Just A Simple Thank You, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:19am


I’ve just returned from a trip. Do you all remember that Sue from Une Femme and I attended New York Fashion Week together last year? As it happened, we got along so swimmingly, and found ourselves to be such well-suited travel companions, that we thought we’d go somewhere together again.

And then, ages and ages ago, I had met Frances of Materfamilias, with her husband, in San Francisco, and so enjoyed our conversation that I’d vowed to visit her in Vancouver some day.

And so it came to pass. Sue and I flew up, Sue from Southern California, me from the Bay Area.


Let me reveal that I haven’t felt the need to make new real-life friends in the past couple of decades. I am lucky in my family, which is large and good at talking, I have a best friend of more than 20 years – we chat on the phone several days a week. I’m quite devoted to my new marriage and my children.

So I have blogged because I love to write, I love taking pictures, and thinking about design, I love emails that let me know someone’s been helped or amused and comments from readers wiser, better-read, simply more themselves than I. I have loved this process of self-examination in good company.

But when you meet a couple of women, online, and then write side-by-side with them for going on 10 years, the real life conversations illuminate, reassure, entertain, comfort, and deepen connection. There’s a way in which this online relationship-building slides you into friendship sideways, takes you past possible barriers – distance, life differences, whatever – to a place you can’t predict but must value.

These are people from whom I learn things I cannot find out on my own.

So thanks to my travel companion, our wonderful hosts, and to new places and people.

Sue posted about our visit here, and Frances, here.

Have a good weekend everyone.

The Best Month In My Home Town, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:58am

June is California’s best month. Wait, I mean northern coast-adjacent California. Oh, to be precise, the San Francisco Peninsula (by the Bay, not the hills or the coast.) We have so many micro-climates, I can only speak to my own.

So, here, June is a drug. Champagne. Eyes-roll-back-into-head beautiful. Sure, March has hellebores, native iris, forget-me-nots, all the shy flowers. May brings hedonistic roses. And it is also true that by June magnolia petals are browning, lawns yellowing, things that grow are preparing for summer sleep.

But for we humans our June weather is almost too gorgeous to talk about.

Sky blue like crayons, cool mornings and cool enough evenings, the smell of the dry ground rising up by noon and slowing the breath.

I do imagine that nobody thinks, hey, it’s June, let’s vacation in Silicon Valley! I imagine June is probably pretty nice where you are. And this place, which once upon a time must have seemed like a wild paradise, (my son once sent me a paragraph written by some Spanish explorers who exclaimed over the area’s beauty and abundance) is long since tamed. First by farms and summer homes for San Francisco magnates, then as by Stanford overflow, then semiconductors – hence the “silicon” – then the Internet, now, well, industry persists.

We got cars. We got freeways. We got a lot of billboards.

But if you live here, and can carve out vacations in 3-minute increments, now is the time. Open your door, sit on the step, glass in hand, and watch the heated dirt give up water it didn’t even know it was hiding. Little bit by little bit we dry. It’s hard to describe, but we who are from here find peace in drying.

Have a very happy weekend. And if you’re planning business trips, no one would blame you if June brought you to Northern California by the Bay.

What, I wonder, is your place’s best month?

Blue Nile’s 18th Anniversary Sale Is On

Blue Nile is offering 20% off some customer favorites, with code 18YEARS. It must be their 18th anniversary, good job guys!

This discount is not nothing when it comes to a quite beautiful “garland” infinity ring originally priced at $4000+.

And subtracts a couple hundred dollars off fancy basics like a diamond solitaire pendant.

Just in case you’re pining for a few  twinkles, or hunting for a graduation present.


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Upside Down Backwards Right Way Round, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:02am

Two things happened in yoga this week. Don’t worry, the stories don’t require that you know the practice, or, if you know it, that you like it.

So first, a teacher substituted in my Wednesday beginning class, and taught at an intermediate level. I was fine, I’m ready to edge forward. But there was a woman attending her first session at this studio, and I could see she had trouble following along.

After class I went up to her and said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be intrusive, but I wanted to tell you, that was not a beginning class.” She thanked me. I thought I was helping, an experienced person to a novice. But as we spoke it became clear she hadn’t actually minded being out of her depth.

Back when I was working, I went to a few classes above my abilities.  Made me miserable. Never returned. The Wednesday novice was unperturbed, cheerful, ready to do it again. So who was the learned one, we wonder? I’m thinking, not me.

Second, on Friday, in an intermediate but slow-moving class that I love, I found myself briefly in an actual head-stand. If you wonder what that is, because, yoga is always making people go upside down and then calling it something, a headstand looks like this. (You’ll see the woman is really close to a wall. So was I.)

I’ve never had any pose-specific goals for yoga. I’ve wanted to become stronger, more flexible, to relax, to find peace. I assumed that I was never going to go all the way upside down; I didn’t really even mean to do it yesterday. But I followed what the teacher said, trusting in my Sturdy Gal history of strong arms. Very glad of a wall.

“Don’t kick up,” she said, “Just let your leg lift you.” Whoa. Up floated my 60-year old gams, as they might say in England.

And of course it may never happen again. I have no feelings one way or another about that, only the bright memory of 10 seconds upside down, upright. Felt like a bolt of light and breath ran from somewhere above my feet down my body to my head and out my hands.

I love the French word, “bouleversé,” I believe we can tame it for this experience.

Retirement is, for me, above all, the chance for a new relationship with success.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

How The Polished Tomboy Does Layers And Avoids Flapping Fabric

Layering. An excellent strategy to add interest to the extremely casual wardrobe. But tomboys (AKA Sturdy Gals) hate excess fabric. This is partly because it’s hard to carry heavy stuff around when our coats keep getting caught up, and partly because when long cloth panels hang from our broad shoulders we start to look like old-fashioned voting booths. Or superheroes.

Enter short-over-long layers.

You may remember that UNIQLO “Jasper Johns” tank from two summers back, as well as the short cadet blue UNIQLO field jacket from close to always.

Add my new brown Dickers (alert alert these are on sale for 40% off at net-a-porter!), narrow-for-boyfriend 3 year-old Citizen of Humanity jeans (teeny cuff for more texture), a pair of antique gold Swedish chandeliers, some Ray-Ban aviators, a 4-year old Bottega Veneta crossbody messenger, and off we go for dinner. San Francisco nights.

Oh, wait, don’t leave yet. That tank makes for a lotta lotta navy on the chest and belly. Unbroken, it’s ungraceful. Unadorned, the rust flag across the belt line brings to mind a butcher’s apron. So I pulled out another piece of antique jewelry, this time from my father’s family. A lariat locket.

You could also wear something like this, held together with a bar clip or brooch.

There, now we can eat. White bean stew and a gin martini, anyone?

Wholly Recreatable Short-Over-Long

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American Writing, British Television, Travels, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:51am

It’s been a quiet week.

I published a new post on Medium, here, in full awareness of my limitations. I first wrote the piece very simply, as a simple but preposterous proposal. For better or worse I couldn’t leave it that way. My internal voice of reason spoke too loudly. Retirement seems to be about having the time to help others and to understand yourself. I am who I am, even when I can see what rough hooks could do, I have to smooth the edges. I am unable to leave emotion alone without logic. There you have it.

Speaking of smooth edges, here are two British television series I have loved to pieces. First, on Hulu, the ITV-produced “Harlots.” Prostitution in Regency England. With a dollop of women’s rights and excellent costuming. Second, on Netflix, “Shetland.” A detective on the islands off the far north coast of Scotland. Green cliffs, gray seas, and a strong man who cares like heck.

Finally, speaking of countries than America, which, let’s, please, Sue went to Italy and France, and Mater is in France as we speak. Do you have summer travel plans?

Have a quiet weekend, if that’s what you need.


Sale at Perennial Usually Pricey Favorite, Net-a-Porter, Up To 50% Off

So, if you were wanting some patterned slides, you might try Net-a-Porter’s sale, which started this morning.

These are from Sam Edelman, and are knocked down to $66.00. Or you might just need a cute little black ribbed cotton jacket.

Or, wait, this navy cotton DKNY dress just kills me! So excellent!

Please excuse the morning exclamation marks. But if I lived in New York I do believe I’d buy that dress right now.

In any case, public service announcement now completed.

Links may generate commissions.

Looking Out To Sea, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:32am

Transcendence stayed home.

When planning to take my mom to the sea I was driven by an image. Something to do with a horizon. Me and Mom. She sits in her wheelchair or stands with my help, the wind blows her silver and gold hair against those big sunglasses. Me, standing with her, bent over to put my face next to hers and align our eyes. The two of us sharing a view.

In fact, something else happened.

I’d made a timetable. My siblings being the people they are, people arrived at Mom’s memory care place on time. We left, on time. All in one car, my mother, my brother, my two sisters, my brother’s 4-year old, a caregiver, and me. The well in the back was packed full with a wheelchair, my cooler of picnic food, a bag of table linens, plates, and plastic cups. I didn’t go as far glasses made of glass, I’m not crazy. The car was quite crowded. We were funny.

We’d planned to go Half Moon Bay, on the Pacific. I thought the beach where I had taken these photos would be perfect. I even called the campsite office the day before to make sure there’d be parking and a picnic table; I had Mom’s handicapped placard to display. The drive over the hill went just fine.

But Mom had started to doze off just before we left. She fell fully asleep in the car. And Half Moon Bay was windy.

My brother and sisters helped her out. She began to protest immediately. “No, no, no!” We persisted, reassuring her everything would be fine. We sat her in the wheelchair. “I’m cold!” she said. And said again. And again. We covered her in the hat, scarf, jackets and blankets we’d brought.

I thought maybe it would be OK once we got to the table. Once she could see the sea and feel the sun. But no. I unloaded the food, spread the tablecloth. Mom kept complaining. We gave her a cupcake. She ate it.  “Come on Mom,” I said, “Let’s see the ocean.” I wheeled her closer. “Can you see the ocean?” I said. “Yes,” she said. “Can you see the waves? “No. It’s just gray.”

In fact it was deep blue.

I think I asked her if she thought it was beautiful, but I don’t remember if she answered. She wasn’t happy.

I took her back to the table. Started to set out the plates. At some point, maybe now or maybe later, my sister took her walking around for a few minutes. At some point (maybe I heard it or maybe one of my siblings told me?) Mom said, “This is MISERABLE.


Packed everything back into the car, including all seven people, and drove up to a town I like called Princeton-by-the-Sea. Nothing to do with Princeton, just a town with a harbor, fishing boats, some restaurants. I called ahead, from my cramped seat in the third row, and pleaded with a hostess to put us on their waitlist, against policy. I explained what had happened. They were so nice.

And when we arrived in town, the wind was gone. We waited about 10 minutes, they seated us. Mom was still groggy. We ate lunch. Mom wanted bread and butter. She ate so much butter it got in her hair. She had a glass of red wine.

I listened to my siblings tell each other about their work, their lives. The caregiver and I talked. She was from Fiji, and although she’d been in the US for something like 5 years, she’d never been to the Pacific.

Then a young waiter came over and stood where Mom could see him. “Nancy, ” he said. Mom looked up. “Nancy, Happy Mother’s Day!” Mom smiled.

We kept eating. Mom started struggling to say something. “I want more (unintelligible).” Finally we guessed. She was saying, “I want more mens.”

We called over another young waiter. Asked him to do the same. It was Mother’s Day and the staff was doing their absolute best job for everyone. Odd requests granted.

Time to return. The drive was uneventful. We wheeled Mom back into her place, and upon returning to our cars realized that my middle sister and I had both left the hatches of our cars wide open in the parking lot. We had been so focused.

My siblings took their leave, I stayed behind a little while to make sure Mom was OK after all the hubbub. The caregiver who came with us would stay for another 45 minutes or so. We went into Mom’s room. Mom showed no agitation, no concern. I think she felt she was home. “Let’s go see (unintelligible),” she said to the caregiver. “Mom, I’m going to go,” I said. “OK?”

“OK,” she said, and looked up at me. I went home.

Afterwards I cycled fairly quickly through an unsurprising  feeling of failure. I wondered if I had learned anything. Seems maybe yes. Absent transcendence, aphorisms. Any of my Twitter buddies will have heard these already, now you know where they came from.

Just because a better outcome was possible doesn’t necessarily mean you could have done a better job.

There are no new lessons to learn, only new ways to ready yourself to learn them.

I realized that my Mom still knows how to get what she wants but most of all I realized that there isn’t anything we should be doing for Mom that we aren’t. That her world has to be smaller now. When you stop visiting big oceans, if you are Nancy, you are free to focus on your home and the people who live there.

And sometimes your children come to visit. Sometimes the horizon is here.

I made myself cry. Thanks for allowing me enough overt sentiment to do that. Have a good weekend everyone.

(edited to add my realization that mom gets what she wants, and to change the title just because)

The Best Summer Pedicure(s)

A post shared by Lisa Carnochan (@amidprivilege) on

I have never cared for painted fingernails – I’m perhaps a brutal keyboarder but a) polish always chips and b) I’m startled by hand decor.

Pedicures, I endorse. “Ah the feet of summer,”  one might sigh. I didn’t discover the joy of painted toes until my late 30s, but, I haven’t looked back. The only problem being how to ensure you like the color you choose. We’ve all found ourselves in Cement Gray, Day-Old Open Bottle Of Cabernet, or Lavender Dirtied By Woody Lavender Plants, at least once. So I’ve developed a reliable palette; polishes to own and bring along.

Herewith, my favorites.


1. Chick Flick Cherry by O.P.I

Turns out we can’t just extrapolate the colors that suit our face to our feet. Have to go a little bolder. This red is blue-toned enough for my coloring, but sufficiently red for general juiciness.

2. 505 Particulière by Chanel

Who knew that dark lavender-ish taupe would make  a brilliant nail color? Chanel, of course. This isn’t your regular earth tone, it’s sly and subversive and urban. Befriending purple on the down low. Particularly worn with white patent Birkenstocks on suburban streets. If you’ve got warm/yellow-toned skin, you might try #520 Garçonne.

3. Glitter Polishes by Deborah Lippman

Glitter is to be used sparingly but every now and then, from the wine-dark sea, I feel a Charybdian compulsion. I like Lippman’s large-piece glitter because it’s Mediterranean nonchalant. Like some glitter that fell on your toes while you were dancing at 3am in an Ibiza nightclub. Which has never and will never happen to me but pedicures aren’t practical anyway. I’ve got a gold bottle called Boom Boom Pow, sold out except on eBay, but the candy-pink Candy Shop might be fun.

4. Customizing White Polish For Your Skin Tones

See my toes in the photo up top. I don’t know what the nail technician used here, but I love the effect so I’m going to have to experiment going forward. I had at first chosen a white that was way too transparent for what I wanted. The technician magicked two polishes out of her secret drawer, chalk white for the first coat, transparent pinkish-white for the second, and went to work. Perfect.

You might start with Arctic Snow, by O.P.I. Apparently it’s very bright and opaque, which is what you want. Then use a very sheer almost-white polish. That way you can get the right pink, coral, blue, or lavender tint for your skin.

I have also worn fuchsia in past years but failed to note the shade. A new brand, perhaps, in a color called Regents Park? (Spear thinks NailKale makes a good base coat BTW). Also one year I tried orange, for my Princeton Reunion, but such insanity is best reserved (if you’re blue-toned) for parades of alumni dressed in costumes involving enormous tigers.

One final note about ingredient concerns. O.P.I, Chanel and Lippman have removed DBP and toluene from their formulations, Lippman has gone even further and taken out resin and camphor. Worry-free sandal time a-gogo.

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To See The Sea Again, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:10am

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the US. It’s also just about a year since we moved my mother to an assisted living facility. There she fell, broke her hip, had surgery, and moved to skilled nursing in the throes of post-operative delirium.

Tomorrow my three siblings and I are taking my mom to the ocean for a picnic. Of course, given Northern California’s marine fog, it might be too cold to do much more than get out of the car, feel the salt wind, squint at the sky, and get back in. That’s OK. We can eat lunch in one of the small coastal towns.

My mom has had a house by the sea almost all her life. She didn’t swim much by the time she moved to Santa Barbara, but she always walked on the beach, or came to watch her grandchildren cavort. I thought she’d like an outing with her children, although she doesn’t recognize us, and I thought some part of her might like to see the sea again.

But really, this is for me. I’d like to see the sea again too. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have organized this if I didn’t think Mom would benefit. But it’s still for me and I don’t want to mislead you about whatever virtue I may or may not possess.

In retrospect, as I have said, I experienced the period between May and December of 2106 as trauma. Maybe I’m just a big baby, but the fight for Mom’s physical and financial health emptied me out. I have always relied on either physical strength or logical thinking to get me through emergencies. Neither those of those worked in this case. I needed either real domain knowledge, i.e., “Can someone who breaks their hip at 83 ever walk again, or no?” or great instincts. Not my forte, instincts.

They say traumatic stress comes from facing something that’s more than you can handle, and having to face it for a period of time that you can’t control. Again, what I went through was nothing compared to real traumatic events. But for a while I was unable to feel much joy. Prone to gratuitous fight or flight responses. Sometimes fight and flight both.

In further retrospect, I couldn’t bear the idea that I had failed Mom. That I’d made bad decisions and caused her hip break, that somehow I hadn’t come to her rescue. She is so vulnerable, I couldn’t bear to be the agent of her distress.

But now she is often happy. Everything may change in an instant, but this trip to the ocean is I suppose a ceremony of not having screwed up so badly as it seemed. And a celebration of my mother’s surprising strength and the persistence of Nancy.

She is known as the one with the beautiful hair. She is close to and affectionate with the staff, always talking, reading aloud, opining. Her sense of humor pops up all the time – she remarked the other day, “Oh that elevator smell!” as we went down to the garden.

Though she doesn’t know who I am, she knows she knows me. She knows she loves me, and she calls me “Darling” most days.

When you care for someone vulnerable, which for me means moving past logic to instinct, like in the first days with a newborn, on good days what you do for them you do for yourself. And the other way around.

The other day when I was leaving her I asked her if she was all right, and she said, “No, no, are YOU all right? Are they all right?” Although I didn’t know exactly who “they” were, I’m guessing she meant my siblings.

Happy Mother’s Day. It’s not happy for everyone, I know. So take care of yourself, and make sure someone else is doing the same.

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