Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Taking a Break

I'm going to be taking a break from this blog for a while. I'm headed off on vacation, I've been dumped by a guy, and I need to feel my feelings without sharing right now. Thanks for understanding and I'll be back before too long.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rocking the Look

My daughter and I share a style maxim: as long as you have to get dressed every day, you might as well look fabulous. Granted, there are many days when I neither live up to that nor even care, but for the most part I do enjoy the pleasures of a great dress, some great shoes, and fabulous accessories.

Back in the 80's, Donna Karan provided many of us working women with the keys to looking fabulous all the time with her power jackets, body suits, and sexily draped skirts. Today life is so much more casual, power dressing no longer plays a part in my choices, and my professional identity is inextricably linked to art, so the challenge of what to wear to an event is far more interesting than it used to be. Add to the mix that lately I have been invited to events with Silicon Valley types and I find the I've been questioning what's appropriate to wear to where.

The answer? Bingo. Wear what I want. Or as Zana posted on her mirror when she was 8 years old, "Be Yourself". It worked for me Sunday evening out on the beach in Half Moon Bay with a bunch of venture capitalists, as it did for Katy, also shown in the photo. Ourselves, our way, our fabulous.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Putting on a Public Face

I've just finished reading Mika Brzezinski's memoir "All Things At Once" chronicling her journey and struggle as a working mother/wife, a woman who has experienced major ups and downs and ups in her career as a television journalist, and one near-miss tragedy in her personal life. As I read it, I could not help but think about a similar book, Barbara Walters' "Audition". In both books, the authors talked about their issues of trying to do it all, their issues of working in a male-dominated profession, and the realities of having to be a pretty face in addition to an outstanding professional.

In some ways it is a relief to know that even women at the top of the celebrity game have many of the same struggles that we mere mortals have. I know many working moms who feel like they have to work incredibly hard just to prove (to whom?) that they have their minds on the job at all times, yet always feel like they are falling short. These same women work equally hard to be great mothers, to spend meaningful time with their children yet always feel like it's not enough.

On the other hand, it also saddens me to know that these women at the top, Barbara and Mika, also struggle with the image issue as well. Obviously, in television broadcasting, image is so important it can get you hired - or fired, something which is not supposed to be able to happen in a fair workplace. Luckily, that is not the case for most of us, yet we all know that hiring managers cannot help but notice someone's appearance.

It is all coming home for me as I prepare to be profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle. I have worked hard to answer the interviewer's questions in a way that I believe truly expresses my beliefs around the world of art. Yet here I am, the day before the photoshoot for the picture that will accompany the article, angsting about every detail of my appearance - as if that is what I'll be judged on by readers.

The balance between brains and looks, ambition and lifestyle, trying too hard and not having the energy to try hard enough is yet another of version of the 50/50 challenge.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Love At First Sight

Wham! It happened. Love at first sight. It happened to me this week with a work of art by Jim Nelson. Jim happened to be coming through town and stopped in at the office with many of his pieces to show us in person at Artful Home. I had been extremely attracted to his work since the first time I saw photos of it, had been mildly disappointed with the one piece I had seen in person, so was prepared for this viewing with mixed preconceptions. I must admit that I had played out the scenario in my mind many times of what I would do with a piece by Jim in my home. And then it happened. There, on the opposite end of the room, was the most beautiful stranger, a piece that spoke to so many parts of me, that was everything I had hoped a piece by Jim would be, a piece with which I immediately fell in love. And immediately bought. Gulp!

I've done this before, felt that strong visceral attraction to art, known immediately that it was "the one", and acted. Most of the time, these impetuous purchases have been spot on, as I have remained in love with the work and have lived with it for years. Occasionally, it turns out what I thought was love was merely lust, or a misplaced substitute for something else, and the piece gets placed in my home and then gently moved out.

Of course, this really isn't so different from falling in love with people. When I met my newest best friend, I knew immediately that I was attracted to so many aspects of her very being; now this new friendship has blossomed and grown in ways I never could have imagined. While I knew I was looking to engage with new people, I never went to that particular party where we met looking for a new best friend. It just happened.

Romantic love is not so different, though ever so much more complicated. There, I'm afraid, lust has led me far too often into thinking I'm in love. And just as with the most recent art purchase, my impetuous nature acts on love/lust quickly. But unlike art which you have to purchase and live with (and then can remove without undue emotional pain), I'm trying to treat romance more like a lease with an option to buy. I do fall in love, head over heels infatuation, and I love the feeling. I also know that the real thing is much deeper and harder and ultimately even more joyful than that first strike by Cupid's arrow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One Size Fits All? Think Again

In the world of fashion, there exists an occasionally-employed sizing device of "one size fits all" (OSFA). Loosely translated, this usually ends up meaning something more like one size fits few, and most will have to make do somehow. I've learned to be cautious and somewhat skeptical when I see OSFA in clothing, as how is it remotely possible that the same garment could fit me at 5'9" and 130 pounds and my sister at 5'2 and 110 pounds.

I've been using the metaphor of "trying on different dresses" to describe what exploring the dating world has been like, and not surprisingly, am finding that here, too, one size definitely does NOT fit all, particularly as far as communication goes. In the old days, when there were only land-line phones, you either spoke to someone or saw him, plain and simple. (In the old, old days, you waited for him to call, too, but that's another whole story!) Now, with text, phone, Facebook, email, Skype,and online dating, there are not only multiple methods of communication, but such different comfort zones with each! With one man I'm seeing, we pick up the phone and call each other frequently, a reminder that although we may not see each other for weeks, we're part of each others' lives. Another man I'm seeing is quite content with the occasional email and picking up where we last left off when we see each other. I've dated a man who does not have a cell phone(!), another one who only checks his email at night, and yet others for whom their iPhones have become appendages.

What has become obvious is that clarity of communication does, indeed, have to fit all. The banter of email can lead to misconstrued intent, the awkwardness of long pauses on the phone can lead to unintended messages, and dead cell phone batteries can lead to missed signals. It's funny how with more modes of communication available than ever, the need for getting the right fit of a clear message is more important than ever.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yes, Great Design and Attitude Can Co-Exist

This past week in Chicago I stayed at a new (to me) hotel, Dana (not "the" Dana or "Hotel" Dana, just Dana), and as anyone who has seen my Facebook posts knows, I am absolutely smitten with this place. I've Yelped about it and written my praise directly to the hotel. Why? Because this place manages to pull off great design, a modern vibe, delicious comfort, and superb service.

Often it has been my experience that hip, modern, uber-designed hotels also come replete with attitude. I refer to these hotels as "homes of the terminally hip", places where you are ignored for as long as possible if you don't seem cool enough, and where there always seems to be some sort of secret handshake that I don't know. Think the Ian Schrager hotels, where it's impossible to use a sink without splashing all over the beautiful tiny bathrooms. Think So-Ho not-so Grand and the imperious reception staff. But not Dana. Dana was just right.

The entire visual experience was stimulating and well curated, from the giant mosaic behind the reception desk to the undulating carved and sculpted walls. While all of this might have been overwhelming, the friendliness of the staff acted as a counterpoint to the supreme visuals. Everyone - EVERYONE - was extremely friendly and outgoing, hip and helpful. This was much like the experience a friend and I had a few months ago at the Black Cat Bistro in Boulder, where the outstanding food was accompanied by a consistently attentive, knowledgeable and friendly staff. We learned at Black Cat that the chef-owner actually Myers-Briggs types all potential hires, and only hires people he likes, with less regard to their experience and more regard to their personality. It made me wonder if a similar hiring practice is employed at Dana as well.

However they make it happen at Dana, my hat goes off to them. Businesses like this fuel my optimism and belief that great design can - and should - co-exist with great social behavior.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I was thinking about the concept of self-care the other night as I returned from a rigorous day of work and checked into my hotel spa for a massage. Once upon a time I might have considered getting a massage to be overly self-indulgent, but that night I knew that I was in need of some downtime, some "only about me" time.

Several years ago one of my very closest friends introduced me to the term "selfcare", as in, "What are YOU doing for self-care these days?" At that time I was doing very little, being a full-time executive and a full-time mom. Somehow, I never seemed to "find" the time to think about me. The problem with that is that it becomes a habit, a way of life, until you can begin to think that there's not much of you left to care for.

Once my kids were grown, it was obvious that there was a great big hole where Lisa used to be, a hole left by my ignoring myself while tending to others. And so, I have been exploring how to take care of myself, looking at everything from exercise to eating, sex to mani-pedi's, vacations with friends to turning off the phones when I want to be alone, massages to beach walks. While I may still have difficulties recognizing when I need some self-care, I figure it's better late than never. And I am fortunate to have friends who are willing to act as my mirror and give me a little nudge now and then.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life at the Top

This will be a short post, as I am traveling (again) in Chicago for another photoshoot for Artful Home. In the old, pre-recession, big company days, a photoshoot often felt like a combination of hard work and glamour, with all the trappings of travel, producers, caterers,people assisting people, etc. Today is a different story, with just two of us from the company doing everything from driving the truck to unloading, from art directing to producing, from soup to nuts, with great people back at the office wearing just as many hats in the process. Did I think this is what life as a CEO of a small company was going to be like? I'm not sure. The crazy thing is, I like this a whole lot better. OK, full disclosure, if the air conditioning in the truck had not decided to die and our hotel had actually had the room we reserved, I would have liked it even better. But the hands-on nature of the work now, the ability to control and say that the buck actually stops here with no one else accountable or to blame, is empowering and liberating. And now I know I can drive a truck as well!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Spectator to Her Life

I must admit it: I have raised a full-blown fashionista. At 21, my daughter, Zana Bayne is at the beginning of her career in the world of fashion, and it is an absolute trip and pleasure to be a spectator to her life.

From the time she was quite young, Susannah (as I still call her) had a distinct sense of style, one which would often make me shudder and joke that she had to promise never to tell anyone that her mommy worked in fashion. Yet this young child could walk into a store and instantly point out the poor color choices, the bad design, and offer up ways to improve styles. When I used to bring her in to work with me, people would at first begrudgingly let the boss' daughter hang out, and rapidly figure out that she could be quite an asset in the design room or with catalog spreads, asking for her to return to help out as frequently as possible.

I never wanted Susannah to enter the same business as I, as she had such strong artistic talent and was so smart that I wanted her to soar higher than I ever had or could. And yet, she is a natural in the business. With her eponymous accessories business, her blog, her day-job, and her extraordinary networking skills, this young woman is blazing a path on her own. Now that her designs are being used in international magazines and her profile has been written up in numerous fashion blogs, I am beginning to get used to being referred to as "Zana's mom" - a label I wear proudly.

Friday, June 11, 2010

RIP Prada Bag

It is time to finally lay my great leather Prada bag to rest. Although I collect shoes with ease and frequency, handbags are another story. Given my preference, I would buy one about once a decade at most. This particular bag has so much history with me that it is hard to say goodbye to it. It is, alas, time.

First, the story: When I made the decision to uproot from Seattle and start my career and life again in California, I got the sweetest note from my favorite saleswoman, Paula,at Barneys, in which she said "Say it isn't so". (Yep, that's how much shopping I guess I was doing at the time!) So I went in to say goodbye to Paula and also to try to use my existing store credit (since there was no Barneys in SF at the time). I arrived at the store in the last hours of the last day of the winter sale, just as a distressed saleswoman was putting out a whole group of atypical Prada handbags which had been misplaced, never put in the sale, and so now were marked down from $1200 to $275. My credit was for $300, so I essentially ended up with an amazing leather bag for free!

I used and abused this bag for about 6 years,never switching it out, watching it become more and more mellow and Lisa-shaped. I got many comments on it and loved telling the acquisition story. It's Prada-ness was never its appeal, as in fact it is logo-free and not at all characteristic of the brand - it just was me. And then it started to fall apart, and I knew it was time for me to begin to search for a replacement, which I eventually found.

Every once in a while I pull that bag out of the back of the closet and give it another try, and really, its life is over and I must let it rest in peace. Of course, I see a metaphor here with my marriage, to which I was dedicated and with which I was associated for so long until it was no longer alive and breathing. And while I tried to resuscitate the marriage, there was inevitably a time to call it quits. The thing I am learning from both my experience with this bag and with my marriage is that perhaps there is another way to preserve a great thing without running it into the ground. Give it a break sometimes. Don't count on it being the one and only in your life. Recognize when it is going downhill and call it, act on it. OK - enough with the metaphors!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Beauty of Great Design

I am currently at a photoshoot for the apparel and jewelry in Artful Home's Fall 2010 catalog. As usual, we have hired two beautiful models, women who, when photographed, will convey a sense of grace, confidence, and individuality that resonates with women of many shapes, sizes, and ages.

It is a always a sign to me of great design when a piece looks equally great on a 20-something model and a 50-something non-model - and when both wearers respond with equal passion about the piece. I have a strong belief that women develop their personal style early in their lives, and though it evolves over time, it is exactly that, an evolution rather than an abrupt change in style. That's why I find it so frustrating to look for clothes, because so many purveyors of clothing for mature women assume we have turned frumpy just because we are older. And why I find it so exciting to discover an artist/designer like Lynn Mizono, whose architectural take on clothing manages to express individuality,flatter and forgive, and who doesn't want that?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Teach Your Daughters Well

I had an experience this weekend that brought me back to the phenomenon of middle school "mean girls" (and yes, this will eventually get around to 50/50)and really blew my mind. It seems that the ex-girlfriend of a man I am dating has created a pseudonymous blog about dating in her 50's, and chose to dedicate one post to me, or as she put it, her "ex's next". While I'm interested and amused that she thinks I'm so important in this man's life to be worth commenting about, needless to say, it was not a flattering post, and in fact, reeked of language and behavior that can at best be described as classic 7th grade mean girl queen bee nasty. Immature? Yes. Wounding? Not really.

It is not so many years ago that I abruptly resigned (with no future job in sight) from a cushy position because my female boss, the CEO of that company, exhibited classic mean girl behavior, taunting me and verbally harassing me, and I refused to be pushed around by this bully who was determined to demean me based on her insecure competitive nature. My sense of self esteem, particularly in the professional world, was strong enough to recognize damaging behavior and refuse to get caught up in this bee's nest. This is pretty different from when I was in middle school, when one withering look or nasty comment could send me running away, ready to compromise my behavior in order for the alpha girls to accept me.

So what does this have to do with 50/50? One of the original concepts of the business was for a significant portion of the profits from 50/50 to be used for development of and/or support of programs fostering self-esteem in middle-school girls. The very idea of a women's clothing business which recognized the clothing needs of mature women while nurturing future mature women seemed complete and holistic. I still believe in the concept, and if I should ever open this business, it will be a critical component.

But I realized when I read this nasty post from "Emma" that all the programs in the world are not the answer. This woman, this bright, well-educated, professionally successful mother of a daughter is probably feeding her daughter with all the right words, books, and programs to teach her to be a good strong woman when she grows up, just like Mommy. But the role-modeling exhibited by this grown-up mean girl must be, sadly, delivering quite the opposite message to her daughter, and no program will wipe out the messages fed to her in mother's milk. We comment with outrage over teenage girls being driven to suicide by bullying online and off. Sadly it is no surprise from whom these bullies sometimes learn.

For more reading on grown up mean girls

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Clothes wearing the woman ?

"Are you a large ring person?" asked a manfriend (MF?) of mine when I was sporting this very large ebony ring given to me the other day by a gallery owner in San Francisco. I know that I would never have purchased this ring for myself, nor any other ring which spanned two or three fingers as this one did. I would normally say, "Wow" and move on, but since this had been a gift, I decided to try wearing it for an hour so I could answer my friend's question - am I a large ring person? - and if not, why not.

Earlier in the same day, I had been in a similar situation in the designer section of Nordstrom. I'd been on a hunt for clothing to use in an upcoming photoshoot, and thus was searching and trying on a number of pieces for consideration. My very helpful saleswoman decided to bring many clothes to the dressing room that I never would have selected, and since I was in a good mood, I decided to try them on. So, had my MF been with me in Nordstrom earlier, he might have asked, "Are you a daring Helmut Lang dress person?"

The reason I am dwelling on this is that questioning some of my assumptions about myself - what I have always done vs what I've just plain been scared to do in the past - is one of my approaches to life right now. I am finding that there are many experiences which I had never tried or had shut out of my life for decades which I am thoroughly enjoying adding to my repertoire. Just as shoes with high heels and dresses with tighter fits have entered my wardrobe, so too have Pilates, Zumba, and late-night escapades.

But for the most part, I really do know who I am. I'm not looking to redefine myself. That's one of the great joys of being in my 50's - knowing and feeling confident. So I really can answer my friend with a "No" - as the big ring feels like it enters the room before I do, and the Helmut Lang dress feels like I'm pretending to be 21 again. Neither of those are me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thinking of Al and Tipper, In Sickness and in Health

I got sick this weekend - really sick. It's a recurring illness that has haunted me for the past 20 years, reappearing unpredictably in frequency, but unfortunately always hovering, ready to pounce and attack me. When it happens, I feel not only like I have the worst flu ever, but I also feel terribly vulnerable.

The illness first appeared 10 years post-cancer, and scared the life out of my then-husband, Steve, and me. That initial bout was life-threatening, it turns out, but I recovered and Steve and I weathered it just as we had the cancer. In subsequent outbreaks, often on much-needed vacations, sometimes on business trips out of the country, Steve was a peach - FedExing me meds to Europe and Hong Kong, ministering to me when he probably would have preferred the originally-planned vacation. For whatever reasons, this particular illness sends me off the ledge emotionally and my inner baby makes a major guest appearance.

Though separated, Steve and I remain amicable, close enough that we still live in the same house (though it's now separated into two apartments), sharing his car and our dog when I'm in town. While it was very much time to move on from the marriage, the bond of 33 years remains strong. Knowing I was sick, Steve called this morning, asking how I was doing and offering to bring me groceries or anything else, and it meant the world to me.

I thought about this when I read about Al and Tipper Gore separating. From what they are saying, it sounds like it is an amicable parting, like it was time to move on from the marriage. They, too, have weathered illness and the worst of tragedies, the death of a child. I only hope that they can remain there for each other in their equivalent of my recurring illness, in sickness and in health, even if the promise of staying married until death becomes untenable.