college, Parenting

THE EGO OF COLLEGE

The latest college application scandal has been all over the news for the past few days. Interviews with college sports directors- the good ones, and interviews with people who help kids with their college applications- the honest ones. Interview after interview, each one more embarrassing to these prestigious schools that parents have paid boatloads so that their children could get accepted into them.

I remember the two years prior to my son going to college like it was a bad dream as I reflect on the absurdity of it all. The pressure between his peers, the parents I spoke to daily and the teachers and counselors. It was like he was getting ready for the Olympics.

“What colleges have you applied to?” People would ask. The laundry list would be repeated, mind you each application had a non-refundable fee, and there would be discussions about the choices as if somehow this was a gauge of worthiness, of intelligence, of prowess for both our son and for us as parents.

Then there were the visits. The expectations of them, the decisions to go to them, the costs involved with them, the time it took to schedule them and the visits themselves. My son applied to five schools. Two local schools in our own state, Roger Williams University and University of Rhode Island and three distance schools, University of Arizona, Florida State and The University of Alabama. He got into four of them, two were a good distance from our home.

He had the same idea as many of his peers to go to a school “far away from this little state we live in, Rhode Island.” The pressure also poured in from the private high school he attended who wanted their own accomplished students to be able to say they went to “acceptable” schools. Schools that would make their roster of students who attended them add value to the price tag of four years of a private high school I suppose so that when parents were shopping for high schools, those lists of colleges that the seniors had recently been accepted into would be that sparkle you see in the rings at a jewelry store. I remember thinking to myself, Am I the only one out here who thinks this is the most ridiculous bullshit I have ever seen?

We ended up visiting Florida State and Alabama, beautiful campuses with all of the bells and whistles you never knew were possible at a college. There were times I looked around thinking, Am I at a college or a country club? Isn’t college supposed to be crappy food and dorm rooms the size of a postage stamp?

I remember sitting in the orientation at Alabama after our wild tour of their football stadium, and boxed lunch at said football stadium followed by a rousing practice cheer “Rolltide!!!” As I looked at my all too happy son and my former husband  screaming Rolltide, I sat wondering if we were ever going to see a classroom.

The starry eyed look in my beautiful son’s eyes as we were promptly dropped in the Alabama store where my former and I began buying all things Alabama like there was no other school in our dreams. Sucked into the Rolltide.com machine. I know for you Alabama football fans out there, this is blasphemy, but I started to question what the 42k price tag was actually paying for. A beautiful campus and I am guessing some form of education, I wouldn’t know, we never saw a classroom. Yes we went to the business school auditorium where the dean of business talked about what else, Football. He did occasionally mention the curriculum, but he lost me when he started a sentence with Irregardless, a pet peeve of mine going all the way back to my teacher grandmother. I saw my son’s heart sink because he knows me well and that one grammatical slip was likely the nail in the coffin.

Then we sat down at the how are you going to pay for this school seminar where we learned that I had misread the tuition costs. I thought the costs were 21k and it turned out that was PER SEMESTER. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot, my ex-husband freaked out like a five year old, reminding me of why we weren’t married anymore (there had to be some bonus to this wacky trip), my son was almost in tears because there was just no way we were going to spend what would have easily turned into 60k per year on college and I felt like a failure as a mother. As we made our way to Florida State somber, but hopeful, I really began thinking about all of this nonsense.

The pressure for what? Except for bragging rights, and connections, wasn’t the point of college to get a degree and get out and get to work? One thing I knew was there was no way I was going into debt for college. I convinced Michael and my former to visit URI. They begrudgingly agreed with their tails between their legs. I became the cheerleader and we found our local school to be a great fit for many reasons. Location, ease of getting there and home for holidays, a good program, and the cost.

If Michael went there, Dave and I could give him the gift of a college tuition with no debt for any of us. I began my sales pitch to my son and we decided that he would give it a year, then transfer if he wanted to Alabama where he would have to pay the difference of the cost of URI. My son is a frugal sort and I am guessing that this alone made him decide to give my idea a try. Well after the first year, he loved it, and stayed.

As he approaches his senior year, I look back at all of the worry and angst as well as the money spent prior on college coaching and sat prepping now through the eyes of this scandal and roll my eyes. Our children are watching us. What are we teaching them when we take our big egos to the college visits and write even bigger checks to ensure their little babies can have the bragging rights they were raised for.

What I also find amusing and disturbing in this scandal is the blatant mentions of the actresses and their names and photos in all of the headlines and not as much attention on the rest of the people who were caught adding another layer of female focus to this embarrassment. The calling out of women in the press adds another conversation to be had, but this is for another piece. Why not list everyone? Why is it only the women in the headlines? Just curious.

If you are a parent getting ready to send your child to college, first think price rather than experience, think education, safety, location, is it easy to get your child back and forth if they want to come home for all of the breaks, how much will that cost too? Four years goes by at a blink. When they get to be an almost senior, all of this worry that seemed so important at the time is forgotten at the same speed. No one cares. Except how you show you care.

College admission has been a great opportunity to set an example for financial responsibility, and we have given our son a gift that allows him to get out of college with no debt. What this gives him is financial freedom to travel after he gets out, to not feel pressure in having to line up his career immediately, to learn what he enjoys so he can choose what he wants to do with his life rather than it choose him. In this scandal I realize that the money is no object here. These people have the money to pay for their children to go to college. Maybe a better use in hindsight would have been to set up a college fund with the extra money that had to allow kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to go an opportunity. One of these checks probably would have paid for five or more kids to have the privilege. Hindsight.

This scandal is about EGO. I remember clearly the pressure coming from all angles and for some reason, we managed to get through it. I hope that this can be a teaching moment for all parents and their kids to settle down here and look at what is important. A good education, as little debt as possible and more important, an honest one.

Health, life lessons, Women

SUGAR AND WINE AND SHOPPING

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE PERFECT SPOT

THE PERFECT SPOT

There is a science in preparing for a day at the beach- in many ways going to the beach has a precise professionalism to it for the seasoned beach goer like myself. From the evening before to the packing up at the end of the day and everything in between I can say with complete confidence that I am a master. I am proud of my self-anointed status. This was all learned from the original master, my grandmother, my mother’s mother who taught me the routine that starts with an early rising and an early departure so you “beat the traffic.”

To this day if I leave for the beach anytime after 9:30 in the morning, I feel like I have gotten off to a late start and I actually have pangs of anxiety in my body as I make my way in my car towards my second home, the beloved beach. Some people can’t sit for any time at all at a beach; I am the opposite. I write, I walk, I sit, I stare, I read, I nap. Most times, I don’t bring my cell phone because I find that I too easily get time sucked and sidetracked and I like the break I get without one.

Seasoned beach goers according to Kathryn Black, my grandmother, (yes her last name is Black and mine is White in case you didn’t notice this and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that my mother’s is Black too, irony. Yes.) head to the beach and are on the road by 9:00am, latest. If friends want me to drive them because of course I always buy the outrageous one hundred and forty dollar beach pass, they know that the train leaves at nine or else they have to meet me there. I have softened a little over the years on this, but only if it is a weekday. Weekends, forget it. Everything must happen succinctly in order for this to happen and this is where the expertise comes into play.

My aim is not to be first at the beach, I don’t strive for this, that is like trying to get the A1 spot on Southwest Airlines, a near impossible feat no matter what time you get ready to hit the check in online button. No. The point is to get a parking spot and to get on the beach to claim my real estate for the day, the perfect spot. It is this spot grabbing that makes for a perfect beach beginning and there are a few choice spots I head towards depending on the day of the week, the way the wind is blowing and a few other factors that are part of this declaration today. The perfect spot is the spot away from the masses, so the quiet surroundings of the waves lapping and the seagulls chirping is the sound I hear. I don’t need to be right at the shoreline anymore. I used to, but now privacy and quiet is my go to spot and this is not by the water. The sounds I don’t want to hear are the booming music (music should be relegated to earphones if you ask me), annoying conversations between people that never stop for the entire day, (isn’t the beach for some quiet time?) and as far away as possible from the dreaded rookies, the ones who think it is cute to feed the seagulls. Even though, thankfully and finally, smoking is no longer allowed on the beach, some still smoke knowing that there are surely no beach police coming to give them a smoking ticket and surely the teenage lifeguards are not going to cause a stir. This is another reason for the early arrival to get to the perfect spot aka ‘my spot’ and sitting away from the masses. The final reason to be as far away as possible is the dreaded one way cell phone conversations. This really puts me over the edge.

There is a lot to being an expert beach goer. First off there should always be a beach bag ready to go in the back of the car. As much as I have certain rules and regs about the getting to the beach, there is also a certain release that must happen to make sure that the bag stays put. I am not a stickler about two important aspects of excellent beach preparedness. I do not care the slightest bit about sand in my car. Anywhere. I don’t clean my feet, or force people to shower and rinse off before stepping in. I barely shake the towels out. This is freedom and beach efficiency at its finest. Too much work, frankly for the frequency that I go to the beach. Sand can accumulate, pile up. I don’t care. I will attend to it at season’s end. This all makes it easier for the second element of importance in beach perfection- leaving the towel in the car. Now I don’t leave the same towels in the car for the entire season, I take them out when the weather is not predicted to be beach worthy or when I know I am not going to make it to the beach for a few days, but for the most part, I keep towels in the car. I don’t just keep one, I bring at least three now along with this awesome cotton blanket I got in Menorca a few years back. Last year I added a few hand towels to the bag because I can take them easily from my business, they have become quite handy, no pun intended, really.

The permanent beach bag always contains the following: hair ties, lipstick, beach earrings, (if you are a regular, you totally get this) writing instruments usually in a Ziploc baggie- sharpies, pens and very sharpened pencils, good sunscreen for the face and 2–3 bottles of coppertone spray 30 for the body purchased in bulk from BJ’S at the beginning of the season, said beach towels, my beach hat, a scarf, a sweatshirt, a long sleeve cotton shirt and a pair of beach linen pants in case it is chillier than I thought. It is always chillier than I thought. This bag is always in the car alongside of the beach chair so when I need to leave, I only have to bring along the overpacked cooler and the bag of reading and writing. Lunch for a full beach day needs to be substantial. Like the way I layer my clothes, I must prepare accordingly with food as well. Tuna or egg salad usually with some type of greens, plenty of fruit and something to crunch, I love cashews, and of course water. This is usually more than enough to graze all day on and I will often wait to eat breakfast so my first meal is more like brunch when I finally sit and get settled.

I don’t often bring a sandwich anymore because I really don’t eat bread that much, but this past week, I found myself on the beach on my actual birthday. It was a divine gift and I made the most delicious lunch of fresh tomatoes on sliced brioche with mayonnaise and it was heaven. For the less seasoned soul reading this (or for my dear friends, you know who you are but who shall remain nameless that belong to Bailey’s Beach where beach going is a completely different and zero effort (aka glorious) experience, this likely sounds exhausting. It is not. It is heaven for me, it is a tradition handed down to me from my grandmother and it happens automatically.

I hang on to traditions and as much as my son never really enjoyed the beach to the level I have, I hold out for the magnificent moment that some day in the distant future, I may get to have the joy of a grandchild too. Then my beach going experience will be a whole new level and for this I smile as I know my grandmother taught me well.


it looks like I am super far from the water, but not really for the glory of privacy.
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RIDING A BIKE

RIDING A BIKE

“It’s probably a lot like riding a bike,” my partner said to me when he heard the news. One of my employees was out sick during this school vacation week and we were booked solid at my business with appointments. Appointments that would be near impossible to reschedule as many were teachers and students who had the time off and on their precious vacation week, they chose to use some of that time getting a treatment from my business. I decided to jump back in and do the treatments myself and was both excited and tentative; after all, I couldn’t remember the last time I was in the treatment room elbow deep in oil, skin creams and facial potions. Besides the actual treatment portion of the day, would I be able to perform at the level I expect each of my team members to rise to every single day? I liked the feeling; the paradigm shift, the slight discomfort and I was looking forward to the day ahead kicking me out of my regular role of line leader into the front lines of where the warriors showed up every day.

This of course is tongue and cheek, after all we are not talking about life changing surgeries or battles, I am not talking about teachers going into their classrooms that are now battlefields. I am speaking about a room filled with meditation music and aromas of lavender and citrus speckled with the sounds of light rain from the sound machine. I am talking about a warm and cozy heated bed, feet propped with a feather pillow and the softest made in America (Fall River, Mass to be exact) blanket covers. I am referring to the deepest of breathing and calmness literally manufactured from what I have created that is my business of beauty and skin and deep care of the human spirit in one of the last great businesses on the planet I get to call my own, the business of touch.

At our daily morning employee gathering as we discussed the plan for the day my team looked as humbled as I felt at the notion of their usually fearless leader jumping into the room. I decided to share a word for the day for us to contemplate.

Humility. One of my employees didn’t know what the word meant, the others jumped in with examples, “the opposite of pride,” one said. “Letting go of ego, being vulnerable,” were some other examples. As I listened and spoke about the unassuming nature of being humble, I was reminded again about how lucky how I am that I get to be an entrepreneur. Yes I am a tough boss, yes I have super high expectations, but I am also fair, I speak the truth so there are always learning opportunities and I will do the work right alongside of my team. As much as I like to teach, I equally cherish the learning curve too and yesterday was that for me. A chance to get back in the room and get my hands coated with essential oils and creams. More importantly it was a chance to see if all I have created as an expectation of my team of superchicks was reasonable and realistic. Besides this piece, it was also a chance to get into the room and be with some of our wonderful clients and have the conversations one on one, with the unique mix of both business and intimacy. All good. The only thing that could go wrong was if I sucked, if I couldn’t actually remember how to ride the bike. Unlikely, but nonetheless, a thought that crossed my mind and I am sure may have crossed the minds of my kind of uncertain team. Vulnerability at its best- Brene Brown would have been proud.

Here was what I was worried about- not being able to find products easily and bumping into things making the peace of the treatment lose its juju. Forgetting to do a step, not living up to an expectation that the client may have had of me doing their service (ego 101- sorry Brene,) breathing too loud, stomach growling (yes this happened) Running late, (I did, but not bad for first run out of gate) not doing all of the steps I ask of my team at the end of all of the services, (nope, did this with bells on). As a matter of fact, I had a great day. It did all come back as I made my way through the day and I was grateful for the opportunity to serve. Really this is what I love most about owning my own business, serving. My business is way beyond facials and beauty- it is the ability to serve and nurture and not a day goes by when I am not a grateful human.

I got lost in the shuffle of my parents tumultuous and traumatic divorce as did my brother and as a result of this, college bound became a bit of an afterthought. I was not prepared emotionally; I weaved in and out of classes following in my parents footsteps of not completing a four year college plan. I was clear on one decision though, I needed to get a skill set while I figured out if college was ultimately to be my path. My grandfather was a definite influence in this thinking so it was a natural step for me to head to esthetics school. I had a love of skin and makeup and beauty since my first days getting my haircut as a little girl. The problem was that I did not grow up in a family where the expectation was for their first born granddaughter to go to “beauty” school so it was a hard sell and not one that was considered credible.

I don’t think my family really understood how traumatized my brother and I were so in actuality the notion that I wanted to even go to any type of school should have been appreciated rather than looked down upon. I made my way though and I can’t say enough how happy I am to have landed on my feet in the business of beauty. The return on investment for a six month vocational program was worth it all as this license gave me a set of skills that made me immediately marketable. I never regret my choice, I will finish college at some point just for the intellectual satisfaction though, but I am always struck by the automatic assumption for all of our kids to go from high school to college with seldom all of the alternatives in between. This is really all ego if you ask me; the vocational businesses are viable options for kids who aren’t sure or want choices rather than mandates. One business that tends to not often be effected by slower economies is the service business, hair, makeup, plumbing, electricians, computer techs the list goes on and I love meeting young people who had the guts to go forward with their dreams of shorter schooling because it is what they always wanted to do.

As I made my way through my day yesterday one client at a time with my own two hands that built a company employing and influencing women for over 16 years, I reveled in my early life decision. I was reminded of the choice I made way back in 1986 to follow an instinct rather than what every adult was telling me I was supposed to do with my life. Here I am and there I was; no wonder I had such a great day.


hanging out with my dear friend Sten who we sadly lost to ALS who helped me get my bike from Denmark TO Rhode Island teaching me that you can always get on a bike wherever you are and wherever you land.