Imagine This Woman as the Next President of the United States!

 

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Dear Reader:

Close your eyes and just imagine: POTUS is pregnant, unmarried and will take a six-week maternity leave. One could scarcely fathom this reality even before we elected the current resident of the White House.* But, now this sounds like a fairy tale even to the most optimistic, progressive, hopeful, or one might say, fanciful American.

But, here’s a news flash: just in case you don’t know her, the woman pictured above happens to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Jacinda Ardern is due to give birth to her first child today. She will be the first leader to have a child while in power since Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1990. She was photographed yesterday at an agricultural show near the North Island city of Hamilton where some in the crowd couldn’t resist reaching out to touch her baby bump. (In that way she is just like any other pregnant woman!)

Ms. Ardern said recently that, “New Zealanders see this as a life event and not something that’s particularly going to affect my job.”

I’m not sure I believe that, nor am I inclined to want to believe it. Unfortunately, I think that comment falls into the category of something that women say because they hope to persuade the doubters and because they believe it’s politically correct. The good people of NZ did elect a woman, but I feel sure that she doesn’t represent the entire country any more than POTUS represents our entire country. Unfortunately, there are too many people in every part of the world who diminish the abilities of women.

I’d like to live to see the day when women in power are not the exception AND I’d like them to be able to strongly, publicly and confidently state that being a woman and a mother does inform their decisions. It’s hard for me to imagine a mother implementing a plan at the border to separate children from their parents as our president has. I can imagine a better world where women have the power to help other women and children.

I’m sending my very best wishes to you Jacinda.  And, I’m hoping that someday you’ll tell the world how motherhood changed you as a person and a leader. As a mother, I have  no doubt that you will be transformed in a way that only another mother can understand.

Michele

*My field of study in college was journalism and I detest wordiness but, as I’ve said before, I will NEVER spell the president’s name on my site. His name will remain unspoken here.

On-board The Coast Starlight Train

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I am so impressed with this picture taken from my train window!

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I know it’s blurry, but I was on a train taking a photo of the railroad crossing sign…fun!

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Love the rows of green…love California!

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It was nice to leave the driving to someone else this time!

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Madonna and Bishop Peaks…I’m almost there!

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Time to toast the Cal Poly 2018 Graduates!

 

Dear Reader:

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs daily from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a convenient option for me as it makes a stop in Salinas, which is less than 20 miles from my home.

I just need a ride to the station and I’m off! The kid in me seems to come out as I stand on the platform waiting for my train. I can’t help it. First, I see it, and then as it gets closer, I hear the great rumbling sound of the beast that will deliver me to San Luis Obispo.

For an additional twenty dollars, I’ve upgraded to a business class ticket so I’ve got a large seat with plenty of space to stretch out. Upon boarding, I settle in and unpack my brown bag lunch and prepare to just sit…and do nothing more than marvel at the beauty of my beloved state.

As the train leaves the station, it makes a steadily increasing chugging sound and the whistle sounds. I’m on my way to celebrate the graduation of one of my daughter’s friends from Cal Poly.

As a business class traveler, I’m entitled to free WiFi, but I know that perk is really no perk at all because most of the area between Salinas and Paso Robles is so remote that it’s without service. I find it oddly comforting to know that there are vast stretches of my state that remain undeveloped or sparsely populated and agricultural. So for three and a half hours, I sat back, relaxed and snapped photos on my iPhone to share with you.

Shortly after arriving, I continued to enjoy my day with a glass of local wine made from the grapes I saw from my train window.

Cheers,

Michele

 

Who Am I to Be Fit, Strong and Confident?

 

 

Girl, Woman, Goddess
Who am I NOT to be fit, strong and confident?!

Dear Reader:

I had a moment today when suddenly, all at once, I could hear every negative (or at least not positive) comment that has been made about My Journey to Strong.

  1. “Why would anyone want to spend 50 minutes burning 700 calories in the gym?”
  2. “Aren’t you getting a bit carried away with this fitness thing?”
  3. “Are you going to start wearing those ridiculously tiny bra tops and shorts?
  4. “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to pack on too much muscle?”
  5. “It’s hard to imagine you’re going to want to do this forever!”

When people make major, positive changes, it seems a natural consequence for some of those in their world to question the transformation. I do understand that simple psychology. The response, I think, is a mix of curiosity and envy. I’ve been there.

We ask ourselves how? How did she do it…get fit, write a book, learn to paint, start a business? But, we know the answer. She just made up her mind to do it and then she showed up….over and over and over again! How wonderful! That means that we all have the potential to do anything we set our minds to!

I am reminded of the brilliance of Marianne Williamson in her best-selling book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

My trainer, pictured with me above, encourages me and challenges me, in addition to educating me about all things related to health and fitness. My daughter, who refers to me as a “beast,” reminds me regularly that she is very proud of me. And, my husband is very supportive of me. But, in the end, it is just as it was in the beginning; my desire, my commitment and my continued hard work are the key to my success.

Should you be curious, here are my answers to the five queries above:

  1. Why not?
  2. My trainer ensures that I’m not doing too much or too little. I have the time and I love it!
  3. Maybe…and, when I do, I’ll send you a photo!
  4. No. Once again there’s my trainer. Plus, let me just say, Michelle Obama’s arms are a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to be that muscular.
  5. It’s okay; I can imagine it!

So, when all I can hear are the voices of skeptics, I remind myself that I am fit, strong and confident. One might even suggest that I am a goddess and I would fight my natural impulse to demure and just own it! I am a goddess.

Are you letting your light shine, dear reader? I’d love to hear about your success in the gym, studio, kitchen, office, garden….

Michele

 

Like Mother…Not Like Daughter!

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My lovely daughter

Dear Reader:

When a woman gives birth to a daughter, I believe she consciously, or subconsciously, believes her daughter will resemble her in many ways. But why? It is an odd assumption upon thoughtful consideration. Why should she be more like her mother than her father? I’ve asked myself that question now for 21 years.

My daughter is her own person, but she is more like her father than she is like me. I can accept this…despite the fact that it took 28 hours of hard labor followed by an emergency c-section to bring her into this world!

I wonder at the differences!

She is:

  • ambitious but not competitive; I am competitive but not ambitious
  • reserved, i burst
  • quietly thoughtful, I am obviously opinionated
  • forgiving and patient; I try

She loves:

  • lace and florals; I like stripes and animal print
  • teal; I love pink
  • Thunder Mountain; I love It’s a Small World
  • Harry Potter and Jane Austen; I love Tinker Bell and Danielle Steel

But, we do share some common opinions and interests. We are both feminists, but she does not like to wear it on her t-shirt. We love donuts, doxies, Disneyland and Maui. We are happy when we are shopping at Lululemon or Target, walking the streets of London in rain or shine and sipping from English china while perusing beautiful books.

And, most importantly, we still love spending time in each other’s company. I hope that never changes.

Is your daughter very much like you, dear reader? Or is she more like her father?!

Michele

What the Feck?! U.S. Has 11,200 Immigrant Children in Custody!

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Dear Reader:

I’m a Samantha Bee fan, but I wasn’t watching the night she called Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, a “feckless cunt.” I wish I had been, because I’m interested in what my initial reaction would have been. I’ve had a few days to form an opinion and I’d like to share it with you.

First, I’m a lover of words, so let’s start with the word “feckless” as it isn’t common in everyday usage. The Dictionary.com definition is:

lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible

So first off, Ms. Bee was opining that the Senior Advisor to the President is not effective in her role. She was speaking in reference to Ivanka’s obvious inability to influence her father’s view on the issue of immigration. Bee was most likely considering the first daughter’s past statements that showed a certain understanding and even admiration for immigrants. Reference material includes:

A tweet from Ivanka in March 2015…

“We love this story about an undocumented immigrant who worked her way up on Wall Street,“she wrote. She even provided a link to the full story of the inspiring young woman; the link no longer exists.

Ivanka might “love” a good success story, but her father was obviously unmoved when he decided to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program (DACA) last September.

The following month, Ivanka attended Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit and was asked to comment on immigration policy. “I personally am of the opinion, and the President has stated, that we have to figure out a good solution that protects these innocent people, many of whom were brought into this country as children,” she said.

Ivanka is marketing herself as an advocate for women and children and she is fond of reminding us that she is a mother. She frequently posts beautifully lit photos of herself and her children and Samantha used her most current post as her t.v. screen background.  I think it’s a bit naive of Ivanka to expect people to separate the stark differences represented on her twitter feed to the pictures we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks of tearful parents telling horror stories of how they were forcibly separated from their children at our border.

On April 6th, Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of Homeland Security (DHS), announced a zero-tolerance policy for immigrants at the border. Anyone who didn’t cross the U.S. border at an official port of entry would be criminally prosecuted, even  asylum seekers. Those travelling with their children would be separated from them.

READ PLEASE: THE OFFICIAL POLICY OF THIS COUNTRY IS TO SEPARATE ALL CHILDREN FROM THEIR PARENTS AT OUR BORDER. AS A RESULT OF THIS POLICY, THERE ARE CURRENTLY 11,200 UNACCOMPANIED IMMIGRANT CHILDREN IN U.S. CUSTODY. 

Asked to comment on the morality of the policy, Nielsen answered simply: “What we’ll be doing is prosecuting parents who have broken the law, just as we do every day in the United States of America,” she said during a recent Senate hearing. “The child, under law, goes to H.H.S.”—the Department of Health and Human Services—“for care and custody.”

Yet the network of child shelters overseen by H.H.S. is already operating at more than ninety-per-cent capacity. There’s been talk of sending children to military bases, where there’s more space. Beyond that, there’s no plan or policy.

There’s the context for Bee’s slur. Ivanka Trump is no longer simply the daughter of D.T. She is the Senior Advisor to the President and it’s fair game to criticize her. She has publicly communicated, more than once, her desire to help immigrants, women and children. And, yet those are the people suffering most under this administration. She’s either part of the problem or part of the solution. She gave up her position as a private citizen when she moved into the White House and began representing our country.

Samantha Bee was/is angry. (Samantha is also a mother, I might add.) I am angry. I sincerely hope you are angry too.  We are literally snatching children from their parents arms and discussing housing them at military bases! Read that again, please. Let that sink in.

Unfortunately, I am also a bit angry with Samantha. She’s a smart woman; she knew the use of the c-word would ignite outrage. I’m disappointed that she didn’t recognize that her language would push the important topic she was discussing into the background. I’d like her to keep doing what’s she’s been doing. (Truth to power!) But she should recognize that sometimes even a late night comedian shouldn’t say exactly, precisely what she thinks…neither should a blogger, or for that matter, anyone.

I’d say that the Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, is feckless, but I’d leave it at that. POTUS says what he pleases without regard for taste, decorum, honesty or humility, but every American should hold themselves to a higher ideal.

Michele

Another Anniversary; Another Cup of Java!

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I wonder how many cups of coffee we have shared?!

Dear Reader:

It’s been thirty-four years since I said “I do” under a massive oak tree in my in-laws backyard in Fresno, California. On the Monday and Tuesday before the ceremony, high temperature records were set that still hold today… 107°. I knew we were off to a good start when Mother Nature blessed us with a pleasant 90° for our big day.

In the years since then we’ve shared domestic bliss and turmoil. We’ve lost grandparents, parents and a sibling; created an amazing daughter; owned six dogs and lost three; purchased four homes and sold three and endured one high-powered high-tech career. Who knows how many bookstores we’ve visited or San Francisco Giants games we’ve watched?

We’ve nearly called it quits, too. But, it seems, our decision to marry at twenty-four years young wasn’t as crazy as it seemed to our parents.

The poet e.e. cummings captured what I feel for my husband and put the words on paper:

this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) 

We’ve outlasted the oak tree and I’m hoping we’ve got another thirty-four years of togetherness.

Michele

P.S. As there is never any photo-shopping on my site, I chose not to retouch my husband’s thumb. He suffered his injury building the fence to keep Winnie IN!

My Journey to Strong: Chapter 5

 

My Journey to Strong

Chapter 5: Six Months In and I’m Not Going Back!

Dear Reader:

Who’d have thought that there was an athlete inside of me?! Not me! But, I can’t imagine going back now. How do I love strength training and cardio workouts? Let me count the ways:

  1. I feel good.
  2. I look good.
  3. I haven’t fallen in six months.
  4. I can confidently scale stone walls in search of my Winnie.
  5. I feel strong, accomplished and proud.
  6. I’m having fun!

I can not think of anything else I could do that would yield those kind of results. And, I can not think of one thing I don’t like about it. Truly. I’ve become addicted to doing the right thing for my body!

It seems that training has brought out the best parts of my nature. I’m extremely competitive and intense and strength training gives me the opportunity to constantly work to best myself. It’s easy to measure my progress in time, pounds and reps.

On my first day, I could barely last five minutes at level 1 on the arc; today I’m burning more than 600 calories in 50 minutes on level 5. In the beginning, my knee was sore and my ankle swollen and I couldn’t imagine ever getting beyond the movements I was doing on the psychical therapy table. Soon, I graduated to resistance bands and weight benches. I impressed myself a couple of weeks ago when I sat down at the leg press and pushed through twelve reps of 245 pounds (noisy knees and all)!

Some of my progress is quantifiable with hard numbers, but I’m just as excited about the progress that I’ve made in areas of my life that are not easily measured. I just feel more comfortable in my own body. I’ve worked to strengthen my legs and my knees are now better supported. I have less pain, despite the arthritis. All of this makes me feel more confident when I’m presented with stairs or hills. Would it be an exaggeration to say I feel younger? NO!

I know that I’m not younger, dear reader. But, I also know that I am stronger. And, I’ll tell you, I feel empowered. There’s another benefit of my time in the gym. I have the energy and confidence to take on other challenges in the future. It’s not over until it’s over!

Tonight, I’m congratulating myself on six months of hard work. I’m also happily anticipating a strenuous workout tomorrow morning and a return to my regular four days a week in the gym. (There’s been a break in my schedule due to the holiday and the birth of my trainer’s son. Congratulations Jonathan and Britney!) 

Next up for me: deadlifts! I’ll let you know how that goes.

What’s your exercise regime? I’d love to hear from you.

Michele

My Memorial Day Cardio Workout

Winnie the innocent
What Mom?!

Dear Reader:

On any other Monday morning, I’d be killing it on the Cybex arc burning in excess of 600 calories in 50 minutes. But, Zone Fitness was closed for Memorial Day, so I took to the streets in my slippers and p.j.’s, blanket wrapped round my shoulders for modesty’s sake.

To be sure, this was an unplanned session of cardio. It lasted only 30 minutes, but it was more brutal and intense than anything I’ve ever done in the gym. It began just after I’d poured my second cup of coffee.

“Where’s Winnie?” was the rallying cry! When you live with three dachshunds always under foot, you develop a sixth sense that warns you when one of them is in trouble (of their own making)! We called for her and searched the yard, but it quickly became clear that she was gone!

My husband and I ran to the driveway to begin our rescue mission while our daughter, home from school for the weekend, changed from p.j.’s to street clothing.  Tom headed left. I went right and flagged down a car just as he rounded our corner. I didn’t know him, but he knew enough about me that I didn’t have to tell him the breed of my dogs!

“Oh, I’ve seen your doxies,” or did he say “heard your doxies”? It’s all a blur. “I have a dog; I understand,” he continued.

He offered to drive, slowly, around the loop that is our street and search for my girl. My belief in the kindness of strangers is so often validated.

I continued down the street, alternately yelling “Winnie” and explaining to any passers-by that my dog was loose, and very tiny. About 20 frantic minutes after the realization that she was gone, I felt the first tear slip down my cheek. I began knocking on doors. People can be very sweet when presented with a lightly clad, very sad neighbor at their door. No one had seen her, but everyone would watch out for her. A few even joined me in the street.

It would be about another 10 minutes before my husband found our pup and sent my daughter out in the car to look for me. I heard he gave her simple instructions.

“Don’t come back without your mother!”

Back in our family room where our day had quietly begun, my husband described what he’d learned about Winnie’s great escape and adventure. I must describe the geography of our home for you to fully appreciate her great feat. Our house is below street level, so our garden is terraced. Stone walls divide each level. Our little one had jumped four 18 inch walls (we knew she could do that) and a 2 foot metal fence (we didn’t know she could do that) and then tunneled under the bottom of the fence to arrive in our neighbor’s back yard. She didn’t stop there, though. She tunneled further to pop up in the next neighbors yard and had just left and crossed the street when the man who offered to help me spotted her from his car and called out to my husband.

My husband called out to Winnie, who obviously knew she’d been a bad girl. She turned and ran away from him, but thankfully back the way she’d come. She arrived in our yard to my husband’s great pleasure (or displeasure)?!

Dachshunds were bred to burrow and they are known to be trouble-makers. Our Winnie is an overachiever in both areas! She’s light on her short-little legs and she’d already shown us that she could scale the walls to magically appear at our back door. But, we thought we had contained her after my husband built a small fence to keep her on the second level of the yard.

Thankfully, this is a story with a happy ending, but I also think it’s a cautionary tale to anyone thinking about acquiring a dog:

There are dogs and then there are dachshunds…beware!

Michele

P.S. On a positive note, I did get in some cardio…and my husband will be getting his workout after he returns from Home Depot with cement and lumber to build a bigger, better fence!

Coco Chanel’s Favorite Flower Blooms in My Garden

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My husband, displaying a perfect white camellia in our garden!

Dear Reader:

Even a brief visit to a museum tells the story of the close relationship between artists and flowers. In fact, the memory of some painters has become entwined with the blooms they admired. We will forever associate Vincent Van Gogh with the sunflower, Georgia O’Keeffe with the poppy and Claude Monet with the water-lily.

But, painters are not the only creative people to draw inspiration from the garden.  French designer and business woman, Gabrielle Chanel, loved the beautiful, short-blooming camellia or Chinese rose. Nearly 50 years after her death, it is still one of the most instantly recognizable emblems in all of Chanel’s accessories, clothing and jewelry.

How did the camellia become such an integral part of one of the most successful fashion houses in the world? It is thought that the Madame became entranced with the flower after reading Alexandre Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ (The Lady with the Camellias) as a young girl. The heroine of the story always wore a camellia. The flower’s symbolic value was also important to the designer. In Eastern culture, the white camellia represents purity and longevity. Coco also appreciated the fact that the camellia is without scent, and, as such, didn’t interfere with the perfection of her signature scent, and my favorite perfume, Chanel No 5.

I’ve always loved fashion and recognized designers as the artists they are. I do not live a haute couture lifestyle, but my admiration for Chanel’s style aesthetic has influenced my fashion and style choices throughout my life. She believed in simplicity, elegance and comfort. She was the first designer to suggest that women dress with their daily routines in mind. She radically promoted the notion that woman should, first and foremost, dress to please themselves.

Chanel loved the ease of black and white punctuated with stripes and loads of faux pearls. With the stroke of her pen and the scissors that famously dangled around her neck, she transformed men’s wear into elegant, feminine clothes for the modern woman. She also gave us the little black dress (LBD) back in 1926.

If you too admire Chanel’s aesthetic, but not the price tag, I recommend these lovely Target (TGFT!) finds:

If you are not lucky enough to have a garden full of camellias, like me, you can also purchase a lovely bouquet of artificial camellias.

I cannot deny the beauty of the white camellia, but I reserve my greatest affection for pink roses. And in the spirit of Coco Chanel, my favorite flower inspired me to create a pink shed and then…from the pink shed.

What’s your favorite flower, dear reader?

Michele