Health, life lessons, Women

SUGAR AND WINE AND SHOPPING

 

Milestones, traumatic events, celebrations, births, deaths and everything in between. This is what the closing of one year and the opening of the next gives to me, the unique opportunity to reflect back and look ahead. I like the neatness of the New Year. The cleaning of the house so to speak. Cleaning cabinets, closets, drawers as the outside clean and cleaning out my body as the inside one. Anyone who has read any of my writings has likely been able to surmise that the indulgence of sugar, wine and shopping are my perpetual nemesis.

“Are you drinking, or not drinking these days?” I can hear my friend and workout partner, Morgan, ask me as regularly as if she were asking me what I did last weekend. She knows that if I say yes, this means on. Again. On the wine, on the sugar, on the bread like an ant on a freshly dropped piece of coffee cake. With a sense of wild abandonment that keeps all my friends guessing at what could possibly be wrong or right with this complex organ in my head called alayne’s brain, I move back and forth, zig zagging from complete mental clarity to a Zenith console of static depending where I fall on the spectrum.

I so wish I was the person who could just do everything in moderation, like my grandmother Isabelle belted out on more than one occasion as she watched my on again off again with nutrition. If I did drugs, I would be an addict, definitely. I like the escapism of the first bite of a homemade chocolate chip cookie, soft warm morsels sliding into my stomach. I love the automatic and immediate ease that my blood feels when I have the first sip of a beautiful glass of red on a cold night by the fire. There is a vein calming that takes me away on a vacation without leaving the couch when I am eating sugar, drinking wine or shopping. Buying 28 typewriters like the world was coming to an end this past year would be an indication that I am trying to distract myself from dealing with myself on some level. The question at the moment though that I finally ask is what am I trying to distract myself from? And why on earth would sugar, shopping and wine be the distraction?

I finally came to the realization through my practice of while the coffee perks meditation that I have been one hundred percent focused on for the past month. Every single day no matter what, while the coffee is perking, to the mat, sitting down cross-legged, palms upwards resting on my legs and settling this busy head of mine. Connecting with my heart, my breath, my blood, organs and whatever else is in perpetual high gear unless I am sleeping. Leaving judgment, criticism, and the barking brain at the door along with my shoes. While the coffee perks meditation, without asking, has provided many answers to my non-questions. This is the thing about meditation and mindfulness, just breathing in the moment and using the moment to bring me back when my mind wanders has been enough. This simple quieting has been an asset and I didn’t realize its full power; I had expected something magic to happen, but it has been more just learning to be still. I have found through this that now is the uniqueness and the now part of the experiment is getting more intense each day I get better at this exercise.

While I am busy trying to quiet my mind, the snap crackle and pops of my mind start going off like fireworks, the what ifs, the what was’, the thoughts and ideas. This is definitely why people don’t meditate. That simmering pot of a brain is not used to taking a big chill. It has to be trained to do so. It is painful and uncomfortable when you sit down uncomfortably on a mat to the expectation that this is going to be some happy time. But it passes, the breath kicks in, the heart slows, the mind eventually calms and I am getting better at remembering to find my breath more often when my mind starts crackling. It turns out the crackling thoughts are the gifts of all of this quiet. It is these very thoughts that offer glimpses into the whys of my life.

Why do I feel the need to escape and numb on occasion? Is it possible to just lean into them and not beat myself up like an abusive relationship judging, scolding and feeling bad? It is not just a piece of cake or one glass of wine or one or two typewriters. I wish it were that simple. What I do know from this morning mindful ritual is that this trifecta is deeply connected to the way my mother and I interacted. When things get rough, let’s go shopping, lets have a glass of wine, lets eat some delicious chocolate cookies. This was her way of showing love, like so many other families, food especially is deeply connected to that bond between hearts. For the first time in my life, I am not blaming her, I am understanding her and this feels healing. I like healing feelings; they certainly serve my health more than the opposite, anger, resentment, and frustration.

It should come as no surprise that the more these three facets of this love triangle I was raised with allow me to numb out and distract from whatever feelings, complex or simple, those very feelings lay dormant, in a waiting position. They do not go away. They stay right where I left them, simmering at a low, barely noticeable heat until I make the concerted effort to cease the easy way out. Then those very feelings that have been lying in wait unbeknownst to this unsuspecting chick start boiling up and over. This is the interesting challenge with feelings. One must go through them, like grief, there is no avoiding the pain, there is no stepping around the center hoping to avoid the crack, the crack in fact is where the juice is and where the lessons are.

When I decide to actively walk through instead of stepping aside, I am always rewarded. The reward is not always fun like winning the lottery or getting the first place prize in a contest, at least not during the walk through. This is when it is easier to just avoid the pain and head back to the fridge or to ebay for another happy purchase of a shiny bright red typewriter. My morning ritual is teaching me to be okay with the pain because the pain is not permanent or life threatening. It is just pain. Each time I consciously choose to cultivate my inner quiet with mindfulness, it has become easier for me to settle down into the now of knowing that this too shall pass.

As I embark on my New Year’s resolutions that I don’t need to bore anyone with, I want to learn the roots of my behaviors and try to change them. When I am not drinking or eating sugar, I feel powerful and centered beyond measure. It is like what Wayne Dyer once said in a lecture he gave about his choice of being sober. That his work with his divine connection is inhibited by outside distractions, and to be able to wholly do his work that he was called to do, the connection could not be a rusty one. That always stuck with me as I know this to be true for my personality. It is so much easier to step off the path on to the sugar train because it is immediate gratification. But sugar makes my brain wacked, I have practiced my own human experiment for over twenty years with what happens to me when I am eating sugar. Fun at first, but a few days later, I sink to a low that is not healthy causing me to have thoughts of doom and gloom that is not normally how I roll.

I have had a lot of trauma, but because of my resilience I put on a brave face and march forth often at an emotional price. As I move into my fifty fourth year on this planet headed towards a two year anniversary of hopefully being cancer free, I know that the best way for me to celebrate is to try again, to get back on the horse and lean in to my pains and former crisis.’ There is a rawness and vulnerability to exposing my core to the storms, naked, free. This new year I hope to see what consistency feels like for a change. We only get one chance at this life and all of the good and bad lessons can only be overcome when I tackle them literally head on, learn from them, and feel the power I know each and every one is there to teach.

So Happy New Year To Me and To You. I am happy I get another chance to make it right. Let’s see if I can make it the first week and I hope this inspires you to try out the while the coffee perk meditation. See you on the mat and at the gym. (You know who you are).

Ps. I have decided to add posts on WordPress as I begin to start writing my book. Please follow me here if you are interested. www.alaynewhite.wordpress.com

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TWENTY ONE

TWENTY ONE

I was sitting on the dark non descript seat of the school bus, front row, of course, taking the practice ride with my son who was about to embark on his first great adventure. Kindergarten. I too would be starting my own adventure of sorts, letting him out of my sight and delivering him to the hands of public education via a yellow school bus. I looked to my right and saw the same nervous look in the eyes of a tiny blonde woman who was sitting next to her blonde son and we made eye contact. Kind of a knowing relief that we both seemed to be the geeky moms not really looking forward to releasing our children just yet. We made some small talk, introduced the kids and just like that I made my first kindergarten mom friend.

That was sixteen years ago and the kids are still excellent friends and my son, Michael just turned twenty one. A milestone of an age, way more loaded with feelings then the age of one, ten, sixteen or eighteen. Even though his dad, Dave, and I still fully support him as he makes his way through his final junior year of college there is a strong significance to twenty one. It is celebratory, meaningful, filled with doors opening and doors closing. Truly an adult and his life is pretty much out of our hands now. The transition to twenty one feels both energizing and sad for me as his mom, though. It brings up everything before. The kid parties, the trips, the stages of growth, the traumatic events and their losses as well as the celebrations. Everything. Like a full life rewind. Did we do a good job? What will his future be like? Will he get married and have children, will he travel the world, what job lies ahead? I can hear the soundtrack of Doris Day belting out her famous song, Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be. Past and future thoughts stir like a simmering pot of possibilities. Before twenty one, they were just little popping thoughts, but now that the time is here, he is closer in age to thirty then he is to ten. Lots can happen from now until then. And it feels strange to be the happy and satisfied mother of a well adjusted twenty one year old young man with the world as his oyster.

I am really proud of him, but also really proud of me because this great parental experiment as so many of us know could have gone terribly wrong. He made it, lots of kids don’t make it to twenty one and this alone brings me to my knees in prayer. Based on my own life experience, I am grateful for the lessons my past taught me though because I really believe it could have gone either way, surely. Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. I think, actually I know, that I was a conscious parent as much as I was able to be. Dave was brought up with a set of values making him a great example to me as a parent. This coupled with some great friends, like the small blonde woman on the bus that day, Kerry, and many other kindergarten moms I am still friendly with today who were also strong and grounded parents helped me along the path of being a better parent.

Now as I watch the celebratory drinking that naturally rears its ugly head towards my son, I find myself with a whole new set of worries. You are taking an Uber, right? Remember the conversations we have had about alcohol and the family history as you find your way through the maze, I find myself repeating. Just because you are twenty one now doesn’t mean that you should be buying alcohol for anyone who is not. I remind him like I used to say look both ways before you cross the street, like he is five again and he needs to hear this instruction.

We go out to eat and he orders a glass of Rioja and a dish of venison, he tries the foie gras. Though he is quiet, he is polite, well mannered, he knows how to carry himself, he is well traveled and observant. I like this about him. I like watching my son be the man he had turned into. I know that every single day I get to have him around me is a gift because frankly he can leave anytime. He has a house in Narragansett off campus he shares with three other boys that is near the beach; he doesn’t have to stay home with his parents, but he does. Maybe he is bored, but he doesn’t show it, he shows up for dinner, he says yes when I ask him to go to breakfast and he walks with me as I traipse around town stopping in the shops to say hi to some store owner friends. We love each other, yes, but we genuinely like each other’s company and of all of the surprises of parenting, this one I would say is my favorite. We like each other, enjoy each other. Whether it is just being in the house, me downstairs him upstairs, or going to dinner with Dave and our old friends from my old neighborhood, there is an ease between all of us that makes me take a big satisfied sigh. No one knows what the next twenty one years will bring. This first twenty one has been an excellent start though.

Happiest of Birthdays my son.

I love you.




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AN AWKWARD FRIEND

AN AWKWARD FRIEND

I met Kim Walker, formerly Kim Otterbein, through simultaneous traumatic events. My business had suffered a flood from frozen pipes in a crazy ice capade in a winter storm in February 2013. She was going through her own personal storm of divorce and personal issues causing her and her former husband to have to sell their magical dream house . They had poured their money, their love and energies into restoring a house born in 1865 that had been through many hands finding its way into their lives in 2005. Kim was an artist so her brilliant creativity redesigned the house giving it a feel of new, but magically making it feel like everything was original. Kim and I knew each other socially from around town because we both owned businesses and would often run into each other, but we never hung out in the same circle. We liked each other, though and we shared a common free spirit hippie chick vibe that connected us happily when we would run into each other.

We found ourselves intertwined when she needed to sell her home and I needed to find one to move my business into. My dear friend Morgan, randomly said to me one day, You should look at The Bead House when she saw the awful situation I had found myself in while my business was semi closed. The Bead House was the business Kim owned on the first floor while the second and third floor was her family residence. Kim was a magnificent jewelry designer, an artist, and had this lovely little shop on the first floor that taught jewelry making. At that point, I had never considered looking at property to purchase especially the glorious Bead House with a very high price tag that was way out of my comfort zone thinking it could even be a remote possibility. Morgan had other thoughts though. It never occurred to her that this space wasn’t a possibility and I credit her almost 100% to the literal key that got me thinking I CAN rather than i can’t. Purchasing this house changed my life in so many ways and my I CAN attitude has been rewarded and confirmed in layers of joys I am in perpetual awe of.

When I looked at The Bead House in February of 2013, I fell in love and made my offer which after some back and forth was finally accepted and Kim and I merged paths. I don’t know what it is like to have to sell your home. I do know what it is like to leave a home though and there is so much emotion tied into the experience. Kim and I found a kindred spirit between each other during this time. I think she was heartened to know that her baby, this home that she had literally poured her soul into, would move into the hands and heart of someone she genuinely liked and respected. I know that she felt like her home would be in loving and appreciative care. Though the entire experience was a sad one, she made peace with walking away and I became the proud torch carrier of this magnificent house I refer to as the Magic Palace.

When I first moved in, I had purchased a few of her large pieces of furniture, a couch and a chair and a table too and I had offered her a space to leave her grandmother’s armoire since it was way too big to move. I had told her that it could stay here as long as she wanted and when her daughter, Ali was ready for it, it would be here. Five years later, it still sits waiting and the offer is still open.

I felt for the first few years living here a certain responsibility to maintain the garden, the paint colors without too much of a change, kind of as a bow to Kim and only recently in the past two years have I started to really feel like the space was truly mine. This was nothing that came from Kim, just my own sense of order and right kindness. Kim and I spoke a few times, she visited one time when she was back this way after moving to Arizona, but even though it was a pleasant visit, there was also awkwardness to it. Hard to describe; I think we both understood that we would enjoy each other’s spirits but at a gentle distance going forward. This was unspoken, but it felt right. Again hard to describe.

Her daughter Ali walked by one July 4th and I invited her in for a visit and gave her some time alone to meander, to grieve and say a proper goodbye. When I got breast cancer I spoke with Kim a few times because Kim had breast cancer too. The irony I do not take lightly and I try not to think about it as some weird message. Kim was helpful with her advice and our exchange was always positive and understanding. She was a special soul and a kind one. And one that no longer is part of the now, as her cancer returned and took her life just a few days after her birthday and two days before the Winter Solstice just two days ago, December 19th.

A short life traveled well, rocky and smooth, but also my feeling was that she found herself in the after of this house. I on the other hand have found myself in the now of this house. I like the neatness of that, the visual of Kim passing the torch to me, a kindred female spirit. I can’t believe that another superchick I know has moved on so young again. I sit on her couch, look at her chair and her grandmother’s armoire. Everyday I brush my teeth, I look into the same mirror above the sink in my bathroom knowing that Kim looked at her own reflection as she went through her breast cancer, her decision to divorce her husband and the other daily mind thoughts that stare back at you during the simple rituals of teeth brushing and mascara applying. I listen to my son who is home from college turning on the faucet on the third floor and am happy he is home, but I also think about Kim sitting on this very couch hearing her own children wake up making the same sounds. It is an awkward experience knowing that this house was passed from a woman I greatly admired, who left this house closing the door to a part of her life that allowed me to open it to a wonderful life I get to call my own. Kimball Walker. I thank you for every trail and nugget you left me. I will always feel and honor your presence in my home that was yours and in the garden that you started. Rest in peace, your legacy at 11 Constitution will go on.







in good hands indeed, Rest in Peace Kim.
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TO THE MAT

TO THE MAT

I was in the midst of planning a huge event in Boston, my first one. I had the job of my dreams working at the young age of my late twenties for Aveda Corporation and I was solely responsible for planning a gigantic beauty event for about eight hundred attendees. I had never done anything like this before and the entire experience was super stressful. I was in perpetual freak out mode because at that age that was just what my emotions did back then, before I grew up and realized the silliness of that.

I’m too stressed out to do yoga. Yes. These actual words spilled out of my mouth over twenty five years ago as I was speaking to the owner of a brand new yoga studio that had just opened in Middletown, RI. Innerlight, a studio way ahead of its time. It may have been the first one to open in most of RI besides All That Matters. The very zen owner looked at me without so much as an eye roll and said something calming and kind that didn’t even make its wisdom into my personal space. There was not a chance I would have signed up for a yoga class at that time because I couldn’t even imagine sitting still for a second. Of course, this should have been exactly what I jumped into, but my ego and my impatience with quiet would not have allowed this.

I hear this daily. I can’t sit still. I could never sit still for an hour and a half or more treatment. My mind is always on the go. Do you have anything quicker? Every day a woman asks us this and makes these comments so imagine the commentary now when these same women find out about my new meditation practice. My WHILE THE COFFEE PERKS, meditation practice that literally is timed by a full pot of coffee brewing.

I have always been a good deep diaphragmatic breather especially since my husband and I separated almost eight years ago. I started meditating before I went to bed at night usually guided by a wonderful meditation app called Meditation Oasis. The soothing voice of the woman guiding me to a more restful evening helped me sleep better; she helped calm my mind and rest my fast beating and sad, confused heart. This app also helped get me back to sleep on those frequent three am wakeups that would find my heart racing with fear questioning my decision to break up a twenty year marriage. As wonderful as meditating on your back before bed is (and I highly recommend it as a great place to start the practice of self soothing), it is not a conscious meditation because you fall asleep.

Meditation is more about consciously going quiet and being conscious of that quiet. It is active awareness of the quietest place in your heart, mind and body. Showing up for a date with the mat and quieting your racing mind for even one minute is not easy. This is the point. What? Isn’t meditation supposed to bring inner peace and total quiet joy? Why the hell would someone want to be uncomfortable actively pursuing a quiet and calm state? I know. It seems almost contradictory on paper. Sitting cross legged, hips pulsating, legs cramping, back bothering, mind endlessly wandering to the endless to do list that circulates like a tornado through our brains. This is the point.

Many many years ago I had found a book written by Vietnamese Monk and Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh on mindful meditation. The book’s premise, if I remember correctly, was that every moment in our day offers golden nuggets of opportunities for meditating because meditating is not always about sitting in a lotus position and chanting OM for two hours. Meditating can be when you are washing your dishes, or standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for your gas to fill up the tank. Meditation is about awareness of our thoughts, allowing the wild west thoughts that run rambunctious in our heads from one moment to the next and instead allowing them, noticing them, without judgment or criticism and finding our breath instead. This is miraculously simple once you realize how often thoughts run amuck with no consciousness and how easy it is to feel good by simply taking a deep breath every time you can remember to notice when your thoughts are running like wild banshees.

This was a good place to start for me, just bringing breath into my day wherever and whenever I could remember to. But this was just the first step of meditation and I soon learned that this was not enough for me. I needed to actually create an actual practice of meditating. Like showing up to a class, but instead the class would be a pillow on my floor of the living room. Free. In my jammies. Disciplined. My struggle in my life has always been discipline and commitment. Ever since I was a little kid if I had something I was supposed to do, if something seemingly more interesting came up, like a party or hanging out with friends, I would usually blow off what I was supposed to do, homework for example. Practicing my instrument. So this month in an effort to get reconnected with a deeper spiritual part of me, I decided I would work on this. Creating a spiritual practice that would benefit my health, my heart, my connection with something bigger than the day to day grind of busy-ness.

So I started. To the mat, or in this case the floor of my living room. I sat cross legged completely uncomfortable, while the coffee percolated. And I began breathing. In through my nose for a count of four, holding the breath for another count of four, releasing the breath for four, and feeling the empty space for a final four. While the coffee dripped, I practiced this discipline. My mind wandered, I felt frustration, angst, impatience, boredom, annoyance, but I kept with it. After all, how long does it take for a full pot of coffee to brew? And about seven minutes later, the pot beeped signaling it was finished and I opened my eyes thankful it was over. But guess what? I felt different, better, calmer, gentler. It was strange. So I did it again, the next day and the next day and then I added some gentle stretching, some cat/ cows, some downward dogs, some child poses and I felt better and my legs crossed easier. All while the coffee perked. It has been three weeks since I started this new practice and it is getting easier, but the point here is the skill set I am building to self soothe, to calm my busy head and allow my own body to do what it does best when I allow it some space. All over a pot of coffee.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” 
 ― Thich Nhat Hanh,
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

https://ideapod.com/thich-nhat-hanh-recommends-5-meditation-techniques-rewire-brain-live-present-moment/

Buddha in my garden, photo courtesy of the Brilliant and Talented, but more importantly Kind Lou Sousa.
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I DID IT

I DID IT

Standing in the kitchen cup of coffee in one hand and my phone in the other, checking Facebook messages, Instagram, Twitter, interest one after the other moving from one to another without so much as a thought. Automatic. Mindless. Again. And again. I wake up in the morning, check my phone. I put my phone down, brush my teeth, wash my face and moisturize, make my coffee, and check my phone.

The past three weeks though while the coffee has been brewing, I have added meditating into my morning ritual. This has made me see some light in a way I hadn’t considered before. I finish meditating though and check my phone. Two days ago while I was checking my phone for God knows what, I came across an essay by Jake Knapp called Six Years with a Distraction Free iphone. And it got my attention. For the entire article. Mr. Knapp was reflecting on a particular day in his life when he was excited to be with his children building a train set that would require his time, his attention, his Presence. He had been looking forward to this date with his children for some time. In the middle of this precious moment, his son looked up at him and said, “Dad, why are you on your phone?” Not in an impatient frustrating way, but in a curious one. The funny and sad thing here was that Mr. Knapp didn’t even really know why he was on his phone scrolling nothing, distracted. He didn’t even really remember picking up his phone or why he did in the first place. This was one of those fork in the road moments. I see it everywhere. People at a beautiful dinner out with their families yesterday at my beloved Wayside Inn for the holidays, moms, children, grandmothers, siblings and Dad sitting at the head of the table in this pretty moment takes out his phone and starts scrolling, distracted, missing beautiful moments of his children kissing their grandmother unasked, hugging each other, laughing. People walking into an elevator and never looking up to even notice what floor has been selected.

His essay about phone, email and technology use ran familiar with me as I am often discussing my own connection. A connection that is entirely self imposed. I own my own business so there is no boss telling me that I have to respond at the speed of light to all of this incessant tech chatter. But you own a business! What about your clients! What if they need to get in touch with you?!!! I can hear my friends exclaiming. I think this is a pattern I have gotten myself into. I mean, really, this is not life or death here, I own a beauty business. Yes, I want to provide exceptional customer service, but I also want a life and I want my clients to have a life too. I want us to all stop the madness of perpetual tech addiction. It is frazzling our souls. I can feel it and surely I most feel it in my own soul.

So as soon as I finished his article. I went into my phone and deleted almost everything he suggested. And as he so brilliantly said, You can always put it back. And remember here, all of this stuff can be accessed on my laptop so I am not saying I am eliminating it from my life, just my phone life. So I deleted app after app, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Ebay, and almost every single tracking app I didn’t even know I had on my phone. Full disclosure here, I didn’t delete email or Safari though, I am not addicted to this. When people send me an email, I don’t get a “like” or a “high rated response time badge” to show the world that I am amazing. Email replying is on my own terms. And as far as google searching, I am not one of those people at a dinner party that pulls my phone out at the drop of a hat to GOOGLE THAT when someone can’t remember an important date or the name of a movie from yesteryear.

My problem that I didn’t know I had was the endless distraction of social media. I would go on Facebook to see if I had any messages from a client and that would lead me to check to see if anyone read my latest blog and that would lead me to scroll down to see what someone had said about something insignificant and a half hour of my life would disappear in a New York minute. I don’t know about you, but a minute of my life is way more important then it used to be. I don’t want to lose minutes without care.

As I mustered up the courage to delete and delete and delete, I am embarrassed to say this, my heart started to race and I began to feel anxious and panicky. And then I reminded myself, My new friend, Jake Knapp, said I could put them back if I couldn’t stand it. Am I listening to myself here? Panicky? Anxious? Over eliminating fifteen apps on a phone? Clearly I was making the right choice. For two hours I couldn’t believe how many times I went to check my phone only to discover that there was nothing to check. For those two hours I did something else, I straightened up my kitchen, took the trash out, put my folded clothes away instead of leaving them out for a week. Then like magic a day went by and today is day four and I haven’t missed a beat. And miraculous amounts of time have become available. To write, to cook, to send the letters I have been meaning to send, to decorate my house and put the candles in the windows I have been meaning to get to, to spend time with my aunt, and I feel in control of the way I choose to spend time.

I may miss events or replying to the endless social media events I am invited to or knowing that someone died or is sick in the hospital at the moment they checked in, I realize that the lapse in time could cause social isolation. This would be most ironic, but as I realize how incredibly fragile life is and is getting the older I am getting, I am willing to take the risk. I know that what serves my social soul is looking up and out, and if I miss something important because I didn’t look at my phone for a few hours, well then what has life become anyway? I choose choice in the mayhem. My own choice so let’s see if I am on to something here. Time will tell.

View at Medium.com

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A HAPPY ENDING

A HAPPY ENDING

The cabinet, the dark almost black filigreed mahogany one shaped like a quadrangle, is that what those symbols were called in geometry class? You know part octogan, part square, where the front was more narrow than the back but it was kind of rectangularish? The cabinet with the maroon velvet inside that smelled like smoke and scotch and had an unlocked key hole with the key resting inside it because no one would have thought any fifteen year old girl would be headed there to exchange the clear liquid in the vodka bottles with water hoping no one would notice. No one did notice actually and this kind of disappointed her since as she reflected back, it was only attention and parenting she actually longed for. Though, at the time, no one could tell her this. But that story is for another story. Later.

This liquor cabinet began its life at my great grandfather Joe’s house and the memory of it goes back to when I was as young as four and I lived with him along with my young parents. The cabinet held its strong position in the corner of the living room along with all of the old china that my great grandmother had amassed before she died. This liquor cabinet was small, not holding more than about eight or nine bottles and probably had a decanter and a tray on top of it, The decanters, and I am making this up here, seemed like they would have had those gold plates anchored by chains like necklaces that said in cursivy, lets get down to business words, — scotch, brandy, whiskey. When my great grandfather died, my father became the keeper of the cabinet and it traveled with us to the house on Woodlawn St, in Fall River, MA, then the house on Emerson Rd. in Jamestown, then off to the house on Narragansett Ave. also in Jamestown. It went along with my father when he decided that marriage to Ann, my mother, his wife was not a long term plan. The old cabinet finally landed back in my own familiar territory when being a child of Ann was also not a long term plan for a fifteen year old girl dealing with her own sadness. On Pemberton Ave. Also in Jamestown. The house that Dave rented while he figured out what he was supposed to do with a troubled but highly creative young daughter who absolutely could not live with her emotionally unstable mother dealing with her own sadness. There was a lot of moving in short spaces, always on to the next possible place and space that would create a feeling of grounded security.

That cabinet stayed with my father for another four moves finally leaving me when I decided that I would be better living with my boyfriend at 17 then living with my father. David, my father, allowed this and as I write this it sounds ludicrous especially when I consider that the liquor cabinet’s residence took precedence over David’s 17 year old daughter. Me. The irony does not go unnoticed as the theme of liquor does in fact make for the main character in this story in an invisible sort of way, hidden in the cabinet, traveling in and out of my life and my parent’s lives throughout my entire childhood well into my adulthood, my marriage, my divorce, countless alanon meetings, 7 years of sobriety in between and here I am. Standing, comfortable for the most part with my own relationship with Pinot. Sort of.

I always wanted that liquor cabinet though. I am a collector of all things grandparents and my father always said I could have it. I didn’t so much want it for its status as a liquor cabinet, or any monetary value, but more as a treasure that found its way through three generations of Jewish men, I wanted to be the torch bearer to pass it on to my son so I could say that this has been in the family for four generations and now it is yours, the fifth generation. So after my father died, I asked my stepmother for it and I found out that it had not made its way to my father’s last stop, his condo in Fall River, but had landed somewhere at the factory, my grandfather’s former textile mill where all things no longer wanted in your home lay to rest. The factory had the potential of being a warehouse for all things our family no longer found useful in their homes, but couldn’t bare to get rid of. It was here that the bar had been sitting all of this time and my father never let me in on the secret, never gave me the chance to take the bar from its potential demise.

“Oh, the bar? Your father put that somewhere in the factory.” My stepmother said with such a blasé tone. “What?! What the fuck! I wanted to scream. Was there nothing of sentimental value my father could actually pass on to his only surviving child? Was it too much to ask to just get one fucking thing from the old man? The bar would be nowhere to be found because the factory was sold to his previous partner and they didn’t end well. I tried anyway, but no luck, no bar. I resigned myself to the notion that like my father, like my marriage, like the alcoholism that was an integral and interesting part of my childhood, it was gone. And it was ok. There was nothing to cry about because this was just a thing. I had my memories of this piece of furniture enough that its own departure was in itself a symbolic end to a life well lived. I actually had a happy childhood despite my constant reflections on the theme of alcohol that ran through it like the way the first sip of vodka at the end of a long day feels as it travels into your veins.

What is a happy ending anyway? Is it when I am lying on my death bed ready to take my last breath and just when my family says, “This is it, she’s is leaving us,” I pop my eyes open and shout out, “Yes! It was a great life!” And then just like that, I make my dramatic exit. Death comes and takes me away and my family sighs with a mix of joy and relief.

Rewind. No. Definitely not. That is not a happy ending. A happy ending is not a book end to the beginning. A happy ending is using the liquor cabinet as a metaphor for loss and life and fractured families as a reminder for how far I have self propelled because I have consciously chosen happiness. To be happy, not to end happy. To rejoice and to be sad and to see where the winding and wild travails take me.

You are probably hoping that this brief story ends with the liquor cabinet finding its way to my home; maybe I was at the yard sale in my old neighborhood and like a shiny beam of light, there it sat, dusty and worn, scuffed bellowing out to me, I have waited for you and you have arrived! But this is not how this story ends. This story doesn’t end because I am not over. The cabinet and its contents are gone because for me I have chosen to stop bringing the suitcase filled with the past to my table. I have emptied its contents so that conversations can start anew, with no baggage, a fresh start. And after almost three years of my mother not speaking to me and me allowing this, she finally called me to say hello. And it was kind of normal and nice, we dipped our toes into the cool water and took a brief drink. It had been a long strange trip. But in the end it was happy and I would say that it was a beginning. And this doesn’t need a liquor cabinet.

happy indeed
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FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF


FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said chirpy and wide eyed.

“Yes, great idea,” Michael replied. “I won’t go to the gym. Cliff Walk?”

This past Sunday was a beautiful crisp almost winter day. The use of the word crisp is questionable here. Some of my peers would say freezing cold, but there was no wind on this sunny electric New England day and this makes all the difference in the decision to walk outside by the ocean or not. Michael and I are a robust couple. We like a brisk chilled walk and as long as we are both able to move our legs, we march forth whenever we get the chance. We know that soon enough will be hibernation time around these parts so when nature calls, we listen.

A walk with my seventy one year old partner is no chump change. He moves at a quick fire pace with his super long legs and I find myself with my much shorter legs taking take two steps to his one. It is a workout I love because a walk in nature is more than exercise for my physical self; it is often a spiritual reconnection. The deep breaths of fresh clean ocean air, the sounds of birds and waves create a calm peaceful serenity that a one hour workout at the gym will never be able to compete with, (sorry Kathy Martin). Besides the pace, which is at an invigorating clip, the mileage is also not for the faint hearted. Cliff Walk is 5.6 miles start to end, but that is only half of it because one must return unless Uber is waiting at the end for you. Of course anyone can walk just a portion of this beautiful gem right here in our little state (among so many other gems), but for us we just keep going, right past Rosecliff and Salve and the Chinese Tea House, right past Doris Duke’s house and almost to Bailey’s Beach but we take that pretty right turn instead on to Ledge Rd. past houses I can’t even imagine having to take care of.

The total walk for us this past Sunday was 8.5 miles. Air in our lungs? I’d say. There is nothing like the feeling of this walk. We chat, we walk in silence, we laugh, we negotiate real estate with few other walkers who we notice barely move to the right forcing us to step aside to let them pass on more than a few occasions. This drives Michael bananas, I don’t really notice; I just move, it is easier than getting myself worked up because of someone else’s behavior on a walking path. But I get it too, as we also noticed that the walkers on this day were not making eye contact, not looking at us, not engaging with even a brief smile or hello and this made us both sad. But we marched on as we discussed the political landscape and the ripple effect it may be having on humanity in general. Right along with the physical effects of cell phone use and the perpetual state of looking down for our actual heads, we wondered why people were not chirping back to our Hellos!

These conversations and thoughts all come up on a walk. There is no distraction of cell phone or the radio blaring music or bad news into our ear space giving us plenty of open brain space to converse or be silent amidst the beauty. Silence between two loving people is a gift that I don’t take for granted. I have been on the opposite end of the world of silence in relationships where silence was so loud, it made my heart hurt. I can’t ever have that feeling again. And I don’t with Michael or actually anyone in my life. Those relationships have left the building gradually and mostly gracefully and I march on. Shedding more layers of unnecessary burdens and drama that serves nothing other than making me feel bad. And my choice these days is to feel good whenever possible. Walking makes me feel good.

I recall the walks to school my son and I used to take on occasion. We didn’t really live a traditional walking distance from his elementary school, but I insisted on walking sometimes just to shake things up and teach him on our walks safe walking. How to look both ways, how to make sure that on a busy street that didn’t normally have walkers to always look to your right and left to make sure cars and trucks didn’t pull out without noticing you. Then there were the unintended lessons of conversations that would come up that no car ride could pull out of my son. Like cooking in the kitchen with your child, a walk to school creates an environment that just simply encourages communication because there is space to allow the flow. A walk reminds us how lucky we are we can. That we are not stuck in a hospital bed wishing for one more day in the fresh air like my brother did on his last leg of his young journey, or that we have the ability to actually choose. Do we want to take the bus? One of our two cars? Our bikes? Or a walk? Lucky to have options and this multitude of choices was yet another unintended lesson because I made the time to make it happen. If not then, when? My son is going to be 21 this month and time did fly by. Those walks are like my favorite jewels in my chest that I get to pull out and remember that I have them. Luckily for me, I have lots of these little golden nuggets. I know that losing my brother at such a young age to cancer taught me an intrinsic value of seizing the moment in a way that my son got to benefit from. I don’t know if his memories of his childhood are the same memories I have of his childhood. My mother sometimes used to bring up her memories to me that I had completely different takes on. This is history, perception is reality especially the further way we get from the time we reflect back on.

As we made our way back on the Bellevue Ave side for a change of scenery, in front of all of the mansions instead of the flip side, we felt so happy and cleaned out in a way that walks outside on cold days stir the pot. Down Memorial towards First Beach with a stunning view and finally that last leg down Gibbs headed home. We are lucky because of his house proximity to all things Newport, cars get to stay where they should live, in the driveway as often as possible. Looking at the Christmas decorations and the homes as we peppered our final walking conversations with our health commentary.

“How does your body feel?” Michael asks me. “Are you tired?” “My hips feel a little tight- I’ll roll when we get home.” “I may take a nap,” I say. “I think I’ll finish the paper,” he says back. We relish in our good fortune of simple choice, grateful for the ability to make the observation. Then we continue in comfortable quiet. I look down for a brief moment and my eyes land on a red white and blue and yellow object. What? Are my eyes seeing things? Is that….. Wonder Woman? Holy coincidence. Yes. It was a small plastic toy that perhaps a little one dropped on her or his walk that day, maybe it fell out of the stroller or her hands as she was going on her little journey out into the cold with her parents, but there Wonder Woman was, waiting, face down, prostrate, cape off. Not defeated, but rather waiting patiently for me to scoop her up and give her a new home. She didn’t need her cape, she had me. I couldn’t believe that after that 8. 5 mile walk with the man I love, I would at the end of my walk find a cape-free Wonder Woman. There are no coincidences and perhaps she was there to remind me that yes, Alayne, nature always serves you. The cape is not the power, you are your power. Of course it could have also been just a plastic toy dropped randomly, but I get to choose what my own perception of reality is here. So I marched forth with my new friend reminding me of all I know but sometimes forget along the path.


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A ‘SMART’ SCALE

A ‘SMART’ SCALE

“What is that?” I asked Michael, my partner, the love of my life, the man I share my stories, hopes and dreams with. I had looked down on the floor of his living room to see this perfectly flat square thin contraption sitting there. Waiting. Calling me. I had a feeling it was a scale, but I just had to ask, because normally scales find their homes in bathrooms on the floor next to the sinks and toilets and this modern looking shiny black square was by the front door, looking kind of like it was headed to the rubbish bins on trash day. (She said with her hands in prayer position.)

“We’ll need to put your info in the app for it,” he said excitedly, like I was actually going to stand on this contraption and allow it to record not only my weight, but my body fat, bone mass, protein and a list of other physical attributes I didn’t know I was supposed to be recording. He moved like a lynx to his phone to open up the app that connects with the scale. Apparently I am supposed to stand on this and allow it to do whatever it does and it takes all of this information and submits it through Bluetooth to the app that Michael has downloaded on his phone. It is here that he, with a twinkle in his, eye told me he could set up my own account on his app. Then like he had just discovered one of life’s great mysteries, he opened up the app to reveal his entire health profile including of course his weight without even a brief pause. I love this about most men I know. Weight is not a thing. 198 he said. 198 on a man who is a little over six feet that is mostly made up of stunning runners legs I only hope to obtain in my next life if we get to choose.

This man knows me better than anyone. He knows the insides of me, my fears, my angst, my dreams, my strengths and my weaknesses. He knows my schedule, how I think, almost, so when he said this so matter of factly like this was even going to be a remote possibility I laughed aloud. “That is so funny, Michael. No, I am not putting my information on your app. Do you even know me?” Insert laugh, chuckle, snicker here. I detected the tiniest tone of wound in his voice, “I was just showing you how it worked, you could probably put the app on your phone and do it,” he said so sweetly with patient empathy. Insert another small laugh here. That will not be happening. I hate the scale. I hate the number. I hate what the whole thing invokes in me and almost every woman I know. It is a downer. If the number is higher than I thought, I am depressed. If it is lower than I thought, it validates that what I am doing is in fact working and I feel like I will never be able to have a glass of wine or a piece of my friends delicious cheesecake again. Or it says, “That’s all? I have been following food plan number five thousand and I didn’t lose ten pounds in a week?” Completely ludicrous. Insane. Self defeating. Every single opposite of how I live my life in my fun and alayne’s brain world. That scale though, it gets to me. I allow it to get to me and I don’t know how to change the pattern, the belief. It has layers and years of layers dating back to my grandmother’s own issues with weight. I try to self talk my way through the brain fuck that is the topic of weight. Yes I am alive, I am healthy. I am fit. I am strong. All of that. But that pesky scale gets the better of me so I choose NO. I will not get on a scale that records a plethora of information. I will not put myself in the vulnerable position of wirelessly communicating my health to my partner’s phone and then likely transmits the information to Big Tech so they can have their way with my health data in however they choose.

We so carelessly hit the “I agree” button because they damn well know that we are not going to read the document they force us to sign for the access to the app in the first place and who knows it the data that is being recorded is even correct. I compare it to the variety of mirrors I have found myself staring back at myself. Some, like the one at Jackie’s Loft is like a magic mirror. No matter what I try on, I look amazing, svelte even. I think it is a thinning mirror. God forbid I should think that this reflection staring back is how I really look. Michael has one of these in his closet too. I can look at myself in a variety of outifts and the reflection staring back is one of a thinner version of how I think I really look, but I’ll take it. The bizarre aspect of the mirrors and the scales are that what if the lower number and the thinner mirror is actually the way I am? What if the scale that says the higher number or the mirror that adds so breadth to my hips (because it never adds to my upper half, a part of my body even before breast reconstruction was satisfying to me) what if it is that one that is wrong? All of this sounds crazy and completely fucked up, but it is part of my gene pool and who I am. Someone that no matter how much I try to meditate the negative thoughts away, it is like they are intrinsic to my femaleness. Arg. I think of the AA phrase Progress Not Perfection. Yes I totally understand that this world of advertising and catalogues coming at us does not help the cause of body delight. Even the thinnest healthiest women I know, you know the ones that can throw on a pair of leggings and tennis shoes, throw their hair up in a messy blonde ponytail seemingly without a glance in the mirror on the outside, have their own weight and body image demons. This I know because I have open conversations with women every day of my life and have for the last almost thirty years in the beauty business. I am not sure if the scale will ever be my friend. My beautiful Dr. Wiggins always says, “Alayne, you look great, the scale is just a number.” I know what she is really saying is “Alayne, Give yourself a fucking break.”

I am trying. Really. Every day. But in my opinion if the scale were truly a “smart” scale as it self proclaims, you would step up onto the two feet outlined for yours to fit into and it would talk back. It would say, “This number is only a number so today I give you a free pass. Go for a walk, smell the earth, look up, smile at a stranger and breathe deeply. Be grateful that today, again, like yesterday, you got to wake up and have the luxury of stepping on to this scale today. There is no number today, so enjoy your day and stop all this unnecessary fretting. You are alive. This is your day. Today. Enjoy it.

yeah, right.
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GIRLS AND SEX

GIRLS AND SEX

I stood there at the counter that separated generations. I was in sixth grade and there it was, behind the counter in the Hands Off, you need to get permission from your parents section in the Jamestown Library in 1977. At least this is how I remembered the book, Girls and Sex sitting uncomfortably and somewhat illicitly next to its companion, Boys and Sex. The much older than me librarian standing in front of me with the key to my future of understanding what was going on in this body of mine. I am guessing that I was an unusual child mirroring her back as I somewhat uncomfortably asked her for the book that looked like it would sizzle in my fingers if I had been allowed to get my hands on it. Of course this would not be happening, the sexual revolution of the sixties and the sexual promiscuity of the seventies hadn’t translated to the librarians of The Jamestown Public Library. The Jamestown Public Library located on the island of Jamestown in Rhode Island that had a population of three thousand year rounders if we were lucky was in no way going to contribute to the sexual questions of a curious and highly sexualized twelve year old girl who had just recently moved to the island. I would have to get permission from my parents to take this book out, I remember the librarian saying probably with a bit of a tsk tsk eye roll. The fact that I even had the courage to ask about this book should tell the reader something about my sexual curiosity that had found its way into my body like a concord jet flying overhead on a quiet spring Sunday morning with your windows open for the first time. I had no idea what was going on in my body, but what I did know was that there in front of me was a book that could answer my questions so I wouldn’t have to humiliate myself by asking my mother. Girls and Sex is how I remember the book. This is not the current and modern Girls and Sex book written by the hip and fabulous writer, Peggy Orenstein. When I tried to find the original book on Google, some really disgusting videos came up that made me want to throw my phone in a hazmat suit, so I am not sure what had happened to these books so I looked them up in a more grown up better place, the Ocean State Library website. Voila, there it was like an old fashioned beam of light, just like I remembered it right next to Boys and Sex, both books written by Wardell B. Pomeroy. He was born in 1913 and I was surprised to learn that he was a co -author with the famous Alfred Kinsey. That book may have been so helpful. However, I wouldn’t know because in my second courageous act, (after the first one of drumming up the courage to ask the librarian for the book), I went home and asked my mother if she would take the book out for me. I would have thought that my mother who was only thirty two when I was twelve, would have only been too happy to relinquish the dreaded sex discussion to a book rather than a face to face. She did in fact take the book out for a quick perusal and promptly said a firm No, that I was too young. And just like that, my curiosity (and bravery if I do say so myself) went down under, silent, never to come out again except in the woods behind the school with Robbie H. where we could both satisfy our interests with each other’s sexual curiosity. I navigated my own questions in the basement dances at the local churches dancing close to the equally eager boys, sweaty and pheromone ladened in a way that took our young breath away. But I was a girl and girls weren’t supposed to be feeling, thinking, acting like that. That being sexually curious, sexually charged and energized and actually open to the idea of sexuality was actually something that was a natural feeling loaded with mixed feelings that we girls would find ourselves grappling with for years ahead.

this is a later version of the book, Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy. This did not look like the book I wanted in 1977, the book I wanted was a mono deep red hardcover or something with no images as risque as this one.

I am not talking of intercourse or oral sex, that wasn’t even in my radar. (But thank you Bill Clinton for forcing me to have it in my parental radar when my son was born in 1997 having to watch endless television about cigars, semen and blowjobs). I am speaking of that old fashioned “petting,” as I have come to find out was one of the words used to describe some of the ideas in Wardell Pomeroy’s book. Instead of learning and ultimately validating that the feelings I was having from a legitimate book were normal and healthy, I had to learn from Judy Blume in her many books that weaved sexuality in and out in her themes right under the noses of our mothers who had seemed to turn conservative and June Cleaver on the subject.

Much to many of my friends horrors I began having discussions about sexuality with my son over card games as early as third grade. My thought was that my husband at the time surely wasn’t going to be having the talk and rather than make it a before and after in one awkward conversation, I would make the assumption that my son would be having these same feelings as early as I did and if I broached the subject earlier than his hormones, it wouldn’t be a “thing” but rather a natural part of normal maturity. Who knows if this decision was correct? Who knows if my son will be in therapy as he finds himself navigating his own grown up relationships with his mother’s voice chirping in his head. Eeee gads, but I had the mindset that discussion normalizes sexuality rather than surrounding it with all kinds of taboo and out of touch feelings.

These days, the notion of having to ask a librarian for permission to take out a book called Girls and Sex is like a Saturday Night Live skit. My memory seems as clear as a bell that these books were behind the counter, but I can’t imagine this now. These days, I am not sure that kids even read anymore. Our children who have a phone at their fingertips as a sixth digit on their hand have access to A-Z sex in videos and porn that make our own wonders and personal ideas about sex spin. Long gone are the days when a conversation about sex could spin from we parents caught in the act by our kids accidentally walking in on us or hearing us to realize that yes, their parents do in fact Do It. Kids today get all of their information unfiltered on the live sex shows that appear from an accidental google search with the word sex in the title. Sex is no longer left to our own personal journeys of undiscovered territory lead by our hormones and that first kiss of adolescence.

I am so happy I am past the point of having to think about these discussions with my son and instead get to focus on my own personal discoveries in the aging process. Fake boobs, body changing at the speed of light no matter how much I work out, waning and waxing interest, that pesky topic of vaginal dryness that makes for a buzz kill in the bedroom, a committed relationship that is not a married one, but a living apart together one and the simple fact that I am getting older as is my partner. Sex is everywhere, media for sure, the appalling songs that are in the buds of childrens’ head phones pumping disrespectful commentary about sexual expectations especially the female kind into their ears, innocent google searches, but also in the mating calls of birds and crickets right outside our doors and yet the open conversations about it are still in many ways locked away in our closets. Not for me though, I like talking about the ebbs and flows of sexuality and desire. My partner and I have introspective conversations about needs and wants making sure that this part of our own relationship moves in a growth pattern so we stay on the same page like all other aspects of a grown up partnership. Sex is a natural part of life and the more we can have these conversations with each other and our own children, the healthier their own outlooks on their bodies and what is going on with them will be.

If you are not comfortable talking about sex with your kids, figure it out, because if they don’t hear about healthy sex from you, the school bus and their iPhones will be their teachers. Start early because when they get to the age when their sexual interest is peaked, there is no way they will allow any form of conversation that has the word sex in it. I think we inadvertently teach our daughters that sex is a tool to be used as a manipulator by our mixed messages of being a “good girl” compared to what the definition of a “good boy’ means. For those of us fortunate to have a healthy outlook on sex and all of its attributes, I am grateful for the personal discoveries I made on my own, but I know feelings of inadequacy and shame could have been avoided if the topic had been talked about in an easier way with my mother rather than left to my own devices. Of course it is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, I guess someone would have to ask my son if he thinks this was a good idea or if I ruined his entire adolescence by my openness.

What I do know about sex is it evolves right alongside with me. There is no on or off button, but just somewhere in between. Sex, as I grow, grows with me like a warm companion in the hand holding on the couch while we watch a movie by the fire. I love the experience of maturity and sex is no longer a validator for love, attractiveness and interest. This has been liberating because I think with the wisdom of retrospect I used sex as a tool, a weapon even at times to gauge my own perception of a healthy solid connection. I am gratified by the release of this idea that never served me well and surely is not part of who I am now. Another lesson for sure when the cape came off right along with my breasts and I head towards my mid fifties.

this is the book I would recommend if you asked me. This is not the one I coveted in 1977 because back then, it was not written yet.
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MY FAVORITE THINGS

MY FAVORITE THINGS

Last year I wrote about my favorite places to shop around town and that hasn’t changed. Bristol has some really lovely places as do many places in Rhode Island and as shopping in actual stores becomes more of what seems like a vintage pastime, I wanted to write again about some of my favorite things to do around the holidays. Maybe it will inspire anyone reading this to take some time before the actual holiday to enjoy the time leading up to the big day.

Without being redundant I will write briefly of some top favorite places to peruse, but I will add some different things in the mix as well as places I love to visit this time of year. My Aunt and I have a tradition for my whole life and now my son’s life too, to go to THE WAYSIDE INN in Sudbury, Mass for lunch. The oldest working inn in the country it really is the feeling of over the river and through the woods (once you drive by the massive Whole Foods and Range Rover car dealers that have taken over what was a lovely country road). This inn is a flashback in time and it has a history worthy of a special drive. It is the quintessential place that generations of families go to for their “special” place. When I go there with my aunt and my son, I am transported to a time where people got dressed up to go to lunch and drink toddies by a warm fire. If Sudbury doesn’t speak to you during this busy time, then THE LOBSTER POT in Bristol fits the bill too. Delicious food in a spectacular water view setting make this a place too that families go for the special occasions.

There are some fabulous shops in our state to visit this time of year. Grasmere on Franklin St., Jackie’s Loft on the corner of Franklin and Thames in Bristol, Harbor Bath and Body on Thames St. Kate and Company and Epilogues and Paper Packaging and Panache especially if you are trying to teach your kids to actually write a real thank you note with an actual pen and paper, (fingers crossed) on Hope St also in Bristol to name a few of my personal loves. There is a great new shop that opened on State St. too, The Sand Dollar. Of course if you are a vintage shopper, Second Helpings on Gooding Ave always satisfies. In Bristol even though it is an easy grid, one must really know that the shops are spread out and it takes a little extra walking to hit them all. But if you are patient, starting where Hope Diner is and walking down Hope St as far down as Constitution St, you can weave up and down each street all the way back to Franklin and you will cover the whole of shopping in the downtown area. You can even walk up to Wood St. (Wood St. Bakery for the yummiest of calzones, Azorean Butcher Shop for a little Sao Miguel, Common Pub for delicious Portuguese dinners ) crossing over High St. (C and R Mercantile and Roxies) and you will get a nice walk in as well as coming across some out of the way little shops and food places worthy of your extra time.

If you make your way to Providence, RI then Hope St. is loaded with some quaint shops that are worth a day of poking around even on the coldest of Saturdays. Stock, an elegant kitchen shop, Frog and Toad with such a wonderful variety of goodies you could spend hours looking around. Then there are shops I can’t remember the name of, but love walking in and out of simply because they are all next door to each other and it is so easy to window shop. Unlimited lunch and dinner places as well make for a nice day out with your daughter, best friend, aunt or mom. Another out of the way place that is really special is Simple Pleasures at 6 Richmond St. in Providence. They have beautiful items merchandised in a way that makes me drool.

I like to stay away from the big box stores during this time of year and really capture the essence of small businesses who spend a lot of their time thinking and planning for this very short month hoping that the business will sustain them so they can stay in business. Small businesses are taking a big hit from the discounts offered in the big stores as well as the hard to pass up ease and convenience of ordering in your jammies at three am. Shopping locally and in these small businesses takes a conscious effort, but it is so nice to get out, park your car, bundle up and walk in and out of these stores. Talking to the owners, getting to know your community, showing your kids that shopping is so much more than the simple click of a button ensures for a thriving downtown. Empty storefronts do nothing for our home values and a little concerted effort even if you have finished your shopping goes a long way with these hard working store owners. Store owners are asked daily for donations for our schools, sporting organizations, churches and synagogues and charities. We ask a lot of them in our little towns and this of all the times of the year is the time to give back to them by making a little extra effort to shop in them.

I never thought I would look at actual shopping as a vintage approach to virtual shopping. I never thought I would actually think there would be something called virtual shopping, but it is clearly here to stay. Like writing on a typewriter instead of your laptop, it takes a bit of conscious intent, it takes a bit of planning, of calling your aunt or your mom and saying, Let’s make time for each other before December 25th. Let’s enjoy each other. If not now, when?

This is an excerpt from an essay Steve Jobs wrote before he died.

“Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness! Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food. The One who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage! The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and Friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.”



making time is what the holidays are about, this pic with the flowers in my hair is taken at the WaySIDE INN with my brother when he was about 4.







family, friends making more time, because we never know when they are going to leave us. March forth and enjoy your tribe.