Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unexpected


Ever since reading about the appearance of tiny paper sculptures appearing magically in libraries throughout Edinburgh this fall, I have been thinking about the thrill of the unexpected, about how much it delights me to come across something which someone else thought – a lot! – about, and did, not for credit or recognition, but in order to delight someone else, to focus attention, to slightly alter the world. In this gift giving season, the unexpected gift seems to be on its way toward extinction, replaced with the asked-for, the gift card, the predictable.

Unexpected gifts come in all forms. This past weekend, I came across Santacon, the gathering of Santas of every type congregating throughout San Francisco. Even if one was already sick of hearing piped-in Christmas carols being relentlessly played (as I am), the sight of these Santas and elves, some of them traditional, some of them very risqué, brought huge smiles.

Far more subtle is sidewalk graffiti, with messages I sometimes understand and often do not, but which always change my walk from hurried and thoughtless to suddenly aware of being present.

And then there is the unexpected greeting. Sigh. Standard operating procedure for me upon arrival anywhere is a taxi pickup or, if I’m really lucky, a curbside pickup by a friend. Imagine being greeted, instead, with an unexpected in-person welcome, complete with hug, kiss, and a bag of peanut M&M’s (my secret vice). Talk about a priceless gift.

With our ability to search all or look up anything, I find serendipity and spontaneity to be less and less frequent occurrences, making these unexpected gifts/happenings/sightings all the more precious, and is completely affecting my gift-giving thoughts this holiday season. So if you have given me your gift list, that’s fine. But don’t necessarily expect me to have given you one. I’d much rather be surprised and delighted!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Plus One

As a professional woman, and an executive who raised children while my career was growing, I have been to many a company gathering where spouses and significant others were invited and I never got to know any of the wives, the "plus ones". I usually assumed I couldn't possibly have anything in common with them, and that they probably resented my position as a working mom when most of them were stay-at-home moms, supporting their husbands, my peers. Shame on me. How silly, ignorant, and close-minded.

Why am I writing this? Because I was a "plus one" the other night, attending a company holiday party with the man in my life, and I got to experience something new. I got to experience what it's like to be the woman at the table who most assume is not worth talking to, is not going to have an interesting conversation or point of view. I got to see what it was like for no one to want to talk to me based on my position or accomplishments, and it was a powerful lesson.

I had nothing to prove; I was there to be with someone important to me, to see a part of his world and meet some of the characters in it. I knew that some people at the party, but not all, knew of my existence in his life, and that this party was about him and his company, not about me and mine. And yet, it was sobering to be ignored and trivialized at the dinner. Why did it happen? I think I was likely ignored because I was a woman, the girlfriend, the arm candy. We both silently enjoyed the moment when someone at the dinner table finally asked me a question about my work, and based on my response, the conversation all shifted in my direction. But that's not the point. The point is that until that moment, I was no one, persona non importa. And that I have treated others in the same way.

One woman sought me out during the cocktail hour, and I was so grateful to her. Her warmth and inclusion meant so much. I know this is going to change the way I approach my next gathering, one in which my peers and their plus ones will be making merry. And I just hope that others, especially other professional women, think about the same thing at their next gatherings this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Woman


I pulled a dress out of the back of a closet recently, a dress which I had purchased and worn - a lot! - 26 years ago. I know the age of the dress because it coincides with the birth of my son, and I've never been able to part with it, even though its oversize shape and very long length became dated, (think Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom") thus relegating the dress to the back of the closet. And now, due to the changing winds of fashion and time, the dress seemed possible again and I welcomed it back to the fold.

Since the designer of this dress, Joan Vass, had been so influential to my thinking about how designers should approach dressing busy working women, I decided to Google her, only to learn that Ms. Vass had died earlier this year at the age of 85. From the Times' obituary comes a statement of her fresh approach to design, one which would become commonplace a few decades later, but was so radical in the 70's. " When everyone was wearing Pucci’s psychedelic prints, she wore black. In her collections, she favored classic shapes, and repeated them frequently. “If you like them, why shouldn’t you be able to go back to a store to replace them, so we make everything forever,” she said in 1979 in The Washington Post."

From what I read, I think I would have like her, though her tongue sounds wicked. From what I am wearing today, I know I certainly like her aesthetic and approach. To be committed to a unique vision outside the norm of fashion is a hard road for a designer, and yet so many women have no interest in trend, just in looking and feeling fabulous. Thanks, Joan Vass, for paving the way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Skinny Jeans


Most women have them in our closets: our "fat" clothes and our "skinny" clothes. You know, clothes which have been purchased before and after a diet, before and after weight loss or gain. If you are like me, you have a fondness for the skinny clothes, and a reluctant acknowledgment of the others.

As a generally slender woman, it has been a while since I have had to reach to the back of the closet and pull out those looser clothes. Since becoming single, I have adopted a more rigorous exercise schedule, and often have been too stressed to eat, consequently staying on my thinner side. But this year the exercise program has gone to hell, and I am eating more. Consequently, whammo!, an extra 7 pounds is lying squarely, or rather roundly, around my midsection, making my skinny jeans uncomfortable and my body-image confidence a bit shaky.

This comes at a time when my business is growing its offering of clothing which I think of as fashion for women who may have lost their waistlines but not their sense of style. It comes at a time when I am in the final year of my 50's, and my metabolism continues to slow. And it comes at a time when I am more keenly aware than ever of how skewed the fashion world is to young women, vastly ignoring the needs of my contemporaries for whom skinny jeans and towering heels are not an option.

Last weekend I was part of a group of 7 women, all in our 50's, who carravaned to the outlet store of a brand catering to us. In a short period of time, thousands of dollars were spent because we found great-looking clothes which celebrated us, who we really are, lumps, bumps, height differences, weight differences, and accomplishments.

My skinny jeans are going to the back of the closet for now. Maybe they will have to stay there forever; that is to be seen. What is forever, though, is the consciousness that neither weight gain nor aging should have to mean the demise of style.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Are You Ready For A Thing Called Love?

Since I have sometimes mused within these posts about dating in my 50's, it is interesting ( at least to me and perhaps to you) to talk now about love. Why? Because as much as I hoped I might fall in love again someday, hoped I might meet someone who tickled my fancy, moved me to my bones, and with whom I wanted to share this time in my life, I thought that if it happened, it would be a long time from now. And it is not a long time from now. It is now. I have fallen in love.

I have dated a lot, learning a lot in the process while I have grown used to being single, considering meeting men a job I have needed to undertake in order to understand who and what I was looking for, understand how I am with men and what kind of men bring out the best in me, what kind of men I am attracted to and not. I have had wonderful times and wretched times, met men who sound like I have made them up (the sex-obsessed Zen priest? Really?) and men I wished liked me more.

And now I have met and fallen in love with a wonderful man, a man with whom I am at the beginning stages of knowing. Falling in love in my 50's is so different from falling in love in my 20's. We both know so much more, have histories which are longer and more complicated, know ourselves better than either of us could have all those years ago. One of the things I know, and which he and I have acknowledged, is that this wonderful experience is now, that it might last and it might not. That the potential for pain is not reason to avoid succumbing to the joy. That we have rich lives independent of one another and that building a relationship is complicated, scary, time-consuming, distracting, delicious, and oh so worth it.

I wasn't ready a year or two or ten ago. But I am ready for this thing called love now. Sing it, Bonnie.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Only A Car

When I learned yesterday that the engine of my car was destroyed and thus I would need to say goodbye to my Audi TT, I was flooded with a number of emotions ranging from annoyance to loss, panic to sadness, memory to reflection.  I was really struck by my own reaction and, in my usual way, spent the evening trying to understand what gives.  And I think I have a clue.

Yesterday marked the end of a chapter for me and the beginning of another one.  Both chapters have to do with the end of the era of being married and identifying as such. When I first got my racy little sports car, it was step #1 in declaring my desire for independence. I called it my midlife crisis car, and it was truly symbolic for me.  In many ways, that little car acted as home for me, as a safe haven of Lisa when all else was crumbling around me: my move from Seattle, my loss of a job, my kids leaving the nest, my marriage ending. So losing this car seems to mark an end of this era of beginning of change - at a time when I no longer need the symbol of independence as real change is happening.

Interestingly,earlier in the day, prior to learning that my car was truly dead and not worth reviving, I had finally begun the process that will ultimately lead to the splitting of property between my husband of 30+ years and me, thus allowing divorce. It has taken me two years to get to this point, and I am ready now, no longer scared of what's to come.

I will miss that little car.  I no longer make the kind of money that allows me to acquire such an expensive car, and that is a little hard to swallow.   I no longer live a life with as many of the trappings as I did when the TT entered my life, and I must admit I miss many of those trappings.  But I live a very nice life, and while I may not have many of the material trappings, I also no longer have many of the emotional chains and baggage I once had, either.  Here's to the next chapter, and RIP little car.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Collective Unconscious

Boyan Mastov


One of the experiences in art that never fails to excite and interest me is seeing evidence of the collective unconscious which leads artists in diverse media and diverse locations to be inspired by a similar muse.  How is it possible that a ceramic artist in New Hampshire and a fiber artist on Whidbey Island in Washington State can be exploring similar territory, each with his or her own unique spin, stamp, and stitch?  What informs the choice of color, shape, and composition?  It amazed me when I was looking at my company's site, artfulhome.com, to see new work, and I found these very pieces sitting near each other, looking like cousins, like kindred spirits.
Janet Steadman



                        
How is it possible that we as humans think alike, even when separate?  How is it possible that men and women can start in very different places, visually, yet arrive in similar destinations?  And why is it that certain visual cues cause a rise in so many of us?  Is it learned or just part of the human experience?  Are we all influenced by forces of nature that we are not aware of?  I don't know, but it certainly intrigues me when I see it before my eyes.

Joan Gold

Liza Halvorsen

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smitten

Here in my lovely foodie Mecca known as San Francisco, there is a singular ice cream business called Smitten. Imagine a pop up store in a hipster neighborhood where each scoop of ice cream is literally made one at a time, to order, before your eyes in a super little mixer piping in a cooling agent, very DIY meets hi tech. The ice cream itself is outstanding, and worth its high price and long wait if you are the kind of person who gets a kick out of artisan food-making and heavenly deliciousness. And so my story begins. After a movie the other night with a man I am getting to know, I suggested we head over to Smitten. Why? Because the night was still young and I didn't want it to end; because I am often up for adventure and am looking for a partner with similar energy; because I love ice cream and it seemed just right and he had never been to Smitten and I wanted to watch his reaction, because it was uncharacteristically warm for SF and I wanted to take advantage of the weather with this relative newcomer to the Bay Area. It wasn't a test. I have "tested" men in the past at times when I was playing more of a game of love than experiencing a real connection. This was wanting to know a little bit more about someone through an experience. And may I say? I was and am smitten.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fate

Last week marked  Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year.   I am not, nor have I ever been, a religious person, having been raised in a secular household, yet I have always been aware and observant, at least in a casual way, of this most serious of Jewish holidays.  The idea of taking the time to repent for relationships gone awry and making amends to repair damage - or at least take responsibility - is a practice I hold in high regard and try to uphold.

But in addition, one of the beliefs associated with Rosh Hashanah is the belief that a person’s fate for the coming year is decided during the High Holy Days, and this I find most interesting to contemplate.  Of course I really don't believe such a thing is possible, as it seems to imply that there is a loss of determination of one's life based on the actions of every single day.  But what if?  What if it was possible to seal your fate based on the actions you took during a particular 10 day period?  What might you do differently?

This seems the stuff of movies and romance novels, of science fiction and fairy tales, of operas, both musical and of the soapy variety.  I had a couple of dates planned during these 10 days with a man I am most keen on, but to put the pressure on those dates that the actions from them might seal my fate for the next year?  Unfair to both him and me!  I have some really interesting business meetings coming up within this same time period, but again the pressure to have them determine the year's outcome seems to suffocate them before they even happen.

I realize that how I behave does have a longlasting effect whether in relationships of  love or business.  Both kinds of relationships are so much more complicated than to have their fates sealed by a 10 day window, yet having the marker of a holiday to remind us that WE are in control of our actions, that WE are responsible for how we act and treat others, and that WE are not above apologizing when we behave badly is most welcome.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Socks: A Love Story

When I first saw this yarn, I decided it was time to knit again.  Knitting is symbolic for me, an indicator that I am calm enough to slow down, an indicator that I have free time or that I am willing to make free time just for me.  Knitting socks is yet another indicator, challenging the impatient side of me to do something which takes a long time and which requires doing it all over again, i.e. making the second sock.  And knitting these socks?  The yarn was much finer than what I have worked with and I decided to try a new knitting technique, to challenge myself beyond my comfort.

All that, with no pre-determined destination for the socks, should I ever finish them, and yet I undertook the project.  Knitting for me is much like cooking; in both activities  I get as much pleasure from the task - or tasks- involved as I do from the end project, and particularly sharing the end project.  

I found incredible joy in knitting what started out as "the goddamn socks" and ultimately became the meditation socks.  The intimacy of sock knitting, with its small needles and the ability to hold the whole piece in my hands was comforting,and I fell in love with the calm and experience of knitting all over again. I briefly dated a man who thought he should be the rightful recipient.  As with cooking, I have learned not to lavish too much of myself on someone too soon, and the unfinished socks remained with me after this man left my life.

When I realized who might be the perfect recipient for the socks- and I considered many - the experience came full circle.  I gave them to a friend with whom I've had a fragile relationship, and it felt really good.  I could never have knit for him before, because it might have implied an expectation.  Now it was possible.  And the love story of the socks turns out to be with me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why Not?

I don't care much about fashion, but I certainly like clothes.   Contradictory?  Not at all.The whims and vagaries of fashion no longer interest me, and I rarely follow what is happening on runways as that has little effect on my life.  But a great pair of shoes or a perfect dress, some inventive spin on a basic or a knock-me-over-with-a-feather coat and I get a little weak in the knees.  My closet is full, yet the siren call of something fabulous and new often calls. 

A friend recently commented that I was lucky because I have a lifestyle which allows me to dress creatively, as opposed to her life which she described as being not worthy of artful dressing.  Baloney!  While it is true that I get to show up at work while she shows up in her studio, I show up like this out of choice.  

 I went to the movies the other night with a friend and decided to toss on my new sassy shoes, just because.  They made me happy, and as my friend can attest, made others smile with delight.  Could I have shown up in flip-flops or sneakers?  Sure, but I didn't, my choice.  Could he have shown up in his fleece vest and dad-jeans?  Yep, but he, too, is trying on some new looks - and looking and feeling good.


My daughter has said it perfectly: "If you have to get dressed, why not make it fabulous?". Why not, indeed!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Soar, Little Bird


I return to the theme of watching my now adult children flying on their own, triggered to write by the crazy success my daughter is currently experiencing.
In case you have not heard me shouting from the rooftops, my daughter, Zana Bayne , is getting a great deal of attention for her leather designs currently being worn (again and again!) by Lady Gaga and her dancers - on tour, on television, in the New York Times, and now on Gaga's latest video released this week!

With her success, I am asked repeatedly how she did it and how I did it, and the answers are pretty simple. She, Zana, did it by working her tail off, by having an idea and pursuing it, by treating her ideas and her work and her career as if they were important and persisting in being herself unabashedly. (This is, after all, the same person who at age 8 put a yellow post-it on our home mirror saying "be yourself".)

What did I do as a parent? I gave her the room to be herself, encouraged her creativity, answered her questions when asked, gave her a role model of a working woman confident in her own roles as professional and mom. I never pushed her toward a particular calling, but watched and nurtured what she wanted.

I believe strongly that our job as parents is to not screw up our precious little progeny. Watching Zana soar right now only strengthens that belief. The world of leather and Gaga is foreign to me; it is Zana's world, not mine, with styles I can admire without them being mine, representatives of a younger generation and our future.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Angelina Ballerina




We've all seen them, those little girls out and about leading their busy lives while rocking their tutus. I find myself smiling when I see one, imagining what fantasy might be playing out in their minds, compelling them to dress for the day in a tutu (maybe over jeans, or tights, or a diaper, or over their dress). Princess? Ballerina? Free spirit?

I, for one, loved reading the stories of Angelina Ballerina to my daughter when she was little. Angelina is a strong-willed chubby mouse who loves to dance, who breaks things in the process, and who works toward her dream of being a ballerina, all the time in her tutu. Little girls were wearing tutus way before Angelina, but the message that a girl can be anything she wants to be AND wear a tutu really encouraged the appeal of this indispensable wardrobe staple for many little girls.

And so, fast forward to a week ago, when I stumbled upon this wonderful black tulle skirt on sale at a favorite store. Off came my sensible and beloved Eileen Fisher tunic and on came this skirt, channeling my inner Angelina. I wore the skirt to dinner that night, and again to a party this past weekend, feeling flirty, strong, and absolutely myself. While I have resisted wearing it every day of the week, it has taken every bit of my adult willpower to do so!

(skirt by Lilith)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Friends

When I was a child, the concept of having a best friend was so important. One. single. Best friend. When mine and I grew apart in 8th grade, it was troubling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, not permanent. We loved each other as small girls, and re-met and loved each other again as adults - no longer best friends, but soulmates nonetheless.

Now, at the ripe old age of 58, I find myself with 3 best friends, two of whom I have known and grown with for over 35 years and one, surprisingly, a woman I met barely two years ago. (Clearly there is a correlation between the end of my marriage and the establishment of a new close friendships.) How lucky does a person get? And how is this possible without jealousy?

I have come to think of it similarly to how I faced the question, after having one child, whether I could ever love another child as much. Would it be fair to the second one? Boy, was that ignorant thinking, because I rapidly learned after my second child was born that the human capacity is not finite, that the heart expands and greets someone new with as much love for another child as for the first, and that experiencing love with two children was clearly a case of 1+1 = way more than 2.

And so it is the same way with my three best friends. I know I have very different conversations and relationships with each while I also know that I am deeply sharing with, supporting, having fun with, am delighted by, can cry with and laugh with, and am cared for by all. We each have others' backs unconditionally.

I've spoken to a couple of men about this recently, both of whom professed envy for the bonds which form among women while scratching their heads in wonderment. I ruined a couple of friendships, one permanently, one temporarily, after I was first married, as I didn't know how to balance the closeness of my women friendships with the closeness with my new husband. As I now hope and think about the possibility of someday being in another long-term relationship, I know I will never sacrifice my relationships with my best friends - and that I don't have to. This heart has room for more!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Isn't This Fantastic?


I met artist/designer/handweaver Patricia Palson at an art fair a bit over a month ago. At that time, I fell head over heels in love with this coat, an amazing show-stopper of a piece which fit me like a glove and begged for me to go home with it. I didn’t, but I’ve thought about it an awful lot.

What have gotten my attention are two things: What makes a piece of clothing just right for someone? And how much is clothing costume, representing who we wish we were?

My daughter will tell you that I have often been known to utter, “This would work in my other life” when I see clothing that is attractive to me but which serves little purpose in my life or lifestyle, which would likely be a purchase I would probably come to regret, or which exemplifies someone I wish I were but am not. You know, the clothes that you admire on someone who you fantasize has a better life that you have.

As I have aged, I have felt more and more confident about my style, and while proud of that, I recognize that I also fall into ruts. While dating a really exciting man last year, I bought many new dresses, busting out of that “safe and married” look I had cultivated over the years. The good news? Those dresses have remained a happy part of my wardrobe long since the romance ended, evidence that I wasn’t putting on a costume, but rather was trying out a part of me that had been submerged for a while and was dying to come out.

And as for this wonderful Patricia Palson coat? Yes, it IS me, albeit a me who goes to more exciting events than I really do and a me who makes more money than I do. Should I have an invitation to something spectacular which requires a statement-making piece of clothing, you can bet I’ll be on the phone with Patricia in a nano-second. But until then, it will have to stay, like a great crush, in my mind.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Second Chances


As I was looking at the show, "Second Chances", a delightful museum show at the San Francisco International Airport featuring work made from recycled materials, it occurred to me that this show capped a week filled with examples of second chances. Dresses made from Mary Jane wrappers, toys made from tin cans, and furniture made from bottle caps resonated with me in several ways.

At the Mingei Museum in San Diego, there was an electrifying show of quilts made by African American makers during the 20th century. These eye-dazzling quilts were all created from cloth which had lived at least one previous life, whether as workers' overalls, as a little girls dress, as an old wool coat, or as a precious satin hair ribbon. The women who created these quilts saw something new, a second chance, another purpose for the fabrics, and in their able hands, created splendors for the eye.

While in San Diego, I met with a few friends of my aunt, including a man who got a new lease on life with his quadruple bypass, a Holocaust survivor, and a 70+ year old woman who was head over heels in love with her new "boyfriend". Talk about second chances.

And then I thought about my own experiences of second chances, and realized that right now I am really living through a second chance, post marriage. I can't undo my past life nor do I want to; there are many good memories along with the lass good. I can't erase parts I regret, and sadly there is no making up for lost time but I am working like crazy to live my life differently, with purpose and responsibility rather than being a victim of circumstance living life as a reaction. Maybe that's why I respond so strongly to artwork created from re-purposed objects, embodiments of another crack at living.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I am thinking a lot about lying today. Well, I am not actually thinking of telling a lie nor committing a particularly deceitful act myself today, but rather, am thinking today about why people lie and what trouble it causes.

The New York Times had an article about lying via modern technology, and how easy it is to lie via text. I was recently in a relationship where so much of the conversation was via text (perhaps a red flag in itself) and the texting included sweet nothings as well as lack of full disclosure, and/or avoidance ( "sorry, I have to go take a nap " rather than "sorry, I have other plans"). Needless to say, the article hit a nerve.

Why do we lie? I think it's pretty simple, because it is so much easier than dealing with the consequences of the truth. Early in my former marriage, I lied every day, saying that I was leaving work when I was really staying later, blaming my late arrival home on traffic rather than owning up to my lie, owning up to the fact that I wanted to stay at work, owning up to the fact that my husband's insistence on my coming home at a specific time felt suffocating. But really, did any of those lies do any good? I was still home later than he wanted, I was still frustrated with the dynamic, and a pattern that would ultimately strangle the marriage was forming through lies to myself and gentle lies to my husband.

But now, as I am dating and hoping that eventually I will form a new long term relationship, I am working hard on practicing truthfulness, both to me and to prospective partners, and I have no tolerance for these lies. Certainly, it seems that one should be able to hit midlife and be able to deal with the consequences of truth, albeit the sometimes messy, ugly truth.

Texting is convenient when a small amount of information needs to be conveyed and no conversation is necessary. But using texting to exclude the truth is cowardly at best, maddening and hurtful at worst. How can you know what to believe once you know someone has lied to you?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mental Illness Comes out of the Closet

Is it me, or is there more conversation going on about mental illness right now than we often see in the news and in blogs? As the child of a mentally ill parent, I find my attention is always drawn to the subject. But several high profile/high readership sources seem to be raising awareness of not only mental illness, but the stigmas surrounding it, and for that I am most supportive and grateful

The New York Times is taking the bold step of publishing a series called "Lives Restored", specifically about people coping with life and mental illness. When I read this piece in the New York Times about Marsha Linehan, a therapist and innovator in the treatment of extremely suicidal patients , she herself a sufferer of bi-polar illness, it gave me hope that mental illness might be beginning to come out of the closet.

When a friend called late at night with the horrifying news about her husband's mental illness and the nightmarish course their lives are now taking, I wished for her sake that stigma did not have to be one of the burdens she was now facing. It is hard enough to watch someone you know turn into someone you don't even recognize. Not to be able to talk openly about it through feelings of embarrassment and shame only makes it harder, more isolating and frightening.

A short TED talk highlighting the difficulties of suicide survivors - yes, those who attempt suicide and remain living - shed more light on the isolation of the severely ill. Imagine the triple whammy of being so tortured that you attempt suicide, a mixture of elation/despair/embarrassment that you failed, and then the awkwardness caused by no one knowing what to do with you, say to you.

Why write about this? Why today? Because it needs to be said, because closeting of who any of us are can only do harm, because those of us with the ability to think rationally often try to apply that same rationality to mental illness, and fail those in need the most.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Millennials and Boomers: Parallel Lives

One of the topics at this week's TEDxSF conference was the Millennials and their effect on contemporary society. This population, made up of the children of Boomers, is forging such a new path through our world, and I think many Boomers have a mixture of Millennial-envy and a funny kind of identity with them. I know I do.

I found myself thinking about this as I recalled the uncannily parallel paths my daughter and I are on, though I am well aware that she will shortly overtake me and go on to much greater heights in her career. I trained as a fashion designer 35 years ago; she is a rising fashion star at age 22. Just this past week, she and I were both at our respective photoshoots, she shooting images of the Fall 2011 collection of her eponymous Zana Bayne line of edgy contemporary leather accessories, me shooting images of artful clothing for a more mature audience, for my contemporaries. Parallel lives, similar paths, you might say. In fact, Zana used to describe us as “Apple and Tree”.

But the reality is that how she is doing what she is doing is so wonderfully Millennial. Here is a business which was born through a blog (garbagedress.com), born through the magic of social media and Zana’s creating a personal style, a following, an international network of interested parties who converted to customers once she launched e-commerce. No backers, no advertising, no hype, just the power of a smart talented entrepreneurial young woman using the tools of her time to create zanabayneleather.com and landing with her work on Lady Gaga’s dancers just a few weeks ago.

My business at artfulhome.com is far more traditional. While it is an online business born in the first bubble with an interesting non-traditional model, it is fueled by more traditional direct marketing techniques and vendor relationships. The clothing part of the business is reaching out to boomer women with styles that celebrate all that a mature woman is: gutsy, unique, experienced, but maybe a little thicker around the middle than she once was. And it is hitting a chord with my contemporaries as much as Zana’s business is with hers.


I often think that were I to start a business today I might do it quite differently, but I suspect that is better done by Zana and her generation. Her generation makes up the consumer group that responds so differently from my peers, and therefore will continue to explore and change, and I, Boomer that I am, must admit that it is her time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memories from the Heart

At the TEDxSF conference this weekend, one of the presenters was from 1000Memories.com, a site which exists to record everyone's stories so that history of all of us, not just those famous and powerful, will go on record for posterity. While I wasn't crazy about the presenter nor his presentation, I found myself thinking about memories today, as I was deluged with them.

Memories based on the sight of an orange swimcap bobbing in the bay
Memories based on the scent clinging to a shirt left behind in haste
Memories based on the taste of wine
Memories based on a message I can't delete, not yet
Memories based on a song going around in my head
Memories based on the flash of a smile I spotted
Memories based on a dress in my closet
Memories based on a photo on the shelf
Memories based on that loss of appetite
Memories based on the airport terminal which will forever be linked to an argument
Memories based on an empty email mailbox
Memories based on a sleepless night

I don't want to try to hold onto these in any online repository. I think my heart is a good enough place.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Prom


At my out-of-town hotel this weekend, I witnessed the arrival of high school prom attendees disembarking from their chartered bus on their way into the Big Event. Fantasy princesses and would-be brides, starlets and Americon Idol hopefuls, nervous groups of girls and triumphant tottering halves of couples, these young women and their choices of formal attire shocked me. I admit, I have never attended a high school prom, so I am no expert nor particularly an admirer of the entire scene. But the feeling of sadness and concern I experienced had more to do with my thoughts about these girls’/women’s futures than with their particular bad taste in prom dresses.

Prom is meant to be a celebration of the end of high school and accomplishment, a rite-of-passage into adulthood. The picture and embodiment of prom in dress is often a too-expensive dress and accessories, agonized over for months, a teenage version of little girls’ dress-up. So many of the examples of dress I saw this Saturday night were hardly different from the garish getups my daughter donned as a pre-schooler, complete with jeweled shoes, too-bright makeup, and expectations of Prince Charming’s arrival. So what message is prom and its costume setting? Is it that girls can work hard and grow up to be fluffy princesses? Is it that spending a huge amount of money for just one night of fantasy that you can't build from is worth it? Is it that you can become a grown-up by dressing like one?

I adore ritual and pageantry, and I always love an excuse to dress up creatively. But I hate setting up girls and women with false expectations, and what I could see Saturday night was a mixture of excitement and fantasy, a ritual of one more opportunity to compete in a material way, a celebration of the celebrity culture in our world. Is that the best way to send our girls off into the world? I'm not so sure.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tender Loving Care

I was exhausted, not much more than a heap of clothes and curls and weary bones, pondering my hectic week past and upcoming travel and feeling overwhelmed. Then a friend offered to come over and cook dinner for me, offered to take decision-making off my plate, take entertaining off my responsibility list, take Saturday night and turn it into something different than a date, providing me with dinner and hugs and TLC.

I try to provide TLC, enjoy caring for people and spoiling those I'm crazy about, and it is hard for me to let someone do this for me. As much as I enjoy the feeling it gives me to provide comfort, particularly unexpected love unrelated to any given holiday or event, it didn't occur to me until later today that letting someone else provide this for me might be giving him that same kind of pleasure. And that perhaps my own zealous care-giving might actually be a shield from allowing/hoping someone else to do the same for me.

Much has been written about random acts of kindness, and having compassion for ourselves and others ("Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff is one of my current reads), but I think there is something else to be explored: caring and caregiving, taking and giving. In fact, there's probably a lot about the subject which has been written and just not on my radar. Is it common for my generation of women not to be able to accept help and comfort easily? Without a doubt, though I suspect we share this commonality with many many others, men and women both, of all ages. We may have learned that it is OK to pay for spa treatments, but the vulnerability of being cared for, pampered, spoiled - not for payment but simply by a caring person - is brand new.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Behind Every Great Woman


There's a secret that many of us women over 50 are aware of, a secret I was very happy to share with my companions in their 30's and 40's recently (seen in hats), a secret so wonderful that we grin and enjoy it like kids with a secreted stash of Halloween candy. At the risk of writing platitudes, the secret is pretty simple: acceptance and celebration of the reality of who we are. I keep encountering examples of this, and with it, a powerful support by women for each other's individuality.No place is this more evident than at the many art nd craft shows I have the great fortune to attend.

At the "Style at Stern" show in Palo Alto, CA this past weekend, women of all ages (but mostly close to my age) gathered, often in pairs or threes, to view and purchase wearable art, clothing and jewelry designed and made by individual artists. It felt like one giant party, with women trying on pieces, commenting to one another, swapping and sorting, adorning and experimenting, and more than anything else, celebrating the joy of expressing themselves through adornment. We were all there: with wrinkles and sags, stories and histories, some in wheelchairs and some in stilettos, some grey, some blonde, some botoxed, some crunchy, generations and girlfriends. But everyone - everyone!- was there to acknowledge individuality, and it was pretty overwhelming.

I met the designer Chris Triola and immediately fell head over heels with her presence, her clothing, and her ethos. Her clothing is fluid and graceful, comfortable and intriguing, easy to wear yet interesting to look at (very 50/50, yes?). It was no surprise to me to read her artist statement, "The clothes I design are clothes for creative women. They’re ‘doing’ clothes… things to wear when you’re writing, buying, selling, making, driving, thinking… and they don't impose. You shouldn't even know they’re there." Clothes for real women.

At the TEDWomen's conference last year, Madeline Albright stated, "There's a special place in Hell for women who don't help other women", and I was reminded of the statement as I watched women designers and women shoppers experimenting with clothing outside the norm ,as I longed for my long-distance best friend to share the experience with, as I sensed the great comfort so many women had in the presence of others, as the wave of support rolled over the room. Behind every great woman is...another great woman, and at all ages but particularly 50+, we are lucky enough to be aware of that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

RIPE


A year ago or so I was interviewed by Julia Moulden for her new book," RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50", the title of which I didn't know at the time. This week the book came out, and I was surprised to see a fairly large chunk of the interview, and was interested to see if I might have re-stated anything were I to be interviewed again today. Instead of writing a post this week, I am going to lift the interview straight from the book, because the truth of a year ago is the truth of today. Nice.

"I went to art school and became a clothing designer for large manufacturers. In the late '80's, when retailers realized they needed to start designing their own clothing, I launched an in-house design department for Eddie Bauer. I was there for 14 years and, by the end, was overseeing a huge team of designers (NOTE, the interviewer got this a little wrong, I was overseeing a huge marketing team when I left)

And then it all blew up. Business was terrible, I knew I was on the way out. I was 49, the sole breadwinner in our family, with a son in his junior year of high school and a daughter in the eighth grade.

I was recruited for two very different positions and chose the smaller firm. We moved our family from Seattle to California - from our dream home to half the house for twice the money. I went from running a department of 130 people to working for a company with 100 people in total. I turned 50 and hit menopause. Throughout, I was hell-bent on proving I could do it all.

The year I turned 55 brought more changes. I took an exit package, and my marriage began to unravel. I gave myself a year off. I'd been working since I was 19. Now, with no kids at home, no marriage and no job, I hit a wall. If a move title could sum up that year of my life, it would be "It's Complicated Up In The Air".

I went into therapy and began training for a three-day breast cancer fundraising walk that one of my best friends had long wanted me to do but I was always too busy working (to do). The group of women I trained with became an important part of my life.

All the soul searching made me realize I could seize my life - or drown. I told myself, "This is who I am, and I can't live with a fake version any longer".

I was recruited to this new role as CEO of Artful Home, an online company that sells artist-made decor and jewelry, and I'm the happiest I've ever been. I've come full-circle - it brings together my training as an artist and my experience in retail. And I feel like I'm just hitting my stride"

Yep, still true, and only getting better.