October 2010

Dear Friend

September proved to be as magical as I’d anticipated and there were glorious surprises we embraced with joy. While we love having our precious grandchildren come visit us at the cottage, we equally embrace their world at home, at school and to observe them in sports activities. Before we flew to Paris, we went to Chevy Chase to spend a weekend with Nicholas, Anna and Lily, who had just started school. The twins are in a new school, in third grade, and enjoy their teachers and meeting new friends. Lily is in her old school in second grade and enjoys being an older girl.

Saturday, Nicholas and Lily both had soccer games one hour apart in two different neighborhoods. Alexandra and Anna made a picnic with each of us having custom-made roasted chicken or turkey sandwiches. It had been since our children were young since we've enjoyed our last real picnic, on a blanket, enjoying family time. Peter and I were given folding chairs as a grace note, and there we were rooting for the red team -- Nicholas easy to spot with the #1 on his shirt. Lily’s dad drove her to her game as we cheered Nicholas’s team along. It’s extremely difficult for anyone who is not a grandparent to understand the thrill of experiencing them in their sports activities. It brings us back to when we were the same age. And the horror of the realization that they are growing up so quickly – right before our eyes.

After Nicholas’s game we rushed to try and find Lily in a hard-to-find area in some suburb in Maryland. After several wrong turns, we were grateful to catch the tail end of her game. The goal was to let Peter and me see both soccer games. When the games are tightly scheduled, Alexandra and Peter usually split up, taking turns.

Lily had received from her mother a huge clear plastic beach ball for her 7th birthday that turned out to be her favorite present. The weather was ideal – low humidity, blue clear sky, and about 78 degrees. After the soccer games Peter and I played ball games in the back yard. We made up rules. We become teams. We ran around the grass, playing with their sweet golden retriever “Homer,” who thought he was part of the team … something so simple as a clear see-through ball that catches the sunshine and reflects all the trees in it made for a joyful time enjoyed by an age-spread of 71 years.

Lily and I took a quick break to write thank you notes to her friends who came to her birthday party and had donated money to the homeless. Last counting, Lily raised $203. Obviously, we’re proud of her for not wanting presents instead collecting money for people less fortunate. Last year she raised money for the animal shelter where they adopted Homer.

Nicholas, Anna and Lily are the most fun to be with; our times together bring us great, lasting happiness. Anna’s softball game was rained out Sunday afternoon but between rain drops, we played ball, they swam at our hotel’s pool, and planned a sleepover for our next visit. Anna’s best friend Sophia moved to Chicago and Alexandra was taking her the next weekend to see her dear friend. Packing was an important part of the anticipation.

We managed several wonderful visits in New York with Cooper (age 23 months), who goes to a fun music class a half block from our New York hotel. She feels the music, is drawn to the fun, and squeals in joy as she dances and prances and flows to the delightful sounds and song!

I’ve always intuitively believed that happiness is contagious and spending time with these grandchildren proves my point. They spread light and love so freely and openly. How can they stay so pure?

Last year when Cooper’s mother Brooke was in Milan on a business trip, she bought a small bear at a coffee shop to bring home as a present. In our family, we call these small gifts “ninis,” little nothings … somehow Alexandra said “ninis” when she was little and the expression stuck. A few weeks ago, Cooper dropped her “Bear Bear” between a train and the platform. “Bear Bear” had on pink crocs we had given her in August. It’s hard to think of an innocent child so young experiencing a sense of loss, but Cooper was sad to lose her beloved friend “Bear Bear.” She cried. Cooper talked about it and told her friends. How can you replace something so important to her? Peter and I found a pink bear the same size and were able to have some different-colored crocs mailed to us. We knew there was a chance that the new replacement could bomb, but we tried, fingers crossed. There was a flash violent storm in New York City as we were walking to see Cooper in their apartment, “Bear Bear” in hand. Peter knew we were in harms way and wanted to go back to the hotel. I was blinded by my desire to make Cooper happy. We took shelter in a coffee shop until the worst was over, then trekked to visit Cooper. Cooper opened the package. “Surprise.” “Surprise.” She hugged the pink bear and discovered the different colored crocs. Joy was in the air. She embraced “Bear Bear” and ran around in glee. She now calls her new friend “Pinky Bear.” How blessed to be so open, receptive and flexible. How wonderful to know she is no longer saddened by her loss. How beautiful these precious “grands” are to Peter and me.

Paris in September proved to be magical. For the first six days we experienced Indian summer where we were able to walk about, have lunch in open courtyards and gardens, and hang out in favorite cafés watching the endless parade of characters. Even when it rained, we were always somewhere safe and pleasant. Everything seemed to work out beautifully in some grand design. The biggest surprise was to go to the Grand Palais our last night in Paris, to experience the greatest, most comprehensive Claude Monet show ever! Thirty years ago Peter and I saw a large Monet show in Paris, but this exhibition has his paintings from 70 museums from around the world. The 200 paintings on view cover 60 years of his career. It was thrilling to see 27 paintings on loan from museums in the United States – many we’re familiar with – from Yale University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Fine Art Institute of Chicago, and The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

Monet is my favorite Impressionist artist. When I wrote my color book, I wanted to dedicate it to him but my literary agent told me that was silly. I dedicated my book, Open Your Eyes to our beloved artist friend Roger Mühl and had a picture of Monet sitting on a garden bench at Giverney with the caption, “Come, sit next to me, hold my hand and together we can see better.”

Because of the untimely sudden death of our favorite contemporary artist Roger Mühl two years ago, we have turned our cottage in Stonington into a living tribute to Roger and his paintings. Walking through this first retrospective of Monet in France of Monet’s paintings brought Peter and me closer to our friend Roger Mühl. It was as though we were all together, celebrating nature’s beauty and each other in joyful color, sunlight, gardens, water and “at table.”

So many paintings in Musée de’Orsay’s Impressionist gallery were like seeing old friends. Wherever we travel to cities, we make it a habit to always go to their art museum and absorb the loveliness. I try never to miss seeing a Monet if I’m anywhere near one. This was a sensual, aesthetic, visual feast that will live in my soul for all times. It will be a sumptuous treat to reflect on and contemplate wherever I travel, whatever I see.

I often say that Monet taught me how to see – not the surface of things, but the depth. The first Monet painting I ever saw was when I was five years old. My mother and godmother, Mitzi Christian, took me to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In the Paris exhibition was one of my favorite paintings from Boston, a water scene from Giverny with the pink sky and purple blue trees reflected in the water. Ah, Impressionism!

We were surprised by joy. These Are the Days in Paris.

Happy October. Please come to my talk Saturday, October 23rd at 4 PM at the Old Lyme Inn.

Great love to you.

Love & Live Happy

Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.

Peter enjoying lunch at Ralph's (Ralph Lauren's "hot" new restaurant in Paris)

Grandmommy and Cooper at the cottage kitchen

Cooper in the back garden

Our Enchanted Paris home -- The Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon

On Saturday October the 23rd, at 11 AM, Peter and I will be at the Old Lyme Inn in Old Lyme, CT, where I'll give a talk, “Creating an Inspiring Home,” at a benefit on behalf of the Child & Family Agency called “Interior Inspirations.” Please visit www.interiorinspirations.org for more details and plan to join us for a lively discussion. “A home is, in a sense, a visual reflection of you. It is your autobiography. To be inspiring, it must be deeply personal and authentic.”

Peter and the lovely blue hydrangea

Figure It Out: A Guide to Wisdom

Peter's new book, Figure It Out: A Guide to Wisdom
$24.95 hardcover
$19.95 paperback
Autographed and personalized with colorful striped ribbon bookmark.
Available through Alexandra's book page.
To order a personalized copy of Peter's book, please contact Patience at Bank Square Books in Mystic. 860-536-3795

If you would like to get an autographed copy of Alexandra's book, please send your order (including inscription information) to:
Jane Hannon
Bank Square Books
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 536-3795

Grace Note

"It is desire that engenders thought."