In my family October 4th may as well be a national holiday. My dad impressed upon us from an early age that our mother’s birthday is a special day. When we were little we would spend hours on cards and drawings. My dad would complete the celebration with a cake, bouquet and always a small box containing a new bauble. Now we are older, and still, we try to find the way to be together to celebrate our mom. This is no longer an easy task, as two out of my three siblings live out of state. Lucky for me, I am responsible for the gifts. My father gives me free reign to use his credit card to buy my mom anything and everything she would like. I always joke and tell my dad that as a commission, I get to buy myself a few items too.

So this year, as I rush to call the florist, buy and wrap the gifts, and select the perfect cards, I find myself annoyed, rushed and frazzled. Not because of the shopping duties, but instead, with the reality that I find myself with so little time to do what I think is most important. We end up singing “Happy Birthday” at a local restaurant, over a large personalized dulce de leche cake. After blowing out the candles, my mom thanks each of us for orchestrating her “perfect birthday.” Thank goodness my mother is flexible, tolerant and loves her grandchildren, because today, her birthday celebration was a bit more chaotic and a lot more disorganized than my siblings and I would have liked. Between saying thank you, and passing her birthday cake around for all of us to enjoy, my mom turns the tables, and says that this year, she has a gift for her daughters and that she has arranged a spa day for the girls in the family. (We are from Argentina and the men in this family do NOT go to spas). My mom says that spending the day relaxing together is the perfect gift she has chosen to give to herself and us.

Everyone is grateful and excited to escape the everyday routine and head out to a spa day, except for me. I’m stressed. To be honest, I have never been a calm and relaxed person. Taking a time out to be massaged, polished, waxed and cleansed has never been high on my list. I am not a touchy-feely person and I am picky about which lotions (and hands) touch my face and body. (I was scarred by a past esthetician who chose to enjoy a cigarette right before my facial).

I am further put off by spa days by the fact that my three children rely mainly on me to orchestrate their days. In order to get away for a few hours, I have to get organized and make pickup, drop off, snack and bath plans for the boys. (I am usually most successful when I let go of my plan, and just offer my kids and husband a bribe, in exchange for some “me” time).

As we pack our spa day bags, load the car and get on our way, we are all plugged in to calling, texting and communicating with our kids, husbands and fiances. I barely greet my sister when I realize my son’s soccer bag was mistakenly left in my car and that he won’t have his special orange soccer ball for practice today (I feel sorry for whoever has to deal with that tantrum). I almost miss the check-in process, as I’m running late trying to find a way for the ball and water bottle to get back to my house before soccer practice. I am given a robe, a locker key and sandals, and my sisters, mom, grandmother and I rush to get comfortable. We laugh at and with each other, as we debate on whether or not we get fully naked versus not-fully naked (under our robes). We joke about how disheveled we look, take some pictures, get a pre-massage tea, and laugh some more as we wait for our names to be called.

Before I realize it, I am “connecting with the moon, earth and sky” as my masseuse explains the need to relax and disconnect from stress. Connecting with the moon, earth or sky, I must admit, is not a big priority for me. But I start relaxing as I realize just how tired and stressed I am. The soft music, coupled with the warm blanket and neck pillow, is set just perfectly, and I do begin to drift off. My mind goes blank, and I enjoy the quiet that fills my mind. I focus on enjoying the “here and now,” and don’t even realize that time is passing. Before I know it, I am rubbing my eyes and thanking my masseuse. I didn’t fall asleep, but thanks to the “no cell phone” policy, I was able to enjoy the art of doing nothing — which is a learned behavior, one that I still have not mastered.

Right then and there, as the women in my family sit down to laugh, talk, eat and laugh some more , I begin to realize just how generous my mom was in giving us this spa day gift. Learning to let go and take care of oneself is not only important, it is actually a necessity. It is a right, not a privilege. Luckily for me, when I arrive home, the kids are excited to show me a special surprise. They have prepared a home spa, all set with lotions, water and towels. They lay me down quickly and begin to lather the lotions, perfumes and hand soap on my feet, arms and legs. Their good intentions do not go unnoticed, on the contrary, I resist the urge to ask that the kids switch lotions as I realize my expensive face cream is now being used as pedicure soap. I don’t think of the mess they have probably made in the bathroom, or the towels they are now wrapping my feet in. I close my eyes and try to “connect with the moon, earth and sky.”


Growing up, I did not have an easy time with style and fashion. I always knew exactly what I liked, and which trends were appealing. However, puberty was not so kind to me: My body, face, hair (and attitude) went through many phases and changes (most of which were not too attractive). It was about fitting in, in a place and time when my body and taste in clothes was in flux (not to mention those pesky teenage hormones).

So now, as an adult, I’d like to think that I have picked up a new approach to fashion. I refuse to be stressed about what doesn’t look good and I am determined to abide by my own rules for what works. I can look at magazines (and I do), and I can write about the amazing purchases that stars make. But, I know that my time — especially in my closet and in front of a mirror — is limited (unless I want my three children with me). I decided long ago to stick with what works for me. Here are my top ten rules for a smooth routine and stress-free attitude about fashion.

  1. Wide leg pants may look amazing on Rachel Zoe and Gwyneth Paltrow. I love the sophisticated, yet casual look. However, as with any trend, I have to be realistic. If it’s not right for my petite, pear-shaped body, then it’s not a style for me. I may fall head over heels for a certain look, but after many disappointing shopping trips, I have learned to move on. My amazing tailor can’t make them look good and a short version won’t work either.
  2. Exercise gear and yoga clothes can be worn for just about any activity. I’m not a failure or an imposter if I wear the clothes and don’t do the activity! (Confession: I know many people love yoga, but I can’t think of anything that is more boring). I do, however, love yoga clothes. The stretchy fabrics are always versatile and comfortable. Whether I find myself at Barnes and Noble on the floor reading a book, or at a lunch date with my mom, I still know that my trustworthy yoga look can be dressed up or dressed down. Bonus: If I ever do make it into a yoga class, I’ll be prepared.
  3. My mom has always carried an extra pair of comfortable, flat sandals with her wherever she goes. I used to get mad because she put the shoes in an old CVS bag. (I wanted her to at least carry the shoes in a Longchamp or Prada bag). Now, my days are unpredictable, and I often end up being out with the kids for longer than I anticipated. I have taken a page from my mom’s book and I keep an extra pair of shoes with me (albeit in my Lululemmon bag). Certain errands and activities call for comfortable shoes, especially in Florida, where sand and humidity are never too far away.
  4. No matter how little desire I have to attend the birthday party, lunch or meeting that I’ve committed to, I convince myself to at least apply lip gloss and mascara. That’s it. If I’m feeling up to the whole nine-step moisturizer-and-foundation process, great. But, I learned awhile ago, that this “all or nothing” school of thought doesn’t work for me. A little mascara and some blush and/or lip gloss goes a long way. It helps me feel more comfortable knowing I look good and that I didn’t spend all morning getting ready.
  5. I have always liked the monochromatic, simple look (some people may call it boring). I love to admire the accessories that women put together. But, for me, my diamond earrings and a plain necklace is the way to go. I don’t have to worry about which bracelet matches the earrings. The few times that I have attempted to accessorize have been a disaster. A cute pair of small hoop earrings left me with an infection, and nothing is more embarrassing than a finger that is stained from a silver ring. While the boys love to pull and play with my accessories as though they were tethers and Frisbees, I must say “no thank you” to big, bold accessories.
  6. My mom will be proud of me for this: I truly believe that you should always have a sweater at hand. I like to have a black cardigan or a blazer to ensure that I’m never cold, and that if needed, I can look a bit more dressed up if necessary. Worst-case scenario, I can leave the sweater around my shoulders or drape it over the back of a chair.
  7. When in doubt, I have learned that it is always better to err on the side of caution. If I think the dress, pants or top are see-through, then they probably are. Nothing is more embarrassing than realizing my whole extended family and everyone at the restaurant knows exactly what I’m wearing (or not wearing) under my clothes.
  8. No matter how good I want to look, or how badly I want to wear a certain outfit, nothing is worth my sanity (and comfort). Shoes that cause blisters, or dresses that don’t really feel “me”, aren’t worth it. At the end of the night I want to remember what I did and the lively conversations I had, not the dress that kept riding up.
  9. Nothing makes me happier than finding a two-for-one, like concealer that is also a corrector or lip gloss which promises to plump up my pout. Who knows if it actually works? But, honestly, I don’t care. If I believe it works, then I put it on and wear it with confidence. Truthfully, half the battle is believing. So, wear what you want and have faith in your choices.
  10. Last but not least, do what makes you feel good. If I feel comfortable, chances are I will smile and be a more pleasant person. A smile is no fad or passing trend. Look the part, play the part and if it’s genuine, you are sure to stress less and smile more.


I can hear him before I see him. I hear the front door close, keys are set down on the kitchen counter and I hear, “Lizy. Hello, baby. I am here.” Before you get excited, I have to warn you: this is not a passionate, romantic story. My hairdresser and friend, Moishe, has arrived and is downstairs looking for me. As I hear my name being called, I pull the duvet cover higher and tighter over my head.

After the birth of my first son my mom urged me to get a haircut, manicure, go for a walk; anything to get me over the baby blues. I am 100% sure she was responsible for summoning Moishe to make me “feel and look better.”

Just then I glance up and see Moishe standing in the doorway. He is dressed in what I jokingly call his uniform: faded Diesel jeans, a black button down shirt with his cool glasses resting on his nose. His hair is always a different style, cut or color — he is always right on trend.

Moishe urges me to get out of bed and to stand up so he can see my “beautiful hair“. I laugh at him. Like any great hairdresser, he is always full of compliments. As I stand there, he moves his hands through my hair and quickly declares in his thick Israeli accent, “My princess, it’s time for cut and highlight. I meet you downstairs.” I shuffle to the bathroom, try to wake up, brush my teeth and walk downstairs. We both know the drill: He cuts and styles, while we talk, complain, joke and listen to each other’s problems. Like a good (yet trashy) novel, we pick up right where we left off. We are blunt and honest, as we ask for details and give our opinion.

Moishe has come to my rescue on various occasions. We first met in 2005. I lived in Fort Lauderdale with my now husband, Jason. While Jason spent most his days and nights studying law, I spent the hours after work walking, browsing and yes, even buying some things at the Aventura Mall. I came across a nice-looking salon, and on a whim, decided to walk in. I have always been rather laid-back (or lazy) when it comes to my hair. I have very thin, very straight short blonde hair. I do not have the patience to schedule and sit through appointments and blow dries. (Truth be told, Moishe and I have an ongoing fight. I hate having my hair blow-dried. It looks puffy and old fashioned. Moishe totally disagrees, and insists that a blow dry is part of the treatment). Serendipitously, I was placed in Moishe’s chair, and just like that, we became fast friends. I was lonely, and loved the idea that I had found such a nice guy to style my short hair. It helped that the salon was located in my favorite mall.

Moishe jokes that I am one of the absolute “worst-behaved clients.” I give him little notice, I’m impatient and I am always running late. I frequently rush Moishe through my appointment and almost always try to convince him to not blowdry my hair. I fuss over the products he wants to use and the amount he wants to cut. But at the end of the day, we have each won and lost battles. No matter what, every six weeks or so, I return to the sanctuary that is Moishe’s chair.

Seven years after that first impulsive appointment I can honestly say that while I might not care so much about the particular cut or style, I do care about Moishe. So we will continue to follow each other around the state, even out of state, if necessary (he met me in Philadelphia to do my hair for my brother’s wedding). Moishe has seen me through my engagement and wedding, family members’ weddings, three pregnancies and two moves. While so much has changed in the past seven years, I have not changed who does my hair. My commitment to one particular hairdresser is not uncommon, as a matter of fact, I’d argue that I’m rather low maintenance (in the hair department). I only see Moishe once every six weeks. But after thinking about this, and talking to some girlfriends, I was not so surprised that many of us have been with our hairdresser for countless years and through many different salons, styles and phases. We care about them, and they about us. We count on them to make us look good. Just as important, we count on them to listen to our problems and keep our secrets. A good friend of mine joked that she goes to her hairdresser instead of going to therapy. “It’s a better deal. I get the therapy and I look good when I leave.” Another friend remarked that when she had moved away to college the most difficult breakup was the one with her hair dresser.

We grow close to the cast of characters in our lives: the hairdressers, manicurists, aestheticians, personal trainers and tailors. They remain constants and they are committed to us. I always tell Moishe that whether I’m sexy and stylish, or unfashionable and unkept, I can just blame him for the way I look. Despite my best efforts, Moishe grabs the blow dryer and starts to style my hair. I speak loudly, so that he can hear me over the blowdryer. “ Not too poofy, please.” He nods and just keeps on doing what he’s doing.


November 7th is my husband’s birthday and I find myself standing in the exact same spot every single year, having the same thoughts and hesitation. I’m getting tired of buying my husband the same gift (Nike sneakers) year after year. No matter how I try to be creative and think out of the box, I always end up in the same store. Just this morning, Jason (my husband), not so subtly left me a yellow Post-it note with his sneaker size. It’s safe to say that the art of gift giving and gift receiving has waned in our relationship.

This year I actually started my gift search on what I thought was the right foot. We are getting older and I figured it was time to stop buying sneakers (or just reduce the amount we buy), and instead search for a more mature and useful gift. I looked in his closet (which is very conservative), and my eyes quickly zoomed in on the dreaded sports coats that I have hated for the past seven years that he’s been wearing them. As laid-back as Jason may seem, he sticks to his style guns. Like me, Jason knows what he likes, and unfortunately, that includes sports coats.

For years we have had an ongoing discussion about donating the offending sports coats to Goodwill and investing in a more updated and modern look. The sport jackets he owns are boxy wool styles that are itchy to the touch, and they boast a mismatched plaid pattern. The buttons and fit remind me of the captain from “The Love Boat.” I recently learned (and I’m not one bit surprised), that these sports coats were deeply discounted. Jason has great taste in (most) clothes, and he has a wide variety of tailored grey and navy suits. I often urge him to ditch the sports coat. After all, can’t he just dress a suit down by not wearing a tie and leaving a few buttons undone? No go. Whether it’s a matter of pride or stubbornness, Jason always manages to find the opportunity to wear the sports coats.

This year, for Jason’s 33rd birthday, I figured I had the perfect excuse to get rid of the old, and hopefully, bring in the new. I browsed online, shopped the boutiques and looked through our catalogues. I finally settled on two simple, conservative and versatile sports jackets. They were pricey, but the quality and fit makes them worth the hefty price tags. The hard part was getting Jason’s cooperation to get measurements and make the purchases. Not only was I sure Jason would say “no way” to the price, but also, he is not your average 5”10’ male. He has been an athlete his whole life and his broad shoulders often require larger sizes and tailored pieces. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy these jackets off the rack.

After some bribery and lunch at a deli near the men’s store, Jason followed me to the men’s boutique where I had found the new jackets. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy: From the start Jason was rushed and impatient. He didn’t feel the ‘need’ to update his look, he said, and under no circumstances would he pay the price on the tags. As with all gifts, I told him it was rude to look at the price. He laughed and replied, “It’s more rude to get me something that really you want.” His comment made me wonder if maybe I was being a tad bit selfish? I couldn’t help but think back to our anniversary, three years prior. Jason had spent some time explaining that our gift to each other should be a flat screen TV. I don’t even remember the size he wanted, but needless to say it was huge and — I thought — totally unnecessary. I recall going on a tirade, saying that this gift was selfish. I never ever watched TV, and he was using our anniversary to get what he wanted. Well, unfortunately, Jason has a good memory. He too remembered the anniversary, and my ranting. Needless to say, this year, just like every year, Jason is one pair of sneakers richer than he was last year. I worked out a plea bargain: Keep the coats, just don’t wear them around me.


As I launch into my usual complain-procrastinate-and-beg routine with my trainer at the gym, I can’t help but listen to the conversation two women are having on the radio. They are discussing, in depth, how “poised, grown up and stylish” the First Daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, looked as they celebrated the 2012 presidential victory with their parents. I agree with them, in fact, I am constantly struck by how well Malia and Sasha handle the pressure, scrutiny and media attention. The hosts go on to say that Malia is especially radiant because her braces have been recently taken off. Malia’s white, perfect teeth become the center of conversation.

Later that night, while doing some of my own research, I flip through childhood pictures. I can’t help but seriously wonder what the hell I was thinking, when, for instance, I got that overly curly perm? Just as I thought it could get no worse, I came across the most offensive pictures yet. I look at my strange, uncomfortable mouth (and the too-dark lipstick), and stare at my awkward smile. At first, I wonder if it’s just my stained adolescent teeth. Then, I remember my clear-braces fiasco.

I was thirteen at the time and my mom described me as a “hormonal teenager.” I had recently discovered boys and I began to care (probably too much) about how I looked. I asked my mom why I didn’t look like every other friend in my class picture — why did I have these clear, unusual braces? My mom burst out laughing as she explained that I was so overly upset about getting braces that I had fought my parents, dentist and orthodontist. I cried for days, and even begged my dentist to give me a removable retainer (which I swore I would wear all the time). My mom vividly recalls being annoyed at my resistance and obvious obsession with my appearance. My dad was tired of seeing me cry, and took pity on me. He convinced my mom to investigate alterative choices.

Imagine the scene: Two tired, yet patient parents, an overly accommodating dentist and
orthodontist and a stubborn (and spoiled) teenaged girl. I lived in a small, suburban town and the demand for clear braces had not exactly peaked. My orthodontist called and researched, and was able to obtain clear brackets (ones he promised would not stain my teeth). As I look now at my pictures, I know I have no one to blame but myself. As I look at my 14-year-old self, in family photos and class pictures, I must admit that for as bad as I may have looked, at the time, I felt pretty good about myself. I’m smiling, hugging my friends and making funny faces in many of the pictures. My clear braces — which I now realize looked awful — somehow made me feel better about myself.

As a self-conscious adolescent, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted when it came to my appearance. I suppose beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, which brings me back to the First Daughters. Will Malia and Sasha look back in ten years and be satisfied with the clothes they wore, and the hairstyles they chose? I feel lucky that I didn’t suffer the indignities of being a teenager in the public spotlight. I am thankful that my teenaged, clear-braced face wasn’t documented or scrutinized (until now, that is). Malia and Sasha are lucky to be elegant, or at least, to have the best hairdressers and clothing stylists at close hand.



I look at myself in the dreaded three-way mirror. The department store that I found myself in sells great clothes, but the lighting and mirrors in the dressing rooms need some work. Granted, my unkempt, unwashed hair doesn’t look amazing. Neither do the dark circles that have taken up permanent residence under my eyes. No matter, something else has my attention at the moment: the little black dress and the blazer that I am trying on. I spotted this dynamic duo as soon as I walked into the store. The length of the dress is perfect for a “youngish” mother of three. The blazer boasts a nice snug fit. I can definitely dress this look up or down. I walk around to the bigger mirror, take a longer look, and decide then and there that I will buy both pieces. Who cares if I’ll be all dressed up with nowhere to go?

Just as I am planning the jewelry and accessories I will wear to complete the look (I’m picturing my Ippolita gold necklace and bangles as the perfect complements to this minimalist look), I practically collide with the saleslady who has come check on my progress. When I shop, I usually have a very limited amount of time. Unless I have a specific question or can’t reach a particular top, I try my hardest to steer clear of the sales staff. I’m usually in my own world, rushing to try the outfit on, while trying not to wake my youngest son who is sleeping in his stroller and still be on time to pick up my other children. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a loyal lady—I know commission is the name of the game. I am eternally grateful for the pre-sale Prada pumps my saleslady let me take two days before said pre-sale. I’m thankful for the saleslady who, despite my annoying requests (I like to pay half cash/half credit), smiles and manages to make me feel like I deserve the splurge. However, on this particular day, I had no need for her advice or support: I liked the outfit. I had exactly enough time to pay, purchase and bolt out the door.

The saleslady apparently had time to spare. She was thrilled to “have found me hiding in the dressing room.” I smiled, explained I would be right out, and turned away. My intention was to quickly end the conversation and make my purchase. I guess the message was less-than-clear. The saleslady misread my signs. Instead, she took my quick exit as a sign that I needed her empathy, or that I needed her as a shopping buddy and/or a psychiatrist. She looked at me apologetically, and said, “These cuts aren’t always right for everybody. I love this designer. But try as I might, I haven’t found his clothes fit me well either.” I was caught off guard, and may have even stumbled over my own flip-flops. I stood there and was uncomfortably trying to signal to Irene that taking the dress off would mean getting naked. I wasn’t about to have a heart-to-heart, in the nude no less, with the saleswoman. She did not get the hint. She then added insult to injury when she suggested a padded bra. “Maybe,” she said, “I could even get you some perfect Spanx or lightweight pantyhose from the lingerie department.” I stared at myself in the mirror. I was ready to drop big bucks on this outfit and the saleslady had just ruined my self-esteem and her own commission. I wasn’t sure who had worse taste and tact — me, for not noticing my apparently too-small chest, or the saleslady, for stepping out of line and giving her much-too-honest opinion.

Call me stubborn or delusional, but I did not want a padded bra. I have never had large breasts and I think my smaller chest fits my petite frame just fine, thank you very much. And, no, I did not want to be sweating and squished in Spanx that I didn’t think I needed in the first place. I was happy with the way the dress and blazer looked. Why then, did I leave the department store without the outfit? Because even though I know that the way we dress and the accessories we choose are all about personal choices, unfortunately, other people’s opinions matter (to me, at least).

This dressing room disaster got me thinking about honesty, and specifically, whether there is such a thing as too much honesty? I love a loyal, tell-it-like-it-is friend. I appreciate the feedback and am grateful for the women and men in my life that know me well. I guess that’s the luxury in having good friends. These are the people who know us and respect our limitations and faults and celebrate our strengths.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, I will express gratitude for my nearest and dearest friends and family. I am grateful for those who can distinguish the fine line between being honest versus being rude. Most of all, I appreciate the wise words of my my kindergarden teacher who taught me, above all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.



It was 2008 and I was very pregnant with my first son. I had moved back to Florida, and in an effort to deal with my anticipatory anxiety, I looked for new friends who had just had babies themselves. Luckily, I live in a small town and it took no time for me to be introduced to Maria Florencia. Our first “meeting” took place at at a restaurant. At 36 weeks pregnant I was hot, bothered, bitchy and ready to pop. Maria Florencia (aka the Martha Stewart of Florida), looked the complete opposite. She carried her baby in the car seat, and was calm and collected. Right from the start, I stared at Maria Florencia and wondered how on earth someone could have just given birth and still looked that slim. As Maria Florencia sat chowing on nachos and a soft taco, I rubbed my aching back and looked at my swollen feet, squished into my Gucci thong sandals. I chewed on my healthy salad-and-beans dish and watched Maria Florencia.

For starters, I noticed my new friend was easy going, sweet and, well, low-maintenance. Her cargo pants hung loosely on her hips, and she wore a breastfeeding-friendly top. New Balance sneakers were her footwear of choice. I had pushed through most of my pregnancy without buying a single piece of maternity clothes because I couldn’t stand the designs and cuts. Maria Florencia, however, was practical, and had no problem wearing simple, comfortable clothes. (Maybe that’s why she was also able to breastfeed easily — no matter where she was.)

She was happy to carry her diapers and bottles in her plain, brown, no-name purse. I, on the other hand, could not wait to be a mother, not just for the baby, but also for the amazing accessories, strollers and bags that would accompany said child. Maria Florencia smiled as I used my iPhone to show her the Louis Vuitton diaper bag I had been stalking. I think my new friend was shocked to find that someone would go to such lengths to find a baby bag (not to mention pay such an outrageous price). It became obvious, fairly quickly, that Maria Florencia did not think or care too much about accessories. When I asked what her husband was getting her for her birthday, Maria Florencia excitedly announced that he was buying her a sewing machine.

I don’t sew my own clothes and never plan on putting a vacuum on my wishlist. But, thanks to Maria Florencia, I do have a new appreciation for her practical and sensible ways. From her, I have learned that with patience and a good eye, shopping a sale rack is akin to searching for hidden treasure: unique items can be found with enough persistence. I now understand that patience is a virtue, and that finding the correct size and color on sale provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Maria Florencia would argue that the reward is in the savings. I’m still working on that part. I’m just happy I have extra cash for the makeup I wanted.

Maria Florencia’s down-to-earth style has also taught me that brand names and price tags are (mostly) for show. Maria Florencia often appears at a get-together wearing a stylish look. I am always amazed to hear the ridiculously low price she paid for her clothes. She is pleased to announce that the piece I am admiring was purchased at Target or T.J. Maxx. From far away (and even close up), I could have sworn the sweater was from Armani or Elie Tahari.

Maybe Paula Abdul’s hit song “Opposites Attract” was not solely about romantic partners. I can’t help but wonder if maybe we do each look for friends who will teach us to create a new balance and order within ourselves. I will continue to hope that someday Maria Florencia will learn to appreciate the fine art of shopping, purchasing and finally wearing the perfectly overpriced and non-handmade Gucci pumps. Until then, I will take her advice, and try to spend a little more time browsing and comparing prices. And if nothing else, I’ll put all that saved money in my very own personal shoe fund.





I’m sweating. The line behind me in Target is growing longer, and I’m a mess. I have my youngest child on my hip. I reach for a pack of Tic Tacs to entertain the baby, and help my older sons rip into the holiday party goody bags that they insist on opening at this very moment. I can barely hear the cashier. I do my regular nod-and-smile routine. She hands me back my credit card. I realize then, as I hear the huffing and puffing of the customers behind me, that the cashier is not being friendly as she repeats, “Your card doesn’t seem to be working. Do you have another?” I sigh and quickly try to save face. I ask the cashier if she can try punching the numbers in (heaven forbid), or even the good ol’ plastic bag trick to swipe the card. She begrudgingly punches the number of my Visa into the register. I exhale as I hear the receipt printing, and start to gather my keys and wallet. Much to my surprise, the now annoyed cashier points to the words, “Insufficient Funds.” I feel like everyone in the entire store is staring at me. My boys have taken up residence on the floor and are trading candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses. I politely ask that they hold my cart and suspend the transaction. I smile, sweat some more and pull out a crumpled one dollar bill from my pocket.

Naturally, the first thing I think is, “Oh no — I really maxed out my card. I have used every last dollar. I can’t tell my husband”. I’m (pretty) responsible, and always know when it’s time to slow down the shopping, and/or borrow my husband’s card. Once I have the kids settled in their car seats, I do the unthinkable: I call my husband’s cell phone and turn myself in. Much to my surprise, my husband is confused and mentions that he has just checked our balance, and he thinks there may be a mistake. He is calm and happy to postpone this crisis intervention until he gets home tonight. I, on the other hand, am not calm. I have no cash, a car full of hungry kids and a very guilty conscience to deal with.

After a seemingly endless evening, I sit down to investigate my credit card woes. (I’m ready to go and return every new-with-tags-still-on purchase I have made). After trying to log in and eventually lock myself out of my own online account, I am too frustrated to call the 1-800 number, or click on the link to answer security questions. I sit on the couch, indulge in some trashy TV and wait for my husband. As soon as he arrives, I start talking. Looking back, I most certainly dug myself into a deeper hole. I explain my recent purchases at Saks, and even remind him that I bought him a new watch not long ago.

In his usual calm-and-collected manner, Jason logs into our account (without any trouble at all), and starts asking me about my recent charges. All I need is a dark room and a spotlight. I feel like I’m being questioned and have nowhere to hide. Jason wonders, out loud, what on earth I can possibly buy so much of on I am quick to tell him that the baby needs formula, diapers, wipes and bottles (I purposely leave out the new Cacharel perfume I just purchased). The interrogation goes on for a while. I explain that we actually save money buying at Costco, and that December is an especially expensive month due to Hanukkah and birthdays. Jason is slightly annoyed, but also amused, as he asks me if it was necessary to visit Target four times in one week. (He has no idea just how many hours I can spend in Target — four visits may be on the low side). We review my Starbucks habit. We even discuss why the kids need Smoothie King every day after karate. Just as I am about to zone out, and apologize for my spending, Jason lets out a heavy sigh and says, “Wait. We haven’t been in Miami this month.”

I do love shopping in Miami. I quickly inventory my month: I don’t recall any girls’ trips or orders placed over the phone. Jason goes on to explain that someone has taken our credit card and gone on a real shopping spree. Apparently, many purchases for high dollar amounts were made in quick succession at a Miami-area mall. Skateboards, sneakers, and even electronics will make somebody very happy this Christmas, compliments of my Visa.

My husband spends the next 15 minutes asking me what I did and did not purchase. He wants to make sure we get credit for any purchases we did not make. He speaks to the bank and spends an ungodly amount of time and energy explaining the charges we have discovered, and why we know they are fraudulent.

In some weird way, it feels good to have this confession. Not only am I happy to know that my shopping was not the cause for my card being declined, but I’m more excited that I was able to help uncover the criminal activity with my card. I smile at Jason as he explains that we do not live in Miami, and that yes, the card is in our possession. I remind him that it could always be worse — I could have actually gone on the shopping spree in Miami. Furthermore, I smile and tell him that he should congratulate me for being such a careful spender.

A few days later, I see an envelope on my night stand. I recognize Jason’s handwriting. I’m excited by the prospects of an early birthday present or holiday gift. Instead, I see a new red Visa card and with a note from Jason. It reads, “Here is your reward: A brand new, scratch-and-teeth-mark-free credit card.”


Some of my best memories are our girls’ shopping weekends. These quick, yet significant getaways were always an opportunity to overindulge, eat, shop, laugh and laugh some more. These trips still happen, but with fiancés, babies, husbands and work demands, it has been more difficult for the girls to get away alone.

So when my youngest sister sent out a girls-only group email, I couldn’t help but smile at the dilemma she described. Abby spoke about her upcoming wedding in August 2013, and that she couldn’t possibly pick a wedding dress unless we were all present and all agreed that the dress was “the one.” The main issue was that the dress she had her eye on had a “schedule.” It was part of a new collection, and thus was traveling to various bridal boutiques as part of a trunk show. (As if our lives aren’t complicated enough, we were now trying to catch a glimpse of a traveling dress). In her email, Abby said that she has just found out the dress would be in Miami for a few days, right after Thanksgiving. Because we were all meeting for the holidays in Florida, she wondered if we could possibly sneak away for a quick girls-only day trip to give our opinion on said dress.

I’m not going to lie. I was happy at the thought of getting a break from my daily responsibilities as a wife and mother of three boys. In fact, I was probably the first to reply. We all agreed to go, and before our conscience could get the best of us, we were halfway to Miami.

We’re a gregarious bunch, so we walked into the wedding boutique expecting to get somewhat rowdy. Of course, we were all focused on the dress mission, but we were also focused on enjoying our time together. But as soon as I set foot into the upscale boutique, I got a sense that our boisterous group may not be so welcome. First, we weren’t exactly dressed the part (I was wearing comfy sneakers and black sweats). Immediately I was struck by the structure and order in the store. I’m not talking about the dresses being hung properly. No, the salesladies all looked, dressed and spoke in the same manner, in fact, I could barely tell them apart. It was like the Stepford Wives: Wedding Dress Edition.

As we waited for my sister to get settled in, we started to take a look around ourselves. I touched the dresses, and started to joke with my older sister and sister-in-law. Some of the dresses reminded me of prom circa 1995, yet others looked like they would be perfect for a cabaret (white feathers galore). The more we perused the wares, the louder our laughs and comments became.

Finally our consultant, Peggy, ushered us behind “the curtain.” Almost immediately, we all gasped in unison. The showroom was more like a museum. The dresses were divided by style and craftsmanship, and they were all protected behind a glass door.

Like children, we followed Peggy in a single-file line. She pointed to a smallish couch, told us to sit down, and pulled Abby into a large dressing room. Maybe everyone who shops here follows the same diet routine, but we don’t, and we were not able to all fit comfortably on the couch. I took the liberty of sitting on the floor. The showroom was dimly lit and the sales consultants all wore black clothing and stilettos, and their hair was tightly pulled back. Suffice it to say that my Nike sneakers didn’t measure up.

Peggy came out first, and like a meal at a fancy restaurant, she began describing in detail each gown that Abby was trying on. I didn’t hear a word she said. I was too busy peeking my head into the dressing room to see how Abby looked. We all stared at Abby and waited patiently until we could say what we thought. Even so, we were a bit intimidated by Peggy’s description and opinion.

Usually, trying on clothes is a group effort in my family, but not in this instance. Peggy was the official dresser, undresser, hair dresser and apparently, she was the only one who could touch the dresses.

Abby did find her perfect dress and veil. She looked amazing in it, and even though it was probably forbidden, I took many pictures. Then we left and started to unwind from the very stressful shopping excursion we had just experienced. Upon toasting our girls’ day with champagne, we vowed to never ever take ourselves or our shopping too seriously.


Perfumes hold a special place in my heart, as I believe in the power of the perfect scent. I know people who swear by just one specific perfume; in some cases they have used the same one for the past 15 years. I’m not such a loyal customer, though I do have my favorites for day, night and post-workout. That said, I don’t discriminate and I’ll give any scent that appeals to me a place on my vanity.

Recently, I complimented a friend on her particular perfume and asked where she had purchased it. This friend smiled, and told me that she would “have to lie about the name and the place she had gotten the perfume.” It turns out that the perfume was purchased at Target and my friend boasted that she had spent under 50 dollars on it.

This conversation was long forgotten until I found myself in a fix. I was at the gym when I realized I had forgotten to buy a holiday gift for my son’s karate teacher. (Trust me, she deserves a gift.) I had enough time to stop by Target on the way to pick up my kids. I made a mental note and finished the workout. As I showered at the gym, got dressed and put on my foundation, I realized I had left my “after workout” Stella McCartney perfume at home. When I shower at the gym, I am very careful — and slightly obsessive — about making sure I have all my necessary post-shower belongings with me. My perfume is just as important as the bra, shoes or socks I plan to wear. I definitely did not have time to go home for the forgotten scent, so I headed out the door without perfume and feeling naked.

Once at the store, I quickly found a gift for my son’s karate instructor. I then headed towards the makeup and perfume aisle. My jaw dropped at the sheer amount of fragrances available. (Plus, no annoying saleslady who insists on spraying the tester perfume for me.) I had a field day sampling every perfume (male and female) and placed a few well-priced scents in my cart. I was delighted: Not only did I find a few new scents I liked, but I also saved money! Maybe my friends were right and my expensive perfumes weren’t worth the price tag.

No matter the length of my shopping list, when at Target, I always manage to buy more than I need. As I loaded the car and made room for the bags, I started to scratch my arm. Florida is notoriously hot and humid, even in the winter months. I was feeling warm and flustered. My perfume extravaganza meant that I found myself running late for my son’s pickup. I ended up shoving everything in the trunk. I cranked the air way up and pointed all of the vents right towards my sweaty and flushed face. At that exact moment I realized not only how much perfume I had tested, but also what an unpleasant (and strong) scent the combination of my sweat and the perfumes was giving off. I arrived at my son’s school and realized my cheeks felt hot and my eyes were starting to water. By the time I had my kids in the car, I looked horrible: my eyes were swelling and my arms and legs itched. I realized quickly that if I didn’t act fast, my face, legs and arms would probably be scarred for life (thanks to the non-stop itching and scratching.)

I quickly dropped the kids off at my mom’s house and dashed to the nearest emergency room. After some uncomfortable conversations with my newfound, just-as-desperate emergency room friends, I found myself face to face with a dermatologist who asked if I had done anything new or different. I was so embarrassed: I had tried on so many perfumes and lotions that morning that I had no idea which one might have caused this chaos.

Thankfully, this allergic reaction was nothing a Benadryl IV couldn’t fix. I laid in the hospital cot cringing each time the door opened and the wind flew in my face and hair. The strong mix of perfume was still going strong and had started to give me a headache. (Note to perfume shoppers: these scents lasted longer than four hours.)

Apparently, my immune system is not a fan of the widely used fragrance in perfumes, geranial. Geranial gives off a sweet floral and rose odor. No doubt one of the many perfumes I had tried contained this ingredient. Nothing is without a lesson, which is that I will continue to rely on my favorite (and expensive) brands for years to come.