Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pick Your Own


This lipstick topic is getting bigger than I had ever imagined.  Turns out, my classmate, the woman from the earlier essay, wrote her own blog about the impact that the lipstick-enhanced introduction made.  Apparently, it has been a source of self-inventory for her and I totally get it when she alludes to the fact that she wants to never again do or wear anything that does not represent her true self.  At least, that is what I gleaned from her post.  Brava!  My long-standing belief that nothing is coincidental and that there are few  "chance" meetings out there, has once again been confirmed.  While my great friend Liz used to call these "co-inky-dinkies", the fact that she and I made similar or identical choices in what we wore and what we liked was not one of them.  Think about it.  Out of the billions of people and possibilities, why do we gravitate so easily toward the best ones?  Okay, once in a while, me make a boo-boo.  It generally does not take me very long to discover that my instincts  failed me.  Perhaps, at times, my radar breaks down or I have decided to be extra nice and "charitable" as the nuns would say....over and over again.  With Liz, it wasn't charity at all.  We met before high school and the fact that we eventually selected the same wedding gowns was nothing we could ever have planned.  She and I wore, as it turns out, the same shade of Avon lipstick at the time.  Almost fifty years later, we're still friends and when we get together, we always discover yet one more of those co-inky-dinkies, much to our delight.

I've always been told that  I "just have that kind of face", the one that seems to send out a beacon, telling the lonely and sometimes confused that they can unload it all on me and I will fix it.  Park benches, ("Can I tell you about my rotten kid and what he did to me yesterday? ..Do I look like I might care?), supermarkets ("Excuse me,do the black spots on the strawberries mean that they are moldy?" the hell would I know Mister!) and trains ("I'm having an anxiety attack and would feel better if you wouldn't mind sitting next to me until we reach White Plains."  Okay.) I never know when it is going to happen  Soooooo, I wasn't surprised when I was approaching the Revlon (of all things!) display at my local CVS a few weeks ago and I got roped in to helping a total and complete stranger select a new shade of, you guessed it, lipstick.

The whole scene caught me off-guard.  Here's what I first observed:  a young woman and an older one, who appeared to be Asian, standing side by side, and a stroller which faced the opposite way. They were pulling lipstick tubes out of  little cubbies as if they were switchboard operators.  I figured this must be a young mother, her baby and her visiting mother-in-law and that they both were trying to find colors.  They probably were attracted by the same sale offer that I was. As I joined the row of color-seekers, the young woman stepped away, returning to the aisles without a backward glance, leaving the Asian woman and the stroller.  If you know me, you know where this one is headed for sure.  It no longer was about me and my color and it was all about her.  "What do you think of this one for me?" .  I must have heard this a hundred times in the next five minutes.  "Find one for me".  No "please", just a funny kind of urgency to find her not only one but several "perfect colors" so that she could take some home to.....Australia!  You could have fooled me.  Don't they have lipstick in Australia??  She was downright relentless.  Every time I tried to focus on finding my color and perhaps a new one, she drew me back like Spider Woman, into her web. I was hoping the baby in that stroller would start wailing but no such luck.  "This color?" Now I had it pretty much figured out about why that nice young woman did an about face and took off like a bat out of Hell when I arrived on the scene.  I relieved her of her post and became the new lady-in-waiting.  Well, this went on just a little bit longer.  I grabbed my Number 440, murmured something like "lady, I have enough of a problem finding my own colors" and took off in the direction of my waiting husband to tell him my story.

When I got to the register, my lipstick, the one that I had finally been able to pluck for myself, the last of the Number 440's, was gone, vanished.  I retraced my steps, even went back to the "scene" and it was nowhere to be found.  Was she punishing me for not giving her the answer to what must have been her real question? Was she angry at me for having abandoned her at her hour of need?  I don't think I did any of the aforementioned.  If anything, I did her a favor.  She had to find that color which made her feel beautiful, something that only she could do.  It matters not what others think.  It matters a lot what you think of yourself because if you see yourself as beautiful, you are beautiful.

"People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder"
                                                           Selma Hayek

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Original advertisement for Cherries in the Snow with model Dorien Leigh

"What do you write?"   Oh, God, here it comes, I'm so out of my league.....gulp .

"Essays and Opinions" I quietly reply

"Great!  I can help you with that.  It's nice to meet you and..... I love that you are wearing bright red lipstick". 

In an instant, all my trepidation about being a participant in a well-respected writers workshop disappeared. My fear was replaced with an air of quiet confidence, my identity was safe and my place in this class was my birthright. Total relief.

 Lipstick. "It's Revlon, Cherries in the Snow".  That being acknowledged,  she came back with "Revlon, Love That Red," Followed by " Fire and Ice" from another other woman, my classmate seated next to me. Oh, yeah. Women have the need to bond and we were off and running in no time at all.

I have worn Cherries in the Snow for many years. It is what I consider to be my trademark color and I have claimed it as my very own since the day I asked a business associate, one whom I thought to be a beautiful woman, what color lipstick she was wearing.  She hardly got the words our before I was downstairs in Duane Read buying my first tube and I have kept myself supplied ever since.  It's iconic, a shade that Revlon introduced in 1953.  It was part of a whole new fashion statement for the company. One of the two founding fathers of Revlon, Charles Revson, in his wisdom, decided that women should match their nail color to their lipstick color and, well the rest is history.  

Lipstick. Revlon Cherries in the Snow,  I love you, you love me.  My husband loves you. My friends who love you have asked, and I have given away, with true love, the name and the number, 440. My friend Jay is scared to death of you and I've even caught him doing an immediate wipe off after a good-bye smooch.  I totally understand.  My kids are not crazy about you either and they grew up loathing those tell-tale signs on glasses and cups, always knowing which one Mom had used. It's one of the downsides to my personal fashion statement. The upside comes in the form of the touch of a little girl's finger as it glides across my freshly-colored lips and, having gotten sufficiently coated, returns to her own lips and I see my mark, borne on another generation of women. Ah, you lovely little cherries in your snow, my granddaughters love you too. 


Friday, March 21, 2014


I'm seated here, enjoying the view again.  The moon is still bright in the sky, surrounded by the most beautiful shade of true-blue,  in the upper right corner of this glorious picture and to the left, I see a different sky, one that has the softest shade of pink, rising upward to meet that blue.  The sun is rising and the birds know it.  I hear them. Across the pond, the ducks seem to still be asleep, they're gently floating in a little cluster. A seagull is circling the pond and as it does, its body picks up the colors of the sky.  As it pitches West, the underside turns pink, something that would have gone by, un-noticed had I not been here as early.  It's a Spring morning.

I seriously doubt that there have been many Spring arrivals in my lifetime that were so welcomed.  I'm absolutely joyous and I don't want to miss one moment.  After the long winter, the coming of the new season feels somewhat like that of a new year, but a hundred times better.  Spring, anywhere, is glorious but Spring on Cape Cod is a gift.

As I drove back home yesterday, following a day in the Boston area, I was filled with the realization that there is something very different about the light on Cape Cod.  It's referred to as "Cape Light" and it is what attracts so many artists to this strip of land. They say that it lends itself to those who plein air paint.  Perhaps it is the fact that the air is so clean, so free of pollutants that makes this light special.  Whatever the reason, I will attest to the fact that it is unique and it fills my heart with hope.

Just as with the approach of a new year, I find myself making resolutions for getting the most out of the few precious months ahead.  April through September, time to return to the reason we are here, coastal living.  Soon, the sweatshirts will be moved from the closet to the car's trunk, to be at the ready.  They'll be joined by a set of chairs, some beach towels and a little folding table.  The beach tote will be re-stocked with the items that we will use almost-daily.  Sunscreen will be purchased, flip-flops located, and the annual beach sticker will be applied to the bumpers of our cars.  Our beaches are at their finest before the arrival of the real tourist season, marked by the Fourth of July.  Now is the time for quiet walks and for sitting near the shoreline, reading or simply gazing at the water.  Now is the time for adding to my collection of seashells and bits of interesting little items that have washed ashore, just as we have from our hometown.

This year, we have a very special goal, to find the ten best sunsets, one for each week.  We're starting to plot this out, invite kindred spirits, and ready ourselves for yet another of the Cape's best treats.

As I write this, I cannot help but think about the spiritual side of the new season and I 'm reminded that our time here on the Earth is short, that life is really one, long winter, and that we are waiting for something that, if we have faith, we know is promised to us.  It is the Spring that renews my faith in that promise and I'm grateful for the days, each longer than the day before, allowing me to see more of the light.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oh, Happy Day

This is one of those days.  The kind of day that makes me happy and gives me energy.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue and, despite the fact that the temperatures are still in the high thirties, I am feeling like Spring is right around the corner.  Hey, wait a minute.....spring IS right around the corner.

So, today is officially the end of the World's Worst Winter.  One of the greatest features about this day is the fact that I haven't any appointments until 12:15 and I've been up since six so I have gotten lots done already and I still have a lot of nice things on my plate du jour.

Laundry's on the line.  Baked cookies for St. Joseph's Day for Joseph and surprised him with a batch to share with his fitness students.  Know what I'm making for dinner. Feeling good about a few creative projects.  Getting a haircut.  Having lunch with a friend.  Stopping by to see another friend who needs a friend today.  Said a whole mess of prayers for a friend who is having open heart surgery today.  Brought cookies to my father. Looking forward to spending the day with my daughter tomorrow and placed a bid on Ebay for some junky jewelry for a project.

This isn't anything great, at least not in the literary sense, but it's okay to take a break from doing too much, right?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Creativity, Revisited

I found an old post on a topic that I really love.  Brought it out, did some editing and enjoy it all the more now.

Recently, I read Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art.
It's an incredibly simple and no-nonsense book that helped me to understand this whole bit about creativity and why so many of us encounter problems launching the ideas that come and go through our heads all day long.  He calls this "resistance" and his fascinating book is based upon the identification of this "enemy" and the "battle plan" for overcoming it.

Around the same time I was reading this book, I listened to a TED lecture (if you haven't tried this website, you're really missing something) given by Julie Burnstein, author of Spark: How Creativity Works.  It was another simple but inspirational guide, this time dealing with the four virtual rules that we must embrace in order to be creative. I hung on her every word.

Creativity grows out of our everyday experiences. Too often, we look too far and we miss things. Rule Number One suggests that without any excuse, we have to remain open to these life experiences.

Nothing can be achieved without ambition and pain.  It is easy to run away from challenges but, if we stay the course, there are lessons to be learned from what we tried most to avoid.

We set limits in our lives, allowing them to become our enemies, the wall of resistance to which Pressfield referred.  Julie Burnstein urges us to go beyond those limits.

Rule Number Four reminds us that life is the best of all teachers.  We need to learn to embrace loss and to remember that failure is an inevitable part of success, either by being its opposite or becoming a step towards it.

 Perhaps the hardest of the rules, but for me, the most important, is that ability to embrace loss, recognizing that some things are more beautiful when repaired than in their original state.

I'm learning this on a very simplistic level - embracing broken seashells as I walk along the beach, an ordinary life experience.  For me, this is part of a new paradigm.  I used to only bend down to collect shells that were in their "perfect" and unbroken state, rejecting even the tiniest of flaws.  I hadn't realized what I missed until I started being less selective with regard to perfection.  I now have boxes and bags of shells, many of them, former rejects.

My creativity was unleashed after my retirement.  It seemed that during my career, while I was called upon to be creative in the workplace, it always was with restraint or permission.  Resistance, I learned, is fueled by fear and the fear of making an error in the eyes of the "boss" was high test.  My time spent in contemplation, post retirement and post the loss of my mother, was a real catalyst to my creativity. I found it interesting that Julie's TED lecture was originally given in November of  2012, at the time I was abroad, on a refueling stop along the way to a more creative life, one that I embrace without fear.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whole Foods, Whole Tears

Last week, my daughter posted an old photo on her Facebook page, one that she came across while purging her own supply of things saved over the years.  She's on a campaign to sort things out around her home, making ready for some decisions about the future home of their family.  I remember doing something very much the same when we were returning to New York from our home on Cape Cod and the children were entering their teens.  I went through boxes and boxes of things I had saved, from Day One of the nursery school years, and I cried for the two days it took for me to reduce the number of cartons to only a few.  It was a difficult task and, as I went through the painful motions, I remembered my own mother and her attitude about the saving of "things".  I always thought her un-sentimental.  She never brought out old photos, rarely talked about "old times" and only kept a small number of the things done by her grandchildren through their formative years.  I knew she was a proud mother and grandmother but it wasn't until I had to deal with the act of letting my children "go" that I understood her reluctance to put herself through that pain.

The photo posted on Sara's page was one of me, in a bathrobe, seated at a kitchen table.  The remnants of a Saturday or Sunday breakfast were still on the table as were my two babies, one an infant in a little baby-bouncer and the other, a toddler, lunging across my body.  I looked tired.  I was tired.  My daughter told all that she loved this photo, it showed her mom, being a mom and she was glad that I appeared to be tired.  Perhaps she had held an image of me not ever being overwhelmed or feeling challenged by the constant needs of two babies at the same time.  Maybe this photo gave her comfort, restored her own confidence, affirmed her belief that motherhood is not an easy job, even for her own mother.  I'm not sure what emotions the photo elicited in her but it did come on the shirt-tails of an emotional memory of my own, earlier that same day.

I'm never sure when these emotional zaps are going to strike.  I sometimes can anticipate one and will do what I can to fend it off.  I know with what I can and cannot tolerate and most of the time, reflections back to early days of mothering or, these days, grand-mothering, are guaranteed to bring tears and heartaches that are the result of knowing that "those days" will never return. "Those days", even when they were difficult, were wonderful and oh, so fulfilling.  This time, it was a stop over at a "Whole Foods" supermarket on the way home from a day in Boston that brought it all on. No, I haven't any attachments to the produce department or the cheese's the entire place, the ambiance, the sights and smells, that cause me to remember days that were, as I look back now, precious few.

My daughter lived in various locations in the Boston area during her post law-school and early motherhood days.  She and her husband loved the city and were married in the heart of it.  Soon after, they started their family with the birth of Lucy, our first granddaughter.  They remained in the area for a few years and moved to the suburbs with their infant, Phoebe who is now six years old.  Eight years ago, with the arrival of Lucy, Sara set out on her own journey into motherhood and it was all fresh and new, at the same time, challenging and I was with her on her journey, every step of the way despite the distance that separated us.  I would get phone calls and emails that shared photos, little videos, questions, and many times, solutions to some of the problems that came up naturally as her first baby developed month by month.  There were so many new products on the market, things that I would never have imagined, in the baby care department, and most of them were found in the supermarket, her favorite," Whole Foods".  As she would report these new-found items and baby foods to me, I would envision her, pushing the cart, baby seated in the front, as she graced her way through the store.  I'm sure she spent many hours doing this, just as all moms do, and it was rather mundane to her.  But, to her own Mommy, it was anything but mundane.  It was mother, reliving some of the most special times in her life, through her daughter, now a mother herself.  I imagined her selecting things from the baby section and then, when they had returned to their home, introducing the new item to Lucy.  When we visited, we invariably accompanied them on shopping trips and the unique aromas of this particular store were imprinted on my brain forever as part of that special time in our lives.

So, when I enter a "Whole Foods" supermarket, my thoughts immediately fly to those days, the yesterdays that seemed like they were moments ago.  I don't know where the time has gone.  I wish I could recapture all the goo-goos, ga-gahs,  and the first attempts at everything that eight and six year olds take so for-granted now.  The babies are growing up.  Their mother is an experienced mom now and there isn't any need for stops at the baby goods section of the supermarket.  I wonder if she misses it in the same way as I.  I'm sure that she doesn't feel the tug at her heart when she grocery shops nor does she feel the need to touch a
baby pacifier package or a Sippy Cup.  I'm sure she probably doesn't even notice that the market has a distinct aroma.  But I do, and there are times when I just want to jump in my car and drive to that place where my heart is allowed to melt just one more time.  I'm just not ready to let go.  My mother was much smarter. Oh, and Nostalgia......who needs you anyway?

Friday, March 7, 2014


Photo courtesy of
It was the wise geriatric psychiatrist, the late Dr. Gene D. Cohen who said "social intelligence, memory and wisdom are fruits that age alone can ripen"

If there is one person who has captured this sentiment and taken it for a good run, it is Iris Apfel, the person who I would most like to meet.  Iris, who at age 84 became an international fashion icon and eight years later, is one of the busiest 92 year olds. As the face of MAC Cosmetics, she describes her life as a "delicious journey" and self-declares that she is the "oldest living broad to have ever graced the cosmetic industry".  She is a gorgeous fruit, ripened with age and there is nothing wrong with her memory.

My fantasy friend, my role model for what I want to be when I grow up, does not want to be known as an "empty-headed fashionista".  There is so much more to this woman who perceives dressing up as an exercise in creativity.  She's involved in charities, gives talks and museum shows, most specifically, the Metropolitan Museum of Art where her life in the limelight was born following a huge exhibit of her colorful and unique fashions and stunning pieces of costume jewelry.

Iris is a petite, white haired woman who's proud to tell her age.  Her clear blue eyes, so bright and visible behind her trademark, large, round, black framed glasses, let us know that she is celebrating her age. She's happy about herself and wants to give back because she feels that she has been blessed.

Iris and her husband started as interior designers, using their home in New York City as their office and showroom.  Together, they grew their business, specializing in textiles.  As "American Weavers" their company grew and they worked with nine presidents on historic restorations in the White House during their career. Social intelligence and wisdom have followed her over the years.

Nowadays, Iris continues to inspire whole populations of people who don't want to look like everybody else.  Each and every photo of this woman show her dressed in layers of vivid colors, draped in over-sized jewelry, always beautifully coiffed and made up.  Her hair is white as snow.  Her skin shows her age only in the fact that it does not appear to have been altered by cosmetic surgery or any modern answer to the defying one's age.  She hasn't any fear of media pressures that frighten so many women into looking so much like every other woman.  She believes in keeping her mind active and in staying in the company of young people and adds "being interested" to her list of wise suggestions for later life.  "If you are not interested, you can't be interesting" is how she explains it and, as we see from her manner of dress, she embraces individual expression as liberating, making one feel good.

When Iris Apfel was asked about her daily wardrobe choices, she hardly had to think.  Her answer was simple," I don't plan.  I get up, get dressed and put on whatever I feel like at that time."

Her biggest piece of advice to women?  "If God blessed you with an ample butt, that's a good thing but don't wear skinny jeans, 'cos it's not pretty"  Thank you Iris.  I needed to hear that.

Monday, March 3, 2014

At the Guggenheim

Photo courtesy of

We make an almost-monthly visit to New York from the Cape.  Joe spends time with his mother who will be celebrating her 99th birthday this month.  He takes her shopping, does some things around her house, and generally performs sonly-duties while I............take off like a bolt of lightening.  I always have a "plan" that most always finds me on an early train that transports me into Manhattan.  As I am writing this, I am envisioning something very Jules Vernon, an image from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, me in an underwater capsule, sailing through a set of major arteries that course through a human body and end in the Vena Cava.  I picture the capsule, having arrived at the entrance to one of the heart's chambers, its door bursting open and me, tumbling out like some rolly-polly figure, landing feet down on the cushy bottom floor.  As I do, I feel the heart muscle squeezing and pumping and I hear the beating, letting me know that I have landed in a very alive place.  And I am smiling, dusting off my happy body and dancing around from chamber to chamber.  This is my New York experience and I relive it over and over, as many times as I possibly can. I'm not new to this.  I was born here.  I grew up here and I never tire of it, ever.

So, this past Saturday, I did what I usually do, I made plans to meet up with my friend Jay.  This time, our meeting spot was the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue.  I hadn't been there since I was a teenager and this was a maiden voyage for Jay; the sun was shining, it was not cold and it was an absolutely perfect choice for two friends who have the same museum-viewing habits as do we.  And this time, it was a whopper of a viewing......"  Italian Futurism, 1909-1944. Reconstructing the Universe".  Wow!

This is an amazing collection of avante-garde art in all of its forms.  Launched in 1909 by writer, publisher and impresario  Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, it had its origins in literature.  Very quickly, the movement permeated the visual and performing arts, advertising and politics, as the works on display strongly suggested.  Each and every piece, and there were so many of them, said something about the times, the printed word having a place of high importance in communicating the powerful messages.  Here, one finds the passion of the Italian to enter the First World War, the fascination with speed, technology, nationalism and communication.  The visual images are stunning, all of them hinting at what we find today to be commonplace.  Mind-blowing when one considers the works done in the early years.  We marveled, over and over, about the concepts, the ideas and their portrayal in an era that was so at the mercy of pure genius and talent, a time before the Internet and advanced technology.  We paid close attention and learned so much from the Futurists and came away feeling fulfilled and rather pleased with our choice.

We were buoyed by our experience when we left the museum and we decided to walk along Central Park on Fifth Avenue where we made a left at 59th street and made the rest of our way to Grand Central via Park Avenue.  It's a long walk from 89th to 42nd but we enjoyed every step, catching up on gossip, family stuff and generalities that we both find so interesting and/or amusing before lunch and kisses and hugs which signaled the end of our day together.  We've done this scene a gazillion times but the part that makes it easy is the final conversations.  Most often, they center on my next trip into the city and the plans instantly start.

I get back into my capsule, find a seat that is as far away from disturbances as I can get, and allow the pulsating of my heart to push me back down into my own viscera where I hang out and wait for the next spurt.