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.