Kate Spade: More than a name

The other day I was helping a middle-aged woman check out with her order, and I watched as she placed a slightly-worn wallet down on the counter between us. In small raised gold letters, the name kate spade stood out above the black leather. In an instant, I wondered what that name — and that brand — now holds for this woman, and for others. What role does it play in their fashion sense, in their estimation of what displaying this iconic logo on a purse or shoes or belt might now symbolize?

My second thought after recognizing the tiny gold letters was this: the name of a prominent fashion pioneer has taken on new meaning. On June 5, 2018, Kate Spade took her life. She, the woman, no longer exists. But the products she developed are still ubiquitous. The namesake brand that has represented quality, sophistication, and style for many years has not necessarily shifted in identity. Those traits remain. Though the importance of that name — perhaps even its jurisdiction, its sphere of social influence — may have.

As I processed the order, the urge to ask this woman about her perception of the logo on her wallet rose in my mind. But I quickly assessed that such a inquiry coming from a stranger would not be proper; in fact, the question would be so charged with threatening energy that she may have been rendered speechless. Obviously, I did not want to create an extremely uncomfortable moment for her — or for me. Yet inside my brief period of curiosity and reticence lies a question. And perhaps an opportunity.

Speaking about what Kate Spade chose to do is, I believe, inherently difficult because it causes most individuals to at least consider having an internal dialogue about an act that elicits tremendous uneasiness. Suicide. More than ever, though — especially in light of Anthony Bourdain’s choice to end his life only days after Spade’s tragic demise — we need to hold these conversations. And we need to open spaces for those dialogues to occur, spaces without shame or criticism or the fear of dismissal. But how do we accomplish this?

For a moment the other day I considered initiating such a conversation with a stranger, but the unspoken guidelines of appropriate social discourse dampened that impulse. However, I wonder if similar constraints largely inhibit — and perhaps prohibit — those conversations among friends, between partners, and with children. Suicide is a scary subject. And the conditions that can lead to suicide — depression, loneliness, and low self-image among others — are often just as scary.

So too often, I fear, we simply don’t consider raising the topic of suicide with anyone — stranger or loved one. And I believe that needs to change. Because we are all so much more than just our names.

Colorado Journal #6

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7-31-18  7:45 AM, patio, Longmont

Today marks the #### end of my last full month in Colorado. Thirteen days in August remain. And I am moving steadily toward my departure from this great state — and a return to ground I had inhabited over a year ago.

Quiet, by Susan Cain

In a category of its own, Susan Cain’s Quiet (2012) has done more to promote the understanding of introversion than any other popular work. Its blend of historical analysis and contemporary psychological and sociological research explores topics that have been traditionally ignored or pushed aside: the benefits of solitude, the challenges of shyness, the value of individual effort in education and business, and the often-overlooked creative strengths of those who are quiet.

Cain’s book should be required reading for teachers, coaches, CEOs, and community leaders. I cannot recommend it more highly.

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Colorado Journal #1

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8-22-17  8:32 PM — Wednesday, sitting in Cam’s kitchen

Today is Mom’s birthday. It is sad that she is not present to celebrate it. It is hard to believe that she has been gone for so long, and that Jeff and I have been w/o a mother for nearly a decade. Would she be proud of me — out here in Colorado, trying to create a new life?

Havaianas Journal

Sometimes, writing with my Honors students was just plain fun. In this entry, I respond to one of their impromptu journal suggestions.

On this particular morning in June of 2012, one of my sophomores had challenged the class to explain in their journal why a classmate, Lexie, had arrived late. Lexie was (and still is, I’m sure) a mature, thoughtful, and outgoing young woman; therefore, she did not seem at all dismayed by this proposal which emerged unexpectedly from one of her peers.

Having heard the challenge, I dutifully responded — with the intention that I would read the completed entry with my sleepy-eyed students. And that is exactly what I did.

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6-12-12  Reasons why Lexie is late:

  1. She works as a crossing guard, and is unable to get the little kids across the street fast enough.
  2. To enhance her cardiovascular performance, she runs to school — along M-24 — every morning.
  3. She sings every song on Queen’s greatest hits album in the shower, #### and is unable to leave the house until she finishes the last verse.
  4. She eats her bowl of cereal one flake at a time, and this slows her down.
  5. She feeds every pet at the #### Auburn Hills Humane Society branch each morning.
  6. UFOs
  7. [Her] household is in another time zone, so she is always an hour behind.
  8. #### It takes 45 minutes for her to attach all of her bracelets.
  9. Choosing a hair-band can be a very time-consuming task.