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A FLOCK OF FORNICATION

A FLOCK OF FORNICATION

I have been an avid beach enthusiast for most of my life. It is my Pieces calm, I am drawn to the water, the sand, the waves crashing, the screaming children and their parents trying to get some rest along with keeping a watchful eye. I am drawn to people watching, reading, writing with an actual pen and paper to shake it up a little knowing that whatever I write, I am going to have to type hoping later I can read my sunscreened oiled and water dripping on the page writing.

I love having all of the proper beach accouterments with me, great beach eating food, plenty of tubes of sunscreen, a pile of books and magazines and plenty of beach towels. At the Siesta Key beach which is like my second home, there are plenty of birds too. Pelicans diving, sandpipers and of course seagulls. Black faced, grey faced squawkers making an inordinate amount of noise all grouped together like they are their own island. This past week, as usual we got to the beach super early and claimed our spot unbeknownst to us unsuspecting beach goers right in the middle of the soon to be flock who in a sweeping motion decided that where we were sitting would be there new home for the duration. They surrounded us. For the amount of beach paraphernalia we traipse to the beach we decided we would just suck it up and be part of their party. The only good point of it all was that no other beachgoers really wanted to sit next to us and so it was us and the flock.

The flock of fornicators. Yes. In all of my years of beaching it summer after summer in New England and winter after winter in sunny Florida, for the first time in my life, we somehow managed to be right in the center of their mating season.

But let me backtrack just a minute. Just a few moments before, we watched groups of people stop and stare at the seagulls temporary habitat, the fornicating hadn’t started yet. At this point, the birds were just standing there almost in a trance, making some squeaks and squawks, but it looked like almost any other day at the beach. Kids weren’t around too much yet to disrupt them so they just stood there kind of sleep standing. But there were throngs of people in an almost matching trance with the birds watching them. My partner and I couldn’t understand what they were watching so we just shrugged our shoulders and read on.

Their sounds and shrieks soon to follow got our attention, though and we couldn’t stop watching them as we tried to come up with what all of the ruckus was all about. It seemed like they were trying to pair up; I watched them peck at each other’s beaks like the male was trying to steal a kiss or wow the female with his prowess. (I presumed it was a male, there were no noticeable markings that this amateur could decipher, sorry bird watching aficionados). We both sat in amazement as we watched one seagull bring a small fish to feed maybe as a dinner bribe to a potential candidate. She ate it hungrily without a blink of an eye or a care in the world and she surely didn’t look like she was obligated to give a little nookie in return, but her potential mate kept trying. How did I know this? Because he jumped right on her back like it was a wild rodeo- his feet firmly planted and his body girating because of his wing flapping motion to maintain his odd off kiltered balance smack on the left and right side of her spine. She just stood there like if she had a nail file she may have used it to file her nails with a big yawn basically saying, alright already, get on with it.

We couldn’t believe our eyes actually. First off we never imagined seagulls screwing their brains out for all eyes to see in broad daylight. Of all the times I have been to the beach, I have never seen this happen. After we wrapped our heads around the fact that this was actually happening, we became entranced with what should have otherwise been their private moments, but it was an amazing (no pun intended) birds eye view into basic primal behavior. I couldn’t stop watching as male bird after male bird circled around each of the females trying to prove their worthiness so they could catch a break and make their literal jump.

Once the male bird found the balance he needed, the she-gull (haha) lifted her tail ready for entrance, old school style. Yes for real. The only romance was the brief fish delivery and we didn’t see this in many of the other interactions.

It was like seagull porn, totally weird I know, but we couldn’t take our eyes off the spectacle. The odd thing was now no one was stopping and watching, it was like front row seats at our own private viewing of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

The bird on bird orgy fest was in and out in less than two minutes. The sea-gal (I’m full of them, aren’t I?) was disinterested, unaffected almost in the whole she-bang, (yep another one, can’t stop) frankly. As soon as he was finished with his business he flew away leaving her to clean up whatever mess he left, baby, delivery, motherhood, it didn’t seem like he was planning on returning and helping out the little mama anytime soon, perhaps off to his next conquest. This continued for a few hours in the midst of their flock of at least one hundred seagulls, probably more, males circling, mounting, flapping, and flying away.

We finally had to move because all of their spastic sounds and movements combined with the pumping sounds of a cacophony of humans and their speaker systems blaring a variety of horrible music were getting to be noise overload. We decided to pick up and move away from them leaving the frolicking seagulls for other observers if they decided for just a moment to look up from their cell phones.

The rewards are endless when we look up and around. This day was no exception to the nature around us every minute of every day.

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A WEEK OFF

A WEEK OFF

I sit here this late morning hour of 7:30am having slept until 7:00 this morning, a virtual record for me. And sleep I did, what a deep REM awesome sleep, almost meditative. I sit her in the electric sunlight, birds chirping, barely a breeze, surrounded by a manicured lawn of an eighteen hole golf course in two lawn chairs my partner plopped in the driveway basically looking like the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies. But I don’t care. This is yet another super wealthy neighborhood and no one is outside, barely a player on the TPI golf course my grandfather’s house sits on in sunny and magnificent Siesta Key. I have been coming here for respite for over twenty five years and it feels like my own winter home by now and as a matter of fact, visiting my grandfather is like visiting a parent that I never had, there is comfort. I can freely roam in the house, in the kitchen, help myself to cooking and cleaning out the fridge like my fantasy world I should have lived in with my mother who I may have had a solid relationship with.

My many writings have sung the praises of my connection to my Grandparents and especially this past four years since my Grandfather had his stroke, the relationship as grown to a deeper level I never thought possible.

Last week was an unintentional week off from writing- it just kind of happened. The pattern of almost daily writing has been like a security blanket coating me with fluffy protection soothing my mind and allowing me the gift of full escape. Writing has become a deep friendship and writing solidly for over a year gives me my morning meditation to start the day.

Last week I began working on the piece THE WORD WEIGHT and for the first time since I started writing on Medium I came to a screeching halt, well opposite of the screeching halt, I couldn’t stop the piece and I couldn’t end it, it just kept going, yet it was unfinished and winding, taking detours all over the place as the words entered and exited my swirly brain. The piece wouldn’t finish. On the outside, I was too busy, overscheduling my week before my trip with an inordinate amount of appointments and work related paperwork. Owning my own company provides a great freedom, but it also requires a lot of extra attention when I decide to take a break from it. Like cleaning your house before you go on vacation, there are those loose ends that must be tied up in a neat Type A little bow so when you return, relaxed and refreshed there are no dishes in the sink to confront you.

Training a new team, meetings with leadership, placing orders, paying bills, making sure that all entries are in and updated, not to mention the books I was trying to finish so I could return to the library and the Jewish Film Festival I wanted to get to in the pulse of the week. Oh and did I mention I decided to do a weeklong detox in the midst of all of this. The only extra part of my regular routine that saved me was that the detox didn’t want me to do any vigorous exercise for the week as it was partially reparative or something like that. I just listened to my body and the instructions and was a better student because of it. I can say I didn’t have the time to write, but since I regularly wake up at five am, there was plenty of time in the wee hours of the sunlit morning to bring my pen to paper. I started THE WORD WEIGHT and for the first time since I climbed on the magic carpet writing ride, I became a bit stuck.

Writing forms its own story. I may start off with one idea and as I move through the piece, allowing the words to find me, the story and what I am trying to say unfolds and presents itself often surprising my initial first paragraph where it all started just a short time before. I have developed in my writing over the last year and a half; my skills have sharpened, my vocabulary and use of words have grown and I am a much more confident writer. There is a definitive rhythm to writing, a feeling in a sentence, in a period or italic placement that makes writing feel like a unique piece of art. Writing has become my personal yoga meditation, my zen space. It has helped me become more disciplined as the free formed words start to unveil themselves and find their way into some sense of colorful order. Some writings are one hundred piece puzzles and some are one thousand pieces taking more time to patch together.

This week of detox got me thinking about body image and self talk. The title began as something different, instead of THE WORD WEIGHT, It was THE WORD FAT. It didn’t feel right, as I thought about it, I decided the use of the word is offensive bringing up a dictionary full of words that basically make people feel bad. I surely didn’t want to offend anyone by implying there is any negative connotation if in fact they were overweight as defined by anyone who had any consciousness about their own struggles with their weight, no matter what the scale says. Once I changed the title, the story took off down a briar filled path with thorns and snakes at every turn. One thought led to another and before I knew it I was four pages in without saying much on the surface, yet coated with layers upon layers of what festered underneath. It was not pretty, but raw and vulnerable and embarrassing and frank. It sat in my laptop beckoning me in one breath and exhausting me in another and I struggled to clean it up, to make it lighter, kinder, but it had a mind of its own and simply wouldn’t allow me to sugarcoat. The story is undeserving of this, it doesn’t require Mr. Clean to come in and dig the dirt out of the grout, those pesky black flecks that sit stubbornly in the porosity of the tile like the raw truth in a woman’s mind filled with over forty years of jibber jabber of weigh talk. I had to put the proverbial pen down as each sentence came rolling off my tongue. The word came barreling out like eating a bag of chips while perusing a website and before you know it the bag is gone and the only thing you can recall is the salty goo on your fingertips.

Weight talk is the startling reality of many in my peer group. And it is becoming a startling reality in their daughters peer groups too. The talk about weight, food, scale, diet though the frequency of it is often unspoken, it sits there pulsing inside until someone pipes up the words and the cat is out of the bag.

I did finish the piece and posted it before this one and my writing has started up again proving that when something needs release, it is the process and the patience with it that often moves it upward and outward. This is the joy of my own writing process, my own therapy and growth and I am never tired of the end result of the work despite the time it took me to get there.

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THE WORD WEIGHT

THE WORD WEIGHT

“I’m dieting.” A familiar phrase heard in my house and my grandmother’s house for most of my life. My grandmother, my two aunts and my mother were my female role models whether I knew it at the time or not. The fact is that whoever the grown ups are in our young lives become our point of reference like it or not. Sure, we can sort it all out as we gain years, but at the early beginnings, we really have no choice but to use them as our jumping off points. We learn so much by watching and listening and sometimes the two don’t meet. Actions speak louder than words come to mind; what adults say isn’t always what adults do.

As a parent, I’d like to think I tried to learn from my parent’s mistakes and made the necessary corrections by following through when I said something by my actions demonstrating my notion of being a ‘good parent.’ I am sure if I asked my son, though, he could easily come up with a list of examples where I didn’t, but this is parenting. You win some, you lose some. I know for the most part I made a concerted effort. I also didn’t have a girl so the traps weren’t as powerful as they might have been.

My four female influencers had a common denominator between them; they were always and I mean always dieting. If they weren’t dieting, they were talking about dieting. They were always trying to lose a few pounds, trying to get to that perfect unreachable unobtainable weight number that would magically appear on the daily step on the scale only to learn that another day had come and gone leaving them disappointed yet again. I am not sure how it all started, this obsession with the perfect weight that would never come and even if it did, like a crappy relationship, it wouldn’t stick around long.

As a little girl who was active with gymnastics, hula hooping and playing outside, I didn’t notice very much until that little sexual awakening started and boys became my go to hobby in seventh grade. This is when I started paying closer attention to the way I looked validating my sense of self by the way the boy I was infatuated with at the moment paid attention back. This is when I started reading Seventeen magazine not being even close to seventeen yet thinking I was doing something risqué. Laughing aloud at the notion that a twelve year old girl could think an innocent magazine was provocative enough to warrant this thought. Free and easy access to online porn wasn’t even in the brains of developers and as a matter of fact developers were people who developed real estate. The only place a twelve year old girl could learn about the feelings going on in her body was from other girls and the feelings themselves. We surely didn’t have the types of conversations with our own mothers. What went hand and hand with these sexual desires starting to awaken in our little bodies was also the reflection staring back. The more magazines we looked at, the more tv we watched gave us our definitions of what we were supposed to be ascribing to as the go to body, the one that would gain the interests of the boys we desired. At least this was what my experience was in retrospect and the experience of my young peers.

We grew up with commercials like, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Imagine. Then there were the Noxema ads that basically said without great skin, forget it, you didn’t have a chance. Women’s liberation hadn’t hit the twelve year old circle of girls in 1976 yet, maybe it had with our mothers but we surely didn’t see that in our homes where many played the more traditional roles of moms who stayed home and dads who worked.

This is even hard for me to write because as these desires grew so did my need to feel my worth validated by outside forces. These forces quickly came to mean how I looked, how my body showed up in a bathing suit at the beach and thus the final end result of dieting and food talk, body image inner dialogue.

The weight talk or in the vocabulary of today, the self fat talk, I feel fat, I look fat, I am fat began at an early age for me like around the time of thirteen. I am sure it was because of a combination of the aforementioned but who really knows. My friend’s mother gave me a book called The Teenage Diet Book written in the 1950s and off I ran, grapefruit diets, cottage cheese and cracker diets, one egg, slice of dry toast diets, on and on. The funny thing about all of this is that not only did I not have a weight problem, I was a healthy fit and very active tween. There was no reason for me to be dieting or even conscious of the food I took into my little body, but there I was, starting the cycle of negative body shaming out of the gate. These days it may be called an eating disorder, I don’t know. I ate fine. I wasn’t purging, starving, binging or whatever other descriptors are part of this world. It was more the talk I had with myself every time I looked at myself in the mirror. I just didn’t see the same picture I see now when I look back at the photos of yesteryear. I didn’t see that my budding hour glass figure was a normal healthy body staring back. Maybe it was the magazines showing the examples of what I was supposed to look like? Maybe it was the constant dialogue about dieting in my household. Surely I wasn’t born with this, there was something that just clicked about the same time I started wearing my first bra. Maybe it was the comments about my body and others girls in my class from the boys. “She has a nice body,” or a comment from a boy in seventh grade, “Your face on so and so’s body, yowza.” Boys commentary on my young blossoming body with no positive patty mama to teach me otherwise was the beginning of the uphill battle. Boys hormones were flowing too and their go to bodies were their father’s Playboy centerfolds. Whatever it was, the end result was a teenage girl who became super conscious of her weight, yes, but more so her body image staring back. It is forty years later and here I am.

Waking up at three am (again) I put on my go to podcast which immediately distracts me from spinney head and oddly puts me back to sleep pronto. This podcast was Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations interviewing the famous Carole Bayer Sager, songwriter extraordinaire. They were speaking of her success in the business of song, her marriage to Burt Bacharach and the general Oprah questions to get to the layers of what lies beneath the success. Like Oprah, Carole shared the same perpetual issues with weight her entire life around food and the way she looks at herself in both the mirror outward and the language she says to herself inward, usually not too kind. Always feeling fat, always thinking about her food choices from the day before, for later, for tomorrow, always dieting. It was both sad because well it is just a drag to have to have the constant battle yet refreshing because it was her truth. The truth shall set us free for sure and when we speak it more often to each other, somehow it eases the burden of the types of self talk we all are guilty of on any given day no matter how many positive patty affirmations we surround ourselves with. I listened to her talk about the comments her mother used to say to her about her weight and realized she is almost seventy and still grappling with the inner critic.

Conversations about weight, body size, diets, “food plans” “lifestyle changes” are often and frequently the words coated with a film of self loathing. I have never had an honest conversation with a woman that doesn’t include our perpetual inner dialogue about our body size, shape, weight, workout routine, or new eating plan.

I was in Florida feeling pretty strong and thinking I looked pretty good in my sassy bathing suit so I snapped a picture and sent it along to my work out coach, leader, fitness mentor, thanking her for helping me look the same way I felt for a change, my inside self yapping about my body size finally felt like it matched my outside. Her response was, “That’s so great Alayne!! Have you lost any weight?” What?! Buzzkill with a capital B. I don’t fucking know. I don’t get on the scale anymore since it is a perpetual bummer and it will never be the number that I want it to be. The last time I got on the scale was when I was doing a weight loss challenge at said gym that I totally love by the way and the number flipped me out so much I started eating Ice cream sundaes and drinking wine with a vengeance. I had been doing nothing except eating “clean” for like five weeks straight and the scale went up.

Ok yes it’s muscle, yes I look great, Yes I am alive, but what is it with that frickin number of doom. Does any happy woman get on the scale and like the number? I see the fittest healthiest, aka trimmest, women working out at the gym with me and they dread the scale. They have that voice in their head too that says fat. What does that even mean? I think the word should be dropped from our vernacular. It has such a negative connotation like a disease or something and it surely isn’t a kind word.

I wish clothing sizes were labeled with instead of the numbers going up, just naming the vibe, like bodacious, bad ass, voluptuous, serena strong, I mean have you seen her thighs- super bad ass, and how about Beyonce? Rocking the house at some California music festival I have never heard of, with legs of steel owning her body power for the world to see.

I grew up with ads like “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins,” with Brooke Shields lying snake like inviting the world in front of her to imagine what this means. I think she was about fifteen at the time. Not to mention all of the other dieting messages that have always come our way surrounded by ads for Weight watchers chocolate cake and yogurt attempting to imitate an ice cream sundae filled with chocolate chunks and oreos, but low fat and only “100 calories.” What a load of crap. It turns out all that low fat eating was all bullshit and that the amount of sugar needed to make it taste anything like normal is worse for you than the fat would have been. I am so confused. Are you?

I remember watching an Oprah show many years ago that really stuck with me. She had moms with their daughters on who had eating disorders. Oprah was trying to establish some common denominators as to the reasons. These mom’s seemed to have the greatest intentions with their daughters, positive self talk, encouraging language, direction, but what we learned in the show was that their actions didn’t always meet their voices when it came to the topic of weight. “You are beautiful, you are smart, strong, healthy, brilliant, good enough,” only goes so far when what you are doing on a regular basis is staring at yourself in the mirror filled with disdain and scorn for the body or the face or the hair that stares back. Talk about disempowerment. By the way, our boys are watching too and this made me a little more self conscious of my actions and commentary in the reflection back when my son was around for sure.

“Muscle weighs more than fat.” “What size are you fitting into, that is your gauge.” “Who cares what the number is?” Well obviously a three page essay on the topic warrants the obvious. We have been told incessantly that we are supposed to care. Cancer risk, diabetes risk, heart problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol, all of these diseases are attributed to excess weight so beyond the cosmetic factor of pounds, there is the pragmatic element of needing to weigh less to lessen the chances of dis-ease coming at us. There is so much information available out there on nutrition and exercise and at the same time, we are all seeming to be gaining pounds globally. Do we have the literal weight of the world on our shoulders with the amount of distractions away from our inner core causing us to eat and gain? We live in America here, what is there to be stressed about? We have freedoms in our country that should never warrant a moment of stress compared to other countries. But here we are dwelling on the silliness of a number on a scale to set our day in the right direction.

The more we talk about the talk that goes on in our heads with others, the better I think we will be. As Maya Angelou once said, “We are more alike my friends, we are more alike.” Honest conversation with each other about all topics, this is the way to get to the root, knowing we are not alone and this weight topic is one that most women I know struggle with every single day. My grandmother was always and I mean always dieting. She never felt good enough in her body and this translated right down the line supplying unintended body talk that would continue on in generations to come. Breaking the cycle is as tough as I would imagine it is for an alcoholic giving up the drink. I opened up a Shape Magazine and there was article after article about supposed fitness coupled with ad after add for Slimfast, Hydroxy cut and pharmaceuticals. Then there were the pictures and words in the Emma Roberts story, I know I am getting old when I don’t have a clue who she is. Words like perfect and fit and zen. The photos of a young girl who is so thin, I am not sure if the pictures are helpful or on the brink of dangerous. It’s opening paragraph is the description of what went on her smart head before the shoot and how she decided to “eat the cupcake,” beforehand instead of waiting until “after the shoot,” like her friends had told her would have been a better idea. This was the first paragraph of the story. If this story were about a man, does anyone think it would have been about his decision to eat a cupcake before the photo shoot? We have made progress I guess. I open the Athleta catalogue these days and there seems to be more curves, but even those models needed to have a description for some challenge they faced almost implying that the two go hand in hand.

Can we have hips and meat on our bones and be happy? I don’t think the magazines that are forced upon me everyday because I own a business and the companies think that I am going to place them in the waiting area, think that this is a possibility. After all isn’t this what sells them? The need to challenge the weak spot and plant the “you’re not good enough,” thought early on. I know after all the work I have done, all of the surgeries I have been through, all of the loss I have experienced, that when I eat with a vengeance it is to soothe the pain and it feels amazingly fulfilling when I indulge and super shitty a week later. I am not sure if I will ever overcome the constant food and weight and body talk jibber jabber that goes on in my crazy brain, but what gives me comfort is knowing that I am not alone in this. I welcome the conversations and the honesty from the tribe of women who grace my life in both my inner circle and my business circle. We are not alone and the more we communicate, the better our daughters and sons will be. This makes it all part of the party on the road to progress and never perfection. There is great freedom in that.

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ODE TO THE LIBRARY


ODE TO THE LIBRARY

It has been almost four full months since I embarked on my no shopping decree that was going to be a month at a time and here I am. I have saved money for a rainy day for the first time in my fifty three year young life, followed a reasonable budget and had money left over to spare on a weekly basis. I have always been great at saving for retirement since I was in my late twenties. My grandfather barked his wisdom at me telling me to buy mutual funds and invest in the company 401k that was fortunately available at my young age and ultimately led me to the discipline of saving for my future. Fifty three came fast and I was really happy that I listened to him especially when it came to saving for my later and for my son’s education — I had enough saved to completely pay for his first two years of college. My nemesis was the rainy day fund. I never learned to save for the now, the present, the what if, living by the seat of my pants for most of my life and for the most part it has worked out for me, but not without a lot of stress and worry.

My grandmother, Kitsie, the one of Hot Fudge Sauce fame, my mother’s mother, was a perpetual money worrier, my mother and father were spendthrifts always having the latest car, kitchen gadget and not really teaching us much about the value of money and the self worth it inscribes when handled it with care and attention. Like food, money for me has been one of those go to soothers when the going gets tough. Eating a hot fudge sundae or going on a shopping spree at Williams Sonoma or Lululemon detoured me from the hole of emotion making it easy to avoid the bump in the road. In the throws of these outings though, the thrill of the spend or the indulging in the fudge covered up the hole like a sewer cap on a street, unbeknownst to this traveler as I didn’t notice the gaping crater as I blasted my way to the shopping center.

Amazon Prime changed some of this routine. Now at a moment’s notice I could Search! Find! and Buy Now with One Click! in less than two minutes all in the comfort of my flannel pjs warmly coated on the couch in my other more sensible grandmother Isabelle’s (aka total saver) lighthouse sweater. In two days voila like magic, a store could be brought to me. The thrill of seeing the UPS or FedEx truck pull up felt like a perpetual Happy Birthday to Me. I would eagerly open up the smooth and well packaged boxes emblazoned with the Amazon Prime label reminding anyone around me that I too paid the one hundred extra dollars per year for the joy of shopping from the glory of my couch in my pjs. The convenience of the Amazon store credit card tied this neatly into a glorious consumerism bow so I could rack up points to gather for more more more purchases.

When I decided to stop shopping for most things, and going instead the old school style of weekly outings to the bank to write myself a check and divvy the money up into neat little envelopes, it was a personal challenge to years of over spending, freely buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and wondering why I never had any rainy day fund money at the end of the month. I always admired my female friends who were on a budget, I never really could wrap my head or my wallet around the discipline. I came from the school of thought that everything happens in the divine right order, that all is well in my world, (thank you Louise Hay for giving me permission to blow cares to the wind). I believed that if you said things like I choose not to afford this rather than I can’t afford it somehow this would create the magical abundance that The Secret and all of the Tony Robbins twelve cd sets guilefully in his 3am informercials promised that I somehow found myself watching one early morning in Killington Vt. on an awkward ski trip in my former life when my son was about two.

Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I totally gave up shopping at Amazon Prime, not at all. I do have to buy many items for my business (wink wink) and the fine line between giving up shopping for my personal life in contrast to my business is a perpetual tightrope walk. But I have for the most part prevailed and book purchases were the first to go. When I did my last major purge, I couldn’t believe how many books I had amassed; clearly I love to buy books as much as I love to read them. As I contemplated my son standing in front of all of these books trying to decide what to get rid of, what to donate, what to keep, on the day of my funeral (cancer has this affect on you like this- the constant visualizations of your child having to make decisions about all of your crap), I was struck by how overwhelming it could be. I made a prompt decision to donate, sell or give to my friends most of my books. I don’t need to have them on display in my living room to demonstrate my literature worthiness, that is all my own ego and of all of the parts of my body I am happiest to free myself from, ego release is the bonus breast cancer gift that keeps on giving.

I decided to give the library a try. My Hot Fudge Sauce grandmother Kitsie was an avid library attendee. She was a teacher and read constantly always going back and forth from the from the Newton library to drop off and pick up another book. My grandfather too was a regular visitor to the library spending afternoons reading in the quiet space. (probably to get away from my grandmother’s incessant vacuuming and was a better alternative to the former hangout for this sober Irish Scottish drinker).

In my beautiful town of Bristol, RI we have a lovely library and it is within walking distance of my house. I am ashamed to say that I had only taken out books a handful of times usually returning them late hence making the library more of a magnifier of my weak spots of irresponsibility then the joy it should have been. But that was then. With this new direction of not shopping, going to the library and learning how to use it has become a source of great enjoyment for me. I learned that I could go on to the Ocean State Libraries network and basically type in any book and just like Amazon it would become available to me with a simple email to let me know when it was ready for pickup. I look forward to reading the Sunday NYT Book Review and it doesn’t cease to surprise me when I type in the book on the site and it is there, just like Amazon and it’s free! I am laughing at myself wholeheartedly. I have had to make the small adjustment of typing in the author’s name last name first. This has taken me some getting used to and you can see my annoyance when I repeatedly typed in Hannah Arendt and the library was telling me there was no such author. Ahhh, of course, the correct non Amazon Prime way, Arendt, Hannah. HOW EMBARRASSING. Was anyone looking? No! because there is no algorithm tracking my every search! Another bonus!!!

I have found myself actively finishing every book I start because there is a time line of when the book needs to be returned forcing me to turn off the television or put down the phone to check how many likes one of my writings recently received (yes I reveal my truth of shame here, embarrassing, but true and I really have to consciously force myself to not take part in the silliness of the eight grade world we now found ourselves in). I actually laid on the couch yesterday and read an entire book because I knew I had to return it this week.

There is a lovely old fashioned ritual to using the library that makes me connect to my grandmother. The crinkling sounds of the plastic protector covers on the books, the date due stamped with all of the previous dates in the inside cover, nameless but quantifiable. Taking care of the book, being more conscious of preserving its pages because it is borrowed not owned, walking down to the library and engaging with the volunteers by talking about books. I love watching the new mamas traipsing in with their little babes in tow hoping to instill a love of books before public elementary school gets a hold of their little minds and forces them to record the number of minutes they read the night before sucking the joy of the book right out of them. Yes really. There is the activity wall listing all of the endless events going on and looking around at the patrons who are either working on the free computers, reading the free newpapers or just sitting like it is a café without the wafts of coffee aroma luring you to stay and think you need to buy rather than borrow.

And The Quiet.

The quiet of the space, the people, the technology, the voices, the sounds. It has been a welcome bonus in my new land of not shopping and what I have noticed is how much I have learned to love the little joys that have come my way unexpected. And for the first time in my young life have saved money for a rainy day in less than four months. I actually look at my checkbook each day and I know exactly how much is in there because I didn’t spend any money the day or week before. Those twenty dollar debit charges “here and there” add up to enormous mountains of spending and what I have noticed is by not using my debit card ever and using cash instead always, I don’t have to play the incessant catch up in my check book that is inevitable with these constant miscellaneous charges of a lunch here, a pair of sneakers there, a scarf or a hat, the list never ends.

What I have learned from my depression era grandparents is that wealth is not spending, wealth is a maturity in knowing you value yourself enough to value the money that you earn. That by spending it willy nilly on every whim, I am in many ways not honoring the importance of its energy. Money has an energy of great purpose, but it can also lead to terrible outcomes. As women especially, we are often taught from an early age that when in doubt, go shopping, eat a bag of chips or a tray of cookies. But by all means, spend. By not spending for almost four months, I have had to face the inordinate amount of time that miraculously became available to me. I couldn’t believe how much time I had given to shopping, or thinking about buying something. The liberation came from releasing it and the library became my detour. Thank you Benjamin Franklin who had the foresight and brilliance to think that a library was a possibility.



“And now I set on foot my first project of a public nature, that for a subscription library … this was the mother of all the North American subscription libraries, now so numerous. It is become a great thing itself, and continually increasing. These libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defense of their privileges.” — The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

http://www.libraryhistorybuff.com/librarycompany.htm
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.com/librarycompany.htm

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ABOUT THE WEATHER

ABOUT THE WEATHER

“Have a great day!” I said with my usual enthusiasm to the woman walking out ahead of me at my gym class Sunday morning. We had just completed an hour and fifteen minute fundraising class for a woman, a mom, a wife who had just lost her under fifty year old husband to cancer. She has four children and has been a regular participant in these classes for as long as I remember.

Typical of my morning workouts, we are there for one thing, to zone out, to get out of our heads and get a great start to our mornings. We are friendly with each other, kind, but the boundaries are clear. We are not here to make friends except with our own bodies. The hour is short, many of us spend countless hours talking endlessly in our work and the last thing we want to do is get chatty in our workouts. Because of this, we don’t get to know the insides of people’s lives. Mostly this is a welcome respite, as for me anyway, my workout becomes my sanctuary, my morning meditation, my self reflection and connection as I burn through meters on the rower, miles on the treadmill and sweat like I never imagined I would ever have welcomed in my otherwise, I’m just a walker, life.

As a result of my insular workout world, I didn’t know about her husband until this past week when Kathy donated her company’s two Sunday morning super busy classes to raise money for this family. There we were, working out together for a totally different reason, our intention was a new directive for the end result. I hadn’t been to a class in almost a week because my schedule was way off kilter. This coupled with a week of no caffeine because my partner decided that it was revving up his heartbeat and it is just easier to drink decaf rather than make two separate batches, made for a less than blustery work out performance. As I considered, at about the forty-minute mark, that my tired body had enough, up came a picture of the couple on the screen (that usually tracks everyone’s heart rate and that I jokingly boycott because I refuse to take part in the wall of shame:) and I thought of my brother. My beautiful brother who will soon be gone longer than he was alive, is my go to visual anytime I am thinking about complaining or giving up something.

My thought is usually this: Michael would have wanted just one more choice to leave or not leave a workout in the middle of it so just like this couple, I forged ahead and completed the class. The fact is, I wouldn’t have left early anyway, just knowing I can leave is freedom enough, but I wouldn’t because I am fit enough, healthy enough, strong enough to finish. An hour goes by at the speed of light and twenty more minutes was certainly a nanosecond blast to honor someone who no longer had his own choice.

As I left the class battered and bruised, not really, and had the quick Have a great day with another warrior, she said in typical New England fashion, “Now if the sun would just come out.” Such an innocent comment; we New Englanders love to comment about all less than perfect weather. “Oh this crappy weather!” “Is it ever going to stop snowing!!?” (why is it that every winter my fellow Rhode Islanders seem to be surprised when it snows?) “Holy Wind!” People say exasperated when the breeze is anything more than gentle. “Is it ever going to be Spring?” when April refuses to perform in the fantasy way we expect every single year. Just when it warms the slightest but coupled with rain, “ Is this rain ever going to let up?” Then when Summer finally arrives. “This humidity- it is so hot!” Our endless discussions about weather as we pass by each other is automatic. It is a friendly excuse for banter beyond, Hi, How are you? If I respond with what I am usually thinking, I love the weather and all of its wackiness. After all, we live in New England, it makes the conversation awkward. People don’t usually expect a full editorial from an innocent weather comment. Is this unique to New England? Do people in Syracuse or Wisconsin talk about the incessant snowfall living in a place, well, that snow falls? What do people talk about in sunny and lovely California like San Diego? With the exception of those pesky earthquakes and oh yeah, those frightening fires in the north, is there a daily diatribe post workout like, Have a great day! Will this sun ever stop shining? Will we ever not be able to go to the beach?

I often thought it would be great if we turned on the weather and the weatherwoman would say on a rainy day, “Look at all this rain! We will be seeing those tulip shoots sooner than later, aren’t we lucky that nature’s intent is for the bounty of color in our near future?!” Or “We’ll be reaching ninety degrees today but it will feel like one hundred and ten with all of this humidity; why don’t you leave work a little early today and go jump in that beautiful ocean we are fortunate to live so close to cool off!” So many possibilities yet for some reason we have been conditioned to think that we are supposed to espouse negativity when it comes to the weather. What makes us Yankee northerners use weather as a way to communicate? I have to consider that at least we are communicating as opposed to walking by each other in our new human position of looking down at a blue screen to see if anything new happened in the less than five minutes ago we just looked down to see if anything new happened. Maybe it is just the excuse to talk to each other.

Working out for a cause just like doing anything for a cause is meaningful to my soul. Back in the day of cassettes, well before podcasts, I used to have some great ones from Maya Angelou and Marianne Williamson and would play them often instead of music. I remember one particular line from Maya Angelou. “I like charitable people,” with the sound of her well known deep and commanding, with just a pinch of southern voice of hers. This one seemingly innocent line in a random cassette when I was in my early twenties struck a chord with me. I remember thinking; I want to be a charitable person. It felt righteous and on purpose. When I give, my heart opens in the same way it opens when I look at my son, or feel the depths of love for my partner. I give often and I like to give quietly without a lot of pomp and circumstance. Sometimes I give with anonymity. There is a unique shift with this directive and often it is more of an eye opening struggle with my own ego that I reckon with in my decision to go naked or dressed in my donation.

How did I get here? It all started with the weather. Innocent weather comments. This is how I got here. I wanted to talk about the feelings of humility after an hour of honoring and helping a family in need by donating money at a simple workout and how a simple weather comment stirred my thinking about the human need to connect even if the weather is the excuse. After my workout this past Sunday, I got to thinking about these innocent comments. I vote for appreciation of the unique and changing weather in our little New England state. I am sure that this family we worked out for would take one hundred stormy days in a row for just one day back with their father, her husband.

I have met people who don’t have a dime and have a perpetual attitude of gratitude that is infectious and I have met people who step into an eighty thousand dollar car with the weight of the world on their backs because of a rainy day. It is the awareness of our thoughts and our ability to intercept them when they head south. It is adjusting our scope as we march forth into our day Maybe it is our ability to be aware that helps shift us from staying in the rainstorm and instead seeing the sunshine in our own hearts each day we connect with each other in passing. Whatever it is, I love living in New England with all of its crazy mismatched weather patterns. There is never a dull moment. If this is what makes us talk to each other as we try to reconcile the loss of a young man taken way too early from a loving family, then so be it.




enjoying a variety of New England Weather days with my son, snowy, clear, hot, rainy, none of it matters when we have the privilege of great health, great connection and love. #LUCKYINDEED
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HAPPY BOOBAVERSARY TO ME

HAPPY BOOBAVERSARY TO ME

“You don’t have to come back to see me for a year,” Dr. M said so casually at my last check up as he sat facing me literally his head at breast level straddled in front of me taking a look at his work. Thank goodness he has a nurse in the room especially these days as just the entire situation has all kinds of levels of misinterpreting. Not by me. I totally get the clear boundary of patient doctor and I am happy I am in that camp. I almost felt a little bummed though when he said these words to me. This startled me because really why would anyone not be excited to hear the words from a doctor that I am doing so well, I don’t need to be seen as regularly as I have been.

Today. Friday. One full year to the day is the day I was headed to my surgery for my double mastectomy. How did a year go by? Just like a brand new baby where you can’t imagine ever going to the grocery store alone or your child heading to Kindergarten, this mastectomy experience was like that. I never thought I would be where I am today, mostly a better and improved soul from the whole lively experience.

I have learned a lot. Like all traumatic life experiences, the hind site is the platinum gift of retrospect. I have found myself enjoying the doctor’s visits, I have leaned in to the routine of them and their consistency in my life. Perhaps it is a safe zone for me that I get to have as some added protection from the inevitable worry that comes with a two diagnosis over the past three years. I try to live in the moment and not feel constant anxiety and I think the regular doctor visits help keep me feeling grounded in the womb that has become part of my new life. I have often said that the diagnosis of a brca 2 gene is like the gold insurance card when you walk into the office. I am watched and cared for and it has been a weird replacement at the same time Ann (aka my mother) stopped speaking to me. That probably reads really sad, but it is the only explanation I have for why any sane woman would actually be disappointed that she doesn’t have to go every month or three months anymore for her doctor check up.

But here I am. Naked. Stripped. Vulnerable. Honest. And this is the most glorious fact of this whole escapade. The cape that was my metaphoric source of strength as I jokingly connected my sense of self to Wonder Woman has been removed. That cape, the sparkly silky coat of armor I counted on as my source of strength, the outward appearance of its shiny flashiness turns out to be just a cape of many colors. And I didn’t need it after all. My power lies within the truth I have committed to living. My directness has softened as I have gained layers of empathy and patience in this past year with myself, yes, but in turn with the people around me. I am sure I always had it inside me, but for some reason clung on to it like a secret I wasn’t supposed to let out of Pandora’s box. Cancer sucks for sure. Having to be part of the unintended Survivorship tribe that seems to be growing every passing day is no party.

I am not Wonder Woman. I am not special. I am just a chick trying to get the most out of her life before the inevitable we all must face comes a knocking. Losing my dear brother so young gave me the sense of urgency often lost to people who don’t have the unfortunate young loss to deal with. I would have rather had my brother all this time and having my son has overfilled the hole left from my brother’s sad departure. Getting to watch him navigate the possibility of not having his mother has created a bond between us with the deepest of roots I am not sure I would have felt or rather appreciated if this hadn’t happened, but as I write this, I know this is likely not true. I have always had a deep appreciation for his spirit and our connection. Our weird family of divorce though during this rough and rumbled year has been a lovely transformation as the three of us, former husband, Dave, Michael and I have bonded in a totally different type of way and I couldn’t have asked for a better tribe, surely.

All these nuggets and blessings that have adorned my life this past year are a reason to celebrate this one year of great health. My scars have healed and so have I.

This I can say wholeheartedly has been a very good year.



before diagnosis, on the left, with a little pic of my son, a week before surgery shedding some tears with my dear and brilliant friend Julie Brigidi photographing and finally three weeks after my surgery with another photo session with QUEEN JULIE. #FUCKCANCER #LOVEMYLIFE
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TEN STEPS BACK

TEN STEPS BACK

I write almost daily with the theme of the dynamic trio- self reflection, awareness and acceptance. Part of the deep process of life for me is upward to the light, baring of the soul, truth, admitting my vulnerabilities as a dialogue to help contribute to more honest discussion between us humans, especially women. I feel like when we present our insides, we realize together we are more alike than our outsides generally admit.

Coming upon my one year ‘boobaversary,’ this particular year has been like a missile launch traveling through my body leaving the trail of past negative thought patterns in the rocket dust. My double mastectomy has been a surgery of freedom. This has been the greatest surprise and ultimately a most welcome one. Living in the truth sphere is a fulfilling place, way easier since there is never any back tracking. What you see is what you get, vulnerable yes, but liberating super yes.

So this past week when I showed up for my first time on television, The Rhode Show, my less than three and a half minutes of fame, the negative thought patterns came back like that same rocket taking a nose dive back into the earth surface. From the moment I began getting dressed, is this outfit going to look alright on tv to driving to the studio the little memes of self disatisafaction popped their way into my brain. I went into the bathroom when I got to the studio and heard a slight pop sound and immediately thought, what if my zipper just broke on my jeans? What would I do? It didn’t. I didn’t recognize myself and found myself toggling between judgment and criticism like I was in eighth grade. It surely didn’t help that this was all layered with an inner critic I thought I had buried at the onset of my first diagnosis. Buried is the choice word here because by now I am fully aware that nothing good comes from burying. In order for the work to really take flight it must be worked through and released. Part of the movement towards the light, for me anyway, is the upward and outward once it has sufficiently marinated or in some cases fermented my insides. Why am I so hard on myself? When I try to determine who the voice is, where it comes from, suffice it to say being judged is how I grew up. This is how I spent my upbringing and have spent my adult life working on reversing it. For the most part, I have come to peace with the goods, the greats, the bads the uglies we chicks struggle with because we have been told in a variety of ways from a multitude of outlets that we are not good enough.

Television, and it’s not like I was on Oprah, I was on a local very safe and delightful show hosted by a twenty nine year old who totally had her shit together since four am. I am guessing her stint on The Rhode Show will not be her television resting place as she was a strong presence from the moment I saw her handing off the salad to top the pizza on the cooking segment.

In all of my standing in front of hundreds of people, YouTube videos and newpaper and radio interviews I have been part of in my thirty year history in the beauty business, I have never been on television. I haven’t even been on a set to see what it looks like from behind the camera. When the original idea of being on this local show came up, it was presented as a live interview. I declined promptly for the main reason that I quickly learned there was no delay time and I envisioned myself dropping one of the many F bombs that are part of my daily verse. Fortunately they offered a back up idea that I could pre tape the show to be aired at a later time and I said yes with a, surprising to me, slight hesitation.

I generally like being out of my comfort zone, I like the shake up, the nervousness, but this television experience was more than that. It was a total mind fuck that caught me off guard as the negative thoughts, the not good enough mind darts that I thought were gone along with my breasts of long ago yesteryear. When I first found Louise Hay, the guru of positive self talk, in my early twenties, she presented ideas that my young and very fucked up mind had never considered. ‘Your thoughts create your reality’ was a big one. This was the start of some very introspective thinking and I worked hard at convincing myself that I was in fact good enough, whatever the hell that means as I reflect back on it now. Compared to what? Compared to whom? In our short lives none of this matters, but in our day to day operations of moving through these lives, sometimes it seems to matter more than the knowing wisdom of retrospect offers.

One idea that Louise Hay offered to me in my young life was that when you start on the path of introspective work and you think you have passed the test and you can move on to the next lesson, the universe sometimes throws the final test at you. This is like the universe saying aloud, Oh yeah? You think you have done the work and figured it out? Let’s see if this is really true; let’s see what you are really made of! Can you get past this next exercise so that you can truly pass go? This, of all of the many nuggets I gleaned from her books in my early life, was one of my favorites.

Just when I think I have figured my shit out, the gale force winds of my mind come blasting back at me to remind myself that yes indeed it is progress not perfection.

As I made my way on the set with sparkly Michaela, the popcorn thoughts came barreling at me. First off, I looked into the camera albeit briefly and caught a television image of myself and immediately had the yep, you guessed it, the dreaded fat thought. “I look so fat.” I actually said to myself. Not the best positive thought to start my first television interview with. Then I proceeded to get pissed at my self because I had the thought and spent the next part of the interview distracted by this. When she started asking me questions, I realized that I am not in control here; Miss Michaela is. After all it is her party, not mine and I didn’t necessarily want to relinquish the control, but obviously it was too late for this diatribe, I was in the middle of an interview that seemed like it was an hour, but was really less than three minutes. The self defacing thoughts, “I am doing a terrible job, I am looking for words, Am I embarrassing my brand, my team? I am not saying what I planned, People are going to watch this and laugh aloud at how bad I am, I look I sound,” blah fucking blah. I was tired of myself already. I am sure I did a good enough job. And if I didn’t, who really cares, it is cleansers and moisturizers I was talking about. It was my first ever television appearance. For Gods sake, Alayne, you survived a double mastectomy and you are alive standing here talking about beauty. Shut the fuck up.