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.

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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.

What To Wear To An Afternoon Wedding In A Tropical “Country Club” Setting

Untitled #216

My daughter’s roommate got married a couple of weeks ago. Cue mother-daughter texting and phone calls, and texting and emailing, and texting and online shopping. Because, what does one wear to a summer afternoon wedding in a “country club” setting? A mother should know.

I use those quotation marks because we’re talking about a deconstructed “country club.” Peel off the membership, a possible legacy of exclusion and privilege. Keep the sunlit ceremony with cocktails and dinner  outside, the nice indoor reception and rain default room. Add a layer of community and access because this is probably in fact a community center.

But it’s not a barn or a farm. And it’s not a winery, so, just a tick to the right on the rural-to-urban scale. Oh, add this: the coastal location is going to be hot.


  • Stay cool
  • Look pretty
  • Adhere to daytime suburban wedding conventions; not too white, not too black, not too naked including not too far off-the-shoulder
  • No connotations of lingerie – not sheer, no lace panels
  • Be “fun” (it took me a while to figure out that fun meant danceable, with movement, maybe a flounce, a non-sedate color)

She and I looked at dresses like these.

In the end, due to budget constraints, she ended up wearing a sleeveless pink cotton dress with a flounced skirt that I’d given her a couple of years ago, with these sandals in black patent I ordered in the heat of the hunt.

I couldn’t help wondering what I would have worn if the bride had been a daughter of a friend, or if I’d known the bride well enough myself to attend.

Parameters? (Note the higher budget, because I suspect that as the next generation’s weddings start to roll through, it will get a lot of use.)

Same is for my daughter, except, my idea of “fun” has changed over the years.

  • A color that I’ve learned always looks good on me
  • A silhouette that keeps me comfortable
  • A dress that makes a style statement I can endorse – simple, sophisticated, understated, elegant, a little edgy, unfussy

Possibilities. BTW that silk DVF also comes in a blue version that is very fetching. Size 12 on sale.

Oh and I might still want to dance. What would you wear to a similar occasion?

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Down Here In The Flatlands, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am

It’s windy here this morning. I can see branches in my backyard whipped about and fluttering.

It’s also a little chilly. Makes me think of the mountains, which is so odd, because I haven’t been to high altitudes since 2013. But if you’ve ever traveled to the Sierras you know what I mean, that thin air through evergreens. No layer between.

But nothing quite so rarefied is happening here. Just a suburban morning with cool weather after three days of 90 degree temperatures. My stars it was hot. We’ve always had our little heatwaves in June or July, but I think this is the first time I can remember one in May.

The heat was even harder than it used to be because few months ago our big backyard Chinese elm fell down. We were standing by the window, having just come back from lunch in Palo Alto, talking – I think – about who was doing what the rest of the day, when the tree groaned, and almost knelt, so slowly did it fall. Roots ripped right out of the ground. 75 feet and 65 years of tree. A gracious creature, defeated by a long hard drought, resultant fungus, and this winter’s rains.

Not to worry about us humans. Because we knew the tree was ill, we’d pruned it carefully to fall away from the house.

Anyway,  it’s hotter on my sofa of an afternoon with the elm shade gone. In the 46 years I’ve spent in Northern California I’ve never had an air conditioner. Didn’t use to be necessary. Puddles used to freeze in the winter. But I digress. It’s cool this morning. A breeze is bouncing the dogwood leaves.

How to say something about the joy of things that grow green, and also warn that we need to take care? Can we enjoy our joys and acknowledge danger? Has to be so. Very few people can live in a flat out run for good, most of us have to sit by the side of the trail and breathe now and then.

My yard is still beautiful; I plan to water far less and wait to to hear from my yard itself what new tree or trees to plant. Maybe a native evergreen, I hear they grow down here in the flatlands too.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Grinning At The Window With My Face Near The Floor, Or, Saturday Morning At 9:59am

My legs hurt. To be precise, my hips and the inside of my left thigh are sore because I took a hard yoga class.

Yoga has begun to define a not small part of my retirement. I don’t go every day. I’m not good at extremes; moderation in all things means twice-a-week classes. But they resonate beyond my joints.

You all know I’ve struggled with anxiety much of my life. Ever since college I’ve managed it by retreating like a bunny to a warren. Snuggled up against an ungiving wall, the reassurance of that which does not move. Including myself – some animals freeze instead of running.

I have by no means turned into a new person. I’m still often unsettled by something I can’t define. I feel gray shades ruffling nearby. I still have to watch my drinking. But I have a practice that allows me to look to the longer horizon, and to keep moving.

You know I also struggled with retirement. What am I, I asked, without a to-do list? It was the wrong question. If you want to stay alive, to eat, not to eat too much, to exercise, to keep yourself and your environment clean, you’re going to need to-do list. To care for those you love, another one. To address the paperwork of our automated society, yet another. Can’t we register our automobiles without envelopes?

Things became clearer once I asked myself how to justify the privilege of retiring. Or at least that’s the construct that worked in my life, my self. On the one hand, I do it by caring for my family, by volunteering, and by finally understanding and articulating my political convictions in hopes that our society itself might care better for our members.

Service, generosity, a little courage.

On the other hand, I try to bring as much consideration as I can to my own happiness. I feel it would be wrong to waste this time of life in dissatisfaction. This doesn’t mean finding ever new fun things to do or acquire. It means paying attention to my interior.

Yoga has helped me settle.

It’s a funny thing, when I was blindingly busy with career and children I looked for beauty. A drug, essentially, something to keep me going.

But when I retired,  I had time and space to look instead for virtue and health. How ironic that there I find beauty and joy. Beauty in the children I teach. And joy in yoga. Real joy. Exalted, heart-bursting, comes-upon-you-unexpectedly, smile-in-spite-of-yourself-when-your-chest-is-twisted-past-your-thigh-and-also-parallel-to-the-ground joy. Grinning at the window with your face near the floor.

I would never say, “Everyone should do yoga!” Physical practices are body-type unique, personality-dependent. Nor do I plan to dedicate myself to Yoga in the upper-case, or mention it in every conversation. Way too annoying. But, toward my goal of being helpful here, I will say that finding your physical routine, your “practice,” might bring you so much more than health.

Some people run, some walk, some lift weights, some just never sit down. It’s all good.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone – here’s to our hearts and our breath.




A Few Really Pretty Pieces Of Jewelry For You Or A Dear One

Every now and again I feel we need a pretty jewelry post. For bonus ooh-ing and ah-ing. My sweet spot is small precious metal pieces that manage, by intelligent use of what we might call “jewelry white space” and good design, to act bigger than they are. And sometimes cost less than you expect.

This pearl and diamond bar necklace from Catbird might explain what I’m trying to say. Without blather.

See? The long bar occupies space, but mostly highlights what it doesn’t cover.  I.e. you.  Catbird has a lot of beautiful stuff. I gave this necklace to my sister one Christmas.

I also love this from Blue Nile, an asymmetrical circle pendant with little gold tags. Less expensive.

If we wanted to stay horizontal Blue Nile has got a mother-of-pearl bar necklace. Which would be good for collar bones. Although I might in fact need these teardrop earrings because my white gold optical quartz chandeliers are getting too heavy for my elder earlobes. Sadly.

Teeny rings also get us to where The Wearer Is The Point, as we see with this ruby stacking ring from La Garçonne. Sometimes the smaller the piece, the more impact.

However, if, say, we were going to strike out, because we can go big and go home, we might admire this large lapis heart from Jennifer Meyer. The variations in the stone.

The heart also comes in turquoise. Or surrounded by diamonds. But of course if we want to daydream about diamonds we could go on forever.


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