The Problems that Plague Us

My friends, I am tormented by a problem that plagues my days and haunts my nights! My mincing steps resound through hallowed halls in terror. I turn to Amazon for aid, but it turns its face against me – leaving me cold and solutionless in the dark night of the soul.

Stop reading now, if you be easily frightened, or squeamish.

It’s annoying to carry my phone around at work when I wear a dress/skirt

THE HORRORS!

OK, so this is actually the world’s most plebian problem. But I’ve been surprised that no enterprising entrepreneur has arisen in the vast realms of Amazon (or even Etsy!) to help me solve it. Let me explain to you, and then you can go start a vastly successful business to solve my problem, or point me in the direction of a person who has already done so.

Scene 1: Brenda’s office
(Yes, I have an actual office with an actual door now. Rumor has it we’re moving soon, so I’m not getting too attached.)
Office mate: Whither goest thou, Brenda? Dost the zephyrous breeze beckon thee to a meeting wherein thou may be’est a shadow on the wall, gleaning learnings from the sages of our new industry?
Brenda: Verily, I go first to that blessed information experience. From thence I shall proceed to the land of milk and honey, which is our cafeteria. Let me only gather those things to me which are needed! Fist, I shall take my badge, both sides of which must show at all times, which is clipped hereon to my skirt/dress. For lo, I must use my badge no fewer than four times to get from this, our workful repose, to thence where succor can be found. In all those places, this copy of my visage must be clearly visible to those around me. Then also I shall take this, my cell phone. Forsooth, I must carry it lest my steps not be tracked and I fail to meet my goal. Also, I would be foresworn if I left it in my office and it kept sounding and annoyed you and the school principal might fail to reach me to inform me of minor behavioral issues regarding my sons which in my own day wouldn’t even have made it to the principal’s office.
Office mate: Indeed, I am glad that you bring your phone of slightly annoying ringtones with you. But hark! How can you carry it! For your dress has no pockets! And it is well known that the cafeteria requires both hands for the full loading of your plate!
Brenda: Alas, alack and welladay! You speak truth! Thus are the skirts of women most annoying, in their pocketlessness. Whatever shall I do?! Woe to me, the pocketless. Watch the burden I must carry in my hands wherever I may go!

(/end scene)

The solution, of course, would be to have a little pouch that is clear so you can see my ID (and I can use it on the door) but has a little extra space for my phone. I carry the Galaxy S4 mini*, so it’s both light and small. The clip which performs so admirably for my badge would carry the extra load no problem.

I swear I’ve read every possible listing in Amazon with every key word combination. I went to Staples. I went to the Paper Store with that line of incredibly garish cloth bags of all sizes. I combed Etsy. I’ve considered alternatives. For example, a phone case that has a clear sleeve for putting my ID in (all the sleeves are opaque and colored). A case that connects to a lanyard at the top would be pretty great (maybe that you could snap in and out. I’ve ordered a bunch of stuff that isn’t quite right. My current plan is to buy a new back to the phone, attach velcro to it and the back of a badge lanyard and see if that will do the trick. (Prediction: disaster.) You can get a waterproof bag that has all the features… and comes in bright orange and screams “I’m going white water river rafting but can’t live without my cell phone.”

I have to think this is not an uncommon problem. Many women wear skirts**. Many women own phones. Surely I’m not the only one in the world who would like to be able to carry things with TWO HANDS while wearing a skirt?

So advise me, sages of the internet. How may my days of torment be ceased? Am I doomed to don trousers until the end of my days, solely for the pocketage? Is there a product out there that is ideal for my needs? How do you solve this problem, if you’ve encountered it? (Do you carry a purse with you ALL THE TIME?)

*I am able to get a new phone but just discovered to my horror that Verizon doesn’t carry the Galaxy S5 mini, which was absolutely my plan. Now I have no idea whether they’ll eventually come out with it, or if I need to get a phablet-size phone which just compounds my problem because when womens’ clothes have pockets, they’re often small.
**I would say men too, but kilts have sporans and utilikilts have pockets. Because men are smart that way.

People I never thought I’d be

I spent the first part of this week in Tampa for work. I had not yet unpacked my suitcase from the LAST business trip I was on (Minnesota) before I had to pack for this one. It was my third business trip in about 8 weeks. I felt – as I went through the well practiced shoes-laptop-liquids process – like a jaded road warrior.

Tampa did have some advantages over Minnesota
Tampa did have some advantages over Minnesota

I remember my first few times flying – Boston to Seattle in college – when I stared horrified a the people blowing off the whole “in case of emergency, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device” speech. Didn’t these people care about their lives? I pitied them their calcified ways – eyes on the Harvard Business Review as this remarkable patchwork of humanity is exposed below them. Do they not know that their flight represents the wildest fantasy – never to be obtained – of generations of humanity? How can they so casually close the window and catnap?

Yeah. During the safety notification, I check to see which is my nearest exit. I wonder if there is anyone, anywhere who doesn’t know how to buckle their seatbelt. Then I open Harvard Business Review (ok, actually it’s usually a fashion magazine for a Technically Pretty fashion magazine review). I still like the window seat, and I still try to spot my house/college/guess-the-big-city as I fly, but the magic is indeed gone.

The training I took was on Pragmatic Marketing. Why I needed this training was a story for another day. It was excellent training – well delivered, thought-provoking, very educational. But there were a lot of identity-crisis moments for me in it. Here was I: liberal arts major, lover of medieval literature, classical musician, backpacker, mother, role-playing-gamer-who-wishes-she-could-talk-her-gaming-group-into-dungeons-and-dragons, baseball-lover, programmer, technical architect… in a marketing class. The word marchitecture was extensively and non-ironically used.

I learned a lot of extremely interesting things I had never previously imagined knowing, but wondered to find myself in such a place under such circumstances.


I am – at this moment – sitting at Chuck E Cheese. I know – I’m breaking form. Usually my now-weekly posts are written at the YMCA during basketball practice. But today Grey and Lincoln have a video game playdate, which would not be nearly as fun if the “little brother” was present. So I told the little brother type person to name his entertainment, and for two hours it would be his. He picked the rathole.

I’m lurking on a local wifi network (seriously, Chuck E, how can you not have wifi). I have a GREAT idea for a new type of business… imagine a big central play area for kids from 3 – 10 years of age. A big, bouncy-housed arcade. Imagine seating around the sides – maybe raised – with great visibility of the play areas. Maybe there would even be closed circuit cameras covering the blind spots. Then imagine this seating around the edge was a mix of 4 – 6 person tables and one to two person locations. There would be a light appetizers and drink service to the grownup section. There would be great wifi, tons of power, comfortable seats, lower noise (low enough that a phone call would be plausible) and someone at the door (like they have at Chuck E’s) to make sure there are no small person escapees.

Work-from-home parents and folks like me would come with our laptops, offer our kids some great exercise/fun (maybe with their friends). We could either catch up on our work/personal digital lives, or come with our friends (who are increasingly the parents of our children’s friends) and catch up on the latest together. It would be awesome. Maybe there could be a per hour (or per day) fee, or you could sign up for a monthly membership. Maybe they’d even mix in some enrichment activities, like sports/activities.

They’d rake it in, I tell you.


I find the process of being no longer young continues to surprise me on a regular basis. My latest “get off my lawn!” moment happened last weekend. I was making some pies. Now, you must understand that I know how to make pie. I was running some quick calculations in my head, and I figure I’ve made between 100 – 120 pies in my lifetime. Every single one of those pies was made with the same recipe, inherited from my grandmother, which is hard to make but deliciously flaky.

Then, a few years ago, Crisco changed its recipe in response to the backlash against transfats. As far as I can tell, Crisco was all trans fats. This pie crust recipe that my grandmother passed down to me is entirely made of Crisco. It took me a while to eat through the old pie starter and Crisco I had. But then I started having trouble. I blamed it on all sorts of things: not enough flour on the pastry crust, too much shortening in the pie starter, not cold enough, too much water, not enough water. Finally though, very tired on a Friday night and working on pie 2 of 6, I finally realized that it just. Wasn’t. Working. For the first time ever, I actually got a pie crust so bad I couldn’t make it work and I had to throw it out. (That was a pie crust that ACTUALLY didn’t have enough water.) Dawning realization hit: it wasn’t me. I wasn’t making a mistake. It was the pie crust. It was unworkable. Crisco ruined my recipe.

Depressed, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen and made a shortening-and-butter crust that came out much, much better. But I had that “Why do they go “improving” perfectly good things and ruining the way I’ve always done them?” I mean, in this case I understood. Transfats = bad for health. But a tie that went back to the early 20th century, and my bright-eyed great-grandmother, was just severed. I mourn its loss. As I move from youth to middle age, I better see the costs – not just the benefits – of the inexorable march of progress. I know how things once were (through the rosy tinted spectacles of youth, of course) and lament their loss. My sons will never learn to roll a pie crust using Grandma Finley’s recipe (unless some enterprising entrepreneur brings back the classic formulation – you never know.)

My grandma’s caramel corn recipe requires corn syrup and brown sugar. Perhaps I’d better make it while I can!

Roller Coaster Ride

It’s taken me years to finally figure out the rhythm and the schedule of the grownup me. It’s hard when you leave behind the beginning and conclusions, the milestones, the counting down of your school life. All of a sudden, there are no logical breaks. You do not get a fresh start every fall. You do not matriculate, commence or otherwise change. It feels as though life is now a blur of barely differentiated days: a gradient instead of an ordinal scale.

But finally, after more than a decade of careful attention, I think I have it figured out. Beginning in January is a long, slow slog up the tracks of the year. We go seven or eight months with only a handful of three day weekends. There’s a particularly appalling stretch from mid-February to the end of May when every single week has five workdays in it. Before I had kids I resented this time of year as boring, undifferentiated, tedious. Now I find it enjoyable in its own right. That slog-uphill time is the time of year when not every weekend is claimed, when I have time to read novels or play video games, when yes-I-can-get-together-this-Friday happens. You spend a weekend doing something that doesn’t Make Great Memories and somehow it doesn’t matter as much. I mean, it’s not like you wasted great weather this weekend.

As the weather warms, the snow melts and May arrives, things start heating up. Suddenly, “it seems like a pity to waste” re-enters the vocabulary on Saturdays. I realize that the next three weekends are fully committed. Whole blocks of the calendar disappear under markings like “Camp Gramp”, “Gen Con” or (this year) “London”. These are, of course, completely awesome things. Summer is the high season for adventures. The pictures pile up on the memory cards, the laundry is carefully calibrated around how many bathing suits my eldest son has (and his !$@#$ summer camp t-shirts that must be worn twice a week) and take-out menus get a good workout. But still, there’s that feeling of space in life. It’s summer. Vacation is coming. This is going to be great!

Sitting in Ashland, sipping my 93rd cup of coffee at Dragonfly while reading “A Civil Campaign” (again), I had this sensation of being on a roller coaster. All winter and spring it had chugged its way up the mountain of tracks as I gazed around at the altitude-revealed scenery. That moment in Asland we were at the very top of the tracks, and only the weight of the cars behind us kept us from our full plummeting speed.

So today… wheeeeee!!!!!

From here to 2013 is a crazy ride. I’m conducting a wedding on Saturday. Adam goes to Gencon soon. I have approximately 93 batches of jam to make. We’re camping again. School starts. My MIL arrives. My birthday happens. I get started on the labor of love that is my Christmas cards (yes! In September!). Then Grey’s birthday. Somewhere in here we go apple picking and then make at least two batches of apple butter. Two weeks later, Adam’s birthday. A week after that, Thane’s birthday. Three days after that, Halloween. Two weeks after that, Mocksgiving. Two more weeks to Thanksgiving. (Ironically, the only breather in this schedule. Unless I get inspired to go somewhere … which knowing me I probably will.) Then holy-cow-how-is-it-Advent-already? Then Adam’s gone for a week for a work conference. Then Christmas, followed by New Years. And all that stuff? That’s the EVERY YEAR stuff. (Well, except the wedding this weekend.) There are always exceptional and unusual events added into that mix. Zoom! No wonder I feel like my schedule is picking up speed.

I find it funny that this month, of all months, I would decide to start a big new project (http://technicallypretty.com) that requires consistent attention. I think I do this every year. It takes me a few months after that ride to get my breath – and my courage back. But then my lizard-brain notices a pattern of several months of under utilization! Obviously circumstances have changed and I now have more disposable time! Let’s come up with some new ideas we want to try, ok? Great idea. My lizard brain has not figured out the pattern that my mammal brain lays out here.

Still, maybe this is the year that, uh, somehow that schedule is not jam packed? Maybe my new writing time plan (on the bus on the way home on a teeny netbook) will somehow mean I actually DO have more disposable time for my new blog? Even if not, in the most hectic days of October I will be able to remind myself that come January it won’t be quite so crazy.

Does your adult life have a consistent seasonal pattern? How much does it line up – or do you make it line up – with that old academic calendar? When are your busy times and your free times, or is it more consistent for you?

Technically Pretty

The other day I had a good idea. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always waited (usually in vain) for the Good Idea Fairy to strike, so when it came I got very excited about it. My good idea was this: I would start a fashion blog for women in technology. This blog would be about how to use the skills of fashion to look better… but without all the cultural baggage that usually surrounds anything fashion.

I feel like I’ve gone through a transition that has been useful, and that other women might appreciate. Apprenticing myself to my mother-in-law, I’ve gone from a girl who wore ankle-length black skirts with white athletic socks (I have photographic proof) to a woman who consistently looks nice when she walks out the door in the morning. I’ve gotten and maintained a good haircut. I’ve developed a wardrobe that suits my lifestyle, my profession and my figure. I know how to use makeup to subtle good effect. In an interview recently, I was described as “polished”. That word stuck with me. Of all the compliments I’ve gotten in life, it might be one of the most unexpected, and hardest-won.

I have learned these skills of ‘the woman’.

But I haven’t bought the hype. I hate shopping for shoes. I could care less about this season’s hot colors, unless they happen to be my favorites. I don’t judge people differently based on how they look (at least I try not to). I’m playing the game, but my heart’s not in it. I still schlep in jeans and athletic socks and snarky geek t-shirts on weekends. And reading fashion magazines makes me either slightly ill or very sarcastic. So maybe, perhaps, I can teach the skills of looking good without the judgement and insults of so many other fashion venues.

The idea went from good to great when I thought of the domain name: Technically Pretty.com

So it has come to pass! I currently have a zillion ideas for things I want to write about. I’d love this to be far more interactive than this blogs. (After all, I’m no expert in fashion. If I’m a competent journeywoman, I’m happy.) I have thoughts for recurring posts (outfit of the day! this seasons hot fashions in bullet points! review of best and worst fashion magazines! product reviews on cosmetics you can buy at Target!). I’d love to have surveys, reader stories and in-depth discussions about what it means to be a professional woman, what it means to be a technical woman, and what it costs us to spend precious time and money on looks instead of books.

What I don’t have is a readership. So I’m asking you if you would bop on over and read my posts. Follow the blog. Add it to your syndication (if you like it and it seems relevant). If I earn your trust with good content… share my link. If you have questions, thoughts or discussions – hash them out with me there. If you know of other good blogs/tweets/sites I should be following, bring them to my attention.