I’m Proud of My Friends

Waterford baby block

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.

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

 

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

 

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

All You Need is Love (all together now)

“Accepting death doesn’t mean you won’t be devastated when someone you love dies. It means you will be able to focus on your grief, unburdened by bigger existential questions like, “Why do people die?” and “Why is this happening to me?” Death isn’t happening to you. Death is happening to us all.”

Caitlin Doughty

 

Dear Reader:

Death has come again and taken the life of another in my circle of friends. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I wrote to you about a friend who lost her father quite suddenly. Today I learned of the passing of another man. He was a husband, father and grandfather who took great joy in the companionship of his family. Indeed he spent the morning at the pool with his grandchildren and the afternoon with his wife and daughter before he passed quickly of an apparent heart attack.

The lives and deaths of these two men have raised questions among my friends. The questions are old and yet they seem new again when one is confronted with loss. Why do some live long lives and others die young? Why do some suffer? What is the meaning of life now that I know this will happen? When and how will my loved ones die? And, ultimately, when and how will I die?

I have friends of all ages and the youngest ones are just now facing loss as adults. It is quite a different matter when a young child loses a grandparent or great grandparent. I can still remember the Christmas morning when my then four-year-old daughter looked at her great-grandmother and commented: “You are very old; you will die soon.” The room fell silent until Gigi smiled and took her great-granddaughter into her arms for a hug.

My daughter does not remember making this bold statement nor does she remember her great-grandmother. It was in fact a year and a half later that Gigi passed at the age of 96. We were surprised the day we got the call as we had anticipated that the next death in the family would be that of my 36-year-old brother. I lost my brother two weeks later, a year after his cancer diagnosis. I was newly 40 and devastated.

My brother was never given any hope that he would live longer than a few months; he lived a full year. Friends and family offered to finance a trip for him and his wife as they’d never left the country. My brother chose instead to live the last months of his life simply. He devoted time to housekeeping,  sorting and gifting his possessions and putting papers in order. He spent time with family and friends. He shared his deep faith and complete confidence in God and an after-life with anyone who would listen. He created art and he enjoyed the companionship of his wife and dogs in his comfortable home and in the nearby mountains.

I watched my brother die…closely and attempted to make sense of it all. It made no sense and yet it informed me and inspired me. I can never explain why the youngest member of my family was the first to die. I still don’t think it was “fair.” I still believe he should be here with me to exchange a laugh or two about how hard it is to get older. But, he accepted his passage with such courage and calmness that I could not help but do the same.

His death gave me the opportunity to ponder life and all the old important questions. I concluded years ago that the Beatles said it best…”all you need is love.” I have loved and I have been loved and, in the end, that is the only thing I need.

Sincerely,

Michele

My Blogging Friend

Dear Reader:

Back in December, I was on Maui Time reading Blog Inc. by Joy Cho and deciding if I should go public. Googling me yielded no results. I had no Facebook page. I had only just begun to read blogs.

The surf and the sand mixed with the Christmas carols, and Joy’s assurance that blogging could give me “friends I never knew I could have,” gave me the motivation I needed to launch fromthepinkshed.com.

Less than four months later, I can already say that it has been fun and fulfilling and I do have friends that I never imagined I’d have! One of the first connections I made was with Tamara Jare at My Botanical Garden. Her photography and original art inspired me. She resides in Slovenia and if it weren’t for WordPress we’d never have met.Today, I received a beautiful piece of her work that I’ll be framing and hanging in my pink shed.

Social media is as imperfect as the world it resides in, but I’m glad I decided to join the conversation. As I always told my daughter, most people are wonderful! I’m so glad to have discovered a whole new set of friends.

Michele

 

What Am I Going to Do With This?!?!

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Me with a childhood portrait

“It’s so big I can’t even scan it!” said my husband.

Dear Reader:

Downsizing, I think, is a lot like writing; both exercises require one to discard what is not beautiful or useful. Brutal elimination of the extraneous is a painful process. But hard work and commitment offer the potential to create a deep sense of satisfaction and true pride. My husband and I are collectors and we’ve been alive for over half of a century, so when we moved two years ago into a  home, half the size from our previous home, there were a lot of items we were forced to hold in our hands and decide to keep or donate.

Back in the days when we had little money, we could measure the depth of a friendship by the willingness of a person to help us move. You see there were many, many, many heavy boxes of books and anyone who knew us, knew that! So, if someone turned up on moving day, we knew we had a true friend. Books are still a shared passion for us, but, thankfully, we can afford to hire big, burly young movers.

I started the process of downsizing a year in advance and thank goodness for that! When my friends ask for advice, that’s the first thing I say:  Get a head start!  The act of purging builds on itself. It’s kind of like losing weight; you lose one pound and you’re more motivated to lose the other four. It does take a lot of time, though. You have to develop a rhythm. It’s easy to decide the fate of some things. Yes, I’ll keep every love letter my husband ever sent me. There are a lot as we had a long distance relationship while he was away at UC San Diego  and this was before cell phones and laptops (I’m very old!)! The closet took forever as I tried on each item of clothing and modeled it for my husband. The kitchen was a nightmare.  I’m a wanna-be chef so through the years I’ve purchased many small appliances that promised to help me achieve my culinary goals. Sad to say many of them were never used.  Bye, bye panini maker, waffle maker and food processor! I was forced to acknowledge that I’d never make a crepe or a donut. I did keep my large roasting pan only to discover on our first Thanksgiving in the house that it was too big for my new oven!

My second suggestion is to recruit the help of an honest friend. You know the one who knows how many cake plates you have and isn’t afraid to ask why you need all of them. Self talk is also very helpful. This can be of the silent variety or you can run it past your four-legged furry friends. It goes something like this: “When was the last time I used this? Am I sentimentally attached? Is it really fab or really handy?” Finally, if you’d like to buy a book to inform, motivate and support you, I offer the following recommendations:  It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff  by Peter Walsh and the hugely popular primer by Marie Kondo,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Today we are happily living among our very carefully curated collection of things. My husband and I have never been, nor will we ever be, minimalists.  We still have a lot of stuff, but it’s all good stuff! Oh, and about that portrait…the frame is gone, but the picture  remains in a large art box filled with my daughter’s early masterpieces.

Best,

Michele

P.S. I can still find room for small dachshund shaped items and most anything in the color of petal pink.

This is Why You Need at Least Two Friends

Dear Reader:

Yesterday I had a bit of a meltdown. Tears and everything. That doesn’t happen often …especially over something trivial.

I had coffee with a friend and the tears were a delayed reaction to her, well-intentioned I’m sure, comments. I was complaining about the 5 pounds I’ve packed on since I started setting up my blog three months ago, and she had this to say:

You could do better. Look at how well you’ve done with your blog!”

I was coming to the same conclusion on my own, but I wasn’t quite ready to have someone agree. You see I have a really hard time with balance. I’m a 110% kind of girl and I’ve been focused on improving my computer skills and writing blog posts. I haven’t seen the inside of the gym since I started this creative project. (Unfortunately, the pink shed is not big enough for a stationary bike!)

Exercise is something I love to hate, unlike my friend. She is one of those people who live to move, and she was reminding me that I should at least move to live a better, healthier life.

It just happened that another friend sent a text to me in the middle of coffee inviting me to lunch. She may have regretted asking when I showed up at the brink of tears.

“How could I just let myself go?” I sputtered while trying to maintain my composure.

“What? I couldn’t tell you gained weight. Just get back to your spin classes; it’s fine,” she said. And then, “We are having wine, right?”

We ate salads and drank a glass of wine and then because it wasn’t quite time for her to pick up her girls from school, she ordered us cappuccino and a peanut butter cookie to share.

“These things are delicious and gluten-free,” she enthused. I smiled and thoroughly enjoyed my half of the cookie.

I will always be an “eat, drink and be merry” kind of person. I am Italian, after all. And, it will never be my ambition to return to my very thin younger self, but I do feel better when I regularly exercise. And, perhaps most importantly, exercise allows me to eat more and drink more and merry more!

As I suffered through spin this morning, I felt grateful for both of my friends…the one who kicked me in the butt and the one who hugged me.

Thanks Kristin and Courtney.

Love,

Michele

P.S. Both of these women are 15+ years younger than me!

 

 

 

 

Party Pictures

Dear Reader:

I invite you to sit down, pour a glass of sparkle and peruse my pics of Sunday’s launch party in the pink shed.

Cheers,

Michele