college, life lessons, motherhood

TIME WILL TELL

Preface: My son graduated from college last week. Needless to say most graduations during the time of Covid were a little less than desirable so we made the best of a crappy situation for our young ones headed off to the world. I found myself as the time approached saying, If my son’s greatest disappointment in life is not having a formal college graduation ceremony, I would say, he has led a pretty successful life. But as time came closer to the day, I think it was me who was filled with the disappointment. I like ceremony and pomp and circumstance, so I did find myself wallowing a bit. But like any pragmatist, I also found myself making the best of it and ultimately this is the example I set for my son as he watched me plan a social distancing party, albeit smaller than we would have wanted, but it just made for multiple parties instead.

Since my gift is usually writing and speaking, I, of course, wrote and spoke. I thought that it would be nice to share what I said. Some of it is personal in the sense that it is directed to him and so the people references, you as the reader may not know. I was going to change it, but I decided to leave it as is so you could read it and see where my heart was this past Sunday.

To all of the college grads out there who didn’t get to have the graduation they dreamed of, I am with you and this is for you too.

TIME WILL TELL

There are all of these hopes and dreams from the perch of our young lives as we think about the future of our older lives. And for those of us already here, past that dream state, with much more time behind us then time ahead of us, we have our never ending quotes and commentary to offer. 

And offer we do. 

We spew our words of wisdom without ever being asked for it, we offer our sage advice because we think it is helpful to impart our life experience to our little ghosts of Christmas past thinking they will be all too eager to learn from our own mistakes of our own Christmas pasts. 

I have written endless letters to my own son, read these letters at poignant and significant moments in time. One, entry into kindergarten, Ten, Bar Mitzvah, fifth grade graduation, entry into middle school, saying aloud, Dad and I are splitting up, graduation from middle school, entry into high school, saying aloud, I have breast cancer, Sixteen, Eighteen, graduating high school, entry into college, twenty one, and now here. College Graduation during Covid. 

I, like so many parents and grandparents I know, have had a lot to say. And I still do. This is the free pass of parenting. A permission slip to embark on my own personal sculpting of another human being. 

As much as I have thought of myself as an expert teacher simply due to my own personal past life goods and bads, only time will tell. There is so much more to parenting than just quotes and commentaries. 

There is so much more to being a good parent and mother than baking chocolate chip cookies after school and volunteering as room mom. There are many great moms and parents who have done all of these things, but end up with fucked up children. Then there are parents who do none of these things and end up with amazing humbled children. Is it luck of the draw?

There is no set in stone equation for ending up with a great human. Nature versus nurture surely is an age old consideration. But none of it matters after. We can all have the best of intentions and the only part that matters is the end result.

Have we raised a kind and considerate person who will instinctively be kind and considerate because of our examples we anointed them with so they had a jumping off point? 

Time does tell. Because at twenty two years old, watching my son navigate through his mostly privileged life, I can say with a resounding yes, that my former husband and I raised a great man who has his life ahead of him in the way young parents get to dream of. 

I watch young parents walk by my house all day long when I sit on the front porch writing. They are so sweet, checking on the baby in the carriage, looking so hopeful and protective, trying to look like they have a plan that will be carried out just as they imagine. 

I know with certainty that they can plan all they want and I would never suggest taking that hope away from their lives, but there are so many possibilities to shake up that plan and all we can do is our best. 

Our best every day is a big commandment because the truth be told, sometimes I didn’t feel like being a mom or a parent. Sometimes I just wanted to go to the beach by myself and smoke pot and go out drinking and not have to worry about taking care of a little one. Sometimes the calling to freedom was so great that I prayed no one could read my mind lest anyone thinks I was a bad mother. But those moments were really rare. 

I loved being a mom and a parent. And for the most part I think I was a good enough one mainly because my intention was secure and it matched the love in my heart. This is the best anyone could do. 

I had it easy with you, Michael. You seemed to be born good. I thought I was going to have a hippy son who had long hair and played the guitar. I thought I was going to have a son who wanted to travel instead of getting a job right out of school. But, much to your joy, I didn’t name you Ocean, I named you after the other love of my life, my brother, your Uncle Michael, so your destiny was determined. Goodness. Intelligent. Loving. Kind. Saavy. And incredibly Pragmatic. 

I like to think that you got the best of all of the best. The linear mathematical brain and intense love of sports of Dad and Grandpa Bill. The permission to easily cry as a man from Grandpa Manny,  the pragmatism and fiscal responsibility of Herbie, the problem solving and personal responsibility of Isabelle, the entrepreneurial spirit of Grandpa Dave, the joy of cooking of Grandma Sandy, Grandma Kitsie and Grandma Ann, the love of the Red Sox from Aunt Kiley and the love of animals from Kiley and of course Aunt Peggy. 

Of course from me, the love of travel and the curiosity of life, humility and kindness and charitability, business acumen, asking questions endlessly and knowing that I have always been a safe space for you to be with. 

The essence of my brother, your uncle Michael you never got to meet, but I have known on the deepest most spiritual level, he has walked with you for your entire life. This has given me the greatest of comfort for the past twenty two years on this planet. Michael walks with you, carries you sometimes, and has guided you along on this road to now.

As much as these people have influenced you, you have equally influenced them simply by your presence. And this is one of the best benefits of parenting, coming to the realization that your child teaches you as much as you teach him. I would say this is the greatest gift of parenting. 

I have said that my little successes of checking off my I did a good job parenting list have been some of those milestones- Bar Mitzvah, getting you to Israel and seeing the world with our dear friends, the Madsens, paying for private high school and getting you through college with no debt, buying you your first real car so you have wheels to not worry about as you start your life. This to me all has the value of the best graduation gift for sure.

But it is with no accident that the time that does tell is the bookend of your most significant graduation gift. The passing of a torch so to speak but not in the way life would normally dictate and this is the beauty of the gift. Neat little plans of how things should be are often not how they end up. 

A father should pass on sentimental gifts to his son and then that gift should head to the next generation, but we know now that this is not how our lives have unfolded. 

Uncle Michael died much too young, but before all of that, he was a young vibrant and incredibly fit young man. He at twenty two had a lovely girlfriend named Eva whom he lived with. They bought matching watches that were probably more expensive than they could afford, but he loved this watch as they both loved to dive and this watch was for diving. 

Little did he know that three short years later, he would be passing it on a generation up not down, so the watch went to Grandpa Dave. Then after he died, the watch made its way back to me where it has sat for the past nine years trying to figure out a safe way to have it repaired. 

As luck would have it, at the anniversary of Grandpa Dave’s death, I heard of a place in Newport that repaired Tag watches. It also happened to be in Brick Market one of the first places I remember Grandma Ann and Grandpa Dave looking at when they were moving to Jamestown. 

As you likely imagine, I like the neatness of this. So I brought the watch to Saltzmans and they made it like new. And now on this day, the 24th of May which by the way the numbers add up to 11, I get to pass this beloved gift to you on your graduation day. 

Three generations of Horowitz men, even though you are technically a White, you are also a Horowitz, the Jewish part of you that will bring with you on your long path ahead traditions like this and culture, and intellectual curiosity that is an inherent part of your birthright. Who is left of the Horowitz men is the bookend, ironically of the eldest patriarch, Herbie at 102 and you, the great grandson. The in-betweens have passed on and passed themselves on through you. 

I know you love me deeply, Michael White, but the intensity of my love for you as a human is something that makes me feel like my life has been worthy of my beating heart. 

I love you so much and am so incredibly proud of you. Time has told and time will continue to tell in your core being as a man and now on your wrist as you march forth towards the future.

business, Health, life lessons

THIS IS NOT A STAYCATION

Five weeks ago, while I was lounging comfortably on the white sands of Siesta Key visiting my beloved grandfather, my manager was sending me what seemed like moment to moment text messages about what was unfolding in her home country of France. I didn’t quite roll my eyes, but in full transparency, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and I am confident I said this to her. 

 This was the last week of February. 

Twelve days later, two of my favorite yoga studios close by voluntarily closing their businesses. My initial knee jerk thought was, are they overreacting? I didn’t say this aloud, but I thought it. It was the week of March 11th . My team was looking for me to make a decision. After much discussion, we decided to take on the role of a respite from the outside mayhem. 

We would sanitize, keep clients at reasonable distance, and clean clean clean. Clients needed us. They needed our business to wind down, to relieve stress from the outside world. We would be of service.  Just like we always were in times of grief and sadness of what was going on out there.

Meanwhile, my dear friend from Madrid, began giving me her daily updates. News of Italy dominated the news. We marched forth. After all, if it were really that bad, wouldn’t the leadership of our country or our state be giving more clear and concise direction? One week later, as my 55th birthday fast approached, three weeks ago today, I went out with my girlfriends to day drink to drink our woes away. The news in Europe was dismal. California and Washington State was showing signs of demise. So we did what we do, soothed our worries with some local faire. That night, I went out to dinner with some clients, then out again for some dancing and more drinking. After all it was my birthday weekend. 

On Saturday, I woke up with a terrible feeling that was more than too much wine. Information had changed overnight. It was March 14th. I reached out to my former breast surgeon who is also a great friend and asked her opinion. She forwarded me a letter written by a Boston doctor and I immediately did a 360 degree flip in my thinking. 

We needed to close. But it shoud have been in hind site.

This was not mandated by anyone. This was the decision of collective leadership. Searching for more information, listening to my team, and taking action with the most difficult business choice of my life. It is not easy to close your business not just because of the loss, but of the economics of each woman I employ. Heart wrenching. 

At the time, and it seems like a billion years ago now, we had decided to close for just two weeks. March 16th-March 28th. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the naivety of this with the now unfortunate wisdom of retrospect. I did a self imposed two week quarantine because of my Friday night shenanigans. I had already taken my son shopping for a two week supply of food, more because I wanted to spend time with him for my birthday weekend and since discussion of toilet paper shortages was starting to seep into our brainwaves, I did what most mothers I know would do- stock up. 

Little did I know that just three weeks later, we would be living in what seems like Armageddon. I have watched my business and every other business in my community close, but as I reflect back on the week we closed, when I started my personal mission to tell every beauty business I knew in the country to #stayhome, I am happy that I was ahead of the curve. I am even happier that I got my team of twenty out of harms way. I am glad we didn’t expose our thousands of clients and vice versa. We did our part as responsible business owners. 

Business ownership, when I first started, felt a bit like playing store. But with more and more experience, I realized the depth of seriousness business owning is. Money and economics are certainly a major part of owning your own business. This isn’t a hobby, but it has never been my personal driver.  If I really cared about this as my main priority, I would be a better money manager. I have just never been directed by this. But the fact of the matter is, in order for your business to work, you must have cash. Closing ceases this unless you can come up with something creative fast. 

 I saw the challenges we faced as a country in our struggles with the need for economics. I saw people in the service industry not make the decision because of money and because they chose a different business model that would offer no protection to their “employees” or independent contractors, their decision to stay open was misguided. This has come back to hurt our economy more than we ever thought possible. At least in my situation, my team can collect unemployment because I have paid into it for over twenty years barely using it. This is responsible business ownership, yes expensive, but now as a country we can see the ramifications of under the table and 1099 business models. More on that later.

Information during this unusual time is free for the taking. Yes, it can be confusing, but if you read the paper, and watch the news even in the smallest snippets, you are informed. As business leaders, it is imperative that we stay informed and do not solely rely on our government to make business decisions for us. In this case we all had the information to make informed decisions the first week of March at a minimum. Yet here we are, with certain states seeming to just get the memo (Georgia, Florida, Alabama to name three, instantly) missing a window of opportunity to stave off this horrible disaster. 

In my need to get fresh air, I have seen troves of people at parks and out and about not adhering to the recommendations causing our state Governor, powerhouse ball of Italian fire, Gina Raimondo to have to tell us like we are kindergartners to KNOCK IT OFF as she has tried to give her state residents the benefit of acting like grownups and adhering to the advice. 

We have missed the window. We should have started self imposed quarantines the first week of March at least. We didn’t. Those extra two weeks are going to set us back for months if not quarters. I have spoken to the plethora of women I am privileged to know who continue to tell me that their kids are getting invited to gatherings while school is now virtual. These families are smart and educated proving that a college degree doesn’t always equal common sense. 

I had a meeting with my team, as I have been trying to keep this all as communicative as possible, to begin getting them to wrap their head around at least a three month closure. The fact is, though, that with half the population not following the advice of our heath care organizations, we will be lucky to get back to our work in three months. 

This is beyond staying home now. It is a stark realization that we have a country filled with people who are so distracted, that the thought of being “stuck” inside their homes for two weeks is worse than taking the risk and risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. Ou health care workers, our police and firefighters, our prison guards, our food bank volunteers and first responders need us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. This is not about an individual’s tolerance level of home confinement. This is chump change compared to the amount of people who will be forced to die at home, alone. 

This shit is real and it is about time we come together as a country and make a decision collectively to STAYHOME. We are individual states with each of their own chiefs and cheiftresses, but for this global health and economic disaster we need to take charge of our own humanity, put on our grownup pants and not wait for anyone to make another decision for us. We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Lets take our call to action by the name of our country verbatim. Let’s unite and do the right thing. It is not forever, but it could be if we do not act UNITED. You have enough toilet paper by now. 

#Stayhome.

life lessons, NATURE

THE IRONY OF SOCIAL DISTANCING

“Are you bored?” My mother asked me yesterday.
“No not really, I spent the previous day deep cleaning my kitchen and it took me seven hours.” (Cleaning my house is not something I have done on a regular basis).
“Cleaning for Passover?”she asked.
“Passover for one, hardly,” I replied.
“You aren’t having Passover?” She asked with a tinge of that old school Jewish guilt I haven’t heard for a long time.
“No Mom, this shit is real up here in the North,” I said with a tone of churlishness I tried to mask. My mother lives in Alabama and based on some of the history down there, the present governor hadn’t seemed to be taking this situation as serious as her northern counterparts.
“They just closed the malls yesterday,” she said. I am having Passover here.” She then proceeded to list the couples of friends coming to her house.

O.M.G. I thought. My mother is an intelligent woman. She is as liberal as they come, despite the fact she lives in a very conservative state with many ultra conservative friends. Yet, in just two weeks, in her mind anyway, she is forging ahead with a Passover seder. We are never going to recover from this pandemic if this is what is happening in the homes across America. Passover and Easter right around the corner, are people really digging their heels in and not heeding the severity of the warnings?

I have gone outside on some bike rides and walks, keeping my distance, or at least trying to, and I have noticed hundreds of people out, some attempting the distancing like my partner and me, and others lying in the grass making out, having family picnics, playing frisbee like it is a summer vacation.

We have missed our two week window to help flatten the curve and despite the warnings, despite the obvious problems in Europe reported daily, not enough people chose to #stayhome. Intelligent people who read the news who see what is going on have decided that because our government has not said the magic words, Shelter in, perhaps it isn’t that bad. The irony of this is that these are likely the same people who would dig their heels in if the government did say to stay home, refusing to be told to do anything. The live free or die mentality that is America is never more true than it is right now.

Die. We may. Especially if you are over seventy like my mother and all of her retired friends.

It has been two weeks since I closed my business and decided, after a Friday night out of dancing and partying before this new world started, that I would self impose a two week quarantine. Two weeks today. Though my self quarantine has ended in theory, it really has just begun as our world and our country spins out of control

Bored is not a word that enters my vocabulary. Ever. I am an active and energetic woman. On the go, thousands of ideas, mover and shaker, perpetual motion. Bored is not really a word that comes to my mind. There is so much life to live- even during this During Covid. time. — D.C.
I find myself with more time than I could have ever dreamed I would have. In all fairness, I have no little ones, I have no husband, I don’t even have a pet. My son is safely at his home this last semester of his senior college life with plenty of food and not too far away. I have a partner, but we don’t live together. My work is closed, my team is safe. I am not an essential worker.

I have a lot of time. I have a lot of time alone, but I am never alone. The irony of social distancing is that I have felt more social than ever. And I am an incredibly social person. The obvious lack during this time is the face to face close talking, lots of hugging contact I am used to, but taking this off the table there is a unique consciousness that has been happening. A deliberate charge to connect.

There have been the usual phone or texts and this has remained a constant, but now, added to it, are the face time calls, the Zoom get togethers and team meetings, the creation of Facebook groups that just a month ago I would have never considered. Connection during this time of unprecedented forced social distancing has turned out to be fuller than I could have ever anticipated.

Just in the time I have been writing this, I have been invited to a virtual surprise party for a ten year old girl I would have never been asked to just a month ago. I taught my 102 year old grandfather how to get on Zoom and we have had two cocktail parties with some of my favorite friends along for the ride. I have been asked to teach a virtual writing class and a virtual expressive arts class. The amount of exercise I have added to my daily routine is unprecedented because there is so much time during the day. Social distancing has brought many friends and families closer together in ways no one could have predicted.

I have written endlessly about my struggle with social media over the years, but in this unique situation, I have found it to be a helpful experience. I am not suggesting that I want this to continue endlessly, but connecting with people I care about, being a voice in the community of good, taking a stand on #stayhome and saying it aloud as often as possible.

Besides this fake social connecting, the real life nature connecting has been a surprise addition. My grandmother had two neighbors, sisters, who lived together for their entire lives. When they were well into their eighties, I went to visit them and noticed many bird feeders in their yard. When I asked them about them, Ethel, one of the sisters, said she sits in the yard and watches them. At the time, my son couldn’t have been more than six years old; the notion of sitting outside and just watching birds feed at the feeders was a foreign idea to this busy thirty something.

Now with all of this time, I find myself sitting by the window and watching the magic unfold. A fox family, cardinals singing, and as I was writing this piece this morning, I watched two ducks fly by my window and land in my yard for a spell. I have never seen ducks in my yard. Maybe they are discombobulated too.

I know this life I speak of is not the same for many, domestic abuse is on the rise, the elderly are in even a more vulnerable situation and the health care workers and first responders do not have this luxury I speak of. But even for my mama friends and team members who have little ones, each time I speak with them, they are outside with their kids playing, building forts, cooking and baking together, making the best out of this bizarre situation. The irony seems that the best is some of what is coming out of this.

We are in the midst of what I am calling a global course correction and it is invoking time together in a way we had previously forgotten in our quest for more. And our failure to notice how much disconnection there has been.

As I write this, it it two weeks today that I closed my company. My signage and my emails said, Closing for two weeks until March 28th. I changed the signs yesterday to Closed until it is safe to reopen. I have no idea when this will be. Some of my salon counterparts are giving dates. I am not willing to do this right now because frankly, I can’t imagine that we will be open anytime soon. I am in the business of touch and though I know we will all crave physical touch beyond belief, will we ever feel one hundred percent safe with this type of touch again?

A strange predicament, but without feeling overwhelmed I instead will choose to stay present to the moment, looking out my window staring at the nature that the divine provides on a moment to moment basis.
This is a curious experience in our lives and our children’s lives. We will never be the same for sure, but I would like to think that words like appreciation, love, connection and gratitude our words that will become our go to words for generations to come.

We may be past the point of new return, but as March comes to a close, so does the mixed weather. As bouts of warm weather approach with April, so do the vast numbers of people choosing not to listen to the warnings and heading outside like it is a perpetual vacation.

We have a long strange trip ahead of us as a country. I hope the country comes together and pays attention as a nationwide community. We may have separate states, but they are not separate countries. Now more than ever we must remember that we are called THE UNITED STATES for a reason.

Watch the birds. Bake some cakes, Have a virtual Easter and Passover and PLEASE #STAYHOME. #tellallyourfriends.

business, life lessons

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED AS OF DAY 5

I sat at my computer yesterday looking at my payroll expense account knowing that this would be the last payroll for some time. I took a deep breath and pressed the send button. This was the final major part of my business activity I would be doing since no money is coming in now and this was the last big expense. The action was saying, finally after 5 days of mayhem, holy shit, this is real.

I am a fixer. Chaos and I get along just fine. When things are going right, I get bored easily. I like to solve problems and help people solve problems. This is why I am so active with writing and on social media right now. I am in all hands on deck mode. How can I help? How can I serve? This has always been my driving force of small business owning. I never stop because of my love for small business and its ability to take action on so many levels beyonf the day to day operations. For my little business, I have a big payroll. This one is on the smaller size because to conserve money, I chose to not pay myself. I include the amount so any non business owners out there can see the impact of what just one business closing will be haivng. This is real.

The only thing that is keeping me going is that we are all going through this together.

Continuing on with my day to day of the shut downs, thinking that this would be helpful. Take what you need and leave the rest.

There are lots of “little,” seemingly insignificant charges, we small business owners, who wear every hat imaginable, incur on the day to day month to month operations of our companies.

A two week shut down is a stark difference to a two month shut down, but I was raised as a pragmatist, so I err on the longer shut down of my business then a shorter one. The realist in me says that as much as people may WANT a spa service when we come out on the other side of this, my business may not be their first call. Hair color, Waxing, Haircut, facial, lash extensions maybe not so much, in that order. I am guessing this all, but I am a planner and I am basing my thinking on human nature. I hope I am wrong.

DAY 5

Here is what has happened and my additions to the check list. I am capitalizing the first few since they are of utmost importance.

GET YOURSELF A NOTEBOOK AND BEGIN DOCUMENTING EVERY CALL EVERY DATE, EVERY TIME AND WHO YOU SPOKE TO. Keep the name of the company and the phone number in one place according to the date. You will need good records, this will save you a lot of time later.

CREATE A FILE IN YOUR EMAIL TO MOVE EVERY EMAIL EXCHANGE BETWEEN INSURANCE UNEMPLOYMENT, INTERACTIONS, REFUNDS, CREDITS ETC and as the emails come in just move them to the file to find easily later. When later comes. And later will come.

THIS IS NEW FOR EVERYONE. STAY KIND AND PATIENT. OFFER SUGGESTIONS TO SOME OF THESE COMPANIES WHO ARE NOT ON THE FRONT LINE OF THE BRICK AND MORTAR BUSINESS MODELS LIKE WE ARE. They are open to suggestions. This may surprise you, but this is only week one for them too. My suggestion was to create a checklist for their accounts and send them out to stay ahead of the panic. Don’t freak out- we are all in the same boat. 

THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO ORGANIZE ALL OF YOUR PASSWORDS, ACCOUNT NUMBERS, LOGINS IN ONE PLACE. You will be needing them and the more orderly you can keep everything, the calmer you will be the longer this goes on.

CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: If you are trying to cancel those pesky monthly charges that happen with or without business have your MERCHANT ID and your BUSINESS TAX ID handy. Keep it handy because you will be asked for this over and over.

They are on the receiving end of our panicked calls. We are chump change compared to the restaurant businesses that have alcohol instead of haircuts or candles to sell. I called mine and after one hour this is what I learned to ask for. 

Salon Software told me to call Gateway company- in my case it was Salon Biz + PaySimple. I called Paysimple they told me to call the credit card company, WORLD PAY. World Pay told me I needed to call Paysimple. YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS WAS HEADED. Here is what I learned. You can ask for a cancelation or a temporary suspension or a seasonal suspension. In PaySimple’s case, it was a cancelation. I will have 6 months from the date I canceled to reactivate or I will need to close and then reopen the account. I chose this as my option. The fees aren’t a lot but with no money coming in, 15.95 per month per location adds up over time. Right along with Pandora, Apple Music etc. Pick and choose your battles. I am being fiscally ultra conservative so that I have a business when we do reopen. 

This process start to finish took from 9:30am-10:38 am, over an hour. I ope this will save you some time. Many of us small business owners don’t even know how much extra we pay PER MONTH in addition to the fees PER TRANSACTION. Time to rise and shine, my beautiful small business owners!

If you have a separate credit card account for ECOMMERCE like I do, I didn’t cancel this. Just double check what you have and make decisions accordingly. 

SBA DISASTER RELIEF LOAN: Yes, taking out loans sucks. But I still say, fill out the paperwork anyway. Don’t do it on your phone. Sit down with your tax returns from last year or this year and have your debts, company names of mortgages and any other outstanding debt information at your side. It will take some time to fill out the form. You can save it and return to it later if it boots you out like it did me 3 times yesterday. I just turned it off, and am headed back to it today. Here is the website: spa.disasterloan.gov

My thinking is to get in the system so if I need it, I have the paperwork done. I hope I don’t need it. I hope none of us do. 

BUSINESS PHONE+INTERNET+SOFTWARE etc. I am in wait and see mode here. I reached out to them to see what their thoughts are and they are not ready to make decisions yet so I will revisit this next week. 

TEAM: Check in with your team. See if they need anything. Check to see if they received the unemployment confirmation. Send them a checklist that you have found helpful in your personal life. Set up a company zoom meeting so you can stay in touch. Not now, but keep this in mind as this situation progresses. Especially single moms, or moms home with their kids 24/7 for the first time. Work outside the home can be a very important outlet and identity for moms, this is a big shift for them.  A call, an email, a group text, letting them know you care during this craziness. You need them and they need you. The bonding between leaders and their employees shine the brightest in times of turmoil.

LEADERSHIP: Owning a business is easy when everything is going great. When the shit hits the fan like it is globally right now, we must take action. Make difficult decisions. This is not a popularity contest. Leadership is what you do when the going gets tough. It is the hardest job and this is a test of our ability under pressure. Not everyone is going to like your decisions, but this is a great thing too because it separates the people who you want as part of your continued tribe when and if you do reopen. This is a traumatic event. Ration your news feed. Put some music on. Light a candle. Call a neighbor and set the example by staying home. Encourage your team to stay home. Encourage your friend’s kids to stay home. Be a big voice in your business community. This is how we help.

SOCIAL MEDIA: I am in a lot of Business Facebook groups because I enjoy helping people. If the information you are reading is helpful then by all means share it, if it is causing you more worry and fear, then turn off your notifications and take a long bath, or a shower or make brownies with your kids. Don’t get sucked into the vortex. We need to keep our immunity up and strong during this time and health is priority number 1- physical and mental, spiritual too.

EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH: Health is of utmost importance. If you are a gym person, and you don’t have access to it, you already know there is a plethora of videos and apps to keep moving even if you can’t get to the gym. For those of you who have been meaning to get to the gym and find yourselves hanging out on the couch more than ever- start small. 1 jumping jack, 1 ten second plank,  1 sit up,  1 deep breath. The next day try to add one more and keep adding until the end of the month. It is amazing how quickly these small additions can become easier and more important keep you sane. We have the time now. Take lots of deep breaths, write, draw, jump up and down, use your stairs, write letters to people instead of texts and emails. Keep moving. You need your health and you need your mind. 

TO BE CONTINUED, my friends. Stay safe. #Stayhome. #wewillgethroughthis.

business, Health, life lessons

THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

March 14th will go down in history as one of the most tumultuous days in my already busy brain. In the morning, I was comfortable with my decision to keep my business open, mistakenly thinking that I was providing a “respite” from the outside world. After all we in the beauty business of touch are not large gathering crowds. 

But as the day went on and I spoke directly with a dear doctor friend who is soon to be on the front lines of this pandemic, I learned much more. I read a detailed and very concise letter written by an esteemed professional doctor and that changed my mind. 

I closed my business voluntarily yesterday at 5:00pm after painful and deep consideration.What I have seen and heard is the next two weeks is the most critical. I didn’t realize this as I made my way out with the masses on Friday to party before my birthday weekend. I didn’t think about the seriousness of the next two weeks. Like the masses of people who decided to head out to the bars in Newport and Boston yesterday to celebrate the no parade St. Patrick’s Day, I was foolish. 

I am no longer foolish.

Our leadership, federal and state, doesn’t seem to want to say. CLOSE YOUR BUSINESS. Why would anyone want to say this? It is economic suicide not just for business, but for the people we employ. The Federal level has taken action to make it more streamlined for emergency money to help compensate the people we have to layoff for fourteen days. But no one is talking about the impact that my type of business has in the country. Spas, hair salons, nail salons, gyms, yoga studios, wellness- we are all touching people in the most intimate areas every day. We are then going home to our families, to the market, to restaurants. 

In my opinion, now that I know what I know, I would rather voluntarily close for two weeks and ask my team to self quarantine for that time, to help prevent what is happening in Italy and the rest of Europe. This is not a two week vacation. This is a time to self quarantine because the likelihood of exposure is the highest right now. We in the beauty and wellness businesses have likely already been exposed. I am not one to freak out. I usually weigh with much consideration the pros and cons when it comes to making these difficult decisions.

Europe is our countries Ghost of Christmas Future right now. I hope I am wrong and that my colleagues can laugh and point a finger at my for being “overreactive” a month from now. I am willing to take the laugh. Closing my business yesterday was the hardest decision I have ever had to make as a leader in my company and in my community. I am still in shock. My team is in shock. This is no joke.

But at this point, I do feel that it is each of everyone of our civic responsibility to voluntarily make these hard decisions. Hands down- our state leaders should be speaking about the beauty business, one of touch, and finally stop ignoring what a major part of the economy beauty and wellness provides for the citizens of our country.

For my colleagues out there, please voluntarily close. Self quarantine for two weeks and ask your team members to do the same. We are all in this together and if we set the tone for what the right thing to do is, we will be better as a community a month from now. 

Running a business is a day to day tricky business. We must make rough and tough decisions and in this case, we must not be making them from our pocketbooks. I know it is scary to think that income will cease for two weeks or more, but these are all great lessons in our lives to re think what we have, what we need and how we operate when we do get to open again. 

My friend said that he is hoping for a V upturn. Quick dip, quick return. Imagine when we all come out of our homes after this madness, the way the trees and the light will seem. The first delicious meal at our favorite restaurant will taste, the first workout at your gym or that glorious facial at your favorite spa. In the darkness when it seems like light is absent, that little spark of brightness means so much more. I am confident that we will see a business boom like we have never experienced when we get through this. This is not forever. 

For those of you out there who think some of this maybe hype, or politicization, I for one thought this a bit too last week, but when we see France close its restaurants and bars, when airports are closing and borders are closing, I would rather err on the side of caution. The glory of our free country is that we get to make our own decisions, but this is unprecedented and as a community, we have an opportunity to speak up and do our civic duty.

Please voluntarily close your business. Our communities are in prevention mode. Two weeks now could prevent three months later and we have the capability to take action now. I hope we can come together and support each other during this time and I thank you for considering this. And I am sorry to freak you out. I have attached the letter below so you can make an informed decision too.

https://www.alaynewhite.com/closing-update.html

life lessons, travel

WITHOUT A CAMERA

Sneakers and socks, fully sprayed and lotioned with the appropriate amount of sunscreen. Sweatpants on my bottom half and my go to throw on (probably should throw out) black cotton sundress I have been wearing for at least ten years to the beach, I made my way to my predictable beach spot. Barely a whisper of a cloud in the otherwise clear as a bell ‘blue true dream of sky’ topped off the shimmering white granite sand and the adjectives can’t control themselves in my brain trying to describe the feelings of this perfect Florida  March 1st beach day. If my friends were with me, they too would proclaim this as an almost ten beach day, but they are not as they are freezing their asses off in the 19 degree temperatures appropriate for an otherwise mild and uneventful Rhode Island winter. .

Heading out, cooler packed with an inordinate amount of food, making my way to the beach at the glorious hour of 8:30 am to get a power walk in before I settled down with what would soon be my fourth book of the week. Usually I go for a walk barefoot on the white granite crystals that aren’t really sand and never get hot allowing for bare feet on the hottest of days, but are also really cold on a cool day. Sneakered feet on the shoreline make for good traction and my plan was to walk a good four miles at a minimum. 

The beach is part of my life story. I write about it and from it often. The beach is my most grounding environment- maybe due to my Pisces water sign. For every place I have traveled culturally, the beach is the place that absolutely calms and settles my spirit, my body, heart, and very busy brain. 

The people dynamic at the beach is like looking at a segment of mostly white people in humanity’s fish bowl. Couples, families, grandparents fawning over their grandchildren, newly retired married people , it seems at first glance like this slice of the people on Siesta Key today are truly living the idea of the ‘American Dream’ of yesteryear, at least this is what the retirement ads show if you prepared like you were supposed to. 

Go to school, get a job, work hard, buy a house, maybe marry, save, buy a second home, ease into retirement gracefully, one golf game at a time. That’s what it looks like down here, anyway from my perch on the beach— from the outside anyway. Underneath it all are likely the traumas and dramas, I will never know as I make my quick observations looking into their glass houses without really knowing what is being said inside. 

When people are at the beach, they look content and happy. It reminds me of how much goodness there is away from the TV and away from phone and camera access as I make it a point to leave mine at home deliberately to avoid the temptation to “just check one thing.” 

Beach+ Food+ Book+ Pencil+ Notebook- phone = 100% happy place for me. 

I pause for a moment to quiet my writing mind and look up at the throngs of people marching like ants parallel to the shoreline. I am at least a football field away from the shoreline-perpendicular- to remove myself from the likelihood of bad music, annoying conversation and the sounds of people in general. 

I have my spot, and it feels like my own private beach. I hear birds other than seagulls chirping because to my left and behind me are palm trees and small grassy protected land gives them a place to nest. I notice the waves crashing, the light sound of sand blowing against my plastic blue and white igloo cooler, the resident cooler of my grandfather’s garage every visitor uses. I see pelicans dive bombing the gulf for their morning meal and all of it creates a Kodak moment for me.

We seem to have turned into a culture that relies on our phones now to capture every waking mysterious moment so that our cameras themselves have now become our memory and our entertainment.  I watch person after person taking photos of a seagull standing hopefully for a sandwich from the four year old he has his eye on. There is a pelican floating regally, looking prehistoric while it contemplates its next meal or perhaps enjoying its last one. 

There are the runners and walkers calculating their steps and heart rate and recording their every movement in their health apps- missing countless opportunities for the eye to eye contact that would surely produce one of the best memories – a random smile from a stranger, almost a rare commodity these days of perpetual head down body language. 

This is not a judgement or criticism. I have taken my share of beach photos. Ask my partner or my son and they will both roll their eyes at the memory of my countless insistence on snapping poses and places to try to capture whatever poignant moments I didn’t feel I could live without if I didn’t snap a picture right then and there. 

I watched all shapes and sizes in all forms of beachwear. The unprepared lot who just came to see what all of the Siesta Key fuss was about, pale in their black clothes standing out among the crowds and the nearly blinding white glistening beach. 

The walkers were there, experienced and focused trying to battle the bulge or challenge the creeping years hoping to win the battle of health versus sickness in their aging bodies. There were the professional sand castle builders and the laypeople trying their hardest to live in the moment with their children for just one day, building, digging, and seeming to enjoy themselves. 

I watched six backsides of adolescent boys, maybe high school or first year of college sitting in a neat row on their towels watching the stream of young girls in thongs go by trying not to stare with their eyes, yet hoping the movement likely below wouldn’t be a nuisance on their day out. Then out of nowhere two beach patrol vehicles looking like an episode from Bay Watch drove over to them. Next I saw the boys reach into their pockets reaching for their wallets probably to produce an ID. My first thought was that I was happy the kids weren’t black or brown or anything other than white, it would have added an extra maternal worry for their safety and vulnerability on what they must have thought was going to be a fun day out with friends. 

I didn’t see anything these kids were doing that would have warranted this visit from the beach police. They didn’t seem to be drinking or smoking anything. They weren’t playing loud music or causing any type of ruckus. I hoped they weren’t going to be carted away. I almost wanted to get up to make sure they weren’t being harassed which I am aware was a ridiculous way to think as these beach patrol men seemed to be trying to just do whatever job they set out to do. 

I watched little girls take on maternal roles as they protected and watched  over their little siblings. They seemed neither confident nor lacking confidence with their little bodies because the media hadn’t taken hold of that confidence yet to make them question that they could be anything other than perfect. Dads playing football with their sons and some daughters looking like they were trying to coach their sons so as to secure a place on a future NFL team. 

I caught the eye of an older gentleman fully garbed in solar protective head to toe clothing, a walking stick in each hand each with a sandal and a bottle of water for what looked like a very serious morning walk. He paused in a standing meditative state for what seemed like five minutes before he proceeded on. His stance peeked my interest and I was curious wondering what he was doing. I never found out. He picked up and walked. 

Marching forth.

I glanced out at the three boys left. Three of the six boys had moved on with  their things and had walked away from the group looking grim, heads down. Their beach day ruined for some reason I will never know. 

The sand kept blowing, the waves kept crashing. I kept noshing and applying more sunscreen.

What I noticed more than anything was how many memories were sliding into and securing a place in my mind. I considered how many of our memories we sort of give away while we are looking down at our phones or in the view finder trying to capture them. The irony of this is that the very memories we are trying to capture are actually the very moments we see while we are looking up and observing all of this beauty in our surroundings. 

All of these photos in our phones are the fleeting times we missed because we spent the time trying to get the perfect shot and may have missed the pelican dive bombing, or the man meditating. As we were looking down to check out our work or looking through the camera’s lens, we probably missed the kind stranger walking by who had the biggest most contagious smile to brighten the day with the eye to eye contact that only eye to eye contact creates. 

Our cameras are our eyes. They capture the colors and sounds and smells of mother nature more than any picture will ever capture and these moments in our lives fly by at the speed of light, more and more as I get to my fifty fifth year in a few weeks. I watch my grandfather and his friends and realize how even a life well lived and long is fleeting and the pictures could never capture my experiences with my grandfather’s long life.

I have 21,489 photos in my phone. If every photo took one minute between taking it and looking at it, that is 358 hours of my life, almost 15 days, or half of a month. How many of these silly photos replicate each other? What will I do with them all? How much time will it take to do something with them? Delete, organize, review? How much time do I want to spend doing any of that, when I could otherwise be looking up making eye contact and smiling happily at the life I have created for myself as I look up and enjoy the view with my own eyes, my own personal camera? 

I know I will never stop taking pictures, it is fun to scroll through them sometimes seeing where the time went, how the years did fly by like everyone said they would when your son entered kindergarten or you bought your first home. The camera is a good thing to house the memories of our lives, but so is our mind and being conscious of our days. They do fly by at the speed of light and I myself care to hang on to the minutes a little more selfishly. 

FRIENDSHIP, life lessons

MY FRIEND, ROS

I can’t even remember what I was looking for the other day as I poured through my drawers looking aimlessly. I am not the type of person who loses things but rather “misplaces” them. Temporarily lost items always turn up at some point. Whether I pray to St. Anthony or not.

I opened up the top drawer of my great grandmother’s old dark wooden buffet that would likely appear these days on a Pinterest board as a definite “before.” These days it seems the up and coming home owning, apartment dwelling generation prefers furniture that is distinctly in the after category. High gloss white with some bright insides drawer color taken from the latest Benjamin Moore 2020 paint trends, replacing the wooden knobs with something different erasing the history that lives in an old piece of furniture likely from the early 1900’s. Though it may certainly brighten the piece sitting in the corner of my living room, I can’t imagine interrupting its history like that.

As I made my way through the drawers of silver Kiddish cups used for the Jewish Holidays and the other serving pieces passed down from three generations, I made my way to the top drawer where I keep all of those little memorial cards of people who have since passed on.

Some people may cringe at the notion that I have a drawer of these and may even consider this a some weird drawer of death, but I consider it a drawer of memory. It reminds me how fragile life is, how we are just a mere speck on this planet we get to very briefly reside in and on. It is also a trigger for me to remember people that were once a part of my daily life, but are now people I have to consciously bring back to life with thoughtful and mindful recollection.
As I affectionately made my way through one card after another I noticed the different sizes, the one line poems, prayers and quotes that tried to sum up a person’s life in a less than two inch by three inch piece of card stock. These cards are their tributes, the takeaways for the people attending their wakes and funerals and I always take them.

When I was a little girl attending Hebrew School and Sunday School, the Rabbi’s wife taught some classes. Her name was Mrs. Weinberg and she was very religious and also very kind. She taught us to crack eggs in glass cups and look at them to make sure that they didn’t have any blood in them as this would make them non-kosher and unusable. To this day, when I crack an egg, I think of her and actually have a bit of a pang of guilt if I use the egg anyway. The decision to use an egg from my six dollar dozen of organic, free range local grown usually overrides her voice promptly avoiding wasting a perfectly good egg while people are starving somewhere. (My apologies, Mrs. Weinberg.)

She also taught me that when you write the word G-d, you write it with a dash so that if the paper ever gets thrown out, you are not throwing G-d’s name away in vain. To this day, I still do this. This habit has become so automatic that I even do it in text messages. I am confident Mrs. Weinberg would have been proud of one of her students continuing this habit well into the world of tech since the possibility of a simple click of a button erasing G-d’s name with barely a glance was nowhere near our imagination in 1970.

My son went off to Catholic School for his high school years just to shake up his notion of religion showing him another side of the coin. His religious teacher kept correcting his way of writing the name of G-d in his assignments. When he brought this to my attention, I told him to speak to her about why he did this, but he was uncomfortable doing it as one of the only Jewish kids in a freshman class at a very traditional Catholic high school.

I called the religious teacher and explained to her the reason, knowing she would completely understand. She thankfully did and expressed how much she appreciated knowing this wishing that my son had told her. We hung up each learning something from each other’s tradition and I am sure she took this with her to her future students who may have not been Catholic. She probably thought my son was way more religious than we actually were too likely scoring points in the future of his religious classes.

This brings me back to the memorial cards, I just feel weird throwing them out, like writing G-d without the dash. So I will leave them to my son to have to deal with after I move on and onto my own card (though, for the record, I want my card to be way bigger, like my friend Ros, who appropriately had a newspaper for his takeaway). Ros’ father had owned our small town newpaper and he owned it after his father.

I came across his four page piece that was used at his service three years ago and took it out to remember my fondest memories of an old friend who was like a father, a brother, a great uncle and trusted advisor more than anything. What would Ros do? What would Ros say? I think this a lot. He is right up there with my grandparents sound advice over the years.

Our lives are made up of millions of sparks of other people. Ros had a lot of sparks to share and I have a lot of them inside me. Political discourse, small town politics, true gentlemanly behavior, thought provoking conversation, love of chocolate and red wine, Friday nights by the fire with appetizers and reviews of the latest local gossip, quiet charitable persona, love of preservation of Linden Place, July 4TH, how to compost, why to compost, best blueberry jam ever, love of travel and LOVE OF LIFE IN GENERAL.

Ros died suddenly at the ripe age of 90 while he was in one of his most treasured places vacationing with his beloved wife on this day, three years ago today, February 7, 2017. As sad as it was to lose such a ripe and bright man who to all of us seemed like he would go on forever, he went out with a bang in a place that gave him so much pleasure. In hindsight it seems fitting for his exit. To make his life not just a fleeting moment while his body awaited for a traditional funeral, but rather a month long job in getting his body back to the states and all that this entailed. His grand re-entrance to Bristol from his vacationing joy.

Every time I crack my eggs like Mrs. Weinberg taught me and put the shells in the compost bin, like Ros taught me and walk it out to his very compost barrel, those sparks of important people like Ros are with me. Every time I nibble on a few Ghirardelli chocolate chips to satisfy my craving, or pour a glass of red wine on a Friday night, I think of my friend Ros and of an era gone by.

Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Ros on any level at all, knows exactly what I am talking about and if you didn’t know him, I am sure you know someone like him in your life. Take out the memorial card and remember that person. It will calm a busy mind, or a distracted heart. Even though it is so sad to lose an elder in our lives, the lessons and joyous life experiences from these special souls are with us for our remaining time.
March Forth, dear Ros and to all of us who will always miss his bright light and curious mind.

life lessons, self love

THE SUN ALWAYS RISES

I confess. I didn’t stay awake for the final moment from 2019 to 2020. I didn’t watch the ball drop or Ryan Seacrest in his delightful role as Dick Clark second coming. I didn’t eat prime rib or baked stuffed lobster or even open a bottle of good champagne. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even drink one spot of alcohol. I got into bed at 9:30 and fell asleep fast, woke up briefly at 11:07, hoping it was just a few minutes before midnight so I could say I was there, but it wasn’t and I didn’t want to get up and watch the ball drop. What difference would it have really made in my life to do this? I have done that. And I am good with having done that. And this is good. Good enough.

So instead, I woke up this morning on this bright new day of a brand new decade with that delicious thinking that only a first day of a new year brings of What’s Next? In addition to the new year, add the excitement of a new decade aptly named 2020 and I just felt an elation. While my partner stayed in bed, I made my way downstairs to put the coffee on for some quiet morning time alone that the earliest of the am provides. It is brief, that morning solitude, when it is the time before the sun rises, before the first sound of a car headed somewhere interrupts, before even the birds start singing their morning chirps.  

While the coffee perked, I moved into my almost regular routine of sitting quietly in meditation, giving myself the gift of pause before letting technology into my space. The jabber that happens moments before I sit cross legged while I wait for the coffee to alert me with its beeping is curious. The coffee percolating takes about eleven minutes, max, and yet my brain voice tries to pull rank over my heart voice shouting out the endless to do lists. 

But my heart won as it screamed right back at my mind, If not now, When?

If not now, When? So I sat. Giving myself the simple and very free gift of pause on this new day of a new decade hoping for that big breakthrough, but understanding that this is not the point. The point is to counter balance the ferocious energy that is my mind, always full speed ahead with the latest and greatest idea of what to do next—while the beauty of the present moment slides by unnoticed. 

This is the point- so I sat and breathed, knowing that this is what I need whether I like it or not. The present moment and the simple pleasures of allowing it in. When I opened my eyes, the sun was just making its way so I poured my coffee and put on my sparkly hat and bright red gloves along with my Bog boots and made my way to watch its arrival. 

My partner lives about a stones throw from a pond that overlooks the beach. I walked, steaming cup of black coffee in hand, down to the water with the only intention of feeling the light on my face and the sharp coolness of the morning in my lungs. I listened; I looked around at the homes where it seemed everyone was still sleeping and I took another deep breath in with the gratitude that the morning relentlessly delivers.

The pond, that serves as the local reservoir, winds quietly in a square shape with a neat path surrounding all types of flapping and swimming birds. The sounds and sights of the ducks and geese took me away from my chatting brain and I was hoping I would see the swans majestic landing overhead which would have made this moment more perfect.  I observed the tiniest corner of light coming from the east where I realized that I hadn’t missed the sun rising despite the light of the morning. I drank in the realization that I was going to witness the first sunrise of a brand new decade because I followed my heart speaking rather than the to do lists of my brain. Go to the pond, my morning meditation said. No, read, write, finish the project you started, write out the training outline you need to finish, my brain argued. The excuse of a new decade won. I would never get the chance again in my lifetime to witness a morning sunrise in the year 2020. 

2020 vision. A year of goodness lies ahead. I can feel it and I didn’t want to miss its rise to claim me. The ten years between forty-five to fifty-five were tumultuous and exciting, but also filled with a tornado of change that brought me to my knees. Some I chose, some chose me, but in the tail end, neither knocked me down. Fifty-five to sixty-five seems so much different. I don’t remember saying to myself at forty-five, Wow in ten years, I will be fifty five; they just didn’t feel as significant. This next ten does. They feel mind blowing because the last ten years flew by in what seemed like a flash. This next round of ten years I will be sixty-five if I am lucky enough. What do I want? 

I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to say yes to things I would rather say no to. 

I want to keep some of my power for myself instead of always giving it away to other people. I don’t want to keep giving my power away to technology getting sucked into the meme that it is a necessary part of life. I want to stay present more and be in nature more and create more. I want to have less email saved in all of the folders thinking that I will read the latest, How to have a more profitable blog, How to save more money on making less money and the endless stream of how to jargons that have found their way into my inbox and ultimately causing a distraction from myself that is hard to explain.

My inbox is full. And it needs emptying. I need to spend the next ten years riding my own wave, riding my bike, being in nature and having some alone time in silence. All of these promises are so easy on the first day of a new decade. The sun always rises no matter where I live, what is happening around me. The constant of this reminder is comforting as I stood there this morning and watched it rise with its direct beam of light headed straight for me as we stood there together patient, waiting, knowing it would soon be above me shining its light on a brand new day. 

What do I want? I want to remember this moment every day and allow it to direct me with its constant. I want to remember that this is what makes me feel whole and calm during the upheavals and the traumatic events that are naturally a part of all of our lives. There is that cliche- Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. My busy mind forgets about my calm and patient heart and it is my heart, when I listen to it deeply, that always gives me the best direction. This is my one New Years, New Decade resolution. 

Listen to my heart speak more and my brain speak less. 

My heart has never steered me wrong. I need to remember to connect with my own light. And to keep some of it for later. We never know what a new decade brings. It is exciting and frightening. I watch my life wind down towards sixty five and I watch my son’s twenty two year old life wind up. I am lucky to get to watch it. Lucky to be alive after the last five years of life coming at me. I am life experienced enough to know that on this brand new day of a brand new decade, I will forget what I am writing today. I will forget my self prescribed  directive to remember these new and fresh life commitments, but the sun always rises and every day is new decade and this is so exciting to this aging chick, I can hardly contain myself.

holidays, life lessons

A FREE SUNDAY

Flat out and over scheduled this past week, but also an inner joie de vie with the holiday excitement that only this time of year invites. I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, partly because I am Jewish, partly because the mass consumerism of it all is overwhelming. I have great memories of Christmas, though because even though my mother converted to Judaism, my brother and I got to go to our still Catholic grandmother’s house in Boston and celebrate a proper Boston Christmas. We never grew up with Christmas tree in our childhood home, but we did get to have a Christmas experience. 

i still love to follow traditionand bake holiday cookies with my aunt

I love Christmas. 

Our holidays were spent in Boston with our grandparents and our two aunts. My brother and I would usually go up a few days early and stay over helping our grandmother decorate the tree. My aunts would take us in our Aunt Peggy’s baby blue, barely any heat, Volkswagen bug driving Commonwealth Avenue to look at the way the homes were decorated. 

It was Magic. 

If I close my eyes, I can smell my grandmother’s house, filled with the buttery scents of homemade rolls, Christmas cookies, and everything Julia Child, my Grandmother’s go to director in the kitchen. I can smell the morning coffee and morning brunch my brother and I were forced to endure before we could open any presents. I can even smell the cigarettes that everyone smoked while this was going on and for some reason this doesn’t even bother my memories.

Going to Boston for Christmas in the 1970’s also meant Christmas shopping. Filenes, Shreve Crump and Low, Newberry Street, Lord and Taylor’s. It also meant shopping in some of the lovely little stores in downtown Wellesley, Mass and finding time to get to The Wayside Inn for a traditional family lunch in Sudbury, Mass. 

If it sounds like this little Jewish chick has the irony of the warmest and tenderest Christmas memories, I do. What I mean by not celebrating Christmas now is the gift factor. I love the energy the holiday delivers, the lights, the mayhem, the frenzy, but the vast consumerism that kicks in and makes people spend inordinate amounts of money is what I shy away from. The only person I buy anything for is my son and I buy Hanukkah presents for him. 

I have a friend who is from a large Portuguese family and the shopping, wrapping and chaos starts from what seems like the day after Thanksgiving. I have listened to her hilarious shopping stories since I met her almost twenty years ago. She is my go to comedian for all Christmas stories of what can go wrong during the holiday season, but so much of what can go right. 

Her family is the wacky type of family I never had. Picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding and substitute the word Portuguese.  I, in turn, am the Wasp substitute Jewish, family represented. I love her family and the stories she shares in who forgot who, who didn’t show up at a party, who didn’t call, and of course all of the goodness too that comes from this zesty family. 

The gift giving is fun to watch, though. So I enjoy going to the mall and watching, like a voyeur, and listening, like a spy, to the endless conversations between complete strangers about what they should be buying for what family members. They usually sound a bit breathless and tired, but never seem to question the auto pilot that Christmas steers everyone towards. I am a curious bystander with the glorious position of not having to buy for anyone so the sense of urgency is non existent. It is freedom. 

I found myself on Saturday night headed to bed thinking about my past week and realized that the following Sunday, yesterday, would be my last Sunday before Christmas since I always work the Sunday before the holiday. I was supposed to go to the movies, but asked my partner if he minded if I took the day alone and headed to Garden City to be with the masses. He had a brief look in his eyes that said, “Who are you and what happened to Alayne?” But he knows me well by now and there are likely daily surprises that come his way from my brain.

We parted ways and off I went. Cash in hand, with no real plan, excited to take an entire day to wander aimlessly with the only conversation the one in my head. Somehow I managed to find a parking spot immediately, no easy task at noon on the second to the last Sunday before Christmas. I got out of my car and began going to the parade of stores before me. I tried to avoid the stores that would make me shop for me, Lululemon, Athleta, Anthropologie and aim for the ones I might find some things for my son or my partner’s son. 

There wasn’t a place that didn’t look ramshackled. I felt a little saddened by this because in the old days of shopping before everything became an Instagram photo, store managers would never allow shelves to look the way they looked yesterday. Clothes strewn all over the place like we were at Filene’s Basement during a sixty percent off sale. I also realize, however, that the unemployment rate is the lowest and to staff these places with the hours they keep must be a feat to lose sleep over these days. 

The sales people were lovely, though, in every store I went to, helpful, smiling, kind and this warmed my heart. Old school sales people, mostly my age. This was interesting to me because usually I find young inexperienced people wandering the floor. 

At Banana Republic, they were virtually giving the store away. I use the word, virtually, literally because as I headed to a podlike dressing room, I noticed right away it was equipped with an iPad on the wall. The dressing room that was the size of a closet, but seemed like some type of small spaceship with atrocious lighting with an iPad. Maybe it was so I could order whatever I was trying on if the size wasn’t right. I really don’t know since there were no directions with it. And now that I am writing this, it occurs to me that iPads have cameras on them so now I am completely freaked out thinking that my changing room experience could have been captured like some Orwellian novel.  I am glad I didn’t think of this yesterday. 

I sighed. Is there no escaping technology and mass consumerism in the privacy of a dressing room? Has the entire world turned into one big Instagram photo op? The fact that I didn’t understand the point of the iPad in the changing room was in itself revealing. Banana Republic, like mostly every other store in Garden City, was not interested in the fifty five year old consumer that stood naked in between a mirror and an iPad I didn’t understand. They didn’t need to explain to me why it was there because I am not their market. I am really not anyone’s market, other than pharmaceutical commercials, it seems anymore as I made my way through the Gap, some store called Fatface, J Crew and even Chipotle to buy a gift card. 

The whole day yesterday reminded me that I am refreshingly irrelevant to these stores. It was a wonderful reminder of a chapter that is closing for me. Mass consumerism is not part of my world anymore. I am in the phase of getting rid of stuff, not obtaining stuff. 

I loved my day yesterday because if I got to a counter and there were more than three people waiting to check out, I left my choices and left the store. These stores don’t seem to care if you shop online or shop in store. I was looking for a holiday experience and it just really wasn’t there. I can see why so many consumers shop from the comfort of their own home; it really is so much easier, but there is a cost to this. You don’t get to have these life nuggets showing you where you are in your world. You don’t get to hear the conversations, see the men waiting on benches as their wives shop, traditionally. You don’t get to hear the bands playing outside and see the sparkly holiday lights decorating the stores. All of these sensory experiences are creating the stories and the stories are what we remember in our future selves. 

The children of today are not going to have memories of anything but their parents sitting with their face down in their cell phones hitting the order now button from wherever they are sitting and the UPS truck bearing gifts like Santa with his sleigh of reindeer. I don’t know why this bums me out, but it does.

With the world that we find ourselves in as one big virtual experience, I worry that we won’t know the difference between what is real anymore. My real will be different than my future grandchildren’s real. Maybe there will be a rennaisance and shopping at actual stores if they still exist will be a cool retro experience for our future consumers. I can only hope and dream.

I don’t know, but as I get ready to leave a roller coaster of a decade behind and head into a decade aptly named 2020, I have hope that the future will bring real authentic life experiences like I had as a child. Experiences that are real, not manufactured, I will continue to have for the remaining years I have left on this strange planet I rent my lifespace on. 

Happy Holidays to all of you real shoppers out there. Thank you for keeping the hope alive. 

life lessons, travel

WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?

I could not sit still with the book I had brought. It was not the book — the book was excellent, it was the noise bubbling all around me.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to my partner realizing that all of this noise was not going to permit me to really dive into my book like I had planned.

The noise, the sounds of children screaming, keyboards tapping, cell phones binging, the girl sitting next to me sniffling and sneezing, intercoms announcing gate changes and flight departures, was everywhere.

Then there was the sounds of everyone’s incessant cell phone streaming. I know there has never been a official code of law on silencing our non stop technology, but it does seem that the basic consideration between each other to respect the boundaries of our neighbors has gone out the window.

I am not sure when this became a thing, to act like you are the only person in the room with your noise producing machines and not allow the person next to you to have a say in the matter. This is what ear phones are for, but in the decline of basic manners, it appears that laziness has done a preemptive strike on even this little luxury of silence.

These days, the stink eye doesn’t even work because people are so engrossed in whatever had gotten their attention they don’t even seem to notice that someone is looking at them vying for just a glimpse of eye contact to hopefully send the message to turn their device OFF.

As I made my way through the alternate universe called the airport, T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, I felt like a voyeur into people’s approach to sitting alone and waiting for their plane. Barely a book opened, there must have been over a quarter million dollars in Apple products just at my gate alone. Does anyone just stare off into space anymore? I didn’t see anyone reading even a magazine or a newspaper, let alone a book. Moms and Dads were sitting next to each other on their own phones while the kids were like separate little addendums waiting for their attention.

I felt like what I imagined it felt like for Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. This was me. I was in a time warp speed ahead gazing mysteriously at what the fuck has happened to humanity and why isn’t anyone else as freaked out as I am?

I started to panic with the anticipation that this noise would be following me on the plane for the next three hours and I realized that my only salvation were the earphones I had mistakenly packed in my suitcase. Said suitcase was now traveling through the underbelly of the airport and the earphones would be meeting me on the other side- after the plane ride. This is when I decided I needed to buy a set of earphones for the plane ride and made my way to the store where it appears someone in the purchasing department understood this as a need for people like me.

I stood in front of the shelves looking at the headphones (almost the same ones that I had in my suitcase that Apple gave me for “free” with my last thousand dollar phone purchase) contemplating my choices. Nothing started at less than 29.99 and they were all crap, not to mention that Apple completely fucked all of us when they switched their adapter so a basic set doesn’t work with our phones anymore unless you buy the adapter for another thirty dollars. I sound cynical and ornery. This is what is happening to me as I watch the demise of humankind’s ability to say hello and look each other in the eye.

As I decided on some Sony noise canceling headphones for 29.99, I couldn’t open the package fast enough and was waiting in line to pay when I heard this small and very confident voice say, “Where are you headed?”

I looked down to attach the sound to the human and lo and behold a seven year old or so little boy had actually asked me a question out of nowhere. Be still my beating heart. I looked up to assess the parental situation thinking I would be seeing some academia type parent buying their son some organic celery sticks from the vegetable fridge. The surprise was the exact opposite.

Block your eyes or skip this next line or two because I am about to make a broad brushstroke stereotype that is not pretty or kind, but it must be said to make the point that I am going to get to at some point here.
This little boy looked like the type of child who may wake up every day and ask the question, “How did I land here? And how are you my parents?”

They looked mismatched. Mom and Dad had an inordinate amount of tattoos, piercings and were dressed in one step up from pajamas. Mom barely said two words when her son approached a complete stranger and I was surprised she wasn’t on her cell phone along with the rest of the look. This little boy, though had a big blast of human curiosity that he bestowed on me and I was all too eager to take his scraps.

“Where are YOU headed?” I asked him with a robust curiosity in return.
“We are headed to Tampa.” He said this with such joy it made me want to sit next to him on the plane and get to know him.
“Me too!” I exclaimed.
“Does this mean I will see you on the plane?” He asked, enthusiastically, with the widest brownest eyes.
“Yes, I think it does,” I confirmed with such jubilee in my voice, it made us both smile in kind.

Mom whisked him away all too fast and I went on to my noise canceling headphones quickly realizing in my haste that I had purchased ones that needed an adapter. Drats no wonder they were only 29.99.

I returned them as quickly as I bought them deciding that the sounds and simmers of our fellow people traveling tonight would be just fine. I am headed on vacation and today is the first day to reintroduce the pleasures of observing human connection.

This is where I am headed young man. Thank you for asking.