December 23, 2012

Silent Night


My favorite Christmas since the kids have grown older was the year we skipped it altogether and flew to Madeira on Christmas Eve to be with Tom's family. I loved blowing the holidays off that year. I felt like such a derelict. It felt like skipping school. We arrived in Maderia with just a handful of very small gifts. Beauty and warmth were our gifts that Christmas and it was divine.

I have this image now in my head of running away to a remote cabin in the woods with a big crackling hearth. It is snowing outside but warm and toasty inside. I am in a red, one piece, long underwear uni-  with the seat thing-a-ma-bobby that opens so that you can pee, and a sweater, and thick wool socks. And the day comprises of opening just a few beautifully wrapped gifts, reading, cooking a big pot of goodness, drinking hot cocoa with a shot of something in it, going for a walk, napping, and hanging together. It is a day when we all remember how very fortunate we are to have each other and everyone gets along.

As the years move along the scene at malls seems more and more unappealing to me. People scrambling out of guilt to find just the right gift or any gift. Trying to measure up. For the most part it all feels so ridiculous, and unnecessary. I feel like starting a brigade to boycott Christmas as we know it.

Plus the environmental impact of the holidays is huge.

I apologize if I am bumming anyone out with my scroogie-ness.

What I do love about the holidays is being able to cut the engine when it's all ready and just coast like a boat on calm water. I like making gifts. I love being together, and the tree twinkling with lights with beautiful wrappings underneath. I like making those buttery shortbread cut-out cookies with the butter cream icing, and serene music like the video below.

And also I like remembering to help those less fortunate, and to count our many, many blessings. Especially as of late.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Six second hugs all around,

XO, Louise

December 16, 2012

Thoughts on Newtown


Today's post is written by my niece, Tana Becker, who is a teacher in the Boston school system. As a blogger I realize that I am veering off course but I also know that what happened this past Friday has permeated our thoughts and effected us all on a very deep level.

I bring you Tana:


"There seems to be a debate right now about whether to focus on gun control or mental health. Why is it one or the other? Both are so important and relevant to this situation. Both are issues that we need to act on.

I don’t understand the need to own a gun or to defend oneself with weapons, but I know that so many Americans feel strongly about this, so I can respect it to a certain extent. Growing up an animal and nature-loving vegetarian, I also don’t understand hunting. But I grew up in a rural area where on the first day of hunting season school was empty, and it wasn’t uncommon to come home and see a deer hanging from my neighbor’s tree—so I can respect that too. But let’s be real—all you need for hunting is a rifle. And as for defense, there is nothing “defensive” about owning automatic weapons that can kill 27 people in a matter of minutes. There is no place for that in our society. ABSOLUTELY NONE. No reason why that should be legal. No good that can come of it. And no reason why anyone should own more than one gun. So when people say, “I have the right to defend myself, that’s why I own all these guns,” or “that’s why I own these automatic weapons,” they’re really saying something else—something about power, about fascination with the ability to destruct, about the potential to be very offensive, and not defensive at all.

As far as mental health goes, I am a high school teacher in an under-resourced district, where most students fall under the poverty line, and where many have experienced violence, the instability of moving several times per year, and homelessness. In a school of almost 600 students where these are the kinds of experiences many of them have, how many social workers do you think we would have? One, two, twenty? Well, we have none. Not a single full time school social worker or counselor. No drug intervention program, no trauma recovery program, no resources for homeless youth. We do have partnerships with community organizations in which counselors come into school 1-2 days per week—but with absenteeism such a huge issue, especially for the students in greatest need, students are often not present the day the counselor comes in. There are no resources to follow up on these students with home visits or the interventions they need.

In addition to all the “regular” problems that many have, there are some, as there are in all schools, with more serious mental health problems. What can we do to protect ourselves from the potential actions of these students or others in the community? I don’t know. My principal, in the past, has asked for alarmed doors and other security measures. The district has turned her down. This type of request would never be turned down in a suburban school district.

This brings me to another point. I am tired of hearing about what a quaint, affluent, “safe” community Newtown is. The tragedy here is that 27 people were killed, and that 20 of them were innocent, beautiful children—not that they were wealthy, suburban children. This would have been equally tragic had it happened in an urban neighborhood, or a poor rural community—and the news media is responsible for conveying that message—that this was the senseless death of children, period.

And now to the important point—the children. I find it easier to go on about gun control and mental health than to write about the immediacy of the tragedy, which is the horrific, violent end to 6 and 7 year old lives. I find it easier to distract myself by staying plastered to the news than to turn off the TV and just sit in silence and feel how I really feel.

Which brings me to the question of prayer. I am not part of a formal religious faith. I grew up in a secular, half Christian half Jewish home. But I have respect for religion, and I believe in God in the sense that I believe in beauty, light, and healing, and the ability for people to come together in community.

As I lit the Chanukah lights last night, I asked myself, what place does “light” have on a day like today? I thought, I could remind myself that light and beauty still exist in the world even when tragedies like this happen—but although it’s important to remember light and beauty moving forward, it didn’t seem helpful to force myself to think that way when I wasn’t feeling it. Then I tried to think of the candles as a celebration of the children’s lives—and in the coming days and weeks it will be very important to celebrate them—but it seemed too soon. Then I thought about meditating, where the point is to “just be” with whatever thoughts and emotions come to pass. That also seemed pointless. I feel what I think a lot of us are feeling—powerless.  We can’t drive to Connecticut to volunteer, we can’t send a donation to the Red Cross. There is nothing we can do.

So when people say that they are praying for the children and the families, I am still trying to figure out how to do that. I think what they are doing is asking God to help the families heal from their grief, and help the victims’ souls be at peace. This seems like the best thing to do, and I’m trying to figure out how I can do it in a way that feels authentic to me. The thing I keep coming back to is that I just need to love them—love the families as if they were my brothers and sisters, and love the children who witnessed the violence, and the children who did not survive the violence, as if they were my own."

Beautifully said Tana. Thank you for your thoughts and for your contribution to Lines of Beauty. I join you in sending love to the victims, their families & friends, and to everyone at the Sandy Hook school, especially the young children who witnessed what no one should ever have to see.


December 13, 2012

Choosing



My youngest returned after three months in Guatemala on Monday. She is taking a gap year before college and went there to intern as a kindergarten teacher with children who not only don't have enough to eat, but who also live without running water, and sleep on a dirt floor in make shift homes at night. 

Seeing her walk through the gate at the airport nearly took my breath away. It brings tears to my eyes again now as I am so very proud of her courage at such a young age. A courage I didn't experience. Observing her personal growth since her return has been nothing but delicious. She has Guatemala all over her, and I have been enriched, and feel very blessed, by her tales.

And just as I suspected, she can't wait to go back after she works for a few months....

I love the above quote as it is so relate-able in all areas of our lives. Both times when my kids have been off on big trips alone like this, I could have so easily spiraled out of control with worry but most times was able to save myself by changing the channel and my thoughts.

Surprisingly I've enjoyed our empty nest more than I could have ever imagined, but it's so good to have them back in it again, at least for while.

I am writing this, having not purchased a single Christmas gift yet, and I'm thinking "How the hell am I going to pull this off?"

So I am choosing a different thought and that thought is...

"Relax. It's all going to work out!".

I hope I'm right.


December 07, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Gingerbread candle holders
Filmmaker Casey Neistat has created numerous videos but I especially like this one that he made (below) about his 92-year-old grandmother, Louise Neistat, and her tap dancing career. A former Rockette, Louise did what she loved- teaching classes 6 days a week up in her attic and producing dance shows for her students- right up until she died. All her ticket proceeds went to cancer research.

Louise Neistat, you my dear, are this week's beauty.

Also this week I have the recipe for the gingerbread candle holders for anyone who is interested. They are so easy to make and last until the warm weather returns here in New England- when the humidity does them in. This year however I am going to try preserving them in the freezer when it arrives and see what happens:

Blend 1/3 cup of Crisco with 1 cup of brown sugar. Add in 1.5 cups of molasses (not black-strap) and then 2/3 cups of cold water. Gradually add in 6.5 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon,  and 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and ginger (the last cup of flour needs to be kneaded in by hand as the dough gets too thick to mix).

Allow dough to sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature.

Don't forget to cut your donut holes before baking the dough!
Next roll 1/4 of the dough out at a time on a floured surface until it is about 1/4" in thickness. If dough is too sticky knead in more flour. I cut my circles with Ateco's 12 piece cutter set, but you can probably use various sizes of glasses or other circular things you have around the house instead. For my circles I used Ateco's 3.25", 2.5", and 1.75" cutters (plus the 7/8" one to make the holes in the two smaller circles for the candle to rest in- see photo above). Be sure to make your holes a tiny bit bigger than the candle you are going to use. My favorite candles are Trader Joe's  tapered Danish ones because they are dripless and inexpensive.

Bake for about 10 minutes, on greased cookie sheets, at 350 degrees.

To glue the 3 circles together and decorate candle holders I make this Royal Icing. I make 1/4 of this recipe for starters and I don't add in the lemon extract. Put the icing in a sandwich bag and cut a very small hole in one of the corners and it works like a charm for decorating.

The above recipe makes about 24 candle holders.  I don't double the recipe as I found the dough too hard to mix and deal with in large quantities.

Viola!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.

Recipe by Lisa Carrino, owner of The Round House Bakery.


November 27, 2012

Homestead

After the Thanksgiving festivities were over on Friday I spent the weekend in what I think is my most content element-  just hanging out at home- cooking, making things, and chilling out. After a year of many changes in my life, it feels comforting to feel more at peace.

Our oldest was home from college with some friends, our youngest returns from Guatemala soon, and my mom has settled in beautifully in her retirement community nearby. At Thanksgiving dinner I thanked her for being so low-maintenance and praised her for being so brave while her life got tipped upside down at the ripe age of 90. She continues to set an example for all of us.

Thank you again mama.

One of  the things I made this weekend was a bean soup made from Trader Joe's dried 17 Bean and Barley Soup combo. Oh man is it good, and so good for us. I altered the recipe a bit by adding some bacon and crushed red pepper, but I've made it before without, and it's still delicious.

We also all played several rounds of the board game The Settlers of Catan. I love this game and highly recommend it for holiday gift giving. Players assume the roles of settlers, each attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources.

I cannot wait to play it again and beat Mr. Fix-It who is so competitive I want to strangle him sometimes.

Hmmm but what does this say about me???

....Also this weekend I started knitting some great little sweater ornaments (above) for holiday gift giving and organized my studio, which has been sorely ignored this past year. It was so gratifying that I also organized Mr. Fix-It's workbench out in the garage as well.

The pattern for the sweater ornaments is here. They are easier to make on 3 needles, I think, rather than 4. Also 12 rows for the sleeves seems better than 14.

For you crafty non-knitters out there stay tuned for my candle holders made from gingerbread. Ou la la. They make the best gifts, and are so cool, and easy to make.

Lastly I leave you with a quote:

When we let go of who we think we are, it is easier to become who we really are.

For help on "Unlearning" who we are, see my friend Cindy Brennen's video here.

Have a nice week everyone.
xo


November 19, 2012

From My Home to Yours

Double click to enlarge


Before I start the holiday prepping I wanted to stop and say Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Travel safely, if you are.

Hug those that are near and dear.

Oh how very lucky are we.

xo, Louise

November 15, 2012

Fear of Success

Greeting card by CurlyGirlDesign.com


Life has slowed down here to a more much manageable pace since taking on a job as design coordinator for a project that Tom's construction company has been working on since May. The project is nearly done, and I learned a lot, and actually enjoyed it for the most part. But boy is it scary picking out so many design elements at once, and worrying about how they will all look together.

I can't tell you how many nights I laid in bed fretting about whether different tiles would look good together.

Aside from this I've been percolating a business idea with a partner for about a year now for a natural food product. We've made great progress, but still have obstacles to overcome. As one person that we've consulted said, "Oh you've done all the fun stuff (the concept, branding, and photography etc), but now you have to deal with the nitty-gritty, the not-so-glamorous details of launching a business."

Exactly.

And aside from this I am being hit almost daily with two fears: 1.) the fear of failure and 2.) ironically, the fear of success. The fear of success is actually the greater of the two because if our idea is a hit we are going to have to learn as we go, while growing.

Yikes.

Stayed tuned for more updates.

Also this week, I want to introduce you to Curly Girl Designs. I'm not getting a commission or anything, I just love Leigh Standley's witty art. I can't remember if I met her at a Boston Design Salon meeting, or at the Sowa Market, but either way her store called Marmalade recently relocated to an adorable new location in Belmont Center, MA, if you happen to be in the area.

If you aren't, here is an easy way to see her work on a  Google image search. Everything is available for sale on her website above.


November 08, 2012

The Truth Will Set Us Free

I remember hearing the above quote years ago and have never forgotten it. I don't think it necessarily refers to truths towards others (as in criticisms), that can so easily kill love, but rather truths about ourselves, that we finally have the courage to share.

Telling it like it is.

Truths set us free, because in telling them, we get to live a more alive and authentic life.

I think we all just want to be who we really are. No sense getting to the end of our lives and realizing that things didn't get fully expressed.

I hate regrets.

My friend Brenda Stanton, who coaches people to claim their worth, said in order to be our own person, we must rely on our inner knowing vs. the judge/jury outside of ourselves.

Bascially we need to stop worrying about what other people think of us.

And how wonderfully freeing is that?

As I sit here now, I can't think of anything more refreshing.

On another note, I've been fighting my first bladder infection in years, with cranberry tablets, instead of antibiotics. I found them at Whole Foods. Please drop me a line if you have been successful with these or any other ideas!
 

October 31, 2012

What They Don't Want Us to Know




My niece, the beautiful bride, sent this clip to me recently that was featured on Upworthy.  It was created by the very talented and inspirational author Karen Walrond.

Finally-pictures-of-gorgeous-women-that-make-you-feel-better-about-yourself.

I've been having a hankering for awhile to make a short film about my mission here on Lines of Beauty. The idea makes me kind of nervous, because I don't know anything about film making, and haven't a clue where to begin. I guess though that I just need to get started and see where it goes. Maybe my first born will join forces on it with me.

With Hurricane Sandy here on the east coast, it's been a crazy, full moon kind of week in this neck of the woods. If you happened to have been in her very destructive path, I hope you are safe, dry, and have electricity.

XO,
Louise



October 24, 2012

Success or Pleasure?



Earlier this year I posted about sixty-one year old Cindy Joseph (above). She was featured on Yahoo's award winning video series called Second Act, which highlights women and men over the age of 50, who have reinvented themselves.

How fortunate is it that we can always reinvent ourselves? My mom is still doing it and she is almost 91.

Cindy Joseph is up to all sorts of reinvention. I came across this latest clip of hers and give it two thumbs up.

The older I grow, the more I am into pleasure. I guess this is partly because the older we grow the more aware we become of what pleases us. And doesn't please us.

Also this week I came across an interesting website called Uncommon Help. Someone close to me is in the throes of divorce and I went in search of something to help her navigate the rocky road.

If you are in the middle of a divorce, or know someone who is, you might like to read Uncommon Help's 8 Helpful Tips to Getting Over a Divorce.

While on the website I also found The 9 Secrets of a Happy Marriage.

I find the internet so very interesting. To me it's much more satisfying and educational than TV, as there is oodles of endless neat things on here.

So often, being the night owl that I am, I look at the clock, and think "Oh no..it's almost midnight... I have to go to bed!" But I hardly ever want to.

Our baby turned nineteen yesterday in Guatemala, and our oldest is coming home this weekend for a quick visit. I also have my first swim meet in months this weekend. The best thing is that my 59 year old brother is racing in it with me. Because of our age difference, we were never able to be in a swim meet together when we were young, until now.

We can get that nervous, barfy feeling together :-)

Butterflies in my stomach as I write this.


October 16, 2012

Protecting Our Interest



This weekend we journeyed to Middlebury, Vermont  to hear the Dalai Lama speak on Saturday morning. Because we were arriving so late the night before, and had to rise very early, we pseudo-camped for the night in the back of the trailblazer with a blow-up mattress and sleeping bags. It made me feel like I was ten again on the sailboat. After the long drive, Tom nodded off in about six seconds, so I watched part of another great Ted Talk.

It would be terrifying, but I would like to do a Ted Talk.

Anyway, the Dalai Lama was adorable and funny. I wasn't expecting this. In my research I learned that Dalai Lama means "ocean of wisdom", and this he is.

I was surprised to hear him tell a story about staying with a nice family while touring in the US. He said they had a delicious meal, in their lovely home, and then after eating he excused himself to care for his teeth. In the bathroom, the medicine cabinet was open just a crack, and he decided to have a peek inside.

What did he find?

Lots of valium. I forget exactly how he phrased it...but it was something like "This family seemed so calm and perfect, and suddenly I saw that this was not the case."

The toll of trying to be perfect. I love the quote Perfection is the the highest form of self-abuse by Tao Te Ching.

The Dalai Lama had lots of his own wisdom to share:

The importance of sleep. Sleep he says is the best meditation.

The reminder that we are all the same. That we are one.

He also spoke about self-discipline. He said that self-discipline is "protecting our own interest." I loved this distinction. I have always thought of self-discipline in terms of  taking care of myself, of doing what needs to be done, of sticking with my commitments. For me anyway, to place the concept in his light, makes it more about making sure that we are doing what we want to be doing, in our hearts. Protecting our interest.

Or least that's how I interpreted it, or wanted to interpret it.

Here are some of my favorite Dalai Lama quotes I found on the web:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, 'Oh yes - I already have everything that I really need.'

The concept of war is outdated. 

We all have to live together, so we might as well live together happily.

Beautifully said.

Also, a special thanks this week to Sandi for your lovely Harvest Moon gift. You are such a dear.  This post is for you.  

Let the things that enter our lives wake us up.

October 11, 2012

Still Doing It



86-year-old gymnast, Johanna Quaas, pulled off some moves most people don't ever come close to achieving at the Pre-Olympic German gymnastics trials. She now holds the world record for being the oldest gymnast in history.

Holy smokes missy. Talk about keeping your groove on.

Here is her floor routine, which has also received over 3 million hits.

I've been meaning to write about someone I know who has been struggling with both weight and knee issues over the passed several years. The good news is that before she launched into what she knew was going to be a very stressful summer for her logistically, because of her life being tipped upside-down temporarily, she decided to greatly reduce the amount of sugar she ate. She also cut out white flour. So instead of potentially putting on more weight and experiencing more knee pain with all the stress, she lost twenty pounds over the summer. And don't you know her knee problem resolved itself? Like magic.

Eating sugar, as you may already know, causes inflammation.

I always say that sugar is like poison.

And the more we eat it, the more we crave it.

Sugar is kind of like crack and is bad for us in so many ways.

For further reading, about not feeling like a rusty old bike, see my post called The Sweet Stuff.

And have a wonderful fall weekend, dear readers of mine,

XO, Louise

October 02, 2012

Turning the Boat Around

Every week I try to put my finger on what is happening either within me or around me. Do you remember that sticky yellow tape that people used to hang to catch flies in their homes? Well sometimes, I feel like that piece of  tape. I try to write about what I know, or what I have observed, that has been caught on the tape.

Many years ago, when I was going through infertility, I went to see a therapist named Norm Ephraim, who specializes in negative thought. Thanks to him, I am acutely aware now when I have negative thoughts or those around me do. I don't think negative thoughts are necessarily a bad thing, in fact, I think they can be very helpful in small doses. They can be arrows pointing us in what direction to go in next. They are part of what it is to be human.

It is unfortunate, however, when we get swept away with negative thoughts, and allow them to flatten us. We can get caught in a child-like state, and stuck in "our story", when bad thoughts permeate us. Negative thoughts bring us down, and sometimes paralyze us, and can even make us sick. They are contagious- to ourselves and to those around us. Kind of like when car wheels get stuck in mud and just spin.

Kind of like worrying.

I know personally what it is like to get caught in the web of anxiety. If we can't do anything about a situation, the healthiest thing to do is to just let it be, until we have something new to lead us. It's important to be patient, and have faith, that we will always chose the best thing for ourselves.

There is no sense in letting our thoughts drive us crazy.

Negative thinking can turn some people into complainers and although complainers can be entertaining for a time, after awhile I think most of us just want to say:

Enough already! Change the channel. This is so not uplifting. You sound like a broken record.

Turn off the mental masturbation.

And turn the boat around.

When we can step outside our heads, there are so many things in life to enjoy.

We all have the power to control what we think about.

Carly Simon's song below, although basically about the slow and steady fire, says it perfectly:

Take a look around now
Change the direction
Adjust the tuning
Try a new translation

... And you feel closed in by the same four walls
The same old conversation.


September 24, 2012

Aloneness

The White Mountains


I awoke on Saturday morning to a day to myself. I don't think I have had a day like this for over 21 years, since becoming a mom. For certain there have been days since then of being alone, but this day stretched far and wide, and I knew that is was just the tip of the iceberg in this new chapter of my life. And surprisingly, it felt like heaven.

Always for me, aloneness has not necessarily meant loneliness. I am an introvert at heart, with an extroverted wing that creeps out every now and then, like a bird leaving its nest, only to happily retreat back into its little oasis.

I've been waking in the morning, for way too long, to our sun filled bedroom, only to be distracted by the grimy screens and windows that surround me. "Today is the day!", I thought. "It is finally time to clean them. I can't go through another winter not having better light." Getting this accomplished, with NPR's classical radio on in the background, you'd think I had won the lottery. Hot fudge sundaes? Good lovin? Nah. Such short lived wonderfulness, compared to clean windows!

From here, I went for a run, and came home to wash all the woolens in preparation for colder weather.

Sometimes I wonder if I am one of the simplest people to walk this earth.

Not really, but maybe some of you know what I mean.

September 19, 2012

Thinking About Love



On Saturday night we went to a house concert here in town at the home of some friends. They hosted singer Amy Correia. Just last week her new album You Go Your Way was named “Album of The Year- Singer/Songwriter” by the Independent Music Awards. Pretty great considering Bruce Coburn was #2 and the judging panel included Tom Waits and Keith Richards. She sang a slew of great songs including the one above called Love Changes Everything.

Love really does change everything.

The concert lifted my spirits as we are officially empty-nesters now. Our youngest began her gap year in Guatemala last week where she will be interning at a school in Guatemala City until the holidays. Having traveled to an orphanage in Nicaragua three years ago, I have a feel for what she could potentially encounter while there. This made it especially hard to let her go. The first night she was gone I awoke to pee, and as my feet touched the cool floor in the darkness of the night, it hit me how empty our house has become. All I could do was cry myself back to sleep.

I am however finding some positive things about being an empty-nester. For instance, it's been almost two weeks since I've grocery shopped and no one is complaining. Yet. But I'd trade this in for having my babies back in the nest in a second.

Two other things:

If you'd like to read more about our trip to the Nicaraguan orphanage, click on the tab "Nicaragua" at the top of Lines of Beauty. It's a long piece, which I wrote as therapy upon our return, but the photos are worth having a peek. If you read anything, read the paragraph that I starred about Dole Foods, and perhaps the last paragraph about what made the trip worthwhile.

The other little tidbit is that I was interviewed on a lovely blog in Norway called A Butterfly in My Hair a few weeks ago.Many thanks to Vibeke for finding me, and for helping to share my mission here on Lines of Beauty.


September 13, 2012

Aging Gracefully with Yoga


This week's beauty is Paige Pellegrino who was a classmate and a friend of mine in high school. The interesting thing is that Paige found me when she accidentally came across Lines of Beauty, not through an alumni list or Facebook. Paige is an artist, a Thai Massage Practitioner, and a yoga instructor. Her website is Willow Grace Yoga.

Paige has this to share about growing older:

"Being 50 something is FAB. Well actually, it’s more about feeling comfortable with the skin I'm in. I'm 51 and wouldn't change a thing. Who wants to go back to 29? Not me. I'm not saying there aren't days that I don't feel great, and lack confidence, but being 50 is wonderful. 

We have permission to finally say NO! We know what we want, who we are, and how we want to spend our time. 

Six years ago I stepped into my first yoga class and fell in love. I've trained at one of the best yoga centers in the world; Kripalu, located in western Massachusetts. Teaching and sharing yoga has kept me grounded, and focused. Teaching yoga to special populations has rewarded me with gratitude that I couldn't buy if I wanted. There’s richness in doing what you love. 

The trick is bringing this yoga stuff off the mat and into my life. Accepting myself as I am; flaws and all, with no strings attached. Sometimes judgment and insecurities do pop up, but in that case, a few breaths, a few time outs, and I'm good to go.

As a woman in her 50’s, I've found the most important thing for me is to laugh and have a bit of fun. Learning to poke fun at myself is the best medicine. My grandmother lived to 103!  Her secret was a little giggle at the end of each sentence. Why not go through life happy? To be honest, a little red wine goes a long way too!

I've learned to embrace every flaw, every wrinkle, as a messenger to who I authentically am. Every little wrinkle tells a story that I wouldn't trade for the world. I intend to go through this aging process as a natural part of growing into who I am supposed to be. No botox for me baby! No judgments, it’s just not how I intend to grow. The gray hairs are starting to sprout little by little. Will I color? Of course. Will I wear make up and lipstick? You bet your ass I will! 

On the serious side, the most difficult part of aging is losing those that we love. We are slowly beginning to lose grandparents, parents, spouses, and friends. I lost my father to cancer last year which has been one of the hardest things in my life. But that is life. It’s all a reminder that things don't last forever; that things are born and that things eventually end. Life does go on. So I shall continue practicing “50 Something Awesomeness” and living out loud! 

Thank you Paige for being this week's beauty. XO


September 07, 2012

Nothing



This quote is from the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz that my good friend Cindy gave me years ago. It's resides in the bathroom and is such a collection of wisdom. I love this quote especially because how many times every day do we have the opportunity to take what other people say and do personally? And the truth is that nothing really has anything to do with us. It's a hard concept to grasp but boy is it true.

I am spinning like a bottle over here. One of my part-time jobs right now is design coordinator for a construction project that Tom's company is doing. I am in charge of pulling all the tile, fixtures, and lighting concepts etc. together for the homeowners. I'm purchasing with abandon as we come down the final stretch.

We are also preparing  to send our youngest off on her gap year and our oldest back to college.

On Wednesday we will officially be empty-nesters. I kind of dread it..I hope it won't be too sad... I hope that we will be pleasantly surprised, and we'll enjoy it.

I'm not feeling too optimistic about this however right now.

I love the dinner table with their voices in the evening.

The humor, the intellect, even the conflicts sometimes.

I won't miss the mess around the house, or the worry when they are out too late.

I will miss squeezing them and inhaling their sweet smell as I do.

As I drive through town I notice other empty-nester homes.

Wondering if our paths will ever cross again.

The parenting years go by in lightening speed.

Not really noticeable however,

until they almost

slip away.

August 27, 2012

In Good Times and In Bad

You can click on collage to enlarge it.

My niece was married last weekend at a beautiful old inn in Vermont. The ceremony took place in the garden, followed by a raver of a reception, out in the barn. It was the first wedding in our family for her generation and we all had a great time.

At the last minute all the bridesmaids kicked off their shoes and walked down the aisle barefoot because their heals were digging into the lawn. I loved this. They looked like beautiful beaming fairies.

And the bride, oh my goodness the bride.....it still brings tears to my eyes to think about how gorgeous she was, alongside her very sweet and handsome husband.

Being the romance junky that I am, I love weddings, and I like how every marriage I attend, makes me think about my own.

I remember when I married Tom almost twenty-five years ago, my much older sister Sarah shared with me that my satisfaction with marriage would go up and down. She explained that marriage naturally ebbs and flows, and that part of the beauty of marriage is making it through the hard times because they make marriage stronger and solidify it. She has been so right about that and knowing this from the get go, when I was only twenty-seven, has really helped me. I never expected a fairy tale, although after witnessing my parent's loving union, I could have easily anticipated one.

Anyway, the day before the wedding I wrote a toast to the bride and groom on two sides of an index card. Having forgotten a small purse to carry at the wedding, I decided to fold the index card in half and tuck it in the top of my underwear band, in the front. The only problem was that when I went to pee, I forgot it was there and it fell into the toilet! "Great," I thought, "It's hard enough for me to do toasts, let alone with a soggy piece of paper!" But I washed it off, dried it, and carried on.

I realize that this is probably way too much information!

Some weddings need another toast, but with such an articulate group, this wasn't one of them. So in the end, I didn't even read mine. Phew! I thought though that I'd share part of it here as it speaks of what I have learned over the years about being together with someone for so long:

"In the years to come

remember to take care of each other,

and to take care of yourselves.

Remember to leave each other lots of room to balance, and re-balance,

and grow,

and make mistakes.

But mostly,

don't ever forget to always hold each other very, very tight."

I have also learned over the years, that when we grow bored, or lose patience, or focus too much on each others inevitable flaws, it's clearly a sign that it's time to work on ourselves first and foremost.

The best way to bring new fuel to a marriage, I believe, is to refuel ourselves first.

I also wanted to include this, that I read recently from Roger Ebert who has been married for 20 years, and has had many health struggles:


"My wife continues to make my life possible, and her presence fills me with love and a deep security. That's what a marriage is for. Now I know."

August 17, 2012

The Joy of ...

Not me.

Swimming.

It's been two years now since I got back in the water. I did it because I simply wanted to see how fast I could swim at age 50 after having taken 30 years off from competitive swimming. I thought I could very likely swim just one race and quit again. That might be it for me.

Don't let my crazy quest stop you from reading on. 

Luckily, this isn't a post about competitive swimming!

When I first got back in the pool my experience pretty much went like this:

"God am I out of shape.
I can hardly hoist my sorry ass out of the pool.
I hate this, I am so weak. 
My arms are sore.
I haven't done anything with them but pick up babies for 30 years."

"No, this is good, maybe my arms won't do that annoying jiggle anymore when I run to the mailbox."

So I kept swimming, adding on more lengths each week. 

Slowly I grew stronger.

Soon I started to get lost in the water, lost in thought, lost in the underwater oasis.

I was no longer aware of the pain, or how far I had gone.
I felt better. 
Swimming was stretching me out, and calming me down.

It became a new place to realign. To figure life out. 


But here is what I didn't realize until just recently:

Swimming is kind of like having a massage. The water is constantly touching us everywhere, caressing us, swirling around us. 

It feels so good. It chills us out.

No wonder why we can never get kids out of the pool!

Also not me :-)
No wonder why babies love water.

And why we all love baths.

No wonder why my 90 year old mom has recently worked her way up to swimming 24 lengths, and counting :-)

Swimming is my annex, but it is also, 

a bit of heaven.



August 08, 2012

Should



I saw this quote and all I could think about was when I was a student at Boston University (BU) back in the late 70s and they had these small red tin pins that said "Be You" on them. I liked that pin and wore it on my jean jacket for awhile.

I know, it's sounds corny, but I was just being myself  :-)

So here I am over 30 years later, and it still rings true, but in a new way.

These days it's more about being true to myself.

About allowing my youthfulness to slowly morph into something just as interesting.

And about not saying "yes" when I mean "no".

Still, I'm just wondering how self-evolved I need to grow before I don't get on my own case for something I said, or didn't say, or did, or didn't do.

It's getting better with age, but still.

I was chuckling with my mom the other day about what an awful word "should" is. I remember having this realization late into the night one night when at BU.

"Should" is such a guilt ridden word.

Whenever we murmur it, it's never in a positive light.

Never, ever.

Should is a word that should never have been :-)

That's what I think.


On another note, check out these crazy good Instagram photos my older daughter took recently with her Iphone app. She has an internship this summer on an organic farm on Bainbridge Island, WA.

You can double click on them to enlarge.

Check out the adorable pigs.

God I've missed her.

Can't wait to see you again baby.





August 01, 2012

Beneath Us



I've discovered 76 year old Pema Chodron in the last year or so and I really like her. She is one very wise woman. Her quote above caught my attention, especially, as I sense that many people around me are traveling through big transitions in life right now. Myself included. I think it's important to not just stick with uncertainly, but also, to continue to believe in ourselves in the midst of chaos.

We all know what we want, what we're quietly desiring.

Another great quote of Pema's is, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

And in further depth I found this good one:

"Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

Beautifully said.

July 24, 2012

A River Runs Through It


Photo by John Cady

I finally decided at the end of packing up my childhood home that what I would really miss, the very most, is the view.

Over the last several decades when I've needed a vision of something to calm me- sitting in the back yard, and looking out over the water is where I have frequently traveled to in my mind.

Although the house is gone now, I will have this vision to go to, forever.

Our river house was built in 1890 and was a former tea house back in the day.

I don't even know where to begin to tell you about the house but to say that it touched every one of my senses.

My bedroom from when I was ages 10-12. I chose it because of the wainscoting.
It is where I've experienced some of the scariest moments in life, when strong electrical storms rolled in off Lake Ontario. Driving wind and rain would shake the house, and rattle the windows so violently, that I could not believe afterward that we had made it through another storm unscathed, yet again.

The weeping willow tree this past March

One night, while visiting my folks alone as a grown woman and mother of two, I was so frightened during such a storm in the middle of the night that I rapped on my parent's bedroom door and asked if I could get in bed with them.

"I don't know how you can stand this year after year," I said trembling.

My bedroom from age 12 and up that I chose for its view.

"Oh, it's not so bad," said my mom.

There were other sounds the house made however that were pleasing. Like the sound of the sliding screen door when it opened and closed in the summer, and the gentle clanging of halyards on sailboat masts, heard in the quiet of the night.

And, in particular, there was the sound of my dad's voice when he would say to my mom, with such satisfaction, "Mary just look at all these grandkids," or his oohs and ahhs from the aroma, and taste, of her homemade rhubarb pie.

Beauty was everywhere there. It wasn't just the water scape but also the textiles, artwork, and the treasures handed down through generations.


A pared down photo for the realtor's site. My favorite white cast iron rabbit is missing.
The river house, for me, was partly a lesson in the simplicity of living.

I keenly observed my depression-era parents after my four, much older, siblings went off into the world. Finally they had time to explore other things in life, like drawing and painting, bread making, gardening, and music.

With the somewhat tumultuous 60s, and paying for college tuition almost behind them, they could finally relax and drift, a bit.

And now here I sit with our youngest about to go off into the world herself. It seems crazy that this time has come so soon. How quickly children grew up. I wish I knew this before, but like many things in life, it isn't something that we can know until we live it.

Kind of like how quickly we all grow older, too.


Photos by KC Kratt.

July 17, 2012

The Great Divide




Before I left to clean out my childhood home with my four siblings, I emailed them a link to the post below with my thoughts about what we were about to embark on. It was, maybe for all of us, a lesson in the power of intention.

After we gathered, my sister suggested that we remain civil during the divide- that we wouldn't interrupt each other or yell. That we would come out as a family in one piece. This set the ground rules for the week.

Still, when joining together, we were all at a loss as to how to go about dividing up a household between siblings. Just how and where do we begin? Do we start choosing oldest to youngest? Do we pull straws? Do we have a pseudo auction? Everything I read on the web just seemed confusing.

Then my middle brother suggested that we simply start by writing on a small piece of paper what each of us most desired from the house and put the paper face down in a tray, with our name on it. When there was a tie between two people, the person who acquiesced, got to immediately pick two more items from the house, and sat out the next round of bidding.

If neither of the two siblings in the tie wanted to acquiesce, we flipped a coin.

So even if you lost, you still won.

This bidding process went on, round after round, for two and a half days, and worked beautifully.

And my mom was so relieved to hear that her family had not killed each other!

At about the 3rd round of bidding I decided to text Tom and our two daughters to see if there was anything they desired from the house.

Tom, who was in the middle of his work day, texted back "Just you."

My eighteen year old daughter texted back "Nothing."

But my twenty-one year old daughter had specific ideas :-)  I had someone on board with me for the bidding, which made it so much more fun.

At this, I decided to send her a link to the heirloom photos that had been taken a few months ago and it became a game. I would text her and say "We lost out on the dining room table but we got the dresser that you love!"

I'll tell you though- by day three I was reeaaally tired of choosing. Plus, behind all the fun of choosing, was the sadness of seeing our home unravel.

We rallied together though and after each long day of dividing, packing, and organizing, the five of us jumped into the river, or in the pool at the park nearby, and then headed out to dinner.

I had a martini with 3 olives in it every night.

From the yard, looking across to Canada.

It was really fun for the five of us to be together without any spouses or children.

For me, it was epic.

In the end though, the week reminded me of the week my dad died eleven years ago.

There was the sweetness, love, and support of being together, the sadness, and the celebration of someone/something.

And both times, there was the knowledge that we had lost, or were about to lose, something very, very dear to all of us.

And we did.



To be continued.




July 06, 2012

Homeward Bound

Peony by Caroline Fernandes


The time has come to head to to my childhood home for the very last time. It has been sold. I have never given up anything that I love so much. But, it's time. It's time to gather with my four siblings, and divide up the contents, and say so long to a very well loved, gem of a home.

You know how we all have expectations about how something is going to be before we do it? Well, I am trying not to do that. 


However,

I don't want it to be this miserable time.

I want it to be a celebration.

Not a funeral.

I want it to be a sibling love fest (Uh oh... I said it...this might be an undelivered expectation).

I want it to be, as my sister-in-law Bonnie has said, "love soup".

I don't want all of us bickering over who got what and hurt feelings over what someone didn't get.

Nope.

Truthfully,

I kind of dread it.

In a way, at least some of it.

I don't even know what I want from the house anyway.

Sometimes belongings just seem so ridiculous. Half the beauty of anything there is that it has resided in this little oasis with everything else for the last 41 years. Like how peanut butter and jelly go together.

My mom isn't even there anymore preparing a nice lunch to have out on the deck. There is no longer a stash of wine in the cellar. So much of the house has already been fractured when she moved out 3 months ago with her most prized possessions.

And what's even worse: the memories are almost done being made.

Evening sky from the yard.
Luckily though,

we still

very much

have her.



July 01, 2012

Masterpiece

While ironing the other day, I was looking at the bulletin board in my studio. It had been awhile since I had inspected it, but what caught my attention was this photo.

I got to wondering just how long I've had it.

It finally came to me that I use to have it taped to the inside door of a little cabinet in our bathroom at our old apartment in Brookline, before we ever had kids, over 20 years ago.

It was a funky old place with high ceilings, where we lived for almost 10 years.

Suddenly, while ironing, I remembered I took pictures of the apartment before we moved away in 1992 and ran to the photo albums to see if I had a picture of the bathroom.

There was the photo :-)

I loved the picture of the wrinkly old women back then

and still do.

Little did I know, so long ago, that I would someday be blogging about embracing aging and allowing our faces to line naturally.

Little did I know, back then, that there would even be a world wide web, or blogging for that matter!

But what I did know, even then,
was that there is such beauty in older faces.

Such incredible beauty.



How lucky are we all are,

to gradually become,

such masterpieces.


June 23, 2012

The 5 Languages of Love



I was checking out the New York Times Best Seller's list recently and came upon the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which has been on the best advice list for a whopping 255 weeks now. This of course peaked my interest and I went searching for what all the hoopla is about.

Well I will say this: Boy can we learn a lot in a short amount of time! Not just about ourselves but about all those around us. As Chapman's title explains, people show their love in basically 5 different ways. The critical thing to realize, however, is that not every couple shares the same primary love language. This is where, shall I say, the "He/she just doesn't get me!" might begin to take root, and where our "love tank" tends to feel a bit empty- which, is not helpful at all in our quest to age gracefully :-(

The Five Languages of Love is basically about zeroing in on what makes us feel loved and what makes our partner feel loved. Sounds easy enough.

So the 5 love languages are:

- Words of affirmation: such as "Gee honey, you look nice tonight,." or simply "I love you."

- Gift giving: in all cultures people give gifts as expressions of love (and of course for a lot of other reasons).

- Acts of service: doing things for each other- includes doing things around the house.

-Quality time: when our partner gives their undivided attention.

-Physical touch. Not just sex, but simple things like holding hands, rubbing a shoulder, or touching feet in the middle of the night.

I think I tend to show my love most with acts of service and physical touch. It's also what I probably do best. It's also what I like to do. But, I feel the most loved when I receive undivided attention and physical touch (do all youngest children say this I wonder?). Words of affirmation and gifts don't do a lot for me usually, not that I don't enjoy them. I think that hearing "I love you" or "You look nice" can begin to sound a bit empty if the other 4 languages are slacking (actions speak louder than words). Plus, I am not very materialistic. But acts of service are important to me as well. It makes me happy when things are done around the house or for me. It feels like we're nesting. It makes me feel like we are a unit or a "we", as I have often described it.

I can see how Chapman's concept can carry over and be very helpful in our relationships with people besides our partners, especially our children. I ran the list by my younger daughter and she was quickly able to tell me which languages of love fill her "love tank" the most.

In the end though I think that one of the most important languages of love isn't even listed above. One of the things that makes me feel most loved is when I really enjoy simply talking with someone- when there is synergy between us and we basically just appreciate each others company while discussing everything from the minutia in life to the bigger picture, whatever it is. It's about hanging with people who make us happy. In our crazy, busy, mixed-up world this isn't always easy to find.

 But when we do, it is simply golden.


June 13, 2012

Aging Gracefully with Sound Advice


This week's beauty is Dr. Cheryl Townsend Winter, who is 61 years old. Cheryl is a retired periodontist who is reinventing herself by writing a book on aging called "The Aging Gracefully Pathway: A Toolkit for the Journey."  Cheryl explains that the connection between being a periodontist and writing a book on aging is that structurally the gums are the same as skin and that there are many linkages between gum disease and aging/serious systemic diseases.

Further, Cheryl explains that the major categories of aging are:
  • Taking care of the external body: includes skin care, hair, posture, grooming, and figure.
  • Taking care of the internal body: includes brain, internal workings, what we eat, how we sleep, rest & relax, and how we exercise the body.
  • Taking care of the spirit/soul: includes attitude, aspirations, inspirations, etc.


"The Aging Gracefully Pathway: A Toolkit for the Journey" has over 100 tips but here is a little preview:
 
  • Sugar and refined foods may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
  •  AGE’s (advanced glycation end-products) cause most degenerative diseases and wrinkles.
  •  Antioxidants from diet play a leading role in preventing age-related diseases.
  • Cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels, reduces AGE’s, is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and the scent enhances cognitive processing including attention, memory, and visual-motor speed (Ageless Face, Ageless Mind).
  • “Training on an empty stomach turns on some interesting genetic machinery that is important not only in fat loss but also longevity.” (The Paleo Solution).
  • The spice turmeric has anti-cancer and anti-Alzheimer’s properties. (Ageless Face, Ageless Mind).

Thank you Cheryl for being this week's beauty. I wish you luck with the book. Please stop in and let us know when it is on the shelves.


June 07, 2012

Precious Life


While away this past week with my girlfriends from high school, we took a day trip to Charleston, SC. What a place. Be still my heart. It reminded me of Boston actually with it's wonderful historical homes near the sea, but with lovely southern charm, and minus all the crazy drivers. After lunch at the Fast and French Gaulart and Maliclet Cafe (oh-la-la) we took a stroll around in the heat of day and came upon a walkway that beckoned us in. It was a cobblestone trail through a very old cemetery, alongside an old church. I felt like I was in fairy land. What caught my attention the most was a plaque with the above quote by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I thought I would share it with you now.

I don't know about you, but when I read something like this, especially now at mid-life, it makes me stop in my tracks.

In a good way.




May 27, 2012

Keeping the Mojo Going

I am about to leave to meet-up with my two best friends from high school for our annual reunion- this year it's in South Carolina. A much needed vacation! I am a bit anxious to be arriving along with a tropical storm down there, but hopefully everything will be okay.

Have you heard the saying, "It's not about how young you look, it's about how good you look."?

It's so perfect and 100 year old Ruth, in the above clip, tells her story about how she manages to grow old happily.

I found the video on Advanced Style, which is one of my favorite websites about style and growing older (started by Ari Cohen who is in his 20's). Inspired by his late grandmother, who was his best friend, he roams the streets of New York looking for the most stylish and creative older folks.

Have a nice week everyone.
XO,

Louise

May 22, 2012

Aging with Pizzazz

Actress Mimi Weddell died a few years ago at the age of 94, but not until she left behind quite a legacy. I love characters like her. Mimi was known for her free thinking, elegant style, and for not trying to conceal her wrinkles, or signs of aging.

She was also known for her collection of 150 hats.

Hats Off, a feature length documentary profiling the beauty and her eccentricities, was completed when she was 93.

At the age of 90, Ms. Weddell was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in New York" by New York Magazine.

Below is an entertaining trailer of Hats Off.


May 17, 2012

Aging Gracefully with Inspiration

Ellen's mum
Ellen B. Brown is this week's beauty. She has written about how her mom's death inspired her to have a change in career at mid-life.

"My mum passed away 3 years ago from brain cancer. She was given the diagnoses on January 2nd and died exactly a month later. Hard as it was to see her die so quickly, I am eternally grateful that her ordeal was short. My mum was such vital, active and loving person. Her beauty radiated from within. She tried to wear make-up (I even gave her gift certificate to learn) but she was so natural that for me it did not matter. She touched so many people lives, the young and the old, because she was such a giving person. On the day of her memorial service close to a thousand people came. I was so overwhelmed by those who came as it showed she had a huge impact on people. I struggle daily on her not being here in the physical presence, but I know spiritually she is always with me; she was my best friend, my cheerleader, my confidante, and my mum.

I was born with cerebral palsy, and was not expected to live, as I had a number of complications at birth. We did not really get close until I was in my 30s and I am so grateful that we patched our differences and became were able to do this. My mum was there for all 5 of us children; she loved us unconditionally and supported us all through our ups and downs. When I run into friends they always comment to me how much they miss her. I feel touched when people tell me this, and of course, I cry.

Walking in Ireland
I cry because it means so much to me and that she touched so many people's lives. And when I cry it makes me realize what is truly important...to live life to its fullest. I recently had to close my business after 25 years due to the economic situation in my Bermuda and now having to change careers at 55! So I have decided to go back to graduate school to get my masters in counseling/spiritual studies and bereavement counseling. I know she is guiding me on this path.

 My mum used to sing beautifully but lost her ability to sing later in life. When she could not play tennis anymore, she found passion in other things, such as love of gardening and roses. My mum was fearful of dying, although we never talked about it. She would talk about friends who passed on and I sensed her fear and sadness. Even when she was in the transition of passing on no-one discussed the enviable - her death. So I chosen now to turn my life to becoming more meaningful based after seeing what my mum went through- and to give credence to my experience to be a positive one for others. My mum's passing was a pivotal point in my life. She taught me the importance of living and being passionate about life."

Thank you Ellen for sharing this story about your wonderful mom.