Uncategorized

EIGHTEEN LIPSTICKS AND BACKUP

EIGHTEEN LIPSTICKS AND BACKUP

There is that moment in time when you slip on a pair of pants or jeans or in my case the perfect Lululemon yoga pants and they slide on like Cinderella’s glass slipper. Comfort, fit, smoothness and you say to yourself, damn, if I had known these would be my go to comfort pants, I would have bought at least three more pairs. This is equally true with shoes, underwear, bras, a great summer dress and so many other items in our lives, my life. The countless conversations I have had with the family of women I get the privilege of calling clients for the past twenty years in business have proven the notion to me that we women when we find something that fits perfectly, we are willing to invest in more because we love things that feel great. This does not just apply to clothing items. The perfect pen or pencil, the on point size journal for writing, a great size coffee mug, the list goes on. My grandmother, Isabelle was the backup queen. Soup especially, toothpaste, weird food items maybe from her Depression era days, who knows, but my mother was like this too and Isabelle was not her mother, but her mother in-law so I can’t necessarily blame it on genes. Sometimes the list applies to products too. I have used a face oil from a company of products I sell at my business and fell in love with it. Like so many perfect products, the company decided to discontinue it so in good old-fashioned supply and demand consumerism, I bought up all I could for backup. I realize this just postpones the inevitable disappointment I will inevitably have to face, but it is the bridge while I conserve the precious droplets as the bottle lessens daily.

Then there is the never ending discontinue of the perfect color lipstick. Lipstick serves a higher purpose for me, I love a great red or a startling pink on a plain face, but that is for cosmetic. Lipstick for me is about keeping my lips moist and not chapped and finding a lipstick that does this is a priority. I like a little color, but to be able to swath it on at a mirrorless drop of a hat to keep my lips moisturized and also have a slight color is the perfect combination. I love the lipsticks I sell, but I haven’t found one yet that replaces my go to lip product by Mac. Pervette glaze. A frosty whitish pink that really does nothing for me in the winter, but because they discontinued my winter color, High Strung (yes the irony does not go unnoticed here) I have been forced to make my summer color my year round color. I wish the beauty counter would send out a spoiler alert when they are discontinuing a color, but I am guessing there are no lipstick Google algorithms yet. There probably are, but we are talking a fifteen-dollar tube of something. I also realized in my ghost of Christmas past moment that I had turned into the “old” lady I used to wait on when I was nineteen working at Cherry and Webb on Bellevue Ave in Newport at the Estee Lauder makeup counter. The disappointed array of women who were likely looking for their go to color learning from me as my younger verison that the color would be no more played back like an old vcr tape. I remember my lack of empathy for their plight working my early sales skills in trying to get them to step out of their comfort zone and try a new red or a different pink. Seldom would this work because I likely did not understand the importance of consistency when it came to go to colors back then at nineteen. It was unlikely that I understood the need for steady non-change and reliability that is more than just a discontinued lip color.

As I traipsed off to the Mac counter to purchase my allotment of my favorite color, the electrified makeup faced Mac counter artist tried to soothe my noticeable disappointment by showing me another color that was close. I felt like saying, “If it is so close, why didn’t they discontinue this one!?” But I kept my composure and begrudgingly tried on Fabby as it was called, hesitant because in the past when I have broken my rules of staying with the go to color (anticipating that like all good lip colors in the makeup world they go away) my lips have dried out maybe because of a pigment or some horrible chemical I have ingested that caused the BRCA 2 gene to turn on and therefore caused my we caught it early breast cancer. Yes my brain does go in this direction on more than one occasion, but then I relax and take some deep breaths and realize that for the most part, lipstick colors and my breast cancer is likely a stretch. So when the counter lady gave me the bad news I moved to my summer color, Pervette and she tells me that this too has been discontinued. “Would I like some Mac 1–800 number to call that specifically deals with discontinued colors?” “Sure.” I said knowing damn well I was not going to call Mac and likely pay three times more for a color. I would just have to be a grownup and try Fabby and keep my fingers crossed. I made my purchase of three of them (one for my coat pocket, one by my writing area and one by my bed) and trudged on like I had just been told my cancer was back for the third time. (not really, but trying to make my point of disappointment, you get this right?)

After trying Fabby for about a week, yep, you guessed it, chapped lips, just in time for the five below New England wind chill factor. I decided to have an online chat (whoever invented the online chat should get a Nobel Peace prize, one of the greatest inventions of all times!) with some Mac person on their website and they informed me that I had received some incorrect information, Pervette was not discontinued! Be still my beating heart! I immediately ordered as many as Mac would let me (nine in case you are wondering) Mac has this weird rule that you can’t order more than this and actually in the past when I have gone into the actual Mac store counter they have only allowed the purchase of five. Maybe they think I am going to open a Pervette black market lipstick counter. On the website though, I was able to purchase nine so of course I did. After about a week after receiving my glorious happiest day ever (not really, but for the moment when I opened the compact black box with nine freshly packaged lip colors lined up like soldiers it was a moment for sure) I started to panic a bit. What if they really decided to discontinue this? Maybe I should buy another round just to be sure, just be on the safe side, so yes, I did.

When they arrived yesterday, I did feel a little silly about all of these backups, but not enough to reconsider. I like backup, it gives me a sense of order and very false but glorious security that at least my lipsticks and my now highly moisturized lips are predictable. I realize that the whole notion of backup anything is entirely superficial and I am a lucky lady for sure to be able to buy eighteen lipsticks. I probably should be slightly embarrassed to write this aloud, but I also know that I donate happily to pretty much any cause that comes knocking at my door. I also work really hard so spending a week’s worth of groceries on lip color to give me some added joy is a part of who I am. I know I am slightly nutty when it comes to this notion of backup, but at least this is one area in my life I can totally count on for at least the next eighteen lipsticks. This is comfort as I get ready to face 2018 with new 36 D boobs, no more cancer to have to think about for the time being or ever hopefully and glossy zinc pink non chapped lips. The New Year is looking brighter by the minute.

no words necessary.
Uncategorized

EVERY OTHER MONDAY

EVERY OTHER MONDAY

The reminders that I have set on my iphone for the past seven years are like this reliable clockwork I don’t want to ever forget. Every other Monday, yes even though you are at a college now and this no longer applies, the Michael reminder shows up every Sunday night. Like I could possibly forget that this is the day you would be coming back to me after a week at Dad’s. This is the reminder that I set up to remind me of the part of divorce that is the most annoying for you as the child of parents who separated when you were in the middle of your seventh grade year.

One week on, one week off. A visitation that you actually suggested as you lugged your stuff back and forth between two homes every other week.

I can’t imagine how this must have felt for you. I imagine not very good. The only consolation was that I did my best to make sure we stayed in the same town, that you had your house to call your home, that you had two sets of mostly everything to limit the amount of stuff you had to lug and whatever didn’t have to change didn’t. This was all to keep as much semblance of normal whatever that means as is. There are lots of people who stay married for the children and live in angst that does not teach children anything other than misery and pain as the example is usually a house filled with resentment and tension. I don’t believe that anyone should stay together if they are not happy. I don’t think this environment serves children well. I think it ended up being ok in the long run, but I also know that the alternative would have not been. There are lessons in everything and I hope the lesson you gained from this decision is that everyone has a right to be fulfilled and happy in this short life we all live. Life and decisions about it are hard and though staying in a relationship that has run its course seems like a choice often made, moving on is also courageous and honorable. I hope that it taught you that at times it is necessary to make the tough decisions and tha life isn’t always easy. The white picket fence isn’t always white and sometimes it needs to be painted a different color or taken down and replaced.

There is never a good time for two parents to split, but the worst time would have been to wait for the “let’s let you graduate from high school first, time.” This I am completely comfortable with in the decision I had to make so that I could free Dad and I from the chains that bound us in a way that no longer served our souls. I knew that by making this awful at the time decision, the pain would eventually move on so that you could at least enjoy your remaining time in school and Dad and I could do our best by you to repair our relationship so we could continue to do what we did best. To parent. This was the bond after you were born, my immense love and admiration for dad’s parenting. I didn’t want to give up watching dad be a dad to you. He was great and loving, just like his dad was to him. Still is.

It is your second decade today. You are twenty. You are on your way to twenty one and this next five years so many decisions will feel urgent as you move into your life. The twenties is the figuring it out phase. Take your time. Be patient and slow. Do not rush into big bold decisions. Use your gut as your guide. Travel. Don’t take the first job that comes your way and as a matter of fact, you will be in a position to be choosy because the gift dad and I have given you is no college debt when you graduate. This is the best gift. Financial freedom so you can move forward without other darts coming at you that force you into hasty decisions. You are so lucky to have the jumping off point from two parents who love you and still love and appreciate each other, but knew well enough that we weren’t the right fit anymore and set each other free. I hope that you will one day if not now appreciate the work we have both done to ensure that you still felt the intense love and adorations for you in the midst of a painful decision we had to make so we could both find happiness in our young lives.

You have been a blessing and a joy in our lives and we have learned so much from you. I know I can speak for dad too when I say that we are the luckiest parents in the world to get the privilege of calling you our son. Divorce is not easy on children, but often it is not the divorce as much as it is the lack of camaraderie that is the result of an angry divorce. The benefit of your grandparent’s disruptive and horrible divorce was that I knew I never wanted that to be your experience, that was my jumping off point and everything I did was with that in my mind. Of course the dream would have been for Dad and I to do our best to suck it up and try to work it out, but when this became impossible, I really thought that this would be the second best alternative. At least you could understand in your young life that two people who loved each other could also still love each other enough to let each other go too. This is a grown up very mature way to consider and it is with these glasses we came to this decision. When you are a parent there are lots of times we feel guilty about decisions, maybe considering mistakes that could have negatively impacted you and your view of the world. These are the decisions that I will never know the impact of, but as a parent I know 100% of the time I made them with the end result of your health and well being in mind. It has been hard to raise you in this town of Bristol knowing that you have been surrounded with traditional families who are together and are seemingly happy. I wanted this for you more than anything, the dream of you being able to come home from college and be a unit. It just wasn’t the story. We did our best and it just wasn’t something neither dad nor I could make happen for the reasons that are not necessary to explain, but had nothing to do with you. But I am sure you know this. This is one thing I am sure of, that our separation had nothing to do with you, but with each other. I like truth. If there is ever a time you need or want to talk about anything as you move forward into your twenties and begin the path towards the career path and the relationship and parenting path that lies in front of you, I am as you must know by now an open book. I will always tell you the truth.

You are loved. You are admired and enjoyed. Dad and I are so proud of who you have become and who you will still become. I am sure we have made mistakes because this is life as a parent, I am sure there are things in your head that we have caused good and bad but what I know Michael White is that there was never a moment of ill intent. You have always been a priority between us even when we were trying to reconfigure our own lives out separately in our new state of not being together. It is my hope that you take what you need and leave the rest and I hope the part you take is the deep love and respect I feel for you as a man in our lives.

My life is enriched and more joyous with you in it. I know Dad’s life is too. We are so lucky and happy that you are the connector of the tribe we get to still call family, regardless of its construct, its on occasion awkwardness and oddness, but nonetheless it is ours. We get to always call it our home and this is the most glorious blessing I could have ever imagined for you.

Happiest of Birthdays my dear love.

Love Mom











Uncategorized

SET IT AND FORGET IT

SET IT AND FORGET IT

There was a movement over fifteen years ago. It was a rotisserie chicken movement. It was in my old life when my former husband bought something on an infomercial that was a contraption for roasting a chicken to perfection. The one liner that went along with the countertop roasting oven was “Set it and forget it!” And the promise was exactly what it sounded like. Put the chicken on the spicket and voila, this oven would make a perfect rotisserie chicken, no basting, no temperature checking, just put it in and take it out. I was a skeptic, but I must admit, this was a great purchase and we ate endless roasted chickens that were delicious.

As clever as Set it and Forget It was for engaging chicken rotisserie enthusiasts, Set it and Forget It does not apply to being a parent (if only) or running a business. Just like you can’t say something to your child one time and expect them to remember (Michael, take out the trash every Friday… imagine if as a parent you could say this once and miraculously it just happened every Friday without fail?), Set it and Forget It is also like this for a business.

Creating a systemic approach to running my company so that everyone who works for me knows the parameters of expectations is the Set It part. This is the seasoning part, the prep, the getting it in the oven before turning it on part. This is where lots of the work goes into and creating systems and teaching my team to follow them is 80% of success. There are times in my past sixteen years of leading a team of usually about twenty women that I have wanted to Set it and Forget it. There are times when I have been mentally or physically absent. When I have Set it and thought I could Forget it for a moment a month or a few months. I have seen the results of turning on the rotisserie and forgetting to set the timer as much as I have seen turning it on and ending up with a perfect result.

Just because I own my own business does not mean that when life has come at me, it has not affected the way I have been in my business and my own performance. I am human. I am woman and I have made mistakes. I have lost great people who have worked for me and I have weeded out dead weight of people who shouldn’t have worked for me in the first place. I hope that I always learn from my mistakes when someone leaves, and what I do know 100% of the time is that when someone does leave it is always a blessing in the long run with few exceptions. The great ones usually move on to something that continues their love of beauty and this always makes me happy because I know I have been a positive influence in this. Even if there have been negative elements, there are always divine lessons for both of us.

What I love most about running my company is that it is like a living breathing organism. It allows me to take breaks when I need to and it calls me back in when it needs me. For sixteen years, my business has never let me down and I always come back stronger and better from its unique lessons. I am convinced that it is because of my Set it mentality. Without the Set it, what do I have? If people who work for me don’t know what my expectations are then how can anyone of them succeed and how does my business succeed?

I have strong expectations and some people love this about working for me, some are energized by it and some grow tired of it. All of this is good in the long run. What I have realized, especially this past year with my caught it early for the second time breast cancer surgeries, is that my team continues to show up and has allowed me to Forget it so that I could recover. I lost some great employees right around my first surgery and it was hard to not take that personal when I reflected on the timing of their departures, but I have learned that business and employees are just that. No matter how much I think of them as family and close connections, first and foremost it is employee and employer. When I remember this, I am a better leader. Don’t get me wrong, sensitivity and empathy to my teams’ personal lives make for much better relationships. I care about them a lot. I care about their happiness and their work environment. I care about their lives, their children, their families, their livelihood, their animals, their weddings, showers, funerals, first homebuying, the list never ends. This day as I reflect on what was one of my most difficult years of owning my business, I am so grateful for my team of almost twenty shining stars who have rallied and risen to every occasion. I am blessed beyond words for their work ethic and their hearts as they come to work every day to help me fulfill my own business mission of taking stellar care of our clients so they want to come back often.

Recently one of my favorite employees decided she was getting a bit complacent and at 45 wanted to take a break and decide what she wanted to be when she grew up because she realized that she never really had defined this for herself. This was a big loss for me as I came to rely on her unique approach to my business and she offered honesty and solution based constructive criticism on an almost daily basis. She assured me that all would be fine, life would go on and someone else would take the helm. I knew as I always do that this is definitive truth. I know that grooming leadership is my strength more than even running my business, one of the most satisfying elements of being an entrepreneur is developing leaders. Her departure reminded me of this part of my ability that is intuitive to me me. I have always known what I wanted to be when I grew up because it is exactly what I am doing today. As sad as this loss was for my company and the women who have grown to rely on her own leadership skills, this opportunity for me to develop new energy is something I relish and it is a perfectly timed gift. Working with women and teaching them the skills that I know are invaluable to running a million dollar company also teaches them unique life skills they can bring to their personal worlds. These skills make them better women, not only in the workforce, but as mothers, wives, partners, and humans. It is my unique privilege to show up for them the way they show up for me. This is legacy and female small business owning in its finest hour.

I have the best team not because of luck as so many like to say when they speak to me about my team. I have the best team because they are willing to take a chance and step out of their comfort zones to trust my leadership. They are my nucleus, not the other way around. I just get to be the container of their strengths by keeping the cell healthy and growing. I am the lucky one every day because I get to own my own business, but because I get to work with twenty women who are the best in the business. We have learned to care and support one another. They have taken my Set It to heart and have given me permission to occasionally Forget It. They command my return when they know it is time for my leadership again. This is the well-seasoned machine of a team that I have the honor of being the line leader of. People leave. Great people leave and I miss the ones who were great, surely, but what I know in my deepest of cells is that the great ones stay too. I am so appreciative for the time they have given me before they left and I am most grateful for the time they are here present and part of this party I have the luxury of calling work. To all the chiefs in my kitchen who have come and gone, you know who you are and the Chieftresses who are still cooking up the feasts, Thank you. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be the line leader, the head chef and the student all in the same breath. Lucky indeed.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Great Life.













surely not all of the team past and present but the photos i could find quickly this am to at least represent a few.
Uncategorized

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH YOTAM OTTOLENGHI

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH YOTAM OTTOLENGHI

Well not really. I mean he has a family, children, I am sure a lovely wife. I am a devout monogamist. So let me clarify before the rumors start flying. My love affair is with Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, his food, his ethnicity, his restaurants in London. Like the way I feel enriched by reading Ann Patchett, I am also a hungry cookbook enthusiast. I don’t collect them, but I do have a lot of cookbooks, not as many now since I began my de-cluttering quest, but I kept all my favorites and I consider them gems among my library of great reads.

When I saw his cookbook, PLENTY, in the bookstore featuring grilled eggplant slathered with Middle Eastern yogurt and pomegranate seeds on the “You had me at hello” bookcover, I was hooked. Who was this man who would soon be my kitchen paramour and my bedtime companion?

Truth be told I love to read and as much as I enjoy a great novel, I equally enjoy reading cookbooks from cover to cover. I am the (likely hopeful to the writer) geek who reads the intros because I like to know the author’s food stories. How did they get here? What are the roots of the recipes that follow? Often it is mothers’ and grandmothers’ and great grandmothers’ influence that brought them from their childhood kitchens to their cookbooks and often restaurants as is in Yotam’s case, (I am such a fan of his I feel we can be on a first name basis at this point.) And it is just as true in my own narrative in the kitchen,

Back in the day, when the Food Network didn’t exist and Julia Child was the originator of the solo television female cook on PBS, I used to get Gourmet magazine and read Ruth Reichl’s eloquent descriptions of what would be following in that month’s features. She would often refer to some of her travels and (total cheesy pun intended) I ate it up. I traveled right along side of her as I made my way as a young wife through Gourmet’s complicated recipes. I wanted to master them as some statement that I was a successful cook in my early and amateur kitchen. Ruth in her beautiful writing also opened my eyes to the notion that I could write stories weaving my recipes and food experiences within them as she did in one of my favorite books, Not Becoming My Mother.

So as I traversed the pages of PLENTY trying these unique vegetarian recipes (I am not a vegetarian, but I love all dishes containing vegetables) I fell in love. Then to my delight he, along with Sami Tamimi, came out with a follow up cookbook, JERUSALEM. These recipes filled with the lusciously simple and highly flavored Hummus recipes that are known in Israeli restaurants and homes along with hundreds of others that float me happily back to my too few visits of one of my favorite places on earth. There is a humble quote on page 13, “We draw deep inspiration from Jerusalem and its food but are in no way trying to represent its realities.” I would say in the political landscape Jerusalem finds itself recently, this was some serious foreshadowing. In reality though, Jersualem is always in a hotbed of political debate on any given time in history.

But this writing today is non political as most of mine are so let me get back to my love affair with Yotam and his cooking. I will confess, I have lovingly digested the recipes and the photos of this cookbook, but have only tried one or two. They have been delicious and like my rule about trying on the first piece of clothing in the dressing room, if it looks great, the rest will follow, but if it is a failure then that usually is a premonition of what will follow. Cookbooks are like this for me. If I try the first few recipes and they meet or exceed my expectations, the cookbooks and their authors usually become my go to gurus. Ina Garten immediately comes to mind. I have never made an Ina Garten recipe I didn’t love. She has taught me perfect roast chicken, easy tiramisu, and countless other food combinations that find their way into my kitchen from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. I love her style, her ease and simplicity and her blatant in your face use of butter. I adore, as I am sure so many romantics like myself do, her love for her husband that I, keeping my fingers crossed, hope is as great on the inside as it appears on the outside. The opposite is true for Rachel Ray’s recipes, (my father loved your recipes, Rachel, but sorry Rachel, though I love and admire your entrepreneurial brilliance, I have never had success with your recipes. I should be weary of any cookbooks that don’t contain at least a paltry dessert section. Rachel Ray is not my style anyway. Though I respect her intent, I don’t need the amateur approach she brings to the kitchen. I am kind of past that thanks to my mother and grandmother who taught me early on that whip cream does not come in a can and neither do vegetables.

I have my grandmother’s original Betty Crocker recipe book that has every staple you could imagine, worn buttery and torn pages especially of her Christmas cookies, pies and pancakes that I still use today way more then fifty years later. I also use my great grandmother’s Libby Hillman cookbook that was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me and still has a very pragmatic plastic clear book cover on it to protect it from all future food stains. Gotta love the Depression conservation mentality. I wish this had been instilled in me along with my love of food. Maybe my next life I will be the frugal fanny of my great grandmother’s generation.

So like this past Sunday when I was reminded of my deep admiration for Ann Patchett as I read her opinion piece in the Sunday Times, I opened the paper yesterday morning and lo and behold in the Wednesday NYT food section, there is a happy piece by my pretend kitchen partner, Yotam himself. Not only was I transported into my pantry to pull out the aforementioned cookbooks, but I was sent back in my travel reflection time machine to last January with my son and cousins in London on our last night eating at where else, OTTOLENGHI! One of our highlights of the many foodie stops on our week in glorious London. It did not disappoint. So when I spotted his sweet take on brunch and weekend morning eating in his writing this morning, Slow Down, It’s the Weekend, I gobbled it up. I identified with his comments about weekday rushing and weekend not rushing and the joy of a great breakfast. I realized I had all of the ingredients in my cabinets to try his Maple Cardamom Saffron Sticky Buns. (Totally honest though and I am sorry Yotam and all of the purists out there, I did not have the fresh vanilla bean or the cardamom pods so I made due. I hope you will forgive me. I also had no saffron threads so I used cinnamon instead, please do not think less of me). I had the time because I have been still waking up at 4am. I had the yeast too. Now yeast and I have not had very good luck. I consider myself a great baker, but yeast is its own character and as many times as I have attempted to make things with yeast, I am seldom satisfied with the bricks I end up with. So as a result, needless to say, I don’t often move in the yeast direction. But today, the first morning my son is back from college, I fantasized about the freshly baked moist buns wafting their scented aroma up to my son’s bedroom almost forcing him awake. There are the realities of motherhood and the fantasy world of motherhood surely and this sticky bun making experience could go either way. I trust Yolam as previously stated, but I am slightly intimidated by yeast and like our pets and their intuitive ability to pick up our energy, yeast too picks up this vibe and the end result is the energy you put into it.

So here I sat at 9am waiting for the dough to rise in the draft free space. My fantasy was that they would rise as Yolam said they would. The reality though is that this would be unlikely because the dough never was soft and elasticky as my cooking guide said it would. I mean relationships can’t all be perfect all the time. I refused to admit defeat though, whether they rise to the double size he promised or not, I will still bake them so at least the smell will reveal that I tried. That my intention for this first morning my son has returned expecting something home cooked from his mother, is a good one. But I still walked down to Bristol Bagels and picked up his favorite bagels and cream cheese as a back up just in case. If these did not work out, I already knew I would try again because I know Yolam will not let me down. I forged ahead and followed the recipe rolling them into the balls, continuing on though frankly still loaded with self-doubt. I refused to give in and I can’t stand throwing away food so there is the depression influence as I my mind began considering what I could turn the potential failures into so as not to throw them away. Within five minutes, though, the aroma became intoxicating and as they continued to cook, I took another look at the black and white photo of them and I realized that their bumpiness actually matched the photo! Be still my beating heart, could this turn out to be a success? As I made my way to the stovetop to make the maple cardamom buttery glaze, my son made his way downstairs and all was well in my world. I pulled the buns out and brushed the tops excited to take my first bite and to watch Michael. Success indeed. And as I watched the nine of the buttery delights dwindle to two throughout the day, I fell deeper in love with my man Yotam and I can’t wait to try the next one.





Uncategorized

I LOVE ANN PATCHETT

I LOVE ANN PATCHETT

When I was living in Jamestown, RI in 1976 I had the good fortune of becoming friends with a group of young kids who I mostly still remain friends with. Growing up on a three by nine mile island even though it was connected with two bridges allowing easy exit created a cocoon and insular experience for our young posse. When we each got our drivers license it was a freedom that is hard to explain adding a layer in the ability to exit into larger communities that often felt like were leaving our country. I am not exaggerating here. There is a unique safety net growing up on an island the size of Jamestown and it created a wonderful closeness among us. When we went to high school, since there was no high school in Jamestown, some went to Rogers High School in Newport, but most of us went to North Kingstown and the perception of Jamestown kids to NK kids was amusing. I loved growing up there. It was a freedom of stomping around barefoot, barely any parental guidance, bike riding, beach going, backgammon games and driving around the island endlessly. A few of us had family off the island in cities so we were exposed to the reality of bigger spaces like New York City and Boston and we ultimately exposed each other on the trips we would take together to visit family.

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Melissa, friends since sixth grade, along with a couple others who we both lost touch with used to do these crazy Christmas exchanges and we have great memories of this. I think we started it in seventh grade and continued well into our thirties until marriage and babies and relocating to areas not easy to get to at holiday time stopped the tradition. We also found ourselves wanting to reduce the madness of shopping and gift giving and the tradition just kind of stopped. Melissa and I continued it for a bit, but even now we barely do any gift exchanging and instead just share great conversation in our almost daily phone chats.

One of my dearest and favorite gifts ever from Melissa was a book by Ann Patchett called Truth and Beauty. It is a memoir about a very special friendship she had with Lucy Grealy also an author of the book, Autobiography of a Face. They met in 1981 and had a friendship lasting for over twenty years. This book describes that bond and intimacy that happens between two women who share life together as deep friends. It is one of Melissa’s favorite books and she gave it to me hoping I would love it as much as she did. I did. And this was the book that got me started on my own love affair with Ann Patchett. I have read and enjoyed most of her books and every time I read anything she writes, I am a better writer because of her. I appreciate great vocabulary in writing that is natural and not contrived. When I read Ann Patchett, she has my attention wholly and I am never disappointed. It is so apropos that someone who I have been best friends with for forty years would introduce me to a writer about her own dear friendship. When I saw Ann Patchett’s name flash in the NY Times in the opinion section of the Sunday Review, of course I hungrily devoured it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/opinion/sunday/shopping-consumerism.html.

It was called My Year of No Shopping and it reminded me of my yearlong quest to purge all of my junk and excessive stuff I have accumulated in the first half of my life. This mission of hers was to stop accumulating and like her many novels that have become my dear companions, this too gave me great pause.

I love to shop, not for clothes or shoes or purses, though I do love my Lululemon excursions (these are workout clothes so this doesn’t really count, right?). Actually my love is the thrill of spending money which is not a prudent choice in my life long term. I am sure I can tie this energy with my mother as she loves to shop likely still does but since she is not speaking to me I really don’t know this. When I reminisce about my mother, shopping is a kindred connection we share. I am guessing I learned the notion of consumerism = happiness and immediate gratification from her and when I am spending money I feel that kindred connection I otherwise long for from my mother. Sounds like it is time for another therapy appointment.

I have always been a great saver for retirement thanks to my grandfather’s influence, but the present day savings has never really been my strength. Art supplies, office supplies, gardening trinkets, kitchen gadgets, consignment furniture and my favorite, FOOD, all easy items to rationalize in my quest for the perfect notebook, pen or olive oil. The thought of deliberately not shopping for whatever parameters I set speaks to me. Ann’s comment on running out of lip balm and having a moment of panic when she realized buying more was off limits cracked me up as I stared at my 9 MAC lipsticks I just ordered so I would have the back up of the discontinued lipstick color I love. She decided to forage her cabinets and purses and lo and behold came up with four. She is probably a back up lip hoarder like myself.

I didn’t grow up in the Depression, but my grandparents did and my grandmother who tended to err on the side of frugality ironically spent a lot of money on backup. I get my need to have backup of things from her. Though she usually applied it to cans of soup on sale or toothpaste and coffee, I have found myself using it as a crutch to shop. Find a pair of sneakers I love? Buy two pairs in case they discontinue the style. Love those Lulu yoga pants? Buy four pairs because what if they stop making them? The list goes one and I am certifiably nuts when it comes to this. As a result, I have ten pairs of pants, sixteen tubes of my favorite lipstick and who knows what else lurking in the pockets of my coats and the closets of my home. As I contemplated the idea of giving up shopping for one full year with my own parameters, the one element that made me seriously consider this was Ann’s mention of how much time she realized she had on her hands. When I quit drinking for seven years, I found that I had exquisite amounts of time to create and consider. I wonder. Could I actually do this? The fact that I am even wobbling in the idea that I may not be able to should make jump on the bandwagon pronto. Ann made a list. She owns a bookstore in Nashville and immediately decided that buying books would not be a part of her list though now that I write this, I ask the question to her that you are all thinking, can’t she get her books for free? I mean I am not going put on my list to give up buying lotions and potions because I own a skin care business and I don’t have to pay for those so putting them on my list is kind of a scam. Sorry Ann you have been found out in that category, you are forgiven though because remember I love you.

I can feel the rationale overtaking my brain. How could I eliminate shopping? I mean I need soil for my garden in the spring. I need new sneakers for my workouts. What happens when I run out of my lipstick and my lips are on the path of dryness? I drop my phone like every other day and the screen needs to constantly be repaired. Am I supposed to give this up? Give up shopping for a year? How about a day? I still have 12 days left for 2017, maybe I could get it all in for the remainder. If any of you are considering joining this party with me, before 2017 ends, please buy some Ann Patchett books (except for Bel Canto, sorry Ann I tried three times). Or you could start right now and go to the library and borrow and return them ahead of schedule.

Ann Patchett again gets my brain turning and my heart thumping with her delicious prose. Once again she has my attention and watch out my fellow business owners, you may not be seeing me in 2018. Only time will tell.


my oldest friend Melissa, so lucky to know her along with my other superchicks in my life.
Uncategorized

MERRY CHRISTMAS INDEED

There is nothing more glorious then a perfect Sunday, even more so when it is one of those neat near to last Sundays of the year and there is nothing planned except what I have chosen for my day. Even better is the morning after a successful dinner party where friends are together and everything just feels right, conversations, energy, music, candlelight, and of course wine, food and dessert. There is that rhythm of a good evening that despite your intentions and your efforts in planning a great outcome, the energy is not a guarantee and it takes the momentum of the evening to see if your efforts end with the ideas you had. This is hard to plan, but when everything is in sync, there is magic.

I have spoken about a chosen tribe because I don’t have too much family around and this group is a combination who show up. We greatly enjoy each other’s company on many layers of levels. There is a comfort and ease between us as we volley discussions back and forth in varieties of duets and trios throughout the evening and feel grateful for the dialogue and the respite during an otherwise maddening rush during the busiest of holiday weeks.

In addition to my son and my partner, these people are my family and there were only a few people missing from the night that would have wholeheartedly represented a full display. As the evening progressed, I could feel the lessening of the busy-ness. No one pulled out a phone or snapped pictures to post real time on Facebook and it wasn’t because anyone created a contrived ban. It was because each of us were perfectly present to one another and there was simply no need to capture for later. Later was now; we all just leaned in to each others love. As the women took over the cleaning up of the first round of Hanukkah dishes, I observed the comfort between us as their hands and my sponges washed the old china and silver handed down from my great grandmothers. I got to hear the clanging of the silverware and the dishes as they were gently placed into the dishwasher and listen to the dialogue that happens so typically between women in the kitchen as they jump in to help the hostess. There is a velvet intimacy to this and there is something old fashioned and comforting too. As the dishes were cleaned, and the next course began its grand entrance, there was that feeling that washed over my home. I can’t describe this, but every time I have a successful get together, there is a profound energy shift that occurs in my space. It is a sense of grounding and peace, almost like a trail of every one’s heart and love placed in the air pockets of my home. Like the way your skin smells after you have been at the beach on the first summer day. I can feel the weight of it and it is the rarest of beauty; it lifts me especially after everyone leaves and the kitchen is put away and put back to the way it was before the get together. Of course it may be put back physically, but there is a spiritual charge in the air that has changed my space and this is what I clung to yesterday as I listened to Pandora’s selection of smooth jazz all day belting out Grover Washington, Sade and Boney James. Candle light everywhere, leftovers in the oven, heat cranking on this freezing cold December New England day and the little holiday lights in the windows I love in my old 1865 home. I want to duplicate the essence that was Saturday evening and hang on to it as long as possible. There is nothing like the vibration of the holidays and the entire season.

I witness the holidays every year from my perch of being Jewish. My mother’s family was Catholic and though my mother converted to Judaism, my brother and I always got to celebrate Christmas when we were little at my grandmother’s house in Boston. Though we never celebrated it in our own home, the flavor of the holiday sits with me because of some of these memories. When Michael was about Kindergarten age, he would, like children do, come on my errands with me. In this very small mostly Christian town we reside in, I would often run into my Portuguese friend’s aunts and mothers and with their thick accents they would innocently ask “Michael, what is Santa going to bring you this Christmas?” Michael learned early on that with this common question his reply would have to be kind and patient. “ We don’t celebrate Christmas, we’re Jewish.” Silence. Then the look followed by the clicking of the tongue, as I became the recipient of their judgment. “Ohh, poor thing.” Yes they would say this aloud, like I was deliberately keeping Santa from our chimney trying to be some scrooge for not celebrating the holiday with vats of gifts and trinkets.

My former mother in law used to ask me, “When is your Christmas?” around this time of year. When it was Passover time, she would ask, “Alayne, when is your Easter?” There were a few times when I would feel impatient with these questions as they felt provincial and after being married to her son for twenty years, I would occasionally feel like are you seriously asking me this again? But with the wisdom that hindsight often provides in fine tuning your vision, I understood her simplicity, it was her way of trying to understand differences and to figure out a way to connect with me as she tried to wrap her head around that her first born grandson would not be raised with a Christmas tree or an Easter bunny as his narratives to describe winter and springtime. Never mind the discussion we had to have when she realized that we wouldn’t be christening him either, but rather be having a bris for her grandson. I remember her saying, trying to be innocent in the question, “Maybe you could just have the christening so you can get the gifts that people will be bringing.” I knew even back then at 34 that this was her way of feeling like he was not going to be securing a place in her version of heaven if a christening wouldn’t be taking place and trying to tempt me with the lure of gifts. Needless to say, I didn’t take the bait. Just like I try to teach my team the fact that not every single person in the planet celebrates Christmas and not saying Merry Christmas has nothing at all to do with political correctness but more an intelligence that shows a more worldly view of our human makeup.

When my son was little in elementary school, the school would always put up a Christmas tree in the hallway. They would teach the kids Christmas carols, but because schools in their infinite wisdom weren’t allowed to incorporate anything religious, they would only teach Santa songs. This drove me crazy. Last I checked, Christmas is about Jesus not Santa and my comments were often more about if you are going to teach my Jewish son inadvertently about Christmas, at least teach him the real story. If you are going to put up a Christmas tree, at least put up a menorah and have the discussion about the differences. We need more discussions about the differences. I’d rather have my son learn about Jesus and his role in our history. I mean isn’t this the point of the holiday? Jesus? Actually to be totally truthful, I am from the school of thought of having no decorations in public school, but these days, our public schools need all the love they can get. Teaching these days has turned into some of our most vulnerable professions. So bring on the light and the Christmas pageants and the Santa visits. Who cares, we need as much holiday cheer as possible. Ironically we sent Michael to a Catholic high school because I like the spiritual essence as a line leader in the high school day. We need the spiritual wherever we can get it.

I love the words Merry Christmas, I love Christmas actually, just like the energy that was sprinkled in my house from my family of friends this past Saturday evening, Christmas has a unique quality to it that brings out the shininess in people’s hearts. I also like consideration of other peoples’ belief systems. This is why I think sometimes the Merry Christmas greeting has taken on a life of its own. “Merry Christmas,” a beautiful and happy phrase sometimes has an almost confrontational feeling to it when some people say it these days, but I never care. I refuse to buy into feeling offended, but I will say I do like to remind people that not everyone we come into contact with celebrates the holiday with the same vigor they might. America is a blend of religions and beliefs and though it may seem to the eye that everyone participates in Santa’s world, there are so many who don’t because they are not that religion.

I had a friend who was very religious but hardly ever spoke of her beliefs. She used to say that she was very secure with her own beliefs in her religion that she didn’t feel the need to espouse them in others and expected the same from other. I think the phrase Merry Christmas and Christmas in general as become politicized in the past twenty years and it unfortunate. There is a saying in Alanon that says something like take what you need and leave the rest. I kind of wish we could apply this to all things holiday and religious. I am not offended by the phrase ‘Merry Christmas,’ however I do enjoy the conversation to broaden viewpoints because of the assumption that everyone celebrates it. Can we consider that if you say Merry Christmas to me would be like me saying Happy Hanukkah to you? Kind of odd, but the fact of either phrase is the intent, right? I actually never care if anyone says it to me one because I am totally secure in my own religion. I also know when I say Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Holidays, my intention is to spread the cheer and light of the holiday season. I am not trying to make some point that undermines the whole purpose of the greeting. I just like the excuse to share some love and warmth and all greetings that intend this are fine by me.

So to all out there Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanza, Happy Fesitvus with the rest of us. May your last crazy week before this lovely almost final day of the year be filled with delight and family. To me this is the point of it all- the excuse even for a short time to love thy neighbor and to be loved back.




Hanukkah and December birthday parties of yesteryear and of course Mister Frankster, RIP, who came to us during Christmas time one year and taught me daily about life and loving.


Uncategorized

IS THE TARADIDDLE NEVER ENDING?

IS THE TARADIDDLE NEVER ENDING?

I am sitting on the couch this early snow filled New England morning, two Saturdays before Christmas and I am wide awake. It is 4:30 am and I have been up since about 3am, you know- that famous witching hour we humans arise at when something is stirring in our souls that demands attention. I always have something stirring in my soul and I often say to Michael C. “You will never be bored hanging out with me.” I also understand that my very active morning energy can also be a bit much so as I tossed and turned listening to my old faithful podcast that usually puts me back to sleep, I realized it would not be doing that job this morning. I instead got up and allowed him some sleeping peace and headed downstairs.

I started a fire to take the chill out of the cold morning in the living room and opened up my laptop. My morning routine is a constant. I am deep into the habit of bringing my trusty and sleek Apple with me wherever I go in case the writing bug insists on a piece which by now seems to be almost daily. I am really not sure if I would be as calm as I am if it hadn’t been for my regular writing this past year. I started this past February thanks to my beautiful partner giving me an extra nudge when he showed me that Medium was a site to give my writings a home, actually more like a billboard.

Ideas about pieces to write pop into my head on all occasions. In the past there were times when I would see something spectacular and wished I had my camera with me (before the days when we all carried a camera 24/7) and missed the photo for lack of camera. Writing fixes this because now instead of a photo, I have a phrase I hear or something I see or an experience I am part of and this is my catalyst for the next essay I write. As I was driving over here last night listening to John Tesh on Lite Rock 105 (This may be surprising to some, but I start listening to Christmas music the first week of November; I know- it’s an odd quirk, but total truth). I can’t remember the last time I actually listened to a commercial radio station, though. It was snowing and I was driving, usually not something that I relish. The radio was easier than fidgeting with my phone,Pandora and the distraction of that whole gig in my car while I am driving especially in the snow, (worse than texting and driving if you ask me).

“Did you know that a recent study showed that cancer can be prevented if you belt out some tunes?” or something to that effect, John Tesh exclaimed. “More on how singing your heart out in a choir may be an actual cancer prevention after the break,” he swooned with his confident and calming know all about life voice. I didn’t know this. “You mean, John Tesh, if I had only joined a choir and sung my heart out a few years back, I would still have my old saggy fifty year old breasts, my ovaries and my fallopian tubes, my premenopausal brain and regular periods?” I am so disappointed I did not know this.

Why is it that these “studies” are always done in Switzerland or some neutral cold place where everyone is always claimed as the happiest people on earth. Actually that was Denmark, but the Swiss always seem to have it together when it comes to life and living, aren’t they the ones who get like two years of paid child leave? Anyway as I waited anxiously for John to return to the show to let me know about how singing could have actually prevented this cancer, I began to consider all of the bullshit that comes at me on a daily basis.

You know when you hear a new word for the first time like the word, ‘taradiddle, for example. Once it is implanted in your vision, you will see it over and over again after never seeing it or ever hearing of the word before. Taradiddle, according to Merriam Webster, means pretentious nonsense. This is a perfect word for all forms of nonsense that come at you when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. “I have decided not to subscribe to any additional taradiddles.” Now since I have mentioned this word, you will see it again soon. This is the same way that all cures for cancer show up once I was diagnosed. It was like every movie I watched, every interview I heard, every newspaper article I came across all had breast cancer prevention advice. This just confuses the hell out of me. What to eat, vegetarian or paleo. Lowfat high fat, dairy, no dairy, supplements, no supplements, soy, no soy, chocolate, no chocolate, never mind the alcohol and sugar discussion. One constant is the importance of exercise, but everything else is up for grabs. When I ever heard this last commentary I thought, these attention grabbing one liners are so fricking irresponsible. They grab you by your collar and shake you up because every time you hear one, you can’t help but feel a little personally responsible for getting cancer.

Do you mean, John that if I had joined the church choir at St. Michael’s parish a few years back, I would still have my breasts? Is this what you mean? Now what do I do? Should I still join, I mean I already have had cancer twice, so is it worth it to continue to explore my singing options going forward or did I miss my chance because I failed to sign up? I can only imagine the nice grandmothers out there hearing John say this and immediately calling up their newly diagnosed granddaughter to let them know the news. “Join the choir at church, dear! There is a new study linking cancer prevention to singing in the choir! See there are other reasons to go to church after all.” Oh but wait John, I’m Jewish. We don’t have church choir. Well this is all water under the bridge anyway since I missed the memo and this all happened before the conclusions to the study were out on the John Tesh show.

I am sick of being told about all of the things I should be doing now that I am a cancer “survivor.” Isn’t being a survivor part of the equation? Like I survived and I used to exercise barely, eat lots of sugar, drink too much and freak out at bad customer service so maybe this is why I got breast cancer the first time. So I make the necessary changes and then I got it again. So fuck it. What is living anyway? Isn’t it living and enjoying? There’s that fine tightrope balance between wanting to ensure your health so you can enjoy your life later and ensuring your joy so you can fully live your life now. Mmm what is it, plan for retirement saving all of your money for later or enjoying your life now and using your money as it comes at you?

What I hope I have learned is that I didn’t cause my own cancer. Whether I eat the damn cheesecake or white chocolate challah bread pudding that is part of my Hanukkah party this evening or not, I really don’t believe that this decision is laying the groundwork for another round. Life comes at us for sure and this holiday season, I am a healthy and happy human living not in Switzerland or Denmark, but right here in Rhode Island surrounded by friends and family who I know love me and I love them back. This is all that is necessary and there is not one ounce of taradiddle in any of it.

me sitting on my couch writing. I did this on facebook somehow, isn’t this so fun?
Uncategorized

WEDNESDAY NIGHTS WITH JANE

WEDNESDAY NIGHTS WITH JANE

The last two Wednesday evenings I have somehow managed to carve out some time in this busy holiday season to hang out with one of my favorite clients yes, but more so, favorite women. Last week, we ate at Simones in Warren RI after a trip to IKEA where we basically had the entire 357,000 square foot store to ourselves. Mind you this was the first Wednesday night in December, usually a high traffic beginning to a busy shopping season. The emptiness was depressing as I am constantly reminded how shopping may be a vintage notion at some point in our future, but it was nice to have the entire place to ourselves as we oohed and ahhed over all of the trinkets and designs that IKEA has imbedded in our minds in the way we shop for home goods.

Like Betty and Wilma, we moved through the store at the speed of light with our expert shopping ability that has become finer tuned every year we age. Jane tells stories in a way that no one else tells and she makes me laugh so hard that I cry. No one else I really know makes me laugh like that at the drop of a hat. Add to the stories her ability to mimic her robust and very large Portuguese family’s heavy accents and you would think she just moved here from the old country. She is in a unique vantage point of being the first generation from her immigrant parents as many people who live in Bristol fall into this category. For me I am the fourth generation from my Russian great grandparents so I am very much assimilated into everything American. Jane is too, but her direct connection with her culture, her tribe of family members and their cultural quirkiness makes for some hilarious commentary.

Since the first facial I gave her sixteen years ago, she has had me laughing as her stories are endless. From how her mother prepares for Christmas dinner, (six different potato dishes because God forbid there isn’t enough) to how the double standard of her husband who easily gets out an obligation falls on her by proxy. She darts between the direct and pungent Portuguese language and her native English to translate which of course never translates into the meaning that the native language intends. She does the accent of the women in her family that is so authentic you just know it is because she has been surrounded by their sounds and intonations from the moment she was conceived almost fifty years ago. As the matriarchs of her family are getting older, it is obvious who will take the helm as there is never a moment when there is not a christening, a wedding, a shower, a birthday party, a daily visit to the nursing home or a funeral to not only attend, but to shop, cook, prepare and rally the troops for. Jane is the designated go to gal in her beautiful and tight knit family that at times causes envy because I don’t have any family other than my son, my aunt and my ex-husband in my hometown.

I have figured out ways to create tribe. My partner and his son and their family are now family I call my own. I have a group of close friends and some of their children who I rely on and they rely on me too for the community of family because none of us have what Jane has either. The ability to create tribe and connection with your own choice is probably something that Jane could never imagine as there is never a shortage of sound and sensory overload with her family. Quiet time is not part of their story and I have continued to be the recipient of these stories as I make my way on these shopping and eating excursions this last two Weds evenings and for the past 16 years.

This past Wednesday was no exception as we somehow managed to get together last minute for another shopping adventure and eating again at Simones. I am actually hoping that this gets to be a regular occurrence because it is such a nice break for both of us. Our lives are so different, but we blend together and share our stories on these past two Wednesday eves in such a glorious and divine way. The end result is we lift and energize each other because of the differences and this is because of our total acceptance of those differences. This is the best part of being open to unlikely friendships where maybe on paper we may not share typical commonalities, but our hearts and our energy fields have a connection that feels almost past life. I wish I could share the exact stories, but I don’t want to get her family all jacked up because of a security breach on my part. This could also potentially run the risk of my being banished from the infinite Sunday dinner open invitation at her mother’s house. This would not be good. What I can share though is that the stories are loud and peppery; someone is usually not speaking to someone one day, but the next day they are sharing a meal. This is family. This is love. From the outside it looks like something I would love to be a character in. Knowing the intensity and the sometimes too close for comfort of having so many relatives in a super small town that is a peninsula only inhabited by 22000 people, I think that this is more of a fantasy. I would prefer to watch the action through Jane and her stories and know that I can leave them whenever I get out of her car. Because I grew up as a grandchild of a textile mill owner in Fall River, Mass, though, every Portuguese sound, story, accent is something that I can feel in my cells like it is my own. Her connecting me to this part of my life is much appreciated as a time in the past that I love to bring back to the forefront.

She lost her best friend this year suddenly to an illness and this has spun her into a dark place. Out of darkness often comes light without sounding cliché though I know this does, I am one of the benefactors of the time she now has without her friend by her side. She needs laughter and distraction as she is in the depths of her grief. I get to be one of the women in her life who is removed from the immediate connection and thus the recipient of her need to fill some space with female connection. I relish the job.

This past Wednesday we went to dinner first and then she dragged me way past my bedtime to her other job- going to Macy’s at the Swansea Mall. I assured her that I couldn’t remember the last time I was at any Macy’s or the Swansea Mall for that matter and as we drove up to the parking lot that had about four cars in it, I could see why. I kept reminding her that it was way past my bedtime of 8:30. She ignored my half assed complaints and in truth I loved the adventure. Maybe the plan for the malls of the future should be to knock them down and make parks out of them. There was nothing going on except bored salespeople who could barely point you in the direction of what you were looking for let alone walk you over to it. No wonder no one is shopping there, there is no experience. At least online you can make your own experience in your own house. This was something. As I plodded through the crap, I felt like I would have done better at Job lot. Macy’s is not what it was in Miracle on 34th St. of yesteryear but we managed to find a few old faithfuls. Isotoner gloves for one, my personal favorite. I just can’t buy those online, you really have to try them on and I managed to find two brand new pairs at some crazy 65% off sale price. Meanwhile Jane was up to her job of “working” at the perfume counter, passing out samples to the only other shopper besides me in the damn place. We laughed our Simone pasta filled asses off and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

There is nothing like female friendship. Deep friendships are honest and happily interrupt our otherwise over scheduled lives. I have an inner circle of women friendship that has some common denominators. We may not see each other or speak for time, but when we do it was like we just spent the past week together. There is no guilt or pressure between us. When we are together it is comfortable, and we can toggle between deep belly laughter and teary eyes from one sentence to the next. In fact there is a knowingness that at any moment of any day I could call any one of them and they would be there. Hanging out with ease, enjoying the time, making the time, knowing that we are all so busy in our wacky worlds and we must make more effort in spending time with each other in between those rare spaces of over booked lives. I am so grateful that we made this happen especially before the mad rush of December.

Love you Janey M. You enrich me and I am a better person knowing you. Thelma was right there with us, no doubt.

can’t make it up, j.
Uncategorized

IN THE WRONG BUSINESS

IN THE WRONG BUSINESS

I drove up to the parking lot at 10:33am last Saturday morning and there wasn’t a car to be seen; crap, could they not be open yet? I circled in front of the door and discovered that 11:00 am was the opening time so off I went to the bank just a hop skip and a jump up the road and did my deposits. At about 10:58, I returned and to my surprise, there were about twenty five cars in the parking lot on this just starting to snow December day and a line out of the door waiting for the them to open.

I stood out like Resse Witherspoon did on the grayest of New England days as she made her way through the Harvard campus dressed in head to toe Barbie pink in the movie, Legally Blonde. The people in this line were made up of a motley looking sort as they vaped their way waiting patiently. They were thin, somewhat scraggy. They looked like they hadn’t seen sunlight in sometime and many looked like they were in the midst of chemo treatments, sickly, thin and colorless. A familiar sight each looking like and reminding me of my brother as he and I traipsed back and forth from hospital for chemo treatments and home again. Some looked like they were part of the club who never leave their living rooms unless they need to, like that look of the kids who are addicted to video games dressing completely in head to toe black, vitamin D deficient. This was not me as I stood among them in the long line. I almost felt a little guilty standing there, but I got over that fast. I am part of this unlikely tribe, a victim and survivor of a two time we caught it early cancer diagnosis; and someone who does not want to take barely a Motrin let alone be addicted to oxy.

No this wasn’t the Apple store the first Saturday in the busy shopping month of December. It was a compassion store. The Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth where the economy was ripe and blossoming and where they only take cash, check or debit cards. I am in the wrong business. It was like being at a MAC counter the week before Christmas, free gifts with purchases, spend $25 and get an extra treat for an additional $12.50. They had coffee mugs that also double dutied as coffee bongs and hats, tshirts and chocolate treats fully charged with a variety of ‘medicine’ as they refer to it when you ask about the varieties available. It is a happy place in its odd way. It is a place that is also a political hotbed, a place filled with people who want to be well, who don’t want to choose the pharmaceutical route for their pain and have to jump through hoops to make sure their specific illness falls under the codes designated to achieve the platinum card- a Rhode Island state medical marijuana card. Though the term ‘medicine’ is a little tough for this former back in my high school Jamestown days weed imbiber, I understand the importance of shifting the meme as it relates to the way the terminology is perceived by the majority. In fact, the end result of this miracle product is reduced pain, reduced discomfort and a calmer groovier set of rose colored glasses to view the world. Don’t we need more groovier views of the world? Don’t we need calmer? Don’t we need less oxy addicted medically constipated humans and a less anxious collection of souls out there in the planet?

This topic is a hot one in the midst of an opioid crisis the likes we have never seen. I know there are thousands of people just in our state who have been affected by the abuse of opioids. Marijuana runs the risk of being thrown into the negative messaging barrel of bad information. Marijuana is not Oxy. It is not heroin. It is also not alcohol or cigarettes. As I stood there in the line, I noted to myself that I use medical marijuana cautiously and carefully. I am not a stoner, I am not an addict. I use it as a safe way to address the intense discomfort I have felt since my mastectomy. As I have written numerous times, medical marijuana has been the only relief to the upper band tightness I have felt since my surgery. I use it sparingly and responsibly usually right before bed on very occasional evenings. It works better than the prescription for oxy that was automatically handed out after each of my three surgeries. It has worked better than Tylenol or Motrin. Like alcohol, I would never indulge and drive, never smoke before work or an appointment or anything where I had to be a grown up; I am a responsible patient. This is all a part of making sure that this experiment of medical marijuana can become the first step to making this legal for all in our state.

One thing I learned early on in owning a business is to not talk religion or politics. I have abided by this for my entire business life. But watching my brother die having to figure out illegal ways to obtain the only drug that would ease his pain and also have to try to locate it on the street was something that has stayed with me for over twenty years. Listening to the stories of people who have intense joint pain or back pain (no pun intended) and I know that medical marijuana would be helpful, but the codes necessary do not attach to these ailments. I must speak about this because I have seen its effectiveness. There is no reason why people who need it, like my brother did, should have to register like a common criminal with the state, pay yet another fee and have limitations like a ridiculous wait to obtain the card that has now been changed from a two year license to a one year.

As I stood there in the line waiting to spend a hundred dollars among every other person standing in the line waiting to spend probably more than that, I couldn’t help but think, “Why is this not legal here beyond medical?” I understand the perception of its harmful effects, but when I think about the positive effects compared to hard core drugs that are highly addictive, and up until recently highly available and the future tax income potential, this seems like a no brainer. I would rather know where the product was coming from because let’s face it, if someone wants to smoke pot, they are going to smoke pot. Why not capitalize and at the same time make sure the pot is clean and sourced properly?

It is seldom we hear of someone going into a public place and blowing it up because someone was high on marijuana. Alcohol is far more dangerous, cigarettes are still being made and sold and our children are still smoking them and we know the damaging effects of both of those. I am sure there is lots of research that marijuana is a gateway drug that the anti marijuana people out there espouse, but in my humble opinion, no scientific backup here, I don’t know one single person in my early circle from both my younger years and my present years who has ever gone beyond marijuana to something stronger. And back in the day living on a 3 by 9 mile island there wasn’t much to do besides smoke pot; lots of pot. Actually I have found the opposite to be true, if anything marijuana helps the sugar industry more than the heroin one. It surely doesn’t help the alcohol industry as this is the last thing I want to drink after a few puffs on a joint.

Is it big Pharma that is lobbying against marijuana becoming legal? Because goodness knows pharmaceutical companies are not going to be creating large organic growing fields in their highly industrialized buildings. If the sugar conglomerates out there are concerned about their demise as more and more of the general population learns that the sugar industry is more like the cigarette companies of yesteryear (like the bread companies were when Dr. Atkins came out screaming the negatives of bread, remember that?) they should be lobbying full throttle for its full legalization. Sugar and pot are like peanut butter and jelly, it is a marriage made in heaven. The restaurant business should also be gathering their posse and trying to get this legalized too for that matter. People are going to smoke pot. Why not monetize it and do something that helps grow our state tax base?

Like alcohol, I do not feel it should be allowed in outdoor public places, or in cars of anyone driving or passengers. It should be smoked in controlled spaces and in the privacy of our own homes or backyards. Why are so many so afraid of this? This industry is here to stay. What part our little state plays in it is the sixty four thousand dollar question? When I say I am in the wrong business, I don’t mean that I would ever want to own a compassion center, way too much red tape. I hope it is worth it for these rebel owners who have risked much to be the line leaders in this growing business. As I consider the future of retail and downtown livelihoods as we move further and further towards everything being available online, I witnessed that people actually have money and actually still leave their homes to shop. If marijuana was legal, the opportunities for brick and mortar businesses are exciting and I am not just speaking of places that sell it.

I know that there are people who believe that we don’t need more drugs, people should be high on life, exercise, hobbies, but indulging in alter experiences is not anything new. Humans like alter experiences and they are going to continue legal or not. Let’s make this happen and allow for the legalization of marijuana for all. Regulate away, tax away for that matter as good old fashioned economics will drive the success of the legalization simply because of supply and demand. People want to buy pot legally and are willing to pay for it. How many Apple I phones have you bought when the one you have is perfectly fine. You want it, you are willing to pay the absurd $850 for it and you don’t even need it. Rhode Island has the apple store potential if we can legalize marijuana. In weak economies, the businesses that thrive are liquor and lipstick; the feel good items. Marijuana is a feel good too. I know as my conservative peeps out there are reading this, they may be cringing with the notion that I am taking such a strong stance on this issue. It is always a risk when you say something controversial, but I have seen the struggles of many who would benefit and I have first hand knowledge of its many positives. I don’t think our kids should smoke pot. I also don’t think our kids should drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. I am fully aware that this next step will need lots of detailed focus to avoid the potential of our children getting their hands on anything that could harm them. Massachusetts is getting ready to open their stores. We should move on this sooner than later so everyone in RI is not driving across the Massachusetts line to not only save on state tax, but the inevitable marijuana purchases as soon as Mass opens their first store.

We are often tongue and cheek referred to as Rogue Island. Let’s for once find ourselves being known as rogue for something instead of shady and misaligned politicians and Crimetown. Just because it is legal, doesn’t mean everyone has to indulge. As a matter of fact, every resident could be a beneficiary of the wealth of cash from the taxes our state could put on this out of the gate. As our governor goes after big businesses to expand and build here in our state, we have a monetary opportunity right under our nose. Way better than adding super harmful gambling casinos to our little state and a great opportunity to soften and create grooviness too. We don’t need more casinos, we surely don’t need any more corrupt politicians, we have plenty of those, progressive thinking about new business doesn’t have to be just going after tech companies or adding more bike paths (though I whole heatedly support both).

When I think about the part of legalization that is the fun part, I know there is a lot of potential. I am not naïve though. I know there are many regulations that have to be considered and I feel for law enforcement and politicians who will have to work hard to make laws that haven’t been created yet. We have many states like Colorado who have already been at this. Let’s find out what is working, what they would have done differently in hindsight and adapt what is working without reinventing that wheel, learn and correct what has not worked and fixed some of the issues that they have had. I am sure that this writing today will sit both comfortably and uncomfortably with many, but here is the thing- when I think of how much marijuana has helped me, how much it helped my brother, I am a believer. May the critics not ever have to be in the shoes of someone who needs it, but in my opinion whether someone needs it or wants it, it should be available. Time will tell but for now I will happily continue to take full advantage of my very legal card until maybe our state legislature can move ahead and consider that there are so many who will benefit from across the board legalization. Are you listening?

Uncategorized

MENOPAUSE, BEDTIME, THE PEE FACTOR AND WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN?

MENOPAUSE, BEDTIME, THE PEE FACTOR AND WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN?

When my Grandmother Kitsie was alive, she used to joke about writing a book about the location of every free bathroom in Boston for all the women who suffered like she did from having to pee at what seemed like every thirty minutes. Little could she have predicted, though I do not know this definitively, that there is now likely an app for this. These days I am sure some granddaughter would know how to make one to satisfy this aging need of their grandmothers and mothers for that matter. Like an UBER for peeing. Brilliant if you ask me.

Peeing is just one factor that is part of the complex world I now reside in as I move into my evening routine and climb into my delicious bed for those precious z’s we are all supposed to be getting. Everywhere I turn it seems as if everyone now has the memo about the importance of a good night’s sleep. Arianna Huffington has been in the news recently about her own sleep depravity and this has helped the conversation about its seriousness regarding health. I used to be in the ‘not being able to relate to this’ camp. I never struggled with sleep and when I did it was usually a 3am wake up with some mind message that I needed to deal with, but those moments were rare. Back then in the ‘I always got a good night sleep land’ I used to happily live in, I drank wine nightly, (too much and not the biodynamic specialty wine that I snobbily only allow to pass my lips these days way, I ate inordinate amounts of sugar and I didn’t exercise. I preface this with these notations because what I am about to write makes no sense at all. What I am about to write defies the whole health conversation and the only thing I can contribute this to is hormones.

Every woman, post my age, warned me like a crone handing down her pearls of wisdom to the generation rising up about Menopause and sleep. I never bought into it; it never occurred to me that I would ever have sleep issues. I fall asleep as soon as the first five minutes of just about any television show comes on. I can barely stay awake past 8:30pm. I am the healthiest I have ever been. I barely drink anymore, on only rare occasions do I indulge in sugar and since I write about exercise constantly, there is no reason to even mention the frequency of which I subscribe. I meditate easily and though my mind is filled with non stop ideas, I also am really comfortable shutting it down to give it a nap so it can recharge itself in the process.

So now that I am self proclaimed healthiest ever despite three rounds of surgery in the last three years, why is this happening to me? One reason is surely because I went through surgical menopause during my second surgery almost three years ago. This means that I wasn’t going through natural menopause yet and with the fear looming of potential ovarian cancer, I made a thoughtful decision to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo oophorectomy if you want to use the big girl words here) removed as a bit of preventative measure. I am not going to evade the other deciding factor though, the added bonus was not only forced menopause but no more periods. So in deciding to have this surgery, though this would mean I would not be going through menopause slow and steady, I would also not have to deal with the ridiculous and unpredictable periods that menopause is known for. Seemed like a bonus to me. So in April of 2015, one month after my fiftieth birthday, I took a photo of the last box of tampons I would ever have to buy again and just like that I never had a period again. This itself was worth the 0–60 mile per hour hotflashes that would soon accompany my nighttime bed ritual, but having no period ever again was worth every sweaty and freezing moment. I mean the nightly frequent wakeups wouldn’t last forever, right and how bad could it be?

Holy shit. Wrong. And Really Bad. I don’t wake up with the hot and cold anymore, that actually wasn’t really a big deal, I addressed this easily with a fan and layers of light weight blankets. Now the healthier than ever breast cancer free, ovaries and fallopian tube free, sugar free, almost alcohol free, fuck, even mostly bread free, 36D reconstructed superchick is on a twice a night wake up. Really?

So this is the drill these days. I go to bed around 9pm sometimes 9:30 sometimes earlier, I read, I don’t bluelight generally. I easily fall asleep and then like an earthquake erupting, I wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed expecting it to be 4am earliest. When I decide to break my hard fast rules of not looking at the clock after I get up to pee because let’s not forget to mention that this is also part of this next midlife phase of femaleness, the clock now says 11:30! I usually stare at it for a few extra seconds because I seriously can’t believe that I have only slept for three hours max. I feel like I could get up and start my day- but I know well enough not to. For anyone reading this, you are likely screaming at the page wanting to let me know that part of my problem is I am going to bed too damn early. I have considered this and I have actually tried to stay up later, but this has not solved the problem. So I usually have no trouble falling back asleep, thank goodness for podcasts, they get me right back to sleep in about five minutes until the next round of wake up at 1:30 or 3:30 or both. It is maddening. The irony now though is when I get that 3am wake up, I am not endlessly thinking about something causing my brain to go into overdrive. This is what the 3am wakeup calls used to do, but now I wake up with no thoughts really, just an ‘Oh Shit I am awake again at 3am, let me see if I can lull myself back to sleep by doing the ABC’s of gratitude like I learned in ALanon’. This usually works, but it is still not a full night of complete rest which supposedly if you don’t get completely fucks with your metabolism and mind health. One more health concern to consume myself with. So I considered maybe it was the lack of carbohydrates or maybe I was eating too much fruit before bed as a late night snack; so I made some adjustments there and this did not fix the problem either.

So last night without really thinking about anything my partner (who I am going to start referring to as Michael C so as not to confuse with my son Michael W or my brother Michael H in my writing because I can’t stand saying partner or boyfriend or companion); has anyone noticed that we have no word for anyone other than husband in our aging lives? More on that in a different writing. Michael C and I had an awesome afternoon of wine, fried chicken from Winner Winner on lower Thames St. in Newport (omg go if you haven’t, crazy yumminess) binge watching The Crown and homemade ice cream sandwiches. (These were also from Winner Winner, probably some of the best $5 snacks I have ever indulged in). Biscuits, grits, homemade tator tots and a bottle and a half of delicious regular non biodynamic Pinot Noir and in bed by 8:30. This combination was a surefire cocktail for frequent wakeups but it was such a fun day, I threw all cares to the wind and partied.

Much to my surprise, when I checked my clock this morning it was 4:45 am. I slept through the entire night. Sugar, carbohydrate and alcohol ladened, I didn’t even wake up to pee. I don’t even have a conclusion to this writing today. I am in awe of the irony and yet here I sit this morning with my laptop completely rested feeling tempted to do it all over again.

Maybe there is no rhyme or reason. Maybe just the allowing of pure fun and the release of the rules and regs was the ticket to the full night of rest. Maybe it was just a freak accident luring me into the nightly habit again of wine and dessert. Maybe there is no lesson here and I should just shut the fuck up and just enjoy the ride. Whatever it may be, I wouldn’t change any of it, yesterday, the last three years or any of the time before. Just like I loved and continue to love every single age of my son, I also feel this way about my own aging process. There is really nothing I would change, it is all a wild and bumpy and yet super exciting ride and I feel lucky to be the driver. Hotflashes, sleeplessness, overthinking, perpetual peeing and everything in between.