Retiring To Your Self, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:12am



This week, Materfamilias blogged about reaching the decision to retire.  I use the term “reaching” advisedly, because these big life decisions often sneak up on us, like the proverbial bend in a mountain road. One minute you’re trudging along, eye on uneven terrain, the next, vistas.

It’s been a little over a year now since salaried employment and I parted ways. I am not actively looking for a job, and therefore call myself, “retired.” It’s an interesting time.

As context, both my career and my retirement have followed a slightly irregular path. As I’ve said before, I wound up a software executive – on a whim. Ha! I bet that’s a sentence nobody expects to read on a Saturday morning.

And, as may be true for many of my generation, I spent the early years out of college bumping through various Travel The World And Explore Your Soul situations. Even after I got my MBA, and therefore acquired a veneer of A Known Quantity and therefore got hired a lot, once I had kids I career flickered more, if you will. Stayed at home, consulted. Worked part-time, went back to work. Zoomed to vice president level, stepped out for a couple of years. Stepped right back onto the racetrack. Then off.

To here.

Retirement, for me, and I imagine for many these days, has little in common with the  5/days week on a train to the city, times 44 years, testimoniral dinner with gold watch, done, cue golf, that 1960s literature loved to ridicule.

Instead, this.

In early months, you miss your work. I wrote about that for the mostly younger women at Corporette, here. Then, you start to focus on those things you didn’t have time for while you worked. I also wrote about that on Corporette, here. The best part of getting older is sharing what you’ve learned, right?

It has taken me some time to pick up non-work activities, tasks and goals without attributing them the same urgency and anxiety as paid work. But it’s happened, I think. And once that To Do list calms down, something else happens too.

It turns out that anyone who is not retired is too busy. Way too busy. Over-worked, overwhelmed, under-resourced. At least everyone I know. So you, the retiree, become the spare resource. And the world senses your availability, and starts to pull. Almost like someone installed a beloved but incessant vacuum hose somewhere in your front yard.

This is the moment when you really choose your retirement. When you handed in your badge you only stopped paid work. What proportion of your capability do you exercise on yourself, now, what on the asking world?

I don’t have the answer. There is no one answer, of course. Everyone’s different. I only know the words that have begun to speak in my mind.

I don’t want to be done living until I have lived some time centered. I want to give, I want to support, I want to do some part of my old job, I want to garden, to care for my husband, and to sit, in quiet. All of it, self-instigated.

I am not making up for what I never had, only for who I never was.

Retirement is when you cross your legs on the sofa, under your laptop. You relax your feet. You chose your pajamas, you kept that old college sweatshirt, you recognize what you see. Not from selfishness, nor revenge, nor pique, no pouting. But I think we’ve all got the right to plainly be in our bodies and our minds, without feeling a single tug. At least once.

Or maybe I’m just telling that to myself, because it’s what I always needed.

Have a wonderful weekend. No, have a wonderful day. You owe nothing, not even to Sunday.

Introducing Uncommon Goods, And A Few Beautiful Objects

Map Coasters from Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods has sponsored this post. However, I am honor-bound to give you my true opinion, otherwise my dad might speak to me strictly in his study.

I am a big fan of capitalism, when tempered with kindness. As it happens, I’m the only person “in trade” left in my family, everybody else is devoted to truth, knowledge, and kindness. But I do believe that one can do right in business: that top-flight business practices are today’s manifestation of what’s good in the American dream, and that often the impact of our laws is our best export.

So consider, if you would be so kind, a company called Uncommon Goods. Here are a few of the details they would like you to know.

  • [We were] founded in 1999 and [are] headquartered in Brooklyn, New York.
  • We run all our operations out of the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal, including our warehouse where the lowest-paid seasonal worker starts at 50% above the minimum wage.
  • We make it our mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what we sell is made by hand.
  • Most of the products we carry are created right here in the USA, and about one-third of our entire collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials.

And here’s the detail I’d most like to share.

  • Uncommon Goods is a B Corp: B Corporations use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. We are proud to be a founding B Corp since the B seal means that we meet a rigorous standard on a wide range of issues, including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to our community.

I had never heard of B Corporations before Uncommon Goods reached out to me. Benefit corporations are legal entities, neither the standard for-profit C corp, nor a traditional non-profit. And the B seal is a certification administrated by B-Lab, a non-profit. For more detail, this Forbes article is useful.

I find the idea of a commercial entity legally granted the right to try for social good – as much as profit – encouraging. I hope that organizations like this help evolve the role business plays in the American dream.

But back to quotidian commerce, you guys, and, if not always full-on beauty, the pleasure in a graceful line and harmonious colors.

Uncommon Goods is particularly interested in familiarizing you with their personalized products, here, and their personalized jewelry in particular, here. I like the map coasters above. Made of cork and marble, they can be customized for any location you want to remember. Or, for the beach-lovers among us, a silver beach sand pendant. Made of silver, with sand from all the beaches listed here. Alternatively, send the artist sand from anywhere you choose.

Beach Necklace from Uncommon Goods

As I browsed the site I also (because that’s where my mind is these days) found more than a few items that I’d like for my house. Or a house of the future. Or a house I never own but imagine over and over again.


Untitled #191

You guys, those are glass balloons. GLASS BALLOONS. They remind me of my mother’s Murano glass candies, only more outrageous. Would you hang them permanently? Or might they become the family birthday symbol, complete with fights over who got the purple one for special? I would have stored all the toys in those baskets, back when I had littles. Oh so much primary colored plastic bit to step on.

Sorting through my resolutions for this year, here, I told you I wanted to do good and sell my clothes on eBay. At the time, I assumed that would mean volunteering and, well, eBay. In that comment thread, one of you asked, “If you want to do good, why not just donate the clothes?” In other words, “Why create extra activities to support our values?  Why not just covet objects from companies with heart?”

Very good question. I think I owe you guys a glass balloon or two, and Uncommon Goods a thanks for sponsoring a post that educated and entertained me in equal measure.

It’s My Birthday And This Is What I Wanted

I turn 58 today. My loved ones are generous, I am well-fêted, but doesn’t everyone like to give themselves a little present on their birthday? Here’s mine.

No, not a Crystal Palace girder extravaganza, nor a gig at Javits Center. The book.

Not That Kind Of Girl

It’s Lena Dunham’s, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” As it turns out, Ms. Dunham very considerately picked my birthday to launch her new endeavor. Thanks honey.

When I was young I would in fact have been sad about Lena. I would have felt jealous, wished to have her platform, as we call it now, to tell the world how I felt. To communicate my sole and remarkable perspective.

But as I turn 58, I’m glad she exists. It makes me hopeful for all the women who will come after me.

I know she’s not everybody’s cup of tea. And that the world of “Girls” is perhaps a small one. But I find Ms. Dunham’s apparent kindness rises above any other reputational flotsam. In fact, she appears to manage both kindness and honesty, two traits often difficult to combine. And she’s dang smart. So I averted my eyes from the cover “quotation marks,” and bought.

By the way, I used the my Amazon commissions from blog’s last month or two to pre-order the hardback. It arrives today. I’ll tell you if I like it as much as I expect I will, but I thank you in advance for your generous presence. You provide me many treats, both small and large.

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Something Other Than Listsicles, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:48am

I want to thank whoever recommended The Browser to me. A hunt through the blog comments and email yielded no name, so you remain our mystery informant.

In March, I wrote here that I felt uneducated, with respect to the world. Everyone gave me great recommendations.

Six months later, The Browser has made perhaps the most noticeable difference in my knowledge, or at least to my sense of my own knowledge. What I actually know or don’t know, well, who can say, of course. But in the past 6 months I’ve read articles on Putin, power politics, US foreign policy, historical research, the workings of the brain, and most recently an article from Outdoors about the effects of lightening strikes on humans.

How does the site work? The editor and staff read widely and digitally (if that is a word), hunting for intelligence. Then they clip and present the first few sentences of each article deemed worthy, with a link to the full original. We, the readers, have access to 5 free click-throughs a year. You can cheat the system, by searching for the articles yourself, but why, when a 12-month subscription is only $20?

I find that reading the beautifully written, occasionally arcane, wide-ranging articles from the Browser, along with general news snippets from the Internet, and a few sources in the areas of most personal interest (fashion, design, and women’s issues), makes me feel (at last) like a worthwhile citizen.

OK, throw in local TV for more discussion of the weather than you might think possible and breaking news about the Bay Area.

And, I subscribe to the Browser via Feedly, which is also how I read blogs. Now I think I’ll just add Refinery 29, for complete light-hearted nonsense, (also horoscopes), and I will finally have created the Privilege[d] News Of The World I’ve been waiting for since the first word was made binary.

New blog tagline? Making Fewer Uninformed Observations Since March of 2014.

Have a wonderful weekend, oh you citizens of the world, and thank you for sharing your non-trivial intelligence with me.

The One Piece Of Clothing I Might Buy This Fall, OK Maybe Two Or Three

Around the world, seasons are changing. Australia welcomes Spring, the East Coast of the United States prepares for Autumn, we here in Northern California await, well, black denim.

It’s a myth that California has no seasons. At least in the North. We’ve got them, of a subtle and simple variety. Above all, we live by Rain Or No Rain. This morning, as I write, it’s raining for the first time in ages, so happy in this year of pronounced drought. Beyond water, we feel our seasons in small shifts, the gold of the light in late afternoon, the first morning the front door opens to cool air, the smell of dust in the streets.

So we don’t, as our summer ages like whiskey and the sky burns just a little umber into its blue, rush out and buy sweaters. We’re likely to live with nary a wool trouser in our closets. But still, still, we crave the seasonal change. We’re humans, even in this land where the American Dream comes to reinvent society and buy a whole heck of a lot of German cars.

Right now I’m after some black jeans. This is the first urge for new clothes I’ve had in months. And, fair warning, my mpulsive clothing urges have been pretty darn predictive in the past. Party Pants post, circa 2011 . Brogues, circa 2010. Now add the impetus of GAP’s current and nifty campaign “Dress Normal,”and it’s quite possible we’re sidling up to a black denim explosion.

Let’s take a look at a few choices. We’ll start in the stratosphere and wend our way down to reasonable. Few sites do stratosphere with more sprezzatura than Net-a-porter.

Are you surprised that Victoria Beckham makes dignified pants? Cropped, refined, and thank you ma’am.  You’d have to wear them with heels, I think.

Black denim from Victoria Beckham

Don’t do Lady? How about the Swedish brand, Acne, and their boyfriend jeans? By the way, I saw this image on the blog It’s Not That Deep, and I’m thinking I just might try her trick of low black socks with brogues and loafers. Yup.

Black denim from Acne

How about plus size? I’m a huge fan of waxed cotton, these are from Eileen Fisher at Nordstrom.

Plus Size Black Denim from Eileen Fisher

How about under $2oo? Commenters across on the style blogs I read love Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. Also from Nordstrom.

Black denim from NYDJ

And because I love you so, and am retired and therefore more cautious in my wardrobe spending, and besides, black denim is what you make of it, these, from the GAP for less than $100? Dress normal, indeed.

Black Denim from the GAP

With sneakers. So one might, of course, also need new black ones. We of low-contrast are also going to wear these jeans with gray v-neck tees from UNIQLO, and a denim jacket. And black earrings.

But if you can carry off high drama, why then you might be thinking about tops in red, peacock blue, and all 657 shades of green and whatever the heck color shoes you like.

The Kind Of Garden Just About Anyone Can Grow


Of all my retirement projects, my container garden may provide the most small and bubbling happinesses. I started it back in July, from seed. I planted Grandpa Ott morning glories, sweet alyssum, purple basil, and delphiniums. If you are hypothesizing that this led to an all-purple extravaganza, you are quite right. But it took time.


The morning glories grew first. Like crazy.


The alyssum sprouted too. The basil dilly-dallied, the delphiniums did nothing. I pouted.

Then, before we left for England, I threw some petunias in one of the pots to compensate for my laggards. I set up a drip tubing system, of which I was very proud until I discovered that my 60-year old hose bib and faucet leaked. Cue Operation Cute Little Neighbor Girls to water in my absence.


Serendipitously, the tubing served as great climbing support for the morning glories. Such is gardening. Upon my return from travel, I thinned those purple trumpets mightily,  in order to add a bougainvillea from the nursery. Also scrounged up two more pots. Why not? In for a penny, in for a pound.


I filled the two empty pots with petunias and alyssum, also from the nursery. I’ll do seeds again next spring.


The alyssum flourished, the petunias did not, inexplicably. Such is gardening. Don’t you like my watering can? Is it vain to like one’s watering can and say so? I should mention that all this plant hubbub sits right outside one of the living room windows, and I can see it quite plainly from my perch on the sofa. I have loved experimenting with different shades of one hue. Sustains me from morning,


to night.


As does the purple basil, which I pinch and eat, regularly. And guess what happened? Those delphinium seeds? About a month and a half after I planted them, this sprouted.

Yup, a delphinium.


I have high hopes. Such, my friends, is gardening, even writ small.


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Why We Need Women In Tech, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:20am

Did you know that when you look to start a business built on software, you are likely to be told you need a technical co-founder? Someone who can build the first working prototype of your  product, be it website, phone app, or refrigerator that can order milk? Someone who will code for free, for however long, before anyone will invest?

No? Understandable. I would expect it to be news to many, as, despite working in Silicon Valley tech since the 1990s, I am surprised. I found out in recent investigations of a business I might like to start myself.

But so what, right? So what if capital flows to those who can build vs. those who can imagine? Here’s the thing. Given that the ratio of men to women in computer science is incredibly high, we’re pretty much handing the future of American software-driven innovation to men and saying, “Here. Tell us what matters.”

OK, so I exaggerate. There are a few women who lead top tech companies now, and a good deal more at high levels in smaller ones. But my issue is not how many women work in tech.

I am concerned instead with the degree to which women’s ideas are now and will in future be represented in the field. Tech dictates the evolving stuff of life.

This is not new, technology has always moved society one way and another. Think about automobiles, electricity, and washing machines. Do you know how much time women, or their servants, used to spend doing laundry? Today we’re run by software and computer processors, humming no longer in the back room, sparking everywhere. That’s not news.

But given that software programming has gotten more and more accessible, meaning easier for everyone, and given that women now have control over their fertility, because let’s face nobody is going to do much focused cerebral work if they are at home with an infant, now is the time to seize the day. To seize the binary day.

I always wonder, if I’d gone to school 20 years later, would I still have majored in Comparative Literature? My instincts tell me programming would still have been too precise for my brain, but that I might have loved User Interface Design. Anyone else feel the same way? Or do you recoil in horror at the idea?

In any case, those of you with girl children, ask them to consider programming. Consider science. Not to say that our boy children shouldn’t consider science too, they should, but they may need less encouragement. Science learning already works for those boys so inclined.

I see some hopeful signs. There’s a group called Black Girls Code that’s going gangbusters. For the first time ever, the Nobel Prize of math, AKA the Fields Medal, has been awarded to a woman.

Which elicits one more thought. The rise of China and India is predicted in equal parts on inexpensive hourly labor and a focus on technology. I read, as I pass, stereotypes about Asian students doing All The Science. This is not genetic. It doesn’t have to be political, or national. Scientific learning requires focus and willingness to move past failure. It requires the capacity to delay gratification, as one waits for data, as one corrects errors. Parents and the environment raise children.

Here’s a great link to a female Chinese professor at Stanford, on why and how she came up with her solar power stickers.

You might ask, “What about your kids, Lisa?” Fair question. My scientific daughter majored in Psychology and Neuroscience. Had I been on the ball, perhaps I would have encouraged her to learn programming early. It might not have taken, of course. She is moved by humankind more than sheer problem-solving, and has gone into medicine. Science enough. I strongly encouraged my son to take Comp Sci in college. He did, good kid that he is, but after one semester in which he performed swimmingly, he knew that he needed to work in a less binary medium.

One can only encourage one’s children as they grow, directing causes more harm than good.


Here’s the only thing of note in what I’m saying. Don’t encourage your girl to enter science so she can get a job. Do it so she can shape the future.

Have a good weekend.

Packing With Good Imagination And Imagining A Good Pack

I’m usually pretty good at packing. This trip to England, erm, well, um, spotty. I failed to use the Use Case Method to its best advantage. Specifically, I packed for special events like The Dinner With Friends and A Hike Through The Cotswolds, while neglecting the more common Long Walk Through London As Rain Threatens. To say nothing of the Repeated Paying Of Entrance Fees To Enter Overly Warm Buildings.

By the end of the trip I was quite certain as to what I ought to have brought. I will offer up my suitcase and resultant outfits here so we can all learn from my experience.

What I Packed For A 10-Day Trip To England

7 Pieces Of Outerwear Even Though I Wasn’t Going To The North Pole

  • Powder blue MaxMara peacoat
  • Small black Quechua parka bought in China 10 years ago for $25
  • Old black house label Nordstrom trench coat
  • Navy UNIQLO IdlF linen blazer
  • Cadet blue UNIQLO field jacket
  • White ribbed cotton cardigan
  • Heathered purple sweatshirt (brand is American Vintage, purple no longer available)

1 Scarf

  • Very long and old Loro Piana hot pink cashmere muffler
  • A small black umbrella. Yes, I know an umbrella isn’t a scarf, but aren’t they cousins?

5, Yes, 5 Pairs Of Shoes

Underpinnings And Their Friends

  • Enough underpinnings and pyjamas not to have to wash anything except I counted wrong. Luckily the place in the Cotswolds had heated towel racks for drying underwear.
  • A pair of Wolford tights I thought were plain black when packing but turned out to be wild lace.
  • Yoga pants, sports bra, and workout tee. Never worn, as it turned out. Walking through London > working out on machines.

1 Dress & 1 Skirt

3 Pairs Of Jeans

  • Very old and loose Levis 501s for the plane. Worn cuffed, with Birkenstocks, in London.
  • Close-fitting GAP 1969 boyfriends.
  • Distressed Citizens of Humanity to wear cuffed, with navy blazer, white tee, and Valentino Tangos because it’s a really cool outfit and I wanted to be cool hanging out with young friends.
  • Oh and 1 pair of shorts that I never even looked at.

A Whole Lotta Tees

  • Gray
  • White
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Leopard-print
  • Navy & white stripes


How Did This Packing Job Actually Work, In Situ?

Monday afternoon with Jane Potrykus of simple+pretty. I’m in the UNIQLO field jacket, and Dries. Too bad you can’t see the dress.


Wednesday night dinner with my cousins. In Max Mara peacoat, Loro Piana muffler, gray UNIQLO tee, black J. Crew pencil skirt, Valentino Tango pumps. Lace Wolford tights, because at 57 our ankles haven’t quite left the building.


Thursday morning in Kensington Palace Gardens. 15-year old leopard tee I bought at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, 3-year old GAP 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans, 18-year old Doc Martens, 4-year old sunglasses from Costco, Rolex Cellini. Note to self: Leopard+Docs=Yes.


Sunday in Oxford at Christ Church meadow. Max Mara peacoat, GAP 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans, Doc Martens, black J. Crew tee, and Bottega Veneta hobo in Blue. (In gray, here.)


Somewhere in Oxford. Purple heathered sweatshirt over a J. Crew striped vintage linen tee, Loro Piana muffler, GAP 1969 jeans, Birkenstock Arizonas.


What I Should Have Packed, In Retrospect

Looking back at these photos, I actually quite like the way I look. Verging on Artsy Cousin, with a touch of British grit. The thing is I didn’t feel stylish as I traveled, mostly I felt hot and pothered. Yes I mean pothered, it’s bothered squared.

My suitcase relied on layers, perfect for San Francisco, too much fussing for England’s changeable climate. Next time I’ll tend to my spirits as well as my look. What would my suitcase hold were I to do this again? This.

Untitled #190

And I’d still bring my earrings and a good collapsible umbrella, of course.

Note that I include Belstaff instead of Barbour. Why? Barbour feels country and suburb to me, I like Belstaff’s city edge, and besides, the conceptual oxymoron of a British motorcyle brand appeals. However, if the City Master Jacket is-  understandably – too pricey, there’s always our stalwart favorite, J. Crew’s Field Jacket, now in moss, navy, and black. And note that I wouldn’t take all 5 shoes, I’d choose between the black and the khaki booties.


Waterproof Jacket: Belstaff City Master (also comes in black) // Waterproof Shoes: Black Quilted Booties, Aquatalia (sold out) Khaki Booties, Aquatalia; Quilted Platform Sneaker, Aquatalia// Sandals: Birkenstock Arizonas in Copper// Pumps: Valentino Tangos // Large Nylon Tote: Tory Burch // Small Zip-Up Crossbody; Skagen // Jeans:  BoyfriendComfort, Dark Wash Straight Leg// Cotton Scarves: Blue, Block Shop; Pink, Jonathan Adler // Tees: Blue Leopard, Debenhams; Plain: J. Crew Vintage Cotton; Comme des Garçons Play: J. Crew Men //  Wowza Print Dress:  Mary Katrantozou of type on sale here, and here // Trusty Pencil Skirt: J. Crew // Lace Tights That Would Go With That Wowza Dress: Wolford

The trip, somewhat arduous in the taking, has survived brilliantly in memory. Almost as though I was simply gathering the experience like tufts of wool as we traveled, to be combed, spun, and enjoyed in full fluff when I got home.


Affiliate links may generate commissions. You can read the agenda of the trip I was packing for, and more on why I really needed that nylon tote and a small cross-body bag, instead of the Bottega Veneta, here.

All The Beds Of My Life, And Now For A Good One

Have we agreed yet that decorating a house is harder than decorating one’s corpus? “Corpus,” used in the sense of the original Latin here to mean physical body, the word more often refers to one’s literary body of work. But I digress. Nothing like word geekery to reestablish one’s sense of competence.

So I ordered a sample of this blue green rug, discussed more fully here, only to find that what appeared to be subtle striations were actual stripes. Too much noise underfoot for me. So back goes the sample, and we’re trying another. This one, from Garnet Hill.

Moroccan Rug Garnet Hill

Which also implies a return to my vision of rumpled blue linen sheets. With stripes,

Libeco Home Catalina Sheets

or without.


Maybe some vintage toile on a bench at the foot of the bed? I like the idea of old fabrics and textiles,but will need to start small to see how to use them.


But I digress again.

Which also brings us to the question of a bed to house said rumpled sheets. I had been thinking wood, because I have no imagination, but you all have sent me down the path of an upholstered piece and I don’t think I’m coming back. I’ve done the hard headboard thing to death. I bought my first bed to live alone in Manhattan, it was new brass, and always wiggled. When I was first married, we slept on a futon on the floor. Remember futons? Then we bought a melamine platform bed with a bookcase as headboard. How misguided is that? Trying to sit up and read with books behind your head?

When we remodeled, in 1992, I ordered a forged-iron canopy bed with blond wood headboard. It was beautiful. In place of a canopy I wrapped a maroon and fuchsia silk sari around the top bar at the foot of the bed, the ends hanging down part way on either side.

When we divorced, in 2006, I was doing a lot of business travel. I moved to an apartment so my ex-husband, who worked from home, could be there for our still-in-high-school son. I bought the Valencia Sleigh bed from Pottery Barn. Why, I cannot say. Perhaps for the same reason I got two moving violation tickets, painted one wall in the apartment red, and bought a sequined Brazilian bikini.

I also watched all 7 seasons of The Sopranos that summer. But never mind.

Now we need a new bed. A king-size bed. A comfortable one. And I want it upholstered. A reader suggested Restoration Hardware. who do show beautiful designs.

But ever since my experience with the memory foam topper, I’ve been suspicious of polyurethane foams. Not that I wouldn’t have been suspicious before, but I didn’t know they existed. And it turns out that Restoration Hardware uses these foams in their beds, so, out as a source.

Enter Room and Board.

Manufactured in the USA, which, while I do not have a nationalistic approach to manufacturing, does often imply higher quality control. And for their headboard stuffing? You have to ask a sales rep on a case by case basis, but for the most part they seem to use polyester batting. I’m torn between the Hoffman,

Hoffman Bed In Dwell Flax Linen

and this one. The Wyatt. Do they give beds boy names so that men won’t mind women making the choices?

Room and Board Wyatt Bed Desmond White

It’s a tradeoff. I prefer the legs on the Hoffman, but could do without those buttony tufty things. The Wyatt’s covered platform feels a tad corporate, although it’d be fun to put paid to dust bunnies under the bed, once and for all. I’d match the upholstery to either white walls or the grayish-brown rug, if everything goes according to plan.

Right about now, somebody’s thinking, “Well THAT looks boring!” And it doesn’t pop, anywhere. But remember I’ve got lots of gold-tone hardwood flooring, and floor to ceiling windows that look into a very green back yard. I will try, as always, to layer subtle, low-contrast patterns. And let us not forget my well-nigh gaudy pink and gold-flecked Murano glass turtledoves on the dresser. For a High WASP, that’s a vivid interior world indeed.

The Art Of Helping, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:33am

Night Bloomer II by Lily Stockman

Last night the Gallery had an opening. Among other artists, they featured Lily Stockman. Those are her flowers, above.

I would have loved to have attended. I own one of her paintings, Her Favorite Time Of Day, and I love it. But as it turned out, I have been struggling with fatigue, and couldn’t get myself out of the house last night. Why fatigue? The easy, fun answer is jet lag from the UK. The harder reason is that after I returned from overseas, I set off alone to Santa Barbara to see my mother.

Mom’s losing her memory. I drove there. Stayed 4 nights and then drove back, this time with Mom in the car. She stayed with my aunt for several days, and that same beloved aunt has now driven Mom back home, where my stepfather awaits.

Not my story to tell, all that, the details, but the resultant exhaustion has been nothing to scoff at.

So I couldn’t make it to the art exhibit. I felt bad, because I should have supported Lily, and like I’d missed something that would have fed my spirit, if I’d only had enough spirit to get out.

I also wanted to say that recently some of my younger friends have thanked me for my help, and I’ve been surprised. Two of them told me I’d mattered in the early days of their new babies, that somehow my presence or my words had made a difference.  You know how it is, when you are simply telling your true story, and it feels confessional, and heartening, to say it all, and then absolutely unpredictably it turns out to be helpful to someone else?

And then there was the thank you that put me in a magazine. A teeny me. If you read Redbook, open the September edition and look for the section where magazine staffers recognize their friends for style. Lauren Oster, the Senior Research Editor, included this photo, as a thumbnail, and thanked me for teaching her that being fabulous is a process. I am still surprised. That someone as brilliant as Lauren, and as creative, for she is both to the nth degree, felt I had anything to teach her.

Because I’ve never been teaching her, only relating.

So I suppose I wanted to say today, help someone. Even though you can’t always know when you’re helping. I have been the most useful when I am both truthful and focused on the person to whom I’m talking. And in those times when I have done that simple hard thing, like a long drive, physical or emotional. That which just needed doing.

Listen, tell the truth, amuse someone with stories of your own failings. Bring food, make the spreadsheet, drive.

But then you’re also going to have to make peace with the times when you can’t help. You’re not going to make it to the art opening, you won’t make dessert from scratch. You’ll get used up. So then you have to prioritize. Only one thing can come first. It was right that my daughter and my mother tired me out, albeit disappointing for paintings.

It’s just so hard to know. So hard to know when to push yourself and when to surrender, when to say yes and when to say no, when your reward will be your own pleasure and when it will be the also real and more flinty joy of doing something for another. How in all this we become and remain good people, I don’t know, but I am absolutely sure that we should all keep trying.

Have a wonderful weekend. See some art for me. Or for yourself. Or someone else.