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!

07/28/15
"Inspiration lives in the possible." Mary Marcdante

Inspiration Lives in the Possible. Gnarly Trees, Dr. Seuss and Chainsaws

Gnarly Old TreeThe light on this twisted tree limb called to me from a distance. My first thought was what happened to it to cause such a crookedness in its growth. When I got close enough to really look at it, I had the strangest sensation of awareness run through me. Suddenly, just for a few seconds, it was as if I was looking at an gnarly old man crossing his legs while enjoying the view of the sky. Then it morphed into frog legs. And then I saw Dr. Seuss characters starting to appear.

And then, back to reality by the sound of a chainsaw across the street being started by the landscape team in the neighborhood.

Tree, Mary. Old tree. Branches. Blue Sky. Walk. Get going. You have work to do.

Right. Work. And then Dream Time. Maybe. If there’s time. And now yesterday’s moment is a memory and this morning I’m thinking again about that tree.

When an image is that strong for me, I’m always curious to revisit it to see if there’s a deeper meaning, message or metaphor for me. It’s a way for me to access ideas and insights and problem-solve.

Scanning through my iPhone photos this morning, there was that gnarly old man tree again standing with crossed leg and now he was smiling and reminding me to let go of preconceived notions, to enjoy the freedom of the moment, to see beyond appearances and truly feel the beauty, inspiration and creativity of the natural life that always surrounds us and lives within us…if we will only pause long enough to drop the judgment, open our minds and hearts and then take the risk to create from this space and share our creative expression with others so we can all feel more alive in this wild adventure called Life.

I flashed again on Dr. Seuss. One of the most creative minds and greatest teachers in my book. He lived just a few miles from me. The trees in his neighborhood are similar. What if the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch got their legs from Dr. Seuss pausing long enough to look up at his trees and let them talk to him? Wild. I know. But possible. Inspiration lives in the possible.

What possibility is calling for your presence today? It’s out there waiting for you to feel it.

And I’m here waiting to hear about it. Have a creative and beautiful day and let me know what you experience.

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.

 

03/12/12

Inspiring Your Present Moment…

“I see beauty all around, and I’m reminded once again…
Here and now I have all that I need.
Here and now this is where I am meant to be.”
~ Jana Stanfield ~

A sunset walk at Torrey Pines State Beach Reserve this past weekend and Jana Stanfield’s song “Here and Now,” inspired me to create a photo collage for you from my photos. It’s a great way to take an inspiration break at your computer when you make it a desktop background. [Right click on the photo and then click “Set as desktop background.”] Enjoy!

Torrey Pines State Beach Reserve - photos (c) MaryMarcdante.com

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

04/5/11

Inspired Action: Life is Always Guiding You. Are You Listening?

I am always amazed – although I shouldn’t be because it happens often enough to know it exists – when Life intuitively provides for the continuation of our joy, well-being and safety if we take the time to listen. And actually, even when we don’t listen, given the number of accidents and unexpected deaths around the world on a daily basis that don’t happen to us.

Life’s guidance shows up in so many unique, wonderful and surprising ways as I discovered again in a news report from Good News Network that is so good it’s worth repeating.

Tami Akanuma, 83-years-old, who lives in Miyako, Japan, saved her own life by following her dog Babu’s insistence on going out for a walk and taking a different route minutes after the big earthquake in Japan struck. Instead of going toward the beach as they usually did, the dog pulled her in the opposite direction up a steep hill and wouldn’t stop pulling, as if to rush her along.

Tami was surprised because the dog never wanted to go that way in the past. But she relented, flashing in the moment on a memory of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami 78 years earlier (78 years!) that destroyed the town in which she lived. Imagine! She was only five years old back then! Her intuition – her inner GPS that tapped into her life experience, along with her dog’s natural instinct for survival – and possibly even love for Tami – offered her information and guidance. Fortunately for Tami and Babu, she listened, took inspired action and started walking up the hill.

As Tami got to the top of the hill just minutes later, where an evacuation center just happened to be located, the woman turned around and saw a tsunami roar through the neighborhood below and wash away her home. According to Wikipedia, 339 lives were lost in this small city and only 30 of the 1000 fishing boats that support the livelihood of 57,000 people remain.

Every time I read one of these stories that shows the powerful guidance system that Life provides us for free, I feel excited, relieved, more confident, and determined to pay closer attention to my own inner voice, now lovingly referred to as Life’s IV – the energetic intravenous therapy that keeps me alive and well – when I listen and take inspired action.

One technique to connect to my inner GPS that I’ve found really helpful when I’m reading information, especially news information, is to notice the thoughts, memories, or messages that my mind gives me about my own life while I’m reading. These insights often come quickly – in less than a second – and disappear as quickly, but their impact registers in my body, usually from the area around my heart and up to the top of my head (also believed by some to be energetic communication centers, also known as chakras). Occasionally, they’ll show up in other areas of my body – my gut, my feet, an old injury, triggering cellular or muscle memories.

Some people dismiss this information as frivolous. Others are afraid of it so push it away. Some are so outer focused, they miss their inner guidance altogether. I’ve done all, but when I listen and take inspired action, I am always amazed by the results. What about you?

Life is always talking to you. Are you listening?

Read the story about Tami and Babu on Good News Network.

Share your thoughts in the comment box below. Thanks for connecting.