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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Weddings, Benghazi, and Extreme Measures

What happens when there is nothing new to talk about? If you’re Vanity Fair, you run an article on Monica Lewinsky, if you’re CNN, you run reports on every new ping that might be coming from missing Malaysian flight 370, and if you’re a republican, you appoint Draco Malfoy to head an all new House select committee on Benghazi.

Luckily for me, I haven’t run out of things to talk about, so I haven’t had to go to such extreme measures. However, that doesn’t mean I that I haven’t gone to any extreme measures lately. For me, extreme is normal.

When Robin told us she was getting married, the first words out of my mouth were, “You guys should have the reception here!” I didn’t mean to say it, but I was caught up in the excitement of love and potential, excitement and possibility. Monty’s eyes had widened in horror as the words escaped from my lips, but to his credit, he just nodded and agreed. “Definitely,” he’d said. “Our patio will be perfect for the reception.”

Robin is his cousin, after all, though I’d claim her as my own blood relative if I could. And I seriously admire her determination to make sure all the decorations, eating utensils, and centerpieces are “upcycled,” just like the clothing she designs. However, it’s a lot of work to take old discarded stuff and make it desirable.

“So you're sure you can find everything you need for your wedding in this thrift store?” I looked around at all the old popcorn poppers, workout videos, and 90s style boots, trying not to sniff too hard, because it smelled like dust and Doritos in here.

“Of course!” She said. “This will be awesome; just look at all the possibilities!”

I looked around, and where Robin saw possibilities, I saw junk. But I tried to be diplomatic about it. “I suppose,” I said, “but don’t you want something shiny and new?"

“Nah. What’s the fun in that?” Robin perused the down the aisle of the Good Will, occasionally stopping to inspect a knickknack or a candy bowl. “I like taking old, forgotten about objects, and making them shiny and new all over again.”

“But you’re getting married! You’re entitled to a little bit of indulgence.”

Robin smiled at me. “Exactly, and this is my form of indulgence! Besides, I think indulgence and opinions are the same. They’re okay, as long as you’re not being wasteful or ignorant.  I mean, nobody is entitled to stupidity.”

“Hmm,” is all I said, and I kept my head down.

Sure, I’m all about preserving the environment and not being wasteful, but Robin was making me feel bad about myself. If she can’t indulge in a wedding, what must she think of my lifestyle?

Then again, she was directly benefitting from my lifestyle, or at least from the large West Des Moines home that Monty and I bought last summer. It had seemed like more than we needed at the time, but after selling our house in Seattle, we were trying to avoid paying a fortune in capital gains taxes.

“Lucy,” Robin said, “Don’t worry. I prefer it this way. I like finding treasure from other people’s trash. It’s exciting.”

“Okay,” I said, and I gave her a sideways hug. Then I sorted through a box of plates. Some were from old tea services; others were looked like they came from Target, five years ago, in the clearance aisle.  “Do you think you’ll want all of these?” I asked.

“Maybe. But not if they’re plastic.” Robin tucked her hair behind her ears and examined the plates herself.

“Plastic’s not okay, even when it’s second hand?”

“Normally plastic’s fine. I just want a vintage look.” She held up an olive green one, with a picture of a rooster. “Now that’s ugly,” she said. “I’d rule out olive green altogether, but then we’d never find enough plates.”

This was the sort of look she was going for:

We sifted through all the plates, adding a lot of them to our cart. And once I got into the task, I realized that taking something old and discarded, changing its context and making it beautiful, is a romantic idea and perfect for a wedding. More people would probably do the same, if it didn’t require so much time and energy.

Yet maybe when it’s a labor of love, it's easier.

But what if the desire to upcycle is fueled by anger or righteous indignation? Or confusion? Because when something upsetting happens, people want answers. And in politics, people want someone to blame.

I’m talking of course about Benghazi, and the time and energy Republicans are spending, upcycling this issue yet again, hoping that they can change a tragic mistake, put it in the right context, and change it into a shiny, new political scandal that will bite Hillary Clinton in the butt.

There have already been more than a dozen probes. Republicans insist they want answers about what happened before, and after, the attack, so nothing like it happens ever again. But if that were the case, why not form a select committee to investigate all the attacks against diplomatic outposts in recent years (and there have been a lot) so we can better protect our diplomats?

This is not about good will; it’s about blame, and finding political gain by whatever means necessary.

Sometimes I wonder what our nation would be like if we got rid of all the politicians, and let the goodhearted, well-intentioned people, like Robin, have a try. She can see beauty and potential where most people see only hopeless waste.

After we finishing combing the store over for every possible bit of china and glass, Robin asked me how much time I had.

"I was hoping to hit a few more stores," she said. "I need to get started on my dress."

She plans on taking something like these:

And turning them into something like this:

Exciting news! American Angst is now available on Amazon. Read on for the description, and for an excerpt from the title story. Or if you're already convinced you want to read it, click here to purchase a copy!

Intimate, snarky, and completely relatable, American Angst is about two women grappling with love and pregnancy, sex and careers --while attempting self-discovery in a crazy world. 

Lucy needs to save her family. Robin needs to save herself. These tightly interwoven stories chart their growth as they make their way through Thanksgiving dinners, bad breakups, celebrity scandals and political campaigns. For laughter through tears, don't miss American Angst, whether you're new to these characters or you think of them as old friends. 

(Included in this collection are Lucy's posts about the 2012 election, which were originally seen on her liberal blog, There's new, additional material! Spoiler: Obama still wins.) 

Bonus: This edition includes an excerpt from The Holdout

I know my fame is fleeting, and I will be relieved when I can go back to my normal, everyday life. At least then I won’t feel like I’m still in high school, terrified that I won’t be invited to the next big party.
At least then, I’ll feel like myself.
Perhaps I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Because as I sit here, side by side with Ava Andrews, I’ve never felt less like myself. Ava is probably the world’s most famous woman, and she is interviewing me as a part of her “Fascinating Females” series. Though when I compare myself to the other women she’s interviewing, it’s like the local news versus the latest gossip headline on Gawker. There’s just no contest.
When you think of me, you don’t think about political scandals, celebrity arrests, or the newest, hottest cat video on YouTube. With me, you think about library closings or the weather report. Slightly interesting? Yes. But fascinating? No.
Now I’m worried that Ava has come to this realization and regrets having me on her show. She raises one dark eyebrow and smiles in her reserved way, like she’s a disapproving bank teller handing out a rather large cash withdrawal.
“You have become something of a role model in the past few months,” she says, her voice deep and significant. “What’s that like for you?”
I stifle a cough and grin. I’m well aware of how I come across on camera and I’m determined to be humble, like an unlikely Olympic gold-medal winner who is more thankful to God, or fate, or luck, than any talent or skill she might have. “I guess I don’t think of it that way – you know, that I’m a role model. If I’ve inspired young women to go after their dreams, that’s fantastic. But I’m just enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame.”
Ava shifts and leans forward on her white armchair, and I shift and lean back on the white couch. The white table in front of me has a glass of water that’s calling to me in a tantalizing voice, “Drink me Robin,” as if I’m Alice in Wonderland in the desert. But I’m worried the glass would slide right through my sweaty fingers and I’d spill it all over Ava’s spotless white set and my drench my blue dress in the process.
My blue dress is what compelled me to get over my fears and do this interview in the first place.
I made my dress from an oversized man’s silk shirt, and I kept the collar but cinched the waist, removed the sleeves and added a ruffle at the bottom so it wouldn’t be too short. And along my breast bone there’s an oval-shaped cut-out, small and subtle, covered by a thin layer of blue chiffon. This dress is the signature piece for my new collection, and I’m hoping Ava will ask me about it and my clothing line in general, so I can generate some free publicity.
Because everyone knows that Ava Andrews has the Midas touch, and her power extends to books, beauty products, and even automobiles. If what you’re selling happens to be one of her “product crushes,” then she’ll not only buy a bunch for her show guests, but her endorsement will ring in the ears of the masses. She literally makes or breaks careers.