Love those red shoes!

When in doubt, wear red. Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” –Bill Blass

Big news for devoted fans of red shoes: A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz will be auctioned off in December by Profiles in History, a California auction house.

As MSN Entertainment reported last week, replicas of the ruby slippers, including stunt shoes for the film, were sold in previous auctions. But the pair that’s up for bidding at the “Icons of Hollywood” event is one of four original pairs used in the filming of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. (One pair is displayed at the “Icons of American Culture” exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.)

I’ve always thought it strange that the famous shoes were called “slippers” in the classic film. Most women would agree that they were actually pumps with substantial heels. Those heels took Dorothy on a major detour through the haunted woods and held up for her big chase scene at the Wicked Witch’s castle. By the time she finally reached Oz, her footwear hadn’t lost a single sequin. That was one powerful pair of slippers.

The ruby slippers inspired me, early on, to start my own small collection of red shoes. Shopping online last month, I discovered a glittery pair that conjured a cheerful memory of Garland dancing with Ray Bolger’s “Scarecrow” down the Yellow Brick Road. Mine will likely dance with my husband at a Christmas party or a wedding reception. But even though I had no specific occasion in mind — and I really didn’t need more shoes! — I had to purchase the pair right away.

So, what is it about red shoes? Aside from their literary ties to the fabled Oz, why do red shoes seem to possess magical attributes?

For some fresh insight, I approached a long-distance friend, Bridgette, whose delightful blog is titled Life in Red Shoes. Bridgette claims that you can’t have a bad day if you’re wearing a pair of red shoes.

“I love them, wildly, madly, deeply. Just can’t get enough,” Bridgette told me.

“It was during a low point, one that lasted several years, that I bought my first pair of red shoes. It must have been the late 80s, and color was all the rage…remember neon? I was in a Payless shoe store, the only place I could afford at the time, and there they were — a pair of cherry red moc crock loafers!”

Bridgette was smitten, but she wondered: Were the shoes too bold? Do I dare wear them? What would people think? Of course, she bought the shoes anyway, and it didn’t take her long to find the courage to wear them. Today, she owns an impressive collection of footwear in riotous shades of red.


So, what is it about red shoes? Aside from their literary ties to the fabled Oz, why do red shoes seem to possess magical attributes?

As most women agree, red shoes aren’t for shrinking violets. They’re for women who refuse to surrender to a lousy mood; women who believe they have a God-given right to have fun — at any age.

“Wearing red shoes makes a statement,” Bridgette explains. “When you wear red shoes, you’re saying: I don’t take myself too seriously, I laugh out loud, and I don’t let the bastards get me down! Wearing a pair of red shoes is like adding an exclamation mark to your outfit, a smile to your feet, sunbeams streaming to your toes!”

But Bridgette’s blog isn’t limited to the topic of collecting shoes. For this grandmother in Utah, “Life in Red Shoes” is a byproduct of her midlife mission. It’s all about rediscovering what makes her happy — and finding inspiration in her daily round. She might post a reflection on her experience as a school teacher or share photos of a new craft project she just finished.

That said, when I first discovered Bridgette’s blog, I was inspired to pull my own collection of red shoes from the back of my closet — and to start wearing them.

My red shoes are a small but powerful antidote to the problems I’ve been wrestling with lately — including finding the right help for an elderly mother who’s falling under the cruel spell of dementia. As Bridgette reminded me, it’s important for all of us to savor the simple pleasures that lift our spirits, and to seize, as Dorothy did, every chance we get to step out of our comfort zones.

If you’re not a wearer of red shoes, do you have another article of footwear or clothing that wakes you up and makes your heart sing? — Cindy La Ferle

QUICK UPDATE: Bridgette, otherwise known to her friends as “Red,” just posted some photographs of her feet wearing red shoes from her impressive collection. Click here to see the photos on “Life in Red Shoes.”

Another birthday

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” — Samuel Ullman

My birthday rolled around again this week. As I do annually during the first week of August, I take stock of everything that’s happened over the past year. I ask myself where I’ve fallen short or succeeded — but mostly consider what I’ve learned along the way.

Smack in the middle of my fifties now, I’ve finally accepted my imperfections and my weird streak. It’s been a struggle, but I’m also at peace with the idea that not everyone on Earth is going to like me or my ideas.  A woman whose political views I admire once pointed out that if everyone adores you, it’s likely that you don’t have a spine — or any opinions worth defending. I’d rather keep my spine and my opinions.

That said, I don’t ever want to stop growing, changing, and attempting to improve. With that in mind, here are a few things I want to keep working on in the coming year….

Curiosity. One of my favorite quotes from Ray Bradbury goes like this: “Life is trying things to see if they work.” Enthusiasm and curiosity demand a lot of energy — but they keep everyone young in spirit. I’m finding that it helps to hang around with creative people who take risks, seize their passions, try new things, and encourage others to do the same.

Patience. Growing up in the age of instant gratification, I have to keep reminding myself that waiting isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes I need to chill. Anything worth its salt — including well-written articles, durable relationships, and a great marriage — takes a fair amount of time. And patience. The older I get, the more I appreciate the things I’ve earned through sheer perseverance. But I still need to learn to wait patiently for answers, and to keep the lid sealed on the slow cooker.

Being silly. When I’m at my lowest, it’s usually because I’ve started taking myself way too seriously. And I never cared much for humorless people who take themselves too seriously. I was lucky enough to be raised by a boatload of whimsical Scots who believed that acting silly — really silly — keeps you sane when nothing else makes sense. Now that I’m almost grown up, I know they were spot on.

Listening skills. I’m a talker and a teacher by nature. But as I mature, I hope to become a more accomplished listener and thoughtful conversationalist. My biggest pet peeve is other people who deliver self-absorbed monologues in social situations. I wish I had a dollar for every hour I’ve had to spend with tiresome folks who ramble on and on about their their own stuff — and never ask a single question about my stuff. My new rule of conversation: I must never leave a party, family gathering, lunch date, or interview without knowing at least three new things about the people with whom I’ve spent a few hours. No matter how well I think I know them.

Reality checks. One of my favorite scenes in The Wizard of Oz is when Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals the goofy old guy pretending to be Oz. I’m grateful for every opportunity that serves to zap false illusions and expose the naked emperor. As I age, I hope to have more of these opportunities. This year, I’ve been booked to work as an extra in several feature films and TV episodes. I’ve learned a lot about filmmaking — and human nature. I’ve learned, for instance, that Hollywood is synonymous with hard work, long hours, and sleep deprivation. I’ve met some of the nicest people behind the scenes, and also discovered that real movie stars aren’t quite as glamorous up close as they appear on film. Of course, I knew that all along, but wanted proof. Movie stars are (mostly) regular folks with a knack for high drama. I prefer to be a regular person without the high drama, and I’m ever so grateful I came to that conclusion in my own backyard.

Authenticity. I believe this is the highest quality anyone can aspire to.  As surely as I continue to seek it out in other people and experiences, I must continue to nurture sincerity in myself, in everything I do.

Reading the fine print. I hope to live a healthy life, well into old age, and to die clutching a book in one hand and a real newspaper in the other. I appreciate the Internet and all its wonders, but there isn’t a blog or site in cyberspace that can top or replace the scent of fresh ink on paper, or the discovery of a wonderful novel at my favorite bookstore. This year I must, and will, continue to support the printed word by purchasing newspapers and books and magazines. The employment of many of my dearest (and most respected) friends depends on the endurance and triumph of the printed word. I believe that civilization itself depends on it too.

Appreciation. This has been a year of loss and worry, laced with many reminders to cherish and appreciate the people I love. My father-in-law died in June, and my mother’s health is in question. Meanwhile, a very dear friend is recovering from cancer surgery. Appreciation is the incomparable thrill I get each time I walk through my side door and am reminded of my day-to-day blessings. It’s the sense of comfort that washes over me when I hear my husband breathing next to me, or my son’s voice on the phone. Or when I flip through my address book and glance at the names of the good people I could easily call on for help any time of the day or night. I appreciate every single day and every friend I’m given, and I need to send a thank-you note to the Universe. I really do. — Cindy La Ferle

— Photo: “Crazy Science” by Doug La Ferle —