. I’m having trouble keeping up with email, but I’ve been getting a lot questions from you guys that I feel bad ignoring. I figured I’d start answering some of them on Fridays, so this is the first one.

If you don’t care about toddler gear, here’s a video of a guy doing an entirely a cappella version of Thriller, using only his voice in place of all the instruments. It is rad. (Thanks, Kottke):

Awesome, right? I know! Now, on to the toddler question.

Hi Maggie,

I built my baby registry around your product recommendations on Mighty Girl. I have never regretted purchasing a single thing you recommended, and consider my registry, and the fact that none of my baby products went unused, to be one of my major parenting achievements. Is this weird?

…Please, please post your recommendations for toddler buys, esp. strollers.

Much appreciated,
Ainsley

Hi Ainsley,

Here you go.

1. The BOB Stroller

We have two strollers. A little umbrella one that I kind of hate, and the Bob, which is so good that I’d like to hold it close and whisper naughty things to it in the night.

It’s a little heavy when it’s folded, but the wheels are so big that I just drive it up and down our stairs while Hank walks, so I rarely have occasion to carry it any distance. You can also order an infant car seat adapter bar and make it your primary stroller from the beginning, but it’s kind of big for restaurants. Our Bob is excellent because it:

Moves like hot butter in a frying pan. (I could drive it with one finger.)

Is easy to fold and unfold.

Fits though airport security scanners.

Is crazy durable.

Can be driven easily on dirt and grass.

Is big enough that your kid won’t outgrow it instantly.

Serves as an outdoor bed.

Let me reiterate that last point. The Bob is so comfortable, that we can recline the seat fully and Hank will sleep in it. This means we can put him down for a nap or bedtime while we’re out on a walk and go for lunch dinner at an outdoor cafe (the stroller is kind of big for indoor dining). It doesn’t always work, but it works enough of the time that the stroller has paid for itself in saved babysitter fees. It also comes in a double stroller version if you have two kiddos.

2. Playtex Coolster Tumblers

One thing I wish I’d done from the beginning was buy a bunch of the same sippy cups, so the parts could be interchangeable. I love these BPA-free toddler cups, because they’re like travel coffee mugs, but with a restricted flow valve inside. They’re great for teaching kids how to use a cup. I just ordered a bunch of them in the same color, so I can just use whatever lid I come across. Also, you can order new lids and valves without replacing the whole cup.

3. Water Shoes instead of Sneakers

If you get a cute pair of water shoes, they often look a lot cooler than designer kids sneakers, and they’re way, way cheaper. Easier to pull on, they don’t get all gross when they get wet, and they last a little longer because they’re stretchy. Bonus, they’re comfortable without socks if laundry day comes a little late that week.

4. Phil and Ted’s Me Too Chair and the Handysitt Child Chair

We’ve never owned a high chair. The Phil and Ted’s was small enough to throw in the stroller basket and take out with us to dinner where we could easily attach it to a table ledge. When he outgrew that, we bought a Handysitt, which sits on a dining room chair most of the time. We throw in the car for dinner at a friend’s house, and it also stows easily if you’re having company and it’s not mealtime. Bonus, no tantrums about not getting to sit in a grownup chair.

5. iPhone

Bless you, iPhone video. So ludicrously useful for preempting tantrums, we call it the neglect-a-tron. Download a few of the kid’s favorite videos, and the most exhausted toddler can be dissuaded from throwing himself on the floor at the DMV. These stands are pretty great too.

6. Apple Slicer

It’s gonna come up.

7. Circle Wooden Train Set

If you have a little boy, this set is likely to be a hit.

8. Hanna Andersson Floppy Sun Hat

I don’t own one of these yet, so this is risky, but I’ve been searching high and low for a decent sunhat with a chin strap, and I just placed an order for one of these on the recommendation of mom-of-three Margaret Stewart. She says, “My kids wore these for years. I handed the same hats down through three kids and they were still in good enough shape to give away to another family after 8+ years of use!” Good enough for me.

Margaret also recommends this for the beach. It’s the cutest mullet hat I’ve seen, and yet it remains a mullet hat. I can’t do it.

9. Flashlight with Click Button

If you’d like to finish a novel start to finish? Hand the kid a flashlight for the first time. Enjoy.

That’s it. What can’t you live without? Tell us. Do!

And if you want to ask me a question about whatever, send it to maggie at mighty girl dot com.