Marriage is Beautiful

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Dear Reader:

What do you see when you look at this piece from the talented blogger at as much cake as you want? Are you happy for the couple on the street and sad for the one at the table? It’s all about perspective.

As a young woman, I would have looked at that man and woman sitting a million miles apart at the same table and thought: no way, never going to happen to me. I probably would have concluded that if it got that bad, I’d leave.

But, I’m not young any longer. I’ve been married for thirty-four years and I think the drawing perfectly illustrates the reality of long-term marriage. In my mind’s eye, the two couples could very well be one in the same captured at different moments in time.

The man and woman at the table may be poised to forgive one another. Maybe something quite unexpected will happen that will clarify both the beauty and fragility of life. Perhaps they will be drawn closer together in grief or joy. Or maybe the idea of a life without the other will suddenly become too difficult to imagine. Of course, it’s possible they’ll be separated soon, but it’s just as likely that the lovebirds on the street won’t stay together.

It’s hard to know about these two couples, but I do know that my husband and I have looked like both of them through the years. We’ve been close and we’ve been distant. We’ve appreciated each other and we’ve taken each other for granted. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s the tough times that can serve to really cement the union.
  • If you choose wisely in the first place (as I did), marriage is worth the effort.
  • Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful and marriage is never perfect.

Michele

 

 

My First Tattoo!

Traditional Tattoo
I’m going in!
My First Tattoo
Meet Brian, my tattoo artist
My first tattoo
Winnie likes it!
My tattoo!
It matches my black Lululemon’s!

Dear Reader:

My daughter insists that she remembers the day we passed a tattoo shop in Lahaina, HI and I said, “I want one!” She was five years old, so I would have been 42 years old. I don’t remember the moment, but I’m sure it’s true.

I stop to admire people’s tattoos all the time, and sometimes I ask if I can take a picture. My phone is full of random shots of stranger’s body art. So, when Natalie told me she had a second ear-piercing done at a tattoo shop, I thought…it’s time! I visited her the following weekend and asked her to accompany me to Traditional Tattoo. I figure a college town is a great place to find a good shop; they work in volume.

Before an artist begins to work on you, there’s paperwork to be completed. I laughed out loud when I read the question on the consent form asking if I was drunk or in any other way unable to make a sound decision. Ha, ha…I thought…I’ve been planning this for 16 years!

Then I met my artist, Brian, and told him my story and showed him a picture. I wanted a shell on my ankle because two of the three most important people in my world have or continue to call me “Shell.” My dear, sweet brother, who was four years younger than me, could not say: “Michele.” So, he abbreviated from a tender age and continued to call me that until he died in July 2001.

Sometimes, when there’s a death, little things like nicknames will disappear. But, I’m fortunate. My husband of 32 years mourned the loss of Matt with me. And, he picked up where my brother left off and still occasionally calls me “Shell.” It always touches my heart when he does. (I haven’t told him that…oh, now I have!)

There’s one more very good reason for me to carry a shell around with me; I’m leaving my home by the ocean to move to a tree-lined street in the city! You can read more about that right here in the coming weeks.

Brian checked out my photo and asked if I’d like it exactly as shown or if I wanted him to artistically interpret it. You guessed it. I told him to put on his artist’s cap. He came back a short time later with a tracing of a shell and I agreed to it immediately. I was then ushered back to a room that resembled one in a dentist’s office…if the dentist was really wild.

I took a seat in the dental chair and felt the butterflies alight in my tummy as he cleaned my ankle and started to prep for work.

“Two things,” he said. “Do not move without first giving me a head’s up. AND NO WHINING!”

“I don’t whine,” I said as my daughter took my hand and nodded in agreement.

He began the work slowly pausing to allow me to gauge the level of pain I was going to feel. I knew I could handle it. It’s a small tattoo. From prep to clean-up, it was a mere twenty minutes and we passed the time easily talking about his three daughters and the ink he’d placed on his wife’s body. We laughed when he told us that he sometimes gets carried away checking out his work and noting needed touch ups when his wife would rather he stay focused on her other assets.

My art was covered with a special, medicinal tape used for burn patients, so my after-care has been easy. Nothing was needed until I gently peeled back the tape four days later. After another four days, the redness has dissipated and I love the look. I continue to simply clean it  and apply Thayers Witch Hazel Toner and Vanicream lotion to alleviate the itching.

As we left Traditional Tatoo, my daughter asked if I’d be back for more art. My initial response was “No!” But, within ten minutes, I noticed that I kept referring to my shell as my FIRST TATOO!

Well, dear reader, have you been inked?!

Michele

 

 

Ladies, It’s Never Too Late!

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“I like to paint something that leads me on and on in to the unknown something that I want to see away on beyond.”

Dear Reader:

I’ve raised my daughter and I’m pushing 60 years old and full of energy. It’s with that enthusiasm that I like to remember women who inspire other women. “Grandma Moses,” the acclaimed American painter who became a prototype for late bloomers, was born on this day in 1860.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses was simply an upstate New York farm wife until she was discovered by a New York art collector who spotted her paintings in a drugstore window. Her work became immensely popular and her story captivated the collective imagination of the art world.

The press loved her countrified ways and, in fact, it was a news reporter from New York’s Herald Tribune who gave her the nickname “Grandma Moses.” She handled the hoopla with aplomb. When her arrival in Manhattan in 1940 created a stir she demurred, “If they want to make a fuss over me, I guess I don’t mind.”

As a young wife and mother, Moses was creative in her home as so many women are. She embroidered beautiful landscapes and assembled magnificent quilts for family and friends until, at the age of 76, she developed arthritis which made needle arts a painful pursuit. Her sister suggested that painting would be easier for her and a career was born! She would often adapt her painting to accommodate her physical restrictions. If her right hand began to hurt, she switched to her left hand.

But Moses was more than just a talented artist, she was a feminist heroine with a strong belief in women’s autonomy. She wrote in her autobiography: “Always wanted to be independent. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting down and Thomas,” her husband, “handing out the money.”

Grandma Moses worked until a few months before her death at the age of 101. By then she had completed some 2,000 paintings, written an autobiography and been awarded two honorary doctoral degrees. Her works have been shown and sold in the United States and abroad and have been marketed on greeting cards and other merchandise. Moses’ paintings are displayed in the collections of many museums. Sugaring Off was sold for US $1.2 million in 2006.

At the time of her passing, President John F. Kennedy said, “All Americans mourn her death.” Today, I celebrate her life and that of all women with the courage and energy to re-invent themselves in their golden years.

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

Why Were You Born?

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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

Remembering My Why; A Bump on My Journey to Strong

On the arc trainer at Zone Fitness
Back at it!

Dear Reader:

Perhaps I’ve been a bit irritating up to this point?! Here she goes again you may be thinking : fitness is fun; fitness is empowering; fitness is a must! That’s been the truth of my experience, though, and I believe in keeping it real. So let me just say that I had my first WTF (please don’t make me spell these things out) moment this weekend. It was bound to happen.

Remember that happy photo of me at the pool wrapped in the towel? My lovely mood lasted until I got home and looked at the picture my husband had snapped of me in my bikini. My thighs are dimply…that’s the truth. And, it’s clear there’s another five pounds that needs to come off my midriff. It’s not fair, I thought, I’ve worked so hard for the past eight months!  But, the simple truth is: I FEEL BETTER THAN I LOOK!

It didn’t take me long to accept that realization, though. I reflected on my first day at Zone Fitness when Jonathan asked me about my goals. “Firm thighs” were nowhere on the list. I’d taken a fall that had scared me straight. I came to get strong so that I wouldn’t stumble through old age! I didn’t even have a numeric weight loss goal. I just signed on the dotted line and fully committed myself to the journey.

I’ve seen amazing results in only eight months, but Jonathan was honest from the beginning.

“It’s going to take a year and a half to get there,” he told me.

“Nope, only a year,” I countered.

We’ll see. My weight seems to have plateaued, but my strength continues to grow. It’s really such a crazy thing to imagine that I could get up off the ground, hobble into Zone Fitness and eight months later, at 58 years old, have a bikini body. But, something seems to happen when you spend four days a week in a gym working out in an intense fashion. The thinking goes something like this: I feel like an athlete, so I should look like one!

I’ll continue to train for all the right reasons. Working out …

  • boosts my mood
  • improves the quality of my sleep
  • lowers my dementia and cancer risk
  • strengthens my bones
  • gives me energy and confidence
  • makes me feel proud and accomplished
  • And, I have NOT fallen since I started

On Monday morning, I happily returned to my routine following the holiday break. I’d adjusted my attitude and it felt good to be back at it! I’ll let you know (hell, I’ll probably shout it from the rooftop) if I ever get lean, toned thighs. But, I’m not focusing on that. I’m keeping my original “why” first and foremost in my mind. Here’s my mantra: Get strong, stay strong, enjoy the journey! 

What motivates you to exercise?

Michele

Like Mother…Not Like Daughter!

My daughter
My lovely daughter

Dear Reader:

When a woman gives birth to a daughter, I believe she consciously, or subconsciously, believes her daughter will resemble her in many ways. But why? It is an odd assumption upon thoughtful consideration. Why should she be more like her mother than her father? I’ve asked myself that question now for 21 years.

My daughter is her own person, but she is more like her father than she is like me. I can accept this…despite the fact that it took 28 hours of hard labor followed by an emergency c-section to bring her into this world!

I wonder at the differences!

She is:

  • ambitious but not competitive; I am competitive but not ambitious
  • reserved, i burst
  • quietly thoughtful, I am obviously opinionated
  • forgiving and patient; I try

She loves:

  • lace and florals; I like stripes and animal print
  • teal; I love pink
  • Thunder Mountain; I love It’s a Small World
  • Harry Potter and Jane Austen; I love Tinker Bell and Danielle Steel

But, we do share some common opinions and interests. We are both feminists, but she does not like to wear it on her t-shirt. We love donuts, doxies, Disneyland and Maui. We are happy when we are shopping at Lululemon or Target, walking the streets of London in rain or shine and sipping from English china while perusing beautiful books.

And, most importantly, we still love spending time in each other’s company. I hope that never changes.

Is your daughter very much like you, dear reader? Or is she more like her father?!

Michele

Another Anniversary; Another Cup of Java!

Java for Me and You
I wonder how many cups of coffee we have shared?!

Dear Reader:

It’s been thirty-four years since I said “I do” under a massive oak tree in my in-laws backyard in Fresno, California. On the Monday and Tuesday before the ceremony, high temperature records were set that still hold today… 107°. I knew we were off to a good start when Mother Nature blessed us with a pleasant 90° for our big day.

In the years since then we’ve shared domestic bliss and turmoil. We’ve lost grandparents, parents and a sibling; created an amazing daughter; owned six dogs and lost three; purchased four homes and sold three and endured one high-powered high-tech career. Who knows how many bookstores we’ve visited or San Francisco Giants games we’ve watched?

We’ve nearly called it quits, too. But, it seems, our decision to marry at twenty-four years young wasn’t as crazy as it seemed to our parents.

The poet e.e. cummings captured what I feel for my husband and put the words on paper:

this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) 

We’ve outlasted the oak tree and I’m hoping we’ve got another thirty-four years of togetherness.

Michele

P.S. As there is never any photo-shopping on my site, I chose not to retouch my husband’s thumb. He suffered his injury building the fence to keep Winnie IN!

My Journey to Strong: Chapter 4

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Chapter 4: Balance is Important

Dear Reader:

You could say that I was “unbalanced” before I started working out. I’m not talking about the fact that walking, quite regularly, led to falling! I’m referring to “life balance”.

In the words of the incredibly bodacious Jennifer Lopez, “Beauty is only skin deep. I think what’s really important is finding a balance of mind, body and spirit.”

I’m a natural-born student. I love to learn and I love a challenge; my mind has always been a priority for me. I’m blessed to have a loving husband, an amazing daughter and generous friends. My outlook on life is positive and my faith is deep. Before I began training, I had two of Jennifer’s bases covered.

Since November, I’ve integrated the “body” component into my life. I’ve got a routine: Tuesday/Thursday for strength training, Monday/Wednesday/Saturday for cardio.  I have a more balanced life and it feels good. My newly acquired bit of wisdom …well, you’ve heard it before, but, here it is again:

 Exercise brings confidence and energy to your life!

Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me. I hear you: I’m sticking with it!

Michele