My husband and I have recently returned from Kenya. After 21 brutal hours in transit we suffered bumper to bumper traffic from the airport to our hotel (another hour at turtle speed). President Kenyatta had just returned to the country from his trial at The Hague for helping to rig the 2007 election. Remnants of the red carpet covering the entire airfield were still in evidence when we left the parking lot.
Once at our beautiful hotel, the Safari Sands, though, we were blissful. Beautiful grounds, great pool, many restaurants and a bedroom with terrace overlooking the beautiful grounds contributed to our bliss.
After a day of sightseeing in Nairobi, we loaded 12 fellow travelers into 3 vans for our safari. Our first stop, other than potty breaks and tchotchkes, was Maasai Mara Park, the extension of the famous Serengeti which crosses the Kenyan border into Tanzania. Here we saw our first lions, thousands of wildebeest and zebra (pronounced zeh’bra by the British influenced natives). The most breathtaking sight for me was a mama and her two baby cheetah.
Even though our animal and bird sightings were spectacular, the people we traveled with were even more so. A goddess from a sheep farm in New Zealand taught me more about joy than I have learned over a lifetime. A young “married with children” couple from Lisbon, Portugal hugged and kissed and laughed their way through the three days they were with us, spreading that love wherever they went. Stories of other adventures and misadventures filled our evenings together. Only one woman did her best to ruin the splendor of the trip by demanding to see something she believed she had been promised (as if our wonderful driver Evans could produce hippos from a hat), endlessly criticizing her husband, and telling my husband “don’t interfere!” when he gently suggested that she could skip that morning’s game drive.
So, it was our greatest trip because of ALL the animals, human and not. Even our resident terror reminded me to be good to Murray and to treasure him. In her own way, she spread joy by being an example for the rest of us. An example of how we don’t want to be with each other.
My stomach has been queasy for the last few days and so I’ve settled on the chaise on our deck overlooking the island of Alameda and San Francisco Bay. Licorice tea is at my elbow and my husband has gone to a biology lecture at UC Berkeley. The house is quiet. I hear the sound of traffic, though it is far enough away to be a low hum. Occasional police sirens remind me I live in Oakland where violence is part of the landscape.
I am one of the privileged ones. I live in the hills among other houses with big decks overlooking the Bay. My deck is also my garden. Miniature petunias in purple dance with pink geraniums and purple verbena. Tiny white flowers hang from the edges of my taller pots and a camilia bush hugs the edge of the arbor which shades the dining table. A wind chime, given to me by one of my co-authors, rings softly in the breeze.
I can feel my breathing slow. The traffic hum is my Ohm. Birds sit on the railing observing me curiously before plunging into the birdbath placed at the edge of the deck just to attract them. I have not been to this place of peace in so long, I cannot remember the last time. My life has been ruled by things I must do–must finish grading, must change the sheets, must prepare for guests. Then there is a different set of wants–want to see my grandchildren and help my stepdaughter, want to try a new recipe, want to do the webinar about mentoring, and want to talk to my daughters in Minneapolis. And, oh, there are the shoulds. Should exercise at least three times a week. Should watch my carbohydrates and alcohol. Not much time for nothing–no thing.
This is the first spiritual practice. No thing. Peace.
Fashion. Not just pretty clothes or interesting clothes. I’m interested in what makes my almost 70 year old body look GREAT. I went to the San Francisco Ballet for a Saturday afternoon performance recently and the overwhelming majority of the audience was women. Not only that, but women my age. I’d worn a handwoven jacket and black pants. Almost a uniform, I realized. Some jackets were brightly colored. Some had interesting pleats. Most of them were paired with a scarf. I was not surprised to find, at intermission, that the Ballet Shop was almost entirely taken up by scarves. I don’t like playing it safe. I like to stand out–in a good way. The realization–that I could play it safe, or I could play it POWERFUL–inspired my wish to write about fashion for powerful, sexy, outstanding women who are wise and daring.
What interests me is not so much what I’ve discovered about 70 year old style, but what I learn and want to share about clothes, jewelry, shoes, and occasional other accessories. So here goes. I’ll tell you about the stores I’ve found, the clothes that look good on me with photos and some tips for those who, like me, want to look terrific at our age.
Last weekend I wore a tunic like the pink one here from Bryn Walker with a matching skirt in gray metallic. The fabric literally has wire in it so you can stand up your collar or squinch it into another shape. The skirt has little cords on the inside to pull up one or more gathers in the hem. This look is not for the feint hearted, but my normally conservative husband said I looked fabulous. So, my first recommendation for lovely clothes for older women is Bryn Walker. Stores are in the Bay Area of California, but Bryn Walker is carried by many department stores. I’ll share the metallic outfit when next my husband uses my iPhone.
P.S. If you don’t know about this site, it will make you brave: http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/p/the-advanced-style-documenatry-film-page.html
I’m not sure my title is even a word. But it describes, even by its sound, the state I’m in today. I have two broken toes (after falling down two steps into my own bedroom) and have spent the last four days with my feet up or with an ice pack on my right foot. I cannot get a regular shoe on (even the idea hurts) so have been wearing either my clogs or German hard felt slippers with huge toe boxes. I’ve also been grading papers all week and my mind is a blur with three classes and 76 papers. I want to be outdoors (it’s drizzling out there) and I want some exercise (hard to do unless I walk on my hands).
So I’m futzing–deleting email, going over email I should have answered, and not finishing my grading. I’ve just read my friend Dr. Scott Yorkovich’s blog about windows and mirrors–great blog, by the way. I just don’t want to do what I’m supposed to do today and I can’t realistically do anything else. This puts me in mind of all those who have jobs where they feel this way every day. Without broken toes they are required to sit or stand and do something each day that they find boring or worse. In my case, I have to buckle down and “just do it.” That works if I have an occasional day like today. If every day were like today I’d have to find something else to do.
Futzing is an answer to frustration, a response to boredom, a short-term condition (hopefully) with healing properties as long as it has boundaries. Like whining or spreading rumors, it makes most of us feel better in the moment. Carried too far it can harm performance and self-esteem. How can we deal with short-term futzing? My answer is to put a carrot out there far enough so that I can get done what I need to, and not so far that I forget about it or don’t think it’s worth it. For me, lunch with my best friend should do the trick.
OK, my boundary has been reached, even exceeded. I’m off to get dressed and strap myself into my instructor’s chair. I have a deadline and a carrot to eat.
I was on a conference call earlier with my teaching colleagues, most of whom had won the same award I wrote about in my last blog. There were 900 faculty nominated and 400 recognized. The list was published on the website homepage by school (business, education, psychology). One student emailed me to congratulate me. I showed the list to my husband who said, “Oh, so it wasn’t such a big deal after all.”
I am still thrilled to be recognized by students as a caring and knowledgeable instructor. What feels deflating is the way this award was implemented. First, I was sent a mass email by the president of the school. OK, he can’t call 400 people. I was told in the email that I would receive a certificate (there is an image of the certificate on the website). I was also told that the announcement would be made on the homepage and it was. To open the page and find 399 other names was disappointing, not because each of those other people didn’t deserve to be recognized (I know most of the ones in my school and they DO deserve to be recognized) but because the presentation was akin to posting a list of all the best American Football League players in their respective locker rooms.
So I’ve been thinking about how recognition should happen in organizations, and why it is so important. First, I think the person’s immediate boss should make a personal call or visit to the winner. For those who don’t like public fanfare this serves as a genuine interaction without the hoopla. It also informs the winner that the boss knows about and values both the award and the person. Then, I think the department or school needs to publish parts of each nominating letter so everyone in the school knows why that person was nominated. I know neither who nominated me or why. How can I build on my strengths if I don’t even know which strengths were perceived as valuable to learners (or colleagues or executives)? Finally, the school or organization needs to find something more portable or showy than a piece of paper. I have to spend the money to get it framed. Otherwise it goes in a drawer or circular file. Spending a bundle isn’t necessary. I’d like be be able to wear a pin that says I’m a star teacher, or have a paperweight in the shape of a star. (Stars are important to our organization.) Otherwise, I’m just a name among 400 other names representing 400 teachers who’ve done something right.