something new

Adam and Kaitlan, captured seconds after the proposal (and acceptance)

Love is in the air. While some fear the arrival of spring for its pollen-laden ways, Adam, the young and handsome suitor of Kaitlan, whom I refer to more as “my former LC in the Warner office” than I do by her current title in our present office, took advantage of the soft pink canopy provided by the cherry blossoms to get down on one knee and pop the question.

So last Monday morning, amid the “how was your weekend” questioning, it didn’t take us long to notice that Kaitlan was sporting an eye-catching gem on that one finger reserved for such magnificence. The requisite screaming, oh-my-godding, jumping up and downing and hugging ensued. And by lunch, the past issues of Trading Carbon and National Journal on our office coffee table had been replaced by copies of Martha Stewart Weddings and Southern Living Weddings. (We did keep the publication Wills and Kate: A Royal Love Story that Sara kindly brought us back from the UK on her last visit.)

After all, we are an office of almost all women, joined three days a week by one of the company’s founding fathers (whose own daughter is getting married this summer) and four days a week by Max the Intern, whom we are constantly apologizing to for our female-centric conversations. Let’s just say, Max is learning about not just energy policy, but heel heights, purse colors and outfit accessorizing.

Wedding bells toll for us daily now as we grill Kaitlan on updates to her planning. We are happy she has a date set. We peruse her dogeared pages of said magazines to see what dresses have caught her eye. We’ve all shared our worst bridesmaid dress story, a conversation that has been held more than once since we all have more than one worst story to share. (My worst story isn’t my own, but belongs to my friend Chris, who at her brother’s wedding had a wear a teal-colored sheath that just reached over the socially necessary places to cover, with a purple-colored skirt that you tied around the waist and could take off for dancing later, and purple shoes. But then when you took the purple skirt off, you were wearing teal and purple in the days before color blocking was stylish.)

It’s hard to not dispense with a dose of unsolicited advice when someone young is getting married. Just today, when Kaitlan told me that she promised her maid of honor that she’d pick a dress that could be worn again (haven’t we all heard that) I advised her to not bother. Really, no one ever wears the dress again. It’s an honor to be in someone’s wedding, and that’s worth the price of a bridesmaid dress you will wear once. I mean, how many times have you worn a non-bridesmaid dress only once for a less significant event? I’m certainly prepared for whatever dress I buy for the happy occasion (Janna, be on the lookout please) to not necessarily come with a second-wearing in mind.

While Kaitlan has to be on the dress ball, it’s a little too early for me to plan what to wear to a wedding that’s a year away. In the more immediate term, I have to break the news to Jack and Colin that their beloved Kaitlan is getting married. I’m not sure whether they will be disgusted (because getting married is totally gross) or disappointed (because they both nurture a serious crush on their former babysitter). This is one subject her wedding magazines don’t cover.


seeing red

The Valentine's Day Trench Coat

As anyone who has read my posts since I left Beatrix in the dust knows by now, lately I have been embracing color. This is very unlike my typical Northeastern default to wearing black most of the time. Black is usually my go-to color and certainly was the color of choice to camouflage Beatrix those two dark months of back brace confinement. But after ten days of being able to integrate more color into my wardrobe, I can honestly say that I have been pleasantly surprised.

My spirit is definitely a bit brighter when wearing color; I don’t miss that sickly glow that black can often cast on your skin. Don’t worry, I’m sure this is not the end of my relationship with black clothes. I have too many black dresses, sweaters and blazers in my closet to eschew my beloved black forever. But for now, I am obsessed with red.

Recently, the DC metro area has been plagued with a tug-of-war, not between political parties (well,  yes, between political parties) but between winter and spring. And the end result has more often than not been rain. Some days, the rain is accompanied by sticky humid weather. Other days, the rain is cold, steady and miserable. Both types of weather events call for my perfect red trench coat that I bought for myself (from Janna) for Valentine’s Day.

However, Thursday in DC was in the mid-60s and sunny, so the red trench stayed home. But feeling of festive spirit — and knowing I had three sets of drink plans — I pulled out of the closet archives a dress (same cut as linked here but different fabric and slightly different shade of red) I bought from Betsy Fisher a few years ago to wear to the happy hour that celebrated my 40-minus-one birthday (or 35-plus-4, depending on how you like to do your math).

Observation number one: nothing attracts compliments more than wearing red. It never ceases to amaze me how wearing a red dress (or a red trench) captures so much attention. Especially when said dress or trench is paired with the perfect shade of red lipstick (Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Rebelle). More strangers make eye contact. More random people offer you wishes for a good day.

Observation number two: red is empowering. There is certainly no fading into the woodwork when one is wearing red, so you really do have to own it. As one of my guy friends put it yesterday, “you look like a little red sports car in that dress.” People make way for you in a crowd. You get what you want.

Observation number three: I need more red in my wardrobe.

While I still have 9 days left until Lent is overt (I gave up shopping for Lent) I am already contemplating how I can incorporate more red in my life in a way that accommodates the fact that I have a list of home improvement projects to fund. And did I mention that I had to pay taxes? A lot of taxes? As my friend and accountant Kara put it, I need to invest in something other than my pretty clothes and good wine.

I’m guessing she didn’t mean a little red corvette.

bag lady
My Scout is the size of the pink one but in the orange color.

I am by no means a small purse woman. I usually blame the fact that I have to carry a larger-sized handbag on my being a mom, but when was the last time I actually toted around crayons, pacifiers, or matchbox cars in my bag? Frankly, the real issue is that I can never narrow down exactly what lipstick I want to wear (and often I combine two or three colors to make my own custom-perfect shade) and honestly, lipstick takes up a lot of space.

Okay, maybe not.

But I also have this huge wallet. When I bought it four years ago, I remember the sales woman at Nordstrom saying, “this is lovely, and it can double as a clutch.” Seriously? Where would I put my lipsticks? In the change pouch? I don’t think so. And while I do have a few clutches in my repertoire, I have to admit that I rarely use them. I need my keys. I need my iPhone. I need my iPhone charger since my iPhone only carries a charge for about 45 minutes these days. I sometimes carry my iPod too (especially if I’m metro-ing) because if my iPhone dies and if I am stuck with an 18-minute wait for the orange line in the direction of New Carrollton, I want something to listen to.

Then there are my eyeglass cases. I can sometimes get away with only carrying one, and the regular glasses and the sunglasses take turns being housed it in, but it has to be the bigger of the two cases because my sunglasses don’t fit in the case for the eyeglasses and if I am going to PT or the gym or some place where I might need to take both pairs off, then I need to bring both cases.

I didn’t really keep any of this in mind when I asked my friend Janna from The Finicky Filly to order me the Kate Spade Essex Scout in orange. In my spatial-judgmentally-challenged mind, it looked like it wasn’t that much smaller than the purse I had been using since August. After all, I wasn’t buying the Kate Spade Small Essex Scout. But in practice, my new orange purse is small. It can barely fit my mammoth wallet. I have to narrow my daily lipstick selection down to two options (today’s choices were the Trish McEvoy “Instant Pick Me Up” Lip Shimmer and the new Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Bonheur). My keys seem too bulky and of course I need my iPhone charger. (The iPhone was conveniently being carried in my coat pocket.) No iPod. No crayons, pacifiers or matchbox cars.

The other night, my seven-year old saw my new purse laying on my bed and started petting it.

Colin (adoringly): Mommy, is this your new purse?

Me: Yes, do you like it?

Colin: I love it. (Pause.) When you don’t want it anymore, can I have it?

I don’t think that Colin realizes that while the cross body style of my bag is very Indiana Jones, he can’t fit his entire retinue of treasures in the Essex Scout. Maybe a couple of his smaller twig wands, a Lego gun and one of the knives he cut out of cardboard. But certainly not all his rocks, his corks (he has a lot of these) or his bottle cap collection. Not to mention his lip balm (he is my son, after all). But that is beside the point since I am far from giving Colin his own Kate Spade purse, even one that has been used.

This week I was lucky. It was rainy, so I didn’t need the sunglasses, and since I was carrying around my computer bag, I could use it to stash the surplus items that I didn’t fit in the purse. And I was only carrying around one cork.

Yes, I have a cork collection, too.


photo courtesy of Tom Lawler

All last week, those of us living and working in the nation’s capital and some beyond waited with some combination of dread, fear and anticipation to see if our nation was headed toward a federal government shutdown. Not to make light of the very serious implications of a shutdown, but in the spirit of how I approached my confinement with Beatrix, I was preparing a post on “shutdown chic.” Some offices had pools on how long the shutdown would last. I even saw that local eating and drinking establishments were offering shutdown specials. Of course, others were taking more serious measures, like trying to figure out how they were going to support their families if the furlough lasted for any extensive period of time. We jested, but not really.

While most cheered, some actually groaned when The Powers That Be, running the shot clock to the very last second, reached agreement (for now) and averted shutdown. During this preceding week of uncertainty, my first real shutdown threat since I moved to Washington in 1997, I myself took some time to reflect on the services the federal government provides, those things that are just expected and which most people probably don’t realize cease to be performed under shutdown conditions.

I mean, everyone thinks they hate the government, right? But aren’t they just confusing the government as a whole with the government’s role as tax collector? I have never heard someone say, “you know, I just don’t pay enough taxes.” But on the other hand, I’ve never heard anyone say “wow, I am so thankful for a national defense.” The bottom line is that those taxes we pay fund the operation of so much we take for granted in our daily lives. Our federal government might not be totally efficient. There is definitely waste. But given the size (and I’m sorry, it isn’t going to get smaller folks) and scope of what is provided, I think we get a pretty good bang for our buck.

Let’s take, for instance, something that my own children were concerned about regarding the shutdown threat: the Smithsonian Museums. You know, the ones you get to go to for free when you visit Washington, DC, or if you live here, where you go on a bad (too hot or too cold) weather day? There are nineteen Smithsonian museums (which is why it’s funny when one is approached by a tourist with the question, “where’s the Smithsonian?”). In addition, there are nine Smithsonian research centers and the National Zoo. Have you ever noticed that you don’t have to pay San Diego Zoo-style admission prices to get into the Zoo in DC? Well, it’s a federally funded institution, supplemented in great part by private donations. And in the event of a government shutdown, the entire Smithsonian system in closed. If you planned your vacation to see you favorite mega-fauna frolic in the bamboo and there happened to be a shutdown, no admission. Your child has been dying to visit the Air and Space Museum? In a shutdown, it’s closed. There was even some question as to whether there would have been a Cherry Blossom parade this weekend if the government had shut down. All those high school bands from across the country that practiced and fund-raised all year to come here and march would have been sorely disappointed.

My kids, of course, were concerned as to whether someone would be there to feed the Zoo animals. It seems this type of worker is what we call “essential.” But I don’t see how you choose. At the risk of coming off too existential, can’t you make a case that everyone is essential?

Let’s take something that is a little less warm and fuzzy. Literally. I know border protection is important to many people. Being first generation American on my mom’s side of the family, I have to admit to having a soft spot for those foreigners wanting their own taste of the American dream (and now that I have put that in writing in a public domain, I guess I can never run for elected office). Many of the functions of the Department of Homeland Security (such as border control) would have continued as usual under a shutdown, but I highlight it here because I wonder how many people actually realize that this is one of the many services that mainstream America considers important that are paid for out of the federal coffers your tax dollars fund.

How about the National Institutes of Health? Would they be able to accept new patients? In a shutdown, would passport applications or renewals be processed? How about Federal Housing Authority loans? Would tax refund checks be sent?

I don’t mean to sound all DC-preachy, I just think that the federal government could use a little more love thrown its way because for all that it does that you hate (like collect taxes) it actually performs a lot of services that you just may like. And use.

I won’t say we are out of the shutdown waters forever. There may still be a discussion on shutdown chic. But at least for now, on Monday morning, federal workers will be riding the Metro and driving on our federal highway system, making their way to work. I am happy that the Giant Pandas will be fed, and of course, that at the U.S Capitol, it will be business as usual. If only business as usual included a little less partisan bickering. I think that is a style we can all agree needs to be shut down.