15 March 2012

Marais USA Espadrilles

I am so excited that Marais USA finally came out with their new spring line! I happened to discover them when it was too late to buy their incredible low-heeled, vibrant espadrilles last year. Of course, being too tall for your average 3-4" wedge at work, I was drooling over these adorable 1 inchers! And yes, I know I can wear heels even though I'm 6'1", but being 6'5" at work and staring down at your 5'5" client is not the right kind of intimidating, you know? So naturally, I try to find super cute sandals and flats.


I think it was destiny that I missed the boat last year because their 2012 line has even better, softer colors that are right on trend with this spring's pastels and neutrals. The choices are: Blush (above), Rust (below), Denim, and Jet (at bottom).


Named after the Parisian District La Marais, I am also obsessed with this French-inspired company's MO: simple, affordable, and attractive. I can't wait to get my hands on (and feet in) these little grey espadrillettes! FYI, they have a limited supply so these cuties will go fast. Check them out here!

21 January 2012

the path less traveled

One of my best and dearest friends moved away to Alaska today. Well, she started a two-week long road trip to Washington state, and then she'll ride on a five-day ferry, and then she'll move to Alaska. I didn't cry as I watched her pack up all of her belongings into a small SUV, do an Austin Powers-like maneuver to get out of my driveway, and speed off in the brisk sunlit morning. I told her I'll see her next week - we'll do happy hour - and that was it. She was gone.

I've been thinking a lot about her decision to move. It was a hard one to make, but it was the right one because the path kept opening up before her.
Cobbles and downed logs were cleared. The path widened upon the turn and showed her home. Sometimes the right decisions are those that seem impossible, those that are life-changing, that are the hardest ones to make. But once you choose and get over that hill, once you get past that point in running that feels like you're going to die, you start to breathe easier, slow and steady. And it feels alive and wonderful.

My friend is doing something that most people wouldn't dare dream of, doing something that is scary and exciting and adventurous. She visited Anchorage last September, decided that was the life for her, and by October had the plans swinging in motion. While I don't think everyone can do this - just pick up and leave - I do find her sense of focus, determination, and flat-out will to be at peace, to be happy, absolutely thrilling. It's enlightening. Inspirational. She was not a fan of Austin anymore. She found a place of pure inspiration. She went after it. Ergo, she is happier.

Trying to lead a life like that takes
fearlessness that it will work out, faith that it will be okay, and, well, cojones that you can survive the negative degree weather! Even her voyage towards this new place is filled with illumination and possibilities, an exploration of both mind and nature. She said she was going to listen to meditation tapes during the entire two-week voyage so that she'll be a better person by the time she gets up there. I think she's already a pretty enlightened gal, but the fact that she's not just moving to one of the most serene and beautiful places on this earth, but she's bettering herself while on the path towards that incredible place has an unsurpassed admirable quality. I can't wait to see her settled in mind, body, and country when she has finally arrived, taken a deep breath, and poured into her Alaskan life. And yes, I will see here there someday soon. It'll be one of my golden checks off my life list. I'm just a little worried that I'll fall in love with Alaska too and have to pack up the old 4Runner!

I've known this girl for what, 6 years now? And it seems like it's been a lifetime. To old souls like us, I guess it should feel like we've always known each other. I wish her well in this new adventure and hope to keep some of her spirit along with me. Use it to help me soar above, weightless, with eyes focused on my prey, ready to strike and live full.

03 January 2012

a glowing anchor

I haven't written on this blog in a long time because my little jewelry business has definitely gotten neglected! Well not just that, but I haven't felt this is the right venue to express some of the other aspects of my life. I frequently write about my life, but I rarely share these excerpts as they are somehow too personal for this outlet. But I came across something that I realized I wanted to share, I needed to share -- an idea that helps to focus on what's important through life. It's not unheard of. Everyone's heard of the bucket list, right? I think there's even a website. But I had never visualized it like this before, perhaps because I thought it was for people in their 70s staring Death in the eye. But it's far from it because, well, you need a lifetime to accomplish it.

I was reading a book, The Pink Magnolia Club, by Geralyn Dawson and it gave me a revelation. One of the characters had created a "Life List" when she was twelve after her mother passed away from metastatic breast cancer. She refined the list over the years until she was 21, upon which she decided she would no longer add, change, or delete any more items, just cross them off. She bought an expensive gold pen and from then on would celebrate each item when accomplished with a dramatic ceremony involving a check mark and a bottle of fine wine. Her goals ranged from teaching someone to read to riding all the roller coasters in Texas to doing something "deliciously wicked." There were 32 goals in all, same as the age her mother died and the very age required to achieve all items.

It got me thinking. I have never had such goals verbalized before. Sure I dream. I think about what I want to do and vacations I want to go on, but rarely do I follow through because of work or because of medical bills or because small vacations and home improvement projects keep trumping those goals far more important. For whatever reason the monumental stuff doesn't seem to happen. And it makes me think that I am somehow wasting my life, floating through it. I feel rigid in my actions, scared and unable to move. Scared of what? I don't know. Life. Rejection. The doing. Hard work. Preoccupation. Whatever the reason, I feel cold, frozen, and floating above it all. Snow that never gets to fall.

B
ut then something started to warm me. I happened to read the article, 30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself, and it thawed my heart a little bit to the neglect I have been inflicting on myself. I was hooked with the first line, "Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." Almost every statement slapped me across my face, shouted at me to wake up, shook me to not die from frostbite, yanked me from the dreamless cloud I was floating on. And I grew more aware of the limitations I was allowing myself to cling to.

And then another source of heat found me. I came across an article on the regrets of the dying. A nurse in palliative care noticed a pattern in the patients she cared for. They all seemed to have the same regrets in life and this affected me deeply to my core, as I'm sure it would most people. But to me this was the eye-opening, jaw-dropping, thought-provoking thaw to my soul: that people wanted more out of life than what they allowed themselves to have. And so the following regrets were noted:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

With these revelations I have come to recognize the need for goals, to create my own life list. Life really is too short. My life is flashing before my eyes and I feel as if I am wasting it instead of living it. I need a breakthrough, a pattern changer. So many others live their own goals, crossing them off one by one. I thought I was too until I simply wasn't. Many people have already done what I have only dreamed of. But that doesn't matter. In the beginning of this new year that has already been promised to hope and the anticipation of things to come, I attempt the beginning of my life list. I am sure it will be edited over the years, but today I declare it mine, alive and warm to the touch. The birth of a glowing anchor, grounding me to the very life I crave. My requirements: (1) at least one goal must be achieved each year, (2) goals can be interpreted as the occasion presents, and (3) no more edits after the age of 40, only check marks.

My Life List
1. I will take in all the colors of an Indonesian coral reef.
Stephen Frink, Getty Images
2. I will give my time to others in need.
3. I will feel the spray of the Colorado River as I raft through the Grand Canyon.
Smoothwater
4. I will squint out over the mountainside on a hike in Montana.
5. I will adopt a dog from a kill shelter.
6. I will fish for salmon along an Alaskan river and eat it fresh over an open fire.
Humbolt State University
7. I will hike all the parks in Austin and appreciate the simple beauty in my own back yard.
8. I will zip-line through a tropical rainforest.
RainforestAdventures.com
9. I will learn every last bird in North America.
Harlequin Ducks/Howard Eskin/Focus on Nature Tours
10. I will swim with a diving iguana in the Galapagos.
Expeditions.com
11. I will go into a food coma eating too many tapas in a Barcelona bar.
Barcelona Travel Guide
12. I will do something deliciously wicked (yes, it's borrowed, but worth it).
13. I will find Orion and his dogs in a diamond sky before drifting off to sleep in Big Bend.
14. I will kiss the one I love under a waterfall in Hawai'i.
Destination360.com
15. I will stick my feet in the wet sand and glimpse the wild horses of the Outer Banks.
Outer Banks Vacations
16. I will take in a lost child and help him find himself.
17. I will learn to cook classic French food like my fellow tall lady, Ms. Julia Child.
PBS
18. I will create jewelry again with love abounding, with pride and grace.
19. I will write a book with reckless abandon.
20. I will become a federal wildlife biologist.
21. I will have children in my life (plurality noted).
22. I will own riverfront property and extend an open invitation for rope-swinging.
23. I will take my parents on a vacation they deserve.
24. I will build a house for someone who needs it.
25. I will reconnect with old friends and even new friends, one by precious one.
26. I will mistake a manatee for a mermaid while paddling through a Keys' mangrove.
Sailblogs.com
27. I will sip scotch on the greens of St. Andrews and cheer my husband as he shoots par!
netherbyhouse.co.uk
28. I will hear my voice echo while rafting on an subterranean river in New Zealand.
markmaranga.com
29. I will wink at a lion while on safari in Africa.
Letocar.com
30. I will tell my family and friends how much they mean to me, over and over again.
31. I will play an entire 18-hole round of golf with my husband.
32. I will stroll through the lavender fields of the Provenรงal countryside.

I am sharing this to hold my feet to the fire. I'm sharing this because I don't want to be the one to say ANY of those regrets when Death comes to shake my hand. I'm sharing this for others to consider this concept. Thirty-two goals for my 32 years here on earth. It seems like a hearty and monumental task, one that will take lifetime to achieve. So at the beginning of this journey my husband and I have decided to take a two-week trip to Scotland and Spain this spring for our 10-year anniversary. And I'm looking forward to checking them off!

19 August 2011

aural and literary morsels

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of seeing Joanna Newsom again live, as she was in town to tape at ACL (Austin City Limits for those of you non-Austinites). It happened to be our anniversary weekend (9th...yikes) and while I was out-of-control ecstatic about seeing her again, I was worried my husband would be less than thrilled. I dragged him to her Have One on Me tour in November and while he was initially skeptical of her distinct voice and non-traditional ways, he walked out understanding a little more of why I love her so much...and actually liked her. You almost have to see her live to fully appreciate her musicianship and poetry; that or be prepared to spend long hours listening and analyzing her deeply intense music. But it was worth it. We both had an amazing time, shed a few tears (okay, well, just me), and had a fabulous sushi dinner beforehand. Thanks to my sweet husband, for always surprising me, for making me laugh till I hurt, and for everything we've been through together, then and now, you are my match, my soulful mate.
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WARNING: Going past this point will likely bore most of you to tears, so I advise to stop while you're ahead, but for the few who think they can handle it, I dare you to read the rest...all of it.

After this last concert, I started not just listening to her, but really listening. I have sort of become obsessed with figuring her out--not that I ever will--but just trying to understand more of her poetry and incredible diction, her powerful Shakespearean-like language. She's nothing like I've ever heard before. She's brilliant, actually, and I hope the literary world will come to recognize her genius as much of the music world has. As I am a scientist by profession and a naturalist and artist by heart, I find her poetry to be intoxicating, her allegories and descriptive use of nature to be powerful, raw, and beautiful.

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I finally wrapped my head around Emily, on of my favorite songs on her Ys (pronounced "yee's") album. The lyrics and my interpretation follow. Again, beware: they are both long, but completely worth it. I suggest listening too to get the full effect.

EMILY
The meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree and the sparrow
Set to the sky in a flying spree, for the sport over the Pharaoh
Little while later the Pharisees dragged comb through the meadow
Do you remember what they called up to you and me, in our window?

There is a rusty light on the pines tonight
Sun pouring wine, lord, or marrow
Down into the bones of the birches
And the spires of the churches
Jutting out from the shadows
The yoke, and the axe, and the old smokestacks and the bale and the barrow
And everything sloped like it was dragged from a rope
In the mouth of the south below

We've seen those mountains kneeling, felten and grey
We thought our very hearts would up and melt away
From that snow in the night time
Just going
And going
And the stirring of wind chimes
In the morning
In the morning
Helps me find my way back in
From the place where I have been

And, Emily, I saw you last night by the river
I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water
Frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever,
In a mud-cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky'd been breathing on a mirror

Anyhow, I sat by your side, by the water
You taught me the names of the stars overhead that I wrote down in my ledger
Though all I knew of the rote universe were those Pleiades loosed in December
I promised you I'd set them to verse so I'd always remember

That the meteorite is a source of the light
And the meteor's just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

And the meteorite's just what causes the light
And the meteor's how it's perceived
And the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee

You came and lay a cold compress upon the mess I'm in
Threw the window wide and cried; Amen! Amen! Amen!
The whole world - stopped - to hear you hollering
You looked down and saw now what was happening

The lines are fadin' in my kingdom
Though I have never known the way to border 'em in
So the muddy mouths of baboons and sows and the grouse and the horse and the hen
Grope at the gate of the looming lake that was once a tidy pen
And the mail is late and the great estates are not lit from within
The talk in town's becoming downright sickening

In due time we will see the far butte lit by a flare
I've seen your bravery, and I will follow you there
And row through the night time
Gone healthy
Gone healthy all of a sudden
In search of the midwife
Who could help me
Who could help me
Help me find my way back in
There are worries where I've been

Say, say, say in the lee of the bay; don't be bothered
Leave your troubles here where the tugboats shear the water from the water
Flanked by furrows, curling back, like a match held up to a newspaper
Emily, they'll follow your lead by the letter
And I make this claim, and I'm not ashamed to say I know you better
What they've seen is just a beam of your sun that banishes winter

Let us go! Though we know it's a hopeless endeavor
The ties that bind, they are barbed and spined and hold us close forever
Though there is nothing would help me come to grips with a sky that is gaping and yawning
There is a song I woke with on my lips as you sailed your great ship towards the morning

Come on home, the poppies are all grown knee-deep by now
Blossoms all have fallen, and the pollen ruins the plow
Peonies nod in the breeze and while they wetly bow, with
Hydrocephalitic listlessness ants mop up-a their brow

And everything with wings is restless, aimless, drunk and dour
The butterflies and birds collide at hot, ungodly hours
And my clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines
Come on home, now! All my bones are dolorous with vines

Pa pointed out to me, for the hundredth time tonight
The way the ladle leads to a dirt-red bullet of light
Squint skyward and listen,
Loving him, we move within his borders
Just asterisms in the stars' set order

We could stand for a century
Starin'
With our heads cocked
In the broad daylight at this thing
Joy
Landlocked
In bodies that don't keep
Dumbstruck with the sweetness of being
Till we don't be
Told; take this
Eat this

Told, the meteorite is the source of the light
And the meteor's just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

And the meteorite's just what causes the light
And the meteor's how it's perceived
And the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee


.
At the beginning of the poem, Joanna recalls a memory from her childhood, a time when her sister, Emily, and she were spying on bullies ("Pharisees") up to no good in the nearby grasslands of her home. In present tense, she sees the "rusty light" casting deep shadows on the life that surrounds her, the woods and rural landscapes, the shadows are steeply sloping like everything's warped, perhaps the way she currently sees life.

So she’d rather think about the sweet memories of her childhood with her sister, those that bring her comfort from the current state of despair she is in. Joanna reminisces on a day by the river where her sister, who is scientific in nature, was trying to figure out the physics of skipping stones. She remembers her sister teaching her the names of the stars and her promising to remember. But she doesn't. She remembers it wrong, because she's not a scientist and it was a long time ago, and perhaps didn’t take it so seriously. Now, straining, desperate to hold on to her sister and what they had, she recalls those definitions taught so long ago, a sweet homage to her scientist sister, a sad metaphor for their tumultuous relationship.

Joanna also remembers how Emily helped comfort her through a traumatic experience, which I respectfully think it is an ill-fated pregnancy and loss. This seems to be one of the many themes mentioned in several songs (Sawdust and Diamonds, Baby Birch, On a Good Day, etc.). It is simply heart-wrenching because it seems to have deeply affected her--and I respect her the more for it. Joanna calls attention to how everyone respects Emily, how “they’ll follow your lead”, or how she's this "great ship" or powerful sunlight that "banishes winter" (which is very interesting because Joanna speaks of the current "rusty light" in her life above). From the lines "threw the window wide and cried, 'Amen! Amen! Amen!'/the whole world stopped to hear you hollering"), I can’t help but think that Emily somehow divulged the secret, but it must have been by accident, because "you looked down and saw now what was happening," as she realized what she had done.

These traumatic events (including the accidental deceit) were devastating to Joanna who admires Emily so much. It spirals Joanna into depression, turning her whole world upside down. She was a mess both physically and mentally ("the lines are fading in my kingdom/...looming lake that was once a tidy pen/and the mail is late and the great estates are not lit from within").

Yet Emily helped Joanna when she had "gone healthy all of a sudden", which makes me think of loss of a baby (when you don’t feel sick during pregnancy, that sometimes means the baby aborted), although it could also be interpreted as the pregnancy itself, when you stop consuming alcohol/caffeine/etc. Whatever the case, needing a "midwife who could help me find my way back in," could be interpreted as Joanna literally or figuratively needing help or guidance to deal with the situation, help so she could find comfort in her despair.

So Emily tried to comfort her, encouraged Joanna not to let it bother her, but I get the feeling it was superficial in nature. By telling Joanna to “leave her troubles here where the tugboats shear the water from the water (flanked by furrows, curling back, like a match held up to a newspaper),” it makes me think that the comfort was shallow in nature. And it makes sense that Joanna was “not ashamed to say I know you better" as this falls in line with how Emily handled the situation.

Joanna realizes that there is no hope of letting go of what happened (“we know it’s a hopeless endeavor”), but yet they're still tied together as sisters, no matter how painful it is (“The ties that bind, they are barbed and spined and hold us close forever”). But just as Joanna starts to heal/forgive by writing a song (this one) about her ordeal, Emily leaves her to live across the ocean, likely Argentina or New Zealand, as stated in previous interviews (“There is a song I woke with on my lips as you sailed your great ship towards the morning”).

Joanna just wants her sister to come home now. She's restless and distracted after her loss, just like the listless wildlife in the dead of summer. Her "clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines," makes me think she's restless while her roomy and malleable body heals. By the way, I love her imagery of clay throughout so many songs (Bridges and Balloons, Only Skin, Sawdust and Diamonds, Emily); it’s earthy, moldable, raw, and organic, a perfect symbol for a young woman’s vulnerable life that’s in tune with nature. Anyway, she's terribly sad ("bones are dolorous with vines") and misses her sister.

During this time at home, Joanna ponders over the starry sky with her dad. She thinks how we are all like meteors moving within God's universe ("we move within his borders"). "Just asterisms in the stars' set order" is actually one of my favorite lines. Asterisms are patterns of stars that are visible from a certain vantage point on Earth, but the stars of which are not always physically related and are often at varying distances from Earth. Knowing this, I love the interpretation that we're all just different patterns or perspectives in God's set design. I'm not very religious, but can't help but see so much of her writing as spiritual. Joanna thinks she could contemplate this, the meaning of life, of eternity or God for a "century, staring with our heads cocked" and "dumbstruck with the sweetness of being until we don’t be." She could philosophize the meaning of it all until the day she dies; but then again, her sister already told her what it all meant so long ago. She then remembers those sweet celestial definitions that are the aching allusion to their fiery relationship.

Delicate. Haunting. Genius. Thank you, Joanna, for your bittersweet, honest words, the tender morsels of which I eat up every day.

12 August 2011

mist on skin

I know I mysteriously disappeared off the face of the earth. I know I haven't made or sold any jewelry in a very long time. I haven't done much else of notable worth either. I should blame it on the many professional and personal trials that plagued me over the last months, but I think that would be cowardice. I simply didn't have anything exciting to say and ultimately, I just plain didn't keep up! But I wanted to provide a small glimpse, an explanation in my own metaphoric way as to what I've been through and where I am today.

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So I finally finished the monumental professional challenge that was placed on my shoulders almost 17 months ago. It was stressful beyond comparison to anything I've ever done before...I hate to say it, but perhaps even more so than grad school! It challenged every aspect of my mental capacity, from dealing with clients, to dealing with staff, to dealing with my management. From improving my writing to improving my assertiveness. No molecule of energy could seem to be spared for my personal life, let alone the Lauren Tree.

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I was horrified and humbled on a daily basis, at every twist and turn, every stub and stumble on this rugged mountain of a challenge. I had very few successes and even fewer smiles, but when they occurred, I relished in their fleeting warmth. I started to become stronger, more assertive, stood up for myself, handled people better, molding them with my kindness, sweet assertions, and innocent whip-yieldings. I started to fight, tooth and nail, scrambled towards the top of that mountain, kicking and screaming, pulling everyone with me like the bull that I am. When I finally peaked the mountain, I saw the sweet satisfaction of victory rolling through the undulating hillside like a tender mist. That view I helped create made me weep with exhaustion and joy, before starting back down again on wobbled knees, on stooped shoulders, and wiser eyes. And so I now stand on the other side of this mountain. Worn and beaten, but feeling the mist I created cool and light on my skin. Looking up to the glistening sunlight beyond.

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So much went on in that journey—personal life and loss too, the tearing down and building up of spirit, faith, and strength. Now the many personal and professional challenges on that mountain have been conquered. And I'm on to a new little hill where my feet are falling onto a more familiar tread. It feels like the one I traversed so long ago, a sweet and easy climb. I'm working on jewelry again. I'm cooking amazing foods. I'm planning a series of landscaping projects. I'm starting to enjoy life again. And I can't stop smiling.

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So I look forward to exploring my cobwebbed creativity and dust-lined ingenuity. All those projects that have silently awaited my attention. So thanks for being patient with me! I’m working on a new line of fabulous vintage chandelier earrings that are simply stunning! Stay tuned!

08 September 2010

family reunion

This last weekend Ryan and I went home to San Antonio to celebrate my father's 60th birthday. It was my brother's first time home since Christmas and so it was a joyous occasion all around! We did nothing but hang out, laugh, dance, and eat...

Ryan & I

Kale & Oma

Sally & Ken
I did, however, convince the fam to go to the zoo on Sunday afternoon under the guise that it was a family reunion! Grin. I used to work at the San Antonio Zoo and have wanted to see all their improvements since I was last there in 1998. The exhibits were impressive, but I have to admit I did not feel the same as I did over a decade ago. I received a new camera for my birthday in May and in photographing the animals I noted a hint of sadness. Call it anthropomorphic projection. Call it a decent zoom lens. Call it whatever you want. All I know is that even though these guys have more room now, it's still not the uninhibited wild...






Look how sad this guy is! I think it hit me to the core, even with the lighthearted familial references. Anyway, Happy 60th, Dad! It's a zoo out there!

farm & market



In June, a group of us trekked out to Blanco, Texas for their annual Lavender Festival in the heart of their quaint little town. I had always wanted to go and it was every bit as fabulous as I imagined! On the way out of town we stopped at one of the lavender farms. Not only did they have all things lavender: both sweet and savory food, cookbooks, bath products, you name it, but they had the best little market with fresh organic produce, cold soda pop out of a glass bottle, and homemade ice cream. Finally scrolling through my photos, I forgot how much fun that day was...
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