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An Unforgettable Birthday

Dear Reader:

For weeks my friends admonished me in strong tones that I simply must do something for my birthday this year.

“It’s a milestone birthday,” they reminded me. “You need a party!”

I enjoy gatherings with bubbly and cake and music. But, for some reason, I held back. It wasn’t because of the dread of turning 60! I have a rather unique way of dealing with the decades. It has puzzled my daughter for years.

“You are the only person I know who rounds UP your age!”

It’s true. It started when I was 28; I’d tell people that I was 30. And, so 38 became 40, 48 became 50 and well, I’ve been saying that I’m 60 for two years now. I’m not sure why I’ve done this. Maybe I felt it would help me adjust to the swift moving decades or protect my fragile ego. (My ego’s not that fragile, though!) In any case, I was prepared to celebrate another birthday, but I could never have guessed how I’d be celebrating it.

Like the rest of the world, we’ve been instructed to stay home to control the spread of coronavirus. But, as you can see, I left my house…safely! My neighbors all joined me for a toast, from our respective front yards, at 5:30 p.m.

I was in by 6 p.m. filling my glass with Cal Poly student made Pinot Noir to pair with my cheese pizza. And, we did have cake…three tiny cakes! I won’t forget this birthday. And, for a good long while, I’ll remember to be grateful for the simple things. Here’s to health, family and friends!

May you all remain well,

Michele

Hugs…the safe kind

 

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Dear Reader:

I am a homebody, so perhaps it’s easier for me to deal with the day to day issues of protecting myself and my family from coronavirus. I’ve been staying home for the past two weeks…voluntarily. My friends in Monterey and Santa Clara County have been placed on Shelter in Place Orders. I’m grateful for that, as I am also a worrier.

Hoping that you are healthy and that you can appreciate the small pleasures that come from being at home:

  • dogs sleeping in your lap
  • hot cups of tea
  •  good books
  • pajamas…all day
  • and time to bake, clean, organize, relax and reflect.

I will conclude, as I always do, with “HUGS.” I am a hugger and, I must admit, I’m missing those.

Michele

 

Blossoming

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Dear Reader:

There is something both comforting and encouraging about watching this bulb blossom as I attempt to bring focus and meaning into this new year.

I hope your life is unfolding in wonderful new ways, too.

Hugs,

Michele

P.S. The cute little bear in the window, a gift from my husband, is a Margaret Hudson design. Margaret began creating art to support her family when her husband became unable to work. She became well known and loved in the Central Valley of California and beyond.

My Voice…

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Dear Reader:

Last you heard I’d found my voice. Well, easy come easy go! I’ve been down with a cold the past week. It’s been doubly hard because I was mentally prepared to charge into 2020.

Last year was a difficult one as we moved from Carmel California to Sacramento. Everything changed. I slipped into depression and gained ten pounds. I’m feeling stronger and ready to chase the attainable yet challenging goals I’ve set for myself.

But, I’m currently practicing patience. Life is like that. At 59 years old, I’ve learned that things don’t always go as planned. The year is young. It’s only beginning and I hope to flower, in time, with proper care.

All the best,

Michele

Happy New Year!

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Dear Reader:

What kind of a man fills his wife’s stocking with a Reese’s peanut butter tree, a silly drugstore romance novel and a vintage Chanel pin: my kinda man! Hope all of your stockings were as much fun as mine.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Brilliant New Year,

Michele

P.S. I’m finding my voice again, so there will be more!

I’m Proud of My Friends

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Dear Reader:

Today ends Pride Month and I’m thinking of all the gay men I’ve known, but particularly the first one I met twenty five years ago and the one I met only 8 months ago. Shopping and fashion are part of my DNA and that interest served as the foundation for all of my  friendships with gay men.

Before I had my daughter, I shared a cubicle wall with Carlos. We worked in a high testosterone environment at a Silicon Valley start-up. Neither of us were destined for great success at the company, but we earned enough to dine well and shop well on shared lunch breaks.

One day, I visited him in the hospital during my lunch hour in the middle of a dramatic rain storm. He joked that he always provided plenty of drama. Thankfully, he’s an AID’s survivor. He was my first friend to give me a gift when I announced my pregnancy. The tiny crystal baby block came with a note: “Here’s your girl’s first piece of Waterford.”

He really went above and beyond throughout my pregnancy accompanying me to maternity shops to apply his critical eye to my selections. One day about seven months along, I came into work with a new purchase I’d made on my own. I’ll never forget his reaction…uh, open mouth, “That’s a whole lotta denim!” I’ve got the pictures in my photo album and, of course, he was right. Every time I look at that dress now, I can hear his voice.

I haven’t seen Carlos in years, but he was the first of several gay friends. I feel so fortunate to have made another close friend when I moved eight months ago. One of my neighbors has become particularly dear to me. He and his partner go out of their way to help everyone on the street. They are the guys who take out and bring in the trash bins of elderly widows. They can be found on the street often walking their tiny dog and they’re always ready with a pleasant greeting. When their trees give them too much fruit, they leave bags of lemons and oranges on their neighbors’ doorsteps.

One night, early in our friendship, my friend shared that he’d always known he was gay. He remembered watching the Donny and Marie Show with his buddies. While they appreciated the attributes of Marie Osmond, he found himself admiring Donny. Well, we had that in common!

“But, I wouldn’t have chosen to be this way,” he concluded.

I haven’t been able to get that moment out of my mind. It is so sad to me that someone I find simply wonderful would want to change an integral part of himself. It is, of course, understandable. I do hope for continued progress and acceptance of those in the LBGTQ community. If only everyone had friends as good as mine, society would surely change.

Hugs,

Michele

Protesters Hit the Street in My Neighborhood

 

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Protestors gathered in front of my neighborhood Trader Joe’s.

Dear Reader:

Last night was not a typical night in my new neighborhood. My phone started ringing at 5 p.m. Neighbors were calling to warn us that the local chapter of Black Lives Matter had organized a march through our section of town to protest the shooting death of a black man at the hands of the police.

“I’ll bet this didn’t happen much in Carmel, ” joked my first caller. “Actually, it’s a first here…as far as I know, and I’ve been here for 35 years!”

Shortly after that first call, we heard a police helicopter overhead. My husband used a tracking app and we followed the yellow line as it made its way closer to our home. Suddenly it was over us and we heard the people in the street before we saw them.

We watched from the windows that surround our front door. It’s an odd sight to see a steady stream of people moving down the road. There were a couple hundred marchers chanting “Not a Gun” over and over. We stayed by the door until the last marchers passed. They were followed by a dozen police cars and several white unmarked vans that we speculated were filled with SWAT teams.

The organizers said that they chose our neighborhood because it is old, established, upscale and  predominantly white. They also noted that many city officials reside in East Sacramento. I only know one. I met him while walking the dog the day after Thanksgiving. He was giving his home the Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation treatment and I commented on how magnificent it looked.

“Well,” he shrugged, “when you have kids, you just do it!”

He’s the Assistant City Manager …and a father of three. We bought Girl Scout cookies from his daughter last month.

I do not have an opinion to share regarding the shooting, but I do have strong feelings about what transpired outside my home last night. Since the 2016 election, I’ve often felt simply ashamed of my country. But, last night I felt proud to live in a country that gives people the right to peaceably gather and protest. I wholeheartedly support free speech and that says something when POTUS regularly attacks the fourth estate.

I must honestly conclude by saying that I was also extremely grateful for the highly visible police presence.

Michele

 

 

You’ve Got to Have Friends!

It’s the friends you can call up at 4am that matter.”

-Marlene Dietrich

 

Dear Reader:

I’ve been very quiet lately and the friends who know me best have guessed why. Nearly four months ago, my husband and I moved from Carmel to Sacramento and I still haven’t quite caught my breath. Despite the fact that I love my new home and neighbors, I’ve felt overwhelmed, disoriented and sad. So, I’ve retreated …which is my way. It’s particularly easy to do that in the darkness of winter.

I haven’t wanted to share my unhappiness with others because it seems incredibly unwarranted. But, I began reaching out to my friends this week and they’ve reminded me of some basic truths.

Change, even positive change, is difficult.

My lovely friend waited until she was 50 years old for the right man to appear and she married him less than a year ago. Now she’s adjusting to her new home, role and life. She’s lost her desire to create and, as she put it, entered a period of “hibernation.” She wrote: “No doubt you and I will move through this season ( it’s just a season, after all) and blossom with new insights and greater creativity …in time.”

Your problems may not be BIG problems, but you’re entitled to them!

One of my friends lost her home several months ago. Just as wildfires were gobbling up California, her home was destroyed when a chemical fire spontaneously combusted in her garage. She was on vacation and got the news while she floated on a boat beside her husband. She’s negotiating with the insurance company who insists the value of her lost home is $80,000 less than the construction company does.

I felt guilty complaining that the carpet we had installed the week before we moved in was going to have to be ripped out and replaced due to an incredibly poor install. And yet, all she had to offer was compassion. “How frustrating!” she said after agreeing that moving was a major upset.

Each stage of life offers rewards and challenges.

One of my dearest friends is feeling the loneliness that comes from having grown children and a husband with a demanding career. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known and so it pains me greatly to hear her express doubt about her purpose. I wonder silently if it isn’t enough that she is such a generous person.

And finally, we’ve all got problems! Friends are there to remind us that we’re not alone.

May you all be blessed with friends as good as mine!

xo,

Michele

 

Thank You Mary Oliver

My Library

Dear Reader:

Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, is dead. I feel heavy writing those words as if I lost a friend. I am simply another reader…one of millions. But with her books in my hands, I’ve felt the companionship of a friend. I’ve nodded my head or spoken aloud as if in conversation with her. And, so it would be true to say that we had a relationship. That was the power of Mary’s art. That’s what made her so well-loved.

She was the rare poet who sold well. My social media feeds are filled with her brilliantly strung together words and moving tributes from regular people like me and her famous admirers like Hillary Clinton, Madonna and Oprah.

When I heard the news of her death, I retreated to my shed to pull her book Dog Songs from my shelf. The book popped open to page 31:

BENJAMIN, WHO CAME FROM

WHO KNOWS WHERE

What shall I do?

When I pick up the broom

he leaves the room.

When I fuss with kindling he

runs for the yard.

Then he’s back, and we

hug for a long time.

In his low-to-the ground chest

I can hear his heart slowing down.

Then I rub his shoulders and

kiss his feet

and fondle his long hound ears.

Benny, I say,

don’t worry. I also know the way

the old life haunts the new.

I read that poem as a dog lover, a hound lover, to be precise. But, I also read it as a person whose old life can be haunting. In one of the rare interviews Mary gave, she spoke of her unhappy childhood that included sexual abuse and parental neglect.

“I had a very dysfunctional family, and a very hard childhood,” Mary told Maria Shriver. “So I made a world out of words. And it was my salvation.”

Thank you Mary for sharing your world with me. The joy, solace and inspiration your words have given me are alive. Still. On my bookcase.

Michele