Fiesta Ware: The Ultimate Color Coach

The title of my blog is Be Brave. Lose the Beige. While my blog is not just about color (although most men who hear the title of my blog think it’s about make-up or fashion), I am pretty crazy about colors…all colors, the more the better. So it may not come as a surprise that I love Fiesta Ware. Fiesta Ware is a line of dinnerware in a rainbow of colors, which flooded into homes during the Great Depression.  In 1936, William Wells thought America’s spirits needed a boost.  He went to his designers and said, “This is what’s going to be good for the Depression:  People need to brighten up their table, people need something to be happy about.”  And that is how Fiesta got started. (A wonderful episode of CBS Sunday Morning detailed the history of this company. Click here to see the episode.) Fiesta Ware

I stumbled upon a set of authentic Fiesta Ware at a recent yard sale. I was thrilled, and amassed a collection of plates, bowls, and mugs in vibrant saturated multi-colors.

garage sale fiesta ware
garage sale fiesta ware

There was such abundance I bought cups and saucers for my daughter, mugs and bowls for my son and his wife. It was s much fun. The most fun of all, however, occurred when my granddaughter and I unwrapped our colorful booty. “Blue”, “yellow”, “green” I would say as she studied each new find. I was struck thinking how not only is Fiesta Ware a highly useful cupboard item but an excellent way to introduce our one-year-old to colors. Of course teaching my granddaughter about color is a role I gladly take on. I’m just happy Fiesta Ware is still around to help with the tutorial. grandchild

The Arts As A Beacon of Hope

I’m a big fan of the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA). Their mission statement says they are dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging.   Anyone who has engaged in even a cursory read of the Be Brave. Lose the Beige blog knows I’m a huge proponent of creative expression. Studies have demonstrated participation in the arts promotes physical and mental health, particularly among aging adults.  NCCA

I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the Creative Caregiving Initiative at the Arts and Wellness Symposium last fall in Orlando. The NCCA has developed an online caregiver toolkit. The toolkit contains artistic exercises for caregivers and their loved ones. Part of the focus is respite for the caregiver. This was the brain-child of Margie Pabst, of the Pabst Foundation for the Arts. She says, “The life of a caregiver is often filled with isolation, loneliness, stress and depression with patches of sunlight and hope. We saw the arts as a beacon of hope.”

While this initiative is targeted primarily to caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders, I see its application for caregivers of all shapes and forms.

As Baby Boomer women, it feels like we have been caring for others our whole lives. We are truly the “tweener” generation, sandwiched between parenting our adult children and tending to aging parents. I know my mother cared for me and loved me but I’m not sure she took hoisted my emotional traumas on to her shoulders in the same way we do with our children.  Or perhaps, we just did not share them in the same way we have encouraged our children to share theirs.  We looked them in the eyes all those years ago and said things like, “you can tell me anything. “.   In many instances we would have gladly assumed their cares rather than witnessing their struggles.

My daughter recently underwent a very real trauma. While intellectually I know the experience was more difficult for her, I don’t know if it could have been that much greater considering the extent to which I felt her pain.  Living in another state made access more difficult so there were many telephone calls, plane trips, Face-time sessions, and any other means of communication.

Creativity was an integral part of our care exchange. A shopping cart at Michaels Craft Store was loaded with clay, buttons, paint, and canvasses.

panel paintings

An entire day was devoted to creating. It really did not matter what, it was the process of creating.  Hallmark holiday movies accompanied our sculpting and scrapbooking.

clay sculptures
clay Christmas sculptures

 My family room assumed an art studio with bits of paper, Fimo clay, and glitter strewn about.  So what!  Cleaning only took minutes.  The process and products will last in our hearts forever.

Ta-Nehisi Coats and America’s Long Struggle With Issues of Race

I’m a fan of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. I was blown away by an interview she conducted with journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coats. Coats is a national correspondent for the Atlantic Magazine and author of Between the World and Me. His take on the issue of race is so worth hearing. He writes like he talks with vivid imagery and a compelling narrative. Check the interview by clicking here.   

A New Year’s Toast To Mothering

As we often do on December 31st, my husband and I conduct a year end review. We continued our annual ritual this New Years Eve afternoon sitting on Adirondack chairs sipping wine in shorts and flip flops in the Florida 85 degree weather.Happy New Year

Jim said he wanted to kiss this year a thankful good-bye, saying how grateful he is for certain academic and professional successes. His book, The Four Pillars of Politics was published this year. He will be returning next month to the academic world after an absence of 38 years. And he was instrumental in the election of the first Democratic governor in a deep south state in over a decade (John Bel Edwards won the Louisiana governor’s race this past November).  A couple of real estate transactions have also freed us from some financial burdens. This recap was a welcome one compared to those in recent years when economic concerns had been particularly plaguing.

I felt a twinge as I contemplated my own professional performance over the past year. I was unable to identify any one particular achievement. I’m very grateful The Jeremiah Project (the creative arts program I direct) has had a very good year, thanks in large part to a fabulous Board and staff. I’ve been dogged in my determination to expand the reach of my Be Brave. Lose the Beige blog and spent many hours working in our political business. But no particular achievement stood out in my mind. Then it dawned on me….I’ve devoted major chunks of 2015 to mothering. While my children are quite grown up, they nevertheless, still require mothering. And, like many Lady Boomers I know, I donned my SuperMom suit, saluted, and rushed to their aid.

This year has been a blur of:

  • Airline flights
  • Telephone time
  • Car travel
  • Baby sitting
  • Economic support
  • And so much love

I would not have traded a minute of the time I’ve spent with my kids. I’m honored to be needed and to feel so welcome in their lives. This time commitment, however, has taken me away from the pursuit of my own passions. Mothering requires a great deal of creative engagement; it’s been hard having much left over for my own dreams.

But sometimes I find myself wishing we got “credit” for our mothering skills. Why can’t mothering be quantified and valued in the same way professional achievements are? Women can often be dismissive of the work we do for our families, like it doesn’t “count” since we aren’t financially compensated for our work.

To All of the Mothers I know and have yet to know, I raise my glass of champagne to toast you today. I say to you and to myself, all those miles, all those conversations, all that love, “counts” as worthy. All of the work we do helps make the world a better place. That has to count for something, right?A Toast to Mothering



My Spirit Received A Tropical Treatment

We flew from Orlando yesterday through Miami to the Dominican Republic. We are staying in Punta Cana at a resort in an area that appears to be an emerging enclave for American tourists. I’m sitting on a wrap around balcony. Tumbled marble tiles and mustard colored walls begin in the foyer and spread into a huge bathroom, walk-in closet, small kitchen, bedroom with two sets of French doors, and ultimately to a beautiful patio.   We face east so the morning sun rises before our early awakening eyes welcoming the day. The sound of rustling fronds from the skinny bendable sable palms and the lapping of the Caribbean waters soothe a jangled spirit.

Tortuga Bay
Punta Canna

My heavily-ladened spirit accompanied me to this tropical place with its sultry 82 degree humidity. My husband and I have been invited here to celebrate the 60th birthday of a dear friend. We planned this get away months ago, not realizing at the time how desperately we would need the escape.

We thought we had given up a research business we owned for more than 30 years. But a governor’s race, an Ohio ballot initiative and a few legislative races found their way to our cell phones and computer screens. We formerly conducted our business in a real office with admin staff and analysts. Those accouterments were long gone so we found ourselves up at all hours advising candidates and analyzing cross tabs. Our house resembled a paper factory, sheets of data scattered across two floors.

A dose of sadness interjected itself into our work frenzy. Someone near and dear discovered an unexpected pregnancy. Equal parts of joy and terror co-mingled reactions to the news, closely followed by peaceful acceptance and even excitement. At 12 weeks came the loss of not just the baby but the hopes and dreams accompanying it. The sickening grief caught me by surprise considering the ambivalence of the initial reaction.

I’m realizing spirits must be porous because I’m beginning to feel the ocean breezes penetrate my person and lift my spirits, for which I’m very grateful.