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

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED IN THE LAST TWO DAYS (AND I HOPE IT HELPS YOU)

So much as happened since Saturday when I decided to close my doors. We are all in shock that we have found ourselves in this situation. 

But here we are so we, as the bad ass leaders we are, will march forth and make the best of an unprecedented global situation.

The following list in no apparent order is what I have learned and hope it saves your some time in your spinning minds. Some may apply to your business, some may not, most of these tips are in relation to a service/ appointment business, but I am sure that many reading this will get something out of it even if this is not your business model.

My business is in Rhode Island. Some things may not apply in your states, but I am guessing most will. 

Good luck and I hope this is helpful as it intends.

  • Once you say finito, your team will be in panic mode. As much as you are freaking out, they are freaking out more. Help them with unemployment. If you are a w2 business who pays their staff the way employers of real businesses do, filing for unemployment is easy and should be the first step. When they file, make sure you have their starting dates before they go online to fill out the paperwork, it will time out so having everything they need on hand makes the process less stressful. When asked the question, “Will you be returning to work or do you have a date?” Have them answer no. Don’t worry about it now. Just get them in the system.
  • If you have been paying yourself the correct way in a check, you will likely be eligible as well. Don’t hesitate. Fill out the paperwork. As a matter of fact, if you do it at the same time they do, you can be helpful to the process. Not that you need to be humbled, but it is a good dose of humility.
  • Unless you have boatloads of cash reserve and many businesses do not, I would not suggest paying them right now for the time. Get them in the unemployment system. You will need your cash. I also asked my team not to drain the PTO/ sick or vacation time since that would also drain my cash reserves and they were fine with this. 
  • I removed any of the extra deductions for this last check, IRAS, Health insurance etc, just for them to maximize their final check. They were appreciative.
  • If you are a 1099/ Independent contractor/ booth renter, traditional unemployment will not work for you. The Federal government is actively working on activating something called Unemployment Disaster Relief or something to that effect. I spoke with someone on the state level today from the Department of Labor and they were very helpful and this is what they told me. This will be a wait and see relief. 
  • If you have a linen service, trash service, cleaning service, call them and tell them the date(s) to stop. You are not going to be open, so you don’t need the services right now.
  • Call your banks and deactivate your debit cards. This will help you gain control rapidly over all of the auto debits. Don’t forget Apple, PayPal, Google, Pandora or any other peripheral account that withdraws automatically. 
  • Prioritize the absolute musts of your bills. For example, business insurance, car insurance. Yes it totally sucks to be late on any bills, I am never late, but in this case, you need to reserve cash so pay what you must, but don’t overpay.
  • Business loss insurance at this moment does not cover this loss. This is a pandemic, call your state congresspeople and ask them to pressure insurance companies to create a window of exemption. It will take a lot of us calling to even make this a possibility, but I definitely think it is worth the time.
  • Credit cards for your business- call and ask them to reduce the rate and to temporarily stop the monthly fees they charge. There may not be any business coming in, why should you pay a fee for this?
  • Clients- What we did was keep every single client on our schedule. We called them and told them we were postponing their appointments until we reopened and then we would call them and prioritize their rescheduling when we had an exact date of reopening. This will help you keep track of the clients and also how much potential business you are losing should insurance companies rally. (Thanks to my dear friend and salon owner, Claudia, for that last idea).
  • We sent out emails announcing the closing then another email to tell them they didn’t have to call and cancel any appointments. We would leave them where they were so we would know to call them when we reopened. 
  • Remember to turn off confirmation emails if they are automated. We forgot and it was confusing. 
  • We also turned off online booking so that we didn’t have to block out the times for the next few weeks in case someone did happen to schedule online. It also saved us time for the future so we wouldn’t reschedule everyone, just to have to call them again and do it a second time. Clients were so nice and understanding.
  • If you have any marketing or social media automated, please turn it off. There is nothing worse in a crisis situation then getting something irrelevant. 
  • If you are using a company like mind body, mail chimp or something like this, you may consider pausing it or asking for a temporary deactivation to save some money. I did this with Mailchimp. I tried it with my software company and just kept asking for a supervisor so I could get the word out that if they paused our monthly fees for even one month it would speak volumes in good business and kindness creating more loyalty than ever. Don’t hesitate to ask for this. THE MORE THEY HEAR FROM US….
  • Check in with your team. I do have a cash reserve so I offered to loan anyone any money if it gets dire. No one has taken me up on this, but I know they feel better knowing it is there if they need it. Also especially check in with team members who are solo, living on their own, just to make sure they have what they need. Many of my team have partners income they rely on, many do not.
  • Remind your clients that purchasing a gift card if it speaks to them is a great way to support local businesses. Though I don’t want to be selling a lot of them for the unknown that lies ahead, it sure does make some clients feel like they are helping a business they have loved to do business with.
  • Remember the food pantry’s in this situation or if that is too big, remember to check in with the neighbors across the street and next door. Just a phone call makes a big difference in depression, and isolation.
  • This could be a fun time to have zoom meetings, zoom dance parties, face time dinner parties with your friends and clients and your team. Wacky miraculous forms of entertainment are coming out of this disaster.
  • Use this time to clean closets, work on that book you have been meaning to write or read, art projects with your kids, get fresh air, do jumping jacks and planks, call people. Try to use this unique global pause to disconnect from the media and stay connected with the people you love, family, friends and your team. 
  • This is badass leadership and you are a badass leader. If you don’t think you were, you are now. 
  • Good luck, stay safe. Any questions or comments email me alayne@alaynewhite.com I am two full days into this new paradigm and two days is a lot of time in this business is closed world we are in. 
  • One more thing- if you want to get inspired, read OR watch anything about Winston Churchill. He was one of the baddest ass leaders around. Especially his quotes. Try to keep off the 24/7 news. Watch a little, turn it off. Turn on some calming music, open your windows or your curtains if it is too cold, light a candle.
  • We will get through this. JUST KEEP SAYING IT. 

“Sure I am of this, that you  have only to endure to conquer.” Winston Churchill

AGING, Women

CLARITY IS POWER

New Year’s resolutions are powerful. They wake up my sleepy procrastinating self and propel me into a momentum of unstoppable energy that screams progress! and success!. They can also be anti-climatic. So many of us who set them on December 31st find ourselves breaking them just one or two days later. There is that line from a Jimmy Buffet song that comes to my mind. “There’s a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.” New Year’s resolutions are so easy to fantasize about when you are drinking your third glass of bubbly over a slice of cheesecake on Christmas Eve with only a few days ahead to make the lists about what next year will be.

Sometimes I get nostalgic and start rummaging through my old journals to see where my mind was at twenty years ago. Besides the fact that most of the writing seems to come directly from my less informed ego, there are endless lists with the intense theme of self improvement.

Do more yoga, meditate more, work out three times a week, prepare my food Sunday for the week, travel to….., save more money, spend less money,  be in nature more, spend more time with family, clean my house once a week on such and such a day.

One big tiresome and overachieving yawn from the perch of this soon to be fifty- five year old brain. The beauty of hanging on to my old journals is the reference point of before. Before the work, before the life experience, before the therapy and before I completed even twenty-five percent of the endless lists I used to make on those hopeful first days of whatever year it was soon to be.

This is the magic of a list and a resolution though, the magic itself- the hope for something different in our lives, an improvement, a change. New Year’s resolutions have power because they say, YES, Anything is possible. They are like huge buckets containing desires, dreams, plans, ideas, hope and we throw them all in hoping even one doesn’t fall through the cracks. If it doesn’t, well, there is always next year if we’re lucky. Resolutions speak to our undying belief that there will be a new year again— that there will always be another chance. We have the privilege of an undying optimism in that moment.

Personally, I take great comfort in allowing myself the freedom to even consider it as possibility. As I get older, however, there is much less of this freedom and much more of a time crunch. I find myself throwing less in the New Year’s bucket, but what I do throw in has much more substance and far less ego. 

Of all the shards of aging, the softer side of it is definitely the de-ego-ing of oneself. I know “de-ego-ing”  is not a word, but there is no other way to describe the unveiling, the unlayering, the unraveling of the mysterious ego so central to the first four decades of my life. Even admitting it takes a de-structuring of sorts. 

Like a Back to the Future episode, I am time warped into  my psychology 101 class taught by an old salty teacher, Mr. Malcolm, where I was introduced to Freud’s model of the ego, the id and the superego. I think I was a freshman in high school, 1979ish when I first heard Freud’s theory. Ego can be an antagonizing struggle in our young lives well into our adulthood. When I asked the question to google, What is the purpose of ego?, The answer came like a genie out of a bottle and answered it perfectly. 

“Ego has a big and beautiful purpose in our life. It is said that the purpose of ego is to cause you great levels of unhappiness and suffering so that hopefully one day after trying to change the world and people around you, you can look inside and decide to change yourself.” -Diego Castro

This has been my revelation lately. I don’t know if it is age, if it is being diagnosed with breast cancer twice since I turned fifty, if it is repairing my relationship with my mother, my son graduating from college this year, or a new decade, but there is something magical happening to me, and I can only explain it as a deconstruction of ego in my life. 

I have become much kinder to myself. I don’t mean kinder in a material external sort of way, like getting more facials and buying more shoes, but rather kinder with patience, self care and self love. I have notoriously been my own worst critic. Ninety percent of the things I have said to myself, I would never say to anyone. No matter how many affirmations I have placed around my environment or how many self help books on my shelf, it was the day to day moment to moment mantras that have spewed from that monster of a critic to myself. These mindless thoughts have lacked consciousness and were so often on auto pilot, that it has taken great care and mindfulness to even realize the painful inner dings that they have produced.

The mean voice, the ego voice that says not good enough, not right, not now. But fifty- five is changing this paradigm. I find myself saying if not now when? I find myself creating less internal drama about situations that won’t matter even a week from now. I find myself making decisions about decisions and changing my mind because it doesn’t feel good in my heart to stay with what I thought was going to be a good decision. And not feeling bad about the change of heart. And I am fascinated by this new found clarity. 

What has been the catalyst for this new found power, I ask myself? The shift came at last year’s resolution when I made the commitment to start meditating regularly. While the coffee was perking- basically not much more than eleven minutes almost every day. I have read that meditation actually changes your brain. I don’t know what science I can share other than my own experience with forcing myself (and there are those days when I do force myself) to sit cross legged in silence and breathing deeply.  What I do know is that I feel better, calmer, more organized, kinder, more patient with myself. I know that I care less about what is happening outside of my body and I care more about what is happening inside it. 

This is freedom, this is clarity. And I like it a lot. 

Perhaps it is everything. A compilation of sorts of all of the work I have done over the years investing in myself and my patterns in my constant quest for self improvement. It’s not that I don’t give a shit, It is that the shit is shifting. I just am starting to give a shit a little more about me and my own needs. What do I need? What do I want to say yes to or no to? Is it possible to keep some of my personal power and strength for myself instead of feeling like a vessel with a leak? 

Perhaps these feelings and realizations happen to all women heading over the curve of fifty five speeding towards sixty right around the bend, but I’ll take it. I am willing to trade in the inner voice that says, why did you eat that? How come you didn’t go to the gym today? You shouldn’t buy that. Why did you say that? I am willing to have my body shape just be good enough and the wrinkles forming from my very smiley face along with the age spots on my hands and the weird skin tags showing up seemingly overnight also be fine. I am willing to have all of that if the trade off is this magnificent clarity.

Clarity is power means that I am clear as a bell about my intentions. That I choose to live in the matching truth of my insides and my outsides. That I keep some of my personal growth and its power for me and my own needs sharing when it feels right, but being quiet and contemplative too. Of course, it has only been two weeks into this New year, this new decade, but if this is the feeling that I get so quickly from meditating and aging, I’m all in. 

I pose the question to all of my superchicks out there headed to the mid fifties tag, if not now when? What can be different right now? What changes can you make on your inside so it matches your outside? What is your clarity this year? Clarity is powerful, I send some your way today. Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.

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.

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.

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. 

self love, WOMEN'S HEALTH

“FORGETTING MY PHONE”

Hands full. Trying to open the car door with my hip propped against the outside of the car, trying to finagle the purse, the pie, the shoes I was bringing with me to replace the snow boots I was wearing, the bag of Pyrex bowls to give to my aunt- all because I didn’t want to make “two trips.”

Two trips means back up to the second floor, up thirteen stairs to where I live in my old 1965 historic home. I was already running late to pick up my friend and I still had to get to the bank which I had already determined in my overcharged brain that I would do after I picked her up. That breathless running is something I don’t like getting myself into, but for some reason today I was in the midst of it trying to squeeze more into my morning than was reasonable. Sometimes this is typical of my personality.

My dear friend, Karen and I were headed to my favorite holiday place, The Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts to have a pre Christmas lunch with my most favorite aunt. After lunch we were headed to another favorite, Russells Garden Center, a magical garden and gift center since 1876 in Wayland, Mass where real Christmas shopping lives in that old fashioned way I grew up with.

Though we weren’t wearing Christmas sweaters, the day had the feeling like everyone you may encounter would; the weather had that crisp December bite. Little did we know that a light lovely New England snow dusting would just begin as we were eating lunch. We would soon be encountering a day of absolute perfection, but we didn’t know any of this yet because I was running late to pick Karen up.

As I finally settled down in the driver’s seat of my car getting ready for take off, taking a necessary deep calming breath, I realized that I hadn’t seen my phone in the last ten minutes. I checked my coat pockets- nope. I felt the outside of my small black zippered purse- a second nope. I felt in the inner left side of my car door where I often absently place it, not there either. I looked at the clock on the car dashboard, 9:16. I had already let Karen know I would be there at 9:20 instead of 9:00.

Fuck it. Did I really need my phone today? There was that brief moment where I felt the absurdity in questioning it knowing that many of my friends, employees, family couldn’t imagine even questioning its absence. They would have gone on auto pilot and blasted back upstairs for it. But I am always struggling with the power I have let this silly little device have in my life. Sometimes I find myself longing for the rotary.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of concern over how much time I spend looking things up, checking my email, responding to texting, scrolling, checking facebook messages from clients and friends, seeing responses to my recent posts, not to mention returning calls because this is actually the idea of a phone. At least it used to be. I am wondering when the phone part of the phone will become an old relic of yesteryear as I write about all of its other functions these days.

Back to the question. Did I really need my phone today? Besides the questions that started to dart. But you own a business! What if your son needs you! What if something happens to your grandfather! What if! What if! What if! So I did what my rebel rousing self usually does. I said, Fuck it. And drove away sans phone and felt free instead of the heart racing panic one would assume. Freedom. Calm. Released truly from work and responsibilities for the next twelve hours. It wasn’t even that hard to do this.

I had a few moments at lunch where I thought, My phone must be blowing up right now. I imagined the amount of work I would have to face when I got home in responding to the various forms of communications, but the thoughts left as quickly as they entered. The reality that I created in this choice was that there was nothing I could do about it anyway.

I couldn’t take my phone out of my purse at lunch and take it with me to the bathroom to do a quick check and reply. I couldn’t pull it out to take photos that would likely end up sitting in my phone anyway like a Barbie never taken out of a box. I couldn’t show a photo from another time to my friends at lunch. I wasn’t able to pull it out to look up the definition of a word or a place that came up in our conversation. My aunt and friend had theirs to do all of that on and yet neither brought theirs out for the entire lunch or at our visit to Russells.

The holidays go by so fast. There is a lot of rushing and shopping. There is a different buzz in the air this time of year and I don’t even celebrate the holidays in the traditional way. Yet I enjoy them immensely. I enjoy walking in the evening and looking at the lights in our town and the decorations in the windows. I love Christmas music and putting lights in my windows. I’m the weird Jewish girl who loves the energy of Christmas, I love being a voyeur standing on the sidelines and taking it all in and watching it fly by as fast as a speed train.

“Forgetting” my phone was probably one of the best gifts I could give myself as it allowed me to be present to the presence of the day yesterday. I was present to my friend and my aunt’s conversations because there were no technical distractions that would otherwise have removed me from the experience. My life feels like it is accelerating at time warp speed and it is almost like I need to force myself to come up with alternative ways to be deliberate about putting a break to it. I see myself one day not even having a phone. Apple gives me my summary of how much screentime I have used and it is appalling to me how much time it adds up to.

No wonder people feel like they don’t have any spare time these days. But I am not here to preach, just share my day with anyone who cares to read and maybe this piece will give you an idea to try. The funny thing about the experience was that I did use my friend’s phone when we realized our sixty mile return trip would be taking us three hours last night.

If she hadn’t had it, though, I wouldn’t have had it to use and I know that would have been just fine too. There was no sense of urgency, but more courtesy to let my partner know my whereabouts and to check on my son. That could have easily waited. And surprisingly when I did finally walk through the doors of my home, I didn’t rush to my phone to check it, actually I was bummed that my phone vacay was over. When I finally did, there were approximately seven text messages. I returned them in five minutes, called my aunt to let her know we arrived safe and sound, put the phone away and turned on some Christmas movies, a perfect end to a more perfect day.
Who needs Santa for gifts after this glorious and intentional gift I gave to myself? I can’t wait to forget my phone again.

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.

FUN, travel

BOOB TAPE AND IDENTITY

There are so many odds and ends when you are getting ready to travel out of the country. Besides the packing and the postponing of newspapers and mail, there are the phone calls to the various banks and credit card companies letting them know when a charge comes through that is not your norm, it is ok.

We were headed to Quebec and Canada is such a close neighbor that it is easy to forget it really is not part of the our borders. I forgot to let the banks know I was traveling outside of the US. As soon as I crossed the border and heard lovely French, I remembered instantly, though. Canada is a very different place from USA and a beautiful and easy place to get to when you want to get away and feel like you are traveling someplace with a more European vibe.

My partner and I roamed the cobblestones streets, learning how to navigate a new city. We ate poutine which should be illegal and I am grateful it has not found its way down to Rhode Island or it could very well be my caloric demise. 

We went to the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec and came upon an exhibit by contemporary artists, Cozic whose description read, COZIC is a two-headed visual artist with four hands made up of Yvon Cozic and Monic Brassard. And it was there I was struck by the question of what is art anyway, and who gets to claim and define that question? 

I appreciate when art does this. When it makes you read every single description card next to it its piece on the wall. We spent three hours looking at this exhibit. Odd, unusual and at the same time, captivating. The art was, at some points, interactive clearly inviting the visitors to be more than voyeurs. Touching, smelling even, being part of their work making me consider that art is more than just staring and feeling. I hadn’t really thought about this before.

What also struck my feminist radar was the description of who they are in their work. This wife and husband team prefer to be described as one artist. It is certainly a brilliant marketing element to their work, but what I noticed is that it is the Cozic name used as the signature of the show and I kept feeling, Where is Monic? 

She gets her due because when they are both written about, she is part of the story in all of the pieces, but where is her name on the art? They have been together since the sixties and I just wanted one piece that said, Monic Brassard. This all could have been her choice from the beginning and I don’t know anything more than my first impression of an exhibit that got me to really think during and afterwards. Art is like this; it gets me thinking about life- feminism, culture, marketing, politics and identity. 

Identity. Who owns it? Who gets to claim it? How is it remembered after the artist passes- in this case after Monic passes? I began wondering who decided to use his name, Cozic, instead of her name, Brassard? In the sixties, would her name have had the success if it he had been attached to her name instead of the other? Doubtful. 

As I made my way through the museum I began counting the number of female artists represented versus the male artists. Before long, I became too distracted by this and stopped as it was deterring me from appreciating the art. If this latest wave of feminism of #Metoo did something beyond its intention, it made me hyper aware of the lack of female representation in mostly everything. It has a long way to go before I walk into a museum and start thinking about counting the number of male artists as a minority compared to female artists as a majority. 

This all means that Cozic accomplished something. Cozic made me think. Two-headed visual artist with four hands made me feel. It made me frustrated and pissed off and smile all at the same time. Mission accomplished.

We made our way out of the museum and to the market, then headed to The Old City where we went on a walking tour. As I made my way into the tourist center to pay for the tour, my debit card was declined and it was there I remembered I forgot to call the bank. Thankfully, I had my partner along to pay while I called my bank to rectify the situation when I learned that the card was on a fraud alert and I would have to call the fraud department. Highly inconvenient. The tour was about to begin and I would have to address this problem later. This is another benefit about vacation, super chilled out. I did not get all wound up, just turned my phone off and said, I will deal with this later. 

After the tour, we walked back to our temporary air b+b home. I called the fraud department where I learned that my card was not declined because I was trying to use it in Quebec, but because someone else had been using it online and the charges seemed suspect. I’d say. Capricurves, Fashionnova, Boobtape and Petco. Four mysterious charges online and in Great Britain. 

When the kind woman at fraud alert asked me if I had charged anything on the website, Boobtape, I laughed. Boobtape is one thing I, for sure, don’t need. I have boobs that are straight out wonder woman- no bra needed- these days thanks to the good old reconstruction. Whoever had decided that they needed Capricurves and boobtape on my credit card at least was considerate enough to buy some pet food for their dog at Petco too. 

I began thinking about identity and how these fraudulent charges caused me to piece together my version of the person who tried to use mine. Maybe the person was struggling with their own identity, trying to add curves and lift their boobs. Perhaps they were down and out and just needed some new clothes to feel better or to go on an interview. I don’t know. But identity and culture are part of this story for sure. 


These days it is not that hard to get misuse taken care of promptly. My card was closed immediately and even though this was highly inconvenient while I was traveling, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. I had planned on changing my debit card to get a more accurate handle on how many automatic charges come out of my account on a monthly basis and to get a new card to start fresh when I got home, anyway. In some ways starting a new identity. 

Art got me thinking about identity and this got me thinking about how important art is for thinking. Traveling also gets me thinking about identity. How people live, where people live, how people interact with each other and with strangers and tourists like we have been this week. 

Language, pride, patriotism are all a part of who we identify with and more importantly how we identify with each other. The Cozic exhibit was like looking into a keyhole to see what was on the other side of the door. This past week in Quebec got me to see that there is so much more on the other side of our border and I can’t wait to come back.

interacting with the Cozic exhibit.
Identity in trying to read this delicious menu at L’affoire est Ketchup, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life, no exaggeration.