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!

07/28/15
"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.

 

03/30/10

“Eat Slow or Die Fast” with Dr. Bruce MacFarland (1923-2010)

Last week I was privileged to celebrate the life of a great friend, father, and a pioneer and leader in the nutrition and holistic health fields, Dr. Bruce MacFarland.

We were invited to bring a favorite food to share, which in my case, that day, because I was pushed for time, would have been chips and salsa, picked up at Costco. But as I thought about all the things I’d learned from Bruce over the five years I’ve known him including his infamous “Eat slow or die fast,” and “Don’t cross your legs or risk varicose veins,” I realized I wanted to do something to honor his health conscious ways (well, except for Kopp’s Custard in Milwaukee, but who can resist that!) so I decided to make homemade hummus with sliced carrot sticks.

I got out one of my favorite (and beautiful to look at) recipe books “The Raw Goumet” and made the Hummus recipe, which is good, but still kind of bland. I wondered what I could do to spice it up and asked the Ethers, “What would Bruce add?” Continue reading

08/15/09

Happy Birthday Julia Child!


Bon Appetit and Happy 97th Birthday Julia Child! And thank you Julie Powell, Nora Ephron, and Meryl Streep for keeping Julia’s spirit alive in the film Julie & Julia. It brought back a memory of one my life highlights…

Several years ago I had the good fortune to meet Julia Child, who was 90 at the time. She was still doing PBS cooking specials, had written 12 cookbooks and taught millions of people that cooking can be easy and fun. She came down from her home in Santa Barbara to promote her latest cookbook at a book signing at The Book Works, Flowerhill (a wonderful independent bookstore adjoining one of my favorite book-writing cafes, The Pannikin).

I stood in line with more than 300 people for two hours. When I finally reached the front of the line, I couldn’t believe how nervous and excited I was. My goodness, she was even larger than life in person. And very direct and clipped in her responses, which made me more nervous because after reading extensively about the challenges she’d faced in her life including breast cancer and the death of her husband, I’d been planning my question for days and began to wonder if she’d answer it.

As I got to the table where she was sitting, she looked up at me and sounding slightly impatient, said in her iconic voice, “What are you smiling about?!”

Feeling uncharacteristically embarrassed, I said, “Getting to meet you, Ms. Child. Would you sign this book for a friend and may I ask you a question?”

She nodded yes and began to write, so I crouched down on my knees to meet her eye to eye and continued, “How do you stay so inspired and enthusiastic, especially in difficult times?”

Arms flying into the air and sounding slight exasperated, she responded in her characteristic, slightly off-key trill, “Wellllll, I eat well, I’m passionate about life, and I love what I do! Now what else can I do for you?”

I offered my hand to shake hers and she gave me as hearty a handshake as someone 50 years younger. (Must have been from all that dough she kneeded over the years!) What a wonderful expression of enthusiasm and a confirmation that doing anything with enthusiasm, especially something you love, not only makes life more enjoyable, but helps you get through challenging times.

Here’s a short video clip recap of my experience with Julia from a speech I did at the Sharp Women’s Health Conference in San Diego. Bon Appetit!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjwv-lX9TtY]