Mighty Life List
May 2 2012

I Didn’t Need that Toenail Anyway

Trip lead: “Do you want me to sign you up for the surf lesson?”

My brain: “Uhhhhhhhh. I burn pretty easily and doesn’t the reef have a billion kinds of bacteria that will kill you if it cuts you plus I had knee surgery so it sometimes hurts to stand from a kneeling position that’s what she said and what if I don’t know the surfing etiquette and I smack into someone from a prominent family and a surfer kid from the wrong side of the reef defends me and I’m accidentally the catalyst for bloodshed which sharks can smell in the water from like 100 miles away?”

My mouth: “Sure.”

My brain: “… Bring to me all of the rum.”

There are three hours between the decision to surf and the actual surfing, so I order a Mai Tai with my burger. And then they bring me another one. Probably because I ask for it. When the trip lead comes to get us, I order a glass of wine and drink it like it’s a beer can with two holes punched in the bottom.

By the time we make it down to the lesson, I am not drunk per se. I am illuminated. I am prepared to be at one with the hungry sea. I am no longer considering faking a seizure to get out of this. Because that would be wrong.

On land, each of us tries our surfing stance in turn.

OK, this is going fine. I am a land surfing champion. Maybe this will be okay.

While paddling I resist the impulse to lay down on the board and take a nap. So far so good.

This! This is working out! I am on my feet on my first try! The ocean and I are at one!

Whoa. The hell, Ocean? You’re kind of being a dick.

But whatever. I almost stood up! I roll off into the waves feeling okay about it, and I’m relieved to find that surfacing is no big deal. That is until the board cracks into my nose and throws a handful of glitter across my vision.

OW! Et tu, Surfboard? Ow.

Well, now that I’m insta-sober, let’s try this again.

Oof. Again the ocean betrays me; the surfboard greets my nose with enthusiasm a second time. And then a third.

Finally, I tell the instructor that I’m getting clobbered and he says, “Whoa. Really? That almost never happens. Wait for your cord to get taut so you know the board isn’t near you, and then surface with your hands above your head.”

This absolutely works. I wait for the cord around my ankle to go taut, then give a kick… and bash my foot into the reef. Mothra! Fockra! It’s like stubbing your toe against shards of glass.

As I injudiciously paddle out for a fifth wave, the booze completely clears my system. My foot and face throb with every heartbeat. I decide to paddle in, passing a four-year-old local and her dad on their way out. “Oh!” I say. “She’s so awesome!” “Thanks!” her dad says. But the girl just paddles toward me scowling with concentration. As she passes, I hear her yell back at me, “PADDLE! PADDLEPADDLEPADDLEPADDLE!!”

Right. Thanks, kid.

(Thanks also to the Hans Hedemann Surf School at Turtle Bay Resort for the mortifying photos. No really, you guys. Mahalo.)

Sep 14 2011

Put it on Your List: Washoe House

I’ve always wanted to drive cross country, and I’ve started collecting a little list of places to see along the way. Here’s one for you:

If you find yourself in Petaluma, California, especially if it’s cold out, consider stopping for a drink at the Washoe House.

The place has been around since 1859, and used to be a stop on the stagecoach line. Patrons have been tacking dollar bills to the walls for decades, so the bars walls are almost ruffled. It looks like the world’s most expensive parade float turned inside out.

I can spend hours reading the notes on the bills over an Irish Coffee.

How about you? What would you add to a stranger’s road trip map?

May 9 2011

Packing Light, New Orleans

As you know, I’m all about the carry-on luggage. A carry-on and a backpack can get me through almost anything, mostly because carry-ons will hold way more than most people think, especially if you’re going somewhere warm. Here’s what I packed for New Orleans.

The denim skirt is thrifted and the striped top is Urban Outfitters. Anna Beth Chao only weighs like three pounds, so you can fold her right down into the exterior pocket of the carry-on. I take her everywhere. Chao and champagne.

The silk scarf is vintage Vera, and the aviators are from Anthropologie. When I wear them, I like to ask people for their license and registration at regular intervals.

There was a cocktail party that first night, so I wore my vintage fringe happy dress, which requires zero ironing. I take it everywhere.

These are my fallback shoes, which operate on the theory that if you’re a woman over six feet tall in heels, no one notices what you’re wearing anyway. I need a new pair, because I’ve had these for nearly a decade. It’s impossible to find stable, comfortable, unreasonably tall shoes, but it’s time. Help a sister out, Internet.

The next day was my presentation. I like to be totally comfortable on stage, so I went with this simple navy shift from H&M and swapped the belt out for a striped scarf. The orange travel flats are Tieks, and I also wore two square glass orange rings, because I like to be matchy matchy like that. You’ll see those below.

A group of us went to dinner later that night, and I wore a romper I got at Forever 21 for 16 cents. Cheap prices for disposable clothing is why I continue to shop there, even though they purposefully play music to annoy people my age. You’ll have to more than blast Avril Levigne to drive me away from prices like this Forever 21! Actually, I love that “What the Hell” song, so I’m golden. I am bopping in the aisles, Forever21.

I wore the romper with very basic open toe black flats from H&M. I don’t have any full-length shots of this outfit that you haven’t already seen, so I’m cheating by using a shot from New York. There are, however, several shots of me looking naked at dinner:

“Oh, don’t mind me. I put a dinner napkin on the chair before I sat down.”

This is my impression of cruise director Julie McCoy. Can you feel me setting a course for adventure?

The skirt is from Buenos Aires, and the tennies are knockoff Bensimons, which I got on the cheap at the now-defunct Martin and Osa. I need to replace those badly, but can’t bring myself to spend $50 on a pair of slightly more awesome canvas Keds.

Scarf is another vintage Vera tied as an ascot. The button-up shirt is from The Limited, which makes great shirts for business travel because they aren’t 100 percent cotton, which means they have stretch to them and don’t wrinkle nearly so easily. My glasses are Dolce and Gabanna.

That night I wore an American Apparel dress for my reading, with the same heels we talked about earlier.

As you know, I like to take jammies that I can wear as clothes in a pinch. This time, I packed this grey romper, also from Forever21, also 16 cents. The cashmere sweater is from the Alameda Flea Market.

I stayed a couple extra days with Anna Beth, so I revisited the navy shift for lunch at Commanders Palace. Here you can see the aforementioned orange rings, which I got from street vendors in Buenos Aires:

I also wore my stripe top again, this time with a little black mini from Urban Outfitters:

And a scarf from H&M:

Again, I failed to get a photo of what I wore on the plane due to exhaustion. I know this makes you rabid, so I’ll say I wore a short cotton mini-dress over tight jeans with the gray striped sweater, a blazer, and the white sneakers.

And that’s it, team.

One day soon I’ll do a post about what I wear on planes to maximize comfort and go from cold (San Francisco) to warm (everywhere else). Speaking of which, do you have a standard travel outfit? If so, spill. I could use a variation on the dress/leggings/sweater theme.

Also, keep an eye on this space, because I asked Roxanna from Everyday Treats to tell me what she packed for New Orleans. She always looks amazing, and she sent photos. Hooray, Roxanna!

Apr 22 2011

New Orleans Ghost Party

On St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, this tree was heavy with beads.

People throw them from the Mardi Gras floats, and they catch on branches and telephone wires. These have been up for months.

Oh, Louisiana. You know how to charm a girl.

Oct 20 2010

How to Keep Kids Happy While You’re Away

When we decided to take Hank to Ireland last minute, reader Lianne Raymond sent me a touching note offering some tips for keeping kids content while you’re away — whether you’re traveling or just dropping them off at daycare. Her ideas mirror a lot of my own philosophies about parenting, so I thought I’d share. Thanks, Lianne.

1) Acknowledge the child’s feelings.

Empathize with them. “I know, it’s hard to be apart, isn’t it?” And normalize their feelings. “Everybody feels a little bit scared when they go to a new place.” Let their attachment to you be a place they can rest in love in the midst of their anxiety.

Don’t minimize the child’s feelings or ask them to change how they feel. “Can you be a brave big boy for mummy?” Don’t try to change their feelings and behavior.

2) If the child is going to school or childcare, let them see you interact with the teacher or the caregiver in a positive way.

Children are naturally wired to be wary of strangers — for good reason. They will, however, take cues from those they love as to who is worthy of their trust. If they see you interacting with the teacher with smiles, nods, laughter and even a hug, if possible, they will be able to feel safer with that person. Not that they will bond immediately, the relationship will still need to be developed, but this provides a good footing.

3) Give the child an object through which they can feel connected to you while you are apart.

A scarf that smells like your favourite perfume. A locket with a picture of you and them inside. Matching bracelets that you both wear — these can be a simple as a coloured string — hey it works for Kabbalah peeps! Imbue the object with some magic powers, “When you open the locket invisible magic dust will come out and you will be able to see Mummy in your head and mummy will be able to see you in her head, and it will be just like we are together.” “There is an invisible string connecting our two bracelets and when you tug on your bracelet it will travel along the invisible string until it gets to me.”

4) Focus on the return

Don’t talk details about the separation, but give details about the reunion. “Oh, it’s going to be so wonderful when I come to pick you up. I’m going to give you the biggest hug and smother you in kisses. I’m going to be so happy to see you!”

5) Don’t avoid the goodbye

It’s very common for parents to try to sneak out of the house or away from the school and avoid dealing with the feelings of separation altogether. While understandable, it is much better to focus on developing emotionally healthy separation rituals then to leave the child feeling abandoned.

All excellent advice. Thanks again, Lianne. And what about you? Do you have any special rituals that keep you connected when you’re away from the kids in your life?

Oct 15 2010

Fun Thing: Pacific Coast Air Museum

Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend spending a day in a dusty field full of old machinery, but it’s kind of awesome when you have a three-year-old in tow. I think it’s the soundtrack.

Anyway, if you have a kid going through an airplane phase, the Pacific Coast Air Museum is a big hit. And afterward you can go wine tasting while your kid plays with a new toy airplane from the gift shop. High fives, team.

Pacific Coast Air Museum
2230 Becker Blvd.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
707-575-7900

Sep 8 2010

Ireland Firsts

Things I’ve seen in Dublin that I’d never seen before:

- Advertising signs with a measure of humility, “Probably the best coffee in Dublin.” And subliminal truth in advertising, like placing the “cereal bars” right alongside the candy bars:

- Ketchup in tomato containers:

- They don’t offer you bags for small purchases here. I bought a juice box, an apple, and a yogurt this morning, and the guy just gave me change and turned away.

- Giant golf umbrellas are totally acceptable for use on city sidewalks, and indeed seem to be preferred:

- Ashtrays with chimneys:

-This miserly toilet paper dispenser, which distributes a single square at a time from the center of the roll: