Sunday, April 14, 2019

Taking & Enjoying Vacation Days - The Importance of Work /Life Balance

While I've advocated the necessity of work/life balance for many years,  I haven't always taken my own advice. Deep within my psyche I continued to believe erroneously that if I worked the extra hours, checked my emails and voicemails while on vacation or PTO, tried to prevent adverse developments and went the extra mile that the rewards would outweigh the drawbacks. In a corporate environment that raises the bar each year, expects employees to go above and beyond even to meet expectations, has little toleration for the human fallibility and focuses on "areas of opportunity" for development rather than what one does well, it becomes easier to embrace the benefits of downtime, weekends, vacations, and celebrations of everyday life.
My husband and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary last weekend with a glorious stay at the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Arizona followed by a peaceful drive to Las Vegas by way of a stop over in Jerome, Arizona to check out the Caduceus Winery  https://caduceus.org owned by Grammy winning Maynard James Keenan, who is also the winemaker. I made the conscious decision to enjoy my time away from the office, let go of the fear that something would blow-up, and anticipate that if it did, somebody else would handle it. I locked my work phone in the hotel safe. Out of sight; out of mind. I felt liberated.

During our stay at the resort we both let go of work, indulged in spa treatments, enjoyed drinks by the spa pool, sipped some fabulous wines and dined at delightful local restaurants. Although Todd was attending a trade show in Las Vegas, I continued my journey of self-kindness by seeking out those rare, hidden places of quiet away from the casinos, noisy arcades, and masses of humanity strolling up and down The Strip where I could sit in the sun and read my book to the sounds of a waterfall. 

Since I'm not much of a gambler, dislike crowds and smokey rooms, had no interest in any of the shows and saw no reason to shop in the same stores found in malls throughout the rest of the USA,  I had a manicure, tried a HydraFacial treatment (which was awesome), rode the New York New York rollercoaster, and explored the Shops at the Forum at Caesar's Palace, where I did manage to find an adorable pair of L.K.Bennett shoes for a song.

Although this interlude away from work ends tomorrow morning, I will continue to focus on the necessity of work/life balance, log off my laptop at 5:00pm whenever possible, and practice the self-care of yoga and Pilates regularly. 

Namaste! 




Monday, March 18, 2019

Celebrating My Dad’s 87th Birthday


Although today is his actual birthday, my incomparable dad, Richard Copeland,  threw himself a 87th birthday party yesterday in celebration of life. He hosted a gathering of friends and family at The People’s Winery in his beloved city of Logansport, Indiana- the place he’s called home since 1954- in part because he can still pronounce the word ‘octogenarian’ and in part to mark the milestone of living a long and joy filled life.  


My brother, my husband and I were thrilled to experience the outpouring of love and affection that his friends, neighbors and community shared with him, a child of the Depression who married the love of his life, taught young children how to read, embraced his adopted town, devoted many years to serving Cass County, raised his children to be good citizens, traveled the world, and shared his plants, knowledge and love of the community with everybody he met. We saw what so many of us in the 21st Century miss- a sense of belonging to a seeming Norman Rockwell view of America. It is an America we want to believe in. My dad has friends who care about him. That is golden.



I feel so fortunate to still have this wonderfully kind, spirited, loving, exuberant, creative father who keeps on going like the Energizer bunny still healthy, agile, sharp minded, and looking forward to his next project.....this spring a new patio and deck to enjoy the song of Miss Wren, the beauty of his flowers, and a comfortable place to enjoy a whiskey and a cigar with friends who stop by.

Happy Birthday, Daddy! 😍 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Effects of Enhanced Political Correctness & the Chaos in Virginia Politics ~2019

It is difficult to avoid feeling just a tiny bit of schadenfreude over the implosion of the Democratic leadership in Richmond, Virginia. The liberal politicians, television and radio personalities and news pundits that have advocated trial by mob, conviction by social media, judgment based upon innuendo or opinion, and vilification based upon hearsay when allegations of political incorrectness, sexual misconducted or racial insensitivity are levied against conservative or Libertarian leaning individuals are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to create eristic arguments to ignore the scandals or feed their own to the sharks as collateral damage in the political Hunger Games. 

Racism is wrong. Discrimination based upon sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability,  color,  or preference for cats or dogs is wrong. Sexual assault is inexcusable. However, we have to look to our collective history and accept that change moves at a different pace depending upon culture, location, environment, the influence of parents or classmates or friends or the political climate. 

In an ideal world one could flip a switch and change discriminatory attitudes. But change takes time. People who have found recovery in 12 Step Programs learn that it takes just as long or longer to recover from stinking thinking as it does to sink into the abyss of addiction. At the time of the Civil War, there had been the enslavement of Africans for 250 years. It took another 100 years after  the Civil War to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Considering how long the disgraceful practice of systemic discrimination against people of color existed in this country, we've come a long way in the last 55 years. We still have a long road ahead of us, but instead of vilifying everybody who acted with insensitivity in his or her past, why can't we celebrate how they have changed attitudes, converted prejudice into activism or youthful idiocy into compassion.  

I make no excuses for Governor Northram or Attorney General Herring. I did not vote for either, dislike their political agenda, and would love to see them both resign. But, I refuse to judge the suitability for political office in 2019 by the actions of these individuals 35 years ago. Who among us is free from youthful insensitivity? Who at the age of  15, 17, 20, 22 or 24 really thinks that he or she will one day run for public office? Should one's life be destroyed because of youthful indiscretion?

With regard to Justin Fairfax and the allegations of sexual assault, I will reserve judgment. It is critical for the Commonwealth of Virginia and its citizens to take the allegations seriously. But I believe in fairness, the rule of law, the right to a presumption of innocence and refuse a rush to judgment of Mr. Fairfax just as I refused to judge Justice Kavanaugh without corroborating evidence. Besides, the allegations against both were arguably paltry compared to the sexual improprieties of former President Clinton. 

Perhaps now that the character assassinations and muckraking tactics utilized by the political left has caused the probable downfall of the democratic leaders in Virginia, a state of significant political strategic importance, the architects of this type of political gamesmanship such as Dianne Feinstein,  "Spartacus" Booker,  and Mazie Hirano will think before flinging mud. 

I know....not a chance!


Monday, January 14, 2019

Dreaming of Spring While Perusing Plant & Seed Catalogs

After spending this  past weekend snowbound, enjoying the beauty of the winter wonderland while resisting the need to clear the walkway, vehicles, driveway and deck, I was thrilled to receive my first plant catalog of 2019 in today's mail from Brent & Becky's Bulbs. I tolerate winter and inclement weather. Because of my geographic location in Northwestern Virginia, it is impossible to escape despite being "technically" in the "south".  To survive the months where my feet stay numb from the cold, I dream of the approaching spring and start to think about planting flowers, shrubs, fruits, vegetables and herbs. And, my Dad shared photographs of his pussy willow starts that he cultivated from cuttings, which really started my mind churning. 

While we have endeavored with mixed success to carve a bit of Eden from the hardscrabble landscape on our windy, rocky ridge for the last thirteen years using a pick, Cub Cadet and 24 inch auger,  we haven't lost our optimism and have started to see that sometime in our lifetimes there may be an area of lushness at least around the backyard deck. Trees are beginning to mature. We've discovered shrubs that will tolerate the harsh conditions. And we've learned to use vines and planters to bring color to the deck. 

Last year was the first time we tried raised garden beds with Mel's Mix using the square foot gardening method.  I tried starting some plants from seeds indoors. There was a lot of trial, error and lessons learned. I discovered peat pots dry out quickly. Miss just a few days of watering and everything wilts. None of the peppers survived. The tomato plants thrived until the continued torrential rains with nominal sunlight throughout summer stunted the production of actual fruit. The melons did well until the raccoons pilfered them. The African marigolds were beautiful. I planted those in the raised beds to deter pests; however, this type of  marigold grew so huge that the flowers blocked the minimal sunlight we had from the seedlings. I misjudged some companion planting, underplanted beans, and waited too late to plant lettuce, spinach, peas and other cooler season vegetables. The first planting of potato did well. The deer ate the fall crop. Note to self: build the fence!!!

I also discovered that it doesn't make sense to plant tulips on our property. I love the vast variety of colors and shapes of tulips available. Deer eat tulips. Deer eat tulip bulbs. So, I will plant no more tulips. Deer tend avoid daffodils. So, I've learned to appreciate daffodils. Squirrels like daffodils; but our roving attack cats have protected the property from thieving squirrels. Regretfully, they've made friends with the raccoons and the deer are fearless. 

So, back to dreaming of springtime and planning the garden. Before long the crocus will bloom, my feet will warm and the cycle of life continues. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year 2019


Happy New Year! It is the dawn of 2019, which seems inconceivable to me, a child of the 60s, teen of the 70’s and young adult of the 80s. When I started my career in insurance claims in 1980, I could not fathom that I had an anticipated work life of 45 years. With a lifetime ahead of me, as a 20 year old college graduate, I imagined career success, a fairytale marriage with a stately Georgian house in the right community, two girls with perfect complexions that would arrive after my 30th birthday, a fashionable wardrobe curated from Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Talbots and cute boutiques, and vacations to world class beaches or exotic locales. In my imagination, my life was planned to perfection. I was a modern woman and ready to roar, break the glass ceiling, have ‘it all’.

The Universe had other ideas. While my life has, to a great extent, been one I could not have imagined, Fate knocked me off my chosen path and left me at times wandering aimlessly through a morass of pain and confusion, complicated by my inclination to try to force solutions or outcomes which nearly always backfired. While I enjoyed early professional success, I made the critical decision to give it up to follow my then husband to Asia. For that I have no regrets. That decision afforded me the opportunity to live in Taiwan and Hong Kong and travel the world in comfort for more than five years. However, there was a price to be paid: a controlling, alcoholic spouse who  I allowed to subjugate me, emotional trauma, financial collapse, and the loss of unrealized dreams.

For a long time I was poisoned by resentment. But I found healing in Al Anon groups in Hong Kong, Frederick, Maryland and Winchester, Virginia; gardening; yoga; meditation; and a newly discovered spirituality unaffilated with organized religion. My choices did not always resonate with my family; but I found my revised path. 

I’ve found peace, serenity and gratitude with my second husband, a Renaissance man of sorts who constantly challenges me and encourages me to try new things. Instead of kids, I have two stepdaughters, five grandchildren and a sanctuary for abandoned  felines. My career trajectory has stalled; but I’ve finally made peace with that. I wouldn’t trade the adventures that I’ve experienced, the highs and lows, the spiritual journey, my domestic tranquility or peace of mind for more responsibility that would interfere with my enjoyment of life.

I am on the cusp of 60. Born in the Chinese Year of the Earth Pig, I’ve come through the cycle. 2019 ushers in with the Year of the Earth Pig once again. 

2019. I feel optimistic. I feel grateful for my blessings, my family, my health, and the opportunities that are ahead. Welcome New Year🎊






Sunday, December 2, 2018

Makeup For Women of a Certain Age ~ Old Standbys & New Favorites





My love of makeup has never ebbed although it has certainly evolved over the past 45 years from the horrendous green and blue Cover Girl eyeshadows of the mid 1970s to my 1980s passion for all things Chanel to my 1990’s devotion to Lancome (until the company dumped Isabella Rossalini as its spokes model in 1996) to my conversion to Bobbi Brown in my mid 40s and into my current experimentation with new brands discovered through playing at Ulta and Sephora and receiving monthly subscription boxes from Sephora, Boxycharm and Glossybox.

Playing with makeup is fun; and I feel fortunate that skin care and cosmetic companies have recognized the buying power of “women of a certain age” and have developed products that work well for those of us with more mature skin.
Skin Care Favorites
 My current skin care favorites include ClarityRx Cleanse Daily cleanser, Daily Dose of Water hydrating serum, and Call Me In the Morning recovery cream; Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask (which smells divine); SkinAuthority Instant Perfection Peel Pads; Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil; my old standby Clinique Clarifying Lotion; and Differin Gel, which my dermatologist recommended as an inexpensive alternative to Retin-A.

Makeup
After experimenting with Nars, TooFaced, MAC, Urban Decay, Philosophy, Bobbi Brown, Geurlain, Giorgio Armani, Benefit, Smashbox, Bare Minerals, Makeup Forever, and numerous other trendy brands, my current “go to” foundations are Lancome products: Renergie Lift Makeup and Skin Feels Good hydrating skin tint. These products look so great that my facial esthetician asked me if I ever wear face makeup…..while I was wearing it! Thank you, Lancome!!!

Lancome also makes the best mascara. I’ve tried many brands over the years that promised longer, fuller, curlier, thicker lashes. All disappointed me with the exception of Lancome. My current favorite is Grandiose Extreme; however, any Lancome mascara will do.

My biggest makeup challenge: over plucked, thin, nearly invisible eyebrows with the occasional errant long white hair that seems to appear overnight. Filling in brows can be tricky. I’ve seen disastrous attempts to create lush brows that end up looking like crayon drawings by grade schoolers. The best pencils I’ve discovered are made by Anastasia, Bobbi Brown and MAC. Benefit’s Brow-zings works wonders. And the tinted brow gel by Anastasia and Bobbi Brown are miracle workers. I generally use a combination of products to get a nearly natural look. 

There are a lot of great blushes on the market today; however, experts recommend cream blush for mature women. The best I’ve tried include Cushion Blush Subtil by Lancome; Makeup Forever HD Cream Blush; Nars The Multiple; Burberry Beauty Lip & Cheek Bloom; and Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge. 

Many of the newest matte lip products seem too drying, uncomfortable or unattractive for aging lips. I’ve found that Nars Satin Lip Pencils provides a creamy texture that goes on smoothly and doesn’t fade into fine lines. The Clinique Chubby Stick is quite good as are the Clinique Long Lasting Soft Matte; Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution; Chanel Rouge Hydrating Lip Color; Lancome L’Absolu Rouge; Urban Decay; Marc Jacobs.

Finally, eyeshadow. It seems impossible to have too many eyeshadows. My Boxycharm subscription box seems to include a new eyeshadow palette every month. I tend to stick with matte shadows because they tend to suit aging eyelids without emphasizing the fine lines. My current collection of eyeshadows includes palettes from Tarte, Too Faced, Lancome, Urban Decay, Buxom, Pretty Vulgar, and Pur. I particularly love that I can create my own palette with Buxom and I love Buxom shadows! 


What makeup products do you love? I’m always looking to try something new! Now - off to use my Beauty Insider coupon at Sephora!

https://www.boxycharm.com             https://www.sephora.com
https://www.glossybox.com               https://www.ulta.com

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Embracing the Concept of Self-Care ~ Another Lesson from Al Anon

One of the many valuable lessons I've learned through my years in Al-Anon is the necessity of self-care. Too many of us believe that self-care is synonymous with selfishness or self-centeredness instead of considering that each of us is given only one life and our higher power wants us to celebrate that life.

To find recovery from my stinking thinking, it was critical that I accepted that I could not change another person, place or thing; but I could change my attitude, my own way of thinking, and complete a personal inventory to determine who I am, why I reacted in a certain way, what elements of my childhood or early adulthood affected the way I approached life with insecurity, fearfulness, regret, false bravado, the need to always be "right", and my tendency to try to fix people and become involved in toxic relationships. I learned the only way I could find peace and serenity was to look deep inside myself, make a decision to let go of past behaviors, actively seek change, reboot my negative focus into a positive focus with mindfulness, let go of past anger and resentments, forgive, love people as they are, and to never make decisions when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

In conjunction with working on my attitude and outlook, I began to practice yoga and mediation. My journey continues with making an effort every day to do something that promotes my overall wellbeing. At least three evenings during the week I try to shut off my work computer at 5:00pm so that I can make a 5:30 yoga or Pilates reformer class. Once every four or five weeks I indulge in a pedicure. And about two years ago just after my mom died,  in an effort heal,  I began to incorporate a monthly massage. I've also rediscovered how much I benefit from an occasional facial. And I've convinced my husband that I'm a much lovelier human if I spend a few precious hours on the weekend with a book and a cup of tea or working in the garden alone rather than vacuuming the cat fur out of the Persian rugs. 

Some days it is a struggle to do what is the best thing for my overall wellbeing.  Some days work has to come first. Sometimes I allow other commitments to take precedence. It is so easy to make excuses that there isn't enough time. But those days of making excuses are fewer now. I've decided that at the age of 59 I am worth it.  I will continue to practice self-care, embrace the peace and serenity I've been able to cultivate, and practice an attitude of gratitude.   

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How Al Anon Saved Me

Addiction is an insidious disease that impacts the lives of everyone who cares about the addict: parents, children, partners, grandparents, spouses, employers, friends & acquaintances. Those who love an addict want answers, solutions, advice, guidance, instructions, miracles, magic wands... anything that can help them to fix the addiction. But there are no easy answers or solutions. 

I’ve shared previously that I was living  in Hong King when my house of cards came crashing down. My husband lost his job becaus big alcohol addiction. He didn’t tell me. He pretended to go to work for weeks. I found out by chance and was devastated. I didn’t know where to turn. I was filled with such rage I could have committed an atrocity that would have consigned me to a foreign prison. The stress, anger, embarrassment, frustration, pain, sorrow, devastation was almost more than I could comprehend. I was unemployed in a foreign country living with a stranger that was plunging into the depths of something I could not understand.

A friend suggested I try Al Anon. I’d never heard of Al Anon. I’d heard about AA for the addict but was completely unfamiliar with this group that provided support for friends and family of alcoholics and addicts.

I attended my first meeting with trepidation. I did not know what to expect. I as amazed to see people I knew who had children,  spouses, parents, grandparents and friends who were suffering from addiction. At that first meeting the group asked me what brought me to Al Anon. I shared that I had discovered a rage within me that had frightened me, that I’d felt a potential for violence within me that horrified me. The group told me that was normal, they’d all experienced that, and that I was in the right place.

That was the beginning of my journey, an October day in 1993. I spent 10 years in Step 1: admitted that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol, that my life had become unmanageable. I knew my life had become unmanageable, but I could not accept I had now power. Fortunately, I continued to go to meetings and met some amazing people who shared their experience, strength and hope that gave me the resources to begin recovery. 

Thank you to all of the wonderful angels that guided me in my path to recovery! Whicjh is a minute by minute, hour by hour day by day process. 



Sunday, September 23, 2018

Perspective ~How Things Have Changed Since I Joined the Workforce in 1980

Perhaps if the pussy hat wearing angry hordes of women were to study a bit of recent history, they would be celebrating how far we women have come in a few decades rather than scream with anger and indignation that we haven't come far enough. It is also reasonable to reflect that women were not granted the right to vote until August 18, 1920 by the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which was not ratified for 42 years after it was first introduced in Congress by Senator Aaron Sargent of California. We are still 2 years shy of the 100th anniversary.
Comparatively, I began my career as a field claim adjuster for  Commercial Union Assurance Companies in 1980, as a not-yet-21 year old university graduate. CU hired 2 women trainees that year in Indiana - me in Indianapolis and another in Muncie. We were the first field claims adjusters hired for CU in Indiana. That was merely 38 years ago. 

When Mary and I started at CU we were not greeted with open arms. Instead, the mostly middle aged men treated us with disdain, made sexist comments, told jokes that would now get them fired, openly read "girly" magazines, enjoyed 3 martini lunches, asked us to fetch them things, and made bets on how quickly they could get us to quit. There was resentment because claims was a man's world filled with chain smoking, grumbling, sans-a-belt pants wearing, clip-board carrying, rough edged guys that  knew how to talk with body shop managers, contractors, police officers, fire inspectors and trades people.  Not only did we have to learn the job, we had to do it better. We had to prove that we could climb on roofs, stand in the middle of intersections to take photos and make diagrams, inspect machinery, walk through  fire scenes, estimate damages, separate truth from fiction, determine causes of loss, evaluate injury claims, drive to addresses or accident scenes without GPS or cell phones, schedule meetings without computers, dictate correspondence, and deflect questions from people as to when we would "get married and quit". 

At one point, I realized I'd been a quota hire and it pissed me off. I marched into my manager's office filled with frustration that I'd been hired because they HAD to start hiring women. He just looked at me and asked: how do you know you weren't the best person for the job? Wow! That shut me up!

To survive in that environment during the 1980's women had to be strong -willed, determined, smarter, faster, better and prepared to be one of the guys. We also had a lot of laughter - albeit some of it would now be considered most inappropriate. The lessons I learned then prepared me for success in a dog eat dog world. I also met some wonderful men who treated me with respect and equality that I still keep in touch with today.

I feel no resentment towards those that put me through the ringer because the game me the impetus to succeed. And within 15 years, the insurance claims industry began to transition from a world almost exclusively composed of middle aged white men into a business that began to embrace diversity and inclusion.  But what we've lost in the process is the ability to celebrate how far we've come. 

We've come a long way since 1980 when women couldn't get a credit card or buy a house on her own. Let go of a bit of the anger, stop whining about micro aggressions and hurt feelings,  celebrate the achievements we've made in a a few amazing decades.  

Life is glorious! 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Salem Witch Trial Redux ~ Our 21st Century Political Witch Hunt

Since at least one of my ancestors participated in wrongly judging the more than 200 people accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, I feel a moral obligation to decry the current witch hunting that is currently taking place in our 21st Century political arena.

For those who have ignored or choose to disregard the our historical past because it may not support his or her political bias (or because some educators have replaced the actual history of America with more politically correct niche stories that promote diversity), I will provide a brief recitation of the facts.

In January 1692, 3 young girls began experiencing odd behavior that was medically described as "fits" resulting from the influence of "the devil". The girls, aged 9 to 11, levied blame upon 3 women for casting spells upon them. Mass hysteria resulted with 20 condemned to death. Nobody wanted to believe the girls were lying. And historians today believe that their parents, in particular  leading citizens Thomas Putnam and Reverend Samuel Parris, encouraged the girls to accuse people they didn't like to rid them from the community. Hmmmm. Sound familiar to anyone?  

From the earliest years of our Republic our country has experienced nastiness amongst politicians with differing agendas. Few politicians truly care about the greater good. Instead, they seem to care only about getting elected, staying in power, getting re-elected, and then, if all goes well, secure a well paid job in the private sector while also receiving a government pension. If our elected officials had any integrity, any belief in the Constitution they've sworn to uphold, any common decency, any empathy, even of scintilla of respect for the people of American - they would work together to find consensus instead of pandering to whatever groups are garnering the most media attention. 

It seems that not one member of Congress from either political party has the temerity to stand up for what is right and stop the madness, put an end to the witch hunts, call out the small minded game players, hold their own members accountable to verifiable malfeasance, and put Country first.


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 mmlafleur.com with reviews from professional women singing the praises of the office appropriate clothes available online. While not a subscription service per se, MMlafleur.com 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 mmlafleur.com 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 mmlafleur.com 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 MMlafleur.com 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

Add caption


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 htpaofvirginia@gmail.com 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?