Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Pear

I'm blogging today at  the Story Circle Network on their blog,  One Woman's Day. Please click here to read my post about this ornament. May all your holiday memories be sweet ones!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice Sisters

In 2009 I held my first winter solstice gathering. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, from that date forward, there is a bit more light every day until the Summer Solstice in June. It was such a success that I have continued the practice of hosting my treasured friends for a ceremony and meal to celebrate the return of the light.

We begin by creating a sacred space, passing a light until all candles are lit. Each woman speaks in turn, naming what she wants to leave in the darkness and what she wants to embrace in the coming light. Each woman also chooses a word as her focus for the next year.  Part of the magic is how intently we all listen to one another, honoring that woman and her choices.

This year I provided Sharpies, markers, pastels, colored pencils, magazines for collage cut outs, letter stamps, and glitter glue to decorate package tags with the chosen word to use as book marks or to tie onto a gear shift or mirror. There were also round balls that could be decorated with the word and hung on the Christmas tree.

Both the tags and the balls were creatively done!

As in the past, the celebration concludes with a shared meal. This year's menu included antipasto, Joy Behar's lasagna, vegetarian acorn squash lasagna with walnut cream, three green salads and a delicious lemon cake. It was an evening of food for the body and food for the soul.

Winter Solstice is a time for contemplation and renewal. It's a time to appreciate friendships, open our hearts to the possible, and state our intentions for the year to come. I'm grateful to have these women in my life.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Olive, an urban dive

An equally appropriate name might be: Olive, an urban dream.

Kim Collett, owner of Olive, an urban dive is quite a gal. After following the evolution of Olive on its face book site and enjoying several delicious lunches in the newly restored Wympee, I was anxious to meet her.

When my friend Lori treated me to a birthday lunch at Olive I had a chance to chat with Kim and walked away wowed. She took on the birth of Olive with spirit and grit. It was a hands on rehab of a very grungy Wympee. Kim, in one of her many prior career turns, had rehabbed for Habitat for Humanity on New York’s Lower East Side. She used every bit of the experience garnered there to gut the building and create a charming restaurant with an urban groove. Her mantra is:  “Use everything!” Her business model: “I’m Scottish!” Her work ethic: “I’ve never taken a job that I didn’t do like I owned the place.”

White Chimney Belgian Beer Bottles Repurposed as Lights

I believe there are many ways to get an education and that a college degree is not the only path to success and fulfillment. There is currently a lack of respect for the apprenticeship model, a lack of respect for craftsmen and artists. We are telling kids that the only way to be somebody is to have a college degree. It is refreshing to meet Kim whose life long willingness to try new things and create new and better ways to do something has led her to this point, restaurant owner and entrepreneur.  To stretch two months of travel money into a two and one half year stay in Europe, she established a nanny service while in England, bartended in Greece, and offered three day tours of Paris to fellow hostel dwellers. She's a creative problem solver and likes to find a niche and fill it!

The food at Olive is mostly local. On this day, the wait staff was wearing shirts sporting the list of local resources. She has a mutually profitable relationship with the vendors from Second Street Market and sends her compost over to The Garden Station.

The daily soup pays homage to the "use everything" mantra as it is created from unsold food from the prior day. The soup that accompanied my Ahi Tuna Tacos was Pork Barbecue and Sweet Potato. That sounded strange to me but was.... delicious! The slivers of basil added just the right touch. The Ahi mix for the build-it-yourself taco had cannellini beans and garbanzos! 

Kim's current dream for Olive is to watch it grow. I will not be surprised to see her at some point turn it over to someone else. She likes new challenges. In this tough economy she used her "I'm Scottish." business model to garner the $52,000 in promissory notes she needed, in combination with many woman hours, for start up costs. She's well on her way to paying those notes back. I think she's achieved a dream, starting a successful restaurant, that many aspire to but few actualize. 

So head downtown, to the corner of Third and Wayne, for delicious food and friendly service. Have a chat with Kim if you can rope her down for a moment. This time, she's working like she owns the place because she does! The Virginia Wolfe quote, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." is just right for this warm and welcoming place.

A rare moment, Kim sitting!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sensuously Sixty

I began this blog one year ago today, my birthday, with the express purpose of exploring how to reconnect with my body, to learn to live sensuously.  To celebrate I scheduled a Harmony Farm Ritual. Harmony Farm is a magical place. The beautiful buildings are nestled into a small hill overlooking a pond and open fields. When you enter the front door, the first sensual treat is the smell, eucalyptus, lavender, perhaps mint? Instantly soothing. I usually pause for a moment and breathe deeply, letting myself relax into the atmosphere. 

A soothing waterfall greets and welcomes.

The massage rooms are gorgeous, natural light and nature views. These windows overlook a sloping field and a copse of trees that shelter the labyrinth.

This is the back side of the complex. The massage rooms are on the left side, top floor.

A Harmony Farm Ritual consists of a one hour massage, a one hour facial, and organic sugar scrub treatments for hands and feet. After a lovely Reiki enhanced massage on a heated table, I was already feeling relaxed and centered in my body. Linda Blackburn, my healing practitioner for this experience, describes her skill and the setting perfectly on the website, “I believe massage can take you to a deep level of healing. It can help you reach into your soul and allow you to physically and mentally heal. When your body reaches that level, the muscles begin to relax and respond to the work the therapist is doing. Harmony Farm with its peaceful surroundings, adds a wonderful experience of relaxation and healing to your massage.” 

I never had either a facial or sugar scrub treatments. I loved both! By the time Linda was finished my skin was smooth and, well, glowing.  This truly was a sensuous experience and a perfect way to celebrate all I have learned about connecting with my body. This was a year well spent. Thanks for joining me on the journey.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reasons to Be Happy

Katrina Kittle takes on big issues in her novels. I've blogged about her previous book The Blessings of the Animals, tackling grief and healing post divorce. Her three prior novels dealt with AIDS, child abuse, and  deceit. Reasons to Be Happy is her first book for younger readers and I wondered if she would stay true to her big issue pattern. I was not disappointed. Addiction, in the form of bulimia, is the core of this story but it is beautifully and skillfully imbedded in a tale of conflict with parents, dealing with mean girls and peer pressure, first love, and staying true to one's self.  So how do these serious issues end up being such an engaging and uplifting book? 

Well, the main character, 8th grader Hannah, kept a list in a purple journal of her Reasons to Be Happy.   This list gives us insight into Hannah before she changed schools, before her mother became sick, before she lost bits of herself to peer pressure. By the end of the book, she has traveled full circle back to herself. Along the way she meets a young man passionate about music and secure in himself, orphans in Ghana who teach her about what matters, and artists young and old dedicated to their craft. Each meeting reminds her of parts of herself that she has abandoned and gradually reclaims. 

We are a culture that reveres thin. Pressure to be thin begins young and continues... forever. We are so concerned with "outside" that often who we are is lost. It is all about how we look. It is heartbreaking to realize how objectified women are. And it's not just the males who are doing this. We do it to ourselves. How many catty remarks do women make about other women's weight? How much time is wasted worrying about how much we weigh? What if we devoted that time to creative pursuits?  What could we accomplish? What problems could be solved? The basic fear is... Am I good enough? We are looking for validation outside our selves. 

Addiction is about numbing pain, tamping down fear. The market is saturated with books, television shows, and magazine articles proposing that food is often the legal "drug" used to achieve this. It seems the more we focus on losing weight, the heavier we are all becoming. I'd so love it if we could accept and value each person for who she, or he, is. Unconditional love and acceptance, now there would be a wonderful reason to be happy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rue Dumaine - C'est Magnifique!

As a committed life long learner, I enjoy taking and moderating, classes at UDLLI (University of Dayton Lifelong Learning Institute). One of my favorites this session has been the Dining in Dayton Sampler. Each class features speakers from one or two local restaurants who share their restaurants' history, menu options, and specialties.

Anne Kearney, Chef and Owner of Rue Dumaine

Today's presenters were Anne Kearney and Tom Sand of Rue Dumaine in Centerville, Ohio. Anne was charming, inspiring, modest, and... brought delicious food to share. Tom, her husband and fellow owner, added insight as to the business and beverage (They have great wines and innovative cocktails!) side of the restaurant as well as some wry humor. This American Bistro has many French influences and they thoughtfully include a small glossary of French terms on the reverse of the menu.

Anne's "Food of Love" began at fourteen as she took over making the family dinner when her mother began to work outside the home. She experimented with family favorite recipes and had even catered a wedding before she graduated from high school. After a year of college, she began to pursue her true passion at the Greater Cincinnati Culinary Arts Academy. I especially love this part of her story. Too often our culture dictates that you must have a college degree to be successful. It is one of my hopes that we again begin to value the artisans who prepare our food, repair our cars and plumbing, build our homes, create stories, plant gardens, and follow their passion in a myriad of other ways that do not require a college degree. I loved college but do not think it is the only way to prepare for a life of passion and worth.

Some of the seventy participants in the Dining in Dayton session

From Cincinnati, Anne moved to New Orleans where she was sous chef at Peristyle and both cooked and helped develop recipes at Emmeril's. She later purchased Peristyle, where in 2002 she received the James Beard "Best Chef Southeast award. It is our fortune that Anne and Tom returned to the Dayton area to be near both their families. In 2007, they opened Rue Dumaine.

Their passion for food, ambiance, and innovation is evident. As Anne prepared a fall salad and a gluten-free dessert, a slide show behind her added a visual feast of the plated meals, glassware, hanging meats, fresh vegetables, and even one of the farms that make Rue Dumaine special.  

Slide features Michael Malone of Hungry Toad Organic Farm

Tom remarked on the richness of the Dayton area with regard to restaurants, excellent markets, and availability of local and organic meat and produce. Post cancer, I have deliberately sought restaurants that use local, organic foods. Rue Dumaine's weekly menu lists the local farmers and artisans they have as suppliers for that week. Each dish is prepared when ordered so substitutions can be made to accommodate customer needs or preferences.

It is a lovely thing to spend a few hours listening to two people share their passion for both their restaurant and for Dayton. It is always energizing and inspiring to be in the company of folks following their dream. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Merry Mom Made Marmelade

Progress! I just had my third voice rehabilitation session. I am pleased to report that my voice is... improving! Jennifer Keyges, my therapist, noted that my voice is less scratchy and I am able to sustain notes longer and with better quality. She deemed me ready to go to the next level. This is the tool to help me get there.

Yes,  a kazoo!

The exercises I have been doing thus far centered around the middle of the body stack that we use to speak and sing.  At the bottom is respiration (diaphragm and lungs). In the middle is phonation (the vocal folds)  and at the top is resonance (mouth, nose).

We've been mostly working on phonation because of the damage to my vocal chords. As I've been working to sustain sounds, there has been some breath work involved and there will be more as I progress.  But now I am ready for resonance work.

Which brings me to the kazoo. As I was focused on taking a deep breath to sustain the sounds in the first set of exercises, I had some trouble switching from the gentle expelling of air to the "hum" necessary now. To play a kazoo, you don't blow, you hum. So these exercises start with a hum of the sound on the kazoo for about two or three seconds and then flow into chanting voiced "m" or "n" exercises. It begins with molm, molm, molm and goes to meem, meem, meem, and then moom, moom, moom. If I didn't feel silly enough doing that... we moved to sentences.


Mary made me mad.
My mom may marry Marv.
My merry mom made marmalade.

None know nothing now.
Nine knew nothing.
Name nine new names now.

I am becoming more and more aware of how I produce sound and where in my body the sound travels.

My assignment for the next few weeks is to continue the original exercises and add resonance chanting three to five times a day. I am happy to do this. My voice feels stronger and I find myself singing in the car a bit. I'm not ready for singing publicly but now believe it will happen one day. I'm so grateful.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Just Wanna Go to Rehab

I said, “Yes, yes, yes!” 

I used to sing well. And, I loved to sing. But chronic, allergy-related coughing and misuse of my voice left me with more of a croak than a singing voice. It got to the point where I would not even sing when I was in the car, alone!

I tried throat lozenges, allergy medication, cough suppressants and resting my voice. Nothing helped, I felt discouraged and, well, sad. I finally found my way to The Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis and Rehabilitation.

After an endoscopy to examine my larynx and esophagus (my vocal chords), I got the good news. There is no permanent damage, just severe bruising. The even better news is that, with therapy, I should be able to recover my singing voice. It was amazing to look at the photographs of my vocal chords. This is a whole new level of getting in touch with my body!

Now, comes the rehab part. My speech and language therapist gave me a series of exercises to rehabilitate my voice. The first round of exercises (they’ll change as I make progress) takes about ten minutes, twice a day. After sounding a note on a pitch pipe, she had me repeat and sustain that note for as long as possible while singing "eeee." Then I do the same exercise, on the same note, while buzzing the lips. The second exercise is to go from my comfortable low note to my comfortable high note. The third is the reverse, to go from my comfortable high to my comfortable low. The final exercise is a series of notes (G A B C) where I sustain the note for as long as possible to "oooo." I immediately noticed I was having trouble with the breath necessary to sustain a note so next time we'll work on that.

To assist my practice, she provided a CD with all the exercises including the sounding pitches. Most of the time I do these in the car. The first time I did them, my son asked, "Is that you or is that the CD?" I told him it was both. On the next set, I heard a third voice, his! Now the joke around our house is to let loose with some "eee's," "ooo's," or lip trills to locate one another! Our two Yorkies are quite amused!

I'm grateful to have this opportunity to reclaim my voice. I'm looking forward to relearning how to effectively use my breath. Last December, at my Solstice Celebration, my chosen word for the year was "breathe." Lovely how its significance is affirmed in this rehabilitation process.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yoga From the Inside Out

Because cultural messages about our bodies are so strong and the forces that work to destroy our self-image are so pervasive, having others in our life to mirror to us acceptance and encouragement is crucial.

Christina Sell, Yoga From the Inside Out

I've had an off again, on again relationship with yoga. I first tried it in 1974. I knew nothing about yoga, was just curious. I was new to Dayton and had not yet found a job or made friends and my then husband was completely self absorbed in his first year of law school. I was lonely and thought maybe I'd make some new friends. I found it, well, embarrassing. Way too much attention to the body for me. I felt exposed. I was thin so it was not about the size of my body. It was about not feeling comfortable with my body. As I knew no one in the class or for that matter anyone else doing yoga it felt even more isolating than being alone. So I dropped out. End of yoga

Then, in 1985, after having my first ever massage with a very lovely woman who was also a yoga instructor and was looking for a place to hold a class in my part of town; I volunteered to host a yoga class in my home. This time I made it through all the sessions. It would have been awkward to not participate when it was in my house! The teacher had been trained in Yoga for Round Bodies but I did not know how to ask for help. I was kind of getting the hang of it when she found another, more public, location and I did not move on with the group. I believed I was not a physical person; I did not yet realize that yoga is a spiritual practice too.

In 2002 a friend's daughter was working toward her yoga teacher certification and needed a class to garner teaching hours. This time it was three couples doing downward dog in my living room.  By then I was embarassed by my size so I always took a place behind the others. I found the poses too revealing. Again, once the class was finished, so was I.

Then in 2005 I went to Kripalu in Massachusetts for a weekend class on animal communication. There were free yoga classes every morning so I thought I'd give it another try. The instructor, a normal sized person, said something that stopped me in my tracks. We were doing a twist in a seated position and she said, "Now gently move your tummy to the side and deepen your pose." What? Move your tummy? She did not appear to have a tummy to move! One of the reasons I did not persevere with yoga was because I always felt my stomach got in the way. I had never heard of someone "moving their tummy." This was a revelation. I could adjust my body and do the pose comfortably! It never occurred to me that a normal weight person had to adjust her tummy to do a pose. I thought it was a problem for me because I was overweight and I just had to feel terribly squished to even attempt the pose. Another example of the bad body messages I carried around; since I am heavy, I will suffer. The realization that even thin people might have a tummy to move and that adjusting the pose is normal made me weep with insight and relief.

Now, in 2011, I have another friend doing her yoga teacher training. Lori has taught me that yoga is for everyone and the emphasis is on you and your body, not on doing the perfect pose. And, that yoga is as much a spiritual practice as it is a physical practice. She also keeps reminding me that it is about practice, not perfection. Lori is teaching me to be fully present in my body. I do not think I have ever really done this before.  She introduced me to the book, Yoga From the Inside Out, quoted at the start of this post.


And that brings me to a sunny day in Dayton, Ohio. I'm sitting on my deck after my morning yoga, savoring some fresh fruit, and writing some notes from Yoga From the Inside Out into my journal. Now that I understand that yoga is both a spiritual and physical practice, with emphasis on the word practice, and that I can adapt that practice to me and my body; yoga feels right for me.

While in Florida recently, my goddaughter Kate and I went to  Yoga On the Beach,  morning yoga classes on beautiful Siesta Key Beach. She, and Lori, are part of my tribe who offer the acceptance and encouragement every woman needs about her body. And I am so grateful...

A rainbow backdrop for yoga on Siesta Key

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Solvitur Ambulando – It Is Solved by Walking

The sign usually hangs over the doorway I exit before walking. The medals are a validation of myself as an athlete.

I started having pain in my right hip. First just a twinge when I stood up, then a sharp pain when I walked, then it became a consistent ache. My first response was denial. This is not really a problem, just a little blip on the fitness radar. But it persisted to the point where I no longer wanted to walk and could see that my gait was changing as I favored that right hip.

I've never considered myself athletic. I was never on a competitive team.  My one and only sport was cheerleading in high school. When my husband’s betrayal surfaced we began to walk together on the advice of a therapist. It was supposed to be a time for us to connect and to talk through some of the problems. It was meant to be healing. I needed something to dissipate the extreme angst. Walking helped me. I can’t say it was healing for the relationship but it was healing for me. When I first heard the phrase, Solvitur Ambulando (Latin, translates to “It is solved by walking,” attributed to Saint Augustine), I resonated with the truth of it. I often cried as I walked but I kept telling myself that for me the only way out is through. I would walk long enough for the endorphins to kick in and clarity to surface. 

I became a proficient walker, participating first in 5 and 10K’s, then multiple half marathons and even completed one full marathon. One was enough! I realized that I did not want to devote the time necessary to be physically prepared to walk twenty-six point two miles. But walking remained an integral part of my life.

I have been examining beliefs I hold and questioning if they are true or simply ingrained old messages. One has to do with my body. I believed that if your body changed in some way, you had to accept and live with that change. So the possibility of having arthritis and no longer being able to count on my body to carry me through my healing, health affirming, clarity inducing walks was terrifying.

I decided to not acquiesce. I decided to try and walk through and to the other side of the pain. My normal walking habit was three miles in the morning with an occasional second walk later in the day. Because of the hip pain I had not walked much before leaving on a trip to Paris, a walker’s paradise, but did walk every day while I was there. These were not mapped out distance walks but rather walks to get someplace. In Paris all the “someplaces” were wonderful so my motivation was high.

Upon returning home I revisited Solvitur Ambulando. Another way of interpreting the phrase is  “walk it off.” I decided to start anew as a walker, to go back to the beginning. Our veterinarian suggested that my Yorkie, Buddy, needed more exercise. I decided to walk one mile every day with Buddy. The first time I did it, I cried most of the way. It hurt. The second day, it hurt a little less. After about a week, it only hurt for the first half mile. After two weeks, I still felt discomfort but it was easily manageable. After three weeks, I realized that I had walked the mile pain free! Eureka!

So what have I learned? On the physical level, I learned I can change my body. I can make decisions and changes that impact my body in an affirmative way. I am not separate from my body. On the thinking level, I learned I can change a belief. I can question whether something I have long held as a truth is accurate. And on an emotional level, I learned I can choose beliefs and actions that support my spiritual and physical growth and release those that don’t.

I literally and figuratively walked through the pain and out the other side, refreshed and renewed.

Solvitur Ambulando

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello Beautiful!

August 1, 2010

The Story Circle Network invites women to write for their blog One Woman's Day. They describe the blog this way:
Today a woman somewhere is laughing, weeping, grieving, or celebrating. Someone is giving birth; someone is losing a loved one to death. Relationships are forming, others are ending. For some this will be an ordinary day filled with many of the same activities as yesterday. For others, something unexpected will suddenly make this day unforgettable, one that they may tell their children and grandchildren about in the future. In the same way that we are curious about how our grandmothers lived, future generations will be interested in learning about what an ordinary day was like in our lives.

One year ago I was visiting Siesta Key Florida and had one of those days. I wrote the blog post, submitted it,  and pretty much forgot about it. I was surprised and delighted to start receiving responses to that post while I am again in Siesta Key. Please click on this link to read my post at One Woman's Day.

Yesterday I did a yoga class on the beach with my god daughter. The sun was warm on my skin, the sand was soft under my mat, and the waves and sea birds provided mood music. I felt comfortable and confident in my body and, yes, beautiful.

Siesta Key Beach 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My friend Lori Gravley from Laughing Girl Quilts invited me to a session at Yoga Springs Studio on Balance. Who could resist such an invitation? Don't we all want balance in our lives?

The instructor, Mary Sinclair captured my interest immediately when she said the goal is to develop a sensory experience with your body, to find the line in your body that best connects you to gravity's force, resulting in comfort, ease and natural strength. I felt another quickening when she relayed that the birth of this movement was in Paris, France at the Institute D'Aplomb. I've just returned from ten days in Paris and have been studying French for about a year. Un autre signe, non?

Mary Sinclair

Mary began with a fascinating series of slides where she pointed out the differences in posture of people in developing countries where about ten to twenty percent of the population have lower back problems, and the posture of people in highly industrialized countries, including the United States, where more than eighty per cent of us have some degree of lower back pain. She used a plumb, a red vertical line, on the slides to emphasize how out of balance we are. Eye opening! She gently reminded us that posture is learned. In other words,  habits can be changed. She used models of the pelvic region and a full spinal cord to demonstrate the effect on our spine of out of balance posture. But the best model of balance was Mary herself. She stood with beautiful ease.

In the second part of the session, after talking us through the most beneficial way to stand, rise and return to a chair, and sit, Mary adjusted each person's sitting posture. This was not like a chiropractic adjustment but rather a gentle guiding of the body. She completed the session with a series of movements we could do to gently align the body back to balance or aplomb.

I researched the word aplomb. It came from the French a plomb, literally according to the plummet. Broader definitions include: the vertical position, balance, poise, assurance. What a lovely versatile word.

I am already so much more aware of my position in space, already feeling more connected to the earth's pull, more centered, and yes, more in balance! Thank you Mary.

I'd also like to thank the folks at Yoga Springs Studio for this offering and of course my friend, Lori, for inviting me to join her there. It's lovely to have such a friend.

The following is an excerpt from the Tips section on Mary Sinclair's website:

Have you ever estimated or even thought about how many times you bend forward in one day? The moment your feet hit the floor at the start of your day begins an endless succession of bending just to move through life. We do it so much in fact that we are hardly aware of doing it at all. Most of us even know someone who has “thrown their back out” while bending over.


The next time you need to bend over to pick something up, slow down. Notice your belly, are you holding it in? If you are, let it soften, relax your belly. That’s right, relax your belly. Let that relaxation seep down into your groins and pelvic region, if you need a mental image here think about where your underwear touch the top of your thighs, that’s part of your pelvic region and groins.  Right there, relax. Begin to let your pubic bone release through your legs. You want to let the relaxation in your belly transfer to a deep relaxation in your hip joints so that the pelvis may rotate freely over the tops of your thigh bones. When you begin to notice pulling sensations (stretching) on the backs of your thighs, soften your knees forward. Let the weight stay towards the back of your feet in your heels. To put this simply, whatever you are bending towards, your rump moves away from it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thank You Betty Ford

Official White House Photo 1974

I celebrate the life of Betty Ford and send a kiss of gratitude to her as she begins the next stage of her journey. I remember when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974. I was twenty-three years old and already badly disconnected from my body.  I was uncomfortable with the open way she discussed her cancer and her mastectomy. I wondered how she would be with her husband afterward. And I wondered if he would still want her. 

My father had colon cancer when I was thirteen. He had surgery and survived. I knew he was sick and I knew he had an operation but I was never told, and was too well conditioned to secrets to ask, what the surgery was. It was months later when my brother-in-law mentioned my father's cancer and saw my shock that anyone realized I did not know it was cancer. Cancer was a shameful secret and colon cancer even more so. Breast cancer was talked about in whispers and with more sorrowful shame. It was a "female problem" and not for public, or for that matter private, discourse. Betty Ford just blew the doors off that. Not only did she say she had breast cancer; she said the "m" word, mastectomy. It was the first time I heard that spoken aloud. She even allowed her picture to be taken while still in the hospital. This all made me terribly uneasy, somewhat embarrassed, and confused. Then she did the most surprising thing; she recovered! Not only did she not die, she thrived. And her husband seemed as devoted to her as ever. 

Thirty-five years later, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it is a different world. People wear pink ribbons, walk and run to raise money, have support groups, and talk openly about breast replacement, scars, treatment, everything! Yet, I still felt vaguely ashamed of having a problem with a "female” part. I wondered if I would be considered defective, less than desirable, or damaged goods. Those early imprinted messages run deep. But I blogged about it, joined support groups, and talked with other women, lots and lots of other women. I am just realizing now that I have not talked with men very much. I was in the middle of an ugly divorce and did not get the kind of support Betty Ford got from her husband. I am just now realizing the example he set. He clearly still loved her and stood by her. She was what was important, not her body, not her breasts. He loved her. I mourn that I did not have that and that rejection there wounded me further. Gerald Ford was President of the United Sates of America and did not feel he needed a perfect, two-breasted wife to complete his image.

What I did have, and celebrate to this day, was a legion of women. Not just friends and family but strangers met through various support groups. For the first time in my life I talked about my body and a struggle I was having about my body with other human beings. I had been silenced early on, programmed to not mention anything to do with my body or sexuality or even sensuality. I have a male therapist I trust and he was magnificent in his understanding and encouragement. A few friends’ husbands were sympathetic, and while I appreciated their sympathy it made me realize more acutely the lack in my life. It was the women who understood and saw me through to the other side. And Betty Ford, by her brave example, was first in line. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th

Happy Fourth of July! I love my country. I love to travel but am always so grateful to come home. On my way home from Paris, as we descended to land, I had a vivid recollection from that first trip to Italy with my mom and a group of mostly senior citizens. When the wheels touched the runway, they spontaneously burst into song, "God Bless America." At first it was just our group but then it spread throughout the plane and strangers were nodding and smiling and singing. I was so choked up I could barely sing. Unabashed love of country.

This trip, I was alone but as we approached Newark I began to sing softly to myself.

God bless America
Land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains
To the prairies
To the oceans
White with foam
God Bless America
My home sweet home
God bless America
My home sweet home

Irving Berlin

Again, I choked up. Across the aisle was a couple visiting the USA for the first time. They asked if I was all right. I smiled through my tears and replied I was fine, just grateful to be home.

On this day I value my freedom and I appreciate both my country and its citizens. Here's Martina McBride singing it more beautifully, but in no less heartfelt a way, than I ever could.

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sage, Not Mint

This is my Prius, the first car I ever bought on my own. The first car I ever bought for me. The first car I ever bought based on what I want. And it was definitely a sensuously sixty experience. Pure delight.

When the ex and I were dating in high school, every once in a while, he would be allowed to drive his mother’s car, a sweet 1967 mint green Malibu convertible. One of my favorite date memories is riding, top down, on a starry summer night after one of the invitation-only dances held in a summer pavilion in a private community.  I can recall the feeling of driving along those mountain roads, relaxed, pleasantly tired from dancing, happy, nothing but tree tops swaying in the wind, crystal clear skies, and one another.

We were very poor for a very long time after we married but I promised myself that one day I would find a 1967 Malibu convertible and have it restored as a gift for him. I had several contacts in the car restoration community who promised to call me when they found one. I dreamt of us riding around in that car, top down, celebrating a well-lived life. One of the rewards of growing old together.

Well, that was not to be. One of many dreams that I did not realize meant something only to me, not to “us.” But, you know, it gets boring feeling sad about stuff like that. One day you start thinking; hey what about buying something that would make me happy? What about something to make new memories?

So when I decided to look for a hybrid, I found myself telling the car salesman I wanted a green car. Period. It had to be green. I had already decided to buy a used car, (thank you Clark Howard!) but was surprised to hear myself say green only. I was not in a hurry and I was willing to wait for what I wanted. My car salesman, a young man named Todd, patiently explained to me that used Prius were hard to come by and usually sold within twenty-four hours of reaching the lot. Most people are happy to just find one. I said okay just call me when you get a green one. When one came in a few days later, he called me, laughing, saying I can’t believe it but I’ve got one. When I saw the car I understood why it had to be green.

This is my Malibu convertible. It is a gorgeous green; most of my friends describe it as sage. Sage is an important word in my life. The color is my favorite. I love cooking with the herb. And I am surrounded with sage artists, healers, and creators; old souls.
My Prius, now named Sage, is not flashy, is not sexy, and is not imbued with old memories.

It is expectant. It is poised for new dreams, new explorations, and new experiences. I’m looking forward, not back. And every single cell in my body is dancing with the possibilities. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Maria Shriver & Transitions

I recently watched this YouTube video of Maria Shriver. It was posted on AOL before her divorce plans were in the news. I was struck by how desperate she seemed. I admire this woman, especially the work she has done since leaving television to be the First Lady of California. Her women's project is inspiring and far reaching. She always seemed so fearless, so self-assured, so centered. Yet in this clip she looks frail, her luxurious hair seems thin, her shoulders rounded. She looks lost. Even her smile at the end seemed more like a grimace. I wondered why this transition out of government life would be so difficult. She's doing incredible, important work; is loved and admired by many, has so many talents and strengths.

Then I heard the news, not only had her husband been unfaithful but it was with a family staff member and he has a thirteen year old son from the relationship. Blam! Now I understood completely. That transition. Life as she knew it, is over. The man she loved best in the world, the person she trusted above all others, the man she had devoted her life to, made sacrifices for, fathered her children... is a liar and a cheat. She is in shock and the repercussions from this shock will take her years, maybe the rest of her life, to recover from. I have complete faith in her ability to do this. But my heart breaks for her, aches for her.

I know that no matter how hard she tries to not have it so, those newly faced horrors are hammering in her mind every waking moment. He cheated. He lied. I know this woman. There is a child. Approximate age of my youngest. He's known for ten years and kept it from me while he cared for her and her son. What else don't I know? How could he? Why would he? He's hurt me. He's hurt my children. I have slept next to and with a man who is a stranger. Who is he? Worse, who am I?  How did I not know? I am so humiliated. I have wasted my love on a liar and a cheat. What else has he lied about?

And then, when she gets past those big questions, she'll start examining the details. She'll realize more and more how deep the deception runs. How he has looked her in the eye for years and told her he loves her while he was having an affair and has another child. She'll start looking around her home, wondering. How could this woman be in my home and sleeping with my husband? She'll start piecing together the times she trusted and was deceived. She'll look at family photos from the past and wonder how he could do that. How he could pose as a devoted husband and father while he was committing adultery? She'll be haunted by what else she doesn't know.

But eventually, and for her sake I hope it does not take her as long as it took me, she'll realize what he did is on him. She did nothing to deserve that level of betrayal. No matter what difficulties there may or may not have been in their relationship, there is no right in his wrongs. If your needs aren't being met in your marriage, tell your partner. Love is a verb. Love and respect your partner enough to be honest and get help. If the problem is unresolvable, end the marriage with grace and dignity and respect. Only then look elsewhere.

The damage from this level of betrayal runs deep, right down to the cellular level, and requires so much work to heal. And she'll have to try and heal herself while also tending to her wounded children. Everywhere she looks her life is enmeshed with his and now she has to decide what life will look like from here on out. No wonder the poor woman is fumbling with questions about transitions.

I realize now that what I recognized in this video is her vulnerability, bewilderment, and pain. I recognized it because I have been there. She is lost. She is hurting. She is reaching out. She is also a survivor. She'll work her way through this. She'll do what is right for her children. Something he clearly gave little thought to as he took care of his own ego and needs. And she'll do it with as much dignity and grace as she can muster.

She is grieving the loss of her parents, her family of origin, and now she has to deal with the end of a marriage that was never what she thought it was or wanted it to be. When she most needs him, most needs to be loved and cherished, she has been disrespected. She now has to grieve the loss of her created family. She thought her family was a mother, a father, and four children. Now she knows there was at least one mistress and one other child. Who knows what else is hidden.

It does not matter how beautiful, intelligent, talented, generous you are. For some men, nothing is ever enough. They foolishly believe that if the wife doesn't know there will be no harm. The lie is the harm. And it will come out. What may have been a delicious affair for him is really just a pathetic secret. And as the saying goes, you're as sick as your secrets.

At the time of the video above, she knew the secret and was playing it close to the vest. Which brings me to my suggestions for how to handle the transition. First, no secrets. Face what you know. Just name the truth, no matter how painful. Walk right through that fire because the only healthy way out is through. Know that you will lose some friends, especially if you refuse to offer excuses or minimize the reality. There will be people who do not find it convenient to see the wrong. Most people will just want you to move on and pretend everything is fine. Get divorced, play nice, pretend. Don't do it! It is soul sucking. There is a huge difference between dealing with the truth and staying stuck or bitter. Get professional help. Friends are wonderful but will not be around for the length of time it takes to heal this. If you are doing all the work necessary people will think you are just not letting go and moving on. If he has power, and her husband certainly does, some people will not want to endanger their connection to that power.  Take good care of yourself. Take all the time you need to fully heal. Be very, very kind to yourself. Practice good self-care. Review the people in your life. Ferret out all the folks you thought were trustworthy and you now see are moral relativists. Let go of the toxic relationships. Treasure the people who understand and are supportive. Find some more new supportive friends. When you are able to stand again, follow your passion. You no longer have to make all your life decisions based on what he needs. Take care of you. Eventually you will forgive but it takes time. And it is not a single act but rather an ongoing process. Know you are beautiful and strong and will get through this. And know that you can take as long as it takes to do so. You're worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Path near the Stillwater River

While walking along a path in one of my local parks, I noticed this tree in bloom. As I looked closer, I realized that one of the branches was snapped, almost completely severed. Yet this very tenuously attached branch was in full and glorious bloom! What resilience. What perseverance. Despite being terribly traumatized, this bough flowered on.

Flowering bough

When I first accepted that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from dealing with betrayal and a marriage gone terribly wrong, a friend sent me a page from her book of daily readings entitled Broken to be More Beautiful. I've held on to that reading and that thought as I heal. This tenacious branch reminded me again to stay the course, persevere, and share my beauty.

Broken, yet still creating beauty

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tea Time

I drink tea. And I love High Tea. And I love wearing a hat. I know that in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales both men and women take time for tea but here a High Tea is most often a ladies' event. My friend Pam's daughter just announced her engagement and as she studied in England, High Tea seems an appropriate bridal shower theme. For the sake of research, Pam and I made a reservation for High Tea at Eleanor's Tea Cottage in Troy, Ohio.

This was a true High Tea, beginning with fruit, then scones with real cream and fresh jam, followed by a delicious chicken divan soup, then chicken salad, pimento cheese, and cucumber sandwiches, and finishing with lemon pie and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes topped with with crunchy little bird nests filled with tiny eggs.

A sweet little pansy topped the whipped cream

Three kinds of sandwiches

Charming little nest cake toppers

 Our hostess was gracious and skilled, allowing us time to enjoy each delicious course and feel completely pampered. It was a delight to pause, savor a friendship, and plan a shower for a lovely young woman.

About wearing a hat... My mother used to say, "Wear a hat, you'll feel better." I remember seeing a large group of women of a certain age all decked out in purple outfits and red hats at an Olive Garden restaurant. These ladies were talking and laughing and living out loud. They made me smile. They were, of course, members of a Red Hat Society inspired by the first two lines in the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph, "When I'm an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me." For my mother's 91st  birthday we had a tea party and asked the ladies to bring their favorite tea cup and to wear their best hat. There were some pretty extravagant hats because many of these gals attend the Kentucky Derby, a hat lovers' paradise. My mom wore a shocking pink, petaled hat that she designed and made herself. Now that I'm sixty maybe it's time to let my creativity loose on my hat selections. And when better than to debut a new hat than at a High Tea!