Two weeks ago, the Trad Home staff was percolating with anticipation for our annual Classic Woman Awards  ceremony in New York City. Between outfit consultations in the break room and the editors’ last-minute frets about the audio/video preparations, the excitement was tangible. As the lucky attendees were selected weeks ago, I expected Wednesday to be just like every other Wednesday: nine to five with my feet on the ground at our office in good ol’ Des Moines, Iowa. Days before the ceremony, Ann Maine popped her head into my cubicle shortly before five and casually asked me if I wanted to go to “the awards luncheon.” I didn’t register what she was asking at first, and I barely got out a “yes” before she dashed away to beat another deadline. I get to go! I get to go! Cheering internally, I called my mom and headed straight to the mall for some new shoes.
At 4 AM on Wednesday, I shot out of bed at the first jingles of my alarm. Armed with 4-inch taupe patent leather pumps (taupe is totally in this season, so decrees Jessica Simpson) and a pair of backup flats, eight of us boarded the small place and jetted east as the sun was coming up. I had been to New York before, but it had always seemed like such a destination, one that required my dog-eared Zagat Guide, booking a hotel, and sneaking some money out of my savings account to blow on Canal Street. This time was going to be much different, arriving and departing on the same day with the sophisticated purpose of being there “for work.” It was like being dropped into the plot of The Hills, but without Fashion Week (which was the week before). After arriving in Teterboro, New Jersey, it took a full hour to get into the city. Along the way, I drank in all the sights that reminded me I wasn’t in Des Moines anymore, like a union protest in the form of two big inflatable rats perched in front of a CitiBank and Mayor Bloomberg giving a speech just outside Central Park.
Finally arriving at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Columbus Circle, the flats were exchanged for pumps and the fun began. The hotel itself was fabulous, especially the 36th floor ballroom where our event was to be held. The space was enormous and overlooked Central Park. Thirty-five tables were set up before a small stage bedecked with stunning floral arrangements. Each table glittered with crystal stemware, fine china, silk flowers, and crisp boxes of Elizabeth Arden face cream (score!). All sorts of fascinating people were there: bloggers, models, publicists, editors, and designers I recognized from our magazine, not to mention the five incredible Classic Women who were receiving their awards. Most of the guests I could only assume were important because of the height of their shoes, their thick glasses and asymmetrical haircuts, but they were fabulous just the same.
Each guest was assigned a table to sit at, and I was placed between designer Skip Sroka (I die for his own leather-paneled library ) and Matchbook blogger Katie Armour. We munched on our pear salads while our host, Deborah Norville of Inside Edition, welcomed us. “If you think one person can’t make a difference,” she reminded us, “then you’ve never slept with a mosquito in the room.” One by one, each of our classic women shared their story and accepted their award: Evelyn Castellar  of Projecto Honduras , a clinic in the cloud forest of Honduras; Linda Davidson  of Our Military Kids , devoted to funding extracurriculars for children of deployed soldiers; Nancy Chance  of the Good Samaritan Network of Hamilton County , connecting business, clubs and agencies to stop poverty in their community; Pascha Peay  of Imagine Me Ministries , helping young girls succeed in high-crime areas; and Shannon Thompson  of Shakti Rising , a program that helps empower women who are recovering from trauma. Hearing these women speak about their experiences filled me with gratitude that while we live in a fast-paced age of me! me! me!, there are still people out there with enormous hearts and enough energy to help those who are still struggling. By the time I got to my miso salmon on a bed of garlic jasmine rice, I was wiping eyeliner off my cheeks with a 500-thread-count linen napkin. Wrapping up the ceremony was the announcement of a sixth recipient, reserved for a classic woman in the publishing industry. The award went to Carlotta Jacobson of Cosmetic Executive Women , a nonprofit professional organization with over 5,000 executives in the beauty and related industries. Carlotta and the rest of the CEW Board of Directors created CancerAndCareers.org , an invaluable resource for men and women working to succeed in a career after being diagnosed with cancer.
My favorite part about the lineup of recipients was the expanse of issues that these women addressed. It really spotlighted the notion that we can (and must!) all help each other in any small ways that we can. Pascha Peay (Pascha Lee after her wedding the weekend before to a devastatingly handsome man in a dapper suit) summed up the collective sentiment very eloquently: “We’re all at risk. At risk of breaking a nail, of losing our homes, or of losing our minds.” The luncheon ended with lots of hugs and cheek kisses, group photos, and business card exchanges. The audio-video feed went smoothly to the great relief of a few organizers, the food was delectable, and I kept my shoes on! The ceremony was an incredible success, and I could feel secondhand the relief of the editors when it was all over. The jet’s schedule afforded us a couple of hours on Fifth Avenue in the afternoon, then the whip was cracked and it was back to Des Moines to start sifting through nominations for our Classic Woman Awards 2013!