Monday, September 28, 2015

Best Boots Ever

Ten years ago,  I was flat broke. Lee was living in L.A. teaching sixth grade at the Westside Waldorf School and going to graduate school in Santa Barbara once a month at Pacifica - working on a degree - or two - in Depth Psychology. I was living in Minneapolis, completing my assignment as mom to Isabelle, age 15 that year and a sophomore in high school. I wouldn't leave her for the world. Not even for Lee. I was a big girl. I could fly to L.A. if I had to. If I could come up with the spare change. Long story about how we got to this juncture. That story is in my book. (Smiley face.)

So, I had been what I call, in probably offensive terms, an education Nazi. I'd begged, borrowed and had stolen for my kids education. Well, not stolen. But you get the idea. I had a public school education in Iowa and when I saw what was alternatively available in Minneapolis - especially at the Waldorf school in Minneapolis, then at Blake for high school - I drank the kool-aid.

What this meant as a very middle class family experiencing divorce and change - and sometimes with my head just under the water line of middle class - choking for air - is that I had no money for a wardrobe. But having been a woman who had spent my entire life loving fashion - like, since I was six!! this was not an easy pill to swallow.

But, kiddos first, so I figured out that I could spend several years wearing about four items. Gap men's 1969 button front low-rise jeans, J. Crew long sleeved perfect cotton T (in black of course) and, voila! my big splurge.....Black Frye Harness Boots. Thankfully, one of my awesome clients gave me a black nylon Prada bag for my birthday in 2005 and that made the whole thing work. In a New York kind of way. Not in an L.A. kind of way...which is where I was going on occasion of course. But I got very superior about it all in a fuck you L.A. kind of way.

I woke up this morning, this September 28, 2015 and put on my boots. The same boots. Not a new pair. They are still just perfect - albeit more sexy, more broken in, more formed to my feet. Ten years later, I still feel like I stride in these boots with a confidence that no other shoe provides. Just the right heel, just the right slightly ass-kicking attitude.

I don't even remember what they cost. But they are the best money I ever spent on a piece of clothing. Ten years later, I feel this lift when I put them on with my now AG or Citizen jeans. I've replaced the men's Gap. I toss on an Equipment silk shirt. I've replaced the J. Crew t-shirt. But I haven't replaced my Fryes. Life is good.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

On Aging

Feeling like this is my new topic. You just have so much more time to think about this when your kids are gone. Instead of asking them if they've done their homework or going shopping to keep the frig filled for their unbelievable appetites or filling out the college financial aid forms, you just have all that time to think about getting older. Not like you try. It just happens. Because the fact that they are gone means you are definitely older. I should know. My youngest left home in 2007 when she went to college. So for eight years, I've been thinking about this and I have a lot to say.

There is plenty that just plain sucks about getting old - wait and see all you Gen x-ers. But today, I'm going to talk about when it's really great because that is what I'm thinking about tonight.

Tomorrow I'm heading to NY to work on just the most spectacular happy-making beautiful project, one so sublime I feel like I'm in a movie about a designer working in NY on a Hollywood-worthy home. Now, lucky me....I have so many great clients and projects right now that I could write a blog-post about each and every one of them. Well...maybe not one.

But for this little farm girl from Iowa who wanted to go to New York at eighteen to study fashion or acting but who had no foreseeable way in the world to make that happen, I now feel like I am living that dream - at sixty -two. Yep, sixty-two. Really, I always wanted to live and work in New York. I lived there for a couple years when Lee was teaching and dipped myself so deeply into that ocean of beauty and design that when I was finally asked to do a project there, I could, with modest confidence say, Yes! A holy Yes!

But, this is not all about me. It's about age.

On Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m., I will walk into the site / townhouse on East 78th for a meeting with the two architects from Nate McBride and Assoc. (including Nate and Jack Bales), and three people from the contractor's team including the owner of the company, the project manager and the site supervisor. The contractor is Taconic, and a little bird told me they did Madonna's incredible double townhouse on E. 81st. Nate and Jack have become dear friends; we've pulled at the bones of this project for three years together now. We eat together, drink together, sigh together and solve together. Taconic is newer to me. We've worked on this project for about a year together, but adore what I see. We laugh in our meetings, get good work done, and Artie, the project manager, likes to keep the end in mind. He once said to me, "You know, I don't like to hurry a project at the end. It's always a mistake. I'd rather lose a little money to get it right. No one will remember the money or the extra week five years from now. I want it perfect for the client." Now, this is the attitude of experience.

In August I sat in the room that will soon be the Master Bedroom around a table with all the same people I mention here above as well as Hilary Finn from Hilary Finn Gardens, the landscape designer and Gordon Roth from Roth Painting. At some point, with seven or eight beautiful faces in this circle, I realized that not ONE of them was under fifty! Most were humming along between 55 - 68 if I had to guess.

It was so inspiring to sit with this group of talented people at the top of their game, playing hard, creating a massively complicated thing of beauty for our clients - with quiet confidence that comes from years and years and years of experience with challenging work and that lovely thing called wisdom. Not much ego in the room - outgrown that - just a lot of feeling lucky to be working together in a way that is good for all of us financially and artistically and good for the client in the end.

So, welcome to something past middle age - when you finally have earned what you've worked for, including any reputation that goes with it. A time when you get to hang out with and hopefully work along side other people just like you, people with wisdom, who've listened to the same old music, knew the same old political jokes and shuffled their own kids to the same grand tours of colleges during their Junior year. The familiarity of age is a comfort, a recognition, a shared language that makes the work together a bounty of joy.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The season of St. Michael - Michaelmas - and what it brings

Children play-acting at Michaelmas
Just read friend Wendy Brown's post - my fellow Virgo, Wendy's birthday is the day after mine...she writes of rhythm and ritual and order, of slowing down and this inspired me to write.  I think of of slowing down like the animals, preparing for hibernating - knowing what is ahead of us - chilly nights, drying leaves, darker days here in the heartland.

Don't get me wrong. I love fall. It is my favorite time of the year. A sweet romantic melancholy fills my heart when I walk through Kenwood, see the drying hydrangeas turning to that golden pink, see the brittle stems of the lavendar, the children running freely in the park now, still in shorts and t-shirts knowing how different that will be in only twelve weeks - more likely bundled in down and mittens and tugging at a sled.

I love the change of it all. When I lived in Charleston in the late '70's for the first time, I recall September coming around and instead of Fall, it is "the Hurricane Season." It is warm and moist and turbulent. And a bit exciting for a newcomer to have to evacuate the island I was living on the first year and head to Columbia, a part of that great snake-like chain of cars winding its westward way along I-26. But I missed the signals to pull out my sweaters and change up my closet, to pack away the thin embroidered cotton Indian shirts and flip-flops and replace them with cashmere and boots.
I did that last week here in Minneapolis and, in doing so, saw the holes in my closet where I needed another pair of jeans and another pair of boots and another skirt. Well, not need. Wanted....let's be accurate.

But this change is more than seasonal, more than about changing out wardrobes and storing up wood for the fire. In 1992, as a new parent at the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis, I attended my first Michaelmas Celebration at the end of September. Celebrated since the Middle Ages in Europe, it honors St. Michael, the highest of the archangels. Michael is known for his courage in fighting Lucifer, the protector through the darkest days and the administrator of cosmic intelligence. Waldorf schools, founded in Europe in 1919, all celebrate Michaelmas as a festival on or around Sept 29, taking note that we are coming into the darkest days, of the gratitude for the bountiful harvest, and of change that is sure to come.

Lee tells the story this way: as Michael battles with the dragon (he is most often depicted having slain a dragon) we see signs of it in the leaves, the fire-y breath of the dragon burns them and turns them to golden and red all around us. We can then be sure that the battles are raging in the heavens. This is the story for the children. But for us, as adults, the battles rage within at this time of year. The bittersweet melancholy is so often more than just about the change of seasons. It is change in us. We are aging, we are needing to grow, to continue to grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, socially and this also means loss. Saying good bye to something that no longer serves us.

I find myself a little less patient, dogged with what is ahead of me, what it is I need .... if I am lucky enough to know what that is. I think it is also a time of confusion, of not knowing what is next. Of uncertainty while still knowing that "change is gonna' come."

May your Season of St. Micheal be a meaningful one.

This St. Michael watches over us in our Library.

A drawing from A Waldorf Main Lesson Book of St. Michael slaying the Dragon

Micheal slaying Lucifer

The classic St. Michael image:  slaying the dragon