grief, life lessons

I WILL REMEMBER YOU

Mom, my head is killing me, the text said at 6:00am after I responded to the preceding text of, Are you awake? 

My son, Michael, never really calls about things like this so I sit here trying not to go to the dark side. 

But it is hard for me. As much as everyone says how much he looks like his father, David, and as much as I see this, I also see my brother in him more and more as he gets older. His voice, his mannerisms, even his handwriting is similar. Maybe it is just wishful thinking that he resembles my beautiful brother. 

He is my brother’s namesake, Michael. 

My brother was a seemingly healthy, strapping young man when he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer three months before his twenty-fourth birthday. He died just one month after he turned twenty-five. Needless to say, the loss was unbearable and almost twenty-five years later, as I sit with that loss, it shows up in my worry about my son. 

There is this lingering vapor that surrounds me and as much as I try not to give it my attention, it is there. My son is going to be twenty two in almost two months. And that is almost twenty three. Then I have two more years to be reminded of the deep crevices left from my brother’s death as I watch my son enter into the realm of his age. 

There is no positive affirming this away. I am not the type of person who projects bad things. This is just a trauma that is here. Death of a young person is like this. 

It sits there. 

And waits. 

And we can go through our days and our lives and have moments where it is not such a prominent thought, but it is always there. And when it decides to remind you of the pain, the dark feelings are real. 

So when my son calls me at six in the morning, not usually a complainer, I take the call seriously. We go to the doctor, the walkin because these days unless you have some boutique doctor that you have decided to pay an annual fee for the “privilege” of being able to actually see them without an appointment, you slog along to the walkin with the majority of the population. 

We sit and wait and as luck would have it, my own doctor happens to walk by and we start talking about why we are there. In a nanosecond she figures out the problem and in a nano second we are both semi relieved. When he was called for his appointment, it was weird to not go in to the office with him, it was one of those funny mom transitional moments. The kid is almost twenty two for goodness sake; I was traveling for a month alone through Paris with only one thousand dollars in my pocket and no credit cards when I was this age. 

He would have to fend for himself or else the likely eye rolls from the medical team of helicopter mom would prevail. Thankfully, the prognosis was that he had a past sinus issue that decided to keep residence in his head causing this severe headache. It wasn’t a brain tumor, it wasn’t an eye tumor. He wasn’t going to have to have chemo and radiation and lie dying while his body wilted away to nothing.  

This language sounds extreme; I fully realize how dramatic this sounds. The funny thing is that when he was a little boy and even into his teens, I was never the worrying parent. As a matter of reflection, I was about the only parent I knew who was elated at the prospect of him obtaining his driver’s license and getting his own car. 

Michael always showed up when he said he would, he would text me if he was going to be late, which was hardly ever. He was who parents would call a good kid. He still is. Responsible, kind, considerate. My brother was like this too, but the difference was that he died when he was only twenty five. My maternal worry has started this year and I can’t shake it. When most parents are breathing a sigh of relief that their children are almost across the finish line to graduate college, I am in a slightly unnerved state. 

This is trauma. Waiting like a patient tiger for its prey, ready to jump at just the right moment. October is like that tiger because it is the start of many defining moments. October 20. My brother’s birthday. Born in 1970, it is strange when I meet someone who is was born the same year. When I hear or see someone’s birth year as 1970, I look at them and am immediately struck by their normal aging face. 

Losing a twenty five year old makes time stand still because I only remember my brother young. He said this to me before he died as being the only benefit- like there could be any benefit- to dying young- that people would always remember him young. 

As time keeps ticking, I am struck by the fragility of life as I recall the birthdays of the people I love who have passed. October 24, my Grandmother Kitsie, the grandmother who always had a typewriter in her bedroom where she typed hundreds of recipes for me for my twenty first birthday. November 1st my Grandmother Isabelle, who encouraged my writing always telling me what a great writer I was. She kept all of my letters and writings discovered on the day of her funeral when all of the grandchildren found a three tiered storage box where all memories of us were kept. We had such a good time reveling in her love of each of us by what she kept all of the years.

November 10th, Lesa Turillo, a young woman who was an active part of my adolescence because she was the daughter of my first love when I was only a child myself. She died from an overdose almost two years ago. 

Then there are the birthdays of the people I love who are still here. My former husband, Dave, November 11th who I spent twenty years of my life  and the most positive end result being our son. And of course my Grandfather, Herbie, who at almost 102 is still going as strong as a 102 year old man who has seen much death in the last twenty five years can be. November 20th fast approaching is the anniversary of Michael’s death, the last year he will have been alive more than he will be gone. I remember wondering about that when he died, the feeling that would come to me when he would be gone longer than he was alive. And here we are.

Time travel. October 20th comes and goes each year and each year I sit alone with my memory. My mother struggles to speak of her loss and I get that -so I respectfully don’t mention it. My father has passed away so I don’t have him to just say, Hi Dad, I’m thinking of Michael today on what would have been his 49th birthday. Who will remember as time marches forth? Death is easy to remember. We memorialize death with plaques and Yahrzeit services but I remember your birthday. The day you were born. I will remember your life on this day. I will always remember you. You can count on that. 

life lessons

FALLING DOWN, GETTING UP

Meeting a new friend for lunch yesterday on a lovely Friday afternoon, the only stress I had was trying to find a parking space in Providence on a busy noon time slot. After circling the restaurant, Plant City, a new very hip and incredibly delicious vegan food fest, about six times, I decided that life is short and paid eight outrageous dollars for the mere convenience of removing stress from my already late self.

As I made my way into this food mecca of delight, I found my friend and we made our way to the Italian section of the restaurant and bellied up to the bar for conversation and pizza. Oh, and vegan raw lasagna which may sound awful to Italian food purists, but the taste sensation is really special. I am not a vegan at all, I love meat, but what I really love is food and its ability to bring out the most creative cooking among the brilliant chefs in our little state.

New friends are such a treasure and I have the luxury of meeting many cool chicks simply because I am in the beauty business and female energy abounds. I like that I am open to carving time to dive in to the Yes, Let’s make time for lunch answer when asked. I am even luckier that I am asked. More often than not, it is time well spent and yesterday was no exception as we inhaled the truffle pizza and had an indulgent mid afternoon glass of wine.

In my casual life I lead, I have also become more casual in my daily wardrobe, so yesterday I had decided to get it together and actually dress up a bit. These days, this means jeans, my favorite shoes I bought in Israel that I wished I had bought ten pairs of, and a nice top with some jewels- a little more than the typical athleisure (yes this apparently is a real word used to describe my daily uniform these days). I find myself clinging to comfort as my go to closet grab most days and I mostly don’t care about shoes and clothes anymore like I used to. Like I used to when the outside was more important than the inside.

I had one errand before heading home and that was to drop off my rent check around the corner. I had picked some flowers from my still very zinnia packed garden to bring with the check to my landlord’s receptionist I had gotten to know over the past twelve years. As I made my way up the stairs, I could hear the familiar sounds of the television he kindly allows them to keep on the reception desk to occupy their time when it is slow.

I walked in to his second floor office to find, not the familiar receptionist, but instead, a very pregnant one, whom I had never met before. I made my introductions, passed on the flowers and check and said goodbye. I was not rushing, I didn’t have anything in my hands besides my car keys and as I made my way out, I took a mint from the bowl and said good bye.

One habit I have added to my movement is to always lightly place my hand on any stair railing. My aunt had fallen and broken her ankle several years back, and it was a good reminder to be cautious on stairs. With the keys and the mint in my left hand, I placed my right hand on the railing and made my way down the stairs. Wait rewind. I thought this was what I did, but I don’t really know because within a split second, my Israeli shoed heels slipped out from under me and I slid down six or seven hard stairs to the hard landing. My tailbone, mid back and neck followed. I yelled, you know the type of uncontrolled yell like you do when you are on a roller coaster. The mint flew out of its wrapper and the keys went flying and I was in shock that this just happened.

The mint flying out of its wrapper was a clue that maybe I was trying to open it as I stepped on to the front stair which would mean that I didn’t put my hand on the railing before taking the first step. It is all a blur and doesn’t really matter because the end result was me on my ass and three people running to the unusual sound they heard. The sound of the full weight of me and the scream in the middle of a Friday afternoon was concerning. The pregnant woman whose name escapes me, the landlord and a lovely massage therapist from the first floor offices, who had been interrupted in the middle of her service because of the noise, all came rushing out to see what the commotion was.They found it alright, along with the mint and my keys, sitting breathless but, thankfully, conscious at the bottom of the stairs trying to determine if I should bounce up and brush it off or if I should take this more seriously.

Questions came flying out, Can I get you some water, are you dizzy, where does it hurt, can you breathe, I’ll get you some water, here is some water. I just kept saying, I just need to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath. Everyone was so kind, helpful, caring and concerned and I just sat patiently for a few minutes to evaluate how I landed on my ass in a split second. I knew enough than to berate myself because I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t being careless. I wasn’t rushing. I was calm and happy, but I fell anyway. It felt like my heels slipped from under me, that is the only thing I can distinctly remember.

The textured rubberized stairs clearly designed for not falling were not wet, nor were my shoes. It was a freak fall. I slid down the stairs like a child on a newly wax papered metal playground slide from yesteryear. My tailbone took my entire weight, then my mid back then my neck then my head. My hands instinctively braced for the fall, causing my wrists to take some of the brunt. I could already feel the bruises forming. Was this all because of a fucking mint? The only reason I took the mint was because the lingering garlic from my lunch was so potent I was trying to defuse its aftermath.

No- I did not think I needed to go the hospital, no- I didn’t think I had a concussion. I would be fine. I was just trying to determine if I should drive or not so I sat and weighed my thoughts for a few more moments. I was sore but I felt fine enough. I would be bruised, both my body and my ego. As I find myself approaching fifty five along with my dear friends, our conversations are naturally starting to turn to ailments and health. We find ourselves laughing at this surprising turn of how did we get here conversation. A fall was just one of those things that is bound to happen. But for me the question was WHY? There always has to be a why for me. Just helps me understand and gives me direction.

I got up. Because this is just what I do. I get back up. I brushed myself off and made my way home. I packed up some clothes and made my way to my partner’s house. Just in case I did have a concussion and died in my sleep, I didn’t want to be alone. Yes, this dramatic thought ran through my head; who knows, I had never hit my head before. I didn’t play sports when I was a kid, I played the flute, hardly a chance to bang my head doing that. This was unfamiliar territory and as much as I minimize life coming at me, I was also pragmatic enough not to be foolish.

My lovely landlord reached out, obviously concerned, I jokingly told him that my fall got me out of my seven am workout the following day. As I laid on the couch tending to my very sore backside, I had a strange vision occur. The maybe answer to my why this happened.

I had never seen the receptionist who had been in the office yesterday. Maybe my fall was to create a hyper awareness in her pregnant self to be careful on the stairs. That fall I took yesterday could have been a fall she may have taken if she had been rushing like so many young moms. Maybe my fall was a guardian angel looking out for that little super being in her belly. Maybe this baby she is about to have has an added layer of protection as he or she makes her grand entrance into this chaotic world.

Yes- that is why I fell yesterday, for a higher purpose other than myself. It makes the fall worth it thinking about it in this light. We fall down, we get up, we start again and perhaps the lessons in our falls have nothing to do with us at all.

I thought I was going to wake up beyond sore, beyond bruised; in fact, I slept beautifully, and though I am a bit sore and a bit bruised today, I do think shifting the way I considered my accident yesterday healed me faster. I feel astonishingly good today.

To quote two of my favorites, ee cummings, “Thank you G-d for this most amazing day…. “ and Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Indeed.

AGING, life lessons

FROM A DREAM

Before I closed my eyes last night, after a good and hardy unexpected romp, I took several deep and grateful breaths. Flat out on my back, supremely satisfied with all my life is and has become, (I swear, no pun intended) I breathed in, saying my personal mantra that I rely on for a deep calm sense of peace,

I am in the divine right place at the right time, and I am always divinely protected and cared for.

Faith. I am so happy I have it as my secret weapon. Not the faith of a religious kind, but one of a spiritual one. The kind that stops me in my tracks when I spot a hummingbird in my garden on a bright pink zinnia. The faith that happens when I unabashedly use my scissors to cut the stems of my purple coned anise-hyssop plant as a swarm of bees drink their nectar. They seem unmoved by my presence, almost like they recognize me as their compadre, not their enemy, happy we live in a co existence both sharing the pleasures of their flowers in our own way.

I am not afraid. Clients and friends waiting for their luscious bouquets I happily donate to their kitchen counters, see me reach into the stems and comment, Oohh, Alayne, lots of bees…
Yes, I say with a slight touch of bravado, They are not interested in me, they only want the flowers. I know this because this has been my experience every season since I planted these flowers. I haven’t been stung yet. Don’t plan on it. We have an understanding, it seems.

Faith is a superpower for me. Anytime I have felt startled or dismantled in some way, I go to those two familiar lines and breathe them in. Even when I am not afraid, even when I am deeply satisfied in my life, I say them.
I am always divinely protected. Hey, whatever works as we spin through our short days in this life. I have learned that head speak is an important stress reducer and if a one line phrase can muster some good old fashioned peace and tranquility, it just has to be good for your soul.

Sometimes dreams have messages like this, too, and I had some beautiful dreams last night involving my dear friend, Jane. I woke up today happy to have remembered them so clearly. Sometimes dreams are like this, they create a vivid experience, so much so, that you question if they really happened. That was this morning.

I dreamed we were at her birthday party and our friend, Jen, was bringing in plastic sand toys, laying them on the floor as Jane sat at the head of the table with her head in her hands anticipating the surprise looming. Jen brought in three stacks of white boxes for Jane to have to open, the kind where there is a smaller one inside the next one and so on. They were wrapped with a satin bow and I knew that there was a gift of a trip to some place warm in the smallest one.

For some reason, in the dream, I felt the need to type a message and I quickly went over to my typewriter to type a note to put on the smallest box. As I went to type, I realized that the paper had already been typed on, so I took another piece of paper and realized that too had been typed on. I was trying to type this quickly so I could get it on the gift before she opened it, so I crumpled up those two pieces and woke up before finishing the note to these two phrases,

You are enough. You have enough. This is what I was intending to write before I woke up. That is what I woke up with as sharp as if someone was standing over me and saying it. Like Glinda the Good Witch or someone.

Whoa. What a way to wake up this morning.

You are enough. You have enough. I wanted to text Jane immediately to tell her I had this detailed dream, but she sleeps in, especially on a Saturday, and no matter how great this message is, she wouldn’t have been so elated to receive a six am text message. Instead, I decided to write this piece today to get it out of me so I wouldn’t forget.

You are enough. You have enough. Talk about a new mantra. Dreams are powerful. Like faith. They have those lovely messages sometimes that just sum up life in a neat little box with a pretty bow. Like the boxes Jane was going to open in my dream.

As I made my way downstairs to make some coffee and watch the sun rise I realized that there is a lot going on this weekend for me. This past week has been a week of leaning into allowing myself permission to give myself a break from my incessant need to accomplish tasks.As I opened the paper, I read a lovely essay by Jennifer Weiner, The Primal Thrill of a Cherry Tomato. I didn’t even really need to read the essay because the title was so aptly named, it said it all. But there was a perfect nugget of a paragraph I must share. She wrote:

These days with my 50th birthday looming, I think a lot about where the surprises are going to come from. Not the satisfaction, not the joy, but the unexpected delights — the didn’t-see-it-coming thrill you get from learning that your bid on the house was accepted or that you got the job offer or that you’re having a baby. At my age life doesn’t offer many firsts. It’s short on surprises, and the ones on offer aren’t pleasant. Instead of ‘congratulations, you’re pregnant,’ it’s more like ‘bad news, you need to get a gum graft.’
Which isn’t to say there aren’t upsides to being settled down. Chances are you’ve gained some wisdom. You’ve fallen in love and learned that no one dies of a broken heart, you’ve fallen on your face and you can almost always get back up.

There is that odd moment I can relate to she speaks of as I am in the in between space of my son just getting ready to graduate college this year, I am settled into my home, my career, my life, my partnership, my friendships are stable and life long, weeding out the ones that no longer serve. I sometimes find myself thinking with a micro speck of cynicism, What’s next? Where did the time go?

This week I learned, from my glorious and lovely bad ass Dr. W, that I no longer have to go for six month check ups for my previous breast cancer diagnosis and am now on one year check ups. I found out I have to have the entire duct work in my house cleaned and the only date they could do is on the first day of Rosh Hashanah which to some may seem blasphemous, but for me seems divinely appropriate for some reason. It’s like a full throttle house enema.

It’s like Jennifer Weiner said in her piece about surprises, but for me they don’t need to be the big ones. I am lucky I have experienced the big ones. I think aging is recognizing they don’t need to be exceptionally large and in your face. They can show up in your garden, in a one line essay title or in an unexpected lovely romp on Friday evening after a long day. They can show up in an abundance of monarchs on the result of fifty zinnia seed packets I basically threw with wild abandon this past May challenging them to prove the fittest survive theory (and it seemed like there were no weak ones this season).

This weekend my mother is visiting my son. We haven’t seen each other in five years and we just recently started speaking with each other again. And it feels redemptive and like part of the circle of life that is not a comma, but a solid semi colon that confirms there is a second part of what I am trying to say, but doesn’t need its own sentence, but also doesn’t need a gentle pause. We are in the early stages of accepting each other for who we are and more importantly forgiving each other for who we are no longer.

Surprises can be waking up from a dream with two beautiful phrases that I can take with me on my journey this weekend as I see my mother for the first time in too long of a time and know that healing stems from forgiveness and forgiveness and amends is exactly the calling of the Jewish New Year. Whether I go to High Holy Day services or go to dinner with my mother and my son, synagogue is what’s in my heart, not in a building, at least in my humble opinion.

You are enough. You have enough. Its message says loud and clear to accept myself and accept yourself. If this isn’t the simplest of surprises for this fifty five year old chick, I don’t know how it could be any better or bigger or more surprising than this.

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

OUT OF MY CONTROL

“Does that make you crazy?” My partner’s niece, Ashley, asked me as we were discussing her new nursing career and I was telling her that I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis when I turned forty.

Her lovely and young thirty year old self said it so matter of factly, I brushed it off and replied that it didn’t and that I really had no side effects from this diagnosis fifteen years later.

“I have heard some people really get manic crazy with that diagnosis,” she said.

Mmmmm. Manic. Crazy. Not me, I thought.

But a week later, I started really thinking about this whisper of a comment that I dismissed so quickly. First off the word “crazy” and “manic” are not the first two words I personally want to associate with as descriptions of myself. I pride myself on doing “the work” and knowing how I tick. I understand the sugar and alcohol roller coaster rides I have taken and still take knowing full well that a few days later I will be off the rails. But it is my own choice, I say to myself as I can’t get her comment out of my head.

I have been loosely seeing a thyroid doctor since that initial diagnosis when I was a mere forty and since my bloodwork always comes back normal and my thyroid hasn’t taken over my neck like some hideous goiter, we just watch. I have never had to go on synthroid, the thyroid replacement medicine. In fact, the last time I was at the doctor’s I asked him how he even determined the diagnosis and if he could reconfirm it since I never really had any symptoms.

The thing about your thyroid though is that it is like the main controller of your entire being. Picture Captain Kirk in Star Trek in his Captain’s chair looking out from the Enterprise at the entire galaxy and think about him as your thyroid gland. At least this is the way I understand it. The thyroid needs fuel to produce the thyroid hormone. Like the Enterprise needs fuel to maneuver through space, the thyroid needs direction and it gets this from your pituitary gland, often referred to as a Master Gland. Think of Kirk as the pituitary. The Enterprise can be completely fueled, ready for its bad ass launch into the galaxy, but without the supreme direction of Captain Kirk, it sits there waiting.

As Ashley’s random comment sat in my brain this past week I started to consider my up and down behaviors over my lifetime. Full throttle into some things and then at a moment’s notice, not interested. I have often equated this with full moons, my birth sign, mercury in retrograde among other reasons I have written about endlessly. Spending money buying cars impulsively, not to mention my latest typewriter obsession all started to roll like the credits at the end of a movie.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto fifteen years ago, but I wonder if this is something you develop or if you are just born with it. I can’t believe I never have asked this question. I also can’t believe that the emotional ups and downs I have spent my life in therapy with could partially be attributed to Hashimoto? Maybe all of this wackiness is OUT OF MY CONTROL. And to think that I can master it with food and meditation practice is only partly the solution. I also can’t believe that my doctor never asked me about this.

A random comment from a brand new nurse offered more to me than the endocrinologist I have been seeing for fifteen years. For the love of nurses, surely. They are often the brilliance so underrated behind the scenes. What are the options though? I certainly don’t want to go on Big Pharm to regulate. Maybe just knowing that it isn’t me all the time, but instead a physiological malfunction causing all of this mayhem in my brain all these years is enough.

How convenient. Disturbing too, but I must admit it is nice to think in terms of releasing myself from the constant battle in my brain that I just don’t have the willpower necessary to overcome some of these ups and downs. There is so much we don’t know about our bodies and what kinds of mind fucks different problems cause. Our minds are still the wild frontier of so much to be discovered. Star Trek was way ahead of its time “boldly going where no man has gone before,” and if we think about the galaxy as our brains, we still have so much to discover.

grief, life lessons

BUILDING A WALL

I had no idea what to expect when I found out that my partner would be volunteering at the building of the wall. Not “The Wall,” the one that lights up every talk show, radio, podcast and television news channel, but the other one, the one that was forced into its creation because of the incredible loss of over 58,000 American lives.

The Moving Wall is a traveling memorial wall to make sure that this country remembers the Vietnam War and its over 58, 000 American lives lost and 304,000 wounded. Over two million Vietnam civilians and over one million Vietnam fighters died in this tragedy as well.

I am certainly not here to give a history lesson, for sure I need one myself since I was born right in the midst of its escalation, 1965. My father had been in college at the time, married my mother a year earlier, and likely because of his own fortunate socio economic position in life, avoided the draft. I am not sure if this is why he got married at twenty in 1964, but I am guessing that it must have been on his mind. I will never know since he passed away in 2011.

What I do know is that the Moving Wall must be named both literally and figuratively; it is moving to say the least.

Right now its resting place is Touro Park in Newport, RI and even if you have seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, this replica takes your breath away, wets your eyes and causes a great question in your heart, Why? As a mother of a twenty one year old son, my heart cracked open as I considered that most of the men on that wall were his age.

When I asked the Google question whether there were any women on the wall, the number that came up was eight, but I need to confirm this. This was a different time, our boys were drafted and the women who served were mostly in the traditional roles of nurses and caregivers, left to pick up the literal pieces of our boys. They were significant, but like the wars before seldom celebrated and memorialized.

Over two million of our boys were drafted. Over two million of a twenty-seven million pool. I can’t imagine what happened to the communities and the families during this time in our nation’s dark history.

When I went for the vigil this past Friday night, I had no idea what to expect; there were the rough and tumbled Vietnam Vets arriving on their motorcycles, leather vests, tattooed, long white ponytails well into their seventies now. There were the men and their families who managed to survive the war, return home in one bodily piece and get on with their lives. There were the families of the fallen searching for the name. Everyone had a story, everyone knew someone. Everyone cried.

My young world was not affected by the Vietnam War. I don’t recall anyone in my neighborhood drafted, or much discussion about the war other than its presence on dinner time television. I was only four years old when my partner, eighteen years my senior, was drafted. A neighborhood only ten or so miles away and miles apart with its impact on community. I may not have even gone if it hadn’t been for my partner. Micheal was drafted in 1968 and served in Vietnam for one year. His friends from his Federal Hill neighborhood were drafted too as their community fell into that unfortunate category my father had the luxury of avoiding.

These vets were not celebrated on their return, but booed, insulted and it was a double travesty. Vietnam vets suffered emotional wounds that if they are alive today still deal with, not to mention the long term effects of agent orange on their health and life. This wall commemorates not only the ones who didn’t make it, but the ones who were forced by our government to fight a war based on ego and abuse of government’s power. The ones who made it back, like my partner, his friends, my uncle in law are lucky to be alive. We are lucky they are still here to tell the stories and to share their grief as they open up to finally release theirs.

Michael and I looked for the name of one of his friends who didn’t make it back, we looked for the name of one of our friend’s cousins. We were asked if we wanted to do an etching, but we didn’t need to because once you see a name of someone it is etched in your spirit immediately. They are remembered. This is the truest memorial.

our friend, David’s Cousin, Wayland J. Batson

As I sat at the Vigil with my candle burning, I listened to the 203 Rhode Island names read, some still M.I.A. and wept. This wall is an important part of our American history so that we never forget what can go terribly wrong when decisions are made for the very wrong reasons. Every twenty something should bear witness to the possibilities of their own good fortune they don’t live in the time of a draft, for now anyway. We gratefully rely on volunteers to enlist and for now this is enough for our country. I hold my breath, though, because we just never know.

This wall is at the park until September 23rd and is headed to Attleboro, Mass Sept 26-30.

MY PARTNER, Michael, so happy her made it out in one piece. #luckyindeed
FUN, WRITING

WHY I TYPE

There she was, that beauty of a black Royal, sitting there, dusty, keys barely visible.

Forty Dollars, the price tag said as it was marked down to it’s final lowest price at the consignment store I visit with my aunt when she treks down from Boston.

I quietly walked up to the black metal machine weighing in at what seemed like twenty pounds and placed my finger on a random key, maybe it was the H or the G or the A, irrelevant now. Click, like the sound of the hard snap of the tip of my tongue up against the roof of my mouth, I was brought back to a familiar time, but one I couldn’t quite recall just yet.

I firmly pressed my fingers on the keys with a much stronger touch than the laptop keyboard my fingers have grown accustomed to. I waited to hear the “ding,” hoping the warning bell to pay attention to my word choice of how many letters I have left still worked on this old beauty of a machine.

I was not disappointed.

Ding! And just like that I was brought back to my grandmother’s bedroom where she had always kept her typewriter for correspondence, recipes and anything else she needed to legibly communicate what her messy handwriting could not.

My aunt, who was shopping with me that day, confirmed what I couldn’t place at first sight.

Yes Alayne, dear, this was indeed the same type of typewriter Grandma had.

For some reason, at that exact moment, I felt a strange calling to rescue what I now fondly call, Dear Old Gal. And just like that, I became a collector of typewriters.

It is hard to believe that was a little over a year ago, but in one year’s time I have amassed thirty typewriters. YES- 30. I realize to the average person, this may seem excessive, but it occurred to me shortly after that first purchase of this 1940’s Royal, these gems are not being made anymore. Typewriters from the twentieth century, pre-electric, are the end of an era. They are glorious pieces of machinery all needing each part to make them their beautiful whole. The mechanisms are visible to the eye for the most part and their simplicity is a thing of the past. Our children and their children will only get to see them at museums and antique stores.

I am in love with the notion of using a typewriter. My heart is full when I open one from their portable case and set it up on my front porch to make my thoughts appear, mistakes and all, on the white paper I have rolled in. I am elated when I watch a child instinctively drawn to the keys and smile ear to ear realizing that they can create words that will not allow deletion. I am in my happy place when they ask, “Where is the exclamation point? (you have to make it with a period, backspace, apostrophe) Or the number 1?(it is the capital L) How do I erase a mistake? (you don’t) What is the ding for?”

My heart is in pure heaven when I can send a typed note on specialty 100% cotton paper I found from Germany to say thank you to someone who least expects to receive a typewritten note. Or to send my condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. Or just because.

There is something about typing. I can’t explain the feeling so instead of doing so, I do events and open my doors to let people in to feel what I mean. More than even the actual action of typing, typewriters invoke story after story from people every time they see one and even more when they hear one.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, all flavors. This is beauty to me. Sharing something from the past with people to engage and connect. In our new face down in the phone paradigms we seem to find ourselves in and our children in, I am finding it harder and harder to escape from this technology that has made us all think of as connection. What I have learned is that it is the exact opposite.

So I offer a new way to disconnect. This is why I type. Typewritingisbeauty. Enjoy them; they love their salvation.

Please join me on Saturday September 14th for The State Street Fair in Bristol, RI. I will be there with the typewriters. Stop by and type something, bring the kids, bring your smiles.

Words Matter.

AGING, Women

DOES THIS MIRROR MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

Is it just me or are there fat mirrors and skinny mirrors? And here is my question for all the mirror makers out there, which one is the right one? What do we all really look like? And why do I even care anymore, other than when I get dressed in the morning and look at myself for a brief check and then that pesky bubble shows up over my head and says, omg what has happened to me?

I write a lot about self talk, perfectionism, self image and spin cycle brain. I am constantly at work on the never ending dialogue between my head and my core belief system. This wisdom and self awareness keeps me in check with my mostly happy existence I am mostly grateful for. Relatively speaking, this piece today is what people would refer to as first world problems. Every day I open the paper, I read about death, destruction and the rise of antisemitism that makes me feel like I am living in a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Writing about fat and skinny mirrors doesn’t seem to be a newsworthy commentary.

This is embarrassing to write, but I forge ahead anyway. I know this conversation is one that makes me not alone in my thinking. Years and years of female speak by the line leading ladies in my family always discussing body size, the latest Weight Watchers recipe and the dreaded workouts at Gloria Stevens have left their mark no matter how much positive patty talk I give myself.

When I was in seventh grade, I clearly remember an eighth grade boy saying to me, Alayne, your face on Eva’s body…. Wow. And as he said this he closed his eyes and turned his head with a slightly upturn of his lips letting the fantasy of this hormonal boy designed girl simmer in his loins (apparently, Eva was the desired go to body of the moment and she was a year older than me). I remember thinking at that particular moment that I was not good enough. Rather than saying, go fuck yourself, what about your face and body? I took it like it was a directive. Boys had that power over young girls back then, at least over this boy crazy girl, who for some reason allowed them to decide my self worth fate for most of my adolescence.

Hopefully all of this chick power and positive self talk commentary we have been feeding our girls for the past twenty years has helped them define themselves on their own terms so they don’t have to be guided down the path of negative. But it seems that body image and negative body talk is still a problem with our young girls, the very ones we have been trying to teach to just own it.

Just when I think we are making headway by actually saying negative body talk as a phrase aloud, I see some wacky diet plan being thrown at an eight year old. This is not really some new phenomenon. In my possession, I have a book written by a doctor named Ruth West from the 1950s called, The Teenage Diet Book, given to me my one of my best friend’s moms when we were in 7th grade. I don’t know why or how I still have this book, but it is significant in relation to the blithering bubbles over my head as well as the conversations I have had with members of my female tribe for the last forty years.

this book by Dr. Ruth West written in the 1950’s. Clearly, throwing diets at our young children is nothing new.

I have always had issues with the way I have seen my body even when the way I should have seen it should have been with degrees of worship. I look back at the pictures from my earlier years when I used to use language like, I am so fat, as my perpetual inner dialogue. Then I look at the picture now and my mouth drops open. What a waste of a perfectly good body. Good body? What does that even mean? Shouldn’t it mean, healthy, able to breathe when walking up the stairs or hiking for six hours? Shouldn’t it equate with the word, alive?

As I write today, I am aware that it sounds like I lack the self worth and acceptance I espouse in so much of my writing. Though it may appear this way, I just think it is helpful to say aloud what the bubble over my head occasionally says in its uninvited phrases. The food down turns I have taken in my previous day or week start their yipping in my head labeling themselves as wrong, bad, dumb. I fully realize that this is not helpful. But it is hard to stop the train. And I consider that the years of being surrounded with constant discussion and commentary on body size not just from my own family, but in every piece of literature, magazine cover, and now the algorithms of social media and the internet have planted themselves like an innocent single stem of mint in the garden.

Dieting of yesteryear has turned into softer words, like wellness, clean eating, and it has created a tornado of advice from experts and self described gurus that has left me and my over thinking brain on overload. And almost every woman I know. What to believe? What to eat? What not to eat? Is it even possible to lose weight past fifty five? Then there is the discussion of “set weight” which if you haven’t heard that phrase, you may as well throw in the towel because whatever weight you lose, your body, biologically, won’t stay there as it will work hard to climb back to the old weight for some scientific reason I can’t possibly explain.

Why bother? Well for one, when I have gained ten pounds, I feel like shit. I feel bloated. Every outfit I put on feels like it shrunk and as I actually think this, I realize, oh shit, no the dryer is not expediting heat mysteriously shrinking my clothes, but rather the extra weight is making my clothes feel snug. Darn it. I was ready to call Gils Appliance and buy a new dryer. Then I look in the mirror and that bubble shows up and the voice starts its scolding, Why did I eat that ….. yesterday? I was supposed to start the Whole 30 for the thirtieth time. Come on Alayne, you are going to Florida in a few months….you better get ready.
So I do as Whole 30 commands, stop looking in the mirror. Don’t get on the scale. Just stop the madness. This always helps. And I come back to the beginning of this piece about the fat and skinny mirrors. I know they exist, they are in every dressing room that sells women’s clothing. They are definitely in bathing suit stores and lingerie stores. They are in my gym. And it gets me thinking about perception as reality. And my own reality of aging and the way my body is changing just because of aging.

I realize that I am lucky to be able to write this slightly self-deprecating piece. I am alive and anyone reading this is too. Fat mirrors, skinny mirrors aside, life is a process, and there is never likely going to be a time where I can 100% say good enough. This is the most ironic part of aging, this self-awareness in the midst of the bubbles over my head. Self acceptance is part of the evolution of aging and the more aging women I speak to, the more honest conversations we are having about this process. Honest conversations are the best part of aging with like minded women I surround myself with. Mirrors and extra ten pounds aside, truth is beauty and if aging is truth serum, then bring it on.

Health, life lessons

ON A BENDER

A slight bump in the road occurs, occasionally, when I go off the deep end and slide into sugar and wine oblivion. Sometimes it is just a slight curve and I put my hands on the wheel and do a quick course correction. Then there are the times when I head straight down the bank and end up in a ditch hoping someone will find me before it is too late.

This sounds dire. I sound like there is a cause for an intervention. It is not that bad. Really. Because the one thing I know about me better than anyone is my own slippery slope. I used to blame it on PMS, but I can’t do that anymore since there is no more of that. There is definitely a time limit on using the C word too, coming up on two and half years already, I think I have used that excuse for going off the deep end enough. “Enough already,” I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head say.

So what is it? Why do I have this constant yo-yo where I can feel so incredible and unstoppable, not drinking any wine or eating any sugar that it causes me to almost self-sabotage, like there is some force greater than me saying, “Oh yeah? You feel this good? We’ll fix that.” I know every time I break my flow with “just one glass of wine” or “just one brownie,” I am off and running. Before I know it, I have eaten like an entire cake and drank way too many bottles of wine on the front porch.

Why does this happen? A normal person (if there is such a thing) would say, “Well, Alayne, if you know this is your pattern, then why must you incessantly rewind, repeat?” Sounds so simple. I am a smart successful and generous entrepreneur. I “live life to the fullest” following my brother’s instructions from his death bed like there is no tomorrow. I know better. But yet, I slide.
I have worked incessantly on myself for years trying to understand this pattern of mine.

The funny thing about twists and turns is that I only realize the ‘why’ part after the deep dive. During the dive, when it would be most advantageous to catch myself, is too late. I am ALL in. Whipping up blueberry cake, chocolate babka and cheese-ladened Mexican lasagna filled with dairy that surely would make my breast cancer doctor wince with estrogenic pain.

What I have realized with this last wild ride is that this happens when I am stressed. It is not some self sabotage at all. In fact, I like myself, I am happy with my world, why the hell would I need to sabotage this life I have made with my own two hands? But yet here I am. The weekend after too much wine and too much babka.
Stress.

Cortisol.

High stress=High Cortisol levels.

High cortisol levels=constant fight or flight mode. But there is no fight and there is no flight except to the refrigerator and thus the fatigue subsides as soon as the first sip of wine or the first bite of cake.

It is immediate. And it is satisfying- this temporary fix that no amount of self talk can persuade otherwise. Cortisol is pure power. It is what has made humanity sustain itself. But humanity, these days, is not the same as it was when survival was literal. Survival these days is dealing with the stressors that our bodies and minds could never be prepared for. On top of this, there is the constant brain workings of my mind with thousands of ideas and trying to execute many at the same time.

My mind holds the ideas, but what I lack is the reality of how much time each idea is really going to take. This is where my stressors are. So much work, SO little time. I am convinced that as much as we talk about nutrition as being a precursor to cancer, my gut tells me it is cortisol’s constant production in my system. This is why I exercise and meditate- to attempt to create tools to wind down this overactive brain of mine. And it really helps.

But sometimes I just need to eat cake and drink wine. This really helps too. Except that after a few days of it, my heart starts to race and my head starts to think negative thoughts that were definitely not there before I did my deep dive. The effects of meditation and exercise and healthy eating are cumulative. The effects of wine and cake are immediate and sometimes I just need immediate.

self love, Women

LOVELY MID-FIFTIES BADASS MANIFESTO

I am getting closer to my mid-fifties by the minute and I thought it would be fun to start a #lovelybadass manifesto. I want more loving and kind manifestos in this wacky world of hate and violence I have found myself in. If you want to add anything, send along, maybe we will end up with something so powerful we will rule the world with our badass goodness. I would like to add that my heroine, Doreen Wiggins, the loveliest bad ass ass I know is the one who bestowed this phrase upon me. THANK YOU D.

#LOVELYBADASSMANIFESTO

I will as often as possible lean into the good parts of myself. My shape, my skin, my wrinkles and age spots, right down to the hairs sprouting from every orifice EXCEPT my brows and eyelashes, the only hairs sprouting there are the grey wiry ones.

I will drink the fucking glass of wine or two or three or the whole damn bottle and enjoy it. I will cease and desist the perpetual blithering that happens before and after said glass of wine and just enjoy the need for some release.

I will as often as possible commit to loving my health by nurturing it with goodness. Good food, good thoughts, and good silence. And when I don’t do this perfectly as I know this is absolutely impossible to keep up, I will have a blast taking the deep dive down the rabbit hole and trusting that maybe this is just what my body and mind needs at the time.

I will continue to celebrate my life the way I want despite what every blog post screams at me from my unsolicited algorithms telling the algorithms to spew back on a daily basis. 10 WAYS TO SAVE MORE MONEY, 7 WAYS TO GET FIT IN 7 DAYS, 8 STEPS TO BE A HEALTHIER YOU can go fuck themselves. I going forward and sometimes backwards will make my own lists and follow them the way I want.

I will buy more typewriters with abandon no matter how crazy it is, I will celebrate my own crazy and people can come for the wild ride or not.

I will live and over commit to everything and either make it all happen or none of it because life feels urgent and messy and glorious to be in the muck. I will celebrate that this is just who I am no matter how many times I hear words like, Slow down, just say no and all of the other rules and regs from outside forces.

I will continue to have a love hate relationship with technology knowing that like football, I will never understand it because I don’t want to. THAT SIMPLE.

I will continue to surround myself with only people, places and things that bring me joy. This is something I have complete control over and I will move into my mid fifties knowing it is my right to choose each time, every time.

I will look affectionately at every tight assed gorgeous twenty year old who has the confidence of a young #lovelybadass. I will smile at them and not wish their age on anyone because no matter how tight their ass is in a thong at the beach, no matter how smooth their youthful glowing skin is, if they are lucky to make it to my age and beyond, they too will be me on the beach looking at them. Admiration is a lovely gesture and I bestow it on them with happiness thinking also, this too will pass.

I will smile at everyone. Strangers and babies and dogs. Even if I don’t get a smile in return. Even if they are not smiling at me first. I will do this because I enjoy smiling at people.

I will cut flowers and give them to random people because I have a killer garden and why not share some of it with strangers and friends. Like a thank you note, flowers spread love.

I will come up with a billion ideas and likely only execute less than 1% of them. This is just how my brain works. I accept this despite how many of my friends likely roll their eyes every time I share a new idea.

I will talk to anyone and everyone, who wants me to, about my mastectomy, my breast implants from my mastectomy, and all of the boob conversation that happens. Because what lies in front of me in the mirror every day is my luck that it was caught early, that I have a sense of perpetual urgency to live with wild abandon that at times gets me in trouble, and an upright and almost perfect set of tatas that deserves low cut dresses. (Thank you Dr. Michaud).

I KNOW, RIGHT?

I will always work out. Of all the healthy lifestyle choices I make, exercising is the most important for my mental health and my physical health. And if I don’t get to the gym, I will go outside and walk even if it is around the block. Nature is youth and happiness serum. No question it is what has rebounded my body into the speedy recovery from three breast cancer surgeries, surgical menopause and crazy brain.

I will blow off working out too.

While I am working out with loud music and my lovely trainer telling me to squat and then jump to a burpee and do a bicep curl like this is something normal, I will stop critiquing my hips and my flabby arms as I do this with the mirror staring me back. I will blame my flabby arms on breast cancer surgery. Why not? Free pass, right?

I will offer with wild and joyous abandon my help to anyone starting their own businesses. Pay it forward helps propel success. Success helps people pay it forward. Simple pleasures.

I will continue to say the word, fuck, because there is nothing like this word to get a point across. And there is nothing like fucking. And yes I will say this too.

I will say I love you to friends and family often. Maybe too much. Why not? I will continue to work on my five favorite relationship words, THE FIVE A’S from the incredible David Richo, who wrote a book that could easily be the only wedding gift for a new couple or anyone for that matter. This book changed my life, How to Be An Adult in a Relationship. ATTENTION. ACCEPTANCE. APPRECIATION. AFFECTION. ALLOWING.

If I start to go negative about something, I will do my best to change the conversation to gratitude. It never fails me. Not always easy when my brain starts spinning into the oblivion of negative thinking, but when I remember to go to what I am grateful for there is an immediate shift. EVERY TIME.

I will speak my mind when I see both subtle and loud patriarchy. It is the silent killer of feminine energy and I will no longer be silent.

I will say the words vaginal dryness.

I will continue to connect with people and create connections. Supportive, kind connection is what gives me pleasure and I want pleasure.

I will try my hardest to rest, to read in the middle of a day even when there is so much on my to do list it is making my head spin. I will stop. I will stop. I will stop. Clearly, this is not easy.

I will type on my typewriter collection and, snail mail, send more thank you notes I will do this often because typing on a real old school typewriter and writing with an actual pen and paper gives me a sense of calmness, it is almost like meditation. And it is sending kindness and light through the real air waves. No social media can ever replace receiving a real typewritten or hand written thank you note.

I am sure I will think of many more once I hit the send and publish button. Manifestos, when used for goodness, are like this; they invoke more goodness. We need more goodness. We need more kindness. We need more connection. And goodness knows we need more women speaking their truths ALOUD AND LOUD.
#LovelyMIDFIFTIESbadass indeed.

MORE:

I will not talk about food and the consumption of it as good or bad. I’ve been good will no longer exist as a description of my previous day’s history.

I will offer help if I see a stranger struggling with putting groceries in the car. They can say no, but I will offer to help.

I will eat the mother fucking ice cream whenever I want. And if Ben and Jerry’s continues to call their pints, three servings, I will start a boycott because it is not normal to think that a pint should not be eaten in at the most 2 sittings, (ie within an hour of each other)

I will continue to bang and bop my head when Robert Plant sings, “When the juice runs down my leg” Or when ACDC screams some misogynist song realizing completely that this goes against everything I have ever fought for because the beat and the headbanging sounds and the singing at the top of my lungs overrules every modern era #metoo movement. I grew up in the most misogynistic era listening to ads that say things like “boys don’t make passes at girls that wear glasses.” I am confident in my ability to separate. So: For those about to rock, we salute you. 

I love not having to ever wear a bra again. #Goreconstructionafteramastectomygo

Ditto for never having to buy tampons or maxi pads again where I had previously never considered that the tax that has been charged on these as a luxury item shocks me more that I never questioned it all of those years. I shudder to think about how much that adds up to. Shameful. Misogynistic. Way more than ACDC if you ask me.

More to follow I am sure.

 

 

FRIENDSHIP, FUN, Uncategorized

GETTING THE LED OUT

Though the singer looks like Howard Stern, don’t let that fool you. His voice is Robert Plant.

the outfits were just as fun to watch