I feel sad when I hear women talk about their often difficult and sometimes harrowing relationships with their Mothers. As a coach who works with weight and self esteem issues in grown women, I hear about this a lot.
I’m fortunate in this way. My Mom and I have always been joined at the hip, comrades. We have a common trait where we both get into things that intrigue us, in this one tracked, full speed, watch out sister, way. It has it’s fabulous, and not always so fabulous side effects, but generally it’s how we keep life fun and interesting.
When I was in the 3rd grade, we moved from Portland Oregon to my Mother’s beloved native state of California to a remote area of Carmel Valley. In Portland we had lived on “Pill Hill” and there were loads of big Catholic doctor’s families a stones throw away from our house. I could knock on a door and find kids to play with, anytime, and I was used to that.
When we moved to Carmel Valley, I had to begin to learn how to creatively occupy myself. I recall one day lounging around the house with no real purpose or enthusiasm trying to figure out what the framed poster in my bedroom, meant:
Carly Simon was playing, on the 8 track, while my Mom was reading a book in a big cozy chair by the window when I circled around her a few times and declared:
“I AM BORED!”
To which my Mom, quietly replied:
“Only boring people get bored.”
I stood there slightly stunned for a moment thinking: I am NOT boring!
Then I remembered of a big pile of scrap lumber I’d seen the day before up over the canyon where a new home was being built. So I eagerly scampered out the door, and a few miles up the hill, and began to drag lumber from the canyon, through the sage brush and oak trees to a ravine below our house to build my very own tiny little Chick Pad. Which is something I still love to do.
Mind you, back then, we had diamond back rattle snakes, ticks and all kinds of critters combing the same unspoiled territory.
I seriously doubt that
most kid micro-managing helicopter Moms these days would allow something like that!
But I survived.
When I did come across a rattler one day, I went hauling a$$ up the hill and found my neighbors enigmatic boyfriend, Hans Wolfe (complete with a permanent black eye patch!). He promptly got his rifle, shot the thing, and flung it over a huge oak tree branch. BooYah!
Wild and Colorful Times.
When I wasn’t building houses, Mom and I lived to devour books and share new ideas. We got completely immersed in subjects on just about every alternative health, fashion and beauty fad, as well as the classics. We avidly sought out authors such as Paavo Airola, Edward Espe Brown of Tassahara, Frances Moore Lappe, M.F.K Fisher, Steinbeck, Bronte Chica’s, Jim Fixx, and Julia Child, – who my Dad does a killer imitation of…..to name a few.
Immediately, I was (and still am) smitten and deeply inspired by what she had to say. I felt that I’d found my soul sister and non-boring other Mom,
well except for; Jean Stoyanov, Sarah Farr, Donna Walden, Nancy Porter, Marge Thornburg, Sally Deitman, Leslie Snorf, Jody Muir, Mary Hatton, & Jan Gardner, but that is a whole other, “It takes a Village” story.
FINALLY I could get into something that was creative AND mostly calorie free!
So off I went to share the great news with mi Madre, who was beginning to suffer fashion exhaustion from trying to keep up with the swatch coding details in Color Me Beautiful. Seems that she was an Autumn, and I was a Winter – who wanted to be an Autumn, (OR Carly Simon) – and we were both wearing a hell-of-a-lotta dark, waxy lipstick.
Truth is, neither of us is suited to much daily fashion fuss.
At any rate, she was ready for a few changes and with Alexandra’s sublime design & lifestyle guidance, change we did!
Alex is a true and Classic Guru if I ever met one. Although I imagine she’d absolutely cringe at being referred to that way. Check out this video!
So let’s get on with it!
Here are 5 main things I learned from Alexandra and others, that I still practice to bring intention, beauty & JOY into my life. AND 5 things my elegant Mother shared about creating HER beautiful life:
So here are Mom’s thoughts on the subject:
I have been thinking about Alexandra Stoddard’s Living a Beautiful Life. That book spoke to my heart from the first time I read it. It confirmed to me that the way I wanted to live my life was all right.
I could walk through my house in the morning just looking…at table tops…seeing the arrangement on them as if they were a still life as my lifelong friend Nancy Porter once said.
I could drink my morning coffee out of my prettiest china cup on a silver tray with a beautiful napkin.
Light candles on the dinner table every night. Our grandsons remarked about that ritual after staying with us.
I later discovered the book Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James and that has been another great help for me. Her first suggestion: “Reduce the clutter in your life.” is basic. When I sold real estate I decided that most houses just have too many things in them. The clutter gets in the way of the essential. Dad and I discovered a poem that describes it beautifully years ago before any of you were born:
“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homey home and simple pleasures, one or two friends worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing.” —Jerome Klapka Jerome
5. Live your life like a poet: I learned about looking at the world as an artist in an oil painting course at Stanford from Professor Mendelowitz who changed my world. But I have only recently in the last few years been inspired to write poems. Painting is a visual art.. .and poetry is too but it is also about all of the other senses. Creating poems awakens your soul to the experience of life.
Thank you, Mom. You are my favorite Mother and teacher. Even if you are an Autumn….
And now my 5
Morning Lemon Water, Tea & Monkey-Mind Meditation:
Having daily rituals has helped me to stay both grounded and agile, in my personal life and in my coaching practice. There was a time when I started my day by reading emails. What I found is that by reading and answering all my emails, first thing, I was actually in reaction mode, and in some ways, letting other’s dictate how my day would unfold. Now I begin my day with a cup of warm lemon water at around 5:30 A.M., followed by tea. Then I sit outside for 10-20 minutes of meditation. I can’t begin to tell you how much more calmly energized and focused I feel when I start my day this way. There is a huge difference in my productivity and minute by minute clarity around how I spend my hours. It’s like I have this new filter after morning stillness that helps me stay more organized while recognizing tasks and situations that are truly important to what really matters to me.
Meditation is the Zen way of manifesting our deepest intentions. And when we are working from that place, things are just more Serendipitous.
7. Creating something Special out of the Ordinary:
This is what taught me how to be more resourceful. I have always found the most lovely things in nature. As an interior designer for a lotta years I learned that many people think they need to have oodles of cash to create a beautiful spaces. That. is not. the case. When I was a young married woman with little children, there was a time that our family lived off of $50.00 a week for groceries, gas and ENTERTAINMENT; no this is not B.S. That was IT.
I wanted to stay at home with my babies and that was simply how much money we had for a year or so. I had to be scrappy. I found inspiration outside, and I learned how to cook.
I made wreaths out of discarded grape vines from local vineyards, and pepper berries from trees in Carmel Valley. I clipped flowers and greens from my garden and arranged them in pretty vintage jars. I bought candles by the dozen at bargain stores. I made my own bread – 10 loaves at time baked in big upright V-8 cans –I know..not BPA free, yada, yada – to share with my family and friends. I ground up whole wheat, rye, and millet with a commercial bread mixer and grinder that the owner of the health food store gave me. I made a batch of 10 golden, nicely crusted, round loaves, every few weeks, so we always had luscious, whole grain bread. It felt like a gift, to learn how to do this well. Not to mention the delicious aroma in the kitchen when it was baked or toasted. Simply Divine.
I painted odd ball folksy looking santa decorations out of interesting driftwood shapes I found on the beach in Big Sur.
I went to triple coupon day at the grocery store on Wednesdays in Carmel, so we always had plenty of food. I cooked a healthy, hearty dinner about 6 nights a week, which we enjoyed by candlelight. These are the things that made me feel rich with beauty and purpose. To this day, I find the most interesting things simply growing wild. But you have to cultivate LOOKING for beauty; whether it’s in other people or in everyday objects.
8. Family Celebrations:
I don’t love the commercially driven stress we often create over the holidays. I feel that most traditional holidays have become a charade of harried list shopping and trading of gift certificates. Sorry
not really, if I sound like a big Bah Humbug, but I just don’t BUY it. The best part of any holiday in my family is the festive dinner. These days my kid’s chip in to the creation which makes it even more fun. Yes, there are almost always candles and flowers. And NO it does not feel like a big fuss to me. I love doing it. It feels nourishing to all of us, on many levels.
9. Creating Beautiful Food: As for this one, I’m simply going to take some of my favorite quotes from Alexandra here:
Simple, fresh, unpretentious home cooking is what most of us strive to accomplish in our kitchens. Few of us are professional cooks or artists who can attempt the great style. But like professionals we can pay attention to details.
I’ve found that the essentials to a pleasant eating experience, in addition to what you eat, include: 1. Good company-which can be yourself, 2. the setting 3. the fact that you don’t eat too much and 4. recognizing that you have to be hungry before you begin.
M.F.K. Fisher loved to follow the sunlight wherever she lived, and to eat wherever the sun was. Light is a real tonic.
I prefer rich yellows, oranges and soft greens. Colors have seasonal moods, and opening up to the changes broadens your range of sensory experiences.
White is the perfect setting for richly colored foods-spinach, tomatoes, carrots, asparagus; gleaming white allowed food to sparkle. Rice on a white plate is lost. Heighten contrasts by putting a little color next to the rice. Try a lettuce leaf, under it, or serve inside a scooped out tomato. Put roast corn on the cob in a basket or planter on a generous bed of watercress.
Beauty nourishes. And food feeds all our senses as well as our bodies.
And finally: All rituals we perform at home are done to express our feelings. We can’t care enough.
Thank you, Bella Alexandra. J’adore.
10. Question Your Schedule:
If you are flicking cheerios at your computer with screaming kids, employees, employers, OR all of these, in the background while you read this, please know that it does not go unnoticed by me that many of you have very demanding schedules, and that you could be annoyed or overwhelmed by this post.
I geddit. Seriously, I DO.
But can you find some time in your life to ignite your senses in some part of your day?
Think about it. If you watch T.V. or check out Facebook, you probably have a tad of time. Strong statement, I know. But if you feel inspired by some of these things, let them sit with you and see what happens.
It should be fun to try new ideas. Not another to-do-to-be-stressed-about. No way. Not on my watch, Darlings!