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Posts Tagged ‘My Life’

Between love and lost

If you’ve been following the Chronicles for the last three weeks you’ll know that I’ve been posting a free chapter a week for four weeks as part of an ongoing promotional campaign for my book  Any Color but Beige.

Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. And I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert, so I structured the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The four colorful sections that make up the book are Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors, and Exotic Colors.

Exotic Colors is this week’s section, from which I selected the chapter called Chapter 24 It deals with heartbreak and healing. And it was from this painful experience that my book Any Color but Beige came to be. My editor likes to say the best stories break your heart. And she’s right.

photo: © istockphoto.com/VladLo

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What a way to spend the afternoon

I don’t nap. It’s not a habit I’ve been able to acquire, despite all of the health-related benefits. No siestas, snoozes, catnaps, nor forty winks. For me, it has always been a long day’s journey into night.

This trip has been one of many firsts. First, I found out that I was that kind of girl. And I’ve said “I told you so: not once but twice. And now, I have to confess that, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Joburg visiting friends, I fell asleep for an hour and fifteen minutes in the noonday sun. And I felt the better for it.

It’s spring in S. Africa and still a bit chilly but my southeast facing bedroom was all warm and cozy from the sun. So I found a sunny spot on my bed, fluffed my pillows, and grabbed a book. A light breeze played hide and seek with the curtains. The water gurgled in the little fountain just outside my window. It was a spring day as it was meant to be − happy.

I thought, this is how a lioness must feel at the end of a long, hard week of fetching and carrying – a soft spot under a Syringa tree far from the maddening crowd – her intent also the same as mine, to renew herself, body and soul, and carve out a bit of alone time, in my case, with a good book.

I wondered, if she were human, what would she would be reading – The Life of Pi, Charlotte’s Web or maybe The Tiniest Tiger?

I opened my book of poetry and chanced upon Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 27” and read the first two lines :

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;

That’s me, I thought, before sleep stole upon me and lightly brushed her hand upon my half closed eyelids.

Upon waking, book still in hand, I finished it.

But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d:
For then my thoughts—from far where I abide—
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself no quiet find.

However, unlike Shakespeare, I did myself some quiet find in that unexpected nap. And I spent the rest of afternoon just like that lioness lazing about under the South African sun.

photo: © istockphoto.com/pai toon

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Rooftop Garden in Instanbul

Rooftop Garden in Istanbul

There are also sorts of words associated with magic – incantations, spells – call them what you will — said in an effort to produce a desired outcome.

“Open says me” or is it “Open sesame”? As a kid I was never really sure. In any case it always worked for Aladdin.

There’s also the well-known “abracadabra” and the tried and true, “presto change-o”. Or the two words most popular words in any language, “I wish.”

I have my own set of magic words that I meditate upon when faced with a particularly onerous task, a tough negotiation or a difficult period in my life. It’s a short-term solution for a short-term problem but in saying it, it buys me a moment of calm so that I can think clearly and carry on.

Allow me to give you an example. After three weeks on the road I had settled for a short period of time in Istanbul where I could finally unpack a few things rather than rummage through my suitcase in search of the ever-missing mate to a pair of knee-highs.

I had come from the increasingly cold climate of Europe to sunny Turkey for a trade show, Paints Istanbul. I was staying at an airport hotel near the Exhibition Center but far enough outside Istanbul to make it too tiring to trek into the city for dinner and a change of scenery. However, the hotel had a lovely outdoor terrace located on a quiet and well-manicured mezzanine rooftop. I was often the only one there, and if it hadn’t been for the roar of jet engines from the airport or the call to prayer by the mullah at a nearby Mosque, it could have been my own little English cottage garden – if I had one.

That rooftop garden quickly became a refuge I was reluctant to leave. On my last afternoon, as I enjoyed a lovely lunch, I kept glancing at my watch. In two hours, I thought, I will be battling a crush of people at the airport, queuing up for passport control, queuing up again for security, and then beginning the countdown for the three-hour flight back to Germany where I would repeat the process of passport control and security in preparation for the ten-hour economy flight from Frankfurt to S. Africa.

I didn’t want to go. “What if,” I thought? What if I stayed? What if I found a little job in a nearby resort – shades of Shirley Valentine. But I dropped that line of thinking immediately. Like a good lawyer, I never like to ask a question, I don’t already know the answer to. And, sometimes what you want and what you have to do don’t always align.

Instead, I did what I always do to get me through a difficult or unpleasant situation. I looked at my watch, which read 2:00 p.m. and pushed the thought of air travel out of my mind in favor of time travel. I projected myself, or tried to see myself, in the future and said the three little words that get me through most of life’s little travails: “This time tomorrow…” and pictured a completed task, a lovely place, or hard feelings forgotten.

I know that by meditating on these words: this time tomorrow, or next week or next year means that whatever difficulties lie in front of me will eventually be behind me. They will magically disappear, like all things, with the passage of time.

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Pick a color, any color!

Yes, I think there is. Paint Industry Research has confirmed what we, as consumers, already knew. We are overwhelmed by too many color choices.

We always think we want choice, and yet when presented with a myriad of options we either can’t make a choice and walk away with nothing or we make a choice and berate ourselves all the way home thinking we made the wrong choice – the wrong color, the wrong bedspread, the wrong dress, the wrong man.

I recently experienced this phenomena myself while at a trade show in Istanbul. Having finished my sales calls I found myself with enough time on my hands to make a quick trip into the city. My customers made all kinds of wonderful recommendations, and I ended up visiting the Blue Mosque, the Haggia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar.

I explained to one colleague that I was a little reluctant to visit the Grand Bazaar because I had been there before and had found it an exhausting and exhaustive place to shop. With so much to see, my senses had been overwhelmed and I’d even gotten lost in its maze of passageways when a crush of people moved me in a direction I’d no intention of taking.

Sensing my angst, my colleague asked me what I liked. I told her scarves so she wrote down the name of a shop that specialized in beautiful scarves.

It’s called Bedesten, and it’s located in the old part of the Grand Bazaar. The shop is like a large walk-in closet with floor to ceiling cubbyholes of every kind of scarf in every color and texture imaginable. As I turned around slowly I felt like I was in a life-size Kaleidoscope. I felt dizzy from the effect of all of the color and giddy with anticipation.

The young proprietor walked me through the types of scarfs on offer – from expensive and sumptuous silk to pashmina, wool and, of course, cheaper synthetics. After I had a glass of customary (apple) tea (the Turkish people are the epitome of hospitality) the selling process began. The proprietor pulled scarf after scarf off the shelf and draped them across the Middle Eastern-style coffee table.

“Stop! Stop!” I put up my hands.

He gave me a puzzled look – didn’t I like the scarves?

Like the scarves! I told him I loved them, but if he continued in this manner, it would be impossible for me to choose a single scarf. I told him that we would have to limit the choices; otherwise I was afraid I would leave empty handed.

He did, and I decided to buy five scarves – one for myself, and four more as gifts – that were all a combination of silk and pashmina, I asked him to show me just two scarves in color families that I knew would be complimentary to my friends and me. Faced with a choice of only two scarves in blue, green, purple, red and orange, I found it easy to pick the perfect ones.

After a bit of bargaining we fixed a price and I went away happy, having acquired a beautiful selection of scarves and first-hand knowledge that corroborated what research tells us – sometimes there is such a thing as too much color.

photo: © istockphoto.com/PaulVinten

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When I travel I like to look for practical things that I can use at home. Souvenirs that are not really dust collectors but serve a purpose, like CDs featuring local music, articles of clothing, jewelry and household items.

During my most recent trip to Istanbul, in addition to some very fine silk and pashmina scarves, I acquired a few things that surprised even me.

A flirtatious cab driver fascinated by my hair and eye color offered to be my guide of the city for free. And while I thanked him for his generous offer, I said my negotiated taxi fare to the Blue Mosque would be more than enough.

As the traffic lagged we fell into a conversation that quickly turned personal. I didn’t especially like the direction it was taking but I decided to turn the conversation to my advantage.

I talked freely and elaborately about my three children and my schoolteacher husband.

“Three children!”

I just smiled back. It was fun to imagine having three kids (two boys and a girl) and of course a perfect husband. The mental picture I had drawn was right out of an LL Bean catalogue – it was too good to be true. Perhaps somewhere in a parallel universe, I thought, it was true.

But for now, in this universe, I had to leave them in Turkey.

photo: © istockphoto.com/skynesher

Instant Family!

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Party of Four

While browsing through the iStockphoto offerings, I happened upon a photo of a famous West End restaurant, one that brought back memories of a previous trip to London. The Ivy is a restaurant popular with the theatre-going crowd, audience and actors alike.

The circumstances of my first visit were so perfect, it could have been a plotline right out of a West End play: two women strike up a conversation one morning over breakfast at a hotel. The older woman was at the hotel recovering from surgery, and I was there for a color conference with several clients. The woman reminded me of my grandmother. She had the kind of class you can’t acquire – you have to be born with it. We talk for an hour about this and that. Alone, with no family, she was happy to have the company.

While she and I talked, one of my clients stopped by the table to say hello, she looked a little dejected and when I asked what was wrong, she told us how she and two of her colleagues had wanted to dine at The Ivy that night but were unable to get a table. The first available reservation was weeks away.

I didn’t think I could help her. Earlier in the week I had bribed a few doormen at some of London’s more posh clubs. But my sense of it was that only an act of God or a recommendation from Sir Anthony Hopkins himself would be able to get my clients into The Ivy.

I looked at my dining companion and she smiled a slow indulgent smile. She picked up her cell phone, speed dialed and said a few words to the person on the other end of the line. Then she looked at me and asked, “What is your name, my dear?”

I told her. She nodded and concluded the call with my name and the words “party of four.”

She then smiled and told us we had a dinner reservation at 11:00 p.m. and told us whom to ask for. In the parlance of British slang, my client and I were gobsmacked.

I thanked our benefactor and asked her name. She politely sidestepped the question, rose and left the table like some regal grand dame.  And that’s exactly what she was.

photo: © istockphoto.com/onebluelight

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During the course of my promotional year for my book, Any Color but Beige, (I’m nearly three quarters of the way through now), I’ve been invited to speak to a lot of book clubs. And of all of my promotional activities, apart from my book launch, this has been the most fun.

Media interviews are sometimes nerve racking. Public speaking can be a bit impersonal because of the distance between me and my audience. Book signings can be a little intimidating; you sit front and center in a bookstore waiting for your reading public to arrive and snap up your book.

Book Signing at the Twig in San Antonio

But participating in a book club discussion is like having a night out with a whole new set of (café) girlfriends. And because they don’t know me I’m always surprised by the type of comments, questions and suggestions.

 Comments

Like the night I arrived early and introduced myself to the hostess, who was warm, friendly and very welcoming and who said, “You know, I thought you’d be taller.”

I had to laugh. Actually she’s not the first person to say that. In business situations, where I’m meeting someone for the first time after just talking to them on the phone, the “tall comment” is a common reaction. My tall sister, Beth, likes to tease me with, “you must sound tall on the phone.”

How does one sound tall, I wondered? And, how else do I sound?

Well I found the answer to that one just a few days ago on a recent business trip to South Africa. The new client I was meeting for the first time said to me, “I knew you’d be a redhead, and I knew you’d be wearing something bright and warm like red.”

She was right on both accounts. She had even remarked to her boss that this is what she had expected Cat Larose to look like. It’s no wonder he had a bit of a startled expression on his face when we met; it was like he already knew me.

As for me, I’m terrible when it comes to predicting what someone will look like from the sound of their voice. Or what they do by the way  people carry themselves – in this digitally connected world I find people “show better” digitally than in real life where you can’t edit your attitude with a keystroke

My dentist’s receptionist surprised me one day as she assigned me a very “professional” attitude. After ten years of biannual appointments and polite banter,  I finally mentioned what I do for a living during my last visit. She stared at me wide-eyed. And then she said, “You know, I always thought you were a doctor!” I love these kinds of comments because they make me laugh – at myself. And it’s so important not to take yourself or life so seriously all the time.

Many of comments about the book make me laugh too, but all are very gratifying. I’d like to share some of them here with you.

I really enjoyed the humour of the book and the positivism it radiates… An Eat Pray Love meets Sex and the City, with the shopping replaced by color, and Mr. Big by a plane ticket

It made me reflect on my own life, my own writing, and where I’m coming from. You have the power to connect with your readers, you can touch people…even change the life of your readers…that is something really special.

I marked many pages and underlined things to re-read over and over and over. My favorite lines so far are:

• It’s easier to let go of something you don’t want to keep.
• It’s about how you feel and not about how someone else makes you feel.
• The only man worth crying over was a dead one. That’s a real loss. Anything else is a blessing.
• I want to be deliberate in your life.

I love the way you write and I enjoyed hearing your voice as I read it. It was a fast read because I just didn’t want to put it down and on the flip side, I didn’t want it to end. Thanks for sharing your adventures and hilarious experiences with all of us. It was so much fun to read a happy book. I’m really proud of you for having the courage, gumption and commitment to share your life.

At my hometown book club gathering with Freya (left) and Kathy (right).

 Questions

The most common question I get when people do read about my life is, “Are you going to write a screenplay, and who would play you?”

You now know the answer to the first question, and that answer is yes. It’s time to try something new. The answer to the second question is not so easy and so I throw it back at my readers. Who do you think could capture the essence of Cat?

Suggestions

Book club readers have told me they’d like to see a second book involving lots of travel and of course a little romance. All I can say to that is if my recent travel schedule is any indication: Germany, Holland, France and South Africa – I’m well on my way to collecting lots more new travel stories. As for the romance, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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