Dress like you’re having Fun!!! (Part One)

IMG_4001No, I don’t wear that, it’s too young-looking for me, I don’t know about bright colors at my age, no sleeveless anything, too short, too much cleavage, too fitted, too loose, no bikinis, no shorts and let’s forget about form-fitting clothes……”  Who makes these rules? and why do women feel obliged to follow them? Judith Boyd, whose blog Style Crone is one of my favorites, says that “we should know the rules, so we can break them“……I like that. Patti Gibbons from Not Dead yet Style, it’s also an inspiration. She advises us “to burst out with a love for fashion and style“….Couldn’t agree more!!!

When we were young, we could wear anything and be called original,  innovative, unique. Nowadays we are called old-fashioned, out-of-touch with the times and who knows what else. Well, I am not going to be bothered by any of that. I have come to the conclusion that women of a certain age have been held back long enough. We do not have to listen and still look fabulous!!!IMG_4009

IMG_3996Do you remember when our mothers decided what we wore? I am one of three sisters. For years, our mother dressed us alike, different colors, a bow here, a belt there, but basically the same dress. Oh, we thought nothing of it for years. Did you wear a hat on Easter Sunday? My sisters and I wore ours on Palm Sunday. Mothers knew best and we had no saying in our outfits. Those days were gone as soon as we hit middle school, remember?. Our personalities took over to a point. We had some freedom, but still not complete control.

FullSizeRenderHigh school was a lot freer and more fun. We discovered that our clothes could say a lot about us. It was an epiphany, especially where I grew up. I had my hair styled as Twiggy’s famous do, wore huge white sunglasses, plastic bangles and earrings, false eyelashes and much more. It was so much fun. Remembering that, I realize that I once was one of those young women that were considered unique and original…….if not a bit off in my circle of friends.

Never mind when I came to the States for college, it was the 60s after all. Boston was home to students from around the globe, bringing with them so many interesting things to wear. So, I learned to wear what I liked, took risks with my clothes, wore the shortest skirts, knee-high boots with hot-pants……you name it, I wore it!!!

IMG_4002Then I grew up, got married, started a family, became more conventional, but only to a point.  I’ve always loved being myself, not always expecting anyone to like my style. Unfortunately, I started to get too comfortable. Our bodies change, mine did and somehow, I thought I should conform with rules. What was I thinking? Why was I listening to outside influences when I never cared about them? Still, it did happened. Now, I am back to my old self………and I am having fun again!!! I will tell you all about it soon. Stay tuned……for Part Two!!!IMG_0809

Striving for a Mindful / Meaningful Lifestyle

IMG_3830Ah, how things can change!!! I have always been opinionated, felt I could be right in many instances and be in control of most situations. Since starting this blog, this has changed. It is now my goal to live mindfully. Enough, I think, of always wanting to be right or getting upset about things I cannot control.

Turning the page has not been easy.  I started last year with: Tossing out Control, it was my first attempt, first chapter so to speak. Unfortunately, since then, I have so  much to share and write about, I have not followed on this path. I have not put the effort into it.

Tossing Out the Old is one reason I started this blog. Listening to the New is the other. It is only logical that I should go back and keep at it until I can say I am Living Mindfully. First, though, what is Living Mindfully?IMG_3834

According to author Micki Fine (M.Ed., L.P.C. )Mindfulness is about waking up to life and what it means to be fully human.”  Sounds easy, something we can all achieve, isn’t it? Putting these thoughts into practice is another story because it brings us to other questions such as : what does being human mean? what does she mean by waking up to life? and most important, are all definitions of mindfulness the same, or different people feel differently about the concept?

Obviously, I am running off with something that should only be felt not analyzed. After all, Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”. Here comes my very active personality, though, ready to think too much and dig too deeply. Breathe…IMG_3490

Let’s go with the flow, to use a cliché. After all, we must be open and curious about the world that surrounds us, without imposing our judgement on anything. Easier said than done.

Being aware of the world around us, focusing in our daily experience, letting go of preconceived ideas, embracing new ones, having an open mind to accept others and their actions as they are, that is what mindfulness will bring to our lives. It is said that once we achieve this……our stress will disappear. A very important reason to strive for this, right?

Understanding the concept and putting it into practice…..there is where the whole thing becomes a conundrum. This is what I have come up with. Living mindfully equals meaningful lifestyle. It is concentrating on the fact that we have more years behind us than ahead. There is not a lifetime to experiment, try different approaches and then change. It is the time to grab life with both hands and live it!!!IMG_3827

Accepting this has made a difference in my attitude. It is so simple I wonder why I didn’t think of it before. Now, I am. These past weeks I have started to do things I truly enjoy, even completing projects I wanted to do for a while. The results have been wonderful. Not only I have reasons to be proud, I have objects to remind me that I am actually moving forward!!! You can see on the photos I have posted here.

Believe me, my body aches and I am exhausted. On the other hand, I sleep profoundly and wake up refreshed. I smile a lot and I am not taking myself so seriously. I am more carefree. Problems, unless they are of real importance, are being left to work themselves out or let to be solved by others, plans are made for purely enjoyable activities. Not everything is peachy, living mindfully and meaningfully my way is still a work in progress, a never-ending task. Life is made of challenges and I believe I am actually winning this one!!!

Life is a Great Balancing Act!!!

IMG_3342One of my favorite quotes, and I think Dr. Seuss hit the nail on the head with this one. Of course, not everyone knows this. Most of us just go through life pretending that we know what we are doing, forgetting that balance is what makes our life so interesting.

Everything in life is a choice, everything depends on which one choice we make in every situation we face. There is no escaping that fact. Keeping that magical balance in which we know what to let go and what to hold on to is so simple, so important, so difficult.

These past weeks have been incredible hectic. I have had more than my usual share of situations that needed my immediate attention. Yes, we all have one or two of these challenges: from what to do about our mother’s care to what to say to our adult children without overstepping into their lives, from trying to keep in touch with friends we might have outgrown to keeping in touch with the ones that still mean a lot to us, from deciding what is really important in our everyday life to accepting the fact that we cannot possibly please everyone. Talking about balance!!!

Why balance is so important in life? Because it requires more than just picking one option or another. What you keep, what you decide to deal with needs as careful consideration as what you let go and what you just ignore.

In our younger years, we all tried to keep everything in our lives. We did not even consider letting go. Remember when even giving away something was a decision that we weighted carefully? I do remember. This did not only apply to material things, but to emotional, mental or behavioral issues as well. Ah, some of you will say, those were the days!!! Well, I have found out that indeed those were the days, the days of having too much in our plates and juggling too many relationships, emotional challenges, behaviors that were not good for us. Times have change, at least for me they have.

IMG_3333With age and maturity, I have begun to see all aspects of my life in a way that is centered on ME. This is my time. Life has giving me the chance to act as I want, to let go of what I don’t need, to keep what makes me happy, whole and centered. It’s a feeling that makes me smile sometimes and has caused me to change and acquire a new assertiveness.

In June of last year, I participated in a de-cluttering challenge. Not that I needed the idea, but it was pleasant to have company. I have done his before, many times, but it is a never-ending task. It was wonderful to have some company this time around. Letting go of all those material things left space in my home for what I really love and wanted to stay in my life. With less clutter, I appreciate what I kept more.  It has been a wonderful experience. There was another benefit, somehow the challenge is still going. The group is still putting out ideas, supporting each other’s efforts, accepting new members. Why?

Here is the simple answer. Once we let go of material things, we started letting go of emotional baggage, behavioral issues and preconceived ideas. This was the hardest part, but the most rewarding. This was when our change really started and we learned an important lesson. Life becomes simpler and more rewarding, we determine our own expectations without society or family pressure. Liberating. Of course, as with any de-cluttering process, this is a never-ending task.

Any change we introduce in our lives comes with a measure of guilt. This challenge was not an exception. The ever-present feeling that we should be paying attention to everyone around us and if we are not, then we are being selfish: guilt. For most of us women, it’s very hard to shake this feeling, but we must remember that it’s in the challenge of keeping things balanced in our lives, that we achieve a new kind of happiness. Believe it or not, we would also achieve a new kind of serenity. Everyone who knows me, must be smiling by now. I do not radiate serenity, usually, but I am learning fast. Trust me!!!

Life is a great balancing act and, finally, I have arrived at that place where I can manage without feeling guilty……most of the time!!!!! After all, this is a work in progress.

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Twists and Turns: my attempts at Yoga

IMG_3199I have bought a set of videos about yoga for older women. Cat Kabira, an American yoga instructor living in Bali is the host. Margaret Manning, of Sixty and Me, came up with the idea. Such a good idea because today older women are trying new things, new ideas, new attitudes. I am not shying away from any of these, hence this new adventure.

Not that I haven’t tried yoga before, in more than one occasion. I still do a couple of poses everyday to help me relax and start my day a bit more in tune with my inner self. Of course, by now I have no clue if I am doing them right or just following my version. Doesn’t matter, it has worked for me, sort of!!!

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline that started  in India thousands of years ago. Linked to Hinduism, the practice of yoga is more complicated than many people realize. Introduced into the Western world around the middle of the 19th century, yoga has had many rebirths. Starting as a purely philosophical practice, it is now basically a physical exercise. This is what most people practice and it’s called Asana Yoga. I am sure you realize this is a very basic definition, but unfortunately this is what most people accept as yoga.

I IMG_3208 have never been a fan of exercise. Sweating on purpose is not my idea of time well-spent……well, maybe relaxing in a sauna. On the other hand, I am well aware that we all need to have a routine to keep us healthy, nimble, connected with our inner self, happy……you name your reason. I did tried several times to start an exercise routine without too much success. The only constant has been my small weight exercises that I do everyday. Did not want to have flabby arms!!!

IMG_0207Now, my friends know that I am an admirer of Indian culture. I am vegetarian on Mondays and Thursdays, I read anything about India I can get my hands on and I love Indian food, jhutis and glass bangles. I think a sari is the most alluring dress a woman can wear. Some of my Indian friends think I might have been Indian in a previous life. My husband is sure of that!!!

In the last few years, a new version has become the thing: Bikram Hot Yoga. This is practiced in a hot room that helps you sweat your way into flexibility. Supposedly this makes you do your poses better resulting the elimination of stress. I don’t know about that. Heat is never a good thing for me unless it is a hot pad when my lower back bothers me or a beautiful fire when it’s cold outside. You already know how I feel about sweating!!!

I digress. Let’s go back to my yoga practice or lack thereof. I did take, ages ago, some basic lessons. I have beautiful books about it and a small set of cards that explains the basic poses….they come out once in a while. After all, I have tried to keep this going. I take out my yoga mat and wear comfortable clothing, I close my eyes and breathe mindfully, I do some poses and stretches. Believe me, it might not be the real thing, but it does help me.

IMG_3206First of all, the time I’ve spent trying to get my body into these poses is time well spent. I have kept my posture, walking straight and have no problems with osteoporosis. My twists and turns, done consistently, have made me more nimble. It feels great. Right there, I am ahead, don’t you agree?

Second, and very important, my breathing has improved. There are two kinds of breathing that have helped me. The Stimulating Breath: Inhale and exhale through your nose three times in a row, very fast and noisily. This makes you feel energized. After that, rest for a short while. Repeat up to 15 breaths. The 4-7-8 Breathing: Inhale and open your hands to the count of four. Hold your breath and stretch your fingers to the count of seven. Exhale and close your hands to the count of eight. Repeat four times. This is so relaxing!!!

Last, but not least, my balance has improved. It was never great, still is not perfect, but much better. This is important, believe me. I am short and still wear high heels. As we grow older, this is not easy. I refused to always wear flats. They do nothing for your posture, but you need to have good balance. So my yoga poses have helped with this too.

 Back to my new tapes, there was a good reason to buy them besides the obvious: relearning the real yoga asanas. I will not go to a gym or yoga studio, I know myself. These tapes will keep me going for a long time to come. They will be my partners in the battle against settling into a sedentary life. I refuse to do that!!!

Gifts to Give Yourself: #4

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Barb has posted her last gift to herself. This, she says, is the hardest one to work with. She is so right. In these uncertain times, when we are bombarded by horrible news, tragedies and acts of inhumanity, we feel dispirited and holding on to this gift is difficult. Still, if we do, we are certain to come up with another way, another solution, a better day. I am sure you can guess that this last gift is The Gift of Hope.

The world is not the perfect place we want it to be, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on it. Let’s hope for something better, and then act upon it. Hope that turns into action can accomplish anything. Everyday we should look forward to tomorrow with the certainty that we can make it better than today. There is always a new job, a new move, a new relationship, a new chapter in our lives and we must hope they’d turn out for the best. Let’s hope that we can heal emotional wounds and broken hearts. Let ‘s hope  that we can make this a better place for our loved ones.

There is nothing we cannot do if we have hope in another day or in another chance. “Hope makes all things work…”, a very wise quote by my friend Brenda. Because it’s so true, let’s give ourselves The Give of Hope.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season: a Season to write your story, a Season to understand your fear, a Season of giving of yourselves and a Season of hope!!!

Gifts to give Yourself: #3

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Throughout my life I have celebrated this season in different ways. I think this is true for whoever has moved away from their home country, married someone who is from another country, another culture. Each stage in my life has given me reasons to be happy during these days; even if I felt a bit sad or nostalgic, Giving was a constant.

This week, Barb provided us with her next gift idea: The Gift of Giving. As we all know, this is the crazy shopping season. We go out of our way to see what we can give our love ones, our friends, our colleagues, each and every person in our lives. It becomes exhausting and frustrating. We plan surprises, we try to figure out what our children, spouse or significant other would like. We try to find the perfect gift for the ones that have everything, for the ones that need everything. We all know people who plan, know exactly what to buy and buy with time to spare. I am not one of those people: this is a nightmare for me. This is why I still haven’t finished my Christmas shopping!!!

Now, the GIVING Barb is talking about is the one that should make all of us feel wonderful. She is talking about the gift of giving yourself to others!!! These are the gifts that give back instantly, the ones that gladden your heart and make you feel all warm and fuzzy, the ones that become memories you will cherish forever.

In this Season to give, generosity and caring are the best gifts. Volunteer at a food bank, visit an old-people home and bring home-made cookies, sing along with them. If the urge to engage in some retail therapy is strong:  buy some toys, some fine toiletries and deliver them to a shelter for battered women. Make a point to give something to the people asking for money at an intersection. Whatever you decide, do it in person, see the faces of those you are helping. Your Season of Giving will give you back tenfold!!!!

 

 

Gifts to give Yourself: #1 and #2

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-christmas-gifts-front-lights-image7511835I belong to an online group of women over 50. I can see you smiling….I am over 60 actually, but who is counting. This is one of my favorite sites: a community of older women that can really express themselves, give advice, conjure smiles, tears, laughs, serious thoughts. For a while now, I have followed Barb Parcells. She writes a blog under the screen name: Flower Bear.

Her posts are always a delight to read. Her blog is relaxing, with soft colors, flowers. It is her garden because she is planting the seeds for the second half of life. Doesn’t that sound inspiring?

During this Christmas Season, she has decided to give herself four gifts that speak to “her true, beautiful self”. One gift every week leading to Christmas Day. I discovered this just now and was absolutely taken by the idea.

This I am going to do for myself, following her direction. I am sharing the idea, why don’t you join me? Her ideas might not be exactly what you would do for yourself, but I am certain they will speak to you once you read the reason behind each one.

The first week, she is giving herself The Gift of Story. I love it!!! I keep journals, so this one should be good for me. I am going to go through my writings and I will write my story, happy ending and all!!!. Why and how you ask? very simple: I am writing about the experiences that touched me, the special moments that made me smile, the words of wisdom that helped my loved ones. Sounds like an adventure, can’t wait.

On this second week of December, she is giving herself The Gift of Fear. I have to say, this sounded a bit odd. As I continued reading, it became clear: “danger is the warning…… Fear, on the other hand, is a choice”. That was a revelation. Barb lets us know that if we fear something it’s because we are missing something in our lives. We are not living in the present moment, the past should just be left behind. Beautiful thoughts.

                                               Flower Bear’s Garden

P.S. visit her blog, it’s worth it!!!

Lessons Learned and Neighborhoods

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This past Saturday, Miami’s oldest bar, had its last call for drinks. After more than 100 hundred years in what used to be the Brickell neighborhood, it was forced to close by over-development and greed. It is a sad story. TOBACCO ROAD was more than a bar, it was a neighborhood institution, a casual restaurant that served excellent meals, provided a cozy spot to watch a game or enjoy happy hour with friends. It has the best live music shows in the area and we are going to miss it. At least those, like myself, who believe that a city should have neighborhoods.

Since moving to Miami over 11 years ago, I have witnessed the so called development of Miami’s downtown. Granted, this is not an old city. At just over 100 years old, it has nothing on Boston, New York or Chicago. Still, the quaint buildings that I so liked are mostly gone replaced by huge high risers that have made the area a maze without sun. There is construction everywhere and there is no end in sight.

In the process, the sense of neighborhood has been lost. The local businesses have been slowly replaced by chains or have closed down or lost their charm. Green areas are mostly gone and there are no parks. Bikes share the road with thousand of cars endangering both drivers and bikers. Crossing the street is scary and even walking on sidewalks is not pleasant.

Mansions along Brickell Avenue, the ones that were left, are quickly disappearing to give way to more condos. Who is going to live in all those apartments? Do developers really think the world is moving here? And where are all those people going to go with their cars? Is there a plan for public transportation? Replacing houses by apartment buildings has the double negative effect: it brings more cars into these areas and traps their toxic fumes in urban canyons. As it is, rush hour is a nightmare. There is no space to build new roads either.

In many studies on over-development and its impact on cities and people, getting rid of institutions that make a neighborhood is the biggest cause of the decline in the social lifestyle.  Many health issues, such as noise and air pollution, a lack of diversity in the population should also be considered. Environmental concerns have to be taken seriously. Miami is on the water and on the path of hurricanes. Evacuating this area in case of a hurricane could prove a disaster of epic proportions. The East Coast of the US is sinking slowly because seas are rising. Miami is not immune to this phenomenon. There are no schools, no churches and no hospitals planned for this area. At least not yet and probably not enough to satisfy the amount of housing and business units being built.

The number of vacant units, and I see a lot from my balcony, will rise further as many approved permits are built and more projects are approved. Thousands of new units will be finished by the end of next year. The local government mistakenly assumes that it is only developers who bear the brunt of the risks. Consequently, these developers get a lot of breaks from the government. The people who live in the area and are being pushed out often do not get the same consideration. This is very disturbing.

I know this post is not something you would expect from my blog, but caring about where I live, caring about my neighborhood has made me think twice. I believe it’s about time that the people who live in the area has a say in the development. This is a new city and money comes here in abundance from Latin America and Europe. Planners should think twice about how to make this a living, breathing, socially diverse place where neighborhoods can thrive.

 DSC00567p.s. Click on TOBACCO ROAD to learned more about its last day.

It’s been a year: She did it!!!

IMG_2465Cannot believe it, but it’s true. One year ago today, I colored my hair for the last time. In the months that followed I have had ups and downs, but have managed to keep my cool and go on. Must say once again: I love my new look!!! My hair shines, has a life of its own and I feel liberated.

Have you seen those Daily Horoscopes that come as junk into your email? I receive one everyday. Do not open them, just read the introductory sentence and delete them. Never believe in horoscopes, but find them intriguing. So many people follow these messages and do nothing without consulting them. In my case, more than once I have found these title sentences match my mood, my challenges on that day or simply I can relate to them. Who would have known!!! Today my message said: NEW FREEDOMS. How appropriate.

In the past year, I have encountered very positive reactions, but have also seen smirks, half smiles and some head shakes. What to do. Life is not meant to be lived by other people standards. Keeping positive about this has taught me more about myself than I could have learned any other way.

I want to thank my friends that encouraged me, the ones that told me I look great and they wish they were brave enough do the same and the ones that have praised my courage. I also want to thank the ones that predicted doom and gloom and old age, the ones that tried to make me see the error of my ways and the ones that told me this would never come to anything…..I would just give up and color my hair again. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone for following my journey. Thank you so much for being there with good advise or warnings. Thank you for your praise or your subtle mockery. I feel wonderful and I feel better than I have in years!!!!

One more time, here is my journey in pictures:IMG_0858

Just when I decided to go grey, as you can see I look a bit surprised!!!  Was not exactly sure if I was doing the right thing or what color would be uncovered after so many years of coloring. Glad I didn’t pay attention to those thoughts.

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Then I had grey roots, not a good look, but I was still determined. After all, my hair was still long and I could pull it back in a ponytail!!! This was the worst time. I really needed some help.

 

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Camille came to the rescue and I was treated to highlights. They looked fantastic and gave me a few weeks of peace of mind.

 

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Of course, soon enough I had to make another decision. I found out that what I needed was lowlights!!! Another trip to the salon and the first haircut. Not unhappy about the results and I gained another few weeks of relative peace.

 

Not a dull moment…….I needed another haircut because I was running out of patience with my multicolor hair. Was very pleased with the results and the time that I was given. Unfortunately,  we uncovered a problem….too much blond on one side, too much grey on the other. It seemed like I was destined to forgo my idea of doing this without cutting my hair too short.IMG_1800

 

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 “In for a penny, in for a pound” as the Brits say. Another haircut took care of the multicolor look.

Finally, I have a full head of grey hair…….short grey hair…… but the color is gone!!! Yeah!!!!! I am so glad I tossed that bottle, so glad I listened to myself. As challenges go, this was not as difficult as I thought. It was not as easy either. One thing is certain: I have found ME and I love her. Now to let my hair grow, enjoy the new me and share the results.IMG_2459

 

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Tossing Out Control!!!

DSC00706Yes, the time has come and not too soon. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be controlling.……if you know me, you know. Having some saying in what is going on around me is important to me. Well, at least it was until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I have not achieved this tossing yet, but I am listening. I still have to bite my tongue sometimes when I think I know best and should enlighten my family, friends, even strangers. A very annoying practice indeed……

In our quest to control, we lose sight of the fact of people’s reaction to our interference. All we see is that we know the answer, we know best, we can help if only people listen. A control freak just doesn’t see beyond his/her nose. Consequently, we seem out of touch. Still, we are so caught up in our own world, we fail to understand what is going on. Being in control is too much of a high!!!

For me, coming to the decision to toss out control, was gradual. I kept feeling that my comments and suggestions were not longer accepted of sought or even listened to!!! Comments from family and friends, nicely phrased and generally gently delivered, were becoming more common. There was no mistaking the obvious: I was overstepping into their lives. More importantly, I could be undermining their self-confidence. What a discovery……and why did it take so long?

IMG_1088Now, when it came to just everyone else, I was doing the same. If I heard a comment, if I read an opinion…….I was ready to put out my take on the situation. It was something I did without thinking and I was not always gentle about it. Of course, it is human to have opinions, it is alright to have different opinions or solutions to a given problem, but we must never assume ours is better or right or more important.

This takes me to another subject: being right. I remember arguments that were so unnecessary, so unimportant. The need to be right, to correct what we see as mistakes could be very powerful…….and irrelevant. Even if our solution or opinion could save the world, there would still be others out there who would disagree. So tossing out control, should go hand in hand with tossing out being right!!

In the end, what has fueled the need to toss out control and listen to a new way has been the fact that when we try to control everything, we enjoy nothing. We get caught up in our own world, we don’t listen to others, we can become isolated from our family and friends even if we see them everyday. Besides, there is much to enjoy and much to share.

This will be a challenge, no doubts about it. Something I have done for years and felt I was right in doing so needs to change. The time has come to accept others know what they are doing, their opinions might be right or wrong, but it’s not of my business. Everyone has to live their lives as they see fit and no amount of interfering will change that fact.

As with everything I am tossing in my life, I need to balance it with listening to a new idea, a new way and a new perspective. This time I am listening to others, paying attention to what they say and mean. This give and take has served me well so far as I continue to learn and to grow. In the end, it all will be for the best!!!

 

P.S. I used to buy orchid plants in bloom. So I needed new ones all the time, now I care for them and they keep blooming. Thought I share…….there is a lesson here too!!