Friends and Neighbors

 

Me and Marietta
“If you live in each other’s pockets long enough, you’re related.” —Jodi Picoult
Frank, Marietta and me
Farewell dinner last month
Pink camellias
Celebrating the 1 year anniversary of my blog
Happy Birthday!
On our way to birthday brunch for me last year
Cheers!
A favorite pic of mine, mimosas in the garden three years ago

Dear Reader:

I had to say goodbye to my favorite neighbors last month and, in between the tears, I got to thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor today vs. when I was growing up.

In 1970 I was an energetic ten-year old who loved roaming the street with my siblings and friends. The doors to nearly every home on my block were always open. Mothers worked in those homes and they (mostly) enjoyed the interruption that a pack of kids provided. I loved particularly the woman who baked cinnamon rolls as heavy as bricks and the one who loved to sew but immediately left her machine to chat with us upon our arrival as if we were her contemporaries.

The neighborhood of my youth is a rare thing nowadays. (Hey, I’m pushing 60 years old and I think I’ve earned the right to use the word nowadays!) Seems to me the definition of a good neighbor today goes something like this: a good neighbor is one who doesn’t bother you, respects boundaries and keeps quiet. Of course, this is dependent upon where you live. I think you’re more likely to find satisfying relationships if you have young children and can bond over play-dates and carpools. But, those days are over for me and my husband and I never expected to have the good luck of becoming attached to someone on our block when we moved to Carmel.

Marietta and Frank’s former home is perched on a hill across the street from our home and it boasts expansive windows at the front. So, they could look down on us and see the daily comings and goings. It was quite easy for them to monitor things when we were on vacation. They saw the mail being delivered and they’d know if someone broke in and tried to take off with our t.v.

Our friendship began immediately with the kindness they offered before even knowing us. We moved into our house slowly and I took several loads of things in my car before the big moving trucks arrived. I made the trips solo as Tom was still employed and Natalie was in school and the drive was an easy hour and one half.

It never failed that shortly after I’d unloaded all of the boxes into my garage, I’d get a call from across the street.

“You are working so hard; don’t work so hard!” Marietta would advise in her rich Chilean accent. “Come eat a sandwich with us!”

I’d frequently receive invitations to take short vino or coffee breaks or to dine on superbly home cooked meals. It was like having a more perfect version of my mom living across the street and it was divine.

For five years, we celebrated birthdays and everyday occurrences like the sighting of a family of quail marching across the driveway or the first blooms of azaleas in both of our gardens. And a couple of days after the election of POTUS, we dined together to bond in our shared horror and grief about the state of our country.

Most recently, Marietta saw me regularly racing to my car decked out in my spandex on my way to Zone Fitness. She never missed the opportunity to provide praise and encouragement. One day I’d see her waving from her window, another day we’d meet in the middle of the street before getting into our cars to head our separate ways. She’d often say the same thing about my fitness goals that she said when I began my blog: Do whatever makes you happy!

I’ve been missing the chance meetings at the mailbox and the shouts out of car windows as we come and go. And, though, it’s not even fall yet, I’m already missing the annual delivery of freshly baked holiday fruit cake. Really, I’m missing the rare, warm and comforting feeling of knowing that there’s someone living so close by who cares so much.

Hope this brings a smile to your face, Marietta!

Love,

Michele

 

Who Is That?

back squat
I like being strong!

Dear Reader:

Last week I learned to do a back squat. This was a new move for me and on the first try I lost my balance in the set-up and nearly knocked over my trainer! But three sets in, I had it down perfectly. I was impressed. Ninety-five pounds up….ninety five pounds down…I’m looking good in that mirror.

Did I say I was impressed with myself?! Nine months in and I’m amazed at what a 58-year-old woman can do when she sets her mind to it.

I’ve always considered myself to be an emotionally strong woman; now I’m physically strong, too. Let me just say that’s an amazing combination.

Just do it, ladies!

Michele

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

Swimming School Drop-Out

 

water aerobics!

 

 

Dear Reader:

So, I flunked swimming lessons. That was over fifty years ago before the evolution of the positive parenting style. I couldn’t imagine that happening today….oh, I hope not. It probably would have been best if my mom had re-enrolled me after my initial failure. But, she never did and so I really can not say that I know how to swim.

But, nowadays I’m game for just about any activity my daughter suggests that will help us meet our fitness goals. And, so it was that I came to find myself enrolled in a water aerobics class taught by Mike, a twenty-something personal trainer, at the Cal Poly University campus swimming pool.

It really isn’t necessary to know how to swim to get a good work-out in the water. We used kick-boards and aquatic dumbbells  and the wonderful resistance provided by the water. It was a tough work-out, but different from my regular cardio in one interesting way.  I was often out of breath; I’m quite familiar with that sensation nowadays. But, I wasn’t hot and I wasn’t dripping sweat as I usually am. It felt as though my mind kept checking in with my body to try to figure out what was going on. Seems I’ve gotten used to sweating!

Today was so much fun, though, that I just might find the courage to re-enroll in swimming lessons. I didn’t know that I could enjoy a pool without a cabana boy and fruity cocktails as much as I did!

Splish splash

Michele

Dark Room, Disco Ball, Loud Music!

 

SPINNING, ANYONE?!
SPINNING, ANYONE?!

 

Dear Reader:

It’s not what you think…that was the setting for my morning spin class! It was fun! I’m visiting my daughter in her college town down south and this is a class she enjoys. The only thing better than making a commitment to strength and fitness is doing it with the support of the most important people in my life. We sat there, side by side, sweating it out for 45 minutes.

The instructor was a fabulously fit mature woman who yelled throughout, “Isn’t this a great way to start the day? Ready? Well, ready? If not now …when? We’re taking a ride through the hills. Increase tension! Are you uncomfortable yet?! Get uncomfortable!”

When I began working out, I also began reading about working out. One of my favorite quotes came from Jillian Michaels:  You’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s a phrase that’s become my mantra. I turn it over in my mind all the time and it keeps me moving. So, it was great to hear her singing the same tune as me!

My trainer, Jonathan, is a bit less vocal than this woman. He generally tells me the exercises in the set and the count and leaves me to it, unless I need a correction to my form. (I do not need that very often, as I am fastidious about form!) He will occasionally throw in a “PUSH” or  “PULL” and that usually elicits a slightly nasty look from me and sometimes a response: “I AM pushing or pulling!” He’ll sometimes say “looking good,” which is nice to hear. But, what I really love to hear is “You’re getting stronger!” I absolutely beam…I know it…when I hear those words!

As we descended the “last hill” in our morning ride and class came to an end, we were left with the following thoughts: “Feel proud of yourself. You chose to begin the day in a healthy way. And…NOW, DON’T GO OUT AND GRAB A SNICKER’S BAR!!!”

I hadn’t planned on a candy bar, but I will enjoy a glass of local wine with my dinner tonight. Cheers to health, well-being and my daughter, of course!

Michele

 

The Women of Zone Fitness; Meet Cindy

Cindy

Pulling 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!

37802812_10156332534981063_204719749307826176_n

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

Why Were You Born?

Unknown-2

Dear Reader:

Retirement brings with it the opportunity and desire to clarify one’s purpose…again. I thought a lot about my purpose in my 20s. I loved to read and write and I was inspired by Gloria Steinem and Barbara Walters. It was incredibly fulfilling to focus on my education. Some of the most enjoyable days of my life were spent pounding away at typewriters while earning my B.A. in Journalism.

In my 30s and 40s, I was busy, as most people are. I didn’t spend a lot of time pondering anything beyond purchasing a home, advancing in my career and then mothering my daughter.

Natalie is now an adult and I have the luxury of time to ponder my existence once again. But, it’s not merely an intellectual pursuit. A person’s “why” should serve to order her days. Our values should match our activities and so the exercise has value.

At 58 years of age, I’m struck by how little my perception of my purpose has changed. And, I’m encouraged to discover that I seem to be living in alignment with my core values.

I have always been compelled to create, decorate, celebrate, communicate, question, advocate and challenge myself. And, my voice has always been high-pitched and feminine and aligned with that of other women who believe in the cause of equality.

I know “why.” Do you?

Michele

The Shape of Grief

 

IMG_8669

 

the shape of grief

when you lose someone who means the world to you
your world changes
never returning to its former shape

it appears to others to be the same world
so it’s a secret you keep

until you can’t any longer
an anniversary
a place, flower or song
suddenly it spills out

you must tell the world
you are not the same
you have not been the same
you will never be the same no matter how much time passes

the illusion is just that
the pretense grows heavy
it requires too much energy to maintain
so you shed it

and discover others who know your secret
keep it themselves
believing they will not be understood
believing they too are alone
knowing time does not heal
time changes
what was already changed

all will be touched
eventually
shaped by love
altered by grief

Dear Reader:

The poem was inspired by thoughts of my brother and by my friends, in and out of the blogging world, who have shared their secrets with me: Franziska, Tamara, Sleepless Dave, Jon, Esmeralda, Jen, Gallivanta and Pam. 

Michele