Archive for the ‘powerful women’ Category

Sandy

Sandy and I met probably about twenty years ago at church when I first moved to Santa Rosa. However, we didn’t really become friends until she moved in with Harrah around 1994.

Harrah had initiated a little group of seven friends for the purpose of supporting and loving each through all the changes in life that would be coming our way. We called ourselves the seven sisters. I know some people were a bit hurt by our exclusive little club, and we tried to not be so exclusive… but you can guess how well that worked. We did adopt some honorary members along the way.

We all had a relationship with Harrah though not necessarily with each other, though we all were in some way acquainted. Over the years, our little group has evolved. Everyone has moved out of town except for me, which has been a bit painful since I became pretty attached to this wonderful group of women. Hence my fiftieth birthday gift to myself. Most everyone stays in touch with one or a few of the others. Some have drifted away. Some have worked hard to stay close. Harrah is like the Mom who at least tries to stay connected. We all have little gifts we’ve given to each other. Like the Claddagh ring I wear. Everyone has one, but I think I’m the only one who still wears mine. I even wore it at my wedding to symbolize my commitment to hold my friendships close to my heart even as I took vows to my husband. We have taken turns giving each other little men… We’ve had some fun with this one! We’ve had a few reunions, though it’s been quite a while since the last one.

Sandy was Harrah’s housemate and was part of the seven sisters. This is how we started to become close. Then as one by one those we were closest too moved away, and as I got married, Sandy and I began to gravitate more and more to each other. We were involved in several projects together, a marriage workshop called One Accord, The Gap Youth Training, and finally Friends On Purpose.

She was also the girlfriend I would call to go do girl things. She was the one I’d call to help me decorate a room, or go shopping. I’m not a shopper, but Sandy is a master at it. She was a confident and dear friend.

Then… she left me too. Married Paul and ran off to Hawaii. I was her Matron of Honor and sobbed through the entire toast. Sigh…. It really is all about me! When she left, she generously gave to me many of the lovely things she had collected on her many shopping excursions. Beautiful garden pots, art work, throw blankets, etc. I have little reminders of Sandy all over my house.

Steve and I went a few years ago, on my birthday, to Oahu to visit Sandy and Paul. We spent the 4th of July and my birthday with them before heading to Kauai for vacation.

When Sandy and Paul came to Santa Rosa to visit they stayed with us. I came home from work one day, and found Sandy busy in the back yard planting lovely flowers in all the empty pots she had given me the year before. She had purchased the plants, the soil, the mulch, and the fertilizer. I jumped in to help, and she taught me all about how to plant arrange and care for flowers so that they would look fabulous for a long time. All the rest of that summer I had an amazing show garden that made me smile with joy and gratitude every time I visited it. Now, every spring I plant my flowers and think of Sandy – and wish she were here to enjoy the process with me. Everything is so much better when shared with a friend.

Home Decorating

Guest Bathroom at Sandy's

Somehow I seem to gravitate to women who KNOW how to decorate their homes with fabulous art, pleasing color, and homey touches. They seem to have the time, energy, and ability to come up with the money to do it too. I’m sure I’m hoping some of that creative energy will arc over to me.

They each have their own style – Kim has this lean, clean minimalist look – with beautiful and meaningful photo art and paintings on her walls.

Harrah has all this deep rooted family history displayed tastefully all over her house, with a liberal mix of fabulous art. You would think it’s cluttered, but it’s not. It’s interesting and beautiful and somehow all works.

Ever since I met Sandy, when she was living in tiny spaces in Sonoma County, she has shown a knack for pulling colors together, snagging great “finds” in thrift shops, and knowing where to invest in the really good stuff. She has taken this empty house and filled it with color and goodness. I’d show you my own pictures, but why not go with the pro? Our mutual friend Roy Williams visited here in February and took these pictures of Sandy and Paul’s home. Roy is a professional photographer so he really captured it. Take a look and tell me if this one doesn’t belong on the cover of Southern Living Magazine….

Click here for his photo blog. Scroll down to see more of Sandy’s house. Click on a photo to enlarge it. Click the right or left arrows to see other albums by Roy.

Highlights with Harrah

Alasdair Fraser
On Friday, after hob-nobbing our way through a number of gallery openings with Harrah, we went to hear Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas in concert. I first heard Alasdair Fraser in Sebastopol probably twelve or thirteen years ago when Harrah took me to the Celtic Festival. We both loved Irish and Scottish music, we were taking the Scottish Country Dance class, and I was exploring my own Celtic roots. When I heard Alasdair Fraser playing his fiddle I could imagine my ancestors dancing around the hall.

Since Harrah moved away and I got married I’ve let most of my Celtic interests slip into the background as I’ve focused on more pressing matters. Sitting in the theater on Friday listening to this beautiful music with Harrah at my side brought it all back. My feet started moving, my eyes closed, and I was there. At one point I had tears in my eyes. Not sure why, but something deep inside was touched with longing and love for this part of me.

Dawn
Last night we went to dinner at the summer home of one of Harrah’s friends. Her name is Dawn. She was widowed eleven years ago. She and her husband had bought this property together and restored and built the little summer cottage. It’s out on the point of one of the hundreds of peninsulas along the coast of Maine, in the little village of Friendship. I don’t know if there’s a Country Cottage Living Magazine, but if there is, this place would be on the cover. Here are a few pics I took – ‘cause I couldn’t help it.

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We stayed there until almost midnight, out on the screened porch, watching the sun set behind the island across the bay. There was the boom of nearby firework displays put on by benevolent neighbors. We talked about our own evolving spirituality, aging, community service, the old New England Culture vs. the New, the struggles of the poor in Maine, real estate, politics, marriages with large age differences. It was comfortable and beautiful. I could have stayed there all night.

Barbara

 

Harrah and My New Friend Barbara

 

On Friday morning Harrah got a phone call from her friend Barbara inviting her to bring her friend (that’s me) to her home for breakfast. In the summer, Barbara rents a garage apartment overlooking Rockport Harbor. We had a delightful visit out on her deck, with scones and coffee and fruit. We were there again on July 3 to watch the fireworks from her deck. This morning Barbara picked me up and took me to breakfast at the Maine Media Workshop. When Barbara turned fifty she gave herself the gift of attending a photography workshop here. Now she’s in her seventies and is on the Board of Directors of this elite school for photography and film making. She gave me a tour and introduced me to some of the staff. She has had her work shown in the Portland Museum of Art and is publishing a book of some of her photography.

We chatted a bit about marriage, divorce, and coming into your own. She and her husband split up after raising their children. She wanted to pursue her art, continue her education, and grow as a person, and he wanted her to stay the same as she had always been. He mocked her attempts to educate herself, but she went anyway. She said that all she needed was some encouragement and support from him, even if he didn’t participate. But she felt he resisted all her attempts to grow. Now she’s alone, and pursuing the life she always wanted to pursue. But she’s sad that he’s not there to share it.

 

 

I’m grateful for my husband. From the beginning of our relationship he has supported and encouraged me to expand my interests, increase my education, and do this trip – without him. It’s common at fifty, at least for us women and maybe for men too, to re-evaluate the direction of our lives, the choices we have made, and what we want to be when we grow up. I know I’m in that process. I hope I can do it with grace and compassion for myself and others. And I’m fortunate to have a husband who supports and loves my crazy adventures. I wish for you the same joy.

The Yellow House

 

 

Harrah bought this house nine years ago. It was originally built in the 1800s, and has undergone one remodel before her. Now she is completing an expansion, pushing the kitchen out into a “great room”, including dining and living areas. It’s bright, sunny, and reflective of Harrah’s eye for design and color. When I arrived on Thursday evening, cardboard still covered the new birch floor, dust and tools were everywhere. John the builder was working hard. He’s been racing to get it all done before I came. Almost made it.

 

After

 

On Friday, while we were out gallivanting, John finished up some of the clean up, picked up the cardboard, and loaded up his tools. When we got home, I helped Harrah move furniture into the room. It has been a huge overwhelming project for her.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of the original mess, or the cleaned up empty room. I did finally take some after we moved the furniture in. I also took some of the boxes of kitchen stuff that has been filling her hallway waiting. It’s been fun to be part of this bright new transition for her.

 

Dinner and a Movie

 

Thriving in Your Tribe

When Harrah first moved to Maine, many of us worried about her. She was leaving her community in California, and heading off to unknown parts. She had quit her job at Pomegranate, a publishing company, put her stuff in storage, and loaded up her Miata. Her son Seth flew out from New York and drove her to the East Coast to find a new home. For all the years she had lived in California, she was never really at home. She’s an East Coaster and nothing could change that. Not even those of us who loved her so much. She visited family and old friends and began exploring up and down the New England coast. Somehow she landed in Rockport, Maine,  rented a cottage across the street from Camden Harbor, and a year later purchased a lovely little yellow house nestled in the woods.

Now, ten years later, she is thriving in this little creative community. She’s a successful freelance book designer and publisher, and literally every place we go she is hailed by people who know and love her. I’ve lost count of all the people she has introduced me to. I’m her friend from California, or “Away” as those of us not from around here are called.

Harrah has given me some perspective on turning fifty. She began this journey of reinventing herself and following her dream when she was fifty-six. She encouraged me to do a little math. I could easily be working and doing and living a full life through the age of seventy-five and beyond. That’s at least twenty-five more years. She asked me to consider all the life I have lived over the last twenty-five years, and to look at having all that time and more still in front of me. Turning fifty is just the beginning – and something to celebrate with excitement and anticipation for all that is coming. Okay. I’m in!

Since my arrival on Wednesday, Harrah’s phone has been busy. Her friends have been inviting us over so they can meet her friend from California. There are more invitations than we can accept. This area is a thriving creative community, and most of Harrah’s friends are artists of some kind and range in age from 20 to 90. The conversations are deep, enlightening, and fun. There are numerous art schools here, loads of galleries, and interesting creative people who love to congregate, sip wine, and talk about art and politics. Their homes are beautiful, with stunning views of the harbor. Harrah has found her tribe and she is thriving in it. It makes me happy and helps me to better understand why she had to leave California.

Here are some photos of some of our adventures since I arrived.

At a Pub in Portland

At a Pub in Portland

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Street Musicians in Camden

Street Musicians in Camden

Lantern at Camden Harbor

Lantern at Camden Harbor

Harrah Chatting with Friends in Camden

Harrah Chatting with Friends in Camden

Camden Yacht

Camden Yacht

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Twilight Schooner in Camden

Twilight Schooner in Camden

Call From Sandy

Call From Sandy

Open House at Camden Inn

Open House at Camden Inn

Duckfat Cafe in Portland

Duckfat Cafe in Portland

Harrah in Camden

Harrah in Camden

Harrah

It has been a few very full days since my last post. I would wear you out (and me too) if I tried to write it all down now. So, I’ll give you little bits each day to catch you up and fill you in on this beautiful part of my journey.

First, a little background:

Fawn & Harrah & Booger the Cat in 1995

Harrah & I met briefly at church one day in 1992. A few weeks later, I met her mom. Turns out, her mom was staying with her, and I noticed her sitting in front of me at church. The only way I can describe her was strikingly beautiful. She must have been in her late eighties, and she was stunning. Wavy white hair, not quite shoulder length, a solid silver necklace set against clear olive skin, bright piercing eyes, elegantly dressed. I said hello and she began talking to me about her pure-bred racing horses. Her voice had that east coast accent, similar to Barbara Walters. I knew instantly she was not from Sonoma County! I also knew she must be Harrah’s mom. She had that striking elegant natural beauty.

I got to know Harrah some time later. I had just completed the Breakthrough Training, and was on the volunteer team for the next one. One of my duties was to calligraphy names onto popsicle sticks. This is not as easy as it sounds! I was instructed to give Harrah a call, since she had had this job for the previous training, and could teach me how to do it. So I called and one Saturday afternoon she showed up at my door. We spent the rest of the day painting, writing names, and talking, mostly about men and relationships. I was fascinated by her beauty and her perspective. She’s sixteen years older than I am, with a world of experience far different from my own. I always thought of myself as creative, but Harrah was a true artist. A professional graphic designer, educated and knowledgeable about the world. She was in the throws of a painful divorce. She was dealing with her mom’s dementia. We had both just completed this training and were exploring new perspectives on life and relationships.

Over the following months, through mutual friends, our relationship grew slowly. We’re trying to recall when it was really sealed, and neither of us can recall a specific incident that bonded us. All I know is that she became more and more important in my life.

It was a season of great transition for both of us. I was beginning to emerge from my very claustrophobic shell. I believe both Harrah and Kim were sent to assist me in that process. Harrah came from an old east coast family with connections to famous industrialists. Her home was filled with interesting beautiful things, each with a story. The color and texture of her life made my controlled little box feel all the more sterile, small, and oppressive. It made me want to rip out the walls and start decorating my life.

She would call me to go with her to events I hadn’t heard about or ever considered attending: Glendi, the annual Eastern Orthodox festival with food, music, and participatory dancing from Eastern Europe – put on by our local Eastern Orthodox community. I didn’t even know we had one. Then there was the Sebastopol Celtic Festival, rich in Irish and Scottish music and art, with a healthy sprinkling of the old Sebastopol hippy dippy tie-dye patchouli oil culture. She also invited me to join a Scottish Country Dance class with her, complete with Bagpipes, drum, and fiddle. It was great fun, and the new friends I met there encouraged me to get in touch with my Gilmore Scottish roots.

Most of all, Harrah became the wise woman rock I leaned on through probably the darkest time in my life. When I was lost, ashamed, alone, frightened, heartbroken, and disillusioned, Harrah was the friend I clung to. Her wisdom, experience, and compassion helped me step away from my circumstances, see the bigger picture, and find hope that this too shall pass. She was a safe harbor in a terrible storm.

She moved to Maine a month before I married Steve, but she flew back to be in my wedding. We spent the third week of our honeymoon at a friend’s guest house on Chebeague Island in Maine. Harrah came out and met us one day, made us a lobster dinner, and brought the cheer and love of home and friendship to this beautiful spot.

It’s been almost ten years since I was married and she moved away. We’ve seen each other a few brief times over the past decade, but this visit is all about quality time.

I’ll share more about life here in Maine tomorrow. Today, I wanted to catch you up on this most precious friendship.

“A faithful friend is the medicine of life.”
~ Apocrypha

Bad Pets

Yesterday, Kim & I decided to take it a little slow. We’ve been spending every morning in a coffee shop, either Guglehupf or some other so I could post my little blog. Yesterday, I thought we’d be done quickly. I just wanted to upload some of those great pics we took the day before. But NOOOO…. This took longer than anything. In the meantime, we both spilled coffee and made big messes. Oye! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the photos.

After the coffee/photo adventure, I asked Kim to take me back to Cedar Creek Gallery. They have the coolest stuff. I remembered one little item in the “Bad Pets” section that had her laughing so hard when we were there…. I just had to go back and get it for her.
You have to understand… First off is the obvious. Kim is a CAT person. I am a DOG person. Kim has three cats: Oscar, the senior member of the family; Finn, the playful genius; and Lilly, the prissy little girl.

So, having a bad little dog with a cigarette in its mouth, and the word “Bitch” stitched on its butt just seemed appropriate for her guest room.

Secondly, this might reflect a bit of our love-hate relationship.

Remember when I told you that Kim and I first met when she had to tell me that she hated me? Well, since then, we have a bit of fun with it and take turns hating each other.

When we would go camping together, we’d sit by the fire talking. Inevitably some relationship or other would come up. “Sherman likes you better.” “Yeah, but Warren likes you better.” “Well… Jean Marie likes you better.” “Well, you have all these passionate deep friendships.” “Well, you have this whole youth thing going on.” I hate you! This was while smoking those little cigars and sipping something warm and soft that I never thought I was allowed to sip before.

This list would go on. All the things we actually loved and admired about each other would somehow come out as “I hate you because…”

Kim has always been so clear about who she is, what she loves and what she hates. Her clarity would often shock my own fuzzy people-pleasing “likes/dislikes” into stark truth that would surprise me more than it surprised her. Somehow, her complete acceptance of me would make all my pretenses unusable. There was no use pretending with Kim. I hadn’t realized how much I HAD been pretending, especially to myself, until I spent time with Kim.

Being together now is like picking up where we left off. Nothing has changed. Or should I say… she hasn’t changed. I feel more like I can hold my own a bit more with this powerful woman.

This morning, while going on the weekly three-mile sweat walk with her new friends, one of them asked me if Kim has changed since she was a little girl. I haven’t known her THAT long, but I could answer, probably not. She’s the same woman I met seventeen years ago, stubbornly generous, fiercely loyal, compassionate, big hearted, and frighteningly honest. I’m happy for her new friends. I just wonder if they realize what they’ve signed up for.

Last night we had a picnic in Southern Village, this area’s version of our own Windsor Towne Greene. We met our friends here for an outdoor concert of the North Carolina Symphony.

Today, we went with our friends to see Toy Story 3. I cried (Kim did too). I won’t spoil the plot for you, but thinking about it now, I realize why it seemed so moving.

When Kim left California, I felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest. I also see now how we have each moved on, made new friends, and had new and separate adventures. But our love for each other is as strong as ever.

She has taught me new lessons. BE who you are, no matter your circumstances. Cherish the people in your life, all of them. Relish every moment. Notice the details. Love beauty and the ones who create it. And never ever EVER lose your sense of humor.

Thanks, my friend. I will miss you. But my heart is staying secure in my chest this time.

Laughter is Good Medicine.

Today, Kim took me around to some of her favorite haunts. i.e. Pittsboro – a strange little somewhat macabre town, with a burned out courthouse, little shops – some with horrors, and a lovely little restaurant/deli, The General Store Cafe where we got beet salad and sweet tea, surrounded by interesting local art. Bought some goats’ milk soap from the young woman who made it from the milk of her own goats.

Then we went to pick up Kim’s mom to take her out for a late afternoon dinner. She was sitting out front as if she was expecting us. “I was wondering if you were going to make it,” she said as we approached. We went in, briefly, so Kim could drop off some diet Dr. Pepper in her apartment and sign her out. We took her to the nearby Nantucket Grill. She ordered the top sirloin – Kim pointed to the picture on the menu and her mom said, “Oh yes. I want that.” Kim and I had salad. I watched in wonder as Kim and her mother would simply look at each other and burst into laughter, both for seemingly different reasons, or for no reason. I wondered how often she gets to have a good belly laugh in the home she lives in. She was having good belly laughs with us and I was concerned that she would inhale her food, she was laughing so hard. Her eyes would light up, she would look at Kim, they would make faces at each other and roar with laughter.

None of our conversation made any sense to me. She noticed the handsome young man sitting in the corner of the restaurant, talking on his cell phone. “Are you paying attention?” she would ask Kim. Mothers never seem to outgrow that question do they? “No, Mom. I’m paying attention to you,” Kim would say.

Looking at me, she said to Kim. “Now you be sure to check her.” What? Check me for what? Don’t get too close or I’ll hurt you! (That’s from me.)

Last time I visited Kim, she and her mom lived in Florida. What was to be a fun holiday for Kim and me together turned into a hospital vigil while her mom had emergency by-pass surgery. Another time, after she pulled through that, Kim’s mom came back for a visit to her old neighborhood in Sonoma County. We spent some time together, without Kim around. She confided in me like I was her oldest friend.

Today, as Kim says, her mother is five years old. I watched my dear friend, who left her life in Sonoma County (I really mean to say, she left ME in Sonoma County… but I don’t want to sound so myopic and self-centered), to go be with her aging parents. Her father passed away soon after Kim moved, and Kim’s siblings are far away. Kim carries the full burden of her mother’s frailty and dementia. It feels crushing, yet….

They look at each other and laugh. And I laugh with them.