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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Different year, same costumes

It's 5:31.  Edwin is in the bath, sitting in the dark watching the LED tub light change color (I know you're jealous).  Joseph is sitting in bed, hopefully going to sleep.  I'm upstairs, enjoying a little bit of peace and silence after running errands this afternoon with the children.  Naila is downstairs cooking dinner (now I know you're really jealous).  Brandon is at work.

And the girls?  They're out wandering the neighborhood dressed as princesses, the same thing they were dressed as last year, knocking on people's doors and asking for candy.

So yes, that sums up me as a slacker mom.  Someone else is cooking my dinner, my baby is crying himself to sleep, the two year-old is in the bathtub alone, and my six- and four- year old are wandering the neighborhood by themselves asking strange people for candy.

Sometimes I feel like a walking advertisement for birth control.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Facing My Fears, or How the Squat Toilet Got Me in the End

Warning: This post is about bodily functions.  If that grosses you out, you've been warned.

I don't consider myself a fearful person.  I will squash a cockroach if necessary.  I've ridden that ride at King's Dominion where you drop several hundred feet.  Mice, as a concept, don't bother me.  I'll try most new foods that don't include eyeballs or rotted shark.  I homeschool my children.  I've lived through an evacuation, and traveled internationally solo with children more times than I like to think of. I live overseas.  I've birthed four children.

I have done lots and lots of scary things.  Not much scares me - except for using the bathroom.

Okay, not using a regular, western bathroom - the kind that involves sitting on a seat.  I can handle that.  It's the other kind of bathroom-using that scares me, the kind that doesn't involve a nice comfy seat.  The kind that is done in the woods and in strange places like China.

I've had this fear since I was a small child.  I remember being locked out of the house one afternoon when my mother was running errands and wasn't home in time to let me and my sisters in from school. One needed to use the bathroom and couldn't wait.  I remember thinking at the time that I would rather have my bladder burst than go anywhere other than a toilet.

My father loved to go camping to amazing places with waterfalls and hiking and horses on remote islands and swamps.  I would look at the pictures of the great campouts he had taken his scouts on and think about how much fun it would be to go to those beautiful places.  "Dad," I would ask, "do they have toilets there?"  When the inevitable answer was 'no' I wished that I could just face up to my fears and go along, but I never did.

When we were assigned to Cairo, I found out that squat toilets were not just in China so I made plenty of preparations to avoid ever having to use one.  When we went out sightseeing, I planned excursions that lasted as long as I knew my bladder would.  I avoided drinking lots of fluids.  I planned strategic restaurant stops that included known western toilets.  

Once when Brandon and I were waiting for a train in the Alexandria station, I went to the restroom.  The ever-present bathroom attendant waved me over to a stall when I asked for the restroom, and was very confused when I turned right around after seeing the toilet and marched right back out again.  A two hour train ride in semi-agony was worse than using a squat toilet.

All of the time I knew I was being irrational - after all, how bad could it be?  Millions of people have never seen a western toilet.  My sister goes hiking all of the time in places that don't have toilets for miles.  Even my mother went on those backpacking trips with my father.  It would be okay.  I could do it.  If I can birth babies, I can use a squat toilet.

Here in Azerbaijan they are called 'Turkish toilets,' and I had my first run-in on Victory Day on a CLO day trip to Beshbarmag.  Thankfully the trip only lasted into the early afternoon and so with careful fluid intake I was able to survive the trip with no other new cultural experiences other than watching people hack sheep apart with (probably dull) axes.

The next reckoning came at the beach this summer.  We went with friends who had been before and recommended the little beach club since it had bathrooms.  When Kathleen announced that it was time to try out the bathrooms I accompanied her to the hut next to the parking lot.  We both made an abrupt u-turn as our bladders suddenly didn't feel so full at the sight of the (always stinky) squat toilet waiting for us.  Kathleen later shamed me by being the first Sherwood to successfully acquire the art of squat-potting.  I, on the other hand, drank nothing for the rest of the day and survived again.

But when we planned our trip to Guba this past weekend, I knew that my number was up.  Azerbaijan and the Turkish toilets had outmaneuvered me.  The first day of our trip was a CLO day trip to Guba and environs.  We left the embassy at seven in the morning and our hotel check-in wasn't until the evening.  There was no way my bladder could last that long and absolutely no way there would be a western toilet between seven am in Baku and Long Forest Resort that evening.

We started the morning off early and were waiting outside the gates by 7:15.  Our departure was delayed somewhat, so by 10:15 we were in Guba.  Our trip started with a visit to a waterfall a distance outside of town.  The further we got from Guba the bumpier the roads became, paving turning into potholes, potholes turning into patches of asphalt, and patches finally dying horrible deaths, giving way to rocky unpaved road.  As we bumped over rocks and through holes and over mounds I had a new empathy for pioneers crossing endless prairies on wooden wheels as their teeth jarred out of their heads.  And as each mile passed I grew a mile farther from my last bathroom stop early that morning in Baku.

Sophia piped up from behind me.  "Mom, I need to go to the bathroom."  Kathleen chimed in "Me too. When are we going to stop?"  Since we were caravanning to an unknown destination, I confessed that I had no idea.  "We're just going to have to wait.  If we stop, we will get lost and not know how to find the waterfall.  Can you hold it?"  Ahh, the joy of being a mother - when you have more than your own bladder to be responsible for.

The endless rocky road stretched on and on and on, each rock bouncing the seat belt against my lap, each drop pushing me and my full bladder painfully into the seat.  How long was this going to last?  Were we going to go on forever, bouncing our way into eternity with my bladder screaming at me over every. single. rock.  At last we came to the entrance of a canyon.  Finally, almost there.  At least we could stop and find somewhere and save my seats - good thing they're leather - from ruin.

The lead car stopped.  We all waited, no knowing what had happened - had we gotten lost?  Was the road closed?  Did we forget someone?  Then it backed up and turned around.  Everyone else dutifully turned around one at a time, narrowly avoiding the rock wall on one side and drop into the river on the other.  We retraced our route and pulled up to a handsome, half-finished hotel.  The girls perked up.  Hotel?  Lovely?  Surely this place would have bathrooms - the right kind of bathrooms.

We all hopped (well unbuckled and climbed) out and made our way over to the group standing near an empty doorway.

"What's going on?" I asked the CLO lady, the obvious authority figure.

"Bathroom break," she smiled. "We still have ten kilometers to go before the waterfall, and we thought it would be a good time to stop."

"Oh thank heaven!!" I breathed in relief.  "Where are the toilets?"

"Well..." she continued, starting to look distinctly uncomfortable.  "Here's the thing.  There's only one toilet.  And it has no running water.  Or lights.  So you kind of have to keep the door open.  And... well... it's a Turkish toilet.  Sorry.  It's the best we can do!" she tried to finish cheerfully.

I thought of my bladder and ten kilometers more of bumpy, rocky, jarring, bone-rattling road and smiled back at her.  "Well there's nothing like new cultural experiences is there?"

So when it was our turn the girls, Edwin (who had steadfastly and stubbornly refused to pee in the scrub surrounding the hotel) and I hiked across the rocky, weedy ground to a small door in the back.  Edwin walked in, looked around and hastily retreated shouting "Never mind! Never mind!" as he left.

Kathleen, who was a Turkish toilet pro because of her experience this summer, volunteered to go first to show Sophia and I how to get things done.  After seeing her sister Sophia made her mother proud and added "using squat pots" to "counting in Azeri" and "knowing not to drink the tap water" to her list of accomplishments gained while living overseas.

And then it was my turn.

When I stepped out of the door a few minutes later (with dry shoes and pants I might add), the girls were proud.  "You did it, Mom!" they smiled at me.  "Good job!  Don't you feel much better?"

And I did.  Much, much better.  Now I can go on all those camping trips with my dad next time he asks.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

In which we travel to rural Azerbaijan with all four children and everyone survives

I'm not much of a traveler.  Those of you who live in the U.S. can now laugh.  But really when you don't include all of the back-and-forth to the U.S. traveling and moving traveling, I haven't traveled much.  Well, for someone who lives overseas.  While in Egypt Brandon and I made it to the Red Sea twice and Istanbul once.  I slept in the Athens Sofitel for two nights while I was being evacuated with the kids.  And I've been through the Frankfurt airport countless times, but that hardly counts as travel.

All of my travel while we were in Egypt was travel without the children.  Because traveling with children is not a vacation - it's just work in a more difficult, more public place.  It's a nightmare, a waste of money, and when you're done you need a vacation from your vacation.  The only reason we take the children with us in the summer is because at this point everybody actually wants to see the children more than us.  Otherwise, they'd be left at home and save the taxpayers thousands of dollars.  I don't. travel. with. children.

This weekend, however, was a first.  Brandon had two days off for Gurban Bayram, and so in a temporary bout of insanity I suggested we take all four children (that seems like a whole lot when it's written down) on a trip to the mountains.  

And then in an extended bout of insanity I had my housekeeper call and book a cabin at the Long Forest "Resort" for two nights.  The booking wasn't very formal - she talked to Ismail and told him that George was coming for Thursday and Friday nights - but I figured that if I'd already bothered to do that, we might as well bite the bullet and get out of town.

And so we did.  

It was quite lovely and I don't think I even caught myself wondering why exactly I had thought this was a good idea.  I won't vouch for Brandon, however. 

Now pictures, to convince all of you who were undecided about visiting Azerbaijan that the country here really is very scenic.  And some children for the grandparents who read this blog.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I really know how to party

One of my least favorite things about Brandon's job is the evening events he has to attend.  When Brandon got hired, I went on a dress-buying frenzy so that I would have appropriate attire for when we went to all of those fancy, glamorous diplomatic events.  I envisioned myself swanking it up with other high-class diplomats like myself, laughing at... something funny... and having a great time.  You know, because life lived at events is somehow more exciting because those things show up on movies.

The first time I attended a cocktail party with Brandon I realized fifteen minutes into the night that Hollywood had sold me a bill of goods.  All everyone did was talk to each other.  Nobody even really got to eat the food because there wasn't a time where stuffing your face with shrimp fritters wouldn't look bad.  So I spent the whole night hanging on to the same fried piece of food, watching it grow cold and nasty as I wistfully clutched it in my hand and nodded at the Greek GC's tales of travel around Egypt.  And my feet hurt.  A lot.

I still find myself, however, being tricked into thinking that maybe if I attended some other event I would find that glamour that video cameras give to a crowd of people chatting with each other.  Fall is apparently Ball Season around here, and I realized that I could attend the Black and White Ball, the Poppy Ball, and the Marine Ball all in the space of a few weeks.  "Oooh!"  I thought.  "How much fun!  I could get all dressed up and pretty and get my hair done and eat tasty dinner and dance with Brandon and... spend the evening making small talk with people I don't know."

So now when Brandon tells me of something he has to attend, I fight the urge to be jealous with the memory of that agonizingly boring cocktail party and wish him a fun time passing out business cards.  Thankfully Brandon is not my friend's husband with several events a week, and he only strands me a few times a month, leaving me to the mercy of the children and a dinner eaten with only eyeball questions to keep me company.

This past week Brandon announced that he had something to attend at the Jumeirah hotel.  The stab of jealousy poked me a little as I asked him, "The Jumeirah?  That fancy seven-star hotel?"  If glamour could be found anywhere, it is at seven-star hotels owned by rich Arabs.  Hotels are the last bastion of glamour, and everyone likes an excuse to poke around one that you never have the nerve to afford.  "I bet the food will be tasty."  Because if the talking is boring, at least the food should be good.

That evening I served up grilled cheese sandwiches and discussed exactly how many horses is really too many horses for one person.  Five?  Six?  How about thirty thousand?  Lacking the energy to discuss what exactly a thousand means, I put everyone to bed at 6:45.

With the children safely contained in their rooms and all rebellion quashed, I looked into the long, open, empty evening.  I had hours of my own to do whatever I liked.  I considered my options.  There was always sewing, with several projects needing attention.  I'm sure I could find a good book to read.  How about calling one of my sisters?  Surf the internet for hours finding things to buy?  There was always Pride and Prejudice and chocolate to keep me company.  Finally I made a decision, put on an audiobook, and got to work.

When Brandon crawled into bed after midnight I asked him how the night was.  "Oh, you know.  Lots of talking.  We ended up spending some time with these guys from Dagestan.  And you were right - the food was good.  How was your night?"

"Mine?  Oh fine.  I decided to clean the carpets.  They were really filthy.  It felt great to get all of that dirt out."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kathleen's Mom

Sometimes I feel like I've been a parent forever.  My memories of life before Kathleen arrived are retreating into that part of memory that is shadowy, indistinct and maybe a little dusty.  In a way my life didn't really begin until I became a mother.

I have been dealing with small children for over six years now - changing diapers continually for six years, feeding someone else for six years, battling wills for six years, trying to keep people from crying for six years.  As soon as one child becomes reasonably self-sufficient another one arrives to take its place in a long succession of unending needs.

On the good days, it's the joy of continuing to welcome new children to our loving family.  On the bad days it's like Groundhog Day, with more poop and less Rachmaninov.

My life has always consisted of beautiful, needy, loving, infuriating, amazing small children.  It feels like it will always consist of them, with no change, for the rest of my life.

But while I've been changing the diapers and cleaning food off the floor and rocking children to sleep, Kathleen has stopped being a small child.

First she started dressing herself.  A little later she learned to read.  Then she was able to clean up her own toys.  And now in the morning after doing her chores she waves goodbye to me as she runs outside to ride her bike around the neighborhood.  When did my little baby become responsible enough to be trusted outside my supervision?

The first time I let her go outside by herself, I worried the entire time.  Would she be okay?  What if a car hit her?  What if a gardner tried to bother her?  What if someone stuffed her into a sack and whisked her far away from me?  Then I thought about our neighborhood - we have twenty-four hour guards and security cameras around the entire compound.  If I can't let my six year-old walk alone here, where can I let her?  Eventually she's going to have to go to college and I'll have to let her out of my sight then.

So most days she goes outside by herself, sometimes taking Sophia with her.  Some afternoons she'll run into friends while we're out walking and when it's time for me to go inside for Edwin and Joseph's bath, she and Sophia will stay outside and play, roaming the neighborhood climbing trees and trying to coax unsuspecting cats into staying in the baby seat on Sophia's bicycle.

Recently she's been bringing some of her friends home, breezily announcing that they will be up in the playroom as everyone bolts up the stairs to despoil the just-cleaned toy room.  Busy with dinner or bathing Joseph or dressing Edwin, I watch them run past and listen for any loud crashes.  I know the children and I know some of their parents, but not all of them.  They wave as they go by, shy of this strange woman who lives in Kathleen's house.  I try and make small talk.  Some talk easily of what games they've been playing, some answer in the shortest sounds possible.  Mostly, however, I leave them to their playing.  They have important things to do and I have a standing date with dinner.

I remember my friends' moms from my childhood.  They were always there in the background, doing whatever it was that moms do to keep constantly busy.  Some were nice, some were nicer, but they all mostly just left us alone to play.  I didn't consider them much; they were vague shadows in the background that occasionally gave me treats.  But they weren't who I had come to see, they were just a fixture of my friends' lives.

And now it has come full circle - I am now Kathleen's mom, keeping quietly in the background as I busily move around the house.

I knew that one day my children would get older.  I hoped that they would have friends.  I was excited to live in our neighborhood because of the readily available friends.  I just never thought about the new role I'd get to play.  Kathleen's mom.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


In the toy room this evening.  I'm not sure whether to laugh, be horrified, or impressed with their devotion.  Luckily there are tall trees around our house to draw the lightning away.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sick Day

Sick days.  Every mother dreads them.  As a child I loved sick days - I got to spend the whole day watching movies, reading books, and staying home from school in a house so quiet I could hear the furnace blower echo through the emptiness.  My mom would lay me down on the couch, put a bowl next to me, turn on whatever movie I wanted to watch and then leave me to my own personal party.  It was great.

As a mother, sick days are something else entirely.  If you're lucky, your sick day happens on a weekend and someone else is around to referee the children's fights, feed them, and keep them from playing dance party on your bed while accidentally kicking the baby off in the process.  Then you can groan on your bed of pain and complain about how horrible you feel in order to shout down the rising guilt about leaving your poor husband, who has been working like a dog all week, to spend his one day off chasing children around the house.

But if it falls on a weekday, you're on your own until husband comes riding home on his white horse to rescue you.

So when the tell-tale ache in my joints that warns of impending doom started mid-morning this week, I thanked my lucky stars that it was Friday and I had enough time left to finish school, feed the children, and toss them into bed before I crawled into my own bed to begin the misery.

Luckily the children are getting old enough to amuse themselves and so played fairly happily that afternoon while I rested, waiting for Brandon to come home and rescue me.  And this time I was smart enough to lay on the couch where there wasn't enough room for a dance party.

When the question of dinner came up, I drew a blank.
I knew that I couldn't avoid feeding them until Brandon came home.  I still had some energy left, and throwing him to the wolves immediately upon coming home was no way to engender the sympathy I needed to buy a whole Saturday of solitary book-reading in my room with the door shut.

So Sophia and I brainstormed.  Grilled cheese?  We were out of bread.  For the past three weeks.  Macaroni and cheese?  Nobody seems to like it anymore.  Leftovers?  We had that for lunch.

Sophia interrupted my less-than-attractive dinner choices, "What about scrambled eggs and cereal?  We could do that!  And I could make it!  All by myself while you rest on the couch.  I know how to make scrambled eggs!"

Not one to turn down any offer to make food I agreed, figuring that if she needed any help I would be close enough.  So I got Joseph ready for bed and put him down before collapsing on the downstairs couch.  Sophia busied herself in the kitchen.  "Okay Kathleen, Mom said that I could be in charge.  So you have to listen to what I say and do it, okay?  Now help me get the eggs out of the refrigerator..."

Remembering the adage about sausage and legislation, I listened to a book on my iPod, reasoning that if someone really needed me, I'd know.  Right about the time the boy confessed his love for the girl, Sophia padded into the living room and poked my shoulder.  "Mom, could you put the season-salt on the eggs?  I can't do that.  And Kathleen needs you to pour the milk."

I walked into the kitchen to find three plates heaped with fluffy scrambled eggs next to three bowls filled with Marshmallow Mateys and three cups waiting for milk.  Everyone was sitting at the table waiting to pray after I filled their cups and bowls.  Sophia looked very satisfied with herself.  Edwin looked excited to be eating cereal for dinner.

So I poured their milk, sprinkled seasoned salt over their eggs, and prayed with them.  Then I headed back to the couch.

After dinner they put their dishes in the dishwasher and they all went upstairs.  Kathleen came back downstairs, dressed for bed with teeth brushed.  Sophia came downstair trailing an almost-naked Edwin and gave me his pajamas, his toothbrush and the toothpaste.  After I brushed Edwin's teeth and dressed him, I instructed him to go wash his hands at the kitchen sink.  Sophia interrupted me, "he doesn't have to do that, Mom.  I already washed his hands and had him use the bathroom."

So I sent them off to play until Dad came home to put them to bed.  And enjoyed my sick day, one day earlier than expected.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Did you know that Azerbaijan has petroglyphs?  Neither did I until we came here.  I hadn't thought much about them until a month or so ago when we read the chapter about nomads (i.e. anything before cities in Egypt and the Fertile Crescent) in Kathleen's history textbook.  When we talked about cave paintings, I realized that we had some nomadic art right down the road from us.

So to celebrate Columbus Day this year, we took a trip down to Gobustan to see the petroglyphs.

There's not much to say about petroglyphs except that they are carvings on rocks.  I've never seen any petroglyphs before, but these ones were pretty interesting.  The museum and site were just small enough to keep the kids interested without overload.  Only Kathleen really got the idea that people who lived a very long time ago made these.  Everyone else just enjoyed running around the paths and making Brandon nervous.

After visiting the site, we drove a few minutes down the road and ate lunch by a rock carved by a legion who traveled here during Domitian's reign.  After lunch everyone got down to the real business of the day - rock climbing.  Because, of course, who wants history when there are much more interesting things to be done?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Recent Outings

Occasionally, we leave the house.  Sometimes I even take pictures to prove it.

On Labor Day, we took the children to Koala Park.  I didn't know much about it other than it had rides for children.  As soon as we stepped in, I felt danger of being assaulted by fiberglass nightmares.  The children didn't notice, however, and had one of the best ninety minutes of their life riding every single tacky ride there. Well, the girls had fun.  Edwin was mostly terrified.  I think he was the only one with sense.

Yesterday we took the children to the zoo.  All of the vanity projects haven't made it to the zoo yet, and it is possibly in a worse state than the Cairo Zoo.  The children, however, seem to be immune to their surroundings and enjoyed looking at all of the animals - really really close!  The day was brought to absolute perfection when they found out that the shetland ponies weren't just for exhibition.  I will miss the days when four manat buys complete and utter happiness.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Evening Thoughts

This evening, after dinner was eaten and cleaned up and Joseph put to bed and ice cream made and put away in the freezer, we watched General Conference together with the children.  Since we have an eleven-hour jump on Utah time, Brandon and I decided to go to bed last night instead of staying up until eleven to watch.  

So after our usual Sunday activities, we sat down and watched and listened to what our prophet has to say to us.  The two-hour session ended with Elder Uchtdorf's talk.  In his talk, he told of a nurse in hospice care.  During her time caring for those about to die, she asked her patients what they regretted about life.  Some said that they wished they had spent more time with friends and family.  Some said that they wished they had spent less time at work.  And some said that they wished they had let themselves be happy.

As I listened to Elder Uchtdorf's talk about people who had waited until they were through a stressful situation or done with a part of their life or they reached a certain goal to be happy, I looked at my three little children.

Mothering has not been something I ever looked forward to.  I had no glow of anticipation when I was pregnant with Kathleen. Instead I saw myself looking down a long, long tunnel of work work work.  I knew that eventually I would be happy with what I had achieved, but for now it was time for long, inglorious, often irritating work.

After conference we went downstairs and ate strawberry-peach ice cream together.  Kathleen told silly jokes that are only funny to the under-six crowd while Sophia giggled infectiously.  Edwin made capital letter statements about SHARKS being in his stomach that ATE his ICE CREAM.  Brandon sang silly songs.  And I watched.  And smiled.  I sat in the warm glow of happiness of a Sunday evening eating ice cream with my children.

Having four children is not usual these days.  Recently I've thought about exactly why I have four children and why I hope to have more.  Part of it is out of religious duty.  Part of it is because I can.  Part of it may be insanity - perhaps a large part - although I feel quite sane.  Maybe all insane people feel quite sane?

But as I sat in the warm orange glow of our kitchen keeping the dark outside, I knew.  I looked at Kathleen.  I looked at Sophia.  I looked at Edwin.  I thought of sweet Joseph asleep in his crib.  I thought of each one adding their unique spirit to our family.  Like a beautiful melody, each one adds richness and depth to the song of our family.  

Of course there are times when they each drive me crazy in their own special way, each so irritating I want to (and unfortunately do) scream.  And they are a lot of work, work that leaves me with little time to pursue my own interests.  They are anything but convenient, making any trip out of the house into a mini circus for everyone else's amusement.

But all of those times fade away in the moments of peace and happiness and ice cream eaten on a Sunday evening.  And I am happy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Going Fashion Blind

I'm not a fashionista.  I once thought I was but I gave that up about the time I started wearing spit-up as a fashion accessory.  I don't completely ignore the trends - after mocking, despising, and boycotting skinny jeans, I finally gave in and bought a pair this year.  I got my brown riding boots last fall.  And my chunky jewelry the year before.  Which is, of course, a signal that all of those things can now go out of fashion.

It doesn't help that I don't live in the US and so can't observe the fashion trends firsthand.  I got all of my chunky necklaces in Cairo, where they've been wearing those for years and years.  So I still can't tell if they're American cute, Cairene cute, or some strange mix that is cute only in my mind.  It doesn't give me any peace of mind that the only compliment I've gotten on them has been from an American friend - who lived in Cairo with me.

So when all of the local ladies brought out their dresses this spring, I started noticing them.  They looked so comfortable and so nice at the same time.  And then I looked online and found that all of the American stores were carrying dresses too.  I had to search a little harder to find dresses that were long enough, with sleeves, but thankfully I'm short so most dresses are long enough.  I found some at Target, some at J.Crew and then stumbled onto the Boden website, having had a recommendation from an acquaintance.

I knew that my dressed from J.Crew and Target were probably going to pass the US fashion police's muster, but Boden is a company from the UK.  Was it going to be okay to add a third fashion influence to my already confused brain?  I added a few dresses I liked to my shopping bag.  Unable to commit, however, I left the window open and left to fold the laundry.  I pictured myself in various dresses, wondering if I would look nice, or if I was just seeing too many local ladies in loudly patterned polyester for my own good.  I came back.  I couldn't decide.  I thought about asking Brandon, and then thought better of it.

After a week of agonizing, I finally just decided to buy what I wanted and if anything I could be 'unique.'

The boxes came three or four weeks later and I put on a fashion show for Brandon.  Some I was sure of and those I showed him first.  He probably didn't care, but said that they looked nice.  He wasn't sure of the next one, but conceded that if I thought it was okay, it probably would work but it wasn't his favorite.  And then I pulled out the last.

He gave me a funny look, and then started laughing "You look like you've been vandalized by the sixties!!  Orange?!  And flowers!?  I think I saw my grandma wearing that twenty years ago!"

Defensive, I told him that it was too late, the dress was here and wasn't going to be sent back through the pouch to be returned.

And so I have to ask, you of those who are living in the US, which one is it?  Cute?  Or vandalized by the sixties?