May 27, 2011

He Aged with Simplicity

My dad and the wooden rowboat that he built in our garage.

This week's beauty is my dad who passed away ten years ago on Memorial Day weekend at the age of 82.

My dad was an metallurgical engineer, a sailor, a liberal, an avid reader, and a lover of nature who could frequently be found with a pair of binoculars around his neck. He thought the best thing about life is it's mystery, and the worst thing is people's cruelty to others. In 1999 I interviewed my whole family for a project I was doing called On The Brink Of A New Millennium. I asked each family member forty questions about their life. When I inquired what my dad's words of wisdom were he simply wrote:

Love people.

I miss his simplicity.

I miss hearing his voice,

and his sound advice.

I miss hugging him, and how he smelled.

I miss so many things about you, Dad.

At his memorial service I read a poem that I had written and given him for Father's Day the year before he died. It went like this:

      What You Are To Me

You are a wonderful father
who I could say most anything to if I needed.

You really have been quite liberal
and in your own quiet, unique way, very loving.

You have applauded when I have been responsible
and honest, and sensible
And you have been there for me to share my joy
when I knew that I was shining.

You are the intelligent man
The shy guy
The nature boy
The reader

The guy with the friendly blue eyes
who fiddles his keys and bites his tongue
in moments of thought or angst.

The father who more than anything I think
just wants his family to be safe, healthy,
happy, honest, and respected.

And as I have said before
you and mom have set the tone for my life.
A simple, beautiful, lyrical one of love,
that will be passed along for generations.

Papa, tonight's sunset is for you.

May 24, 2011

On the Runway at Age 82

Britain's 82-year-old Daphne Selfe has been a model since her twenties but didn't really hit her stride until she turned 70. Never having had any plastic surgery, this grandmother of four now has a successful career working for companies like Dolce & Gabbana and the Gap and has appeared in such magazines as Vogue, Marie Claire and Harper's Bazaar. Daphne used to dye her hair and says that going gray made her much more striking and that she is far more successful now than she has ever been because of it.

Daphne, a former horseback rider, now does yoga, pilates and gardening to keep fit. And she can still do splits!

Here is what she has to say about going gray:

  •  "I can't understand why so many women whose hair has lost its color feel compelled to douse it with dye.
  • Going gray is nature's way of complementing an older complexion.
  • It was an extraordinary relief to be embracing my natural self, no longer clinging onto the past.
  • I don't care about the lines on my face. Age happens to us all, no one's immune, and I would never buy an expensive face cream, let alone consider surgery.
  • At 80, you do have to pace yourself, but I have no plans to retire. Models and actresses don't do that - they just wait for the phone to stop ringing. It hasn't yet." 

And I have a feeling that it won't!

    Photo by Mark Playle

      Keep it up Daphne. You are amazing. It's women like you who set the example for so many others about allowing ourselves to age naturally and just be who we are.

      A great article on Daphne by Pamela Shields here.

      More photos of Daphne here.

      May 20, 2011

      Aging Gracefully with Beauty

      This week's beauty is children's book author and illustrator Susan Beckhorn. Susan and I are second cousins and I believe we've only met each other once almost twenty years ago at her parent's house. I have very fond memories of her and the visit. Her parents home not only had an arts and crafts room, but also a dress-up room for children that I was very taken with. Not to mention their beautiful horses, right on a lake.

      Susan has this to share about beauty:

      "Beauty changes, fades, deepens, takes many forms. At fifty-seven, if my fingernails, hair, and body are clean and reasonably trim, I am quite content. I am the mother of Fern (27), a spiritual painter and passionate runner with a keen understanding of language and humor—my thunderstorm and rainbow girl, and the mother of Spring (25), ocean girl, lover of children, dogs, and all living things, who goes out on “Big Night” to rescue migrating salamanders, and whose smile lights the world. I am the wife of Fred (also 57) who brings me coffee every morning and makes me a home-grown salad every night, who tends our land, and who transforms wood into functional works of art. I have kind, and quirky family and friends. I have pets who give me joy. After thirty-one years here at “Toad Hill,” our home is beautiful and comfortable—so long as one can overlook some clutter and weeds.

      As a children’s book author and illustrator, I have not yet been highly “successful” in my career—if you count success in dollars and Amazon numbers—but my books give me fulfillment. It is the worst of jobs when rejections pile up, the well of inspiration seems dry, life sucks away my writing time, books go out of print (small deaths that only the author fully mourns), and self doubt creeps in. It is also the best of jobs when an editor says yes, I get an advance check, my words appear in print, a good review comes along, a school visit leaves me elated—or I get a letter from a child who loved a story.

      Susan's female Jack Russell, George.

      I am still full of dreams. I dream that my daughters’dreams will come true, that my husband will find customers for his beautiful furniture line Natural Form Furniture, that our tomatoes will ripen, our apple trees set fruit, and our chickens lay eggs. I dream of writing that story which stays in print. I dream of seeing a trailing arbutus in bloom and a cerulean warbler, of being able to paint and draw the way I would like, of organizing my life. I dream of holding a grand-baby in my arms (no pressure girls . . .!).

      I am blessed with a strong and good body, which I have finally learned to love. It has weathered well. I think of old trees that lose limbs, develop cavities, are sometimes even lightning struck, yet still sprout new leaves every spring. I have stopped coloring my hair, thanks to my daughter, Spring, and started wearing it in braids, because, if Willie Nelson can, so can I.

      I walk, cross-country ski, garden, kayak, do yoga, play the guitar, sing, bird watch, and ride my little horse Katy, who at twenty still thinks a flat out gallop is the only way to go. I still see wonders every day. Am I beautiful? I don’t know. I do know that my life is full and very beautiful."

      Susan also has a blog.

      Thank you for being this week's beauty Susan. You are so beautiful.

      May 17, 2011

      Interior Renovation

      I've been thinking about the future lately. Questions like "how do I want to spend the rest of my life?" and "What's the next best step for me?" Ever think about this? I'm sure most of you probably do. I'm about to drop some packets in the mail to my favorite magazines about Lines of Beauty. What if no one likes my idea that is so dear to my heart? What's my next step then?

      Aside from this, with college tuition bills looming, I wonder if I should go back and work for a clothing company again doing knitwear, or maybe go back to school and get a masters degree in social work? Would I even make a good therapist I wonder? Maybe I should be a mid-wife, or a doula?

      Can I just keep writing this blog?

      This is what I really like to do.

      I think I just need to keep following my heart and trust it to be my compass. Seems though lately that my compass is all over the place. Maybe this is what happens when you hit mid-life & your kids go off to college. I wouldn't call what I am having a mid-life crisis...maybe just a mid-life quandary...

      Tom and I are doing an interior renovation of another kind on a waterfront property that we bought on Pleasant Lake in Deerfield, New Hampshire last summer. He's been working hard on it on the weekends and I am helping him now with the easy stuff so that we can finish it up and put it on the market. It was a complete wreck of place, but he gutted it, winterized it, and it's becoming a gem that we are going to be very sad to let go.

      This is Tom on Sunday when we were there finishing up the plastering before the painters come this week. It was pouring outside. The floors go in soon, and also the dock...

      This is the upstairs shower. We were uncertain what to do in this bathroom and then Tom had the brilliant idea to just copy the bathroom that we put into our own house a few years ago because we like it so much. Genius.

      I like going here with him. It gives us much needed time to catch up on the hour drive, and to talk while we're working.

      And soon we'll be able to swim.

      If it ever warms up enough here in New England.

      May 14, 2011

      Aging Gracefully Through Rose Colored Glasses

      Pat and Cindy

      This week's beauty is Pat Weintraub who will be 84 in July. I visited Pat recently because she is my good friend Cindy's mom. Cindy and I grew up together. Back in the 70s Pat was a very hip, grayed haired, horse loving mother who zipped around in her red MG convertible listening to Neil Young. She and her husband Whitey (another dear) raised 8 children and eventually ditched their country club life and moved to a ranch outside of town where she raised 21 horses, and many other animals. She later started Morningdove Farm which breeded Ragdoll cats. I use to love to visit the Weintraub family as there was always something exciting going on. Like Nettie, their goat, or one of their ponies casually strolling through their antique filled farm house every now and then! I am not kidding.

      Tuscany from Morningdove Farm

      Pat has had two hip replacements in recent years. When I asked how aging was going she said "Horrible! You want to do things but you can't. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!" But she explained that what carries her through is her sense of humor. She said that we all need to be able to laugh no matter what. She explained that she likes to think about happy things and that the world looks much better through rose colored glasses. She also said that her strong spirituality has played a very important role in her life.

      Sounds like a recipe for positive thinking to me.

      I have to also add that music still plays prominently in Pat's life as I noticed a Neil Young CD or two on her table when I was visiting :-)

      Still a hip momma after all these years.

      Be sure to check out the video of Pat and her dance partner Vince. They met each other recently at a retirement home and it couldn't be sweeter.

      Pat thank you for being this week's beauty.

      xo, Louise

      May 10, 2011

      She Doesn't Care What You Think

      Today I made my way back across New York State and Massachusetts after spending a long weekend with my mom and sister in Canada to celebrate not only Mother's Day but also my 50th and my sister's and mom's upcoming 60th and 90th birthdays. We spent a few nights in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming town with British quaintness where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. All the trees were blooming and the tulips were popping, and we fed ourselves to the gills with great food and had lots of good laughs and relaxation. Although all the meals were memorable, my favorite was at the Charles Inn  should you ever be north of Niagara Falls. Ohh la la.

      After two weekends away it's time to settle back into regular life, get back to work, and at least begin some gardening. Our yard is such a wreck.

      What follows has been going around the internet as having been written by Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes but it was actually written by Frank Kaiser. I think it is so true. As I grow older I like how much less anxious I am about so many things in life such as these:

      "As I grow in age, I value women who are over 50 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

      A woman over 50 will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “What are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.

      If a woman over 50 doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it’s usually something more interesting.

      A woman over 50 knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of 50 give a damn what you might think about her or what she’s doing.

      Women over 50 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

      Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.

      A woman over 50 has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn’t trust the guy with other women. Women over 50 couldn’t care less if you’re attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won’t betray her.

      Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 50. They always know.

      Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 50 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

      Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one! You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

      Yes, we praise women over 50 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of 50+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year-old waitress.

      Ladies, I apologize."

      Thanks to Jack in lane #1 for sending this in.

      May 06, 2011

      Aging Gracefully with Enjoyment

      Happy Mother's Day to all you hard working mothers out there. This week's beauty is Tom Fernandes of HTR Construction who is 48 years old.

      And guess what? Tom is my husband :-) He is also my very good friend and a great person. My partner in life. We met each other twenty-seven years ago while waiting for a subway at Park Street Station in Boston on a cold November night when I was on my way to meet a friend for a movie. During our conversation he asked me what movie I was going to see and I replied "Educating Rita, have you ever seen it?" but because of the noise on the subway he thought I said "Educating Rita, would you like to see it?"  To which he responded "Sure, I'd love to go!"  I had four stops on the subway to decide whether this was a good idea, or not...

      Well it turns out that it was, and we have been together ever since. You know that intuitive voice that we all hear inside ourselves from time to time?  Well, that night, when I first saw him and before we even said hello, that inner voice said to me: "I wonder if this is who I am going to be with for the rest of my life?"

      I kid you not.

      Before Tom's tells you his thoughts on aging I want to say that I am so lucky to have him to ride with on the roller coaster of life- and the normal ebb and flow of being in an intimate relationship with someone for this many years. He is smart, and fun, and amazingly supportive of my inner voice.  He is the first person I go to when I am in a quandary because he is thinker and tends to see angles in life that I tend to miss because I am such a feeler. He is also a wonderful Dad to our kids, an incredibly hard working entrepreneur, but most importantly to me- he has a very soft spot in his big heart.

      I bring you Tom:

      " I'm at a point in my life where my priorities are about to change in a major way. I'm trying to get a high level view on what I have yet to accomplish and what I choose to take on going forward.

      I've arranged my world around my family since Louise and I got married and decided to have children. As that challenge demands less and less, I'm free to choose some new endeavors and focus my time and energy on different activities. I'm going with enjoyment for a couple of reasons. When my body breaks down, and that could come suddenly, I don't want to have regrets about what I coulda, shoulda, woulda done when I was younger. Also, my mindset for many years has been dedication, commitment and sacrifice for the benefit of my family. I think it's a good time to lighten up, live a more conscious life and choose new things that I enjoy in addition to having a family. This will not be a sudden drastic shift. It's just my thoughts on preparation for a life without having to nurture children on a daily basis. This is what is next for me."

      Thank you sweetie for being this week's beauty.
      You are my every day beauty. xo

      May 03, 2011

      The Healing Benefits of Friendship

      This past weekend I took a break from regular life and drove to pretty Seneca Lake, New York to join Marci Lubore Calantonio on our good friend Cindy's weekly radio show Hope, Health and Healing. The topic? The healing benefits of friendship. Not being a seasoned public speaker it was definitely in the realm of "do what you are afraid to do" for me.  I was a guest on Cindy's show for Lines of Beauty last fall but it was via the phone from the comfort of my home. Airing live from the radio station was a little different! It went fine though as things almost always do that I fear.

      I realize this post would be a mile long if I write everything that we discussed. It was all so good, but here are some of the highlights:
      • Friendships help to take the weight of the world off our shoulders. Sharing with a friend about life helps to offload stress immensely. Mountains become molehills when you have the support of a friend.
      • A sign of a healthy friendship is one in which you can be yourselves and want the very best for each other.
      • Friends become even more important to have the older we become. As other things fall to the wayside in life the love and support of friends helps to keep us happy, connected to the world, and healthy.
      •  Marci explained that we all have 3 big needs- to be accepted, to be approved of, and to be appreciated. True friendships help to fill these needs in one another. They give us validation.
      • The spark for friendship is always there no matter how old we are. One of the things that I admire most about my mom at age 89 is that she continues to have new friends in her life.
      • This is from Oprah: Stress feels more manageable when you have good friendships. When women are stressed, their brains release the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which encourages them to bond. (Male brains, on the other hand, are more subject to the effects of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which promote the fight-or-flight response.) The female response is much more effective in mitigating stress and may be one reason women tend to outlive men.
      • From Tom Rath's book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without- "If you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, they often say it is because of the poor quality, or nonexistence, of friendships."
      And from yours truly:
      • I think our friendships center our life experiences. Our friendships also help us to feel safer in this crazy, uneasy world we live in. Friendships to me are like wrapping myself in a big cozy sweater. 
      • I also think that you need to be your own best friend. No one is going to watch out for us better than ourselves. No one knows us better and is go to take better care of us. When we're our own best friend we can follow our heart and soul's compass and be a good friend to others.

      Lots more great info from the show if you'd like to listen here.

      Have a good week everyone,