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I DID IT

I DID IT

Standing in the kitchen cup of coffee in one hand and my phone in the other, checking Facebook messages, Instagram, Twitter, interest one after the other moving from one to another without so much as a thought. Automatic. Mindless. Again. And again. I wake up in the morning, check my phone. I put my phone down, brush my teeth, wash my face and moisturize, make my coffee, and check my phone.

The past three weeks though while the coffee has been brewing, I have added meditating into my morning ritual. This has made me see some light in a way I hadn’t considered before. I finish meditating though and check my phone. Two days ago while I was checking my phone for God knows what, I came across an essay by Jake Knapp called Six Years with a Distraction Free iphone. And it got my attention. For the entire article. Mr. Knapp was reflecting on a particular day in his life when he was excited to be with his children building a train set that would require his time, his attention, his Presence. He had been looking forward to this date with his children for some time. In the middle of this precious moment, his son looked up at him and said, “Dad, why are you on your phone?” Not in an impatient frustrating way, but in a curious one. The funny and sad thing here was that Mr. Knapp didn’t even really know why he was on his phone scrolling nothing, distracted. He didn’t even really remember picking up his phone or why he did in the first place. This was one of those fork in the road moments. I see it everywhere. People at a beautiful dinner out with their families yesterday at my beloved Wayside Inn for the holidays, moms, children, grandmothers, siblings and Dad sitting at the head of the table in this pretty moment takes out his phone and starts scrolling, distracted, missing beautiful moments of his children kissing their grandmother unasked, hugging each other, laughing. People walking into an elevator and never looking up to even notice what floor has been selected.

His essay about phone, email and technology use ran familiar with me as I am often discussing my own connection. A connection that is entirely self imposed. I own my own business so there is no boss telling me that I have to respond at the speed of light to all of this incessant tech chatter. But you own a business! What about your clients! What if they need to get in touch with you?!!! I can hear my friends exclaiming. I think this is a pattern I have gotten myself into. I mean, really, this is not life or death here, I own a beauty business. Yes, I want to provide exceptional customer service, but I also want a life and I want my clients to have a life too. I want us to all stop the madness of perpetual tech addiction. It is frazzling our souls. I can feel it and surely I most feel it in my own soul.

So as soon as I finished his article. I went into my phone and deleted almost everything he suggested. And as he so brilliantly said, You can always put it back. And remember here, all of this stuff can be accessed on my laptop so I am not saying I am eliminating it from my life, just my phone life. So I deleted app after app, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Ebay, and almost every single tracking app I didn’t even know I had on my phone. Full disclosure here, I didn’t delete email or Safari though, I am not addicted to this. When people send me an email, I don’t get a “like” or a “high rated response time badge” to show the world that I am amazing. Email replying is on my own terms. And as far as google searching, I am not one of those people at a dinner party that pulls my phone out at the drop of a hat to GOOGLE THAT when someone can’t remember an important date or the name of a movie from yesteryear.

My problem that I didn’t know I had was the endless distraction of social media. I would go on Facebook to see if I had any messages from a client and that would lead me to check to see if anyone read my latest blog and that would lead me to scroll down to see what someone had said about something insignificant and a half hour of my life would disappear in a New York minute. I don’t know about you, but a minute of my life is way more important then it used to be. I don’t want to lose minutes without care.

As I mustered up the courage to delete and delete and delete, I am embarrassed to say this, my heart started to race and I began to feel anxious and panicky. And then I reminded myself, My new friend, Jake Knapp, said I could put them back if I couldn’t stand it. Am I listening to myself here? Panicky? Anxious? Over eliminating fifteen apps on a phone? Clearly I was making the right choice. For two hours I couldn’t believe how many times I went to check my phone only to discover that there was nothing to check. For those two hours I did something else, I straightened up my kitchen, took the trash out, put my folded clothes away instead of leaving them out for a week. Then like magic a day went by and today is day four and I haven’t missed a beat. And miraculous amounts of time have become available. To write, to cook, to send the letters I have been meaning to send, to decorate my house and put the candles in the windows I have been meaning to get to, to spend time with my aunt, and I feel in control of the way I choose to spend time.

I may miss events or replying to the endless social media events I am invited to or knowing that someone died or is sick in the hospital at the moment they checked in, I realize that the lapse in time could cause social isolation. This would be most ironic, but as I realize how incredibly fragile life is and is getting the older I am getting, I am willing to take the risk. I know that what serves my social soul is looking up and out, and if I miss something important because I didn’t look at my phone for a few hours, well then what has life become anyway? I choose choice in the mayhem. My own choice so let’s see if I am on to something here. Time will tell.

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MY FAVORITE THINGS

MY FAVORITE THINGS

Last year I wrote about my favorite places to shop around town and that hasn’t changed. Bristol has some really lovely places as do many places in Rhode Island and as shopping in actual stores becomes more of what seems like a vintage pastime, I wanted to write again about some of my favorite things to do around the holidays. Maybe it will inspire anyone reading this to take some time before the actual holiday to enjoy the time leading up to the big day.

Without being redundant I will write briefly of some top favorite places to peruse, but I will add some different things in the mix as well as places I love to visit this time of year. My Aunt and I have a tradition for my whole life and now my son’s life too, to go to THE WAYSIDE INN in Sudbury, Mass for lunch. The oldest working inn in the country it really is the feeling of over the river and through the woods (once you drive by the massive Whole Foods and Range Rover car dealers that have taken over what was a lovely country road). This inn is a flashback in time and it has a history worthy of a special drive. It is the quintessential place that generations of families go to for their “special” place. When I go there with my aunt and my son, I am transported to a time where people got dressed up to go to lunch and drink toddies by a warm fire. If Sudbury doesn’t speak to you during this busy time, then THE LOBSTER POT in Bristol fits the bill too. Delicious food in a spectacular water view setting make this a place too that families go for the special occasions.

There are some fabulous shops in our state to visit this time of year. Grasmere on Franklin St., Jackie’s Loft on the corner of Franklin and Thames in Bristol, Harbor Bath and Body on Thames St. Kate and Company and Epilogues and Paper Packaging and Panache especially if you are trying to teach your kids to actually write a real thank you note with an actual pen and paper, (fingers crossed) on Hope St also in Bristol to name a few of my personal loves. There is a great new shop that opened on State St. too, The Sand Dollar. Of course if you are a vintage shopper, Second Helpings on Gooding Ave always satisfies. In Bristol even though it is an easy grid, one must really know that the shops are spread out and it takes a little extra walking to hit them all. But if you are patient, starting where Hope Diner is and walking down Hope St as far down as Constitution St, you can weave up and down each street all the way back to Franklin and you will cover the whole of shopping in the downtown area. You can even walk up to Wood St. (Wood St. Bakery for the yummiest of calzones, Azorean Butcher Shop for a little Sao Miguel, Common Pub for delicious Portuguese dinners ) crossing over High St. (C and R Mercantile and Roxies) and you will get a nice walk in as well as coming across some out of the way little shops and food places worthy of your extra time.

If you make your way to Providence, RI then Hope St. is loaded with some quaint shops that are worth a day of poking around even on the coldest of Saturdays. Stock, an elegant kitchen shop, Frog and Toad with such a wonderful variety of goodies you could spend hours looking around. Then there are shops I can’t remember the name of, but love walking in and out of simply because they are all next door to each other and it is so easy to window shop. Unlimited lunch and dinner places as well make for a nice day out with your daughter, best friend, aunt or mom. Another out of the way place that is really special is Simple Pleasures at 6 Richmond St. in Providence. They have beautiful items merchandised in a way that makes me drool.

I like to stay away from the big box stores during this time of year and really capture the essence of small businesses who spend a lot of their time thinking and planning for this very short month hoping that the business will sustain them so they can stay in business. Small businesses are taking a big hit from the discounts offered in the big stores as well as the hard to pass up ease and convenience of ordering in your jammies at three am. Shopping locally and in these small businesses takes a conscious effort, but it is so nice to get out, park your car, bundle up and walk in and out of these stores. Talking to the owners, getting to know your community, showing your kids that shopping is so much more than the simple click of a button ensures for a thriving downtown. Empty storefronts do nothing for our home values and a little concerted effort even if you have finished your shopping goes a long way with these hard working store owners. Store owners are asked daily for donations for our schools, sporting organizations, churches and synagogues and charities. We ask a lot of them in our little towns and this of all the times of the year is the time to give back to them by making a little extra effort to shop in them.

I never thought I would look at actual shopping as a vintage approach to virtual shopping. I never thought I would actually think there would be something called virtual shopping, but it is clearly here to stay. Like writing on a typewriter instead of your laptop, it takes a bit of conscious intent, it takes a bit of planning, of calling your aunt or your mom and saying, Let’s make time for each other before December 25th. Let’s enjoy each other. If not now, when?

This is an excerpt from an essay Steve Jobs wrote before he died.

“Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness! Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food. The One who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage! The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and Friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.”



making time is what the holidays are about, this pic with the flowers in my hair is taken at the WaySIDE INN with my brother when he was about 4.







family, friends making more time, because we never know when they are going to leave us. March forth and enjoy your tribe.

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THE BATHING SUIT MIRROR

THE BATHING SUIT MIRROR

There is a bathing suit store I have visited in Sarasota every single year since I was in my twenties. My grandmother would take me there to buy a suit and I would traipse off to Siesta Key for sun and tan during my visits with my grandparents. My grandmother would plead with me to buy a bathing suit that would cover my “tuchas,” (Yiddish slang word for derriere) and I would roll my eyes with disdain and impatience. At twenty four, there was no way I was going to prance around on the white sands of Siesta Key with some old lady skirt. Rumps are for displaying, especially the twenty four year old kind. My grandmother would of course concede and I would get the bathing suit I wanted, usually skimpy as most twenty something girls were wearing at the time. As I reflect back, especially these days when thongs are the new normal, my bathing suit choices were relatively conservative. To my grandmother, though, who was all about outward appearances when it came to modesty, my choices were horrifying and we had lots of body talk or more like body commentary creating a self consciousness that I still struggle with to this day.

Bathing suits and self talk go hand in hand for me and I am guessing most women. I can see why, since suits are more or less like prancing around in a pair of underpants and a bra for the world to see. All shapes and sizes in a multitude of dressing rooms trying on bathing suits after a winter of hibernation and head to toe cover does not usually make for a good recipe in the changing room. But for some reason, we go back year after year because for the most part either our suits are too ragged from over use the year or two before or we are gluttons for punishment. For me actually, I am hopeful that this year will be the year that I look in the bathing suit mirror and see a reflection back that says, Wow, alayne you look amazing. All that working out and clean eating has actually paid off. You go girl.

Before I head there, though, let me describe the bathing suit dressing room just in case the reader hasn’t indulged recently or perhaps the changing rooms in other places that women try on bathing suits is not the same. I shall set the stage. I walk in to my go to store like I have done every single year since 1989 when they opened. I would have been twenty four; I am now almost fifty four so this is thirty years of bathing suit changes. The store hasn’t changed much except they have Pergo floors instead of carpeting and have added a men’s section. There are a few mannequins in the window sporting the latest in trends, usually on about a size four model and always bikinis. I always love those suits the most and head towards the wall that has them. Size 8 if I am really lucky, though usually more like a ten, but more on this shortly. The large wall immediately on my right above all of the sundresses is the wall I have usually made my way to, but a few years ago, I learned that this wall was now juniors. This would explain why not even a size 12 would cover the ass my grandmother was always nagging me about. Instead of saying juniors, they should say teens, this way there would be no pretense that I should even be close to that wall. But for some reason every year, I still think that these suits are not going to let me down. On the other wall, across from the juniors toward the back of the store are the clearly non juniors. Now why some bathing suit company has not realized that there doesn’t have to be Juniors OR Missus with nothing in between is beyond me. I am not a one piece girl, never have been because one thing I do know for sure is that I have a good stomach, always have. No one pieces and no tankinis either. But in this section that I fondly call the old lady section, my choices were slim. Like J. Jill, the assumption is that every older woman is trying to camouflage their mid section. This is not my problem. I don’t want a two piece that is like wall to wall carpeting, I also don’t want a two piece that had layers of fabric that is supposed to do some fake illusion thing to your hips.

A year before my mastectomy, I discovered the company Jag. Jag made a bottom that was like a hip skirt, kind of Athleta type and because I must always have back up, I promptly purchased four of them. The store still carries them and I am guessing that this must be a go to brand for the in between type of woman like myself. My grandmother was right apparently, skirts were the way to go and I was finally free at the beach to not fret and poke and pull constantly at my bottoms that no matter what the size always landed promptly between my cheeks. Skirts changed all of this for me. And now that I have a set of some very upright fake mastectomied boobs, a sporty Lulu top finally gave me peace with my body at the beach.

Until I went to Sao Miguel this past summer and made my way to the beach where there was not one woman with a skirt. I am talking the largest to the smallest, no one was sporting my sporty skirt and I actually stood out oddly making me feel self conscious. I am clearly fucked up when it comes to body image and this is for another piece at a later time, but I decided then and there that enough with the skirts. I have a healthy body and I am alive and happy. I am wearing a pair of bathing suit bottoms and ditching the skirt. I have an ass, I have always had an ass, I have strong hardy thighs and I have always had strong hardy thighs, I am woman hear me roar. I walked into the familiar and strangely comforting store yesterday this time with my partner rather than my grandmother. He needed a pair of swim suit shorts too and had offered to buy me a bathing suit. I was relieved to find a grown up sales woman (often there are college kids working there and they do not yet understand my plight) and told her my dilemma. I relayed the above information to her and let her know that since my reconstruction surgery, I have struggled to find a top as well. I finally conceded that if I were going to make my way back to a standard bikini I would have to aim for a full coverage pair of bottoms.

Yes it has happened. I have crossed the line into the suits for mature women. She was so kind and understanding and quickly found me a few suits that she placed in the dressing room. The dressing room is very large hosting at least eight separate changing rooms. Each with their own mirror and if you are feeling brave, you can walk into the main very spacious part of the changing area amongst the tribe and use the three way. There is even a convenient hand held that you can torture yourself with to see your full back side. And to top off this torture chamber, lets add the brightest fluorescent lights accentuating every spot of cellulite you never knew you had. For all of this, I am willing to pay $150 for two pieces of spandex I could bunch up and place in my pocket while my partner doesn’t even have to try on his $28 pair of swim shorts that could easily make three full sets of bathing suits for me. This time though, because I had an experienced sales woman, the two suits she brought me fit like a glove. I pranced out into the main area, then decided to walk into the actual store to find my man and ask him what he thought. Affirmative. Though I am fully aware that the ask is a loaded question to begin with, I did feel that he would honestly let me know if what I was wearing looked good. Enough. Good enough. This is the part of the story that I really like. Despite the never ending cycle of jibber jabber body self talk craziness that has gone on in my head for as long as I can remember, yesterday’s bathing suit try on was actually pretty satisfying. I liked the way I looked. I finally found a top that actually fit these weird porn star silicone attachments that have found their way to my upper self and I realized that I am ok with the woman’s section. A medium is fine. For that matter, a large is even fine. Size 8 is bullshit in a bathing suit, numbers should be illegal when it comes to bathing suits now that I think of it, I AM a woman. The woman’s section is just fine. I have earned the status and proud of it.

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IN MY MIND

IN MY MIND

As a non married woman by choice, buying or leasing a brand new high end and high performance car without a man by my side, also by choice, is a psychological mind twist. I have only owned two other high end cars. My first one was a Cooper Mini Convertible, purchased when they were barely out of the showroom. As most of my car purchases have been in my young life, it was impulsive. They usually are. But this Cooper was the car that defined a unique time in my life. My business and life felt successful, I had just turned forty and I had learned independence, oddly, through the security of my marriage. This convertible was filled with all of the bells and whistles that a sports car could have, chrome everything, six speed manual and I felt like I was in a James Bond movie every time I placed my hand on the almost sexual, smooth and velvety round knob that was the shifter. That car was amazing, completely impractical unless it was a perfect summer day in July. Winters, forget it, terrible. I didn’t have a garage and snow an ice were not good companions for this car. It would have been a great second car, but even I knew this was not practical, the narrative in my head said so. I cried the day I traded it in. My son, who I think was about eight at the time, looked at me with his big brown wisdom filled eyes and said, Mom, it’s only a car. Touché. Out of the mouths of babes, surely.

Five years later, when Dave and I were going through our divorce, I got into a slight accident, distracted, not paying attention and actually side swiped a parked car. If that wasn’t the universe telling me to slow the hell down, I don’t know what else could. It was a week before my son’s Bar Mitzvah and my car would be in the shop for at least three weeks. This seemed like a perfect time to buy a new car, actually a used car, the first used car I ever bought as an adult. This car was big, bold and totally not me at all, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean, I mean seriously we are talking cars here. It was one of steroid type Lexus SUVS and it drove like an airplane taking off on a trip to Europe. Smooth, sleek and really big. The sound system alone made the car worth the purchase and this was by far the stupidest purchase I had ever made. I thought my soon to be ex husband was going to have a stroke when he saw me driving this thing. It cost well over sixty dollars to fill the tank, only got about sixteen miles to the gallon and I think it was around the time that gas prices were headed to over four dollars. There was talk about the apocalypse coming and with a car that only got sixteen miles to the gallon, impractical was an understatement. When I picked my grandparents up at the airport in this thing, I am sure they thought their oldest granddaughter had lost her mind. After all our family drove Prius’ and practical, understated cars. We didn’t drive Lexus’. At least the Cooper wasn’t as in your face as the Lexus so I got by with that because it was also compact, small, non gas guzzling, responsible.

That Lexus lasted about six months, I never should have bought it and it cost me dearly to get out of it. Being the queen of rationalization, though I traded it in for a very family approved pragmatic Prius. That car fit my family’s personal narrative surely. Plus it got like five hundred miles to a tank of gas and the amount of money I saved on gas alone each month more than compensated me for the loss. This car though fabulous on gas had terrible pick up and no power, but it took me through my son’s high school years. When my friend came home with a VW golf, I decided to trade in the Prius and get one. This car, still small, had pick up, was good on gas and was a sporty little reasonable automobile. Meanwhile my son was driving one of my favorite cars ever, bought in 2002, one of the first Toyota Highlanders. I had traded in my Camry what seemed like a lifetime ago back then and bought this car on a five year loan. I remember leaving the auto dealer that evening. I had installed the car seat in the back and strapped Michael in and he and I looked at each other. I briefly thought, wow so much can happen in five years. My brother had been gone for seven years and I was definitely a deeper thinker since his loss. Car payments for five years had a definite calendar awareness of life coming at you.

Last week, though, the Highlander finally gave out. Of course my son is living off campus this year so he needs a car. Putting the Highlander out of commission is sad actually. This car has been our family vehicle when we were a family, it was a beat around car for Dave when we got divorced so he could grieve in the way he knew, gardening and lawn and tinkering outside. The car came back to me when our son needed a car for high school and then became the car to pack up when Michael headed to college. We thought the Highlander would get us all through the entire college years, but this week we learned this would not be so. My son needed a car and though I am completely aware he could well buy his own car and this could give him one of those textbook life lessons, I didn’t want to. I wanted to give him my Volkswagon as a gift.

My son has already had some good life lessons in his young life, parents going through a divorce, witnessing the death of our Aunt by taking her off of life support, his mother having breast cancer twice, and watching his grandmother stop speaking to his mother to name a few. No- these are not life and death life experiences, but as I recall my own twenties, this is my way of making up for it giving him an easier way to enter his twenty first year. In leasing a new car this past week I have been listening to the non stop chatter in my head that seems to consistently scream words like irresponsible, careless, will you ever learn, silly and the volume of other negativity to somehow be a voice of reason. I don’t know whose voice this is, but the difference this time around is that I have witnessed it from a different perspective. I am my own power. No one has any over me, I am not going to “get in trouble” for buying a car or buying anything for that matter and this chatterbox is from a long ago past. It is a judgmental sour sound that creates feelings of lack and guilt and serves no purpose. I release the voice. I have my own voice now and the way I use it is important. Many women I speak with have these feelings about items they have purchased, from the smallest trinket to buying furniture for their homes, there is some sound in our heads that go off like a fire alarm. We are brought up surrounded by messages to shop and buy and fill and then we feel guilty when we spend. It is a weird conundrum, perhaps it is self protection, but ultimately it is harmful, at least to me.

When I stand at the shoreline, I am struck by how vast the sea is, I often see myself with a bucket trying to collect the water or the sand and no matter how much I scoop, the ocean and the beach still look exactly the same. There is plenty. There is enough. Life is abundant. These are the messages I replace the ornery cranky ones with. My partner has a sign that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” When those negative lack themed thoughts arise, I replace them with I am enough, I am always divinely protected and cared for and life is abundant. I am aware that abundance takes action too, you can’t just wish for it, but what I do know is when I replace negative thinking with a positive one, I feel better, more open, more calm. And amazing life gifts come my way. These are the little life nuggets that help quell that chatterhead. Time is short, buy the car, own your life and live on the edge occasionally, it wakes up the soul with a brightness that even the sun can’t compete with.


life is short, enjoy the ride, there is plenty to go around.
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BRAZEN AND BADASS

BRAZEN AND BADASS

“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to be out of the rain,” or is it out in the rain? It’s a desert so I’m thinking that it is out of the rain, but I’ll pay closer attention next time the song blasts on. When that America song comes on the radio, regardless of the correct phrase, I am five, in the front seat of my mother’s pale yellow triumph, top folded down by unsnapping it before we left because automatic tops didn’t exist except in James Bond movies. My mother endlessly smoking from the familiar blue and white box of Parliaments, one after the other. She lit them with the automatic lighter provided as standard along with the ashtray to collect the cigarettes looking carefree as she and I headed towards Third Beach, to meet her friend Ann and Ann’s son who was about my age. I can smell the ocean and the salty breeze in our hair as we sped down the road listening to America and Carol King belt out familiar tune after tune.

My mother was only twenty-five when I was five, but it never occurred to me that anything was particularly odd or young about this. I am not sure where my brother was or if she was still pregnant with him but when I do the math, she would have had to have been at least six or seven months pregnant. I am sure with my good memory I would have recalled this. So he was either born already and would have been seven months and home with someone and this would have made me six instead of five and it would have been the summer of 1971 instead of 1970. Or he wasn’t born yet and therefore I was four and it was 1969. This is sad to me because I don’t recall a lot of my brother’s presence in my young life; there was a bit of invisibility to him. Of course there could have been the possibility he was tucked away in the little back area of the Triumph, a definite consideration because there weren’t many child safety laws back then. Regardless, my beach memories are some of the fondest ones I recall when it comes to me and my mother, Ann. These memories unfold with a gentle smile like the black and white Kodak prints locked away in the five or six yellowy albums Ann gave me when she moved to North Carolina almost the same day I announced my engagement. At least that is what it felt like at the time, Ann always running, farther and farther.

Mother daughter relationships are layered with complexity. Add to this recipe alcoholism and a slew of other emotional injuries and our relationship’s potential became weaker and less likely the older we became. The further away I am from my mother though, I have a more objective view of how I move and dance with my mother who doesn’t want to have a relationship with her only surviving daughter. For the most part since the words came in that stark and abrupt email, “I prefer you never contact me again,” almost three years ago, the untangling of her hold on my emotional state has been one of freedom and release. She might say the same thing about me; I readily admit that we both didn’t bring out the best in each other. In a sad and unraveling way, it has been healthier for both of us.

But I still miss her. I have reached out and have attempted to break that awkward silence by those damaging words. She in turn has responded in her own way and for this rare communication, I feel like at least the relationship cannot be labeled as estranged. Estranged feels immature, permanent, unforgiving, unapologetic. This is not who I am. So we both seem to accept the space between us and realize that this is probably as good as it ever is going to get. I know I have broken the cycle of abrupt family endings by having a strong relationship with my son and my former husband and the life we had and have now. The thing about Ann though, is that she is a part of me, whether we agree with each other, whether we judge each other or feel frustrated by either of our behavior. She shows up in ways I have grappled with despite countless Alanon meetings and therapy sessions trying to learn what it is about me that I can control or change.

My mother has used shopping to fill the hole in her heart for as long as I remember, way before my brother died, way before my father left. This was my example. When the going gets tough, go shopping, Ann could have written this mantra. In Ann’s case, to be more specific, it would be when the going gets tough, buy a new car. When I was a young girl, we had lots of different cars, so it will likely come as no surprise that I have the same contagious problem when I am relationship triggered. I wish I could recognize the fall down the rabbit hole before I ended up at the car dealer signing on the dotted line, but this time around, once again, I ignored the signs right in front of me that caused the tornado.

This time it is different; this time I changed the narrative. This time when the blah blah voice on my right shoulder came up to scold me for being irrational or irresponsible, I stood tall and looked at that voice, hands on hips, legs firmly planted, thigh muscles contracted and said, Whose voice is that anyway? Whose voice does that belong to? And why do I get these out of body commands to buy a car anyway? What is the trigger? Like Ann leaving, one of my oldest and dearest friends abruptly left too, without so much as a note; I know this is the trigger, this is the familiar way I deal with grief and loss. This is why the feelings come up because it connects me to my mother for a fleeting moment; there is a familiar rush with it. And during this whirlwind, I forget that I am the grown up superchick who has basically raised herself and raised a business with these two strong hands on her own. If I want to throw all cares to the wind and buy a new car, or in this case, lease one, I am a grown woman who gets to unabashedly make this choice. I am not five, I am fifty three, getting closer to my mid fifties by the minute and I can’t get into trouble by anyone. There is no timeout or punishment for my decisions, rash, planned or everything in between. It is the first time I have looked at that voice and challenged it and the freedom that washed over me stabilized my core like a long held warrior pose as I stood up to this familiar voice. At Last.

I can feel sad and feel grief and for a change not punish myself for the ways I deal with that grief. As soon as I challenged this blithering voice, it went back in its shell, and I marched forth, brazen and bad ass with a new bat mobile in my driveway. I wish I could call Ann and tell her. She would be laughing with her infectious laugh and would likely recognize that despite our distance, we do share some similarities. It is those that I miss.

Yep.
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EIGHTEEN LIPSTICKS AND BACKUP

EIGHTEEN LIPSTICKS AND BACKUP

There is that moment in time when you slip on a pair of pants or jeans or in my case the perfect Lululemon yoga pants and they slide on like Cinderella’s glass slipper. Comfort, fit, smoothness and you say to yourself, damn, if I had known these would be my go to comfort pants, I would have bought at least three more pairs. This is equally true with shoes, underwear, bras, a great summer dress and so many other items in our lives, my life. The countless conversations I have had with the family of women I get the privilege of calling clients for the past twenty years in business have proven the notion to me that we women when we find something that fits perfectly, we are willing to invest in more because we love things that feel great. This does not just apply to clothing items. The perfect pen or pencil, the on point size journal for writing, a great size coffee mug, the list goes on. My grandmother, Isabelle was the backup queen. Soup especially, toothpaste, weird food items maybe from her Depression era days, who knows, but my mother was like this too and Isabelle was not her mother, but her mother in-law so I can’t necessarily blame it on genes. Sometimes the list applies to products too. I have used a face oil from a company of products I sell at my business and fell in love with it. Like so many perfect products, the company decided to discontinue it so in good old-fashioned supply and demand consumerism, I bought up all I could for backup. I realize this just postpones the inevitable disappointment I will inevitably have to face, but it is the bridge while I conserve the precious droplets as the bottle lessens daily.

Then there is the never ending discontinue of the perfect color lipstick. Lipstick serves a higher purpose for me, I love a great red or a startling pink on a plain face, but that is for cosmetic. Lipstick for me is about keeping my lips moist and not chapped and finding a lipstick that does this is a priority. I like a little color, but to be able to swath it on at a mirrorless drop of a hat to keep my lips moisturized and also have a slight color is the perfect combination. I love the lipsticks I sell, but I haven’t found one yet that replaces my go to lip product by Mac. Pervette glaze. A frosty whitish pink that really does nothing for me in the winter, but because they discontinued my winter color, High Strung (yes the irony does not go unnoticed here) I have been forced to make my summer color my year round color. I wish the beauty counter would send out a spoiler alert when they are discontinuing a color, but I am guessing there are no lipstick Google algorithms yet. There probably are, but we are talking a fifteen-dollar tube of something. I also realized in my ghost of Christmas past moment that I had turned into the “old” lady I used to wait on when I was nineteen working at Cherry and Webb on Bellevue Ave in Newport at the Estee Lauder makeup counter. The disappointed array of women who were likely looking for their go to color learning from me as my younger verison that the color would be no more played back like an old vcr tape. I remember my lack of empathy for their plight working my early sales skills in trying to get them to step out of their comfort zone and try a new red or a different pink. Seldom would this work because I likely did not understand the importance of consistency when it came to go to colors back then at nineteen. It was unlikely that I understood the need for steady non-change and reliability that is more than just a discontinued lip color.

As I traipsed off to the Mac counter to purchase my allotment of my favorite color, the electrified makeup faced Mac counter artist tried to soothe my noticeable disappointment by showing me another color that was close. I felt like saying, “If it is so close, why didn’t they discontinue this one!?” But I kept my composure and begrudgingly tried on Fabby as it was called, hesitant because in the past when I have broken my rules of staying with the go to color (anticipating that like all good lip colors in the makeup world they go away) my lips have dried out maybe because of a pigment or some horrible chemical I have ingested that caused the BRCA 2 gene to turn on and therefore caused my we caught it early breast cancer. Yes my brain does go in this direction on more than one occasion, but then I relax and take some deep breaths and realize that for the most part, lipstick colors and my breast cancer is likely a stretch. So when the counter lady gave me the bad news I moved to my summer color, Pervette and she tells me that this too has been discontinued. “Would I like some Mac 1–800 number to call that specifically deals with discontinued colors?” “Sure.” I said knowing damn well I was not going to call Mac and likely pay three times more for a color. I would just have to be a grownup and try Fabby and keep my fingers crossed. I made my purchase of three of them (one for my coat pocket, one by my writing area and one by my bed) and trudged on like I had just been told my cancer was back for the third time. (not really, but trying to make my point of disappointment, you get this right?)

After trying Fabby for about a week, yep, you guessed it, chapped lips, just in time for the five below New England wind chill factor. I decided to have an online chat (whoever invented the online chat should get a Nobel Peace prize, one of the greatest inventions of all times!) with some Mac person on their website and they informed me that I had received some incorrect information, Pervette was not discontinued! Be still my beating heart! I immediately ordered as many as Mac would let me (nine in case you are wondering) Mac has this weird rule that you can’t order more than this and actually in the past when I have gone into the actual Mac store counter they have only allowed the purchase of five. Maybe they think I am going to open a Pervette black market lipstick counter. On the website though, I was able to purchase nine so of course I did. After about a week after receiving my glorious happiest day ever (not really, but for the moment when I opened the compact black box with nine freshly packaged lip colors lined up like soldiers it was a moment for sure) I started to panic a bit. What if they really decided to discontinue this? Maybe I should buy another round just to be sure, just be on the safe side, so yes, I did.

When they arrived yesterday, I did feel a little silly about all of these backups, but not enough to reconsider. I like backup, it gives me a sense of order and very false but glorious security that at least my lipsticks and my now highly moisturized lips are predictable. I realize that the whole notion of backup anything is entirely superficial and I am a lucky lady for sure to be able to buy eighteen lipsticks. I probably should be slightly embarrassed to write this aloud, but I also know that I donate happily to pretty much any cause that comes knocking at my door. I also work really hard so spending a week’s worth of groceries on lip color to give me some added joy is a part of who I am. I know I am slightly nutty when it comes to this notion of backup, but at least this is one area in my life I can totally count on for at least the next eighteen lipsticks. This is comfort as I get ready to face 2018 with new 36 D boobs, no more cancer to have to think about for the time being or ever hopefully and glossy zinc pink non chapped lips. The New Year is looking brighter by the minute.

no words necessary.
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I LOVE ANN PATCHETT

I LOVE ANN PATCHETT

When I was living in Jamestown, RI in 1976 I had the good fortune of becoming friends with a group of young kids who I mostly still remain friends with. Growing up on a three by nine mile island even though it was connected with two bridges allowing easy exit created a cocoon and insular experience for our young posse. When we each got our drivers license it was a freedom that is hard to explain adding a layer in the ability to exit into larger communities that often felt like were leaving our country. I am not exaggerating here. There is a unique safety net growing up on an island the size of Jamestown and it created a wonderful closeness among us. When we went to high school, since there was no high school in Jamestown, some went to Rogers High School in Newport, but most of us went to North Kingstown and the perception of Jamestown kids to NK kids was amusing. I loved growing up there. It was a freedom of stomping around barefoot, barely any parental guidance, bike riding, beach going, backgammon games and driving around the island endlessly. A few of us had family off the island in cities so we were exposed to the reality of bigger spaces like New York City and Boston and we ultimately exposed each other on the trips we would take together to visit family.

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Melissa, friends since sixth grade, along with a couple others who we both lost touch with used to do these crazy Christmas exchanges and we have great memories of this. I think we started it in seventh grade and continued well into our thirties until marriage and babies and relocating to areas not easy to get to at holiday time stopped the tradition. We also found ourselves wanting to reduce the madness of shopping and gift giving and the tradition just kind of stopped. Melissa and I continued it for a bit, but even now we barely do any gift exchanging and instead just share great conversation in our almost daily phone chats.

One of my dearest and favorite gifts ever from Melissa was a book by Ann Patchett called Truth and Beauty. It is a memoir about a very special friendship she had with Lucy Grealy also an author of the book, Autobiography of a Face. They met in 1981 and had a friendship lasting for over twenty years. This book describes that bond and intimacy that happens between two women who share life together as deep friends. It is one of Melissa’s favorite books and she gave it to me hoping I would love it as much as she did. I did. And this was the book that got me started on my own love affair with Ann Patchett. I have read and enjoyed most of her books and every time I read anything she writes, I am a better writer because of her. I appreciate great vocabulary in writing that is natural and not contrived. When I read Ann Patchett, she has my attention wholly and I am never disappointed. It is so apropos that someone who I have been best friends with for forty years would introduce me to a writer about her own dear friendship. When I saw Ann Patchett’s name flash in the NY Times in the opinion section of the Sunday Review, of course I hungrily devoured it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/opinion/sunday/shopping-consumerism.html.

It was called My Year of No Shopping and it reminded me of my yearlong quest to purge all of my junk and excessive stuff I have accumulated in the first half of my life. This mission of hers was to stop accumulating and like her many novels that have become my dear companions, this too gave me great pause.

I love to shop, not for clothes or shoes or purses, though I do love my Lululemon excursions (these are workout clothes so this doesn’t really count, right?). Actually my love is the thrill of spending money which is not a prudent choice in my life long term. I am sure I can tie this energy with my mother as she loves to shop likely still does but since she is not speaking to me I really don’t know this. When I reminisce about my mother, shopping is a kindred connection we share. I am guessing I learned the notion of consumerism = happiness and immediate gratification from her and when I am spending money I feel that kindred connection I otherwise long for from my mother. Sounds like it is time for another therapy appointment.

I have always been a great saver for retirement thanks to my grandfather’s influence, but the present day savings has never really been my strength. Art supplies, office supplies, gardening trinkets, kitchen gadgets, consignment furniture and my favorite, FOOD, all easy items to rationalize in my quest for the perfect notebook, pen or olive oil. The thought of deliberately not shopping for whatever parameters I set speaks to me. Ann’s comment on running out of lip balm and having a moment of panic when she realized buying more was off limits cracked me up as I stared at my 9 MAC lipsticks I just ordered so I would have the back up of the discontinued lipstick color I love. She decided to forage her cabinets and purses and lo and behold came up with four. She is probably a back up lip hoarder like myself.

I didn’t grow up in the Depression, but my grandparents did and my grandmother who tended to err on the side of frugality ironically spent a lot of money on backup. I get my need to have backup of things from her. Though she usually applied it to cans of soup on sale or toothpaste and coffee, I have found myself using it as a crutch to shop. Find a pair of sneakers I love? Buy two pairs in case they discontinue the style. Love those Lulu yoga pants? Buy four pairs because what if they stop making them? The list goes one and I am certifiably nuts when it comes to this. As a result, I have ten pairs of pants, sixteen tubes of my favorite lipstick and who knows what else lurking in the pockets of my coats and the closets of my home. As I contemplated the idea of giving up shopping for one full year with my own parameters, the one element that made me seriously consider this was Ann’s mention of how much time she realized she had on her hands. When I quit drinking for seven years, I found that I had exquisite amounts of time to create and consider. I wonder. Could I actually do this? The fact that I am even wobbling in the idea that I may not be able to should make jump on the bandwagon pronto. Ann made a list. She owns a bookstore in Nashville and immediately decided that buying books would not be a part of her list though now that I write this, I ask the question to her that you are all thinking, can’t she get her books for free? I mean I am not going put on my list to give up buying lotions and potions because I own a skin care business and I don’t have to pay for those so putting them on my list is kind of a scam. Sorry Ann you have been found out in that category, you are forgiven though because remember I love you.

I can feel the rationale overtaking my brain. How could I eliminate shopping? I mean I need soil for my garden in the spring. I need new sneakers for my workouts. What happens when I run out of my lipstick and my lips are on the path of dryness? I drop my phone like every other day and the screen needs to constantly be repaired. Am I supposed to give this up? Give up shopping for a year? How about a day? I still have 12 days left for 2017, maybe I could get it all in for the remainder. If any of you are considering joining this party with me, before 2017 ends, please buy some Ann Patchett books (except for Bel Canto, sorry Ann I tried three times). Or you could start right now and go to the library and borrow and return them ahead of schedule.

Ann Patchett again gets my brain turning and my heart thumping with her delicious prose. Once again she has my attention and watch out my fellow business owners, you may not be seeing me in 2018. Only time will tell.


my oldest friend Melissa, so lucky to know her along with my other superchicks in my life.
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THE MIRROR AND HOLIDAY SHOPPING

THE MIRROR AND HOLIDAY SHOPPING

What is happening? I pass by a mirror these days and who looks back is not the person who is looking at. I mean this lightly. I am happy with my reflection, understanding that as time passes or rather accelerates these days changes are to be assumed. This is all part of the natural aging process. I can see why women (and probably men too) start contemplating all those injections with the hope that the image reflecting back will be smoother, tighter, firmer, less lined and whatever other bill of goods these quick fixes offer. Not for me, though I don’t judge when someone decides to go that route. We are all in this together and whatever makes us feel good as we go through our short days on this planet in this life, well, let it be.

I found myself with a free day this past Saturday so I chose to go old school by walking around Newport to participate in their holiday stroll. There were carolers out singing their Merry Christmas tunes, the stores were decorated with sparkles and each store had a little spread out of good cheer, wine, treats etc. I decided to walk into a store I have been meaning to go into to try on a pair of jeans. I am not a big jean wearer. I like comfort and this is one of the pleasures of aging, the need for comfort and the fact that I don’t have to be fashionista. I am comfortable in my lululemon yoga pants and I know that there is a collection of women out there who judge this. Aging=I don’t give a fuck. I LOVE THAT. But that being said, I do get bored with my go to yoga pants and a good pair of jeans is always a friend in the closet. I can never find them though. I like pants that I can wear and don’t have that itching desire to remove them in the middle of the day. Remember- comfort? So I walk into the store and barely get a hello, a basic greeting, but I am determined so I ask the very nice saleswoman to assist.

“What kind of jeans do you like?” she asks. “Comfortable ones. Boot leg cut usually, but I am open as long as they are comfortable.” I think this is a pretty reasonable answer for a place that is known for jeans. I see some velvet type jeans sitting on a table and they grab my attention as the way I see myself in the mirror of the future is sporting them with a hip pair of shoes strutting along comfortably in my day. “These are my favorites,” she says with a sparkle in her eye. “They are cigarette legs though, but try them, they look fabulous on.” I chose a maroon, completely out of my comfort zone and a pair of navy. She moved to a pair of “leatherette” style that I have seen recently in some posts somewhere on six foot models with eight foot legs the size of my forearm. I saw myself in them with that as my guiding vision until the price tag of $258 flashed in my face. After just receiving an email from Norwegian Airlines for a round trip airfare for almost the same price to London, I quickly told the lovely saleswoman that there would be no way I would be spending $258 on a pair of leatherette jeans. Likely if I took that flight to London, I would find that those same jeans are not even in style anymore.

I really didn’t want “in style” jeans anyway. I was looking for a good basic pair of daily jeans. So she shipped me into the dressing room with four pairs of velvet jeans with the price tag of $188. I should have my head examined, but here is the thing- as I took off my very comfortable lulus, that $188 tag made sliding on those velvets have a completely different expectation. I mean they should be going on like a glove. No hoisting, no squeezing, no sucking it in. Smooth and happy, right? Well the word cigarette should have made me run for the hills especially because the jeans only come in European sizes. This in itself translates into whatever size you think you are, go up two sizes, because European sizes don’t take American hips into consideration.

I have a steadfast rule in the dressing room that has always worked for me. If the first piece I try on is an epic fail, the rest of the pile is not going to go well. So I am usually careful with my first choice. Trying on a European size 30-cigarette velvet jean was probably not a good idea out of the gate, but I loved the illusion that they could be fabulous. I took off my go to yoga pants and decided to start with the 30s. As I unfolded them and held them up to take a look before I attempted the soon to be fateful try on, I thought they looked ridiculously tiny. Couple this with the worst lighting in a dressing room I have ever seen. I couldn’t believe that the super fit body I know I have was the one staring back at me in the mirror. Florescent glaring light is not the light I would have chosen to get women to love the skin they’re in so that spending $200 on a pair of jeans would not even be a question.

So as I began to place my foot in the right leg and seeing that my ankle already felt the squeeze, I immediately stopped. Fuck this. I want a bootleg; I am not even going to torture myself. “How’s it going?” the woman asked. “I think I want a bootleg cut and I would also like some sweaters that are a little longer to try on with them.”

This is where the fun begins. As I stood naked in the dressing room, the saleswoman and the other woman who seemed to be the one in charge who by the way I had no contact with upon entering proceeded to have a conversation about me like I wasn’t there. It was bizarre. “Does she want a ankle length? How are her calves? What size should she be trying on? Does she want dark denim, washed?” Hello? I’m standing here. Why don’t you just ask me? Even though I HAVE ALREADY SAID ABOUT FIVE TIMES THAT I WANT A BOOT CUT. “Hold on, I am coming out. I think it would be better if I just looked around myself as I find it odd that there is lots of conversations going on about my size in the store.” My saleswoman took this as I was embarrassed or uncomfortable with my size and she apologized by saying “I am sorry we were discussing your size as we are all women here and it is no problem,” or something to that effect. It wasn’t about the size, I don’t care about that. It was the notion that I wasn’t being spoken to but spoken about. And I am at a store that is trying to get me to spend $188 on a pair of jeans, a store that specializes in fitting women for the perfect jean. Odd indeed. I got dressed and came out of that awfully lit dressing room and the two women proceeded to pull down every pair of jeans in there, ripped on purpose, frayed on the hemline on purpose, cropped, straightleg. Everything but bootleg. I realized that not only were the jeans not the fit I was looking for, the store wasn’t either. The mirror itself should have been a reason to run (and the $258 price tag on the first pair I almost tried on).

I realized that the mirror is not what it is about at all. I feel great about myself. I don’t need a pair of jeans, I don’t need a less than great, though very kind saleswoman, to try to fit me. I am comfortable in my skin. My mirror is inside. Instead of my usual ‘needing to teach them a lesson about client service,’ I was kind, I didn’t flip out, I just calmly said that I would come back when they had more inventory for me to choose from and thanked them for their time. As I walked out with no package in hand, I understood better than ever why online shopping will eventually replace these stores. Service is the only point of difference and if they can’t satisfy this on my first entry, why bother to leave my house and my own damn mirror? Brick and mortar stores as we fifty something and older were brought up on to spend not only our money, but our time on an unseasonably warm Saturday on the first holiday weekend of December will likely be a thing of the past five years from now. It is sad.

I was brought up on shopping old school. Taking the bus from Jamestown to Newport or the T from Brookline to Newbury St. in Boston to peruse the stores buying little trinkets for my friends and family. The smells and the cheer, the corny Christmas music and the over wrapping of things, the decorations and the happy smiley salespeople who seem like they enjoy their jobs. The salespeople who actually loved customer service will soon be a combination of traits we will fondly look back on as a thing of the past. Our kids today and surely their kids will not know about the store experience of yesterday. All because there is now less time in a day as we all move through our disconnected lives thinking we are connected and that finite amount of time we allow ourselves to have gives us smaller windows of choice on how we spend it. Shopping in real stores is energizing and can be such a fun experience, but the future seems bleak these days. Instead of trying a different store with a different mirror down the street, our kids will not. They will simply go online and choose ten pairs of jeans to try on in the comfort of their own home in their own lovely lighting with free shipping and this will become their holiday shopping experience.

I am glad I am part of the generation who remembers the saleswomen of Cherry and Webb on Bellevue Ave and shopping in the specialty stores when Brick Market was glamorous and specialty. I remember shopping in downtown Wellesley with my aunt and my grandmother at Marco Polo and driving into Boston’s Filenes to get fitted by the shoe salesman my grandmother was find of. I was unknowingly being schooled by these shopping experiences that taught me how to spend my money, yes, but more importantly customer service so someone like me would come back often. I hope I am wrong in all of this. Maybe shopping in real stores with real people will be considered a vintage experience like the way I love my vintage kitchen items and Tupperware. What I do know is that in my quest to find great jeans, I will likely go back to my favorite stores with the mirrors I do like and keep trying. I am not ready to give up on what I love yet.


one of my favorite quotes and thanks to Julie Brigidi for this great photo she took before all my surgery, (pre 36D for sure).