Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rachel at The Bodacious Beauty, which is scheduled to open at the Twenty Ninth Street Mall in Boulder late December. Makeup by DeAnne Grasinger, using D Lauren Cosmetics, sold exclusively at The Bodacious Beauty. (Photo by Molly Plann of The Bodacious Beauty. )

DeAnn Grasinger had me at the pink claw-foot tub.

Then she introduced me to her Victorian chaise lounge and her closet of corsets and bustiers. And then -- heaven help us, fetch my smelling salts -- she brought me into a pink room accented by pink pinkness, where she introduced me to her own mineral make-up line, skincare treatments and stuff like Boulder's only HydraFacial machine. I wanted to ask her what it was, but instead I think I asked her to marry me.

Grasinger is Boulder County's Superwoman. But I don't mean in the comic book kind of way. She's like a super woman, as in queen she, as in the creator of the ultimate haven for girls.

She calls it a boutique spa like you've never seen before.

And it really is. At The Bodacious Beauty, clients can get a wide variety of spa treatments (chemical peels, waxing, facials, microderm, temporary eyelashes), get a makeover and new makeup, go shopping for lingerie and then capture it all in a boudoir photo shoot. The studio has a half a dozen different scenes, from tall mirrors to a (less subtle) bed. You can bring your own outfit, or shop in the on-site store.

"It's like a haven where a woman can come and be herself in a safe and nurturing environment, and explore who she is and learn what's the best look for them without being chastised," Grasinger says.

And then capture that moment in time, she says.

The Bodacious Beauty (a name Grasinger's father helped her coin shortly before his unexpected death) is currently running out of Grasinger's in-home studio, and is scheduled to open at Boulder's Twenty Ninth Street Mall (on the second floor, above Starbucks) just after Christmas. The grand opening party is scheduled for Jan. 21, Grasinger's 45th birthday and the day that she will realize a dream that started when she was 13 years old.

That's when her Aunty Fanny introduced her to makeup. It became her passion, and Grasinger says she remembers telling her dad that vacation that she wanted to have her own makeup line some day.

She launched it, called D'Lauren (a combo of her name and her daughter's) about 16 years ago. Over the years, the mother of three added more spa treatments, is formulating her own skincare line and most recently decided to expand services to include photography and boudoir.

The idea came after Grasinger and a friend treated themselves to boudoir photos just for fun.

"We realized it was a perfect addition," she says. "Women get skincare treatments, learn make-up and show off who they are, and once they've realized their potential, we can capture that."

The Bodacious Beauty offers membership packages, from $39.95 a month for a twice-a-year makeover and full line of D'Lauren cosmetics. Add regular spa treatments to the package and the monthly rates rise, too.

Photo shoots start with $199 up front and increase based on the add-ons and products (such as books, canvas prints, calendars).

Grasinger plans on franchising within the year, with plans already in the works for DC, Soho, LA and Seattle.

"Watching women fall in love with themselves is the most gratifying thing. It makes my heart swell," Grasinger says. "Whether you're 18 or in your 60s, when you see yourself and you come out of your shell, it's the most unbelievable thing."

For more info, check out

Read more at 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fashion for your left brain

"Bats have feelings too" coat, a haptic coat for the blind. Designed by Lynne Bruning ( Stylist: Courtney Snider. Model: Ellyette. (Carl Snider)

Beauty schmeauty.

Bill Stoehr is more interested in what's captivating.

"I think beauty is a dysfunctional term," he says. "What most people think of as beauty is one of their own personal criteria in some subset of what's captivating."

Stoehr is a Boulder-based painter. But he's intrigued by neuroscience: how art expresses itself in the brain, and how genetics and life experiences weave together to influence what we consider beautiful or interesting.

He organized a recent sell-out series at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, delving into how humans create, perceive and appreciate art -- from theater to music, and down to fashion.

There are certain aesthetics that appear "hard-wired." Stoehr says. Humans appear to be genetically predisposed to be attracted to volumetric curves over straight lines. ("What would Darwin think of that?" Stoehr asks with a laugh.)

But how do we explain everything else? Take Lady Gaga, he says. Not everyone would describe her as beautiful, but who can dispute that she's interesting? And in that, she has become a fashion icon.

"It turns out as humans, brain scientists are discovering that we have a built-in desire and interest and are captivated by something that's ambiguous or that is mysterious or creates a puzzle," Stoehr says.

In other words, what is beautiful in Iowa might not be considered beautiful in Nigeria, due to cultural influences, but underneath all of the attraction is the notion of mystery.

Some scientists believe that's why Michaelangelo didn't finish about two-thirds of his sculptures. He wasn't bored or distracted by another project, Stoehr surmises.

Maybe he did finish them.

"He left something for us to finish, let us complete the puzzle," Stoehr says. "When we see something ambiguous or unfinished, we finish it with our own perfect image, and then we create something that may be better than what the artist could have done, because it's something that appeals to us."
Art and science are not opposites or enemies; in fact, one can enhance the other, as the emerging field of neuroaesthetics teaches.

Award-winning fashion designer Lynne Bruning ( is proof of that. Bruning, of Denver has a degree in neurophysiology. And in architecture. She considers herself equally a scientist as an artist. Which, in a sense, is redundant. Bruning does not see a difference in the two.

"In science, there's an inherent beauty in it. When you look through a microscope, you're privy enough to understand how nature comes together on a cellular level," she says.

Architecture, fashion and art all use the same building blocks, she says.

"Everything's the same. There's nothing new here. You jump scale and you change palettes," she says. "That's it."

Simple. Sure. Like a coat Bruning designed called "Bats have feelings, too." The gorgeous red coat is packed with ultrasonic range finders that constantly sense the environment and feed it into a microcontroller, which activates vibrating motors so the wearer knows when something is in the way.

In other words, it's a fashionable haptic coat for the blind. A wearable cane.

Bruning specializes in technology-based clothing and textiles, including a handcrafted blacklight-reactive 1870s-influenced evening gown, with a corset and bustle illuminated by ultraviolet LED lights. (It took her one hour to weave one inch of fabric, and the dress has 120 inches of fabric.)
As Bruning sees it, something is captivating when it's a fresh interpretation of something you already know. Take her floor-length lace evening coat called "What golden webs we weave." It uses a traditional method of making lace, using nontraditional fibers, such as novelty yarns, metallic threads, ribbons and wool roving -- inspired by a spider web.

"Something can be captivating to me, whether I look at a computer code so elegantly crafted that it's beautifully simple -- just exquisite -- or a painting that's done," Bruning says. "The craftsmanship can be in any discipline, but it has to have rigor and a fresh interpretation."

A surprising encounter at the thrift store

Thrift-store score: This weird lamp with a fake bird. From the collection (cough, cough) of Aimee Heckel.

I'm kind of cynical. So I figured I'd been had.

The old man walked out with the antique lamp. And the clerk looked at me to pay for it. How did I end up in this mess?
I guess it started with stress.

Whenever I hear or anticipate bad news, or worry in general, or worry about worrying too much, I pacify myself via pretty things.

In other words, when the fit hits the shan, I go shopping. I figure it's healthier than boiling crack on tin foil, and only slightly worse than ordering a bowl of gummy bears at Ben and Jerry's, which is my other go-to.

I don't usually purchase anything, because that just leads to more bad news in the form of ramen noodles for dinner for the rest of the month. So I am a looker. A toucher. An admirer from a distance, with such convincing fervor that it's no wonder the older man assumed I was about the buy the lamp at the HospiceCare and Share Thrift Shop in Boulder.

I wasn't.

Still, it was glorious: antique and brass, with intricate detailing and accents that reminded me of an old skeleton key. Suddenly, a white head was peeking around the other side of the lamp.

"Hmm, I could fix that," he mumbled, pointing at a piece near the bulb that I hadn't noticed was busted. Suddenly, I felt protective over the lamp that I wasn't going to buy; was he trying to buy it out of my hands? How did he know I didn't want it even though I didn't?

The clerk joined in the conversation, explaining that the lamp had been a set of two, and a well-known antique dealer had bought the other one because it was in better condition. This lamp would be very valuable, if it weren't a total fire hazard, she said.

Eek. Now I knew I wasn't going to buy it. My kid can injure herself on feathers and air.

Suddenly, the man had the lamp upside down and was unscrewing piece after piece, pointing at wires and fuses (maybe?) and spark plugs (maybe not?) and all of the magical components that make electricity go zap. It looked complicated. But now I couldn't just walk away. I was invested, because I was holding the screws.

Trying to draw the attention back to me, and the fact that technically I had dibs on the lamp, even though it was $21 and way out of my planned budget of $0, I small-talked: "Are you an electrician or something?"

"Use to be," he said, while plucking out some more wiry guts. And then, he called across the store to a woman, "Hey, honey, what time is your birthday dinner tonight?" It was at 6. And then to me, "Can you get it before 6?"

I cocked my head like a confused puppy listening to a hamster wheel.

"Here," he said, suddenly grabbing a pen off the counter. He wrote down his name, Bob, and an address. He handed me the paper and walked out the door.

"That'll be $21," the clerk announced, which was my first realization that I had just purchased a lamp. Possibly for a stranger.

As the day grew closer to 6 p.m., I kept eyeing that peculiar piece of paper and wondering what to do. Was he for real?
Was it a scam? Was he a murderer, luring in girls in with antiques? Was he going to charge me $600 for the repairs? Because surely, no one would just do something nice for a stranger and expect nothing -- on his wife's birthday, nonetheless.

My curiosity defeated my skepticism, and I decided to scout out Bob's house. If the address was even real.

It was. They probably wouldn't be home.

They were. In fact, when Bob opened the door, he and his wife greeted me with such enthusiasm that I briefly wondered if they were actually my grandparents but I had just, um, forgotten?

Bob brought me to his garage, where he had completely replaced the head of the lamp, installed a three-level dimmer and even given me a fresh bulb. It looked brand new, and he assured me it was just as safe. I prepared for the catch.

"So how much do you want for the repairs?" I asked, while imagining ramen noodle salad and ramen noodle sandwiches for the next three weeks.

Bob laughed. Now it was his turn to look confused. The thought had never crossed his mind. He was the real deal. An honest to goodness pure and undiluted Nice Person.

Whoa. It was like being face to face with an endangered ivory-billed woodpecker.

Every night now when I get home from work, I flip on my beautiful brass key-pattern lamp -- my absolute favorite possession -- and it instantly diffuses any stress and worries. It fills my house with light and love, like the unsolicited light and love poured into it by a stranger. And it reminds me to keep spreading mine.

And that sometimes the most unexpected, and even unwanted, gifts can be the best.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Grin and beard it: Mustaches aren't funny, and other facial hair trends

A subtle way to celebrate Movember. Photo by Bill Hogan.

Happy Movember, you hairy beasts!

Mustaches aren't funny anymore. There. I said it.

No more mustache theme parties. No more moustachio-etched coffee mugs or pink stick-on crumb-catchers. I am calling for an end to 'stachical jewelry and stickers, and even requesting the removal of all mustache tattoos on the inside of the pointer finger. I never want to see another sarcastic soup-strainer, I swear. Even though they still make me chuckle. At some point, the nose bug has to lose its funny.

Doesn't it?

Look at this guy and his mustache. Just look at him.

Why does the fuzzy upper lip tickle me so, metaphorically and literally? Perhaps it's a passive anti-bourgeoisie statement (because everyone knows all bosses have mustaches, even the women). The nose-tickler denotes control: Hulk Hogan, Magnum P.I., Josef Stalin. Could there be some underlying rebellion rising with this unstoppable trend?

Or is facial hair just plain amusing?

Supporting the latter is my friend Clayton. His wife, Alex, wanted him to grow Elvis sideburns. He wanted a Groucho Marx. The end result was a hybrid of the two, a sort of Sgt. Floyd Pepper from the Muppets. A burnstache. Mustchops.

Clayton grew in a wee soul patch under his bottom lip, just to get wild. He ended up with hair everywhere except his lower jawbones, or the opposite of K-Fed's famous pencil-thin, chin-strap (also known as the "douche beard"). When asked about his unique scruff, Clayton explained that it had been "originally popularized by a U.S. president in the 1800s," if a trend can still be considered popularized 200 years later.

Coincidentally -- purely -- Clayton is also beardbald on his lower jaw area. As far as I can tell, most guys suffer this ailment, where a peculiar patch on their face has zero hair follicles. My husband's is next to his left ear, which results in one Vanilla Ice sideburn, with lines and zigzags naturally shaved in. This has not, however, stopped him from occasionally growing them out.

The plus side: I never have to fear my man attempting the lumberjack fave: mutton chops.

Options for facial hair designs are only limited by a man's imagination (well, and his blank spots).

The Hollywoodian, from This guy is a facial hair genius, that's what.
In a "quest for every beard," blogger Jon Dyer experimented with 42 different scruff styles (, including a few rarer species, such as the Hollywoodian (mustache-beard sans sideburns). Dyer calls himself an annual winter beard-wearer and active celebrator of not only Octobeard and No Shave November (Movember), but also December's MaBeGroMo (Macho Beard Growing Month, which he created himself).

"Growing a beard is one of the simplest, zero-effort, macho things you can do," he writes on his blog.

When selecting your beard style, experts recommend complimenting your face shape. Let it grow for two weeks, and then re-examine your creation, according to At this point, the Web site says, you will have experience two bouts of itching and you possibly look homeless.
My friend, Greg, after four minutes
of not shaving.

Considering your follicular strengths, choose a style. A weak stache? Opt for the Lincoln. Bare cheeks? A goatee is your friend.

Are your strengths on the edges of your face? If so, grow it long and flowy, a la Amish, or if you want to get beat up all the time, step into the chin strap. Feeling innovative? Shave everything except the edges, sideburns and then shave your head, except for your bangs. Voila -- you've mastered the Hair Ring of Fire. I'm pretty sure that was popularized by a red-headed U.S. Secretary of State in the 1700s.

With options like that, how can anyone ever laugh at Tom Selleck again?

Important vocabulary
Increase your knowledge and impress your friends by incorporating these terms into your daily life. Source:

Stache-ism: Prejudice or discrimination toward individuals with mustaches.

Beard Goggles: When you see a man with a beard, and you automatically think that person is awesome, funny, chill or just an overall cool dude just because he has a beard.

Beard of Shame: The beard that a man will grow after his girlfriend has broken up with him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hot boots

Duo Boots, will you marry me?

If I want to know how to build a house, I will ask a carpenter. If I want to know how to bake a great cookie, I'll talk to the chefs at Old C's.

So obviously, if you want to know about good boots, you gotta go to the most esteemed expert: a Brit.

Ah yes, London. How many times have I cursed that frigid air because I attempted to wear heels? I have decided that even in summer, the only shoe suitable for England is the boot.

So when my British pal, Catherine, sent me this e-mail tip the other day, I knew it was legit. Not to mention, I love how British people write. Tea!

"Check out They are a company based in Bath who make simply the best long/mid-calf boots in lots of different width fittings. I've had a pair that have made it through three winters of 'I want to wear a dress but it's cold and wet,' have been resoled and reheeled and still survive. They are brilliant and the more people who know about them the better the range will become, so I thought you'd like them, too! I have to say that I'm starting to think on this rainy Sunday that I should buy these: Jesolo boots, Textured metallic patent leather boots with leather covered platform sole and heel. So I'm going to have a cup of tea."
I love the idea of patent leather boots. And tea.


"You know you have an amazing pair of shoes when . . ."
" . . . when your feet hurt but you love them so much that you just walk through the pain."
-- My friend Devon

Be my friend on Twitter: @Aimeemay
Or Facebook: @Boulderandbeautiful

Read more fashion stories, along with other stories, at 

Don't by a fashion sloth: Gluttony is so 2006

Blame it on the economy, or whatever your opposing political party is, or on the weather. But fashion around here has a whole new meaning.

The magazines and catwalks are still so old fashioned; they haven't even yet released designs for the season of Recession 2007-11. I laugh at the "Lust/Must" pages, featuring billion-dollar couture items and their "inexpensive" inspirations -- for only $559 per glove!

Right. Sure, let me just count that out in coins from under my car seat. And then run that "must-have" shopping list past the "Occupy" crowd.

Sure, a few Boulderites have squeaked by in lucky oblivion, but for the former CEOs now scraping by on $10 an hour (or journalists who have been broke since the advent of the Gutenberg Press), true style is about creativity, prioritizing, recycling and a darn good deal.

Style is about being smart. It is no more sexy to be gluttonous with your credit card than it is with your lunch menu. Sure, a grease-soaked bag of French fries is novel on occasion, but balance it out with some leafy-green discretion, or you're honestly kind of gross. Same goes with your labels. Head-to-toe inflated price tags lacks individuality -- and discretion.

My BFF Brittany and I have a bit of a competition going on (although she doesn't exactly know -- yet) for who can best rock Recession style. One point for cuteness. One point for craftiness/DIY. Two points for creativity. And one point per every $10 saved, per item.

Take a flower-accented belt that Brittany saw in the store for $40. She bought a fake flower, glued it to a clip and affixed it to a belt she already owned, totaling $5. That's like 293.5 points, if my math-for-liberal-arts-majors training is correct.
I can't DIM-A (do it myself -- anything ). But unfortunately for Brittany, I've got a new secret that is about to take her down: Hip Consignment, 1468 Pearl St. in Boulder.

Vanquish any idea you have of consignment shopping. Because if I didn't tell you (well, that and the store's name), you wouldn't know. You'd just think you were in a beautiful boutique hallucinating over finding designer dresses around $40, accessories from $5 and, um, excuse me while I weep in delight, but is that a brand new Diane Von Furstenberg line?

The 8-month-old store was designed to break the stigma of consignment shopping, while hooking ladies up with fancy-pants clothing for Marshall's sales rack prices.

I'm going to need a new fashion point system. Either that, or more fingers and toes to count on.

 Like Hip Consignment on Facebook ( and get in on regular specials, including the Mad Dash Lunchtime Specials from noon-1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Select merchandise goes on sale for just this one hour, like 30 percent off boots for winter.

Coming up
 at Hip Consignment: The Holiday Dress Extravaganza, Nov. 26-27. The plan: Accumulate 100 fantastic
holiday dresses to put on sale the weekend of Black Friday.

Read more at 
Check out my BFF Brittany's blog at

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finding your inner steampunk

For more subtle steampunk style, check out the brown lace-front Sarai top, $70, by Australian-based With cap sleeves, high turtleneck collar. Also check out the shops' Gothic Victorian-inspired dress ($160) with a standing lace collar, short puffy sleeves, layers of ruffles and tulle and carved wooden buttons up the back. (Jeremy Sypniewski)
Steampunk is second nature to modern-day alchemist, Joshua Onysko.
Beyond the fact that he moved to India in 1999 so he could ride steam-engine trains, in his practice, and in his daily life, the Boulder man enjoys combining different elements to create something else. Whether it's as simple as adding a brass belt buckle to a regular outfit, or as complex as deconstructing plants chemically and them recombining them to create a mood-enhancing candy.

In fact, Onysko used ancient alchemy to create a cutting-edge skin-care line, Pangea Organics (, an organic, fair-trade, natural skincare line that boasts a long list of awards and national accolades. Including the (very) lesser-celebrated Aimee Heckel Test; I use and love the Italian Red Mandarin with Rose face cream, ($36 for 2 ounces).

On Halloween, Onysko organized a steampunk-theme fundraiser at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. The party raised money for the campaign Hey GMOs, Stop Trying To Get In My Plants, a media campaign to raise awareness about the risks of genetically modified organisms in our food.

"I've always been fascinated by combining two different cultures, and that's what steampunk is," Onysko says. "It's combining the steam era with futurism."

As Onysko sees it, adding steampunk to your daily wardrobe can be as simple as copper earrings, aviator goggles, puffy shirts, brass jewelry or boots. Imagine futuristic innovations as Victorians may have imagined them. Some call it neo-Victorian: a mix of clothes from 1950 to 1910 with technology using gears and mechanics, instead of computers.

But it's more than "brass and watch parts," according to the blog

Antique black leather Victorian lace-up boots, $175, from Boulder-based Made by Peters Shoe Company in the 1900s, and in excellent condition, too. Granny meets old school teacher meets a Salem witch.
"It's finding a way to combine the past and the future in an aesthetic (sic) pleasing yet still punkish way. It's living a life that looks old-fashioned, yet speaks to the future. It's taking the detritus of our modern technological society and remaking it into useful things," the blog explains.
Want to infuse a little more steaminess into your punk this fall? Check out these items from local Etsy sellers:

Compass necklace,
 $55, -- Wrapped in chain mail, made from a variety of metals, including brasses, stainless steal and aluminum. The Boulder-based designer, Peter Cacek, has been immersed in medieval art forms his whole life, "ever since my dad worked a blacksmith's forge when I was a child."

Antique black leather Victorian lace-up boots,
 $175, from Boulder-based -- Made by Peters Shoe Company in the 1900s, and in excellent condition, too. Granny meets old school teacher meets a Salem witch.

Here are some other Etsy ideas from around the globe:

For more subtle steampunk style,
 check out the brown lace-front Sarai top, $70, by Australian-based With cap sleeves, high turtleneck collar. Also check out the shops' Gothic Victorian-inspired dress ($160) with a standing lace collar, short puffy sleeves, layers of ruffles and tulle and carved wooden buttons up the back.

For blatant steampunk,
 go for a handmade Alfresco-style mechanical bracelet watch with a skeleton pattern, $109, by Leather band wraps around your wrist twice from both sides. And to be extra authentic, this watch works without a battery.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

High-end fashion in Longmont

Danielle Seiss has it rough. She is surrounded by jaw-droppingly stunning clothes all day long. This might not sound so terrible -- unless you've also worked selling something that you love. Then you know the amount of self-control it takes to not blow your entire paycheck before it hits the bank.

Seiss is the owner of Apparel Valley, a high-end fashion boutique that opened in downtown Longmont two weeks ago. The shop, which first launched online in 2009, already has a following, and features quality, timeless women's clothes, accessories and gifts with a European flair. The racks are filled with some of

Colorado's best designers, as well as products that support disadvantaged women around the world. All items are chosen for simultaneously being elegant, yet practical. Like machine-washable leather. Or boiled wool, which has the warmth of wool but with a smoother texture and lighter weight.

"The problem we have is we love everything in our store," Seiss says, with a laugh. "I appreciate it when people buy things in my size."

She's holding a long, fitted red fleece trench coat-inspired jacket with an oversized external pocket and asymmetrical buttons. The shop has been open for three days and it's almost sold out of all of the scarves. That's a good problem to have, Seiss admits, for the shop's sake and her own.

"It's dangerous working around beautiful clothing," she says. "It's like setting a chocolate cake down in front of (yourself) and saying, 'I'm not going to touch that.'"

  Indeed, it's dangerous seeking out and writing about beautiful clothing, too. Seiss let me try on the Covelo Degas jacket, a below-the-knee-length boiled wool jacket, dip-dyed to have a gradient of teal color, and accented with dramatic ruffles and oversized fabric flowers ($318). While wiping the drool off my chin, I sized up Seiss to determine if I could outrun her out the front door. I decided the length of the jacket might slow my stride, reluctantly hung it back up and went to smother my envy in greasy hash browns in Janie's Cafe a few doors down.

Every resident in east Boulder County should be sending Apparel Valley, 471 Main St., a thank you card, for bringing some legitimate fashion to this side of the Rockies.

The shop's staple is Longmont-based Icelandic Design (, which makes sweaters and jackets in the handicraft tradition of Iceland, where the founder is from. My favorite Icelandic Design piece is an Asian-print inspired sweater called the Taiko: 100 percent wool, $238, in charcoal and gold (two of the top colors for this fall).

Clothes in Apparel Valley range from $48 to $400 a piece. Accessories start at $38. And if you're looking for inexpensive gifts, check out the Cube Suds (locally made all natural soap), starting at $8.

For more info on Apparel Valley, check out,, or buy online at


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scary hairy

Originally published 8/31/09

When I was 12, I got a horrible spiral perm. One tragic day, I went to bed with wet hair. The next morning, I combed it out, using no balms or gels or serums or, heck, I would have even benefited from squirting straight lotion on my head. The result: I looked like a lion that got stuck on an electric fence.

So I share the sadness and stress of this poor runway model, pictured at right, who obviously also got a bad spiral perm and slept on it and forgot her balms at home.

Equally as tragic is this poor lass, pictured at left, also from the Hair Fashion Show in Sao Paulo on Wednesday. She obviously tried the lotion trick, but ended up looking like a member of the Misfits.

(AP photo)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fitting in with the misfits

Kids give us an excuse to be as ridiculous as we want to be. And that is how I justify an otherwise disturbing scene that encompassed a recent Monday evening.

Bettie Anne, 19 months old, was wearing her favorite outfit: a plastic pirate's hat and her pink rain boots that are four sizes too big. She was also wearing her pajamas, which are not "pajamas" by anyone's definition other than hers: her ubiquitous pink bow and her pink-and-white polka-dot jacket. Yes, that's what she likes to sleep in.

 And I let her. Because I am the mom who, including at this particular point in time, wears a white wig for no reason. Bettie thinks I look better with white hair, based on her requirement that I wear this wig at all times while we play trains, but not when we play dolls or read because, gosh, duh.

 I've got it easy. Bettie thinks her dad looks better with blue skin. Which explains why, on this fateful night that I hope Bettie never remembers out-of-context in a psychiatrist's chair, he was stuck in a head-to-toe blue spandex Morphsuit. Not sure what a Morphsuit is? You're luckier than my neighbors. Which might explain why no kids ever trick-or-treat at our house, not even when we stack mountains of those addictive little pumpkin candies on our doorstep with a sign that says, "Take this, for my saddlebags' sake!"

 The neighbors might be terrified of us. But my daughter has no fear. Other than of normalcy. She screams in disgust when her dad takes off his stretchy blue legs to do things such as go to the bathroom or shower or go to the grocery store. If Bettie Anne had her way, every day would be Halloween.

Ah yes. That's my little mini.

 Sure, silly little things like the "alphabet" and "numbers" are neat. But what really fills me up with pride when she covers her feet with sidewalk chalk or paints her cheeks with watercolors or builds virtual pants on her little legs with hundreds of Band-Aids. Bettie laughed while we painted my bunny mask with fake blood, and it was her idea to decorate daddy's taxidermy hammerhead shark with thick silver necklaces. Her favorite toy is a realistic-looking, feather-covered black crow.

 Her creativity is as wide as the universe. It hasn't yet been smushed and boxed by peer pressure, self-consciousness and judgment. And as far as she knows, all daddies have blue spandex flesh, all kids wear pirate hats to breakfast and every day really is a special occasion to dress up. She can be anything in the world for no reason -- only limited by her imagination. And as her mom, it's my job to wind that up, let it whirl and get out of the way.

 Plus, it makes Halloween easy. She already has her costume: a pirate with a black crow on her shoulder. And no ghosts and goblins could possibly scare her. Not when she's used to a mandex-clad dad.

Photo by Larry Sullivan.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Pretty Campers Club

My daddy would have been proud. Everyone else was just stunned.

When I crawled out of the tent, my friends stopped and cocked their heads, like they had just discovered a new creature on the shores of Lake Powell in Utah. One with polkadot markings.

Or perhaps my fluffy parasol clashed with the sand, lake muck and last night's campfire smoke.
Finally, someone spoke: "You look like love child of 'The Mickey Mouse Club' and 'I Love Lucy.'"
It was true. And totally my intention.

I was wearing a red-and-white polka-dot vintage-style bathing suit from West Side Sinners in Denver ( and an oversized white hat, in addition to the umbrella, which matched my skirt.

Sounds high maintenance. But it was quite the opposite. I had the lightest bag in the group, and I was also the only face to not get sun-fried, thanks to my double decker umbrella-hat fortress.

You see, fashion involves much more than simply putting on clothes. It spans the entire process of visual self-expression, including what you choose to use, how you use it and why. And person's fashion consciousness is amplified when condensed into a tiny duffel bag.

I have packing down to a precise equation: multi-purpose. Everything must hinge around one color and style scheme, maximizing style options and minimizing space.

For my dad, the bottom line is lightweight. He and his buddies have a club, the Rocky Mountain Titanium and High Tech Devices Backpacking Club. Because my dad worked in IT for 30 years, he insists I use the acronym RMTAHTDBC.

The RMTAHTDBC prides itself in low-weight, but not minimalist, packing. Points are awarded for the coolest devices that are invented in the garage, always involving duct tape. For example, piece of foam that quadruples as a chair, pillow, table and hat would be considered top-of-the-line couture.

Your overall pack weight earns the most points. Any pack weighing more than 35 pounds is an embarrassment. My brother's once came in at 20 pounds. Granted, he slept under the stars -- and later the hail -- without a tent, but that just elevated his style status.

Unlike my hail-beaten brother, my secondary objective for outdoor packing is to shield myself (and expensive hair dye) from said outdoors. A massive sunhat is a must, such as the wide-brim Jeanne Simmons hats for $29 at Paper Doll, 1141 Pearl St. in Boulder. My fave is the 7-inch-wide black-and-white striped wire brim hat, which comes with a matching handbag.

Some hats even boast 50 SPF and can fold into a tiny wad. Check out for more of the glory.

For a slightly smaller but still ridiculously awesome 5-inch brim hat, check out the Raffia Exotic Hat by Tropical Items Madagascar (, a Boulder-based retailer of handmade, fair-trade crafts made in Madagascar.

A portion of all sales goes to the nonprofit Hope for Madagascar, which aims to improve the lives of the Malagasy people and their country. Find the raffia hat at Boulder and Beyond Art, 1211B Pearl St., for $39.99. It comes in 12 colors, including dusty pink.

Which just so happens to match my Lake Powell parasol and skirt.

I think I need to start my own club: The Rocky Mountain Pink Parasol and Pretty Campers Club.


Fashion karma: Why I hate the bus and the bus hates me


Sometimes, I ride the bus. Although this helps secure me a seat in EcoHeaven, I loathe the bus. It's boring and smelly and cold, and it takes twice as long as driving. I can't read or text because I have severe (like SEVERE in all caps with extra exclamation marks!!) vertigo. I never used to have vertigo. It's a new feature on Aimee 3.1.

Yesterday, I had a brilliant idea on how to pass the 16 hours it takes to go the 14 miles from Boulder to Longmont. As a new mommy, I never have time to paint my nails. (It's OK to already start shaking your head at me as you anticipate where this one is going.)

I figured I could paint my nails while waiting at the bus stop, because I am a complete wreckmaniac about bus schedules and I am always 25 minutes early because I'm so stressed out and terrified of missing the bus, and the whole time I'm at the bus stop I pace around nervously checking the time and looking around for the bus like if I relax or blink I will somehow miss the 40-foot-long, screaming vehicle moving at 2 miles per hour as it churns past me.

I hate the bus.

So I thought, in the peak of my ultimate brilliancy, I thought I could paint my nails while waiting at the bus stop, and then I would have one full hour of staring out the window counting cows for the polish to dry.

How could I go wrong?

Oh, let me tell you.

Turns out yesterday I was so early to the bus stop that I ended up being almost late for the bus earlier than the one I originally planned on taking. I know that doesn't make sense, but get over it. As I walked up, there was already a line forming where the bus driver would soon open the doors, the gateway to nausea and an inexplicable popcorn odor.

I hopped to the back of the line, totally stressed out because I always am when I get near buses with their "schedules." That's when I realized I only had one or two minutes to paint my nails so they could dry on the drive.

I crouched down near by bag and opened up my new bottle of shiny gold polish. When the lid came off, it hit me: the odor. Holy McMoly, I hadn't thought about the offensive smell of nail polish in the enclosed space. But I had already launched this mission, so I was committed.

I stayed crouched down by my bag decided to quickly paint my nails in the secretive wall of my long hair, and then I would slip the polish back into my bag and walk onto the bus and no one would ever know it was me who was responsible for the stink. Perfect plan! And I'd have awesome nails.

One fingernail, two, I got my left hand done. And then the doors cracked open and the line began wiggling forward. Ah! I scooted forward in crouching tiger position, trying to inconspicuously screw the lid back onto the bottle when:


I dropped the entire bottle, and in slow motion, a ribbon of bright gold hell spewed out the top and landed with a violent crash onto my








By now the line was rushing forward, and I had dropped the polish. It had also painted the sidewalk, and the shuffling shoes skidded through it, leaving the striped proof of my error in rays surrounding me. Everyone knew it was me, and as I stood there with my jaw dropped, just staring numbly at the horrible splatter of gold nail polish that had violated my blouse, every passersby getting on the bus scowled at me. (Rightfully so.) Scowl. I scowled at myself. The stench was immeasurable.

Finally, I reached into my bag to get my Eco-Pass -- oops, I smeared three fingers' worth of polish across my white (yes, white, of course it had to be white) bag. I tried to rub it off with my other hand, but then ended up with the pads of my other hand covered in gold lacquer, and the small dots of gold on my bag smudged into what looked like, let's just say, something less than gorgeous that happens when you feed a baby too many yams.

I showed the driver my Eco-Pass and took a seat behind him, afraid to touch anything for fear of soiling the seats and then getting stuck with a $9 million bill to reupholster the whole RTD line. I locked my eyes out the window, knowing if I looked at anything in the bus I would immediately be stricken with the urge to vomit like a pregnant woman on a Tilt-A-Whirl after eating eight funnel cakes, when -- ohhhh. No. Nooo. NO.

The scent of the polish had crawled up my arm and tickled its way into my nose, pulling the nausea plug and sending me head-between-legs sick to my stomach. But I couldn't complain.
This was my fault. I couldn't escape it either; half of my blouse was soaked, my bag was smeared and both of my hands were covered. I even had some near my right eyebrow.

So there I sat for an hour, huffing nail polish; actively striving not to vomit and thereby further offend my fellow passengers; and basking in the karma of yet another fashion disaster.

The bus hates me.

Photo by Flickr user Ollie Crafoord.

Before you get a tattoo, don't consider this

So, I wore black Ed Hardy sweatpants to work out last week.

I know.

Even though The Buckle, Las Vegas in general and a handful of unfortunate fratbags don't, I do know that Ed Hardy, excessively embellished "tattoo design" clothing and fight apparel (starting but not ending with Affliction) are now officially overdone and therefore out of style.

But the thing is, these sweats are so comfortable that I don't care. (I sound like a Crocs-wearer.)

Plus, I'm hoping that sweatpants somehow get exemption from trends. I mean, they're sweats. Their very nature is anti-sexy.

Sometimes I get all Hot Tub Time Machine and imagine I'm looking back on the late 2000s/early 2010s. I think people will wear Ed Hardy costumes, pink hair and ear gauges, similar to how we wear jelly bracelets and banana clips when we dress for an '80s party. Surely the J-Bieb swooping man bangs (the preppy version of the Emo) will be a costume staple. So will the Kat Von D wig: black hair with blonde highlights.

Which brings up tattoos. No one can deny that tattoos are super trendy right now. They started out alternative, but now everyone and their mom, literally, has one. Full sleeves are no longer novel, not even on police officers, pregnant women and doctors. Certainly not on women. Thanks Angelina. Thanks Suicide Girls. We can single-handedly thank Megan Fox for the side rib tattoos.

I've got my share of ink, and it's worth disclaiming that my husband is a tattoo artist. Which makes me ponder about the longevity of his career; like other tattooists, he only is getting busier.

How will tattoos be perceived in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years? Will everyone eventually be covered? Will no one care? How does a trend that is permanent change the dynamics of what's "in" and "out?"

With so many people with tattoos, especially tattoos that they love (elaborate -- and expensive -- works of art), it seems unlikely that tattoos can ever actually go out of style.

But I wonder if my daughter will hate them because all the "old people" have tattoos. Or will she get one when she's 10? Will body modification just get more and more extreme, like with glow-in-the-dark LED implants? Or will there be a huge surge of rebellion against what is now the norm, a wave of people removing them to look "cool" and not "old."

Look at history. Every decade or so seems to be a rebellion against a previous one. Following the minimalism of the Depression, the '50s were all glam, excess and glory. Red lipstick and curls. Then '70s rebelled against that, with minimalism. No makeup, natural hippies and straight hair. Then the '80s rebelled against that, with another version of glam -- more excess, layers of necklaces, ruffles and lace and bows. Then the '90s went the opposite direction: grunge, plaid and boyish ruggedness.

I don't exactly understand the evolution we are in now. I ponder permanency, and how that will change the ebb and flow of trends. What if the red lipstick of the '50s were permanent? Would all of those women have regretted it just 20 years later, but then been happy to have it again in the '80s?

How will permanent body modifications play into the trends of the future? And if they go "out" somehow and people begin removing them, will that make the rest of us who keep our tattoos rebels again -- bringing tattoos back to their original roots?

I asked my husband these questions and he looked at me blankly. Then he responded:
If you worry about what others will think of your tattoo, then you're getting it for the wrong reason to begin with.

Maybe I should let him tattoo "touché" on my forehead.

Photo by Molly Plann.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Work Shower

So this is what it's come to: the work shower.

I could blow the next 10 minutes telling you how I've been too busy to shower, much less pamper myself, but instead I will explain everything in three and a half words (because one is a contraction): I'm a mom.

And last week, I literally packed up my soap and razor (forgot the shaving cream, but that's the least of my problems) to bring to work. So I could shower. And shave. To save my marriage. And my dignity. No offense, peace-loving hippies. None taken, of course; you're peace-loving.

That was my idea of "me time." Who, me? I'd forgotten about her.

No time to shower this morning, but I'll squeeze it in between interviews. Awesome! I'll even bring my special Pangea Organics body wash. Awesomer!

I didn't even realize how truly pathetic I had become until I told a friend.

Me: Sorry I missed your text. I was showering.

Unsuspecting friend: Oh, are you at home today?

Me: No, I used the shower in the work bathroom.

Sympathetic friend: Ew, I'm sorry.

Me: Sorry? Oh, yeah, I mean, ew, yeah, gross.

Concerned friend: Is yours all dark and moldy, too?

Me: Of course it is.

Repulsed friend: Yeah. That's the very description of "work shower." They're one step below truck-stop shower and one tiny step above washing your feet in the Conoco toilet. I always wondered who used the work shower.

Me: Now you know: moms.

Maybe it was my confession, or my realization, or maybe it was actually true, but after my work shower, I felt dirtier than I felt before I stepped into that dark, moist, tile-covered cave just past the breast-pumping table. And I began to dream about other spa treatments that don't require a tetanus shot first.

Photo by Flickr user stevendepolo.

The fine line between participation and caricature

When it comes down to it, this is actually quite ridiculous. My dad would call it a "high-level problem." It's not like I'm worrying about dying of cholera in contaminated drinking water or where my family is going to sleep tonight.

I've been sitting here in tears because my daughter won't nap, and I'm supposed to be writing about Betabrand "Cordaround" pants (with horizontal instead of vertical corduroy), but I absolutely cannot do it because, well, all I can think about is what I'm supposed to wear to the Def Leppard concert tonight.

Yup. That's my stress.

I think the last time I felt this anxious about what to wear was the first day of seventh-grade, which, incidentally, was around the height of my Def Lep fanaticism. Now, I'm what you might call a serial sarcastic-concert-goer. I wore stirrup pants to Bon Jovi and a baggy tee and tight jeans to Bret Michaels. I even curled and ratted my bangs, just for good measure.

When attending such a concert, you must swathe yourself in the right amount of ridiculousness, in order to securely draw the line between participation and caricature. Otherwise you could be swept into the sea of serious Cherry Creek moms, swaying and holding their hands over their hearts/Mom Jeans' waistbands (same location), while nodding that yes, every rose does have its thorn. Sniffle.

In a way, concert slumming is simultaneously owning and chuckling at your past -- a way to indulge in excellent power ballads like "Love Bites," while rising above the fact that Tommy checked "no" in the letter you passed him, even though you carved a "T" with an eraser on your ankle for him. Or so I hear. (The "T" on my ankle is a totally natural scar from some injury that I can't seem to remember.)

You see, if I just hopped in my car without crimping my hair, people might think I seriously like the greatest stripper song of all times ("Pour some sugar on me," obviously), or that I regularly dance around my house to it while sweeping when my husband works late on Thursdays.

Yet my costume creativity is depleted, and like any art form, you can't force it when uninspired. I used all of it for a photo shoot this weekend for my husband's business,, whereby I hula-hooped while wearing a latex dress and stilettos; Lisa ate Astro Pops in a kiddie pool of squirt guns; and Caleb sipped fine whiskey in a beach chair in a graffiti-covered alley. How could I possibly one-up a photo stint with a pirate piñata and mermaid costume? I don't even know what's normal or bizarre anymore, much less what a proper '80s costume entails.

Plus, we're going to the concert with our friends Mike and Renu, the ultimate hair-band couple. Renu is a mad scientist who can infuse glitter into any substance, from lip gloss to cocktails to a curry dinner. She's the only human more sparkly than Joe Elliott himself, with his matching silver glit-sneakers, mic and stand, guitar, belt and (probably) man thong.

Whereas Mike, with his long, curly brown hair, is a dead ringer for Vivian Campbell. Did I mention he plays the bass? Mike, not Vivian. See? Even I'm confused.

As for my husband, I caught him cramming on Def Leppard's Wikipedia page so he would have some "limo banter." (Of course Mike and Renu rented a limo, because they are the ultimate.) My shaved-headed man won't even paint his nails, and he doesn't own one single pair of leather pants or glitter shoes.

We are doomed for a very serious night out in our regular clothes.

I guess I'll just wear what I already have on: a short leopard-print ruffle dress, pumps with socks, one single fingerless fishnet glove and this cropped leather jacket.

Sigh. Maybe Tommy will be there.


What happens when two artists create a human?

I don't know a thing about kids, but what my 18-month-old daughter does with a paper and pen seems weird to me.

First of all, she thinks Crayons and markers are stupid, and she demands a ballpoint pen (which is obviously an eyeball-poking hazard, but remember, I don't know anything about kids). Then she puts her face 1 inch from the paper and draws -- for like an hour or more, uninterrupted -- the tiniest, most intricate loops and swirls that I've ever seen. No scribbling. Just these hyperfocused hieroglyphics that are probably the key to the center of the Earth.

As a mom, I'd like to assume this means my kid is a savant whose incredible brain capacity future generations will study in awe -- and not a future serial killer, the line between which is terrifyingly fine.
But the truth is probably somewhere in between the two extremes, and she's probably just copying what she sees around the house.

As a geriatric Luddite at heart who doesn't "trust that gosh-darned modern technology," combined with my complete lack of any short-term memory whatsoever, I write everything down. The only way that I can remember to feed and water myself, much less do grown-up things like "keep my kid alive" and "wash my face," is to follow a stack of extensive to-do lists.

And my husband is an artist. He has covered nearly every inch of our house, his body, my body and the backs of all of my to-do lists with sketches and tattoos and doodles and masterpieces.

So as far as little Bettie Anne knows, the pen is an extension of the human hand. If I could read Baby, I bet I'd find she's making to-do lists about how she needs to draw more.

Either that, or she's doing long-hand calculus and physics equations. You know, just to spite her mathematically disabled parents. Rebelliousness also runs in the fam.

Here's a story problem for you: What kind of daughter do you get if you mix an artistic Cuban family with a carpenter dad who always brings his blueprints, sketches and wood tools home?
You get a jewelry genius, that's what.

Her name is Lorena Marañn, and she moved to Boulder from Miami last year. Marañn, 22, creates unique necklaces, bracelets, earrings and military-style shoulder pads (my favorite) out geometric-patterned hand-embroidered wearable art.

The bright colors are inspired by Cuban music, food and culture. The sharp patterns are inspired by her dad, who she says taught her about shapes and lines and how they can be manipulated.
Marañn Jewels ( are available online and in Fancy Tiger in Denver, and she's looking to offer her line in Boulder County soon.

Although each piece takes as long as several full days to even a month to hand-make, Marañn keeps the price point low, from $30 to $150.

"People have told me I'm underpricing my pieces because it takes so long, but I think that things like this should be available to everybody, because I don't come from a very wealthy family," she says.

Marañn taught herself how to do needlework after she lost her job and picked up a kit at a thrift store. She began selling her art on two years ago, but did well enough to start her own online store and pursue the passion full-time.

She admits her family -- "very humble, nonconformist, and a line of a lot of artists" -- played a big role in her growing into the artist she is today.

"They showed me that I could find happiness and a good life through art," she says


Photo by Iman Woods Creative.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Real rewards

One of the prominent qualities of a true fashionista is the ability -- nay, the instinctual need -- to one-up.

You wear a feather in your hair. I wear an entire ball gown made out of feathers. To Walgreens.

You wear a trendy patch of lace on your sweatshirt. I wear more lace than a Mexican quinceanera: a purple seven-layer(-dip) lace skirt, black lace leggings, a gray lace corset-style blouse and a gray scarf. Too much? Nah, I scaled back and I left the lace wrist-length gloves at home. Ridiculous? Only if you're boring. I prefer fearless and fun.

So needless to say, when my husband achieved the master one-up on me, it sent me into an identity-crisis tizzy.

He put the card in my pants. How? How did he do it? And more importantly, how could I ever beat that?

The challenge began about a month ago in the queue at Big Lots in Longmont. Despite the Hub's intimidating appearance -- he towers above Too Tall Jones like a 7-foot-tall tattooed totem pole -- he, like most huge beasts, is extremely gentle. So much, in fact, that he could not say no to the elderly cashier when she asked him to sign up for a Big Lots Buzz Club Rewards card. Just spend something like $200 a Big Lots and you can redeem your 20-percent-off reward.

Gee whiz.

I understand a Walmart rewards card because it's impossible to walk out of that war zone without dropping $2,000, even if you just "run in" to "grab some batteries."

But is it even possible to spend $200 at Big Lots? I don't think the entire store of dinged-up junk amasses to 50 bucks. And if we were to somehow blow that much cash at Big Lots, 20 percent off is a totally sucky prize. I mean, isn't the premise of the store that everything is already discounted? So, what, after spending $200 I can get my toilet paper for $1.40 instead of $2 discounted from $5?

Obviously, I had to make fun of my husband, because I am as short as he is tall and everyone knows that short people are generally evil. To rub it in, I sneaked the Big Lots card into his car -- "Just in case you need it, sweetie."

Later that day, I found the card in my wallet. So I put it on his key chain. Without saying a word, he wedged the card into my lipstick.

Oh, hell no. Not the lipstick.

It was on.

He nearly choked on the card while popping sunflower seeds on our recent road trip. I nearly vomited when I found it at the bottom of my beer. Then it appeared stuck on the inside of my sunglasses, in the leg of his surfing wet suit, under his scrambled eggs, wedged inside my apple pie, in the left cup of my bra.

The card made it inside my book, inside his shoe, under my pillow and in the bag for my white Halloween wig.

I was impressed when he managed to affix it to my bobby pin while shopping in Vegas without me noticing. When he grew suspicious of my actions, I enlisted a friend to slip it in his right shorts pocket while we were dancing on Halloween. I thought the superlative was when I found the stupid card taped to my back; it had been there all day.

But then I found it in my pants.

This brought up all kinds of complicated emotions for me. How oblivious must I be to my surroundings if A) He had managed to accomplish this, and B) I had not noticed for I don't know how long. Not to mention the gross factor. He swore he'd disinfected it, but after the scrambled eggs and wet suit, I felt a little violated, I did.

Which brings us to today. I've been paining over how to get back at that sneaky freak of mine.

With the full acceptance that some things just can't be one-upped -- like, say, Gaga's dress made out of raw meat -- I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't at least try.

Dear Husband, I hope you enjoy your lunch. I made that pizza just for you. Pick a slice, any slice. I call this game Russian Rewards Roulette.

Peeping tomboy

Indisputably, the creepiest thing about me is how much I love to people-watch.

When I lived in the city and not North-side-til-I-die Longmont, my favorite hobby was to walk through the neighborhoods around 6 p.m., right when everyone was shuffling around their homes after work. It was late enough that they turned the lights on, illuminating their windows like miniature stages, but early enough that they still left their curtains open.

My interest wasn't perverse. And it's not like I stalked a certain family, so put away that restraining order.

I just loved imagining things. I would turn to whatever poor friend I suckered to walk with me and exclaim, as if it were the most amazing news since Docs came back in style, "People live there. They relax on that couch. They've probably spilled on that couch, and only they know the memory associated with that stain. What do you think that stain is from?"

Needless to say, it was hard to keep a steady walking partner.

From the outside, I was a creeper and it was just another window to pass. But to someone inside, that window marked a meaningful refuge, his or her own little personal station. I saw a window into another life. Every home was another story. It was like walking through a virtual library, or window-shopping for imaginary characters based on actual home décor.

It's fantastic how much you can imagine about a person based on a glimpse into their living room. Like this guy: middle aged, long gray hair, spends 14 hours a day on a recliner watching TV. His walls are completely empty. His furniture is stacked magazines and plastic kitty litter outhouses.

You can't help it, your imagination is already piecing together this guy's life story, isn't it?

He's my neighbor. Yeah, I've been window-shopping again. I can't help it, though. I'm a gypsy with a mortgage.

My nature is that of Johnny Depp in the movie "Chocolat," yet I'm too something (or too little something) to actually follow through with city-hopping. So instead, I constantly rearrange my furniture and change my hair color, and I relocate every day (sometimes even 23 times in one day) in my imagination.

Photo by Flickr user texasgurl.

A surprising comedy about human consumption and Saran wrap

The bodies, compressed shoulder-to-shoulder, gut-to-gut, pulsate as one unit. Expanding with the inhale, quivering in anticipation with the exhale. Pacing from foot to foot, cheeks red and anxious, hovering over the Saran-wrapped pallet.

The bodies wait, staring at the immobile plastic mountain, elbows pressed outward to mark their space, their ranking in line based on who got there first. Hierarchy rules.

The supply is limited, which heightens the stress and competition. In this tight bubble, there is no room for sharing, no consideration for need. The poor and the greedy perch on the same branch, rewarded solely by their aggression and steady commitment to piercing the plastic barrier.

The bodies have been waiting weeks for the looming moment when the plastic is removed and they can possess the object underneath. This is important. Pivotal.

I have been here before.
It is 2008. I stand in the center of a circle on a refugee camp in Uganda, my hand on a plastic-covered stack of pink mosquito nets that we are distributing. This part of the world has one of the highest death tolls by malaria -- one child dies every 30 seconds from this preventable, mosquito-borne illness.

Mothers wearing dirty babies press toward the thin rope that we strung between trees, hoping to create some semblance of order. At first, it works. But as time crawls on, the tension swells. I hear the crowd growing in my ears, like a rabid dog pushed into the corner. I try to stay calm, to somehow send peace across the crowd.

But the dirt-lined faces begin spitting at me, shouting and demanding. They are sick of waiting. I rationalize with myself, knowing that I am here out of love, knowing that fear is the opposite of love. I reject the fear. Breathing. Breathe. I summon compassion, for the refugees' suffering, for their desperation. They are fighting to survive. I stand still and accept their anger, words slapping my face like cold, open palms. Now fists.

A sharp hand claws a mosquito net out of my hands, and the man runs away like a frightened thief. He thinks there are not enough nets, and this is a matter of life or death. I feel a chill rise, and with the crescendo, the crowd bursts through the rope barrier, a sea of despondency. The levy breaks.

I frantically look for an exit out of the mob. Claws, ripping, my heart chokes in my throat. I have no saliva. In its place, the rusty taste of fear. The riot explodes at my feet. I scream and tear for any exit, through arms and faces and sweat. With the next pound of my heartbeat, I suddenly understand the fight for life or death.

Ah yes. I have seen this before.
I look across the crowd, anxious bodies, circling a mountain of plastic-wrapped goods. Only this time, I am staying on the outside of the throng.

And this time, the mob swarms around a stack of DVD players that are discounted 70 percent for Black Friday.

This time, the mob is fighting for -- what?

I laugh.