Sunday, October 13, 2019

Considering the Wonderful Experiences Life Has Afforded Me So Far~

It is so easy in this 21st Century environment of incivility and hateful political discourse to let the negativity adversely affect one's sense of peace and serenity. However, I've been fortunate enough to learn the art of focusing on gratitude for my blessings. The journey has been challenging and taken years of introspection, requires my letting go of resentments regularly and relies upon my maintaining the contentment and focus on positivity that I've struggled to attain. As I've shared regularly, my years in Al Anon provided me with the tools achieve and maintain my peace and serenity.

At my first Al Anon meeting at a church in Hong Kong in 1993 the group suggested I make a gratitude list. Initially, I used the alphabet and tried to identify one thing that started with each letter for which I felt grateful. Over the years I've come to accept that I feel gratitude for each life experience - even those that were painful - because that experience contributed to my becoming the woman I am today, October 13, 2019, at age 60.

These are just some of the things and experiences that fill me with gratitude:

  • Sitting on my screened - in porch, reading an actual book, sipping wine, surrounded by my husband and cats;
  • Wearing 1930s fashions while showing our 1934 Terraplane at the Hershey ACCA yesterday;
  • Traveling to England on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship as a 19 year old student;
  • Learning to ride a horse English saddle while a student in England;
  • Spending a summer in Paris studying at the Sorbonne and meeting my AOII sisters Carla and Olga there;
  • Riding an elephant in Chang Mai;
  • Enjoying a manicure and pedicure while lounging on Nusa Dua Beach in Bali;
  • Visiting the incomparable Cathedral of the Cao Dai outside Tay Ninh in Vietnam;
  • Celebrating marriage to my soulmate, Todd Harrington, on the veranda of the Villa Sirio in Castellebate with the town mayor presiding and surrounded by friends and family;
  • The ability to practice yoga and Pilates regularly;
  • Spending time with my dad on his newly built deck;
  • Becoming a member of the American Club in Hong Kong, where I met wonderful people that helped keep me somewhat sane during my 3 years on the island;
  • Growing tomatoes from seed that actually produced fruit;
  • Backpacking through Europe at the age of 19, feeling empowered to travel on my own when my colleagues had other plans;
  • Sitting on the flight deck with the pilot and first officer on 2 Qantas Airlines - including while landing at night over the Hong Kong harbor at the old Kai Tak Airport;
  • Cashmere sweaters;
  • Classical music;
  • Pearls; 18K Gold Jewelry; 
  • The plays I've seen, concerts I've attended, places I've traveled, people I've met, pets that shared unconditional love, planes that took off and landed safely, museums filled with the art of the ages;
Just looking at this incomplete list of things for which I feel gratitude fills me with wonder. Try it. Make a list of things for which your are grateful. Living with an attitude of gratitude will change your life. It surely changed mine.

Monday, September 9, 2019

What Happened To My Nails?

Really! In my youth I had fingernails of iron! I could use them as a screwdriver! What the hell happened? Overnight Iwent from nails of iron to paper thin nails that cannot support a manicure for a week! My diet is sufficient. What happened? I used to look at my mom with suspicion when she reported deficient nails. How could that be? What changed?

It happened slowly, without notice. Suddenly, I was blindsided by the change. Jello stopped  working!

My nails are flimsy, prone to ridges, cracks & unanticipated fissures. Emory boards do not help. Not one of the tools of the trade provide guidance. Instead, evidence suggests that I am doomed to 35 years of thin, challenged, short, ridged nails that will require professional assistance moving forward.

There must be a way to avoid gel solutions or acrylic tips which make it all worse. Any suggestions!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Skin Care for Women of a Certain Age

Since 4th Grade I’ve experienced challenges with sensitive or acne prone skin. I truly never imaged that at age 60 I would still be dealing with breakoutsand dermatitis. Consequently, I’ve been searching for the Holy Grail skin care products throughout adulthood. During my late 20’s and 30’s I used Retin A, which I was fortunate enough to buy over the counter in Hong Kong for $15 per tube. When my ability to tap that resource disappeared, my options reverted to prescription products or cosmetic grade retinol products.

Over the years I’ve tried and discarded more premium skin care products than I can recall. Most were in effective. A few caused inflammation. I have a subscription to a local spa; however, overall I gain my holistic benefit from massage therapy than a facial.

Internet research led me to Emminence Organic Skin Care.
I was impressed by the testimonials from customers with similar skin care challenges and the option to purchase samples to try before committing to a full size product. The products are not sold directly. Instead I was able to purchase from I’ve become a convert of this amazing line of natural products that feel terrific and smell divine in addition to doing what the products claim to do.  There is a great article in Allure about Emminence.

These are the products I’ve tried and love:



Friday, September 6, 2019

How Can I Be 60?

It is still hard for me to fathom that my compadres and I have experienced 60 years on this planet. How did so many years pass? I still see glimpses in my distant memory of looking out the window from my brother’s bedroom, seeing the school children boarding the school buses, and hoping to one day be one of those students. Wow!

As I fully embrace the dynamic woman of a certain age that I am today I look back with a semblance of pride and amazement at the challenges that women of my generation overcame  to achieve success and credibility in the corporate world, arts, sciences, politics, the law, as business owners, entrepreneurs, physicians, researchers, military command, design, technology, innovation, community service, finance, volunteering  and work/ life balance. We now have choices that did not exist 40 years ago.

I still chuckle to myself when I consider that I never believed I would need to understand computers. Now, I’m lost without  my iPad, 2 cell phones, 2 laptops, Sirius radio, Netflix, DirecTv, digital music, and LTE to allow me to telecommute. This from someone raised in a home with one black rotary dial phone where ‘long distance’ was a rare treat.

To get myself back into blogging, I think I’ll muse a bit about the changes and events that have transpired over the last 60 years. Perhaps some will consider that in Life’s overall scheme of things, life is pretty darned fabulous for those of us fortunate enough to live in the USA....despite some political differences.❤️

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

How My Sinus Infection Reminded Me to Forgive My Mom For Letting Go

She knew.We didn't.

I am a weenie when it comes to illness. That is probably the result of having been blessed with great genes and the fact that I have been blessed with great health throughout my 60 years. It is not all attributable to clean. healthy living. The fact that I survived the fall of 1977 through 1984 is a gift from the Angels.

For the first time since my flu event that began New Years Eve 1998, I have been sick enough to require more than one day away from work. Yes, more than 20 years. I am used to feeling great most of the time. But a sinus infection has stopped me in my tracks. If you look up symptoms of a sinus infection, I've experienced every one in some form over the past 10 days. I kept thinking it would get better. I haven't had a serious sinus infection since 1997. I was also concerned about developing pneumonia and decided to visit my internist, hoping he would allay my fear of pneumonia and give me a miracle drug to make it all go away.

As I was walking into the Medical Arts Building II, I was all of a sudden overcome with grief and guilt that I, a person with a mere sinus infection, had carried anger at my mom for 2 1/2 years for giving up, at the age of 86, after bilateral breast cancer, fractured vertebrae, and the knowledge her cancer had returned for a third time. I cried at my lack of empathy for all she had been through, even though I knew what she had experienced, because I'd felt in some way she should have fought to stay with us. That was selfish. After just one week of my feeling terrible, I know that my new prescription for Amoxicillin will have me back in my state of normalcy in a few days. I don't know how I would deal with the knowledge it was never going to be better?

So, 22 hours after my first miracle pill, I am on the mend, but reminded that I am fortunate. Maybe this episode was meant to reignite my empathy for those with chronic or terminal illness. I've released my resentment of mom and of myself for my attitude. I'll also try harder to understand another family member's periodic drama queen episodes, knowing how she has struggled to live a normal life, with an autoimmune disorder that took years to diagnosis after changing her life overnight, and continues to takes its toll on her organs.

Sometime an unexpected negative can have some positive results.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Memories of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50 Years Later

During my childhood athletes were not the only heroes. I loved Willy Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr. However, Astronauts were my real heroes. Being launched into the unknown in a tiny capsule above unknown amounts of explosive materials using bleeding edge technology was unfathomable. Every launch was awe inspiring.

I grew up during the era of the space race to the moon. We believed in American exceptionalism. We believed in the dream of JFK. We believed in infinite possibilities. Despite the sword of Damocles hanging over us that was the threat of nuclear annihilation, we as  a people believed in the innovation of our scientists, the ability to create new technologies that would propel us to the moon before the “evil empire” over which the Soviets presided, and that we Americans would stand proud of our collective accomplishments. We did it not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

The culmination of our 1960’s era dreams resulted in the entirety of the nation staying  awake to tune into Walte Cronkite  to watch the grainy black & white transmissions from Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin stepping from the lunar module onto the surface of the moon. This was the most jubilant moment of my childhood. Listening to Neil Armstrong’s comment that this was ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” became the defining moment in my memory and of the 1960’s.

My 10th Birthday was the following day, July 21, 1969. My birthday cake was decorated with a lunar module, American Flag, and the Apollo 11 astronauts. The memories are seared into my mind. NASA represented the epitome of American ingenuity. 50 years laters Apollo 11 still represents the apex of American exceptionalism.

NASA scientists and engineers continued to research and develop unequalled technologies. However, launches of the Apollo rockets and space shuttles became commonplace to those born after the moon landing. People stopped gathering around televisions to watch launches, missions, and landings. We had become blasé. And following the explosion of the Challenger, Americans had less tolerance for the risks of space travel. While the tragedy of Apollo 1 did not cause Americans to lose heart, a less space focused people in the 1980’s concluded the cost of the research and the risk to human life caused a newer generation to reconsider the benefits of space exploration.

To those of us who loved the concept of going where no man has gone before, that is one of the greatest losses of our modern culture. How I miss the excitement of a rocket launch, the holding of one’s breath as the capsule is launched beyond the earth’s atmosphere, and the admiration of those brave men & women who look to the stars in pursuit of our collective dreams.

And still today, whenever my plane lands, I text my loved ones : the eagle has landed. ❤️

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Honor the Patriots Who Founded Our Country

In today’s world of polarization and political correctness it is fashionable to denigrate the founders of our constitutional republic as privileged white men. If one reconsiders the historical context of time and place and contemplates where modern Americans would be today without the heroism of those who put their necks on the line for independence from Britain, perhaps there would be at least an iota of gratitude for the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Regretfully, current American school curriculums fail to devote appropriate time and study to the founding of our nation. Yes, there were slave owners. Yes, there were flawed human beings that do not withstand the sensibilities and morals of today. However, these were men of their time who descended from brave and desperate people looking to escape religious or political oppression that risked death just by boarding a ship to cross harrowing seas looking for opportunities. Considering the scarcity of books, they were educated by the age of 16 beyond PhD level graduates of today. They lived in a hard scrabble environment without indoor plumbing, electricity, clean water, easy transportation, paved roads, heat, air conditioning, steam engines, telephone, Internet, cars, trains, modern medicine, gasoline, credit cards, a central bank, the  Constitution, civil rights, college loans, or any of the conveniences people today take for granted.

Instead of denigrating those who founded our nation, consider that without the decisions made by those who signed the Declaration of a Independence (who were accused of treason) we would more than likely still be subjects of Britain, contributing tax dollars to the monarchy, subjected to socialized medicine, endure an antiquated class system, be limited to 6 TVchannels, have to join the. Church of England, watch cricket and drink warm beer.

Just consider...we’ve come a long way since 1776!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Government Funded = Taxpayer Funded

 The multidudes of Democrat candidates seeking the party nomination have clearly stated that they want to take more money from the working people who pay taxes to redistribute to people who do not. Yet, they purport to represent ‘working Americans’. Amazingly, these politicians fail to differentiate what they consider a ‘working American.’

I am a working American. All of my friends & acquaintances are working Americans. Yet, these politicos want to transfer the earnings of SOME working Americans to OTHER working Americans that are deemed more ‘worthy’ ( or leaches who do not work) based upon an unidentifiable quotient. Apparently ‘successful’  working Americans who played by the rules, worked hard, achieved a version of the American Dream that  somebody deems ‘too successful’ should pay to support those who did not work so hard, decided to take a different path, played by different rules, failed to study at school, and broke the law. Is this a winning philosophy?

The current crop of politicians and liberals refuse to acknowledge the very foundations of the ethic that the original settlers subscribed to for survival. Those who do not work do not eat. This was the philosophy of Jamestown & the Purtitan Massachusetts colony. The community required every member to contribute. This is the very foundation of the American way. No handouts for those who do not contribute.

The early immigrants to our shores braved unfriendly seas, disease, hardship, an inhospitable land, 17th Century technology, the unknown, and a high likelihood of premature death to carve out a life free of religious or political oppression.  Nobody gave them anything.

Nobody owes any of us anything except the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. This does not include FREE benefits paid for by one’s fellow citizens. Instead, one is entitled to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, the right to own arms and other freedoms SPECIFIED by the Constitution. If it isn’t mentioned, it is not a right.

If Congress wants to create another right, such as a right to healthcare, draft a Constitutional amendment that requires ratification by the states. Until such time, additional ‘rights’ do not exist.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hate, Incivility & Rudeness Are Inexcusable From Anyone!

My parents raised me to treat every human being with courtesy and respect - even if I disagreed with their opinions, disliked them personally, disapproved of their actions, or felt no respect. Regretfully, too many citizens of the USA believe that it is perfectly acceptable and reasonable to exhibit disgust, hate, rudeness, offense, and disdain in public towards individuals who may have a different ideology or political opinion. The incivility is encouraged by the media,  spouted by opposing politicians, and defended by individuals that feel self righteous in their opinions. Incivility is NOT acceptable.

Because I know that I will never change the minds of those who disagree with me politically, I've attempted to  refrain from stepping into the current political fray. However, the actions of individuals from both sides of the political spectrum have reached levels of incivility so extreme that it is impossible for me to stay silent. The actions of members of Congress, political candidates, media personalities, and citizens of the republic have been unacceptable. No excuses for the rudeness!

Spitting on somebody who is dining in a restaurant is intolerably offensive, childish, inexcusable, wrong, and beyond the bounds of civility in society.

Refusing to serve an individual in a restaurant, hotel, diner, or a place of public accommodation because of political affiliation  is illegal, discriminatory, rude, childish, immature, unacceptable and akin to refusing to serve an individual based upon race, creed, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or gender. Discrimination of any kind is wrong. If it is wrong to refuse to serve somebody based upon religion, it is wrong to refuse to serve somebody based upon political affiliation.

The rhetorical denigration of individuals who do not agree with one's political philosophy to the extent we are seeing today is not extraordinary. The vehement disagreements regarding the role of the federal government predates the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. However, the lack of civility by those who exhaust themselves "hating" a political leader that is polarizing, arguably obnoxious, but has otherwise been benign, puzzles me - as do the arguments that socialism is a viable option to capitalism. I lived in Hong Kong, the best example of the success of capitalism on earth, and one of the most vibrant economies that ever existed. You are entitled to your opinion. However, no citizen should be entitled to infringe on the rights of another citizen to enjoy the privileges of society.

You can't have it both ways. Either there is equal treatment under the law for all citizens and guests of this country, or there is not. Choose! Either discrimination for any reason is legal or illegal.  i was raised to believe that discrimination based upon any basis was wrong.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Appreciating a Weekend With My Dad

Todd and I are eastbound on I70 headed home to Virginia after spending a glorious weekend with my dad in Indiana. At 87 he’s been experiencing some health problems; and I needed to check in, sit with him on the screened porch in the back yard under the shade of the pecan trees, enjoy a few much needed hugs, and indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Initially, his doctors thought he had pneumonia, or bronchitis, or congestive heart failure or a mild heart attack. Apparently, his chronic kidney disease was screaming at him to drink more water and stop lugging gigantic rocks around the yard after Kentucky Derby parties.

 He is not a typical octogenarian. He still walks faster than I. He gives talks on historical characters from Cass County, Indiana without notes. He plays the piano, goes to chair yoga, hosts parties, and goes out with friends regularly.

However, he is frustrated that he has been advised to stop the heavy lifting, cut back on salt, has his driving wings clipped a bit, and has to rest more frequently. But I don’t want him to give up all that makes him enjoy life with such gusto.

I am filled with gratitude that he has such wonderful friends and neighbors who love him and look out for him. I just wish sometimes I lived closer so I could spend more peaceful hours on the porch listening to his wren serenade him. Thank you, Daddy, for a joyous weekend.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Bittersweet Mother's Day 2019

On this rainy Mother's Day, so many thoughts are ruminating in my brain. Mother's Day has morphed into another obligatory commercial holiday has that lost its original meaning. Even the founder of Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, hated what her creation had become, a $5.2 Billion industry. 

Two years ago on Mother's Day we buried my mother's ashes. For those of us who have lost our mothers, the constant barrage of advertisements, emails, news articles, tweets, or reminders to buy gifts or send flowers or celebrate Mother's Day brings beautiful memories, but also heartache, melancholy, regret, tears and wishes that we could just have one more day, hour or minute with our moms.  This Mother's Day I'm thinking of all of my friends, coworkers & acquaintances who are mourning the loss of their mothers & sending positive energy and hugs into the Universe.

 I'm also thinking of a dear friend who is spending her first mother's day without one of her beloved sons, who was murdered two weeks ago today. Her Mother's Days will never be the same. None of her days will ever be the same. There will always be a hole in her heart as big as the Grand Canyon. This Mother's Day I am sending prayers to all of the mothers that have lost a child to violence, illness, accident or suicide. 

On this Mother's Day I am grateful to my mother-in-law, who raised her son to be a kind, considerate, empathetic, loving man.  She has welcomed me as a daughter and ensured that I feel truly part of the family.  Her support has helped me begin to heal from the loss of my own mother while I've helped her deal with the loss of her own mother. 

I am also filled with gratitude to my husband's biological mother, who made the decision to give him up for adoption, which gave him opportunity to live the life of Leave It To Beaver that he enjoyed growing up with my in-laws. 

So, I'm asking the Angels and the Universe to send comfort to all who have bittersweet memories on this Mother's Day.  

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 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. 


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.

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!        

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!