They Said It Couldn’t Be Done


The Goal: Wear the quinceñeary-est quinceñeara dress to Litquake’s opening night party next Friday without spending any money to acquire said dress.

The Solution: Find someone who happens to have an old wedding dress which she uses to play dress up with kids and sit around until she gives it to you.



But get your frowny face emoticons ready.

All the directions that describe how to dye great big dresses claim that you cannot dye it if it’s 100% polyester. Cannot dye because it does not work or cannot dye because it does not work well? That’s what I had to find out.

It took approximately 16 hours of scouring the Internet (or 20 minutes if you take out interruptions) and skimming through DIY dye blogs where industrious young people sent their cute, 100% polyester off-white formals to Florida to be professionally dyed for undisclosed amounts of time and money, before I found what I was after. Back in 2003 on some costume forum, GitaGurl23 asked: “I want to dye my wedding dress for Halloween. It doesn’t have to look great. Can I do it?”

And the answer posted six years later in 2009: “Yes. And here’s how.”

The solution involved using isopropyl alcohol with water at a ratio of 7:1 (something about it evaporating faster), an iron to bind the color with heat (polyester is essentially plastic fibers, that’s why the color doesn’t hold), and a third thing that I read but subsequently ignored.

“I don’t have time to do this,” I thought. And immediately drove to Target and bought a 34-gallon bin, 3 bottles of RIT fuchsia dye, 2.5 gallons of isopropyl alcohol, and—because I fell under the spell that is Target—a jacket (so cute! and cheap! and the right size!), a pair of shoes (wrong size, oops) and ant traps. (We don’t have ants but I always like to be prepared).

The prospect of making white things pink was an exciting one, inspiring Michael to throw in a pair of underwear along with the dress.


before (dress and underpants)



materials to dye dress according to some random Internet forum

“I hope we don’t get some kind of chemical burn from these fumes,” I thought, as the children emptied bottles of rubbing alcohol into the bin.

Now, I’m not much for following directions, but here’s what I did and didn’t do.

1) 7:1 ratio of alcohol to water.

Nope. I added the 2.5 gallons as pictured above and perhaps another ten gallons of hot water.

2) Hot water (140 degrees).

Nope. I added some boiling water and a bunch of water from the hose outside. It was warm but not super hot.

3) Clean garment first.

Nah. I washed the bottom of the dress and the train in the tub because that was the dirtiest part of the dress. But I’m too impatient to wait for a dress that weighs more than my firstborn child to drip dry in my shower. And I’m way too cheap to dry clean it.

4) One bottle of dye for every two pounds of fabric.

I just grabbed three bottles and decided that should be enough.


pink things in a bucket

This photo was supposed to be informative. You know, the way they do in the DIY blogs. But really it just looks like pink tulle in a bucket. Or maybe it looks like flamingo carcasses. I don’t know. This is my first DIY blog post.


5) Use rubber gloves. 

This is the one thing I should have done. Because the vinyl gloves I used were very thin. My left hand was bright pink for about 10 hours after dyeing.

6) Leave in dye for 30 – 60 minutes stirring constantly.

Seriously? I have things to do! I think I did about 25 minutes and then we hung the behemoth to drip dry in the backyard over an old shower curtain. (Which meant I didn’t iron it dry, either.)


In short, I didn’t follow any of the special directions and it still looks fantastic, right?

A couple of caveats: turns out I can’t rinse the dress because most of the dye will rinse out. Also, the color isn’t totally even. The bottom is a little darker than the rest of the dress. And maybe I should have spent more time cleaning it because there are parts near the neckline that are dark pink (presumably something oil-based–makeup?) that absorbed a lot of dye. OH–and for several hours after dyeing, the whole thing reeked of alcohol. And not the good-party kind. The hospital kind. (It eventually wore off.)

In short, the professionals are right. You shouldn’t dye a polyester dress if you want the color to be uniform and permanent. But if you don’t mind the funky, dye away!

P.S. The tightie-whitey Hanes underwear is a beautiful bright fuchsia, much to Michael’s delight.







(Michael, if, like GitaGurl23’s forum question, this post survives on the Internet for another ten years, I want you to know that you really loved this underwear.)

This Week’s Fun Facts



One of the things I hate about adulthood is becoming an expert in something that you really couldn’t care less about.

For example, I couldn’t care less about fleas or flea eggs or how long flea larvae can lie dormant in your hamper. I don’t care to know that if, for example, your cat’s fleas lay eggs on your husband’s Verona tam from his recent graduation ceremony and the eggs hatch, that the larvae will still wave to you from under the magnifying glass even after you’ve put said tam in the microwave for 45 seconds.

I don’t care to figure out how long it takes the fleas to die after you’ve applied the toxic gel to the scruff of your cats’ necks. I didn’t really want to know that the gel is filled with hormones that stop the fleas’ reproductive cycles and that it makes the cats a little wonky, too.

I didn’t need to know that flea bites itch because we are allergic to flea saliva.

Of course, I’m not exactly an expert. Only time will tell if there are eggs hidden in couch cushions or if one really does need to wash everything in hot water rather than cold. If the toxic hormonal gel really does work for a month. If Dawn dish washing liquid really does keep fleas off the cats.

There are other unanswered questions. Just how long did the cats have fleas before we noticed, anyway? Is this something that’s slowly been escalating for months but we’d done just enough cleaning (until recently) to prevent an outbreak? Or is it like fruit flies—one brownish banana and the two flies you saw at breakfast have become legion by evening?

I don’t think I need to know. But if I find out, I’ll pass the info along.

Z is for Zizou


ZI’m not a jealous person by nature but sometimes at night when it’s time to go to bed, instead of following me into the boudoir, my husband, hypnotized by the glow of his laptop will murmur, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

And then I start to seethe.

He’s not coming to snuggle with me under the sheets because he’d rather watch videos on Youtube. Specifically, clips of French Algerian soccer star Zinedane Zidane. Most likely, my husband is watching the “best of” video of “Zizou” (as the superstar is known to his fans), a montage of the best career shots edited down to seven minutes against the backdrop of Coldplay’s “I Will Fix You.”

“Honey, watch this! It’s the game against Brazil in 1998. Look! He totally deeks Ronaldo right…there! There’s nobody like him. Nobody even close.”

He was drooling when he said that.

Then he tells me how “Zizou” was so sinewy and fast! in the early years. How he’d smoked cigarettes at halftime. How he apologized to the children after he head-butted Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Finals. How unbecoming “Zizou’s” haircut was when he played for Real Madrid and how much better he looks with a shaved head. There’s so much reverence and awe in my husband’s voice, I’m surprised that we didn’t name our twins “Zinedane” and “Zidane.”


I remember when I used to have that “Zizou effect” on my husband. But we’ve been together now fifteen years. Has our sizzle fizzled? Have I been replaced by a bald Frenchman?

The other day I tested him: I had run a Google search on the words, “Zinedane Zidane Coldplay” and when I found a link to the video, I played the audio.

“Do you know what this is?” I asked.

I wanted to drive home the point that he was spending a little too much time ooh-ing and aah-ing over Mr. Happy Feet and not enough time ooh-ing and aah-ing over me.

My husband one-upped me. He listened to the soundtrack for a moment and said, “That’s not the right one.” (Apparently there’s a rival Coldplay mashup of Zizou shots on goal and my husband can hear the difference). “Here, I’ll get the right link for you. We’ll watch it together. Ohhhh-hoh-hoh! I haven’t seen it in four days.”

And then he let out a little moan.

I was writing at the time (a rough draft of this blog post, as a matter of fact), and I just glared at him, shaking my head. Then I went back to work.

A few minutes later my husband said sadly, “We’re not going to watch it, are we?”

“I’m going to bed,” I huffed.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” he said, putting on his headphones and starting to hum.

Y is for You


YThis is what kills me. “You” are “you plural.” And no one knows how that happened. You were a cell. You divided. And now you have two noses and four arms and twenty toes.

One of you wakes at the slightest touch. The other of you can fall off the bed and stay asleep.

One of you likes baseball. The other of you likes to figure out what markings make which word.

One of you was born at a pound and a half.

One of you has lots of pictures from when you plural were in the hospital because you’d always open your eyes.

One of you just got your first bee sting.

One of you wants Italy to win the World Cup.

One of you is speedy quick. Unless we’re talking about baseball reflexes.

One of you is rolly and slow. Unless we’re talking about baseball reflexes.

Both of you can tell time better than your sister. Who is three years older.

One of you could live on plain pasta.

One of you likes radishes, guacamole, and prefers Sevillano olives to Niçoise.

And yet, you share the same DNA.

X is for eXposure


XWhen I first started blogging, I had a purpose, a reason to disseminate information through a blog. I was pregnant with twins. Our odds were terrible (50/50 they’d survive the pregnancy without complications) and we wanted to keep our family informed without having to make 19 different phone calls to give the same information.

The blog was private. I blogged about the pregnancy, the birth, and the early NICU days. Then the idea to write a memoir about the experience was inserted into my head, probably during a middle-of-the-night alien abduction that involved some kind of nasal probe (to insert the idea, of course) and memory erasure (to protect the identity of the aliens, of course). Which meant that I needed to take the blog public and build a platform. I needed to get my name out there and get some exposure.

There is an ugly side to getting exposure. For example, one way to get a lot of views and shares is to write a post that goes viral. And one way to go viral is to piss people off so much that they want to share your affronts so that other people get pissed off. People like to share things that piss them off. (I suppose you could also write a particularly witty post, like this one here, but only if you are particularly witty.)

However, when total strangers are pissed off at you, they write really mean things. They stalk you on the Internet and post links to your Facebook profile that you thought was private. Suddenly something you thought was particularly witty (“Janine works at Keeping Her Toenails Shiny!”) is suddenly turned on its head and now strangers are congratulating each other on the cleverness of their insults.

So then the blog become private again.

But you still need a platform, because the aliens’ nasal probes have altered the neural connections in your frontal lobes (not to mention your hippocampus) and their plan for galactic domination by making people want to write memoirs is not deterred by Internet trolls.

So here we are. Blogging here and there, like trying to change the color of the ocean one drop of food coloring at a time but not wanting to make the sort of splash that wakes up the trolls.

W is for Writer’s Block


WWhen April 26th rolled around I didn’t have a blog post ready because I was exhausted. The book launch, the parties (oh! the parties!), Easter and visiting family had squeezed out all my words and by the time we got to “W” I had nothing left.

And though I kept writing and working on my book project, I just couldn’t bring myself to go back and finish those four letters in the A-Z Blog Challenge.

But last week, in an impromptu meeting with some Write On Mamas during which we talked about platform-building, I made some goals for myself. One of which was to finish these last four letters. That and figure out my purpose in the blogosphere.

This morning it dawned on me that part of what I enjoy about writing my book is that the audience is so far away. Just as when I was on stage—the audience is waaaaaaaaaaay out there. They have no real input. They react, sure. But that’s at the end. After you’ve done all the work. Most importantly, you are under no obligation to respond to their response.

But a blog is a dialogue. People comment (or worse! Nobody comments!) and a good blogger responds to these comments. I don’t mind the dialogue that happens on Facebook. In fact, that’s what I love about Facebook. But then, the big difference there is that I know who I am talking to. It’s a friend. Not that I don’t mind responding to a commenter who is also a stranger. But if feels sort of fake. Particularly through the A-Z challenge, which is meant to drive traffic to your site and guide you to other blogs—more and more I just felt like I was commenting for the sake of leaving a comment and not because I had something meaningful to say.

Then I felt like I was following all these blogs for the sake of having followed them, because that’s how you build a platform, right? Like adding to the din instead of focusing on a message.

So I stopped blogging.

V is for Vicarious


VSo. I didn’t write a post for today.

But luckily for you, someone else did. Last night was the first of many book launch parties. Here’s fellow WoM Claire Hennessy’s run-down of the night. And here’s WoM Lorrie Goldin’s account of the night as well as an eloquently written backstory behind getting shit done when you don’t feel like it. Or the way Lorrie puts it: “the alchemy of the collective transforms inertia and demoralization into something altogether different.”


U is for Unwanted


UI have an entire collection of unwanted words. Paragraphs that are lovely out of context, but just don’t fit in the essay I’m working on. Or maybe they’re too complicated to fix.

So I post them on my other blog, the one that posts to Facebook but to which one cannot subscribe, the one that’s just for getting stuff out there. And they sit. “Adopted Darlings” I call them, a play on the misattributed quotes that encourages writers to murder what they love.

It works for me. The unwanted words get a home and a tag. By themselves they’re like clouds that float by. The kind that seem to serve no purpose.

T is for Thank You


TBack in a past life, I was a ballerina. Only I never called myself that. No dancer uses the word “ballerina.” I sort of like the word now. There’s a lot of stuff I grasp now that I had hated in my previous life.

My entire dance career felt like a fight. That’s part of being a perfectionist. You have to keep the struggle alive. You can’t just be satisfied with something. You have to tear yourself up because you are yearning for that satisfaction and at the same time are terrified that you only have success because of your drive.

I was thinking about this today because I’m in the midst of writing all these emails to people—we’ve got a book launch party! Can you come? And just a few years ago, it would have twisted me up inside to ask people to come.

When I was dancing, sometimes I wouldn’t even come out for my bow. I could do this because many of our bows were ensemble bows and no one would have missed me except for the people on stage. Somehow I’d talk myself into a frenzy. A bow was self-indulgent. It seemed needy and insincere.

I don’t need those people’s approval, their applause. And let’s face it, they’re not clapping for me or even for us. They’re clapping because that’s what you’re supposed to do at the end of a show. Well! I for one will not participate in this farce!

I only sat out the bow once or twice. Turns out directors find that more selfish and self-indulgent than just bowing to the crowd.

I know, you’re wondering how I’m going to bring this back to the book launch party, how I can possibly justify these shameless plugs.

Part of this has to do with the fact that my identity as a person is not as a writer. I’m ok being a lousy writer or a novice writer. Or an amateurish writer. I’m also ok with the idea that someone might think I’m a pretty good writer.

I was never like that as a dancer. I wasn’t ok with the idea that anyone would think I was a lousy dancer and at the same time, I balked at the idea that I could ever be a pretty good dancer. I had to keep the fight. No wonder if felt insincere to invite someone to see me perform.

By contrast my writing isn’t about me (even though all I do is write about me!). I know the two people on staff at the NICU who ask about my writing will genuinely want to know about this book event, even if they can’t go. So I’ll invite them. I know my neighbors are curious and the moms in Chiara’s classroom are supportive, so I’ll invite them. They’ll be too busy to come or they’ll want to come but can’t or who knows, maybe they are secretly hoping I’ll fail, although I don’t attract those sort of people the way I did when I was dancing.

And none of it will have to do with me.

Here’s what I didn’t get as a dancer: that the bow is the time when the dancer is face to face with the audience as a person, not a character, and she has the opportunity to thank them. Thank you for coming. I hope you enjoyed the show. Not, “I hope you liked me.” That’s what I didn’t get.

That’s what these parties are. A chance to celebrate. To say “thank you” to the people who have supported us and “look!” to the people who have been curious. They might not be able to come. They might not be able to buy books. But that’s not the point. The point is that I can thank them and I can thank them in the invitation to the dance.

If you’d like to be thanked in person, come join us tomorrow night at Diesel Books in Oakland at 7pm. Or Sunday, April 27th at the Bookmine in Napa. Or May 4th  in Corte Madera at Book Passage. How about May 8th in San Francisco or May 17th at Copperfields in Sebastopol? (See what I did there?)