Friday, May 18, 2018

Transition Outfits-of-the-Day, Or, "Changing my Clout 'til May Is Out"

Honestly, the weather we're having now makes it hard to believe that two weeks ago, I wore a jacket (Smythe, almost 8 years old) over that upcycled old cashmere V-neck, jeans, and the favourite loafers that now seem too dark and will probably be consigned to the closet for a few months. . .
Can you believe I was even wrapping a cashmere scarf around my neck as well? I scarcely can . . . But I was no longer needing an overcoat, so this qualifies as transitional wear. . .
This outfit, more transitional as the weather warmed, I already showed you on Monday -- Note the bare legs!! A sure sign of change. . .

This next outfit is more of a stretch for me, but I'm trying to get the (J Crew) khakis I bought last spring more into rotation -- and I'm also trying to be more accepting of my middle, to be honest, and of my short waist. . .

I don't wear my jean jacket (Gap, from quite a few years back) often, but it's perfect for this change of season. Those Fluevog loafers are almost exhausted, but I doubt I'll toss them until they fall apart. . .
I was quite pleased with this outfit, which I wore to one of my watercolour classes. The graphic tee is one I bought in Paris last year at La Fée Maraboutée. It reads: "Fée ce qu'il te plait," a play on the French expression "Fais ce qu'il te plait," which means, roughly, "Do what pleases you." It also recalls a verse with the line, "En mai, fais ce qu'il te plait," advising that in May, you can wear what you like, switch to warmer-weather clothes. This is in contrast to "avril" in which "ne te decouvre pas un fil" -- you shouldn't take off a thread of clothing, roughly. Something like our English: "Change not a clout, till May is out." . . .
I'm wearing the T-shirt with a slightly-rumpled linen skirt (J Crew, a few years old), my Vince sneakers (like the Fluevog loafers, these are approaching dustbin time, but I'll wear them until my bare soles scratch the pavement through them . . .
I felt pretty bold adding that leopard-print belt (Michael Kors, over a decade old and delaminating, sadly -- thinking I'll take it to the cobbler's and see if they have a good glue that might give it a few more years life).  I like the way the small amount of print mixes it up with the graphic lettering of the T, and the way a belt always lends a bit more structure, polish even. I think the black of the cashmere sweater and of the shoes helps do the same (the structure and attempt at polish).
My curls, though. . . they are not convinced that structure and polish are the way to go . . .
As you read this, I'll be heading to Paris with Pater, a whole different wardrobe transition underway. One that involves a carry-on-only capsule of garments to get me through late May and most of June in three different countries. I've packed more linen than ever before, thanks to a pre-Birthday Shopping Spree at Eileen Fisher last week (a Big Birthday Gift from Pater), so watch for photos of Me in Wrinkled Clothes in front of Impressive Architecture. . . 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Authenticity at a Certain Age -- or The Authenticity OF a Certain Age. . .

First of all, because this is such a busy pre-travel week for me, I'm going to spread this thinking out into three posts -- and the last one is likely to be delayed a bit with our flight at the end of the week.  Still, I hope you'll read along and perhaps join in with a comment or two. . .
No connection with my theme -- although this pink tree poppy is authentic> I snapped the shot on an evening walk with my husband last week. . . 

So. . . Authenticity. Fairly big word. Even bigger concept. And for whatever reason, I've had it come up in conversation with several friends recently.

(Please excuse an aside, but you'll remember me fretting about how my friendships would be affected by this move to the city, away from my island. Turns out that, while new friendships are still elusive in my urban environment, I've found some really satisfying social situations, opportunities to meet and engage -- authentically, even --  with interesting, compatible women. More on that someday, perhaps, but meanwhile, I'm surprised at how sustaining and sustainable are the friendships with women who live elsewhere. Turns out the distance works differently on a friendship than it did when I had four kids in school, was working and taking courses and email wasn't yet a thing. . . .)
Growing in the same community garden, another tree peony, opening to reveal its authentic essence. . . .so intimate. . . 

The first explicit reference to "authenticity" that caught my attention was from a woman I've become close friends with since just around the time we listed our house for sale. We'd known each other for a year or two (mutual friends; took a watercolour class together - six weeks of Wednesdays), but not until a couple of months before our move did we arrange a coffee date. Then lunches then extended into another glass of wine because we were catching up on life narratives, filling in the back stories, comparing travels, talking about books. . .

I don't remember her using the word "authentic" at the time, but when we had lunch a month or two ago, she used it in the context of friendship -- and acquaintance, I suppose. I'm nervous to paraphrase -- she's likely to read this, so perhaps she'll help set the record straight -- but if I remember correctly, she was speaking of how clear this stage of life makes us about what's important, about how we want to spend our time (not just the minutes, hours, and days, but the years we know are limited) . . . and with whom. And this is what I hope I remember correctly: My friend is lovely and warm and open to meeting new acquaintances wherever, but what she insisted on during our walk to lunch was that she saves the best of her social time and energy for those who are "authentic," who are able and willing to be themselves in her presence.

Does this conception of "authenticity" and its connection to friendships resonate with you? Do you find that you're less willing to spend your time with those you find less sincere or authentic? Not that you expect anyone to be completely transparent, but perhaps that you're less interested in, less patient with, dissembling or guardedness. . .  Nor do you want intense and/or authentic engagement in all social situations -- sometimes I think we're relieved, if not glad, to maintain some superficiality, as long as it's comfortable, fairly mutual, not brittle. But are you like my friend (and me, I must say), increasingly careful of how you spend your time, not wanting to squander too much time in relationships that don't feel genuine?

That's all I have time to write today -- there's the sweetest baby to cuddle, and his Big Sister will be home from preschool soon, wanting some book (or seven!) to be read to her.  Next post will feature those transitional spring outfits I mentioned the other day (although the transition has well and truly been made now, it seems). After that, I'll pick up this topic by telling you about the second instance in which a friend mentioned "authenticity," giving the concept a slightly different twist. . . I'm curious to see if we can build a conversation around this, whether the word's been showing up in your hearing as well. . . .Let's talk. . .

Monday, May 14, 2018

Nana and the Really Big Number of Candles on the Cake. . .

I don't know about you, but I didn't expect this stage of my life to be quite so busy.  It makes me think about how much got swept aside, tabled, pushed to the back burner -- all the idioms, in fact, and interesting that the ones that spring to mind are so kitchen-oriented -- in deference to work. . .
The weekend's doings? Over three hours dedicated to a mission to repair my iPhone, which turned into a decision to replace it, which then turned into an extended negotiation with our mobile service provider to get the best deal on a two-year contract.  Ugh! But at least I have a new phone with decent storage and battery life -- and a plan with ample data -- to take on our travels, which begin this Friday.

Then opera Saturday night -- a great production of a contemporary opera, The Overcoat (based on Gogol's short story). Very entertaining and thought-provoking; a good way to close out the season.

And then Sunday morning, not long after I'd finished my gym workout downstairs, my family completely surprised me with a joint Mother's Day/Happy Birthday Nana brunch, right in our condo -- where, I hadn't noticed, Pater had filled the fridge with three dozen eggs, a dozen breakfast sausages, orange juice, Prosecco -- all the good stuff!

The Littles had chosen some sweet small gifts (a pop-socket for my new phone, courtesy of a Nine who knows about the latest tech aids; and a small star-shaped silver trinket box, just the right size for my hearing aids -- a Five had noticed that I like to store these on my night table, so thoughtful; the Three's contribution was the heartiest Surprise! plus his reluctant willingness to wait until after frittatas for me to cut the cake).

Of course, the best presents was the Presence of my loved ones (I wish all of them could have been here, but two of the four families is not bad!), especially the generosity of my daughters in giving up their own Mother's Day breakfasts-in-bed to humour the guy who thought I deserved a surprise gathering for a Really Big Number of Candles! (my birthday's not until Thursday, but he co-opted their Mother's Day with no shame ;-). . . And my beautiful sons-in-law who brought a salad and a wonderful Pavlova-inspired cake. . .

Sunday evening, as I write this, Pater and I are mooching on the leftovers and thinking about the week ahead -- a quick jaunt over to the island to see our son's family, and then back to finish packing and readying the condo for those who will be here while we're away (all those lists!!).

But I'm still thinking about that post on Authenticity, so I'll be back here again tomorrow with a few observations.

I've also uploaded some photos of Almost-Spring outfits I wore over the last few weeks, and I'll post those this week as well -- although we've leapt into sustained sunshine in the low 20s, so I'm in dress rehearsal now for the even warmer weather we'll be enjoying in Croatia next month. . .

One of those transitional outfits I'll be posting about later. Last week, I needed the jacket walking to meet a friend for coffee; today, not only would it -- and the scarf -- have been superfluous, but the dress would probably have been too warm. . . 

As well, I do remember that I offered, quite a few weeks ago, to say something about how we choose train destinations and routes, and how we book and buy our tickets. Since then, however, all my carefully made plans have been thrown into disarray by the SNCF (French rail) labour action -- turns out that each of our train travel days falls on a day designated for possible strikes or slowdowns. I've decided that I'll wait until we have this challenge behind us before I offer my experience here. Meanwhile, cross your fingers for us, would you?

First, though, that jaunt to the island to cuddle a chubby little guy and his big sister. . . Busy days. . . Happy days. . .

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hello! Happy Friday! (Or: One Way to Wear a White Cotton Skirt)

 Much as I love spending time with you here at "the Blog," my manuscript is demanding five hundred words from me this morning, and if I don't prioritize those, there will never be a book. . . (there may well never be a book anyway, but at least I should string the words together and see what happens, right?).

 It's a bit frustrating, because I've been mulling a topic I want to discuss with you, but I tell myself to be patient -- First the manuscript's 500 words, then I can get back here to chat about Authenticity. I know! Big topic! Worth creeping up on, perhaps. . .

For today, then, just this quick wave, explanation, and a What I Wore. The navy cashmere sweater is the same model as the one whose felting, pilling, and holes I embroidered over and showed you here. That one was such a staple in my wardrobe that when it got too worn, I bought a replacement. Combined here with a textured white cotton skirt (J. Crew, two years ago -- I'm crazy about its comfort), white Arizona Birkenstocks, and a Club Monaco silk scarf I've had for a few years.
And now, much as I love your company, I'm going to click "Publish," and then immediately open my Word file before I try any other procrastinating tricks. Of course I'll be back before long to read any comments you might leave. . . Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A (Short, Short) Story on Wednesday . . .

 I'm going to stick with the random this week, it seems.  Today, with bread-baking (yes, I made the dough on Monday, but it was fermenting in the fridge since then, popped in the oven early this morning) and itinerary-confirming behind me, coffee with a friend later this morning, and a massage at the hands of my Registered Massage Therapist daughter this afternoon, I only have time to show-and-tell you a very short story of an early morning walk. . . an empty chair. . . a little boy who doesn't sleep in . . . a neighbourhood park with a cool name. . . (the park has a sculpture of a man, reclining, and locals have long referred to it as Dude Chilling. . . Parks Board finally acquiesced)
 The story also includes dew. . . too much dew for a little guy to sit on if he wanted to keep his pants dry. . . which, apparently, he did. . .
 It's clearly lived a life, this chair. Who dragged it out here? Do they hope it will be adopted? Did they sit on it for a while with a book? A guitar? Three and I considered all the possibilities. . .
 But then someone's morning hunger grew fiercer, he remembered the promise of pancakes at a diner, and we left the chair to its own devices. . .
The pancakes, by the way, were very good. Having this guy to myself at 6:30 in the morning, sharing my bacon with him, and then my toast, while he mostly ignored the majority of his pancakes (on which he'd had me pour a very generous serving of syrup). . . .that was the treat, for me. I was the first to teach him how to hold a knife and fork to cut pancakes, a bonus!

That's all for Wednesday morning, except that I want to say, after reading comments on Monday's post, that I wish we weren't so quick to call ourselves lazy. And to wonder what that's about, and how we might reframe. . . Perhaps we could think of being fallow -- apparent "laziness" as productive. . . .

Oh, one more thing: If you're intrigued by the image of an empty chair, especially when found in an unexpected place, you might check out the #emptychairsproject posts on Instagram.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Busy Days, Lovely Days, Lucky Me!

As you'll read below, I've got a bundle of activities I'd really like to fit in today. One of those is my Monday blogpost, but I was fretting a bit about what I could manage in the time I have. Not sure what you'll think of this solution, but I decided just to share a reasonably typical Random Day of Retirement.. .

What I've Done Thus Far Today:
-- Worked Out in the Condo Gym
In case you're curious, here's the Warm-Up I did today, as designed by my trainer:

  1. 500 meter row
  2. Side lunges-10 a side
  3. Body weight squats-20 reps
  4. Bird Dog- on hands and knees extend the opposite arm and leg until straight-hold for 1
    count-then repeat-10 reps a side
  5. Plank on BOSU or stability ball-hold 30 seconds-1 min
  6. Shoulder mobility on the Stability ball-thumbs down and go behind head and swoop back
    to the start-5lb-10-15 reps
And here's the day's Circuit, of which I did 2 sets:

  1. Squat w/ 1 arm cable row-squat first then pull as you stand-keep your shoulders back and push through the heels as you stand-15 reps a side
  2. Reverse lunges (12-15lb)-hold a dumbbell at your chest (hands on black sides)-15 reps a side
  3. Up and overs on the rower-keep the weight in your heel-10-15 reps a side
  4. 1 min row-as fast as you can
  5. Lateral jumps-2 there-one back-6-8 reps a side or just normal lateral jumps for 15 reps
  6. Single arm chest press on BOSU or Stability ball-keep hips up high and your abs tight
    (10-15lb)-12 reps a side
  7. Reptile abs in a plank position-keep 10 reps a side
  8. Kneeling triceps extensions on BOSU-keep your shoulders back and abs tight
    (10-12lb)-12 reps side
  9. Dumbbell deadlifts-nice flat back as you go down-be sure not to look down or your
    shoulders will round-think about hinging from the hips and letting the knees bend a small bit at the bottom (15-20lb)-12 reps
  1. Dumbbell wide plie squats tapping the weight to the ground each rep-feet wide and toes turned out to 45 degrees (20-25lb)-12 reps
  2. 1 min run at incline 5 speed 5 mph
  3. Vsit med ball core rotations on floor or bench-knees in the air and pull the deep core
    muscles in while you rotate (8lb)-10-15 reps a side
Almost as much of an achievement as becoming fit enough to do the circuit now, for me, is simply learning the terminology. It's all very well to do the exercises under my trainer's supervision at her studio, but then to be able to remember what means what when I get back to my own gym? Well, that's been a whole separate learning curve. . . I feel very fortunate that I've had such encouraging, fun, patient, and supportive guidance.

-- Measured and Mixed my bread dough. . .

What I'm Doing Now:
-- Well, Duh, Writing this Blogpost. . .

-- But I'm Multi-tasking, doing the writing in the half-hour periods while my bread dough "autolyses," and, later, while it rests (again for half an hour, then an hour) in between my folding it. .

What I Hope To Do Later:
-- Write for an hour on my long-form project.
-- Sketch
-- Spend 10 or 15 minutes on my German practise (Duolingo) and 5 or 10 on French.
-- Book the bus to get us from Lyon to Strasbourg a few weeks from now -- there's a very good chance SNCF (French train system) is going to let us down thanks to a job action which will render our train tickets useless. . .
-- Get more serious about packing, now that our flight is less than two weeks away. . . So far, I've begun putting aside likely garments, but it's time to start making some decisions. . .
-- Run a few errands: pick up a travel adaptator to replace the one I left in a socket in Paris; restock my favourite loose tea; and check out a travel yoga mat or two (my daughter recently qualified as a yoga instructor, and hopes to lead a few "classes" for family when we gather in an island waterfront house in Croatia next month).
-- Read

Would you believe this list is not complete? Of course you would! You have equally long lists of your own, I'm sure.  By now, you'll probably have noted that everything on my list today is a voluntary activity, some of them indulgently creative. I'm very fortunate, I know. But still busy, right?

So now, if you're willing, you're very welcome to share your list for today or give a rough idea of your typical Random Day. If retirement's still only a dream for you, perhaps you might tell us whether any of this list resonates with you or whether, instead, you're quite sure your retirement days will look quite different.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Five Things Friday -- Creativity and Visual Inspiration

I'm on school drop-off duty this morning (honestly, it's a pleasure rather than a duty, and I volunteered), and then a doctor's appointment directly after, so this will be quick.  Just thought I'd share Five places I've found creative visual inspiration lately.

1. Above, the Nine and I made an after-school outing to the same Takashi Murakami exhibition that I'd visited recently with the Five. Such fun, and so fine to see how much patience and critical discernment the Nine has developed since I began visiting the gallery with her when she was about five. That discernment was quirkily, if not comprehensively, represented by her wry comment, "What's with all the barfing?" Overall, she loved the detail, the narrative possibilities in each stunningly intricate panel, the colour -- oh my, the colour! Show ends this week at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but if you ever have a chance to see Murakami's work -- run!

2.  I always find so much creative energy in the garden -- and the tranquility needed to recharge as well.

3. Walking in my urban neighbourhood and the surrounding areas. I found this marvellous red-painted brick wall in a nearby industrial area -- and, of course, it made me think of that yellow wall I loved in Portland. It would be fun to "collect" primary-colour painted brick walls in photographs, wouldn't it?!
 I'd love to know who chose the paint colour -- how considered was the choice? Was their thought given to congruity with that lettering on the "John and Murrary Motors" building to the left? (And how about the serendipity of that red vehicle parked to the right, partway down the block?)

4.  At home, we recently hung these three delightful bird portraits, each of a bird that has visited our urban-condo bird feeder.


 These are splendidly detailed, hand-embroidered on a felted surface by the textile-artist daughter of my very good friend -- I've known the artist since she was born, but it's not simply that bias that has me raving about her work.  Browse her Instagram feed to see more examples -- gorgeous stuff!
5. And then an example of my own modest attempt to develop skills that will let me express my own responses to all the visual stimulation I find out in this beautiful world, troubled though we may often find it. . . This is a work-in-progress, begun in watercolour class yesterday morning and currently sitting on my dining table, waiting for the next layer. . .

Once again, I have to leave running. . . hope you enjoyed this little survey of the way Art finds its way to me. Perhaps you might tell me where your eyes have enjoyed either resting or being woken up lately. How have you fed that creative urge? Even if you never put pencil to paper in response, I believe there's art in the observation, in the appreciation, don't you?

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