life lessons, travel

WITHOUT A CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marching forth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

family, Health

LIVE BEYOND 102 DIET (or the world according to Herb Horowitz diet)

“Herbie, (aka my grandfather), do you eat brussel sprouts?” I asked him this week as I was trying to combine my “clean” eating style with his how Herbie eats style. 

“Not really.” 

“What do you want with your chicken tonight? How about brown rice pilaf?” I asked.

“Not a big fan of brown rice,” said Herb.

“How about if I make chicken pot pie tonight for dinner?” Thinking this would be a sure way to warm his heart and stomach.

“Not too many carrots,” Herb said.

As I stood there, incredulous at his lack of vegetable consumption separating the carrots out of the frozen pea carrot mix, I thought, who has it right here? By the way, there are way more carrots than peas in a frozen pea carrot mix bag in case you ever find yourself making chicken pot pie for a 102 year old man who requests not too many carrots.Are peas even a vegetable? I thought.

As I made the pie using frozen pie crust and two cans of Campbells Cream of Celery soup, I laughed to myself. My grandfather has eaten more processed food than I have likely eaten in my entire life. 

Here is a picture of his pantry and freezer to show some examples.

Pretzels, chips, cookies, crackers, canned soup, muffins, danish, Eggo Waffles, ice cream— it makes my years of Paleo, Whole 30, Vegan, Plant Based, Clean eating turn themselves on their holier than thou head.

Herbie Horowitz is 102. This Saturday will be his 25th leap year alive on this planet. He still takes a receipt home from the grocery store and analyzes it line by line when he gets home to make sure he wasn’t over charged. Herbie will still drive to a gas station further away to save a few cents on a gallon. He was born in 1917 and has lived on a “fixed” income for over thirty seven years. 

a catnap after a thorough receipt analysis.

Organic eggs, milk fruits and vegetables stay right there on the shelves as he makes his way through the aisles of Publix or Costco in favor of what is on sale. “Organic schmanic,” he will say anytime I lug in my $150 of groceries where I barely glanced at a price as I added them to my cart from Whole Foods that make up two bags. “That’s a bunch of crap,” he will say.

He drinks wine every single night and has since I have known him. It used to be a couple glasses of scotch in his “younger years.” He eats Wispread cheese and crackers as an appetizer before dinner to “nosh” along with his two or sometimes three glasses of the red version of “2 buck chuck” that is now six bucks from Trader Joes that he buys by the case and promptly places in the refrigerator, a bottle at a time. 

Herb buys whatever deli meat is on sale and eats it with mayonnaise on rye bread along with a nice pile of potato chips topped off with a few cookies for dessert. Pancakes, waffles or danish depending on his mood are part of his daily diet depending on what caregiver cooks up for him based on her ability and his mood. He has trouble sleeping, though  I have mentioned that maybe it could be the cup of Tetley caffeinated tea and cookies he has every night before bed. I get the usual response of EHH. Like, what do I know. Touché.

I scratch my head at the irony of it all. In reviewing his daily diet intake with my Aunt today, she reminded me of my other Grandfather who died when he was about 85. He was smoking one of his unfiltered English Oval cigarettes as he did for his entire life when the chest pains started. He called the ambulance, as he put out what would be his last cigarette of his life. My aunt found it that night half smoked in the ashtray where he had left it.

Grandpa Bill used to eat cereal every late morning that my grandmother would put out for him after he would wake up (like around eleven- I guess we could call this early afternoon), pour heavy cream over it and add about a quarter cup of sugar. The white table variety that was a staple on most kitchen tables in most of the twentieth century. 

This all makes me go hmmmm. Is it the food we eat? Doesn’t seem to be in these two examples. Is it the exercise we do? Not that either, since neither of them ever had any exercise routine except that of the social variety on walks. Walks that would take no more than thirty minutes, but would turn into three or four hours with all of the stopping and chatting along the way. 

 About ten years ago, when asked if he had to do anything over again, what would it be, Herb replied, “I would have started at the Y sooner.” He had joined when he was about 80. I am convinced that the- less than twenty- years he spent at the Y could be one of the reasons his heart is still going strong. This and his incredible outlook on life. His approach to people. His notion about doing the right thing, saying what is on his mind (sometimes to a fault on this one) to remembering and constantly connecting with family and friends. All of this seem to be his Herb Horowitz diet for a better life, a well lived life. A long life. 

With all of the constant discussion about what we eat, what we should and shouldn’t be adding to our mouths and our bodies, Herb Horowitz breaks every single rule in the 2020 playbook. He watches the news with breakfast, watches the news with dinner. He drinks this weird pink soda water that looks like it has about ten tablespoons of red dye # 3 in it. I am perpetually speechless when I am here visiting filling his fridge with pounds of organic fruits and vegetables and grass fed beef. 

The older I get with the delightful privilege of getting to still have my very coherent grandfather around, the more I like to think that health is more about living well, making choices in our mental attitudes, staying calm in the chaos that guides a life without illness and demobilization. At least this is the case for the grandparents I have had and still get to have as I approach my definitive mid fifties. 

As we tooled around in the motorized scooter in his new favorite recently opened grocery store, we came upon the oranges native to this neck of the Florida woods and only out for a short spell. 

“Grandpa, look, the Honey Bell’s are out!” I exclaimed. Ready to pile some into the bag to bring home.

“Nahh.. I can’t eat those— too much sugar.” 

Can’t make it up.

FRIENDSHIP, life lessons

MY FRIEND, ROS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

grief, life lessons

DEAR MICHAEL ANDREW HOROWITZ

I woke up wide awake at three am blaming it on the very large piece of chocolate chip pie I ate after dinner. Then, after lying there for twenty minutes planning my day ahead, my workout schedule for the rest of the week, and reviewing my remaining appointments before my trip to Florida to see Herbie (who just turned 102 three days ago), I realized that today is November 20th.

November 20th, twenty four years later. The same amount of time from the time we heard Adenocarcinoma of the Lung. Rare. Highly Unusual. Usually Happens To Men in Their Fifties.

You were not fifty. You were twenty four.

And in 1994, we all began our new normal, preparing for the inevitable. There was no hope according to the doctors at the time. It had already metastasized all over your bones causing them to easily shatter just from a random toss of an apple core into a trash barrel.

Hope was in our dreams, my endless reading and nauseating quoting of Louise Hay’s positive thinking affirmations like by chanting them and thinking them I could cure you. Hope was in the endless stream of ideas from well meaning friends and co workers with their remedies and alternative solutions.

There was no chance. You were going to die before you had a chance to grow up. To find your way. To lose your hair. To get married and maybe have children some day. To turn thirty, forty, fifty next year.

We would never have the chance to grow old together, to lose Dad together, to celebrate my son together. We would not be able to mourn the twin towers or share the tragedies of the endless school shootings as concerned humans. We would not celebrate the purchase of my own home that you would have been loved and been so proud of. And if you had children of your own, shipped them off to me to hang out with me in my gardens and the space I so love.

In all of these life points, I am solo and siblingless which is not even a word. But it should be because there is no other word to describe my place as a sibling- minus you. I am not an only child because that omits your brief and poignant presence from my life.

I am without you.

And though my life goes on and there is much to celebrate and feel grateful for, I am stunned by the grief and sadness I can also feel simultaneously. This is the magic power of grief’s force — it simmers and lies in wait and allows periods of joy and happiness the further away it steps away from its beginning.

Then on these days, the birthdays, and the memorial days, the days of Michael applying for jobs and getting ready to graduate college and getting closer by the minute to twenty four, the days I hear about high school friends of yours getting married, buying homes, having children, growing up, working at companies and becoming entrepeneurs, I am reminded, with a force to be reckoned with, that you, my dear brother, as your enlightened and glorious being, are not here and will in fact never be.

I am reminded when I ask someone their age or the year they were born and they say, 49 or 1970 and I look at them and don’t see your aging face, but your youthful one because you never made it to now. I see your dread locked head and those dark brown eyes inhaling pot out of a gigantic water bong that looked like it came from a Hooka bar. And I wait for you to ask me what a hooka bar even is because hooka bars didn’t exist because smoking was still allowed inside many places in 1994. When you were alive.

Pot was the only thing that helped you, but that wasn’t legal in any states yet. Today you would have proudly carried a medical marijuana card. When I got mine during the cancer I had, it was to help me, yes, but it was to honor you too. It was my own twisted way to celebrate with you something that linked us even though it was cancer, weird I know. But I could feel you closer and whatever it takes to feel you closer, I will take. Not the cancer part, the marijuana part, I have my limits here, bro.

I am often surprised that Michael doesn’t actually know you personally, because he has so many mannerisms that are exactly like you, I sometimes I have to remind myself that he is my son, not my brother. His voice, his handwriting, his sharp mind, his laugh, his deep eyes, his expressions all remind me deeply of your existence. I like to think that you had something to do with this. Like it was your mysterious way of letting me know that you were watching. This is comforting even if to some it seems bizarre or wishful. I don’t care. I like the comfort. It feels good instead of sad and I like to feel good instead of sad.

When Michael and the Francis boys were in middle school and decided to record themselves lighting farts with a bic lighter, it didn’t horrify me as much as it should have because this was definitely something you did. Every time I hear Neil Young or Bob Marley or Peter Tosh — every time I see a VW Vanagon or a white guy with dreadlocks, or watch Michael eat chocolate chip cookies, or look at Craig Gurganus surfboard fish art you gave when Dave and I bought our first home, you are standing in front of me smiling.

When I found a tile coaster of a sun in my travels to Italy, I had to buy it because it reminded me of the sun you drew while you were dying. Your dying held on to every scrap of life you could muster. I couldn’t believe how brave and courageous you were at such a young age, but you were an old soul even at your young age. Maybe your dying young outwardly was really because you were old inwardly. Who knows. It doesn’t matter, You are not here. And this is permanent. And incredibly sad.

When Mom sees Michael, she frequently says how much he looks like his dad, almost seeming to want to wish away the parts so obvious in him that are you. I imagine it is so difficult for her to see the vestiges of your being in her grandson. The pain must be far worse than the possibility of joy in the duplication of your essence causing darts of reminders that must shake a mother’s loss. I wish I could talk about this with her and that you and I could talk about the fact that I can’t, but then if we could, none of this would be happening in the first place.

I write about you because I miss you every day. Every day for twenty four years.

It is not the type of missing that has debilitated me; I have moved through grief rather than around it, but there are times I step to its side and take my deep dive into the wallow, the mire, the quicksand of its vigor. More times I forget that that pull is grief all these years later. When a good walk and a good cry would probably be a better solution than a bottle of red and a slice of chocolate chip pie. But I have become much more forgiving of my slides into moments of pie. I have practiced grief and become better at allowing its call when necessary in whatever form it takes to just deal with the sadness at the time.

I am ok. The steps around or through are all ok. Twenty four years later, I have used this time to be more patient with these slides down the rabbit hole knowing that in some ways it is also part of my creative process and healing.
Healing. Heal-ing is a strange word because is implies that there is an end at some point after you have healed. I will never heal. There will never be an ‘e.d.’ after the ‘h.e.a.l’. This would mean that I have missed you Enough. That I am over missing you.

And this would be impossible. And I am more than OK with this. Because on November 20th every year, just like your birthday on October 20th every year, you come to life again because I get to be in the day of you with you how I want to be with you.

While I am alive, I will always do this and I will always remind Michael that today is another excuse to get to remember you. Remembering you is the closest thing I have to having you and if this is all I can have, then it will have to do.

grief, life lessons

I WILL REMEMBER YOU

Mom, my head is killing me, the text said at 6:00am after I responded to the preceding text of, Are you awake? 

My son, Michael, never really calls about things like this so I sit here trying not to go to the dark side. 

But it is hard for me. As much as everyone says how much he looks like his father, David, and as much as I see this, I also see my brother in him more and more as he gets older. His voice, his mannerisms, even his handwriting is similar. Maybe it is just wishful thinking that he resembles my beautiful brother. 

He is my brother’s namesake, Michael. 

My brother was a seemingly healthy, strapping young man when he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer three months before his twenty-fourth birthday. He died just one month after he turned twenty-five. Needless to say, the loss was unbearable and almost twenty-five years later, as I sit with that loss, it shows up in my worry about my son. 

There is this lingering vapor that surrounds me and as much as I try not to give it my attention, it is there. My son is going to be twenty two in almost two months. And that is almost twenty three. Then I have two more years to be reminded of the deep crevices left from my brother’s death as I watch my son enter into the realm of his age. 

There is no positive affirming this away. I am not the type of person who projects bad things. This is just a trauma that is here. Death of a young person is like this. 

It sits there. 

And waits. 

And we can go through our days and our lives and have moments where it is not such a prominent thought, but it is always there. And when it decides to remind you of the pain, the dark feelings are real. 

So when my son calls me at six in the morning, not usually a complainer, I take the call seriously. We go to the doctor, the walkin because these days unless you have some boutique doctor that you have decided to pay an annual fee for the “privilege” of being able to actually see them without an appointment, you slog along to the walkin with the majority of the population. 

We sit and wait and as luck would have it, my own doctor happens to walk by and we start talking about why we are there. In a nanosecond she figures out the problem and in a nano second we are both semi relieved. When he was called for his appointment, it was weird to not go in to the office with him, it was one of those funny mom transitional moments. The kid is almost twenty two for goodness sake; I was traveling for a month alone through Paris with only one thousand dollars in my pocket and no credit cards when I was this age. 

He would have to fend for himself or else the likely eye rolls from the medical team of helicopter mom would prevail. Thankfully, the prognosis was that he had a past sinus issue that decided to keep residence in his head causing this severe headache. It wasn’t a brain tumor, it wasn’t an eye tumor. He wasn’t going to have to have chemo and radiation and lie dying while his body wilted away to nothing.  

This language sounds extreme; I fully realize how dramatic this sounds. The funny thing is that when he was a little boy and even into his teens, I was never the worrying parent. As a matter of reflection, I was about the only parent I knew who was elated at the prospect of him obtaining his driver’s license and getting his own car. 

Michael always showed up when he said he would, he would text me if he was going to be late, which was hardly ever. He was who parents would call a good kid. He still is. Responsible, kind, considerate. My brother was like this too, but the difference was that he died when he was only twenty five. My maternal worry has started this year and I can’t shake it. When most parents are breathing a sigh of relief that their children are almost across the finish line to graduate college, I am in a slightly unnerved state. 

This is trauma. Waiting like a patient tiger for its prey, ready to jump at just the right moment. October is like that tiger because it is the start of many defining moments. October 20. My brother’s birthday. Born in 1970, it is strange when I meet someone who is was born the same year. When I hear or see someone’s birth year as 1970, I look at them and am immediately struck by their normal aging face. 

Losing a twenty five year old makes time stand still because I only remember my brother young. He said this to me before he died as being the only benefit- like there could be any benefit- to dying young- that people would always remember him young. 

As time keeps ticking, I am struck by the fragility of life as I recall the birthdays of the people I love who have passed. October 24, my Grandmother Kitsie, the grandmother who always had a typewriter in her bedroom where she typed hundreds of recipes for me for my twenty first birthday. November 1st my Grandmother Isabelle, who encouraged my writing always telling me what a great writer I was. She kept all of my letters and writings discovered on the day of her funeral when all of the grandchildren found a three tiered storage box where all memories of us were kept. We had such a good time reveling in her love of each of us by what she kept all of the years.

November 10th, Lesa Turillo, a young woman who was an active part of my adolescence because she was the daughter of my first love when I was only a child myself. She died from an overdose almost two years ago. 

Then there are the birthdays of the people I love who are still here. My former husband, Dave, November 11th who I spent twenty years of my life  and the most positive end result being our son. And of course my Grandfather, Herbie, who at almost 102 is still going as strong as a 102 year old man who has seen much death in the last twenty five years can be. November 20th fast approaching is the anniversary of Michael’s death, the last year he will have been alive more than he will be gone. I remember wondering about that when he died, the feeling that would come to me when he would be gone longer than he was alive. And here we are.

Time travel. October 20th comes and goes each year and each year I sit alone with my memory. My mother struggles to speak of her loss and I get that -so I respectfully don’t mention it. My father has passed away so I don’t have him to just say, Hi Dad, I’m thinking of Michael today on what would have been his 49th birthday. Who will remember as time marches forth? Death is easy to remember. We memorialize death with plaques and Yahrzeit services but I remember your birthday. The day you were born. I will remember your life on this day. I will always remember you. You can count on that. 

life lessons

FALLING DOWN, GETTING UP

Meeting a new friend for lunch yesterday on a lovely Friday afternoon, the only stress I had was trying to find a parking space in Providence on a busy noon time slot. After circling the restaurant, Plant City, a new very hip and incredibly delicious vegan food fest, about six times, I decided that life is short and paid eight outrageous dollars for the mere convenience of removing stress from my already late self.

As I made my way into this food mecca of delight, I found my friend and we made our way to the Italian section of the restaurant and bellied up to the bar for conversation and pizza. Oh, and vegan raw lasagna which may sound awful to Italian food purists, but the taste sensation is really special. I am not a vegan at all, I love meat, but what I really love is food and its ability to bring out the most creative cooking among the brilliant chefs in our little state.

New friends are such a treasure and I have the luxury of meeting many cool chicks simply because I am in the beauty business and female energy abounds. I like that I am open to carving time to dive in to the Yes, Let’s make time for lunch answer when asked. I am even luckier that I am asked. More often than not, it is time well spent and yesterday was no exception as we inhaled the truffle pizza and had an indulgent mid afternoon glass of wine.

In my casual life I lead, I have also become more casual in my daily wardrobe, so yesterday I had decided to get it together and actually dress up a bit. These days, this means jeans, my favorite shoes I bought in Israel that I wished I had bought ten pairs of, and a nice top with some jewels- a little more than the typical athleisure (yes this apparently is a real word used to describe my daily uniform these days). I find myself clinging to comfort as my go to closet grab most days and I mostly don’t care about shoes and clothes anymore like I used to. Like I used to when the outside was more important than the inside.

I had one errand before heading home and that was to drop off my rent check around the corner. I had picked some flowers from my still very zinnia packed garden to bring with the check to my landlord’s receptionist I had gotten to know over the past twelve years. As I made my way up the stairs, I could hear the familiar sounds of the television he kindly allows them to keep on the reception desk to occupy their time when it is slow.

I walked in to his second floor office to find, not the familiar receptionist, but instead, a very pregnant one, whom I had never met before. I made my introductions, passed on the flowers and check and said goodbye. I was not rushing, I didn’t have anything in my hands besides my car keys and as I made my way out, I took a mint from the bowl and said good bye.

One habit I have added to my movement is to always lightly place my hand on any stair railing. My aunt had fallen and broken her ankle several years back, and it was a good reminder to be cautious on stairs. With the keys and the mint in my left hand, I placed my right hand on the railing and made my way down the stairs. Wait rewind. I thought this was what I did, but I don’t really know because within a split second, my Israeli shoed heels slipped out from under me and I slid down six or seven hard stairs to the hard landing. My tailbone, mid back and neck followed. I yelled, you know the type of uncontrolled yell like you do when you are on a roller coaster. The mint flew out of its wrapper and the keys went flying and I was in shock that this just happened.

The mint flying out of its wrapper was a clue that maybe I was trying to open it as I stepped on to the front stair which would mean that I didn’t put my hand on the railing before taking the first step. It is all a blur and doesn’t really matter because the end result was me on my ass and three people running to the unusual sound they heard. The sound of the full weight of me and the scream in the middle of a Friday afternoon was concerning. The pregnant woman whose name escapes me, the landlord and a lovely massage therapist from the first floor offices, who had been interrupted in the middle of her service because of the noise, all came rushing out to see what the commotion was.They found it alright, along with the mint and my keys, sitting breathless but, thankfully, conscious at the bottom of the stairs trying to determine if I should bounce up and brush it off or if I should take this more seriously.

Questions came flying out, Can I get you some water, are you dizzy, where does it hurt, can you breathe, I’ll get you some water, here is some water. I just kept saying, I just need to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath. Everyone was so kind, helpful, caring and concerned and I just sat patiently for a few minutes to evaluate how I landed on my ass in a split second. I knew enough than to berate myself because I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t being careless. I wasn’t rushing. I was calm and happy, but I fell anyway. It felt like my heels slipped from under me, that is the only thing I can distinctly remember.

The textured rubberized stairs clearly designed for not falling were not wet, nor were my shoes. It was a freak fall. I slid down the stairs like a child on a newly wax papered metal playground slide from yesteryear. My tailbone took my entire weight, then my mid back then my neck then my head. My hands instinctively braced for the fall, causing my wrists to take some of the brunt. I could already feel the bruises forming. Was this all because of a fucking mint? The only reason I took the mint was because the lingering garlic from my lunch was so potent I was trying to defuse its aftermath.

No- I did not think I needed to go the hospital, no- I didn’t think I had a concussion. I would be fine. I was just trying to determine if I should drive or not so I sat and weighed my thoughts for a few more moments. I was sore but I felt fine enough. I would be bruised, both my body and my ego. As I find myself approaching fifty five along with my dear friends, our conversations are naturally starting to turn to ailments and health. We find ourselves laughing at this surprising turn of how did we get here conversation. A fall was just one of those things that is bound to happen. But for me the question was WHY? There always has to be a why for me. Just helps me understand and gives me direction.

I got up. Because this is just what I do. I get back up. I brushed myself off and made my way home. I packed up some clothes and made my way to my partner’s house. Just in case I did have a concussion and died in my sleep, I didn’t want to be alone. Yes, this dramatic thought ran through my head; who knows, I had never hit my head before. I didn’t play sports when I was a kid, I played the flute, hardly a chance to bang my head doing that. This was unfamiliar territory and as much as I minimize life coming at me, I was also pragmatic enough not to be foolish.

My lovely landlord reached out, obviously concerned, I jokingly told him that my fall got me out of my seven am workout the following day. As I laid on the couch tending to my very sore backside, I had a strange vision occur. The maybe answer to my why this happened.

I had never seen the receptionist who had been in the office yesterday. Maybe my fall was to create a hyper awareness in her pregnant self to be careful on the stairs. That fall I took yesterday could have been a fall she may have taken if she had been rushing like so many young moms. Maybe my fall was a guardian angel looking out for that little super being in her belly. Maybe this baby she is about to have has an added layer of protection as he or she makes her grand entrance into this chaotic world.

Yes- that is why I fell yesterday, for a higher purpose other than myself. It makes the fall worth it thinking about it in this light. We fall down, we get up, we start again and perhaps the lessons in our falls have nothing to do with us at all.

I thought I was going to wake up beyond sore, beyond bruised; in fact, I slept beautifully, and though I am a bit sore and a bit bruised today, I do think shifting the way I considered my accident yesterday healed me faster. I feel astonishingly good today.

To quote two of my favorites, ee cummings, “Thank you G-d for this most amazing day…. “ and Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Indeed.

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

OUT OF MY CONTROL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grief, life lessons

BUILDING A WALL

I had no idea what to expect when I found out that my partner would be volunteering at the building of the wall. Not “The Wall,” the one that lights up every talk show, radio, podcast and television news channel, but the other one, the one that was forced into its creation because of the incredible loss of over 58,000 American lives.

The Moving Wall is a traveling memorial wall to make sure that this country remembers the Vietnam War and its over 58, 000 American lives lost and 304,000 wounded. Over two million Vietnam civilians and over one million Vietnam fighters died in this tragedy as well.

I am certainly not here to give a history lesson, for sure I need one myself since I was born right in the midst of its escalation, 1965. My father had been in college at the time, married my mother a year earlier, and likely because of his own fortunate socio economic position in life, avoided the draft. I am not sure if this is why he got married at twenty in 1964, but I am guessing that it must have been on his mind. I will never know since he passed away in 2011.

What I do know is that the Moving Wall must be named both literally and figuratively; it is moving to say the least.

Right now its resting place is Touro Park in Newport, RI and even if you have seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, this replica takes your breath away, wets your eyes and causes a great question in your heart, Why? As a mother of a twenty one year old son, my heart cracked open as I considered that most of the men on that wall were his age.

When I asked the Google question whether there were any women on the wall, the number that came up was eight, but I need to confirm this. This was a different time, our boys were drafted and the women who served were mostly in the traditional roles of nurses and caregivers, left to pick up the literal pieces of our boys. They were significant, but like the wars before seldom celebrated and memorialized.

Over two million of our boys were drafted. Over two million of a twenty-seven million pool. I can’t imagine what happened to the communities and the families during this time in our nation’s dark history.

When I went for the vigil this past Friday night, I had no idea what to expect; there were the rough and tumbled Vietnam Vets arriving on their motorcycles, leather vests, tattooed, long white ponytails well into their seventies now. There were the men and their families who managed to survive the war, return home in one bodily piece and get on with their lives. There were the families of the fallen searching for the name. Everyone had a story, everyone knew someone. Everyone cried.

My young world was not affected by the Vietnam War. I don’t recall anyone in my neighborhood drafted, or much discussion about the war other than its presence on dinner time television. I was only four years old when my partner, eighteen years my senior, was drafted. A neighborhood only ten or so miles away and miles apart with its impact on community. I may not have even gone if it hadn’t been for my partner. Micheal was drafted in 1968 and served in Vietnam for one year. His friends from his Federal Hill neighborhood were drafted too as their community fell into that unfortunate category my father had the luxury of avoiding.

These vets were not celebrated on their return, but booed, insulted and it was a double travesty. Vietnam vets suffered emotional wounds that if they are alive today still deal with, not to mention the long term effects of agent orange on their health and life. This wall commemorates not only the ones who didn’t make it, but the ones who were forced by our government to fight a war based on ego and abuse of government’s power. The ones who made it back, like my partner, his friends, my uncle in law are lucky to be alive. We are lucky they are still here to tell the stories and to share their grief as they open up to finally release theirs.

Michael and I looked for the name of one of his friends who didn’t make it back, we looked for the name of one of our friend’s cousins. We were asked if we wanted to do an etching, but we didn’t need to because once you see a name of someone it is etched in your spirit immediately. They are remembered. This is the truest memorial.

our friend, David’s Cousin, Wayland J. Batson

As I sat at the Vigil with my candle burning, I listened to the 203 Rhode Island names read, some still M.I.A. and wept. This wall is an important part of our American history so that we never forget what can go terribly wrong when decisions are made for the very wrong reasons. Every twenty something should bear witness to the possibilities of their own good fortune they don’t live in the time of a draft, for now anyway. We gratefully rely on volunteers to enlist and for now this is enough for our country. I hold my breath, though, because we just never know.

This wall is at the park until September 23rd and is headed to Attleboro, Mass Sept 26-30.

MY PARTNER, Michael, so happy her made it out in one piece. #luckyindeed
FUN, self love, WRITING

WHY I TYPE

There she was, that beauty of a black Royal, sitting there, dusty, keys barely visible.

Forty Dollars, the price tag said as it was marked down to it’s final lowest price at the consignment store I visit with my aunt when she treks down from Boston.

I quietly walked up to the black metal machine weighing in at what seemed like twenty pounds and placed my finger on a random key, maybe it was the H or the G or the A, irrelevant now. Click, like the sound of the hard snap of the tip of my tongue up against the roof of my mouth, I was brought back to a familiar time, but one I couldn’t quite recall just yet.

I firmly pressed my fingers on the keys with a much stronger touch than the laptop keyboard my fingers have grown accustomed to. I waited to hear the “ding,” hoping the warning bell to pay attention to my word choice of how many letters I have left still worked on this old beauty of a machine.

I was not disappointed.

Ding! And just like that I was brought back to my grandmother’s bedroom where she had always kept her typewriter for correspondence, recipes and anything else she needed to legibly communicate what her messy handwriting could not.

My aunt, who was shopping with me that day, confirmed what I couldn’t place at first sight.

Yes Alayne, dear, this was indeed the same type of typewriter Grandma had.

For some reason, at that exact moment, I felt a strange calling to rescue what I now fondly call, Dear Old Gal. And just like that, I became a collector of typewriters.

It is hard to believe that was a little over a year ago, but in one year’s time I have amassed thirty typewriters. YES- 30. I realize to the average person, this may seem excessive, but it occurred to me shortly after that first purchase of this 1940’s Royal, these gems are not being made anymore. Typewriters from the twentieth century, pre-electric, are the end of an era. They are glorious pieces of machinery all needing each part to make them their beautiful whole. The mechanisms are visible to the eye for the most part and their simplicity is a thing of the past. Our children and their children will only get to see them at museums and antique stores.

I am in love with the notion of using a typewriter. My heart is full when I open one from their portable case and set it up on my front porch to make my thoughts appear, mistakes and all, on the white paper I have rolled in. I am elated when I watch a child instinctively drawn to the keys and smile ear to ear realizing that they can create words that will not allow deletion. I am in my happy place when they ask, “Where is the exclamation point? (you have to make it with a period, backspace, apostrophe) Or the number 1?(it is the capital L) How do I erase a mistake? (you don’t) What is the ding for?”

My heart is in pure heaven when I can send a typed note on specialty 100% cotton paper I found from Germany to say thank you to someone who least expects to receive a typewritten note. Or to send my condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. Or just because.

There is something about typing. I can’t explain the feeling so instead of doing so, I do events and open my doors to let people in to feel what I mean. More than even the actual action of typing, typewriters invoke story after story from people every time they see one and even more when they hear one.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, all flavors. This is beauty to me. Sharing something from the past with people to engage and connect. In our new face down in the phone paradigms we seem to find ourselves in and our children in, I am finding it harder and harder to escape from this technology that has made us all think of as connection. What I have learned is that it is the exact opposite.

So I offer a new way to disconnect. This is why I type. Typewritingisbeauty. Enjoy them; they love their salvation.

Please join me on Saturday September 14th for The State Street Fair in Bristol, RI. I will be there with the typewriters. Stop by and type something, bring the kids, bring your smiles.

Words Matter.