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

self improvement, WOMEN'S HEALTH

HOW CLEANING A CLOSET SETTLES MY BUSY BRAIN.

A busy mind, an active life, a creative spirit, make up what I fondly call Alayne’s brain. I am confident that if the term attention deficit disorder existed when I was a child, I would have been labeled as such. The drug companies, who work hard at getting us creative types feel like we need a drug for everything, refer to it as “A.D.D,” making it roll off our tongues so it sits comfortably in our brains creating feelings that something must be wrong with this type of brain function.

There is nothing wrong with this brain function except when it goes haywire and I fail to notice its long strange trip. I humbly laugh at myself often saying that if I executed even ten percent of my ideas… What? What would that mean? Would it mean more money? I don’t care about that; I have enough. What would it mean actually — executing ten percent of all of my ideas? I have never posed this question which is likely why I seldom execute ten percent of my ideas.

The indication that my creative spirit has gone rogue is my incessant calling to shop, drink, eat sugar which all ironically make me more rogue. This has been the year of allowing. Just allow the calling and drink the wine, eat the cookie, and maybe it has served me, maybe not, I don’t know except that it is not about the weight or the body shape anymore. It is about mental clarity and deep connection with a power greater than myself. This is what goes south when I over allow. My type of personality, and I know that each day is a new day and I have the ability to change my direction, doesn’t seem to be the one cookie, one glass of wine type.

My inner circle who know me well would wholeheartedly agree.

My typewriter collecting obsession is reflective of the sum of all parts of my brain. Can’t just buy one. So I start thinking about what is causing this fragmentation of my spirit, that weird dullness that creeps in that makes me run from my power rather than run to it. What came firs? The glass of wine and the cookie or the need to run to it to soften the intense feelings of power that are part of my daily existence.

This presents a conundrum because I welcome mental clarity. It is when I am at my absolute peak performance in my life. It is like I get there- to the top of the mountain- stand there, look around at the glorious 360 degree view only offered to those who make the climb and turn around too quick to move down it forgetting just as quickly why I climbed in the first place.

The lesson is in all of this is to trust the process, but not to get lost in the process. Getting lost is not necessarily a bad thing unless you get so lost that you need to call 911 but you find out your cell phone doesn’t work. Getting lost is only as good as finding your way out. This is the complexity of the fine line between process and running away from.

I do believe that the fragmentation is the amount of technology that I have given permission to surround my being with. The literal energy of all of this electricity and world wide webbing is freaking out my energy field. I am presently sitting on my couch with my cell phone to my left, my laptop on my lap where the heat of it on my thighs can’t be good. Pandora is playing through my internet music system. When I get quiet I have this strange ringing in my ears interrupting the silence and I just wonder how much all of this current is affecting my sense of mental order. No wonder it is hard to go to my creative space in time and separate from the distraction of technology.

When these things happen and I have written all I can write for the morning, I clean a closet, type a note, go for walk in nature or I cook. These four actions immediately bring me to center. They take me away from the chatter and allow me to be present in the moment. Technology doesn’t offer this. Technology offers the fragmentation. How many times this week did I go to sit at my computer and begin a project only to find myself scrolling, clicking, watching an unintended webinar that was not even in my plans when I opened my computer? This can’t be good.

Cleaning one small closet that had been on my to do list this week took me about twenty minutes and the result was complete tangible satisfaction. I don’t think I have had any tangible satisfaction from technology except when I write and post something I have written.

When I analyze life going forward, I need to clean more closets. It clears the cobwebs, makes me feel grounded, brings me back to my humble beginnings. Cleaning a closet reminds me how lucky I am that I get to write about consciousness of spirit and personal power to begin with.

I open the curtains this morning and look at the light. I do my son’s laundry and take a walk to the local bagel shop to get goods for a homemade breakfast. I remind myself again and again that like cookies, wine and shopping, technology can be a choice for me. It is not my livelihood like it is soon to be my son’s in his career. I have closets to clean and cookies to bake in a warm house with a roof over my head and people in my life I get to love and who love me back.

Personal power, as I move into this next decade of 20/20 vision, is about the choices I make because I get to make them. What gives me joy needs to be my directive. I have worked really hard at getting my life to the point where I have the luxury of this question. What gives me joy? And when I get that answer, this is what must direct me for the next decade.

What gives me joy? Connection and connecting- this is what I live for. My laptop and my phone can’t do this even though social media wants to let us believe they are connecting us. What social media is doing is disconnecting us from our own selves. This is why I started the odd collecting of typewriters. This is why I clean a closet when I need to get out of my own way. Reconnecting with my own electrical current. I am presuming we could all use a little more of that these days.

AGING, life lessons

FROM A DREAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoa. What a way to wake up this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

OUT OF MY CONTROL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health, life lessons

INSTEAD OF THE GYM

The days that come our way in little staccatos during our winters I refer to as tease days. Those luscious days after a freezing cold spell where the temperature magically climbs to 35 or 40 degrees causing elation and jubilance among fellow New England comrades. It is not unusual to see an immediate surge in the roar of motorcycles, convertibles out and about with their drivers wrapped up like they are headed on an expedition to Mt. Everest. Shorts and an extra pep in the step of people who had previously thought they were hunkered down for the long haul and bike riders trying to appreciate the glorious bonus day of some added warmth and brighter light.

We New Englanders so willingly get sucked into that tease. When the slightest increase in temperature makes it feel positively balmy outside almost making us want to pull out the gardening equipment to clean up the yard. But we seasoned souls know that this is only a lure of nature, playfully provoking us to think that this is a reliable temperature. We shut down our heat, open our windows, change the sheets on our bed and lean full force into what we know is temporary. After all, it is February and though we have not had even a drop of snow, we have been here before. That year not too long ago when we thought we were home free, barely a snow plow bill and just like that- snow in record amounts every day for almost an entire month. Mother Nature as usual made fools of us. It is we who choose to live in this environment rather than a larger space of a state offering sun and fun most of the year.

I have been on a mission this year to pepper my fitness routine with bouts of nature. Hikes, walks, climbs, outside no matter the temperature instead of the gym running like a hamster on a treadmill among the tribe of the fabulously fit. My love for the crazy gym workouts is still pure, but I have found my body desires less of that potency and more of outside walks so I honor this as often as I can. Walking to the library to return my latest read and hoping that another great book awaits fills my soul as much as fifty burpees, (well maybe 20 burpees).

Because I have the luxury of two spaces I get to call home in two glorious locations, both near large bodies of water, the beach is easy access especially on my way from one to the other in the early morning light. Recently I have been stopping at the beach, leaving my phone in the car so as not to be distracted by feeling the need to take it out of my pocket every five minutes to capture a picture that will never look as good as the real one in front of me. The sound of the waves, the tide, the shrieking of the seagulls, the wind in my hair and in my lungs and that deep smell that wakes a very tired olfactory system up from its dormancy that has been locked up in forced heat and closed windows makes my heart open wide.

I make my way from the parking lot, locking my car and feeling the change of scenery in my shoes as they move from pavement to sand and I am home. The beach is my happy place. I have figured out much about my life and who I am in these tender moments. I have released old stinky stale thoughts and welcomed new bright sun-filled ideas that seem to pop at rapid fire. Problems solved, anxious thought cast out to sea, heart rocks avail themselves at every turn and nature bathes me like a baptism. Outside never disappoints and whether it is freezing, blustery, humid, baking, misty and everything in between, the beach right in my backyard in a fifteen minute drive is a reward beyond pushups and ab crunches. Though my body may not be as rock hard as those pesky movements create in my muscles, the deep breaths, the contemplation, the change in scenery and aroma in my hair is enough to compensate.

As I walked yesterday in what seemed like a 60 degree rare day in February, I did a lot of soul searching, I sat on a piece of driftwood that had made its home from goodness knows what journey and meditated for a good fifteen minutes breathing in and out at the pace of the wave. When I opened my eyes I looked ahead, I looked to my right and to my left and I was the only one on the beach. My private moment deep within witnessed only by me and I smiled at my good fortune and appreciation that I was able to veer off my course and take a right into the parking lot instead of saying I will do a walk when I have more time. Because really what does this even mean, how do I know that I will have more time? How does anyone know this? The power is in the present moment. We just forget to look. Yesterday I didn’t forget and today I will try again to remember the gifts of every time I do.

Health

IS CELERY JUICE THE NEW KALE?

“Have you tried celery juice?” my beloved Dr. W. asked me at my regular breast check in this past Monday. “No.” I replied with a straight face. “But funny you should ask, because my new favorite nutritionist Amanda Rigby just recommended this to me. Something about cleaning out the liver…” I suppose I should feel grateful that I have a doctor in my direct inner circle who would even know about this. A doctor who would be willing to speak the blasphemy of ….. shhhh, quiet here……functional medicine…. in her office while BIG PHARMA BROTHER looks on waiting like a predator to pounce on every unsuspecting person in America to get them on their plethora of pharmacopia.

I love Dr.W. like a sister and I am so grateful for her brilliance, but also for the kinship we share in trying to navigate through the bullshit of what we really have control over when it comes to recurrences. She has seen it all in the world of female cancer and I trust her completely. That being said, I have to make my own way through the maze and hard work of deciphering what I am willing to commit to when it comes to preventative vs reality. I have done my own research for the past almost thirty years.

I read a book by AnneMarie Colbin called Food and Healing written in 1986 when she was talking about fat and nightshades and the challenges that food brings to our health in both negative and positive ways. This book set me on a path of studying on my own any food modality as it relates to healing the body and for the most part I feel I have been way ahead of most of the doctors and nutritionists I have met since. This may read arrogant after all I have no credibility as far as initials after my name, but what these books have taught me is that we are all are own science experiment. I know my own body like a slick leather glove that fits perfectly.

But celery juice? I get it. I get the need for a healthy gut, for a better liver to increase functionality in our bodies filled with toxins and goodness knows what else. I get the need for the consideration of prevention. Prevention is that pesky word we consider often after the fact. Usually the P word comes in the thousands of articles everyone who thinks they are being helpful sends along with the “FYI” caption. But how much is just out of our control?

I am not the type to put my head in the sand ignoring all of this influx of information coming at me every time I open my computer screen. Sometimes I get sucked into the rabbit hole of over thinking everything that goes into this body of mine. This unnecessary stress is not helpful for sure. It causes lots of guilty feelings everytime I decide that Macaroni and cheese instead of a kale salad is the dinner of choice. And I think often, does it really fucking matter?

Twenty years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a woman, Dr. Pamela Peeke . I had invited her as a guest speaker to an event I planned. At the time, she was doing extensive research on the how the effects of stress in our lives was showing up as the inordinate amounts of illness now part of the human race caused by its regular presence. She planted the seed in my mind about the importance of movement and other stress reducers even more so than food. She has gone on to write books and speak at Ted talks around the globe. In my experience it is stress more than most other factors that create illness. Of course, stress from bad eating is definitely one of the many elements of stress as a whole, but there are so many causes of daily stress I am sure play an even larger part of the puzzle.

Family relationships, financial worries, evolving friendships and catostrophic events all plant their little seedlings along the way sometimes growing ever so slowly or sometimes like dandelion weeds after a four day rainfall. I do believe that learning to settle down, slow down and make peace with your past are all helpful ways in our control to change the growth pattern that has been planted. Meditating, writing, art, creativity, reading, walking, exercising, cooking and not drinking alcohol are definitely the top ways I work on my own stress and past traumatic events. Focusing on these things that bring such joy to my life helps me heal and march forth in ways hard for me to describe. But I do. I march forth.

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As I made my way to the second Dr’s appointment of the week to have my plastic surgeon inspect his hard work on my upper half, he reminded me that I am still swollen. It has been almost two years since the first half of my surgery and almost a year and a half since my last one.

“Swollen? Still? Really?” I asked, perplexed. “How could I still be swollen?”

“Totally normal, he replied matter of factly. And you will feel joint pain and tightness too, so don’t be alarmed.”  It was here at this very moment that I freed myself from thinking that the mac and cheese from Sunday’s football extravaganza was the root of all evil. I am swollen because I had two of my breasts taken off, fat sucked out of my stomach that I didn’t ask to be sucked out for said breasts, muscle from my back brought to my front to support the fat and allow the new breasts to have a permanant home. Why the hell would I not be so swollen? I was thinking that it was my workouts, my body, my food intake, causing my fingers to be slightly swollen so that some of my favorite rings no longer slide on.

This is the bad part of being a resillient half full kind of chick. I had forgotten about the stress that my body has gone through in the last four years. Four surgeries in four years. And I was one of the lucky ones, I didn’t even have to have chemo. I would say that counts for stress, wouldn’t you? I don’t think buying endless stalks of celery and putting them in my three hundred dollar juicer every morning before I start my day is going to be a game changer for this body. I also don’t know if daily celery juicing is going work the same type of magic as a good deep breath at the mat with myself breathing in light and out darkness. I am willing to try it maybe. No scratch that. I am not juicing celery stalks, fuck that.

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now they tell me….

 

 

WRITING

Why I Write.

I was recently asked, “Why do I write?” I just started my adventure with WordPress, the way out of my comfort zone attempt at designing my own missalayneous.com website. Deciding to jump into WordPress University, I immediately found a writing class that I clicked YES on promptly. The first prompt came to my inbox like magic. Why do you write?

This is a question I can easily answer.

I write because I have to. Because if I don’t, I am in spiritual agony. Because not writing is simply not an option for my health, my soul, my mind. When I write, I feel good. When I don’t, I get jammed, and clogged like a kitchen sink drain that has backed up because a chicken bone from dinner the night before found its way in. Writing helps me move ideas, feelings, thoughts and musings up and out. Writing creates open space in my heart so my creative brain can have the room it needs to get shit done. Writing is a force to be reckoned with and it shows up every day like a loyal friend.

Since my first journal in third grade pen to page, fingers to keyboard have never let me down. I feel calm and on purpose when I write. Just like a good workout, there is a steadiness and a purpose to my mornings giving me a fresh perspective on the day before.

I used to only write in a unlined notebook, with a sharpie, then a smooth uniball pen, then that changed to a lined notebook with a pencil. I soon realized that in order for all of this writing to become something, it needed to be saved on a computer so I started to type on my laptop and organize my writings more formally. Then I started typing occasionally on a typewriter. This led to becoming an avid and manic collector of portable typewriters. Each mode of writing makes me write with a different personality. I love the various themes I come up with depending on what I am writing on.

Writing feels like what I imagine photographers feel when they see an image. Instead though, while they have the need to capture the actual image with a camera, my image is a story that unfolds with a sense of urgency that I must sit down to write about it. Words to paper, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, run on sentences, verbs, pronouns and prepositions all come spinning at me as I sit there with my influencers of yesteryear.

Miss Foley, my mean first grade teacher who created writers block until I set her free and now she has become my friend who sits nearby when I am about to make a grammatical error. Mr. Chase, my seventh grade teacher who was of great encouragement to this hormonal twelve year old girl he recognized as a talent for writing. I before e except after c and Neck-eccary to remember that the word only had one C in the beginning. Mrs.Nixon, my freshman teacher who taught us Tess of the D’Urbervilles and turned us on to the human injustices in books like The Invisible Man, The Jungle, and female power imbalances that permeated our lives in 1980 we had never considered until she brought it up.

When I write, I am joined by my past teachers and am also joined by great women who have shown up in my adult writing life screaming from the sidelines WRITE WRITE AND WRITE! Hannah Goodman at her first writing class as a young teacher who brought meditation to my writing party and planted the seed about actually thinking I could not only write, but maybe even write a book.

Why do I write? This is why. Because I can, i must, I need to, I want to, I have to. Lucky to be alive and I don’t take this privilege and gift lightly.

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A ‘SMART’ SCALE

A ‘SMART’ SCALE

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

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

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

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

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

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Uncategorized

UP, UP AND AWAY

UP, UP AND AWAY

There they were, the trio of family making their way through security together headed for sunny Florida. Perhaps to see the grandparents like I was for a precious visit not knowing if this would be the last time they may have the opportunity. Or maybe they were trying to get that Disney family trip in before their only son became too old to want to go with them. I don’t really know, but the airport is one of those places where I can make up stories about every person I watch while I wait for the plane’s boarding call.

I am the person at the airport two hours ahead of time, much to my friend, Ken’s chagrin who is an expert traveler like George Clooney in that movie whose name escapes me, Up? I don’t remember, but I marveled at his character’s pride in packing, his superiority complex in his expertise narrating each step as he made his way to the airport for one of his many business trips. My friend Ken is like this. He travels almost monthly for business, Germany, Hawaii, Denmark, Australia, and his experience leads him to arrive almost minutes before the flight takes off. I have anxiety even writing this. This behavior drives his wife, my dear friend, Ro absolutely bonkers and each time they go into battle over this, I am reminded of how happy I am solo in my ability to decide the whens of travel time. Though I am a seasoned traveler, I feel calmer waiting at the gate two hours ahead of time rather than waiting at home to leave, distracted enough so I can’t get anything accomplished because I am thinking about getting to the airport. I have traveled with Ken and it is a whirlwind, but also invigorating knowing that if shit happens, his experience will get us to the proverbial church on time.

I was not traveling with Ken, however, on this early Saturday morning, but my partner, instead, who is equally as happy to join my time zone party and make our way to the airport, relaxing, using the restroom, getting our tea and reading our books inches from the gate. Today though, we really got there early, like two and half hours, which gave me plenty of time to people watch and make my tales come to life as I watched the dynamics and interactions between the vast majority of people traveling at the same time as we were. I try not to stare, but they are likely thinking the same thing, hopefully their curiosity has been peaked too and they are staring back while I am not looking making up their own stories.

I was intrigued by the family in front of me. First of all, the parents were only about five feet give or take a couple of inches and they looked so much alike. Their very sweet son, who seemed to be about seven or eight was tracking to follow their footsteps in the height department. The entire family looked alike, plump, sandy brownish hair, sweatpants, t shirts, sneakers, ready for travel with their freshly purchased brown bags filled with Dunkin Donuts lore. Leaving the house as early as one needs to get to the airport requires planning if you don’t want to eat the slop that is served in the wee hours. The healthy options are limited so many families just decide well this is vacation so we’ll just start our party time with our first meal once we get there. I of course am a food snob so I pack a nice blend, (yes eye roll here, I know)

I am watching them respectfully to see what snacks will be flying out of the magic bags, they were overweight and their son was too, making me cringe at the first sight of the green bottle that suddenly appeared. It was 7:30 am. I am thinking as I am watching them that the three of them couldn’t be more than late thirties and they were headed for the diabetes and heart disease path faster than a dozen chocolate munchkins heads down their digestive tracts. The boy passed his mother the bottle to open it and to my judgmental horror, my worst fears were confirmed, Sprite. For breakfast. For a chunky eight year old, and the parents who each were each about to drink their own bottle demonstrating the poor and obvious example of bad nutrition. Bottles of soda don’t come in small containers either. I was willing to bet that the bottles they were about to guzzle were at least twenty four ounces. I couldn’t believe that these seemingly nice parents had not received the soda memo that in my world of reading seems to be at every turn. I feel the same way about soda that I do about cigarettes. Super bad. But what does this innocent boy know about bad nutrition choices as his own example of his plump parents set the tone. Soda shouldn’t even be a special treat, it has sugar, caffeine and all kinds of dyes that are hard to pronounce, it doesn’t quench thirst, it is addictive and shoots up insulin levels to the point where children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes like a common cold. I know as I write this, I am offending the soda drinking households out there, but if weight is a struggle, just simply switching from soda or juice to water could make a difference from an unhealthy road ahead to a healthy one. At least the start of one.

Parents need to take some ownership of the food examples they set, soda, sugared cereal for breakfast, processed foods before school all lead to lots of distracted kids and wired up energy making it hard for these same kids to learn or stay focused when they get off the bus and into the classrooms. I have seen this myself as I used to volunteer in the middle school lunch room and the crap not only that the kids were eating, but the food they were being served by our own institutions gave me a birds eye view into some of the troubles. Often these same kids get misdiagnosed with ADD and all of the other three letter diagnosis we have placed on our kids along with a pill to fix them. If we could just make a shift in their nutrition, many of the issues can be solved, but our medical system seems to ignore this in any consultation. Sure nutrition can’t solve all of the problems, obviously I know this as someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and I can’t remember the last time I have brought a soda to my lips or a bowl of apple jacks for that matter. As I watched this young family though, I wondered how long it would be before each of them made their way to the doctor for their own medical futures.

I was feeling a bit smug with my assessment of them, but I just know that they were all going down an alarming path and I felt like I was watching the beginning of a train wreck knowing it was completely out of my hands. But I guess this is life anyway, no matter how much we think we are in control or think we are controlling our destinies; none of us really know the answers. So maybe drinking the soda and eating the donuts is a happier place than the worries looming overhead. Kind of like a plane ride. We all make our way jam packed into a tube of metal thinking that we are going to land where and when the airline says we are, but we really have not a clue as we make our way up up and away. Look at my grandfather, here he is and here we are getting ready to celebrate his 101st birthday. Wine every day at five, crackers and cheesesticks for appetizers along with the wine, apple cinnamon lego waffles for breakfast and here he is. Still strong. But he never drank soda either, Just saying.

my friend ken, travel expert extraordinaire.