Camouflage has been making its way into mainstream fashion over the past few years. Designer labels such as Valentino, Michael Kors, Burberry and Dries Van Noten have been incorporating this green and khaki-colored print into their ready-to-wear lines for a couple of years now. As it started to capture the attention of the general public, it has become more mainstream. With stylish and affordable takes on the pattern in such places as J.Crew, The Gap and Banana Republic. From skinny jeans to tailored pants, from jackets to dresses, we're seeing stylish, chic and modern takes on the battlefield uniform. From the front lines, to the runway to Fifth Avenue does Camouflage have what it takes to become a classic?
It's Thursday which means it's Farmer's Market day, which means I can load up on all my wonderful heirloom tomatoes and fresh peppers, cukes and all the other deliciousness that I can find there including meats, cheeses, breads, pastas, honeys, jams... Our farmer's markets are impressive and the more popular they become, the more impressive they get. If I could get nothing tomorrow but tomatoes, I would be a happy camper. I have been eating tomatoes every which way lately. The cherry and grape-sized varieties are my favorites these days for I can easily pop them into my mouth or simply halve them to start the base of a really good salad. And even though locally-grown lettuces are abundant, I have lately been opting to have my salads without, focusing almost exclusively on the tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh peppers that abound. Sometimes I'll toss in some fresh beets for a touch of sweetness and offset it with some goat cheese for softness, or some gorgonzola for a bit more of a bite. My variation of a Greek, or Mediterranean salad is pretty much my go-to. Add a slice of crusty bread and we have a fabulous lunch made in no time flat!
There's no right or wrong way to make this, and I usually just eyeball amounts depending on what I have. Here's a list of ingredients with estimated amounts. Feel free to alter as you wish - using more or less of those ingredients you prefer. Amounts below are for 1 individual serving. You can double, triple, quadruple as you wish!
6-8 small cherry, grape or other smaller sized tomatoes - I prefer to use a medley of red, yellow and green
1/2 small pickling cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 slices of jalapeño, chopped OR
1 tbs sliced green onion
1 small, or 1/4-1/2 sweet pepper, such as red, orange or multi-colored
6 Greek or Kalamata olives thinly sliced
Optional: 1/4 cup beets cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 tbs crumbled goat cheese
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A dash of dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil
As you prep your veggies toss them into a bowl, add the cheese, olive oil and spices and toss well. May eat immediately or set aside until ready to serve.
I had my first blistered shishito pepper about five years ago. I was in the UK and they were presented to me alongside numerous other tapas. I had never had one before and passed for fear they might be too hot. I like heat and I seem to be adding jalapeños to lots of things these days, but in miniscule amounts. I mean, I would never dare to simply bite into one whole. I was assured that for the most part these were mild peppers, though every so often a rare spicy one emerges from the bunch, which seems to make eating these little green treats even more fun.
These little Japanese peppers, part of the Capsaicin family, are mild with a slight peppery flavor, not unlike a traditional green pepper although its long, slender shape isn't dissimilar to the jalapeño. They traditionally grow in the summer months and you'll find them in abundance at your local farmer's market.
Craving something salty and wanting to be relatively healthy (trying to keep away from the potato chips) I decided that I would try my hand at blistering them. I found a recipe from the New York Times and saw that all I needed in addition to the peppers was olive oil and salt. Since I didn't have three pounds I just decided to wing it on my own. After all, blistering a few peppers wasn't exactly brain science. I had purchased a quart but since I had given about half of them to a friend I wasn't sure just how many I had, my guess was roughly a pint.
Over a large cast iron skillet (my latest favorite cooking tool) I added about a tablespoon of olive oil and brought the temperature up. As the oil started to smoke slightly I added the peppers to the pan and turned the heat down slightly. They all fit in perfectly. I let them blister for about 10 minutes or so, turning them a couple of times so that all the sides would get a nice deep, char. When they were done I placed them onto a plate and sprinkled them generously with salt. I used a Sea Salt but think I would have prefered a Himalayan or a Maldon. Even a lemon salt for a zesty kick.
I popped on into my mouth and took a bite. It was divine - mild and peppery with a nice smokiness from the char. I took another bite, pulled off the stem, placed it on my plate and went in for another. I repeated these steps until there was not one pepper left!
1 pint - 1 quart of shishito peppers
1-2 Tbs of good olive oil
Coarse salt, as needed
A large (12 inch) skillet
Heat the oil in the pan until it gets hot - it might start to smoke.
Add the peppers into the pan, aligning them so that they all fit. (If they don't remove half)
Keep them in the pan for about 10 minutes or so until they start to char and blister, turning a couple of times.
Remove from pan when ready.
Arrange on a plate.
Add salt, coarse salt is best.
Looking for recipes that would allow me to take full advantage of all the wonderful tomatoes found at the farmer's market this time of year brought me back to the mid 1990s and my favorite restaurant in Italy.
My grandmother had just renovated a villa in the hills of Umbria in a wonderful medieval town of Citta della Pieve in Perugia. The old Villa Rosetta is steeped in history, purported to have been named after King Emanuel 2nd's lover, Rosa. And although he was married it is said that Rosa was his one true love. She gave him 2 children, Vittoria and Emanuel. I had heard rumors of an underground tunnel leading from Villa Rosetta to the King's home in Rome. So naturally, I tried looking for it and had no luck. This Umbrian home that was named after the King's true love would, centuries later, become a German command post in the Second World War. How fitting then, that a former American Navy Pilot who also happened to be a German and a Jew would end up living at the home with his wife (who also happened to have German and Jewish ancestry).
This husband and wife were my grandparents. My grandmother bought this home as a present to herself for her 70th Birthday. After teaching herself Italian she began the massive renovations to make the home liveable. (Because this was to be a summer home, she spared herself the expense of modernizing it with heat!) Her renovations included restoring all of the home's frescoed ceilings, installing a swimming pool, tennis court and the most magnificent gardens that yielded the most divine bounty.
We typically took lunch at home, on the terrace, poolside if the weather allowed. Lunches were always the same, and we dined on salad daily with items meticulously grown and handpicked from her own gardens. The only thing that would vary was the bread picked up at the local bakery. For dinner we went out almost every night. When we stayed in town, there were two restaurants she favored and everyone knew and greeted Signor and Signora Bachmann by name. But it was Trattoria Bruno Coppetta (Bruno's) that completely stole our hearts, captivated our tastebuds and is permanently etched in my own memory. Although I haven't been in 20 years I can remember with the utmost clarity the many wonderful dishes I ate... We were fed handsomely and one dish was better than the next. It was at Bruno's where I would enjoy many of my "firsts" which would hold the standard to which today's dishes are measured. To know really good food one must have experienced it from the source. New York Times Restaurant and Food Critic Patricia Brooks shared that thought with me over lunch one day a few weeks ago in New Canaan. And so Bruno's still holds the gold standard.
It was at Bruno's that I would have my first Panzanella -- a Tuscan bread salad that is out of this world. A good panzanella will be abundant with freshly picked, perfectly ripened tomatoes. For my own, I used just a small amount of bread for taste and texture. (I am trying desperately to watch my carbs.) It is suggested and encouraged to use a day old crusty bread that will absorb the juices and not get soggy. You really need a hearty bread for this dish; the type I refer to as Crunch and Chew. One that has a solid crust and a dense dough. A fresh bread that's mostly airy dough and less crust will feel heavy and soggy and that's not what we are after here. The salad is best when made ahead of time allowing the tomatoes to marinate in the dressing, with the bread tossed in just prior to serving.
Now there are, of course, varied ways to make this salad, but the key ingredients are always tomatoes and bread. You could add onion, and cucumber if you wish but I didn't. I kept it to the tomatoes and the bread, but I used assorted heirloom tomatoes and peppers to create a depth of color and punctuated the flavors by tossing in a few capers and a couple of olives that I had chopped into small pieces. I created a very simple dressing by adding 1 anchovy to a little bit of olive oil. Don't be afraid of the anchovy! Its saltiness lends itself perfectly to the tomatoes and crusty bread. If you choose not to add it simply add more coarse salt be it sea salt, Himalayan salt or Maldon.
Serves *2 - 4
*2 cups of freshly picked tomatoes, either red, heirloom or a mix
1 bell pepper
1 scant tsp capers
1 tbs capers
6-8 olives thinly sliced
2 - 3 slices of bread with the crustiest pieces possible!
1 1/2 tsp. Olive oil
1-2 tsp red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp lemon juice (from lemon)
* Depending on what, if anything, you're serving with this.
Into a large bowl I added bite sized pieces of heirloom tomatoes - green, yellow and red for their varied colors, a sweet multi-colored pepper, a few capers, sliced olives and let them bask in their own juices. A quick twist of the salt and pepper grinders... I let them sit while I prepared the dressing.
Next I added about a teaspoon (give or take) of olive oil to a ramekin and started working the anchovy into the oil using a small whisk. The anchovy will break down and start to dissolve in the oil. As it started to do so I added a couple squeezes of lemon and some freshly ground pepper.
I then added some bread and cut the ends off of a really crusty and chewy loaf of bread into bite-sized pieces and mixed them in with the tomato and pepper mixture.
Add the dressing and toss well just prior to serving to ensure that there's just enough to coat everything without rendering the bread completely soggy and mushy. Once the dressing has been added, serve immediately!
Although it looks like I may have used a lot of bread, it's really not a lot. Don't worry about the bread abosrbing too much flavor (or not enough) there'll be plenty of natural juices from the tomatoes and the dressing to dredge the bread through.
Yesterday I wrote a post publicly declaring my love for black houses. I think they're bold, elegant and in short, sublime. (You can read about them here.) Today I will write about my love for white houses. Perhaps a direct reflection of my own Gemini personality, I happen to adore both. Traditional and classic there's a reason why this color has remained a favorite since the Colonial times. Whether at the shore, in the desert or on top of the mountains, the simplicity of this effortless color choice speaks for itself. Unlike its darker counterpart, white paint fares better in the elements, as the darker colors can fade beneath the sun's bright rays, this is never a problem with a white home, (which may need a good power washing on an annual basis.) Although modern homes are very well insulated with eco-friendlier heating and cooling systems, the darker colors do tend to absorb the heat of the sun, whereas white homes do not.
In my town of Southport, Connecticut - a quiet, coastal hamlet located about an hour outside of New York City, white remains a popular choice among homeowners. Our architecture runs the gamut from Colonial to Cape Cod to Georgian, with a few VIctorian style homes. More modern-Colonials and Farm-style houses are starting to pop up in crisp white colors that seem to magnify the brilliance of the natural landscape. These white houses while no less sophisticated than the black ones I highlighted yesterday, do make a quieter statement, evoking a sense of calm and tranquility.
I've been noticing a few changes over the past couple of years in the newer as well as the older homes.
I've seen more homes removing their shutters and painting their trims the same color as the exterior paint (as opposed to a shade or two darker or lighter) or by complete contrast outlining the trim in black, which I also adore. As though piping has been added along the exterior of the home.
Windows are getting larger and many are starting to remove their shutters entirely. This is an easy update for an older home looking for a more modern look. In the case of the modern colonial, especially those with larger windows, I prefer the no shutter look, yet with the older homes, I'm torn - the jury's still out on that decision. I love the crisp, clean lines of the white home without shutters, yet there's nothing as charming and quintessential New England than driving through a historic down full of light color houses with dark shutters. If one has shutters on their home, I believe they should absolutely be a dark, classic color. What do you think?
I have a relatively new obsession. I am just mad about dark colored houses. Whether deep charcoal grey or black, these unfussy homes are about as sophisticated as they get. They offer an understated elegance, a subdued glamour and blend into their settings seamlessly, whether coastal, urban or suburban. In fact, they almost seem to enhance the landscape that surrounds them. The color suits both large and small, modern and traditional. Dark colors add drama and depth and beckon you to take them seriously, a message that you’re not afraid to be noticed. Not everyone can pull off a black home. I find them to be handsome and bold, do you?
I think I have a particular fondness for those houses with white trim. I think the white accentuates the black even more, making it seem all that much more dramatic. Yet there's the classic side to it as well - black and white will forever be classic colors, and there is a part of me that does embrace the traditional, even if the architecture might not be.
As I prepared to pack for my trip to Palm Beach last spring I knew that getting everything into my carry on was an improbable situation. It wasn't so much for the fact that I had too much to pack -- I'm a pretty good packer despite the fact that I always to take more than I need. My issue with Palm Beach was nothing more than a bottle of sunscreen. My bottle of sunscreen was well more than the "safe" 3 oz. I didn't want to spend obscene amounts on bottle at the hotel only to have to leave half behind. I found the same issue with my favorite moisturizer. And by the time you've packed enough 3 oz bottles your carry on becomes heavy and bulky. And so surely there must be a better solution, I thought. And there was indeed, and it quite literally came to me one day while I was in the shower.
Lush's shampoo bar was, for me, life changing. Shaped like a smaller version of hockey puck, this bar lathered up deliciously, and I required just a small amount. The company also has a conditioning bar and I have been a longtime fan of their cocoa butter bar, a wonderful body moisturizer. I recently learned of a "safe" sunscreen in stick form. All of our necessary beauty products are available in a "dry" form. Not only are these FAA safe, but they're terrific products to begin with.
Below are some of my favorite dry beauty bars... The best part is that each product featured below is made by companies that don't use harsh ingredients, chemicals or unnecessary additives. They're environmentally and socially friendly so you can feel good about purchasing and using them. Now I've just saved you the hassle of checking your luggage, eliminated the need and hassles of the 3 oz bottles, and lightened up your load.
Now that I've got everything I need, where should I go to next?
3. Lush Body Butters I'm a huge LUSH fan and have been for years - ever since several slices of homemade soap were given to me nearly a decade ago as a gift from the UK. Their products are clever, fun and really fabulous. Environmental friendly, and vegan, this brand is no flash in the pan. I was turned on to these moisturizing bars about a year or so ago and have been using them ever since.
4. Honest Company 30 SPF Sunscreen stick Launched in 2012, the company's mission has been to create a safe, non-toxic, and beautiful products for skin and home.
5. Burt's Bees Lip Balm - My most favorite lip balm ever... and now they come in a huge array of flavors, as well as tints. Think of these as your favorite Lip Smackers all grown up!
Today is Friday and marks the end of what's been both a fantastic and positively grueling week. This can only mean that tomorrow is Saturday which cannot come fast enough. Tomorrow's weather doesn't look terribly promising either and for that I could not be more grateful! We've found ourselves embroiled in a heat wave. A relentless heatwave that smacks at you the minute you step outside, causing you to stumble and lose your balance. August will be here next week and I suppose this is what they mean by the 'dog days of summer.' And here we are stuck in the middle... because before we know it the kids will all be off to school and life will get even crazier. So tomorrow, in appreciation for all things slow and simple I will do nothing. Nothing at all. I will not clean. I will not do laundry or change sheets or pay the bills. I will not run to the grocery store or fill the car with gas or go to the bank. And it's going to rain... Hallelujah! This means I can stay inside and do nothing... nothing at all! I might read, lose myself in a Netflix series, write, do some painting... but I will do nothing that feels like work or a chore. I will do only those things that seem relaxing and that please myself! (Of course it helps that my kids are all away in Maine.) I think we all need to proclaim it National Do Nothing Day... What do you all think?
Croissants, coffee and flowers. Note self, pick up some flowers today. Note to self the croissants look delicious ... but a minute on the lips and a year on the hips... at least a my age...
A book, coffee and bed. I mean really, this is a trifecta. But my 1938 house has no central AC and I never did get around to putting AC in my bedroom.... I do have a fan which works well.... so maybe that French press becomes a tall glass of iced espresso... But what I love more than anything at all is blasting the air and pulling all the covers up over me. There's nothing better. Well, almost nothing better!
Confession. I do like eating in bed. But I don't love the crumbs. So I make it a habit not to do so. Now I'm craving a sunny side up egg!
I mean ideally yes... this... but given the overcast skies and 99% humidity and the fact I have no balcony over the ocean... I prefer to stay home. But if this was a possibility I'd opt for it. I might swap out the glass of white for rosé, however!
Why is it that every image I have chosen has some sort of mouth-watering food in it?
And here we go again... But look at the cup. Have you ever tried to balance a cup of coffee on your bed... without a tray? On a plate or otherwise? I don't know about you but that would never work with me. It would get knocked over in a New York Minute. Which would be anything but relaxing. And my day would be ruined because I hate nothing more than stripping my bed... and yet I love nothing more than the feeling of crisp clean sheets against my skin.
Perfection! Head on over to the Kitchn to get a recipe for the perfect cup of iced coffee. I have my espresso cooling in the freezer... I'm a gonna step away for a sec and make mine!
As is this... but before it gets too hot out...
And here we are... another food and beverage shot in bed again. Don't tell me that this cup of tea did not get knocked over while said photoshoot occurred.... However you choose to spend your day of doing nothing, make it a good one!
As a single mother to three, one of whom is off to college in the fall, I am always watching my pennies. I (almost) always think twice before I buy something and I make sure that I get the best bang for my buck. While it's true that the best things in life are free, there are a lot of great products out there that aren't expensive and really worth their weight in gold. Sometimes it's the small things that give us the greatest pleasure. On this list I have $5 flip-flops a $35 water bottle and everything in between. Each item gives me immense pleasure for a variety of different reasons. These 18 items are things that I cannot live without.
I have tried everything on the market. And I do mean everything. Trying to save a few bucks I tried every drugstore mascara on the market before reaching for an old favorite high end. However, before I headed to the checkout line, I asked one of the employees at Blue Mercury for the fattest mascara on the market. Without hesitation I was introduced to Better than Sex Mascara. I got home and immediately tried it on. This mascara is as close to a set of falsies you'll ever go. One coat or three, this one pumps up the volume! About $35 (less on Amazon Prime) And worth every penny!
2. Maybelline Master Strobing Stick
I will have to thank my teenager for this. I found it in her make up bag one afternoon when she had gone to her dad's. I put my makeup on, added some blush and rubbed this on the top part of my cheekbones, bridge of my nose and forehead. Blended in and I had this gorgeous, dewy highlighted look. I've tried several since but this one, even when stacked up against pricier brands, remains my all time favorites. Leave it to Maybelline! This will run you less than $8.
3. Sea Salt & Fig Eau de Cologne
Would you believe me if I said this little diddy came from Old Navy? A fresh clean scent, like clean linen and gentle ocean breezes, this little bottle is a big surprise. I decided to spray one of the tester bottles one day when I was on the checkout line and was amazed when I smelled my wrists. I picked up the bottle and a small tube of lotion for my hands that I keep in my straw bag. The top note is strong without overwhelming, but there's not much of a base note which means it will need more frequent re-applying. About $5.
Fringe and fringe style jewelry are all the range. These fun earrings will liven up any outfit and run about $10!
I fell in love with this fragrance after my trip to Palm Beach in April. This was the signature scent of the Eau Hotel and Spa where. They describe it as "As the warm midsummer day drew to a close, the familiar sea salt freshness awaited their return' but this time was different; a smoke infused woodsy essence rose in gentle swirls from the beachside bonfire beckoning them to enjoy." Candles are roughly $28 (Burns clean without harmful and black residue)
This was the first scent I fell in love with and still remains a favorite. I prefer crisp floral notes that are subtle. I want my home to smell clean and fresh not overly perfumed or sweet. $40. (If you don't want to burn candles all day you might want to consider a diffuser.)
7. Old Navy Flip Flops
Available in a rainbow of colors, you'll want to pick up an armful! My favorites are the red, white and navy ones. I stock up on the white ones and when they start to look dirty and worn I simply toss them. I live in my flip flops during the summertime - more so than any other shoe! $5 a pair but can run as low as $1 a pair if you can hit a sale!
These are TO DIE FOR! Available in a dozen flavors including passion fruit, grapefruit, coconut, lemon, lime and now tangerine, these effervescent beverages will help you fill your day's water quota without realizing it. My kids adore these as well. Prices vary - I can find them at my local grocery store for about $4 a case.
9. Honey Goat Cheese
Liven up your cheese and charcuterie platters, switch this out for your regular goat cheese with salads, cruditées, bruschetta, etc... A slight sweetness marries perfectly with the crisp tartness of this cheese. Use this to give old favorites a new twist. You will thank me for this! Prices vary.
10. Starbucks Shaken Teavana Teas
I try not to spend too much money on Starbucks but on a hot day or after a particularly grueling spin class there's nothing I like as much as a shaken tea or shaken tea and lemonade blend. My favorites are the peach green tea, lemonade blend and the white iced tea lemonade blend. They're not calorie-free so I don't indulge too often, but when I do it's an incredible refreshing treat!
This is hands-down my favorite rosé - I have a few that I turn to regularly, and at $22 a bottle, I do mix this up with others. This ships all away across the Long Island sound (about 10 miles or so away) from the Wolffer Estate Vineyard, a sustainable vineyard in the heart of the Hamptons. As Described by Wolffer: What distinguishes Summer in a Bottle is its fruit character. An homage to the glorious summer of 2013, Summer in a Bottle is a literal taste of the Hamptons high season. “We waited as long as possible to harvest the fruit for Summer in a Bottle. Choosing the perfect moment to pick was crucial to make this highly anticipated wine, bursting with the aromas and flavors of the seasonal fruits that reach their peak ripeness at the height of summer,” said Wölffer Winemaker/ Partner Roman Roth. It used to be hard to find, even in Connecticut, but the label is expanding and I saw this offered in Palm Beach in the springtime.
From Halo Top Creamery, available in the US and Australia, this low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar, all-natural ingredients ice cream is to die for. You will have to try it to believe it! For those who prefer to eat the entire pint in one sitting, pints range from 230 - 340 calories... per pint! With amazing flavors such as peanut butter cup, lemon cake, cookies and cream, chocolate, vanilla, s'mores and more, you'll be able to indulge this summer without guilt! Roughly $5 per pint. Look at it this way, if you eat it for dinner it's a cheap and low calorie meal!
I never really got the hype until I tried one. They claim to keep beverages hot or cold for 24 hours and this never really meant anything to me until summertime. I accidentally left my bottle in the car for a couple of hours on a hot summer day. Normally my water would be undrinkable, not only was it cold, but the ice remained, from what I could tell, mostly unmelted. Now that summer has once again returned this is the only bottle I use. It's perfect for on the beach too! Available in a multitude of colors and designs, and in 9, 17 and 25 ounce sizes. Prices range from $25 - $45. Well worth the money. Environmentally friendly and Swell is socially and environmentally responsible.
Every girl needs a good beach read! I am currently reading this book by Jane Green. I was given a copy at a wonderfully catered book launch last weekend. I'm loving it so far!
About the book: Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood in the sixties to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. Still, when Ronni discovers she has a serious illness, she calls her now-adult girls home to fulfill her final wishes. Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own. But as their mother’s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears, they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all. Available in Hardcover $17.09 (Amazon Prime) or Kindle, $12.99
15. Dove Dry Shampoo
I've tried them all. And I do mean all. This, by far the least expensive, is my favorite. It mists a white powdery substance which also gives my hair lift and volume which I very much need on a hot summer day! About $4.
As one who has had skin cancer I try to be diligent about covering up. I was told by my doctor, a top skin cancer surgeon at Yale New Haven Hospital that 30 SPF is the only coverage I need. He did say that I need to be diligent about re-applying, and although I need to improve, the only time I got burned this year was when I was eating lunch outside one day on a particularly warm spring day, and took off my sweater. I hadn't anticipated the sun and therefore I hadn't applied sunscreen. This is one of those "healthy" sunscreens that won't break the bank. I LOVE the way this feels on my skin, living it moist and dewy. I use this facial one all over my body. I've been able to find it for well under $10.
Kids of ALL ages (my teenagers included!) will love these fun and whimsical plates by Cheeky for Target. Whether picnicking at the beach, poolside or inside for movie night, these plates will delight! $2.99 for each pack of 30.
Perfect for toting sunglasses, sunscreen, cell phone, lip gloss and car keys this fun raffia bag is the perfect bag to accompany you from Beach to Café or outside Bar. $35.90
And so it is that with another blink of an eye another decade has passed. It hardly seems possible. It seems even more impossible that I am about to enter my fifth decade, though when said in those terms it doesn't seem quite as terrifying or dramatic. It's not so much about getting older and aging, but about managing my own expectations, demands and goals. It's less about fear of failure, though that does factor into it all. It is more about not seizing every opportunity that comes my way; something I have made a conscientious effort of doing throughout my 40s. I also know that my own divorce very much impacted this decade and my thoughts and fears on Fifty.
My 40s were filled with new experiences, new friends and a fair amount of travel. I fell in love. I met new people. I made new friends. I challenged myself. I persevered. I succeeded and I also failed a few times. I set new goals. I met some of those goals. The decade forced me to live outside of my comfort zone, which as a creature of habit who seeks the comfort and the familiarity of the everyday, was a huge gift.
I have learned to push myself. I have learned to not doubt myself (I'm still working on that!). I have learned that comparison is the thief of joy, that experiences are much better and more interesting than any material item. I have learned that, for the most part, it can be done and that I can do it. I have learned that the struggle and the hard work can pay off. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to say no. I have learned to say yes. I have learned not to apologize for my thoughts, views or opinions. I have learned to compartmentalize the various aspects of my life to allow time for everything important to me. I have learned to slow down. I have learned to speed up. I have learned to be patient. (Ok, I'm still working on this one as well!) All of these are gifts, and much of this would not have happened had I not divorced and as a result I am stronger, more determined and self reliant.
My 40s were perhaps the greatest decade of personal growth - even more so than either my 20s or my 30s. I am eager, excited and scared to see what my 50s brings. I enter this decade with a new calm despite the great struggles that lie ahead. There is much I can fight for and work towards and there is so much that is out of my hands. With regards to the latter, I have learned to sit back and enjoy the ride as best as I can, for there's a lot of beauty out there that might otherwise be missed.
As I sail toward 50 I can say for certain that am up for the challenges that lie ahead. I will face them head-on. I will continue to push myself physically and mentally. But there are things I want this year - this decade. I want to travel more, see more, explore more. I want to continue to meet new people, make new friends. I will continue to fight (fiercely) for my children, and for myself. I will continue to focus on myself and growing my career. Most importantly I acknowledge the fact that I want to settle down - I want to find an inner peace - I'm working on it but I'm not there yet.
Ten years from now, when all my children will be grown and out of the house, I want to be able to say my 50s were my best decade. I'm not too sure I can say that about my 40s. There was just too much struggle and sadness, despite the positive. Perhaps I am not yet far enough removed from this decade (I am technically still in it, after all) and my views will change down the road.
Five years post divorce I am still grappling to find the answers, still struggling to make ends meet, still treading in choppy waters, still dealing with an often volatile ex-husband and still trying to set my eyes on creating a successful future. In many ways I have the same struggles as a new college graduate with the additional responsibilities of three children. I will be honest and to use a term my 18 year old daughter does, I'll say it's scarfy AF, especially when I come to the realization that I am sandwiched in between 30 and 70. I am as close to 70 as I am to 30. When I turned 30 I got married, the next year I became pregnant with my daughter. The future was sunny and bright and there was a world of possibility ahead. I admit to being a little less optimistic now. Maybe it's best? I had a tendency to be too Pollyanna-ish, and not having a realistic view of things. While I still am hopeful of a happy future I am also realistic. Incredibly so. Divorce does that.
As I reflect on the past 10 years I have come to learn that they were the most rewarding and yet the most difficult. I was 42 when I asked for a divorce and 44 when it was finalized. Those two years of separation were brutal, the freedom that ensued was intoxicatingly freeing as I had a renewed hope for the future. The responsibilities attached with being a single parent, however, often feel like trying to stay afloat with an anchor tied to your foot. My strength has been tested over and over again and each and every time I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I ever would be, capable of more than I ever thought I would be. And so, as I look back, my limits tested on an almost daily basis, I know that I can weather any storm. And I am actually grateful for the challenges that are now behind me as I ready myself for the challenges that lie ahead. I have a renewed faith in myself and a knowledge that everything really will be alright.
I've always been a bit of a late bloomer... maybe it was self doubt, maybe I needed time to assess the situation around me, maybe it was fear, but I vow, as I enter this new decade not to let anything prevent me from being the best that I can. After all, isn't 50 the new 30?
Come on Fifty, we've got this!
* This was written a few days earlier, before my Birthday which was on June 1st.