Saturday, December 8, 2012

Comfortable Shoes for a Cause

I tend to prefer a heel with my shoes, preferably in a good boot. Being one of the tallest girls in school when I was younger - as well as the shy, new kid with the funny accent - it took me until I was an adult to not only be proud of my height, but realize I'm more comfortable in heels. It's one of the things I admire about one of my nieces - she's 5'11" and has always celebrated her height, and worn shoes that make her even taller. 

But sometimes your feet need a break in a comfortable flat. The flats I found in a Marie Claire article (Feel-Good Fashion: Friends of Finn) are not only rather funky, they're for a good cause. Being a huge dog lover, of course I think the little doggie bones decorating the shoes are pretty cute as well.

When the author of the article, Amanda Hearst, found her Dachshund/Chihuahua mix, Finnegan, she was told he came from a loving breeder. After finding out that he actually came from a puppy mill, she worked with the Humane Society and formed the HSUS' Friends of Finn (FOF):
"Three years ago, I bought my dog, Finnegan, at a pet store in New York City. I know what you're thinking: Why not adopt from a shelter? It's true, adoption is ideal, but one glance at Finn and I was done—you can't help who, or what, you love. Sure, I'd heard the stats: More than 90 percent of pet store dogs are from puppy mills, those notorious facilities where female dogs are bred until they die and animals are forced to live in cramped, crippling crates. But the shopkeeper told me Finn was from a trusted, loving breeder, even giving me his family tree. Well, that was a lie. With help from the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), I did research into Finn's background and learned that he was, in fact, among that 90 percent. Even worse, his mother was still there and likely never to get out.
That's when I formed the HSUS' Friends of Finn (FOF), a group that raises money and awareness to end the billion-dollar puppy mill industry in this country. Two years, more than a half a million dollars raised, and several puppy mill raids later, I'm excited to debut our first fashion collaboration: special-edition Soludos espadrilles to benefit FOF. The one-of-a-kind pattern, which I helped design, consists of tiny dog bones, a nod to the cause. And they're unisex."
I applaud Amanda in her efforts. So why not wear something comfortable that's also for a good cause? Besides, it's a rather fun way to celebrate our furry friends in the process.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I do believe this is the longest I've gone without making a blog post - a little too long. As can be seen in the previous post, I was a bit busy for awhile...but, it's about time I got back to more regular writing again. It's also important to write about something as catastrophic as Hurricane Sandy - to acknowledge the unimaginable loss and devastation that so many in the northeast are experiencing.

Most of my family, and many friends, live all up and down the east coast. Of all the places I've lived, New England is home to me, but I also love New York, the mountains, and especially the ocean. But, a hurricane is a blunt reminder that although the sea is beautiful, it's also very powerful. Having experienced a few hurricanes myself, I know the damage they can cause. With one as huge as Hurricane Sandy, the destruction and loss is overwhelming

My heart goes out to everyone who is experiencing the brutal consequences of this storm. Remember you are on so many people's minds, and will be in so many prayers across the nation. May you have the strength and community to help you. And may God bless you all with relief, comfort, and speedy healing.

The flooded Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial (downtown 
 Annapolis, Maryland) after Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 30, 2012.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) 

Thursday, August 30, 2012


For many years prior to her passing, my father was a caretaker for my mother. He helped her with everything, and stood by her for years. I've also seen some very good friends do the same with their significant others or a parent. It's a hard place to be.

In my former job, I took care of many clients with many different needs. We had to know how to do just about everything and I was able to teach them a lot, and learned a great deal myself in the process. It always seemed like I worked constantly - crisis after crisis, continuous phone calls...usually at the detriment of taking care of myself. When that finally ended a few months ago, and all the dust was settled, there was admittedly a sigh of relief.

And then I became a caretaker myself. And this one was 24/7. 

Often times we can't see why things happen the way they do. But, in my case, I never would have been available to help my fiance go through a horrible nine hour back surgery, overwhelming pain, a week in the hospital, and the work once he got home - for both of us. Now almost eight weeks post-op, his recovery has come a long way. He still needs help, but not the constant assistance he needed before. He is still unable to bend, lift, or twist for another four weeks or more, and continues to wear the back brace.

Frankly, I think he's brave, and strong, and determined. I am so glad to see him grow healthier and stronger every single day.

And the coolest thing is that after months of walking more and more bent over, he is once again looking me straight in the eye - and walking tall and proud. 

Was I overwhelmed at times? Yes. Am I still overtired? Yes. Would I change the fact that I have been able to care for him, help him get better, and be the one he relies on? Not for a minute.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In Honor of Fidel

There are many friends we meet throughout our lives...some come in and out, and some are lifelong friends. We lost one of the latter yesterday - and one of the best - in Fidel.

For three years we saw Fidel's struggle and determination to fight his way back, but he dealt with problems and complications that always seemed to set him back. But, a fighter he was.

A vibrant, interesting, intelligent, and genuinely sweet man, Fidel was also hilariously funny, loud, and outspoken - and he generally had most of the people around him laughing. With his Nigerian-English accent, his voice was as classy and unique as he was. I am so sad that such a larger-than-life, dynamic, spirited person with such a big heart was taken from us way too soon.

We will miss you, Fidel. That wonderful, hearty laugh. The teasing and the sarcasm - which was always quite entertaining - and the upbeat attitude. Your sense of humor was only surpassed by your courage. And the many, many people who spent so much time in the hospital with you was a real testament to not only the kind of person you were, but how much you were loved. 

The world will be a little less sunny without your light in it, and all your friends will always miss you. Rest in peace, dear friend.
 "May the Lord bless you and keep you..." (Num. 6:24)

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak passed away last week at the age of 83. He was a beloved author known for his children's books with wonderful stories and illustrations...and an imagination that seemed to know no limitations.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert earlier this year, Mr. Sendak was asked why he wrote for children. He said:
"I don't write for children. I write, and somebody says, 'That's for children'… I like them as few and far between as I do adults."
But the writer is more than just a bone-picking curmudgeon: "There is something in this country that is so opposed to understanding the complexity of children," he said.
He also wrote very different, and much darker, material than most authors of children's books. Noted in an article by the New York Times:
In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
Perhaps that is why his books have been loved by children and adults for years. His sense of humor, creativity, and perspective was fresh, and very unique. 

His favorite book was "Higglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to Life," but his most famous was "Where the Wild Things Are." 

I found myself having to visit a little local bookstore in Linden Hills in South Minneapolis: Wild Rumpus. Although mainly for kids, it's a favorite store for many adults too. The store has a smaller front door within the regular door for children, and many real animals hanging out throughout the place. The entire atmosphere of the store is quite fitting to its name - you can't help but think of Maurice Sendak when you stop by. The store's name, after all, was taken from his most famous book, when Max was "dancing with the monsters in a wild rumpus."

Mr. Sendak will be greatly missed. But, fortunately, his legacy will remain in print to be enjoyed for many years to come. 

© Photograph by C.Y. Hunter

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Some Fun Ways to Tie Scarves

I love wearing scarves all year round. A versatile accessory, a scarf can add color and style to an otherwise neutral outfit. Although there's nothing like the silkiest ones, even on the coldest winter day, there are many other soft, flowing fabrics. Whether wrapped around your neck in different ways, in your hair as a headband, tied around a high ponytail, used as a belt, or attached to a purse strap, scarves can be used in so many ways. I love to loop one around my black leather bag - it not only adds some color and a bit of style, it can also be pretty handy when I want to tie my hair back (anyone with long hair can attest to this one).

Found on Scarf Knots, this fun, well-done YouTube Video covers some great ways to tie scarves around your neck. There's a couple pretty creative ways I hadn't thought of...

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Joy of Books

As anyone can see from my ever growing list of books on this blog, I love to read. I go through phases with different types of books, but I always have at least one going at a time.

I always carry a large bag - it must fit a book, my camera, and a notebook or's important for writers to be able to jot down observations, after all.

A self-described Francophile (even more so after visiting France and feeling so at home there), I also love anything to do with Paris, Provence, and other wonderful towns in France. Well, pretty much anything French...the language, the fragrance of French Lavender, the food - the list goes on.

One of my favorite blogs is French Essence, for obvious reasons, but I particularly liked the writer's post near the end of March entitled The Joy of Reading. She talks about her love of reading like a true book lover:
"I have a feeling that you know how much I am smitten with books and reading. It got me thinking about why some are always close to the written word and why others aren't so inclined. I can't leave home without a book or my Kindle in the handbag, I can't catch a flight or board a train unless I am fully stocked with books... I carry enough print for all emergencies... delays, breakdowns, insomnia... I cannot be without my 'literary friends', ever. Perhaps some might consider this an eccentricity, I regard my attachment as essential... and I don't feel 'dressed' unless I have reading matter by my side. I have learned that life involves much waiting... waiting for appointments... waiting for children... waiting for friends... waiting at airports and train stations... just waiting. Reading helps pass the time and in a productive way... Reading can settle the nerves, lift the mood and most importantly teach. Reading can be a best friend and reading means you are never lonely..." 
"Our home in France is overflowing with books... coffee table tomes, fiction, non-fiction, dictionaries and encyclopedias... We might be seduced by our iPads and Kindles for on-the-move-convenience (and I would not want to live without either of these... they are an incredible luxury) but this has not and will not stop us collecting the hard copies... Books are about far more than content alone..."
 I have to say I agree wholeheartedly. What else can I possibly add to that except livres sont merveilleux!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stylin' Shoe Cabinet

What can I say, I'm an IKEA fan. I guess I like mixing the modern (and, let's face it, not too expensive when you decide to do something different), and vintage pieces - along with bright artsy pieces, travel finds...and of course anything Parisian or French.

But, in looking for a new way to store my shoes, I had to admit this was pretty awesome. I don't have as many shoes as a lot of women I know, granted. But, the beauty of this is they are stored away in a dust-free cabinet that looks like a china cabinet, takes up very little space, and holds ten pairs of pumps. It was pretty enough, I decided it shouldn't be hidden in the closet after all...and reasonable enough in price that more can be added.

Since I own a lot of boots that are easily put on shelves, it was the pumps on the floor that would literally disappear into boxes. This really just inspires me to dress up and go out even more...I mean, look at that awesome top shelf!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! Many blessings, happiness, and peace to everyone. May the promise of Easter renew your hope and joy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Missing the Fashion Mark in Minneapolis

I enjoy reading magazines like Elle. It's full of fun fashion information, beautiful photography, and really good articles on pop culture and things happening around the world.

However, I was a bit puzzled by an article in the March issue entitled "High Fidelity." The author, Louisa Kamps, is an excellent writer, but I think she really missed the mark in her article on Midwest fashion when she wrote about Minneapolis:
"Then there's cold, cold Minneapolis, where Scandinavians flocked in the 1800's to toil in the lumber and flour mills and whose descendants are the originator of the hipster-beloved woodsman look: buffalo checked logger coats, earflap caps, and leather lace-up boots, the higher the sexier, particularly on women. Minneapolitans are fiercely loyal to their heritage brands, such as Minnetonka Moccasins' golden tan mocs."
My first complaint is one I hear all the time from local residents: it isn't ALWAYS cold in Minneapolis. We have seasons here just like other places, and even our winters can really vary (this winter has been really warm with very little snow). The joke is if you don't like the weather, wait a couple of hours and it will change. We also have colorful autumns, warm springs, and some very hot, humid summers.

Secondly, I've yet to see a earflap cap or buffalo checked logger coat in the city - and the only lace-up boots I've seen are hiking boots when you're out hiking (or perhaps shoveling snow). The "higher the better" is only seen on tall, leather boots when they are the current trend, and who's fiercely loyal to, or even wears, Minnetonka Moccasins?

The author went on to say:
"And, as a friend reports, people here have finally figured out how to mix a bit of Prince - that other native-style power of tower - with their Paul Bunyan. Hence, the woman spotted clubbing in a Fleet Farm barn jacket, shiny Marni parachute pants, and towering Azzedine Alaia platforms."
When I read this part, I actually had to stop and look at the cover of the magazine to check the date. Prince? Was this written twenty-five years ago? His movie "Purple Rain," which was filmed here, was released in 1984. I really don't see him influencing fashion here. And parachute pants? Was this woman perhaps out dancing on Halloween? 

It almost seems like the author is basing her ideas on the movie "Fargo." Minneapolis is not as it was depicted in the movie. It's a growing, metropolitan city - and it's actually quite a mixture of cultures. Sure, there are people with Scandinavian roots, but there are also Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Russians, Europeans, a lot of displaced east and west coast people, and very large Somalian and Hmong populations. Until you have really been to this area, you can't really appreciate the diversity or honestly see it for what it is. I couldn't write about favorite cities like Paris, London, San Francisco, or New York until I had actually spent some time in each one. Many myths are often dispelled pretty quickly. 

As far as fashion goes, I almost always wear high heels, whether it's boots or shoes, as do a lot of my friends and acquaintances. I also wear dresses, skirts, textured and opaque tights, lots of scarves (silk, not wool), and fashionable jewelry. I have friends that even walk around in high heels when it's really icy and snowy (although that's where I tend to draw the line...I take them along in a leather tote bag as I'm not quite as coordinated as they are). Everyone I know dresses in current and very chic outfits, or has a very distinct style of their own. We also have some great vintage shops here with awesome pieces to mix in with everything else. I'm sure there are exceptions, but what I see in the fashion magazines I see here.

I suggest the author come to town and watch the businesswomen downtown on their lunch breaks as they stroll through Macy's and Sak's in their stylish skirts, dresses, blazers, cashmere sweaters, tailored pants, classic trench coats, and high heels. Then, check out Uptown near Lake Calhoun. It's home to some hip shops with high end and trendy clothes - and everything in between. Stop by on a Friday or Saturday night and you'll see women in the most current looks with rocking stilettos and a great new clutch or bag.

This isn't even to mention the Mall of America. The biggest mall in the country, it has over 500 stores. It has great anchor department stores like Nordstrom's and Macy's (Bloomingdale's, unfortunately, is in the process of closing), offered right along with many designer stores and funky boutique shops. You'll see many women - and men - in stylish, hip, and up-to-date outfits strolling throughout. Then, of course, right next door to Minneapolis is St. Paul, our capital (and the second part of the "Twin Cities"), which is a whole other story.

Although I appreciate the author's humor, I don't care for the inaccurate generalizations. Minneapolis is not New York City, but it isn't Fargo either. I know what I see here is a lot of beautiful, stylish, trendy clothing - and many high, high heels...and there's not a earflap cap or Fleet Farm barn jacket in sight.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Enough with the Attacks on Women

What's with the attacks on women of late...are they trying to take women back decades? Is there any sense whatsoever to this nonsense? In reality, 55% of voters in this country are women. Attacking women's rights and health care is simply not very smart. 

When Sandra Fluke testified about contraceptives then, of course, Rush Limbaugh had to get in on it, and take it completely out of hand. He not only insulted her, but showed a complete lack of understanding of how the birth control pill works (it isn't Viagra - the pill is a daily prescription, whether you're having sex or not). The women I know who use the pill are actually in committed relationships. 

There was simply no reason to insult Ms. Fluke with inflammatory and degrading comments - not to mention the fact that they were untrue. With Limbaugh's use again of "Feminazi" (this is not new, he has done this for years), one has to wonder why he is so threatened by strong women.  As Fluke commented in the Washington Post:
"I understand that I'm stepping into the public eye," said Fluke, 30, a third-year student studying public interest law. "But this reaction is so out of bounds of acceptable discourse...these types of words shouldn't be applied to anyone."
Birth control is responsible. It should be a prescription that is covered like any other needed prescription. This should not be a political issue, and it certainly isn't paid for with taxes. Why in the world was this tacked on to a transportation bill in the first place? And the committee of all men? Really?

I say bravo to Sandra Fluke for her courage. She informed a congressional committee that the pill is not only used for birth control, but for other serious health issues as well. She's a student at a very reputable law school, and delivered her message in a classy, well-spoken, and articulate manner. That's much more than we can say for Rush.

Enough with the gross comments and absolute stupidity from this man. He has said ridiculous things for a long time and, unfortunately, there are people out there who agree with him. But, he gets paid a great deal of money to do this. This is not entertainment. It is sexist, insulting, and ignorant. The women of today are highly educated and intelligent. Men like Rush can't handle this.

I suspect he - and the politicians he seems to have in his pocket - don't realize they have awakened a sleeping giant.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gifts, Love & Karma

After a rough couple of weeks, and after a post about gratitude, I was pretty happy when I got the mail yesterday. First, I had two things I had been waiting for in the that will make things a lot less of a struggle for now. But, the best thing I got was a wonderful surprise and note from an Etsy seller.

I've found some wonderful things on Etsy over the years...from some very nice, talented, artistic people - as well as some great vintage pieces. In the process, I've met some great people, and even made some friends.

In this particular case, somehow a vintage scarf I ordered didn't make it to my address. I was bummed out about this - as was the seller - but I said that it would either show up later, as it somehow went to the wrong address, or someone would be blessed with not only a beautiful scarf but the extra gift the seller had so graciously put in the package.

But, what a wonderful surprise when I opened a large envelope on Friday that had a gorgeous silk scarf in it. It was a gift from the seller who had sent the original package that was lost. Now, it certainly wasn't the seller's fault the package was lost, and I never expected this extra surprise present. I just had to take a photo of the gift, and the beautiful note that was enclosed. With a burgundy bow tied around the card, the note said: "I believe in love and karma. You deserve both."

It's a keeper, and she's an absolute sweetheart. It brought tears to my eyes when I read it. Thank you for ending an awful week on such a high note. Your generosity, and especially your thoughtful words, were such a blessing...received at just the right time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Advice

I've always been a pretty positive person. I try to always see the best in people, and I try to look at even the tough things in life as a learning experience.  But, the last couple of weeks, and especially today, I've been really negative.

Losing my long-term job a couple of weeks ago probably pushed this into full gear. I suppose the downright dishonesty and cruelty that was turned toward me from the management at that aforementioned job didn't help - nor did the fact that I am the last in a long line of long-term employees to go. But, as one of them reminded me, "They're the ones who are dysfunctional, not us." We all got thrown under the bus. 

Unfortunately, stress does a number on all people, but for people with Multiple Sclerosis, it can bring on major symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, and an overwhelming fatigue. In the blog, Yoga-Love-Multiple Sclerosis, she says:
"I choose not to talk about my symptoms all the time, cos talking about them gives them power and turns me into a victim. I am not a victim nor will I ever be. Period. I am strong, I'm a Rugby midlands girl (think Trainspotting with an English accent, and ecstasy instead of heroin), we can take care of ourselves. Sure, I'm soft, gentle and very patient, but I will not be controlled by any disease or anyone. You can push and push and push me, but when push comes to shove, I will find my inner fire and will power and I will get what I need to survive with grace and integrity."
The fact is, the job was eating me up - the crisis situations and ridiculous expectations made me neglect taking care of myself for way too long. I know the stress of late is causing some pretty major headaches, but the negativity isn't helping. It's scary to suddenly be without health insurance for the first time in many years, especially when you have a chronic illness. But, after reading the end of her post, I knew it was time to pick myself up, and print this out to keep in front of me:
"Every morning I say a prayer asking for help and strength for a safe and positive day. I offer gratitude for my life, for my kids, parents, friends, teachers, career, abundance, nature, safety, strength and health. And, throughout the day, I work at catching myself going into negative thought patterns and consciously turn them into positive thoughts when I notice them.
Throughout the day, as often as I can, I say thank you for anything I can think to thank. The wind in the trees, the cozy sweater I'm wearing, the computer I'm typing on. Then, at the end of the day, when I'm falling asleep, I go through a mental thank you list for the day that's been, my safe travels, the phone call from my friend, the unexpected gift, the great parking spot."
This is nothing new, but on a day of way too many negative thoughts and words, it's most definitely timely.

Monday, February 6, 2012

No More Daily Crisis

After over seven years at a crazy job, I'm now on my own to make a fresh start. I knew it was coming...and had been warned I'd be the next to go. I watched several excellent people leave before me. With all the self-created drama of that place, working with mentally ill clients was actually a cake walk in comparison. I do thank my former clients. What an opportunity to work with such interesting, strong, great people with wonderful stories...who have, in turn, inspired me for the next chapter. 

Admittedly, I won't miss the constant phone calls, the constant crisis situations, and the total lack of appreciation from a clueless and repeatedly cruel employer. Take it as a learning experience...moving on. They didn't even see me cry, because I didn't.

Finally, the free spirit in me won't be beaten down, and squelched any longer. Or, let's just say it in French: Au revoir à la dysfonction et dramatiques! 

By Gary Larson, The Far Side, FarWorks, Inc. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

French Blogs

Most of my friends know I've always loved Paris. When I was in Europe a few years ago with a couple of friends, we had visited several cities (and countries), and ended up very close to Paris in  Luxembourg. When my friends said "We're not so sure we want to go to Paris," I was shocked. "We are four hours away from a city I've always wanted to go to," I said. "I will spring for the room there, and I really want you to go, but I'm going with or without you."  

They ended up going to Paris with me, and loved it. From the four hour train ride there, to the visit to the Eiffel Tower, to walking through the streets, to the Louvre, to Notre Dame, to the boat ride on the Seine, I was enchanted.  I've always vowed I would not only go back, but I would live there someday - for awhile at least.

Since that time, my French has gotten rusty (I'm working on it), and my house is full of treasures I got there, and have collected since...from mini Eiffel Towers to French books to other decorations.  Perhaps it's the language. Perhaps it's the history. Perhaps it's the wonderful food (I chose to ignore the McDonald's stuck right in the middle of wonderful bakeries smelling of fresh-baked bread). I've talked to people that hated it, but I can't understand. But then, I always make a point of being really respectful when visiting somewhere, making an effort to speak their language, and trying to not act like a stereotypical American. I loved it - and can't wait to go back. 

I have found a couple of excellent French blogs recently that I started to list on my blog.  This one in particular, La Coquette ("Don't hate me because I live in Paris"), is really fun. And I love this post on Fair Trade, a Wednesday night book swap...even though I have a terrible time parting with my precious books. But, what a wonderful idea....and, incidentally, I don't hate her at all - I just want to be her neighbor.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm pretty glad it's 2012.  As it turns out, 2011 was a rough year. Not the roughest, but rough. One of those "Okay, so I learned a few things" types of years (that's the good part). But, 2012 is a new year.  Better year. I'm starting old habits again (like good workouts and regular writing) that I somehow got too busy for. Both are good for me, and both are part of who I am.

On the workout front, frankly, having aches and pains because I'm not getting workouts in compared to that tight-muscle, invigorating feeling of exercise aches...well, I'll take the exercise ache. I needed that realization. Every year we all think of resolutions. This year I'm sticking to this one...recreating an old and very strictly followed habit of the not so distant past.

So, here's to everyone meeting their resolutions too. It's my hope that all of you have a happy, healthy, prosperous, and joyous new year. May it be a year when a dream or two come true with many blessings, much love, and peace.