I’m a Bitch

 

Dear Reader:

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.

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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.” (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!

Michele

Imagine This Woman as the Next President of the United States!

 

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Dear Reader:

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.

Michele

*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.

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

Lazy Post

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I’ve had this book for years; apparently I no longer need it!

Dear Reader:

I am feeling very lazy. I can’t seem to make myself write or clean or anything. (Oh, that rhymed!) I went to the grocery store yesterday; today I’ve cleaned up after the puppy. That’s it. I’ve felt this way all week. It’s been ten days since I posted anything despite the fact that I have a half dozen drafts that I could finish.

I’m not depressed; I know how that feels. I’m not ill. I’ve got nothing to complain about.

It’s times like this that I remember a line from a very helpful counselor I saw twenty years ago. “Make friends with the feeling,” she’d say over and over again. I’d say this psychologist earned her money, as I pull that advice out of my pocket often. Here’s the reasoning: feelings can not be wished away. Feelings exist regardless of our desires to manipulate them.

Sometimes, there’s a clear reason we feel the way we do. If we’ve suffered a loss of any kind, we feel sad, alone and lost. How should we feel? Exactly as we do. But, there are times when it may be hard to determine why we feel what we do. It is these times when we must be patient with ourselves.

Perhaps, I just need a rest. Or maybe, my seasonal allergies are tiring me. It could be that the news has overwhelmed me (fires and floods and Weinstein and the POTUS). Then there’s the coastal fog that’s pushed out the sun most of the week. Whatever the reason, I have no ambition this week and I am going to make friends with the feeling.

How are you feeling, dear reader,

Michele

P.S. I’ll be back next week…I think!

Meeting Myself in the Mirror

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Coco Chanel

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.”

Coco Chanel

 

Dear Reader:

I wish I could sit down over a glass of champagne and talk to Coco. How old was she when she spoke those words? What did she mean? What did she think of her own face at 20, 30 and 50?

I first encountered her words shortly before I turned 30 and they inspired a trip to the drug store where I purchased Oil of Olay Day Cream with a SPF 15 and I promised myself that each and every day, rain or shine, I’d slather my face in protection, wash before bed and slather again with night cream.  I’ve done that, with the rare exception.

I didn’t really think much beyond my daily ritual again until I hit 40. I added facials once a month to the budget. Estheticians agreed that my routine was good, but inadequate, so I added a scrub at night every other day.

A decade later, I really wised up. This “getting older thing” was just going to continue, if I was lucky! I decided it was fine to try a product or minimally invasive procedure that was guaranteed to take 5-7 years off my face.  However, after doing the math, I realized I’d still look 50! Then it struck me that no one really cared if I looked 50 or 57, including my husband.

I’m the only one who has to meet myself in the mirror each day.

I found myself reciting those words aloud when it hit me that the truth of them lies not in the literal interpretation but in the figurative one. My life is more than half lived. When I look back on my actions and choices, am I content with what I see reflected back? When I look at myself from this point of view, the mirror is crowded with the faces of others: husband, daughter, Nonnie, brother, friends.  Turns out I did prepare to meet myself in the mirror, but the preparation did not come from a bottle purchased at the drugstore.

Michele

She’s Flying!

 Dear Reader:

I nearly collided with a jubilant young girl yesterday upon my arrival in the lobby of a large hotel.  She was happily spinning about with her arms outstretched. “I’m flying Mom! I’m flying!” she exclaimed.

“Fabulous,” came her mother’s enthusiastic reply. “But, don’t fly too close to the stairs!”

I remembered my daughter at the same age.  She was energetic, determined and curious. I could imagine her dancing beside me. She is now in Southern California, a 20-year-old college sophomore, earning excellent grades while working part-time. Today she made a deposit on her first off-campus apartment for next year. She is flying!

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Shopping at T.J. Maxx for my daughter’s first apartment. Hmmm…maybe a knight for protection?!

She is also studying abroad this summer. She received the good news that she had been accepted into the international program on March 22, the day the terrorist attack took place in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster in London. I was shopping for fun stuff for the girl’s apartment when I received a message from my husband about the Manchester attack two days ago.

Terrorist attacks are by nature appalling, but those that target children and young adults are the most heartbreaking. It’s hard to hold back tears when listening to a parent describe how they feel about their child’s death. This is not the way life should be. Parents should not have to face the death of their children. I wish there was something I could do to assuage the pain of those who have lost children and yet I imagine that there is nothing anyone can do. The pain will never leave.

Within hours of the attack at the concert, the Facebook page for college parents was filled with one simple question:  Is your daughter/son still planning on traveling to Europe this summer? Though our “children” are young adults, study abroad is made possible by parents. So the decision to go or not to go becomes a conversation that begins with:  “Do you still want to go?”

My daughter was upset by the news but does not want to “waste the opportunity.” My husband and I agree. As a young child we taught her to look both ways and to dial 911, and, most importantly, we tried to model responsible behavior. Thankfully, she was an inherently careful, thoughtful, observant girl and she did not cause us undue worry. Now that she is also an adult, we can discuss the fact that life is unpredictable which makes it that much more precious. One must fly despite the fact that the stairs can not always be seen.

Unless circumstances drastically change, my daughter will soon be on a plane heading toward a wonderful 7- week- long adventure…and my heart will be there, too!

Michele

To Market to Market!

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Farmer’s Market on the Monterey Penninsula

Dear Reader:

“Go to the farmers market and buy food there. You’ll get something that’s delicious. It’s discouraging that this seems like such an elitist thing. It’s not. It’s just that we have to pay the real cost of food. People have to understand that cheap food has been subsidized. We have to realize that it’s important to pay farmers up front, because they are taking care of the land.”—Alice Waters

 “Buy flowers, too!”—Michele LaFollette
 

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.