Philadelphia

Renior in Retrospect

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I left Philadelphia in 1985. I was bright-eyed, ambitious and hungry for life’s experiences. I left behind friends and a way of life that would never be mine again. Though the way life works is funny, and sometimes these things circle back. The very sweet silver lining of loosing a beloved friend to a terrible disease this summer was reconnecting with a childhood friend in a new way. This weekend, Julie came to DC to bring her daughter to look at colleges. Funny circle that was created – my leaving point was our reconnection point. The power of that was not lost on me as I made plans for a day doing some of what I have always loved, followed by an evening reconnecting.

Bob and I made plans to visit my all-time favorite art-space in DC – The Phillips Collection. There, we would enjoy the Van Gogh exhibit –  interestingly enough called Repetitions (an exploration of Van Gogh’s repeated study of the same subject matter). It is a worthwhile show and a very engaging way to connect with some some of my favorite Van Gogh subjects (the towns of St. Remy and Arles as well as the families that filled his world).

 

Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renior)

As we wandered thought galleries on 21st Street, I made my way to another old and very dear friend. I have been visiting Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party  at the Phillips Collection since I arrived in DC in 1985. I have powerful memories of standing in front of this majestic, lush painting with my mother, my friends, various dates and certainly alone. I would dive deep into the narrative of the painting – paying close attention to the characters. I saw myself in the painting – that was clear. I was (or longed to be) the flirty, alluring woman in the top right. She had a twinkle in her eye was surrounded by two rapt men. She did not lack for company or attention. She did not lack for anything it seemed. Though yesterday when I stood in front of that painting, I allowed myself to look not though my old lens but with fresh eyes. And as I did, tears began to flow from my eyes as I realized with complete clarity that I was not that girl. I may have been, and that may have once worked for me – but that “moment” seemed far away.  I looked harder, wondering if I was even still at the party. And I was….my eyes connected with the woman sitting confidently alone, sipping her wine and taking in the scene with a quiet strength. This is the actress, Ellen Andree.  I did not realize that I was crying until the lovely, young docent walked over and asked if I was ok. I explained what I had been considering and she said clearly, kindly and with total conviction – “that is who you want to be – that other woman had a messy, complicated life — the actress was the best of the guests”.  I will take it…

This weekend was about revisiting. And while backwards is not my preferred trajectory – I am glad I did.

The More Things Change…1990 All Over Again…

Friday, September 28th, 2012

This has been a remarkable week. The launch of the Rebecca Minkoff for Bravado Designs Limited Edition Nursing Tank to Benefit Baby Buggy has captured the hearts, minds and attention of so many. I could not be more proud of what we have accomplished with this ground-breaking initiative. It is not just about breastfeeding or at-risk mothers and children or community or connection –  it is about all of it and more. It is about weaving these parts together to create a new standard for care and a greater whole from the parts. I thought I would share some of what we accomplished – but there is time for that (spoiler alert – it is really impressive!!!).

What I am struck by is how often I have been asked about my philanthropic influences this week. And as I tell the stories – I can help but want to revisit the early days…

Today I want to share the story of one of my significant philanthropic influences, David Bindeman. I need to share this story because he is not here to see what I have accomplished or laugh with me about the way in which he influenced me (any one who knew David knew he neither suggested or asked  - he simply told me what to do) and moved me on my way on this most amazing path.

So here is the scene – it is 1990. I am a recent college graduate (all of you be quiet — and stop doing math on your fingers!!!) and I am sitting in David’s office. David Bindeman’s office. He is of one of Washington’s most influential men. I am there because David’s old friend Dick Simon (a dear family friend from Philadelphia) asked that David keep an eye on me in DC. I am also there because David is married to Carol who was a close childhood friend of my Aunt Susan.  I am in my first “real” job – I make close to nothing and live off of a combination of happy hour food and Tortilla Coast (which is owned by a friend of mine who is  more than happy to feed me in exchange for my bringing in the revolving cast of  characters in my life). I am busy with work, book groups, tennis games and cooking classes. I am dating a former USC football player who calls me Maestro (see nothing changes!!!). I am all about life in DC.  I am so happy – happy to finally be “in the real world” — honestly, I don’t remember too many details. But I do remember being pretty buzzed about my little red MX-6 and my business cards! So now you have the context.

David calls me into his office. He tells me simply – ” I am on the board of JFGH (Jewish Foundation for Group Homes),  they need some help and you are going to help me”.  Well, of course I want to help. I don’t have money  (understatement) and I let him know I would love to help but honestly I cannot afford the ticket to their gala and I don’t see that sort of thing in my near future. He looked at me (big – he was big on so many levels) and said – “you have friends — I want your friends”. He expained that the staff at JFGH were overlooking two key things – they had no plan for the next generation of support for the Foundation and they were not  fully considering the social needs of the residents of the group homes. He said. “you will launch Young Friends of JFGH”. This seems logical enough to me. And, I agree. Pretty simple. We begin by brining in my friends to be spend time hanging with the residents. We have game nights, dinners – we have fun!  Years pass (the football player is replaced by a nice Jewish boy!!!). The residents are engaged and respected. Relationships grow. The word and the mission spreads. It has a viral quality (that is not what we called it then). And we go to the gala (I remember my dress) – I think David may have even paid for a bunch of us. He wanted to prove his hypothesis correct  (and it was) — and we helped him make it so. The group remains in tact today.

Today I ran into Debbie Bindeman Kleinbord. We talk about her father. We talk about the initiative I launched this week. We laugh and we smile, rapt by the memory and how fortuitous it was to see each other on this day — really good stuff. And as I walk away, an amazing sense of “lucky timing” for having run into Debbie washes over me. I started thinking – really how is  this 2012 moment with Influencers, Baby Buggy, Bravado and Rebecca Minkoff any different from what David enlisted me to do so many years ago? There is a formula, a methodology, a familiarity – trademark Julia which had its roots way back when. And really it comes down to this from 1990:

I  was exposed to an issue.

I identified a strategy to do better – I kept it simple and from the heart (and I only agreed because it moved me).

I enlisted my friends and their collective power and voice to incite real change.

I engaged my community – to amplify what was possible.

And made it so.

So from there to here and whatever comes next –nothing feels better than when this works!

Thank you all for being part of this remarkable equation. And to David Bindeman for showing me how powerful what I had really was…

 

 

 

A thank you from the tracks….

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

I am training North – not much new in that fact. I have left Bob, the kids (all four) and a beautiful DC day behind. Philly shines out my window. The Philadelphia Museum of Art (my Mother really was a decent docent!) , The Philadelphian (home of The Mommom – my incredible grandmother, muse and mentor), the River (skullers, boathouses, River Drives) – all landmarks of my childhood. All visible weekly from my train window. I don’t stop (not very often) I am simply passing though. I have lived longer away than I did there. Yet the lessons of those  formative years – the ones in which my sisters and I are shown by loving example who we should strive to be, how we should connect and care  for those around us and how we  have real responsibilities to the bigger picture – these powerful mandates stay with me, even today.  And, especially today, as I train on by on my way to bring something that I have incubated for nearly a year to life.

I have the feeling of being the in the right place (despite evidence to the contrary) because I am doing what I most believe in. And that is as good as it gets.

In the morning I am hosting a launch breakfast. I will introduce Jessica Seinfeld whose amazingly dedicated organization Baby Buggy will be the benefactor of a limited edition Rebecca Minkoff  for Bravado Designs nursing tank collection.  I will introduce Kathryn From who, at them helm of Bravado Designs, has always trusted me with her brand and given me an amazing swath of blank canvas on which to paint our shared commitment to super-serving and connecting all women with respect and with dignity. This is what I did – this is what I do…

I will stand with models adorned in these super chic nursing tank styles. And I will proudly share how 20% of all proceeds will go to support at-risk mothers. How a young mother will receive a tank or bra for each garment purchased. And how we are all connected — in our motherhood.

So yes Philly- I am training past you again – but I would not have had the chance  to be this woman had I not started there — with my eyes and heart wide open paying careful attention as I set off on my way….so from the tracks, thank you.

Goodbye to the Big Man

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Oh this is completely off topic – except that there is no possible way to understand me and thus all that is now Forty Weeks without first imagining me in my yellow bedroom on Frobel Road in Laverock, Pennsylvania completely lost in my Bruce albums. I got a brand new stereo for my Bat Mitzvah (thank you Uncle Herb) and I can still see myself there, in that end bedroom (when not spending countless hours on my “private” line 232-5332) listening to Bruce albums. The River had just been released and it seemed so had some powerful passion inside of me. I still cry when I hear certain versions of The River. It was bigger than any emotion I had experienced and the notion of being de-flowered of my emotional innocence still rattles me a bit. Loss? Hopelessness? Despair? Disappointment? The street? All this was new to the newly minted teenager in Philadelphia.

I went journeying backwards through the Bruce catalog and spent my days making sense of the world through his poetic lens. There is none of that without Clarence Clemons. There was something about the way he blew that sax that drew me in and never released me . It was not just the melancholy it was also the party that he brought to the table. And the best part – back then, was the live shows and the amazing camaraderie between Bruce and Clarence. That is how I wanted my work to feel (and it does, btw) – connected to and surrounded by people who love what they do as much as I and frankly who feel it…big, juicy and real. This was  a relationship that moved and motivated me to find  and surround myself with my own - loving, like-minded, and spirited,  The friendship, care and respect is so evident in these images:imagesCAERGP18bruce clarencebigman

And so last night, in the wee hours (I really could not sleep) I wrote my goodbye to the Big Man. And so with love and sadness, goodbye Clarence, goodbye and thank you.

It is a sad, somber day on E Street.  Saying goodbye to one of the most talented, charismatic and soulful spirits – what a gift you were! Clarence has been the omnipresent musical force that has elevated, emoted and engaged both on stage and off. There is no soundtrack of my life without his sax, and for that I am grateful. RIP to the Big Man…oh how you will be missed.

Goldilocks and the Three Parents: Knocked up (and flipped around) by the New York Times

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Here is the story of why you must read the entire New York Times on a Sunday in order to parent well (or at least know the facts). So kids, please back off I am busy here – sipping coffee and figuring this out:

Once upon a time in the land of the Gray Lady was a Front Page cover all about drug addiction and pregnancy. It said that you are too high to be pregnant (especially in Maine):

Newly Born, and Withdrawing From Painkillers

Deeper in the paper, there was a cover (though below the fold) of the Styles Section – it said that MTV was one giant warm, fuzzy educator in a glammed up, air brushed and glossy disguise.  This piece said, you are too young to be pregnant:

Fighting Teenage Pregnancy With MTV Stars as Exhibit A

But then, and finally on a left-hand page, well in the Styles section, we find the happy ending to our tale. With the sound of birds chirping in the background, this piece shares what the Times readers knew all along (about themselves anyway as this is the demo, no?) – wait long enough and you will be a happy, joyous parent. Here Pamela Paul  (full disclosure I adore Pamela) shares research that concludes older parents are happier than younger parents: Older Parents Find More Joy in their Bundles

And so you see, once again a flurry of bloggy, boisterous backlash is born – welcome to Sunday….

LOOK!!!!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

As my kinder, friends, office-mates and beloved Bob will tell you I don’t eat potato chips (ok, I do eat Popchips – they are quite good).  I don’t even keep chips in the house. My children will tell you this just adds to my status as “Meanest Mom Ever”. Yet, there is something magical, even transformative that happens to this Philly ex-pat when I drive by Taylor Gourmet in Bethesda, Maryland in the wee hours and see this…

NEW herr's t tuck

A Little More on the Legacy – A Walk down Memory Lane

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

I  hit the jackpot when it comes to genes. Born into a long line of innovators, risk-takers and highly creative and motivated souls,  I came out pitching new business ideas and sparking from day one. And thanks to the patience and humor of my mother I was active – marking most of our personal belongings for sale (loved those little stickers!!!) and launching new concepts from the age of five! How about that?!?.  Curious about who was on the leading edge of selling water – look no further, it was me circa 1974 (truth be told, Joanne shut me down, as it was unseemly to sell water – but I compromised and agreed to sell it for free). But really, it was not just the nature it was also the nurture that propelled me on my way.

I worked. And I worked and I worked some more. But first I watched. My early working memories are Saturday mornings at my Father’s office. A space so magical words could not do justice to the whole of it. The warehouse filled with SKUs,  a certain smell of boxes and fabric ink, a man named Jackson who was in charge of that giant space and rode me around on his lift – pure power! And what of the copy machine, cubicles, order entry stamps, dusty floor, and of course, the soda machine (bottles, I kid you not)?  It was the stuff that my dreams were made of.

And then there was my Mommom’s office (that would be N. Leah Lipson to you) – there she sat – smoking her Parliaments, holding court and signing checks  – she was Auntie Mame in the corner office – oh what energy she had! And there too I soaked it in and tucked away the way in which she spoke to her staff, the way in which they responded to her and the spell she cast.

There was also the Magazine. I certainly remember the grandeur of those offices at 1500 Walnut– complete 70s chic, Hermes scarves framed on the walls and stylish young people everywhere. I remember the publishing side as chic. My Uncle Herb’s office and the omni-present Irene were the inner-sanctum. I found myself there a lot over the years.  The editing side was a place of constant motion – and those who worked on that side were so vibrant. I recall rubber cement – because it was “way back when” and my cousin Sherry (who to this day is one of my greatest de facto mentors) was in the business of cut and paste – old school. WOW – that was power – she laid out the magazine – decided the who and the what and the where – and it was nothing short of mind blowing to me.

And that was all mine….incredible really!

So on mornings like this, I am thinking about the good luck and feeling nothing but gratitude not only for the genes but also for the constant exposure to the possibilities. How I would use my talents was and still is completely up to me. As I get ready to host a round table next week for the JPMA (yes that is what I am meant to be working on right now) I am imagining the roundtable of my life – these influential people who loved and encouraged me though both word and example. And feeling the echoes of their love and support as continue on my way…

Making Peace with my Own Personal Mad Men

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

I am the direct descendant of a Mad Man; Mad Men, actually. I spent my childhood surrounded by all the trappings of that most remarkable heyday – or really the remains of the day. The family continues to thrive in the post-mad men, super-digital, Wild West era.  My grandfather’s raging creativity and risk taking in the late 1940s and 1950s set the stage for generations of us making a living in the luckiest and sometimes riskiest  of ways – surrounded by remarkable people who, like us fed on good ideas and  were always on the hunt and at the  ready for the next thing. We were blessed with an amazing history, back-story and powerful genes. And the lot of us have all found our way into the most remarkable places. Mine is here at the helm of Forty Weeks. I’d like to think that my unearthing and nurturing of a new niche would be just the thing that would float my Grandfather’s boat – and I am sure he would be proud.

Watching Mad Men, for me has been strangely bittersweet. On one hand, it feels familiar and inviting. I am captivated as the faded family photographs come to life.  And why not?  I have paid close attention to and savored this new glimpse into the era (I feel like my little kid self – looking down the stairs from the second floor landing) – the design, the music and the mood of the day are all a treat for the senses. The clothes, the cars the parties are all so familiar. Even the office furniture rings real.  There are the offices, the homes and the clubs (and if you are wondering about those clubs and other institutions of the day, we were terribly assimilated and that is how that worked).  It is a time I had glamorized in my mind. There is little doubt that I have let the cream rise to the top and had all but ignored what I must have already known. The rise of advertising, and the culture that it propagated was a white boys club. This was the cultural norm, this was everywhere and this was the social standard. And is our collective history – not just mine but ours.  And while I knew (yes I had information about where women and minorities did and did not fit in) I know it never really connected it to my personal history. And certainly, I never really allowed it to permeate my view of the day.  

Along comes Mad Men. And with the new, rekindled romance of the times comes a new found take on the reality of so much of what was wrong about it. Mad Men has forced me to reconsider the role of women in my family and in our business.  And to, finally process the whole of it – not just the sweet and shiny parts. And so, I will do just that. Somehow, come to terms with the glory and the shame of this era, my personal history and then tuck them away somewhere safe. Mainly because I have miles to go before I sleep and the legacy of all who came before me urging  me on to the next creative challenge…not to make it right but simply because I can.

Operator, Can You Help Me Place This Call?

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Long ago and far away (is the constant presence of this nostalgic preface in my writing a sign that I am tipping over into the next phase of life?  I certainly hope not) – Sundays were about calling home. Long distance rates were lowest on Sunday – and in particular on Sunday night. And back in the day (there I go again) we would all commit a part of our Sunday to calling our parents and grandparents. As I got older, and the telecom business and rate structure in the US changed (feel free to ask Bob, he can expand on this one) this all disappeared into a fuzzy memory.

But still, on Sunday morning I wake up ready to take on the New York Times, the Washington Post, a big cup of coffee and make my family calls (we were a little more well off than others, it was okay to call on Sunday AM – oohh – fancy). And even this morning,  though many years have passed  and my house is full of children (mine!) in varying degrees of sleep,  I have this undeniable urge to pick up the phone (the one no longer connected to the wall) and dial CE2-7479. This was my grandmothers’ phone number – Mommom’s exchange was  “CC”   which stood for  “Center City”  in Philadelphia where she was the reigning and undisputed queen of the Philadelphian,  the very stately apartment complex where she lived in apartment t 14-C-42 with breathtaking views of the Parkway, Museum and the city. I pass this building every week on the train en route to NYC.  I want to hear my Mommom’s voice as she listens intently and responds to my excited tales of life as me (nothing changes) with her own unique brand of sage sound bites, well-earned from having lived through one of the most reliably fluctuating, advancing and startling  centuries of history. And she did not just show-up – she lived. And set an incredibly high standard for what it meant to connect with others in this world, something I aspire to along with her unique brand of being a female company head (long lunches at Bookbinders on 15th street followed by check signing with scotch and her Parliaments come to mind) not to mention her sense of style (oh she had it!).

My grandmother died in 1998 (Thanksgiving – weekend, right after Lila was born). Born in 1908, she was one the truest characters I have ever known. My Mommom was flawed and fabulous all at once. And also, one of the biggest fans I would ever have. And I think often how she would react to this crazy new world, would she (as I suspect) reduce it all to the very basic precepts (Men can’t help themselves – um , Tiger Woods) or sing it in Cole Porter lyrics  (When grandma whose age is eighty in night clubs is getting matey with gigolo’s – anything goes um, Cougars)?  Would she stand behind my choices (I am sure of it) and laugh along with me though the long days here at Casa Loco (she would certainly enjoy my stories circa 2009 but she would not want to be part of the chaos)? Would she suggest I go see her “guy” for something (a piece of jewelry or an oil change – not matter what she had a guy)?  Would she tell me to keep it up while at the same time telling me to do less (yes, likely)?  She never saw me as a mother – or in a successful marriage. And really this is what I wish the most…that I could tell her how good and lucky my life is and how I wake up every day saying, in the words of Cole Porter  “ It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely” and in my words – this life of mine is good – beyond expectation, how I wish you were here to share it with me  – I miss you…

And so the Cookie Crumbles – A Sad Day

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I was not surprised by this morning’s news as The New York Times reported that in their post- McKinsey portfolio (oh, well that title is gone too, so maybe a bad world choice on my part), Conde Nast would be three titles short – Cookie, Gourmet and Modern Bride would close. And while it was clear to me that this was coming – I am not any less sad to see Cookie go. The fate of Cookie has been the all the buzz for months among those in the parenting category as well as the publishing community. Most of my publishing insider friends felt Cookie was essentially “dead man walking” and in the juvenile category we all hopped against hope that the magazine that made us sudden rock stars (our world has become super cool thanks to Pilar Guzman and her incredible editorial vision).

At ABC kids I spent a great deal of my time with publishers and group publishing heads discussing what many felt was already a fait accompli – the end of Cookie. Much of the conversation centered on their ad pages and their obvious failure to pull in revenue and meet projections especially within the category. And while I am always happy to discuss circulation and ad pages (I am an old magazine girl with publishing blood coursing through my veins) – what really strikes me is the rise and the fall of the Cookie brand. Because really – Cookie defined so much of the modern parent movement – and gave us all a stake in something well beyond our means.

Cookie, the bible of aspirational parenting (as I call it) – hit the scene in 2005. Ad pages were mostly filled with lifestyle ads well outside of the juvenile category. Fashion pages were the main “cross-over” (none of us ever believed these were more than bonus pages, no matter) and the book looked good. It was not honest (who lived like the moms in the pages of Cookie?), but it was fun! Cookie was high style and high imagination for main street parents. This beautifully presented insiders look at parenting on Melrose and Madison was in perfect synchronicity with America’s near obsession with celebrity pregnancy and baby. It gave readers access to a world well beyond their means, and before Cookie – outside of even their fantasy zone. It also paved the way for a new generation of luxury goods within the category and defined a new psychographic category of mom (a Cookie Mom was a spender, a trend-setter and a woman with a very clear aesthetic –not to mention a nanny and great shoes). Manufacturers who catered to this category were suddenly understood and adored. This tricked down in a very real economic way to Main Street Moms who made it their business not only to know what was happening on Melrose and Madison but also to have a little piece of it themselves. Cookie was all that was shiny and hip about parenting. It was bold and unapologetic – and now it is gone.

I want to consider what will come next. It is a conversation that is going to be had over and again and I will be a part of it. Only, not yet – not today. Today is a day to quietly consider the indelible mark Cookie left on the parenting category and hope that the death of Cookie is not the death of dreaming out loud within this category that I love so very much.

Goodbye Cookie – and especially to all of you with whom I have worked over the years – thank you for what you have shared with me of yourselves, your creativity and your contagious energy. I look forward to our paths crossing again very soon!