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.
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.
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.
Lynn doesn’t like it when I tell her that she inspires me. But, it simply must be said. I want to be like Lynn when I grow up! She’s opinionated, talented and strong. She supports other women who endeavor to be their best while offering a master class in how to age gracefully.
I like to think I’m following in her footsteps, as she began training with Jonathan at about the same age as I did. She’s now 80 years old and living life to its fullest.
“I pay Jon instead of doctors,” she says with a smile.
Three days a week she works out alongside men and women of all ages. All younger than her. Somewhat irrelevant in Lynn’s case. She cheers me on as I sweat and sing aloud on the arc. And, reads along as I chronicle my existence on the page, referring to me as Zone’s “wordsmith.”When I took a few days off from my cardio schedule, for a couple of weeks in a row, I had a note on my Facebook page from Lynn. Seems she misses me when I’m not there!
She’s the woman who tells other women, “You’re looking good!”
When she’s not in the gym, Lynn can be found in her home studio. She’s an accomplished artist whose work, depending on the subject matter, captures my heart or my imagination or both.
The works of Lynn Lupetti
I believe it’s a perfectly natural thing for people of all ages to look for role models. I did not have a close relationship with my mother and, consciously or unconsciously, I’ve always looked to fill my life with older women that I’d like to emulate. It’s nice to be reminded, through another’s example, that life is a gift and it should be treated as such.
Cheers to my friend, Lynn! Cheers to strong women of all ages.
Since beginning my Journey to Strong last November, I’ve had so many women tell me that I’m an “inspiration.” I have certainly appreciated the support, but I’ve found it difficult to fully embrace the idea that I’ve inspired others to become fitter or stronger.
But, my friend Kristin’s daughter, Julia, gave me an amazing gift that I will forever treasure. She tapped me on the shoulder, halfway through dinner last night, and whispered in my ear.
“I saw you lifting weights on Instagram. I’m strong, too!”
I was filled with emotion. Sometimes it takes a child to remind us that:
we don’t need to be anything more than who we are to inspire others
it’s important to share the small and large victories present in everyday life
social media can be a force for good
AND, our daughters are watching!
Dear readers, venture out and do what you do best…and then share it!
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.
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.
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.
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” during the final presidential debate. (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!
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.
*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.
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.