Sunday, September 9, 2018

Misguided Outrage Over School Dress Codes

In the weeks preceding the return to school there were numerous articles decrying school dress codes as being discriminatory towards or objectifying women, with students and parents claiming that placing restrictions on how one dresses body shames them. WTF! Really!! I'm sorry, but that is total bullshit. That argument is an excuse for wearing "play clothes" to school.

School is a place of learning, not Fashion Week. Emphasizing individuality and comfort over teaching appropriate dress for a time and place fails to prepare young people for the real world. Try showing up to a typical office for work wearing spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, micro miniskirts, shorts, tennis shoes, denim of any kind, graphic tee shirts, hoodies, off-the-should tops, leggings, or   flips flops and expect to be sent first to Human Resources and then home with pay docked for the day and a warning not to make the same sartorial choice again or to find another job. Men are expected to wear shirts with a collar, long pants, and socks with shoes that are not sneakers. Why should the required dress for school be more informal than what is required for playing on most golf courses? 

One can express oneself through fashion at the beach, the mall, while hiking, at home, when out with friends, at after school events, on vacation and on weekends. School is the workplace for young people. Dressing appropriately is about respect ~ self respect, respect for institutions, respect for learning and respect for others. 

I am certainly not advocating for a return to the olden days of my childhood {when I walked 12 miles to school through wind, rain, tornados, & blizzards up hill both ways}when girls had to wear dresses, nobody was allowed to wear jeans {not that we had them} and nuns walked around with rulers to ensure our skirts were not shorter than two inches above the knee. Nor am I an advocate for requiring school uniforms, although uniforms solve many of the problems associated with sartorial freedom. 

But if you want a style icon, look to tasteful examples such as the Duchess of Cambridge or Megan Markle, Zendaya, Lily Collins, Gigi Hadid, Paris Jackson or EmmaWatson. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Struggling With Losses & Change At Work

Despite the successes of of my spiritual journey including my striving to focus on positivity and accepting what is, there are days where grief, fear, insecurity, frustration, self centeredness, the doldrums, anxiety and/ or general angst threaten my scenes of serenity.

In 2018 there have been too many losses for me, my loved ones, my friends and acquaintances to count. I’ve reached an age in which my friends and colleagues have begun to succumb to catastrophic health events. Our loved ones leave us alone in the world, bereft, grief filled, confused, challenging us to take the next step forward and celebrate the lives we’ve been blessed to live.

Then we are faced with seemingly nominal changes at work that have significant ramifications. There are  reassignments, goal changes, inartfully conveyed projects delegated, feelings of frustration when the changes appear random or premature or inequitable.

This evening I struggled to focus on my yoga practice for the first time in ages. Tears flowed from my eyes and trickled down my cheeks uncontrollably as I moved through my asanas. It was as if the floodgates opened during my meditation in motion.

 Last night I experienced insomnia unlike anything I’ve had to endure for months. My mind has been filled with frustration, repressed grief, feelings of helplessness, fear of the unknown...everything that I’ve fought to overcome. No doubt it is the combination of recent losses, missing my dad and my in laws because of distance, concern about my brothers upcoming surgery, feeling fatigue and frustration that three years after my employer was acquired that  still feel unsettled, a bit like a shuttlecock in an amateur badminton game.

Despite it all, however, I was able to feel grateful that I have a job that compensates me reasonably, that I have a partner who loves me, that I am relatively  physically fit and healthy, that I still have my dad in my life, that our wine cellar is full, and that I have friends who actually give a damn.

This too shall pass.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Be Kind To Yourself

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned through my experience with Al-Anon and my yoga practice is the art of self care and self kindness. Too often we humans believe we are not worthy of down time, spending money for relaxation or for experiences that may seem self indulgent. But self care is neither self indulgent or wasteful. Instead it is essential for living a healthy, happy, celebratory life. If we do not care for ourselves - our bodies, emotional well being and mental health- we are squandering the opportunities to live life to the fullest. I am worth it. You are worth it.

Life passes so quickly. I've decided that I want to savor every moment, the tastes of fine wine or fresh garlic or heirloom tomatoes or the glorious flavor of a gorgeous strawberry. I want to embrace each aroma, the smell of bacon frying, fresh herbs, the nose from a glass of excellent Cabernet, garlic as it is sautéed in a skillet, the smell of spring rains, the scents of fine fragrances and essential oils, even the pungent smell of weeds. I want to enjoy the beauty of my environment as well as the beauty that I find in the hearts and souls of the people I love. I've decided it is important to love the beauty of fine fabrics against my skin, the joy I feel when I look in the mirror while wearing an amazing outfit, the confidence I feel when I use quality makeup, the contentment that comes from having a massage or reading a book while a fountain gurgles in the background, or the  physical benefits and flexibility that comes from practicing yoga or participating in a Pilates Reformer class.

I call my friends and family members regularly because I want to hear the sounds of voices of people I love. Sometimes I call my Dad's home number when I know he is away just to experience the sound of my Mom's voice, which is still on the answering machine. It is bittersweet, but also a gift that gives me solace. I celebrate the sounds of our Corinthian Bells wind chimes, the birds and insects and tree frogs serenading us, the feelings that permeate my soul when I listen to Mozart's Requiem or John Coltrane on the sax or Van Cliburn playing Rachmaninoff on the piano or Eric Clapton on the guitar. Enjoying music, movies, a  good book or mind candy is self care.

Being kind to myself means logging off my work computer at 5:00pm two - three days per week to exercise. It takes a half hour to drive to the yoga studio and Pilates studio. I am a better employee when I feel healthy, happy and refreshed. Caring for myself requires me to make and keep my appointments with my dentist and physicians,  take my medicines, floss my teeth, and meditating. It means saying "no" to things/activities/requests that don't serve my serenity. Being kind to myself requires me to let go of toxic people that cause me angst, frustration, stress or indigestion. It means taking time to pet our cats and listen to them purr while feeling their warm furry bodies lying next to me. It means keeping a positive focus, knowing that I can turn over anything to the Universe/ God / my guardian angels/ or my higher power I will be shown the answers. I know that if I give I will receive, that clearing the negative will make room for the positive, that divesting myself of things that no longer serve me will clear the way for things that will.

I feel comfortable just being me, doing what feels right to live a longer, healthier life, and allowing myself the time that I feel is appropriate to be kind to myself. We only have so many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years on this earth. I want to be able to say at the end that I have no regrets.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Gratitude for a Beautiful Sunday Morning

Too often many of us focus on the trials, tribulations, challenges, frustrations, annoyances, losses, heartbreaks and regrets we've experienced or the wants, wishes, desires, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and what the future will bring rather than enjoying the here and now. As I've written previously, it took me years of Al-Anon meetings to accept that I cannot change the past and have no control over the future. These are the things I cannot change. The only thing over which I have absolute control is my attitude and response to things beyond my control. It was also through Al-Anon, my yoga practice, and my personal spiritual journey that I've been able to re-boot my natural state of fear and focus on the negative or what-ifs. 

The process of recalibrating my attitude was lengthy and required introspection, intention, and the desire to live a life of peacefulness, serenity, happiness, contentment, gratitude and appreciation for what is. That is not to imply that every moment is pleasurable, happy, easy or free of frustration, anger or sadness. However, those moments are fleeting now.

At this moment I am sitting on our porch sipping coffee surrounded by the beauty of our hardscrabble landscape that we've struggled over the past 13 years to create our own version of Eden.  The calming fountain on the deck gurgles, hummingbirds sip nectar from the trumpet vines dangling from the pergola, wisteria shades the south screens, a cardinal nibbles at one of the bird feeders, and the cats laze about purring. For me this is a glorious way to enjoy an early Sunday morning. 

Oddly enough we are filled with gratitude that our area in northwestern Virginia has not recovered from the housing crisis to the extent that the vacant house on the adjacent lot to the east remains vacant and the lot to the north remains unsold. With the road to the east leading to a holler and a farm to the south, we are blessed with a quiet and solitude that I never would have imagined I could appreciate when I was living in Plano, Texas or Taipei, Taiwan or Hong Kong. There is something so life affirming and spiritual about living in the country surrounded by nature - even if some of the varmints eat my plants and invade the porch for cat food after dark.

I am content to sit here, listen to the fountain and enjoy the luxury of just being.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Feeling a Spark of Joy at MM Lafleur

It seemed an eternity since I’d felt a spark of joy while shopping for clothes. Despite my love of fashion, I’d fallen into a rut, purchasing the same things from the same retail establishments, somewhat drifting from season to season never quite feeling fabulous when I looked in the mirror.  Perhaps my ennui has been related to my mother’s illnesses and death. Maybe the constant turmoil at my company since the announcement on July 1, 2015 that we had been acquired by another multi national insurer contributed to my fashion funk. The realization that it is unlikely I will ever fit into a size 8 again unless I give up wine, pizza, cheese, olives, bread and pasta no matter how many yoga and pilates classes I attend led to my feeling apathetic about my professional attire combined with the inability to find quality travel friendly clothes appropriate for the corporate environment that didn’t look frumpy, stale, ruffle enhanced or bland.  My regular haunts - Nordstrom, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Garnet Hill, Brooks Brothers - left me uninspired. 

But I kept noticing advertisements popping up on my FaceBook feed from with reviews from professional women singing the praises of the office appropriate clothes available online. While not a subscription service per se, will have a personal stylist send a Bento Box of curated items for the customer to try for 4 days and only pay for the items she decides to keep. While I am a fan of subscription boxes for makeup and fitness attire, I was hesitant to give a try without knowing how the clothes actually fit. And,  I didn’t want to get stuck with a Bento Box of clothes that I hated with the knowledge I had a limited time to return the items I didn’t want to keep. 

I’d considered Nordstrom Trunk and actually filled out the online questionnaire and talked with a stylist before deciding (after reading some reviews) that his service was unlikely to fulfill my fashion needs. I have friends that love StitchFix. But I wasn’t sold on that option either. I loved the clothes I scouted on the website; however, the clothes are not inexpensive and it seemed risky to pull the trigger. 

As I as contemplating giving it a go, I noticed that there is a brick and mortar location for MM Lafleur in Philadelphia, which coincidentally, I was scheduled to visit this week. All I had to do was fill out the online questionnaire and make an appointment. I scheduled my visit for 5:30pm at Liberty Place on Tuesday evening. When I arrived I was offered a glass of Prosecco, introduced to my stylist Annie, and shown to a private dressing room where Annie had selected a variety of items for my to try based upon my questionnaire and clothes I’d mentioned I’d like to try.

When I scheduled my appointment I identified a couple of dresses and a particular style of pants I’d admired. However, I was stunned to discover that all of my preconceived ideas were wrong for me. Instead of the dress that I just knew would be perfect, I found that separates that I’d completed disregarded as “not me” caused me to say “WoW” when I looked in the full length mirror. 

The quality of the clothes is excellent. There is a broad range of sizes from 0 Petite to 24. Most of the pants, dresses and skirts are form fitting, but flattering on women of all shapes and sizes. While trying on Pippa pant,the Oshima pant, a striped boat neck top I never would have considered and the Dietrich fashion forward jacket that has a versatility I could not have imagined, I felt fabulous, striking, professional, relevant, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound! 
Before I left my appointment I ordered the Rampling Top, the Rowling top, the Pippa pants, the Oshima pants, the Greenpoint skirt and the Dietrich jacket feeling on top of the world. By the time i reached Tulula’s Garden where I was meeting some colleagues for dinner, I was singing the praises of and encouraging all of my friends to give it a try. 

MM Lafleur does have pop up stores in major cities. I highly encourage any woman lusting for high quality professional clothes that are not run-of-the-mill to give it a try. I am sold!

Monday, July 9, 2018

History Just Is ~ 155th Gettysburg

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Todd & I returned last evening from portraying itinerant wet-plate photographers at the 155th Anniversary Commemoration / Reenactment of the battles of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

American Civil War re-enactors traveled from great distances to participate in the event, which tends to attract more participants and visitors on the 5th year anniversaries. Despite the political climate today the event drew more than 6000 participants over the 4 day commemoration.

The security was tighter than at previous reenactments. Deputies with trained dogs patrolled the camps and sutler area. Visitors, sutlers and re-enactors had to present photo identification and wear colored arm bands to identify how they were affiliated with the event. The 2nd South Carolina String Band bid us farewell, while having to explain to NPR representative why their had no qualms playing Dixie at a re-enactment. 

As sutlers we met re-enactors that traveled to Gettysburg from Washington, California, Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, New York Maine, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Australia, England, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania…EMTs, war veterans, nurses, teachers, high school students, donut shop managers, police officers, mechanics, fire fighters, pilots, retired folks, children, musicians, photographers, artists, custodians, historians, and antique dealers. What is most striking is the fact that to a man, woman and child every participants exhibited an appreciation for the history of the USA. The American Civil War intrigues re-enactors from across the world, people of every race, creed, country of origin, sex, hair color, tattoo preference, or political affiliation. Southerners, Texans, and Midwesterners portray federals. Yankees,Californians and the upper westerners portray confederates. They any people have impressions for federal and confederates. 

Participants conduct research. They’ve studied the histories of their regiments. They know who died at which battle. They bond while drilling, marching, camping, and cooking over open fires. They share stories. They read diaries. Many re-enact because they want to know, in some small way, what it may have felt like to breach the wall, to hear the cannon fire, to learn how our forebears had to face one another in the heat of battle within yards or in hand to hand combat - what somebody may have felt, in some measure, to see the colors fall and to rush into the void to pick up the flag and run forward into a barrage of gunfire. 

Yes, it is play acting. But most of the participants appreciate the sacrifices of those who came before, the ancestors that made a decision to fight for whatever they believed was right. I’ve not heard any of the participants that come to our traveling studio say that they wished the outcome had been different. (that is not to say they do not exist). 

But overall, would you not conclude that it is preferable for a young person to discover a love for history and yearn to learn more about our collective past through bonding with those who want to cook the same foods, explore the battle plans of the various historical leaders, to read the actual historical documents that provide the varying perspectives of the actual participants, than to stay inside and play video games? 

I spoke at length to a few of young men who traveled to Gettysburg for the event. There was a trio from Mississippi that had an image made including an African American portraying a confederate soldier. These three young men waited for an hour for us to fit them in to our full schedule so they could commemorate their experience. We stayed open after Pickett’s charge, the final battle of the weekend, so we could make images of two men who traveled with family from Washington State to portray Confederate and to fulfill the dream of a high school senior from Key West, Florida - who traveled by train to Gettysburg with his grandfather to serve as a federal soldier. 

It is easy to post denigrating comments about re-enactors and reenactments on social media. But try actually talking with somebody who participates and perhaps - if one has even a moderately open mind - there may be greater understanding.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

HTPA Will Be Making Collodion Wet Plate Images at Gettysburg 155th! Schedule an Appointment Now!

The Gettysburg 155th Anniversary National Reenactment will be held on July 5, 6, 7, & 8, 2018.

Contact us at to make an appointment. We will be set up from 9:00am to 6:30pm each day at 30 minute increments!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My New Printer Automatically Orders Replacement Ink!

HP OfficeJet Pro 6970 All-in-One Printer seriesAll of a sudden after a software update, either my MacBook Air decided to shun my printer, an Epson Workforce 545, or the printer went into permanent hibernation. I checked the Epson website for an updated driver. The site allegedly identified the OS operating system on my Mac. However, there was no radio button providing an option to update the driver. I was stymied. Not that the Workforce 545 had been working well recently anyway, but I attributed the problem to our remote location that required a Verizon wireless home cantina system for internet access. 
After troubleshooting for several hours, I gave up. I had to return a pair of AGL flats to Nordstrom, which necessitated printing the return label and return form. Since the shoes that I wanted to return cost more than a replacement printer, the solution was a no-brainer. 

It wasn't until i started researching the best option for a new printer that I learned just how far printer technology had evolved since I'd purchased the Epson All-In-One. Okay - I didn't realize that the printer was at least 5 years old - which is nearly neolithic in the tech environment.  I began to understand the problem. The printer was ancient not even fit for Goodwill. 

I went to the Best Buy website and found just the right thing - an HP Office Jet Pro 6790 that works with Apple Air and was on sale to boot - just a third the cost of the AGL sale shoes I needed to return! So, I ordered the printer, which was available for pick up at my local Best Buy within 12 hours. 

When I set up the printer this evening I was astonished to discover this "smart printer" has the capability to automatically order ink when then levels get low...for the nominal price of $2.99 per month. 

It is hard to believe that I grew up in a time when one basic black bakelite rotary dial telephone per home was the norm, that students embraced the high of sniffing mimeograph handouts, that most people were fortunate to have 8 television stations, that it was unusual for people to have central air-conditioning, and making copies required carbon paper.  It seems like only yesterday! And now, my all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine (really, who sends faxes anymore?) will automatically tell HP to send me ink when the machine gets low! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Old Photographs & Feelings of Nostalgia

Over the past few years when I  visit my dad in Indiana, I spend some time looking through the decades of photo albums that my mom organized and take photos of the photos with my iPhone to share with family members and friends.  Fortunately, Mom was rather scrupulous about writing the names of those in the pictures and the dates taken. The pictures are collected in albums identified by the time periods in which the photographs were taken. 

At first, I concentrated on copying all of the pictures of my mom when she was a little girl and then a young woman in an attempt to know that part of her that existed before she was a wife and mother. Then I found my Dad's baby book filled with pictures of him as a flaxen haired, chubby infant.  

Looking through these albums brought me back to my childhood with my siblings, the neighbor kids, my grandparents, cousins, school mates, our beloved dog Jinxy, the changing furniture in the house as the years passed, events long forgotten. There had been a time when looking at these pictures horrified me. I wished they could be buried in a pile of rubble. How could I have looked that way! Why on earth did I wear that? What about that hairstyle!!!!!  

Today I look at all of these pictures with gratitude that my parents documented our lives so well- even if many of the images are off center or missing feet or a bit out of focus. I can look at the people we were with loving affection, with nothing but fond memories bubbling to the surface, wishing that for just one moment I could reach back in time to whisper in the ears of the those who are no longer here to say, I love you, one more time; to tell my awkward, insecure, fearful, always dreaming younger self to embrace with positivity and gusto all that life has to offer, to take chances, practice self kindness, and to forgive myself for my humanity, that perfection is no attainable.  But alas, there are no Three - Eyed Ravens in my family! So, I will cherish the feelings I associate with the memories. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Celebrating the Realization that Everything I Own is a Discontinued Pattern~

Nothing registers the passage of time more than realizing everything one owns is not only no longer au current, but discontinued. This evening it occurred to me that I was drinking wine from a discontinued Royal Brierley York goblet, and eating dinner from a discontinued Spode Chinese Rose salad plate with a discontinued Wallace French Shell fork. I purchased the newest items, the York crystal and Spode, during a period of “spite shopping” in 1992 when my former spouse left me in Hong Kong for a period of time with no money in the bank. I used credit cards to take my friends from the American Womens Club out to lunch or dinner in exchange for cash. I also treated myself to some pretty dishes and crystal thanks to the “generosity” of Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Wow! 1992! Where did the years go?

I’ve been using the same Wallace French Shell stainless  flatware daily since 1985. The pattern was classic at the time, more than $60 per place setting, and heavy weight Japanese quality. The French Shell has accompanied me on all of my moves from Indianapolis to Dallas to Taipei to Hong Kong to Lewes, Delaware to Frederick, Maryland and finally Winchester, Virginia. A few years ago I noticed that we were missing a couple of spoons, a dinner fork and a dinner knife. I found that Replacements, Ltd. carried some pieces of the pattern and ordered replacements for the missing items - only to discover upon delivery that this was a  different, substandard, larger sized French Shell manufactured in China. The pieces didn’t remotely resemble my set. And the weight was feather weight. When I called I was told that it is impossible to find the Japanese made French Shell. I sent the items back and began to understand that everything I owned was pasts its prime~ not quite antique, but certainly discontinued. 

Royal Brierley was established in 1776 during the reign of King George III. As an American, I was intrigued by an English company that was founded the year the American colonies declared Independence from England and started a revolution. Unlike many fine crystal patterns that appear solid and almost squared, Royal Brierley York was all delicate curves. I longed to sip champagne from the elegantly curved, cut glass flute.So, in my spiteful mood, I bought 6 champagne flutes. During visits to the Reject China Shop and the HArrod’s seconds in London,  I managed to complete my crystal wardrobe. I still caress the flute when I sip sparkling wine today. While Royal Brierley is still a brand in 2018, the company was absorbed by Darlington. York was long ago discontinued. But occasionally I can find a treasure on eBay from somebody who has no idea. Just today I nabbed 2 champagne flutes for $15.49! 

The history of the Spode Chinese Rose dinnerware pattern intrigued me. My Chinese Rose is a reproduction of an 1816 Copeland-Spode pattern.  My family named is Copeland. My father’s ancestors arrived from England in 1635.  The historical family connection called to me. It is with some regularity that I turn over a piece, looked at the Copeland-Spode 1816 stamp, and feel part of the history. I’ve been fortunate to find pieces on eBay from England, Australia and the USA to replace serving pieces or bits that I’ve broken. But I use it everyday and have done so for at least 20 years. I don’t “save” things I love for special occasions. Life is short and every minute is a special occasion.

Ultimately, I feel a sense of satisfaction that I’ve been able to enjoy, everyday, these things that bring me joy. Why shouldn’t I feel delight eating my morning cereal from a beautiful bowl?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Tulips Blooming ~ A Sign of Spring And a Sign that it is Time for New Shoes!

Tieks Electric Snake

This topic resonates with me because yesterday I returned a pair of shoes that I’d ordered online from Nordstrom and stumbled across a sale that called to me. I returned I pair and returned home with three.

My shoes have gotten steadily more expensive over the years: primarily because I have worked hard for 35 years and realized that it is better to purchase a selection of shoes that I love and will wear until they disintegrate rather than multiples of fashionable less expensive shoes that hurt my feet and fall apart after one season. And heels of any height beyond the currently fashionable kitten heel have started to hurt. Not only that, I’m more likely to be distracted and step off of a curb in a clunky way risking life and limb wearing heels. I must admit it vexes me to admit it. This from a woman who used to run through airports in stilettos of 4 1/2 inches or more. Now I can barely totter from one room to the other on such stilts. 

From a shoe addict of a certain age (as the French would say) I’ve discovered these brands work for me:
Marc Joseph Cypress Hill

Ballet flats: Tieks 
Only available at
There are Facebook groups devoted to love, lust and appreciation of these shoes. Ties are foldable ballet flats with no elastic. They do not rub or cause blisters and mold to your feet.  After purchasing my first pair about 4 years ago, I’ve never been able to wear another ballet flat. As I type this I’m wearing my Poppy Tieks, a color I love so much I accidentally bought them twice.

Lewit Cara Mule
Driving Mocs: Marc Joseph New York Cypress Hill. 
There are a few boutiques in Florida. Purchase online:
Paul Green Julia
The designs are fabulous, fit true to size, and are comfortable right out of the box. 

Last fall I was in LA for a mediation and became disenchanted with the shoes I’d packed. Nordstrom in Santa Monica beckoned to me and I followed the call. I found a divine pair of Paul Green blush patent kitten heel pumps on sale and have been sold on Paul Green ever since. I must confess however, that I cannot bring myself to pay full price. If you can find Paul Green on sale, take the plunge. High quality. Maximum  comfort.

Kitten Heel Pumps: Amalfi, Stuart Weitzman,  & Donald Pliner;
I’ve found these pumps on Amazon, various department stores, and

AGL Mule
Eileen Fisher footwear is consistently good quality & provides comfort - although some styles are bit stodgy. There are enough cut shoes to keep me looking!

Dressy Flat Mules:  AGL and the  Lewit Cara Mule (Nordstrom) 
This is where I ran amok yesterday. Sigh!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Staying True to Oneself~

A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.” Chinese Proverb

One of the greatest accomplishments a modern woman can hope to achieve is the ability to stay true to herself. There are constant onslaughts by the media, employers, family members, spouses, fashion gurus, counsellors, psychologists, teachers, politicians, universities, social media, clergy, friends, coworkers, and the little voices in one’s head that begin talking at 2:00am that try to tell us how to think, how to act, what to say, what not to say, how to be, what to believe….that is can be a monumental challenge to celebrate who we are individually and to stay true to ourselves. 

That is not to say that we should ignore common sense. I have been working on enhancing my soft skills and my inner Eliza Doolittle for many years.  I come by it naturally.  My inner Madame de Stael or Mary Wollstonecraft has been difficult to quash. But I understand, in certain circumstances, that my natural self can be a hindrance and should be tamed. No doubt in the 18th or early 19th Century I would have been labeled and denigrated as a bluestocking if I’d been fortunate enough to be part of a salon. 

Despite the difficulties it is important to maintain the substance of who I am, who you are, who we are and refuse to compromise to please others. There is so much pressure from public opinion to think a certain way, vote for a particular candidate, react predictably, embrace truths that others believe one should embrace, or agree with a certain ideology. But I will not compromise my inner soul or being because others disagree with me, think I am somewhat strident or opinionated or goofy or brash or cerebral or Libertarian. And it is okay. 

Like Popeye said: I yam what I yam. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Embracing Wabi-sabi (侘寂) ~ Acceptance of Imperfection

This evening I practiced yoga with a newly certified  teacher, who was substituting for one of my favorite Shiva Rea practitioners who is attending a retreat on the Greek isle of Lesbos. Paulette, the instructor, has a soothing voice that is perfect for yoga. This was a gentle yoga practice that focused on self-kindness; but what really struck me was the concept of Wabi-sabi (侘寂), the Japanese  world view with a focus on the acceptance and beauty of transience and imperfection in the natural world.

I suppose the concept of Wabi-sabi resonated with me because I've always been attracted to objects with flaws. When I lived in Asia I would seek out objects in the local markets that spoke to me. I was always attracted to and collected works of art that had cracks, chips, fissures, irregular paint or carving, some facet that rendered it imperfect. To me the imperfection made the object special, unique, unlike any other. Not to mention the imperfect objects were also available for a discount!

The discussion this evening explained that Wabi-sabi is rooted in Zen Buddhism and originally associated with the Japanese tea ceremony in which the handmade vessels of irregular shape were considered beautiful in the imperfection. I feel gratitude that I can appreciate the beauty of imperfection and embrace it. Perhaps my 5 years in the east altered my concept of what is of value and what constitutes beauty in conjunction with my love of the Romantic poet Keats and his Ode to a Grecian Urn: 'beauty is truth, truth beauty,' – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know".

To often I see that those of us in the west crave perfection instead of finding beauty and truth in what actually is.  I've belonged to some groups on social media where people obsess about a 1/16  inch perceived difference in the stitching on a pair of handcrafted  shoes, take photos and ask compadres for insight as to whether they can see the flaws!  They can't see the beauty in the handcrafted shoes because they expect perfection for the price they paid. But handcrafted items should be expected to be imperfect. People are not perfect. I do not aspire to the unattainable perfection!

Wabi-sabi is authentic. It is a crack in an antique yellow ware bowl. It is the off-kilter gait of our two 3-legged cats. It is the gap in Lauren Hutton's front teeth. It is the beauty and charm of a worn Persian carpet. It is the comfort of a well loved book that has dog-eared pages. It is the beauty of an ugly shaped but tasty heirloom tomato. It is the appreciation an ancient, dilapidated building or collapsing barn that still radiates beauty. It's my appreciation of the landscape filled with uneven terrain, patches of ground covered with rock that will not support growth, wild berry briars that cannot be tamed, a ski slope driveway that needs resurfacing, our unfinished screened in porch, and the little dents in the sports car. I can celebrate and appreciate the imperfect and the authentic.

I am filled with gratitude that Paulette caused me to consider Wabi-sabi this evening, which reminded me of my love, contentment and appreciation for the imperfect people and things in my life. For how can an imperfect person really expect to be surrounded by perfection?

As I've learned in Al-Anon - progress, not perfection - leads to peace and serenity.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

“Arguing With Others Is Folly”~ Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

When I began reading Robicheaux this morning, James Lee Burke’s 21st novel involving his iconic alcoholic lawman with demons, nightmares from Vietnam and growing up poor in the bayou of southern Louisiana with his commitment to justice for the downtrodden, I felt as if I’d reconnected with an old friend. I first met Robicheaux in 1993’s In The Electric Mist With The Confederate Dead and have indulged in reverie with Dave and his best friend Cletus Purcell for the past 25 years. David Lee Burke’s writing is lyrical, poetic and mesmerizing with the feel of Spanish moss dripping from live oaks, the sounds and smells of the bayou, and the mystical visions of the long dead, as if they still walk among us.  Unlike many authors who have written series, Mr.Burke remains at the top of his game at 81.

In the first chapter  of Robicheaux, Dave reflects, “ Like many my age, I believe people in groups are to be feared and that arguing with others is folly and the knowledge of one generation cannot be passed down to the next.”  In the current political climate this truly resonated with me. 

Be it mental health issues, gun control, defense of the 2nd Amendment, conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian, immigration reform, cats vs. dogs, parenting, historical context, personal responsibility vs. the nanny state, or any other topic upon which people vehemently disagree, I’ve come to appreciate that no matter how salient the points, well documented the facts, or persuasive the rhetoric, my arguments will not convince those who disagree with my beliefs to change their minds. Conversely, those who take a position opposite of my beliefs will not succeed in altering my views. The 24 hour news cycles and social media have given anybody with an opinion a platform from which to preach, which has polarized the nation.

Nor can we truly share the knowledge of life’s experiences with a younger generation because the knowledge gained through experience cannot be taught. It is impossible to impart to a young person what it means to go to sleep at age 25 and all of a sudden awaken at 45, wondering how the years passed by so quickly, barely remembering some experiences that were life altering at the time. One cannot explain how life throws us curve balls, knocking us off one path into the weeds and that it is sometimes necessary to trudge a few miles or years in the weeds before we find another path, how strongly held beliefs gradually change through the years depending upon experiences.  

Anger is too much with us in the 21st Century. Argument or debate can be a healthy way to exchange ideas or at least help others to understand another’s beliefs, position or understanding. However, the anger that appears to fill people today seems all consuming, perpetual, blind, closed minded, strident, divisive, and unproductive. Perhaps it is folly that I have enjoyed being a bit of a protagonist; however, I am well aware that I’m unlikely to change anybody’s mind. Perhaps this is a reason that my old friend Dave Robicheaux’s wisdom affected me. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Emerging From Hibernation

I tend to experience seasonal affective disorder when the time changes and dark falls upon us in late afternoon. As a person born in the midst of summer I crave the sun. Sunlight infuses my being with joy, positivity, energy, optimism, and general well-being. The time between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day is dark, cold, depressing, and causes me to hibernate, to avoid socializing, to stay home, and withdraw. Perhaps the reason is associated with the weather or challenges that I've experienced during this period. 

This year was particularly challenging. Mom passed away at the end of 2016. This was my family's first holiday season without her delightful home made funny Christmas cards, a house decorated with multiple Christmas trees and 15 nativity scenes, her smell, the sound of her voice, the warmth and humor that I've relied upon. I was worried about how my dad would deal with this first holiday season. Although he had his moments of sadness, he has exhibited a resilience that amazes me, an attitude of gratitude for the decades he was able to share with my mom, and a realization that his role now is to celebrate every moment of life to the fullest with friends and family. I admire his ability to embrace life more than I can articulate. And I treasure the time that we've been able to spend together in a new way.

We've also lost two of our favorite feline companions. Sweet Nicholas, the elder statesman who appeared miraculously on our porch last Christmas, the day I learned that Mom was failing, spent just a bit more than a year providing us with love, comfort, and joy as he deteriorated from squamous cell carcinoma that eroded an ear and his nose. The vet opined he was in his 15th year when he came to us, asking for nothing but love, food and a place to feel safe. Within a week of his passing across the Rainbow Bridge we lost another sweet cat that was young with no discernible health problems. We don't know the cause. We know only that we felt sadness at another loss.

My wonderful father-in-law was also hospitalized in Michigan with pulmonary problems, MRSA, and bronchial problems. As a stoic midwesterner he resisted seeking medical treatment, fully expecting he would recover on his own. But I feel grateful that my mother-in-law was able to convince him to go to the hospital. He lost weight, lost energy, and worried us terribly. But he is recovering slowly and will hopefully be able to get back to the golf course in the spring.

Fortunately, I've learned that it is necessary to move forward, keep a focus on today, and accept what is. We celebrated a lovely Christmas with my dad and then drove him back to Indiana to see his newly painted bedroom and cozy enclosed back porch. When we lost our beloved pet, I researched breeders and plan to welcome a beautiful ragdoll kitten into our home in the next few weeks. She already has a name - Mindy!

There have been changes at work; I will now be working for a woman that I love as a friend and a colleague and feel blessed for the opportunity. I've also come to realize that I do not want to walk into the jungle with a target on my chest and my back in my professional life. At this juncture I want a work - life balance. 

And I continue to try new things. This morning I had my first Pilates reformer training session and I loved it! Wow! Still learning new things and embracing opportunities to focus on wellness. I do hope to integrate this new core strengthening workout into my repertoire!

Apparently I am still my father's daughter - embracing change with resiliency, optimism and joy.
Thank you, Dad!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Meditations on Resiliency

Resiliency is a key theme in my recent meditations on life. Just short of a year ago the world as I knew it came crashing down when my mother’s health started to rapidly deteriorate. I didn’t expect it. Although she has suffered a fractured pelvis and recurrence of breast cancer in 2016, I believed, as did the rest of her family and friends, that she was invincible, forever resilient, and immune to death. Most of us thought she would live to at least 100. When she was admitted to Indiana University Medical Center the week before Christmas and the nursing staff referred to her as a geriatric patient, we were mystified. It never occurred to us that Mom was geriatric, much less mortal.

Dad called me Christmas evening, said he needed me, and asked me to come to Indiana immediately. I was numb, in denial, and fractured. I was also worried about Dad. My parents has been together, inseparable for 62 years.  I feared, as did my brother, that Dad would crumble. He did, temporarily. But as my Aunt Virginia kept repeating to me: “your father is strong”. At the time I had doubts;  I had doubts about my father’s ability to cope without my mother. I had doubts about my ability to weather the loss; however, Daddy has shown amazing resilience as have I. We’ve both emerged through the fog of pain and loss stronger and more resilient than I could have ever imagined. 

I’ve realized that both of my parents raised me with the tools and ability to survive  and overcome loss, sorrow, fear, unexpected change, disappointment, career challenges, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, depression, trials and tribulations, tumbles into an abyss of despair and death of those most precious. 

I feel gratitude for my ability to rise from the ashes like the Phoenix of mythology. If I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be of the Phoenix, representing my resiliency. I know I am a survivor. As I learned during my years in Al Anon recovering from the insanity of living with an alcoholic spouse, I have no control over other people, places and things - only my reaction or attitude. And I choose resiliency. 

My father is coming to spend Christmas with us in Virginia this year and I know that we will celebrate our memories of the past and our determination to embrace the present and our time together with joy and gratitude. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Chalk Man by C.J.Tudor / Book Review

The Chalk Man pulled me into the story from the Prologue on Page 1 which begins "The girl's head rested on a small pile of orange -and-brown leaves."  The narrative then shifts immediately from 1986 to 2016 when the narrator, Eddie "Munster", reflects on the series of horrific events in the small English village that would haunt him and his childhood friends [Hoppo, Metal Mickey, Fat Gav & Nicky] for the next 20 years.

I found the story creative with the characters at 12 years age using bits of colored chalk to send one another messages in code. Each member of the gang used a different color to identify who had written the code. Of course, someone discovered the code and began to create mayhem.

 There were a couple of Twin Peaks moments that didn't quite ring true for me; and I did not find Eddie to be a sympathetic narrator. Instead he seems a bit of a creepy, dysfunctional alcoholic.

I also found the repeated reference of a Waltzer confusing since I was unfamiliar with the term. I figured out that is must be a carnival ride. But I had to Google the term for confirm that.

C.J.Tudor is an engaging writer. I found it hard to put down for the first 3/4 of the book. Towards the end, however, the story seemed to lose a bit of steam. Ultimately, the ending for me was a bit contrived and unconvincing.

The Chalk Man is one of the better mystery/thrillers that I have read in quite some time. Despite its flaws, the book is a solid read in the genre and I will happily look forward to reading the next book by Ms. Tudor.

This book will be published in January 2018. I was provided with a courtesy galley of the book through  in exchange for an honest review. ****

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fighting a Bit of Melancholy ~ Focusing on Gratitude

It has been on my mind for some time .Thanksgiving 2016 was the last time I saw my mom when she was purportedly healthy. Of course, none of us knew she was hiding knowledge of her true condition, that her cancer had resurfaced. But I didn’t suspect. Should I have had an inkling? Perhaps I should have noticed she didn’t have the same levity, spring in her step, fortitude, go with the flow type of attitude. She ambulated fine for someone who’d had some numbness in a foot and leg. Todd & I both commented on how well she appeared. But she seemed a bit off when the group of us went to Monk’s BBQ for lunch, followed by tastings at two wineries the day after Thanksgiving. She’d always loved our wine tasting expeditions. She seemed a bit tired, but I attributed that to the rounds of radiation she’d recently completed. She told all of us she was cured. 

It was odd that she declined to buy a top she really liked at Talbots when we went shopping with my mother-in-law on Black Friday. She complimented me on my hair, encouraged me to buy a navy pin dot pantsuit and dissuaded me from a pair of houndstooth trousers. She tried on nothing.But it didn’t send a signal to my brain. It never occurred to me that within 5 weeks she would be gone. 

I wish I’d taken more photographs. I wish I’d hugged her more and harder. I wish I had known this would be the last time we would celebrate a holiday together. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because of the focus on family and gratitude. The tears still spill from my eyes at odd moments. I grasp onto the belief that whenever I find a shiny penny in an odd place that it is a message from Mom, telling me she is with me in spirit as an angel looking over me. I wasn’t ready to lose her. I thought she would live to 100, like Todd’s grandmother, a stoic, midwestern women who could not be defeated by mere health issues. She never considered herself old. Neither did we. 

The milestones throughout the year have passed with some sadness; but this holiday is the one that Todd and I always hosted for our extended families. We celebrated the opportunity to have our loved ones travel to Virginia and allow us to cook for them, coddle them, treat them, and thank them for all they have done for us. They raised us to be good people and we celebrate them for that. 

This year it will be different. There will be a hole in our hearts. But my father, brother, father in law and mother in law will join us and we will celebrate that we still have one another. We have some other Indiana refugees that will join us to give thanks for our blessings. I am filled with gratitude for my incomparable husband, my ever thriving dad, my resilient brother, and my wonderfully loving in-laws. I know that with our friend and family joining us we will weather the storm.