self love

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Thirty years ago, when my former husband, Dave and I were in our pre-marriage engagement stage, we had a boat we kept in Newport. It was like a floating camper for us and gave us full access to the fun of Newport, RI in our mid-twenties. Drinking and walking, this is what we did. A lot.

It was on one of these excursions with too many margaritas in our bellies when we walked into the estate jewelry store where we had previously found my engagement ring. The store was owned by two women who were excellent salespeople. We walked in that day to say hello and in the meantime saw two incredible rings. One of the rings was a chunky blue topaz in the center oreo’d with a yellow citrine on each side of the topaz. It was a bold antique ring that I wasn’t quite ready for, but loved it just the same. The other ring was a small elegant row of amethysts on a simple gold band. I playfully (and drunkenly) tried them on, then took them off and we were on our merry way. Back to the boat for a dizzying sleep, but a safe one and this is a fond memory.

The next day or two, Dave came home with the amethyst ring as a surprise for me. This was who he was, a great gift giver and a kind soul and the further away I get from my marriage, the more I focus on these kindnesses rather than what didn’t work. I am enjoying the maturity of this and appreciate that I can focus on the good parts of the twenty years we were together as I grow older. There seem to be more good parts in these reflections backwards and I am grateful for this.

I am not sure what happened to the amethyst ring, but I wore it a lot. I loved this ring, but I have thought about the blue topaz with the yellow citrines often over the years thinking that maybe someday I would have one designed to replicate it. Thirty years later this ring must have had some superpower because I have continued to reminisce about its whereabouts. Maybe because the boldness of the ring is much more who I have developed into as a woman approaching my mid fifties.

Jewelry doesn’t usually have this type of impact on me, I am not a big jewelry person, but clearly this ring left its imprint. It very well could be the memory of its goodness in the early discovery years in a marriage. A young naïve couple filled with hope and dreams about a utopian future ahead. Then you get married and the future changes. Life comes at you and before you know it it is thirty years later and you are not sure how you got HERE. Births, deaths, floods, divorces, home purchases, moves, cancer, new boobs, and here I am.

HERE I AM.

I have found myself. I was lost, now I am found, just like the song says, but I didn’t even know I was lost. In fact Being Lost isn’t really a negative; lost has given me a chance to go looking for the place, the space, the road. To get THERE. To get HERE. Here is saying yes more. Not living in plans and too many appointments without making the appointment with myself too. Saying yes to a random dinner with a friend and making an impromptu date for the next day to wander through a local exhibit at a museum we had all been meaning to go to but when we got there the following day, we learned that we had missed it. Put it in the “I’ll get to it tomorrow” pile as we do with so many events that show up in our inboxes.

So we made the best of it and wandered to one of the stores we had been meaning to visit in our little town. It was a small antique, vintage mixed with new odd combination of sunglasses, jewelry, clothes and knick knacks. We had a great time and as I went to make my way out of the store, my eye caught a sparkly bauble in the case. It was a phenomenal ring, Bold. Big. Hearty. And it was blue topaz and yellow citrine, but reversed from the ring I started this story with. Citrine in the center, blue topaz on the outsides.

“Can I try this on?” I asked excited. I thought I saw the price tag say $144. This seemed reasonable for the beauty that stared back at me hoping eagerly to find its way onto my finger.

The owner hesitantly took it from the case and looked at the price several times before handing it to me. I could almost sense that he thought the ring may be mismarked.

When he finally gave it to me after what seemed like five minutes, and it slid on my right ring finger like it was home again, I asked him if the stone was yellow citrine.

“I don’t know.” he replied. “I was not here the day this arrived.” He looked a little concerned that I was actually going to purchase this ring after asking him the price and hearing him say $68.00.

I wasted no time and quickly ran to the ATM across the street (because he was not taking credit cards in this day and age, hard to believe). I bought the ring, slid it on my finger and realized that if I were to get married again, this would be my wedding ring. So I sent a text with a photo of the ring to my long term partner that read the following:

Michael, if we were to ever get married, I would want this to be my wedding ring, but since we are never getting married (because neither of us ever want to, FYI) I am marrying myself. So happy wedding day to me. And I really meant this. I felt like I made the decision with this full circle opposite ring on my finger to marry myself. I MARRY ME. The thing about Michael is he totally gets me and got this immediately. I am sure he is grateful he has a partner who mutually feels the same regarding marriage. We are committed. Together. This is plenty.

The funny thing about this is that when Dave and I were divorced, I always thought I would take my wedding ring and engagement ring and have them made into a new ring that I would wear on my middle finger and call it a FREEDOM Ring. I never got around to that. I loved my wedding ring and my engagement ring and I couldn’t bear to break it apart. And as much as our marriage didn’t stay put, I loved my experience of the good and the bad of marriage. It made me who I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I didn’t need a FREEDOM ring. I am free. Not because I am not married, because I do think that in a healthy relationship married or not, you can be free too. My freedom comes in the physical and mental layers I continue to shed along with layers of EGO that simply no longer serve. This is because of the work I have done and the life I have chosen.

This is a cause for celebration, this is a cause for a wedding.

To me. Till death do us part.

#imarryme

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MIRACLE OF LIGHT

MIRACLE OF LIGHT

With Hanukkah fast approaching this Sunday eve, there is a welcome pause that occurs in my world before the mayhem of December. My aunt and I joke about the holiday being “early” this year as many people compare the holiday, all Jewish holidays as a matter of fact, to the Christian ones close by. I can hear my former mother in law asking me, “When is your Christmas? When is your Easter?” Patience. Breathe. Don’t react. Jewish holidays are never “early or late;” they are perfectly on time because they are based on the cycle of the sun and moon, the Hebrew Calendar, not the Gregorian calendar we have been born and raised with. The holiday falls on the twenty-fifth day in the Hebrew month of Kislev, the darkest day both solar and lunar. Hanukkah falls during the waning moon into the new moon. If you are eager to learn about the moon cycles and Jewish Holidays this article is excellent-

http://telshemesh.org/water/jewish_cycles_of_the_moon_jill_hammer.html

There is no accident that the Festival of Light would fall on a waning moon and take eight nights to move towards the new moon. We are lighting a symbolic candle each night adding one to complete the holiday, reminding me at least that we have the power to bring our own light slowly and steadily to the proverbial table. We celebrate the miracle of light because the famous story goes that after the temple was destroyed around 165 BCE and the rebuilding was about to happen, there was not enough oil to keep the light burning- then a miracle happened and the oil burned for eight days. This has been the story we have taught our children for generations, but there is so much more to the story. This minor holiday is filled with symbolism of miracles and divine intervention, of resilience and resistance, but it is a minor holiday. In fact the whole gift giving is really not historical, but likely more of a tradition that happened because of its regular proximity to Christmas. I am not here, though to discuss physical ‘presents’ but rather the magic of reflection and the symbolism of light in its darkness.

What is light anyway? Why is it so important? As aging human beings, it is likely that we will experience areas of darkness in our lives, death, loss, tragedy, sadness are all part of the fabric of our lives. Darkness is part of the day, but so is light and the light is the wake up call. In Darkness, we go deep within, in Light, we open our hearts and broaden our view. In lightness we can see further on the horizon. Every Jewish holiday requires candle lighting. It is welcoming the light in the beginning of each holiday and it is the moment of reflection and meditation as we say hello to the moment. Thank you God for reminding us to light these candles by your commandments. It is a commandment to literally stop and smell the roses. Not just on Jewish holidays, but on every single Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat, the most important ‘holiday’ in Judaism actually.

I did not grow up in a religious family; I grew up in a cultural one. This is the luxury in some ways of Judaism; there are so many options within the scope of its history to participate. This is also the potential downfall as it is not nearly as easy to “keep the faith,” when everywhere you turn there is the white bearded Santa Ho Ho Ho-ing and the Easter bunny hop hop hopping. So in some instances especially with no Jewish family around except for my son and me, I must make my own traditions. What I treasure about the Jewish Holidays is the lack of obvious predictability in their schedules; precisely their lack of consistency each time they roll around. Shabbat, though, is predictable. Every Friday night, every Saturday until the first three stars show up in the sky, Shabbat never lets me down. It is always there for the taking and most often I let it pass by with barely a glimmer except when I am visiting my grandfather, then it is full throttle Shabbat. Synagogue and all. Shabbat is the glorious reminder, if you are a believer in the divine, that God knew the days of the week would fly by and would come with excessive work. That life comes at you and despite it all, you need a day off to rest and recover and reconnect with a higher purpose. I take great comfort in this knowing that I can take a gigantic step back into the call to rest on a Friday night whenever I need to. I am usually surprised that I don’t because I feel so good when I do.

Last year Hanukkah landed on Christmas, this year it is December 2nd, a Sunday night. With the world accelerating each year passing me by, the Jewish Holidays are a welcome respite to bring light back in, to pause, to invite friends to replace my absent family, to see my son in the middle of a school week, to end the year with connection and spirituality. Hanukkah, this year, “early” in the month, gives me a chance to slow down and cook for people I love and to share my own light. This time around it also reminds me of my spirituality that in the busy-ness of my life has left the building. Judasim, my faith, my interpretation of its symbolic presence in my life kind of like an Alanon meeting is always there and I am guilty of taking it for granted thinking that because it is always there, it will always be there. This is a mistake that needs correction.

This year, after the horrors of what seems like a mass shooting a day, I must attend to my spirituality with more consciousness. Not doing so allows assimilation to move in and claim what my great grandparents escaped from when they left the Russian pogroms in the early twentieth century. Ambivalence and taking my faith for granted does not honor the prevalence of hate crimes increasing daily, it does not recognize the tragic loss of life at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg or honor any other group of citizens practicing and worshipping at their own churches and congregations. Whatever I decide to do, however it unfolds, there will be more of a conscious purpose to get back to something that I love. Judaism’s traditions and rich history of survival and resilience feeds my soul in a way like no other. This upcoming Hanukkah, like most of the Jewish Holidays gives me that gift. The gift to stop, think, act, participate, love, connect with my own light and with the people in my life who feel the same. This is a true miracle. May you have much light on any dark days and when there seems to be an absence of light, may the pause and connection remind you that the sun does indeed come up every day.

Hanukkah 101

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OPEN AND RECEPTIVE

OPEN AND RECEPTIVE

I am open and receptive to all good. These are the words I have used to replace any other words that occasionally find their way into my brain. These eight words, especially when 3 am rolls around and the dark chocolate has kicked in I ate before I went to bed, have been my go to phrase since almost 1989 when I discovered Louise Hay.

Louise Hay was one of the founders of the self help movement and when I first read her book, You Can Heal Your Life, I was only twenty four. Her theories about thinking and the meaning of the thoughts we think changed the way I thought about thinking. I had never heard this thought process before, that I actually had control over that frisky brain of mine that until then had led me very much astray. Louise Hay was a game changer for me and at twenty four, I never realized how important the simple notion of belief systems were.

Thirty years later, when my brain takes over my intuition, I know that deliberately shifting my words, rearranging them like a puzzle, changes how I feel. This is an outstanding notion and I wish we could teach this to our middle schoolers with much more priority. The movie, The Secret, where the intention was to teach that our unique powers are within us by changing the way we think about ourselves left out one important component, Action. I can lay in my bed all day saying positive phrases, but I must get out of bed to see how the experiment works. This is not to say that we always have control. Louise Hay and many of her believers also believed that every single ailment was caused by belief systems. I once heard this young man on THE MOTH telling his story about being born with cerebral palsy. He was hilarious in his story and one of the lines he used was, Fuck Louise Hay. He was not responsible for being born with that condition, but she could be interpreted that way. When my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer at 24, I too found myself thinking he had some control over his fatal outcome. No such luck and I shutter to think about some of the language I used with him at the beginning.

The thoughts we think are powerful. This I know for sure. Now that I have many moons of life experience and traumatic events to add to the mix, what I have figured out for myself is when I feel good, positive, grounded, happy, the energy in my body feels different. Those rare times when my brain heads south, my body feels depleted, negative, low energy and it seems that this is when the Life Coming at Me kicks in to high gear. It is more a feeling, but I think that many of us understand the basic concept of seeing the bright side rather than the dark side. When I look at life with my rose colored glasses, life brings me pleasure even in my dark times. This is brain training because our minds seem to be hard wired for fear and doubt. After all our ancestors were in a constant state of fight or flight trying to outrun the enemy. The good of this is self protection, survival, pretty useful when you had to fight off lions and tigers and bears. These days, the enemy, at least in my neat little protected world, is my mind and what I allow it to believe. I am not running away from wild beasts to save myself from extinction, but anytime I have a trigger or an arrow coming towards me, my body reverts to fight or flight sending my cortisol hormones into overdrive. Cortisol in overdrive is a death sentence, and my body should not have the same type of adrenaline rush when I am struggling to find a parking spot as it does if I was trying to outrun a grizzly. But it does. Isn’t that fascinating?

When my brain has taken me hostage filling me with all kinds of terrible thoughts about myself, wasteful thoughts that don’t serve me like, I feel fat, I am a slacker, I am a procrastinator, holy shit, where did that bulge around my middle show up, not good enough thoughts that blah blah blah and blast away like those sparklers on the forth of July, I have a low energy from them. This is just a sampler, but there is not a woman I know who can’t relate. I am guessing there are men out there, too, who have this experience. We are all humans each with our own brains that go rogue at the drop of a hat. I have learned that a simple often deliberate shift always makes me feel better and when I feel better I see the world better and when I see the world better, life has a way of working itself out. Always. Even in my darkest times, I see the world with a speck of light. I like light. I appreciate kindness, random smiles and a hardy strong hug that lingers just a little longer. And in this volatile time with so many darts at every turn, as we duck and hide and run for cover from the technology that now seems to be the grizzly bear in the woods, a smile, a hug and old fashioned connection may be just the interrupters we humans need.


recipes

BURN THE BUTTER

BURN THE BUTTER

Burn the butter along with the many other little lessons my grandmother taught me without trying to teach me is some of the best cooking and life advice from a woman who was born and raised in the Midwest and found her way to Boston in her post college years. For those cooks out there scratching their heads at the notion that burning the butter is actually a good piece of cooking advice, march forth. When it comes to scrambled eggs, burn the butter is the secret ingredient to the tastiest scrambled eggs bringing me back to my childhood, a childhood layered with butter and cream and coats upon coats of rich dairy staples. Burn the butter should be more like brown the butter, not really burning it, but getting it to the point when the butter is melting and it gets that rich caramel like smell. If you added a teaspoon of sugar, it could almost be dessert itself. But you don’t, you add two scrambled eggs and mix well until they are ladened with the butter, just soft enough to feel creamy, but not wet enough to be slimy. The perfect scrambled egg was one of the many morning routines from my grandmother, put on sliced thin Pepperidge Farm white toast (do they still even make this?) also with just a hint of butter as her morning staple. And a small carafe of black coffee.

My grandmother, Kitsie, my mother’s mother had lots of one liners and sometimes my Aunt and I try to remember them. “There’s enough blue in the sky to make a dutchman’s pants.” would mean that the sky would be clearing and it wouldn’t rain if the sky had the clouds in it that otherwise would make you think it was about to. “She was a colorless girl,” to describe someone who was bland and nondescript. “He who hath no expectations, shan’t be disappointed,” was another frequent phrase, spoken from a woman who had to work on this for a good part of her life. Like recipes, the pearls of wisdom from long gone family members instilled in our hearts and souls is often the words they left us with that we find ourselves reflecting upon in our daily lives especially now that I am getting older.

My neighbor Dottie, has lots of these one liners, too that are already embedded in my heart. One of my favorites is, “You can’t see it from Fall River,” meaning don’t worry about it. Just forge ahead. Like a recipe from our childhood, the words that are said often innocently are the ones that stick around in our daily mantras without really thinking about them that much; they just appear out of nowhere almost letting us know that these important people in our lives are very much still with us. I like the comfort of that.

Like this morning when I decided to make my eggs in my grandmother’s style almost burning the butter, having toast for a change also with butter and a little strawberry jam. I went out on my front porch to eat my breakfast. Rather than try to balance the plate, the tea and my laptop, its own recipe for a spill, I did it the civilized way, placed it on my favorite tray and made my way to the fresh air in the early morning light. My grandmother did this almost every time I slept at her house except she ate breakfast in bed reading one of her library books. For her morning ritual she would wake up, get breakfast ready and place it on a tray and bring it into her bedroom. I always remember her eating breakfast in bed. I can’t remember the last time I did that and actually it doesn’t really speak to me like breakfast outside on the front porch the morning after a rain and thunderstorm in one of my many sitting areas I have created.

Rituals of sitting and resting, like rituals of language are an important part of my life. I love to exercise and write, but creating spaces in my space is something that really speaks to me. When I freed myself from the boundaries of social norms like having a dining room, a living room, a tv area, my house opened up like Pandora’s box. I created multiple sitting areas in my house, in my business and outside so that at any given point in time, I could have a place to read or write or contemplate. When I say multiple, I’m not kidding, I counted and came up with eleven! Just by giving myself permission to not have a traditional dining room and living room, the world of my home became my oyster and my dining room became the perfect nook for writing on a cold winter day or a bird singing spring morning. The kitchen became a great place for a rocker to look at my garden and write in my garden journal all the plans that if I get to even a quarter of them will be success. Maybe it was my grandmother’s influence all these years later of watching her draw her evening bath before bed or make her breakfast and have her own party in her bed that stuck with me in the importance of self love, self care and .

Every time I smell butter or put a plate on a tray, she is with me. These simple root filled memories are the ones that stick. As I make my way today to the second funeral I am attending of another much too young woman who died this past week, it is those little nuggets in our lives that are the literal bread and butter of our daily grind. These are the joys and memories I keep close to my heart as I once again realize how precious and fragile life is. Short for sure. This is why the butter tasted so good today.

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CURLY FRIES AND PROSECO

CURLY FRIES AND PROSECO

“We don’t take cash,” the odd very greyish skin toned woman with the unlikely poor color choice of foundation said at the Enterprise desk as I went to check out. I have been on a no spending plan going on three months and for the first time was going to pay cash for my rental car. I have been doing a quasi kind of David Ramsey envelope system just to prove that I could handle the discipline and was excited to actually use real cash for a large expense.

“Really?” I said with a slightly surprised and confrontational tone. In case you didn’t realize this by now, I am sometimes a lot like the Alayne version of Elaine on Seinfeld in these precarious situations. The woman didn’t even crack a smile and this added to my annoyance, but I surely wasn’t going to end my lovely trip on a sour note so I put Elaine back in my pocket instead of going south. Progress.

I used my debit card. Same as cash as long as I don’t start spending the cash I put aside for the rental car at the Spanx store I just walked by at the airport. Why would I do that anyway, buy a contraption that sucks you in like your grandmother’s girdle. I recently heard a great podcast about Spanx owner, Sara Blakely and it planted the meme in my head that maybe I should own a pair. Then I remembered that all I ever wear is yoga pants and turtlenecks and I think those are clingy (and comfortable) enough.

Back to woman at the Enterprise counter. When I called to reserve it they told me they don’t take debit cards either to reserve the car unless you want to put a $450 hold on your card. It is the principle of the thing and for some reason it annoyed me when they told me this. Maybe it is a control thing or a service thing, but probably more like both combined. I didn’t want to put this on my charge card as part of my discipline for the past three years has been no charging. Period. Yes, I know, but all those points I am missing out on. I get plenty of points through my business charges and I am no longer part of the vortex of thinking that charge cards are going to give me bonus items. More times than not, the points are a pain in the ass to redeem and most consumers don’t likely know that all of those points come off the backs of small businesses, not the generosity of the credit card companies. Fuck them. I see how much they charge me as a business owner when someone uses an awards card, never mind the corporate rewards or American Express. This is a different topic for another piece at a later time though, back to the no cash thing.

I settled up with Enterprise who I ultimately really enjoy doing business with because they have their language of service down to a science and make you feel like they are taking great care of you as you charge $500 for a two week car rental. Off to the Southwest counter where I tried for at least the tenth time to scan the barcode on my phone so that it would register. It didn’t. Again. But then again, my thumb print never works with my I Phone so maybe it is just my techno energy resisting it all. The Southwest woman came over to assist and tried to patiently demonstrate how it works. I told her I was a helpless cause and was happy she was standing by. On that note, I took my paper boarding pass (I have a fear that the bar code will not come up on my phone at the precise time the person at the gate will try to scan it, call me old fashioned) and the two foot luggage id streaming out of the machine that had explicit instructions on how NOT to wrap around the luggage handle promptly to the baggage drop off counter for the other very kind Southwest lady to wrap it. The last time I made the attempt I must have missed the super bold size letters telling me what NOT to do and was scolded accordingly, but not in a mean way in a nice Southwest way. Has everything become semi self serve?

Onward to the bathroom, one of at least two times I use it before boarding the plane. This I can confidently say is not a menopause thing but just an Alayne thing as this has been part of my female family tribe since I was about seventeen. As I waited in line I watched a young woman move from sink faucet to sink faucet to make the automatic water come out to wash her soap laden hands with no luck. Finally the water activated and I thought about how confusing it is to go to the bathroom these days. Does the toilet auto flush? (if it does it usually does before you are finished because I am assuming here that male engineers who likely designed the auto toilet likely did not account for the no butt touching the seat squat position women do over a toilet seat so as to not butt to seat touch). The slightest movement and lets face it, squatting, peeing, then wiping while squatting does require some occasional movement hence the auto toilet flush begins when the whole situation has not been completed. This makes for some serious wet toilet water splashing, but this is just too much to explain here. If you are a woman who has done any traveling anywhere at all, enough said. You know what I mean. Of course to add to this, the bathroom stall planners add insult to injury by giving us a Lucite bag holder, humorously called “The Pouch,” with a kangaroo logo. Really? Attached high up on the wall to the left of the toilet seat to supposedly give us a place to put our purses. Once again missing the mark because I am guessing they are basing their measurements on some evening bag Doris Day carried when she went on a date with Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk. The bags we carry especially on a plane are not evening bag size and we are forced to put them on the floor between our squatting legs because take note here, they are too heavy for the hooks on the back of the door too. Remember we squat which just like the boys pee standing, a wet floor in the exact spot your bag must be placed is highly likely. Ahhh to be a man in a bathroom, just once.

I am always confused by what is now auto and what is not. Toilets. Mostly. Sinks occasionally, but then sometimes the soap dispensers are or not and I have found myself standing like a fool with my hands under a dispenser that is not auto waiting until I wake up from my slumber and actually pump the soap. Then there are the auto paper towels, but sometimes not and the alternative is the hand blower. As of late it is these snazzy yellow Dyson numbers that blow your hands so dry that your skin looks like it is going to blow off with the force reminding you that yes, you are getting old and the creppy skin blowing looked a lot better before you decided on a wind tunnel to dry your hands.

After I managed to get out of the bathroom in one dry piece off I went to the gate with two hours to spare and decided to head to the bar, plop myself down and write this piece. I am fifty three now and made a decision today to order a nice glass of Proseco and a bowl of curly fries. Why not? I had a great vacation, I am alive and ordering a glass of Proseco as I wait patiently for my gate to be called sounded so decadent, so female, sipping it out of a champagne glass on a Sunday afternoon. I seldom drink before flying or during flying for that matter and blew all cares to the wind on this last day of a ten day solo vacation of reading, writing and hanging with my grandfather. The hell with the self imposed rules and regs, I am tan and rested and this is the sign of not only a great vacation, but of a great life well lived and thoroughly enjoyed.



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IT DOESN’T MATTER

IT DOESN’T MATTER

“Wait until you’re 60,” my beautiful white-haired Carole King looking friend, Julie, said to me a few years back. “You become invisible.” I couldn’t imagine her being invisible with her clear bright green blue eyes vibrant in the purples and turquoises she throws together with scarves and shirts and sweaters she wears. I laughed thinking she was kidding as she went on to further explain that she had started noticing the decreasing looks that were once very common not coming at her with the frequency she was used to. Once she crossed over to the other side of menopause, there was definitely a shift.

She must be exaggerating I thought. I am mostly and have always been mostly blind to being looked at by the opposite and sometimes same sex. Though my seventy year young partner is convinced that I continue to “turn heads,” I often think it is just simply his head I turn as I plow through my days unaware, happily not noticing whether I do or not. I am a grown woman and as long as I am turning his head, this is all that matters to me. This sounds so non feminist here, I was almost not going to write this, but truth be told, I like the energy that is the sensual side and I like the idea of turning heads especially my partner’s. I just know that it is not the head turning that validates my worth, I just enjoy it if it happens and I happen to notice.

But today and this week as a matter of fact I have started to notice the invisibility Julie had spoken of a few years back. When I am at the beach in a bathing suit, no one (except maybe an occassional 70+ man) are looking because I have crossed over with menopause as my bridge to the other side. The side where it doesn’t matter what bathing suit I wear to the beach, there is no one looking anymore. Not a woman, not a man, it just doesn’t matter anymore not that it ever should have mattered, but more on that later. And this is fricking liberating. As I make my way down to the waters edge from my super private spot with my strong amazon Serena Williams like thighs, curvey hips and hour glass figure I was told was the desired shape, I climb between the bikini clad masses. It is like I am Wonder Woman in the Invisible Jet leaving any vestiges of concern that my bathing suit is not fitting properly on the Paradise Islands of Themyscira along with the other Amazonian priestesses. What a difference a week makes.

I get to be the post menopausal now 53 year old woman looking affectionately at the tribe of twenty year olds and smile thinking, this too shall pass. I want to say to their glorious bodies not a one of them seem to be self conscious about in their bikinis that are way beyond what Cheryl Tiegs ever dreamed about, I am so proud of you for owning it. If that in fact is what is really happening as I make my way past one after the other of the firmest tannest asses barely covered by the new semi wide thong bikini bottoms. I wish I had that type of body confidence when my body was like that and I never allowed myself permission to believe it was. (until I look at pictures where I actually thought I was fat and holy shit realize how wrong I was- what a waste). I can hear my grandmother Isabelle’s voice saying, “Don’t they realize they leave nothing to the imagination?” Followed by a tsk tsk tsk sound and a disapproving head shake. Grandma, come on, if you had that ass at twenty in this day and age, you would have wanted it to be a shining beacon of glorious ass light too.

My generation of girls grew up with such negative body shaming and talk so to see young girls owning their bodies, I greatly appreciate it. My generation grew up thinking we were fat when we weren’t, thinking we were supposed to be dieting when we should have been eating. These girls at least at the beach today walked with an air of body confidence and body joy as they jumped around easily in their skin playing Frisbee and volleyball, uncovered exposed in their bathing suits with no shorts or coverups that would minimize their glorious figures. All shapes and sizes, they appeared strong and confident. I hope their inside thinking matches their outside stories because this would be a generation of pure body owning power. Maybe the cycle of body shaming chain we have inadvertently been taught in our generation has finally been broken. I admire them and I smile at them and they smile back probably thinking she looks good for her age.

I used to really struggle with negative body image thinking my body was never good enough. What does this even mean? Not good enough compared to who? Besides the beginning of the week when I was trying to get used to my new upper half in a bathing suit top that was clearly too small now, I actually released this feeling mostly. If this is because of my age and my superpowers are now under the radar because of my aging self then I welcome this new directive, clearly another bonus in the aging process. There are all shapes and sizes of beautiful figures at the beach; the young women stand out much more than the young men. With the invention of the 24/7 camera in the phone, though, I watch the girls take photos of each other like they are modeling for a magazine and I pray it is not for an amateur porn site. I still worry that these girls are grappling with the same issues. Rewind. Repeat. Seeing how we actually look at the beach, I can see the appeal of this. I have been curious if the suit I have chosen is the way I thought it looked when I first tried it on, after all we are in our almost barest of selves, talk about vulnerable. For the most part I am satisfied these days. This is a long way from my old self of feeling “fat” or “not good enough.”

These young girls think nothing of posing out in front of the world at the beach taking photo after photo of each other, tousling their hair like they are auditioning for a Victoria Secret Catalogue. I, along with two other women I have become acquainted with this week at the beach in passing, sit there watching, mouths open thankful they are not our daughters we have to deal with. But they are. They are all our symbolic daughters as they have watched their mothers and us take our own selfies as we get dressed and look at our own selves in our mirrors. We are between smiling at their incredible adorableness and worried like moms that this is indicative of a new generation of women consumed with their outward appearance as proof of their worth in the world. I wonder what they will be doing with the pictures. Do they think they look as incredible as we think they look as we watch them sass in front of the camera posing for a frontal and a behind the scenes photo shot? Or do they look at the photos they immediately review and think “fat, not good enough, could be better here or there?” We doublespeak our body talk. I do it here in my writing as I reread. Happy to be invisible? That is kind of fucked up, that I need invisible to be liberated? Eeek. We tell our girls (and our boys who are watching by the way) one thing from our mouths, “you are beautiful, you are good enough, you are strong and smart!” We think that our words speak volumes, but it is more often our actions that are the teachers as we fidget our clothes in the mirrors, look at our backsides with disdain and outwardly mock our appearance by thinking we don’t look right in something as we once again judge. And they watch. And they learn. And no matter what we say, the cycle continues because what the media expects, no matter how many Dove commercials showing “real women” come out, Weight Watchers is coming out at the same time with Teen programs to get them “healthier and fitter” (aka thinner) whether they need it or not. Rebecca Scritchfield wrote a great piece in The Washington Post that I have copied here about the problems with Weight Watcher’s intention and messaging.

If you are reading this and have a child especially a daughter who is constantly looking at herself in the mirror or doing these poses for selfies and with friends at the beach, we need to make sure it is not turning into those early patterns that were or still are likely part of our own world. We need to pay attention to our own under the radar messaging in the way we look at ourselves in our own mirror. This is at least part of the way they are learning and literally mirroring. It has taken me three surgeries and the literal removal and replacement of my breasts along with fifty three years to get to the place of body acceptance and I still struggle. Images are powerful and Weight Watchers Teen program is not the only problem our children are facing. How I have struggled with my own constant battle of negative body self talk and then ultimately being “happy” to be in the under the radar invisible realm is itself a negative. The previous self induced pressure I no longer have is off of me to have my body be at some unattainable bar that I will never reach. The irony now is it doesn’t matter and I care so much less. Not in a give it up and eat till my heart’s content kind of way, but just letting it go and allowing the next generation of young women to figure it out.

One of the glorious elements of writing is that as I get to provoke thoughts about a variety of topics and in doing so I get to unveil my own personal challenges, hopefully solving some of them along the way. Maybe by sharing my own vulnerability and personal issues, I am in some ways helping others identify and work through theirs. Or maybe not. Maybe all of this superficial talk is causing eye rolls among my sister friends out there in the world. Who knows, all I can do is keep writing and sharing and this is my freedom every day.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/weight-watchers-is-targeting-teens-with-a-new-free-program-thats-a-problem/2018/02/09/ae277826-0d21-11e8-95a5-c396801049ef_story.html?utm_term=.601bbde45927

being here with my 100 year old grandfather is my self love. There is nothing that gets much better than this.
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BEAUTY DOES MATTER

BEAUTY DOES MATTER

No photos, no Facebook, no checking text messages, no phone, no makeup, no shoes, no kids, no husbands and no wine topped off with comfy clothes, thick socks and slippers. This is how the event started that I anointed with the name Warrior Chick Day. These weren’t my rules, but gentle suggestions so that the flow of the day could be exactly that- a flow without the daily grind of the distractions we have allowed to take over our lives.

Fourteen women, five and a half hours, the openness of hearts and full voluntary cooperation in FULLY participating in all of the NO’S trusting that the end result would be a resounding YES to the way they looked at their lives. And every one showed up. No excuses, no “I have to go to a my child’s sporting event I forgot about,” or “My husband forgot to tell me that he had to work today,” or “I can come, but I can’t stay for the whole time” and the other millions of reasons we refuse opportunities to care for our own personal compasses as we put our tribes in the forefront. This is who we are as women, caretakers, nurturers, lovers, but as primal as that is for us, we never got the memo that these lovely qualities we apply to our families could also be applied to us. As a matter of fact this is the one time I will use the dreaded word SHOULD. In order for all of this instinctive caring to take place that is part of our cellular composition, we must keep some of it in our own wells. This is what Warrior Chick Day was about, refilling the well.

We only had one person not come, but her reason was completely legitimate as the storm created not one but two floods in her life. Yep she gets the free pass. If I can identify with one reason, it is the flood reason. And if I can share my wisdom post my own flood, the floods in our lives are usually there to provide a much deeper meaning then you can possibly imagine as you try to unfold the sogginess of your belongings. Those light bulb moments, however, don’t come until much later and in the water and the murkiness it is hard to see the sun. The sun always comes though; this is the wonder of seemingly traumatic events. The light usually does come and often in the most unexpected ways, but surely the tears must come first.

Beauty is so much more than the superficial bullshit we have been told is important.

I’m guessing this language is surprising- after all I am in the beauty business and isn’t it my mission to get people in theory more beautiful? Not so fast. Beauty in the context of what I am speaking of is not what you may think I mean. It is not the gloss and the shine, nor is it the bells and whistles in the costume we show up in every day of our lives. Beauty is not what we want people to see at first glance. Beauty is the layers of it all and this was the theme of Warrior Chick Day. The layers.

What I know from my experience in the business of beauty I get to call the last thirty years of my life is that I have been a witness to thousands of women’s layers. Listening to their stories, ups and downs, despairs and joys, how they think and make decisions- this is the privilege of the often looked down upon beauty business. I take it seriously, though. Women share their stories like a therapist’s office, offering up their vulnerabilities to strange ears knowing instinctively that if they don’t get the words out that ruminate, those thoughts marinate and ferment and the end results are not always good ones. The festering and unspoken emotions usually show up in eating disorders, alcohol and pain medication abuse, over spending, hoarding, depression and anxiety. Those of us on the receiving end hearing these stories over bikini waxes and facials do not take them lightly. We are fiercely protective and we do this all not because of a forced Hippa agreement, we don’t have that, we do it because it is what we do.

I watched fourteen women yesterday contemplate the next part of their lives soon to come, the exodus of their children to drivers ed or to high school or college. I watched the floodgates open as they realized their own sense of power that has lain dormant for the last fifteen years of child rearing. I was part of their revelations to use the good china now, to literally and figuratively unpack the boxes that have been stored for later and use the heirlooms now. What are we saving it all for? Our kids don’t want it like we thought, but maybe they would if it iwere part of the daily weave of breakfast and dinner dishes instead of the crap they will have to go through should you leave this place we call earth before you get to pass it on. Use it now. Breathe now. Open your heart now. Be vulnerable, this is the greatest gfit and teacher to our children. I have seen it with my own eyes. The creases and the wrinkliness of the their artwork in the folded projects they bring home from school is the art not the project itself. Life is imperfect and these are the lessons for our children.

These women work at life, they work at being great moms and providers. They do not shirk responsibilities. They show up and I was and am in awe of their personal power as they try to find their way back. To themselves, to each other and in the process not feel like they have to give up their stories they have created by being the line leaders of their own families. Both. Can. Be. This is a significant realization. They get to have the jumping off point back to themselves because of all of the work that has led up to this very point. This is the lovely evolution of life’s milestones. Starting, rising up, marching on and marching forth. Today the power is back on and in fact it is really March 4TH.

I have always been a believer in the notion that when we feel beautiful, this is the potion, not the other way around. We can literally gloss over our outsides but if our insides don’t match we can only keep up the façade for so long. Something has to give and it is usually us. Our homes matter, our food and cooking matters and our health matters. This is all part of the puzzle of beauty. At Warrior Chick Day we had a cooking class, we talked food and health, we learned to breathe and I tried to teach them how to meditate in the moments of our day rather than compartmentalizing it in a separate event because of course who has time for that. They learned about simplifying their skin routines and had treatments (I mean after all I do run a spa). They made dream boards and they shared them with each other, talk about exposure and layers. They stepped outside of their comfort zones as I asked them to put on super bright lipstick they would likely never wear outside or ever for that matter as part of the symbolic ritual of face painting. Warriors. Yes.

Beauty does matter, these ladies, these superchicks yesterday, rose up. They realized their good fortune in their past experiences of both the grief and the good. They were bright upon entering but they came out brighter and bolder on the other side of the day. At the tail end of our day, one of the shining stars of this cosmic force was sharing her bad ass dream with the group and the power went out. We paused as I could see in all of their eyes the significance of this symbolism; after all who needs National Grid when we have so much of our own to light it up.

we didn’t take a single pic yesterday, but this morning I came across this great share in the Journal. I thought it was a nice tribute to living our truths in whatever form. Use the china, buy the convertible, call yourself whatever name you want, we only have one life and no one gets out alive.
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NO SERVICE

NO SERVICE

Words that could send some into a tailspin, surely these days with our cell phones now a new extension of our fingers, an added digit to our very busy brains, when I saw these words on our drive to one of the many trails along beautiful Route 302, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. NO SERVICE meant that my busy and now new and big breasted life had no excuse but to shut down. Absurdly, I have two phones- one is for mostly business and daily texting with many as well as an app for this an app for that. That phone, the phone I consciously left behind and turned off for eight days, the one that consumes an inordinate amount of time creating a sense of importance and busy-ness in my life sat comfortably on my night stand patiently waiting for my calm and serene return. I needed a vacation and my phone and I needed one too. I am not going to mislead, though, I struggled with the decision, but in the end, my rational self won, the example of my grandfather’s world he lives in easily techno free won. The other phone I own is my emergency phone. This is the one I chose to bring with me on my annual trip with the man I love to spend hours every day in nature hiking and biking in total silence amongst the intense foliage. This is the one that I brought with me in the car because photos are a must, but service isn’t and when the two glorious words of NO SERVICE popped up as we climbed past Mount Washington, I felt free.

Let me first clarify the word hiking. I am a casual hiker. First off, I have an intense fear of getting lost, some people have a fear of heights, or spiders or snakes, I have this weird fear of getting lost. As I write this, I am struck with an epiphany of sorts that I will explore later as this essay today will surely lead somehow back to an inner realization, but later on that. This fear coupled with my love of hiking does not make for good bedfellows, but there is such an opposing intense love of nature and silence that I am a willing participant in challenging my fears. The old cliché of feeling the fear and doing it anyway applies here. I love the challenge of feeling a little scared, then seeing the trusty old yellow or blue or red dot that signifies a well marked trail. I am the type of person who really wants to climb Mt. Washington because physically I know I can handle the eight hour climb, but the fear of not knowing if the trail is well marked for my fearful self keeps me from the otherwise magnificent climb. (another epiphany in the reread-BAM)

I would be just as happy doing the climb up the road that the cars climb knowing that the way up is as well marked as Disney World. I am embarrassed to even write this as I know this misses the entire point of the climb. As I reread this, I know that I wouldn’t do that, but I am just trying to demonstrate how deep this fear goes for me. The peace and calm of the hike is the main point and clearly the tarred road with the never ending family dreams of placing “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers looming as one 40k SUV after another passed by surely would miss the point.

I have learned over the past four years on this annual fall trip how to read maps, how to navigate enough so that we find the trails that are both challenging, but also are marked enough so that I am comfortable enough to continue the climb. There is always a stunning reward at the end. This is the bonus of a good hike on a great trail, the climb up to the surprise at the top-usually a breathtaking view and one that takes my breath away. This is worth all of the fear and this is why I climb. We all climb in our own ways. Some more literally than others. In my case, leaving my busy world and leaving my business phone behind to be off the grid as best as I can is challenging enough. I realize many nuggets as I am traveling quietly alone with my thoughts toggling ahead or behind my partner.

I love a good walking stick and I have found two on my travels this week. There is something balancing and meditative about using one both up and down. There is a rhythm to the walk with a walking stick and in addition, my eyesight perception is off so it helps me find my way up and down rocky and leaf covered terrain. I have big badass bold thoughts about my life and what I want to do with it when I am hiking and biking.One thought was how much i would love to have my son with me as I have taken him up in these Great Woods many times. As he gets older, I love him more. I didn’t realize how much more I could love my child every day. This is an incredible gift of nature, these gems of poignant realizations. I also realized this week that owning my own business has so many gifts and one is that I get to direct it, it doesn’t direct me. Sometimes in the mire of day to day operations, I forget this. I have always been an opposite thinker when it comes to “what I am supposed to do” because I own a business i.e. be attached to a cell phone 24/7, social media 24/7, email weekly blasts with this promotion or that promotion, the ‘shoulds’ of day to day entrepreneurship. What gives me pleasure is not that part, what gives me pleasure is the day to day personal and real physical connection with people, mostly women. Hiking in the mountains grounds me. It serves my soul a big plate of centering and creativity. It releases my brain from work and it allows expansion. Without this, I am lost, how ironic but not really that my fear of getting lost is exactly what serves me the most.

The climb we were on was pretty steep and as I traipsed up the third trail of the week after a twenty-five mile bike ride the day before having to pause an unusual amount of time, I said to Michael, “Maybe I am having to stop so much because we didn’t eat breakfast before leaving.” He and I are on this twelve-hour between dinner and breakfast intermittent fasting plan in our perpetual quest for the perfect nutrition balance. (I know- a big yawn for those of you who know us).

He starts laughing and turns to look at me and says, “Maybe it is because you just had surgery three weeks ago, Alayne.” I seriously forgot that this could possibly be a reason for my slowness. I laugh at myself and I cry at myself because I consider in that moment of clarity how infrequently I give myself a break. Merge this with my occasional teary eyes as I walked and stopped as a twenty five year old couple climbed by us and stopped to chat for a moment. As they moved on I said to Michael, “I am a little teary eyed.” He, with his intuitive beautiful soul, said back, “I am guessing their age reminded you of your brother, honey, let the tears flow.” And they did because yesterday, October 20th would have been my brother’s 47th birthday and I realized that before he died he answered my question of “What is your advice to me as I go forward on without you?” Meaning of course how will I climb without you, how will I not get lost without you in my physical world. His not quite twenty five year young cancer ridden skinny soul said, “Live life to the fullest, Alayne.” And so I do. And so I will.



finding a beaver damn and my walking stick, never mind those braless tatas just sayin… and me and my man at 2 of some really nice trails this week. highly recommend before the snow starts to fall. Love this hat too… thank you Grasmere of Bristol, RI.
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ALL FOR THE PERFECT BOOB

ALL FOR THE PERFECT BOOB

The one thing about having to sit on your ass recovering for a week is that books and writing become a mandatory staple. There is just so much television to watch and frankly, my head starts to spin after more than an hour. Couple this with a perfect indian summer week of glorious weather and between writing and reading, my brain doesn’t feel as mushy as it sure could have. Sitting outside, birds chirping, sun brightly lighting the remnants of the flowers and plants soon to lay dormant and I can actually forget this week of bruising and soreness all for perfect boobs. The absurdity of this surgery does not go unnoticed by me. Feelings of guilt for taking this week to take care of myself have leapt into my brain and then of course I realize how silly this thinking is. I can hear my therapist saying, “Can’t you give yourself a break, Alayne?” Apparently not. Surely it doesn’t help that I haven’t been in my own home all week so that I could go under the radar and hide out a bit and not feel the pull of my business below calling me. Add to this, the blend of no exercise, a daily tab of oxy and craving sugar and carbohydrates and it is a recipe for a fucked up spinning head. But today is a new day; the bruising as promised by Dr. M has gone down considerably, I feel more like myself on this Day 9. I’m not going to lie though, the bruising, numbness and soreness in my sides of my hips has taken me by surprise.

If I had just had the surgery to do the exchange without the liposuction I would have been back to work in about a day, but this healing is slower than I thought. I want to be normal again. I want to get back to my house, my life, my work, my workouts, sex without worry that a part of my body will hurt, clear head. I sound like I am whining, maybe a little. I don’t like feeling unsettled and this is what this last round of my final mastectomy surgery has caused. All to have sculpted boobs. The lunacy of this also does not go unnoticed. I am grateful, a grateful cancer survivor. Shit could be so much worse. Clearly there is a lot more psychological significance and I seem to be more reticent about this aspect of this experience. Yes I write. Yes I am truth. But the head stuff that is coming up from this last surgery is an interesting science project on my brain. As I can hear my former husband saying to me, “Alayne, you think too much.” This used to drive me crazy, but there is unique wisdom to this comment. I wish I could easily lean into a more relaxed head space more often. My brain just has a hard time shutting down, off, lowering its speed. Then I get annoyed that I can’t so easily turn down the volume a bit and just stop the madness. This of course could all be because of Day 2 off of oxy and sugar and carbs and a full week with no exercise and usually this is when crazy brain revs up for the wild and bumpy ride. I know the things that bring me to balance and one is nature so going to my son’s rugby game today will definitely be a help.

Reading a book is also helpful to slow it down and escape a bit and I just finished a new favorite author who I had discovered by unfortunately reading her obituary in the NYT. She lived in Maine and the Portland Press Herald writer, Mary Pols started her obituary like this: “Elaine Ford, a novelist, retired University of Maine professor and seeker not of fame and fortune, but truth on the page.” Sing it Mary Pols! I love delicious writing and Elaine Ford is the first writer I have been inspired enough by to contemplate writing something fictional for a change. The New York Times started her obituary with this, “ Elaine Ford, who wrote spare elegant novels about quiet lives and thwarted aspirations…” My heart skips a few beats at these descriptions of her writing and I hungrily digested my first foray into her world in finishing in a day her collection of short stories called, The American Wife. I want to buy all of her books pronto.

If breast cancer not only got me off my ass and writing more, and breast cancer led me to Elaine Ford and the contemplation of attempting fictional writing, then I am grateful for its lessons. Good and bad, annoying, frustrating, confusing, mind fucking, head spinning, life rejoicing, appreciating and heart widening breast cancer. Who knew?

http://www.elainefordauthor.com/the-american-wife/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/books/elaine-ford-writer-of-spare-detailed-novels-dies-at-78.html