Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Goodbye, 2008.

Goodbye, mother's broken knee and arthritis flare. Goodbye, brother's persistent pseudomonas infection and resultant complications. Goodbye, partner's career decision stress. Goodbye, inflated promises of salary raise (and hello, keeping my job in a recession.)

Goodbye, office squabbles and bitter rage. Hello, teamwork.

Goodbye, laziness that brings on profligate spending and unprecedented wastefulness. Hello, savings account and greener behavior (except, of course, the hand-me-down SUV; however, we'll try to use it greener.)

Goodbye, recently unused gym membership. Hello, walks on the beach; you turn the chore of exercise into joyous quiet time with my beloved.

Goodbye, Netflix. Hello, music lessons.

Goodbye, first 22 pounds of the weight I need to lose. Don't be lonely. I will be sending you company shortly. And so will my entire family, who will be dieting with me. Hello, pro-active support group.

Goodbye, two miscarriages and infertility diagnosis bills. Hello, treatment.

Goodbye, illegitimate chokehold on my government. (Here's hoping that what's next is better.)

Sayonara, broken health insurance plan? So long, nightmare war? See you later (I predict about eight years later), freefalling national debt?

Hello, hope.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two concepts from the perfume world: "bespoke" and "yours but better"

I know, I know, an increasingly large amount of my posts are about perfume-related things and about fertility... well, it stands to reason. Unless I talk about work, I'm going to talk about my hobbies; if I am talking about hobbies other than killing time noodling around with Rock Band, it's going to be perfume or it's going to be bird-rescue or birdwatching. And of course fertility is much on my mind.

There are two interesting concepts that have been preoccupying me, both coming from that world of perfume/cosmetics. I think that these concepts are revealing and interesting beyond the scope of the industry and aficionados.

The first is the notion of "bespoke" perfumes.

Bespoke is an adjective coming from men's fashion, indicating a custom-made luxury item made from scratch to the client's specifications and with his selected materials. Other items of toilette, including not only couture but fragrance, can now be bespoke (and not just for the movie-stars-gangsters-and-princes that used to bespeak suits... but for anyone of middle-class income and nouveau-riche aspirations: pretty much everyone I know.) Bespoke fragrances are a strong current trend with a broad range of houses -- mainstream and niche -- humoring the whims of the radically individual.

We don't want to smell like anyone else. Running into another person wearing the same perfume is as shocking as attending a party with another guest wearing the same ensemble... and as uncomfortable. With hundreds of high-profile perfume launches this year and countless niche releases, it should be easy to find the "holy grail" scent that is exactly what we want to wear, simultaneously nourishing our character and displaying it. (Yes, people do seek their HG scents with great energy and passion.)

We all seem to believe we are "perfect little snowflakes" - special, unique, different from everyone else. Thus, the bespoke scent. Come on, doesn't the idea tempt you? Can you not concoct an imaginary bouquet of scents that speak your name, perhaps from the everyday things that are also parts of you: the steam from your coffee or tea, the twist of your preferred citrus, a splash of your Scotch or whatever your poison may be, the bright bite of your favorite herbs, perhaps a whisper of your most luxurious dinner or dessert recipe, or the echo of your hobby, be it the rubber of bike tires, the sweat and soil scents of gardening, or the tantalizing smoke of a barbecue?

I think that the reason bespoke scents are not always holy grail scents may be because they reflect who we want to be. Sure, I want to be that savage, outdoorsy dryad, flower-garlanded and plumed with ferns and feathers, bathed in smoke and balsam fir, but who am I really? My HG scents are always plump cozy odalisques curled up on the couch with lap blankets and trashy novels and cookies and tea, not the dryad of my preference... and so am I. That is, when I'm not a decidedly offbeat madwoman, smelling of bad wiring and chewing gum and mismatched oddments, monkeying with toys and electronica, with the music of a previous generation bellowing around me.

I think that bespoke perfumes is the business end of the radical individualism we were all raised to espouse, and are now giving up in other arenas of our lives (such as when we buy used cars, or wear second-hand clothes, as we increasingly do and will in our greening generation.) It's like the so-called "lipstick index" of economic disaster: people buy more lipstick when the economy is off (maybe) and they look for intangible expressions of selfhood when their usual indices of individuality become less indexical.

The other concept preoccupying me, for less fanciful reasons, is the "yours but better" trend. In advertising and in critique of products, the best makeup is "your skin but better" (and so are some musk perfumes). Subtle shades of lipstick are "your lips but better." And so on.

Let it be said that I very much like some of the items so sold (or critiqued). I am actually wearing two such cosmetics now: Make-Up For Ever's Face & Body Liquid Makeup is the lightest and best foundation I have ever used, and I am using a Christmas gift (very much wanted) of Lipstick Queen's Saint Nude lipstick. As someone who hardly ever wears makeup, except as a uniform of professionalism when needed, I appreciate a foundation that makes me look as if my rosacea were not flaring up (but that is all -- no fake perfection, just toned down the redness) and a lipstick that only-slightly enhances my lip color.

But... "better?" Really? How bad is our esteem that we think paint is better than flesh, and perfume is better than our own animal identity? And how poor is our grasp of reality that we think we look ALMOST like we are made up, or smell ALMOST like we do in a perfume? Bah.

Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Typos and nursing homes

I work in a large and successful insurance agency. I am in the commercial department, the one non-paperless department in the agency (we are paper-full for excellent and prudent reasons). I am also starting a new department in partnership with a workmate, selling Long-Term Care Insurance. Furthermore, when difficult topics come up, I am the unofficial "official" letter-writer. Even if I were not, the amount of correspondence that I send out would be voluminous.

I tend to sign informal correspondence and formal letters to people who know me well with: "Best, Linda." But I am prone to typos on the "best" and they often make me laugh. Sometimes they're apposite, sometimes just stupid. The weird thing is that they are almost always words.


And that's why I have to watch myself when I'm closing a letter.

What, you expected something profound?

Regarding Long-Term Care Insurance, I feel strongly, personally, about this coverage. Despite my mother and brother being well-to-do, my grandmother spent the last months of her life in a (dreadful) nursing facility in penury. Why? Because it is MORE EXPENSIVE THAN WE THINK. Facilities in California cost approximately $250/day. Let's say you're prepared to pay $50/day. That means the portion you are not prepared to pay is $73,000 per year. If inflation pertains (and it almost certainly will -- let's say 5%), in 10 years that $73,000 becomes almost $120,000. Per year. The average stay in long-term care is 3 years. If you keep adding in inflation that would be approximately $378,000 total.

It's one thing if the state is footing the bill (you will end up in a state-approved facility, which will suck, and you will lose all of your assets and savings to get there). It's quite another if you can preserve your savings, your legacy, and your freedom as to where and how you would like to receive care. Your home with caretaker services such as a housekeeper and meals-on-wheels? If needed, your home with nursing care? An adult day-care with evening care by family members? A posh assisted-living facility? Or heck, if you always had a Gitmo fetish, why not a state nursing facility?

Yes, it's expensive, and if you don't have assets, it might not be for you... but this is one of those things that can be worth it, directly measured in quality of life for you and the people you love.

Lecture over. But as you can see, I do feel quite passionate about offering this coverage.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh my gosh, I'm getting girly...

Okay, so there has been a nail polish craze (mostly for OPI's amazing lacquers) on some of the perfumista websites I frequent and I freely admit to being affected by the hype. I even obtained a sedate and office-friendly OPI color (these are relatively expensive for someone whose -- very limited -- experiments in nail polish have been inherited or bought for about a buck), a striking berry-brown, and was really impressed by its durability and quality appearance even when the brush is wielded by yours truly.

Yes, I color outside the lines.

But today I am here to preach the glory of the unconventional color. Yea, friends, I am talking about Sky Blue Pink by Orly.

Some caveats:

I hate the texture of the wet polish -- streaky and too liquid, and it dries too fast to be "spreadable" the way that makes me happiest. (It's evidently a French Manicure color, so I have to cut it some slack for its transparency.) This makes it require two coats, which is doubling my opportunity to put it all over my cuticles, bedspread, or eyeballs. I told you, I color outside the lines.

I hate the texture of the dry polish -- it has, albeit a very fine one, some "tooth" and feels matte and about as rough as printer paper. (I prefer mine satiny smooth; I usually buff my unpainted nails to achieve that effect with less conspicuous effeminacy.)

I am really not a nail polish person. That said, I like to keep my toenails painted, but the little problems that plague my fingernail painting are magnified when I am lunging for my feet (which are well outside the range corrected by my eyeglasses for that kind of detail, and distance exacerbates my klutziness anyway).


This color is magical. Nerdy and chic, faintly gothy and posh, natural and alien, club-worthy and work-safe. Battleship gray like a Star Destroyer when seen from an angle that renders the shimmer quiescent. Sky blue, pink, violet, gold, and sunset-cloud-changeable when in motion. Like sunrise reflected by the ocean in natural light. Wow.

And while I'm confessing to an infatuation with color, let me point you toward some indie makeup producers that make truly magnificent eyeshadow colors (which I now wear only about 20 times a year, but which I may have to wear more often as I begin to sell Long-Term Care Insurance and "professionalize" my wardrobe).

The She Space: Customizable, glorious, beautiful colors in a downy-soft and non-irritating powder, with as much or little glitter and shimmer as you like. Great customer service, speedy delivery, and very wearable products. This is the best all-rounder out there. Colors much more WYSIWYG than are Archetype's, but that makes them more wearable for daytime.

Medusa's Makeup: Great products and customer service. They tend to keep their colors simple, but you will not believe the intensity of pigment. Need zazz from color, not glitter? This is your home. These can be a little harsh in texture, so if you are very sensitive-skinned, this might not be your first choice... if it is, moisturize and apply the pigment wet. It helps.

Archetype Cosmetics: The best, most heartbreakingly weird, absolutely glam and goth colors in the world. However, the customer service is appalling -- you will not hear from them at all outside of ... eventually... receiving your package. Delivery takes approximately 2 months. If you are okay with that, please go crazy with it -- I am not lying about the product's astonishing beauty. Also, their site promises that the service will improve, so maybe it will.

This is what I know: I adore cold colors and greens, but I look horrible in them (rosacea makes the contrast brutal) and really have to stick to browns, warm tones, and hot gunmetal/bronze colors. Dammit. So if you want samples of some intense, beautiful cold colors, email me and if you're first, I might mail you a whole lot of samples to monkey with. I am unlikely to wear them.

Okay. Back to my usual casual and ungirlish self. Except the Sky Blue Pink. Oh la la!

Monday, December 8, 2008


Those of you who don't see us in person may be surprised to know that we miscarried again in early October. Since then, we have been doing the rounds of doctors and testing, and are being treated for infertility.

It's actually kind of a silly name for it. We have no problem at all getting pregnant; it's staying that way that is hard to do.

After testing, it appears that the reason is that I have a wackily-impressive clotting factor that causes my body to throw blood clots into the placenta, effectively starving/suffocating the developing fetus. Fortunately, this is very easily treated, with two shots of heparin per day to thin my blood once I am successfully pregnant again. I am also on megadoses of folate, because my body doesn't process it correctly. Pleasantly, I did not turn out to have any special insulin resistance, so I am at less risk for diabetes than I feared (although my blood sugar level has always been great).

Infertility treatment has probably dramatically lengthened my life for two reasons: 1) I am taking low-dose aspirin, and am attentive to the clotting, which could very well kill me. 2) before the doctor knew I wasn't insulin resistant, but also just 'cause I'm fat, he put us on the South Beach diet and told us to walk every day. I've lost 20+ pounds in the last month, and Pat has lost a pants size (and is back into his favorite jeans, to his happiness). It's crazy easy to lose weight by cutting down on simple carbs... and I am embarrassed, after all the attention I have given to our diet, to find that it's just a matter of balance after all. Some of the health-conscious things we have been doing (eating fruit after a workout, juicing fruit & vegetables, cutting fats) have actually screwed us over and made us gain weight. We are eating a LOT more fat than we used to, and a lot more food... and the weight is (so far) melting off us. Huh. Live and learn.

We are trying to feel optimistic again and are really enjoying our beach walks. They are calming, energizing, and a great opportunity to watch the sun rise or set on mostly-natural surroundings and to birdwatch. The other day we saw two marbled godwits within 8 feet of us and were surrounded by adorable snowy plovers, some only 3-4 feet away; this after walking through a eucalyptus grove full of sleeping monarch butterflies (it was too cold for them to move) and admiring the glorious West-coast morning sky.

We lack only a child to share this beautiful world with at this point, and we'll take that as it comes. Wish us luck.


Hey all, I know I've been lame, but I've been preoccupied with what Robert Link calls "meatspace" in a completely absorbing way. More on why in the next post.

It's official and we are finally volunteers for Pacific Wildlife Care (and no, it wasn't a lengthy process; we were just lazy about getting 'round to volunteering). We went on our first official "rescue" on Saturday and retrieved a very ill immature gull that someone called in about. I'm not sure how well it is faring now, but it will at least be comfortable and receiving medical care. It did not even resist capture.

We also received a tour of the beautiful facility, meeting Ruby, the red-tailed hawk (who cannot be released and is an educational assistant) and several lovely water birds. We also said hi to "our" pelican, who is still (worryingly) not flying. If you pray for things like pelicans, or if you tune into whatever pelican radio they talk on, tell the little devil to fly.

It was fun, rewarding, actually shockingly quick, simple, and a fine thing to do on a beautiful Saturday morning. Yay volunteering.