Alone Again, Naturally

So a few weeks ago I had a wonderful solo overnight at a hotel. This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending a few days alone at my home. My daughter and Husband were off to see the second of the colleges that my daughter is choosing between for their accepted students day. I was in charge of the pets…

Can I just tell you how much fun I had being alone?

I ate pancakes for dinner one night. And no one made a face. See I love pancakes, but I never get to eat them on a regular basis: we tend to be lunch people on the weekends and skip breakfast, and during the week I stick to eggs or yogurt. When I’ve made pancakes for dinner, my family scoffs: they don’t have the same pancake love that I do. But with no one to answer to, I made yummy pancakes and fresh strawberry sauce and I was the happiest person on earth.

I slept in the middle of the queen size bed. For the record, I’m beginning to understand why husbands and wives had separate bedrooms- you get to sleep in the middle of the bed and it really is delightful. No one snores. (and I mean that for both parties because neither of us is immune to snoring) I got to open up the shades when I woke up. I stayed up late reading because no one complained about the glare of my ereader. I made the bed as soon as I got up!!! Who knew how much better my routine would be without someone else sharing a bedroom?

The day my family left, I was texting a friend. She asked what I was going to do with my three days of freedom. Movie on Friday. Art exhibit on Saturday. Play on Sunday. G asked who I was going with and I stopped for a second. “Alone” I texted. I was going to everything by myself. I made plans and I just didn’t even think to invite anyone. Didn’t even think to invite anyone.

Admittedly, many of my NYC friends were also doing accepted student days at various colleges, so in my mind I knew that most were away. But I didn’t even reach out to my other friends…I just looked at the things I wanted to do. I searched out things that would make me happy and I totally wanted to do. I bought tickets and wrote times down in my planner. I relished the silence.

You know there was organizing involved. Drawers emptied, items tossed or donated or reorganized. I had contents all over the floor and table and no one was around to complain. I fixed the shredder and delighted in shredding junk.

Of course I read. Fun, interesting books just meant to be savored with no one asking me for anything. Even the pets cooperated- the dog not being as hyper as usual, the cat content to snuggle up next to me on the couch.

I don’t see any solo time in the foreseeable future- I see days and weeks and months of familial activity ahead. And that will be nice….I think….

But yes- there is a beauty to being alone…

I just hope I don’t get too used to it…


All By Myself

A few weeks ago I went to the accepted students day at a college my daughter is considering. There would be two days of parent and student workshops and such, plus my daughter would have the opportunity to stay  overnight on campus. Obviously I needed to get a room somewhere for the night.

Conveniently I was able to get a room at the hotel across the street from the campus at a reasonably good rate via TripAdvisor. Because things happen, I got an email the day before I was supposed to leave from the conduit that took my reservation: they made a mistake- they did not have the room I requested available. Would I like another room, or did I want my money back?

Well, I needed a room. And this was the only hotel not a cab ride away, so I emailed them and said I would take whatever they had- honestly- I had just booked the cheapest room- I didn’t really care where I stayed as long as it was clean, had a bed and indoor plumbing.

It turns out, the room they gave me was a two room suite with a jetted tub and a balcony.


I was going to be all alone. I didn’t have to share it with anyone.

A friend of mine said too bad your family couldn’t join you.

And I said “Are you kidding me? I just wish I had more time there.”

I finished the parent dinner and practically raced back to the hotel. I ran into other Mom’s I had met and I could tell they were itchy being alone. When we entered we all went to the bar. They ordered cocktails. I ordered a glass of milk to go….I had tea bags burning a hole in my pocket and a coffee maker just waiting to boil water. The thought of being able to drink a cup of tea without anyone bothering me was heaven.

I watched HGTV. I talked with some friends. Took a soak. Read my book. Drank hot tea. Slept in the middle of the bed.

King size bed.

Slept right in the center.

What does it say that I didn’t sleep in my “spot”?

Who knows?

Who cares?

I had a night with no responsibility.

And I loved it.

The next day one of my friends asked how my solo hotel experience went. I just smiled. It was nice not being a Mom, or a wife, or a dog walker, cat feeder, housecleaner, organized….

It was nice just being me.



The Fit

We use clothes to help us fit in.


Even if we are brimming with confidence, many of us feel the need to look the part. One of my NYC friends will be attending a wedding in ruralish North Carolina this fall. When I was talking to her the other day, she was already obsessing. And the wedding isn’t till October.

“I have nothing to wear!” She whined.

“How about that cute black dress” I asked

“Gee. I won’t stand out like a New Yorker at all in that…”

And this went back and forth for awhile, her ruling out every dress she owned and me asking her to video chat her closet to me so I could talk her off the wall. She became obsessed with wanting to fit in, though she had absolutely no idea what fitting in would entail. I asked  her “what about the nice navy, just wear it with a chunky heel neutral shoe”, because I’m betting outdoors will be involved in some way. She started trolling clothing websites no matter what I said. And I could already envision her putting the new dress up for sale on her local Mom website because she was going to buy a dress she didn’t like just because of her need to be part of the group.

This is where dressing for yourself and dressing for the occasion and location collide.

Sure- we have some sort of inbred desire to be part of the group. I’m going to say it’s probably something to do with our evolutionary need to survive- fitting in is sort of like camouflage- if we blend in we won’t get hunted. And by hunted I mean talked about. No one wants to walk into a room and feel that everyone is talking about them. And if we don’t feel comfortable in what we are wearing, if we feel out of place, we’re going to think that every conversation entails people saying “Can you believe she’s wearing that?”  Every time someone looks at us we think they’re staring with disdain and derision. If we don’t feel like we’re part of the group we’re going to check the mirror about a thousand times, pull down hems, readjust sleeves….and be miserable…

I get wanting to fit in via clothes. And traveling to a different environment cements this in. I can tell a tourist in NYC by their clothes. Just like you can tell I’m a tourist when I visit someplace else. Different parts of the country have different dress codes. But how much do we accede to regional dress? If we visit the southwest do we immediately put on cowboy boots? If we go south do we wear pastels? Do we automatically shift to our environment? Change the camouflage? Seek to fit in?

I will tell anyone visiting NYC in the spring to have waterproof shoes and layers. But that’s not to fit in: that’s about being comfortable with the varied weather patterns that NYC presents. I would never tell someone to just pack black. To me fitting in means being ready for the weather.

When we visited different parts of the country last summer I did not bring “Southern” clothes or “Midwest” clothes. I brought my clothes. My collection of black, grey and olive t shirt dresses. My comfy black sandals. My white sneakers. I did bring a function over form bag that I don’t normally use at home, but that was because I really needed the function. And I didn’t care that people knew where I was from before I opened my mouth and my accent spewed out. I was OK with my way of dressing. I am OK with my way of dressing.

When you travel, you travel. The person that you are. Just wear what makes you comfortable and happy. The rest will fall into place.

Though really- there’s nothing wrong with a nice pair of cowboy boots…






What Should I Wear?

Yesterday one of my friends texted in our ever going group chat:

Friend: OMG Just got asked to speak at a national conference in x.

Me: Congrats! So awesome! Love that city! What an honor! What are you going to wear?

So no matter what I say or do, it really all comes down to “What am I going to wear.”

Ann said the same thing yesterday. She stated that she now knows who she is, knows what makes her comfortable, but there are times when you inevitably ask that question…Yes- most of us have reached the age where we have our look or our uniform. We have stores we frequent and styles we prefer. We know who we are and are confident enough to own it.


There are still moments when we look at our date book, look in our closets, and just go “Hmmmm”

I have my evening event look, and I have my day event look. That’s easy. I don’t even think about what to wear to a wedding or funeral. But what about those curve balls? My tea society is having a summer event in June- the invite says dress or suit please. OK. I can do that. But then it says “Hats optional.”

Hats optional?

And I don’t mean baseball caps. I know what kind of Kentucky Derby, Sunday church hat that is being spoken of. So do I buy a hat for the occasion? Or do I sit there and be the only person not wearing a hat? It really doesn’t matter: I don’t think anyone is going to .point at me and hiss “Traitor!” But should I wear a hat?

Where do I even buy a hat?

The colleges that my daughter has been accepted to have meet and greets. This was a troubling one for me. Do I go business like, or is that too much? How casual is casual? What’s the proper middle of the road look? (For the record, I went with black dress, grey long cardigan and black flats) Yes, I was far too worried about what the other parents would think of me.

What it comes down to for me is that I want to be myself, so I stick to my neutral palette. Fine. But I neither want to stick out, nor blend in the crowd. I want to have my own individual stamp, but I don’t want everyone staring at me when I enter a room. Unless of course I’m winning an award and then stare all you like. Sort of like a non conforming conformist…

Yeah.  I know. That doesn’t really make sense. But do you kind of know what I mean?

I wonder if I’ll ever be completely at ease as far as wardrobe is concerned. I’m in capris and a t shirt right now and I am content and comfortable. It is the perfect outfit for writing and errands. And 98% of the time I am totally confident in my look. But that other 2%? I just think there will always be that little sliver of time when I have that little sliver of doubt. I think that 98% of the time I dress for myself and myself alone: but that little tiny 2%? I think that I’m dressing for someone else. And whenever you are doing something for an audience you have that certain hesitation- You second guess yourself. You wonder if you should take a risk, or if you should play it safe. What will X think of me if I wear this outfit? Will they think I’m beautiful, sexy, smart, powerful? Or will they think I’m trying to hard? Or not trying hard enough?

In the end, I think I will always be plagued by those four little words “What should I wear?”




I’m Just Being Myself

Yesterday I wrote a post about how I realized that I have created a uniform of sorts: I have a basic layer and then I add something to show the direction in which I need to carry myself for the day. Ally mentioned that we should always be ourselves when we dress, which I agree with. We should always wear what makes us comfortable and feel confident.


I love the show “Modern Family”. There’s an episode where the family goes to Disneyland, and Gloria (true to herself) go in high heels. To Disney. After complaining for awhile, Jay guys her slippers. After she puts them on she is much happier. Now I know this is a sit com, and I know they go to extremes to prove a point, but think about the underlying principle: Gloria is an incredibly sexy character who is always dressed sexy, including heels. It is who she is. But…she’s going to an amusement park. Does she need to totally be herself in this environment? Or should she adapt?

Say you’re a jeans and t shirt kind of person. Say you get invited to a cocktail party. Do you show up in jeans and t shirt? Do you proudly walk in with your levi’s and proclaim “Hello world! I’m just a denim sort of person?” Or do you wear something different? What about a wedding? Funeral? Holiday?

Are there times when we need to adjust who we are by wearing something different?

Dress codes in schools or work places? You know I hate them because I think they rip the individuality out of everyone and are maintained by an arbitrary board which actually has no rhyme or reason to it. But does a school or employer have the right to tell you what to wear? Or are you allowed to be true to yourself?

What about dress codes at events? A few years back we were invited to a 40th birthday party where we were told we had to wear white. I wore a white dress and hated it. I felt uncomfortable the whole night. In this instance, it was a party that I had to attend- there was no going around it. But what do you do in this instance? Do you not go to the party? Do you wear what you want and stand out? Or do you suck it up?

How far do we go in order to be ourselves?

So….do you have a look or style that defines you? Do you dress to suit the occasion or yourself?


The Uniform

I realized something the other day: I have a uniform.

I was getting dressed to go out to something. I pulled out a simple black dress, put it on and then went back to my closet. I pulled out a white/black tweed blazer, a camo jacket and a long grey cardigan. I held up the tweed jacket and showed my daughter.

“That makes you look like Madam Secretary Mom.”

Down went the tweed jacket.

I held up the camo jacket.

“Are we storming the building?” she responded.

I held up the grey cardigan.

“Ok. That works. You don’t look as scary as you usually do.”

Finally, I found my persona for the day.

It was then I realized that I have a very organized and methodical approach to dressing. For the most part, my under layer is very simple: plain dress in black, grey or olive, or black shirt and black pants. My underlayer is plain, generic and practical. Sort of like me- at my base I am very simple. But them I add another layer- cardigan, jacket, scarf, jewelry, whatever, and poof! Everything changes. I am no longer plain. I no longer recede into the background. I become who I need to be that day.

Like it or not, clothing is one of the first things people notice about you. It’s literally the wrapping with which you present yourself. From a distance you might not be able to make out facial features, but you notice jeans, or a dress, or whatever.

We also choose clothes to make us feel something. Sometimes we want to feel confident, or mature, or scary. Sometimes we want to blend into the woodwork. Maybe we want to impress someone, or intimidate someone. All these things can be accomplished with clothes.

There are days I need to be Madam Secretary Mom. There are days I need to be cool LA. And there are days I need to be less scary than I normally am. I use my wardrobe to help me with this. I am always the same underneath:  introverted, sarcastic, clever. talkative in the right circumstances, and logical. But sometimes I need to highlight certain parts of me: if you look the part, you can fake it till you make it.

I guess this is why a capsule wardrobe works for me. I have moods and personas, but at my heart I am always the same person. I don’t need a lot of clothing to amplify who I am: I can accomplish that with a jacket type thing and accessories- all it takes is a little tweak.

In my younger days I had a closet full of all different types of clothing. I used to wear color. But now, with age comes wisdom and confidence. I now know who I am in my heart. True, we are always evolving, finding different interests and likes and dislikes, but I like who I am on the inside. Which makes me unafraid to wear what I like on the outside.



Back to the Mundane

I was talking to one of my favorite people the other night. Basically  N said, “Lighten up Francis. Stop getting so deep.” I tried to come up with another line from “Stripes” but when I couldn’t I knew what N meant. I was completely in my head, and I knew that I had to cease thinking.

So what do I do when I need to shut off my brain?

Clothes or organizing.

I have been preparing my capsule wardrobe this year, and as spring is approaching (in NYC anyway- I hear other parts of the country are expecting snow) and I was working on shoes. When I took down the box of spring shoes I realized I hated the three pairs of spring flats that I own.

Three pairs.

Hated all three.

To the point of, what was I thinking when I bought these shoes.

They are all flat and black. One has a really pointy toe and was reminiscent of those Mia shoes that we all wore in the 80’s. So maybe it was nostalgia that pushed me and those shoes to the cash register. I loved the 80’s. I loved those shoes back in the day. But through the lens of a woman of a certain age, these shoes were ugly and uncomfortable. Why do I want to wear pointy toe shoes? Especially because these were supposed to be comfortable walking around shoes. Who can walk around in a pointy toe without wincing in pain? Certainly not me. And ugly. Did I mention ugly. Donate.

The next pair are flat and have a peep toe. What is it between me and funky toe shoes? In my mind I think, well, if I need to wear flat shoes because flat shoes are more comfortable for walking around, then I might as well find ones with a little flourish. Flourish? Ha. Sure, these cute peep toes with the little rhinestone embellishment might look cute, but they are deathtraps. Deathtraps. Your toes don’t know quite where to go- are they supposed to be in the shoe? Are they supposed to peek out of the shoes? And them you get blisters and cuts on really odd parts of your feet. Donate.

The final pair confound me. They are a simple ballet flat. For the record, I love a black ballet flat for spring. They are my favorite spring shoe. Rounded toe. Cute without being overly fussy. Makes me pretend I’m Audrey Hepburn for a few minutes. And when I found these little ballet flats on sale, I thought I hit the mother load. They were soft and squishy, lightweight. I thought they were the perfect walking around shoe. Except…soft and squishy seems great. And it is great. In a household slipper. When you are walking on forgiving floors, soft and squishy is the way to go. But walking miles on city streets? Sidewalks. Concrete. The occasional cobblestone or brick? Well, then soft and squishy is a veritable death sentence for your feet. I ended up with blisters on my heels so big I no longer had an actual heel. And the pain. OMG the pain my feet would be in after wearing these shoes. Soaking them in cold water to bring down the inflammation of the soles of my feet. Donate to my worst enemy.

So how did I end up with three of the worst pairs of shoes ever?

Form and function jumbled up in my brain. I don’t always like the thought of getting older. I sometimes long for my younger days when I could wear anything on my feet and be fine. And since shoes are way more forgiving than clothes, I thought I could retain some of my youth via shoes.

Big mistake.

Sometimes you have to accept reality for what it is. I walk around a lot and my feet hurt if I don’t wear comfortable shoes suited to walking around. I might need to push form to the side a little bit more. Or I have to figure out ways of finding cute, comfy shoes.

So I donated the three worst pairs of black flats ever. My spring shoe wardrobe is a pair of white canvas sneakers, calf high black moto boots, grey toms and a shoe to be named later. I am presently searching for a comfortable ballet flat that can be worn when I need to be a little more dressed up. And when I want to feel like Audrey Hepburn.

Does College Choice Really Matter


It doesn’t matter at all where you go to college. It doesn’t matter if you go to college. It doesn’t matter if you drop out of college.

People are under the mistaken impression that college makes you successful. This is simply not true. College doesn’t make you a success. You make yourself a success.



We got that out of the way.

But….because you knew there would be a but. It’s me after all, the person who was called “Yeah but” in her first post college job because I was always reinventing the wheel. And guess what made me successful in my first job? The fact that I was always questioning things. See, in high school and college, I was a slacker. I didn’t study unless I loved the subject. (Hence- English major. I love to read, so those classes were actually effortless) So, where I went to college, how much I studied, didn’t really matter. I made myself into a viable human….


When my daughter was younger, about third grade (the year everything changes in NYC public school system, because here, standardized test scores matter) I told her some things. I told her that her grades didn’t matter to me. How hard she did, or didn’t study didn’t effect me at all- I don’t put her stats in my resume. I told her that what she did mattered to her. I told her that sure, I had a really nice job even though I didn’t work hard early on. But I also told her that I had to work really really hard to get to a higher position. I started about one step above the mail room, because that’s where people who slack off often start out, and I worked five times harder than anyone else. And got recognized. And then worked ten times harder than anyone else. And got noticed. And on and on, but you get the idea. I told my daughter that being successful in what you want was not going to be easy, but the more work and grit she put in along the way would create opportunities for her, opportunities that would not be available to a mere mortal. I explained to her that you work hard and do well so that you have opportunity.

Now here’s where the schools come in.

My daughter and I visited a “highly ranked” school the past two days for their accepted students day. (If you look at the US News and World Report rankings, you don’t have to go too far from the top to find this school.) How much does this name and this rank actually mean?

Here are my observations:

  1. Kids attended classes to get a feel of what being a student at this school actually entailed. My daughter sat in two classes. When I caught up with her later on she had a big smile of her face. She said it was exactly what she hoped to find at a school, exactly what her version of college was. Ten students sitting around a table, the teacher giving them talking points and ideas, and everyone batting things around.
  2. Kids attended panel discussions about research, intern, fellowship and study abroad opportunities. They pummeled the panel with questions and then when the panelists went to the four corners of the atrium they lined up to ask a billion questions about how to accomplish all these things.
  3. Advisors, both major related and pre professional, stood in rooms and explained to eager students how they will help them pursue their goals.
  4. Students organizations held a fair to talk about all the amazing groups the students could join on campus.
  5. Some upperclassmen talked about what they are working on while at school. If you ever want to feel inferior, sit in on one of these panels. When the twenty year old stands up at the podium and tells you that he is a recording artist who sells out small venue shows, started a foundation to bring clean water to places where they don’t have access, and is scheduled to graduate in five years with a Masters in being in charge of the world, or something like that, you kind of reflect on you life for a second or two.


Does where you go to college matter?


Unless you are one of these students who thrive on being in an atmosphere that nurtures their goals and dreams.

There are students who want to study at particular universities and colleges because these places quite simply hold the keys to their dreams. These institutions allow them the ability to think and learn and grow. They provide them with teachers who give them ideas to ponder. They provide them with state of the art equipment to further their research and learning. They help them write grant proposals and fellowship applications. They advise them as to which courses will help them grow as a student and a person. They help them see the possibilities that they didn’t even know existed.

This is why some students really want to go to a particular school. These students are the ultimate optimists. They believe in the value of their dreams. (that’s Eleanor Roosevelt, not my words) They believe there are dreams that they don’t even know about yet. And they believe that certain schools will give them opportunities.

Does where you go to college matter?


Unless it does.


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The opposite side of the college admissions process is the college acceptance process. Sometimes you get accepted into multiple schools and you need to make a choice.

How do you make a choice?

Well, if you live in our household you make a list of all the things that are important to you in a college, and you assign each category a numerical quantity. Then you tally them up and see which school wins.

It also helps to revisit the schools in question, which is what my daughter and I are doing today.

She is torn between two amazing universities and they are almost equal in her eyes. We are currently at accepted students day at school A. Next week she will visit school B. And after visiting school B, hopefully there will be a decision!

Who Deserves a Spot

So, thanks to a few indictments and arrests, we all know the lengths parents will go to get their children into college. Paying people to take standardized tests. Photoshopping sports pictures. Outright bribes to athletic directors. Crazy, right?

Obviously, we know that getting into college via any one of these days is wrong. Not only is it illegal, it is immoral. It’s cheating of the highest order. These kids do not belong in the schools because they are not as qualified as others who were rejected. They took spots of kids who “deserve” them.

How many kids do you think got into college via the cheating method by their parents? I’m going to say a small percentage. Yes- it happens. Is it a large part of the system? I don’t think so.

But what are other ways kids get into college that could be deemed unfair?

Let’s talk legacies. Legacies are people who have a family history at a particular school. Most often it’s thought of as parents, but can also include grandparents and siblings. There is a misconception that legacies automatically get into a school no matter how bad a student they are. I am going to tell you that is a pretty inaccurate statement. My Daughter has friends and classmates who are legacies. And I am also going to tell you that NOT ONE of her friends who are legacies got into the familial alma mater. Not one. And these are good bordering on exceptional students with all the earmarks of a child that should have a spot. As the admissions counselor at one Ivy said “If we took all the legacies the incoming class size would be about 25,000. So no- people do not get into a school just because there parent went there. In fact, last year at my kid’s school, ten kids applied to a particular Ivy and nine of them were legacies. One child was accepted. And you know that it wasn’t the legacy…

And how about the legacies that are real good with donations. My neighbor- triple legacy (parents, one grandparent and uncle) and the family consistently donated every year, for years. Denied admission. And she was a decent student- not outstanding, but low A average. She is not an exception: we know a lot of families who have given donations and yet their children have not received admission to colleges. And these are decent students.

Clearly not every donor’s child or legacy gets into a school.

One of my blog friend KE said, no child who is subpar should ever get into a school because their parents gave a donation. That’s fair. But don’t subpar students get into schools even when their parents don’t donate money?

Let’s talk about my peeve: college athletics. As Kim stated, without athletics and the subsidies that they provide, the colleges she attended would simply not be able to survive. I get that. I see how much money big time sports programs bring into a school. But isn’t it really the same thing? You might be getting a subpar student in exchange for them playing a sport and that sport brings money into a university. How is that different than getting a subpar student in exchange for a donation? There’s a highly ranked school that also has a wonderful academic reputation- the side reputation is that it’s a tale of two schools- the division 1 athletes who get in without taking standardized tests, and the rest of the school with all SAT scores of 1500+ and ACT scores of 35+. Is that fair that athletes are held to a different standard? You can say that they are particularly gifted in athletics and therefore deserve a place because of this gift. But we can back around to the big donor’s kid: what if they have a special talent of guitar or in some other area? If we are going to hold one group to a standard of academic excellence, then we have to hold all groups to the same standard. Fairness is holding everyone to the same standard.

There’s a whole bunch of other things that happen in admissions. ED, otherwise known as early decision. ED is when a student applies to a school usually by November 1 deadline. But when they apply, they are signing a contract that they are attending the school if they are admitted. No backsies. You are locked in. But here’s the little secret: you can sneak into a really good school via the ED policy. We know kids who were rejected from schools regular decision and they were MUCH stronger all around candidates than kids who were taken ED. Is this fair? Stronger students rejected in favor of students who pledge their eternal love for a school early?

What about having a famous parent? Would Malia get into Harvard if her last name wasn’t Obama? Is there a case to be made that she took the spot of someone who may be more qualified because she was first daughter?

My daughter was the only student from her school to get into a particular college. She knows that two of the students had better averages and scores than her, yet were denied admission. Is that fair? Should admissions be based solely on scores and grades?

Then, you might have people that say: well, you can’t just base admissions on test scores because someone is more than a test score. And grades are subjective…

So what makes one candidate better than another?

Is there anything even vaguely fair about the college admissions process? Should it be based solely on academic prowess? Should special talent be considered along with admissions? What are the things that should go into it?

Is there a way to make the process fair?