Reality Check, Yosemite-Style

11 Aug


Last week was my birthday. To celebrate the occasion, I went on the most challenging hike of my life. And it was awesome.

In recent years, I’ve marked my birthday with elegant dinners, indulgent spa visits, and nursing newborns (twice, because I have terrific timing). But this year, I wanted — and frankly, needed — something a little more dramatic. It’s been an overwhelming time, between moving to the suburbs and settling into mothering two busy little humans. Weeks have bled into one another unremarkably, and by the end of each day I’m utterly spent. I’ve found myself drifting toward escapes like scanning my Instagram feed and endlessly shopping throw pillows on One Kings Lane instead of digging in to what’s actually happening, like my kids playing right in front of me. I used to count reading and cooking among my chief pleasures, but lately there’s been a lot of TV and takeout.

Call this a drift toward bad habits, call it a rut, call it whatever you like. It wasn’t headed anywhere good, and my birthday — my lucky number at that — seemed an opportunity to right the ship.

And what better place to regain one’s perspective than Yosemite, a place to bear witness to the awesome magnitude of nature and push the limits of your physical ability. (And escape the reach of most mobile telephone providers.) It turns out that some pretty special thinking happens during a hike — resolutions about how to live purposefully, metaphors between the way you approach a hike and the way you approach life — so much so that I feel like I could write an entire volume of corny hiking truisms. Being outside, being quiet, and surrounding yourself with nature at its grandest? It’s the ultimate reality check.

I know I’m veering into dangerously cheesy territory, but being in Yosemite meant something to me. I will be forever grateful to my husband for planning such a special trip and to my in-laws for tending the animals (that would be the children) so diligently while we were away. I feel more focused, energized and purposeful than I have in ages. Aaaand I’m already dreaming about a return trip to hike Half Dome and debating how soon we can take the kids along, too…

To My Son On the Occasion of His First Birthday

25 Jul


I ardently wished for a son the way most women wish for daughters to dress up and take to tea. It sounds silly, but I just always knew it, felt it in my bones, that I would have a daughter, and the Little Lady is every bit the pink-loving, bow-wearing, ballet-dancing girl I’d anticipated.

But a son, such an appealing blank slate, a chance to raise a child free of my own private expectations. Our relationship could be whatever we invented, whatever we wished it to be.

And so it was that precisely one year ago the sweetest of little boys became mine. I adore his chubby dumpling feet, the husky way he says “Mama,” and the special smile he has only for me, like we have a secret. It is with no small amount of sadness that he becomes less and less of a baby each day, inevitably heading towards the drama of toddlerhood. But for today, and perhaps a little while longer, he is still my delicious, smiling, handsome baby boy. Happy first birthday, my darling.

A Washi Tape & Preschool Art Gallery Wall

24 Jul


Ever since we switched preschools there’s been a significant uptick in the “documentation” coming home each week. If my kid places so much as a swipe of paint anywhere, her teachers slap her name on it and in the cubby it goes. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate her school’s commitment to sharing with parents, but I am literally *drowning* in toddler masterpieces. Creating a coffee table book compilation of my children’s artwork has always seemed like an elegant solution, but I needed a more immediate fix.

Enter the unremarkable blank wall in my kitchen which is scheduled to remain until our remodel plan comes together. {Shudder.} So I took some navy-and-white stripe washi tape and covered that boring old wall with my daughter’s body of work. It’s not the most polished thing I’ve ever pulled together, but this instant gallery wall solved two problems with a single roll of washi tape. And come on, even the coldest-hearted among us would have to admit that it’s damn adorable.

{Participate!} Noah’s Kindness Project

23 Jul

The Little Lady and I have been plotting lately. Lemonade stand or book donation? Flowers or a new toy for a stranger? Brownies or cookies for our local fire station?

You see, we’re planing a random act of kindness.

On July 31st, we’re participating in Noah’s Kindness Project, a special day to perform random acts of kindness in memory of Noah Atticus Weber. I went to high school with Noah’s parents and, like so many of our former classmates, first learned of their family’s impossible journey through social media. Noah fell suddenly and gravely ill at 2 1/2 months of age, suffering severe irreparable brain damage as a result of rapid onset liver failure attributed to a rare childhood disease. He and his family spent the ensuing days at George Mark Children’s House, creating memories and treasuring one another until Noah’s passing on July 31, 2011.

The Webers have borne the loss of their beloved Noah with stunning grace, founding Fierce Little Warrior, hosting annual holiday toy drives and walks, and now creating Noah’s Kindness Project. It’s extraordinary, really, for a family to find a tiny corner of hope and beauty in what is otherwise every parent’s nightmare.

Those of you who have followed Priss & Vinegar since the beginning know that I have never, ever asked you to do anything. And I’m not really asking you to now so much as encouraging you to consider whether Noah’s Kindness Project might be a good opportunity to introduce your families to the concept of practicing random kindness. I decided the Little Lady was ready this year, and it has been very special (and fun!) dreaming up ways we could be kind to others. (There are some terrific ideas here, as well as on the wish lists of the George Mark Children’s House.)

We look forward to sharing our random acts of kindness with you next week, and if you decide to participate, we’d love to hear what you’re doing to remember sweet Noah!

If you’d like to join Noah’s Kindness Project on Facebook, please visit the event page here.



The Problem With Celebrity Lifestyle Brands

22 Jul
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Blake Lively wants to teach *you* how to curate a sustainable, handcrafted life through artisinal storytelling to preserve the greater good (or some bullshit like that)

Blake Lively’s new lifestyle website, Preserve, launched yesterday, and it is just as annoying and useless as anticipated. The introduction proposes telling a “story through style and craftsmanship,” living a “holistic” and “present” life, and so many other cultural buzzwords it’s like Lively filled out a hipster Mad Libs. She overuses the word “artisinal” so brazenly that reading Preserve could be a drinking game. Oh, and she uses the incorrect spelling of “palate.” (I almost choked on my coffee.)

It’s utter nonsense, and as far as I can tell it’s just Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop by way of Brooklyn, i.e., another half-starved actress shilling overpriced retail and unintentionally sounding like an entitled asshole. Next up is Reese Withspoon (I live for when Michael K calls her “Laura Jean Poon”) with her southern lifestyle brand, Draper James, debuting later this year.

Which leaves me wondering: why are celebrities starting these lifestyle brands in the first place? Goop has been in the red since its inception. (And at millions of dollars per film, I doubt any of these women expect they’ll substantially increase their bank accounts by selling fancy ketchup and aryuvedic enemas.) Sure, Martha Stewart built an empire on lifestyle, but let’s be real: not everyone can be Martha. Jessica Alba has a thriving brand with The Honest Company, but she isn’t selling some amorphous vision of living like an idealized Instagram feed; she’s selling diapers, people.

If it’s increased publicity these actresses-turned-lifestyle doyennes crave, this, too, seems a losing proposition. Paltrow may have always been a pretentious nightmare, but it wasn’t until Goop that the press started talking about it. Lively is already being publicly lambasted only 24 hours into her internet venture. Is *any* publicity truly good publicity? Has Kim Kardashian won?

Look, I don’t want to be entirely crusty about these brands as a category. Paltrow has undeniably good taste and I will admit (grits teeth) to admiring some of the items Goop recommends. I have a harder time seeing the value in Preserve which is basically a hipster dry goods store, a category that already has a substantial e-commerce presence.

The critical flaw with celebrity lifestyle brands isn’t so much the content as the spirit, the holier-than-thou presumption that famous people have something special to teach us about living merely by the fact of their celebrity. It would be so much more palatable if these blogs were presented objectively: Look, this is how I live, where I shop, what I eat, and I think it’s pretty terrific. Maybe you will, too. It is supremely annoying to have a twenty-something former star of a CW teen drama tell me how to “live authentically”; but if she’s just sharing pictures of what her last dinner party looked like, perhaps I might be inclined to buy her favorite artisinal vegan napkin rings.


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