Guest Post: Inner Space by Laurie Seidler

Dear Reader:

I’m packing for Mars.

Yeah. I’m an astronaut. Self-trained. Rigorously self-trained. I’ve been running stairs. Well, not so much running stairs as using them on an as-needed basis. You know, when I’m downstairs and I have to get upstairs. And I squeeze a tennis ball. A lot. Preparing for space travel is an arduous and exacting science. You have to mix anaerobic and aerobic activity.

What drives me? What drives any explorer? Curiosity. A thirst for adventure. The need to test myself. Mars is there and I’m here. Enough said.

Also, I have an empty nest now, and a bit of free time. A fair amount of free time, truth be told, and I don’t do well with free time. I need structure and goals. So I’m planning and executing a 270-day trip to Mars, during which I’ll be following the kind of regimented program of exercise and intellectual stimulation that keeps astronauts sane as they hurtle through the vacuum of space.

You know how people say, “I’ve always wanted to do X. I’ve always wanted to [learn to surf, play the cello, read Proust and not just say that I’ve read Proust]”? Well, I may actually read Proust. And learn to surf. I’m not sure yet. The trip is still in the planning stages. But it’s a go, as we like to say in the space business. It’s on. I’m in the process of establishing the mission parameters that I’ll be following for the 270 days that I’m “away,” and I’m chronicling the journey in a mission log.

We’re happiest when we’re absorbed, when we’re rising to a challenge. Well, everything I know about astrophysics I learned from Star Trek and I get dizzy shaking my head, but I’m going to Mars, if only metaphorically. That’s my challenge. We’re all travelers, I’m just steering my ship in a new direction.

Call it a trip to inner space.

Laurie Seidler

My friend Laurie has a BA in history from Yale and an MFA in writing from the California College of the Arts. Formerly a reporter and editor for Dow Jones & Co., she teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her book, 22 Shelters:   Lessons From Letters , is an inspiring read.

In addition to those amazing credentials, Laurie was the first mom to be-friend me when my daughter switched schools in the second grade. So, yes, she has a permanent place in my heart. Her only “child” is a sophomore in college.

I’m NOT Cooking, Today!

Dear Reader:

“She started this blog and she just stopped cooking!” I heard my husband say as I passed the door of his study.

“Think she likes blogging better,” my daughter responded.

Ah, the wisdom of youth! Yes, I do like writing better.  In fact the list of things I like better than cooking is long.  It includes: eating, sleeping, exercising and reading. I’d rather be spending time with friends, binge-watching The Crown, wine tasting in the valley, hanging out on the couch with my dogs or talking to my daughter on the phone.

It would be less than sincere to say that I like everything about aging, but it is absolutely true that I am happier now than I have ever been. One of the things I like most is that I have the time to do (or not) as I please. That is a blessing!

I’m sure I’ve become a bit more selfish with my time…but, the clock is ticking! NOW is such a good time! My daughter is happy, my husband is retired, my friends are inspiring,  my home and my pink shed are beautiful and my health is good. I’m enjoying my 50’s.

Gotta go now. I’m taking my husband shopping in the prepared meals section at Whole Foods.

Have a great day!

Michele

Thank you, Beth!

Dear Reader:

I call Beth my “Texas beauty queen girlfriend,” because, well she’s very pretty and she still speaks “Texan” even though she hasn’t lived there for more than 20 years. Y’all understand?! But she is so much more than attractive and down-to-earth. She’s the kind of friend who always listens, never judges (unless we’re talking about the quality of a photo!)  and helps when she can.

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Before I got to know Beth, she was simply the “Mom with the camera.” Other parents spoke highly of the wonderful photos, videos and slide shows she generously prepared to commemorate school events and trips. I didn’t really get to know Beth until we moved across the street from her and started a car-pool to get our kids to school. Her son and my daughter are the same age and her oldest is two years their senior. We bonded as moms and neighbors and today, now that our “children” are away at school, we share a bond as artists. It seems Beth is multi-talented; she is not only a brilliant photographer, but she is also a gifted painter. I invite you to view her art at  bordelonartworks.com.

When I called to tell Beth about my idea for a blog, she responded exactly how I wished she would: with enthusiasm, encouragement and an offer to help. I’m a writer, not a photographer, but I knew I wanted photos on my blog. Beth and I are no longer neighbors, but she loaded up her camera and speciality lighting and made the 80 minute drive to my pink shed. Most of the photos (all the good ones!) on my site have been taken by Beth.  After the photo shoot, we had a good old-fashioned slumber party.  In an attempt to be as good a friend to Beth as she is to me, I agreed to watch the Bachelor, as that is one of her favorite shows.  My husband disappeared to his study and I had the opportunity to find out what all the hype is about.  Um, well… I just couldn’t really enjoy the visual of one guy kissing a different girl in each scene. But, I could understand how one could become addicted to show. I asked that Beth tell me who Nick chose, as I would be curious but not watching. (Funny thing: my technology consultant, Kristin, was approached to be on The Bachelor years ago, but declined…wisely, I think!)

Years ago Beth and I helped each other through the day-to-day challenges that come with raising children and today we support eachother in our artistic endeavors. I feel so grateful to call her my friend.

May y’all be blessed with good friends,

Michele

No Regrets

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Dear Reader:

The woman at the Clinique counter turned out to be right. The day I visited her, I was 7 months pregnant…feeling a bit fat and looking for a “feel good” purchase. Lipstick is always fun! She rather ceremoniously uncapped a long, thin silver tube and twisted the base so that I might see the color. “Perfect,” she effused. I was not initially impressed, but, at her urging, I applied it and checked myself out in the mirror. Fabulous! Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a staple in my cosmetic bag ever since.

“So, are you going back to work after the baby?” she asked. I replied affirmatively to which she responded, “Ah, too bad.”

When I left her counter, I’m sure my lovely, shimmery lips were parted in an “um, what?!” expression.  That was some opinionated salesperson. I was working in high-tech marketing and had received a promotion and stock options the year before. Not to mention the fact that I was, and remain,  a staunch feminist. Of course,  I was going back.

I did return from maternity leave, but lasted only six months… and that was a stretch! Everything had changed. The 30-50 minute drive to and from work was never enjoyable, but now it was a lost hour that could have been shared with my daughter.  The early morning calls with the European sales force that I had once so enthusiastically anticipated created a logistical nightmare. The high level meetings that I had felt proud to attend seemed unimportant; I was no longer impressed with myself or anyone else in attendance. I  did not feel the zeal for advancement or the thrill of competition that was fostered in the company.  I found myself wondering who would be there to see my daughter’s first steps: me or the day care workers.

Home life was difficult, too. It was a mad dash every evening to retrieve my daughter within the approved pick-up time.  My husband’s work in high-tech finance was demanding and he usually arrived a couple of hours later than us between 7 and 8 p.m. When he got home, he needed the same things that our baby and I needed: rest, relaxation, dinner, understanding, attention. We were all simultaneously extremely needy! And, very tired. We had only each other. There was no household help or familial assistance. It was just the three of us.

My husband supported my decision to quit working.  We took a leap of faith together knowing that the budget was going to be extremely tight. And, it worked out just fine! Our daughter is a 20-year-old college student today and the three of us are very close.

In the two decades since I made my decision, technology has changed things so much. I see so many women who successfully combine work and family life. Neither my husband nor I had any flexibility in our jobs. It seems ironic that we were both working in the high-tech industry that has revolutionized life for so many, and yet our employers offered no allowances to accommodate family life.

Today, I have an empty nest and time to pursue my interests,  but I don’t think I could fully enjoy myself if I didn’t feel that I’d completely embraced my role as a mother. I feel grateful that I had a choice; I know many women don’t. I have never regretted my decision to be a stay at home mom.

Sincerely,

Michele

P.S. I wouldn’t recommend seeking life advice at the Clinique counter, but that saleswoman was wise!  I recently read that the lipstick she sold me more than 20 years ago has become a cult-classic.  Clinique now ships one Black Honey lipstick every two  minutes.

http://www.glamour.com/story/most-popular-lipstick-colors-review

 

I Could Be Slimmer

Dear Reader:

When I enter my height and weight on the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator, I am just inside (and occasionally  just outside!) the healthy range. This really only tells part of the story, though. My doctor could fill you in on the rest.

“Look, I’m not saying you’re fat,” he assured me during my last physical. “But, I knew you when you were 15 pounds lighter.” (So did I…that was a long time ago!) “Let’s just say you’re fluffy.”

Maybe you are hating my doctor about now. But, don’t. We both have a sense of humor and enjoy verbally sparring with each other. He acknowledges that I am in very good health when he sees the results of my blood work and he acknowledges that I don’t want to take any more of his valuable time talking about my weight. (To give you a full picture: he is only a couple of inches taller than me with a small frame and I’d guess we are about the same weight!)

But, I can be honest with you. Truthfully, I know I could be thinner, but I really do not want to do what it would take to be thinner. I was blessed with Italian curves and a small waist and I knew in my teens, twenties, thirties and even forties that I looked good! I’m now pushing 60 and it would take a whole lot of “NO” to look the way I used to.

My husband and I are retired. Our daughter is in college. And, after nearly 33 years of marriage (40 years together), we deserve to eat, drink and be merry. We are past the half-way mark in life and that, in and of itself, gives us every reason to enjoy.  Today we will go to the gym to exercise and tonight we will again pour a glass of vino and enjoy a satisfying meal together. We may even follow our meal with a bit of pastry or chocolate. There will be no guilt!

Cheers,

Michele

 

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Maui Time

Movie Star, Maui, big sunglasses, travelDear Reader:

While there is no bad time to go to Maui, my husband and I have discovered a truly good time to visit the island. Last year, a couple of days after Thanksgiving , we loaded the suitcases with books and magazines, threw in our suits and shorts and escaped the holiday rush.

We walked every day along the beach paths and in the sand. We slept in late and began each day with a mimosa. We didn’t rent a car. We didn’t watch the news.We enjoyed sudden bursts of tropical rain. We sang along to “Frosty the Snowman” in the hotel lobby as we enjoyed Kalua pork sandwiches and mai tais. There is something particularly satisfying about having nothing to do for a whole week, especially in the month of December. (Our daughter was appalled: we had not only gone without her, but we were there while she was taking finals. We sent pineapples and chocolate covered macadamia nuts to her and her five roommates!)

My reading list for the week was diverse, and heavy! I have simply not made friends with readers, and so I hauled my heavy load from lobby to pool and back again throughout the week. I began with the book my sister-in-law had recommended: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. I am not a person who has to be convinced of the power of non-fiction. But, even I was struck by how moved I felt at the stories of those who lost their lives in such dramatic fashion in 1915. I followed that book up with something lighter:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I knew I had to read the book when I heard  that it was a novel by a blogger and that the central character was a 59-year-old curmudgeon. My husband is not yet 59, but in three years he will be a 59 year old curmudgeon. The book was charming, as is my husband. For my third book, I read Delia Ephron’s: Sister Mother Husband Dog : (etc) . I’ve always admired the work of the Ephron sisters and I enjoyed the mix of autobiographical essays that had me alternatively chuckling and near tears…a true representation of life. The last book I read  Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho was an inspiration. I read it once; then I read it again while taking notes; then I read it again because it was fun. I felt energized, afraid, motivated, excited! After tossing around the idea of a blog for several months, I suddenly knew that I was going to become a blogger. Joy had convinced me!

On our last morning, as I packed up my large tote with my books, my husband called for the bellman. He arrived shortly after and looked at me and said, “You look like a movie star…or, maybe a writer.”

His comment seemed to me to be a good omen. Clearly, I do not look like a movie star! But, yes, I’m a writer. I must be. I look like one!

Aloha,

Michele

* Note to those who want to look like a writer or movie star: Throw on a pair of jeans and a black tee, top with a long cardigan, drape a colorful scarf around your neck, carry a large tote filled with a computer and books, and WEAR A MARVELOUS PAIR OF SUNGLASSES!