Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Late Father

Seventeen autumns ago, we buried my father too soon in the frost-hardened ground. The night before his funeral, my sister and I went for a walk. The late afternoon sun blazed hot and bright in the cool air; the promiscuous trees flaunted every hue of crimson and gold against the brilliant blue sky. Beneath our feet, the sharp crisp crunch of leaves marked the passage of miles like a metronome.

After some time, we found ourselves at the cemetery where our father would be interred the next day, in a single plot beneath the shadow of mountains, overlooking the Great Salt Lake. The cemetery was a well-manicured oasis of green lawns and cool grey stones, a museum of the dead where stories were distilled into a set of dates: b. and d. My father’s story—b. Feb. 22, 1944. d. Oct. 23, 1994.

Seventeen years later, autumn has come late but brilliant to my town. At church, on the anniversary of his death, the gospel reading seems chosen for my fatherthe first commandment, and the second: "Love your neighbor as yourself"Jesus's elegant, simple solution to the enduring problem of Self and Other.

This second commandment was one my father intuitively understood, and every man, woman, and child he met was his neighbor. The practical result of all this love for others was that Dad was late to everything. It's not enough to give a homeless man your change. You have to squat down in your suit and tie, look him in the eye, and listen to his story.

Dad was even late for his own funeral. Given a terminal sentence of leukemia in the early autumn of his life, he “raged against the dying of the light" for three years, the time it took for mindless cancer cells to choke his formidable will to live and love.

I have felt his absence keenly through the years, on big occasionsat my wedding, when my children were born, when I divorced, when my books were publishedand at small ones.

Pathetic fallacy: the day we buried the sack of skin that was once my Dad, a cold winter wind stripped the trees of all their glory, brought leaden skies to weep over his casket as we said goodbye.  I could not help but feel that in this loss, God had forsaken me.

On this day, the day of his death, with my small son, I light a candle for my father, imagine him in a community of saints where he belongs. As we walk hand-in-hand from the church, I tell my son the story of a man who knew what it meant to love his neighbor as himself. This is my father's legacy to me, the true meaning of his life’s story. In his too-brief life, my always-late father learned (and taught his six children) to love other as self.  What greater story is there than this one?

Répands sur nous le feu de ta grâce puissante,
Que tout l'enfer fuie au son de ta voix ;
Dissipe le sommeil d'une âme languissante,
Qui la conduit à l'oubli de tes lois !—Cantique de Jean Racine, Gabriel Faure

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cheap Chic

Finds for under $40
A fabulous new fall look for under $40
As a single mother with four tech monster children, once I’ve paid my phone and broadband bills I rarely have any money left over to spend on myself. Unfortunately, given my chronic lack of funds, when it comes to fashion, I’m a brand snob who only wants the best. Fortunately, one of my most formidable superpowers is an uncanny ability to create something from almost nothing. 

My mission: find five distinct outfits that could fit in a backpack (I’m headed to New York in a couple of weeks, and I like to travel light).
Cute but conservative

The rules: 
  1. The clothes had to be washable.
  2. They had to make me feel like a comfortable cross between Sailor Moon and Condoleeza Rice—in my life, I routinely transition from soccer field to boardroom with just minutes to spare.
  3. They had to meet a $40 budget.  
Yes, I will be running this meeting!
Yep, you heard me. I had exactly $40 to spend clothes for myself this fall. I started with one piece—a funky black and pink BCBG Max Azria knit poncho/skirt I inherited from a friend who has lots more money than me and amazing taste in clothes (cheap chic fashion tip number one: never turn down your friends’ hand-me-downs!) 

Three hours later, I had assembled the following:
  1. Black leather Nine West knee high boots, Deseret Industries, $5.00
  2. Hot pink Betsey Johnson tights, Ross, $5.99 (also included black herringbone patterned tights, not pictured)
  3. Pink polka dot Italian scarf, Ross, $3.99
  4. Adrienne Vittadini black scoop neck sleeveless dress/jumper, Ross, $13.99 (clearance)
  5. Black and white striped elbow length Talbots t-shirt, Savers, $2.39 (I used my 20 percent off coupon when I recycled a bag of clothes).
  6. Pink Ralph Lauren short-sleeved cardigan, Savers, $4.79
  7. Channeling my inner Sailor Moon
  8. Fun crocheted necklace, yard sale, 25 cents

Grand total: $36.40. With a long sleeved black t-shirt and a pair of black Ann Taylor slacks I already own, I am totally set for the Big Apple—and beyond!

Skirt or poncho? You decide!
The fun thing about these pieces is that they can go from casual to dressy, from edgy to conservative, depending on how I combine them. And they illustrate why I shop almost exclusively at thrift and consignment stores—for big brand fashions at budget prices, you are not going to beat a second-hand shop.

But this Thursday, I won’t be wearing any of these outfits. I’ll be all dolled up in a little white dress (for the 
second time) as I sign copies of Little White Dress: Women Explore the Myth and Meaning of Wedding Dresses. Proceeds benefit the Boise Valley chapter of Dress for Success. See for more details about how your second-hand clothes can give women a chance at a first-class life. Happy fall shopping, y’all!