Expat Blogging via Haute Couture (A Tale you don’t Dare Miss)

Three years ago last week I began this blog from an earthquake toppled , cholera-sickened corner of the Caribbean.

I find it hard to believe all that’s happened in those 36 months:  our leaving Haiti, returning to the US, selling our home, getting married, and moving to Ecuador.  That’s to say nothing of the writing I’ve done, the pieces I’ve published on The Huffington Post, or the progress I’ve made on my mafia memoir meets evangelical exposé.

Then there’s the friends I’ve made via this blog, the number of you I’ve actually met (Miranda, Lisa, Colleen, Emily), the wedding of a blog buddy Sara and I attended, and two of my New York City blogger friends having been witnesses when Sara and I got married in April (Virginia and Jackie).

So in honor of this blogoversary, I’m sharing one of the first stories I told from Port-au-Prince.  Appropriately (or not so appropriately, as the case may be) it’s not about Haiti at all, but about my mother–about her wicked sense of humor or immense creativity in the face of failing memory (you decide which).  I say, “appropriately,” since it’s my mom’s 75th birthday today.  (Mind you, my mother prefers I not write about her, so we won’t make too big a deal about the birthday.)

I promise to share, in the coming weeks, some pieces I wrote about Haiti, but in the meantime I hope you’ll enjoy the following tale about my mother and me.  Happy birthday, Mom!

Here’s how it all went down.

On her 72nd birthday, my mother shared her newest mnemonic device with me.  And I thought, in all fairness, I should pass along the technique, in case you want to remedy your own memory deficits by adopting my mother’s method.

This all came up  when I asked my mom to phone my partner Sara and me in Haiti during our family’s annual let’s-celebrate-mom’s-birthday-event.  (It’s less expensive to initiate the call from the US.)

When I asked her to call, my mom said, “Well, I’m afraid I’ll forget.”

I reassured her that she didn’t have to worry, that I would email my sister and ask her to place the call.

“No,” my mother declared confidently. “I’ll just clip a clothes pin to my lapel.”

“Really,” I replied.

“Of course,” she claimed.  “Someone is bound to ask why I have a clothes pin on my blouse.  And when they do, I’ll remember we were supposed to call you.  It works every time.”

Mother knows best!

Mother knows best!

“Every time?” I asked, dumbfounded that my mother had used the technique enough to have gathered this kind of data.


“Wow,” I added.

“It works really well—-and everybody has an extra clothes pin hanging around!”

“Sure they do . . . “

. . . but—-for those of you whose laundry habits have, surprisingly, not carried the clothes pin over into the 21st century or, God forbid, lack the sartorial daring to add clothespins to your accessory repertoire, my mother claims the piece-of-paper-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room-floor technique works almost as well.

Works like a charm!

Works like a charm!

So, here’s to blogging and birthdays–one clothes pin at a time.

How’s your memory these days?

Note about Blogroll:  Sadly, I have not updated my blogroll in nearly two years.  I know, it’s embarrassing.  If you are not currently listed and are a current reader-commenter, please leave a link in the comments below.  That way I can easily add you.  Thank you, and I’m so sorry to not have updated more recently!  It’s a crime against the Blog Gods!

104 thoughts on “Expat Blogging via Haute Couture (A Tale you don’t Dare Miss)

  1. Ricardo and I met you at Joe’s. We were both there to discuss containers. I sent you an email, but don’t know if you received it.


    Sent from my iPad



  2. Maybe this comment will not appear as being from “anonymous” as the other ones have… Looks like all is well in Ecuador… Snowy here in Pittsburgh… Broke a snowfall record yesterday with two inches which as you know means there is no toilet paper or milk available in the city…

    I actually have a question for you… I am writing a book as well… About 50% complete at this point… The title is “A Garden that Grows You”… My question is… Is it kosher to promote it before finished… The reason I ask is because I noticed you are promoting your book in your posts…

    I feel like it is never to early to start promoting it… Just thought I would ask…

    And I know you are busy… A simple yes or no answer would suffice…

    Your friend in Pittsburgh – chriscondello


    • It’s great to hear from you, Chris! Love knowing that my hometown is enjoying snow. We don’t get any of that here, and I’m beginning to realize I will miss it.

      But yes, you want to begin getting your readers interested in buying the book. You want to begin doing what is called “building a platform.” Will you seek a traditional publisher or will you self publish.

      I might begin mentioning it and posting bits and pieces periodically. Certainly not all of it, but enough to pique interest. Glad to hear you’re writing one.

      If your book is about gardening–and thus, nonfiction/nonmemoir–and you want to publish the traditional way, then now is the time to begin writing a proposal and sending out query letters to agents. But don’t query until you have the proposal and first 50 pages finished.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for asking and thanks for stopping by!!!!


  3. Thanks for the mention and the link. I love your mother’s ideas and may have to adopt them. I can’t seem to remember where my head is lately.

    ❤ Lisa

    PS. The link you have to me in the blog roll is to the old site, not the new one. lisaakramer.com


    • Hi Lisa. Hope your day is going well. We’ve had a bit of rodent drama at our house this morning. I will say no more, as it will likely be the subject of next week’s post.

      Thanks for reminding me that your link is incorrect. I will fix it! Your blog is really taking off! I’m thrilled for you!


  4. I’m a little sleepy this morning, but I think I’m still not on your blogroll. Your mother sounds like she’s got a handle on things. It’s people like her that set the styles you know. I may have to go out and get a new bag of clothespins in her honor. – happy birthday to your mother!


    • How funny! My mom is both a character and very whitty. And unfortunately, I have inherited her not so perfect memory. Now, I don’t use the clothes pin as either mnuemonic device or fashion accessory. (I know, it’s sad.) But I do use the paper in the middle of the floor technique, much to Sara’s displeasure!


  5. Love this, Karthryn. Adorable, endearing, and a little heartbreaking. It’s difficult to watch our parents age, but she is learning tricks to help herself, and as someone who has bipolar disorder, I’ve learned a few tricks too. Happy Birthday, to Kathryn’s mom!!! Please remember to tell her for me! (lol). And hugs to your precious Sara! xoJulia


    • I know it’s sad to watch our parents age, but my mom is doing it well. She’s a classy lady, and she has a great sense of humor. Thanks for wishing her a happy birthday. I will pass along your wishes.

      Hugs to you, too, from both of us. It’s wonderful to hear from you, dear Julia. I tell Sara you passed hugs along to her! Take care, my friend!


  6. HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATHY’S MOM AND SARA’S MOTHER IN LAW! Perhaps you could send her a hug from me as well. 🙂

    My memory is so-so. But mostly because I don’t pay attention. My brain is else where when I should be listening. Perhaps a bit ADD.

    Hugs from ME! 🙂


    • I will definitely share your hugs and birthday greetings with my mom. Thanks for the wishes!

      I am SOOOOOOO much like you. My mind is elsewhere, so I don’t notice. Must be one of the things I love about you! Wonder why we’re like that?

      Hugs from Sara and I to you and David, as well. Hope you all are having a good week!


      • I’m hoping he doesn’t either. 😦 Though today he is snuffly. I will feel horrible if he gets it. And I will be happy to be done with it before the holidays!

        Are you preparing a Thanksgiving dinner?


      • We normally would. However, a number of ex-pat oriented restaurants are serving Thanksgiving dinner at a price way cheaper than we could do it ourselves. And we won’t have to cook or do dishes. Yippee! So we’re going out. Will you cook?

        Get well, my friend. And may David be sniffle free!


      • I won’t do an entire dinner. We will travel to my daughter’s and take our fare with us. Lots of food prepared by many. 🙂

        David is getting snuffly as I am getting better. I’d rather have it than he.


  7. Very funny Kathy – I sell clothes pins; artists buy them for assemblage and other art installations – inadvertently I am picking them up off the van floor every weekend where they have spilled out of the vintage colander from which I display them, after traversing over pot holes in four different States. I’m not sure how my memory is, but, perhaps if I would remember to pour the clothes pin into a zip lock bag instead of propping the open bowl into the load, I wouldn’t have to retrieve them from helter-skelter.



    • Okay, Robert, I have GOT to know more about you. Truly, you sound like a fascinating guy! You sell clothes pins to artists! Pretty cool, as I AM one of those artists who uses clothes pins in assemblage.

      Fun hearing from you! I subscribe to you blog or maybe you don’t post frequently or maybe you don’t have a blog. I forget. Remind me!

      Hope your week is going well! And contain those clothes pins! LOL Love hearing from you!


  8. This is sweet! I put notes on my refrigerator. I have a long-standing reminder to “Never buy insurance from State Farm” after memory lapses caused me to have two separate rude exchanges with the local representative for the company. Most recently I added one that reminds me, “you do NOT like Greek yogurt!!!”


    • I used to always do notes on the frig. That’s the best approach in my mind. However, notes on the frig somehow offend Sara’s aesthetic–literally, that’s what she says. Hell living with an architect.

      LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your Greek yogurt note. That is a total hoot!!!! Great to hear from you!


  9. Wow. Three years? Where is time going? I swear, the older I get the faster time flies by!…..I am interested to hear about the holidays in Ecuador. Are you and Sara still going to celebrate Thanksgiving? I am assuming Christmas isn’t the giant commercial beast it is here. What have you noticed in contrast to the U.S.?……..If I started wearing clothespins for all the things I forget I’d have an entire wardrobe of nothing but clothespin dresses.


    • Now there’s an idea! Cobbling together a floor-length dress of clothes pins! What a fashion statement that would (NOT) be!

      Interestingly, we have friends coming from the US for Christmas. Todd has a meeting in Quito the week before Christmas, so his wife is going to join him and then they will fly on down to Cuenca. Then the 4 of us will do New Year’s Eve in Quito.

      We will definitely celebrate Thanksgiving, but here it will be more affordable and easier to go out for Thanksgiving dinner. Lots of expat restaurants here have special things going on. We will go with friends Susan and Fred. “The boys” are going to the US for Thanksgiving.

      Hugs to your family, dear Sista! Love you! Oops and you, too!


  10. Happy birthday to your mom and your blog. If I need to remember something I just write it on a note and stick it to my door, but I’m just as likely to forget to remember to look at the note on the door. So, it’s pretty much a crap shoot. Maybe the clothespin on the lapel is genius, but then I’d have to remember to wear clothing with lapels. Oh, it’s so complicated.


  11. Your story made me laugh … I’d probably be walking around with an entire outfit made of clothespins … don’t forget this, don’t forget that … this one is to remind me to buy dog food, this one is to remind me to send a birthday card … I’d be covered in clothespins! LOL. Happy Birthday to your Mom today, and thanks for sharing the story. And, Happy Blogoversary! 🙂

    link: http://theinvisibleshadow.wordpress.com/


    • Oh, I’m so happy to hear from you! I need to get over to your blog. Thanks so much for leaving your link. I will definitely add you to my blogroll. It’s criminal that it’s been so long since I’ve updated it.

      Glad to have made you laugh. Hope you are doing well. I’ll hop over to your blog and find out! Take care, my friend!


  12. I’m so glad that you reposted this, Kathy. I don’t think I was a follower in the early days and I’d missed this “oldie but goodie”

    Can’t say that I still have clothes pins. Maybe that’s why my memory is so bad. Hmmm… So did your mom remember to call you?? 🙂

    Happy Blog-aversary!


    • I nipped that one in the bud, by asking my sister to call me, so my mom wouldn’t be forced into a hospital for the sartorially insane!

      Glad you enjoyed it, Jackie. Yeah, I think this was one of my first 3 posts. So long ago!


  13. That was a very tender and funny story but I need to say that I use clothes pins. I have a drier too it is just that I’m trying to earth friendly. I hang the laundry to dry. As a side note, I do the laundry on Mondays and a Dutch friend reminds me much too often “just like all the housewives in Holland”. I am not sure if that is a slam or a compliement.


  14. I’m still trying to figure out what a “clothes pin” is…

    Whenever I want to remember something, I turn to Post-It Notes™ from 3M. Available in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles. Post-It Notes™: for all your mnemonic needs.


    • Yes, that is precisely the purpose of the post-it, isn’t it? Had forgotten that. Silly me. Silly mom. Now I know what to send my mom for her birthday. Thank you!

      Love–“for all your mnemonic needs.” That would have been a good tag for this post! Why didn’t I think of that? Gotta write that down. Where’s my clothes pin?


    • Thanks you, Kel! Hard to believe it’s been three years since I started blogging. Seems the older I get, the more quickly time flies. Hope your memory hasn’t begun to fail you already. You’re too young, right?


  15. Clothes pins (And there is such a variety of those), paper on the floor – and these don’t require batteries or make annoying chirping reminders. Whatever works is perfect. (except I agree about a cluttered fridge door – ugh! No one ever bothered to throw the old reminders away…it was like taking off layers)
    Fun post


    • Thank you. So glad you enjoyed the post. Yeah, not only do I forget to remove the old notes, I forget to look at the notes in the first place. Sad, isn’t it?

      It’s great hearing from you. Hope you will stop by again soon! Take care, in the meantime!


    • So glad you’ve brought the cloths pin with you into the 21st-century! Wish man, Jeff!

      My problem is much like yours. I forget to look at the damn thing that’s supposed to remind me. Getting old is killing me! How about you?

      Great to hear from you. Hope your week is going well!


  16. Your mother and I are about the same age. I do have clothes pins and will use them as suggested. I have a line strung between two trees for hanging things to be sanitized or fumigated. When my oldest son was newborn, my parents purchased a washer/dryer for me BUT my grandmother would not allow me to put his diapers in the new dryer…”They have to be bleached and sanitized in the sun!” I had hoped that my days of hauling wet diapers to the laundromat were over…and…they were…now I was hauling baskets of wet diapers to the backyard clothes line. I like your mother’s ideas. Tell her I have no shame so will definitely clip an important message, when needed, to my pj’s.


  17. Oddly enough I was just saying we need to buy some cloths pins the other day. We don’t have a dryer in our new flat and it’s usually windy in London and I’m tired of my underwear falling to the ground when I hang them over the line. All my neighbors have them and I think they’ll start talking about me if I don’t get some soon.

    Happy birthday to your mum!


    • Great to hear from you, Claudia! We use a clothes rack here, as well, in addition to hanging things on the line. Hope your week is going well. And THANKS SSSSSSSSSSSSOooooooo much for leaving your link. I will be sure to add you. It’s embarrassing how long it’s been since I updated it.

      Oh, and glad you enjoyed the comments, also. I love my readers–they’re always quite engaged!


  18. Great story, as usual. Love the note on the floor—that is something I would do! Right now I use the notes feature on my iPhone for lists and whatnot and Google calendar lets me set alerts for things so that is my main way of remembering things.
    I so understand about the blogroll thing. I haven’t updated mine for forever so maybe I should take a peek and make sure you are on it! Didn’t see me on yours and I so want to be !!!! http://www.bethannchiles.com How shameless is that???
    Happy Thursday! Keep it sharp today. 🙂 A little razor humor you know.


    • Your comment made me laugh out loud!!!! That was the cutest post! Don’t you just love it when you come up with an idea like that–so simple, but fun?!

      You are so totally 21st Century, so cutting edge, with your iPhone notes–no wonder you don’t know how to use a razor–there’s not an app for that! LOL

      And will definitely add you. It’s embarrassing, not to mention plain old wrong, to not have updated in so long. And I’d be honored by a spot on yours! Take care, my friend. Happy shaving!


  19. Happy blogiversary, Kathy! (And happy belated to your mom as well!)

    I would buy clothes pins *just* to pin one to my lapel… but I guess this would also necessitate me buying something with a “lapel”. 🙂

    I usually draw a small star on the inside of my wrist when I need to remember something. Washes away during the next shower, and because I have a tendency to speak with so many wild gestures, I’m always apt to see the star on my wrist and think ‘what the heck? Oh right!’ Then again, paper on the living room floor does the trick, too.


    • I think I remember your mentioning the star on the wrist technique a long time ago. Knowing me, I’d forget to notice it. I’m such a dork.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I suspect you might have seen another version of it sometime in the past.

      Take care, my friend. Enjoy the upcoming weekend, and good luck to Marty with his commissions!


    • Yes, isn’t that the truth! Gotta do what ya gotta do–as they say. My mom has always figured out a way. I suppose that’s a good lesson I learned from her. Hope you’ve had a great weekend, Christine. Great to hear from you!


  20. That’s a great idea. Maybe I need to start doing that. Usually I rely on Facebook or my phone to tell me birthdays but occasionally it misses one or that person changes the date for a joke. Social media isn’t that clever.

    I put up my Australia blog post finally


    • Hi Megan, so wonderful to hear from you. It’s been a crazy weekend for us here in Ecuador. Can’t wait to read your Australia post. Does that mean you went and are back home already? Gosh, hope you had a terrific trip!


  21. Wow — crazy cool that you have 80 comments on this already!! I love your mom’s simple (and wacky) way of remembering things but I think anything that works is grand! Happy holidays, Kath — what are you guys doing for your ex-pat Thanksgiving???


    • Great to hear from you, Betty! I wish we were doing something exciting for Thanksgiving, but we’re not–nothing like our Thanksgiving in Haiti. We are only going out to eat with friends. We aren’t even cooking. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks so much for stopping by!


  22. Kathryn, three years of positive, unbelievable, life-changing adventures!
    WOW. Your life is overflowing….
    & I love all of the blogging buddies you’ve met. Did they all live up to what you imagined?
    Your mama is Fab! 🙂 Xxxx Love from MN.


  23. Kathy, I so enjoyed reading this! Congratulations on your blogoversary (had to scroll up to see how to spell that.) And also belated best wishes on your mom’s birthday. So your mom’s birthday is 11/13 and mine is 11/11? That is very cool. You know, m’girl, you live a very exciting life! In just three years you’ve had so much happening. As for forgetting, oh lordy. My biggest challenge is going into the basement and looking around, trying to remember, what the heck? Still grinning at Lisa Spiral’s story about burning her apple to a crisp.


    • I know, wasn’t Lisa’s story a hoot? I could SO do that. Plus, we may not have a basement, but I am FOREVER going into one room or another thinking, what did I come in here for? Do you think a clothes pin would help with that? Suppose not. Maybe I should keep a clothes pin attached to my lapel–for good measure. Gotta cover the bases.

      Great to hear from you Kathy–it’s HAS been a busy 3 years! Here’s to 3 more! For both of us.

      Happy birthday, by the way. I somehow missed that it was yours. Must have forgotten.


  24. I’m nowhere near seventy-five, but I can vouch for your Mom’s note-in-the-middle-of-the-floor strategy. Leaving a reminder on the refrigerator or on the desk doesn’t work, because it just blends in with everything else. Something out of place is much more noticeable. So far, anyway.

    I hope her birthday was great.


    • I couldn’t agree with you more. If it doesn’t look completely out of place, I’m not going to notice the note to myself–drives my partner crazy.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes for my mom. She did have a great one!

      Wonderful to hear from you. Hope you’ll come back again soon!


  25. I love the clothespin idea! I guess maybe I’m a little old fashioned in the laundry department. I have clothespins. I hang dry some of my laundry. I also iron, almost daily.

    Maybe I should try using clothespins to remember things. I use reminders on my cell phone, lists, the whiteboard on my fridge and post-it notes. And sometimes, I STILL forget things!

    Also, I’m horrible about updating my blogroll. I suppose I should check it.


    • We’re like you, Terri. We have clothes pins, but then we live in a country where folks hand-dry just about everything. And Sara is hugs into ironing. I’ve even caught her ironing her underwear. I kid you not

      Great to hear from you, Terri. Glad you enjoyed my mother’s advice. By the way, I still forget tons of things regardless of the reminders.

      Have a great weekend, my friend.


    • I’d imagine working full-time is, in and of itself, good for the memory. But you’re right. We have had a LOT of changes in the past year or two. It’s been busy.

      Thanks for reading. It’s wonderful to hear from you, Jean. Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend!


  26. This is a touching story, Kathy. I cannot believe I am a month behind in reading your posts — and I have reminders hanging out right here in my email box.

    How is your mom doing? Having cared for my mother with dementia for a decade, until her passing in April 2012 (I know I’ve already told you this), I know how hard it is to watch someone suffer in decline. I can only hope to accomplish all I intend before I reach that stage.

    Meanwhile, it’s good you savor the funny moments with your mom’s condition. I did — after the fact; and it helped get us all through.

    Re the blogroll, I have yet to even build one on my blog. It’s on my to-do list (as it were).


  27. HAHA! Classic… While the idea is great, Im not sure how many people would follow through with it. LOL…Also, how many people would be brave enough to ask why you have a clothes pin on your shirt to begin with. Whatever works I guess! 🙂 Thanks for sharing the link!!


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