Aunt Bessie’s Tablecloth!

Aunt Bessie's Tablecloth!

Dear Reader:

Let me introduce you to Amy. She’s wearing her Aunt Bessie’s tablecloth, and she’s so happy that I noticed just how magnificent it is!

I had an amazing sandwich at a tiny little neighborhood restaurant in Sacramento last week. Despite how very hungry I was when I walked through the door, the first thing I noticed was that dress and the woman who wore it so joyfully.

I never hesitate to compliment people…why should I…that’s my thinking. I see it…I like it…I say it! And, sometimes I am rewarded with a great story, as I was on this day.

“Excuse me,” I said as she hurriedly passed me. “But, I must tell you that I adore your dress.”

“Oh, it was once my aunt’s Christmas tablecloth and I inherited it!”

Well, that’s not something you hear everyday, I thought. But it helped explain the great happiness that I felt emanating from this woman. Her aunt saved the bright red, hand-embroidered cloth for just a single day each year. Her niece remembers it fondly.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” she continued. “Then one day my friend offered to turn it into a dress so that I could enjoy it all year long.”

Now that’s a story to love! I’m still smiling!

Michele

 

 

The Women of Zone Fitness; Meet Cindy

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Just 120 pounds…that’s all!

Dear Reader:

Imagine that you are a seventy-five year old woman who is regularly complimented on your obvious physical fitness and alluring shape by women decades younger than you! Imagine that you are a grandmother who can beat her fourteen year old grandson in a plank off…planks require great strength…planks are painfully difficult! Imagine that you inspire other women of all ages who walk through the door of Zone Fitness!

No imagination required…meet my friend Cindy. By a happy scheduling accident, one of my training days coincides with one of her training days. She was there on my first day of training and I was immediately in awe of her. I watched her push and pull and lift and press. I saw a mature woman in fantastic shape and I was inspired. I want to look like that, move like that, feel like that…I thought.

“I wouldn’t want to tangle with you!” I said after training alongside Cindy for a couple of  weeks. “You are magnificently strong! I’d love to hear about your fitness journey.”

Cindy was happy to share her story with me. She remembers the moment, when at the age of 60, she realized that she was afraid to run. She was walking along one day when the thought came to her …it felt so good to run when I was young. That was her light-bulb moment and it yielded a thirty pound weight loss and a commitment to fitness that has endured for years. If you do the math, hate math, that’s about 1,500 training sessions. That happens when you focus and fall in love with fitness.

As she likes to say, “I never regret a training session!”

I must say that I agree with Cindy. We also believe that our old-out-of-shape selves would be completely shocked  if someone told us that someday we’d look forward to spending time in the gym.

Cindy is one of several incredible women who train with Jonathan Hoskins. I’ll be sharing their stories with you in the weeks to come. I’m sure they will impress and, more importantly, motivate you as they do me.

Here’s to strength!

Michele

Thigh Love…It’s a Thing!

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Dear Reader:

Meet my little friend Sayler Joy. As you can see, she is only nine months old and yet she is already an inspiration. (And a complete joy, her name suits her!) I saw this picture first thing this morning and I felt such a surge of emotion that I had to write to you.

Recently I lamented the fact that the site of my thighs did not please me. I have the feeling many women share that sentiment. Sayler has a very wise mother and so I wonder: did they team up to send a message to womankind or were they just trying to brighten our day?

In either case, you succeeded and I thank you!

Thank you for reminding us how silly vanity is, how amazing the human body is and how remarkable the miracle of childbirth is. Thank you for bringing a happy tear to my eye. I can’t wait to visit my friend and gently pinch those amazingly wonderful thighs.

It’s so nice to have friends with babies!

Michele

I’m a Bitch

 

Dear Reader:

I’d like to say up-front that I fully embrace the “bitch” within me. I’d add that I’m intelligent, opinionated and articulate. Those are the traits that often precede the label: “bitch.” Of course, I know that. People can be quite direct in calling out women like me.

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The late, great Bette Davis

If you share my personality traits, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’d bet in living rooms across the country, women were rolling their eyes in shared disgust when POTUS referred to Hillary Clinton as “such a nasty woman.” (I’m rolling my eyes and shaking my head as I write!) That exchange played out publicly on the world stage, but it plays out in small ways in the lives of all women who dare to assert themselves.

There was a tiny, creepy moment at the bar at AT&T Park recently. I had been waiting forever to order my Irish coffee amidst a mass of people. There wasn’t a proper line, but everyone was behaving well until it was my turn. A very tall, very large man approached the bar from behind me encroaching uncomfortably on my space and causing me to shrink both physically and emotionally. But, I’m a true baseball fan and I wanted to get back to the game and…IT WAS MY TURN! So, I said so, politely.

He answered, “Fucking BITCH!”

I was afraid, but I didn’t let it show. The bartender came to my defense and quickly made my drink.

Moments like that happen all the time, everywhere. Taken in totality, they are exhausting and demoralizing. They are not comparable to sexual harassment and abuse. However, they serve to silence and diminish half of the population. Now, that’s a bitch!

Michele

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 out the president’s name on my site. His name will remain unspoken here.

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

The Calla Lilies are in Bloom Again

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This beauty just appeared on the hill leading down to my shed! The pure white color of the Calla Lily makes it a popular choice for both weddings and funerals.

“The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower — suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in the memory of something that has died.”

Dear Reader:

Katherine Hepburn spoke that line in The Lake, a long-forgotten play. I adore listening to her let the words roll off her tongue in her stylistic Mid-Atlantic accent, and, indeed, the line’s iambic pentameter sounds wonderful spoken in my California accent, too.

If you are a close reader, you are wondering how I’m able to hear her words. Let me tell you the story; it’s a great one! You see Katherine, it seems, was as tough as the characters she became famous for playing in her films.

The Lake was both a critical and popular flop. The same critics who had lauded Hepburn’s work in films wrote that the stage had exposed her to be lacking in great talent. Dorothy Parker famously said that her performance “ran the gamut of human emotion from A to B.” On top of that, the play was directed by Jed Harris, who was an infamous “big bad wolf” of American theatre. He was known for his abusive behavior to actresses (sound familiar?!). Harris intended to take the show on the road as he had sunk all his money into it. Hepburn, who was desperate to leave the play, wrote him a check for her life savings (around 14,000 dollars) and was released from her contract. She later said the experience was an important lesson in accepting responsibility for her own career.

Four years later, Hepburn was cast in Stage Door, a film about several aspiring actresses living together in a boardinghouse and competing for the same role in a play. The fictional play within the film prominently features the calla-lily- line. The director, Gregory La Cava, lifted it from The Lake Hepburn’s character practices it in rehearsal over and over, always without much feeling. But in the movie’s tragic climax, she memorably delivers the line with great emotion. Following the success of Stage Door,  that line became one of Hepburn’s signature catchphrases. She had turned her famous flop into a testament to tenacity. Now, that’s a strong woman.

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They say that every person has a story to tell. It seems to me that every flower has something to say, as well!

Michele

P.S. Unfortunately, the elegant calla lily is poisonous; I do not let the puppy roam the hill as she is still in the “everything and anything goes in my mouth stage”.

The Bouquet on my Desk

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Dear Reader:

I wore my first sweater of the season last week; it was a chilly 68 degrees. It’s fall in California, but I have a summer bouquet to enjoy every day.! It was created by my blogging friend, Tamara Jare at My Botanical Garden. It was spring when I selected the lovely watercolor and I was anticipating summertime as I always do. I framed the small piece and it sits on my desk in the pink shed. I can almost smell the peonies, roses, grasses and spirea in full bloom.

As Tamara said, “It’s a special arrangement in the same way that each summer is special.” It’s particularly meaningful to me because it’s a reminder of one of the first friends that I made after creating my blog. I have a friend in Slovenia! I never thought I’d be able to say that!

Tamara found my site just two days after I established it and became one of my first followers. I was glad, not only to have her as a reader, but also to discover the beauty on her site. We developed a connection over the past months and have continued to communicate through e-mail.It was fun to discover how much Tamara and I have in common. We are about the same age and happily married with grown children. After she read my post  about aging, she shared that Oil of Olay (tanti anni fa) was the secret to her youthful good looks, too! We agreed that they must have a good advertising company!

We are both creative women who feel happy and complete in our lives. Tamara began her blog when her mother was terminally ill and the artistic expression helped her through that very difficult time. I started my blog when my one -and -only left me to go to college. If one could bottle creative expression, it would be truthful to state that it is a potent remedy in times of loss or change.

I’m sure that I will sound my age when I say that I am amazed to find women who are so seemingly like me in all parts of the world. I’m an “old dog” who learned a “new trick” and I’m grateful to be part of a blogging community with no boundaries.

I am hopeful that someday I’ll meet my friend in Slovenia, but, until then, her art keeps me company while I pursue my creative side.

Thanks Tamara!

Love,

Michele

Q is for Queen

Dear Reader:

I’m an unapologetic Anglophile! What’s not to love about our mother country?! The castles are beautiful. The tea and cakes are delicious. The museums are incomparable. And, the monarchy has evolved into a family one can (almost) relate to…far more human than royal.

I’ve had the pleasure of travelling across the pond three times. Two of those visits took place in June during Royal Ascot, the horserace of the year, as well as the social occasion of the summer. The race was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne and is attended each year by the monarch and other members of the royal family. The town of Ascot is a short six miles from Windsor castle. I learned this on my first visit when much to my surprise we found ourselves outside the gift shop and in view of the entrance to the castle and its circular drive. Suddenly, we were surrounded by others and the whispers began.

“The queen…the queen will be leaving soon for Ascot!”

We pressed ourselves against a security gate and held our iPhones high hoping to get a shot of the monarch. OMG! I can not tell you how excited I was to see the queen waving at me…at the little group that had serendipitously found itself within royal view. I returned to the same spot the following year and my enthusiasm at seeing the queen had not dimmed in the least. I’ve now seen the monarch twice and I happily relate that information to everyone who will listen. She’s a rock star in my book. I admire her strength, commitment and service.

I was rather amused recently to read in Vanity Fair that the queen enjoys not one, not two…but four alcoholic drinks a day! This is a woman I can relate to. According to the former royal chef, Darren McGrady, the monarch starts her day with a gin and Dubonnet, enjoys a glass of wine and a dry gin martini at lunch and turns in for the night after a glass of champagne.

At 91 years of age, she can do/drink whatever she pleases! And, I believe at 57, I too, as queen of my domain, may enjoy whatever I please at any time of the day.

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The queen, in red, on her way to Ascot 2015!

Cheers,

Michele