November Style

Ready for Girls’ Night Out

In the Southeast, autumn eventually makes its presence known, typically in November. Thank you, thank you, Mama Earth! Time to transition the hearth and dress for a “Friday Fire Pit”Girls’ Night Out. This time, I’ve donned my Jill Sander chocolate brown sweater, my Marc Jacobs boots in the same color, and a couple of accessories that pull this outfit together, notably, a lace-embellished camisole that peeks out from the sweater and an awesome statement necklace found at a local consignment store.

An emerging painting

My husband’s work-in-progress, “Desert Rose,” makes a fitting backdrop as I strike a familiar pose. Look closely and you will see a younger me in a framed photo on the bookcase.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, chocolate brown is my go-to color.

I plan to wear this lively, retro-esque Tina Turk dress with the very same boots, along with my “all vintage” accessories: a gold Davis & White snake bracelet, buttery, canary-yellow gloves, a gifted peacock necklace, and gold dangly earrings. That’s Miss Noelle looking on.

For a dressier holiday party, you may find me in this look:

Same boots, same bracelet and earrings, but this time, with a gorgeous Antonio Melani satin dress that sports a necklace neckline that is to-die-for.

Style Notes

Who says that working off of one color needs to be boring or redundant? If you are traveling this holiday, or simply want to keep things simple, start with a specific base color (brown, black, gray, navy, blue, red…even purple. Oh how I love to work with purple!) and keep these tips in mind:

  • Select a pair of shoes or boots in your base color.
  • Add a sweater, dress, blouse or jacket in the same color. Then play with what you have to pull together the rest of your outfits.
  • Add jewelry accessories in either all gold or all silver and wear these with each outfit. You might throw in an outlier – such as the statement necklace I wore with the jeans- to mix things up just a bit.
  • Allow for some serendipity. The canary-yellow gloves were intended for the multi-color dress but work just as well with the other two outfit combinations.
  • Play with your lip color. Here I am wearing a deep, seasonal shade, “Dead Roses” by Anastasia. If it feels like “too much,” add a thin swipe of soft mauve from your summer collection on top to create a custom color.

Let It Be

The October Giddy. Maybe you know it. That particular delight we feel when the air turns crisp, the leaves sparkle with autumnal hues, and we finally get to rock our booties again. This fall, I was awestruck by the potato vine that kept going and going…the coleus purchased at 60% off late in the season that nonetheless came into its glory on my front porch, and the hearty heirloom pumpkins that I picked up at the supermarket. It was a snapshot of seasonal beauty that made my heart leap each time I looked.

October Vignette

Two nights of temps in the twenties changed all of that. My October Giddy faded with nature’s reminder that it was, after all, November. Almost everything was frozen or at least wilted beyond the pale. I grabbed my red wheelbarrow and faced reality.  

My little voice beckoned: When it comes to beauty, do not hold on too tightly. Remember to shift your lens. That’s when I grew amazed.

Berries for the Birds
Nature’s Miracle

Sometimes we hold on too tightly –

to people and our expectations of them

to careers and our dreams realized, spent, or unfulfilled

to the ideas and images of who we once were

to days and memories now past.

It is only when we release our grip on what was or coulda, shoulda been, that we can move forward to create again, and then again.

Put that into practice right here and right now, my little voice said. I fretted about the fact that it was far too early for Christmas decorations, uncertain about what to do with the void left by my now absent plants on the front porch. Work with what you have, she persisted.    

“Work with what you have.” Such a simple statement, applicable to everything we cling to, wanting it to remain just as it is, when, just like us, it cannot.

This season, as you stretch and adapt yourself like Gumby or Super Woman, remind yourself to work with what you have and to let it be. Let it be enough.

Self Care in the Season of Giving

Soar

My husband and I had the honor of meeting one very cool woman, Iyanla Van Zant, at the Omega Institute some time ago. Iyanla is truly an inspiration, not only for what she has overcome and accomplished – with a deck stacked very much against her- but for who she has intentionally become.

“Intentional Becoming” is a theme I will be writing about in 2020, a year “branded” for seeing ourselves with a razor-sharp focus that yields clarity, insight, strength, and compassion. To intentionally become one’s self – the one we were before we morphed and adapted, bought into the expectations, signed up for some version of the rat race, ran for shelter, put on the masks, the personas, and the armor to deal with it all – that’s the one I am talking about and hoping that wherever SHE is, she is listening. I hope that as you give thanks and give of yourself this season, you consider Iyanla’s wise words: “Self care must be a priority every single day…it is simply not possible to give from an empty cup.”

A priority, not an after-thought, and never, ever, something for which you apologize.

Doing so can be a challenge because we often think in “all or nothing” terms. Self care? That’s for people who have the time, money and support system in place to indulge themselves. All or nothing thinking is misguided because it defeats us based on a ridiculous absolute.  

Or maybe the challenge is even more basic, along the lines of There just isn’t enough time in the day. I know, I know, and while I am not disputing the time limitation, I’m not accepting it either. Here’s an idea to kick-start your self-care mindset: Start small. Really small. Need an example?  My morning walk is sacrosanct, a non-negotiable that keeps me sane, grounded, and fit. It usually consists of walking our neighborhood loop two times around.  But this morning, the November sky beckoned, and though I had lots to do, that beauty called to me. So Miss Noelle (my 14 year old mini poodle) and I did another 300 steps. A mere drop in the bucket, yes, but a Thank You God downpour in terms of self-care, of paying attention to my needs and wants.

In this season where we take particular joy in giving, make sure your cup isn’t empty. Remember the giver. Care for her.  

What Feels Right

Natural Inspiration

One morning in late October, I stopped by the local pharmacy after yoga class. The Halloween candy was already being marked down, the Thanksgiving decorations were on full display, and the Christmas glitterati was clearly itching to take center stage. My “flight” response kicked in big time. All I wanted to do was to go inward, hunker down, and become anonymous – my “go-to” response when something doesn’t feel right to me and over which I have little control.

Maybe it was the yoga, or maybe it was the yoga and the intention to create more inner peace and more outward joy in this stage of the journey. Either way, I decided not to judge, fight, or slink away from what was going on outside of me, stimulating my senses at every turn. Instead, I chose to see all of it as an in-my-face opportunity to challenge my “heart wide open” commitment.

Exchanging friendly banter with the clerk, I put it out there:

“Looks like the holidays are already upon us.”

“Ugh, so much, so fast. Personally, I can’t stand it. It’s not even Halloween yet!”

“I know what you mean. And you know what I’ve decided?”

“What?”

“That since I can’t change it, I’m going to see it as one big fall to winter embrace. You know, one very different celebration after another and another.”

“Like, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join em?”

“Well, yeah, but more like, ‘I’m gonna enjoy this. Give it a new meaning.’”

“Cool.”

As you brace yourself for the whirlwind ahead, give some thought to how you will react to what you don’t especially relish about the holidays and consider how you will do things  based on what feels right and where you are in this season of your journey. That applies to relatively impersonal things – like the retail onslaught, as well as the more personal, practical, and emotional matters that the holidays bring up.

For me, it’s about balancing the traditions I love with the changes that have come to pass. It also means cherishing the most beautiful memories of the “best” holidays, but not getting stuck there. I am here, now, and so how will I create new and different memories? That’s on me.

I know there are some “celebration uncertainties” ahead, but instead of feeling trapped or dreading them, I’m planning to take each as it comes, and then navigate based on these strategies:

  • Staying in touch with my feelings and reactions; not denying or dismissing.
  • Considering what I do “out of obligation” and perhaps reconsidering and modifying.
  • Focusing on the reason behind it all: fun, family, faith, a respite from the everyday, etc.
  • Considering how I can make this series of celebrations an opportunity to be and express more of who I really am and what I want in my life right now.

Because in the end, a well-lived life is an authentic one. And inner peace? Priceless. I think I’m ready. We’ll see…

A Crown and a Cloak

It happens. Someone you deeply admire, look up to, or regard as a mentor, role model, teacher or guide “let’s you down.” They say or do something that makes you think “No, not you. You’re better than that, above it. Did I get this wrong?”

I recently experienced this type of letdown. It caught me off-guard and made me unsettled. So I sat with it. Is my reaction about her not being who I thought she was, or was it about the perfection I wanted or needed her to be?

Of course, it was both. I did think she was “above” the comment and “beyond” the behavior. And I did want her to be better than that so that I could continue to crown her a heroine.

As my heart caught up with my head, I realized how screwed up that was. When we hold others in high esteem for who and how they are in the world – wise, above pettiness, judgment,cattiness, or whatever – we dabble in a naive illusion. Its an illusion that holds that person apart from the very experiences, hard knocks, scabs and scar tissue from which insight and wisdom arise. Heroines don’t earn our admiration or the status we bestow upon them because they are perfect humans. They earn our admiration because they are imperfect humans who:

  • are willing and able to look at themselves with compassion and clarity
  • are walking the journey to recognize and work on their stuff
  • use their imperfect humanity to become more compassionate, more connected, and more wise

A real heroine has no interest in a lofty pedestal because she’s walking that earthly plane with you and with me. She’s the perfectly-imperfect woman with the grace and guts to say: “I totally missed that” or “That’s my stuff getting in the way” or “I apologize. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

A real heroine is the woman who earns her regal crown by owning her humble, human cloak.

Be That Mirror

I can’t be “nice” for the sake of being “nice.”  My Go To’s are being mindful, courteous and kind. There’s a difference. In the same way, you won’t hear me gush “That looks great on you” if I really don’t mean it. There is enough self-serving hypocrisy to go around and I’d rather not contribute. On the other hand, I love to compliment people for all kinds of things. Whether it’s  a quality, a trait, or an action that has made my moment, or even my life, a little bit brighter. It is something for which I am grateful and it could be anything:

“I love the way you throw yourself into a book.”

“I can’t believe you remembered that about me!”

“You make the best chili, bar none!”

 “Can anyone rock a cat eye better than you?!”

We are in a constant, reciprocal exchange of thoughts, feelings, and actions -you, me, all of us. Yeah, I know – some of it’s not so great. But a whole bunch of it is truly inspiring, uplifting, admirable.

Compliments conjure up a lot of good, making the receiver feel appreciated and worthy of admiration. Oh, and here’s entrepreneur D.J. Myers, with his to-die-for and much-admired cheesecakes.

And sometimes, our compliment may even light a little light or spark a flame. No hyperbole here. It is what people tell me about the power of a single, thoughtful and sincere compliment. So, the next time you receive awesome service from some company’s “representative,” tell them. Be specific. Don’t hold back. If you’re on a recorded line, (you know, for “quality and training purposes”) even better. Give a shout out to that “rep” by name. Not only will you make their day, you may be the validation they need to be awesome with the next caller, and the next, and the next. Good keeps on giving. That’s simply how it works.

And here’s the thing: when we extend a no-bullshit, sincere compliment, we:

cultivate our own appreciation for others

live a bit more kindly

get out of our own little self for a spell

I am 100% in, putting words to my appreciation and to my gratitude. You know the saying “They won’t know unless you tell them?” Well, sit with that one for a bit. Whether it’s the people you love and care about the most or those in the larger circles in which you live your life, you can be that mirror, the one that reflects your open heart while warming and encouraging theirs.

I am especially focused on being that mirror for young women. I want them to hear it from me, not just some young (or old) cute guy. I want women in general and the young ones in particular to know that I see them, perhaps in a light that is far brighter than the one in which they see themselves. How much would that mirrored reflection have mattered to you? How much does it matter, still?

Use your words, sister. Be that mirror!

Where Have You Been?

I am back in the late 80’s and can see in my mind’s eye the world as I had constructed it then. I zero in on a single, profound memory: I am walking toward my white Toyota Tercel in my professional pumps, my relatively “big hair” and my serious, proud, burgundy briefcase. It was a workday like many before and thousands that would follow.

Except that it wasn’t. For where I was on my journey to self -awareness and self- creation, it was a game-changer.

Walking the winding path to my car, something caught my eye, a shade of green that made my heart stop for a nano-second. You know it; we all do: spring green in all of of its luscious glory, proclaiming “Here I am.” It caught me so much by surprise that I stopped, looked up, and took it all in. The curvy street was lined with maple after maple, a delightful dogwood here and there. Above me, a lacy canopy of green that had completely escaped my attention seemed to whisper “Wake up!”

Getting into my car, I thought Where have I been? The question was loaded and I wasn’t yet ready to take it on. On my short drive to the office, my awe slowly faded as I considered the challenges, the To Do’s, and the plan for the day…and the evening, as I either took a class or sold Mary Kay at house parties after hours.

Where have you been? It’s a soul-prompt I have revisited again and again. Over time, I made that journey down and eventually reclaimed that fanciful girl-child who was fascinated with flowers, birds, turtles and all manner of mysterious, beautiful things. These many years later, as her unburdened, joyful heart beats within, I never, ever, miss spring green.

In the spirit of not missing any wondrous thing, here’s my “summer to fall transition” – a wardrobe of another sort!