Cars (Not the Movie) I Have Owned

My family (mostly) buys new cars. Mr. Sandwich’s (only) buys used ones. My theory? It depends on what you can do with cars/if you know a good mechanic, and how long you’re going to drive the car. And also why you want the car.

My first car was a new 1990 Toyota Corolla. It was also the worst Toyota I’ve ever encountered, because it would not drive uphill. Not without significant protest, at least. I didn’t notice this for the first few years, because I was driving it in Tidewater Virginia, which is very flat. But I did notice it when I moved to Austin. (Also, in the first year I owned it, it needed all the weatherstripping replaced, which is not good.)

It got irritating, and I wanted something with more cool factor. I was in my 20s and single, so it seemed like the sensible time to be frivolous. I bought a 1995 Ford Mustang. It was slightly used, with around 7,000 miles on it. It was much, much cooler than the Corolla. And also it drove uphill.

I moved to New Jersey. The Mustang was not a fan of winter, it seemed. The third winter I was there, we got strange snowstorms. Strange in that they would dump 5 inches of snow in a few hours–always the ones during the evening commute. On one occasion, I had to pull over four times to clear the windshield and back window from the overhang of snow that the wipers could not reach. (I probably should have done that six or seven times.) On that same occasion, even driving carefully, I spun donuts. Twice. The second time in front of a semi.

That’s when I decided to replace the car. I’d already been looking ahead to that, but I had been planning that purchase for two or three years out. (Turns out that mostly I needed new tires, but still.)

So the next fall, I bought a 2002 Subaru Forester. I tried to buy a low-mileage one, but when I called a dealership to ask about such an option, they laughed at me. Because there is no such thing, at least not in New Jersey. Once you buy a Forester, you keep that Forester.

Turns out that’s true for me, too, because I’ve lived in California for over a decade now, and I still own that Forester. In fact, we also own a second one (purchased used, in the Sandwich fashion, from one of Mr. Sandwich’s lifelong friends). I’ve owned the first Forester for longer than I owned the Corolla and the Mustang put together, and the new-to-us car is only one year younger. I hope we’ll own both for years to come, and there really isn’t a reason why we can’t.

And these cars have lots of stories. We’ve driven them around the state more times than I can count, to visit family or to go snowshoeing in Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. We brought Baguette home from the hospital in the car that came from New Jersey. That car left New Jersey when I married Mr. Sandwich–starting with a road trip to San Antonio (where we got married) with my dad, and continuing with a road trip across the Southwest to Los Angeles with Mr. Sandwich after the wedding.

This post inspired by Duffy.

Amending My Position

In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapse killed over 1,100 people who were just trying to get by, working in horrible–and ultimately deadly–conditions for horrible pay.

Since then, I’ve refused to buy new clothes from the stores that didn’t sign the Bangladesh factory safety plan. Most of them, though, have since agreed to compensate the families. So that’s something.

And selfishly, there are only so many ways that I can make my life challenging at once. Macys is one of the few places I can reliably find work clothing that fits me and my budget.

So while I’m not completely boycotting new clothes from those stores, I am trying to do a better job of reading labels and understanding what conditions are like around the world. Hopefully that way I can give my money to manufacturers that are, at least, not the worst of the worst.

I’m not entirely at peace with this, and I don’t think I should be. Maybe I should still be boycotting. But my energy is limited.

I’m Not Fine With It

I am so tired. I’m tired of being told that I’m talking about the wrong thing. I’m tired of being told that I’m talking about it in the wrong way. I’m tired of having the subject changed.

Remember how #YesAllWomen got #NotAllMen-ed? Because we couldn’t talk about what happens to us, and our perceptions of society and the world, without people insisting that their point of view was the one we really should be talking about. Well, that happens a lot, and it’s not limited to one topic.

Earlier this week, I participated in an online discussion about female genital mutilation. Ten people participated. Three of us were women. One woman made a single comment; another made three or four. The discussion went on for more than 12 hours, and I was the only woman participating throughout. On its surface, it was for the most part a civil discussion.

Only it wasn’t always about FGM. As seems to happen again and again in discussions about FGM, the topic of male circumcision was brought up, and once it was introduced, it refused to leave. When I had the temerity to suggest that maybe a new thread could be started for that, I was accused of acting like the discussion police. Because we wouldn’t want to miss the chance to stop talking about women.

Yesterday, I came across an article about a new crowdfunding initiative for Miss Possible, a series of dolls “modeled after real women who’ve had path-breaking success in science, technology, space and information technology.”

Nice idea, right? Sure, unless you consider, as one commenter did, “Why no emphasis on the lack of boys and men in HR environments, then? Where’s the effort to recruit boys to HR and other female dominated fields?” He then went on to say that this project will accomplish nothing, because society deems women to be successful when they marry (or partner, presumably), not when they are recognized in their careers of choice.

You know how you get more men in HR? Pay HR more. Raise the salaries, and the men will come. That’s easy. But the idea that there might be value in getting more girls involved in STEM and related subjects? No. We will talk about men, and that is how it is.

But I don’t want that to be how it is. I don’t want to keep people from talking about men and their issues. I just want not to be cut off when I talk about women’s issues. I just want not to be told that I should be accepting of that interruption.

I don’t even want to include a link to #YesAllWomen, as I was planning to. I just went and did a search, and the hashtag is in use. But now it’s being used in ugly misogynist jokes, and I’m not going to help them get more traffic.

Think about that for a minute. We can’t even have a hashtag. We’re not supposed to realize that if we’re being silenced, the discussion is inherently uncivil. We’re not supposed to talk in the first place. And we’re supposed to be fine with that.

I’m not. I’m not.

I’m not.

Quite the Treat for Father’s Day

Disclosure: I received free credits from Treat.com in exchange for writing about my experience.
All views expressed are my own.

If you’re like me, you always remember to buy greeting cards for special occasions–just as you’re driving away from the store. Fortunately, there’s an alternative that you can count on no matter where you are.

Treat.com is an online greeting card company that allows you to create customized cards for any occasion, either on their website or through their app. Father’s Day? Check. Graduation? Check. Get well? Check. Blank cards? Again with the check.

Additionally, Treat is a subsidiary of photo storage and sharing site Shutterfly.com. That means that if (like me) you already use Shutterfly, you can use photos from that account in your Treat cards–but you can also use photos from social sites like Facebook and Picasa, as well as uploading them from your computer, tablet, or phone.

As it turns out, I used Treat’s website to order Mr. Sandwich’s 2011 Father’s Day card–although I’d forgotten where I’d created it, I still remember and love that card. So this year, I decided to use the app on my iPad.

My experience? Very good. It was easy to add the photo I wanted, and much of the suggested text on the interior was also customizable–which meant that I could include the message of my choice. It was harder to choose a design, because there really are a lot of options. The Treat app has a features wheel that actually makes it fun to sort by different parameters, so you can choose to look only at, say, birthday cards that have a photo on the front and include a heartfelt message.

I decided to go with another Father’s Day card, importing a photo and selecting a design. Here’s what I came up with:

Treat.com greeting card for Father's Day

And on the inside?

Treat.com greeting card for Father's Day - interior

You can also include a gift card, if you’re so inclined. And to save you from forgetting to go to the post office, Treat.com will also mail your card directly to the recipient!

I realized that, true to form, I had forgotten to buy a card for the snarkiest of my many younger cousins graduating this spring. Treat.com solved that problem, too:

Treat.com greeting card for graduation

(There’s a photo in the interior of that one, but I don’t have permission to share it. So you’ll have to make do with the outside.)

Treat also offers a pre-order bulk discount and same-day digital cards, as well as photo gift options such as smartphone cases, mugs, and canvas prints.

My only caveat is that the app is technically an iPhone app, so I needed to hold my iPad in portrait orientation–which was awkward, because it’s in a keyboard case that doesn’t allow for that. This meant that I had to keep turning the iPad to make sure that what I was typing showed up the way I meant it to. But the app was easy to use overall, so I’ll be relying on Treat.com in the future.

I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Things I Don’t Get

These aren’t things I hate. I just don’t see what the big damn deal is.

  • Pro sports
  • Dr. Who
  • Kate Winslet’s acting
  • Neon clothing and accessories
  • Jackass and Tosh.0 and shadenfreude directed toward strangers (actually, I do kind of hate these)
  • Keira Knightley
  • Boyfriend jeans
  • Gerard Butler
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Skydiving
Elmo in a tutu
But Elmo in a tutu? I totally get that.

Cheap Clothes Can Cost Too Much

Update: Unlike the other companies involved, Benetton is not compensating the families of the victims, so I’m adding them to the list below. If you want to let them know how you feel, tweet to @benetton with the hashtag #PayUpBenetton.(2/9/15)

When Baguette was a newborn, we were very careful about sourcing her toys. We worked hard to buy toys that were made with safe materials, by companies that treated their workers decently.

I will be the first to admit that we have not kept up that vigilance. So I am dismayed to learn that a number of major retailers have decided not to sign the Bangladesh factory safety plan, developed in the wake of a massive, tragic, and wholly preventable building collapse that took the lives of over 1,100 workers.

More than a thousand people. I’m not willing to pay that much for Baguette’s clothing.

Now, the deadline for signing has passed, so it’s not like I can persuade the holdouts to change their minds. That ship has sailed.

But that doesn’t mean that these companies can’t improve working conditions in their factories around the world.

So I’m calling on them to do just that, and here’s who they are:

  • Walmart
  • Gap
  • Macy’s
  • Sears/Kmart
  • JCPenney
  • VF Corp
  • Target
  • Kohl’s
  • Cato Fashions
  • Carter’s
  • Nordstrom
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • The Children’s Place
  • Foot Locker
  • Benetton

I do not intend to buy any new clothes or accessories from these companies until they ensure safe and humane conditions for the people who make their products–and that they do so transparently, so that we know that they’re using some of their profits to make the world better, and not worse.

For some of these, that’s easy. I can’t tell you the last time I bought something at Foot Locker, and I’m not sure I’ve ever made a purchase at American Eagle Outfitters.

But Carter’s and Gap? That’s tough. I can’t tell you how much I’ve counted on the seasonal sales at my nearest Carter’s store. And Gap? Baguette and I practically live in Old Navy. I’ve been blown away not just by the low prices of their baby and toddler clothes, but by how cute and well-constructed they are. It took me forever to find camisoles that I liked, and they’re sold by Old Navy.

And Target. Don’t get me started on Target. I bought a cardigan there recently, and now I’m wondering if the person who sewed on the buttons is still alive.

Here’s what it comes down to for me: It’s not a good deal if someone has to die. And 1,100 deaths–and that’s just the latest factory disaster–is far, far too high a price to pay.

Who’s with me?

boycott

Photo by Martin Abegglen, via Flickr. Creative Commons.

Makeup and Me

Cosmetics and I go way back.

When I was a child, my mother had a collection of bright cream eyeshadows that came in stick form, like lipstick. They clipped onto a display rack that had the effect of a jewel-toned eyeshadow tree. I think we can agree that such a thing is designed to be irresistible to four-year-olds. And it was.

My mother didn’t wear much makeup–cream blush and lipstick, maybe a little foundation–but I knew that eyeshadow went above your eyes. And what’s above your eyes? Why, your eyebrows.

Therefore, when I would dress up as a “Christmas tree” in my greenest nightgown with all of my play jewelry pinned to me or hanging around my neck, I would be sure to apply eyeshadow. So I was a Christmas tree with gummy purple and blue eyebrows.

Years later, I asked my mother, “Why didn’t you ever tell me that’s not how you wear eyeshadow?” And she answered, “I figured that, your way, you weren’t getting it in your eyes.”

That, my friends, is parenting genius.

I was allowed to start wearing makeup–well, concealer–in the sixth grade, and that was the same year when my mother let me buy a carefully vetted lipstick. It was some shade by Clinique that was very sheer. But it wasn’t until high school that I really started wearing makeup.

It was the 1980s. We wore all the makeup.

Since then, I’ve gone back and forth on what types of products I use, although I long ago gave up on eye makeup for pretty much any occasion (watery eyes are not the effect I’m going for, generally). Foundation? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Powder? Sure, except absolutely not. Powder blush or cream? I’ve tried both.

When Mr. Sandwich and I got married, I did my own makeup. That’s right, I did. Because I’ve had it done professionally, and it has always been a disaster. You should have seen me in the aforementioned 1980s, when I went to my junior prom. Although you won’t. Just trust me. I was wearing All The Makeup. And my hair from that night is a post of its own.

But when I got married, I knew two things: (1) I needed to wear more makeup than usual, because of the photography, and (2) I wanted to look like myself. And, looking back on those photos, I did just fine.

After Mr. Sandwich and I got married, I stopped wearing makeup. It’s not that I couldn’t be bothered, it’s that I didn’t have to be. Mr. Sandwich has made it perfectly clear that he likes people’s faces as they are, and that includes mine. When I do wear makeup, I know I’ve gotten it right when he says, “I can’t tell you’re wearing any.”

At some point, I stopped wearing it even to work. Most of the women who outranked me wore little or none, and at some point I was pregnant and lacked the energy to put in contact lenses. Makeup? Get real.

Lately, I’ve started again. Not every day–I haven’t worn any this week–but on a fairly regular basis I wear beauty balm (wasn’t that called “tinted moisturizer” a few years ago?) and cheek stain. But I have a lot of trouble with lipstick.

I’m not crazy about the nude lip craze that swept the nation a few years ago, no matter how often I saw it on What Not To wear. But since I got out of the habit, I find that a great many colors look too . . . obvious. Too intense.

And that’s without addressing the question of shade. So I want something that has color, but not too much color, and that’s a pinky-peach, but not too pink, and not too peach, and not too chalky, and not too shimmery, and and and.

I’ve tried lip gloss (too glossy!) and long-lasting lipsticks (too drying!). I’ve tried a variety of drugstore brands. And I was just steeling myself to head to the department store when, at the end of a trip to Costco, I spotted a three-pack of Clinique lipsticks. A three-pack. For something like $22. That’s cheaper than three lipsticks from the drugstore. And while I wasn’t able to try them on, I was pretty sure I recognized one of the names.

And you know what? Two of them are pretty good on their own, and the third works well as a layer to change up the other two.

This is good. Because I don’t care what retro fashion is next. I am not wearing that brown lipstick from the 1990s again. I’ve learned at least that much.

An Interesting Monster Needs an Interesting Hairdo

No More Tears and No More Tangles–that’s what my mom used on me. And it’s what we used on Baguette, once her hair got long enough to tangle.

But it turns out that’s not enough any more. Baguette’s hair is what I like to call “frothy.” It’s very fine, and sleep whips it up into what could be a fashion-forward concoction that stars would pay good money for before heading out to the red carpet–except that it’s not a style, and it needs to be combed out.

Combing, however, hurt her. And the soft brush we started out with turned out to be too soft to do more than glide over the surface of her hair.

We bought a brush that I found via Babble.com (Update: It’s the Knot Genie.) that was purported to be easier on tangles, with less pulling. And it worked, but her hair was still dry.

So we added my leave-in conditioner to the regimen, combing it through after her bath. But while that might solve the problem immediately post-bath, it didn’t help at all the next morning.

Mind you, I don’t much care if Baguette has glossy locks. She’s three, and we’re not seeking fame and fortune via reality TV.

I do care, though, if her hair gets so dry and brittle that it’s in danger of breaking, which is where we found ourselves this winter.

I started using other products, notably my Very Expensive argan oil and macadamia nut oil. Which I now need to replace. And they helped, some, but not enough to keep up with winter dryness.

Add to this that Baguette’s hair comes in two distinct layers: corkscrew curls underneath, and straight on top. It’s the straight hair that’s fragile; the curls actually seem quite lush.

Bestie’s mom suggested Suave products for kids, which were working well in their house. They were definitely better than Johnson & Johnson, but her hair still seemed very breakable. We kept using that, and added rinse-out conditioner as a second step. Still breakable.

We ordered another detangling brush that we saw advertised on Sprout TV.

And then I came across a blog post that talked about the wonders of Hot Tot products. I wish I could remember which blogger wrote about it, because I would definitely link to that post and express my thanks.

Because these products are working.

Hot Tot brand shampoo and conditioner

We still need to add a little leave-in conditioner, but her hair seems much healthier since we started using Hot Tot shampoo and conditioner. And that infomercial detangling brush helps a lot, too.

The only catch? Hot Tot products are expensive–they cost much more than the shampoo and conditioner I use for myself. I’m talking dog shampoo expensive here.

But they work. So we’ll keep buying them. And while we know that Baguette isn’t ready for a full haircut yet (we have to trim her bangs when she’s asleep, to keep her from freaking out at the sight of scissors), we are considering taking her to the salon to get some advice about how to keep her hair strong and healthy.

Because an interesting monster needs an interesting hairdo. But no one needs split ends.

Of Shoes, and Ships, and . . . No, Just Shoes

Jill Pinnella Corso of Back Home Blog has a post that strikes a chord with me. It’s about shoes.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I wore a lot of heels. And by that, I mean that I wore heels as a grad student. I was really overdressed for a grad student.

I continued to wear heels, although thanks to the influence of Sex and the City, I gratefully stopped wearing nylons in my early 30s. Seriously, those things are a blight on humanity–they’re hot, they’re uncomfortable, they snag and rip and make you look sloppy with no warning at all. (Kate Middleton, I don’t care how much you love them. You are wrong.)

But the heels continued. When I was dating Mr. Sandwich, I had a collection of cute heels. I kept wearing them until after we were married. Then, one day, as I was walking to the corner, a neighbor in our building said, “I don’t see how you walk in those. They would make my feet hurt!”

That neighbor had some sort of magic powers, because Presto! Change-o! I could no longer wear those shoes. They made my feet hurt.

Then I got a new job, and I started commuting by bus. Which means that I stood a lot, and I discovered very quickly that I didn’t like standing on the bus in heels. It dramatically increased my odds of turning my ankle, and who enjoys that? Not me, anyhow.

For a while, I wore running shoes and brought a dressier option to change into at the office; I even bought a shoe rack so that I could leave shoes at the office rather than lugging them back and forth every day. But I often found that I would have to go straight into a meeting, without the opportunity to upgrade my footwear.

(Then I got pregnant and my shoe options continued to narrow–ironically–until my feet were so swollen that I could only wear Mr. Sandwich’s running shoes.)

When I came back to work, I decided that I needed commuter shoes–something that would be comfortable for the days I had to stand on the bus ride, but that would still look presentable if I had to join a meeting.

black Mary Jane flats for commuting

Over time, I stopped changing into the heels. The commuter shoes (similar, although I don’t remember paying that much) were just so . . . comfortable.

And while I’ve tried a few pairs of wedges recently, they’re just not as easy to wear as flats.

Plus, really, I don’t need to be taller. I think my height is somewhere around average, but I’m as tall as I need to be.

So I’m done (barring the occasional exception, I suppose) with heels.

Now I just need some new flats.