Monday, January 30, 2017

Celebrating My 60th Birthday Marching In Washington D.C.

Celebrated my 60th birthday at the Women's March in Washington DC among more than 500,00 protesters. Best birthday ever!

When I first heard about the Women's March back in late November, there was something about it that intrigued me. I felt drawn to the possibility of being a part of American history.

So I started looking into buying a bus ticket through the CT Chapter of the Women's March facebook page. But then I got distracted over my Christmas trip plans to Florida where I would be hosting an early 60th birthday party among family and friends.

When I returned to Connecticut and as my birthday--January 21--started drawing near, I thought what the hell? Why not celebrate in the name of something that I really care about? The problem was all the Connecticut buses to DC were booking up. Luckily, I got a notification that two tickets opened up on the 4th bus going out of New Haven due to a cancellation. I jumped on it and nabbed a ticket at the last minute.

Getting on a bus at 2:00 AM out of New Haven, CT to get to Washington DC was not comfortable or fun. It was a challenge to sleep. But once we arrived in Washington DC, at 8:30 in the morning, everything changed. As we walked towards the mall, residents of the Capital Hill neighborhood came running out of their beautiful brownstones welcoming us with coffee, donuts, and even hugs. We passed the National Armory where dozens of National Guards waved and took pictures of us. One handsome black National Guard came bouncing down the steps with his fist raised and shouted "Welcome to DC sisters, you rock! Of course we all cheered back to his response.

The police were smiling and clapping for us as we walked by and were happy to take pictures of us with our cellphones. We thanked them for their service. They thanked us for coming. Right away, it became clear this would be no violent protest, this was more like a love fest. In fact, there was not ONE arrest at the biggest Washington DC protest in American history. That's what I call positive female energy.

Yet even with all that uplifting energy that infused the nation's capital, it was far from comfortable. For starters, the city just couldn't handle the massive amount of people. There were not enough port-a-potties. And even the food trucks had long lines where people had to wait over an hour just to get a hot dog. It was so crowded, you couldn't get anything to eat, drink or find a place to pee. But we women our resourceful. After waiting an hour and a half to go to the bathroom, I spotted a ring of women surrounding a bush against a building. There was a roll of toilet paper sitting on the window sill. We lined up and concealed each other as each of us squatted down behind the bush to do our business.

I was hungry. I was thirsty. I held my bladder for as long as I could. After pushing and shoving my way through the subway system back to the bus parking lot--that held 200 buses--I was lost in the maze and could not find my own departing bus. It was frightening. I called the bus captain and she finally retrieved me as I waited at a designated spot under silver balloons.

But for the first time since November's presidential election, my depression was lifted. I felt joined as one with those who felt like me. Serenity at last had befallen me. In the words of Oprah, I had an aha moment. I felt I had the power to actually impact my country. Yes, there truly is strength in numbers. And that's why attending The Women's March in Washington DC will forever be one the most pivotal moments of my lifetime.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dear World: We Americans Are Sorry

Article written by John Pavolitz

Dear World,
We felt we needed to say something while saying something is still allowed.
This man is not normal.
He is unstable, malignant, devoid of integrity—and he does not speak for us.
Things we took for granted in our leadership: things like goodness, wisdom, and basic truthfulness are no longer in play, and as things are eroding quickly we wanted to let you know that we’re sorry.
We’re sorry that our apathy and laziness have yielded such a reckless, impulsive, small man to steward this nation.
We’re sorry for the jagged, bitter ugliness that is characterizing us in these moments.
We’re sorry to those suffering greatly, who have braved such peril to seek refuge here and who’ve now been turned away based on the faith they profess.
We’re sorry to Muslims everywhere who’ve been used as pawns to generate irrational fear among those already susceptible to bigotry and discrimination.
We’re sorry to the leaders of the world, who instead of being met by level-headed, measured, intelligent dialogue, are now greeted with the social media rantings of a furious child.
We’re sorry to those who now experience the Christian faith as a racist, Nationalistic bully pulpit wielded with malice toward the very diverse Humanity Jesus lived and died for.
We’re sorry to people everywhere whose lives are made more tenuous, more violent, less safe, less secure than it has been before.
Dear World, we’re sorry and we hope you’ll endure these days with us.
With Despair and Hope in equal measure, in Peace and Unity with you,

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What If Melania Trump Got Breast Cancer?

Like so many other Americans, I have gotten caught up in the drama of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's ferocious battle to become our next president. Just to be clear, I hate Trump for a multitude of reasons. But amidst all his racial slurs and narcissistic sound bites, what throws me into a rage the most are his sexist comments against women.

The value of  Melania's breasts
Knowing how important a women's looks are to Donald Trump, one can only imagine the pressure Melania Trump must feel to maintain her beauty. By all accounts, it is a full-time job and as she marches towards her 50th birthday, that work sure as hell won't get easier.

In an article written by Elspeth Reev entitled The Horror of Being Melania Trump for the New Republic, she writes: "Melania takes assiduous care of her body, walking with ankle weights, eating seven pieces of fruit a day, and diligently moisturizing her skin." As a model, she knows her looks are at the core of her worth to her husband. And given Donald's history, she also knows her financial stability and luxurious lifestyle depend upon her holding up that beauty currency.

This familiar beauty-power maritial agreement got me thinking. What if life threw Melania a curve ball--as it always does at one point for everyone--and something bad happened to her gilded physicality that was totally out of her control? What if, as Melania Trump indulged in her daily ritual of slathering cream all over her body, she felt a lump and found out she had breast cancer?

I can tell you right now, that would be a total game changer for The Donald. There is a long, recorded history of sordid comments by him on The Howard Stern Show to tell us how he would handle that information. Once Howard Stern asked him: If  Melania Trump were to get into an accident that would disfigure her, would he leave her? Donald's answer?: "Only if her tits survived."

Only if her tits survived. Sooooo. What if Melania Trump had to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery? In that instance, her tits surely would not survive. And even if she got a top-notch plastic surgeon to do her reconstructive work, (which she surely would) those lovely "tits" that Donald Trump values so much would forever after be indelibly scarred.

Even if Melania got Stage 1 breast cancer--at a minimum--she would need a lumpectomy, In which case Melania would most likely survive, but her perfect breasts--God forbid--would be perfect no more. And if we are are to believe Donald's words, that would mean Melania would get kicked to the curb for getting cancer. She would lose her lofty status for getting a disease that 1 out of every 8 women get each year--myself included.

The Donald would then do what he has done twice before: trade Melania in for a new model. Of course, having perfect boobs would be a non-negotiable requirement. Because, as Donald says: "It's hard to be a 10 when you are flat chested." In his view, having a wife with breasts unscathed is more important than looking beyond physical beauty, valuing the spirit of someone you say you love, and being emotionally supportive.

Imagine. Donald Trump standing by his wife during a health crisis that has physically marred the essence of her femininity and still adoring her.  What a novel concept.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Autumn Breeze

It came. The news said it was arriving on Thursday, September 22nd at 10:21 am. I watched as the numbers rolled to that moment on the bottom right hand corner of my computer and gave a sigh. That was it. No more summer. Autumn had arrived.

The beginning of fall always brings up mixed emotions in me. That episode in Sex And The City when Carrie gets up in the middle of the night to cover herself with a blanket because she realizes the heat of summer is giving way to the chill of fall really nails the feeling. In that show, she breaks up with yet another boyfriend and at the very end, she looks up at the sky and sees a singular leaf fall upon her landing at her feet. An ending has come, which means there can only be an unknown, new beginning from that moment forward.

New England Autumn
Therein lies the rub for me. I have had a long history of endings and beginnings that happened to take place in the fall. It feels as though a hot cauldron of all those memories gets stirred up inside my heart. Flashbacks of the past--both good and bad--rise to the surface of my psyche. The gentle breeze carrying those first falling leaves remind me of what I want to treasure and what I would just as soon forget

That's when I ground myself in the moment. Everywhere I turn there is an upbeat, celebratory frenzy. Because hey, if you live in New England, during this season this is the place to be. Everyone is going crazy apple picking, going to The Big E or other fall fairs and festivals. The smell of pumpkin spice is laden everywhere-in food, coffee, candles, you name it. The weather is ideal--holding in the 70s with no humidity. As they say, sweatshirt weather. And the fall foliage? Spectacular. Our signature rolling hills just magnify the impact of all those colors. As I tell visitors proudly: Out of anywhere in this country, New England, does fall best.
Looking out from my deck, Fall 2015

I know it's true because I have friends that have moved from Connecticut to Florida. A few have confessed that come fall, they miss their former home state the most of all. Of course, once winter hits, that home sickness passes. If I followed my friends and left this state, I wonder if fall would still have the same impact on me that it does today?

Then I realize that if I did leave Connecticut to be closer to my aging mother and re-connect with friends in Florida, there is no doubt that I would miss this time of year. I would be pining for those Sunday mornings drinking coffee on my deck and looking out at a magnificent vista of orange, gold and red. I know that even among palm trees, fall will always be bittersweet for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

And Then Came The End Of Summer...

Here we are in September--the very precipice of the end of summer. I hate it when this time comes. It means those six months of gray, cold and dreary weather looms large on the horizon. No more lazy weekends floating in water, burying my feet into warm, gritty sand and immersing myself into a juicy novel. The days of hunkering down inside are drawing near.

Entering The US Open Tennis Championships
I try to remain positive by reminding myself summer doesn't officially end until September 22. I can still swim in the pool, wear my white jeans, and frolic in 70-80 degree weather. In fact, there have been times when I have spent an entire day on the beach the first week of October. Indian summer. It is what I pray for every September.

It helps to create a tradition to mark the end of this season that is as sweet as the last crops of corn. For me, it is watching the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. I spend two weeks glued to the TV until the weekend after Labor Day.

When I found out that Thursday was free admissions day to the U.S. Open Tennis grounds, I jumped in the car after work and was on my way. Perhaps the reason I felt so compelled to this event is because I wanted to sit among people that are as passionate as me to see Serena Williams advance towards a record-breaking Grand Slam, And I desperately wanted her to hold on to her  #1 ranking in women's professional tennis that she maintained for 186 days.

Serena's astonishing ascent to #1 began when she won her first U.S.Open title back in 1999 at merely 17 years old. Today, at 34 years old, she has become the ultimate icon among aspiring female tennis players throughout the world. Tennis players must train their mind to keep their eye on the ball and never get distracted because each game point puts them one step closer--or further--from the big win. They must not let a double fault throw them into an emotional meltdown. You just gotta keep calm and play on. Every time I watch a Grand Slam tennis match, I am reminded what it takes to fight--and win.

Back to my night at the US Open. When I finally got to Arthur Ashe stadium, I expected to see Serena win just as breezily as she did the night before when she beat Halpin in the quarter-finals. Instead, I had to witness Karolina Pliskova swiftly oust Serena Williams out of the women's semi-finals. It came as a massive shock to all the fans watching the game on huge, high-definition TV screens amid white-washed waterfalls. I got to see the new winner of the match march into the press booth and conduct her interview with ESPN commentators. Karolina had been branded the "under achiever" of the tennis world. But in that moment, no more. Just seeing how an underdog could take down a tennis superstar within 90 minutes and feeling the high electricity in the air created a very special end-of-the-summer moment for me.

My hero, Serena Williams
Sure, it was a hassle driving home for almost two hours and not getting to bed until 12:30am knowing I had to get up at 6am to go to work. But it was totally worth it. I have said it before, and I will say it again and again. As a cancer survivor, seize the moment to go to that event you always planned to attend. Take a shot at trying something you never did before. Get in the car and go to a place you always wanted to see--like I did when I visited Woodstock, NY last August. You're lucky to be alive, so stock up on some great memories.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

After The Flood Was Gone...

Bedroom under construction
It has been four months since that fateful chilly April night when water blasted through my home like a flooding river. Even though the remodeling to repair all the damage officially finished the end of June, my place is still not completely in order.

For one, a lot of  things were destroyed. Now I have empty spaces where furniture once stood. Because that furniture stored a lot of stuff, there's no where to put it. I decided the most logical strategy to get things in order was to focus on one room at a time. Since my bedroom took the biggest hit when water burst through the ceiling like a waterfall, I started there. 

I had three pieces of old, abused furniture that I collected from a flea market and Craig's List sitting in my garage for about two years. With no furniture left to speak of in my bedroom, it seemed a great opportunity to finally tackle the refinishing projects I had planned for these pieces--all scratched, dusty and tangled in cobwebs.

Refinished campaign furniture that I bought on Craig's List
I wanted to do a  professional job. So I bought an electric sander, which had a life of its own. Every time I turned it on, I couldn't get it under control. It just kind of flew everywhere. I finally opted for a simple, manual block sander instead. Applying the stain and white paint on to the furniture had its own set of challenges. Now I know why contractors wear bandanas on their heads. If you don't, your dripping sweat will ruin the finish you are working on. Finally, I pulled out some artwork and accessories I had stored and collected over the years, and voila! I got a whole new bedroom.

Refinished bureau and chest from the Elephant's Trunk flea market

It felt really good taking those sorry-looking, old furniture pieces and giving them a second life. Plus, my car now has plenty of room in the garage. I could have gone out and bought a bunch of new furniture spending way too much money, By opting to exert a little elbow grease and creativity, I did my part to protect the environment by not throwing the furniture in a landfill.. The whole process has given me a new sense of confidence in my resourcefulness. Now it's on to the living room and kitchen!