A fire and rain-y night

Two weeks ago we had a Nor’easter here on Martha’s Vineyard.

The winds and rain slapped and shook our home until I was certain the shaker shingles would fall off.

Inside, I was baking a coconut cake for a dear friend’s birthday celebration and feared a power outage could leave the cake half-baked.  I was sure Trudy’s 90th birthday party would be cancelled, anyway.

As so often is the case, none of my worries came true.

The winds continued to howl, but our home stayed intact, the power stayed on and Trudy stepped through the dark and rain into the party on the arm of her dashing son to the wild cheers of dozens of family and friends!

What a perfectly fitting tribute that a Nor’easter arrived on Trudy’s big birthday because she is all energy and power!

I’ve told you in the past about Trudy Taylor, one of the many wise and brilliant women I’m so fortunate to have in my life.

Wise counsel always from my dear friend Trudy Taylor (Photos by Rob Berkley)

I hope you, too, have the wit, wisdom and support of a woman who has lived decades beyond you.  Please tell us about her here.

At the party, organized by Trudy’s extraordinary daughter Kate and son Livingston, love was shared and love was given to honor the matriarch of one of the world’s most famous musical families.

One of her five kids is James Taylor.

The warmth, excitement and joy inside where the birthday festivities unfolded gave no clue to the pounding rain outside.  All focus was on the tiny woman with the very big personality surrounded by the fiery candlelight from the “parade of cakes.”

And, after the cake surprise, Trudy shared her life’s wisdom with the crowd:

“Be sure to do what you love.”

“Follow your dreams… the dreams you had when you were young.”

“Don’t put off doing what you want to do.”

All this from a woman who left home at 16 to attend a music conservatory; sang in halls and churches throughout New England; raised five children born within six years of each other; faced the deaths of a young sister and then later her beloved son Alex; got divorced; pursued art as a painter and master gardener; and traveled the world including off-the-beaten path trips to China.

My favorite Trudy moment at the party came when Livingston took the microphone.

First, he sang to his mother.

Then he shared this:

“When I was a little boy about 6, I told my mother I wanted to build a swimming pool.” He said he then watched for that look on her face that would suggest it was an outrageous, ridiculous idea.

But it didn’t come.

“Where would you like to build the pool?” his mother asked, and then she helped him figure out the best place to put it.

For this, Livingston, today a popular, accomplished musician, author and college professor, would always grateful to his mother.  Her willingness to allow him to explore whatever interested him set up a lifelong learning and belief that he could do anything he put his mind to.

Throughout her children’s growing up years, Trudy remembers being criticized for allowing them to express themselves creatively.

“People were always saying to me ‘how can you let them do that?’ and ‘why don’t you stop them?’

“And, I would respond:  ‘because then they wouldn’t be who they are.’”

May you always be who you are in this world.  In this week of Thanksgiving, it is a gift to know that you can be you!

I’ll see you back here next week to celebrate what several Women on Fire are up to and to cheer them on.

Bye for now from Trudy and me! ~ Love, Debbie



Be A Bad Girl … and other advice from 90-year-old women!

OK, not exactly the truth.

One of them is only 87.

My dear friend Anne Gallagher hosts her annual “My Favorite Ladies’ Luncheon,” and I wouldn’t let even having tickets to The Oprah Show stand in my way of going to this lunch!

Anne Gallagher is a Woman on Fire in my life!
Anne Gallagher is a beloved Woman on Fire in my life!

Anne’s lunches are a Women on Fire bonanza of inspiration, strategies and support, and I am so honored to be included.

This year I sat next to Olga Hirschhorn, 90, and across from Trudy Taylor, who is about to turn 88.

Olga is the rags-to-riches philanthropist whose late husband started The Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.   She is so down-to-earth, funny and full of life that I find myself wanting to hug her with every word she utters.

She’s mother to three sons who are now 70, 68 and 65.  Trudy, once an aspiring opera singer, had five kids in six years and today they are in their late 50s and early 60s.

Olga’s partied with Picasso and danced with presidents and kings.

For her 90th birthday last April, she invited a room full of only men to attend her party!

“When you turn 80, start cultivating a lot of men in your life so when you turn 90, they’ll want to come to your birthday party!” she advised me, laughing.

Olga continues to celebrate 90 as Trudy (in pink) sings
Olga continues to celebrate 90 as Trudy (in pink) sings. I love these women!

In this year of rolling celebrations for Olga’s 90 years, Anne surprised her with yet another birthday cake — her 28th cake since her actual birthday in April — while Trudy sang “a Happy Birthday song you might not know.”

In perfect pitch and in the loveliest voice, she sang the most charming birthday song I indeed had never heard before.

That was because Trudy’s son — the singer-songwriter James Taylor — had made it up to sing to her!

And, what advice about life does almost 88-year-old Trudy have to offer?  With a big, mischievous smile and a twinkle in her blue, blue eyes, she told me to: “Be a bad girl!”

Do you have similar wise women in your life who delight and encourage you?  Role models for living you hope to live up to?  I’d love to hear about them!