Shoe Fetish

I recently convinced Isabel to buy some sensible shoes….Okay, okay, her podiatrist convinced her, but I have been saying as much for what…fifteen years? Anyway, seeing as how I don’t have a medical degree of any sort and, well, the foot doctor does, she finally listened.

Doesn't she look happy?Happy feet, happy Isabel!

Doesn’t she look happy? Happy feet, happy Isabel!

I took Isabel to a shoe store that only sells orthopedic shoes—think huge, clunky and overly padded. It turns out they were not so bad…well, not really. Here is how Isabel described a pair of liver-colored lace-ups lying sad and rejected on the unfortunate-looking carpet: Those look like horrible extruded internal organs.” I had to agree that they were pretty awful.

But we kept on looking and eventually found shoes that were less repulsive. A lot less repulsive. Success meant not only that Isabel walked out with five pairs of shoes for a variety of activities–for walking, for going out, for standing at her desk and for around the house–but that she was actually wearing them the day I picked her up to run some errands. She was wearing the comfortable shoes! Wearing them and singing their praises!

Here are some photos of the types of shoes Isabel used to wear:


Poetry and Comfort

Isabel was handed this card by the teacher and asked to write a poem about it!

Isabel was handed this card by the teacher and asked to write a poem about it! She was given 3 minutes to write. One of the many assignment from our class.

Earlier this year Isabel mentioned she wanted to take some classes—music appreciation, dance, needlepoint…and poetry! I went online, found her a poetry workshop and decided to tag along with her while she attended a class at the Grotto in San Francisco. After all, how many people can say they took a poetry class with Isabel Allende? Well, let me tell you, it was pretty cool. One of the activities our teacher, Maw Shein Win, started us on was to hand out pages ripped from old copies of art magazines. She then told us to highlight or circle words or phrases that resonated with us. It was pretty interesting to see what we ended up with as we teased out seemingly random words and phrases and tied them together to create a poem.

Another cool tool we learned about is Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards published back in the ‘70s by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. Each card features an aphorism intended to help musicians break creative blocks, and it turns out they can be used to spark ideas for poetry too. For instance, take the phrase: Don’t avoid what is easy. Now, try to write a poem based on that.

Some cards from the Oblique Strategies deck.

Some cards from the Oblique Strategies deck.

When I asked Isabel if I could share one of her poems on the blog, she told me (and I quote), “Dream on!” So, sorry about that. It seems she is not ready to show the world her poetry. For the record, I found her poetry lovely—very reminiscent of her early books Eva Luna and Stories of Eva Luna.

It will be fun to see where this new adventure takes her.


Puppy Time

perlaIsabel has a new little friend! Meet Perla, who has been gracing our office recently. We didn’t want to fall in love with her but we all have. Dulce, Isabel’s other pooch, is managing…barely. Although a puppy, Perla seems to have managed to make herself top dog. She is less than half the size of Dulce, yet somehow she dominates.

Perla came from Paw Fund, an animal rescue and health clinic for pets in the East Bay that helps people help their pets. It’s a great organization; it’s also the one that brought Dulce into Isabel’s life. Lucky us


KINDness in Action

Isabel in the middle with Ellen Jorgensen on her right, Director of Public Outreach and Strategic Development and Wendy Young President of KIND

Isabel in the middle with Ellen Jorgensen on her right, Director of Public Outreach and Strategic Development and Wendy Young President of KIND

Isabel and the rest of us at the Isabel Allende Foundation recently met up with KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), and we came away as impressed and inspired as ever. You may remember that KIND, which represents immigrant children in court and helps them gain asylum here in the United States, was the deserving recipient of last year’s Isabel Allende Foundation Espíritu award, which is given annually to organizations that support causes Isabel feels strongly about.

The services KIND provides are critical. According to group’s website, “Over 100,000 children came alone to the United States in the last two years. More than 50 percent of these immigrant and refugee children do not have attorneys to represent them in their deportation proceedings. This humanitarian crisis of Central American children at our border remains a due process crisis in which thousands of children are at risk of being returned to great harm, even death.”

KIND’s work seems to be without end, and the flow of children and other asylum seekers from Central America fleeing poverty and danger is unending. KIND President Wendy Young has described these children as some of the most vulnerable in the world.

Here is the good news, however: 90 percent of KIND’s child clients do win their cases and achieve legal status and protection. That is why we need to continue to support KIND, and we hope their work will inspire our readers to speak up in support of legislation recently introduced by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California that would mandate counsel for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable individuals.

The refugee crisis seems to be in the news often, both in Europe and here in the United States. I always feel more hopeful when I learn about people helping. I am grateful for the kindness and good work being done on behalf of these vulnerable children.

Here is a link to just one story about a girl named Angela. link

Here is a link to just one story about a girl named Angela.


Then and Now

Heres a fun photo of Isabel’s office in 1910 and now, 2016. The building hasn’t changed much. The original owner, Frank Linsley, a prominent Sausalito resident and former Mayor built the house in 1903ish, as far as we can tell. Love the old carvings on the gable and window areas in the old photo.

Isabel in black and green posing for the photo.

Isabel in black and green posing for the photo.

Love the little trees.

Love the little trees.


Traveling with the Virgin

It isn’t often you say to anyone, let alone Isabel Allende, “Hey, I double-boxed the Virgin and tied her up with cord, so you should be all set!

By way of explanation, Isabel was taking her beautiful copper and bejeweled Virgin to Chile as a gift for her friend Pia. The Virgin had long stood in Isabel’s home and was dangerously close to being taller than Isabel herself—she had to wear heels all the time! I’m happy to report both Isabel and the Virgin arrived safely in Chile after a few taxi rides, several airports and some long flights.


Here is Isabel in the car en route to the airport holding her precious cargo.



Nashville Light

We just got back from our love fest in Nashville with Thistle Farms and the women of Magdalene, the social enterprise and residential rehab center founded by the Rev. Becca Stevens to serve and support women who are recovering from addiction and who have been victims of prostitution and trafficking.

Calling our visit a love fest is an understatement. It was a light-filled full-blown love carnival, complete with Irish singers and a candle lit for every woman at Thistle Farms—and countless more for those still out in the night. I’ll write more on our trip later, but here’s a quick overview: we hiked the Tennessee hills, went to church to hear Becca preach, enjoyed a tea party at the Thistle Stop Cafe and visited the Magdalene residences, homes where women can stay for up to two years and are bathed in love as they receive therapy, medical care, eduction and employment. Thistle Farms sent some love our way as well, honoring Isabel at its Light Bearers event.

It’s all about the love. Here are some photos from the trip:

Isabel talking beads with a resident of Magdalene on a tour of their beautiful home

Isabel talking beads with a resident of Magdalene on a tour of their beautiful home.

Frannie Kieschnick, Amanda Jones, Lori Barra, Jordan Walker and Sarah Hillesheim

Frannie Kieschnick, Amanda Jones, Lori Barra, Jordan Walker in back and Sarah Hillesheim in front.

Isabel and Anika a Thistle Farms graduate and a light in the dark.

Isabel and Anika a Thistle Farms graduate and a light in the dark.

Hello Nashville!

Hello Nashville!

In Becca's home they seem to like music!

In Becca’s home they seem to like music!

Isabel, Becca Stevens, Amanda Jones, and Frannie Kieschnick–power women!

Isabel, Becca Stevens, Amanda Jones, and Frannie Kieschnick–power women!

Isabel in the Thistle Studios breathing in the hope!

Isabel in the Thistle Studios breathing in the hope!

Pretty Tennessee sunset, the sky was filled with migrations of geese and the smell of snow on the way.

Pretty Tennessee sunset, the sky was filled with migrations of geese and the smell of snow on the way.

Isabel getting ready for the event in the prettiest green room I've ever been in!

Isabel getting ready for the event in the prettiest green room I’ve ever been in!


Bryan Stevenson

Isabel recently attended an event featuring Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and social justice activist who founded the Equal Justice Initiative and is the author of the award-winning bestseller 
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionShe was so inspired by what he had to say that she immediately sat down to write the following post for the blog: 

I need to share with you this deeply moving experience that changed my views about freedom, justice and equality in the United States. I was blown away by Bryan Stevenson’s passion and eloquence. Over an hour-and-a-half period he explained to an almost all-white audience at the local Jewish Community Center here in Marin County how injustice targets blacks, minorities, the poor, the broken, the mentally ill, and worst of all, children.

Stevenson told us that his office is in Alabama, the state with the highest rate of executions in the country. In fact, the US is one of the few countries in the world that still has the death penalty. It has 2.3 million people incarcerated—by far the largest number in the world—and there are 7 million Americans, most of them people of color, who cannot vote because of having once been behind bars. We are also the only country in the world where a 13-year-old child can be condemned to die in prison.

Stevenson is not one to sit back quietly, however. He was instrumental in a recent and historic Supreme Curt ruling that mandatory life without parole for children 17 and younger is unconstitutional.

The obvious question is, what can we do? To start, Stevenson has spoken of four things that can bring change:

  1. Proximity: Get really close to the problem and to the victims of the system. 
  2. Change the narrative: We have not reconciled with our past; we need to talk truthfully about slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, and the idea of white supremacy to understand and end discrimination.
  3. Hope: Stevenson is convinced that justice for all is possible. Losing hope is the best way to maintain the status quo.
  4. Get uncomfortable: Demonstrate, protest, challenge the system, create awareness, become an activist.

Since I can’t possibly summarize Stevenson’s crusade for compassion and justice as well as he can, please watch his 2012 TED Talk.


East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Kaveena, Michael, Sister Maureen, Isabel and Farzana at our lunch in Berkeley

Kaveena, Michael, Sister Maureen, Isabel and Farzana at our lunch in Berkeley

Recently, during a flurry of site-visits in which Lori, executive director of the Isabel Allende Foundation, and I visit our grantees, we stumbled upon a group working in Berkeley, Calif., called The East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. To say it was love at first sight is an understatement. First of all, you must understand that this agency works out of the basement of a church. It is as bare bones as you can get and yet still does the most amazing work. If you look up grass roots in the dictionary…okay, okay, you get the idea.

Here is what they do, in their own words:

“East Bay Sanctuary Covenant offers sanctuary, solidarity, support, community organizing assistance, advocacy and legal services to those escaping war, terror, political persecution, intolerance, exploitation and other expressions of violence. We intentionally provide opportunities for transformational learning that arise from the relationships we foster among refugees, immigrants and host communities. We join with others to understand and eliminate the causes of violence and oppression worldwide.”

Read more about the organization here. Lori and I loved them so much we insisted Isabel meet them personally. We had lunch with Executive Director Sister Maureen Duignan, Program Director Michael Smith, Staff Attorney Kaveena Singh and Farzana Ali, their amazing office manager. On the day we visited, the waiting room was full of folks seeking help and asylum.

The work East Bay Sanctuary Covenant does is truly inspiring and it is one of the agencies Isabel funds that I am profoundly happy just to know about. Consider a donation or look into volunteering opportunities by clicking here.

P.S. Isabel loved them too, AND not just because Sister Maureen was the same height as Isabel, that wasn’t why, honest!


New Year Traditions


Johanna Castillo and Isabel

Johanna Castillo and Isabel

Recently we shared a festive lunch with Johanna Castillo, Isabel’s feisty editor from Atria, and she filled us in on how she kicks off the new year right. Johanna, who is from Ecuador, is a go-getter who sets up her year for success in an elaborate way. We are grateful she shared her secrets, and although we aren’t superstitious (well, maybe a little) we are all going to try these. Isabel says we will be completely exhausted by New Year’s Day, but hopefully we’ll be set for an enlightened and prosperous 2016.

 Some of the following are Ecuadorean traditions, and some we think Johanna just made up. Pick and choose if you want to have a fabulous year.


1. The first thing Johanna recommends doing the morning of December 31 is to make a list of all the blessings you received throughout the year. Give thanks for them, and then write down the blessings you hope to receive in the coming the year.


2. Clean your house and get rid of all that stuff you don’t use. Next, fill your newly uncluttered space with flowers. Put them everywhere!


3. Johanna has one non-negotiable rule for New Year’s Eve. You must dress up, even if you are going no further than the family room couch to watch the ball drop on TV. Whatever your fancy outfit consists of—a strapless dress, sparkly pants, a tux, or tights and heels, make sure you’re dressed to kill before midnight. No excuses! Also, choose your colors carefully: royal blue to ensure a spiritual, enlightened new year; yellow for good luck; white to bring peace, green for prosperity; and red, of course, to attract love. (I am going to wear a rainbow just to cover all bases.) And don’t forget your hair and make up. Your special attire will indicate to the spirits that you respect the new year and want to greet it looking your best. That was my interpretation, anyway.


4. Eat grapes at midnight. Twelve grapes, to be exact—one for each month of the year.  And make sure you enjoy a bubbly drink with your grapes: Champagne, Prosecco, wine or sparkling cider. According to Johanna, it may be a little challenging to eat the grapes and drink at the same time, but it is possible.


5. If you want the coming year to include travel, get out your suitcase and walk it around the block right after you eat your midnight grapes. If you hope to travel to the beach, throw in a swimsuit and towel. Ready to go anywhere, just so long as it’s far away? Lug your biggest suitcase. When you come back inside, make sure you close the door behind you—unless your plan is to move to another country and stay there.


6. Put money in your shoes. This one is important. To ensure a prosperous year, slip money in your shoes on New Year’s Eve. And we’re not just talking ones and fives, either. Be sure to break out the tens and twenties. You can fill your shoes, your kids’ shoes, your significant other’s shoes—anyone’s! If you’re wearing something with pockets, put money in those too.


7. Come January 1, prepare a meal of lentils and rice (another way to guarantee prosperity), have a lunch with your family and enjoy a peaceful day.


8. There was something about underwear, too, but Johanna wouldn’t tell me what.


Happy New Year!




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