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family, life lessons, Uncategorized

THIS IS YOUR LIFE

“Grandpa, didn’t Grandma have a shortened version of a Seder that she wrote?’ I asked him a few days ago. Passover is by far my most favorite Jewish holiday. Jewish families all over the world share the story of Moses (and Miriam for those of us who like to add some female power to the night) leading the Jews out of Egypt into The Promised Land. We eat the symbolic foods and have conversations about freedoms, slavery, privilege, humanity and so much more over a delicious feast all under the full moon.

Passover is one of those transformative holidays that usually gives me some type of spiritual ahha moment and I always wake up with a more grounded sense of myself the next day. What I enjoy about Passover is that is it more than just Let’s Eat, it is a ritual, a tradition and a retelling of the story of a liberation.

The Seder is community and pausing with family and friends. It is celebratory and hopeful and it goes on worldwide with each family adding their own twists and turns. This is how I remembered that my grandmother had made her own service to condense it for the many friends my grandparents have had over the years to make it more personal, more meaningful. And shorter. Because traditional Seders can be many hours long before dinner and this is a recipe in this short attention span life we lead for invitation turn downs at some point. Being in the Reformed Judaism category, I take some bold liberties in making sure that the Seder is both interesting and concise so when my Grandfather suggested that I take a look in my grandmother’s computer, I bolted into her old office.

My grandmother passed away almost six years ago, but yet her computer is still going strong. As I made my way into her office I noticed some vestiges of her still lingering, like the abundance of scratch paper and address labels, you know those free ones you get as a bait to make a donation to whatever charity thinks sending free address labels will get you to do this. But it is her Mac that most reminds me of her presence. Isabelle had a Mac before people were really buying Macs. She was always on the hip side.

I opened up her computer and went to her file labeled “Isabelle” thinking that so much of ourselves, who we are, how we think show up in what is stored and how it is filed. I was also struck by the notion that all may have been lost if I hadn’t been lucky enough to remember to ask about the Seder, too.

As I went through the treasure trove of files, I saw all of the writings I had sent her in my earlier years of writing that she had saved. She too was an avid writer, albeit a closet one, and I quickly discovered every trip she had gone on with the date, her itinerary and even the tour guide’s name. My grandmother not only recorded the sights and sounds of their trips, but she did it all in rhyme and I was quickly transported to China shortly after the cultural revolution. I time traveled to Africa, Tibuktu among some of the points they traveled to in the seventies. There were her trips to Israel right along with the one they took me on in 1977, too.

While their friends were headed to the Carribean and The Grand Canyon for pleasure, my grandparents were off on wild adventures to learn about the world. Because I was the oldest grandchild and lived nearby, their influence on my ability to look at the world differently was significant. I was able to read about her joys in traveling with the love of her life and was reminded of how hip she was. Then like magic, like she had directed me to this very moment herself, I found her Seder outline and printed it, happy to have found her words to share.

Since my grandfather’s stroke almost five years ago, he hasn’t gone out much and certainly hasn’t had any Passover celebrations at his house. I had decided to come down to Florida this year to have a Passover Seder with my grandfather instead of the usual Seder with my lovely son and our circle of friends back home. so that he could participate in one at his 101st year. As I have mentioned in many writings, we never know if this one will be his last one, the odds shorten each year and my pragmatism abounds.

I set up the formal dining room instead of the usual breakfast area in the kitchen and took out the good china, all of the candlesticks, and the cloth napkins. This is the joy of a holiday. The excuse to make something a little more special than just another day. Flowers on the table, special wine glasses, the old china serving dishes that I will never know their origins of. I just know they are old and were saved for special occasions. I used as many as I had food to fill them. And I printed all of her itineraries right down to her memories of her marriage to my grandfather in August 1942. It was here I got to spend some time with her in her recollections of their beginnings, the draft, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and her young life. So right before dessert, I pulled out the story and announced, Herb, this is your life and began reading it as the story it was.

Passover is the story of Exodus, the Jewish plight, the enslavement of people, but also of our own prisons we put ourselves in by our thinking. My grandmother’s writings reminded me that she did not take her own personal freedoms lightly. She lived her life to the fullest, and after re-reading her own writings, I was clearly reminded of why I live the life I do. Even though many of the people I adore were not physically at this year’s Seder either because of proximity or because they have left us, having this Passover with my Grandfather felt like everyone was there at our table. Liberation in our own way, connecting generations on this one special holiday I got to celebrate my fifty fourth year with a most cherished father figure, Herb Horowitz, my shining example that life is what you make of it.

self improvement, self love

IN THE MOMENT

I woke up at four am this past Monday morning and lounged in bed for what seemed like two hours only to discover that just thirty minutes had passed. Every day this week four am has been an unintended alarm so I indulge its inner ring and get up. Why not, may as well enjoy the quiet sound of the morning.

I put the coffee on and grabbed my pillow lowering myself to the floor for another round of While the Coffee Perks Meditation acknowledging myself with a brief mental clap for sticking with this practice. I started this over four months ago and have barely missed a day. The rewards from this are countless and though hard to define them with words, I am a much calmer and focused soul because of this. It makes me feel good and I want to feel good so I march forth.

As I sat cross legged on the floor and began breathing, the sounds of the rain storm and wind surrounded me. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a while so when the electrifying bolts of lightning came along with the thunderous booms I breathed them in. How often does one get to be meditating and at the first breath in have thunder and lightning join you in the party? Wake up! They yelled. And I welcomed the reminder to pay attention. I am. More now than ever.

And it is a conscious daily choice I make to pay attention. In the luscious moment that is right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now because really this is all any of us have. The older I get the more I realize that RIGHT NOW is all we ever have. We take time and tomorrow and next week and next month for granted. Or at least I have, all ingredients for fretting and worrying and anxious thinking that doesn’t serve me and my creative self well -ever. I am confident that many reading this today would agree, it seems like this is just one of our traits of being human. When I reflect back on anything in my past that I excessively worried about- like actually lost sleep over- it is virtually insignificant today. As I review these temporary struggles of yester year I realize the value in their lessons in the countless hours I wasted.

Finishing my deep contemplative breathing that is now part of my morning routine, I got myself set up on the couch for my other morning ritual, writing. Trying not to be persuaded by the calls of checking Facebook and email, I dive into my happy place that always keeps me locked into the NOW. I start thinking about the moments this past week that I lived in the actual moment. I am fully aware of the irony of this as living in the actual moment means not headed backwards, but for the purpose of drawing the examples to illustrate when IN THE MOMENT works for me, I must head there.

This past #noplanthursday, I am attempting to add to my list of IN THE MOMENT moments, has been an interesting experiment. Three Thursdays later, I have learned that I struggle with not making plans on purpose. I had to return books that I took out at my new favorite spot I discovered on my first attempt three Thursdays ago. The Redwood Library in Newport, RI founded in 1747 with this as part of its mission statement. Nothing in View but the Good of Mankind. Has an old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it? This library isn’t just any old library, it is a subscription library and the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States. You need to have a separate library card for it and must sign up as a member which I promptly did. The Redwood Library is a magical space to sit and do nothing except read or write or sit and stare in silence. There are lectures and music events as well as special exhibits and I was lucky enough to catch one on Claggett Clocks. This may sound like a big yawner to some, but honestly, imagine walking into a dimly lit room with over forty grandfather style clocks made from as early as 1716, many working and ticking and gonging just as the noon hour hit. This is the thing about not planning anything and finding something without looking. Juicy for sure.

I have this list in my head of the places I have said I am going to get to. Like so many women I know who say, I’ve been meaning to get there, the museums, the walking trails, the kayak trips, the flower shows and the exhibits. Those endless lists of interesting things to do, but somehow the endless lists in our head prevail and the days go on as do the exhibits. What better days than getting to these then on these no plan Thursdays?

I walked there from my partner’s house to return the books after having lots of mindpseak trying to convince myself I didn’t need to leave the comfortable couch with my laptop. What is it about that mind speak saying NO instead of YES? Thankfully, though, the books I took out had to be returned on this very day so I had to get up and go. Books in hand, I made my way outside to a glorious day of sunshine and cool breeze, the ocean at my back and the sounds of nature as my private symphony. It was amazing how quickly I moved from the lists to the moment as soon as the first bird chirped at me.

The smooth and vibrant siren sound of the cardinal rewarded me on my walk. As they always do, causing me to look up and look for him. And her. Vibrant sharp shrills calling me, walking with me, following me the entire way to and from. Making me stop in my tracks with my two books in my arms and look up in search for their beauty. And there they were. Again and again. I was reminded of how happy I am to recognize their sounds so easily and to look up searching for them, eyes trying to follow their calls until they land on that familiar bright red spot in the bare oaks and maples with barely a bud on their branches in this early April. Rewarded by my simple walk to The Redwood Library on a beautiful afternoon just because I “forced” myself to follow my plan of wandering.

Our lives have come to the need to actually schedule a day of not planning and in this itself is actually a plan, but be that as it may, this no plan plan is important for this busy active chick. Cardinals, nature, books, writing and maybe topped off with a dish of Peppermint Stick ice cream reminding me again that the moment, this moment is the very best vacation spot.

Health, self love, Women

NOT DRINKING (TODAY)

We drinking chicks love our wine and our cocktails. We love our rituals of choosing the perfect bottle of Proseco knowing that the front porch on a warm summer eve calls us at 5pm for that first sip of sparking delight. What is it about that first sip, the tiny sparkly bubbles headed from your tongue to your throat that automatically cause a big happy sigh? Or a robust red on a cold winter night after a long day sitting by fire recapping the events from work or life with your partner?

For so many women I know, drinking and its box of rituals have been the norm. We talk about it, we plan around it , we gather together to imbibe with it. Cocktails take the edge off. Off of what? I don’t know because in my circle of acquaintances for the most part, the edge we speak of is life coming at us. Besides the inevitable twists and turns that make up what life is, our edges our pretty mild.

We, of course, have our struggles, but no one said life was supposed to be anything less. Struggles are what make us rebound, strengthen and stand taller. No one wants them, but for a majority of the pain give or take extreme situations, we usually can look back and say the struggle was worth it. With the exception of losing a child, or a person in your life who is far too young to die there aren’t extremes in the world I get to live that causes a pain so deep one can’t climb the mountain. But this is me. And most of my friends. We were raised resilient and we power on.

I have had my share of struggles and have had my share of wine. I have quit drinking on more than one occasion and one time I quit for a full seven years. This was one of my proudest accomplishments because it wiped all of the cobwebs from my foggy brain that I didn’t know what foggy and allowed me to think clearly about my future. Drinking puts a (pun intended) cork in the ability for me to flourish and make serious decisions. Drinking alcohol allows me to put off those decisions, keeping them at bay and removing the emotions that sometimes have to come with those decisions. But none of this is even in my radar at the time. I only have this wisdom when I cease and desist.

I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. – Winnie the Pooh

You know when you have a plugged drain? But before it gets to the point when you have to call the plumber, you see that the water is taking more time to leave the sink and go down the drain? You let that happen for a few weeks hoping that it will miraculously just go down with a few plunges or some Draino. But we all know that this is highly unlikely. At some point the problem of the clogged drain will need to be solved or else you simply will not be able to use the sink. The residues of toothpaste and face cleanser will leave a circle of film in your sink and the need to clean it will become an almost daily grind because you didn’t take care of the clog when you first noticed it.

This is what drinking is like for me. I come from a family of alcoholics as so many of us do because drinking is just so much damn fun. It is so much easier to pour a glass of gorgeous Brunello instead of sitting on a mat and meditating. Life is short, right? Enjoy the wine. Fuck all these self imposed rules and regulations, right? Just eat the cookie and drink the frickin wine, right? Well not so fast, though I have a lot of friends who can just have one glass of wine and sip it slowly, this is not my gig. I wish it were. My grandfather has two glasses of red every single night at five pm. Without fail. And he is 101. Some people can just have the wine and call it a day. For me, I have the wine and I want more wine. Then the next day I want it again. And the ritual turns into a self talk garble and each day I get foggier and less clear about my purpose. The cobwebs re-enter at a slow barely noticeable pace until one day a few weeks in, I just don’t feel good. I feel imbalanced and emotionally unsteady. I find myself questioning my core. I never do this when I am not drinking alcohol. So I decided the day after my son’s 21st birthday, that I would apply the one day at a time mantra to giving up drinking today. My friends say, “are you drinking or not drinking?” Instead of the black and white yes or no, locking me into the corner,  I say instead, “I am not drinking today.”

Because this is true. Today is all I know. And what I know is that when I don’t drink alcohol I feel a sense of inner power and direction that allows me to get the creative juice ideas headed in the right direction at the speed of light. With no detours and dead ends. I feel good, great, better when I don’t drink. So I am not drinking today. And as life comes at me and the universe tells its story to me the way it is supposed to I come across the article yesterday about this “movement,” this new “thing” called elective sobriety because God forbid everything doesn’t have a branding possibility. Women are consciously not drinking alcohol and cutesy names are popping up all over the place. Mocktails. Soberinstagram. Sobercurious hashtags and websites and pop up gatherings are apparently now a trend. Because in our world we live in, everything seems to need to be something. But in this case, I wholeheartedly agree. Why do we feel the need to escape from our luscious brilliant selves? As Glinda the Good Witch said, “You’ve always had the power, my dear.”

The more we connect with our own true selves and learn who those selves really are, we march forth rather than stay stuck. Sometimes staying is stuck is necessary as it is part of the discovery process, but drinking for me keeps me there. Keeps my foot in the quicksand and the other foot trying to run ahead.

So for today anyway, I make my own mocktails, drink my hot tea by the fire and figure out ways to enjoy the festivities of holidays and gatherings without feeling the need to mute the edge. Because when my edge is sharp, it makes cutting a tomato way easier than trying to use a dull blade. I like the sharpness the gift of not drinking gives me. This alone is what makes the day be the next one and the one after that. So for today, I try again because I have always had the power.


This is the article I read that prompted this writing today. Great post. Thank you @Virginia Sole-Smith

https://elemental.medium.com/the-rise-of-elective-sobriety-8989550afbcb

life lessons

WE BELONG TOGETHER


“Weeeee Belong Together!” Ricki Lee Jones belted out from the fancy stereo in my silly yet stunning car I recently leased. I was headed to Connecticut on a very early morning this past week -so early that it was still dark out. The light mist caused me to use the windshield wipers and the defroster because April hasn’t gotten the memo yet that it is in fact Spring, not winter.

This was no game of chicken, you were aiming at your best friend,” she sang slowly to get to that luscious build up to the chorus of “Weeeee Belong Together!” She seemed to be in the seat next to me singing her brilliant prose. I feel like we grew up together as she was always one of my favorite female vocalists all of these years later.

And just like that I was seventeen. Driving in my beloved 63 VW bug, my first car purchase. Eighteen hundred dollars and I bought it without even test driving it. No parent along with me to help me with my purchase or to even guide me in whether it was a good idea to drive to the house of the owners with a pocket full of cash. My two dear friends, John and Andy were my chaperones. I was afraid to drive the car by myself for its first run so I made Andy drive it back for me. And now that I think of it, I don’t even think I asked my father who I was living with, kind of, if I could purchase it. This seems so unbelievable to me now that I reflect back, but that car was an introduction to life for me. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that my father who really didn’t have a clue on how to parent anyway wasn’t micromanaging this very helpful life experience.

And just like that, I was propelled back to 1982. My Christian Dior pale pink vintage gloved hands were on the steering wheel in the lightly drizzling nighttime. This time though Ricki Lee Jones was belting out “We Belong Together” from her new album, Pirates, on the cassette player I had installed as any respectable seventeen year old teenager with her first car would have. Pirates was the album after her first one with her famous song, Chuck E.’s in Love.

Windows fogging because for anyone who has a history with any Volkwagon bugs, Halfbacks, Hatchbacks or Vanagaons would know, the heat never worked and if it did it was full throttle on or off, no in between. A defroster would be the little fans you would have to buy at stores like Benny’s to attach to the dashboard hoping this would help you see out of the tiny windshield. I can still hear the puttering bubbling sounds of my beloved 63 Volkswagon driven on a very quiet North Rd in Jamestown, RI headed to my boyfriend’s house in the evening.

And it was one of those moments. One of those magical moments when everything worked. The car, the music, the weather, the smells, the sounds. And my life.

At seventeen for a brief moment in time, there was nothing better than that particular moment and I remember it like it was this moment. A perfect time travel back to that time as I made my way almost forty years later to Connecticut on a rainy Monday morning. I could almost smell it. I don’t know what made that moment so special for me, but the distinct memory of it has always stayed with me comforting me like the soft blanket you had when you were a little girl that you had to have to fall asleep easily.

Music can do this, sensory awareness, sounds, smells, tastes all can make it easy to time travel. As I reflect back on to that evening, I think it was my first experience of completely living in the present moment. Though I didn’t realize this at the time, I am sure that this was what made that particular evening so special to me all of these years later.

Ahhh that often unattainable PRESENT MOMENT we know we are all supposed to be striving for. Right? Oprah says it. Every guest she has on her Super Sunday says it. Deepak Chopra says this, Wayne Dyer used to say it before he left us. Eckhart Tolle says it. Podcasts, blogs everywhere I turn screaming the importance of LIVING IN THE PRESENT! Another task we are supposed to be striving for and improving on and checking off our lists.

What I know for myself to be true is that when I do manage to carve out just a few moments in the day to make an attempt to take on this call, I feel better. Way less anxious, worried, concerned and stressed. Consciously striving for this is no easy task in our busy lives especially as caregivers, business owners, parents and just humans. Living in the present is a practice– not a one and done check it off my list and move on to the next life goal on my quest for perpetual zen status.

Living in the Present is not compartmentalized into some neat little box ‘over there.’

It is about living in the moment while the moment is occurring. Using driving as a metaphor for this since this piece today features my 63 VW Bug, there are those moments in time when I am driving from point a to point b and when I get to my destination I have almost no memory of how I got there. Some call it absent minded driving, I like to call it driving while thinking too much.

When I was married to Dave, he wasn’t much of a talker and I was. I liked talking about feelings and working on improving but this wasn’t his way of marriage. Often times when I wanted to talk about something, he would go quiet and say, “I’m thinking!” And I would sigh with frustration and think “What is there to think about?” If I would bring the conversation up again at a later time, he would say, “Alayne, you think too much.”

This drove me bat shit crazy, but often in hindsight there was some wisdom in this. I do think too much at times though it serves me well many of these times, there are many times it does not. Being present is being here. Being nowhere and NOW HERE. All I know is that as I get older my goal is to feel good. When I am in the moment, I feel good. When I am fretting and worrying about the past and the future both of which I have no control over, I do not feel good and this is not good. For my health, for my mental and physical state. And for my ability to lead my team and be a great mom and a better human, I must choose to feel good as often as possible.

Perhaps this recent trip down memory lane with Ricki Lee in the passenger seat was a reminder of this. Goodness knows that I must be constantly reminded that I have choices in how I think and what I think. We all do. Our minds are powerful allies when we choose to use them for the good they offer.

Today is my second #noplanthursday so I am off to remember that WE BELONG TOGETHER is a great phrase for me and my present self. Together again.

this isn’t my exact car, but it looked almost like this one except mine was way more perfect.

life lessons

A RISING STAR

I started a second career this past month. Well rather an extension of a long glorious career in the business of beauty I get to lovingly call my career. This second endeavor is as a certified business coach for a company called Strategies. I have written a little about this new experience and like anything new, it has my attention. This is no small feat because for the many friends in my inner circle, they could likely attest to my short attention span. I am filled with one hit wonder ideas on a daily basis, lucky if one percent of them come to fruition.

I have a small barn in the back of my house, some people call it a she-shed. My ideas usually find their way into the barn as the centerpiece. Learning to make chocolate babka, I now want every person I know to experience the delight of this on their tongues, my co-conspirator in all barn ideas, Morgan, kindly and patiently rolls her eyes — and says, “Are we opening the Babka Barn?” Macaroni and cheese? Yes. The mac and cheese barn.

Then there is the Breathing Barn because now I am meditating every day so of course everyone needs to have this experience. Let’s move this to the barn! I haven’t even mentioned the typewriters, but of course that would be a perfect fit in the barn along with the writing barn and the art barn and the visionboard barn. See where I am going? Ideas flow at the speed of light in this entrepreneurial brain of mine. God forbid I have an idea and just keep it to myself, taking my own bath in its essence. Why I need to share every single experience with the world is beyond me, but I accept it as one of my personal core drivers. And as my grandfather says often, “Be that as it may.” And so it is. Never ends. One can see why I need to actively attempt a no plan Thursday. And my struggle with this idea too is that I want to make it a thing. I exhaust myself and likely people around me. Who cares though, I seize time like there isn’t any and it will likely be this way till the day I die.

I am taking this new career path as seriously as most people would when they start a new job. Reading the company manual from cover to cover, studying the material I need to inform myself with so I can pass my knowledge to someone needing to improve their business model and systems and going on the private Facebook accounts and making my comments to other like minded business owners. I may be a bit of an out of the box bohemian when it comes to life, but in working for another company, I respect their rules and regs and try to follow their suggestions for full throttle participation. Overachiever? Maybe. But more now that I am a grown up and much less inclined to do it to impress anyone other than my own work ethic and joy I get from this new experience of ‘employee.’ It is a major and joyous paradigm shift and frankly one I have the luxury of really wanting rather than really needing, A nice position to be in for sure.

This learning brings me back, though to the struggle with the overflowing social media and technology I have had for some time so much so that I — pre-Strategies- was on my merry way back to real paper address books and appointment calendars. This went out the window as soon as I had my first training week since everything is technology. Appointment making, scheduling, calendars, webinars, training, group texts, group emails- all technology. So I jumped back in and figured it would be a great addition to my knowledge base and here I am. If you can’t beat them, join them, I suppose. Kind of, but with caution and trepidation this time around. Back on Facebook daily posting questions about business to the thousands of people who are friends in this private group.

This is now a morning habit along with my while the coffee perks meditation and writing habit and I have surprisingly enjoyed this experience. Maybe because it has a beginning and an end. I only allow myself about twenty minutes to post the question and make my comments to others, then I am off Facebook. I didn’t put it back on my phone and this helps me not become addicted to checking the replies, likes, stars, hearts and whatever other symbols Facebook has created to turn humanity into Pavlov’s dogs.

Yesterday when I was making my post for the day, I noticed that I had a star next to my name. I scrolled through the other names and didn’t see any stars next to anyone else’s names. So I clicked on my name to learn that Facebook in all of its wisdom declared me “A RISING STAR.” Some algorithm has decided that my posts and the comments that follow make me worthy of this new symbol. I wasn’t asked if I wanted this next to my name, I guess Facebook just assumes that every user wants outward star recognition. They didn’t seem to think that before their label, I may have already thought I was a star, they also didn’t think that maybe a star next to my name would make me think of other stars next to people that don’t have such a positive vibe, like those yellow stars Jewish people were forced to wear to identify them. Maybe this is a stretch, but I have just read Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris after reading The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and yellow stars and labeling are fresh in my mind.

a poignant read

With anti-Semitism on the rise as close as eight miles away in Fall River, Mass the defiling of gravestones with appalling anti-Semitic phrases and symbols, I am thinking that less labeling is probably a better business strategy. Especially for a provocative and bold lovely bad ass Jewish chick like myself. Some people may be rolling their eyes at this assessment of this star next to my name on Facebook, and maybe it is an overreach, but the labeling of people without their consent or choice gives me the willies. Maybe I have watched too much Handmaid’s Tale, or have read too many books to keep what happened to so many Jews, Romas, gay men and women, disabled and anyone else who didn’t look or fit the part declared by a madman. This was less than eighty years ago and there are still people from this time in history who lived through it to talk about it. Less and less which is why I voraciously read and recommend books that take me back there. As sad and painful as it may be from the comfort of my heated house, packed refrigerator, Mercedes in my driveway and safe and comfortable life I lead, I refuse to take this life I lead for granted.

I am struck by the ease of which we have become used to accepting these little types of recognition as normal. And I don’t want to believe that any of these seemingly innocent Facebook recognitions could be laying the groundwork for some sinister plan, but the Holocaust didn’t happen in a blast. It was a slow and steady stream of propaganda and commentary. It was humankind never thinking that a mind could think the way the crazy man with a mustache and hatred in his heart who I refuse to name in my piece today could imagine. Little dribbles of hatred and labeling of anyone who was the OTHER.

So Facebook, Apple, Google, and all of the other big techs out there we have slowly let infiltrate our life, please think about your power and stop trying to tell me who I am and who I should be by labeling me with a star. I already know who I am and I have already risen.

self love

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Thirty years ago, when my former husband, Dave and I were in our pre-marriage engagement stage, we had a boat we kept in Newport. It was like a floating camper for us and gave us full access to the fun of Newport, RI in our mid-twenties. Drinking and walking, this is what we did. A lot.

It was on one of these excursions with too many margaritas in our bellies when we walked into the estate jewelry store where we had previously found my engagement ring. The store was owned by two women who were excellent salespeople. We walked in that day to say hello and in the meantime saw two incredible rings. One of the rings was a chunky blue topaz in the center oreo’d with a yellow citrine on each side of the topaz. It was a bold antique ring that I wasn’t quite ready for, but loved it just the same. The other ring was a small elegant row of amethysts on a simple gold band. I playfully (and drunkenly) tried them on, then took them off and we were on our merry way. Back to the boat for a dizzying sleep, but a safe one and this is a fond memory.

The next day or two, Dave came home with the amethyst ring as a surprise for me. This was who he was, a great gift giver and a kind soul and the further away I get from my marriage, the more I focus on these kindnesses rather than what didn’t work. I am enjoying the maturity of this and appreciate that I can focus on the good parts of the twenty years we were together as I grow older. There seem to be more good parts in these reflections backwards and I am grateful for this.

I am not sure what happened to the amethyst ring, but I wore it a lot. I loved this ring, but I have thought about the blue topaz with the yellow citrines often over the years thinking that maybe someday I would have one designed to replicate it. Thirty years later this ring must have had some superpower because I have continued to reminisce about its whereabouts. Maybe because the boldness of the ring is much more who I have developed into as a woman approaching my mid fifties.

Jewelry doesn’t usually have this type of impact on me, I am not a big jewelry person, but clearly this ring left its imprint. It very well could be the memory of its goodness in the early discovery years in a marriage. A young naïve couple filled with hope and dreams about a utopian future ahead. Then you get married and the future changes. Life comes at you and before you know it it is thirty years later and you are not sure how you got HERE. Births, deaths, floods, divorces, home purchases, moves, cancer, new boobs, and here I am.

HERE I AM.

I have found myself. I was lost, now I am found, just like the song says, but I didn’t even know I was lost. In fact Being Lost isn’t really a negative; lost has given me a chance to go looking for the place, the space, the road. To get THERE. To get HERE. Here is saying yes more. Not living in plans and too many appointments without making the appointment with myself too. Saying yes to a random dinner with a friend and making an impromptu date for the next day to wander through a local exhibit at a museum we had all been meaning to go to but when we got there the following day, we learned that we had missed it. Put it in the “I’ll get to it tomorrow” pile as we do with so many events that show up in our inboxes.

So we made the best of it and wandered to one of the stores we had been meaning to visit in our little town. It was a small antique, vintage mixed with new odd combination of sunglasses, jewelry, clothes and knick knacks. We had a great time and as I went to make my way out of the store, my eye caught a sparkly bauble in the case. It was a phenomenal ring, Bold. Big. Hearty. And it was blue topaz and yellow citrine, but reversed from the ring I started this story with. Citrine in the center, blue topaz on the outsides.

“Can I try this on?” I asked excited. I thought I saw the price tag say $144. This seemed reasonable for the beauty that stared back at me hoping eagerly to find its way onto my finger.

The owner hesitantly took it from the case and looked at the price several times before handing it to me. I could almost sense that he thought the ring may be mismarked.

When he finally gave it to me after what seemed like five minutes, and it slid on my right ring finger like it was home again, I asked him if the stone was yellow citrine.

“I don’t know.” he replied. “I was not here the day this arrived.” He looked a little concerned that I was actually going to purchase this ring after asking him the price and hearing him say $68.00.

I wasted no time and quickly ran to the ATM across the street (because he was not taking credit cards in this day and age, hard to believe). I bought the ring, slid it on my finger and realized that if I were to get married again, this would be my wedding ring. So I sent a text with a photo of the ring to my long term partner that read the following:

Michael, if we were to ever get married, I would want this to be my wedding ring, but since we are never getting married (because neither of us ever want to, FYI) I am marrying myself. So happy wedding day to me. And I really meant this. I felt like I made the decision with this full circle opposite ring on my finger to marry myself. I MARRY ME. The thing about Michael is he totally gets me and got this immediately. I am sure he is grateful he has a partner who mutually feels the same regarding marriage. We are committed. Together. This is plenty.

The funny thing about this is that when Dave and I were divorced, I always thought I would take my wedding ring and engagement ring and have them made into a new ring that I would wear on my middle finger and call it a FREEDOM Ring. I never got around to that. I loved my wedding ring and my engagement ring and I couldn’t bear to break it apart. And as much as our marriage didn’t stay put, I loved my experience of the good and the bad of marriage. It made me who I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I didn’t need a FREEDOM ring. I am free. Not because I am not married, because I do think that in a healthy relationship married or not, you can be free too. My freedom comes in the physical and mental layers I continue to shed along with layers of EGO that simply no longer serve. This is because of the work I have done and the life I have chosen.

This is a cause for celebration, this is a cause for a wedding.

To me. Till death do us part.

#imarryme

self love

THE RIGHT PATH

I did it. Finally. The other day I decided in my zesty thrilling ride I call my life, I have not been taking care of nurturing the spiritual side of me enough.

Deliberately. Wholeheartedly.

The thought entered my mind like a sharp cold blast of air as you step outside on that first winter day. The one that takes your breath away and makes your boogers freeze in a nanosecond. Yes. That type of blast. More importantly, I realized that my life and how I run it is ultimately my choice. And run it is what I have been doing. Running. From workout class to business class to team meetings and writing workshops and dinners out, running and more running. From and to without a lot of conscious thought in my movement. As soon as the consciousness entered me,

I went into my sparkly overbooked Google calendar and decisively blocked out every single Thursday from five am-nine pm for the rest of time.

DO NOT SCHEDULE ANYTHING, it reads in a bright wakeup yellow.

This running I have been doing is not anything bad. I mean, honestly, as I reread where I have been running, it hardly seems like going to a workout and dinner with friends is anything to feel overwhelmed about. It is just that sometimes quickly jotting down an appointment in a schedule as a one line entry doesn’t always translate into a one line event.

“Dinner with Morgan,” for example is not just a 6:00 timeslot. It is getting ready for dinner, going to dinner, eating and driving home. On a Google or Ical entry it looks like a brief appointment, but four hours later of a 24 hour day and four other entries like that on that same day and there isn’t much time left. What my point is here is that I have an active fun life because I thoroughly enjoy the choices I make, but in this whirlwind, I sometimes forget to turn it off, to wind it down and consciously STOP.

My brain is a busy one. For anyone reading my almost daily writings and seeing the time of day I post them, I am guessing there would be agreement with this. Even when I meditate, and though thankfully I have introduced this into my morning routine, it takes most of the meditation to wind down. And this is at five am! But I wouldn’t change it, I enjoy the busy-ness and the mental challenge of a brain on fire.

Podcasts get my brain really cooking. When I am in the car I often listen to them instead of music. Podcasts are like listening to the old school books on tape for those of you who haven’t discovered them yet. And as one might imagine, Oprah has a podcast. Her Supersoul Sundays on her OWN network are also podcasts and she has some fantastic guests. I believe that when I am on the right path and paying attention with full awareness, everything that is supposed to show up in my world shows up exactly when it is supposed to. This notion applies to podcasts too. So without even looking for the “right” one to listen to, I turned on my radio and Devon Franklin started speaking to me like he was sitting in the car next to me. He just wrote a book called, Produced by Faith and he got me thinking about my personal spirituality.

oprah-fied again.

What and where has my deliberate spiritual connection gone? I asked myself. I have been doing this exercise lately of paying attention to where the holes are in my daily life, almost like looking at a counter of glasses each marked with elements of my life. Financial. Physical. Spiritual. Social. Emotional. Relationships. Filling each of the glasses and seeing which ones need more water. This changes based on where I am. Sometimes one is more full or less full then the other. But it tells a good story of where there is room and where the cup overflows. My cup for spiritual devotion was on the low side.

When I say spiritual, I don’t mean going to synagogue to pray, though this could be part of it. I mean connecting with the divine, the one that speaks to me and walks with me. Purposefully in nature, at a museum, with a book at a library away from the NOISE that is in my head and out of my mouth.

Alone.

Do I even enjoy my own company? This is the spiritual question I asked myself as I listened to this podcast and found my way to more and more (or rather they found their way to me). This spiritual day off is not a day free to make plans with another chick, it is a purposeful day with the intention of no plans and going within My Self. Being with me, myself and I.  

Now because I am a wacky rules and regs chick, I really have to train by brain to consider this new endeavor. Saying there can be no rules is in some ways a rule. I am referring to my day as a no plan day. Turn off the phones, the computer, and stop working, like my own personal Sabbath Day. A true day of rest and devotion to my soul. And most importantly if it doesn’t go exactly as not planned planned, to not start the washing machine head of scolding and berating that happens when I don’t live up to my high expectations self. This is more a day of freedom from that. Permission granted to not feel the need to write blogs of encouragement, to not help other women see and feel their power because I know I can only have that strength if I take care of myself too. Just as we are instructed on a plane that if the “unlikely event of a crash, be sure to put your oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to put in on your child.” We must learn that in order to run we must also rest under the stars. Easier said than done.

On my first round this past Thursday,  I went to the gym and made my way to my partner’s house to take a shower. Before I even opened the car door, the sounds of my cardinal friend chirping was almost deafening. I got out of the car and looked up and there he was. Fiery red, the brightest cardinal I have seen, the first one of my season, solo up in the tree above me saying, YAY ALAYNE! TO THE LIGHT! And then he flew away singing his familiar tune.

A sign. Yes. So if you are trying to reach me and it happens to be a Thursday, I likely won’t get back to you until Friday. Don’t worry, I’m not lost, I am found.

On the right path indeed.

business

WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

There is a distinct momentum to running your own company with no partners, solo. Ups, downs, left, right, circles, squares, triangles, zany emotional rides. Dealing with employees, clients, work life balance, (whatever that is supposed to mean) all make you hyper aware of your strengths and your flaws. After all we are humans, and as much as I try to demonstrate excellence in my business to my team, I have floundered over the years as much as I have excelled. This is human nature and the nature of the beast I get to call running my own show.

How to stay motivated, how to keep a team motivated, how to keep clients wanting to come back to your established brand over and over again. The large companies have the same struggles as the small ones and like a puzzle that is all one color, sometimes it feels like the work will never be completed. There is no such thing as Set it and Forget it in running my own company. It is challenging and exhilarating in the same breath and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I often wonder if Apple had not ever invented the Iphone and the Ipad, would the Apple stores be full of curious people every day you walk by one. Mondays, Thursdays, I have never seen an empty Apple store, but as long as they keep innovating and shifting the way they approach their technology, our quest for new and exciting will keep us swiping our credit cards.

What keeps me excited is attending classes, developing leadership and service. Service has always been my personal driving force. To serve. Being in a service business makes it easy to sprinkle magic fairy dust on our clients and team. I feel privileged to serve. Every day I get to put my feet on the floor on the right side of the grass, I choose service. This is my why.

What is service anyway? And more important why? My why is the glory of establishing rapport with humanity by random acts of kindness. Sending a typewritten thank you note or a note at a most unexpected time, a phone call to check in with someone who doesn’t expect one, a simple thank you to a team member. Little specks of kind language that inspires and delights to get someone to smile because I smiled first. This is my why. And I ask Why Not? Kindness and service is such a simple contribution to a day otherwise encumbered with too much screen time and distractions further and further away from human interaction.

As I embark on yet another business adventure, getting certified as a business coach to help other businesses be successful, I am struck by the challenge to see what it feels like to be on the employee side of the coin and I am struck by the emotional zing it is giving me. Even though I am not officially an employee in the traditional sense, goodness knows I don’t need a second “job.” I still have to show up to meetings, trainings, classes with the serious dedication to someone else’s why. What I do understand wholeheartedly is that to truly be part of someone else’s team, you must buy into their why, otherwise it feels fraudulent. I am too grown up to work in any environment that is not in line with my own purpose and intention. Actually, I am fortunate to say that I have never worked in any place that I don’t agree with their core belief.

For the last twenty years though, I have only answered to the beat of my own vision and brand. Sure, I have a team I have had to be accountable to, but ultimately it is me and only me. This can be a lonely endeavor and twenty years later, I have surprised myself with the excitement I feel in having to show up and be present to someone else’s dream. This past two weeks of training and learning has awakened a part of me I didn’t know was sleeping. The interaction with like-minded business owners who decided they too needed an alternative way to lead and inspire has been a welcome guest in my otherwise party for one I have lived in as an independent business owner. The immediate camaraderie I have felt from this group of seasoned business owners who too needed a little wake up and interaction has inspired me in a way I hadn’t realized I missed. The idea of having to be quiet and learn someone else’s mission and vision and gingerly and patiently observe where and when to speak up, but not be a bull in a china closet is in itself the most challenging. I am used to doing my own thing, leading my own party and now to be on the receiving end is unique and most startling to this sassy entrepreneur. Add to this mix a leadership team of mostly men and the party changes significantly.

I have worked with twenty women for over twenty years. All of a sudden, I am thrust into a leadership tribe of five strong men and I am not exaggerating when I say that my female essence has had a bit of a shakeup. But a good one because I get to sprinkle some much needed female fairy dust in their world too (and they need it, trust me).

As I wake up each day sandwiching my excitement between morning full throttle to passing out at about 8:30 pm every night after a well-deserved bowl of Newport Creamery Peppermint Stick ice cream, I know my why. I know my company’s why and I know this new endeavor’s why. There is nothing more satisfying then purpose and intention in work. What is your why and do you know it like the air you breathe? If not, today is as good of a day as any to take a closer look. You may surprise yourself.

college, Women

THE FEMALE ASPECT TO THIS COLLEGE SCANDAL

The college scandal continues at every corner I have turned this past week since the story broke. With good reason, it is a dire and despicable example of what goes terribly wrong with too much money not used for the right reason. Despite the plane crashes, the school shootings and the massacre in New Zealand, these college scandals are still in front of us. This is serious business, this college outrage. It is indicative of the layers of entitlement and greed that is nothing new in our young country or world for that matter.

I have an old friend who is almost 97 at this point, walks every single day, lives on his own with his wife and still drives. He speaks the way an old Italian man who survived WWII gets away with. A few years back as we were walking, he said to me in regards to some scandal involving a politician whose name escapes me, “Anytime there is a scandal it is because of money or a woman.” I cracked up. Such an old-fashioned way to put it because I see it with a slight twist. The money and the women are more often the result of the behavior caused by the person causing it- usually a man and of course I said this aloud. It fell on deaf ears. He really didn’t see it this way at all. Now before you think this essay is headed towards some bra burning male bashing, let me assure you it is not. I love men, the good ones. And there are plenty of women who are as guilty of scandal and bad behavior. This is not male centric by any means. But his notion that scandals were because of the women not symptomatic is part of the reason I write today.

I remember reading The Scarlet Letter in high school and feeling so outraged that Hester had to walk around with the big A, not her lover who she protected with a vengeance. Sure the reverend’s identity wasn’t so obvious, but the female shaming was and continues to be so typical. The #Metoo movement finally brought some men out into the open for the parade that women have been walking for centuries and I think this may be progress? I put the question mark because I am not sure. We have had many feminist movements in the past century, yet we still struggle for equal pay, representation in our government and our boards. We still worry about our reproductive rights and our daughters’ safety if they choose to go out late at night alone. This is a universal problem- the double standard of our gender.

What I have found interesting in this recent college scandal is the female shaming. And we barely notice. Why is it that every news story features photos and names of the two actresses? Any story I have seen or heard says, “A list of people including two actresses.” Then their names, their photos, the photos of their children and the endless parade of their shame walk to and from court.

Where are the rest of the over thirty people and more involved? Why are their names not in the news? I am not protecting the two women and their children. Their example is an embarrassment to parenting, BUT so are the rest of them. If the news is not going to show the lists, the faces of the remaining, why should it just be the two women and their daughters? Women have been doing the walk of shame forever, what we wear, what we eat, how we choose our partners, our sex lives, how we have sex, the way we give birth, feed our children, choose to work or not work, constantly we are under the microscope in such different ways than our male counterparts. In the alanon meetings I have gone to for years, just like AA, the first step is awareness. Until we are even remotely aware of the imbalances that the media portrays us in, nothing will ever change. We women barely notice that there is an imbalance because we are just so friggin use to it, it is our norm.

I refuse to call out the actresses in this essay today until the media starts naming everyone, showing pictures of everyone involved, not just two women. I am not protecting them. All you need to do is google college scandal and see what shows up in the search. Two names, two faces over and over again. Once again, the media doesn’t get it right.

As a woman who takes care of women for a living, who employs almost twenty young women in a female centered business, I write today to remind us to start noticing. Just that first step in paying attention and having conversation about how much this happens. Ads that show women in the kitchen, at the washing machine, taking stains happily out of their children’s clothes with great big smiles, men cutting the grass with their John Deere mowers, fixing their cars, the media loves gender pigeon holing. I just turned 54 and in my lifetime I can recall the first time I saw an ad that showed a female doctor. The first time. What came first? Why aren’t we noticing? Our children are watching. This scandal is shocking and sad, but like all bad choices, there are strong lessons to be learned. Let’s start with simply learning that just showing the two female actresses over and over and not talking about the rest is part of the conversation we could be having with our children too. Teachable moments come in all forms. We are having more conversations about why the obvious is wrong, but there is an undercurrent of bias again that is also part of the conversation. Just google it and you will get my point.

college, Parenting

MORE COLLEGE PERSPECTIVE

“My mother made me take the SAT six times!” my son’s friend, Jake, announced almost four years ago in the back seat of the car I was driving. The backstory of this announcement was that our dear friend Jake was trying to get into Annapolis. His mom is one of the fiercest mama’s I know and if this was his goal, she was going to help make it happen. 

Getting into Annapolis is no joke. It is a huge accomplishment and with a lot of hard work, perseverance and incredible help (it takes a village for sure), Jake achieved his dream and is about to finish his second year. This is one instance where I don’t roll my eyes at the notion of a SAT repeat, repeat, repeat, you get the point. I mean, come on, ANNAPOLIS, is like Harvard except with many more layers of bad ass.

Meanwhile my son, who was finishing up his junior year of private high school, seemed to be taking the path of least resistance. His first run at his SAT was nothing to scream from the rooftops about, I think it was something in the low 1600’s. Considering his mother took her SATS back in the day perhaps a little on the high side, I mean it was the early eighties and I lived with my father who believed that a sixteen year old should figure herself out by her own errors and judgements. Hence the decision to be baked causing my score to be a number one would expect to see in the movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. More on that some other time.

The only reason our son went to private high school was because I used to volunteer in the lunch room of his public middle school. On more than one occasion, many of his teachers would come up to me and encourage me to allow him to go to one of the private high schools. We took the bait. Though I don’t regret it, I know he would have done excellent at our local high school. Michael is a smart young man. He makes good decisions, always has. He is the type of kid who people say things like, “He’s going to go places.” But he is also the type of kid who does what he needs to get by. He was not the type who would join every group and club because it would look good on his college application. He was also not the type of student that would take the SAT again just to get a better score hoping that the college of his dreams would accept him. I distinctly remember his saying this profound statement at his senior year when he was applying to the five schools expected of him by said private school, “If the only reason I don’t get into the college is because of my SAT scores, then the college is not for me.”

This type of comment from my son was not surprising to me. When he was around three, he was in a private home day care around the corner from our house. Often I would walk him in the stroller or maybe we walked, I can’t remember now, but he would refuse to put on his coat. For some reason, I went with it. “Ok, you don’t want to wear a coat, your choice.” And off we went. I was taking him to a house filled with mammas, and my son showing up with no coat on a brisk day could cause judgement and eye rolls, lots of potential tsk tsks. I was seldom the mom who got sucked into that vortex. I was usually an outlier type mom. My son knew his own body temperature. His dad never wore a coat, he ran hot always so I just guessed that my son had the same body heat. I think these small decisions as a parent over time allowed me to be more accepting of his laissez faire attitude when we got closer to the college application circus we found ourselves in.

A circus indeed. At the same time he was applying to college, I had decided to take some classes at our local private university. At the first and only class I took there, I was surrounded by mostly white kids, they looked mostly the same, most from New Jersey, New York or Connecticut. These kids were uninterested in the class, many of them texting while the instructor was offering valuable information. This university was almost 45k per year and these kids were ambivalent, entitled almost. I couldn’t take it. So off I went to Rhode Island College for some classes where I found a diverse population, many kids who were there for the price, or as first generation college attendees. These kids were hungry for learning and I am guessing many of them held full time jobs while trying to get through their classes. Impressive and I had a new found appreciation of our local state colleges and universities.

Meanwhile my son was getting acceptance letters from four of the five schools he applied to. He could have gone to an out of state school for an extra 25k more per year then our in state colleges, not counting the travel back and forth for holidays and every time there was a hurricane warning. But with his unique wisdom, he was not sucked into the bragging fest. He was and still is pragmatic and frugal. His father and I were offering him a free ride at University of RI because that was what we could afford so that he would be able to leave college debt free, if he chose this path. Should he have decided to go to the out of state program, he would have had to take on some loans, so much harder to start his young life with after graduation.

I met a professor from Brown one day who told me that she had a student who was a first generation college attendee who managed to get into Brown the old fashioned way, by actually applying and getting accepted on her merit. She also had to take on student loans that would make your head spin. At the time of graduation she was burdened with over 150K in tuition debt. It is shameful that our colleges are even allowing this. The pressure to get a job right out of school so that they can begin paying their debt down is catastrophic to our children’s futures and their creativity potential. For what? So they can for four years say they went to a fancy school? I am not saying that kids shouldn’t go to these other schools at all. If they can afford them, if their parents can afford them without taking on home equity loans and burdens of debt that make them have to work well past retirement.

Our son gets to leave college with no debt because he had two parents who work hard, saved money and offered him this final gift in his young life. Neither of his parents finished college. We learned trades. Skills. And this has done well by us. I have always said that college shouldn’t be the only directive for our children. We should be allowing them the freedom to discover what ignites their passion and SUPPORT it without feeling like they are failures.

When I dropped out of college and chose the path of esthetics, aka beauty school, I thought my grandparents who were like my parents, were going to kill me. They were not happy. But I persevered; after all it was my life, my money. My problem was the outside forces who try to make our kids feel bad if they decide to go a different path or choose a community college or state university because it is what they can afford. I say bravo every time I speak to one of my son’s friends who have chosen to go to Community College of RI for two years to save money. Of all of the choices, these are the smartest ones. NO DEBT, this is what we should be teaching our children. This is a way better gift then bribing their way into a prestigious university with a brand name.

I think it is time we look at what we are teaching our children by forcing them to choose college as the only path. I know that life is harder without a degree, but I also know that pigeon holing our children from the time they are in kindergarten to think that college is the end all, we are doing a major disservice to the creativity that lies within each of our children. We should be working harder to develop their passions, juices, their entrepreneurial spirits, their community activism. College isn’t for everyone and clearly with this latest scandal it shouldn’t be.

Michael and his friend Jacob way before college became the thing it became.