Fall Fashion Magazines Not Based in Reality

There is something that compels me each year at this time to buy the fall fashion issue of Vogue. Why I have this compulsion is a true mystery, as I spend sixty percent of my life in generic beige twill pants and a black Gap t-shirt, and the other forty percent in my pajamas – one of the perks of being a writer and working at home. That being said, I also don’t want to show up at an event this fall and find out that shoulder pads are back. Or maybe I do.

There is some bad news on the fashion front, my friends. First of all, big purses are still in, only now they are even bigger. Some look like they could hold a Volkswagen bug or a baby elephant. And all that fringe! I personally have never liked fringe on anything, and I suggest that unless you want to look like a leftover flower child of the sixties, you, dear reader, avoid it.

It seems that every fall the flower child look is re-marketed in a way that will make it more appealing to women. This year you will see the words “bohemian,” “eclectic,” and “global ethnic” used to describe the layers of mismatched patterned fabrics that somehow mistakenly found themselves together on one unfortunate body. Although these outfits might be appropriate if you are thinking of joining a Ukrainian circus troupe or a caravan of traveling gypsies. Continue reading

Cake Baking and Other Luxuries of Summer

(Originally published on July 4, 1991 in The Beach Reporter.)

Yesterday morning we baked a chocolate cake. Nothing unusual in that, you might say. Except for the fact that it made me stop and think that most of us don’t have many mornings when we can just bake a chocolate cake if we want to.

Normal mornings are spent in a frenzy of getting kids to school on time, the breakfast dishes done, the beds made, the laundry started, the pets fed, and getting myself either to my computer, the grocery store, or the gym. On normal mornings I barely have time to buy a chocolate cake, let alone make one from scratch.

Actually, we used a cake mix, but that’s close enough. Any time you get to break eggs into a bowl, lick the beaters, and use an oven, I count that as making from scratch. We did make the frosting ourselves though. I would never buy frosting in a can. Continue reading

A Summer Fantasy Becomes Reality

(This essay was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor.)

It was one of those rare days at the beach. The humidity was low, the temperature hovered right around 80 degrees, the sky was washed with watercolor blues and the flags snapped briskly over the boat harbor. Lake Michigan was quiet and waveless and even the water temperature had risen above the frigid level to merely bone-chilling.

So what was wrong with this picture?

Actually, everything was right. I had finally reached that nirvana of motherhood – that fantasyland that mothers of young children only dream of. My adolescent children, who had accompanied me to the beach, had run off with their friends as soon as we’d arrived. I was alone.
I could reach into my canvas beach bag and read a book or magazine uninterrupted. I could roll over and nap. I could buy myself an ice cream and not have to share it. I could float lazily on a raft, write a short story, re-invent my life. Continue reading

The Queen of Everything

The following is an excerpt from my just-completed memoir “The Queen of Everything.” It’s a memoir about being a sister, and as the oldest of six sisters, I feel totally qualified to have written an entire book on this subject! I am starting to look for an agent/publisher now, but will occasionally share small parts of the book with my blog readers.

No one teaches you how to be a sister. There are entire shelves of books and magazines devoted to teaching you how to be a wife and mother. But being a sister is pretty much on-the-job training with no role models or how-to magazines. Just Mom saying, as she runs out the door to catch the bus to her waitress job, “I only ask one thing. Try not to kill each other.”

But, like every other time in my life when I’ve had no clue how to “be” (which has been a lot) I got much of my guidance from books.

I guess this could be seen as a sort of DIY approach to life, a life learned from books. Jo March and Laura Ingalls Wilder were my early mentors, with the sisters in Jane Austen’s novels nudging them aside later, until Seventeen and Tiger Beat took over my teenage brain and turned me into a narcissistic little bitch who would have traded all five sisters for the complete set of Bonne Bell Basics. Continue reading