Thursday, June 14, 2012

Not Too Shabby

Click here, then read.

I have never been very lucky, not in love, not in war. I’m smart about finances though—I stayed in the money line when God was handing out good sense, probably because my mom told me not to move.

There was one time though when I did enter a contest, and I won. One time in my life. I was twelve and living in Bemidji, Minnesota. My mom had taken me downtown to shop—instead of going to the mall on the outskirts of town, we were boutiquing. We must have either finished shopping at the second-hand clothing store (Twice But Nice!) or we were going there later. I didn’t like shopping at Twice But Nice because while everything really was very nice, all the clothes for girls had already been worn by girls who I would soon be seeing in junior high, after I graduated from the Catholic school. I didn’t want to be the Catholic girl who showed up on the first day of public school wearing an old sweater tossed off by a new and popular and probably blond classmate. I didn’t want somebody to recognize their faded corduroys on me. My throat tightened at the idea of it.

While my mom shopped at the one upscale store downtown, O’Meara’s, I dinked around comparing the carpet in O’Meara’s to our carpet at home, comparing the size of their dressing rooms to the size of our closets, where I still liked to hide sometimes, having my picnics and reading my books with a flashlight. This was probably the last year for quiet cubbyhole getaways, naps on family sleeping bags.

Ever studious, ever focused, I spied a box on O’Meara’s check-out counter marked “Enter Our Drawing!” Always one to follow directions, I filled out an entry card with my name and most recent telephone number. Since we moved a lot as a family, my mom was also good at drilling names, phone numbers, and addresses into her five children’s brains. For a time, I knew my first name was Tatie, my middle name Momo, and my last name was Jane: Tatie Momo Jane. It was all a two-year-old could say, but I could rattle off our phone number (786-1086) like a new recruit in the military.

I filled out the entry card at O’Meara’s while my mom decided that everything was too expensive and she wasn’t buying anything; that’s how it always went when we shopped at O’Meara’s: “We’ll look for something more affordable at Penney’s,” she said, and when we got outside she took my hand and we skipped down the block towards our station wagon. My mom liked to skip and I did too; that was probably one of the last times we skipped together.

We went home then and my dad came home, and I probably sucked down ten rootbeer barrel candies and a full episode of Little House On the Prairie before my mom called me to the table, and we probably had hotdish for dinner because it was always quick to make, and we’d been out shopping.

Weeks later, maybe months, maybe years, our telephone rang and my dad answered. As the news trickled down from him to my mom to me, I learned that I had won something: the drawing at O’Meara’s! Ecstatic at the idea of winning anything, I was bowled over when I found out exactly what I’d be getting: my choice of a new record album! Kapow! I don’t know why O’Meara’s clothing shop was raffling off record albums, but they were, and I’d won. Isis Isis Isis!

When I was allowed, I walked the six blocks down to O’Meara’s to pick out my album. There were records from bands I didn’t recognize, but I knew two of the names: Diana Ross, and Elvis. I had no idea which would be better. I’m sure my anxiety disorder has its roots in this very episode: trying to pick the right record, aiming to please. I didn’t even have my own record player. There were no older kids left at home, so it would just be my parents—my mom, really—whose reaction I could expect. Nobody to help pick, and nobody to help if the choice was incorrect: a youngest child’s nightmare.

It was a long walk home with Diana.

I showed up around dinner time again. My mom was in the kitchen when I walked up to her with the record hidden behind my leg.

“What did you get?” my mom asked, all excited. Free good things were always appreciated in my house.

I showed her the record, brand new, still wrapped in plastic: Diana Ross.

My mom nodded her approval, spatula in hand. “That’s good,” she said, going back to cooking. “What other choices did you have?”

“There was an Elvis one,” I said, climbing onto a stool at our breakfast island, looking for a snack.

My mom turned on me as if I had won the lottery and lost the winning ticket. “What!?” she said, waving her spatula. “You didn’t pick Elvis? You didn’t pick Elvis!?”

I didn’t know my mom felt this strongly about Elvis, but in retrospect it was the best scolding I ever got, if just for realizing that my mom had her own tastes. She felt passionate about Elvis, even in 1980.

I didn’t know she was interested in anything other than me.

I would grow up to feel like her, liking this musician and not that one, but my interests would run to Mark Knopfler and Eddie Van Halen, Michael Jackson and everybody from Duran Duran.

Not so much Elvis.


Now that the Internet is here and shopping is more like an outer-space adventure, it was only a matter of time before I got tempted by another drawing, this one by The Shabby Apple. That they trust me to run the drawing makes me feel grown-up and a little adventurous. Kind of sexy too, even though I get nothing out of it except the adventure of trying something new.

For you, that means trying this:

If you like clothes and accessories that nobody else has, you should enter this drawing for a $75 Shabby Apple gift card. That’s seventy-five free dollars to spend on yourself or your girlfriend.

To enter, you need to “like” the Shabby Apple Facebook page ( In order to comply with Facebook contest regulations, you also need to make some comments on any Hotdishing post—feel free to unleash yourself. Eligibility for entry is contingent on the Shabby Apple Facebook "like”, and you must specify on Hotdishing which Shabby Apple dress or item is your favorite. Contestants also must have a USA shipping address to be eligible for entry.

This contest runs for one week.

I’ll select the winner using a random-number-selector software program, then—when I have the winner's name, address, phone number, and email—I’ll proceed to hook you up with $75 worth of free stuff from Shabby Apple. Everybody else gets a one-month 10% discount code for Shabby Apple apparel…just ask me for it by writing to

This is better than a drawing for a record album. This is a chance to discover a new online boutique and get an entire new outfit and maybe a necklace too, for free! C’mon girls and boys: Mel, Ann, Kris, Yvonne, Laurie…Randy, Chris, John, Jess, Justin.

Help me out here, my friends.

Let’s get shabby.


  1. Mi amiga Kate, you have the gift of always taking the reader directly to where you are. Thank you!
    And on another topic, I quite like the Shabby Apple "Red Fir" dress.

  2. Too bad I don't qualify (no American address) but I did enjoy the reminiscence. Love the line "I didn't know she was interested in anything other than me". The beginning of awareness!

  3. Hi, Katie.
    I'm posting and I will like the Shabby Apple.I The clothes are nice and I like the vintage look of the style. The Aloha dress is nice - guess that's my favorite so far.
    I like reading your posts - I'm sorry I don't comment more - I'm probably lucky because I can picture your mom and dad and brother and sisters,and so it makes your stories come to life. Love your pictures of Leo too. Happy Summer! Kris

  4. Perfect song. Well done, Kate!

  5. That Shabby Apple Lagoon swimsuit is just adorable. I liked their page already, and I love their stuff! And, as always, I love your writing, Kate.

  6. i already like SA on FB... right now, my current obsession is def their carnival dress.