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. 

self improvement, Women

THE CHANGING ROOM (again)

It is winter time in New England and I have found myself headed towards the old faithfuls in my closet again as I do year after year. Black very worn and tired Lululemon yoga pants, an Eastern Mountain Sports turtleneck and hiking shoes with wool socks. I, for many years now, choose warmth and comfort over fashion and sock-less shoes that seem to have become the go to fashion statement with leggings and oversized tops.

I am not comfortable in this, nor do I want to torture my body with leggings that this mostly confident and solid one hundred and sixty pound chick should probably not be wearing around town anyway. I look around at women my age and everyone seems to have the unique ability to look great, but my question inside is always, but are they comfortable?

I envy men’s clothing. They have much simpler choices in their comfort clothes. And all of their clothes have pockets in all of the right places. I want comfort and pockets, warmth and fashion. Is it too much to ask to find a few pieces of clothing that can not only make me look less frumpy, but actually feel more hip and au courant.

As I move quickly to the official title of mid fifties, I just want to feel good. I want to look good, but feeling good is of the utmost priority these days. For the obvious reasons, health, physical and mental fitness, yes. I don’t want to have to be in bed in a hospital ever again or be in bed with the pharmaceutical companies reaching out to me like the vipers they are at every waking turn either. So I find myself in a similar situation I found myself in after I had my son at thirty two, and my breast cancer reconstruction surgery at fifty two questioning who I had become inside and trying to find clothes that matched this new profound feeling outside.

Who am I now? And what types of clothing style defines this for me? I have used the brilliance of personal stylists like my friend, Jill Marinelli who will come to your house and, piece by piece, go through your clothes in your closet with you. Her expertise is style first, not so much comfort, but is excellent at her job if style is what you are looking for. I have had friends who love fashion give me their own ideas of my fashion, but I speak for me and me alone here, it always comes down to comfort. I must feel comfortable.

Jill helped me with some terrific pieces that I still wear to this day, but she also convinced me to buy that one pair of “skinny” jeans that I knew I would be miserable in, but bought anyway. And there they sit on my closet shelf causing dread every time I look at them and think of trying to wear them for even a two hour brief encounter. I don’t want to wear skinny jeans ever. I know this now. If I have to suck my breath in to button the waist for even just a split second, there is no way I am every paying hard earned money for this.

I am exactly one month from turning fifty five. FIFTY FUCKING FIVE. When did this happen? Fifty five is ten years away from SIXTY FUCKING FIVE. I have been divorced for ten years. Ten years flies by. My mother was fifty five when my son was only two. Eee gads. Now I am starting to feel the pressure of making sure my retirement savings are where they are supposed to be, that my wills and trusts are set up properly and all of the other adult things that seem to come with the significance of fifty five years old.

I love aging though. I wouldn’t ask for any years back prior to my current self. But where I get in a funk is in getting dressed and looking less like a bag lady and more like the way I feel inside. Strong, powerful, badass. If I could, (and I promise my friends cringing at the thought out there reading this today), I would seriously wear flannel pajamas every day- out and in. But I don’t. Mostly.

So last week, on the rainiest, dreariest of February Tuesdays, I found myself wandering into the new Athleta store in Newport, RI after doing a few errands. I had an absurd amount of store credits because I put all of my business purchases on my Banana Republic card and lo and behold Athleta is part of the Banana Republic/ Gap/ Old Navy Dynasty. So my credits work there and it was there I shuffled in praying for a come to Jesus moment.

I don’t know how many people reading this know that there is a word that describes the wearing of Athleta type clothing as fashion. It is called Athleisure. I heard of this word many years ago, but didn’t realize how much of a thing it would become as we chicks do our daily jaunts looking like we are not sure if we are headed to a yoga class or to a work event.

I wasn’t sure if I would have any luck on this particular day, but I knew I could find at least one article of clothing to spend my $160 of BR credits on. It seemed like Athleta somehow read somewhere in a study that $89 should be the magic number to price their clothing and I quickly noticed that whether I looked at basic yoga leggings or stretchy jeans, I would not be walking out of the store with just using my credits.

You know those rare magical moments in a clothing store when you meet the perfect sales woman and no one is in the store on that particular day so it is like you have a private personal shopper? This past Tuesday was just this day. Just when I needed it the most. Feeling dowdy and bland and, well, frumpy, I made my way in to this new bright and shiny space and met my new best friend, Kayla. She was one of those young sales women of yesteryear, where they actually enjoyed helping you find not only what you were looking for, but what you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Granted, she had the time. I am guessing I was only one of a small handful of women who made their way into the store on that day. There are not many people shopping on a cold and dreary rainy Tuesday in Newport RI. But one look at her and her own Athleisure style and I knew she could help me. She had the full hips and solid legs like I do, her height was similar, too and despite the fact that she was a good twenty five years younger than me I trusted her judgment immediately. Now it could have been that I was desperate to find someone who could help me on my clothing journey, but I learned after the first two pairs of pants that she understood my needs. SHE GOT ME. And four hours later and an exorbitant amount of money, I left the store a new and very improved woman.

Clothing is our outward cape. I am not the type of woman who needs to have sparkles and labels on my cape. I am comfortable in my skin. Almost too comfortable these days. This has created a fashion predicament for me. How to pair comfort and not looking like I just rolled out of bed. Despite the fact that comfort is my go to priority when I catch a reflection of myself in the mirror, I don’t like the clothing image staring back. My notion of comfort inside was not demonstrating its appearance outside. This is where Kayla used her fashion education and the plethora of comfortable pants and tops that Athleta makes for bodies like mine and gave me about fifty different looks with just a few pairs of pants, tops and sweaters.

How I walked in was not how I walked out. Yes. I am lucky to have the means to spend at a place like Athleta on a random Tuesday, but luck isn’t really the right word. I work hard. No one gave me this money I chose to spend that day. I am not reliant on a partner for income. I have chosen my life with a six hundred hour schooling and license in the beauty business.

My success in life is not luck, it is hard work and I want to feel outside like I do inside when I come upon the reflection staring back at me. My afternoon with a young woman’s expertise in not only knowing what to bring into the changing room, but to service me the way salespeople are supposed to take care of clients changed me. It changed my day, my outlook, my approach to my mid fifties and it gave me the inner beauty I espouse as my mantra of importance in the business I am lucky to have made a life from.

Beauty has so many layers. We must feel inside first. Outside can be a cape, or a body bag. If we rely too much on outward appearance, we often don’t allow the people around us to know that our insides may not match. In my case, I have a strong inside belief system of inner beauty, but I was finding that I couldn’t come up with a look that mirrored this anymore. And ironically this was causing disruption in my vibe.

Kayla and her sweet and kind smiling professional expertise changed this for me. As I walked out of the store that day with my fifty new looks, I was changed. Five years after my first breast cancer diagnosis on almost my fiftieth birthday, I wrote a piece called THE CHANGING ROOM. I didn’t realize back then how apropos that piece would be for the next five years of my life. But today as I reflect back on the past five fleeting years, I was lost and now I am found. New boobs, new clothes and a style that matches my insides is a trifecta of good change.

I am grateful for the random meeting of Kayla this past Tuesday and if any of you superchicks out there need a new style that is both casual and comfortable and don’t mind spending some money, give her a call and let her help you in your own changing room.
#Luckyindeed.

life lessons, self love

THE SUN ALWAYS RISES

I confess. I didn’t stay awake for the final moment from 2019 to 2020. I didn’t watch the ball drop or Ryan Seacrest in his delightful role as Dick Clark second coming. I didn’t eat prime rib or baked stuffed lobster or even open a bottle of good champagne. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even drink one spot of alcohol. I got into bed at 9:30 and fell asleep fast, woke up briefly at 11:07, hoping it was just a few minutes before midnight so I could say I was there, but it wasn’t and I didn’t want to get up and watch the ball drop. What difference would it have really made in my life to do this? I have done that. And I am good with having done that. And this is good. Good enough.

So instead, I woke up this morning on this bright new day of a brand new decade with that delicious thinking that only a first day of a new year brings of What’s Next? In addition to the new year, add the excitement of a new decade aptly named 2020 and I just felt an elation. While my partner stayed in bed, I made my way downstairs to put the coffee on for some quiet morning time alone that the earliest of the am provides. It is brief, that morning solitude, when it is the time before the sun rises, before the first sound of a car headed somewhere interrupts, before even the birds start singing their morning chirps.  

While the coffee perked, I moved into my almost regular routine of sitting quietly in meditation, giving myself the gift of pause before letting technology into my space. The jabber that happens moments before I sit cross legged while I wait for the coffee to alert me with its beeping is curious. The coffee percolating takes about eleven minutes, max, and yet my brain voice tries to pull rank over my heart voice shouting out the endless to do lists. 

But my heart won as it screamed right back at my mind, If not now, When?

If not now, When? So I sat. Giving myself the simple and very free gift of pause on this new day of a new decade hoping for that big breakthrough, but understanding that this is not the point. The point is to counter balance the ferocious energy that is my mind, always full speed ahead with the latest and greatest idea of what to do next—while the beauty of the present moment slides by unnoticed. 

This is the point- so I sat and breathed, knowing that this is what I need whether I like it or not. The present moment and the simple pleasures of allowing it in. When I opened my eyes, the sun was just making its way so I poured my coffee and put on my sparkly hat and bright red gloves along with my Bog boots and made my way to watch its arrival. 

My partner lives about a stones throw from a pond that overlooks the beach. I walked, steaming cup of black coffee in hand, down to the water with the only intention of feeling the light on my face and the sharp coolness of the morning in my lungs. I listened; I looked around at the homes where it seemed everyone was still sleeping and I took another deep breath in with the gratitude that the morning relentlessly delivers.

The pond, that serves as the local reservoir, winds quietly in a square shape with a neat path surrounding all types of flapping and swimming birds. The sounds and sights of the ducks and geese took me away from my chatting brain and I was hoping I would see the swans majestic landing overhead which would have made this moment more perfect.  I observed the tiniest corner of light coming from the east where I realized that I hadn’t missed the sun rising despite the light of the morning. I drank in the realization that I was going to witness the first sunrise of a brand new decade because I followed my heart speaking rather than the to do lists of my brain. Go to the pond, my morning meditation said. No, read, write, finish the project you started, write out the training outline you need to finish, my brain argued. The excuse of a new decade won. I would never get the chance again in my lifetime to witness a morning sunrise in the year 2020. 

2020 vision. A year of goodness lies ahead. I can feel it and I didn’t want to miss its rise to claim me. The ten years between forty-five to fifty-five were tumultuous and exciting, but also filled with a tornado of change that brought me to my knees. Some I chose, some chose me, but in the tail end, neither knocked me down. Fifty-five to sixty-five seems so much different. I don’t remember saying to myself at forty-five, Wow in ten years, I will be fifty five; they just didn’t feel as significant. This next ten does. They feel mind blowing because the last ten years flew by in what seemed like a flash. This next round of ten years I will be sixty-five if I am lucky enough. What do I want? 

I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to say yes to things I would rather say no to. 

I want to keep some of my power for myself instead of always giving it away to other people. I don’t want to keep giving my power away to technology getting sucked into the meme that it is a necessary part of life. I want to stay present more and be in nature more and create more. I want to have less email saved in all of the folders thinking that I will read the latest, How to have a more profitable blog, How to save more money on making less money and the endless stream of how to jargons that have found their way into my inbox and ultimately causing a distraction from myself that is hard to explain.

My inbox is full. And it needs emptying. I need to spend the next ten years riding my own wave, riding my bike, being in nature and having some alone time in silence. All of these promises are so easy on the first day of a new decade. The sun always rises no matter where I live, what is happening around me. The constant of this reminder is comforting as I stood there this morning and watched it rise with its direct beam of light headed straight for me as we stood there together patient, waiting, knowing it would soon be above me shining its light on a brand new day. 

What do I want? I want to remember this moment every day and allow it to direct me with its constant. I want to remember that this is what makes me feel whole and calm during the upheavals and the traumatic events that are naturally a part of all of our lives. There is that cliche- Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. My busy mind forgets about my calm and patient heart and it is my heart, when I listen to it deeply, that always gives me the best direction. This is my one New Years, New Decade resolution. 

Listen to my heart speak more and my brain speak less. 

My heart has never steered me wrong. I need to remember to connect with my own light. And to keep some of it for later. We never know what a new decade brings. It is exciting and frightening. I watch my life wind down towards sixty five and I watch my son’s twenty two year old life wind up. I am lucky to get to watch it. Lucky to be alive after the last five years of life coming at me. I am life experienced enough to know that on this brand new day of a brand new decade, I will forget what I am writing today. I will forget my self prescribed  directive to remember these new and fresh life commitments, but the sun always rises and every day is new decade and this is so exciting to this aging chick, I can hardly contain myself.

life lessons, travel

WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?

I could not sit still with the book I had brought. It was not the book — the book was excellent, it was the noise bubbling all around me.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to my partner realizing that all of this noise was not going to permit me to really dive into my book like I had planned.

The noise, the sounds of children screaming, keyboards tapping, cell phones binging, the girl sitting next to me sniffling and sneezing, intercoms announcing gate changes and flight departures, was everywhere.

Then there was the sounds of everyone’s incessant cell phone streaming. I know there has never been a official code of law on silencing our non stop technology, but it does seem that the basic consideration between each other to respect the boundaries of our neighbors has gone out the window.

I am not sure when this became a thing, to act like you are the only person in the room with your noise producing machines and not allow the person next to you to have a say in the matter. This is what ear phones are for, but in the decline of basic manners, it appears that laziness has done a preemptive strike on even this little luxury of silence.

These days, the stink eye doesn’t even work because people are so engrossed in whatever had gotten their attention they don’t even seem to notice that someone is looking at them vying for just a glimpse of eye contact to hopefully send the message to turn their device OFF.

As I made my way through the alternate universe called the airport, T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, I felt like a voyeur into people’s approach to sitting alone and waiting for their plane. Barely a book opened, there must have been over a quarter million dollars in Apple products just at my gate alone. Does anyone just stare off into space anymore? I didn’t see anyone reading even a magazine or a newspaper, let alone a book. Moms and Dads were sitting next to each other on their own phones while the kids were like separate little addendums waiting for their attention.

I felt like what I imagined it felt like for Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. This was me. I was in a time warp speed ahead gazing mysteriously at what the fuck has happened to humanity and why isn’t anyone else as freaked out as I am?

I started to panic with the anticipation that this noise would be following me on the plane for the next three hours and I realized that my only salvation were the earphones I had mistakenly packed in my suitcase. Said suitcase was now traveling through the underbelly of the airport and the earphones would be meeting me on the other side- after the plane ride. This is when I decided I needed to buy a set of earphones for the plane ride and made my way to the store where it appears someone in the purchasing department understood this as a need for people like me.

I stood in front of the shelves looking at the headphones (almost the same ones that I had in my suitcase that Apple gave me for “free” with my last thousand dollar phone purchase) contemplating my choices. Nothing started at less than 29.99 and they were all crap, not to mention that Apple completely fucked all of us when they switched their adapter so a basic set doesn’t work with our phones anymore unless you buy the adapter for another thirty dollars. I sound cynical and ornery. This is what is happening to me as I watch the demise of humankind’s ability to say hello and look each other in the eye.

As I decided on some Sony noise canceling headphones for 29.99, I couldn’t open the package fast enough and was waiting in line to pay when I heard this small and very confident voice say, “Where are you headed?”

I looked down to attach the sound to the human and lo and behold a seven year old or so little boy had actually asked me a question out of nowhere. Be still my beating heart. I looked up to assess the parental situation thinking I would be seeing some academia type parent buying their son some organic celery sticks from the vegetable fridge. The surprise was the exact opposite.

Block your eyes or skip this next line or two because I am about to make a broad brushstroke stereotype that is not pretty or kind, but it must be said to make the point that I am going to get to at some point here.
This little boy looked like the type of child who may wake up every day and ask the question, “How did I land here? And how are you my parents?”

They looked mismatched. Mom and Dad had an inordinate amount of tattoos, piercings and were dressed in one step up from pajamas. Mom barely said two words when her son approached a complete stranger and I was surprised she wasn’t on her cell phone along with the rest of the look. This little boy, though had a big blast of human curiosity that he bestowed on me and I was all too eager to take his scraps.

“Where are YOU headed?” I asked him with a robust curiosity in return.
“We are headed to Tampa.” He said this with such joy it made me want to sit next to him on the plane and get to know him.
“Me too!” I exclaimed.
“Does this mean I will see you on the plane?” He asked, enthusiastically, with the widest brownest eyes.
“Yes, I think it does,” I confirmed with such jubilee in my voice, it made us both smile in kind.

Mom whisked him away all too fast and I went on to my noise canceling headphones quickly realizing in my haste that I had purchased ones that needed an adapter. Drats no wonder they were only 29.99.

I returned them as quickly as I bought them deciding that the sounds and simmers of our fellow people traveling tonight would be just fine. I am headed on vacation and today is the first day to reintroduce the pleasures of observing human connection.

This is where I am headed young man. Thank you for asking.

AGING, self love, Women

DOES THIS MIRROR MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

Is it just me or are there fat mirrors and skinny mirrors? And here is my question for all the mirror makers out there, which one is the right one? What do we all really look like? And why do I even care anymore, other than when I get dressed in the morning and look at myself for a brief check and then that pesky bubble shows up over my head and says, omg what has happened to me?

I write a lot about self talk, perfectionism, self image and spin cycle brain. I am constantly at work on the never ending dialogue between my head and my core belief system. This wisdom and self awareness keeps me in check with my mostly happy existence I am mostly grateful for. Relatively speaking, this piece today is what people would refer to as first world problems. Every day I open the paper, I read about death, destruction and the rise of antisemitism that makes me feel like I am living in a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Writing about fat and skinny mirrors doesn’t seem to be a newsworthy commentary.

This is embarrassing to write, but I forge ahead anyway. I know this conversation is one that makes me not alone in my thinking. Years and years of female speak by the line leading ladies in my family always discussing body size, the latest Weight Watchers recipe and the dreaded workouts at Gloria Stevens have left their mark no matter how much positive patty talk I give myself.

When I was in seventh grade, I clearly remember an eighth grade boy saying to me, Alayne, your face on Eva’s body…. Wow. And as he said this he closed his eyes and turned his head with a slightly upturn of his lips letting the fantasy of this hormonal boy designed girl simmer in his loins (apparently, Eva was the desired go to body of the moment and she was a year older than me). I remember thinking at that particular moment that I was not good enough. Rather than saying, go fuck yourself, what about your face and body? I took it like it was a directive. Boys had that power over young girls back then, at least over this boy crazy girl, who for some reason allowed them to decide my self worth fate for most of my adolescence.

Hopefully all of this chick power and positive self talk commentary we have been feeding our girls for the past twenty years has helped them define themselves on their own terms so they don’t have to be guided down the path of negative. But it seems that body image and negative body talk is still a problem with our young girls, the very ones we have been trying to teach to just own it.

Just when I think we are making headway by actually saying negative body talk as a phrase aloud, I see some wacky diet plan being thrown at an eight year old. This is not really some new phenomenon. In my possession, I have a book written by a doctor named Ruth West from the 1950s called, The Teenage Diet Book, given to me my one of my best friend’s moms when we were in 7th grade. I don’t know why or how I still have this book, but it is significant in relation to the blithering bubbles over my head as well as the conversations I have had with members of my female tribe for the last forty years.

this book by Dr. Ruth West written in the 1950’s. Clearly, throwing diets at our young children is nothing new.

I have always had issues with the way I have seen my body even when the way I should have seen it should have been with degrees of worship. I look back at the pictures from my earlier years when I used to use language like, I am so fat, as my perpetual inner dialogue. Then I look at the picture now and my mouth drops open. What a waste of a perfectly good body. Good body? What does that even mean? Shouldn’t it mean, healthy, able to breathe when walking up the stairs or hiking for six hours? Shouldn’t it equate with the word, alive?

As I write today, I am aware that it sounds like I lack the self worth and acceptance I espouse in so much of my writing. Though it may appear this way, I just think it is helpful to say aloud what the bubble over my head occasionally says in its uninvited phrases. The food down turns I have taken in my previous day or week start their yipping in my head labeling themselves as wrong, bad, dumb. I fully realize that this is not helpful. But it is hard to stop the train. And I consider that the years of being surrounded with constant discussion and commentary on body size not just from my own family, but in every piece of literature, magazine cover, and now the algorithms of social media and the internet have planted themselves like an innocent single stem of mint in the garden.

Dieting of yesteryear has turned into softer words, like wellness, clean eating, and it has created a tornado of advice from experts and self described gurus that has left me and my over thinking brain on overload. And almost every woman I know. What to believe? What to eat? What not to eat? Is it even possible to lose weight past fifty five? Then there is the discussion of “set weight” which if you haven’t heard that phrase, you may as well throw in the towel because whatever weight you lose, your body, biologically, won’t stay there as it will work hard to climb back to the old weight for some scientific reason I can’t possibly explain.

Why bother? Well for one, when I have gained ten pounds, I feel like shit. I feel bloated. Every outfit I put on feels like it shrunk and as I actually think this, I realize, oh shit, no the dryer is not expediting heat mysteriously shrinking my clothes, but rather the extra weight is making my clothes feel snug. Darn it. I was ready to call Gils Appliance and buy a new dryer. Then I look in the mirror and that bubble shows up and the voice starts its scolding, Why did I eat that ….. yesterday? I was supposed to start the Whole 30 for the thirtieth time. Come on Alayne, you are going to Florida in a few months….you better get ready.
So I do as Whole 30 commands, stop looking in the mirror. Don’t get on the scale. Just stop the madness. This always helps. And I come back to the beginning of this piece about the fat and skinny mirrors. I know they exist, they are in every dressing room that sells women’s clothing. They are definitely in bathing suit stores and lingerie stores. They are in my gym. And it gets me thinking about perception as reality. And my own reality of aging and the way my body is changing just because of aging.

I realize that I am lucky to be able to write this slightly self-deprecating piece. I am alive and anyone reading this is too. Fat mirrors, skinny mirrors aside, life is a process, and there is never likely going to be a time where I can 100% say good enough. This is the most ironic part of aging, this self-awareness in the midst of the bubbles over my head. Self acceptance is part of the evolution of aging and the more aging women I speak to, the more honest conversations we are having about this process. Honest conversations are the best part of aging with like minded women I surround myself with. Mirrors and extra ten pounds aside, truth is beauty and if aging is truth serum, then bring it on.

NATURE, WOMEN'S HEALTH

IF I DIDN’T

I decided to head out for a walk on Friday morning instead of the gym because I was reminded while reading information by a new practitioner I just met. She wrote about the equal importance of outdoor fitness- connecting with nature and your body- along with gym workouts. I know this to be true because there is nothing like nature to settle my overactive brain. Working out at the gym does this too, but in a much harder way. The vigorous pounding and accelerated heart rate, literally, beats it out of me.

Nature is the opposite; it is settling, calming and acts more like a slow, steady paddle on a calm morning. It is the yin to my souped up yang. Souped up yang as my heart lately has been racing, my brain has been in overdrive and all of this leaves me with feelings of inadequacies and not good enough thinking that makes me feel super shitty.

Is it the full moon? (yes), the approaching intensity of the glorious summer solstice? (yes), is it the fast approaching seventeen year anniversary of being in business? (I hadn’t thought about that, but YES). Yes to all because I can feel a big, bad ass shift happening, but I haven’t figured the ‘it’ out yet. Me and not figuring ‘it’ out is an awkward dance that creates undo stress. I don’t like not knowing. Which is exactly why I am here. Not knowing is where I am supposed to be and this is something I definitely know.

Ironic. My grandmother would say, “Alayne, sometimes no decision is the best decision.” I don’t know why this gives me an immediate sense of comfort, but it does. I bring the need to make decisions on in a way that causes pressure on this overachieving mind of mine. This is the challenge of a creative soul, for sure. Always moving and shaking and if things are not moving and shaking, well, then I must move and shake them.

So the counter balance is to cease and desist, not completely, but to use nature as my guiding light as the opposing force to settle my ass down in a chair and stare. To walk on a path by the water with no phone and no companion except my beating heart and my Serena strong legs to propel me along the beauty I get to call my place on this earth.

The first step is usually the one that causes me procrastination for no apparent reason other than the call of my house. Writing, cooking, typing, organizing, working, are all little parts of the why I may not always make time to go for that casual stroll alone, but I did anyway.

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have seen an elegant shimmery white egret fly over me, full spread wings, headed for his landing pad of the harbor. The sound of his movement was what caused me to look up and stop in awe to watch. While I was looking up, I heard the familiar sound of the Osprey who has the prime real estate address of Poppasquash Rd. in Bristol, Rhode Island with his family and saw him carrying a fish. What a sight! Like the sounds of cardinals, I can always recognize the Osprey’s high pitched whistling sound. This is a rewarding lesson that keeps giving as their majestic wing span soaring over my house is a sight to behold.

If I didn’t take that walk, I wouldn’t have noticed the baby bunnies foraging for food, looking so vulnerable as they learn the ropes of finding nourishment. I wouldn’t have had the conversations with my friend, Greg down at the harbormaster’s office as I passed by on my way towards the path along the water about the new ferry service from Bristol to Newport to Providence. I wouldn’t have picked up the schedule to learn the times that it runs and subsequently made plans yesterday to head into Providence on the new ferry service. This led me to be part of the all inclusive and heart warming welcoming to all who come in peace, Pride Fest. I found my way to a brand new vegan, but you would never know it, restaurant called Plant City.

On my walk, I saw people out doing the same, business owners getting their storefronts ready for business. I enjoyed the rich aromas of the glorious seaside town I get to call home and feel and hear my heart beating because of my pace. I felt the bay air and wind through my hair and on my skin as I got a nice sweat going from the speed in which I am privileged to keep my legs moving forward with. My olfactory system would have not smelled the beginnings of the summer roses opening, coupled with the aromas of flowers, herbs and freshly cut grass as the good people of Bristol are in their happy place, getting their homes ready for July 4th.

I wouldn’t have noticed the bird with the bright red breast and the grey head on the top of the pillar on my front porch after my walk was complete as I took the time to sit there with a nice cup of coffee. I had never seen a bird like this and though it pained me to break from my trance of just simply admiring without having to take a picture, I went in to my house and got my phone to capture him or her. It wasn’t for posterity as much as curiosity and being able to remember the description so I could find out what bird this was. She let me take a picture almost posing and we had a lovely connection before she flew away.

This brief encounter caused me to open up an Audubon bird book collecting dust on my shelf that some dear friends of my grandmother had sent as a gift to my son. I spent a half hour looking for a picture of this bird to no avail. a few days later, I walked next door to ask my bird loving friend, Dottie, and she didn’t know either. This caused me to head yesterday on my quest to find out the name of this bird to a new favorite spot, The Redwood Library in Newport, RI to look for some bird books and see if I could get to the bottom of this little sweet bird’s name. I couldn’t find a picture that fit the exact description, but while perusing the shelves, I come across a paper thin book of poetry by Audrey Silcox, a poet who lived from 1890–1944, she died at the age I am now. This was next to another book by Ruth Whitman called The Testing of Hannah Senesh. Hannah Senesh was a famous heroine of WWII who was captured after parachuting into Yugoslavia because an informant turned her in. She was executed after spending nine months in a concentration camp at 23 for trying to save her Hungarian Jewish friends and family.

This book of poetry captured my attention and I became so ensconced in the writing that I ended up sitting there for two hours to finish it. Yesterday at the library was like a live version of internet surfing except I was sitting in the sunlight at my back in a comfy old dark green leather chair with the only sounds being the crinkling of the opening and closing of library books instead of the tapping of the keys and the bings of text messages at every second.

I know that the actual reading of a real book of poetry, a real walk in the rain on the way home with my umbrella that my partner reminded me to take and the time it gave me to be myself was significant for my health. I don’t know the science of why, I am sure there is science, but I don’t really need this because I go with the feeling. Surfing the internet vs being in nature gives me two completely different feelings, the latter always soothes, awakens me from my slumber and calms that nothing else can compete or compare with.

If I didn’t go outside for that forty minute or so walk a few days ago, I wouldn’t have known what I might have missed, but I didn’t miss anything because I said yes to me. I walked and glided along and kept the promise to myself to get outside and enjoy the day. All of this nature took me on a weekend journey I hadn’t anticipated, but I allowed its guidance.

Nature never disappoints and it always rewards me. I don’t know why I would even procrastinate ever again. Though I didn’t find out the name of the bird until I texted the picture to my friend, Julie, who knows all things birds. I realize the irony of this and what humbles me is that, perhaps, I can allow room for both. Nature and technology. There are some time saving aspects to the brilliance of the Google search, for sure. I just have to make sure that I am in the drivers seat instead of letting it take me for the ride of incredible time wasting- looking down, missing what’s up.

The cardinals were with me on almost the entire walk this past Friday, egging me on, telling me that this is always the best remedy for a busy mind. My life and my brain is calmed, my world feels better and I am ready for my day. All because I did instead of didn’t. And by the way, the bird according to Julie is a house finch. “Yep, that’s a lovely little house finch,” she texted back. “They’re beautiful color and have the best song. They’re common, but really special.” #luckyindeed.

family, life lessons, Uncategorized

THIS IS YOUR LIFE

“Grandpa, didn’t Grandma have a shortened version of a Seder that she wrote?’ I asked him a few days ago. Passover is by far my most favorite Jewish holiday. Jewish families all over the world share the story of Moses (and Miriam for those of us who like to add some female power to the night) leading the Jews out of Egypt into The Promised Land. We eat the symbolic foods and have conversations about freedoms, slavery, privilege, humanity and so much more over a delicious feast all under the full moon.

Passover is one of those transformative holidays that usually gives me some type of spiritual ahha moment and I always wake up with a more grounded sense of myself the next day. What I enjoy about Passover is that is it more than just Let’s Eat, it is a ritual, a tradition and a retelling of the story of a liberation.

The Seder is community and pausing with family and friends. It is celebratory and hopeful and it goes on worldwide with each family adding their own twists and turns. This is how I remembered that my grandmother had made her own service to condense it for the many friends my grandparents have had over the years to make it more personal, more meaningful. And shorter. Because traditional Seders can be many hours long before dinner and this is a recipe in this short attention span life we lead for invitation turn downs at some point. Being in the Reformed Judaism category, I take some bold liberties in making sure that the Seder is both interesting and concise so when my Grandfather suggested that I take a look in my grandmother’s computer, I bolted into her old office.

My grandmother passed away almost six years ago, but yet her computer is still going strong. As I made my way into her office I noticed some vestiges of her still lingering, like the abundance of scratch paper and address labels, you know those free ones you get as a bait to make a donation to whatever charity thinks sending free address labels will get you to do this. But it is her Mac that most reminds me of her presence. Isabelle had a Mac before people were really buying Macs. She was always on the hip side.

I opened up her computer and went to her file labeled “Isabelle” thinking that so much of ourselves, who we are, how we think show up in what is stored and how it is filed. I was also struck by the notion that all may have been lost if I hadn’t been lucky enough to remember to ask about the Seder, too.

As I went through the treasure trove of files, I saw all of the writings I had sent her in my earlier years of writing that she had saved. She too was an avid writer, albeit a closet one, and I quickly discovered every trip she had gone on with the date, her itinerary and even the tour guide’s name. My grandmother not only recorded the sights and sounds of their trips, but she did it all in rhyme and I was quickly transported to China shortly after the cultural revolution. I time traveled to Africa, Tibuktu among some of the points they traveled to in the seventies. There were her trips to Israel right along with the one they took me on in 1977, too.

While their friends were headed to the Carribean and The Grand Canyon for pleasure, my grandparents were off on wild adventures to learn about the world. Because I was the oldest grandchild and lived nearby, their influence on my ability to look at the world differently was significant. I was able to read about her joys in traveling with the love of her life and was reminded of how hip she was. Then like magic, like she had directed me to this very moment herself, I found her Seder outline and printed it, happy to have found her words to share.

Since my grandfather’s stroke almost five years ago, he hasn’t gone out much and certainly hasn’t had any Passover celebrations at his house. I had decided to come down to Florida this year to have a Passover Seder with my grandfather instead of the usual Seder with my lovely son and our circle of friends back home. so that he could participate in one at his 101st year. As I have mentioned in many writings, we never know if this one will be his last one, the odds shorten each year and my pragmatism abounds.

I set up the formal dining room instead of the usual breakfast area in the kitchen and took out the good china, all of the candlesticks, and the cloth napkins. This is the joy of a holiday. The excuse to make something a little more special than just another day. Flowers on the table, special wine glasses, the old china serving dishes that I will never know their origins of. I just know they are old and were saved for special occasions. I used as many as I had food to fill them. And I printed all of her itineraries right down to her memories of her marriage to my grandfather in August 1942. It was here I got to spend some time with her in her recollections of their beginnings, the draft, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and her young life. So right before dessert, I pulled out the story and announced, Herb, this is your life and began reading it as the story it was.

Passover is the story of Exodus, the Jewish plight, the enslavement of people, but also of our own prisons we put ourselves in by our thinking. My grandmother’s writings reminded me that she did not take her own personal freedoms lightly. She lived her life to the fullest, and after re-reading her own writings, I was clearly reminded of why I live the life I do. Even though many of the people I adore were not physically at this year’s Seder either because of proximity or because they have left us, having this Passover with my Grandfather felt like everyone was there at our table. Liberation in our own way, connecting generations on this one special holiday I got to celebrate my fifty fourth year with a most cherished father figure, Herb Horowitz, my shining example that life is what you make of it.

self improvement, self love

IN THE MOMENT

I woke up at four am this past Monday morning and lounged in bed for what seemed like two hours only to discover that just thirty minutes had passed. Every day this week four am has been an unintended alarm so I indulge its inner ring and get up. Why not, may as well enjoy the quiet sound of the morning.

I put the coffee on and grabbed my pillow lowering myself to the floor for another round of While the Coffee Perks Meditation acknowledging myself with a brief mental clap for sticking with this practice. I started this over four months ago and have barely missed a day. The rewards from this are countless and though hard to define them with words, I am a much calmer and focused soul because of this. It makes me feel good and I want to feel good so I march forth.

As I sat cross legged on the floor and began breathing, the sounds of the rain storm and wind surrounded me. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a while so when the electrifying bolts of lightning came along with the thunderous booms I breathed them in. How often does one get to be meditating and at the first breath in have thunder and lightning join you in the party? Wake up! They yelled. And I welcomed the reminder to pay attention. I am. More now than ever.

And it is a conscious daily choice I make to pay attention. In the luscious moment that is right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now because really this is all any of us have. The older I get the more I realize that RIGHT NOW is all we ever have. We take time and tomorrow and next week and next month for granted. Or at least I have, all ingredients for fretting and worrying and anxious thinking that doesn’t serve me and my creative self well -ever. I am confident that many reading this today would agree, it seems like this is just one of our traits of being human. When I reflect back on anything in my past that I excessively worried about- like actually lost sleep over- it is virtually insignificant today. As I review these temporary struggles of yester year I realize the value in their lessons in the countless hours I wasted.

Finishing my deep contemplative breathing that is now part of my morning routine, I got myself set up on the couch for my other morning ritual, writing. Trying not to be persuaded by the calls of checking Facebook and email, I dive into my happy place that always keeps me locked into the NOW. I start thinking about the moments this past week that I lived in the actual moment. I am fully aware of the irony of this as living in the actual moment means not headed backwards, but for the purpose of drawing the examples to illustrate when IN THE MOMENT works for me, I must head there.

This past #noplanthursday, I am attempting to add to my list of IN THE MOMENT moments, has been an interesting experiment. Three Thursdays later, I have learned that I struggle with not making plans on purpose. I had to return books that I took out at my new favorite spot I discovered on my first attempt three Thursdays ago. The Redwood Library in Newport, RI founded in 1747 with this as part of its mission statement. Nothing in View but the Good of Mankind. Has an old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it? This library isn’t just any old library, it is a subscription library and the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States. You need to have a separate library card for it and must sign up as a member which I promptly did. The Redwood Library is a magical space to sit and do nothing except read or write or sit and stare in silence. There are lectures and music events as well as special exhibits and I was lucky enough to catch one on Claggett Clocks. This may sound like a big yawner to some, but honestly, imagine walking into a dimly lit room with over forty grandfather style clocks made from as early as 1716, many working and ticking and gonging just as the noon hour hit. This is the thing about not planning anything and finding something without looking. Juicy for sure.

I have this list in my head of the places I have said I am going to get to. Like so many women I know who say, I’ve been meaning to get there, the museums, the walking trails, the kayak trips, the flower shows and the exhibits. Those endless lists of interesting things to do, but somehow the endless lists in our head prevail and the days go on as do the exhibits. What better days than getting to these then on these no plan Thursdays?

I walked there from my partner’s house to return the books after having lots of mindpseak trying to convince myself I didn’t need to leave the comfortable couch with my laptop. What is it about that mind speak saying NO instead of YES? Thankfully, though, the books I took out had to be returned on this very day so I had to get up and go. Books in hand, I made my way outside to a glorious day of sunshine and cool breeze, the ocean at my back and the sounds of nature as my private symphony. It was amazing how quickly I moved from the lists to the moment as soon as the first bird chirped at me.

The smooth and vibrant siren sound of the cardinal rewarded me on my walk. As they always do, causing me to look up and look for him. And her. Vibrant sharp shrills calling me, walking with me, following me the entire way to and from. Making me stop in my tracks with my two books in my arms and look up in search for their beauty. And there they were. Again and again. I was reminded of how happy I am to recognize their sounds so easily and to look up searching for them, eyes trying to follow their calls until they land on that familiar bright red spot in the bare oaks and maples with barely a bud on their branches in this early April. Rewarded by my simple walk to The Redwood Library on a beautiful afternoon just because I “forced” myself to follow my plan of wandering.

Our lives have come to the need to actually schedule a day of not planning and in this itself is actually a plan, but be that as it may, this no plan plan is important for this busy active chick. Cardinals, nature, books, writing and maybe topped off with a dish of Peppermint Stick ice cream reminding me again that the moment, this moment is the very best vacation spot.

life lessons

WE BELONG TOGETHER


“Weeeee Belong Together!” Ricki Lee Jones belted out from the fancy stereo in my silly yet stunning car I recently leased. I was headed to Connecticut on a very early morning this past week -so early that it was still dark out. The light mist caused me to use the windshield wipers and the defroster because April hasn’t gotten the memo yet that it is in fact Spring, not winter.

This was no game of chicken, you were aiming at your best friend,” she sang slowly to get to that luscious build up to the chorus of “Weeeee Belong Together!” She seemed to be in the seat next to me singing her brilliant prose. I feel like we grew up together as she was always one of my favorite female vocalists all of these years later.

And just like that I was seventeen. Driving in my beloved 63 VW bug, my first car purchase. Eighteen hundred dollars and I bought it without even test driving it. No parent along with me to help me with my purchase or to even guide me in whether it was a good idea to drive to the house of the owners with a pocket full of cash. My two dear friends, John and Andy were my chaperones. I was afraid to drive the car by myself for its first run so I made Andy drive it back for me. And now that I think of it, I don’t even think I asked my father who I was living with, kind of, if I could purchase it. This seems so unbelievable to me now that I reflect back, but that car was an introduction to life for me. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that my father who really didn’t have a clue on how to parent anyway wasn’t micromanaging this very helpful life experience.

And just like that, I was propelled back to 1982. My Christian Dior pale pink vintage gloved hands were on the steering wheel in the lightly drizzling nighttime. This time though Ricki Lee Jones was belting out “We Belong Together” from her new album, Pirates, on the cassette player I had installed as any respectable seventeen year old teenager with her first car would have. Pirates was the album after her first one with her famous song, Chuck E.’s in Love.

Windows fogging because for anyone who has a history with any Volkwagon bugs, Halfbacks, Hatchbacks or Vanagaons would know, the heat never worked and if it did it was full throttle on or off, no in between. A defroster would be the little fans you would have to buy at stores like Benny’s to attach to the dashboard hoping this would help you see out of the tiny windshield. I can still hear the puttering bubbling sounds of my beloved 63 Volkswagon driven on a very quiet North Rd in Jamestown, RI headed to my boyfriend’s house in the evening.

And it was one of those moments. One of those magical moments when everything worked. The car, the music, the weather, the smells, the sounds. And my life.

At seventeen for a brief moment in time, there was nothing better than that particular moment and I remember it like it was this moment. A perfect time travel back to that time as I made my way almost forty years later to Connecticut on a rainy Monday morning. I could almost smell it. I don’t know what made that moment so special for me, but the distinct memory of it has always stayed with me comforting me like the soft blanket you had when you were a little girl that you had to have to fall asleep easily.

Music can do this, sensory awareness, sounds, smells, tastes all can make it easy to time travel. As I reflect back on to that evening, I think it was my first experience of completely living in the present moment. Though I didn’t realize this at the time, I am sure that this was what made that particular evening so special to me all of these years later.

Ahhh that often unattainable PRESENT MOMENT we know we are all supposed to be striving for. Right? Oprah says it. Every guest she has on her Super Sunday says it. Deepak Chopra says this, Wayne Dyer used to say it before he left us. Eckhart Tolle says it. Podcasts, blogs everywhere I turn screaming the importance of LIVING IN THE PRESENT! Another task we are supposed to be striving for and improving on and checking off our lists.

What I know for myself to be true is that when I do manage to carve out just a few moments in the day to make an attempt to take on this call, I feel better. Way less anxious, worried, concerned and stressed. Consciously striving for this is no easy task in our busy lives especially as caregivers, business owners, parents and just humans. Living in the present is a practice– not a one and done check it off my list and move on to the next life goal on my quest for perpetual zen status.

Living in the Present is not compartmentalized into some neat little box ‘over there.’

It is about living in the moment while the moment is occurring. Using driving as a metaphor for this since this piece today features my 63 VW Bug, there are those moments in time when I am driving from point a to point b and when I get to my destination I have almost no memory of how I got there. Some call it absent minded driving, I like to call it driving while thinking too much.

When I was married to Dave, he wasn’t much of a talker and I was. I liked talking about feelings and working on improving but this wasn’t his way of marriage. Often times when I wanted to talk about something, he would go quiet and say, “I’m thinking!” And I would sigh with frustration and think “What is there to think about?” If I would bring the conversation up again at a later time, he would say, “Alayne, you think too much.”

This drove me bat shit crazy, but often in hindsight there was some wisdom in this. I do think too much at times though it serves me well many of these times, there are many times it does not. Being present is being here. Being nowhere and NOW HERE. All I know is that as I get older my goal is to feel good. When I am in the moment, I feel good. When I am fretting and worrying about the past and the future both of which I have no control over, I do not feel good and this is not good. For my health, for my mental and physical state. And for my ability to lead my team and be a great mom and a better human, I must choose to feel good as often as possible.

Perhaps this recent trip down memory lane with Ricki Lee in the passenger seat was a reminder of this. Goodness knows that I must be constantly reminded that I have choices in how I think and what I think. We all do. Our minds are powerful allies when we choose to use them for the good they offer.

Today is my second #noplanthursday so I am off to remember that WE BELONG TOGETHER is a great phrase for me and my present self. Together again.

this isn’t my exact car, but it looked almost like this one except mine was way more perfect.

life lessons

A RISING STAR

I started a second career this past month. Well rather an extension of a long glorious career in the business of beauty I get to lovingly call my career. This second endeavor is as a certified business coach for a company called Strategies. I have written a little about this new experience and like anything new, it has my attention. This is no small feat because for the many friends in my inner circle, they could likely attest to my short attention span. I am filled with one hit wonder ideas on a daily basis, lucky if one percent of them come to fruition.

I have a small barn in the back of my house, some people call it a she-shed. My ideas usually find their way into the barn as the centerpiece. Learning to make chocolate babka, I now want every person I know to experience the delight of this on their tongues, my co-conspirator in all barn ideas, Morgan, kindly and patiently rolls her eyes — and says, “Are we opening the Babka Barn?” Macaroni and cheese? Yes. The mac and cheese barn.

Then there is the Breathing Barn because now I am meditating every day so of course everyone needs to have this experience. Let’s move this to the barn! I haven’t even mentioned the typewriters, but of course that would be a perfect fit in the barn along with the writing barn and the art barn and the visionboard barn. See where I am going? Ideas flow at the speed of light in this entrepreneurial brain of mine. God forbid I have an idea and just keep it to myself, taking my own bath in its essence. Why I need to share every single experience with the world is beyond me, but I accept it as one of my personal core drivers. And as my grandfather says often, “Be that as it may.” And so it is. Never ends. One can see why I need to actively attempt a no plan Thursday. And my struggle with this idea too is that I want to make it a thing. I exhaust myself and likely people around me. Who cares though, I seize time like there isn’t any and it will likely be this way till the day I die.

I am taking this new career path as seriously as most people would when they start a new job. Reading the company manual from cover to cover, studying the material I need to inform myself with so I can pass my knowledge to someone needing to improve their business model and systems and going on the private Facebook accounts and making my comments to other like minded business owners. I may be a bit of an out of the box bohemian when it comes to life, but in working for another company, I respect their rules and regs and try to follow their suggestions for full throttle participation. Overachiever? Maybe. But more now that I am a grown up and much less inclined to do it to impress anyone other than my own work ethic and joy I get from this new experience of ‘employee.’ It is a major and joyous paradigm shift and frankly one I have the luxury of really wanting rather than really needing, A nice position to be in for sure.

This learning brings me back, though to the struggle with the overflowing social media and technology I have had for some time so much so that I — pre-Strategies- was on my merry way back to real paper address books and appointment calendars. This went out the window as soon as I had my first training week since everything is technology. Appointment making, scheduling, calendars, webinars, training, group texts, group emails- all technology. So I jumped back in and figured it would be a great addition to my knowledge base and here I am. If you can’t beat them, join them, I suppose. Kind of, but with caution and trepidation this time around. Back on Facebook daily posting questions about business to the thousands of people who are friends in this private group.

This is now a morning habit along with my while the coffee perks meditation and writing habit and I have surprisingly enjoyed this experience. Maybe because it has a beginning and an end. I only allow myself about twenty minutes to post the question and make my comments to others, then I am off Facebook. I didn’t put it back on my phone and this helps me not become addicted to checking the replies, likes, stars, hearts and whatever other symbols Facebook has created to turn humanity into Pavlov’s dogs.

Yesterday when I was making my post for the day, I noticed that I had a star next to my name. I scrolled through the other names and didn’t see any stars next to anyone else’s names. So I clicked on my name to learn that Facebook in all of its wisdom declared me “A RISING STAR.” Some algorithm has decided that my posts and the comments that follow make me worthy of this new symbol. I wasn’t asked if I wanted this next to my name, I guess Facebook just assumes that every user wants outward star recognition. They didn’t seem to think that before their label, I may have already thought I was a star, they also didn’t think that maybe a star next to my name would make me think of other stars next to people that don’t have such a positive vibe, like those yellow stars Jewish people were forced to wear to identify them. Maybe this is a stretch, but I have just read Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris after reading The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and yellow stars and labeling are fresh in my mind.

a poignant read

With anti-Semitism on the rise as close as eight miles away in Fall River, Mass the defiling of gravestones with appalling anti-Semitic phrases and symbols, I am thinking that less labeling is probably a better business strategy. Especially for a provocative and bold lovely bad ass Jewish chick like myself. Some people may be rolling their eyes at this assessment of this star next to my name on Facebook, and maybe it is an overreach, but the labeling of people without their consent or choice gives me the willies. Maybe I have watched too much Handmaid’s Tale, or have read too many books to keep what happened to so many Jews, Romas, gay men and women, disabled and anyone else who didn’t look or fit the part declared by a madman. This was less than eighty years ago and there are still people from this time in history who lived through it to talk about it. Less and less which is why I voraciously read and recommend books that take me back there. As sad and painful as it may be from the comfort of my heated house, packed refrigerator, Mercedes in my driveway and safe and comfortable life I lead, I refuse to take this life I lead for granted.

I am struck by the ease of which we have become used to accepting these little types of recognition as normal. And I don’t want to believe that any of these seemingly innocent Facebook recognitions could be laying the groundwork for some sinister plan, but the Holocaust didn’t happen in a blast. It was a slow and steady stream of propaganda and commentary. It was humankind never thinking that a mind could think the way the crazy man with a mustache and hatred in his heart who I refuse to name in my piece today could imagine. Little dribbles of hatred and labeling of anyone who was the OTHER.

So Facebook, Apple, Google, and all of the other big techs out there we have slowly let infiltrate our life, please think about your power and stop trying to tell me who I am and who I should be by labeling me with a star. I already know who I am and I have already risen.