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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Living Here.

Today, I told Josh, "I want to really live here."

I've often felt that we haven't really lived in and experienced our homes and towns. We would let work and tiredness overtake us. In Monroe, we did walk to the library a few times and enjoy walks around the historic homes. We bought a Romeo and Juliet drawing at an antique store, rented our duplex from a local lawyer who who wore bow ties and wingtip shoes, and went to the local alternations shop to hem our work pants. But we never went to the Blessings or Blue Moon Cafe or spent an evening at the coffee shop within walking distance. In most of our homes, we've only frequently used a couple of the rooms.

Now that Oliver is bigger and sturdier, we're not so worried about the cats, and we spend most of our time in the living room. I sit in the big green armchair that was in the beach house in which Josh did some of his growing up. This stage of motherhood is often stationery: nursing, preparing to nurse or holding a baby who has passed out after nursing.

Last night, we went for a walk, got the mail, and inspected the playground. I stared at the structure, thinking about how much easier climbing it seemed when I was smaller. But I climbed it, and Josh passed Oliver up to me so that Oliver could go down a yellow slide for the first time. He was a bit bewildered that first time, so I slid alone a few times while he watched and got used to the idea. He liked it after that, and Josh slid with him too. After our walk, we sat on the balcony until the world turned lavender gray. I had brought my book, but I just stared at everything. We watched turtles periscoping with their funny heads. Two heads popped up next to each other, and the turtles' shells bobbed on the surface. I'm wild about watching those turtles. Josh and I intended to stay up, but we both fell dead asleep with Oliver. Oliver never did make it to his crib.

This morning, we slept until 8:30, and Josh took Oliver to the dining room for his breakfast. The blankets were so warm, and I was so comfortable, suspending in that cozy space between dreaming and waking. I looked around the room. Josh is so kind to give me that extra rest time.

Not long later, we all napped together as Oliver was sleepy again. Then, we cleaned up and went to the indoor pool. Oliver began kicking and splashing the moment he was in the water. I thought about how lucky we are to have a pool; a pond with geese, ducks, and turtles, walking space; and a playground right here. With all the water, though, we'll have to make sure Oliver learns to swim early.

We washed the chlorine off Oliver in the shower. He laughed. Josh had mentioned that his mother used to take him and his sister to Taco Bell after swimming lessons, so we had Taco Bell for lunch. Oliver ate his first meat: pureed turkey.

We got ready and dressed Oliver in overalls and his Newsies hat and walked the five minutes to the library. We found the poetry section. I counted only five poetry books there that I had read. We rounded a series of glass walls and found the children's section, where we took turns reading several board books to Oliver. Before we left, Josh got our library cards, and I checked out Ishaguro's Nocturnes even though Forever by Pete Hamill is taking me forever to read (it's good, though). I want to become more well-read in short stories this summer, and Never Let Me Go is one of my favorite books, so I was excited to see Nocturnes.

We took a short walk back in our complex. I wanted to see where the pond leads. We found a shallow, rocky overflow. I saw a female duck floating languidly. Josh said, "Look! She has babies!" I didn't see them at first. Then, I saw two. The mama duck turned, and I saw five: three brown ducklings and two yellow. Josh clambered quietly over the rocks to get a photo, but the mama duck led her babies away. We've often called Oliver our duckling or baby duck.

Josh made burgers (veggie for him and turkey for me), and we watched Paris at Midnight while Oliver nursed and dozed. We hadn't watched a movie in a long time. Both of us like it, especially Brody's Dali and rhinoceros talk. I fed Oliver mixed vegetables and apples, eventually holding him in my lap with a wipe under his chin since the high chair, bouncer, and bib were all abhorrent to him. He ate everything once I wasn't trying to constrain him.

I finished reading The Borrowers Afloat to Josh and Oliver last week, so I continued tonight with the next book I'm reading to them: Little Lord Fauntleroy. The sweet descriptions of Cedric make Josh and I gaze at Oliver is wonder and gratitude. I've never read the book, which is surprising since A Little Princess and The Secret Garden are dear to me.

Josh and I are in the living room now, listening to the static over the monitor. Somewhere in that distorted sound of the fan is our baby's breathing. I think we are living here. I love this city, this apartment, and this family. We are all where we belong.

Professional Fairy Attire: Mints on Silver Paper.

On this day, I was reading at a poetry event on campus and presenting the literary magazine I started for the students, faculty, and staff. I wanted to dress up a bit but still look relaxed and cheerful.

As Josh was taking these photos, the sun suddenly poured through the door to the balcony.

This jacket is special. It's pale, mild blue. The short, gathered sleeves are fun and make suiting in hot weather much cooler. When I see unique colors like this, I take notice.

This necklace, a Christmas present from my mama, doesn't exactly match the outfit, but I'm trying to be less matchy-matchy and get over a fear of wearing more than one color with neutrals. 

I wrote this in my journal: "I do enjoy clothes, makeup, shoes, and jewelry, and I'm glad. They sprinkle a few grains of sugar on my days."

And the reading went well!

 Photo: Jack McDuffie

Pants: Ann Taylor Loft
Top: The Limited
Jacket: The Limited
Shoes: Madden Girl
Necklace: Versona

Professional Fairy Attire: Iced Grape.

Spring came fast, and then winter fought back. I had to start dressing warmly again a couple of weeks ago. This cardigan with rhinestone buttons is a favorite, so I didn't mind taking it out again. Half a cat is in this picture.

There's two-thirds of the cat.

I'm wearing a different shirt! I've been looking for shirts I can wear by themselves since summer is coming (though that wasn't evident on this day). I like tops with details like this.

These earrings were in my Christmas stocking from Mama.

I own one necklace, one scarf, and one pair of pants from Banana Republic. These pants, in the super stretchy Sloan fit, are surprisingly warm. I bought them on a shopping trip with my mom a year and a half ago. I remember she bought a ring at BR. The sales were crazy, and we were pretty thrilled about being able to afford anything at BR!

I don't tire of pinstripes.
...or of purple shoes. These are so fun, and the low heel makes them pretty comfortable.

Pants: Banana Republic
Top: The Limited
Cardigan: Old Navy
Shoes: X Appeal
Earrings: Versona

Professional Fairy Attire: Silver Leaf.

Green is hard to find. But yes, I found that same shirt (which at this point I'd worn, in various colors, for three days in a row)! This outfit was comfortable but felt very grown-up. The green Mary Janes are one of my favorite pairs of shoes, and they have the dressiness of heels but are comfortable enough for my long days.

This watch was on sale for about $10. It looks nicer than it is. I love the sparkly beads and the stretch.

Loft's Julie fit is perfect for me. If I find Julie petites in my size, I really don't even have to try them on. I love that Loft has so many styles and patterns for dress pants. This tiny checker print is fun.

I'm wild about this cardigan. It's my new favorite. I like it so much that I've made it my fun-sweater-that-I-also-wear-to-work. Usually, I don't mix work and play clothes. This sweater's champagne color lets it match anything. The three-quarter sleeves are versatile, and the weave is really warm. Of course, I like the shimmer of the silver thread best of all.

Pants: Ann Taylor Loft
Top: The Limited
Shoes: X Appeal
Cardigan: The Limited
Necklace: Target

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Professional Fairy Attire: Plum Snow Party.

 My mom says that figuring out which styles look and feel good takes a while. Until recently, I rarely saw full skirts, and I thought they would emphasize my hips. But pencil skirts make me a little wary, particularly because they tend to get shorter as I walk. This skirt was on crazy sale online. The only remaining size was one smaller than mine, but the skirt looked so pretty in the photo, I decided to risk it.

Wow. This skirt is so fun and so comfortable. I can take wide strides easily, and the length doesn't change! Even when I sit down, it's basically the same. I felt rather darling all day. No, I'm not wearing white tights. I only burn in the sun, so I decided long ago to embrace my outer Snow White. It does make the auburn hair look more natural!

Does this top look familiar? It's another shade of that cap sleeve tee! This jewel tone purple is so luxurious and makes me feel so fancy. I'll probably wear this one out first. And oh, the shiny purple T-straps are so fun. This is the challenge in the way I dress for work: how can I look professional but still unique and express myself? Josh says that dressing is just another way for me to express myself and enjoy life. I'm glad I have a husband who thinks that way.

I think I've written about this magical necklace. The designer must have been thinking of me. It's the most expensive necklace I've ever purchased ($50ish), but I've never regretted it for a second. It's just enchanting. This definitely seems like an outfit for a snow sprite party in a frosted grape arbor.

Top: The Limited
Skirt: The Limited
Shoes: X Appeal (Rack Room)
Necklace: Betsy Johnson

Professional Fairy Attire: Polished Metal.

I felt like being monochromatic and relatively casual on this day. This top (cap sleeve tee) is from The Limited, and I have it in several colors. Basic tops are so important, and I build all kinds of outfits around these with jackets, cardigans, and necklaces. They're soft knit, and the banding around the neck makes them look a bit nicer than most tees. I got these cute little crops at The Limited a couple of years ago. I was teaching and slowly building my wardrobe, and these seemed like a good way to bear the Carolina heat while looking professional. Heels dress them up.

And these heels are perfect! I saw them on Zappos but bought them super cheap(ly?) on Amazon. They're Madden Girl, Steve Madden's younger and less expensive line. I'd been searching almost two and a half years for gray heels. They're surprisingly rare, especially in round toe and low heel. The bows make them interesting. These are probably the most comfortable heels I own. I wish I had them in the black and burgundy versions too!

My mom put this necklace in my Christmas stocking. Stocking stuffers don't get much better. Most of my favorite necklaces are from Loft's crazy sales. I love the thin silver chain on this one. Instead of having several chains that tangle, this one has layered segments. It can still tangle but not as much, and I don't get so confused about how to layer the strands. The little shimmery gray bows, pearls, and silver flower charms are darling. The one pale blue porcelain rose is my favorite charm.

Josh and I recently put our vision insurance to good use and got new glasses. We'd had ours for four years (frames and lenses!). I got my squarish, tortoise shell-ish ones in a rush, reluctant to admit that I needed glasses at all. My recent headaches, however, reminded me that I do need them, and that I need to wear them most of the time instead of just at work and while I'm driving. So I wanted some fun glasses. I knew I wanted an interesting color, wide temples, and some embellishment. These were perfect, and the woman who helped me was delighted that I was "brave enough" to try them. I love the shiny black, the slightly rounded shape and wink to the cat-eye style, and the silver and rhinestone squares on each side. I barely take my glasses off now, and I feel prettier. They seem like me. My mom complimented them a few times (I'm not sure if any praise is more exciting to me than my mother's, especially regarding anything beauty or fashion-related since she is, well, lovely and stylin') and even wanted to try them on. They're like jewelry I wear every day, and they have other benefits such as giving everything sharp edges and making the world seem more three-dimensional.

Eyeglasses: Catherine Deneuve
Top: The Limited
Crops: The Limited
Heels: Madden Girl
Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sweet Saturday.

On Friday night, I found out that a man who was a family friend and whom I admired since I was twelve, a brilliant though troubled and flawed man, had died. I was sitting on a white blanket with multicolored snowflakes on it, with my journal, books, and pens around me. Josh had said I was adorable with my treasures spread out like that, ready to stay up late and have fun after an exhausting 56-hour week.

I cried that night and again in the morning when I had that awful moment of remembering. But I did pick up my pen again that night, and in the morning, I asked Josh to open the blinds. The sun poured in, casting the rippling reflection of the pond over my white wicker wardrobe. I layered on pajamas, and we went all went out to the balcony. I sat in the reclining chair and held Oliver while I had peanut butter fudge cookies (a Girl Scout knock-off) and Dr. Pepper. Josh sat at the mosiac-tiled bistro table with his vegetarian sausage, Diet Sundrop, and pink-frosted Pop-Tart. We stayed out there until my skin felt the prickle of impending sunburn.

I felt active, seeking life. We took quick showers. I put on my black swimsuit with white polka dots, my pink seahorse flips, and my pink terrycloth cover dress. I put a Tigger swim diaper on Oliver. We walked to the heated indoor pool.

This was only Oliver's second swim (the first was months ago when we first moved into our apartment), and we weren't sure what to expect. He took to the water immediately, smiling, pedaling, and splashing. One of us would hold him, and the other would swim alongside. Oliver would watch the swimmer's legs and kick. We kept swimming for almost an hour, Josh and I taking turns with the camera.

Oliver had trouble with teething later, but Josh picked up Panera. We started at the round black table in our dining space, but then, I looked through the sliding door and said, "Let's eat outside." So we brought out Oliver's bouncer and toys and ate at the bistro table, watching the geese. When Oliver was ready for bed, we all lay down as I nursed him, my arms around Oliver and Josh's arms around both of us, Oliver nestling close. We slept for a couple of hours before Josh took Oliver to his room and crib. And like John Green's Pudge in Looking for Alaska, "we realized over and over again that we were still alive" (241).

Profressional Fairy Attire: Teal Label Champagne.

This was a good outfit for a Monday. My boss said, "You look fresh today." I felt sophisticated but a little magical, which is how I like to feel when I go to work: appropriate but myself. This outfit also felt like spring with a memory of winter. The skirt is a hand-me-down from my mother, one of the first pieces in my work wardrobe. The blue, light cardigan with gold thread seems like something a fairy would make.

These beautiful heels are braids of silky champagne ribbon. I'd been looking for a long time for neutral heels that were comfortable and unique. These have the perfect heel height, they're round toe, and they're a little twelve-dancing-princesses. Perfect.

A couple of Mother's Days ago, I gave my mom two necklaces and a pair of earrings from Loft. One necklace was this one in gold and rose. Later, I happened upon this silver and blue version on absurd sale. I was excited that she and I would have the same necklace, each in our own version: hers like the rose fairy and mine like the snow fairy.

Oh, and that blush, which is just right for my pale skin (and a little shimmery) is Too Faced Snow Bunny bronzer.

Skirt: Liz Claiborne
Tank Tops: Ann Taylor Loft and Target
Cardigan: Charlotte Russe
Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft
Shoes: Jellypop

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Professional Fairy Attire: Feeling Prettier (January).

This was when I really started to enjoy my clothes again and feel good about the way I looked. I made a pretty big mistake on this day, though: I wore a dress. I didn't think about this until I tried to pump at work. I haven't worn a dress to work since, and I probably won't until I stop nursing (which I hope will not be any time soon). Still, this dress is the first one I bought for work. I nearly croaked over spending $60 or $70 on a dress. I've worn it dozens of times, though, and not just to work.

I think I've posted an outfit with this cardigan before. These heels are the ones my mom gave me for Christmas before I began my first teaching job. I can see in this photo how much my stomach had flattened. Even now, it's not like it was before I got pregnant, though I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
My mom put this beautiful grey pearl cluster headband in my Christmas stocking last year. She found it at that magical shop, Versona. I felt pretty on this day, and I use this last photo for work.

Dress: Ann Taylor Loft
Cardigan: Old Navy
Tights: DKNY
Heels: Nine West
Headband: Versona

Professional Fairy Attire: Purple Pearls (January).

I wore this on the first day of my other classes. In this picture, I can see again how different I looked just a few months ago. I've already posted a photo of this layered purple pearl and cut bead necklace. I use this dark purple tank top constantly, either under a jacket or cardigan or as a layer under another shirt to fix sheer material or a low neck.

The jacket is one of my first pieces of professional clothing. For Christmas a few weeks after I got my first adjunct teaching job but before I started it, my mom gave me this jacket along with a few other necessities (black heels, a black silk short-sleeved shirt, and a purple cardigan). I wore it on my first day of teaching.

Around this time, I suddenly found that I could actually button my pants. No more BeBand! I had missed interesting patterns like this tiny white pinstripe on charcoal. 

My mom taught me that DKNY tights are best, especially the opaque black. She waits until they go on major sale. I've had these for over two years, and they haven't run.

The shoes are another Rack Room wonder. They're T-straps (Mary Jane's sassy sister). They're shiny. They're purple. They're amazing.

Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft
Tank Top: Ann Taylor Loft
Jacket: Jones New York
Pants: Ann Taylor Loft
Tights: DKNY
Shoes: X Appeal (Rack Room)

Professional Fairy Attire: Winter Woodland (January).

I wore this chocolate suit on the first day of classes this semester. The set came with both pants and a skirt!

This green V-neck is one of my favorite shirts. It's soft, and I can wear it for work or play. I like to dress up on the first day of classes to set the tone with my students, and I'll dress formally every now and then to keep them on their toes. I find this is especially important since I am a woman and young. Some of my students are twice my age.

The scarf was a last minute purchase at Loft. I spotted it in the check-out line, and it was too pretty to ignore. It was one of the first times I bought something like that just because I found it beautiful (it wasn't necessary). I do that more often now. I didn't wear scarves nearly enough this winter.

 I adore these shoes. I saw them at Rack Room a couple of years ago. Mom was down the row, and I called to her and held up the shoes. "Are those green?!?" she squealed. I found these when I first fell in love with green. My love for round toe shoes and Mary Janes isn't new. These were perfect, and I wear them as often as I can.

Suit: Kasper
Scarf: Ann Taylor Loft
Tights: DKNY
Shoes: X Appeal (Rack Room)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Professional Fairy: Winter Plum (January).

This was one of my first outfits this semester. I should have gotten a close-up of the "luxe herringbone" pants; they have silver thread. My mom and I refer to these boots as the Star Trek Boots. She handed them down to me when I began teaching. This is the warm cardigan with rhinestone buttons. The wine purple long-sleeved tee is Merona. Merona tees are so soft.

I felt pretty good because my hair had grown long enough that I didn't have to wear a headband, and my body was returning to normal post-pregnancy.

Josh bought me this gorgeous coat two Christmases ago. It's plum wool, and I always feel warm and elegant (a difficult combination to reach) when I wear it. These cute, purple, convertible gloves (mittens to fingerless) are from Target, and they're wonderful. My hands get so cold that I sometimes start work still wearing those gloves.

Boots: Franco Sarto
Pants: Ann Taylor Loft
Top: Target
Cardigan: Old Navy
Necklace: Ann Taylor Loft
Coat: Ann Taylor Loft
Gloves: Target

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pink Sidewalks.

Spring has been sprinkling its pastel glimmers everywhere. Not long ago, I began seeing trees dressed in frilly white blossoms or dripping with wisteria earrings as I drove home from work. My apartment complex's sidewalks and parking spaces were pale pink with fallen petals. All this made me want to believe in fairies and to see and embrace the woodland elves who live with me.

The wisteria is fading to gray now, but the willow beside our balcony is in leaf, and the grass by the pond is bright green. We sat on the balcony today. Oliver was warm enough in his diaper as he sat in his bouncer, and I fed him squash and peas (he'd had the tastier foods--bananas and oatmeal and rice cereal and sweet potatoes--earlier in the day). Josh brought the expensive, spicy candle out onto the mosaic bistro table, and the scent rode the breeze. I wrote in red glitter in my red and silver journal. Oliver watched me, rapt, and I let him hold the pen. Before he tried to eat it, he scribbled a little. I marked the scribbles as his first drawing. Josh sees a sailboat, waves, and a mountain. I can see them too. I wonder what summits Oliver will sail toward.

I've been wearing jean capris from Target (Fit 4 is perfect for curvy hips and small waists) or a strawberry pink cotton dress from Old Navy and Big Buddha canvas flats covered with silver glitter. I ordered rose pink dress pants from The Limited; I'll enjoy those once I find someone to hem them.

At work, I've been wearing cropped pants, polka dot tops (black on white, white on black, white on navy, raspberry on white), shimmery neutrals from Stila's In the Light eyeshadow palette (my first Stila! I bought one for myself when I bought one for my mom for her birthday), and summery button-down blouses I bought for absurdly little (BOGOFF and teacher discount!) at New York and Company. The Limited has also granted two wishes: more green (a beautiful gemstone green short-sleeved top) and more polka dots + a grown-up rain coat (black trench with white polka dots--also reversible to solid black--50% off!). I'm pondering heels in dove gray, dark pink, teal, and pale sea green, and I'm wondering if I have the courage to wear dress pants in aqua, salmon, or indigo. Since this color block trend is so major, and though I don't like the crazy mixes of electric blue with tropical yellow (for instance), this does seem like a good time to store up color (and polka dots). 

Work has been madness, particularly since a lone student editor (who, fortunately, is fantastic) and I have been creating a new literary magazine for the school. But Josh now keeps my peanut butter fudge cookies (faux Tagalongs) in the freezer, and they're crisp like Magic Shell. We've been watching Downton Abbey, Once Upon a Time, and Flight of the Conchords. I've been reading in earnest again, often dovouring a book each week. I've recently read What Alice Forgot (wonderful! It felt original, kept me fascinated without wearing me out, and made me ponder relationships and choices) and The End of Everything (brilliant writing, like a prose poem, but extremely unsettling not only in plot but also in the startling clarity with which the author remembers the experience of being a thirteen-year-old girl--not something I was prepared to remember). I went to a visiting writer presentation at school this week, and though it was interesting, my attention kept wandering to the fiction shelf beside which I had, foolishly, sat. I kept touching books, pulling them out, and studying their jackets. I love finding books I had no intention of finding. I checked out Forever by Pete Hamill.

Josh tirelessly prepares my lunches, sets on the round black table everything I need for each day, lets me sleep for an extra hour on Saturdays, rubs my back, and tells me I'm lovely. This quotation of Burnett's from The Secret Garden reminded me of him today: "Mary could scarcely bear to leave him. Suddenly it seemed as if he might be a sort of wood fairy who might be gone when she came into the garden again. He seemed too good to be true." He is my Dickon and my key-pecking robin. What a sour, unhappy, ill, and unpleasant Mary I was before he appeared.

Oliver could have been a Colin, but he isn't. I hope, though, that he will discover and love magic. He is another sort of Dickon, a small one who laughs at and reaches for cats, touches our faces and sings, and longs to run.

Oliver gives kisses with wild generosity now. He gazes at me with intoxicated wonder, reaches out, holds my face with both hands, leans forward with an open mouth, and plants his kiss on my check, chin, or nose. It is the brightest enchantment I've ever encountered, and it sends me out in the world with a trail of fairy dust. Everywhere I walk should be a carpet of pink and shimmer; I just have to remember to see it.