Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Caryl writes: The King of Understated Chic

This past weekend I went to an auction preview, a kind of retirement sale for the dean of American decorators and a man who loved bold colors, Albert Hadley. At 93, Hadley has closed his office and opened the warehouse where he kept furniture and rugs, mirrors and lamps, paintings and porcelain, fabrics for curtains--he never called them drapes-- for his celebrity clientele to "shop". The auctions –the one I previewed was in Hudson, N.Y, the others are at Sotheby’s in New York City, even include a few of his personal items. Among his first commissions, Hadley and his partner—the queen to his king---Sister Parrish—decorated the Kennedy White House. In the years following he included among his clients such bold face names as Brooke Astor, Babe Paley, Annette and Oscar De La Renta, Jacqueline Onassis, Diane Sawyer, even the Duchess of York. A modest man with oversized owl-eyed glasses and a shy demeanor, he once said: “I believe deeply that a beautiful decor can have a beneficial influence on our life.”

Last year I renovated our family loft. This year I am starting to decorate it---slowly, cautiously, minimally--the latter not so much a design mantra as a fiscal necessity. Although I am not quite yet an empty nester, I am looking forward to a grown-up apartment--sophisticated yet comfortable, reflecting my travels and evolving tastes. Mostly what I want to do after a lifetime of neutrals is embrace color, step away from my palette that ran from white (my spring/summer slipcovers) to khaki (fall/winter ones.)

Hadley probably wouldn’t have liked my formerly neutral-colored loft. He said dismissively of the generation of interior decorators that came after him: “They’re all doing beige rooms.” Hadley celebrated color, like the just-right blue hue in his personal library (right). Me? I am terrified of grey. So I went to the auction preview looking for ideas, inspiration . . .courage! There were big chintz-covered sofas ("Deep, downy upholstery is what I've always been about,” Hadley said.), regal canopied beds (not for me), chandeliers (one with whimsical chickens, another all shimmering crystal), mirrors and paintings (though he would leave the walls bare rather than pick out art for his clients). Each item seemed perfectly chosen for what it was—and no doubt for where Hadley had intended it to live. His favorite interior design aphorism? "Suitability. Suitability. Suitability."

I am not sure any of the pieces to be auctioned will work for my less than grand industrial loft but I like the idea of mixing it up. A few things caught my eye—the bright coral mirror (left), and the low estimates for bids made my heart skip a bit. I am planning to go to the auction next weekend. I’m not sure I’ll bid on anything. I’m timid about more than color. If I only I could ask the King for advice. I suspect he would encourage me not to think too hard or too long about what to do with my home: "Make your house as comfortable and as attractive as possible and then go on with living,” Hadley told his fans and followers. "There's more to life than decorating." Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Hadley.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Maryl writes: Get LinkedIn and MeetUp

I may not have mentioned this before but I’m starting my own business after decades of working for a number of corporations.  It’s exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.  I’ve been funding it myself for awhile now but the website needs a major upgrade and I have reached a point where I need to find a funder and/or  partner.  I also need some financial expertise to help me update the start up costs and profit and loss estimates.  
I’ve attempted to do the latter piece of work myself but after a month of excruciating pain and tremendous anxiety, I’ve given up.  I have to recognize that it’s just not my area of expertise and even if I manage to complete the task, how good and accurate will the numbers be.  I have advertising and marketing experience and can easily complete those sections of my business plan but I need to accept that I can’t and don’t need to do everything myself and should delegate …….but for not too much money.  I’ve got to be very discriminating as to how I go after this resource but the big step was admitting I shouldn’t be wasting my time on something that is better farmed out.
There’s no one in my immediate day-to-day network so I went to my virtual one on LinkedIn.  Specifically I left a comment on my profile page and then with the dozen groups of like minded people there that I’ve joined.  Hadn’t done this before so didn’t know what to expect.  Well, much to my surprise over the past week I’ve gotten more than enough responses from some folks I know personally, some I haven’t spoken to in a while and others I’ll never meet face to face.  I received some great ideas and offers, most importantly resources that not only won’t cost me but might actually has some dollars to help kick off my web site upgrade.  Coincidently, I sat in on a webinar today where we learned how to make the best use of LinkedIn to better position ourselves in that social network.  Hint:  it’s all about how you sprinkle your profile with keywords that would commonly be searched when looking for people with background like yours.
But it’s not all virtual.  I also left a comment with my many meetup groups.  Now there’s an idea that counters the number one worry of the internet generation…..that they won’t leave their rooms and interface with live human beings.  Meetup.com is an online community that's organized by various topics and categories and actually gets together live at breakfast, lunch and evening events where seminars, pitches, entertainment and networking happens.  Got more ideas from those contacts and promises to get together at our next meetup.  
There’s something quite refreshing and comforting about being able to reach out to people we might have referred to as strangers in the past and get sincere and seemingly caring responses back.  I didn’t feel that when I worked for those many corporations.  Work was less personal then.  I like this way better.

Please share any successes you’ve had with social networks? If not yet, then try some of these:
     1) You’ve tried LinkedIn already, right?
     2) If you haven’t, try meetup.com
       3) Here’s a list of the top ten social networks for

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Caryl writes: Women Who Write Women

In the last years of the last century, I used to read only female authors --and more often than not living female authors. I was searching for emotional truth and also clues how to lead an authentic life. Women seemed to understand the interior landscape, maybe because women understood Virginia Woolf's explanation that we write (and I'd add, read) to make ourselves whole. Maybe that is why I am particularly sensitive to the gender of the authors of the books I read.
Yesterday in one of my one-sitting marathons, I read the poorly titled but beautifully written "Three Stages of Amazement" by Carol Edgarian. The book-jacket notes describe her second novel as "a grand love story and a dazzling social chronicle of turbulent America today". If Jonathan Franzen placed his much-acclaimed novel "Freedom" in the heady Bush 2 era, Edgarian's story occupies the more recent past: the short-lived hope and change-charged moment of Obama's presidential victory. Edgarian's protagonists Lena Rusch and Charlie Pepper ( Note: Unlike Franzen's narrator, the wife here retains her "maiden" name) are a well-educated, once-optimistic couple who grew up believing the "having it all" script. Now severely challenged by the economic crash and a stillborn baby, change seems to be dashing hope. As Lena tells her childhood friend and now business-partner, Vi: "I know what you're going to say. This middle-aged thing. Did you see it coming? I didn't. Remember when I planned on being governor? Huh, Vi? Instead, I'm living a life that's good for my character. Am I supposed to say it's wonderful?"

"Three Stages of Amazement" is a playbook for contemporary readers who have learned firsthand that the rules of the game have suddenly and irrevocably changed, that the script we trusted needs rewriting but nobody's quite sure what the ending is going to be. Even the young president who ignited our hopes and passions for a better world is so battered by currents events he too seems adrift. As I said earlier the title doesn't do the book justice. Edgarian should have gone with a single word descriptor for her novel as Franzen did with "Freedom" What is called for in this age of the damaged American dream--and what Lena Rusch gracefully and courageously demonstrates in this must-read book- is "Resilience". Author Carol Edgarian delivers the truth and a much-needed clue on how to live. What is needed in these challenging times of earthquakes and wars, nuclear and family meltdowns, economic downturns and job losses is just that: resilience.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2nd Look: Hillary Clinton

Is this not one of the most gratifying photos of a self-fulfilled woman ever?  It’s our never-tiring Secretary of State yesterday on her way to meet with a few Heads of State on a few world crises.  Stunning…..no styling or make-up needed here.  What could be more attractive than a 2nd lifer doing what she is passionate about and finds the most rewarding.  This has got to be what a 2nd life looks like.

One of our first and most memorable images of Hillary is her sitting rather demurely next to her husband being interviewed on nationwide television during his first presidential campaign.  Remember the headband.  Prim and proper….we had no idea what was behind those quizzical eyes and what was in store for her or us.   She took some big unconventional steps during her White House years and some have never let her forget her mistakes.  She didn’t either but chose not to dwell on them and to keep moving in a positive direction.

I was fortunate enough to be at a Women in Communicatons MATRIX awards ceremony where Hillary introduced one of the winners.  It was around the time when she was beginning her campaign for US Senator from New York.  She was running late but got there in time to make her speech fully made up.  She looked quite glamorous, almost too so, but being Hilary, her sincerity shone through despite the false façade.  I think it was the beginning of when she started to appear less skittish about how she was perceived and more comfortable in her own skin.  Clearly I find her amazing and yes because of her looks.  She looks like a woman who has moved out of her immediate area of expertise, who has made some bold moves and questionable risks, failed at some, won at others and is all the better for it in the end as are the people’s lives she continues to affect.  Just stunning!

Any more thoughts or photos of what a woman fulfilled looks like?  Some more ideas from the post:
     1)      Bio of Hillary Rodham Clinton
     2)  Hillary's own story, "Living History"
     2)      Women in Communications MATRIX Awards
     3)      Some headband ideas!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Caryl writes: A Thought, A Definition, A Path, A Commitment

A THOUGHT for March 14 from Offerings: Buddhist Wisdom for Every Day by Danielle and Olivier Follmi:

We may become aware that worldly concerns and distractions keep us trapped in samsara, and we may feel an intense desire to be liberated from it. Then we find ourselves at the meeting point of two paths: one leads to liberation, and the other to the lesser destinies of samsara. Dilgo Khysentse Rinpoche

A DEFINITION of samsara:
Saṅsāra or Saṃsāra (sanskrit: संसार) literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation) within Buddhism, Hinduism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other Indian religions. The word has its origins in the sramanic traditions of ancient India, and is today used in many modern Indian languages to refer to the physical world, or family, or the universe. In modern parlance, samsara refers to a place, set of objects and possessions, but originally, the word referred to a process of continuous pursuit or flow of life. In accordance with the literal meaning, the word should either refer to a continuous stream of consciousness, or the continuous but random drift of passions, desires, emotions, and experiences.

A PATH to a second life:

Put me down for the road to liberation. On Mondays mornings, I am often inclined to drift, to ride the tide of passions, desires, emotions and experiences, the lesser destinies of samsara. On Monday morning, I have to recommit myself to the path less travelled, the one less chosen: I have to turn away from the easier but ultimately less satisfying slow ride of the tide. I have to put aside the worldly concerns and distractions, rise above the cosmic pain of recent global events and the small daily wounds of living. A second life requires intention, authenticity, vigor of both the spiritual and physical kind, even a tough skin. Today I am searching for ways to jump start myself and my week, knowing that the path to liberation is my preferred destiny. Join me. Help me take the first step.

Say these words aloud with me: Today is the first day of my second life. Make the best of the rest.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Maryl writes: And the real winner is……

Meredith Hooper!  Who?  She’s the mother of Tom Hooper who won the Best Director Oscar last Sunday for “The King’s Speech.”  Considering all the award winners who repeatedly thank their mums, this one was really heartfelt.  She led her son to the story filled with all its “humor, irony and thoughtfulness” as she put it.  Four of the top Oscars were awarded this film; a fifth one should have been bestowed on her.  But no problem.  She’s already won dozens of honors and citations for the many scientific, children’s and comical and whimsical books she has written. 

In Everyday Inventions Meredith explored the discovery and back stories behind such innovations as false teeth, zippers, lipstick and cornflakes.  She mixed history and fiction for school children in stories like Who Built the Pyramid? and Race to the Pole.  She was educated and taught at the most prestigious institutions and was the first woman on the editorial board of The Round Table – the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.  But she didn’t indulge in her lifelong fascination of the world's coldest places until the past 15 years visiting and writing on Antarctica.  She has lived there on science bases and research vessels for Australia, the US and the UK.   She was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the US Congress for this recent work. 

But back to the Academy Awards.  While she was probably one of the most prestigious members of the audience that night, we wouldn’t have known about her if her son hadn’t won his Oscar.  How lucky for him and for us. 

This is a new way of bringing art and science together.
  1. Read more about Meredith and her books. 
  2. Read more about women in science.
  3. Oh, go ahead and listen to Tom Hooper gush about his mother!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Caryl writes: Miracle Moisturizer #1

I don't know if you know but in an addition to writing this blog, I am also working on a book about the second lives of women. Those living second lives can be any age but I am focusing on women in their 50s and 60s. The book intends to show readers "how to find joy, meaning and a miracle moisturizer" during those decades. Joy and meaning can be elusive but there are tons of "anti-aging" potions out there with promises of everlasting youth in a jar. Avon recently introduced some new products in what the company calls "the platinum line."  A serum and a night-time moisturizer are the company's first products geared to women over 60, and the spokesperson for the line is Jacqueline Bisset, age 64, an actress with 87 films to her credit and, who last year received France's highest civilian award, the distinquished Legion d 'Honneur. Sounds like a productive first life.

I learned all this while I was exercising in the gym and watching The View. I am not a big fan of the eliptical machine but I can make myself do 60 minutes if I am watching TV.  Sometimes I time my work outs to specific shows (The View, Oprah, Dancing With The Stars) that I ordinarily wouldn't allow myself to watch). Jacqueline Bissett was on The View--and I must say she was the hottest one on the couch. She looked amazing in a simple jacket, short skirt and knee-high boots. Barbara Walters was interviewing her in that heart-to-heart way she likes too. She asked Bissett why--despite many boyfriends and steaming love affairs-- she was against marriage. Bissett said that was true in the past but now that she is in her 60s she would welcome a husband. Bissett believes she is now able to be faithful.

The conversation turned to beauty (in order to plug Avon, coincidentally a View advertiser.)  Bissett said she has never had plastic surgery. "Not a single nip or a tuck," she said. "I've never even used Botox." She also admitted she only washes her face at night (not in the morning). Walters pressed her on why she didn't go under the knife. Bissett replied: "I've never seen any woman who looked better after a face lift, have you?" Everybody got a little squirmy on the couch because Walters herself is no stranger to plastic surgery. Bissett quickly moved on praising the properties of the Platinum line. "I like being my age," said Bissett who admitted to coloring her hair and having had some work on her teeth. "I just don't like to look it."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Maryl writes: Free Work

I helped a friend last week with an auction to raise money for the non-profit she runs.  In fact I’ve got another one to attend tonight organized by a woman from my entrepreneur group.  Last week’s event was for a cultural exchange program to help underprivileged young adults who have a passion for media in the USA and France.  My friend created Eurica Media Lab to foster global understanding and communication.  She started it after she was let go from her last corporate job and decided to combine her knowledge of media (she was a former film maker) with her familiarity of the French and American cultures (she has homes in both countries). 

Tonight’s fund raiser supports the Partnership for Student Advancement.  It provides high school students in NYC with counseling, training, internships and a lot more to help them identify and pursue a career path.   My fellow entrepreneur left a corporate job too but was a teacher before that and guided her own five children through the city’s school system.  Her passion has always been to help minority students as inspired by her husband who did the same through his law practice.

Both these women don’t do this work for the money.   They aren’t currently taking any salary not to say they wouldn’t like to at some point.  Who wouldn’t in this economy.  They do it because it makes them feel good and allows them to combine their skills and knowledge and use them in a new direction to help fix a problem.  They studied up on all the particulars of starting a company, gathered a board of directors and started making contacts, in this case to ask for money.  I have great respect for both of them.

It’s interesting to note that both of them did not come from former especially lucrative professions.  You don’t have to be sitting on a pile of money to follow your own dream to create dreams for others.  Although I do have another friend who was the head of a large financial exchange and who’s now the chief of staff for the mayor of a good-sized city with a large low-income population.  She earns a single digit salary -- $1 a year -- at that job.  I admire her also.

Any ideas for a non-profit company of your own? 
     1)       Check out Eurica Media Lab
        2)      And Partnership for Student Advancement
        3)      Start learning how to start your own non-profit