Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Beautiful Trash Incident

I'm walking home one morning after dropping Noah off at school. It’s windy and cold. There's not many people out on the street in my neighborhood today.

I am planning to get myself home as quickly as possible. I've got a long to do list. I'm dressed well for the elements but it is so chilly that my eyeballs feel cold. I'm always joking about how when I have this disconcerting feeling I need to move my eyes around in their sockets this way and that, so that they won't freeze in place.

I see something unusual piled with the trash. These aren't regular garbage bags. They are called Demolition bags. They are overlapping at jaunty angles and look interesting to me. The words Demolition bag repeat again and again because there are so many of them. I love things that repeat, and it's my dream to design wallpaper. They take on interesting shapes because of what I imagine to be craggy bits of stuff inside.

Cold or not, in a hurry or not, you don't see this every day. I take a quick look around for construction people or garbage men. I'm not in the mood for a conversation. The coast is clear.

I have this series I am working on called Beautiful Trash. I deem this scene potentially series worthy. I take a few pictures up close, pulled back and at different vantage points. I am getting ready to do my very last variation when a young man appears.

The man is wearing work clothes. He is carrying more demolition bags to add to the pile. It didn't take a genius to put two and two together about the guy. I take my last picture really fast. Then I prepare to leave.

The man looks at me and points at the demolition bags. What, what! He says. He looks agitated. I am sorry to worry him. I want to be reassuring. God only knows what he was thinking.

I am an artist, I say. What? He says. I repeat and pantomime a little like I'm playing charades. This goes on. It seems like What is one of the only English words he knows.

I can't even haul out my rudimentary Spanish because I can tell by his accent that this is not his language. I didn't mean to be trouble. I tell him.

He continues to be upset and say What? And What, What? I decide the conversation is futile, but as I'm leaving I say, you might want to learn more English before you start asking questions.

I'm all for explaining myself to people. I know what I'm doing is unusual. But he wasn't understanding me or my friendly, non-threatening, non-verbal communication. I am losing my patience even though I am the one photographing trash.

I proceed home and he goes back into the building. I imagine him telling his boss.

Later that day, I'm doing the same commute in reverse. This time, what catches my eye is a wide open field in a grassy part of my neighborhood. It's covered with a carpet of colored leaves that have fallen from a magnificent tree.

I take a moment to compose some pictures. I can be more relaxed this time and don't need to check to see if the coast is clear. Photographing leaves and trees doesn't arouse curiosity or worse, alarm, the same way photographing trash can.

I hear a rustling sound. A squirrel, in a seemingly desperate state comes running over and jumps up on the short wooden fence seperating me from the field. He then gets uncomfortably close and starts looking at me in a totally jacked up way.

If that wasn't bad enough, two of his  friends decide to take a break from burying nuts  for winter, digging  up nuts they already buried, and whatever else they do all day.  They come over. Then the three of them start hyperactively and collaboratively bothering me. They have no sense whatsoever of personal boundaries. This lack of social skills is courtesy of the old people who sit on benches and feed them. Except on days like this when it's really cold.

I decide I've done enough variations already and take my leave. For Christ’s sake, I mutter under my breath to no one in particular. I walk toward the subway, where I intend to edit my photographs in peace.

Here is the controversial photograph of Demolition Bags.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Am Thankful For This Blog

My daughter Hannah is a vegetarian. She also eats fish. But she will not consume poultry. Soon I will be making an extra stuffing for our Thanksgiving feast that does not contain turkey juices or traces of turkey. This stuffing will be entirely devoid of turkey.

I am making a stuffing recipe that I've made before, but not for Thanksgiving. I served it one Christmas when Jeremy's cousin and his son joined us for dinner. This stuffing went over extremely well at that gathering. I still remember the unbridled enthusiasm and compliments.

It's officially a sourdough stuffing with apples and raisins, but I substitute dried cranberries for the raisins.

I also remember the mild smoke condition I accidentally created in our apartment that Christmas while roasting chickens. Jeremy's cousins said it was the best chicken they ever had.

I am thankful for this stuffing I am about to make. I am thankful about a great many things - my family, my friends, excellent heath, enormous quantities of delicious Thanksgiving foods, Thanksgiving leftovers, Stove Top Stuffing for when I haven't had my fill of stuffing, but don't want a lot of hassle.

But for today, I'm going to focus my gratitude post on Blogging.

First, I'd like to thank all of the technology related folks who include but are not confined to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. While I was busy socializing, doing what Temple Grandin calls yak-yak, you were hard at work. If it weren't for you, I'd still be using the phone for everything.

I could not have foreseen the Internet, Facebook, iPads or blogging. If it weren't for these things, I might still have a DayRunner – I always liked it more than Filofax - with people's phone numbers handwritten in it. I would then have my artistic phone call time. I’d leave a message on people's answering machines twice a week, reading aloud my various thoughts and musings. The only way to unsubscribe would be to change your phone number.

Back in the day, before all of this social media and sharing capability, I remember the isolation I felt, taking photographs that no one saw, writing things that no one read. Because it was all I knew, I didn't perceive it as isolation per se. It was more of an unnamed malaise.

Sure, sometimes my work got seen by a lot of people. I spent a number of years doing food photography for the NY Times magazine and everyone saw that. I still remember the excitement of opening the newspaper - the actual newspaper - and seeing my photography.

I'd invite all my friends to group shows I was in. I'd plunk my portfolio in front of an actual set of eyes as often as humanly possible. I'd write beautifully composed letters to photographers I liked.

But then there we what felt like droughts. There were tons and tons of gatekeepers. I'd spend a lot of time alone with my carefully crafted work.

So I'm really thankful for the gift of email, Twitter, what used to be called the worldwide web and what I still call my devices, much to the chagrin of my children.

Since I've established that I enjoy attention and dislike working in isolation - so many people who say they don't like attention are lying - I am thankful for the audience who reads my blog. Facebook and this blog are my new galleries, magazines and billboards rolled into one.

I am thankful that people use the vocabulary of social media to like, comment, favorite, share, re-tweet, friend, follow and subscribe.

I am also thankful for people who follow my blog, but for whatever reason, do not feel comfortable leaving comments. The same people who shy away from this often have no issue whatsoever yelling across Broadway as I walk down the street Hey! I just ordered that book you recommended! They scream.

Or I run into the shyer types at the drugstore and they'll say oh hi, how did things work out with the new high school? Like we are just continuing a conversation we started earlier, only it's me writing and her reading. It's new and old fashioned at the same time.

If I know you and you don't read my blog - you won't ever see this because you don't read my blog - I'm thankful for the fact that we know each other, but that you don't read my blog. That is because if you are not reading it, then I feel very free to write about you in this blog.

I'm kidding about that last thing. Okay, let's call it 50/50.

I am thankful to the people who paved the way and blogged before me. I love many of your blogs. The fact that you are blogging about the things you're blogging about means I don't have to blog about these things. Or if we share certain subjects in common, I do it my way and you do it your way. You blog this way, and I blog that.

The fact that you were out of the starting gate first meant that I got to experience certain things second hand. You getting into a little hot water with your blog. Trolls, haters, drama.

There are certain blog posts that will only live inside my head.

I am grateful for my iPhone camera. I received this iPhone as a gift. I take all of these photographs and it doesn’t cost a cent.

This idea is revolutionary. Photography was too expensive for me before. Film purchasing, film processing, contact sheets, darkroom time. I enjoyed all of it. I was a master printer. But I couldn’t afford to just take photographs whenever I wanted of whatever I wanted.

This business of wherever I want and whatever I want is amazing.

While we are on the subject of thankfulness and blogging, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jeremy. Even if Jeremy didn’t help me with my blog, I’d still be thankful for him a million times over.

Jeremy started his blog, AnEarful several years ago. He learned the ropes. Jeremy is the kind of person who no matter what his job description is, or where he is working, he is always helping people with their computers. Oncologists at work know how to treat cancer, but sometimes their computer problems will trip them up. Then Jeremy will help them.

Jeremy helps everyone here at home with their computers and electronics. And so it is with my blog. Jeremy helped me design my blog. He proofreads every post, which is another one of his talents. He knows when to make a suggestion on grammar or content and knows when to keep quiet.

Jeremy got me indoctrinated with Twitter and helped me until I got used to it. Turns out I enjoy the 140 character part now. Last Thanksgiving I wasn’t even on Twitter yet. Now I’m thankful for it.

I’m not on Pinterest or Instagram. My whole policy is to master one social media platform at a time. But now that I’m so comfortable with and thankful for Twitter, I think Instagram might be next. I’ll wade in with Jeremy and then before you know it, it will be like I’ve done it all my life. I predict that next Thanksgiving at this time, I’ll be thankful for that, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Letting People Get Used To Me

When I go to a particular neighborhood frequently, I like to take pictures and turn that experience into a photo series. Then I post the photographs on Facebook.

I live in NYC. Every neighborhood here has a different flavor. At the moment, I have ongoing series that feature the upper west side and my neighborhood of Inwood.

I had one collection called I Heart 168th Street. It ended after Noah graduated from the middle school in that neighborhood.

I took a lot of photographs on 168th Street. Generally speaking, I arrived in the neighborhood slightly early to pick up Noah from school. When I first started shooting photographs there, I was a little bit of a curiosity. I take some pretty unusual pictures. A typical day could include me photographing paint peeling off of bricks, a Flat Fix place, wares in bodegas and colorful signage. I'd also photograph trash there for my Beautiful Trash series.

Unbeknownst to me, the art teacher at Noah's school followed me one day because she wanted to know what I was photographing. Once she saw what I was up to, she thought it as cool and took a picture of it too. She told me about it months after it happened.

Some times people would ask me why I was photographing something. I'd have this quick little thing I'd explain. I'm an artist, I would say. I see beauty in things that other people don't notice. Sometimes I'd show them the photo I just took on my iPhone.

In every neighborhood, there are people just there for that one moment. It's an anomaly for them to be in that part of town. But as I travel to different neighborhoods again and again, I'd see the same cast of characters every day. The men sitting in folding chairs on the street for hours on end. Moms picking kids up at school. Crossing guards.

I noticed that when I was photographing on 168th street, people got used to me doing that. I was simply part of the collective landscape after a while.

Noah started school in a new neighborhood this past September. I go to this neighborhood 1-2 times a day when school is in session. The old name for this place is Hell's Kitchen. The newer, fancy real estate name is Clinton.

I've never been to any section of NYC that isn't photo worthy. Hell's Kitchen is no exception. There are many unique things there that I want to photograph.

The other day, I was contemplating a section of a building that looked very interesting. It was a combination of colors and textures that I liked. In addition, a beautiful morning light further elevated what was already a lovely situation.

I was getting ready to make a mental note of it, but pass on by. There were many people walking quickly along the sidewalk. I wasn't in the mood for questions. I wasn't in the mood for people to notice me.

I didn't keep walking after all. I stood there and thought about it.

If I don't start photographing here, the people in this neighborhood will never get used to me I told myself.

I've chosen to do the bulk of my photography outside rather than in my apartment. Having other people around isn't a once in a while thing. It's a given.

So I took the photograph. I did several variations, some close up, some further back. Some with dappled light, some evenly lit when the sun was behind a cloud.

The way to take on a problem isn't to turn away and retreat. Avoiding the challenge keeps it suspended and untouched. The only way around it is through it. Walking toward it. Meeting it.

I relaxed into my photography in Hell's Kitchen. 168th Street taught me how to do this. The hurried footsteps, the weight of the eyes, the anticipated queries are the necessary soundtrack. I'm listening to the sound and letting people get used to me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Obsessed And Addicted


Jeremy has this beautiful mid-century modern bar in our dining room. It houses a sizable collection of glassware, cocktail shakers, swizzle sticks and bartending books. It's also chock full of liquor bottles. If you were to come into our apartment as a stranger and look at this bar, front and center in our small apartment, you might think we were a couple of alcoholics. But we are not alcoholics. We are regular, moderate, responsible social drinkers.

We are like this about almost everything. In general we really can stop anytime we want.

But now Jeremy and I have both developed an obsession and addiction. Ours was triggered by the dawning of the second golden age of audio. Specifically, podcasts. Two podcasts in particular.

We've both listened to excellent podcasts like This American Life, Freakonomics and The Moth for some time. We also have podcasts that one listens to that the other doesn't. Jeremy has a bunch of music related ones in his rotation. I like to listen to self help motivational stuff and inspiring things about being a parent.

I listen while doing tedious tasks. I listen while on the treadmill. It keeps my mind busy and engaged while folding laundry or cleaning the apartment.

Until recently, while I clearly enjoyed listening to podcasts, I wasn't addicted to them.

I wasn't waiting for them to "drop.” Thursday was not a really significant day of the week. I didn't call Jeremy at work in a desperate state because I was having some trouble downloading a certain podcast on my iPod. I also didn't call him at work because I heard someone from our new podcast on an old re-broadcast of a different podcast while doing the dishes and had important new insight to share.  

I didn't stand in our kitchen watching Jeremy listen to podcasts. I didn't compare my recent podcast consumption to my mother's early childhood in the 1940s, before TV, when radio was the major form of entertainment. I didn't talk endlessly about the second golden age of audio.

I realize I've been going on.

The two podcasts we've become both obsessed and addicted to are called Serial and StartUp. Although they are quite different from one another they both have a commonality that one could compare to white sugar or crack. Unlike other podcasts that end their episodes in a tidy fashion with each one being distinct, these have a story that continues and unfolds over time. You have to keep listening to more podcasts to find out what happens.

Serialization is a powerful thing. It certainly isn't new. It's been around forever. But both Serial and StartUp breathe new, modern life Into this art form.

Both podcasts are telling true stories. The stories are compelling and expertly told. You can't listen without getting hooked.

Serial is a murder mystery. It's extremely suspenseful. The story is a potent combination of banal and creepy mixed together. It isn't like anything you've ever listened to.

StartUp is just as unique. It's the story of a start up company and it unfolds in real time. It's fascinating and creative and fly on the wall. The story isn't life and death but it ropes you in just as much.

I'm not saying anything else because I don't like spoilers. If you haven't listened yet, I'd like to recommend that you start binge listening right after finishing this post. Actually, I give you permission to stop reading now, if you're so inclined.

These podcasts are clearly narcotic to Jeremy and me. Serial drops once a week, StartUp every week or two.

If the people responsible for these podcasts were able to put them out once a day rather than weekly, then we'd listen once a day. If they put them out three times a day, we'd find a way to listen to all of them on the same day. I could say we could stop anytime, but I would be lying.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Blog Book

I love having a blog. I love reading other people's blogs. I like to encourage talented people to start a blog, continue their blogs or expand their blogs. I also like reading about blogging. So when an extended family member who is also a friend posted a picture of a blog book she was reading on Facebook, I ordered the blog book and read it too.

This blog book is Blog Inc. by Joy Deangdeelert Cho. I very much recommend this book if you already have a blog, are thinking of starting a blog, or are generally interested in blogs.

The book is very user friendly. It is not only user friendly but friendly-friendly. The design is whimsical, welcoming and clear. It's readable. Detailed without being too detailed. Accessible for the newbie without talking down to someone more experienced. There's a wealth of practical information and resources.

One of my favorite parts of the blog book are the interviews with established and successful bloggers. The interviews are like mini memoirs about people's creative processes, how they got started, unexpected challenges along the way and stuff they wished they knew when they began. As someone who loves reading about other people, I enjoyed having a peek into the lives of creative folks who  are different from myself. I loved learning about how the blogs fit into people's everyday lives.

When I first started the blog book, my expectation was that I would have an enjoyable reading experience and most likely get some useful snippets. I expected to be entertained because reading books is one of my biggest sources of entertainment. I knew there would be interviews with other bloggers and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into that.

All of this came true. What I wasn't expecting was a huge epiphany and life changing experience.

A little background. I struggle with perfectionism. This isn't some backhanded way of bragging or complimenting myself. At its worst it keeps me literally stuck in one place and spinning my wheels. It can be debilitating.

Things have gotten better for me in this regard. I'm more aware of it. I'm better at managing it.

Before reading the blog book, I established a regular posting schedule for this blog. I'm pleased with how it's going. I'm creating something I'm proud of.

In addition to Non-Fiction Living, I've had at least four other ideas for blogs. These aren't fly by night ideas. They are themes I keep mentally returning to again and again.

Here are my blog ideas in a nutshell. One of them is about how to be a cool old person. Another one is about sharing my success at maintaining a healthy weight while still living really well. The third one revolves around people working creatively. Number four would be me advising people about how to take good pictures with an iPhone camera. I'm talking in generalities now rather than specifics.

I was struggling with my four other blog ideas. I knew I wanted to keep on doing Non-Fiction Living. But I figured that the other ideas deserved their own blogs, along with their own creative identities, their own Facebook pages and audiences. The problem is that I am only one person with many different goals and responsibilities. I was sure it would be impossible to do justice to all of the blogs.

In other words, I was headed full speed toward Multiple Blog Disorder. Joy Deangdeelert Cho coined the term and only thing that saved me from this fate was Blog Inc. She shared her personal experience with her blog Oh Joy! She described the very process I’ve been going through as though reading my mind. She saved me a lot of trouble now and down the road. She got me off of the obsessional track I was on.

Because of the blog book, I'm going to be folding all of my other ideas into Non-Fiction Living. So if you keep on reading this blog, you'll see some food posts, posts about creative people, posts about old people and posts about iPhone photography. It gave me the confidence and permission to expand my present blog.

Many thanks to Joy Deangdeelert Cho for Blog Inc.

Chronicle Books has published a whole series of similar books I'm looking forward to delving into. I’ll let you know what I think of Creative Inc., Mom Inc., Craft Inc. and Art Inc. after I’ve read them!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Advice For Myself: Don't Go To The Farmers Market In The Rain

I like to think of myself as really committed to the farmers market. A rain or shine farmers market person. A person who shops there when everyone else goes and who shops there when everyone else stay home. Dedicated to a farmers market lifestyle.

This is how I like to define myself in relation to outdoor, locavore, farmer supporting, fresh produce enjoying and seasonal shopping.

What I had to admit, face, and accept is that I am in fact not this person.

I can shop at the farmers market on a very hot, sunny day. I can shop at the farmers market when it is snowing. I can shop there in the aftermath of a blizzard. Of course I can shop there when it is perfect, stunning weather.

I need to make adjustments. Obviously, when it's cold or snowing, I dress for the job. I'm from Syracuse. I know how to do this.  The day after a blizzard, I need to carefully map out my route to and from the market in case the plows haven't been around yet, or the sidewalks are dicey. You'd think the days that are universally enjoyed would be a no brainer. But those need accommodation too. I need to be patient about long lines, crowds, people chit chatting with oversized strollers in the middle of thoroughfares. Going very early can help with this challenge.

I thought I could make adjustments to the rain. I already knew I didn't have enough limbs to carry an umbrella. For that I would need a third hand.

So I'd get out one of the many rain ponchos our family has collected over the last few years due one kid or another going on a nature adventure, science enrichment hike, peer bonding trip, sleep away camp or academic reward trip in the rain. I'd dress warmly under the poncho and wear rain boots.

I'm not going to dwell on the difficulties associated with fishing money out from under my soaking poncho, rain clouding my glasses, people wanting to have long conversations about seafood with the fish guy even though it's pouring and I already know I want a pound of flounder.

These things happened every time it rained and I still kept on going.

What happened the last time I went to the farmers market in the rain was the final straw. I'm am writing about this so that I don't forget about it and go there again in a downpour.

I was standing on line at Bread Alone. Buying bread outdoors during a driving rain is tricky. I'd prepared by packing extra plastic bags to wrap the breads in. People who sell bread never have plastic bags.

What I hadn't prepared for was what happened when I squeezed under the small awning that the Bread Alone people put up. I'm standing there minding my own business. That's when all of the water that pooled on top of the awning became too heavy for it. The awning gave way and dumped a large amount of cold water all over my person.

Rain ponchos were not designed to deal with this onslaught. I would have needed to wear the poncho and a wet suit underneath.

This was like an Ice Bucket Challenge with a few key differences. Fortunately, there was no actual ice in the rain water. There was a large amount of water. An entire bucket full of water.

Unlike the Ice Bucket Challenge, this was an unsolicited, unexpected experience. The spontaneity of this experience meant that many expletives were shouted initially and then muttered more quietly after the fact.

Finally, this differed from the Ice Bucket Challenge in that it was completely meaningless. My experience at Bread Alone was not videotaped and shared virally on Facebook. I did not collect money that was then used to fund ALS research. I really should have had Noah videotape the soggy aftermath of what happened, then use this unfortunate experience to collect funds for ALS. I could have also hit people up for money right at the farmers market. At the very least, Bread Alone should feel an obligation to kick something in. But unfortunately, I didn't think of these enterprising ideas until later.

For every story, there is the long version and the short version. I just told you the long version. I'll end with the short version. I'm not shopping at the farmers market in the rain ever again. That's the long and the short of it.

Advice for Myself is a new series I am working on to remind myself of things I learn and then forget. I am hoping that collage and writing will help me remember some important lessons I've gained through life experience. Maybe it will help you too.

You can read my first piece of advice for myself here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Changed My Mind About: Cozy Mocs

About a year ago, Hannah, Jeremy and I arrived at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts for her first Parent Teacher conferences.

Parent Teacher conferences involve a great deal of waiting around. Waiting for the extroverted student volunteers to call our name from the sign up sheet. Waiting for other parents to finish talking to teachers. Waiting for teachers to read the riot act to underperforming students and their parents.

So we're sitting in the hallway waiting, and I started looking around at the other parents, especially the moms. Some of them were in business attire because they came directly from their business type jobs. Some moms were dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirts with the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts logo on them. These clothes are called Spirit Wear.

I was wearing stuff I'd describe as crisp-casual with an artistic flair. After the conferences I did buy some Spirit Wear for myself from the PTA. Of course, I also let Hannah choose some, too.

One mom in particular was sporting a sort of modified Joan Jett rocker look. Others looked distinctly theatrical or artsy. This is to be expected from parents whose children attend an arts intensive high school.

I felt like nothing there could really surprise me. Until I noticed one mom who was dressed perfectly normally except for the fact for the fact that she was wearing bedroom slippers.

Now, god only knows I like to dress for comfort. I'm a stickler for comfort. But I think there are limits. The least one can do is wear shoes when it is time to meet your child's teachers. You need to show them some respect. You need to show yourself some respect.

Less than a week later I was wearing the exact same footwear. I was wearing the shoes I formerly referred to as bedroom slippers everywhere and in public. Here is how it happened. Here is why it happened.

I started to see women younger than myself wearing the shoes formerly referred to as bedroom slippers on the subway, out to dinner, in hip independent coffee shops and at Trader Joe’s. The slow realization came that these might not actually be bedroom slippers. They might be actual shoes.

I discovered that these women looked casual-fashion forward if they happened to be wearing the shows formally known as bedroom slippers with cute, contemporary clothes that were not sweatpants. Wearing them with sweatpants makes you look like you just got out of bed. But wearing them with a skirt and nubby sweater tights looked very city chic meets après ski. Wearing them with dark skinny jeans with cool socks looked very updated preppy in a good way.

The tide really turned when I went to Payless. I am a person who does love clothes. I am a person who does love shoes. I am a person who does love accessories.  I am a person who does not love spending a lot of money on these things. So I go to a lot of discount places. Most of what I see is crap or not my style. I'm looking for the diamond in the rough. I love it when I find this.

I was at Payless looking for some flats to go with a sheath dress I'd bought for an upcoming event.

I didn't like any of the flats. Some were too glitzy and tacky. The plainer ones looked very 1998 but in a bad way. But then I noticed the shoes formerly known as bedroom slippers not in the slipper section, but in with the shoes. I also looked at them in the window display. That is when I realized unequivocally that these were shoes. These shoes were called Cozy Mocs. That is short for Cozy Moccasins.

Just to be sure I double-checked with the salesgirl. These are shoes, right? Yes.

The next thing I know, I'm trying on some of the Cozy Mocs in my size. They had a fleecy material inside that did not spill to the outside of the shoe. My God. These shoes are like walking on air! I realized it was perfectly acceptable to wear a slipper-like shoe in public. I also realized that wearing a slipper like shoe in public might only be acceptable for a limited time. This cozy shoe style had a limited shelf life.

These are the Cozy Mocs I purchased
 during the legendary trip to Payless.
In other words, I immediately bought myself some Cozy Mocs. I got a fetching and practical pair in black. They looked like a reinvented moccasin. I felt like the black on black sequins elevated them.

In addition to the black ones, I also purchased a pair inspired by camouflage but not slavishly so. In addition to the moccasin/slipper like design these had a little extra bling in the form of camouflage inspired sequins. I wanted something a little unexpected because I like to mix pattern on pattern in an ironic/textured/still tasteful way. Also, Payless was having a BOGO event.

I found the flats I wanted at Marshall's.

Just because I wear the Cozy Mocs in public does not mean I have thrown all caution to the wind. I've got rules.

There are clothes that I don't allow myself to wear with Cozy Mocs.
Aren't these Cozy Mocs nice?

I have a pair of sweatpants. They're navy blue and say Camp Sunshine on them. When we go to camp for the bereavement retreat there, we sometimes buy clothes from their gift shop, either as souvenirs or because we forgot to pack something. Clothes with the Camp Sunshine logo on them are called Camp Sunshine Duds.

I also bought a Frank Sinatra School of the Arts sweatshirt from the PTA. As I mentioned earlier, this is called Spirit Wear. I am not allowed to create an ensemble consisting of Spirit Wear, Camp Sunshine Duds and Cozy Mocs. This is out of the question.

I am not allowed to wear Cozy Mocs with clothes that even mildly evoke cowboys, the wild west, native Americans or Americana in general. I may not wear them with anything referencing a kimono. I will not wear them with a camisole peeking out from a button down shirt. I refuse to wear them with anything silky. If clothing reminds me of lounging or sleep, I cannot wear the Cozy Mocs.

Obviously, Cozy Mocs are not advisable footwear in the summer. They are also passé come spring. Consider them a two-season option.

All other times, I may wear my Cozy Mocs with abandon.

This is not my first experience with slipper type footwear. A few years back, I was not at all interested in fashion. Comfort was my only criteria. This was understandable. I had given birth to three children in four years. One of them had gone through cancer treatment, I was either pregnant, breast feeding or both. Don't flame me for combining these things. I was being followed closely by a top OB/GYN.

The first time I saw Uggs in a window display, I felt a sense of deep affinity. Winter boots and slippers in one seemed like an excellent idea to me. When I saw the price of these boots, I experienced some sticker shock. But soon enough, I had my solution because other companies started making knockoff Uggs at a much lower price point.

Every couple of years, I'd buy a new version of fake Uggs after the old ones sprang a leak. Of course, they felt good. I sort of negotiated with myself about how they looked. On a good day, I felt they looked vaguely Scandinavian. On a not so good day they looked like the damp, dirty footwear version of a Snuggy.

So I instituted a new personal policy. No more fake Uggs. I've stopped wearing them. My standards aren't sky high. But I do have them.

This post is part of a series about things I have changed my mind about. You can read my other writing on this theme here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Stand Corrected

I'm thoughtful. I like to think I bring something to the table in all conversations. One of these things is a healthy sense of perspective.

You're so right! People say a lot. This is fine. I'd be lying if I didn't say it doesn't feel good to be validated.

But sometimes I'm wrong. When this happens I like to get to the acceptance phase as soon as possible. I like to come clean and admit that I'm wrong.

I'm going to be using this blog to write publicly about times where I stand corrected. When something comes up or I remember something from the past, I'll write about it and post it if it's not something that will get me in too much hot water.

This story begins at my kids' elementary school. I was there doing Class Parent stuff. I had one kindergarten kid and one first grader there.

I'd been asked by a teacher at the school to come in and help in her classroom. This teacher was not my kindergartner's teacher or my first grader's teacher. She needed some help filing homework papers.

Of course, I said yes to helping this teacher because the elementary school was a community. Also this teacher needed some help because her own class parent, co-class parent and class parent assistants had fallen down on the job.

The plan was for me to spend a period in there filing papers at her desk while she was out of the room. While she was on break, her class would have a period of art. When she came back, I would exit her room and then go to my Kindergartener's class to help serve the snack I prepared for the class. It was my turn to provide a healthy snack without added  sugar or hydrogenated oils.

I got myself settled into the teacher's chair. I lined up the papers, folders and labels. I started working on my task.

At the same time, an art teacher I'd never seen before entered the classroom. This was the first and last time I ever saw this art teacher. It may have been that she was a substitute art teacher. It may have been that she was a real art teacher but only lasted at this school for a few days. This happened sometimes. The third and final explanation is that the school could only afford a couple of days of art and this was one of them.

An older dad who was also a class parent made a beeline for me. I'd said hello to him a few minutes ago in the hallway.  He was assembling some shelves. The man was always busy.

I was on friendly terms with this older dad. We had a mutual respect for one another due to our respective work ethics. I'm not ashamed of hard work, he liked to say.

Sometimes he could be a bit of a pain in the neck. He could be rigid about how he thought things should be. Sometimes he made a big deal out of little things. I predicted that he was about to do this now.

He approached me with a sense of purpose and importance. Listen, he said. I wanted to catch you before the teacher got started. He took a quick glance at the art teacher.

That lady art teacher has a baby voice. He whispered urgently.

Now I've heard a lot of things from other parents at this school. Allegations of egregiously non-progressive teaching methods in a school that was supposed to be progressive. Someone who brought Frosted Flakes to snack. Someone else at the PA meeting who helped herself to an entire triangle of Brie thinking it was flan.

This was absolutely ridiculous and not worth talking about. I told the dad so much, using the nicest words I could.

He slammed his hand lightly on the desk. He really wanted my attention. He had this look like I'm saying this for your own good.

This room hasn't had a class parent in here for three weeks I say. I've got until next period to finish this filing. I look over at the clock.

Don't say I didn't warn you, he hissed. Then he exited the room to go back to the job he was working on before the petty concern came up. I went back to affixing labels on files, writing kids' names on them, and filing homework.

The art teacher cheerfully unpacked the art supplies from the big, artsy cloth bags she'd brought in. The class eyed her. Some of the kids seemed eager to begin an art project. But many of the kids prepared to test this teacher. That is what they always did whenever the regular teacher was out of the room.

The art teacher addressed the class. Can I have your attention please?

I could feel the blood draining from my head. To say that this teacher had a baby voice was a gross understatement. The teacher had an extreme baby voice.

Excuse my language. This shit was intense.

Once the art teacher got talking to the class, she was really on a roll. Just as I felt I had adjusted to the baby voice, it’d startle me again. I wondered if there was such a thing as a voice disability. Baby voice disorder or whatnot.

This teacher deserved compassion.

It was hard to know where to look. I didn't want to look at the teacher. I didn't want to look at the kids. I didn't want to look at the homework files. I settled on looking out the window. I needed to gather myself.

Then the older dad found another excuse to come in. He and I locked eyes. He saw the look on my face. He gave me a look that said I told you so.

I knew he was right. He knew he was right. I knew he knew he was right. He knew that I knew he was right.

At that point, in a gesture of quiet surrender, I put my head down on the desk. I had no more fight left. I left it there even after the older dad left.

Soon, the regular teacher came back. The class was in bedlam. She clapped three times and applied some expert management techniques. I learned from my kids' teachers that this was called bringing the class back.

Once the class had a semblance of control, she approached me. How were they while I was out? She asked. Pretty terrible, I said truthfully.

The teacher took a deep breath. Do you think it was because of the baby voice? She asked. I mulled that over for a moment. I don't think so. I said. The kids are always like this whenever their classroom teacher is out. It could be a substitute, it could be an enrichment teacher, it could be a lunch aide. Every class in the school is like this, I added so she wouldn't think it was just her class. Because between you and me, it wasn't just her class.

I then went to the other classroom to help serve snack. If I had longer, I could have elaborated. I could have told her that while the baby voice certainly didn't help the kids behave, it wasn't the baby voice's fault. I could have said a lot more about why this happened. But I didn't. I didn't have all day.