Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 135: The Winter Boot + Standing in the Arena.

My Latest Snag: The Everyday Winter Boot.

Though I love my collection of Loeffler Randall boots (they rank highly on the “investments that are worth it” list), with the sudden drop in temperatures, I am on the hunt for a boot I can wear in any weather that is flat and warm. I am thinking specifically about my daily traipse downtown to pick mini up from school. I need something that can weather snow, rain, and ultra-cold temps. I haven’t yet pulled the trigger, but the pairs I am considering:

THESE ISABEL MARANTS*

THESE IN THAT GREIGE COLOR (WATERPROOF!)

THESE, ALTHOUGH THE TREADS FEEL DANGEROUSLY SIMILAR TO DOC MARTENS AND I AM DECIDEDLY NOT A DOC GAL

*These are an update to the very popular Nowles boots seen above, which I also like. I own this pair of heeled booties from Isabel Marant in a different colorway three or four seasons ago and it is easily my favorite statement boot I’ve ever bought. I still wear it every season. Jump on the ridiculous discount on a gently used pair here. I think I paid north of $600 for them when they were in-season!

P.S. Great rainy weather gear.

You’re Sooooo Popular: The Teddy Coat.

The most popular items on the blog this past week:

+This longline shearling coat (love love love the ribbing at the cuffs).

+These inexpensive pearl hair clips (which I own — easy way to style/add panache when you’re feeling boring).

+My favorite boots of all time. (Why did they discontinue these?!)

+The inexpensive personalized ring I had etched with mini’s birth date and initials.

+The chicest raincoat.

+I love my MZ Wallace quilted backpack. CHIC solution for a mom on the go who wants to be hands-free. (More finds for a hands-free life here.)

+Obsessed with this cardigan.

+Elegant bench with so many potential applications — at a dining table, at the foot of a bed, in a foyer, in a bedroom. Love. Note that their 20% off promo is coming to a close in a few days!

+Velvet jumpsuit for the impending holiday season.

#Turbothot: Are You in the Arena After All?

I shared an excerpt from a Teddy Roosevelt quote I am loving in this post (P.S. — your comments on that post were a DELICIOUS MORSEL OF GOODNESS — I love you all so much and dream of hosting a dinner party with each and every one of you. So many interesting, sharp, motivated, thoughtful women sharing incredible insight and personality in the responses!):

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”

A dear friend of mine wrote me an incredibly thoughtful series of text messages talking about how she related so deeply to this quote in her early 20s when she was working as a Teach for America instructor that she had it pinned to the wall of her apartment. She has since moved on to practicing law (while raising her children and being an all-around incredible human being — #badass), and she commented that “my work days now revolve around long periods of silence reading esoteric documents that are far separated from any true human struggle, passion, or earnest world change. I feel more like those who are not in the trenches…”

She expressed some amount of remorse at this, and then noted: “There is a time for everything, though…now is the time for my young children, and husband, and family and it will be such a short time from now that I will expand my footprint and look outward again to the rest of the world.”

I was moved by her heartfelt, earnest grappling with — how to say it? — the raw stuff of life. The tradeoffs and balances and compromises we make as we navigate our way through the world, and our eternal quest to rationalize and apologize and do better, even when we are doing our very best (as my friend is) and need not engage in such hand-wringing. What a deeply good, thoughtful, civic-oriented person she is; how lucky I am to know her.

Her comments, though, incited some soul-searching on my end. When I heard the Roosevelt quote, I had immediately seen myself in the arena, as a doer of things. If nothing else, I thought, reflexively, in my thirty-five years on this earth, I have tried. I have explored a range of professions and dared to imagine my life differently at nearly every crossroad. I have been unafraid to fail — or perhaps absurdly ambitious and optimistic about my own wherewithal. And now I write in a public forum — very carefully, with no small amount of solicitude over the selection of words and the phrasing of things so as not to injure or ruffle feathers.

Yet my friend’s comments left me in a haze of self-reflection. Am I in the arena after all?

It takes a strong and astute and honest kind of person to step back and say: “This is not the arena. I’m on the outside right now.” Because does it not feel like we are always in an arena of some kind, doing things and struggling and being judged for it (whether that judgment stems from somewhere deep inside or is criticism in earnest)?

How sharp and modest and self-aware she is.

I truly wondered, for the better part of a morning, whether I am in fact a critic after all–one standing in the grandstands wearing a spotless white suit, cheering or jeering or issuing polite golf applause. There are, after all, many at work in pursuit of bigger ambitions and broader dreams. And here I am, perched in my apartment, musing on the living of life as best I can.

I fretted over this.

Perhaps this is why I struggled with a reader’s innocuous comment that “life is not all about nannies and ironed sheets.” I cannot bear the thought that I am a woman immaterial: I strive to be a woman of substance.

But am I, after all, on the outside? Floating around in a cloud of perfume, bedecked in starched linen, sipping lemonade as I look down at a dusty arena of doers?

No.

At the end of the day, after a solid couple of hours of evaluation, I still saw myself in that pit. I am building something here, even though it is, in the broader sweep of things, a paltry offering. I have muscled through my fair share of criticisms and dismissals on behalf of this space and I return to it every day, come what may.

Still — many thanks to my friend for inviting a good measure of humility and perspective into my livelihood. I wonder how you Magpies feel on this front, bearing in mind that — in the words of my friend — “there is a time for everything.” And maybe we slip in and out of the arena, and that’s just fine too.

Post-Scripts: The Arched Mirror.

+This arched mirror is dramatic and fun.

+This $118 dress is giving me major Ulla Johnson vibes. Love.

+PSA: did you know that there is such a thing as a Kitchenaid cover? For my 20th birthday, I asked my parents for a Kitchenaid to take to college. Not thinking forward to the future and acknowledging the fact that a Kitchenaid is a lifelong investment, I selected one in bubblegum pink that is now in complete disharmony with our kitchen (and an eyesore to Mr. Magpie). Problem solved.

+Love all things white, drapey, and pleated.

+Obsessed with these gift tags.

+Lining our pots and pans cabinet with this liner. How fun that it comes in prints and colors?!

+My favorite finds for home.

+Anyone else a die-hard Tervis Tumbler fan? They are vaguely embarrassing to me because they feel like something from a college tailgate or sorority date function but they really are a genius little invention, as they do not sweat — and I like water with ice cubes at night please and thank you and these do not leave a puddle on my bedside table.

+Chanel vibes for under $70. Wear with dark denim, Chanel flats, and a padded headband and — ZOMG. Holy chic.

+Gap is really killing it in the toddler footwear category. Love these!

+These are fun and impractical in just the kind of way I usually like. (Ugh.)

+Love these marble and brass pieces for a bathroom. (Another chic bathroom here.)

29 Comments

  1. Did you know there is a Serena and Lily outlet in Berkeley, Ca? You can call them and see if they have what you are looking for in stock and they will ship it to you.

  2. I just want to add another perspective here: to me, your blog is the opposite of a “paltry offering”! It’s rich, textured, varied, and brings me copious amounts of pleasure as I read (even when I’m weeks late in commenting!) This is not something paltry — it’s significant; it’s important; it’s something to cherish, whether you’re talking about serious literature or Chanel espadrilles.

    I don’t want you to discount the work you do for us here! It may seem insignificant in the face of other arenas of your life (like, say, motherhood or marriage), but it’s not insignificant to your loyal readers!

    Now onto winter boots 🙂 I am getting a “moon boot” feel from the Marants — haha! (In a good way, though) I had a pair of vintage moon boots in college and my mom and best friend made fun of me so much. I cringe a little looking back, but at the time I loved them!

    I typically just wear wool socks with my Everlane rain boots (they’re a bit chunky, though) or Blundstones (again, perhaps a bit chunky or masculine for you?) Have you seen these? Not sure if they’re weatherproof enough and I don’t think I’d wear them on wet days, but they’re lovely: https://www.shopbop.com/nanette-combat-boots-grenson/vp/v=1/1575886833.htm

    xxx

    1. First – thank you so, so much for the sweet note and encouragement. I appreciate it more than you know.

      Second, interesting food for thought on the boots — maybe I can just double down with my rainboots with thicker socks too…

      xxx

  3. I don’t know if maybe I interpreted ‘the arena’ in a different way, but I thought of it more as the world at large. There is so much need outside our own four walls – the world is our mission field, per se. It’s easy to complain or criticize, and there are not many who would follow-up their laments with action. This is what I often think about. I need to push myself more often to get involved in causes I care about. We all have resources to give – whether time, money or even just a smile or kind word. Our season in life and current space can be our mission field. Love the people around you well. Give where and when you can.

    I think you do this brilliantly, and I know I have been comforted by some of your reflections. I did want to comment on your post about moving – I moved the same weekend you did! I don’t think it ever gets easier…I don’t know how much more moving I have in me anymore! But, it was really nice to read that you and some of your readers also had a roller coaster of emotions through these experiences. Maybe the reach you have with your blog could be your arena in this season, too – nannies and iron sheets included. xo

    1. Hi April — AHHHH MOVING SISTA!!! It’s the worst. I’m so glad it’s behind us both. (To other women about to move: I am sorry. It’s seriously hideous.) It’s so comforting to think that there are other smart, organized women going through the same thing and feeling all the same emotions in sync with me.

      Re: arena. This has been so fascinating because I’ve now read through all the comments here and had conversations IRL with multiple people and everyone seems to have a slightly different interpretation of what we mean by arena. That’s good writing for ya, though — prismatic. At the same time, I do think Roosevelt was probably talking specifically about civic duty / public servanthood (?) when he made the speech, so I can see why you interpret the “arena” to be a space outside the home.

      xx

  4. Jen,

    I just bought a pair of Sorel Out n’ About Plus boots for the everyday cold and they’re pretty amazing. Shopbop has a few styles available.

    Also I wasn’t sure what my mantra was until today, so if you don’t mind I’ll share it with you in this post: “This is water.” It stems from the commencement speech the late David Foster Wallace gave about the “work of choosing” to see good and feel good during the everyday frustrations of life.

    It’s the perfect mantra for days when you’re standing in “a packed, 90-degree subway car in absolute agony, feeling the slick of someone’s sweaty arm against my own, inhaling the suffocating smell of somebody’s too-strong body spray and sweat, writhing out of the way of an unaware backpack or a pouf of hair” haha.

    You can read the speech, but it’s a short almost nine minute clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC7xzavzEKY

    1. Oh, I just love “This is Water” so much. I too find myself muttering “this is water” all the time!

      The full speech is so much richer than the video and and I think that DFW’s musings on what is capital T truth actually ties into Jen’s musings on being in the area.

      ” The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

      That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

      I agree with everyone who says that there are so many different areas — and I think that the real arena is the one in which you are called to “to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” Those might be big or small sacrifices, ones that get credit and ones that don’t. But no one human will every be able to fix all of the ills of the world. One human can however choose to live for other people. Is that the arena of curing cancer and solving the absolute crisis of climate change or electing officials who believe in the dignity of immigrants and refugees….for most people, probably not. But it is the arena of singing “Let It Go” for the millionth time because it makes a two year old happy, or driving a gaggle of fourteen year olds to the movies even if it’s not conveinent or or or…I could go on. It is the arena of putting food on the table, a roof overhead, and keeping love in hearts – and of being (judiciously) kind to people and trying to do the little things that make the world a better place, each and every day.

      Whew. Sorry that was such a novel. DFW always gets me going!

    2. This is beautiful, Molly: “One human can however choose to live for other people.” It made my heart swell when I read it.

      I’m really so moved by so many of the comments on this post and several of the recent ones — I feel like I have a tribe of deeply good, salt-of-the-earth women around me here and am so inspired by so many of your observations and determinations.

      Thanks for this lovely note.

    3. Love love love this. Thanks so much for sharing it. And HA – loved re-reading that quote from a previous post. A pouf of hair! Haha.

      Love those boots, too!

    4. Molly—so true! Thank you for the reminder. I usually share just the video because it’s short and easy to watch via iPhone or whatever. But I really forgot how incredibly moving the whole speech is ❤️

    5. Just chiming in to say that I’m another hardcore DFW fan, and have gifted the book version of the “This Is Water” speech to many a graduate in my life. Seriously, seriously moving. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that quote that Molly included as part of my “Getting to Know You” response! An instant favorite/classic in my eyes.

      xx

  5. All great comments so far that I totally agree with regarding arenas.
    I say “You do you”! If it works for you, makes you happy and proud, then go for it!
    If people try to critize, hand them your shoes and say “You walk my walk and see how you would do”!
    Love you☺

    1. Very true. I feel that one of my mother’s superpowers is empathy. She can truly put herself in the shoes of just about anyone — and does it routinely. To the person checking her out at Safeway, to the elderly woman struggling to get through the door with her walker, etc. I have observed her quietly take them and their struggles in and turn to me and say “can you imagine? that woman must have to…xyz.” And I’m always caught off guard by how insular I can be. Anyway, I would do well to remember to put myself in their shoes!

      xx

  6. Everyone’s arena is different! Also, there’s your public facade and your private self. Sometimes they may be the same, but sometimes they differ.

    I have a pair of Sorels I love for cold weather. The don’t make the ones I have anymore (closest match on their website is the Emelie). I love them. Kept my feet warm and dry and weren’t horrendous looking.

    And I am a DIE HARD Tervis fan. Use one daily. Had special ones with our wedding crest printed for our wedding. My daughter has one with a crest I designed for her. Gave personalized ones away at my bachelorette party. Still get personalized matching ones made up if I’m going on a weekend trip with friends. They are easy to clean (and if the lid gets gnarly, a new one is inexpensive). You can use them for hot and cold drinks. And, like you said, they don’t sweat. (I guess I feel really strongly about them, ha).

    1. They truly are one of my absolute favorite things, too. I couldn’t live without mine. Mini dropped one on the ground and it broke and I was both crushed and shocked — I mean, they are STURDY. They hold up to the test of time! They are brilliantly designed. I immediately ordered another.

      xx

  7. Yes, we all have our own arenas. We do not always truly know another’s arenas. Can not judge or say. I now have learned this truth. We only need to look within ourselves to find our truths. Be good to yourself.
    I love your posts that make us truly look, think and reflect. You have such talent to bring that forth. Thank you!

    Check out Sorels, whitney. I bought them last year. So comfortable like sneakers and warm!

    1. Thank you so much for the sweet note, Maria. This blog definitely makes me think a lot — all of your comments and remarks make me stop and reflect more carefully.

      xxx

  8. To me, there are all kinds arenas in life. You do not have to be trying to change the world to be in the arena. I have a work arena, a raising children arena, a managing relationships arena etc. To some, they may seem big and to some, they may seem small. That is fine by me…. again, unless they are in it with me, they do not get to judge the arena. Not sure why anyone would feel the need to judge you on the nanny or sheets…. I would never iron sheets but not sure why I would care why you do??? I am sure that there are many things that I do that many would consider frivolous but unless you are in the arena with me and this impacts you directly, Carry on!

    1. Hi Sharon,

      I am the one who commented about the “nanny and the sheets” and now that it has been repeated a couple times I feel the need to say it was not at all in judgement (although I fear that I am now being judged for a comment that has been taken entirely out of context). Instead it was in response to a negative comment Jen mentioned she received and how we are criticized or perceived based on things we do that matter to us (maybe it’s ironing sheets, or for me it’s so many other things) when other peoples’ problems (this commenter in particular I would imagine) can feel so big. Thanks for allowing me to clarify and respond here. Xx

    2. Amy – AGGHH! I had hoped I was being careful in describing/contextualizing the comment when I brought it up, and I certainly did not mean to cast any aspersions on your comment at all. I recognize that you were not in any way being critical (exactly the opposite, as you note). I think the phrasing of your comment just stuck with me and I have often worried that I am “only” someone with problems “this big.” I.e. “is this a nanny and ironed sheets deal or am I really experiencing something challenging”? Anyway, I’m sorry the quote has been bastardized to some degree as shorthand for something else, but please know that I am simply using it as a springboard for deeper musings. Thanks for clarifying though! It bears noting.

      xx

    3. So interesting – there are so many people that have expressed something similar, about the various different kinds of arenas there are. Thanks for this note. Will be thinking a lot about these comments!

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