11/20/16
Torrey Pines Razor Point Lookout Stars of Torrey Pines by Mary Marcdante

Mindfulness: Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.

Torrey Pines Razor Point Lookout Stars of Torrey Pines by Mary Marcdante

No matter how much mindfulness training I do, my mind still notices what is different about other people I meet for the first time, most often their physical characteristics and then their language. But what’s equally true, is that when I’m at Torrey Pines, a smile and a conversation about the beauty of nature and what we’re privileged to be in the midst of transforms those differences into unique opportunities for connection and understanding. It turns strangers into stars for me. Stars of Torrey Pines.

Yesterday afternoon, there were three groups of people standing against the wooden fence at Razor Point Lookout gazing out at the ocean. On the right was a group of two young men and a woman, dark haired, sturdy looking, taking photos of each other. I asked if they had taken one of all three of them together so they could return in 10 years and celebrate their friendship. They nodded no, so I offered to take that photo. The man in the red hoodie handed me his phone. They posed, I clicked, and it turned into a fun photo session. Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.

As I walked away, a couple standing to this group’s left – he a tall, thin yogi-type and she, a lithe brunette, said, “Would you mind taking a photo of us.” “I’d love to!,” I said, “Especially with that t-shirt.” (It said, “Heavily Meditated.”) We laughed and the man, who had a German accent said, “If you think that t-shirt saying is creative, you should go to Japan and see what they do. Sayings you wouldn’t believe.” Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.

To move along the trail, I had to backtrack past a third group of four people. Wow, did they look alike. And like the others, they were posing for each other. I asked if they were family. Four heads nodded yes while one pair of eyes rolled noticeably. I asked if they’d taken their holiday photo yet and if not, this would be a perfect place to do it. They all looked at each other, the eye roller laughed and nodded no, and the mom handed her phone to me. They were full of expression and clearly enjoyed one another’s company.

Three groups, a total of nine people, from all over the world, and for a few minutes, we were all in the same community enjoying the park and each other’s presence.

I felt this warmth of connection and gratitude wash through me as I walked away. When I was about 30 feet back into the foot trail, I turned around and yelled, “Thank you so much! You’re my Stars of Torrey Pines! How about a group photo?!” Not knowing what to expect, I held up my fingers, 1, 2, 3, and yelled, “Go!”

Much to my surprise and delight, they rallied and gave me another first at the park – a spontaneous group photo of people unknown to each other, people willing to let down their guard with each other for a few moments, mug for the camera (instead of mugging each other) and welcome me as if I were a family friend posing them for the Holiday photo. Wishing that for you and your family and the world.

Smile. Click. Laugh. Connect.

05/8/16
1953_mom_mm_lowres

My Mother, My Friend: Conversations on Beauty & Aging

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”
~Willa Cather

My Mother Grace Rose and Me, 1953

       My Mother Grace Rose and Me, 1953 

Amazing to think that my mom Grace Rose has been gone 25 years this past April and my book My Mother, My Friend: The 10 Most Important Things to Talk About With Your Mother has been out in the world for fifteen years. When the idea for this book came to me from my mother in a dream, I never imagined, for so many reasons, that it would see the light of day, much less find a major publisher and still be in print today. But the light kept finding me and I’m so glad and grateful it did.

To celebrate this milestone, here are two of my favorite stories from “Conversation 3: You Are So Beautiful — Self Image and Beauty.” Happy Mother’s Day Mom, and thank you.


That Toilet Paper Thing You Do With Your Hair
(p. 79-80)

I never outwardly heard my mother diminish her body, except for wishing she could get rid of her jowls and crepey neck and keep her weight under control. She loved to shop for clothes and had two six-foot closets full of three different sizes of clothing. If I were a therapist, I’d say that she developed a clothing addiction to help her cope with her depression and my father’s difficult personality. Her weekly hair and nail appointment at the Edgewood Beauty Salon was as much an escape as it was a beauty treatment.

The first two nights after her hairstyle was freshly (and stiffly) styled, she wrapped her head in toilet paper, looking like she was wearing a papier-mâché beehive on her head. (Now, isn’t that a sexy image. I can just hear my father saying, “Oh Grace, would you please do that toilet paper thing with your hair again. It really turns me on.”) She continued this ritual until she died with the exception of one month when I was in my late twenties. Dad was trying to cut costs and told Mom that her weekly salon trips were being cut and she’d have to do her own hair. She accepted his decision, believing that his word was law, and set to doing her own hair.

The first week was a complete disaster, but Dad told her she’d get better at it. The second week there was no improvement so Dad suggested she call me to help her. She did, in tears. Angry at his insensitive behavior, but wanting to help her, I said, “Sure, Mom. How about if I cut and perm it too? I’ve watched enough hairstylists cut hair, and I just saw that new machine on TV that sucks your hair into a vacuum and cuts it perfectly.” Dad dropped her off and we went shopping for hair perm products and the vacuum cutting machine.

The stores were out of the cutting machine, so we bought a box of “Toni Natural Wave” perming solution and went back to my house for an afternoon beauty salon party. Two hours later when I was rolling a piece of perm rod paper around her hair for the hundredth time, I was ready to quit. Three hours later I knew I was in trouble when I had to cut shorter and shorter chunks of the same hair to match what I’d just finished cutting. When I finished five hours later and gave her a mirror to look at her new haircut, perm, and style, her eyebrows jumped up to the top of her forehead and her eyeballs bulged out like the black molly fish in our childhood aquarium. She coughed, trying to hide her shock. For a second we both stood there speechless and then she laughed, and didn’t stop until she doubled over. When she recovered she said, “Well, if I’d known this was what it would take to convince your father to let me go back to the beauty parlor, I’d have called you three weeks ago.”

“To seek after beauty as an end, is a wild goose chase,
a will-o’-wisp, because it is to misunderstand the very nature of beauty, 
which is the normal condition of a thing being as it should be.”
Ada Bethune, in Judith Stoughton
Proud Donkey of Schaerbeek


Hairy Apes, Ugly Ducklings, And Swans
(p. 81)

A very big part of my mother’s beauty to me was her laughter. Her sense of humor comforted me through many nights of tears during my growing up years. While I know there were happy moments, my memories of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade are more often filled with running from the taunts of peers, mostly boys, on the way to and from school. I was tomboy with a big crook in my nose and feet as big as the floor tiles in the school hallway. I was flat chested and string bean tall. My arms were so hairy that when the boys saw me they’d shout at the top of their lungs, “Look, there goes the flat-chested hairy ape.”

One particularly brutal day, I remember running the entire four blocks home, and bursting into tears as I opened the front door and saw my mother. After spilling my story, she told me that boys teased her the same way when she was my age. “They called me ‘Four-Eyes,’” she said, “Because I wore glasses, and ‘Greasy Grace’ because my thin hair laid so flat on my head.” She said she cried just like me, but her mother taught her to laugh it off. She promised me that one day I’d “blossom,” the hair on my arms would fade away, and that even though I felt like the ugly duckling, someday I would look in the mirror and see a beautiful swan.

Her words wrapped around me like a hug. I repeated her promise like a chanting Buddhist as I grew by an inch or two every summer, reaching my final height of five feet ten inches in my early twenties. By then, my feet had grown to a size ten and continue to expand – size twelve as I write.

As I’ve grown older, the hair on my arms has faded away just like Mom said. The only thing that’s blossomed though, is the rose bush on my balcony. It’s hard not to notice cleavage on the beach, but for me the health issues outweigh any satisfaction I’d gain from artificially blooming my breasts. Some days I look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of a swan, and some days I hear a lot of quacking. I’ve learned to smile; I hear my mother: “Look at that beautiful long neck.”

Questions to Ask Your Mom:

What do you like about being a woman?
What is one message about beauty or self-image you received from your mother?
What do/did you like about your mother’s appearance? Your own? Mine?
What’s the weirdest beauty treatment you’ve done?
What’s your favorite beauty tip?
What have you learned about beauty and aging?

If you would like to read more, My Mother, My Friend is available on Amazon. Click on the link or photo for more information:

Happy Mother’s Day!

07/22/15

2,920 Days: The Power of Your Presence, Words, and Kindness

TOPS International Recognition Days with Keynote Speaker Mary Marcdante

TOPS International Recognition Days with Keynote Speaker Mary Marcdante

2,920 days. This weekend I had the privilege of speaking to 2000 TOPS members at their International Recognition Days on “Finding Your Genie Within.” So much energy and emotion moved through me – I felt anxious, excited, humbled, grateful… At the end of my speech, two women – mom and daughter – came up and asked if they could have their picture taken with me and then surprised me with a photo of the three of us from eight years ago when I spoke at another event. Eight years! 2,920 days of our lives had passed and it was important enough to them to stand in line for over an hour to remember and connect with me. What a gift they gave me.

If I’m really honest with myself and you, I share this selfishly and humbly to celebrate a personal milestone with you, but equally important, to remind you in your weaker moments that your presence and words are ALWAYS an opportunity for impact. Even if it doesn’t look like it on the outside, we all need each other’s kindness — and maybe even more for some us — our own kindness to ourselves.

If you don’t know me well you may not know that I suffer self-doubt and worthiness issues in my quiet moments, which is one of the reasons I speak on the topics I do – I need the positive reinforcement as much if not more than the audience. In my strong moments, I sense that I am a channel, catalyst, example, role model, and human post-it-note for others to experience the power, value, and beauty of their presence within themselves and their relationships, but oh how those weak moments can rise up out of nowhere and try to dim my light. And then out of the blue, Grace flies in through two beautiful human beings and says, “Thank you,” just like you do with your presence right now.

Thank you.

04/10/15
Happy Siblings Day. Love my sisters and brothers!

Happy Siblings Day


Happy Siblings Day. When I first heard the words today, I thought it was just another marketing effort and wished my three siblings well in my mind. Then I started to see all these photos and amazing and funny tributes on Facebook by friends about their siblings. It made me wonder who started this celebration and what their story might be.

Turns out there is a for-real National Sibling’s Day and Siblings Day Foundation started by Claudia Evart on her sister Lisette’s birthday April 10, 2012. Nice touch, I thought. And then I read their back story, the one the headlines leave out, which causes a lot of people to smirk, make smart-ass cracks about their less-than-perfect relationships with their brothers and sisters and move on to their next relationship-lite conversation to avoid “the feels” (um, guilty).

But wait, wait, I do need to tell you: National Siblings Day was started to honor Claudia’s siblings 40 years after Claudia’s older sister, 19 at the time, and their father, died in a horrific car crash and 26 years after her brother, a Vietnam Vet, died after falling in a freak accident at home.

I know. Take a breath. Horrible tragedies no one should have to experience. But some do. And turn those memories into something beautiful we can all celebrate with our less-than-perfect-but-still-here-so-try-to-make-the-most-of-it families. Thank you Claudia.

Nothing like perspective to remember what matters.

Whew. I think about losing my own siblings and feel this tender, teary wave of love go through me. God, I’d be lost without my sibs Eileen, Paul, and Jeanne. I don’t say that often enough. Have I ever said it — I mean really said it straight out — to myself or to them? I could write a book about all the ways they’ve inspired my life — but won’t, haha, because I’m blessed to have all of them still talking to me after my first book My Mother, My Friend was published.

However the short story must be told: Eileen, Paul, and Jeanne, thank you for keeping me real, staying connected even when it’s hard, and becoming adults who make me look better by association and make the world a more inspiring place to live. I love you. Happy Siblings Day.

What do you love about your sibling(s)? Please share your comments below.

 

05/13/12

Mom, You’re the Real Hero in the Family. Happy Mother’s Day.

“Life is short, life is precious. Don’t wait, do it now.”
~ Mom

My mother showed me in words and actions that the greatest gifts we give each other are our presence and appreciation. Here’s a story from my book, My Mother, My Friend to help keep that in mind and celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mom, You’re the Real Hero In The Family

Last Photo with Mom

The phone rang at 2:40 a.m. I heard Jeanne’s voice, “Mary? Mom’s free now. She just took her last breath.”

“I’ll be right there,” I said.

The ten-minute ride to the house was filled with thoughts of regret, guilt and sadness. I was exhausted and had left the house at ten o’clock, kissing my mother good-bye and saying, “I love you.” I thought I felt her squeeze my hand ever so lightly.

Why didn’t I stay? I was glad that Eileen and Jeanne were there with her but I wanted to be there too when she left her body. I’ve always felt strongly about not wanting to die alone and wanting someone I love to be holding my hand when I die. I wanted that experience with her and yet, I never asked her what she wanted.

The house was lit up when I got there. Mom was still warm, but beginning to cool. Her skin was this odd shade of cream with a glow that still shines in my mind’s eye. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and wondered if her spirit was hovering about. Continue reading

09/11/11

When Lives Change in an Instant

On this 10th anniversary of 911, I was reminded of a letter written by the mother of a young woman who died on Flight 93 , which inspired me so much I wrote about it in my book Living with Enthusiasm. I’m reprinting here in the hope that it moves you as much as it did me.

Our Lives Can Change in an Instant

Acting from our values not only fuels our enthusiasm for day-to-day living, it also allows us to get through difficult times. Our lives can change in an instant, but how quickly we forget until a crisis hits. Knowing and acting from our values can see us through. I received an e-mail from a colleague in the days following September 11 that really brings this point home.

Hello friends:

A friend of mine who lives in San Diego was a victim to the tragedy in NY last week Tuesday. Her 20-year-old daughter was aboard flight 93 that crashed in PA. Below please find her words to the community. She has agreed to have the message spread to the world. Please pass this along so that her daughter Deora can be remembered. Thank you. Continue reading