Gina Hyams Author

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Patrice Wynne Interview: San Miguel de Allende Expat Entrepreneur on Doing Business in Mexico, Beauty, Aging, and Love

Inspired by the colors, exuberance, and traditions of Mexico, Patrice Wynne created Abrazos featuring San Miguel Designs, her boutique in San Miguel de Allende and production company designing textile products, which are handmade by local seamstresses working in fair trade conditions. Her collection has grown from a line of aprons to kitchen wares, handbags, baby bibs, dresses, men’s shirts, and more, selling all over the world—from Paris to Beirut to Mexico City. She uses fabrics patterned with Mexican cultural icons, such as Frida Kahlo, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), lucha libre (Mexican wrestlers), cacti, and chili peppers that characterize what she calls “the fiesta of life in Mexico.”

baby-10

Expat Entrepreneur Patrice Wynne (2016 photo on right by Kate Frank Cohen)

Gina: Where are you from?

Patrice: I was born on October 5,1951 in Pottsville, in upstate Pennsylvania, but consider Minersville, a town nearby, where my grandparents lived, as my heart home or place of true birth. This is anthracite coal mining country. Both my grandfathers were in the coal mines, one as an executive, the other as a child miner.

Gina: Where all did you live before moving to Mexico?

Patrice: I have had the good fortune of living in tremendously wonderful cities and small towns all over California before moving to San Miguel in 2000.

Gina: What sorts of work did you do before moving to Mexico?

Patrice: I got my training in business and management as a young executive at Fotomat, the drive-through stores in shopping centers all over the US. Over my ten years with the company, I managed 500 “fotomates” [employees].

Fotomat

By the time I quit, I was ready for a huge change, so I took six months off to travel around Europe and ponder my future:  in my late twenties and in a soul crisis. I was interested in becoming a Unitarian minister because it had saved me from corporate America’s grip and seductions. Since I was nervous about public speaking, I decided to get my degree in women’s studies not knowing what I would do, but fascinated by all of the writings by and about women of the 70s and 80s. I just followed my passion.

In college, I was the co-founder of the Rising Spirits Cafe at the Ecumenical House of San Francisco State University and I started the Amnesty International group at SFSU, specializing in Latin American human rights. The Cafe sponsored readings by authors, conversations with professors, poetry readings by Vietnam Vets and organized large scale events for the nuclear freeze movement. It was important political work, but psychologically very challenging. When I graduated I took that summer off to heal in nature at the Ojai Foundation. It was there that I was invited to open their bookstore. I discovered that I loved being in the book world, and opened my own bookstore, Gaia, a few years later in North Berkeley, where I was living.

Patrice at Gaia Bookstore in Berkeley, California

In the beginning, I spoke to other booksellers to learn what I could from them about the business. Without exception they thought it was a tough field and strongly challenged me on my area of specialty, women’s spirituality, not feminist studies, but women’s spiritual processes, religion, psychology and health. I forged ahead, and rented a small space that was so tiny that we never bothered to alphabetize our books, we just put them wherever there was a space on the shelf. In retrospect, it seems like a wild idea, but I was committed and had a ton of contacts and put them all to good use. We flourished, growing into a large store with 25 employees and expanding into other areas of interest, all with a focus on the human spirit. We became nationally known for our nightly author readings; I hosted 3,000 events during my career. When we closed under extreme financial duress from Barnes and Noble and Amazon, I told the world, that I would never ever, under any circumstances, ever open another retail store.

Gina: What skills did you learn in your previous work that came into use when you started Abrazos?

Patrice: Audacity, confidence in myself and my vision, originality in concept and design, people management, mentoring and leadership training, importance of novelty and the new in retail business. Again, I heard the same things: “Oh, you can’t succeed, you are too specialized, it will take over your life.” Blah, blah, blah. I did it anyways, and although there have been times when we barely survived, we are growing for the last three years and I am optimistic about our future.

A few of Patrice’s many San Miguel Designs products

Gina: What new skills did you need to learn to do business in Mexico?

Patrice: Listening to and observing the subtle cultural cues in Spanish that differ from English; tolerance for differences in banking, regulations, tax collections, border crossings, importations; manufacturing complexities; and most importantly, the expectation of courtesies and respect at all times. For example, always asking customers and employees how they are doing before leaping into the question on your mind.

Gina: How good is your Spanish?

Patrice: Functionally conversational, but not fluent: good enough to speak to employees all day long; good enough to go to Mexico City every week in search of supplies; good enough to manage a tour business which I did before I opened Abrazos. I cannot carry on a lengthy intellectual discussion on complex issues, or spend an entire night over dinner and understand the conversation if it was all in Spanish.

Gina: How many people do you employ now and what are their jobs?

Patrice: I tell people that we have one hundred seamstresses, but we really only have thirteen, however when you hire a Mexican woman you are hiring her children, her neighbors, her family, and extended family, since everyone helps her and everyone wants to work, too. Abrazos has a talented, professional team that manages the retail and wholesale responsibilities. Since we have two businesses out of one location, it takes a lot of coordination and superior communication and teamwork to operate smoothly. Our business manager, Aaron Leon, has been with us since we opened; Samantha Nogueda is the Abrazos store and production manager and marketing genius; Gaby handles social media coordination; and Lorena is the general assistant who does everything and more to keep the store beautiful and merchandise ready for sales.

San Miguel Designs longtime seamstresses

Gina: What sort of advisors do you have on your team?

Patrice: I have an accountant that we are in contact with all the time, a lawyer who I talk to about once a year, and a Mexico City woman taxi driver who also runs errands for us in the City since our biggest clients are located there.

Gina: What and/or who are your design inspirations?

Patrice: Anything to do with fair trade and slow fashion, so mostly other small-scale designers and creators. I find videos and working cooperativas on Facebook that move me. I am not inspired by anyone in the fashion or manufacturing industry.

Gina: Do you have any personal and/or business role models?

Patrice: I am most inspired by Frida [Kahlo] in spirit, fierceness, individuality, Mexicanismo, and passion.

Gina: What gives you the most pleasure about running your business?

Patrice: Seeing the women come in every day for work with their children and their mothers; watching the brand grow as we are sold in stores and museum shops all over the world; watching the confidence grow in the young women who work in Abrazos. For example, one in particular was very meek when she came to work for us as a housekeeper and now does just about every job with confidence and high performance and speaks up to her controlling father and brothers because she has found her voice and her talents.

Gina: What is the most challenging thing about running your business?

Patrice: Balancing personal time with being the owner/founder. I travel frequently—to open new accounts, to service existing accounts, and to enjoy life all over Mexico with Ernesto. Fortunately, I have employees who enjoy being in charge of the business and are fully trustworthy to manage all the business affairs. From the road, I manage the financial responsibilities, fabric ordering, and off site questions that need attention. The downside is that I am online frequently, but when you’re sitting in a plaza in the Yucatan on an iPad, it’s still a paradise.

Gina: What do you wish you’d known before you launched Abrazos?

Patrice: Opportunity is not the highest value; being part of a family system is much more compelling. Years ago I mentored a very poor young woman who wanted to be her own person. She was my housekeeper, then my assistant, then my store manager. She traveled with me; I left her the business and the house in my will; she was my right hand gal in everything and we were very close. But when her brother and sister were caught stealing from me and I fired them, she had to walk away from it all. Her family would not allow her to work with me, if they had lost their job. Kindness and generosity and opportunities offered do not mean a thing because family wishes always prevail. Family is everything and more in this country.

Gina: What do you think are the most important character traits for being a successful entrepreneur?

Patrice: Focus; kindness and toughness; confidence and humility; and in today’s world, willingness to do shameless marketing, a phrase I coined. You take the point of view “people care and are interested in my life and my work.” You have to be willing to share what you are doing boldly, creatively, and authentically. Professional marketing is no substitute for personal enthusiasm. Marketing skills have to be self taught and exercised confidently, even though your shyer self has all kinds of messages telling you to hide yourself under a blanket.

Gina: How do you stay healthy and keep your amazing energy? Do you exercise or follow any particular diet?

Patrice: Recently I attended a pre-performance talk by Farruquito, the world’s greatest gypsy dancer. When someone asked him this exact same question, we both give the exact same answer: Nothing. PASSION for one’s life and work and “dance” keeps us healthy. This passion keeps us energized, keeps us dynamically engaged with life. However, I do eat modestly, and never overeat, for one thing, because stuffiness makes me groggy. I don’t use any drugs including marijuana, don’t smoke and drink only when dining out.

HOME from FARRUQUITO on Vimeo.

Gina: How would you describe your personal sense of style?

Patrice: Bohemian Mexican Indigenous Contemporary. I wear the Abrazos dresses when I travel because they go over anything and are super comfortable. Natural fabrics, often mismatched, artistic one-of-a-kind jewelry created by friends, indigenous clothing that I adapt to be more stylish. I’m into style, not fashion. Fashion is dictated by businesses and industry. Style is your own artistry. Your body is the canvas; your closet is the palette.

Patrice Style

Patrice Style

Gina: What are your thoughts on aging and beauty?

Patrice: It is a grace and an opportunity to let life show up in your face, eyes, body, and soul. And it’s fucking hard to have a body that aches with joint pain, which is my suffering. But in my relationship with Ernesto, I am lucky to have a guy that is enjoying me as an older woman and adores me just as I am and validates it all since he thinks aging is cool. And it is, basically, as you watch yourself handle things with more gentleness and love. I actually think I am more beautiful now than I was ten years ago and at various times in my life, when I was more stressed and pushing myself harder.

Gina: Please tell me about your wonderful house in San Miguel. Did you build it?

Patrice: I bought the house twelve years ago after renting it for two years. I wanted to make sure that I would enjoy living a twenty-minute walk from Centro. I do, because it is a break from the constancy of traffic, events, tourism, fireworks, and street closings that are the conditions of life in the Historic Centro. Since my store is located there, it is the best of both worlds: I get the pleasures and benefits of tourism as a business and the peace of living in a quiet Mexican neighborhood.

My colonia, Independencia, is a mixed neighborhood, mostly Mexican, with few businesses so few trucks and deliveries, mostly residential, on a hill, with breezes and natural sounds from birds and the wind, as well as the church bells, which we can hear from our bedroom in the mornings and at night. There’s also a mariachi school nearby so I get to hear them play and watch them go by. Love it.

Patrice’s Casa

When I bought the house it was a wreck. Ernesto calls it “the place that Frida came to get ideas.” It is muy Mexicana colorful. I paid a little over US$100,000 and put in another US$50,000. Over the years, I added a rooftop terrace and a landscaped garden where we spend time being restored and secluded. Avenida Independencia, the main entrance to town on this side of the city, is two doors from our house. So we can watch the world go by and the religious processions, which we love to do from our rooftop. Also horses and donkey pass by our house frequently.

Gina: When and how did you and Ernesto meet?

Patrice: I met Ernesto when a friend introduced us three years ago though I had a crush on him a decade ago when he dated a friend. I kept it to myself and never spoke to him, only to my therapist. I was a goner and could not figure out why I was so fascinated by him. After we began dating I understood: he seduced me with his kindness, his gentlemanliness, his Mexicanismo.

Ernesto and Patrice

Ernesto and Patrice

For the full story, see an essay I wrote for the Huff Post called “Reborn On Cobblestones” about how we met. It reveals a lot about me. I let it all out about my fierce independence and the stages of meeting him and letting myself surrender to that love in my sixties.

Gina: What is he interested in (besides you!)?

 Patrice: He enjoys taking care of our home, caring for our darling rescue dog Rudi (notice a theme here?), documentaries, reading thriller novels, hanging out on the rooftop, and napping. He loves the simplicity of life that he can create for himself. We are both huge admirers of each other’s ways and interests and place no demands on each other to be anything but the best we can be: he as a professional napper, reader, and walking retiree; me as a professional social entrepreneur and slow fashion advocate. Our daily activities are a huge contrast, but that unites rather than separates us as we talk about every detail of our days when we are together in the evenings. We share a passion for eating delicious, simple meals, reading, talking about Mexico, music, and traveling all over Mexico. And we both love Facebook and find amusement to read all kinds of things to each other.

Rudi

Rudi

Gina: Have you had a formal public wedding ceremony yet? I enjoyed your wedding dress quest on Facebook. Did you end up buying any of those dresses?

Patrice: I am still collecting wedding dress ideas that I see on Facebook and in stores. Have tried on a few and find that they always look better in theory than in practice. A friend summarized my problem: I can’t decide whether to have ten people or a thousand. I know a city full of people and don’t want to leave anyone off the guest list that I have known all these years. However, a wedding of ten is not my dream since my first marriage was a small one and I never felt that I celebrated enough. As you can see I am stumped, but it will sort itself out over time.

Mexican gowns

Some of Patrice’s potential wedding gowns

Gina: Why do you want to get married rather than just live together?

Patrice: We want to be married because we love the idea of doing it over again this time around as a married couple with all the lessons culled from living to this age of sweet wisdom. And because we are so much in love, we want to formally proclaim it to the world by a marriage. In some ways, we are both old fashioned about marriage, it is a joyfully public expression of a commitment that just being partners in life does not satisfy.

Gina: What are your tips for a happy relationship?

Patrice: Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly; Nothing is worth fighting over if you can resolve it with forgiveness and a kiss and most everything can; speak up if you are hurt because holding grudges will come out later the wrong way; listening is better than speaking because we all want to be heard; spending quiet times together at home builds intimacy, even if you are both in other rooms doing Facebook—as long as you share stories and read to each other periodically; give each other the freedom to be apart if that is what makes another happy; primarily, enjoy your own company and share as much as you can with your partner whenever you are together.

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Follow Patrice on Facebook at Abrazos featuring San Miguel Designs by Patrice Wynne.

Interview with Kaarin “Pook” Lemstrom-Sheedy of pookstyle gift shop in Chatham, New York

p o o k s t y l e at 2 Park Row in  Chatham, New York, is one of the most charming gift shops around. It’s owned by Kaarin “Pook” Lemstrom-Sheedy, a veteran bookstore and museum shop retailer, who shares space with Park Row Gallery & Framing. She says she’s having the time of her life with the shop and her joy shines through in the gifts she stocks. 

Kaarin “Pook” Lemstrom-Sheedy

Prior to launching p o o k s t y l e in 2010,  Kaarin managed the iconic Scribner Bookstore and Barnes & Noble 128 Fifth Avenue Sales Annex in Manhattan, and she designed and ran museum gift shops at the Whitney Museum of American Art, MASS MoCA, the Mount, and Hancock Shaker Village.

Gina: What defines p o o k s t y l e?

Kaarin: Clean, modern designs from the U.S. and around the world, with a pinch of humor and a dash of whimsy thrown in for good measure. “Pook” is the name my father gave me as a baby, and prior to opening p o o k s t y l e, the only people who called me by that name were my family and very oldest and closest friends, so I had to think carefully about releasing it into the world. Happily, it has been a very pleasant and good experience. I’ve met many other pooks and pookies—both two and four legged! Customers usually ask if they can call me pook once they know what it means, and I always say yes!

My shop has been described (by Rural Intelligence) as a “museum store without a museum” and I think that’s quite fitting; it seems my roots are showing. One of my guiding philosophies, a holdover from my museum years, is the desire to offer “something for everyone” and I therefore have a fairly broad range of price points—everything from a $300 Japanese copper teapot to a “folding ruler” for $6.

p o o k s t y l e offers things that I love, like, and/or believe in. My hope is that others will share my enthusiasms, and so far, anyway, so good! I should also add that at the shop’s core, shoppers will find many Scandinavian products. This “flavor” comes from my childhood in Amesbury, Massachusetts—my Dad was a Finn and my Mom an Olson, so growing up, there were many Scandinavian things in our home.

Gina: What makes a great gift?

Kaarin: Something that the giver feels good about giving—whether it’s because they know it’s just the right fit for the recipient, or because it’s something they have discovered and feel delighted and excited about personally and can then pass that delight along in the giving. 

Gina: What are your thoughts on fun hostess/host gifts?

Kaarin: Things that are attractive, maybe a little out of the ordinary, but also useful. For example, I carry a wonderful line of felt coasters from DAFF of Germany, in a whole range of fabulous colors. I encourage my customers to mix and match—have a little fun and at the same time customize and personalize the gift for your recipient. I carry at all times a variety of delicious Swedish jams—gooseberry, lingonberry, black currant. Always a lovely and tasty offering—and again, most useful. 

Gina: What’s the best gift anyone ever gave you?

Kaarin: When my now husband, then boyfriend, Bob, and I were dating, he gave me a flute one Christmas, something that had been on my Xmas list—along with a harpsichord (hey, a girl could dream!) —for many years. I believe it was a little beyond my parents means to buy me either one, much as they would have liked to, so when I opened that gift on Christmas Day, with my family all around me, my mother and I began to cry! My Mom later said that was when she knew that Bob was the “one for me.” 43 years later (41 wed, 2 dating), I’d say she had it right.

A walk around the shop with Kaarin…

Kaarin: These are Swedish mini Shea butter soaps: lingonberry (lingon), blueberry (blabar), and  cloudberry (hjortron) and Swedish egg white facial soap. I’m very fussy about smells, but I love the fresh, light scent of these Swedish bars. I’ve been giving the egg white facial bar to an 89-year-old friend of my late Mom’s for years, and she swears that it works wonders on her aged skin! Great stocking stuffers, all. 

Kaarin: I love the whimsical design of the B clock—the “B” theme as in bees, birds, and bunnies, the element of surprise when customers realize that it is made of lightweight recycled cardboard. It’s elegance created from everyday, humble materials—love that formula! 

Kaarin: p o o k s t y l e features an ever changing selection of used and rare design books pulled from sister store, Berkshire Books (which my husband Bob helms, and which is located right around the corner at 2 Park Row), as well as one-of-a-kind, unusual, hand-selected titles sprinkled throughout the shop.

Kaarin: A Cabinet of Curiosities at p o o k s t y l e includes rolls of colored cotton string, footed ceramic vessels by Cape Cod potter Frances Kate Johnson, tiny glass vases, angel ornaments from Denmark, red and white Yule candles from Sweden, and felt Moomim purses. On the counter are bundles of the most wonderful, longest-lasting white taper candles from Sweden (which are a p o o k s t y l e staple).

Kaarin: As long as there’s a p o o k s t y l e, there will be rubber stamps and art supplies! This is a terrific new Year of Holidays Stamp Carving Kit from Yellow Owl Workshop, creators and champions of clever rubber stamps of all kinds. There are also handsomely boxed brass key rings from Areaware (old keys being another p o o k s t y l e passion). Color Appeel crayons, ridiculously awesome crayon sticks with fun peel-to-reveal action. The Tea Towel Stencil Kits include two blank 100% cotton tea towels, drawing stencils, and fabric markers. Choose either the veggie or cat motif and have a ball creating your one-of-a-kind tea towel masterpieces! 

Kaarin: A typical p o o k s t y l e mix of fun and whimsical gifts: Melamine portrait plates from London’s National Gallery, classic folding Swedish ruler, brightly colored fabric watches, rubber stamp kits, ink stamp pads in a wide variety of colors, Sturdy cork coasters: choose from We Heart Canada, Chickadee, Snow Shoes. Boxed Cubeots (“a wooden puzzle with a playful personality”).

Kaarin: Here are soft lamb’s wool throws in pink and grey from Klippan, Sweden and a round, ingeniously designed scarf hanger from Japan. The cheerfully colored plastic bins were originally designed as baskets for marketing (veggies in particular stay fresh and intact), but there are any number of uses for these sturdy, light weight containers. I use mine as an elegant guest room wastebasket! 

Kaarin: A delightful tiny village contained in a matchbox. Made in the Netherlands, the 17 wooden pieces can be arranged in endless combinations. A sweet, diminutive stocking stuffer! 

Kaarin: In keeping with my “something for everyone” philosophy, p o o k s t y l e carries a selection of playful and unusual jewelry in a variety of price points. Fun, affordable readers fly out of the store. Available in four different color combinations, many customers buy one of every color and then place them throughout the house, ever at the ready!

Kaarin: These beautiful dreamcatchers are made from vintage Canadian laces. No two alike and they’re available in two sizes. Sweet dreams nearly certain.

Shopping for Folk Art in San Miguel de Allende

Last week, I stopped by my favorite folk art shop in San Miguel de Allende, La Calaca Arte Popular. Owner Evita Avery reports that after 28 years, she’s on the brink of closing shop because business is so bad. This would be a heartbreaking turn of events. Evita has deep knowledge of Latin American folk and decorative arts and her shop is full of antique treasures you can’t find anywhere else. Please check out her fabulous website (she ships internationally) or visit her at Calle Mesones 93 if you’re in town.

Frida Kahlo with Swine Flu Mask Backpack

I found this wonderful gallows humor-filled creation at Akitch, one of my favorite shops in San Miguel de Allende. In trying to find a link (which doesn’t seem to exist) for the shop just now, I discovered that the maker of the backpack has an Etsy shop…he seems to be a savvy expat. I still love the backpack even if it’s not an authentic Mexican Mexican artifact. I’m also a fan of these gringa-designed Virgin of Guadalupe aprons and shower curtains. Ironically, most of the Mexican-themed fabrics she uses for the aprons are manufactured in Japan. My own Day of the Dead Box was once cited by an NYU grad student as an example of the worst of globalization: a book about a Mexican holiday written by a gringa, photographed by a Japanese person (actually, also a gringa), and printed by a U.S. publisher in China. What I can say? It’s a big, big world.

Photo 20

New Year, New Glasses

First things first: Here’s a photo of me in my new glasses. They were designed by Frenchman Cyril Dray of I See GB in Great Barrington and manufactured by Zip+Homme in Japan. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of weeks now and like them very much, even if they’re not magic like my much-lamented former green pair.

My family didn’t warm to them until we toured the Sol LeWitt wall drawing retrospective at MASS MoCA. We were taking in LeWitt’s middle period work, the drawings with the softer geometry and vibrant, not yet screaming color, and Annalena turned to me and said, “You know Mom, your glasses are starting to grow on me.” Dave looked around the gallery, “Yes, they make sense here.”

They seem to be preaching to the choir of good glasses lovers glasses rather than ones that promote world peace by uniting all of humanity with their mystical rightness. So be it. I’m grateful that I can see and that my little New England town is home to such an excellent eyewear shop.

I’m in professional limbo at the moment, having recently drafted a proposal for a new publishing project and waiting to hear what my agent thinks of it. I hate waiting, but love being at a beginning again.

I want to keep the sense of uncharted territory and freshness going with this blog as it enters year two. The more people read my blog (8859 visitors in ’08), the harder it becomes to stay loose with it, but that’s the key.

And since this is my blog where nobody’s the boss of me except me and, as many editors have noticed, I don’t care much about formal transitions…

Dave and I met on January 3, 1989 at New Langton Arts in San Francisco and moved in together three weeks later. I remember telling a friend at the time that our blazing romance was “not trivial.” Here we are 20 years down the road. It’s a miracle and a mystery.

My heart goes out to Ericka Lutz, whose marriage in many ways seems to have mirrored my own. Her husband, Bill Sonnenschein, died unexpectedly over the holidays and she wrote this incredible blog post about it. I don’t know how she found the strength and clarity to write it…except that I do…words are solace.

Mexican Wrestler Christmas Ornament

Happy holidays from Los Hyams-Barrett

Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art carries a slew of wonderful Mexican tin ornaments including this one.

R.I.P. Lucky Green Glasses

My glasses frames sprouted an irreparable crack over the weekend. I called Dave from the Petco parking lot in Pittsfield to report the sad news. He tried to comfort me with “honey, you are more than your glasses,” but I wasn’t so sure. These weren’t just any glasses. They were the best glasses in the history of glasses, or at least the history of my face and glasses.

I found them at Next Eyewear on College Avenue in Oakland six or seven years ago. As I recall, I didn’t really need new glasses at the time and I was broke as usual, but when I tried them on, there was something so extraordinarily right about them, so me only better best self about them, that I whipped out my credit card with the justification: no one will deny me if I’m wearing these glasses…which actually more or less proved true, plus they generated an incredible amount of good will and conversation.

Literally hundreds of strangers, from all walks of life and of all races, thought enough of my glasses to stop me on the street or on the bus or in the spa locker room to compliment me about them. Society matrons. Homeless men. Hip baristas from coast to coast. These glasses helped me learn to graciously accept a compliment. I’d smile like I’d never heard it before, look the person in the eye, and offer a sincere thank you in return.

It’s hard to say what exactly made these glasses compelling to such a wide range of people. All I know about their origin is that they were French and one of a kind. There’s no label on the frames. I just sent the above photo to Next Eyewear hoping that someone there will recognize the designer.

The glasses were subtly spectacular. They did a slow burn. When they caught people’s attention, the design somehow made them look closer. The liquid green pattern, the not quite cat’s eye shape, and the flirty black rhinestones combined with the feng shui of my face in a mysterious way that compelled people to talk to me.

I’m not a particularly fashionable or put-together person and sometimes the compliments felt like compassion…like the people thought: damn that geeky girl got something right, let’s prop her up and celebrate.

These glasses let me walk into any room and know that even though I might not be the smartest or the prettiest or the best writer or the most patient mother, odds were I’d have the best glasses. I will miss that power.

R.I.P. Lucky Green Sweater

Looking through a folder of old digital photos this evening, I stumbled on this shot of Susan, Anne, and me celebrating the almost-sale of Searching for Mary Poppins and S’s and my 40th birthdays at Tabla in New York. I’m wearing the fabled lucky green sweater, which will soon be transformed into a keepsake felted something thanks to Kari of Chixon.

Saskia Larraz Trunk Show at Allium Tonight


I’ve started hand-washing (or rather, machine-washing on the gentle cycle) my dry clean-only sweaters as a cost-savings measure…which is mostly working fine, except that doing so somehow ruined (shriveled up and shrank) my beloved lucky green Eileen Fisher sweater. I bought that sweater to sell the proposal for Searching for Mary Poppins (which linking the title just now, I see is currently selling used on Amazon for a penny…nice) and wore it in the Berkshires to all meetings at which there seemed to be anything important at stake. Now it’s gone and I need a new lucky talisman.

That’s my ever so reasonable and rational business justification for attending Saskia Larraz’s trunk show at Allium tonight in Great Barrington. Don’t you agree that this bracelet is the key to my professional future?

Aaron Neville Kicks Off Holiday Tour at Mahaiwe

Annalena and I went to the mall yesterday in search of a homecoming dance dress (alas, I’m not finding the winning Forever 21 strapless, black and gray-striped, silk bubble dress online to show you…14 year olds are the only creatures with any business wearing such a confection and junior rocks it). Anyway, it’s already Christmas at the mall. Normally, I abstain from holiday music until December 1st, but given the economy, I don’t begrudge the merchants for trying to stir up some early cheer.

I’m also making an exception to the no Christmas music before December 1st rule for Aaron Neville, who kicks off his Creole-spiced solo holiday tour on Friday, November 28st, 8pm at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. Backed by a quintet that features his brother Charles Neville on sax, Aaron’s show will focus on classics from his albums, Christmas Prayer and Soulful Christmas, alongside hits from throughout his five decades-long career. Click here for tickets.

I’m especially looking forward to hearing him sing songs from his recent album, Bring It on Home…The Soul Classics. Aaron says on his website, “These classic songs have been pumping blood to my heart from the first second I heard them. They’ve been a part of my life. Singing them, especially in the aftermath of Katrina, was a deeply spiritual experience. They helped me get through. They gave me hope. And for me, music has always been about hope.”

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