So You Want to Look Like a Grown Up?

For over the past 2 years I have been using the personal shopper/clothing service Stitch Fix.  I chose to start this service when I realized that I am a grown ass woman who still just wears $4 t-shirts from Old Navy and the same 4 pairs of shorts and blue jeans.  I did have some reservations about starting the service, but was quickly hooked. Here are all my reasons:

  1. CLOTHES. But, seriously, clothes. We all need them, why not buy nice ones? I was of the mindset that-ah, who cares if clothes are cheap, you get tired of wearing them after 6 times anyway and then you throw those out and buy new ones. How. Wasteful. And if you really want to get political about it, THIS. These are quality clothes, and a year later, I still wear pieces I received in my first box.
  2. SOMEONE ELSE DOES ALL THE WORK! A personal stylist looks over your style profile and your Pinterest page, and chooses items that they think you may like. These are typically items you would look past if shopping for yourself. You can also leave a note for them in case you need something specific….and by specific, I mean- dress for an upcoming wedding, white blouse to go with a certain skirt you have, or a distressed pair of jeans- NOT “I want THIS specific blouse that I was too lazy/cheap/needy to find online myself”. While they sometimes can get a specific item you absolutely love, don’t count on it. Their job is to find YOU items, not for YOU to find items for them to send you. If you want a personal shopper to literally buy the items you want, go to Nordy’s. Which means time off work or away from family, in the car, to the mall, and….ugh. Nothankyou.
  3. GET IT WHEN YOU WANT IT. Seriously! I know there are lots of “box services” out there, but a lot will lock you in to a program of charging your credit card every month when maybe you don’t want lipstick/clothes/books/sweats this month. With Stitch Fix, YOU tell THEM when you want a box. Are you cool with a monthly box? There’s a button for that. Want one every 3 weeks? Button for that too! Want to decide when and on what date you want a box…maybe 1 a year, maybe 14,? Birthday? Friend’s wedding? Anniversary date? You can schedule them yourself. They don’t charge your card unless you schedule a Fix.
  4. IT’S LIKE A BIRTHDAY PRESENT. The FedEx guy comes, your dog goes nuts, you run into the bedroom screaming with excitement (still, after 2 years). You open up the pretty box to a beautiful tissue wrapped package of clothes. A note is included, directly from your stylist. S/he tells you what she sent, why and what to wear it with.
  5. IT’S IDIOT PROOF. Seriously. They even give you style cards that show each item they sent styled in 2 different ways-dress it up or dress it down. Don’t like some or any of the items? Go online within 3 days and tell them (otherwise they assume you are keeping it all). Then shove it all back in the prepaid USPS bag. Drop it off at the post office or hand it to the mailman. No pesky trips to Kinko’s or the UPS Store.
  6. IT’S NOT REALLY THAT EXPENSIVE. Just like I was initially, everyone is afraid of the cost. But what’s there to be afraid of if you can return it all for free??? They do charge you a $20 styling fee on the day they create your box of goodies. When you get the 5 items, you try them on, keep what you want. If you keep anything, you get the $20 back as a credit. If you keep nothing, you lose the $20, which is payment for the time the stylist took to look into your profile and put your box together. If you keep all 5 items, you get an additional 25% off AND the $20 credit! It’s like buy 4 get 1 free. If you only like 4 of the items, it is generally cheaper to keep all 5 and try to sell that unwanted item- there are several Facebook pages just for that. After a year, my boxes hover between $200 and $300 (for 5 items)…but I tend to get a lot of dresses (theirs are TO. DIE. FOR) which are a little pricier. I tend to also keep most of my boxes in full- I have rarely sent items back.
  7. IT’S NOT JUST CLOTHES. For dummies like me who don’t know how to put an outfit together, they also can send bags, purses, jewelry, jackets, scarves and now SHOES. So they can literally create a whole outfit for you in a box! 
  8. CUSTOMER SERVICE IS EXACTLY THAT. SERVICE. Like those pants but not in People-of-Walmart-skin-tone-pink? Ask for an exchange. Need a bigger blouse because the ta-tas need some breathing room? See if they have one. They are very quick to respond to requests and are always very happy and excited to help. I once exchanged a pair of jeans for a new color. When they asked what color I wanted instead, I told them to surprise me. I could hear the squeal through the email.
  9. THEY GIVE 2 SHITS ABOUT THEIR CUSTOMERS. When I put my boxes on hold last year because of my diagnosis, I got a $50 credit and a hand written personal note. This week, I got THIS:

Stitch fix thank you.jpg

Given that I had named my cancer Felicia, this was extremely personal (as you can tell in the note). I have NO idea how my stylist Tina (seriously, she’s the bestest ever) found out about this, because I only posted that stuff on my Facebook page and they don’t look at FB pages. But someone found out. And they took the time to curate a small box of beautiful personal items just for me.  How can you NOT love a service that cares about its customers like this? I have seen other examples of things similar to this (flowers for deaths in the family, graduation presents, etc). In this age of everyone in it for the buck, they are in it for the experience they can provide their customers.

So check Stitch Fix out. Let me now what you think!

PS. If you are a big selfie-taker, it is also fun to take photos of the items you get as you try them on and send a big group text to your mom/sisters/girlfriends. They can help you pick out items and it gets them on the SF train too! 🙂 Plus it’s like getting another box when you see what someone else got!

There’s Enough Whine in the World as it is….

I could not finish this one- A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi.

A House for Happy Mothers

I think the base idea is great…the use of an Indian woman as a womb for those who cannot give birth themselves…but this is just..annoying.

It’s the story of Priya and her husband, who cannot have kids…who clearly can’t even decide if they even want them or not, who then jump the ocean to use an Indian surrogate. The other half of the story is seen through the eyes of this surrogate, Asha- a woman who already has 2 children of her own.

I found all the characters particularly annoying and whiny. The women were worse than the men, who just whined about finances and not getting enough time with their wives…pouting and leaving for weeks on end when they don’t get their way. The women whined about their inability to get pregnant, their annoying mothers, not seeing their kids, getting impregnated for money, what to do with said money…and on and on.

I think a non-fiction book on the subject of surrogates in India would be more interesting…what straights lead these women to decide to give up 9 months of their lives to house someone else’s child?

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the free copy in exchange for my review.

I’m Furiously Happy That I Read This

You know how sometimes you read a book, and it is so funny and awkward and true that you almost feel bad laughing out loud or sympathizing? That was me while reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

I must admit, I have not read her first book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, though I do own it. Now I will move it to the front of the TBR list.

Furiously Happy

This is a collection of short stories/essays/journal entries/conversations from Jenny’s life. If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Lawson, just follow her blog for a taste of what you will find in her books. If you want fun Jenny Lawson swag, go here. Let’s start with the cover- a picture of a happily rabid raccoon, which is an actual  taxidermied raccoon that she owns. And poses with her cats. And sleeps with. And uses to scare her husband. I’m hooked.

Then there are the stories. She makes it known from the get-go that she suffers from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses, all which rotate through her like a diseased carousal. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed. Some days her scalp is erupting. Some days she is crying in the middle of the grocery store. Some days her daughter points out her introversion and awkwardness to a room full of adults. While these are all situations that many of us can sympathize with, we certainly don’t do it with the candor and hilarity that Jenny does.

In addition are conversations she has with her husband, a seemingly sane, albeit boring-jobbed work-from-homer (much like my own husband). From naming their new cat Mr. President, to her new support pony (Pony Danza!), her gall bladder surgery and a nurse named Labia, and their visit with the accountant, their relationship isn’t that different from many of the ones we have with our own spouses- theirs is just WAY more colorful.

But she also steps back from ridiculously funny and gets ridiculously real. She shares the heartbreak of her illnesses. Of her joy in seeing none of the signs of them in her daughter. Of what it feels like to accept an invitation and immediately regret it. To feel like a hypochondriac. Imposter syndrome. To panic in the face of a life perceived to be wasted. All the things that even those who don’t suffer from mental illness can and do feel on a regular basis.

For the funniest bits, see their trip to Japan and her Japanese toilet commentary, her trip to Australia in kangaroo and koala costumes and bloody hotel carpeting, their new house in the country club and the swan attacks, 3 cat skins, and all the opossums. LOTS of opossums.

FAVORITE LINES

“You may ask how I know and I’ll tell you how. It’s because right now? YOU’RE READING. That’s what the sexy people do.”

“…that usually your kids’ positive qualities come less from your making them awesome and more from just not intentionally squashing the random things they’re inherently born with that make them awesome.”

“I believe it was Sartre who said, ‘Hell is other people,’ and I suspect he wrote that after spending an hour with overinvolved parents who won’t stop yelling at coaches, instructors or crying four-year-olds who really just want a snow cone.”

The Patient H.M. Made Me Google

For readers who love Mary Roach‘s books, or were fans of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this book is for you.

As a fan of non-fiction, especially when it reads like fiction, and of medicine related topics, this book was in my wheelhouse before I opened it.

Patient HM

It is written by the grandson of a famous neurosurgeon, William Beecher Scoville, who got involved in the decades of lobotomies that were performed on patients who suffered from seizures, depression, schizophrenia, or even on women whose husbands thought they were not complacent enough. His grandfather was very well known in the neurosurgical community, so half of the book (or more) is about his grandfather’s career and how important he was to the lobotomy movement.

Another portion of the book is about the author’s grandmother, and Scoville’s wife, and how her life changes when her children are young and her husband is off performing all the lobotomies (sometimes up to 5 a day!).

And the other large portion of the book is about Patient H.M. He is one of the most studied human beings in the world, whose real name is Henry Molaison. Henry suffers from SEVERE seizures (like, hourly) after head trauma related to being hit by a car as a child. To ease the seizures, Henry’s parents present him to Scoville for a lobotomy. After this procedure, Henry’s short term memory and much of his long term memory ceases to exist, though is IQ remains normal to high. Because of this, psychologists and neurologists around the world fight for time with him to study this anomaly in an effort to further understand the human brain.

These three stories are intertwined with other scientific tidbits, political segues and historical data, including how Nazis used concentration camp prisoners for their own studies. This book results in LOTS of additional Google-time, though I did find that this book is a LOT more current than the information you find on the internet. The ending is amazing and surprising…which is hard to do in a non-fiction book in these days of the internet and Google. (Please click on links with caution, as not all the info is current or the same as what is in this book).

There were only a couple things I could have done without. There was a short side bar on the author’s personal life-his marriage, it’s failure, where he lived, his daughter- that didn’t really have anything to do whatsoever with the rest of the book. There was also a sizable section on Nazi experiments-come-torture, and while some of it was applicable to this story-the experiments pertaining to the brain- the rest was not applicable, and was disturbing enough that it made you want to skip it. While these things are interesting(?) and are factual, they weren’t all relevant (freezing/hypothermia, air pressure changes, exploding chests, gun shots to test infection, etc) to the neuroscience undercurrent of the book.

Very interesting read, full of carefully researched information on a taboo topic and disappointing time in the history of medicine.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House for a providing a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Just How Happy Are You?

How lucky am I that this new release- that is all over the book galley sites- was available at a public library sale?!

Picked up this little beauty and read it on the plane ride home.

The Invoice

The book begs the questions, how much would you pay for happiness? Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? Does money buy happiness? Is a life of material things worse than a life with little to nothing?

The story involves a fairly boring, benign young man who lives in a small flat in Sweden and works part time at a video rental store. He lives on pizza and ice cream and movies. He lost his parents years ago, has a fairly absent sister and only one really good friend (and it remains to be seen how “good” a friend he really is). His one true love years ago was not meant to be, and this has affected him.

He opens the mail one day and receives an invoice for a very large sum of money…so large he figures it to be an error, and thus ignores it until he hears others talking about their strange invoices. He contacts the company on the invoice and learns just what the bill is for (which is beyond creative- good job Mr. Karlsson!).

And so begins the story of learning to appreciate all the lessons we are given in life. That not everything negative that happens to us is a bad thing or the end of the world or karma. Not every good thing that happens to us is luck or meant to be or God’s will or kismet. The tiniest hint of a burgeoning love story makes this short novel even more endearing.

Very quick read on a plane or beach, and a small copy, so easy to tote around in that cute purse of yours.

Feminist Nerds Unite!

Hey schoolteachers! Want a book to introduce your students to female scientists? This is the one!

Easy to read, even for those not familiar with science-y language. This book highlights just a few of the amazing women who have worked in STEM fields since there were STEM fields.

Women in Science
Full of stories of women not allowed to attend college, or meetings with their male counterparts, forced to flee Nazi Germany and leave their research, pushed to work in basements, sheds and janitor closets but who preserved anyway. Watch for the researchers who died because of what they were studying. Also watch for the women whose work was stolen by men, and for the man who won a Nobel prize for the work he did with his wife, who then failed to thank or recognize her during his speech (spoiler alert: the marriage didn’t last!).

A few names are recognizable..Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, May-Britt Moser…but most were new to me. Have your laptop ready to go for additional Googling of these amazing women.

A separate section of the book includes more women listed as honorable mentions.
Beautiful artwork accompanies each 2 page bio, which is surrounded by extra juicy factoids. The artwork is whimsical, and makes the book timeless. No photos of out of date hairstyles or clothing to see here.

There are additional sections on what STEM is and what its subjects are. There is also a glossary, a section on the types of equipment these women use in their research (think pipettes, burettes, etc.) and a list of websites to check out for more information.

So many new women here that I was introduced to, and so glad to know of them…many who were never appropriately recognized for their work.

Thanks Blogging for Books for providing this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Cat Fairy Tale? Purr, purr, purr…

Today’s Backlisted Book Review is The Cat Who Came In From The Cold.

As an animal lover and veterinary technician for over 20 years (credentialed, and specialized, thank you very much!), Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has written books that I can really appreciate. He understands animal behavior and the human animal bond in ways many veterinarians don’t understand. Finding this small volume at a used book sale, it was not even a question that I would pick it up.

 

Cat Who Came In

The Cat Who Came In From The Cold is a fable; a fairy tale about Billi, an Asian Leopard cat who is the first wild cat to chose to be domesticated. Unlike dogs, who love being around humans and other animals, cats are solitary and fear many other animals. It takes place in India, and touches on the hypocrisy of how animals are portrayed in different religions. The word billi means cat in Hindi.

Billi frequently sees young children and a dog pass under his favorite branch in his favorite mango grove. One day, he strikes up a conversation with the dog about living with humans. Billi remembers stories his mother told him as a kitten of being around humans, and he has never been able to let go of his curiosity. He goes on a discovery journey to find out how other animals feel about humans. His knowledge and curiosity finally get the best of him, and when the time is perfect, Billi inserts himself into the human world in a very brave and beautiful way.

This is a beautiful story, very quick read, great for kids as well. It warms my heart to have this in my head now as to how my own cats have come to honor me with their presence. The end of this story touched me personally as well, given the experience I have had with my own cats caring for me when I was battling cancer and chemotherapy. ❤

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