A Rapture On Leaving The House And Meeting Some Humans

Blogger Meetup

Sometimes the universe reminds you to get on out.

Tuesday, I met the bloggers above. Wednesday, I attended a conference for independent web publishers, given by one of the ad companies I use in my sidebar. Both events proved the glory of the new.

Sandra Salin, of Apart from My Art, organized the San Francisco lunch. Several midlife bloggers attended, none of whom I knew well. All are notable. Jennifer of A Well Styled Life writes for the Huffington Post. Elizabeth at The Vintage Contessa was featured in Advanced Style’s Instagram feed. Beth of Style At A Certain Age started blogging in March but has 13,000 Instagram followers.

No, I didn’t add a zero by mistake. Oh, and Sandra herself was a BlogHer 2013 Voice of the Year.

The thing is, 6 years on, I explore less of the blogosphere than I used to. And I further confess, these days I pretty much follow for similar taste. So when Elizabeth led Sandra, Jennifer and me to a store full of big jewelry, I watched them shop outside my style, and felt as though I were having an adventure as big as these necklaces.


When you take the time to simply sit, suspending judgment, enjoying what’s in front of you, it can be just as much fun as a peak experience you already knew you’d enjoy.

I won’t start wearing statement necklaces, but that wasn’t the point.

Next day, the universe seemed intent on making sure I’d understood. When I walked into the Fairmont Hotel for Sovrn’s i2 conference, memories of all the trade shows I’ve worked over the year came flooding back. Worked being the operative term. The anxiety and thrill of networking, pitching product repeatedly but newly for each listener. My poor dear feet.

This time I said to myself, “Lisa, it doesn’t matter one whit what you do here. Talk to people, don’t talk to people. Feel free to look weird standing by yourself. Act however you please.” I only hope I didn’t say it out loud, one never knows these days.

And I proceeded to meet, in order:

I’m not saying life has to be a series of skydives. I think these events were more fun precisely because they were new, exactly because I do live a quiet life these days. The trick is to manage two things at once  — to believe in what we’ve worked so hard to know but still challenge those tricky assumptions.


The (Graphic, Japanese) One That Got Away

 Kenzo Eye in BlackI’ve been ogling this Kenzo sweatshirt for donkey’s years. Seemed it might work wonders for  Extreme Casual jeans and khakis. Dramatic, but it’s amazing what a little art will do for an outfit that is otherwise, essentially, pajamas.

Kenzo Eye in Peacock

A couple of weeks ago I saw a version in this gorgeous shade of peacock blue, perfect for my coloring, online at Nordstrom. But it cost $300. Surely, I thought to myself, I can do better?

I hunted, and found one that looked to be a similar shade for far less money. But it was maybe too green?

By the time I decided it was peacock or die (you know where this is heading), too late. Someone else, somewhere else, is wearing my Eye. She who hesitates gets a bargain – or loses. Risk/return. They taught us that in business school.

The Eye is out there in other colors. Crimson, in girls’ size 14, for aspiring Harvardians. And Kenzo does makes other designs, a big ol’ tiger, for example. But I’m pretty much tigered out. Then there’s the all-over eye sweatshirt. Too creepy by half.

So I’m considering this one, new for fall. But it’s even more expensive. Huh. Maybe I’ll just talk about it and look at its picture. Sometimes that’s enough.

Or perhaps I could look to Commes des Garçons Play, for my graphic Japanese design fix. I’ve loved their striped tee. But I’d want this in a sweatshirt, and so far Commes des Garçons doesn’t seem to be doing sweatshirts. It’s OK. This is the looking phase of fall shopping. I may never buy this, but if you do, come tell me so I can get a few vicarious thrills.


Finally, let me tell you that I edited my first sentence here so that it didn’t say, “I’ve been eyeing this Kenzo sweatshirt…” You’re ever so welcome. Absolutely any time.


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It’s Labor Day In The USA And We Have A Winner!

Thank you everyone for entering the giveaway for the Blue Nile hoops. You told wonderful stories, of jewelry and other talismans, from grandmothers, mothers, grandfathers, fathers, husbands, and yourselves. I always feel like your stories make words more real.

The winner is Jane, and the hoops will join her Egyptian cartouche. Congratulations!

Jane, please email me with your postal address, so I can wrap the earrings up and send them along. Thank you for joining in, and to Blue Nile, thank you again for what to give away.


Inside Out At The Multiplex, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:01am

Last week we talked here about movies. Then my husband and I actually went to see one. The earth stayed on its axis.

In all seriousness, the multiplex at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon is pretty lovely. This one sits in the middle of downtown Redwood City, one of several towns on the San Francisco Bay Peninsula with a full commercial district. We got our tickets, ate lunch, walked around, and wandered back to the theater.

We saw Inside Out.

The seats were auditorium style, each row on a rise. A smattering of other people saw the same showing, and I’d say 3/4 of them were children. So no one blocked our view, and aside from a bout of seat-back kicking, it was pleasant to sit in company.

As for the movie itself, I imagine most of you know it’s animated, and concerns a young girl named Riley and her emotions. The movie spans a week or two in her life, as her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Lots of flashbacks to her childhood. Most of the actions actually takes place in an imaginary space inside the little girl.

How so?

Each of Riley’s emotions is personified in an animated character; Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. They become the movie’s stars. I infer, although I haven’t looked it up, that science believes these to be the primary emotions, i.e. anchored in discrete physical responses,

I enjoyed that scientific background, and all the animations of the machinery of a personality. I know we see, every day, our children and grandchildren are growing up in a new world. This is not the 20th century. Cellphones, social networks, and Photoshopped images have wrought enormous changes.

But Inside Out reminded me that we are also bringing up our children in what has become a post-Freud world.

How will it feel to develop as a person, to grow up, knowing more and more about our workings? Understanding long-term vs. short-term memory? Personality structures? To perhaps see our own brains at work via imaging technology?

Does self-awareness necessarily lead to better beings?

I don’t know. Luckily for all the small ones in the audience, the movie asks other, simpler questions. Will Joy and Sadness escape the Big Scary Clown? Yes they will. Will those emotions make sure Riley doesn’t run away from home? Yes, they will. When Joy and Riley’s imaginary friend fell into the land of lost memories I heard children throughout the theater fretting to their parents. “They are stuck!” said a little girl. But, they escape.

Mostly the movie wants to say that if you want to feel Joy, you’re going to have to accept all your other feelings too. I believe that’s true, although I have no proof.

My real favorite part of Inside Out at the multiplex was hearing parents murmuring to their worried children until they quieted. On the other hand, the mother behind me stopped her kid’s bout of seat-back kicking with a few strict words. It felt sweet, to be in the middle of that intimacy.

I look forward to the sequel. Do you think they might follow Riley all the way to 58, to one morning as she sits on her suburban sofa, wondering about child-rearing in the era of functional magnetic resonance imaging? Maybe not.

This one’s for you, daughter of mine in medical school.

Have a spectacular weekend everyone, in actual or virtual multiplexes of the spirit.


Putting A California Garden To Bed In Late Summer


Snow does not fall in my back yard. The last time it snowed, and hit the ground and remained, was probably 1960. So the seasons do not put our gardens to bed.

Instead, we do it ourselves. And, our dormant time, whether the vegetation knows it or not, is late summer. When the lavender is done and the camellias are hinting at winter buds.


We know the time has come by a thinning of light and yellowing of leaves. Believe it or not, along with Californian informality we develop a sensitivity to the shift of seasons. Otherwise we might believe life never changes. Immortality is tempting.


I cut back my grasses. Briefly, I imagine topiary rabbits. I settle for introverted turtles.

I chop down the lavender. This year I succumbed to visions of Provence, bought purple raffia and tied up bundles for kindling.


This embarrassed me. Too Fauxvence for words, or certainly for High WASPs. I hid the bundles on the hearth, behind our very large television. But large televisions also embarrass a High WASP, what to do? I think I’ll keep on bundling. Maybe with brown raffia next time. Or orange. Life is too short to hold on to childhood taboos.

In truth, lavender may burn badly, but the astringent scent by the fireplace compensates for sputter and flare in the fire.


Abelia drops its flowers discreetly, leaving red leaves behind like mothers and fathers at a high school soccer game, “Wait, hey, is the game over?”


I could also cut back the milkweed and sage in my butterfly garden, but as these are natives, in a side yard, I’m letting them do as they will. Go to seed, die, return, make a mess. I like gardens for their death as well as their life. Besides, I’m still kind of mad at the neighbors for adding on a second story and concomitantly cutting down their screening hedge. “Take that, neighbors! Just watch my milkweed yellow and fry! ”

High WASPs are about as good at vengeance as they are at rustic crafts.


My containers will bloom all winter. I might relent and bring them inside for the occasional frost. The thunbergia vine, by the way, is going gangbusters. The fuchsia is flowering.


And then, of course, those white roses. They never really seem to get a clue. Keep on blooming, and thorning, and flouncing about way past bedtime. Like when you throw a dinner party for some other families with children, and one by one the little ones drop off, on the sofa or in their parents’ arms. Then down the hall comes a small voice, and you tiptoe to follow it, and find one little girl, playing alone, animating a pack of plastic dogs.

“You don’t want to go to bed, do you?” she says to the spaniel. “No, I don’t,” she answers herself.


OK. OK. We won’t prune until January. When even roses know the time has come.



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Blue Nile For Back To School — Be It Undergraduate, Graduate, Or “School Of Life”


This post and giveaway are presented in collaboration with Blue Nile

Most back-to-school efforts focus on grade-school supplies — pens, notebooks, backpacks — or college dorm furnishings. But the first day of graduate school can feel momentous too, a new job even more so.

What might we give, to mark these occasions? I’d be inclined towards a talisman, a piece of jewelry that’s not too out there, but clearly personal. Something that could be worn every day, but not without notice.

Blue Nile offers a host of possibilities.

When I started business school I had to break a collection of Indian bangles off my wrist. The turquoise and pink wood one might have stayed, but the six glass circles clicked and clangled so much I distracted myself in lectures. Probably distracted everyone else too, come to think of it. A small gold chain, however, with a piece of laurel circlet, could signify victory, no soundtrack required. Although this does make me think of the music from that running movie, Chariots of Fire. Ga ga ga ga ga gong!

If you prefer the substantial, I like this wrist chain in a panther style.

These days I wear, and rarely take off, two diamond solitaires hanging from my neck. You might want to start  your Knightess of the Round Table off with a very small round pendant. The larger emerald cuts are an investment.


And, for a much smaller budget, these silver circles are beautiful. Much, much smaller, by the way, since the piece is on sale.

As for earrings, I love these little yellow and white gold daisies. Again, almost, but not quite, a simple basic. A reminder of Ferdinand, the bull who loved flowers. Would that more corporate leaders understood.

Or finally, this pair of earrings Blue Nile sent me to review. I’m wearing them in the photo at the top of the post, in case you wondered what I was doing up there.

Twisted 14K gold hoops from Blue Nile

Twisted hoops, a classic, but prettier. Lightweight too. Blue Nile has smaller sizes, for relentlessly masculine work environments, or larger, for more overtly creative offices. I especially like the “artisan hoops.

And since, as I’ve said before, I’ve got my fair share of jewelry already, I’m giving the twisted hoops away to one of you. Yup, giveaway time has come again. So please tell us a story of your first day at school, or your first day in a new job. Did you carry a talisman? Or did you launch unprotected into new waters? What advice might you give someone making the same jump today?

I will assume, unless specifically noted otherwise, that everyone commenting is throwing their hat into the giveaway ring. Do let me know if that’s not true. I’ll announce the winner next Monday, which — in the USA — is Labor Day, appropriately enough.


The earrings will be cleaned with rubbing alcohol, put back into their box, and mailed off with all due ceremony to the winner.

And to Blue Nile, thank you so much for working with us to send one more woman off on an adventure, charmed.


Links may generate commissions. Blue Nile adheres to the Kimberly Process, and has signed the “Golden Rules” of ethical mining.

The Moving Picture Show, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:38am

Here’s something I haven’t done in ages.

Go to the movies.

So, I think we’re going to remedy that today. Maybe. Plans often change.

I was pleased at how quickly I could figure out a) what’s playing nearby b) what critics think of the various offerings. Google and Rotten Tomatoes, I forgive your sins of advertising and tasteless graphics, although Google, you’re still in trouble for what you do to privacy.

In any case, this morning, I know what movies to think about.mI’m torn between Trainwreck, Inside Out, Ant-Man, and Mission Impossible Number I’ve Lost Count. Seems that these days movies are as gendered as the aisles of Toys ‘R Us. But, if we go to one movie today, perhaps we’ll go to another one another day.

Optimists have an easy time making decisions, we always assume we’ll get another chance. I didn’t say we had an easy time deciding correctly, but, as optimists, we then assume bad outcomes will get better. But I digress. We’re talking moving pictures, not life and its vagaries.

If anyone here has been more diligent in their movie-going than I, which, seriously, would not be difficult, please feel free to share your opinions. Otherwise, have a wonderful late summer weekend. May you experience a 6:46pm minute of glory as the world lets out its breath, and cools. You know what I mean? You can almost hear the click.

How Do You Feel About “Formality” In Your Style?

Often, it seems to me, the ideas of “style” and “formality” are smushed together. Conflated. Which can feel quite deflating, if you want panache without fuss. Or, if heels, hairspray, and tight waists feel out of place, for your body and your social context.

Can we deconstruct? Of course!

Picture The Role Of Propriety, Attraction, And Aesthetics In Style

I can even show you an infographic, having amused myself this weekend designing one.



What the heck did that mean? Let’s do it by the numbers. Some people think in pictures, others in lists. Such is humanity, our glorious wrack of a species.

What The Heck Did She Mean By That? The 8 Phases Of Style

  1. Start at zero. We stand naked in the bedroom, unable to dress.
  2. We make a move. We make a mistake. We put our underwear on our heads.
  3. I exaggerate. Most everyone starts with an outfit which allows us to stay warm enough, and more or less within social norms.
  4. This is where Style starts, in our relationship to three organizing principles. Let’s say the first is Propriety, historical force of Formality. What is propriety? The High WASP Grail of the Appropriate. Not, “How fancy are you?” but, “How well will you fit in where you’re going?” And this is what is changing in society. People aren’t just dressing down, the expectations in the venues of life are changing, everywhere.
  5. What about Attraction? It doesn’t overlap with formality, much, except at the limits. Dressing to flatter your figure is one thing,  dressing for sexual attraction can push the boundaries of propriety and aesthetics. Dressing for social attraction, on the other hand, for the women in your new book club, or the senior partners in your new law firm, serves propriety well.
  6. Aesthetics is the art part: color, proportion, pattern, texture, finishes, historical and cultural references. Lots of room to play, and all kinds of resources online to guide us. Paying increased attention to aesthetics will also increase your formal appearance, because you show you’re trying, not just hanging loose.
  7. Style is, in brief and in sum, the use of clothes for identity satisfaction and social signalling.
  8. You will express your style in a mix of all three organizing principles. Formality is woven throughout. It used to be driven by propriety, but those who miss it now must find other ways to make an effort. Formality is the design artifact of effort. Red dress optional.

Can Workout Gear Be Stylish, At The Supermarket?

As an example, imagine the woman in yoga pants at the supermarket. I use her, because she could be me. I often shop after working out. How’s my aesthetic? If the colors suit, the pieces proportioned, it’s fine. How’s my attraction? Depends on one’s feeling about middle-aged women in exercise garb, I suppose. But propriety – i.e. the suitability of the garb for the venue? Unless I wait in Pigeon Pose for my peanut butter to finish grinding, I’m off.

Most importantly, I have made no effort. This is the Style people miss. Do you?

The Longing For Formality Across The Blogosphere

If you are still wondering what I’m on about, (which I doubt, because you guys are smart) we can look at what other people have to say. Imogen’s Dress Up program targets exactly this longing for formality. When Janet posts a video of women’s fashions through the last 10 decades, it’s there again, a longing for the dress-up of years past in the comments.

What we see is that the nostalgia for certain types of clothing roots itself in a longing for old-style formality. Ripped boyfriend jeans are “stylish,” but they are in no way “formal.”

What Do You Think?

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you miss formality? Or do you feel society improves as we let go the rules and constraints? When does the desire for style tip into a longing for decorum?

Finally, if we must “try” for style, how much effort to make it count?

Little House Stuffs, Big Effect


That was the scene on my kitchen counter top, until just recently. Not terribly attractive, as Mom might say.

Since my kitchen is also my living and dining room, I knew I wanted quiet replacements. We would not welcome screaming. “I HAVE SALT AND PEPPER RIGHT HERE! NO, LOOK OVER HERE, DUMMY! ON THE COUNTER!”

Since my cabinets are white, and my counters black granite and butcher block, I thought at first all the implements should be white, but, this white didn’t complement my aged melamine white. Clashing shades of neutrals, not attractive in the slightest.

Hence, a blonde wood Peugot pepper grinder, which, my goodness, if grinding dried berries can be said to be a luxury experience this surely is.


And white porcelain salt & pepper shakers from Sur la Table. I love Sur la Table, have you ever been in one of their stores? So calming, you sense they are really cooks. The “P” holds the white pepper.

Porcelain Salt & Pepper Shakers

(The salt shaker wanted its own glamour shot, from the website.)

My countertop is much happier, knowing Mom would approve. I feel a surge of glee every time I pick up the salt by its handle and shake. A little bistro nonchalance. (Note: holes are small enough that kosher salt comes out slowly.) Of course, I still keep that box of kosher salt in the cupboard, in case I have to measure some out.

But Chef Rocco DiSpirito no longer urges me to make cinnamon lamb chops, salty ones we presume, from his perch on Mr. Morton’s box.

Small stuffs.

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The Profound Impact Of Civility, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:30am

I was at my father’s house last night, he and I were talking. He said, and I paraphrase, “The question of whether evil exists has been central to theology for over 1000 years.” I promise, this was a logical remark, given our conversation.

My immediate reaction. “Then since we can’t know about evil, we’ve got to try to be as civil and amiable as we can.” A series of images went through my head — a full day of Kind and Polite. Smiling at the checkout clerk and letting them know that yes, indeed, you did find everything you were looking for.

A very Sturdy reaction to the question of evil.

Somehow I felt my conversation with Dad dovetailed with ideas I’d been considering for today. Although I never start writing the Saturday post until Saturday morning, I do think about it during the week.

I’m guessing most of you read Janet’s blog, The Gardener’s Cottage? Recently she asked her readers, “How are you doing?” She may have broken Blogger trying to respond to the scores of comments. How kind and civil is that? Beyond the expectations of her technology platform, certainly.

I remember when Faux Fuchsia asked her readers where they were from and how old they were. So many answers, so many replies.

Then last week so many of you wished me and my husband a happy anniversary. Thank you. Observing rituals and civilities.

None of these events involved formality or protocol. I do not yearn for the days of stockings and white gloves. But, if we can’t know about evil, I think we can know about how not to be a jerk.

Stepping back, I see two things in these few blog moments. First, someone asks someone else about themselves. I am a blurter and have a hard time remembering to listen, to ask real questions of other people so they can be heard. It’s important. Second, the grace of small celebrations. It may a small thing to tell someone, ” Thank you,” or, “Get well soon,” or, “Happy anniversary!” But as you all remind me, the effect of the action is far more than the effort.

In that vein, I wanted to ask, if you have a chance today, please comment on a blog post you enjoy or admire. And I do not mean mine, 100% feel free to read and exit silently. But surely someone else out there is writing by themselves and wondering, “Does anyone care?” Or they are dealing with controversy, or mean remarks, or ennui.

Or they are quietly, and persistently, being not a jerk.

A comment will feel really wonderful. This I know. Thank you all again, ever so much.