Friday, June 28, 2013

Stay-cation: Things that reflect a mood of gratitude and happiness

I am on holiday! Taking a week off to write, sleep, unpack the boxes I never unpacked 15 months ago when I moved into the apartment, walk, do yoga, and think. This just rocks.

So, I'm feeling light-hearted and interested in life and curious about so many I am going to make my posts this week reflect my mood - random points of light and beauty and style.

So, I have to start with a story about my son, Zan.  He recently went to visit his best friend since first grade, Oliver Utne, in Equador. He went with Ezra Levy, another friend from the pack from grade school. Oliver lives in Quito, Equador (has for 3 -4 years) working to improve the lives of the indigenous people. He started by helping them protect their land from the multi-national oil companies who were trying to take over. Now he's building a solar powered boat (a grant from the Finnish government) that travels on the Amazon and helps the tribes move both people and things between settlements. You kind of go...really? You thought of this? Someone gave you money to do this? This seems really ambitious. It's so Oliver. He would have no sense of the impossible.

So, Zan and Ezra go visit Oliver, thinking it is a chill out time in Equador and they end up spending 4 days working in the Rainforest / Jungle / Amazon with said tribes of people and government representatives, negotiating the location of the docks for said boat. Zan said it was the most exhausting trip he'd ever taken because they worked 10- 12 hours a day, but unforgettable, of course.

Now, I should point out that these guys are, as my sister points out, right out of Central Casting. I love these men - they are as sweet and smart as they are handsome. (Ezra in Med School in Mississippi - Zan a recruiter for Teach for America in New York City.) And my heart just soars knowing that this is a friendship that started twenty-one years ago when they were only six years old. Enjoy!

I should say that one of the men along on the trip, Danilo Medina, is a photographer and took these beautiful photos. 

Zan, right with friend Ezra, left. Oliver is behind left in a canoe type boat on the Amazon.

The Amazon at sunset.

With one of the natives. Not so happy about having his picture taken, Zan said.

My heart soars. Zan, left. Oliver, right. They used to play "bank" when they were little.
Neither one of them were allowed to have a video game.
A deal struck between me and Oliver's mom, Nina.
Good decision. :-)

Oliver at one of the villages.
Evening dancing. What about the dude with the gun???

Zan and Ezra, thinking: Is this what you had in mind for vacation???

Rainbow on the Amazon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Top Ten Ways for Women to Avoid Writing

For the first time in my life, I seem to have writer's block. After a particularly ugly period of work this past winter, feeling both depleted and defeated,  I decided to treat myself by getting back to my writing. So I hired a woman - a writing coach - to help me get focused, give me feedback on what I've done so far and keep me accountable. I'm usually really good with a coach. As a former "over-adapter" (in therapy talk) I love to please people, so I'm always happy to please a coach of any kind. 

So, along comes Patricia, my writing coach. She couldn't be more intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and intuitive. She is herself a talented, published writer and teaches at both Hamline and the U of M MFA Writing Program. She just knows where to poke around, what to teach, what I need. But, lo and behold, since I've started working with Patricia, I am frozen. I suspect, as she suggests, that now I know I have to get serious. I have about 1/2 of something or other and it would be a waste of time to pretend I don't. So I have to give all of these random pages some kind of form and finish it. And I am a bit panicked about it. So I have been watching myself avoid writing and it really is quite remarkable. So I've come up with my Top Ten List - if only Letterman were delivering this:

Here are:
 The Top Ten Ways for Women to Avoid Writing

#10.  Notice that there is not a safety pin to be found in the entire apartment. Appalled by this lack of domestic organization, I make a special trip to Walgreens to buy safety pins. This takes at least an hour if I include the time that I spent looking for the safety pins.

#9.  Realize that I haven't shaven since last summer and it is finally 88 degrees. Mortified by how my legs look in walking shorts or a skirt, I clearly need to rid my body of all unattractive hair. So I take a shower mid-day just for the purpose of shaving. This takes maybe an hour with the additional tweezing and application of lotions.

#8. Now that said hair is removed, realize that I have not really gone through my summer wardrobe. It is imperative that I try on all my summer clothing to see how they look sans leg hair. This eats up a couple hours.

#7. Looking at my hairless legs in summer skirts alerts me to the fact that, although now silky smooth, my legs are the color of unbaked pizza dough, so I must make another special trip Walgreens to pick up some self-tanning lotion. This takes at least 45 minutes.

#6. In trying on my summer clothes, realize that I needed to shorten a dress. Well, the foot pedal to my old sewing machine is missing, so I spent time on the internet researching how to replace the pneumatic foot pedal of a 1980 Elna Sewing machine. One hour.

#5. While wardrobe is on the brain , realize I'm going to Paris in late October for the first time in my life, so seems reasonable to start planning for such an event. So I spent an hour looking at images of women in Paris, then shopping online for a chic little black leather jacket. Look at my bank account and decided  - Naw. 

#4. The basket beside my bedside table can be so annoying whenever you try to find something - like safety pins. So, clearly, clean it out. And while I'm at it, why not organize the 30 hair binders, 12 pens, 7 bobby pins, all those magazine subscription cards, 3 half used bottles of lubricant, 6 unread New Yorker magazines and 14 books that are in there, too? This took an hour and 15 minutes.

#3. Notice that we have two of the same books of Eckhart Tolle on our book shelves in the Library. now, as we have already run out of room in the Library, I begin to ponder the possibility that we have duplicates of other books, as well. A shameful waste of space, so I go through, shelf by shelf, to be sure there are not duplicates. In the process, I linger over books, paging through them. Oh, yes, I read this in New York. Oh, yes, this helped me when Lee moved to LA. OMG - Joseph Campbell and Clarissa Pinkola Estes - oh, remember those days? is my Italian dictionary. Remember that very first trip to Florence? Well, this can eat up hours.

#2. The small white knobs at the end of the strings that pull the wooden blinds open and closed have come off. I have a collection of these. It is unattractive to see the string unravelling, so clearly it is time to go through the apartment and re-attach the knobs one by one, sliding each knob with some difficulty onto the unravelling string and tying a knot sufficient not to come untied again. This takes at least an hour.

#1. The number one way to avoid writing is this: 

Blame others. My daughter sent me a cover letter and resume to edit. What kind of a mother would I be if I didn't help her? My husband needs me to look over a proposal. Oh, sure, buddy....happy to help, but you do realize I could be writing. My mother just had back surgery and needs me to help her - like pick things up that have fallen to the floor in her Northfield townhouse - like pennies, and English muffins. She's 83 and did so much for me. Or how about the client who actually thinks I should work on their project? My reputation means something to me, people! Oh, yeh, the assistant I hired to take a load off my back so I could write. I have to organize things for her to do now. And then, of course, there is the housekeeper keeping me from writing. She works in my apartment! How can I write when there is someone working in my apartment! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Blast to the Past - But SOOOO relevant and funny today. ANNIE HALL

At some point during the gloomy weekend, Lee and I decided we needed to laugh, so we tossed out the idea of watching an old Woody Allen movie. He had recently watched What's New Pussycat and he loved it and I couldn't help but notice the fabulous sets! Worth a couple hours of your time. It was Woody Allen's first movie script and his movie debut as an actor. 

But, as Annie Hall was an all-time favorite movie of mine, I thought it would be fun to watch with Lee, so we did. Neither of us remembered the sub-plot which is a spot-on delirious comparison between New York and LA. Since I last watched the movie, I have lived in both cities. It was really so entertaining.

But the totally coolest thing of all is Diane Keaton's style in this movie. When was the last time you didn't see skin all over the screen? When was the last heroine covered up? Or wearing baggy clothing? Probably not since Annie Hall. It was sooooo refreshing to see a woman who was charming and darling and feminine without being a "HO" :-)

Here are some images. Now that summer began today, I can hardly wait for fall when I can button up my shirts and put on a jacket with baggy pants. I DOOOOOO love baggy pants and always have. 
Give it a think. 

How I LOVE to dress at home. T-shirt and cargos.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rain and Mekea

I know everyone here in Minneapolis is suffering from shock and awe  - the shock of yet another rainy day and the awe that it could possibly be true that the percentage of sunny days in the last 60 makes us the gloomiest city in the country, I think. Lee told me 9 days of sun in the last 60. That is 15% sunny days or, in a year, that would only be 45 - 50 sunny days. Imagine if you were told you can have 7 weeks of sun, then - poof! - it's gone for the rest of the year. For the rest of the 45 weeks. Gray. Rain. Well that is the reality in Minneapolis this spring. 15% sun. Who would live here unless you already do? I have clients who just moved here and I think they are really questioning their sanity.

This is not inspiring. I keep waiting for something. I'm like a pregnant woman in my 9th month waiting for the blessed event. It never, ever comes. I'm just waiting. I don't get dressed up anymore because I am waiting for the time that calls for something festive and happy and cute and nice. Who wants to put on sandals and white linen in this soggy swamp of a place?

So I wear my rainboots, my very worn through the snaps cargos and my black nylon workout top and that is really it. That's all I feel like wearing. I don't care how I look anymore. I don't exercise because I'm primarily a walker and, oh, that's fun now.

Whatever...blah, blah, blah about that.

However, this is inspiring!

On a more heightened note, I heard the most uplifting and, rather unbelievable story this week. One of my clients from the past is a gorgeous woman with three beautiful daughters, a charming husband and a happy Linden Hills life. I helped Mekea with architectural selections when she was building their home a couple years ago. I also know her sister, Meg - and talented writer she is - I've also helped Meg a bit with their home. 

Following my 'youngins' on Instagram this weekend because they are traveling and posting moments from their trips, I found a photo of Meg in the hospital with Mekea. Of course, I was concerned. Followed that string of information to Facebook I discovered the most outrageous and courageous story. For those of you who don't know this (and I'm betting plenty do!) here is a link to the Facebook page: 

Jack and Mekea, his "Lifesaver"

A little 6-year old boy in Mekea's neighborhood needed a kidney and well, you just need to check out the link....

All I can say is that Mekea Kaplan Duffy has set a new bar for the rest of us. Godspeed, Mekea. 

So, now I think it is safe to say, I might stop complaining about the weather.