When Cancer Invades A Friendship

494762663As I walked away from her back door for the 4th time — feeling defeated — I tried really hard to summon up an image of us holding hands during that last sweet visit on her couch. It was a freezing cold morning, but I needed to run. With every step the thickness in my throat moved it’s way up until the tears poured out. My head slowly began to lighten and clear as I ran down to the water letting the sadness move up and out. Just two weeks after Thanksgiving, it feels like a cyclone of chaos has swept me into its funnel. My mind needs a harness.

The holiday season is everywhere but at her house — where it has traditionally been filled with Chanukah decorations and gifts for not only her children but my boys too. If ever there was joy in giving and receiving my friend set the bar high. Now it takes a committed meditation practice alone on my mat or on my morning walk or run to screw my brain on straight to process what is happening.   I breathe in the gratitude thoughts attempting to dispel the toxic ones.  I know there’s so much to be grateful for – it’s just not easy to “feel it” amidst the sadness.

You see, my wonderful friend who has been battling cancer for these past 3 years has stopped her treatments. As the cancer takes its hold on her now, unrestrained by interventions, her pain is intensifying. It is brutal for her and her fabulous husband and amazing family who surround her with love 24/7.

I love her like a sister, like one of my own – like family – but in fact I am not family.

I don’t get to sleep over like her sister does; I don’t get to bring her tea in the middle of the night or even in the afternoon. I don’t get to cry with her anymore.

As her pain increases and her ability to receive a visit dwindles, the loss of her physical presence feels profoundly sad. It’s hard to know as a friend what to do. It has become increasingly difficult to have a positive way of helping, because as her pain keeps getting bigger, her world is getting smaller.

If ever we have a season that comes with “marching orders” it is this time of year — Tis the season to give – yet, it’s difficult to know how to give to my sweet friend at this time as our time on the couch has diminished.

It turns out a massive dose of acceptance is in order and this is a huge challenge.

The truth is — shelter from the pain of this seasonal storm is the living room couch with my husband Bill and our dog Jazz at the end of the day. Reading, listening to our new favorite podcast together, a cozy lunch at our kitchen table — just hanging out is miraculously good medicine.

Actually, she was the one who taught me how to sit still. Over these past 3 years, my kinetic jumpy energy settled when I would visit with her. Between chemo treatments, I would tuck in with her on her bed or couch and we would just hang out – she would let me massage her – and we would talk for hours. I so loved these visits.

Hours were spent on our couch as well – where we would talk the afternoon away. With a quick press on my Iphone, I would call up my darling friend from my “favorites“ list and instantly – if she was well enough — she’d head on over. But now she doesn’t answer – she can’t.

As the countdown to Chanukah and Christmas ramps up into an accelerated spin cycle – my heart aches knowing the passing time brings my friend further and further away. And that’s when I truly need to remind myself to roll out the proverbial Yoga Mat and sit – just sit and be grateful for the friendship and love we have shared, and all the love that still surrounds me.

Given that it’s December, with twinkling lights and frantic shoppers everywhere – it feels frivolous to join in, scurrying about my days, knowing how much she is suffering.

It’s not always easy to tune out the noise of this impending loss intertwined with the twinkling lights and joyful holiday music and the meet-ups with girlfriends – knowing she’s not there. It’s hard.

Salvation army bells ringing, gridlocked horns honking and crammed pedestrians pushing on through at the narrow crosswalks – All this noise fills the space during this holiday season. And my head feels like it’s bursting.

And to top it off – suddenly I’m panicked. I have no idea what to buy my boys for the holidays except socks– they seem to have enough of everything. My husband – well he doesn’t like “stuff” and I already gave my sisters their gifts at Thanksgiving. But my friend, she loved gifts – every single one and it was so easy to give to her.

Every gift I ever gave her was unwrapped like a Faberge egg – precious and worn or displayed on her mantle. The other day I saw the 3 little pumpkins I’d brought at Halloween still on her mantle ( I couldn’t believe they hadn’t rotted).

Compounded with all of this emotion, my birthday falls smack dab into the middle of the holiday season and I know she would want me to enjoy every second. But, there’s a very dark cloud that covers the ability to let go.

But then I sit quietly and repeat to myself what I am grateful for – the noise clatter in my brain quiets and the sweetness of the moment flows in.

I hear my friend’s words and feel her arms surround me and I am lifted. And I am at that moment – celebrating. I am grateful for that.

Waking Up Inspired In Miami

If you’ve ever felt that the “youth” culture is confusing or out of reach– or you are getting behind on your hipster vocabulary – a little dated in your wardrobe or just feeling drab and uninspired due to the darkening skies of winter — then get yourself out to see some art — in MIAMI.

robe-first-painting-art-basel-wynwood-street-art-miami-sean-was-hereNothing better than a sensory fix that combines color and light, water and warm sunshine. This magic cocktail is what they were serving in Miami this past week.

As often as I’ve treated myself to frequenting the galleries, museums and art fairs of wherever I am, I was blown away by Miami’s art scene.

My husband and I were thrilled when we found out our business trip to Miami the first week in December coincided with their art fair — “Art Basel.”

As good as the fair was, there’s no reason to wait until the next Art Basel to go to Miami. There’s plenty of permanent installations thoughout the city that are worth seeing this winter because the Miami art scene is fully embedded in it’s very fiber and frankly, it feels electric.

Let’s just say – no one goes hungry for stimulation in Miami.

We started our visit with a bang when our hip 20-something friends took us to see graffiti art and have dinner at Joey’s in Miami’s edgy new arty Soho area — Wynwood. http://www.joeyswynwood.com

The restaurant was great but there was so much more than the food to focus on. Actually I can’t even remember the food. Let’s just say it was hard to take a bite (never mind order) as the onslaught of visuals distracted us from our plates. I’m not kidding. The food fell to the background immediately – I have no idea what I ate or if I ate at all.

Sitting next to us body art was everywhere and I found myself reading the Tats on the wrists and necks of the people at the next table. Was that Sanskrit, hieroglyphics or Morse code?

Rockers, models, punk and chic all metaled and messaged with plenty of visible breasts and abs — it was a mix of art and porn and we hadn’t even hit the real exhibit.

Body art branded youth were everywhere. Tats on palms and shoulders with messages of peace, love and rock and roll and personal purpose statements begged me to look closer. I’m glad I wasn’t with my kids because they would have scolded me for staring.

Graffiti Wall Art at Wynwood

Graffiti Wall Art at Wynwood

After dinner, we went next door to the Wynwood Walls and got our just desserts.

If you ever wondered if Graffiti equals art – it does! And, it can transform dead neighborhoods into vital economic zones when orchestrated properly.

The Wynwood Project is an example of how to revitalize a forgotten “bombed out” looking warehouse neighborhood. This began in 2010 and the area is on fire with art and energy. As an aside, this area reminded me of the art scene in Berlin. We saw this very transformation a few years ago at The Berlin Wall. The graffiti brought a profoundly sad period in history to life through color and play on those concrete barriers.

Really good graffiti art is not to be shrugged off despite its lack of permanence. Plus, it’s a fabulous way for emerging artists to get recognized. Shepard Fairey is just one of the graffiti artists who has contributed to the Wynwood walls but he’s no longer emerging. (You may know him from his Obama poster and “Obey” campaign.) Shepard was jailed many a time for his graffiti art — but not in Wynwood. His stuff was selling for a million plus in the adjacent gallery. This area was “tagged” (that’s art vernacular for this genre) and revived with an invitation to graffiti artists to bring in their work. Every year the Wynwood Walls are reworked and this week a new cast of artists collaborated yet again with amazing stuff that hasn’t gotten pricey – yet!

Graffiti art at Wynwood Walls, Miami

Graffiti art at Wynwood Walls, Miami

It’s wonderful to see art that is not just for those with deep pockets and Miami Vice styled living rooms to display it.

It turned out there was so much to see in the ancillary art tents and edgy neighborhoods that surrounded the main Art Basel fair at the Miami Convention Center – that we never got there – and that was just fine by us.

Miami is totally fun and vibrant and as we boarded the plane back to Boston we felt a little hipper a lot happier and a tad younger. Hey, we’d been welcomed into the big 20-something street art party for days on end, and we hadn’t even been aged out or edged out.

We’re definitely going back.

Here’s a few of the fabulous Miami Street scenes from this past weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sit, Stay, Get Stoned?

stoned dogWe are a dog family. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law is not a canine loving man. He reluctantly tolerates dogs in their home… out of love for his wife.

Fortunately, my sister’s open doggy door policy trumps his doggy disdain. So, when we go for our annual Thanksgiving four-day visit, our doggie Jazz comes too. We are not the only guests who arrive with our pups. If you’ve got a dog that is well behaved, doesn’t snarf table food, or start fights with other dogs – well then – your dog is welcome, which means your dog gets a biscuit, a hug and a daily walk up the local mountain each morning.

At this year’s Thanksgiving there were four dogs: my sister’s 10 year old Golden Doodle – Teva, my Cocka-Poo Jazz, Brady, also a Golden Doodle and a new brilliantly trained 10 month old Bernice mountain dog – Nike.

With so much food around –it’s surprising how few incidents we’ve had. A few years back, my cousin’s dog got into the grease around the convection oven in the garage which put her out for a day with “wicked” runs. But overall, the dogs are additive and they just go along with the backyard football games, the feasting and the couch cuddling.

That’s why, this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we were truly baffled when my sister’s dog Teva appeared to be totally dazed and confused.

Friday morning, I met my sister for our regular hike up her favorite mountain. We had the dogs with us as we trudged through fresh powder on a 25-degree crystal clear morning. Invigorated from our outing – two of the dogs took off into the woods near where we’d parked our cars. It was odd – as they’re normally ready to jump into our car lured by treats and warmth. This time however, it took awhile for them to appear from wherever they’d been, but we thought nothing of it.

We left the dogs at the house for a few hours and met up with the kids, had lunch, went to a movie and didn’t return until 5 pm. When we arrived home, Teva was lying flat out with an oddly dazed look. She could not stand up – she was staring at her paw -licking it and focusing on nothing else in particular. When we called her name, she could barely turn her head our way – like we were some distant voice. My brother-in-law said she’d been like this for quite awhile – he’d figured it would pass.

After a few minutes of observation, my sister and I transported her to the local vet who was luckily still open. We lay her down on a blanket in the back of the Prius and Teva’s head bobbed sloppily as we headed through the dark Vermont night. We talked dog talk. My sister’s gratitude for her doggy poured out of her – and we wished that dog could talk. We had no clue what the problem was – no clue at all – we didn’t want to think that this could be her last day but it was hard not to.

The Vet greeted us warmly and looked into Teva’s eyes.

“Looks like this dog has gotten into something toxic and we need to do a blood and urine test.”

“Really – ok – great – whatever it takes.”

Hmmmm- now I’m thinking about my almost 10 year old dog and wondering if it’s too late to get long term doggie insurance.

Teva meanwhile started leaking a little urine on the examining table – whoah! We panicked — “oh dear, she is so sick,” we both thought.

The Vet assured us that this was typical for certain toxins – not to be concerned.

“What kind of toxins?”

“Pot,” she said.

WHAAAAT! Not possible.

“Is there any medical marijuana around your home?” she asked.

“No, No – None!” My sister said.

“Good,” said the vet, “because that is way stronger than recreational pot”.

Who knew?

The Vet took our dazed little pup into the back room for testing and my sister and I reviewed the possibilities.

“This is not possible. No way this dog ate any marijuana. No way there’s any lying around our house. Plus,  Teva is so not a foodie. She is slightly disinterested in food – never gets into coat pockets filled with treats, never mind eating a twiggy bag of herbs.”

Certain there was no “weed” at home, we wondered where she could have scored the narcotic.

And then we Sherlocked Holmes it together. That very morning Teva had taken off into the woods — for way too long. She must have eaten something – (maybe some pot cookies at a campsite) – some chocolate chip cookies laced with THC.

Just then, the Vet walked in with the container of urine with a marker showing no exposure to Meth, no Oxy or PCP – but yes indeed – THC. The diagnosis: Our 10 ten year Doodle was high as a kite –stoney baloney – wasted –toasted — higher than Snoopy in the Thanksgiving parade — totally gone.

It was hard not to laugh. But poor Teva was not out of the woods yet – her temperature was low – she was slightly dehydrated and she was clearly too “chilled” to move.

It was hard to look at Teva’s dazed face and bobbing head and not think, “I’m so glad that’s not me.” She looked like a poster dog for “Don’t Do Drugs.” I would so not want to be Teva – she was not having fun – but then again – she was feeling no pain. Never whined, never winced, just blinked a lot, clearly trying to figure out, “what’s happening man?”

Just trying to figure out – “where the hell am I – why am I here – what’s the meaning of a dog’s life – what is with this paw – how comes it’s shaped like that? – If I’m a dog – why does my mother look so different –hey, does anyone have a doggie treat”?

We were advised to take her to another ER where she could stay the night to be observed and continue with the fluids. So we drove the 40 minutes and arrived at a lovely Vermont animal ER. The Doctor smiled when he saw the diagnosis. “This is classic! Clearly a THC issue – your dog will be fine.”

He made a few cute jokes about our glazed pup and after another hour or so we said goodnight, leaving her in good care.

So what happened next is the truly “classic” piece. We brainstormed on our way home about how to tell a pretty straight family that our dog was stoned. With 20 family and friends still at the house – how could we walk in with these findings? We both felt “guilty” – embarrassed and not sure we could deal with the conversation.

We were however one hundred percent certain Teva had gotten into some “cookies” in the woods. However, there was still the  lingering question  that we didn’t want to address —

“Are you sure it happened in the woods? Maybe it came from an open suitcase in the house?”

Paranoia had already set in and we weren’t even under the influence.

Just like teenagers caught with the “stuff,” we began to put together the “story” so as not to shock the family and have to deal with disapproving looks.

Not guilty, not our fault, not our drugs – but alas – we felt like we were about to be busted!

So we went home and glazed the story with vagaries about how the dog was totally fine – they’d tested her – she’s gotten into something and we didn’t have to worry.

And P.S,, Teva was totally fine by morning, back to being high on life.

 

A Thanksgiving Party Rap Slam Game — Try This!

Thanksgiving gameThe Thanksgiving tryptophan coma sends our gang – like clockwork — onto the couches way too early into the evening after our late afternoon feast. And frankly, it always feels premature to be that comatose. This year, we’re suggesting a post meal game that could potentially raise us from our stupors.

To shed a little background on our family tradition, my brother-in-law runs our Thanksgiving day schedule like a gentle, loving drill sergeant. He’s been in charge for the past 30 years and we all love what he creates. He is the master baster, chef tete of the turkey fryer, which he runs from the garage, and stuffing aficionado.

All 28 of us are his dutiful guests (17 actually sleep at the house). We each contribute to the meal – I’m in charge of the Brussels, my 3 other sisters have their specialties – as do the cousins and in-laws. We jockey for a spot in the single oven and on the four burners. We come equipped with rubber gloves and we work together all day to make this fabulous feast. Miraculously we gather, dressed and ready for our cocktails and meal by 4 pm sharp.

Ninety minutes later, we are as plumped out as the gobbler, and ready to get horizontal.

So, here are a few thoughts on how to rouse the troops and beat back the bloat.

I’m proposing an adrenalizing game that will keep us as glued together as the stuffing sitting in our guts. This game should be completed by the time the professionally scheduled evening football game kicks off. Expectations are low on selling this idea but hey, if we even get half of our posse to participate it will be a success.

The Turkey Rap Slam Game

The Turkey Rap Slam is not something you eat — it’s something you create. And — you don’t even have to leave the table to make it happen. Even better, it’s easy and your end result is something you can have forever. All you need is willing participants, paper and pen and someone to video tape the finale.

The object of the game is to create a Thanksgiving Rap Slam.  You are welcome to add musical effects (either boom box background or drumming on the pots and pans).

The rap should be at least 6 verses long in order to be interesting — writing a catchy repetitive refrain is totally acceptable.

How To Start:

1. Pass a piece of paper around and everyone adds a line or a few lines to the rap.

2. No theme is required – just start writing and pass that paper Here’s some  suggestions however on topics that you can put on the “header” of the paper to inspire ideas if people feel stuck:

1. Slam about the funniest Thanksgiving story;

2. Slam the food;

3. Slam the family;

4. And slam plenty of gratitude into your rap.

5. Showtime! Hopefully you’ve got some volunteers to perform the finale of your Thanksgiving Party Rap Slam.

Try to get one person willing to video tape the performance. This should be a riot to watch next Thanksgiving. Who knows, your gang may have created the next You Tube viral video or at least, something to laugh at for years to come. Have Fun!

Wishing You All A Happy Healthy Thanksgiving.

How To Put On Make-up To Look Younger!

Buy all 8 pieces for $299.00 and save! Special package discounts for BA50’s. THIS WEEK ONLY! Or you can purchase them individually (see links below).

 

I happily agreed to have my face made up by the folks at Gloss 48 last week and it seemed like a great idea at the time. But, when I looked at this video – well – you’ll see.

These Gloss 48 products by Senna are transformative — if you can make it to the end of the video you will see how much better I look if I do say so.  However, please suspend judgement as you watch my totally unprofessional performance. I was given the toughest job I could ever imagine — “sit and try not to talk” with a video camera perched 6 inches from my crows feet. It was all a  bit daunting.

Let’s just say, the Gloss 48 crew was brilliant but moi — well! my husband and I were roaring with laughter watching my eyes jump around searching for a place to focus.  Where to look –the camera, the make-up artist or the ceiling?  Plus, the no- talking thing — you can see,  i’m ready to burst — which I do at the end — finally alas – a few words.

I would recommend however, that you watch this video and learn some  techniques you can actually do yourself with their great products.  Do you see how it made my face look brighter and perhaps a tad more youthful? Love the eyebrow shadow and the cupid’s bow lightener and the “down to earth” lipstick. I could however learn how to “contour”  better – that stumps me a bit.

Nevertheless, I think these products feel great and i’m a convert. I bought them all! Now I just need to practice.

 

Senna Cosmetics Sale:
http://gloss48.com/senna-cosmetics?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Haute Nudes Eye & Face Palette:
http://gloss48.com/haute-nudes-eye-face-palette-in-sultry?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Brow Kit in Ash Blonde:
http://gloss48.com/form-a-brow-kit-in-ash-blonde?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Brow Kit in Neutral (for those with a bit darker brows than Felice):
http://gloss48.com/form-a-brow-kit-in-neutral?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Face Sculpting Kit:
http://gloss48.com/senna-cosmetics-face-sculpting-kit-in-shade-1?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Brilliant Bronze in Sunset:
http://gloss48.com/brilliant-bronze-in-sunset?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Lipstick in Down to Earth
http://gloss48.com/cream-lipstick-in-down-to-earth?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Lip Lacquer in Blush Wine
http://gloss48.com/lip-lacquer-in-blush-wine?utm_source=sp&utm_medium=ba50&utm_campaign=ba50senna

Happiness Started Right Here

Doesn’t Paul Gauguin’s famous painting (from 1897) make for the best anniversary image? “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?“

gauguin

Anniversaries provide a great opportunity to stop to smell the roses, evaluate and look ahead. On November 11, 2011, BA50 went live and after 3 years it continues to be a great ride.

Our story is a typical BA50 story, one of discovery and growth at this next phase. The reality is, we’ve got a common motivation for challenging ourselves to live the fullest life possible … NOW! We’re all facing the same ticking clock.

Stylistically, if Betterafter50.com were to be defined as a period of art – it would be called “Super Realism”. On BA50 there is no curtain between the stage and the real world. On this site, we are watching our lives unfold through stories that touch our daily experiences, stories that live in our cells. We are the actors, the audience, the writers and the critics. And we are all sharing the stage. There’s comfort knowing we are aging right along side our favorite BA50 celebrities.

After 50, none of us are operating solo even if we often times feel alone. With shifts in our families, changing nests, and curve balls  – we’re often forced to turn off our cruise control, pivot, and plot a new course.

Not one of us can escape the big topics that life throws at us. And, we are often not prepared for the feelings that come with the monumental transitions of empty nesting, our changing bodies and compromising health issues. The loss of a loved one can give us a soul challenging gut punch and we need our friends to get us through it. We need to be held, hugged and sometimes we need a good kick in the butt to get us up and out the door.

BA50 is a hive of women buzzing. We can hear the hum of women talking, sharing, laughing and crying. We can hear the voices of women searching to define their purpose in this next phase. We are comforted by their words, softened by their experiences; motivated to try something new by seeing what others are doing and we often find ourselves just chilling and being entertained.

Super Realism reflects the entrepreneurial spirit that defines our BA50 team. As founders, we are entrepreneurs –we have dreams and big ideas and take risks and challenge ourselves every day to –just do it! Sometimes, if we we are lucky, our stories become viral and lots of time they become invisible and fall into the internet’s virtual vortex.

We approach each of our newsletters as a piece of art. We play with the images until they strike the magic chord – we curate the articles, and theme them 3 times each week so our visitors know where they are and can walk through our gallery of offerings and peer deeply into the one piece that calls to them most.

We wake up on Facebook with a Good Morning BA50 and stay all day long sharing news relevant to BA50s and more Buzz about what interests us and tickles us. We know who our niche is.

I can think of nothing more fun than sitting around the virtual campfire sharing stories. And this is what BA50 is – this is who we have become and it appears where we are going.

At this 3rd year anniversary, happily, we are doing what we’ve been doing from the get go – growing our site and having fun dong it. And, from time to time, we’re feeling a little “Bad Ass” about it all, living up to the BA50 acronym. We’re proud of our site and this week we are standing up just a little taller, defying gravity’s pull, knowing we are better after 50.

So, after 3 years, thank you BA50 readers for visiting our site over 2 million times every month. Thank you to our amazing writers, all 350 of you who have contributed over 2500 articles since we started. Thank you Facebook fans for liking us (almost 10,000 hugs from you) and Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram followers.

Our community is solid and expanding. Thank you for being with us for all this time and sharing our stories with your friends too.

We are grateful for our BA50 team, BA50 writers party-3-annivand readers for finding time in your busy lives to contribute, comment and connect through us. As we forge our path in this next phase of life, it feels better knowing you are there to share the laughs and deal with the not so fun parts.

Thank you for helping us build BA50.

From the Heart,

Felice

What You Gonna Do With Your Extra Hour?

ready set goOk BA50’s, I’m throwing down a challenge. This past Sunday we all woke up with a gift. We got an extra hour in our day. We set the clocks back and got more time – one hour to be specific. So, what did you do with it?

Ugh! Not sure! Mostly likely, like the rest of us, you were just glad to have an extra hour to do – whatever – sleep more, hang more, nothing particularly definable.

But what if you actually decided to consciously do something with that extra hour? Like for instance, something that you’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t had the time or discipline to do? .

Saturday night, out with friends – someone said – “hey you want to come back to our place and hang out…try this new great ‘sipping’ Tequila – after all, we have an extra hour.”

Really! It was 10 pm, we were in suburbia, we’d had a great dinner – and now we were going to an after-party? Surprisingly, we all took the dare with a resounding “YES!”

We discussed that we had a bonus hour, so what the hell – we could sleep a little longer tomorrow. Wow a gift – an extra hour – and we dedicated that hour to chilling in our friends’ living room sipping tequila….sweet!

I started thinking,  what would I do if I actually carved out an extra hour each day, knowing that I would not be sipping Tequila every day with my new found time?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he talks about 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. Gladwell is all about the concept that you don’t have to be great at something to become a master of it. It’s all about practice and dedication but the reality is, it takes that much time to become an expert or a Master at whatever – piano, tennis, your work…

But who is ready to set aside 10,000 hours for a new avocation, or passion? Finding this kind of time is some tall challenge at this mid-life mark. I think it may even be beyond the ability of our “Fit Bits” to calculate.

But still,  what if I took my new found hour from this past Sunday and harnessed it – set it aside and earmarked it for a special focus? What if I took that hour and did the same thing each day, just for one hour?  I did the math to see how long it would take me to put 10,000 extra hours into my “practice” (at one hour per day) to become a “master,” and it turns out it would take 27 Years! Ha! No Way!

Backing off this big gun challenge of 10,000 hours, or the hope of becoming a “master”,  the baby step route was my fall back.  I decided to carve out 30 hours for 30 days to focus on something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile and I am going to dedicate one hour each day to it. I’m starting today, Tuesday November 4th and finishing on December 4th.

The trouble is, trying to figure out what I should focus on wasn’t so easy, so I created a list.  I came up with 9 activities I could do with my extra hour – and each one was something I would do alone – because I couldn’t necessarily count on someone else to engage with consistently every day. I basically nixed most to these as I went along until I finally came up with something I could get psyched for:

  1. Abdominals –I could maybe have a 6 pack in 30 days– sounds awful and I knew I’d quit by Day 3!
  2. Read – I could read more because I love it but I do this anyway.
  3. Meditate and practice yoga for 30 days. Thirty minutes of each. Every day? Big commitment! I knew I wouldn’t do it.
  4. Paint: Buy a canvass and paints and just start. I think I need a teacher!
  5. Cook: A new recipe every day.  Feed my family or cook for a family in need. (No: everyday in the kitchen is not pleasurable).
  6. Write: Journal, or blog or finish the book I have been working on. (I need to do this anyway– kind of feels like cheating).
  7. Photo albums: finish the photo album projects and make books for the kids just in time for the holidays.(Torture!)
  8. Music: listen to music, learn to sing harmonies and/or practice an instrument. Learn a new song. (This sounds dreamy!)
  9. Give back: Take an extra hour each day to help someone else. Make time for a friend who is sick and visit regularly. Or volunteer time to help someone out.  (Very appealing and satisfying).

The obstacle that makes this challenge super tough is picking just one goal and sticking with it.  I decided that because an hour can feel very long  and 30 days seems like a lot to do the same thing each day over and over — I need to pick more than one. So,  I’m picking #8 and #9 and plan to  toggle between the two. Wish me luck. What about you?

Shootings, Beheadings and Deadly Disease: Should We Be Scared?

Scream-font-b-Scary-b-font-font-b-Movie-b-font-Ghost-Face-MaskI woke up to three jaw dropping, truly frightening stories in Sunday’s New York Times that got me thinking about how much scary news there is these days – and it got me thinking about why I feel so scared.

For me what feels scary is what I don’t expect, what I can’t anticipate and what I have no control over. Screaming out with no one in earshot and no way to be rescued — that’s scary! No matter what the effort – there is no way out.

What if you never imagined the worst that could happen, and then it does. Something really horrible and inconceivable happens, but it was never on your radar – and now it’s in the newspaper, and on TV, which means it’s in your home and getting closer.

You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the stuff on the front page of the New York Times.

By 11:30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was distraught from reading the Times. Jim Foley’s detailed story leading up to his beheading, the country in a panic about Ebola and our high school kids terrorized by one of their own. Frankly I don’t know where to put all this fear.

First, the detailed story about the beheading of James Foley, the Global Post journalist and his nearly two years in captivity. The heart wrenching description of his torture by ISIS –the terrorist group who is gruesome and cruel beyond imagination – is laid out in 3 pages of excruciating detail that makes Homeland look like Disney.

And then of course the other front page article, about the tentacles of the deadly Ebola outbreak which convinces you that it may be coming to your neighborhood.

And if you missed that, perhaps you caught the story of the football player who had 2,000 Facebook friends, was super friendly… but became a shooter at a high school near Seattle, Washington.  He took out his best buddies and his two cousins. Does it makes you think about your local highschoolers?

These stories were really scary to read– unexpected, unimaginable, definitely unanticipated and beyond my scope of control.

And it got me thinking about the barrage of so much awful news. How come the world seems so frightening? Maybe I’m just naïve? Why are these stories of death and destruction and disease a surprise? Is it possible that we are living in a new world that is less safe and thus scarier than ever before? Is the media exaggerating, or is there just too much of it?

Overwhelmed, I put down the paper and try to bring some normalcy into my Sunday.

My husband and I, back from our Sunday bike ride, sat down to our delicious cozy brunch of poached eggs and coffee from a country we’ve never been to “Sumatra?” and settled onto the couch.

But I couldn’t help but feel haunted by these stories. How do our minds adjust to so much gruesome news in our living rooms, and knowing so much, how do we continue to go about our days? How do we not feel anxious about what appears to be a shift to our family’s security and our daily lives?

Well the answer is “we just do.” Denial, rationalization, and practical thinking take hold. When we read the global events that are at our doorstep, we do what we do best – we compartmentalize, philosophize, rationalize and ignore.

We know that war correspondents who head into enemy territory are at risk. We grew up with stories of POW’s from the Vietnam war. But this is different! In the half century I’ve been on the planet – watching a beheading of a journalist on my big screen TV is surreal. And as a mother, all I can think of is Jim Foley’s family. As a publisher, I feel for his employers who he was filing stories for. And as someone who reads news like a hound – I am awed by the sacrifice he made to bring the world into my living room, and I feel sickened and saddened by his sacrifice.

And as far as Ebola goes — my mind works overtime on this topic. First I rationalize and compartmentalize. Our parents dealt with Polio – my dad was in a hospital for a year with polio and my Nana told me stories of how we had to stay off the beaches for a summer for fear of being infected. I read each day about our health care systems’ Ebola response capabilities and conclude that they will figure it out – and so I don’t cancel my weekend flight from JFK with my husband.

And then I think about the High School kid who takes out his friends and family for no apparent reason. And, I think about our gun control laws and how passionately I feel about this issue and I should do more about it –and then I just feel sad for all the kids who go to school afraid, and I think about the boy’s family and hope there’s some huge secret they will reveal about this boy which explains why he did what he did.

And then my dog Jazz jumps into my lap and I snuggle her. I hold her tight. I look at my sweet husband who has moved on to the Modern Love section of the New York Times and, there is a bit of order in my living room.  I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and am grateful that for a moment, I am not scared.

 

When A Friend Doesn’t Tell You They Had Face Work Done

face liftSo I met a friend for lunch the other day. I hadn’t seen her in years, like 20 years.  I arrived a few minutes late and when I walked into the restaurant a woman jumped up from her chair – opened her arms wide and gave me the hugest hug. It was my old friend. I was rattled to say the least. She didn’t look like the friend I remembered.

We are both in our mid-50’s and not only was her skin smooth and unwrinkled – it was tight/taught. She really didn’t look like the same person – she was almost unrecognizable to me. I tried really hard to be in the moment – to share life stories, find an easy rhythm but honestly I couldn’t stop staring at her face. Frankly I found myself half listening because my mind chatter was in full swing… I really wanted to ask her; “What did you do?  Is that a facelift plus something else – when did you have it done?”

After our lunch I came home and showed my husband her yearbook picture and then her current Facebook picture. He agreed – he too saw two different people. It was really hard to process and I felt badly that I was even obsessing about it. Why did I care so much?

I know my lines are running deep on my face and when I massage my night cream in an upward motion each evening I notice how much younger I look on the upsweep. Yes I imagine that I could look younger if I got a little lift (whatever that really means).  I know our aging skin is a universal topic and we are all either making peace or making change at this midlife juncture. I like to believe it’s a universal conversation – and therefore something we actually talk about — and I would like to think I have no judgments about anyone who opts for the knife or the needle.

Another friend of mine did have “work” done. She actually called me and wanted me to know that she wasn’t going out for a while until she had healed. I so appreciated her honestly and her sharing. When we eventually met up, I saw how her look  had changed a bit and frankly, she looked great. She’s so pleased with her decision and I am really happy for her. I never really think about it when I see her — it’s just not a topic.

When I reflect on the difference between these two stories it’s clear to me that the full disclosure approach creates an open trusting feeling. When there’s no “big secret” between two friends, there’s no opportunity for discomfort.

So, I was thinking about how the “secret” of plastic surgery can actually create some kind of breach of trust. How do you feel when a “close” friend is secretive about such a huge decision?

Well in the first instance, I hadn’t seen this woman in 20 years. Why would she even share her plastic surgery with me and why did I need her to?  I was truly fine with her not sharing –but nevertheless it was jarring.

But a close friend – that’s a different story. If they have surgery on their face do they really think you aren’t going to notice?

And now if you ask them what’s different and they don’t tell you they had “work” done – well then all of a sudden a trust is breached – they aren’t being straight with you. And then – well the foundation of honesty gets undermined because they don’t come clean on what you know to be true – that they had something shot into their face – or had undergone the knife – and you a bit feel shut out – and maybe you begin to retreat –because if they can’t share something as important as altering their face with you – then perhaps you feel less willing to share your “stuff” with them.

Or maybe it’s because they don’t want to be judged about their dissatisfaction with the way they look and how much they want to look younger and fresher. Well then, it seems the best approach would be a generous ice breaker like, “You look fabulous, what’s different?” And maybe they will share with you or maybe not right then.

Anyway in the spirit of full disclosure I want to share a video I found.  It’s a natural way to get a facelift – no kidding! Let’s just say it’s a cross between Jack Lalane and yoga for the face.

But there’s a risk to watching it –if you click below, you may create more laugh lines on that brow of yours.

 

 

 

 

 

Changing My Attitude About Sickness After 50

Caring for Sick FriendsThis past year I decided I needed an attitude adjustment regarding personal health – my own and others. You see, for most of my life I’ve had a pretty odd relationship with conversations around health issues. Up until now I’ve been what I would call, dismissive and intolerant and my mind seems to automatically shut down when friends and family start talking about medical details.

Personally, I power through fatigue, retreat to my yoga mat to stretch my aches and generally avoid the doctor. I take no vitamins and pray hard that I’ll get the thumbs up during my annual physicals. Up until now I have subscribed to exercise and diet as my medicine with a few z-packs on the side and gotten away with it.

Somehow, I’ve perceived giving into discomfort as equivalent to feeling old. My Dad was very judgmental about health issues. When my mom would get sick his line was, “your Mom is enjoying poor health.” Empathy around health issues was not in his vocabulary. I adopted my Dad’s attitude and decided that those who complained were indulgent – full stop.

That worked until recently.   Life in my 50’s is demanding a change in my language and attitude around health issues. Instead of fixing – it’s about “living with and adapting to.” My very knowledgeable dear friend recently told me that most people of our generation will be “living with cancer vs. dying from cancer.” When he first said this, I was frightened (that was 2 years ago), today, that comforts me.

One of my dearest friends is suffering from a virulent cancer and she has been “living with her cancer” for 3 years now. The road has been very very difficult, she is strong and so is the medicine but unfortunately, so is the cancer. Nonetheless, she lives with it and makes the best out of each and every day.

Wisdom and age hopefully live side by side at midlife and beyond so, at 50 it stands to reason that old knee jerk behaviors begin to evolve when reason merges with experience. And now that the health conversation is prevalent amongst family and friends – I’ve noted that my pre-50 year old outlook no longer serves me.

This is why recently when confronted with my dear friend’s illness, I have chosen to stay vs. retreat – to listen and ask vs. distract the conversation –and admit to myself that I am limited to being present and loving. This is the best me I can bring in times of need to those I love. This is a huge shift.

While this change in behavior has happened gradually, it has come with a lot of self-criticism and a lot of inner dialogue. Being more present raises the issue of – “What more can I do to help”?

Accepting my own limitations to give, to comfort, and to share the finite hours in my day challenges me to step up even more – question whether I can do more. “Doing the best I can”, never quite feels like enough… yet I know it needs to FEEL like it’s enough.

So now in my 50’s I am working on balancing self-kindness and giving. I have exhausted myself time and again thinking I could do more.

The evolution continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not A High Maintenance Eater… Am I?

When Harry Met SallyAfter 20 years of enduring endless smirking by my children in restaurants, I want to address a sensitive topic: ordering food. I really don’t think I’m difficult to please – at least food-wise. I definitely don’t view myself as a high maintenance restaurant customer.

I’m kind of put off when I’m out to dinner with my kids and they start looking tense when I begin to order my meal. I don’t get why they are instantly embarrassed when I ask a few questions of the waiter. I’m really not that difficult.

For instance, the other night at our favorite Italian restaurant my husband and son “conspired” to share an appetizer of Parpadella Bolognese. “Whoah,” I said, “what about me? You know I don’t eat meat and I would love to share a pasta with you guys.” The boys shrugged me off and told me to order my own pasta without meat. I must have looked a little sad because the waiter felt sorry for me and offered to bring me a small portion of the same pasta, without the meat.

Perfect! Was that so difficult? The only problem was my pasta arrived with just butter on it, and no sauce (as if for a toddler.) Bummer. I gently asked the water if I could have some red sauce on the side.

“Oh, I thought you didn’t want sauce – no problem”.

“Actually I wanted sauce, just no meat.”

My son and husband chuckled — I didn’t take their bait.  The kind waiter brought me some incredible red sauce “on the side”. You see, I’m not so high maintenance.

It turns out if you’re wondering whether you’re a high maintenance eater or not, it depends who you ask; the server, your spouse, your kids or your friends.

My friends and I are on the same menu page. They’ve never even intimated I’m a difficult customer. In fact, I know I’m on the normal spectrum. As a regular at girls’ nights, women’s lunches and walking group morning coffees, I’ve seen the full spectrum of “special needs” food requests.

I have friends who order most of their entrée on the side – like my most stylish friend, who orders a virtual poo poo platter that spills over into the middle of the table with plates of extra avocado, tomato, and a little bit of extra parmesan slices to supplement her main course– of lettuce. Frankly, I love when she does that because she shares the overflow, and I love those extras.

My vegan friends pepper the poor server with questions about what’s in the soup or the sauce and by the time the server gets to me I am determined to make their life easy. After all, I’m not vegan, I like house wines, I don’t care if the salmon has been farmed or wild – but I know the difference. I’m pretty easy going about all this stuff.

I’ve been ordering dressing on the side since 1979. I’m not saying I don’t use it- I just like to be in charge of how much I put on. In the beginning (like the first 20 years) my special request was motivated by controlling my calorie intake. For instance, I used to order blue cheese dressing, but ordering it “on the side” made me feel less guilty (I told myself I use less than the chunks slopped on my salad by the chef).

The next 10 years my tastes changed—but my desire to control my calories did not. I started ordering balsamic and oil – the bottles – no pre-mixes. I believed this tasted better and it allowed the authentic lettuce flavor to shine through. But, apparently, my request still required a special effort for the server and thus – I got the raised eyebrows from my boys that said, “Mom, You are SOOOO high maintenance”. So what!

In the last few years my dressing preference changed again, and now I prefer really good salt and lemon and a little olive oil. See, I’m getting easier as the years go on. I even carry my own salt (Maldon or Himalayan)– so all I ask for is a a few slices of lemon and some olive oil. I think I must be a breeze of a customer for most servers.

On the spectrum of high maintenance orderers, I’m convinced I’m one of the easiest to please these days. I have no allergies, I don’t ask about what’s in the sauce (except if there’s onions or garlic because I can’t digest it). I don’t make special vegan requests (except if the fish has bread crumbs I request it to be grilled or broiled with no “stuff” on it). Of course butter is fine.

I’m definitely not a pain about ordering desserts. I love sweets but can’t they just offer a square of dark chocolate – I’m willing to pay.

I recently replayed the segment from Harry Met Sally about “High maintenance women”. And, I gotta say, I was totally aligned with Meg Ryan when Billy Crystal peppered her about her food issues. I’m still sticking with my story — I’m not high maintenance – I just know what I like.

How would you rate your self: High Maintenance or Low Maintenance?

 

Three Days In Iceland

Visiting IcelandMy husband and I negotiated for months and finally carved out 7 days for an adventure just for the 2 of us. Work and family obligations, holidays and daily routines in a life we enjoy make travel seem like an effort lately but we know, once on the road – we have a great time in the world. After spending hours trying to pick a destination, we settled on 2 places we’d both never been – Iceland and Amsterdam.

However, not 20 minutes from home — we met our first obstacle.

At the check-in counter Bill and I were informed they didn’t have our reservation — in fact — we hadn’t bought the tickets. WHAAAT?

He looked at me and nervously laughed – really? Admittedly, reservations were my domain. Hey, what about the itinerary they emailed me the day I booked the flight? Was there a next step – You bet!

At that moment – we had our first lovely Icelandic experience. The kindest manager from Icelandic Air rebooked us with a smile and honored our price (ok it’s not peak season – but still!).

Despite our ridiculous Seinfeld-like check-in, our flight was easy as it’s less than 5 hours. We took their afternoon flight and arrived at 11:30 pm Iceland time – a civilized way to travel into a 4-hour time zone difference.

Reykjavik Weather in September:

We packed for all types of weather as our weather app hadn’t shown us anything but rain. Obsessively checking the weather in Reykjavik didn’t make the rainy forecast disappear. Despite the bleak 47 degrees and 90 percent rain prediction for the entire 3-day stay, the weather in Reykjavik turns out to be basically un-forecastable. We had no downpours, plenty of sun and a full mix of other stuff.

What to Pack For Iceland in September:

Whining doesn’t work in Iceland – layering does.

If you think you know what to expect during a day’s outing you’re wrong. With a fully loaded light backpack you can be ready for anything.  Here’s a typical mid-September day: 9 am rain and 42 degree weather; by 10 am it’s cloudy and the wind has picked up and the damp coldness rattles your bones. A scarf, gloves and wool hat are added to your just-in-case raincoat. Wait 30 minutes and the sun shines and you start to peel down your layers –and then the rain – some more wind – then sun. Seriously it’s not even noon yet!  You get the picture.

For evening — what we wear at home works in Iceland too — nothing too fancy or fussy. Just pack your favorite jeans and sweaters and a special dressy outfit, which you may never wear.

Iceland’s Vibe

Iceland’s very name invokes a shiver and its volcanic, glacial land in the northern Atlantic defines it. Iceland is bubbling, exploding, erupting and pristine. Geothermal steam from the ground warms it and electrifies it.

The September sky is illuminated with northern lights (if there are no clouds you can see it – we did not). The ground is spouting steam from its geysers and lava from it’s volcanoes – fish are jumping from its streams and ocean and music pours out of the teaming café life. The people of Iceland are kind, warm and stoic. They are hard working busy people who live in a land commanding an acceptance philosophy as its weather is harsh, cold and dark for a long period. They are proud and respectful of their land and tell you they have what they need right here – food, natural resources and each other.

Transportation:

Transport is not cheap in Iceland so best to have a plan. Taxis are a fortune. It cost us $180 to cab-it from the airport to our downtown hotel. We should have taken the fabulous Reykjavik Excursion bus for about $40. You don’t need a car in the city but for any excursions you’ve got 3 good options: Car rentals are about $300 a day all-in and certainly cheaper than a private driver which can run $600 for the day or the tour buses which are clean and efficient and your most economic option.

Day One Reykjavik and The Blue Lagoon:

We spent our first morning wandering the streets of the city with our guidebook and loved meandering around charming neighborhoods. Shops are fun if you like athletic wear – there’s plenty of great outdoor gear and clothing stores.

Blue LagoonThe afternoon we hopped a bus to the Blue Lagoon (http://www.bluelagoon.com) and arrived 2 hours prior to our massages. (You need to pre-book treatments). The Blue Lagoon is perhaps the world’s largest hot tub. The place is pristine and feels like a private spa. Despite the 47 to 50’ish degree air temperature and on and off again rain – we swam for the full 2 hours. I smeared exfoliating mud on my face from the free mud pots – and, we floated around talking to other travelers from all over the world. A few breast strokes and we arrived at the treatment area and were met by 2 strong Icelandic masseuses in wet suits. They covered us in water soaked blankets, which they continuously re-soaked to keep us warm while we lay on our backs on floating yoga-mats under cold drizzly skies. Cold fresh air in our nostrils, drizzle on our faces, tucked into warm soaked blankets with great massages – fantastic! Meanwhile, an impromptu a capella group who were hanging at the pool-bar broke into song.

That night we ate the freshest cod and salmon that was surely same day, sea to table fare.

Day 2: The Golden Circle Tour

Golden CircleWe hired a driver to take us around the Golden Circle. Way too pricey! Renting a car or taking the tour bus would have been way better. Our driver was a man of very few words – Icelandic, stoic and kind but definitely not chatty. The country is green and volcanic. The rolling land of dark volcanic material covered in beautiful green moss creates a soft-carpeted effect. Glaciers and mountains stand boldly in the background — too far for us to go to for the afternoon. There was virtually no traffic. The sites were approachable and refreshingly un-commercial. We walked pristine paths to waterfalls, watched a Geyser explode again and again for over and hour (It’s bigger than Old Faithful). At each stop we hiked on designated paths. It was an easy, full day, 7-hour trip (but you could do it in less).

And in the evening we wandered into a lovely restaurant where we ate flakey, fresh, just-caught Cod.

Day 3 The Western Peninsula:Snaefellsnes:

Iceland WaterfallsWe rented a car and headed west for a 7-hour adventure – guidebook in hand of course. Snaefellsnes’ is a jaw dropping natural treat boasting waterfalls, glaciers, and the roaring blue sea sharing the land with the dark ominous volcanic mountains. We took a walk along the dramatic coast from Arnarstap to Hellnar (2.5 km) which was spectacular.

http://www.west.is/Home/VisitSnaefellsnes/

And guess what we had for dinner? More just-caught cod!

In 3 days we’d fallen in love with Iceland and are definitely gong back for more hiking and hanging out.  Nevertheless, we were ready to go and take our virgin voyage to Amsterdam for the next 4 days.

 

Meredith Vieira Helps Us Understand Why Abused Women Stay

whyistayed whyileftI don’t understand why abused women stay with their men.

Seems like we’re all talking about the Ray Rice story –not only that he knocked out his “fiancée” and married her shortly thereafter, but alarmingly – that she is defending her decision to stand by her man! This is the issue that we are all buzzing about as we try to explain her actions.

Initially this story was about the NFL’s inaction — but it’s moved beyond that as the NFL owners and commissioner have finally taken serious action.

Nevertheless, it didn’t make sense why the NFL didn’t ban him initially in March when Rice first confessed to them that he had beaten his fiancé and knocked her out on February 15th, 2014. It seemed like pathetic hand slapping when he was indicted by a grand jury one month later, on March 27th for 3rd degree aggravated assault with a possible jail term and fine. Thank goodness for the press, social media and you tube as the NFL couldn’t escape public opinion once the video went viral! Rice got a more appropriate punishment once the video was released on Sept 8th .

The question still remains — what took them so long?

While the NFL’s delay calls into question how the NFL deals with it’s people for sure, that doesn’t surprise us. Football players’ popularity, for years, has been measured by what they do on the field and not by their personal lives—and now — hopefully things are about to change.

But what surprises us most is one day after the March 27th indictment, on March 28th — Janay Palmer married her fiancée Ray Rice. THE NEXT DAY after the indictment! One month after being “cold cocked” and spit on in the elevator she married him on March 28th…WTF??

Despite being banished from play, Ray is out and about in his life with his lovely family cheering on young players at the high school where he got his start. Only a few weeks after being banned from play, Janay and Ray and their child were at a football game at their alma mater, New Rochelle High School, on September 14th, where the high school administration correctly removed his jersey from their hall of fame display. Nevertheless, New Rochelle High’s team coach still considers him part of the “football family of New Rochelle.”

But, what about Janay? What’s going on in her battered head? It’s hard to understand how she married him right after the knock out. For women who have never been in an abusive relationship – it seems unfathomable. And I for one am grateful for how the social media (Facebook and Twitter) creates a transparent outlet for sharing this topic; why battered women actually choose to stay – or don’t leave their abusive relationships. After reading the twitter posts of abused women there is no question – this is a very complicated issue.

Take a look at what’s happening on Twitter, whether or not you have a twitter account, you can still read what’s going on for abused women on the hash tags: #WhyIStayed and #whyileft.

Amazingly, Meredith Vieira spoke candidly about the abusive relationship she was in during her early years. Her take-away from her own experience — “it’s complicated.” Take a look at her disturbing story here:

Meredith’s reveal helped me a lot. Hey, it’s easy to dismiss Janay’s behavior as her life experience is so different than mine or my children’s.  But, Meredith brings the story of why women stay to an everywoman level. That creates a greater level of empathy for many of us.

And while we are on the subject –we are of course concerned about Ray’s role modeling for young boys aspiring to be “just like him?”

But, what are we to do about Janay?

How do we explain this story to our kids — where a woman gets beaten and marries the guy who beats her?

The video of her being beating will live on and not only have hundreds of thousands of people seen it thus far — her children will surely see it too. So, what I’m wondering is how Janay explains her decision to her children, to her family and to herself and how we explain this story to our own loved ones.

But one good thing has come out of this horrendous story, and that is, everyone is talking about it and that’s got to be better than keeping this topic swept under the rug.

 

 

 

Stray Balls: A Golfer’s Worst Nightmare

golf-accidentI never thought I’d become one of those people who sit around telling golf stories. Really, how old (and boring) do you have to be to start talking about the thrill of sinking a 30-foot putt, or landing a 190-yard drive in the middle of the fairway?

Have I got your attention? Probably not yet, but….

Here is the male version of my story, courtesy of my friend Joe:  “Some A-hole hit me with a ball while I was putting. I shrugged it off and sank the putt. I had $20 bucks riding on it.”

Proving that men are from Mars, and women from Venus, here is my very female, and accurate play by play story:

I was on the 16th green putting for a “bogey” (one over par) – and got hit– really hard– by a golf ball on the 16th hole.  Don’t worry, I’m fine.

I was super focused on my putt, when SLAM, I heard myself scream “OUCH” as I watched a golf ball drop from my left forearm to the ground. Aghast, I watched this curious circular piece of broken skin on my arm turn bright red, where the ball had struck, and to instantly swell. I looked across to the 11th hole from where this stray ball originated and couldn’t imagine how this was possible.

Two men appeared through the trees from another fairway both shouting, “OMG, are you OK, what can we do? I’m so, so sorry.” My first thought was, “Really? How could they have possibly hit me?” It didn’t make sense that the ball could have come at a right angle into my arm from another fairway which was almost out of sight.

My friend Debby and I hurried to our cart, determined to get to the clubhouse ASAP for the ice, and debated if I should go to the ER to check if I had broken something, as my forearm was doubling in size. Just as we were ready to go, the men were upon us at the cart. I looked over and there appeared a friendly familiar face.

“Oh, Felice, it’s you!  Are you ok?”

It was my friend Jason, a great guy with the sweetest smile ever.

“Jason,” I said with a smirk, “did you hit me?”

“No, no it wasn’t me, it was him,” and he pointed to his friend who was looking on with concern.

“I’m so sorry,” the friend said, “I shanked a ball, and can’t believe it hit you.”

“Listen,” I said, “I’ve got to get some ice on this arm,” not wanting to make full eye contact with his friend, the culprit, as he looked so guilty about his poorly hit shot.

“Jason,” I said, “since you’re a doctor, can you tell me if you think I may have broken something in my forearm.”

He laughed and said, “Hey, I’m a GYN, …sorry that’s not my area of expertise.”

“Pretend it’s a vagina then… is it broken?”

Jason laughed and retorted, “Well my first question would be, when was your last period?”

Touché, a little humor, a great laugh, and a perfect distraction to this ridiculous situation.

“Ok, I’m off for ice.”

“Wait”, Jason said, “I didn’t properly introduce you to my friend Rick.” Rick nodded and said he was so sorry, yet again, and looked upset. I wanted to make him feel better but I really needed to get some ice.

“No, no truly, I’m going to get ice and go to get an x-ray.”

And then Jason completed the intro – “Rick is a famous author, you know… Richard North Patterson.”

Only on Martha’s Vineyard I thought! A day at the public golf course, and I am meeting a hugely famous author who luckily didn’t knock out my eye or hit me in the head with his shank. I was feeling so lucky at that moment (NOT).

“Nice to meet you Rick,“ and off Debby and I went. I was not starstruck, just struck and that was all I could deal with. Debby and I headed to the Martha’s Vineyard ER which was totally empty as it was one week after Labor Day. And in just 45 minutes we were seen, x-rayed, and given an arm cast with instructions to rest my arm for two days.

I called my friend Jason to let him know I was fine and he and his wife invited me for tea the next day. As I walked into their lovely home he handed me a hard cover copy of Eden in Winter, the new book by his friend Richard North Patterson with an inscription which read:

“To Felice, I’d do anything to meet you, and did. Enjoy the book, I hope. Sheepishly, Richard North Patterson.”

I guess older men have trouble keeping track of their balls.

Felice Interviews Sex Crime Expert and Author Linda Fairstein on Sexual Assault Issues At College

Linda FairsteinLinda Fairstein is an amazingly accomplished woman and whether you realize it or not – you’ve met her. You’ve met her because she was the head of the Sex Crimes Unit at the Manhattan DA’s office for almost 30 years.

You may remember Linda from some of her high-profile trials, like the “Preppy Murder Case” in 1988, which was the prosecution of Robert Chambers for the Central Park killing of Jennifer Levin.  Linda is also the founder of the Domestic Violence Committee of the New York Women’s Agenda and is on the road giving talks around issues of domestic abuse.

I met Linda at her beautiful home on Martha’s Vineyard and we talked about her work. Linda is a passionate and voracious writer, which is a natural outflow from her experiences in the DA’s office. If you haven’t gotten hooked on her books you may want to try the latest one set in Grand Central Station, her 16th crime novel, Terminal City which was just released this past summer and was an instant New York Times bestseller.

We talked about the risks our kids face on college campuses and how prevalent sexual assault is. I asked Linda about what you would say to your kids going off to college regarding these issues and here’s her advice, which I recommend you forward to your kids.

1. Take the freshman and peer orientation courses training about sexual assault seriously because you or a friend are likely to encounter this problem on campus.

2. Be aware of risks of alcohol abuse and the occurrence of sexual assault.

3. Understand the significance of someone saying no –No means No.

4. When someone appears to have passed out, it is not a smart time to have intercourse. So if the person seems to be incapable of consenting to a sexual act, that may have the same legal effect as saying ‘no.’

5. Stay vigilant about your buddy system.   Especially for young women, there is a real danger of binge drinking even with peers. So whether you are at your frat house or in an unfamiliar place, make sure you have a buddy so everyone gets back to their dorm or apartment safely.

6. Bystander Intervention is the new buzzword and allows anyone who observes a ‘bad’ situation to step in to prevent abuse. Whether or not you are a buddy to the person who appears to be in jeopardy, take responsibility and intervene. Be a Good Samaritan and break up what looks like a potentially dangerous situation.

7. This issue – sexual assault and date rape – is an problem on every college campus in this country. Get familiar with the rules, regulations, and procedures at your school, and also know when it’s appropriate to call 911 and get law enforcement professionals involved in a case.

I learned from Linda that eighty percent of sexual assaults are committed between people who know each other and that rape is the second most serious crime in any penal law anywhere – murder is the only more serious issue than this. And, one of the most challenging issues for colleges today is that schools are mandated by the federal government to do their own adjudications now. Linda speaks of this challenge as training an academic or student to be an investigator and prosecutor, which has created huge issues for college administrators.

We talked about how societal views have changed since our time in school. In the 70’s and 80’s when women were “blamed” for their victimization, they were discouraged from stepping forward and were often afraid to speak out.   But over the last 10 years, the word ‘rape’ has been leveled against many students, and now the problem is whether either party – the accuser or the young man who stands accused – is getting any semblance of due process in the college adjudication system.

It’s no surprise that Linda Fairstein is being called on regularly to speak about sexual assault on college campuses. Earlier this year, she keynoted the first national conference on this issue at the University of Virginia.

If you want to hear Linda discuss the topics of domestic violence and sexual assault – or her books – check out her website or facebook page, which list her speaking engagements. Linda says that at her book talks women are especially interested in the law and special victims issues.

 

 

Drones At Home: Are You Ready?

droneProject Wing was revealed by Google this past week with a video of dog food being dropped from a Drone. Whoah – really?  This may be the first time I may be showing my age, because cautionary alarms are going off in my head.

The reality is, it’s hard not to meet a Drone up close and personal and not have some kind of reaction. Even the word drone carries it’s own tone (so to speak). To Drone is not really a nice image. Unanimously we all want to take flight when anyone drones on and on for too long. But I digress.

This past weekend our friends gave us a demonstration of their new Drone. They skillfully launched this buzzing oversized Jack (you know the game of Jacks that you played with a small ball for hours). Well, they airlifted Jack from their own little launch pad (a white surface the size of Home Plate)–– flew it up to the second story deck where  a group of us were standing and there it hovered and hovered and hovered. Apparently it was snapping pictures in our faces –and as it buzzed and hovered, we all gawked and yakked about this visitor/ intruder/ invader/ stalker/ ingenious device … and then we watched them land their toy Drone – brilliantly and precisely back on the landing pad.

With mouth agape I tried to process the free flow of thoughts invading my brain:

“OMG, that machine is actually hovering in front of us and – it’s taking our picture – that is amazing – no that is disturbing – no that is revolutionary – well I’m not sure what it means but I’m having some negative thoughts about this extreme toy.” And without coming to any conclusion I began to survey my friends to see where they stood on the Drone.

The feedback ran the gamut from disturbing to cool – to ban them or let’s buy one. One friend mentioned how Drones could be at delivering medicine and supplies to remote places and people who needed help – Drones for Humanitarian purposes, pollution control (cutting down on delivery trucks), and bringing internet to remote areas. That makes sense but what about for personal use?

If you’ve only read about Drones at Home and haven’t listened to them  “live-in your face” or seen them up close and personal – it’s entirely different and here’s why:

  1. They make a humming bee like sound (maybe that’s the drone thing – annoying if you’re not into whirring machine like noises).
  2. They look like toys yet appear way smarter than any toy i’ve ever seen — when they hover up close it’s hard not to try to figure out what they are doing: snapping your picture, giving you the once over, grabbing information out of the cell phone in your pocket, or ready to shoot a squirt of water in your face?
  3. A Drone at Home in the wrong hands is kinda creepy – imagine if you don’t like your neighbor and their drone is hovering at your window snapping pix and feeding that info back to it’s source.
  4. Permission to Drone? What is appropriate Drone etiquette – is it ok for the Drone Driver –to just start launching without permission. Is this a solo activity or does it require consent of those being “droned.”

To be fair – I didn’t react well the very first time I experienced the Microwave. I was 14 years old and I was sure I was being radiated, after all, I had just finished reading On The Beach and I was sure the microwave was a gateway to nuclear destruction. In the same vain, images of Orwellian 1984’s Big Brother are going full frontal for me as I looked into the “eye” of this Drone. Yes, the eye – because that lens on the Drone looks like the peering perpetrating eye of a Cyclops.

But, because I am not an overly private person (hence this weekly blog), and am not a paranoid person by nature (except when I can’t find the jewelry I hid in my own home) – why should I be concerned about Drone invaders in the wrong hands?

With a Drone – it’s hard to see who is at the helm – where is the Wizard? A visitor from another planet?

I’m not going to stay up at night worrying about the Drones at my door for now – but I think it’s worth noticing that something revolutionary is happening at our doorsteps – and a radical new toy is making it’s way into our living rooms.

For now I think it’s safe to say,  it will not be on my birthday wish list. However if you’re intrigued you can buy it on Amazon with one click. http://www.amazon.com/DJI-Phantom-Vision-Quadcopter-Camera/dp/B00J8JLOA4/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1409519785&sr=8-6&keywords=drone

They Saved My Husband’s Life: One Year Later

Saving LivesWe got a little choked up at the pancake breakfast at our local firehouse in Edgartown this past Sunday. It wasn’t the pancakes and we didn’t require a heimlich maneuver – it’s just that, last year, they saved my husband Bill’s life.

One year after being pulled out from under a garbage truck after it collided with Bill while he was riding on the Katama bike path on Martha’s Vineyard a mile from our home — we were able to thank his rescue team.

It seems everyone has a story about an EMT who helped someone they know – but when it happens to you – well, that’s different.

My husband and I decided to thank our local fire department and EMTs one year to the day, on July 23rd with a rocking fundraiser for them – a true celebration of life. Dancing to our favorite foot stomping blue grass band (Parsonsfield), feasting on food served up by our favorite local food people, Regina Stanley who brought her Art Cliff Food Truck and Tina from Flatbread Pizza who turned out piping hot pizzas from her portable ovens on site – we danced under the tent at the Field Club on a perfect summer night.

And then the big memorable moment –the entire team of rescuers joined my husband on the stage to tell about their rescue. All 140 of us – who knew – it could have been anyone of us riding on that bike path that day – listened with gratitude to their story of professionalism as they used the jaws of life for the very first time to save him.

The biggest takeaway of the fundraiser was when the Fire Chief Peter Shemeth hugged us both and told us this was the first time his team had been so honored for a rescue. At that moment my husband and I looked at each other and knew – this was the right way to say thank you.

So when we presented our fundraising check — $15,000 of Gratitude raised by our friends and family, at this week’s annual Edgartown Fire Department’s Pancake Breakfast – we felt the big love once again. Healed, but still wearing the souvenirs of that tragic day one year ago – we both had a lump in our throats – not from fear – but from the joy of being able to give back to our community.

Looks like we may be eating pancakes once a year for rest of our lives.

 

Best Part Of The Empty Nest: Summer

best part of an empty nest summerThe best part of being in an empty nest with the kids out of college is – there’s no hurry to end summer. No one else’s deadlines are going to mess with my summer. I’m in charge of this calendar now!

Nevertheless, there’s a strange tick I feel in the back of my neck every time someone tells me they are packing up and heading home to go back to school or work. Normally I don’t want to be left behind but not this time, not this summer.

This summer, I have managed to spend some part of almost every day with my husband plus balance work, kid time and improve my golf and tennis games. I have biked endless miles and even made time for a few beach BBQ’s. I have had quality time with old friends and met a few new ones. I have had magical evenings of dinners filled with belly laughs. And yet still, I’m not done.

The New York Times greets me each morning with sad stories of violence in Russia and the Middle East, Ebola and rioting and it makes me want to shrink further into my hardened oyster shell of summer. The present moment has never felt quite so delightful.

When a hint of chilly fall air invaded an afternoon walk, I banished the thought that was threatening to undermine my day. “It’s still summer” is my mantra for the next 3 weeks. I’m an empty nester and I don’t have to move with the pack. I work remotely and my boys have careers – so I have no back to school shopping or urgent travel arrangements to make – I can chill a bit longer still.

Summer is a season that our activities stretch into every bit of daylight and out into the evening. The only way I could willingly surrender to Fall, is if I could do 5 more things this summer:

  1. Bike to my favorite pond and swim across it and lie on the raft at the far end before the water gets too cold;
  2. Host a dinner for a few treasured friends and dine outside;
  3. Sit on the beach under an umbrella for an afternoon with friends or a great book;
  4. Kayak cross our harbor to town – drink an ice coffee and kayak home;
  5. Nap on the screened in porch with my husband.

Somehow, I know there will be addendum’s to this list but for now, it’s enough. Happy summer to you all –I’m still in it and don’t intend to budge any time soon. By the way, as a protest to Fall, I’ve decided I’m wearing my white pants way past Labor Day this year.

My Hysterically Funny Fashion Crisis

fashion crisisIf I were 20, 30 or perhaps 40-something, I don’t think I would have found my latest fashion debacle particularly funny. I don’t think I could have of handled this “extremely outrageous” turn of events. In those earlier years, if someone had told me I should have worn a razor back bra – I had the wrong one on – or my bra straps showed –– I would have run to the ladies room to confirm my faux pas. If I had a dirt stain on my white paints – I would brush my backside nervously to try to remove the unresolvable for the duration.

My fashion self-consciousness over the past few decades has been driven by sloppy vs. style issues. Frankly, I’m comfortable with my taste in clothes– but I hate wrinkly, stained, spotted, tattered clothing. I like to look put together. And, since I live out of a suitcase most of the year, as I travel between New York and Boston each week, my clothing is often a victim of whatever is in my trunk – such as bike grease, hiking boot crud and my dog Jazz’s paws.

My comfort with fashion came together for me at 19 years of age during my year in Paris. It was then I embraced my “look” and proceeded confidently for the most part – except when I was told — my hem was unravelled or there was a hole in my stocking.

I have always loved vintage clothes. My Nana was the most stylish woman I know and I wore everything she gave me from age 13 and beyond. When I find an outfit that resembles Nana’s style, I am thrilled. That is why, what I wore to the dinner dance party this past Saturday night was particularly fun for me.

I have been savoring my ultra-suede, multi-colored neon, strappy short cocktail dress for 25 years. This dress was crazy cool in the late 80’s and I’ve been waiting for the right decade to bring it back out. It’s been living in the back of my closet all this time.

So, when I excavated it for this summer for some “special occasion” I didn’t have a particular event in mind. When I grabbed it from the closet, I saw the ultra-suede had worn thin along the seam, so my trusty “Clothes Doctor” gave it a good stitching and it looked like new.

When we got an invite to a summer dinner dance, I thought this could be it’s coming out. As I slipped on this little ultra suede number, I chuckled. “Oh this is fun – I am going to have a blast tonight”. (First premonition) As I made my living room entrance – my husband’s brows lifted and he chuckled. My son Jake and his two friends gave me a whistle. “That dress is fun – so cool.” I stood a little taller.

Arriving at the party I joined the huddle of women who were admiring one another’s dresses. The mood was light and playful and it seemed all were ripe for a different kind of night.

The weather was spectacular —  one night shy of the “super moon”, the light of that magical lunar orb lit up the sky. My husband and I settled onto an outdoor couch with our dear friends laughing and sharing our latest summer tales. After a bit – we decided it was time to dance and as I hopped up off the couch my friend Gwen said to me, “you’re not going anywhere – sit down.” She was hysterical laughing – she couldn’t contain herself.

“Your dress is split up the backside.”

I leaned hard into the couch so as not to “reveal” and slipped my hand behind and all I felt was skin. OMG – outrageous, the suede had dissolved! Vintage had vaporized on my backside. This was a riot! I laughed so belly-laugh loud, tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I couldn’t catch my breath. My husband took a gander and our laugh track was growing – Gwen’s husband was aghast – “are you kidding – this is a riot” and we were a full orchestra. We couldn’t stand it – it went on for what seemed like hours.

What I felt at that moment was sheer delight. This was so much fun! My first thought was I’m so glad I’m not 30, or 40 – I’m so glad I’m over 50 because this ridiculous fashion “crisis” is truly priceless – vs. devastating. And let me add – my butt is not my favorite “asset” (excuse the play on words).

I had no interest in sharing my shredded suede opening with anyone. Luckily, the venue we were partying in had a pool and lockers and a friend got me a bathrobe as a cover.

We all took to the dance floor, and laughed and danced a bit before the heat of the heavy robe became impossible.

When we arrived home, my husband and I were still hysterical and we looked up at the almost full moon and he chuckled – that was the best “super moon” I’ve ever seen.

The PMC: A Community That Makes A Difference

riding the pmcRarely have I met anyone who doesn’t love to show up at their annual traditions.

Looking forward to celebrating with friends and family anchored by a good meal or an adventure pushes me to buy that plane ticket to Thanksgiving, spend all day cooking to host a holiday, or train my butt off to show up at my annual biking fundraiser.

But what if showing up at the “event” puts you at risk of a job, your health, or your relationship or even your life? No question, you’d have to ask yourself – how much does this mean to me? Maybe I could just send a check?

This year I had to ask myself, how much risk and misery I was willing to accept to be part of a tradition that I have participated in for 28 years — the Pan Mass Challenge. This one weekend bike event raises money for cancer research at Dana Farber – and this year is committed to a $40 million dollar goal.

The event is a 2-day 194-mile bike ride across Massachusetts from Sturbridge, Mass to Provincetown. For 25 years I have ridden the entire 194-mile event. These past 3 years I have opted for the 1-day ride of 84 miles from Wellesley to Bourne.

No matter the distance, the weather or life event that has tempted me to opt-out – I’ve never regretted showing up.

Unfortunately, for the first time this summer weather.com was accurate in their forecast.  Saturday morning as we rode out of Wellesley in 90% humidity and 69-degree temps, as predicted, within one-hour we were pelted by rain, which did not let up for the entire ride. The temperature dropped to a cold chill of who knows – maybe 62 degrees about 30 miles from our finish. It was brutal and the most challenging ride I have done in my 28 years.  It was the “coldest sustained rain in the 35 history of the PMC.” That said – I showed up for the ride knowing these were going to be the riding conditions as I was fully committed to the cause.

On the road survival ruled. I left my group, unable to wait at water stops as the chill of the day threatened to settle into my bones. With fogged glasses, clammy cold and ineffective rain gear layered with the dirt spitting off the tires of the riders in front of me – every pedal stroke required full on focus.

Chilled to the bone I zeroed in on pictures pinned to the shirts of the riders around me.  Pictures of moms, dads, kids, and friends lost to cancer. I thought about the 3,700 volunteers and the 5,700 riders who came out this past weekend. We are proud that none of the money donated is wasted on top heavy administration. 100 percent of the Pan Mass Challenge donations go directly to cancer research at Dana Farber.

Every rider has a story at this event and Cancer is our common thread. This disease impacts us all. Personally, cancer has attached itself into my closest circle of friends and family and shifted the very fibers of our lives. And frankly, like so many, I feel helpless.

This 2-day bike ride gives all participants an opportunity to communicate their losses, feel the community of those who understand, while at the same time physically participle by riding and raising money for this cause.

The PMC event creates the glue that binds all of us together in our search to help one another as we struggle with this deadly disease.

So as I pedaled forward to the Day 1 finish in Bourne – those thoughts fueled me forward.

I am so grateful for the community that the PMC has created which includes all the riders, the volunteers and the donors who collectively are joined in one singular mission – to find a cure.

However, I admit that next year I wouldn’t mind a little sun, a sweet tail wind and moderate temps. But no matter, as long as I am able, I will ride this event again and again.

P.S. Thanks to my husband Bill Cress for co-writing this piece with me