Aging, and changing: what are you going to do about it?

How are you with change?

How are you with change?


Nature is a great teacher. It’s always evolving and changing. It doesn’t care what month it is or if you like it or not. It just keeps moving forward. Whether we slog along behind it in defiance or walk beside it merrily, it’s happening regardless of our attitude.

We’re changing and evolving too. And moving forward (hopefully). Do we humans fight against it or accept it like it’s a part of the natural landscape of life? Mind and body can be at odds with one another when it comes to age. Have you noticed?


Can you fight ‘change’ and win?

As I read more ads and articles that focus on fighting against the natural evolution that is called aging, I want to fight back.

These articles make it seem like age is the enemy and we have to do everything we can to avoid it, manage it, conquer it. We’re offered lotions and potions, treatments and surgeries, juice drinks and fasts. The fact remains: time is marching forward whether we’re thrilled about it or not. Our bodies are changing even while we’re eating well and exercising. 50 is not the new 30. 50 is the current 50. 63 is 63 and 75 is 75.


Who says we have to fight our age?


Are we looking at this all wrong?

Does anyone make peace with age? What if we treat it as a natural thing and look at it like the change in seasons and adjust accordingly?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I catch my face in a reflection and wonder where the 30-year-old version of me is hiding. Is she in the other room? Did I forget her in the city?

But then I remember my real goal. I don’t want to fight with age. What I want to do is be radiant, feel youthful, be open to life. I don’t want to shrink and pull away from life. My clients don’t either.

So how do I handle it? I make adjustments and make new choices. I do the same thing for my clients. We deal with feet that don’t like high heels, waistlines that have changed, butts that have flattened. We focus on necklines that bring attention to the face, colors that brighten the eyes, clothing pieces that add interest.

When I see my clients grin at their reflection in the mirror (at fifty and well beyond fifty) and they delight in what they see, I know I’ve done my work. I’ve manipulated clothes and accessories, color and line, so they can see and feel their radiance. At that moment they aren’t thinking about age at all. They look at themselves and see that they are expressing their values, personality and point of view. They are alive and present. They are noticed.

That presence is ageless.

The season can go by, the years can go by and a woman’s radiance may grow and expand and take up more space. I say, Awesome!


What if your view is obscured?

We all have our off days and we lose sight of our radiance. Something pops into our head–maybe a comparison to someone else–and we spin some perceived defect around and around like it was in the spin cycle of a washing machine. Only the cycle goes on for minutes, maybe hours and we’re lost in it.

If we practice and get good at it, we can catch ourself at the beginning of the cycle when we notice we’re picking on ourselves, digging up old wounds, comparing ourselves to false ideals. (That magazine cover of a celebrity your age has had a lot of work!)

There are things we can do to stop the self-criticism and comfort ourselves instead. That’s what I adore about clothes and jewels: There may be a color in your closet that makes you feel cozy and safe the minute you put it on; or maybe there’s a blouse in a pattern that guarantees entertainment for you. You just feel instantly sassy in a check or stripe or abstract floral design. Maybe there’s piece of jewelry that you reach for that reminds you of the love of a relative or friend.


Bella loves my apricot shawl almost as much as I do!

Bella loves my apricot shawl almost as much as I do!


Focus on pleasing yourself. Adorn yourself in what pleases you. If something you put on doesn’t feel good, take it off and start again. Get rid of the objects of distraction in your closet so you can focus on the things that attract you. It’ll make getting dressed and feeling great the easiest thing you do. Now that’s age-defying!


Please yourself and show up at every age.

Please yourself and show up at every age.

Two shopping trips I’ll never forget


Mom was anxious about a surgical procedure her dermatologist wanted her to take care of in Fargo. The timing of her appointment was all wrong. It was scheduled for the second day of our family gathering at Mom and Dad’s lake home in Minnesota.

When their grown kids and grandkids arrive from California, their place turns into summer camp. Crack open the card decks for Liverpool Rummy marathons in the front porch; send Erin to the kitchen to whip up iced coffee drinks or raspberry cocktails; bring the s’more ingredients to the bonfire by the lake; it’s time to play and recreate!

Mom tried to explain this to the doctor’s assistant when she called the clinic to postpone the appointment. She got nowhere so Caitlin, my youngest daughter, and I agreed to take her.

Caitlin got behind the wheel of the big, black Cadillac SUV that we’d rented in Fargo the day before. She searched for Suzy Boggus on her Spotify app so Mom and I could enjoy Merle Haggard tunes as we retraced our seventy-five mile route back to town.

The caddy got some miles on it right from the start!

The caddy got some miles on it right from the start!

Back to Fargo

We made it in record time, having accounted for the possibility of road delays. Summertime is road construction season in the Midwest.

We pulled into a strip mall on 45th Avenue South, right across the street from the clinic. What to do next? We had forty-five minutes to spare. I spotted a store called Clothes Mentor. “Mom,” I said, “Could that be the store your next door neighbors own?” She’d told me about the new neighbors at the lake. The wife owned a consignment store in Fargo.

The three of us walked in and a tall young blond at the counter spotted Mom and said, “Hi Alma!” It was the owner’s eldest daughter. Mom introduced us. Midwesterners are neighborly. It would have been rude to say ‘hi and bye’ so we stayed and shopped.

Caitlin disappeared to find the young people’s clothes. I headed for the accessories. Mom went over to the ladies clothes section.

I found a big, baubly pearl necklace and wanted to show it to Mom. I stepped away from the jewelry counter to see where everyone was. Caitlin was trying on shoes near the front of the store and Mother was in the back by the dressing rooms.

Wearing pearls I bought with Mother the last time we shopped together.

Wearing pearls I bought with Mother the last time we shopped together.

I didn’t move. I just looked at the two of them. Here we were, three generations, mothers and daughters, shopping—together. What were the chances?

I was in one of those scenes you never forget and the wonderful thing is, I knew it at the time.

I was so happy but I kept it to myself.

I was finished shopping for myself. I knew Caitlin wasn’t interested in any assistance—after all, I’m her mom. So I went over to my Mom.

Caitlin found boots at Clothes Mentor

Caitlin found boots at Clothes Mentor

“Finding anything?” I said.

“Well, this is pretty nice,” she said about a golden colored crinkled top. It looked like something she already owned.

“Want me to help you look for stuff?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.

“How about this … and … this?” I said and held up a couple of jackets. “How about I put these in the dressing room and you can go in there and try a few things on? I’ll help you.”

She tried on a leopard print top first. I stood behind her looking at her reflection in the dressing room mirror. “I always buy things too big,” she said.

Since she had her pacemaker put in, she’d lost twenty pounds really fast. She was used to buying clothes for her previous shape but was confused about how to dress her current shape.

“I can see that,” I said. “I think you should be at least one size down, maybe even two or three.”

I went out and grabbed some items in smaller sizes. Back in her dressing room, I scooped up the too-big items and replaced them with this new batch.

When I returned she was looking so cute in a black and white, wide striped, cowl-necked three-quarter sleeved top. The neckline was so glamorous. It made me think of actresses from the 50s, like maybe Audrey Hepburn. Mom could pull this off.

“I know some jewelry at home that would look good with this,” I said and reminded her of some earrings she’d bought at a hospital gift shop in Perham one time when I was with her.

Then she fell for a turquoise and black zebra print jacket with a zip front. She’s not a gushy, loud, falling-in-love-with-something person. She swoons her delight more than she shouts it from the rooftops.

But she was afraid of one thing.

“Is this really the right size?” she asked.

“Zip it shut and let’s see how it looks closed,” I said. She wasn’t used to seeing this much definition in her waist. “Yup,” I said. “It’s the right size!”

Caitlin came over to where we were and reminded us that we needed to wrap things up soon. I helped Mom get out of the jacket and back into her summer white top with floral embroidery. I held up the cowl-necked top and the zebra print jacket and said, “What do you think? Do you think you’d wear these?”

“Oh yes!” she said. (Picture the swooning.)

Mom had a talent for fashion.

Mom had a talent for fashion.


“Maybe not right away but in the fall or winter,” she said.

“Well, that sounds good,” I said. “They sure look great on you. It’ll be nice to have something new that fits you, Mom.”

I put them over my arm and headed to the counter. I was ready to pay for my necklace and Mom’s two pieces. Caitlin was there already paying for a pair of sassy black ankle booties with cowboy details.

Mom caught up with us at the counter and pulled her credit card out. I said, “Put that away. I’ve got this.”

“Why are you doing that?” Mom said.

“Because I want to, Mom. I don’t get to shop with you very often and your birthday is coming up too. I won’t be here on the 31st so Happy Birthday.”

“Oh Babe,” she said, humble, but happy. (Picture soft fluttering eyelids and an impish grin.)

We took our shopping bags back to the caddy and drove across the street to the clinic. Caitlin and I went with her to have the suspicious spot removed from the back of her neck. The doctor put a few stiches in. Everything looked good and we were out in thirty minutes.

Off we went to have lunch at Nichole’s Fine Pastry in downtown Fargo. After a couple of more stops for food and flowers, we headed back home and got there in time to join the card game and sip fruity cocktails while Mom showed off her bandaged neck to Dad.


Going back again if I could


If I could go back and do it all over again, while we were having lunch at Nichole’s, I might have told a story about a shopping trip Mom took me on over forty years ago.

I was fifteen and for Christmas Mother was taking me to a nice store on Broadway for the after-Christmas sales. The women’s clothes were on the first floor; the teen clothes were in the basement. It was a pricey store. We’d never have shopped there regularly but the 50% off prices made it just right on December 26th.

Going somewhere upscale was the good part. The bad part was that I was fifteen, the age when shopping with “Mom” is just so uncool.

Plus, if you ever shopped with Mom, you’d see that she takes her time whether she’s in a department store, a hospital gift shop, at a craft faire or the only boutique in a one-light town. I know because I’ve been with her in all those places and it’s always the same. She has to touch everything.

Chances are great that I was moody and most likely kept my end of the conversation to a minimum. But I ended up with an education and three smart dresses that I wore forever.




Shopping on Broadway in Fargo


One of Mother’s selections was a sleeveless empire dress. The top part of the dress was a creamy ivory lace. The bottom part was solid orange and had about eight vertical seams circling it. Where the two colors joined together there was a thin black velvet ribbon that went all the way around. It was so very beautiful.

Her next dress selection made me nervous. It was a long-sleeved, deep lavender jersey knit dress with dark purple hearts printed all over it. It had a flippy hemline and was short, easily three inches above my knees.

I looked at myself in the mirror. “But Mom, it’s so short! Isn’t it too short?”

“Brenda,” she said with knowledge and authority, “Every girl needs a flirty dress.” And that was that.

The third dress was my favorite. It was A-line with cap sleeves and great texture. It was dark chocolate brown. It had black lace detail running down the front and across the sleeve edges. When I slipped into that dress I felt like a lady, grownup and sophisticated. You know when someone says she’s wearing something that makes her feel like a million bucks? Well, that was how I felt in that dress, but I’m sure I kept that information to myself.

When we got home from that shopping trip hours later, Mom insisted I pull the dresses out and try each one of them on for Dad. “Doesn’t she look great?” she said. “Oh, Brenda, go try on the other one. Wait until you see that one, Don.” He agreed with everything she said. His fashion knowledge was limited but he knew she was an expert. I’m pretty sure we went over budget but Dad never heard about that part.

Of all the clothes I had in my teenaged closet, the things I wore the most were those three dresses. She was right: everyone does need a flirty dress and I felt flirty as heck walking the halls of West Fargo High in that lavender heart dress.

The brown dress she bought me turned out to be the equivalent of a Little Black Dress. I wore it for so many occasions. The ivory lace and orange empire dress was worn less than the others but was perfect for church and special occasions. It was an essential.

My Little Black Dress was actually brown.

My Little Black Dress was actually brown.



Remembering how satisfying those three dresses were – and believe me, I’ve thought of that shopping trip dozens of times in my life, especially since I built a career around fashion and style and shopping – I guess I had hoped that in that brief shopping trip with Mom last summer, that she’d put on those two things I helped her pick out and every time she’d wear them she’d feel radiant and special—just the way I saw her that day in the dressing room when she had them on.

I don’t know if she got a chance to wear them last fall or winter like she’d planned. She might have thought to pack them in her suitcase when she and Dad were going to visit us last January. But she had that fall a week before they were due to land in San Francisco. She was in hospital gowns for weeks instead. She had a brief period of time when she wore her own loose clothing in the rehab hospital in Fergus Falls but she died in a hospital gown, not in one of her pretty tops.

In July, when I was back at the lake, I packed up mother’s clothes including those two pieces, and my sister-in-law took them to a consignment store. Maybe they’ll be perfect for someone else.


It’s Mother’s birthday today and I have a hope and a wish.


My hope is that every time she saw me in those dresses that she realized how much I loved them, even though I never told her.

What I wish is that I could have more shopping trips with her where I could fuss over her and spoil her the way she spoiled me that day so long ago. We’d do it her way—we’d shop all day and she’d touch every thing.

It would be my greatest joy and this time, I wouldn’t keep those joyful feelings to myself. I’d share them with her right on the spot.

Mother and daughter hands

Mother and daughter hands

Maggan, Mother, and their clip on earrings

clip on earrings

Sharing love and earrings



I started going through some of Mother’s things back in July when I was at home with Dad in Minnesota. One of my projects was to turn Mom and Dad’s walk-in closet into Dad’s walk-in closet. I bagged up some of Mother’s clothes for a consignment store opening up in Fergus Falls. Other items I’d donate to a local church.

While I was in their bedroom I eyed a tall narrow set of drawers in the corner, nearest Mom’s side of the bed. That would be good for Dad’s apartment, I thought, anticipating the possibility that he’d be moving out of the lake home and into town for the winter into an assisted living place we’d visited.

It’s awkward opening up someone else’s drawers once they’re gone, but I did. I started pulling out Mom’s socks and underwear. That went quickly but when I opened the drawers that contained her jewelry, I stopped cold. Her current necklaces and earrings were bagged up individually so nothing would get tangled. I recognized pieces she’d worn last summer. Looking at her accessories made me smile and think about how adorable she was, but it was heartbreaking at the same time.

I closed those jewelry drawers. I wasn’t ready to do more: Too fresh.

I checked under her bed to see if she had any other clothes in storage containers. That’s when I saw something that she’d had for decades. It was her old white leather jewelry box, the one that used to sit squarely in the middle of her dressing table in her bedroom on the farm where we lived when I was growing up. I opened the lid and looked at the rows of clip-on earrings. I wasn’t six-years-old—I was in in my sixties—but the memories were fresh as breakfast.


"I remember those earrings!"

“I remember those earrings!”


Mother and her clips


Oh, I loved to play with those earrings! In the summertime Mom would be out in the backyard tending to her gladiolus, dahlias, morning glories, zinnias, and marigolds. She’d be busy for hours pulling weeds, cutting things back, making that garden a showcase.

I could be busy for hours, too, and she’d never know. I’d go up the stairs to her bedroom, head straight for the jewelry box, open the lid and decide which pair of earrings I’d try on first. I’d clip them on my little lobes and look at myself in the mirror.

Wow! So fancy! So sparkly! So grownup! Then I’d sneak into her closet and pull out her hats and high heels. I’d open a drawer in her bureau and reach in for her white gloves. It was delicious fun but also depressing: It would only take forever before I’d be old enough to wear such glamorous things.

Now, decades later, I stand in front of her vanity with her jewels. It’s summertime again. She’s not out in the garden tending to her flowerbeds. Dad’s taken care of that with some hired help. He’s insisted they be as lovely this year as if she’d done it herself, and it is.

It’s quiet; no one’s around. I pull out each pair of earrings and try them on. When I look in the mirror I don’t see myself. I only see Mother.

I’m sitting next to her in church. I look up at her and she’s so pretty. Or I’m sitting in a chair in the basement of the church on a Wednesday at her Ladies Aid meetings. I look at all the women sitting in a circle and she’s the prettiest of them all. Or I catch her broad smile and those multi-colored earrings decorating her lobes as she laughs with relatives sitting around a picnic table at Chautauqua Park in Valley City at a family reunion. Being a grownup looks so easy and glamorous.

This grownup looking in the mirror now feels neither easy nor glamorous. It feels like hard work.

I put the earrings on the vanity. They are treasures, treasures for someone. They have more parties to go to, more exciting conversations to be a part of. They need good company. They need someone who enjoys fashion the way my mother did. They need Maggan.


Alma 4



Maggan in Sweden

You might recall me mentioning Maggan before. She’s my Swedish friend. We first met by email. She was writing to me as editor of Tara magazine, a magazine in Sweden for women over 40. She was interested in getting the rights to reprint a chapter from my book, 40 Over 40: 40 Things Every Woman Over 40 Needs to Know About Getting Dressed.

When I got that first email I had to call Mom right away. My grandfather came from a small fishing village on the west coast of Sweden. I never met him but suddenly I was feeling a connection to him beyond the pictures of his tall, lanky body in overalls and the kind stories Mother told me about the man who nicknamed her Girlie. Mother gave me the name of the town and told me to ask Maggan about it. When I did, Maggan said, “Why, we’re practically family!”

I never visited that town where Thoren grew up but I did visit Stockholm, twice after those first emails. Two summers in a row I was paid by Tara magazine to go over there and do makeovers on lucky winners of a contest posted by the magazine. I spent time with Maggan and her partner, Anders, also a journalist. When I found out that they spend a solid month or more in Los Angeles every fall near Thanksgiving time, I invited them to experience a Thanksgiving with us. They were reluctant at first.


Maggan and Anders enjoying Thanksgiving pie

Maggan and Anders enjoying Thanksgiving pie and coffee


We keep losing count, but I think last year was the tenth year in a row that we’ve spent Thanksgiving together.

They are family. They are “the Swedes” for short and every year Mother is hungry for details about the Swedes. Mother speaks Norwegian and one year she and Maggan spoke on the phone to each other finding some crossover between the languages. It was always a fantasy of mine that they would meet in person.

They’d have gotten on so well. Tall, naturally confident, social, and kind, they’d have enjoyed the best of each other. I’d have seated them next to each other for sure. I’d have sat back and watched them nod their heads in agreement, laugh and joke and be all-Scandinavian together.

 Later in the evening, I’d serve them pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream on top. I’d bring them their coffee and they’d hardly look up at me, they’d be so engaged. I’d be so proud to have been the matchmaker, bringing together two of my very favorite people.

When Mother passed, Maggan sent me a card and wrote, “I am honored to have been known to Alma as one of the Swedes.” When I read that line I burst into tears because Maggan was so right. Mother was so tickled about our relationship. I think she lived vicariously through the stories I’d share with her. They were her Swedes, too.


Maggan with Alma's ear clips

Maggan with Alma’s ear clips


Mother’s clips go International

Who better to enjoy Mother’s earrings than Maggan? You see, Maggan doesn’t have pierced ears. She finds earrings at thrift stores because clip-on earrings are hard to find. One Thanksgiving, Maggan brought a few clip-on sets she’d found in LA. She couldn’t wait to show them to me.



Maggan’s earring stash from an LA thrift store


While I didn’t know how the colors would be or if they’d work into her outfits or not, I selected several pairs for Maggan and put the rest of the earrings back in the jewelry box and put the box back where I found it.

I got a message from her the day my airmailed package arrived:

“I have no words! What a gift! I am so stunned and amazed that I have the jewelry from beautiful, lovely, Alma. What an honor. I hardly can express my feelings. I am deeply moved and very happy. I love them and I love you all.”

Over the next few days I got notes and pictures in emails. The subject line on the first one was Going out to dinner with Alma.

She wrote, “Just so you know, it is a lovely summer evening in Stockholm and Alma and I are going out to dinner with Anders. So proud to wear her lovely jewelry.”

A couple of days later: “Alma and I am going out again this night to have late dinner at a favorite restaurant in the Old Town, at the bar at Bistro Ruby.”

And another day: “This is from when Alma and I went shopping for new coffee mugs and some sparkling wine for the annual cake party. I think Alma likes to prepare for a party. Then we had dinner with Anders in an old traditional restaurant, The Artist’s Bar, and had yummy smoked salmon from Norway.”

The loss of my mother has been – well, wrenching. Words are hard to find. But if you could look inside my heart right now, it is bursting with joy.

I’m guessing that sharing Mother with Maggan, seeing them together in my mind, must be a lot like it was for Mother seeing Maggan and me together, like peas in a pod. Of course, in the case of Maggan and Mother, those pods are covered in rhinestones and they have clips on the back.

Those two—I’m so happy they have each other.


Earrings cross the Atlantic Ocean to find Maggan's ears

Mother’s earrings cross the Atlantic Ocean to find Maggan’s ears





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Can a collar make you look younger and more vibrant?

Marj creates presence with a collared shirt

Marj creates presence with a collared shirt


It started as a discussion about creating presence as we age. The Bellas were together in Sonoma enjoying Sunday waffles and fresh fruit at a table in the shady backyard garden at Sunflower Caffe. Marj was wrestling with personal style issues. She wanted to talk about how to recreate style as we evolve and age and felt challenged about how to get her style needs fulfilled with current fashion. She was frustrated. She wanted to have drama and presence with her outfits and felt she was missing the mark. Recently she’d seen some photographs of herself and she didn’t like what she saw. She has an important birthday coming up and, gosh darn it, she wanted to meet it on her own terms–with style, of course!

It was a great question to ponder for the three of us–Marj, Lynn and myself. It interests all of us: We’re all involved in fashion professions and coincidentally, we’re all getting older.

“Marj,” I asked, “in the pictures you were looking at, were you wearing something that had a collar?”

“No,” she answered.

She was sitting across the table from me and I was looking at her in her orange lace collared shirt and I said, “I think you’re doing it right now! You’re creating drama in this color which not a lot of people can wear well. You’re creating drama from the bust up with your necklace, earrings, your striking eyewear and your great haircut. And the collar makes us stand up and take notice. Just take that formula and do more of the same!”


Collar cheerleader


I’d been thinking lately about collars before Marj even brought it up. I’d made a few outfits for myself recently where I layered a collared white camp shirt under a 3/4 sleeved jacket. I’d put a collared checked shirt under a sleeveless dress. I was happy with the look. I’d just styled a client of mine in our age range using a collar to frame her face and bring focus to her eyes. I was intrigued by how well a collar can say “Hey, look over here! Here I am! Take note!”

If you think about it, crew necks just don’t have the same gravitas.

A lot of casual tops these days are in knits and they don’t have collars. Sure, we can add interest with necklaces or scarves but I think the edges of an actual collar is a stronger frame for our faces. I think they add definition at a time in our lives when we need more defining. Some of us are losing collagen or eyebrow lines. As gravity pulls parts of us downward, we need to intervene and pull attention back up. A collar can do that.



Valerie adds feminine collar drama to her pinstripes


Another collar fan


We continued to discuss the elements of creating drama at “our” age, without looking like we’re trying too hard, as we walked around the square, visiting our favorite shops. We stepped into J. James where we are always sure to run into one of our favorite artists, Valerie Raven.

What a nice coincidence that I had just used the word “collar” for the fourth time when there before us was Valerie who had the most glorious collar! She enthusiastically joined in on our discussion and had strong feelings on the subject. (Score 2 for collars.)

She even shared a secret: she made the collar she was wearing that day.

Don’t you just love it when you’re admiring something on someone and they say, “Oh this? I made it!” I instantly think they’re genius.

She’d decided to add it to her pinstriped flowy suit when she got dressed that morning. She said, “Navy blue and pinstripes, well it just looked too manly and not distinctive enough. It really needed a collar. I like creating the feminine contrast.”

Take a look at the closeup picture. I LOVE the fabric she used! It’s clearly a high quality cotton. Turns out she makes all kinds of collars and adds them to her outfits. She is especially fond of the Renaissance look.


collar styles

Collar closeup


So then this happened…


A week later with this collar discussion still noodling around in my mind, I picked up the remote to see what was showing on the Turner Classic Movie TV channel. You’d think collars were following me around. Here was Bette Davis playing Queen Elizabeth I in the movie The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Take a look at that collar! Talk about presence!

Final score: Collars 3, collarless 0.

What do you think? Do they think collars perk us up and give us more presence?


collar styles

A collar frames the face of Bette Davis in her role as Queen Elizabeth I

A little lesson in creating Beauty Bundles


Hello dear readers! It’s time for a Beauty Bundle lesson. Not a piano lesson, not a guitar lesson, a Beauty Bundle lesson.

Why? Because I got this question from someone recently and I want to show you all how easy it is to get an instantly put together look, one that you don’t have to think twice about! Putting it on will take two seconds and requires no brainpower. That way you can get dressed in a jiffy and get back to all those important things you’re up to. I know you, you’re busy!

So here’s the question.

Q: “I have a hard time mixing jewelry together—like my earrings and bracelets and necklaces. I’m never quite sure what I should put with what or if I’m doing it right. Can you help?”

A: The key is to be sure your jewelry speaks the same language. If you’re wearing earrings, bangles and a necklace, they need to relate to one another some way. Once you’ve created a group that works well together you have what I call a Beauty Bundle. That Beauty Bundle can be worn together repeatedly whether it’s with casual outfits or dressier ones.


Here’s an example of an easy-to-wear Beauty Bundle





Last year I bought that heart pendant on the long leather chord at my local fun store, J.James just off the Plaza in Sonoma. It’s so lightweight for summer and perfect with all the tunics I’m wearing.

The cuff is black-crackle metallic leather with metal work and is designed by Calleen Cordero. I’ve recently visited her store on Sunset in Beverly Hills but I shopped for this one locally, at Robindira Unsworth in Petaluma. I bet I’ve had it at least three years or more, but it’s only been traveling together in this Beauty Bundle since last summer.

The earrings were a purchase made long ago as well at Gallery of Jewels in San Francisco. They are my version of hoop earrings and they’re a gunmetal color. They blend in nicely with the  cuff. Building a Beauty Bundle is kind of like layering. I layer on those hoops and the cuff remains happy to be getting the bulk of the attention.

Balance is important in a Beauty Bundle.


A Beauty Bundle needs a theme

The themes in this bundle are black or blackish, and metal. You don’t see any multi-colored gemstones in this bundle. Nothing’s too dainty; it’s all just right.

I wear a lot of black and white in the summer. I took this bundle with me when I went to church this summer in Hastings, North Dakota. I added it to what I was wearing: a black and white dotted top; sheer, loose black Eileen Fisher jacket; and white pants.

In fact, I believe I left that necklace in a hotel room because it never made it back to Sonoma with me. I hope whoever found it is enjoying it. I can be gracious because thankfully, I was able to get it replaced.

A Beauty Bundle can’t have a piece missing or it just doesn’t work! Since I’d had so much experience wearing this particular bundle it was worth it to me to replace the missing part. Ah, together again! They are so happy and so am I!


Can you make one now?

Sometimes it takes a little time accumulating the things you need to create a Beauty Bundle. If you’re halfway there, make it your mission to go all the way. Maybe your BB needs the right earring to be complete, or the right bangle or bracelet. Whatever it is, you’ll be so glad you spent the time finishing the bundle so you can wear it any time, all the time. As we spend several more weeks wearing short sleeves or rolling up our sleeves, Beauty Bundles can add all the adornment you need to be well dressed.

Beauty Bundles: they’re beautiful, practical, and easy to wear!

Do you have Beauty Bundles that you wear a lot? I’d love to have you share them with me! Maybe on our Tips & Teasers Facebook page? Let me see!


Real Life: Summer Couple Style

couple style

Couple style in Sonoma


There’s no better place to people watch than sitting outside at one of the copper top tables at Sunflower Caffe on a Sunday in Sonoma. Order an iced latte and nurse it to the last drop while watching tourists and locals come and go in both directions. It’s a perfect activity for an introvert. For you people watching hobbyists out there, this is a prime location, I promise.

That’s what I was doing when I saw this handsome couple stroll into Sunflower. Russ and I were weeding through the Sunday New York Times but my mind lingered on them.

Fifteen minutes went by and I needed more ice for my latte. I’d been silently, up in my head, roaming around trying to locate some courage. I would LOVE to talk to them and ask them about their style but that’s not what a shy person does!

You’d never believe I was Donnie and Alma’s daughter. My parents have master’s degrees in talking to strangers. They could teach a course at your community college.

I went in for ice and to see if, just in case, I might spot them again. There they were–the stylish couple–having lunch at one of the high tops. Before I could convince myself of all the reasons why I shouldn’t disturb them, I disturbed them. “I just have to tell you, you are the most stylish couple on the square today,” I said.

Did that sound lame?

That’s how I met Julian and Daphne from Berkeley. And now I’m prepared to tell you everything I learned about them. (They gave me permission!)


head to toe style

Style from head to toe


My first question for this couple–because I was dying to know, and you probably are, too–was: “Do you dress yourselves or does one dress the other?”

The strongest personal experience I have with couples looking great at the same time is my parents. As many of you know, my Mom loved clothes. When it came to getting dressed to go somewhere, she always dressed my dad. He was the best-dressed on every occasion but I knew the secret: he didn’t do it himself! In fact, when she passed this spring, that was a big worry for him: How would he dress himself without her? Putting an outfit together was a complete mystery to him.


No worries here

But I suspected this was not the case with this couple. There was a lot of confidence in their aura!

I was right. They are on their own. They appreciate similar style notes from fashion history but they do their own thing.

Daphne said, “I’ve never seen a man who can dress like he does. He’s very good with colors and how he puts his clothes together.”

It turns out, Julian, 55, rallied to get GQ magazine into his high school library at Berkeley High. When you find his picture in the yearbook, the caption reads, “Mr. GQ.”


So what’s up, Julian?

“I’m an old spirit,” he said. “I like clothes from the 30s and 40s like in the old movies. The materials are better, they were made well. Even when men were casually dressed, they looked great.”

At golf tournaments where they have best-dressed contests, he wins.

“I’m not afraid to be a trendsetter,” he said.


men's summer style

Mixing colors, having fun


I loved his whole head-to-toe look: The white Ralph Lauren polo sweatshirt with the orange logo, the minty-green pulled out collar of the knit shirt underneath, and the seersucker pants. So fresh and summery. You’ve just gotta love a man who wears seersucker pants in the summer!

His shoes were just…cool. It was easy to see he’d be that kid in class who always wore the best shoes. I asked him how many pairs of shoes he has in his closet. He said something about Imelda Marcos. I got the picture.


mixed prints

Mixing prints, making magic


So tell me about your style, Daphne

Daphne and I have something in common when it comes to fashion inspiration: Turner Classic Movies. She’s crazy about the old MGM movies with the big dance scenes and the lavish costumes. I adore the attention to detail.

“How do you go about putting an outfit together?” I asked Daphne who is 50.

“I start with comfort and then colors. I try to show off my attributes.” She took her right hand and slid it across her left shoulder and down her arm. You’ve gotta love a woman who loves her arms! Her dress was the perfect cut for highlighting them.

“We like to look nice when we go places,” she added.

I loved her feather earrings. The shade of green was heavenly. Her indigo print dress flowed easily over her cuffed blue jeans. Her patent and bowed thong sandals were so girly and pretty like her face. The cowrie shell ankle accessories tied into the tribal print in her dress. Her supple leather patchwork print shoulder bag made me smile. Here was a print mixologist, someone who made mixing prints look effortless. Her lipstick color picks up one of the shades in the squares of her bag. Nice detail!


What about the closet?

Daphne edits her wardrobe regularly. If she hasn’t worn something in a year, she recycles it. Not so with her vintage pieces, however. She hangs on to those.

Does Julian edit his closet? No, not so much. He’s a collector. He buys quality pieces and holds onto them.


Conscious Styling

There is not always conscious styling within a couple.

Julian and Daphne don’t know about the many complaints I’ve heard from women clients over the years. I help them look and feel great and they’ll often say, “Oh, my husband needs you so badly but he just doesn’t care!” Sometimes it’s the reverse, but not often. Or one of my clients will report back to me after attending a social event and tell me about how great the women looked but the men looked like they were dressed to play kickball in the alley. Things have gotten a little too casual, I think.

As Julian and Daphne ride off into the sunset, back across the Richmond Bridge to Berkeley, I’m left with the radiance of their style expression. And now you are, too!



A teaching story

Heading off into the sunset, thanks Julian and Daphne!




How to look nice but feel nearly naked


Let’s say it’s summer and it’s hot and sticky outside and you’re going to be in and out of your car. In your imagination you’d like to be a kid right now running through the sprinklers to cool off instead of running from the dry cleaners to the market to the coffee shop to finish that writing you promised yourself you’d finish and then off to the hardware store to get a spare key made and…you get the picture. While you want to be ripping things off instead of putting things on, you still have to be legally dressed in public.

The cool thing about finding some lightweight necklaces to wear in the summer is that you end up looking legally dressed but feeling nearly naked. They don’t add weight but they do bring attention to something pretty or entertaining or interesting instead of bringing attention to the beads of sweat on your brow or the wetness forming at your hairline on the back of your neck.


Example #1: Dazzle on a chain


She held it in her hand and said, "Pretty, pretty, pretty."

Lightweight but has voltage


If you were to sneeze in front of this chain (above), it would fly away and you may never find it. Yes, it’s that lightweight. And this little pendant circle of wire-wrapped hematite beads feels as light as a lace doily. Because it was super lightweight, I thought the price would be super lightweight. I’m not saying it was expensive but it was more than I thought it would be. But you wouldn’t believe how much I’ve reached for it. It was worth every penny! If I want to look nice and feel naked – like I’m not wearing a thing – I put this on. It couldn’t possibly weigh an ounce!


Example #2: Chains and more


Layering a super lightweight chain with a pendant at a birthday bash, past.


This picture above is a June photo taken more than one birthday ago. I wonder if I got my wish!!! Actually, I’m guessing what I wished for and yes, I did get it. I probably wished for the same thing this year, too.

Anyway, this was a warm day as I remember. I’m sitting at Neiman Marcus in the Rotunda having lunch with friends. That top is lightweight mesh; sleeves are sheer. I found that gunmetal doubled chain somewhere–can’t remember where–for little to no money. It’s the chain on the outside of the necklace duo I’m wearing. It’s a fabulous layering piece or I can just wear it by itself. If I didn’t layer it, it would hang down around my hips so I do double it or pull on it to get staggered lengths.

If I were to guess where I picked it up (shopping tip is just on the other side of this parentheses) I’d say in it was in the Brass Plum department of Nordstrom. It’s the junior department and they have lots of inexpensive jewelry that teens clamor for. I stop by there periodically to see if they have a current trendy item for less money. The real deal item is downstairs behind a glass counter and costs hundreds of dollars. If the lookalike can pass my discerning eye, I’ll buy it.

If I remember correctly, Miss Amy Rosevere is the one who told me about this tip YEARS ago! Amy writes the fabulous jewelry blog called Jewelry Fashion Tips. In fact, Amy was at this celebratory luncheon! I love how the memory fades in and out…is that a 60 thing?

On this day I decided to add my lava pendant because I loved the two gunmetal colors together. But I could have gone without if I wasn’t interested in creating more of a focal point. Hey, I was with jewelry lovers. I couldn’t show up with just ONE necklace on!

I recommend looking for those easy chains. You can wear them now in the summer or add them to a grouping in the winter when you’re layering necklaces over cashmere sweaters.


Example #3: Leather cord with a little something

A pendant on a leather cord (below) feels so no-fuss in the summer time. I bought this heart shaped one last summer. It was so very different for me at the time. I wondered if I looked like I’d wandered into a Modern Art Museum’s gift shop but I got over it. I ended up adding it to everything! It makes me feel dressed to wear a necklace that finishes my outfit–even if it’s just a casual day, running around town. I add a simple earring–in this case, it’s my version of hoops. A summer cuff and a ring finishes off this summer accessory bundle.

Black and white outfits

A summer necklace that feels lightweight


So tell me, what do you wear in the heat when you’d rather being wearing nothing at all?

How jewelry helps you look professional in summer heat



Summertime can be a hard time to get a work wardrobe to work. There’s something about wearing that third layer over a pant or skirt — such as a swing cardigan, jacket, or vest– that makes one feel dressed for the day and a little more professional in the workplace.

So what do you do when you’re wearing fewer clothes, less layers, going more bare but you still want to look finished, polished, and professional?

That was both the lament and a question from a reader.

 Q: “I miss how my wintery jackets, blazers or cardigans always made me feel put together. Now when I’m just wearing a blouse and a pant or a tee shirt and a skirt, I feel underdressed. What should I do?”

A: Wear a strong enough necklace and you’ve virtually created a third piece. Why? Because it’s eye-catching, it is a focal point, it adds interest to “just” a blouse and a pant or a tee and a skirt. Statement necklaces can create a conversation or reveal something about your personality. Stop worrying about buying more clothes. Let your jewelry do the work of “getting dressed” for you.


I love these examples below. These photos were taken in a New York office. Both women were wearing slacks and blouses but they looked so great! I wanted to talk to both of them. Their jewelry gave me a clue that they were thoughtful, interesting people.


And their jewelry was right!


This necklace spray of sparkle on a simple linen blouse spells S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R






Some necklaces come layered for you–no muss, no fuss. Or mix it on your own: pearls, spiky metal, and chains




Put those necklaces to work this summer!

The power of red lipstick and long friendships


Real Life Pattiricia


I’ve been in Minnesota with my Dad this summer. There’s a lot to do since Mother passed on March 25th. Grieving and dealing with loss has been a big, big job. Helping Dad figure out his next steps — how to live without her — is one of them. While he’s weighing possibilities, I’m doing some of the heavy lifting, physically and emotionally, in their home at the lake in Minnesota. There’s a lot to go through. They had sixty-four years together and there’s much they threw away.

I’ve been going through dusty, unidentified boxes in the garage; cleaning out “their” closet and turning it into “his” closet; sorting through drawers and cupboards, trying to simplify for whatever comes next for him.

I didn’t know what I’d come across inside those boxes and drawers. For instance, a box that contained old electric mixers and random kitchen utensils also held red, blue, and purple pocket folders. I opened them up and discovered evidence of my entire thirty year career. Neatly arranged inside the pockets were newspaper clippings by me or about me, articles I’d written, and newsletters I’d sent dating back to 1992 when my newsletters had postage stamps on them. She even had a copy–the only copy–of the speech I gave at my high school reunion.

One of the pieces of paper was an article I’d written about Patti, my best friend from high school, written back around 1994. I had lost track of it and she had too. The original file in my computer refused to open the file long ago so I thought it was gone forever. “Patti” was there at the lake for a few days with me so it was fun to read it aloud to her and Dad one night while sitting in the front porch. It’s one of those “Real Life” stories with a style lesson woven in.

It still holds true today even though some of the references will sound very dated. Like long ago, women wore suits, stockings and pumps. Imagine! Here it is.


Patti McFearless

Finding evidence of Mother’s love: Patti McFearless, circa 1994, was in the stash




I was the out-of-state expert about to look like a fool. I was in Duluth, Minnesota lecturing on “Smart Women, Smart Accessories.” I was on Tip #18 in the handout, Buy Accessories That Look Like You. I said, “If you have big, bold features like jewelry designer, Paloma Picasso…” (and I held up a laminated color photo of her), “…wear big, bold earrings.” Easy.

While the women looked at each other and nodded their heads in unison, I looked over at Patti, my best friend since high school, beaming at me from the back row. She thinks I’m so smart. She’s Miss Pixie herself–small pert lips, cute little nose, puppy dog eyes. She looks great in her big, shiny, silver earrings.

BIG EARRINGS. She’s not supposed to look good in big earrings. I lost my smile and stumbled ahead to Tip #19 hoping to dodge the obvious objection: “If Patti can wear big earrings and have little features, why can’t I?”

How can she break the rules like this and make it work?

Patti and I drove to Minneapolis on Sunday and I got the answer. Our first stop was her favorite coffee shop, Sebastian Joe’s. It was impossible to miss three, well-dressed, VERY IMPORTANT LOOKING people sitting at a corner table in the casual college dive. The women were in black suits, stockings and pumps. Their blond hair, French-manicured fingernails, and makeup were flawless. The middle-aged man had thinning gray hair and the stiffest white shirt with thin blue stripes. Their heads and arms were frozen like mannequins while they talked.

We sat down next to them. I skimmed through a copy of Spy magazine left at our table while Patti wolfed down her non-fat mocha.

I was dying to hear what these people were talking about: corporate takeovers, counter-intelligence, computer virus attacks.

The man said in a low voice, “One thing I’ve noticed about women from North Dakota …” and I held my breath, straining, straining to catch the next part, when Patti lurched way over into his air space, threw her arm out over their table, shook her finger and said with a teasing leer, “Hey, better be careful what you say. We’re from North Dakota!”

The women tilted their heads forward. “Really? We are too. Where are you from?” Then they all talked at once about famous people from North Dakota — Lawrence Welk, Mickey Mantle (or was it Roger Marris?), Peggy Lee and that blond actress, what’s-her-name? I blurted, “Angie Dickenson,” breaking my silence.

When the ladies left, “Bob” joined our table.

“So, what about women from North Dakota?” I wanted to know.

“They’re smart,” he said. Patti made him right while they carried on about food, architecture, gambling on the Indian reservations and Minnesota politics. I kept quiet and looked hard at this woman sitting across from me, my best friend for twenty-five years. She’s fearless.

“Move to California with me,” she insisted when I graduated from high school, which to a farm girl was like going to the moon. It was her idea to knock on doors in La Jolla asking for phony directions so we could see the inside of fancy houses. She dated Steve McQueen and had the nerve to stand him up.

Now she’s settled in Minnesota where she raises a stink in city politics. She’s building a spectacular steel and glass house with her dad. It’s winning state architectural awards, but people in town think she’s nuts for building a home two blocks from the county jail.

She may be tiny, but she lives big. I’m amending Tip #18. Now I’ll say, “If you have small scale features and you’re fearless, go ahead, break the rules.”

Patti does. It’s her style.

Patti and Brenda, Besties in '68

Patti and Brenda, Besties in ’68


From Patti to Pattiricia

When Patti turned 40, she decided to go by her full name–Patricia. Try as I might, I just couldn’t accommodate. When I tried to say Pattricia, my tongue would get tangled up.

I found a workaround: Pattiricia. For over twenty years, I’ve called her Pattiricia and maybe ten years or so ago, she came up with a new name for me. To Pattiricia, I’m Brendaricia. I accept, happily.

She knows a thing or two about loss. Her father died, then her mother, and she was there at their sides for their last breaths. It was the same scenario, in the same house, when five years ago, her husband died.


I’ve turned to her for lots of things throughout the years. Now I turn to her when I ache with grief. I can crumple with her and she stays strong and compassionate. I don’t even have to use words. She just gets it.

She’s the sister I never had. In fact, all our lives, people have mistaken us for sisters–even as recently as January when she came to be with me in Fargo in the hospital after Mother had her fall and her brain injury. She’s not afraid to be around tough situations.



Farm life

Patti on the farm

That’s Pattiricia in the center in the red hat, red neckerchief, and red lipstick. A fashionable farmer!


Pattiricia still surprises me. Her grief, after her husband died, led her to volunteering at the Food Farm, an organic farm and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Wrenshall, Minnesota, south of Duluth where she lives. It supplies produce to its members both summer and winter. She needed a distraction but it’s grown into much more than that. She’s a farmer and has even purchased neighboring land to be used for future crops.

She and Dad can talk farming for hours…and do. I didn’t always get it but last summer I visited her and saw what has got her committed and passionate. We walked the farm, toured the green houses, fed the chickens, and checked out all the tractors. It suddenly all made sense.


I swoon for these carrots!

I swoon for these carrots!


She was telling me this month about farm life. They’re working long hours getting the planting done. They have some new interns working on the farm and one of the veterans was telling a now legendary story to a newbie.

Pattiricia wears red lipstick to work on the farm everyday. She’s famous for it. One day, when a job required extra effort and tenacity, the whole female crew was instructed to wear red lipstick.

It was last October, late in the season, and the carrots needed harvesting. It was going to be a long day in the fields and Pattiricia took charge. She said, “Come on, we all have to put on our red lipstick and get this done. It’s a red lipstick push!” They rolled up their sleeves, shared her tube of red lipstick, and went out and pulled carrots. They got it done with the help of red lipstick. Of course.

Pattiricia…still leaving her mark wherever she goes.


Brendaricia and Pattiricia, July 2015, at Stumbeano's Coffee in Fargo

Brendaricia and Pattiricia, July 2015, at Stumbeano’s Coffee in Fargo


What time is it? It’s tiara time!




Birthdays and Tiaras

Birthdays and Tiaras



Birthdays! How do you feel about them? A client of mine had a birthday this June and I was giving her some attention for it. She said, “I’m not really focusing on them anymore.”

I get it! I’m at that age where I have to do the math to remember which one of those upper numbers I’m running into on June 21st.

I don’t think that’s the way it is with thirty-two-year-olds like my daughter, Caitlin. That’s her, above, toasting to “32” back on January 4th.



Birthday angst


I remember angst moments about birthdays in those earlier decades. I had a lot of expectations about where I should be, what I should be doing, and who I should be doing it with up until I reached 40.

Life didn’t automatically get easier at 40 but I dropped a lot of those self-inflicted expectations.

Now I spend less energy trying to make things happen and focus more energy on accepting life as it is. I think there’s a peace in that acceptance that I wouldn’t have known about before 40.


Birthday tiara


I was looking for a quote today that I’d written down. I couldn’t find it, but found this one instead. It’s from the movie This Is Where I Leave You (2014) with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and more. A family has gotten together to sit shiva for their father/husband back in the house where they grew up. Jason Bateman plays Judd, one of the adult kids, and Rose Byrne plays Penny, a high school sweetheart he reconnects with when he returns to the family home.

Judd and Penny have been hanging out when Judd says, “I’ve never taken any chances. I’ve spent my entire life playing it safe, just to avoid being exactly where I am right now.”

Penny says, “Cut yourself some slack, Judd. Anything can happen. Anything happens all the time.”

By the time we’re in our sixties, we’ve probably begun to realize how true that is. Anything can happen. It might not be what we wished for, wanted, planned for, or thought would happen in a million years.

Of course, unexpected death to loved ones comes to mind because that’s what happened to me in this last year. Two family members won’t be there this weekend when I go back to the lake in Minnesota to be with my family. We’re short two beloved people.

Anything can happen, and it did.


Brenda Tiara

Amy said, “May your birthday sparkle, just like you do.”


I just had my birthday and Facebook reminded me of that fact just in case I had forgotten. I got lots of birthday greetings. I don’t know if when they were sending those greetings they  realized how poignant it would be for me to have good wishes coming my way as I leave the hardest year behind and head into the unknown. It made me feel like I was standing in the middle of the yard and I was looking up at beautiful butterflies that were fluttering their wings all around me. (Thank you Facebook friends and snail mail friends, too!)

One friend, Amy Rosevere, wrote: “May your birthday sparkle, just like you do.”

Funny thing is, I had put this little tiny tiara on my head in the morning, one a friend had given me last year on my birthday, and wore it as I puttered around in my closet most of the day.

I wasn’t in a party mood on my birthday. I was missing the woman who decades ago huffed and puffed to birth me and my twin brother on the longest day of the year.


Closet meditation helped


Russ would check on me from time to time. “Doing okay?” he’d ask. “Yup, just fine!” I said.

Russ wanted to take me out but I just wasn’t feeling it. We had dinner plans with the kids later. I’d make my appearance then.

Instead, I putzed around. Sorting, culling, and caring for clothes is meditation for me. Luckily he understands that.

Russ saw a busy bee every time he checked in. I would be in varying degrees of being clothed or not as I was tackling a few projects at once.

I was making final edits of any remaining winter clothes still hanging in my closet–coats, jackets, heavier blazers, heavier pants and some dresses. I love thinning out the closet. I packed those items away (how many cashmere sweaters does one need in July?).

I finished unpacking the last of the summer things that hadn’t come out in April–too chilly back then.

In my review, I decided whether or not some of those summer items had past their expiration dates. I actually repurposed some clothes that had been downgraded to bathing suit coverups. They got pressed and hung in the closet with a new status upgrade.

I’m old school. I had to pull out the ironing board and plug in the steam iron. Hearing the s-s-s-s of the steam, I had memories of being a kid pulling clothes out of the ironing basket and ironing for the family when we lived on the farm, near Hastings.


Planning a Minnesota/North Dakota trip wardrobe


I needed to plan my trip wardrobe so I got that done on Sunday, too.

I picked out an outfit to wear to the graveside services on Saturday for my mother and brother, Todd, at the Spring Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery in Hastings, North Dakota where we grew up. I picked out an outfit to wear to church on Sunday in Hastings, the last day services will every be held there. That beautiful little church where my parents were married and where we kids went to Sunday School is closing down after putting in 116 years of service. It’s pretty much the last place standing in that town of 75 people. There will be lots of relatives coming for the family and church reunion.

I put together an outfit to wear to the tea party I’m planning later in the week for Mom’s church lady friends from Dent, Minnesota who have been so very kind to me and my family. I crave sitting with them around the table talking about Mom.

Mostly I’ll be with Dad who wants help figuring out what his next steps will be. I’ll get some walks in and sit in the glider overlooking Dead Lake, sipping Stumbeano’s coffee and writing my morning pages. Lake life is different than city life and I actually have to work harder at putting that wardrobe together. Send me to a conference, and I’m set. Send me to the lake and I’m floundering!


What to wear for my birthday


There was one more outfit to put together during my closet meditation on June 21st and that was my birthday outfit–what I’d wear to celebrate with my twin brother, Brent, Russ, the kids, and Mike, Erin’s boyfriend. It’s turning into a tradition to have our birthday dinner at Central Market in Petaluma. I knew one thing: the tiara was going to be the focal point of the outfit. I’d worn it all day and didn’t want to take it off. I know it’s tiny, but it’s sparkly and mighty!

I decided to support it with more sparkle. I could hear Amy’s voice in my head: More sparkles, Brenda, more!

(You can read Amy’s blog Jewelry Fashion Tips and she’ll probably start talking in your ear, too!)

I wore white jeans, a Vince oatmeal colored long, lightweight t-shirt and my gold pretend tweed Chanel jacket (actually, Talbots). Then I layered two sparkly necklaces together and added a mix of bangles at both wrists for more sparkle. I wore beige suede Prada platform sandals and carried a lady-like tan purse with a handle.

But really, it was the tiara that was the hit. Caitlin and Trevor met us outside the restaurant and it was the first thing they spotted. It made them smile, and me too.

It’s pretty hard not to grin the whole time you’re wearing a tiara, especially this baby-sized one. I’m thinking there’s a tiara-size-to-birthday-decade ratio or formula. Since those first few decades of birthdays carry so much weight with them, the tiara needs to be bigger to match. Now that I’m in the taking-life-as-life-is phase of things, birthdays are lovely but less weighty. I think the size of the tiara I’m wearing is perfect for right now when I’m just happy to be here.

I miss those who are no longer here, sometimes desperately, but sparkles help.

I’ll take the sparkles into each new day where anything can happen, both good and bad.