Seldom have I opened a book and been gob smacked by goosebumps, but Debra Shriver’s exquisite The French Leave: From Paris to Orleans Parish has me squealing with delight. Debra’s new book is filled with lush photographs she took with her cellphone. It’s the story of why she bought a one-way ticket to Paris and spent almost a year there. A “sabbatical” as she called it. A much needed intermission in the midst of her busy life. A chance to reset and begin again.
Her new book is a Francophile’s view of Paris and her version of Paris along the Mississippi, her adopted hometown of New Orleans.
My earliest skincare memories are of my mother’s blue facial mask that morphed into a Halloween fright mask when it dried and paralyzed the skin around her mouth and eyes. At ten years of age, I thought this was hysterical. Other than washing my face with soap and water and using OJ’s Beauty Lotion, I don’t remember having a skincare regime until I was in my early twenties and started using Clinique’s toner, day cream and night cream. It wasn’t long before I made friends with the women behind the beauty counter, and I moved on to Orlane.
Perhaps the best thing I’ve done to take care of my skin was when I started wearing wide brim hats in my mid-twenties.
Lesley Wolman is an actress, a singer, a songwriter and a blogger. She’s a woman who has a zest for life and like many of us, it took her a while to settle into her groove. Her mother was an opera singer, her father a cardiologist, and Lesley inherited the best of both parents. Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, Lesley wanted to be a doctor, but she also wanted to sing and perform.
She spent years with one foot in medicine and the other in music.
Today’s culture is obsessed with youth and physical beauty. We monitor our crow’s-feet and the vertical eleven lines that etch themselves in-between our eyebrows as well as the marionette lines that sometimes look like they’ve been chiseled from our nose to our chin. We fret about whether our lips and our brows are full enough and whether our teeth are too yellow. But when we go back and look at women who didn’t have Botox and fillers, when facelifts weren’t as common, do we hold them to our same standards?
What is today’s definition of beauty?
Remember the old I Love Lucy episodes where she tries to sell Vitameatavegamin on television, or the one where she wraps chocolates on an out of control assembly line? It seemed like everything Lucy tried was fraught with problems from the get-go. Yes, she was a bit of a dingbat, but her biggest problem was she never thought about doing things that were suited to her abilities or her needs. I’m involved with something that could have helped Lucy.
I’m part of an impressive group of women over 50 who are breaking the stereotype of what it means to grow older and create the next phase of our lives.
Recently I watched To Kill a Mockingbird on Turner Classic Movies. I loved the opening scene that shows us Jem’s cigar box of found treasures: There are two soap dolls, a skeleton key, some cat’s eye marbles, an old pocket watch, some crayons and a handful of coins. His box made me think about some of the things that were important to me when I was a kid.
It also made me wonder what precious treasures I’d put in my box now?
As far back as I can remember, my mother referred to me as “poor little thing” as though it were my first, middle and last name. “Poor little thing, she has such a long horsey face,” or “poor little thing, her glasses look like Coke bottles.” It’s not surprising I grew up wishing I looked like Sandra Dee, the 60’s, blonde beach babe with the perfect features.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand the truly magnificent faces are often the ones that are imperfect.
Photograph by Brenda Coffee
Like most of us I’ve faced a lot of tough times in my life. I’ve given up my power and my voice more than once. I loved a man I should have left—he almost killed me—but instead of learning from my mistake, I did it again. I loved another man I should have left sooner. And just when I thought I’d let go of the toxic patterns I seemed destined to repeat, I was taken, at gunpoint, in Guatemala.
There are some things you think you’ll never survive, and when you do, you’re certain you’ll never heal, but I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
One of the best ways to become good friends with someone is to let your guard down and share some of your inner most thoughts and feelings. Things that have been rumbling around inside of you for a long time. I didn’t expect to love five strangers, in five days, by doing this or to bond with them in such a profound way, but I did, and our connection with one another is deep and real.
We have become trusted friends.