Beauty, business, grief

LET’S FACE IT

Churning. This describes my brain. My stomach. My heart. I try to meditate. I meditate. I walk outside almost daily for fresh air and to keep my heart energized and calmed, a contradiction out of the gate. I attempt to workout with my variety of accoutrements, a Pelaton, a Nordic Track, weights, virtual workouts from my gym. 

I say (every night before I go to bed), tomorrow is Day 1. 

Day 1— again. 

It is so easy to plan for Day 1 the night before with a belly full of sugar and wine. 

But this is my pattern, when the times are the most stressful, the most chaotic, I decide to do some twenty eight day fitness challenge. 

I’m in a master mamma group with two powerhouse female business owners. One  said, with a frankness I have come to appreciate, “Alayne, why would you quit drinking in the midst of this disaster?” 

“This is just what I do.” I replied, so matter of factly, it almost sounded normal. When the times are at their most dismal, these are the times I decide to take on a brand new health challenge. 

I laugh aloud. If I didn’t, I would be sobbing aloud. 

Let’s face it. The beauty business, the business I have raised myself in, raised over fifty women in for the past thirty years will never be the same, or at least will not be the same for at least the next two years. 

And it is the next two years that are what concern me. I know that if I look at the after, everything will be back to a new normal, social distancing will likely be a thing of then, but it is the next two years that frighten me. 

My Providence landlord, who has unintentionally mentored me for the past eleven years, has given me at least three unsolicited pep talks. “Alayne, you are a fighter.” He says this with so much confidence that I have to remind myself, Yes. I am a fighter. Just being a small business owner equals auto fighter status. 

Every single day, we small business owners have to think in a way that employees don’t. We are mostly a group of control freaks that don’t know what to do when we are out of control. This is the work we do as leaders as we transition through the growth from playing store to grown up bad ass leaders.

And I wouldn’t change this for the world. I love being an entrepreneur. There are facets to this title that define my brain. Creative power, charitability, kindness, strength, linear thinking, leadership, direction, grooming, beauty, humanity, lifting, figuring shit out. Empathy. Seldom do we let our employees see our vulnerable sides. As entrepreneurs, it is our duty to keep our chins held high and to lead our troops, no matter how much of a sinking heart we may have.

This time, though- this time, we are amidst a global crisis. Together, with no clear direction. The how. The when. None of it is really obvious. And I, in turn, am part of the crisis rather than the head of the pack. Someone said to me yesterday that I am a leader in the industry. It is true that I have a big voice in my community and in my industry. 

But I am tired. 

Maybe if this was happening when I was thirty, I’d feel more of a passion to fight the battle and come out badder ass than ever, but I am fifty-five fucking years old. I have had enough battles already and I can’t see how this is going to be repairable in the short future. 

As I write that, I feel like I am letting my industry voice down, my team, my clients, but how much life coming at us can one business owner take? I wish I did, but I don’t. And this in itself is a revelation for me. It actually feels liberating and powerful to say aloud, I don’t fucking feel like figuring it out. 

Let’s face it, my beloved beauty business, the business of touch, the business we already have one of the best sanitation procedures in, will not be able to perform the way it did. My employees and I will be expected to reinvent our entire business model with no clear direction that when we do, it will even work. This is a traumatic event, and we haven’t even started to repair from, let alone grieve its loss. 

So I write. I write my heart out, my guts out. I share my thinking so that it leaves my body instead of taking up permanent residence and I feel better saying it aloud. 

Writing is therapy. Letting my brain relieve itself of its busy and constant yapping calms me immediately.  I feel better just admitting what I know many like- minded entrepreneurs are thinking. Recognizing that there is an elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged is my superpower. Saying what people are fearing out loud is the quality I enjoy about myself when I get right down to what I really would miss if I was no longer. 

This is the crux of the problem I now recognize through this piece today. I don’t have a fear of not having my business, I have a fear of not getting to be the leader I have loved being. 

I have worn and grown into my leadership cape with every trial and tribulation that has come into my life and fought it with a fierceness to be reckoned with. I know now that what is surprising me the most is my lack of interest in the fight this time around. I am releasing the need to fight and instead just lying back waiting for the course correction I know is there, but I don’t want to be the one to have to make the decision. This has never been who I am, lying back in the wait and see. I am an action figure. Running to the trunk to get the cape before I even know that there is a fire to be put out. 

What I realize about the cape and all of its superpowers is sometimes not putting it on is a strength, just allowing it to stay in the closet or the padlocked trunk and not trying to figure out how to solve or fix a problem is the lesson. 

I don’t feel like redoing every single protocol, figuring out how to communicate this to every client so that they feel less afraid to walk into my business that is already clean and sanitized and safe. The cape is put away and after all of this sugar and wine partying, I am not even sure it would fit around my expanded girth. 

It has been seven weeks today that I closed my beloved company and I haven’t even grieved that loss yet. Though the money is what makes it function, it is about the integrity of everything I have worked for. It is about feeling a deep sense of responsibility to my team in thinking about how the hell am I going to afford to bring them back when we can’t operate the way we used to. It is about the loyalty I have to our clients who trust that we will figure out how to reopen and the pressure to do it “better than ever.” 

But then, like the magic that comes with the rewards of reinvention, I was invited to be a guest on some national calls to speak on this unintended reinvention. The beauty company, Gloskinbeauty I do business with, asked me to speak about my virtual beauty ideas and curbside product delivery. In the midst of the chaos, little golden nuggets come at me reminding me that what I am doing does make a difference.

Yesterday, after finally taking my head out of the sand and facing the inevitable budget I had been avoiding like the plague, (if only this was a pun), I came home to a hand delivered bag on my front porch. My account representative, from GloSkinBeauty, had driven from her home in Boston and delivered a fully stocked bag of homemade Italian goodies. 

Apparently, she hadn’t received the memo that yesterday was Day 1 and along with the homemade delights were two bottles of my favorite wine and a card that said, “You’re kindness made a difference.”

My kindness? Hardly. This changed my night. Made my heart sing and yes of course, Day One got bumped to Monday where all Day Ones happily reside.

As this essay works itself through me today, I feel better already and more hopeful.  I stopped writing for a brief moment to film my fox family that has taken residence in my backyard for the past seven weeks. I took a detour to my email and Facebook where I found lovely comments on a video I had posted from my team that made me remember that I have one, the strongest and most caring group of women who work for me and alongside of me for twenty years. 

As I checked my email, I came across a note from a client we have been taking care for our entire twenty years in business. Its simplicity and timing brought me back to my reality and out of the nightmare that closing my business has been. Sure, the product order itself is lovely, as I have said, we need money to make this business clock tick. But more important is the word TRUST and EFFORTS. 

Alayne,

How are you? I miss seeing you, and of course my other fav goddess, Jenna! Thank you for your continued efforts in promoting self-care during this time. I always trust your beauty feedback! I would love to place an order (your video was awesome). Could I purchase the Glo hydrating gel cleanser, Pro5, Super Serum, and toner (whichever you recommend for my 46 yr-old-skin)? And I would love to take a drive to Bristol whenever it’s ready 🌞. Talk to you soon 😘

With gratitude,

Catherin

There has never been a shortage of effort from me, and trust is how I have built my business, one client at a time. I realize now that the cape I own is not something that needs to be worn for people to have to visually see my strengths and goodness. After all this time in business, this is just something that my clients and my team know about me. This is what makes me get out of bed to face another day, cape or not. 

With gratitude, Catherine, indeed. 

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FUN, self love, WRITING

WHY I TYPE

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

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

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

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

I was not disappointed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words Matter.

self improvement, work

NOT THIS WEEK

Though I have been writing for almost my entire life, for the past three years, I have been writing almost daily and putting it out for the world to see. The world I speak of consists of a few followers who kindly take the time to read my writings and others because they see the post from someone who forwards it to them. I am lucky because I get to write continually and people seem to enjoy what I write. The beauty of this exchange is that there is no monetary connector. I am not writing for livelihood and people do not have to take out their wallets to pay to read what I write. It takes the pressure off for sure.

This all started when my beautiful partner said, “Alayne have you seen this site?” He was referring to Medium and it was the first site that showed up in my radar where all of these writings could actually land in a home somewhere rather than a folder marked Alayne’s writings hidden in a closet for my son to find after I was long gone. I remember the first time I hit PUBLISH. It was exhilarating and since then I have published on Medium over 300 essays or as the world calls them now, blogs. I like the word, essays. It feels more elegant and literary, like something Sylvia Plath or E.B. White would have written. Blogs seem to cheapen the process, but I try to stay current and if this is the way people care to refer what I write, so be it. I’ll take what I can get as I am just so happy to wake up in the morning and open my laptop to begin my daily ritual of taking what woke me up and placing it somewhere instead of the drawer in my office.

I noticed as I was posting on Medium a box I could check that allowed my writings to be part of a collection that could actually earn money as people read them. I clicked the box, what the hell, no pressure, if I made a little money because someone clicked on a piece or organically liked what they read, then that would be pretty cool.  So each time I now post on Medium, I click the box and off it goes into cyber space where algorithms take over to determine if my writing is worthy of whatever measurement they deem as such. I am thankful that I don’t have to rely on writing as a means of income; I am not sure I would be a great writer if I did.

I received an email from Medium the other day letting me know that a payment would be getting transferred to the bank account I had connected with my account. No exaggeration here, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this email. I have no idea what they were paying me for, but the fact that some random algorithm in outer space deemed worthy a blog that I posted made my heart sing. Alright so it wasn’t a million dollars, in fact it was $1.88, but that $1.88 was seriously the most rewarding $1.88 that I had ever earned. I jumped up and down and felt such pride that all of this writing I have been doing was actually noticed somehow somewhere by someone. How fun.

Now for those of you writers out there who think I may be settling for meager scraps, I am not. I write because it feels good. When I don’t write, I don’t feel good. Writing is like exercising for me, I must do it or my health suffers and my mind gets all staticky. Exercise is not about muscle and tight abs, that is the gravy. Exercise is mind clarity. Writing is the same. The money is the gravy and the $1.88 may as well have been $1000 because I just felt so happy when I saw it, but not enough to have that be the reason. Just like tight abs, they don’t motivate me to go to the gym, but a clearer less crazy brain sure does.

This week was the first week in a long while I didn’t write. Not one sentence. Not because I needed a writing break because sometimes I do, but because I was at a business training that consumed every waking minute. I am not kidding. Up at five, review until 6, out by 6:45, prep from 7-8. Training from 8-5, then business dinner until 8, then homework until I couldn’t keep my eyes open for another minute, then repeat. For five days straight. This training was a business coaching certification so I can get certified to coach other businesses in a strategic way based on this company’s philosophy and best business practices. I have been working as the recipient of their knowledge since I opened in 2002 so their culture and belief system is what shaped mine. The easy part of this training was that I am a believer in their business culture like it is my own because it kind of is. That was the only easy part. I already drink their Koolaid, but being a student in a business setting was mind blowing. Here’s the thing though, I AM NOT FRIED. I should be, but I woke up at 3:30 am on my own ready to rock. My brain reverberating with ideas and tasks filled with the possibilities of excitement and a new path towards helping other businesses have success and happiness like I do.

So not this week of writing, but of learning and remembering what it feels like to be an employee, on the other side of the coin for a change. This was the part I enjoyed the most, having to impress an employer, thinking about how I show up, how I look, what I do when I get there knowing that they are watching everything I do because as much as I think I am a good fit, they too have to believe this. Since I will be representing their company and their values, they have to be sure they want to date me too. Of all the incredible learning I did, this was one of my favorite points. To feel what it feels like to be an employee. That everything matters in a new job. The first date is the easy part. I have watched employees shine and get shinier and they are the ones who succeed. I have also watched the shiny ones get duller by the day and their ability to succeed falters quickly. I was happily reminded of how easy it is to be an employee when you give it your all. Effort. Showing up. Being present and all in. Every day. Every time. This is success. So not writing this week was fine by me because what I just accomplished was worth every waking minute. I can’t wait for this next chapter in my life. I am never bored. Life is too short to be bored; it is a thrilling ride and I keep getting on that roller coaster rather than sitting on the sidelines where it is a safe bet.








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“Success is waking up in the morning and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at – something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again.”
-Whit Hobbs

WRITING

Casual to Serious

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. -Toni Morrison

“What do you write?” Jodie from What Cheer Writers Club asked me as she gave me a tour last week of their new writing space. I was in writing heaven. I had decided to take the “big drive” from the comfort of my warm fireplace in Newport to Providence for a 10:00 am writing group I had just joined. It was Superbowl Sunday and I hadn’t planned on leaving the comfort of the couch until my biological clock woke me up at five am, as it usually did. What else was I going to do for the day besides sit on the couch waiting for my beloved home team to appear on the television? I said goodbye to my man and drove to the city on a bright morning.

Every time I choose yes instead of no, I am rewarded. This was no exception. I walked up the beautiful old-fashioned marble staircase last Sunday to a place called WhatCheer. Unbeknownst to me, this space had just opened to support anyone who has anything to do with writing. I walked in and my mouth dropped open with joy. Lighting, furniture, beauty surrounded me at every turn. From the pink and orange chairs, to the electric tables that rose to meet just the perfect height of whomever was sitting at them, here was a space designed for perfect writing fitness. Like a boutique gym, I felt at home immediately and like I wanted to write. This was the magic of this space. I quickly signed up to be part of this club and went into my new group, The Providence Writers Group.

Writing groups are a terrific way to take writing from casual hobby to serious focus. Every writing group is different, some have facilitators who lead the group with prompts, some are groups designed for critiquing, and some like this new group offer a blank silent space to just write among other writers. It may seem to someone reading this that this is something just as easily done in the comfort of your own home, but sometimes homes can be distracting, phones buzzing, laundry spinning, gardening calling. Some people don’t have the quiet space to be able to write, kids, roommates, televisions from partners, who knows? This is not my issue at all, if anything I could turn my space into a writing club, it is such a perfect setting, but there is something about writing on purpose surrounded by other peers tasked with the same driving force. I have learned that I write differently in a writing group.

This particular group on this day did not offer anything except a chance to sit together and write, no reading our pieces to each other for either positive or constructive feedback, no prompts, no line leading, just pure focused writing. I have never been in a group like this and it was interesting. The lack of conversing after didn’t give us a chance to bond with each other, but I really enjoyed the energy of simply being in each other’s company quietly sharing our love of writing. Tapping of our fingers on laptops, pencils scratching across lined paper, pens gliding in journals, some even writing on their phones, we all approached our writing tools with a sense of purpose making us all feel like real writers instead of casual ones.

When Jodie asked me, “What do you write?” I paused for a moment. She was asking me a serious question that catapulted me into this world of writers in an actual writing club. I briefly felt like an imposter on the precipice of being found out. But that only lasted about one second. I am a writer. I wake up every day at sometimes four am so I can write.  I have just made significant changes to my entire life so that I can, in fact, write. I have stepped aside from the day to day operations of running my business and created a new position for someone to take the helm not to work out more, not to go out to lunch with more women, but to write. Not just to write, but to edit what I have already written, to research and make time to discover facts and details for a historical fiction novel I am serious about.

Serious writing is hard work and in order to be a serious writer I must take writing seriously. Up until now, I have been practicing and playing. Writing first drafts and blasting them up on my website with barely a second glance, not so much as giving them a second look to repair, or rewrite is only the infancy of the beginning. “You should write a book,” comments come my way daily and this has fed my need to write more as well as my ego, but now if this is really true and I have decided that it is, the real work has begun. Being part of a focused critique group to gain insight from writing peers and then taking what I need from this and making the necessary changes is more work than I could have imagined and I have only just begun. Every writing minute I spend, I am in awe of the books that have not only been written, but actually published, not only published, but read and not only read, but admired. I have my work cut out for me, but I cannot imagine doing anything else right now.

From submitting, repairing, reading the critiques, deciphering four individuals’ comments and making the changes on just two chapters has taken me well over ten hours of work. And this is only the first round. But this does not feel like “work.” It feels like joy. I am in the midst of pure delicious joy. It is thrilling to appreciate how sloppy I was in my writing and how cleaning it up respects my work in a way I hadn’t considered when I was just casually playing.

What do I write? “I am writing a mastectomy memoir and am dipping my toe into historical fiction for the first time.” Jodie looked at me and said with kind eyes and a seriousness that made me feel like I was not an imposter here, someone whose feet belonged on the floor of this new club, “Ooh that’s brave, I haven’t tried fiction before.” I am sure Jodie does not know how much that beautiful simple sentence sent a wave of confidence into my body that helped change my paradigm from casual blogger to serious writer.

For any person who has read my writings and offered pearls of compliments along the way, it is because of this, I have found a writing voice and marched forth. By all means, keep reading and I am forever grateful to anyone who has shared publicly or privately a kind word my way. Thank you. See you on the page.

life lessons

Making a List

 

Yesterday’s assignment generated from Day 2 of WordPress University that I have embarked on since deciding this past weekend that Yes, I can build my own website. Here is the writing prompt below.

“Today, let’s write a list. Compiling a list is a way to let loose, unlock ideas, and free your mind. Today, write your own list on one of these topics:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

There are no rules, though you can create some boundaries for yourself by deciding in advance how many items you’d like to include, or by settting a timer — try a list of 15 items, set a timer for 45 minutes.”

The goal seems to be getting thoughts to run freely and wildly, but to contain them somehow in the confines of list making. List making is something I do not struggle with. I am a list maker. I am also a vision board addict. I have them in my office which is out in the open off of my living room forcing me to never forget the major projects I am working on. I just found out about a program called Creately that I almost bought until I realized that I already have organizational charts done that I created myself in excel that work perfectly fine.

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My brain never stops. You could say I have the entrepeneurial spirit, like my father, like my grandfather and if I didn’t make lists and storyboards and visionboards, I am certain my head would fly off the top of my shoulders like a spinning top. This intensity of mine, of the creative ideas that move through me as if a spicket was turned on full throttle and being stuck in the on position is part of my writing energy, though. List making, outlines and order to the electricity that is my head helps move it up and out. I am grateful for the ability to know myself well enough to know that all of these ideas must take up a residence outside of this very full brain. Usually the lists are To Do lists, sometimes the lists are dreams and desires, but the theme is always a call to action. 

Organize the basement, put the dishes away, clean the closet in the bedroom, call my grandfather, move the doctor’s appointment from this week to next week, sign up for the art class, even when I am hoping to add areas of spirtuality into a list, as I consider this list making, even that is active. Deepen meditation practice, take more yoga classes, go to Synagogue once a month.

So as this call to action from WordPress University asks me to consider a different way to look at list making and I write today with this in mind. I never use a timer for my morning writing, I let my writing class leaders do that. When I wake up and write, it is my morning peace. This is why I wake up at five am and jump out of bed, so I have the time to write. The prompts are a different way to think. This is what writing prompts do, they open possibilities and creativity in a way that five minutes before would have not thought of. So here I go. This is just a quick list otherwise this writing would be over one hundred pages

Things I Like

  • early rising
  • conversations with interesting people
  • learning
  • writing writing writing
  • going to the library, taking out a book, finishing the book and returning it before the due date
  • collecting typewriters
  • being introduced to new ideas and considering them
  • nature and gardening
  • seeing a cardinal when I am deep in thought about something I am planning
  • watching my son grow up and develop his own identity
  • wearing my grandmother’s lighthouse jacket
  • cooking, walking, going to the beach
  • going to the movies and to museums
  • travel
  • expressive arts
  • being home
  • organizing 
  • leading my team and developing leaders
  • hanging out with my partner
  • being with my close tribe of women
  • organizing fun

     

  • working out
  • a good stretch
  • remembering my dreams
  • silence

Things I’ve Learned

  • To let shit go
  • To let shit go
  • to not take things personal at every waking moment
  • that when someone leaves your life say thank you with grace not malice
  • living in the present moment is all that is important
  • I am good enough
  • boobs aren’t as important as I thought they were
  • food is thy medicine or poison
  • drinking alcohol is not good for spiritual clarity (but it tastes so good)

Things I Wish

  • I had been better with money management earlier in my life
  • I could see my brother one more time6d33b-1ndLRbRVhNrgu9pHv_-lsMQ@2x
  • my mother and I had a really good relationship
  • I had a condo on Siesta Key for two months a year
  • I had the time and money to finish my degree and get a masters in writing
  • To really make time to research my historical fiction book idea 
  • i was better at growing vegetables

Things You’re Good At

  • Life
  • being a mother
  • friendship and being a strong partner in my Living Apart Together relationship
  • being an exwife
  • developing relationships
  • connecting people
  • owning a business
  • writing
  • creative thoughts
  • kindness and charitability
  • hosting parties
  • dreaming new ideas
  • cooking and baking
  • growing herbs
  • Love 

I am not sure if I have ever done this before, but I must say it was a nice way to start my day. Thank you WordPress. Again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITING

Why I Write.

I was recently asked, “Why do I write?” I just started my adventure with WordPress, the way out of my comfort zone attempt at designing my own missalayneous.com website. Deciding to jump into WordPress University, I immediately found a writing class that I clicked YES on promptly. The first prompt came to my inbox like magic. Why do you write?

This is a question I can easily answer.

I write because I have to. Because if I don’t, I am in spiritual agony. Because not writing is simply not an option for my health, my soul, my mind. When I write, I feel good. When I don’t, I get jammed, and clogged like a kitchen sink drain that has backed up because a chicken bone from dinner the night before found its way in. Writing helps me move ideas, feelings, thoughts and musings up and out. Writing creates open space in my heart so my creative brain can have the room it needs to get shit done. Writing is a force to be reckoned with and it shows up every day like a loyal friend.

Since my first journal in third grade pen to page, fingers to keyboard have never let me down. I feel calm and on purpose when I write. Just like a good workout, there is a steadiness and a purpose to my mornings giving me a fresh perspective on the day before.

I used to only write in a unlined notebook, with a sharpie, then a smooth uniball pen, then that changed to a lined notebook with a pencil. I soon realized that in order for all of this writing to become something, it needed to be saved on a computer so I started to type on my laptop and organize my writings more formally. Then I started typing occasionally on a typewriter. This led to becoming an avid and manic collector of portable typewriters. Each mode of writing makes me write with a different personality. I love the various themes I come up with depending on what I am writing on.

Writing feels like what I imagine photographers feel when they see an image. Instead though, while they have the need to capture the actual image with a camera, my image is a story that unfolds with a sense of urgency that I must sit down to write about it. Words to paper, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, run on sentences, verbs, pronouns and prepositions all come spinning at me as I sit there with my influencers of yesteryear.

Miss Foley, my mean first grade teacher who created writers block until I set her free and now she has become my friend who sits nearby when I am about to make a grammatical error. Mr. Chase, my seventh grade teacher who was of great encouragement to this hormonal twelve year old girl he recognized as a talent for writing. I before e except after c and Neck-eccary to remember that the word only had one C in the beginning. Mrs.Nixon, my freshman teacher who taught us Tess of the D’Urbervilles and turned us on to the human injustices in books like The Invisible Man, The Jungle, and female power imbalances that permeated our lives in 1980 we had never considered until she brought it up.

When I write, I am joined by my past teachers and am also joined by great women who have shown up in my adult writing life screaming from the sidelines WRITE WRITE AND WRITE! Hannah Goodman at her first writing class as a young teacher who brought meditation to my writing party and planted the seed about actually thinking I could not only write, but maybe even write a book.

Why do I write? This is why. Because I can, i must, I need to, I want to, I have to. Lucky to be alive and I don’t take this privilege and gift lightly.

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TAKING A BREAK

TAKING A BREAK

If vacation does one thing for me, it is the reminder to slow down and take stock of my daily life when I return. From what and how I eat, and where I shop for the food I have to have once I return, ( Azorean butter for example) to how I exercise and go through my day to contemplating the busy-ness and the friends I surround myself with, getting away makes coming back have a different outlook. Vacations in new countries adds one more layer to this and as I have returned from my three week venture away from almost all things alayne, I have found myself calmer, more relaxed and more humbled and way less digitized.

What I noticed also is that there is so much to read online, everywhere I turn, from Pinterest to Medium and all of the news sites blasting their stories, I have started to feel a bit inundated. Why does anyone even want to read what I write? There is so much out there now. “Three ways to feel better,!” “Ten things you can do now to change your day!” Five steps to get healthy, NOW!” Non fiction after non fiction piece, blog after blog, story after story. I feel almost a little burnt out from all of this digitizing of writing and need to get back to the basics. Like reading real books and writing on real paper.

This has changed my daily writing habit to a daily reading habit because the fact is there is only so much time in the day to get everything in that I love and something has to give. I have found since I have bought my typewriters that I love typing on them and I have taken a dive into almost daily typing. With that comes added time to my already jam packed mornings. The interesting surprise about typing on a manual typewriter, besides the frequency of errors, is the different way I have been writing. What I have noticed mostly are my limitations, especially when it comes to the fiction I have been attempting.I have a lot to learn and this excites me. I realize I need coaching or a creative writing class or writing group that challenges my vocabulary and I have found myself at a bit of a standstill.

Any great writing book I have bought has said a few basic tips. The top two repeated over and over again are write every day, (check) and read a lot. Reading definitely helps my writing and I realized that this was something I definitely needed to add to my daily list. Typical of my personality I have read five books in three weeks and am on number six as I type this early am. So I have decided to read and read and read rather than write and post and write and post for a bit. I am still writing every day, but just typing on Old Bess and giving my one page stories away instead, old school on vellum paper mistakes and all. Reading with the intensity I have allowed myself is showing me how much I have to learn and what better way than a book at a time at the library around the corner.

Vacations and time away brings me to awakenings and awarenesses, challenges and hunger for learning in a way that staying put doesn’t. I love being home armed with this new outlook and at the same time, I can’t wait for my next trip. I’ll be writing and posting again, I am sure, sooner than later, but for now I am taking a break to get caught up on all of the books I need to catch up on. Perhaps this short hiatus is in the good time with my one year anniversary of my final surgery coming in September, maybe I have poured out all of the non fiction in my body as it is reaching its one year of final healing. Who knows if the timing is as perfect as it seems, but for now I lean in to what my mind and soul command. Vacations, especially solo ones, do this for me, reminding me that this one life is a fragile one and there is so much to do, to see, to read and all of it that lies ahead is my oyster to do what I want with.

As September approaches at a rate that seems to accelerate as I get older, what I appreciate is the ability of choice and how I want to direct my life is totally up to me and me alone. This is what vacation is about and this is what life is ultimately. As Wayne Dyer said perfectly, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Yep.


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IN A WORD

IN A WORD

44.00, the Ebay auction item said as I perused my watch list. No bidders until the last four or five hours. She was a standard run of the mill simple but sturdy looking beauty with little or no wear as I could see by the eight pictures provided. The description was pretty simple as most of them are and this draws me for some reason.

“Very nice original vintage royal quiet deluxe typewriter. Appears to be in great condition. I do not know much about typewriters. i would assume it needs serviced before using it. Some letters don’t go back down instantly so it probably needs oil/grease. Were going to be selling this as is do to our lack of knowledge of typewriters. Please bid accordingly. If we look learn any new info it will be added to the description.”

At first, I turned my head away. There was no flash, no shiny newness. There was no story of some young woman getting this as a gift for her graduation from Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in the 1950’s as she entered a career in office life. It wasn’t bubble gum pink, or bright turquoise or Corvette red. Just a sturdy old grayish greenish gal, in a barely worn case with a few scuffs and scrapes….waiting. In Ebay’s brilliance, by some algorithm a nerdy tech person set who probably has never even used a typewriter, I received the reminder that the bidding would soon come to an end and that one person had placed a bid for a meager 45.00. I put a max bid in of fifty dollars and saw my bid entered at 46.00. I couldn’t help myself; something made me just want to save her. I have become an addict and we should all be concerned.

Typewriters, the manual kind, are heavy, inconvenient, noisy, frustrating old machines for those not familiar with them. You can’t throw one into your purse and head off to a coffee shop with barely an extra pound or two over your shoulder. You can’t change font sizes or have spell check automatically correct words or change your small letter ‘i’ automatically to a capital ‘I’. In the old models at least, there are no italics , no bold, no number ‘1’ (small ‘l’ instead) and no exclamation mark ‘!’ because frankly your vocabulary should be better than a single symbol.

You need ‘things’ for typewriters- paper, for one, ink, for two and a big vat of PATIENCE, for three. If you haven’t used or ever used a typewriter, a manual one, you probably and ironically need to be great with YouTube (I am not) or find yourself a typewriter repair person. In my case, I am going old school here, typewriter repairman, (my apologies to the superchick typewriter repair women out there). Marr Office Supply in Pawtucket, RI is my new best friend and so are Ray and Michael who as a father and son team have lived through the rise and fall and rise again of the lowly typewriter.

What you don’t need, though, is a power cord, an electric socket, a back up hard drive or a save button. A manual typewriter is a machine of great engineering. Everything is connected to something else and when you come down off of tech brain and just dig in to its workings, each button and lever is pretty obvious in its use. I cheated with my first one, Royal circa 1947 standard weighing in at probably forty pounds and hard to move. Old Bess, as I call her, is a stationary model firmly planted on my kitchen desk with a slight view of my gardens. My grandmother would approve of her placement. I had to take her to Ray because YouTube videos are too cumbersome for my hands and visual brain and honestly this feels like cheating. I had to see and feel how to put the ink in, and quickly learned that the ink could be reused by moving a lever one way or the other to reverse the spools and back again! Can’t do this with our fancy printer cartridges. After a few desperate shakes of the cartridge, you may as well buy a new printer since the replacements often cost as much.

What pray tell (is this even a word combination?) is alayne going to be doing with the six typewriters she has purchased in less than three weeks? I know you are asking this question to yourselves as you read my essay today. There are a few thoughts to my new love. First off let me clarify, in case this is your first reading, and if not you probably are well aware, that I get on what my aunt and I fondly call ‘Jags.’ When something speaks to me, it is full throttle, when it leaves me, it is like it never was. I have accepted this about myself and though I wouldn’t label myself as manic, I do fully understand there is a manic quality to this part of my personality. A little mania is what makes the world go round so here I am. Unapologetic and joyful jag girl. I have learned to like this part of myself rather than think there is something wrong with me so I lean in whole heartedly. From a chocolate babka making obsession, to drinking bio dynamic wine every single night, then not drinking a drop, the list goes on and thankfully the people in my life who love me don’t roll their eyes as much as they likely could. This is love.

So what is my big plan for these beauties who have now entered my life at almost a box delivery a day pace? In a word, fiction. I have never written fiction and I have quickly learned that I am awful at it. I have been writing non fiction personal essays my whole life and almost daily for a solid year and a half and have gotten pretty good at this, but I need a new challenge, a new task. Fiction. In a word. I have been prompted by the idea of flash poetry, where you give someone a word and they type you on a real typewriter a poem in less than ten minutes. This is incredible and my experience of this was fun and fulfilling, but I am not a poet. So I thought it would be fun and super challenging to write flash fiction, one word, one page short stories. Someone gives me a word and I write an entire fictional story using the word on one page of paper. My self imposed rules are as follows:

No date, no reference to my name, no title except who the story is for (To Michael, for example) at the top, no whiteout or erasing (like erasing is even possible), no copying, no posting, publishing or looking for the addictive behavior modifying likes and only one page, one side. It can be single, single in a half or double spaced and handed in its original form to the person who gave me the word. I am sparingly allowing myself a little google to get a date or a peron’s name correct if I am making a reference to it. This is it. And it is way harder than I thought. I have written eight so far and all but one have been typed on the front porch outside in the fresh air. Written on my new Royal portable bought from someone’s son or daughter in West Roxbury, Mass given to their mother by their grandmother in the fifties. This is a practice I am hoping will improve my writing skills because as I am learning, my vocabulary and rhythm of fictional attempt is pretty pathetic. But I am ok with this. There were many famous fiction writers who started late. http://mentalfloss.com/article/63112/11-writers-who-started-late.

I am not looking for fame, just intellectual curiosity and stimulation and an excuse to step away from all things wireless, blue tooth and screen filled. I am looking to engage the people who walk by in eye to eye conversation and starry eyed talk of yesteryear. I am looking for a more creative life and a less technological one.

So throw out a word and I’ll write you a story, stop by and type with me if you see me on the front porch or if you visit my business. There will be a few typewriters soon for you to throw your thoughts on. But trust me when I tell you, you may become hooked as fast as I have become. I take no prisoners or responsibility for anything that happens after your first glorious pound of the key. For the “AArrggg” sound you make when you realize the backspace key does not delete or erase and the thrill of the bell ding when you have completed your first sentence.

In a word. I am waiting.


this is not the Royal I have fallen head over heels for, but a Swiss Hermes I bought before the Royal arrived. Trying it out on my luscious front porch before I wrote my first in a word fiction for Michael, both of them. And Cat and Dave and Gary and Alicia and Ashley and Peg. Aurelie is next, are you?
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THE AGREEMENT BOX


THE AGREEMENT BOX

Updates ready to install, my computer said to me like it does every single day in the upper right hand corner of my tiny screen on my laptop. Later, I choose, like I do every single day. Then in its infinite wisdom, a few choices are given, try in an hour, try tonight, turn on automatic updates. Once again I choose try tonight, but I have chosen all of them over time. Then the next message follows, your computer must be connected to a power source. It is not at this time, but it is every single night where I am thinking that the updates are automatically happening. They are not. My computer is not hooked up to a power source when I write because my power source for writing is outside, in the fresh air with the birds and the morning sounds of the beginning of the day. So is it too much to ask my fancy thousand dollar mac laptop to remember the choice I continue to make every single day so when I plug my said laptop in, the updates can happen then? When I am sleeping?

I went to my phone yesterday while I was doing my paperwork to turn on my stereo, (is it still called a stereo?), to turn on Sonos, which is another fancy word for another thousand dollar piece of equipment that has made me a slave to technology. Updates ready to install, my Sonos app said to me. Didn’t I just do this update last week? How many updates are necessary to make the On button Play and make a song or two come belt out songs while I whittle away at my paperwork?

Then there are the perpetual privacy statements now coming in to all of the apps and through the old school mail from my credit card statements. Yesterday I went to pay my American Express bill and I noticed that the bill was eight pages. I perused past the first two pages listing all of the charges and when I got to page three and beyond, it was all about their new privacy rules and regs. Six pages. Do they actually think people will take the time to read this? When we check off the I agree box in the unending parade, (or rather charade), of agreements we are asked to sign in order for any app, or website to work for us, what are we really agreeing to? And why are do we so easily check off the box with barely a scan of the documents we are asked to sign?

Trust is one reason. For some God forsaken reason, we or at least I trust that the agreement is not selling my soul to the devil. Trust is what makes me live peacefully in my world. Trust. It is a big golden beautiful word founded on the notion that there is an unwritten exchange between parties and people that we are not going to screw each other. It is the proverbial handshake, a look in the eye that makes my world go round. But the fact of the matter is that when I check off the box I am endlessly asked to check off OR ELSE I CAN’T USE THE APP or proceed with my form of payment, there is no handshake or a look in the eye.

I was struck the other day by the BITMOJI app which I am now humorously addicted to. Bitmoji cleverly (or rather sinnerstly if that is a word) asks for control of your keyboard on your phone. It even gives instructions to go to Settings and make the switch to BITMOJI keyboard. I eagerly forged ahead as I am sure every single friend and their children have likely done because every text now must include my new supercute looks just like me Bitmoji, like a dress up Barbie, I am transported back in time to my childhood with my wardrobe box of Barbie clothes and shoes. I go through the motions required to ensure my new keyboard will indeed make it easier to blast off an endless variety of Bitmojis dressed in splashy quotes and attire. Then just when I am ready to hit the Yes button, I notice a short two sentence easy to overlook.

“THIRD PARTY KEYBOARDS

When using one of these keyboards, (Google included here), the keyboard can access all the data you type.”

What? All of the data I type? This is significant. Beyond the obvious that it can be accessed, what is it being used for? Who is reading it? Where is it going? I felt like I was being watched by a stalker for a brief moment and then I considered how many of our kids young and grown just change their keyboards because Bitmoji said to because we are all so damn trusting.

No. I choose NO. I am not an alarmist and I appreciate them letting me know in a simple two line statement, but I must draw a line somewhere in the digital pavement. We all must. As I sit here writing this morning, I am concerned more than ever about how many boxes I have agreed to and what did I actually agree to? What have our children who now all have a cell phone as a body part agreed to? How is it possible to monitor all of this and where have we headed? I love my new Bitmoji, I love my Sonos, my iphone and my laptop and the ease of digital everything, but, well just but.

Who knows who is reading what I am writing and saying these days and likely no one really cares. But I do. I think. This is why I am kind of into old school typewriters now, no digital. Just me and the machine. A really peaceful, (well not really peaceful, those old gal keys are noisy, but in an old fashioned vintage black and white movie sort of way) and trusting relationship because there are no agreement buttons to check. Just a roll of a paper turn and a few punches of keys and I am off to the old world of yesteryear with a real manuscript. So if a real cup of coffee spills on it, it has to be retyped, not reprinted. The only thing missing besides the superfluous agreement box is an exclamation mark symbol, and of course my new Bitmoji.