In their work as spies, Malcolm and Suzanne often make quick changes to their appearance to suit a new role. I’m used to writing such scenes for them. I’m less used to thinking about it in terms of myself. Until yesterday. It was the opening night of the Merola Opera Program’s wonderful production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. After spending the afternoon stuffing inserts into programs, I had a quick dinner with Mélanie and a couple of colleagues and then hurried back to the theatre to meet one of Mel’s wonderful babysitters. While quickly going over details with the babysitter, I pulled a hair of feels from the toy bag and exchanged them for the flats I was wearing, took off the cardigan I’d been wearing all day over my black cocktail dress, unwound the long linen scarf I had wrapped around my neck and thew it over my shoulders as a shawl.

It was only when I was hurrying  up the street to a pre-performance reception (combing my hair as I walked)  that I realized I had just made the sort of quick change Suzanne often makes (such as in Imperial Scandal when she transforms herself into a shopgirl to go into Le Paon d’Or). It was also just the sort of scene I might put in a book to dramatize a working mom balancing her multiple roles.

As  a multi-tasker, I’ve always been grateful for multi-tasking clothes. As a working mom, I’m more grateful for them than ever. Day-into-evening dresses (nothing like black to stand up to the dust of a theatre and the smears left by toddler hands), earrings one can sleep in, sweaters that can be easily stowed in a diaper bag, a bag that works as purse, diaper bag, and computer bag, scarves that double as shawls, a light weight trenchcoat the works over everything. I have a pair of black satin heels that basically live in the car or the toy bag.

Do clothes help you balance different parts of your life? Which pieces are particularly good multitaskers?  Writers, do you think about clothes to define different roles your characters play?

 

 

 

 

photo:Raphael Coffey

photo:Raphael Coffey

Ever since I was in my early thirties, my hair has had enough gray that I’ve had it colored every four weeks or so (I was actually excited when I started doing it, because it allows me to play up the auburn). I love to read fashion magazines while the color is baking. But lately, post-Mélanie particularly, I’m more likely to be found juggling a baby and a laptop and trying to get some precious writing time in.

Today I definitely felt I should make use of any time I could get, with promo to do for The Paris Affair and my WIP due in April. I arrived at the salon distinctly frazzled. I was up late working last night and overslept this morning. I went through a flurry of dressing Mel and me, feeding cats, and packing baby snacks, diapers, computer, and other essentials. And on the drive to the salon, my scratchy throat told me I was fighting a cold. When my hair stylist mentioned how she had slowed down to fight off a cold, I realized some decompressing time would probably make me more productive – not to mention happier! – in the long run. So instead of pulling out my laptop, I sipped a cup of green tea and flipped through a copy of Elle. Mel liked the pictures too!

It was amazing how much better I felt after that little break. Enough so that I was able to plan out this blog post while styling my hair :-). A good reminder that sometimes slowing down can actually make one more efficient.

What do you do to decompress? And do you find it as hard as I do to remember to do it?

Have a great weekend!

2.16.13MelBagLast week I drove into San Francisco for a meeting. Mélanie was with a (wonderful!) friend for the afternoon. I parked my car and instead of the usual ritual of unloading stroller and carseat, simply grabbed my purse. As I slung the purse over shoulder, considerably lighter without changing pad, diapers, snacks, and toys, it occurred to me that in many ways my bag is a metaphor for the changes and continuities in my life since my daughter arrived (fourteen months ago last week).

Even pre-Mélanie, I could never carry a really tiny bag. It had to accommodate phone, wallet, makeup bag, daytimer and later iPad. Not to mention a litter of receipts, dinner mints, random pieces of notepaper, ticket stubs, and loose change that always seems to accumulate at the bottom. My main bag pre-Mélanie was a striped Longchamp, bought on a trip to New York, that I love. It’s nice enough to go from day to evening and large enough to hold the above items. I still use it sometimes when I carry a second bag for Mel’s stuff (here it is in a picture of Mélanie and me in Central Park on another NY trip).

6.17.12TracyMelLake
But I knew once one my baby arrived my diaper bag would double as my purse most of the time. So I bought a brown Longchamp Le Pliage tote (here it is with Mel and me on Halloween).

10.31.12TracyMel
It holds Mélanie’s gear side by side with my own, just as Mélanie now occupies a central place in my life. It’s sturdy and easy to sponge – it can stand up to lids coming off containers of mushy banana, cheerios spilling in the bottom, little hands smeared with sunscreen or food leaving prints on the outside. But it also holds my laptop and doesn’t look out of place with a tailored dress or blazer. Which seems appropriate as my life with Mélanie still involves lots of writing time and my fashion choices still run to dresses and heels. It’s a great carryon – it’s gone to New York with Mélanie and me twice. And it’s large enough to hold everything, stylish enough to go everywhere, and neutral enough to go with anything, which is pretty much vital to the life of a working mom of a toddler. It’s a multi-tasker, just as I am.

My bag felt surprisingly light on my shoulder that afternoon as I walked to the meeting. I enjoyed the meeting. I was happy that my purse could easily make the switch from diaper bag to tote filled with agendas and notes and reports. But it was great later in the evening to have the baby gear back in the my bag and my baby back in my arms.

Do you have accessories or pieces of clothing that do double duty in different parts of your life?

I posted a Valentine’s Day 1816 Fraser Correspondence letter from Charles/Malcolm to Mel/Suzette earlier this week. And there’s a “favorite literary romantic moments” contest for an ARC of The Paris Affair open through noon PST on Tuesday the 19th. Have a great weekend!