Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School

Summer is quickly coming to a close. Weather-wise, with the exception of a little weekend storm called Irene, it has been one for the record books. I confess that I’ve spent a great many gorgeous sunny days in a lounge chair on my front porch. Legs stretched out with novel (thriftily borrowed from the public library) and a handful of SourPatch Kids at the ready, half of me felt really guilty, the other half really didn’t give a crap. After all, this journey is about happiness, right? About doing what I want to do when I want to do it? Great. I’ll log my porch time as ‘working on my tan’ and ‘cultivating cavities.’ I really need both. Wrinkled, leathery skin and rotted teeth!

Oh I know. I’m being mindful and present even while in a sugar-induced haze on that lounge chair. Mm hmmm... I’m working on healing my inner self. Getting to my center... zzzzzzzzz

It’s Back to School time my friends. The time of year that still excites my inner little Lelly. Corduroy and tights on an 85-degree day, textbooks covered in Stop N Shop bags and filled with unfamiliar words and pictures, the smell of ripening grape arbors on my walk to school. New notebooks. New teachers. New friends. New SHOES!

I’m heading out to my front porch in a minute. Today, however I’ll be rocking it Back to School Style. I’ll be cracking open a brand new notebook and using a freshly sharpened pencil to work on the following homework assignment. They are essay questions. 
  1. What is it that I’m really wanting in my life right now?
  2. WHY am I wanting this?
  3. What’s standing in my way of moving forward into this?
  4. What inner pieces are calling to be seen, to be heard right now? 
Oh and instead of stiff corduroy and scratchy tights I’ll be wearing a hat AND sunscreen.

Love, Lelly

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On the Street Where I Live

July 21 marks 6 months into my crazy, dangerous year. I cannot believe how quickly time has passed; how easily my days have filled. In the last 180 days, for every hour of productive, value-adding activity, I have spent another 2 hours spinning my wheels, going left instead of right and backward not forward.  When the world is your oyster and the sky is the limit, finding true north and setting your course is damned difficult, if not impossible. Think shoe clearance at Nordstrom. 31 amazing Baskin-Robbins flavors. The display case at Korb's Bakery. What do I choose? What do I choose? What do I choose?

Lest I remind you, this was my year to live dangerously and FULLY.  My luxurious, self-indulgent freedom to do whatever I want within financial and legal boundaries. Have I wasted 1,920 precious hours? To what to I attribute this time in my Good Girl Gant Chart? If time is money, have I squandered my savings?


I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I'm learning to listen and remain open without judgement. I refuse to self-flagellate. I am happy. I've explored some opportunities that I would not have even NOTICED were I still in corporate mode. Yep, almost none of them have made me rich or even made a dent in the monthly mortgage payment. But. Dancing with 12 amazing octogenarians in an Alzheimer's ward? Snoozing on the couch with a very special man? Laughing with my cousins? Drinking coffee with new friends? Time well spent.

Yesterday the cosmos gave me an interesting gift in celebration of my six-month anniversary. A fortune from a cookie eaten at least a year ago fluttered out of its hiding place in my wallet.

Happiness is around the next corner, wealth is down the street.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happiness. Part Three.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

-Marcel Proust

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happiness. Part Two.

The door to happiness opens from the inside out.
Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; 
Where your treasure, there your heart; 
Where your heart, there your happiness.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three Faces of Me

In a recent series of conversations with a new acquaintance, I saw with crystal clarity how often I refer to myself as one of the following three characters. I’m pretty sure I’m not schizophrenic, but chances are you’ve heard me refer to myself as at least one of these broads. Allow me to introduce you.

Miss Tallulah Devyne Chardonnay is penultimately feminine, charming and flirtatious. Sequins and pearls and matte red lipstick, fine leather gloves and cashmere sweaters and a walk that makes men dizzy. Tallulah is a soldier in the online dating world. Long legs, sultry voice and big doe eyes. Ever the Lady (capital L), she is the guardian of my “fine china.” Tallulah is responsible for 75% of my shoe collection and all of my Little Black Dresses She wears Big Apple Red on her toes and Bubble Bath on her fingers and has a fondness for cocktail rings and statement necklaces. Her signature fragrances are Angel, FlowerBomb and Prada. She was born in the late 90s while dating a tall handsome tradesman with a penchant for tailored suits, the Bay Tower Room, dirty martinis and Frank Sinatra. She enjoys dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Nana is slightly scattered peri-menopausal, and not quite ready-for-primetime. Nana is learning how to text. She blushes frequently and often forgets why the hell she walked into a room, opened a closet door, ran down to Shaw’s. She is a master knitter who is baking her way through Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Cake Bible. Nana hates online dating and frets over the first meetings. She’d much rather sit at home with a good movie or good book. She jokes -- perhaps a little too often -- about getting hacked to pieces and dumped in the Charles. She parks the car under a streetlight, keeps her keys and phone within easy reach, checks in with loved ones from the ladies room and again when she is home safe in her bed. Nana wears tasteful diamond studs, progressive lenses and Dansko clogs. Her signature fragrance is Inner Grace. She moisturizes and wears a hat in the sun. She refers to her guests as “Company” and uses words like “golly” and “yikes” in daily conversation. Nana evolved out of a particularly troubling relationship with neurotic an older man. She secretly wishes that Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia were her housemates.

Lelly is secret code for my true self; my essence. She was the bubbly chatterbox at age 7, the wannabe hippy at age 13, the awkward brainiac at age 16, the fractured divorcee at age 39, the spellbound auntie at age 45. Lelly is a bit of a conundrum, counting “Hell Boy,” “Hard to Kill,” “Con Air,” “An Affair to Remember,” “Send Me No Flowers,” “Pillow Talk,” “Lover Come Back,” “Scarface,” “Terminator” and all of the “Child’s Play” franchise as all-time favorite movies. You can easily find her in a crowded room by listening for her laugh (usually punctuated with a snort). She knows that the real reasons that she enjoys knitting and baking and sewing is that they provide real world math problems to solve -- but she’ll never admit it. She prefers “Angel” or “I Love Lucy” over “The Today Show” for her morning soundtrack. She loves dark chocolate, Sour Patch kids, dry red wine with Raisinettes, dirty vodka martinis and the occasional Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

At the end of it all, Lelly is equal parts feminine and flirty Tallulah, kooky, old-fashioned Nana and calm and focused Helen. I blog as Lelly because my ultimate goal for this crazy year is to step out of the drag and live an authentic life.

A Lelly life.

Every single day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2 TBL peanut butter, 1 C milk, 1 med banana, 4 C courage. Add ice and blend vigorously.

Each day in this wacky new life of mine brings new challenge (start-from-scratch business opportunities, job interviews, sales calls, first dates, etc.). I've got to whip up a fresh batch of courage each morning along with my breakfast smoothie. A dyed-in-the-wool Yankee stoic, I confess that I've needed double batches of courage and fearlessness to post my vulnerabilities here in this blog. Taking a bit of a breather, here are some quotes about fear that I turn to for support and inspiration.  I hope they help you too.

Love, Lelly

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. -Japanese Proverb

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest. -Henry David Thoreau

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. - H. P. Lovecraft

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. -Dale Carnegie

Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not. -Virgil Thomson

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear. -Gandhi

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.
- Unknown

People living deeply have no fear of death. -Anais Nin

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. -James Stephens

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
-Frank Herbert

I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today. -William Allen White

Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear. -Isa Upanishad, Hindu Scripture

Where no hope is left, is left no fear. -Milton

I live in a state whose motto is Hope. - Lelly (circa 1977)

Many thanks and mad respect to The Positivity Blog.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Her potential cheered

Her potential cheered from the trees shivering beyond the pool as she considered her future. She could climb Everest, join Greenpeace. Go to college, learn Spanish, read the classics. Vote. ...she saw the path before her rising and falling, making sharp turns over ragged cliffs. No worn broadloom. No comfortable rut. A dazzling existence beckoning with uncertainty. Proof that there are miracles.
The Wive's Tale
Lori Lansens
Copyright 2009 by LLMT, Inc.

I am newly blessed with the time and patience to sit in stillness (outside of yoga practice) and observe. I can sit in my patio and hear urgency and singularity of purpose tapped out by Woody, the lovelorn woodpecker that has taken up residence on my siding. I hear the buds pushing to break ground and stretch to the sunlight. I hear little boys screaming with delight as they tear through shrubs chasing lightning-fast chipmunks.  I am able to listen not to just what is said out loud, but the volumes spoken with eyes, breath, fingers. I hear the tears, the smiles, the fear and the bullshit.

I hear my potential cheering from the trees.

Close your eyes and listen my friends. What do you hear?

Love, Lelly

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


So it turns out that living dangerously and fully requires a fearlessness that I frankly do not know that I possess.

From the outside looking in, I’m a pretty ballsy lady, to be sure. I have cuddled a live koala in Australia, sung karaoke in Japan and munched on moules marinière in France — solo. I even spent a week on my own at a particularly racy Club Med, cloaked in a pair of dark glasses and the current installment in the Harry Potter series. I absolutely love to speak and perform in public and relish any and every opportunity to shine a spotlight on my inner ham — whether hopping onstage to sing with the band, presenting at an industry conference, teaching a class or charming insomniac shoppers on national television.

Sure each of these experiences brought butterflies to my tummy and a fair amount of sweat to my palms. Nervous? Excited? Certainly! Frightened? Eh, not so much. In each of the situations I describe above, I was in complete control of how I interacted — or rather chose not interact — with others. I could participate on my own terms. I was Acting well within my Comfort Zone.

Onstage or in a foreign country or even in a lounge chair with my nose in a book, I really didn’t have to put a lot of emotional skin in the game. All I had to do is Know My Shit. Prepare. Don the appropriate costume. Perform. Assume the role of American Tourist, or Single Woman on Vacation, Savvy Business Woman or Industry Expert. My Shit. My Drag. My Mask.

I know that I cannot create a life that is truly worth living if I remain the passive participant. I am coming down off the stage. Taking off the dark glasses. I am learning when to take off the stiletto heels that keep me hovering above and away from mere mortal men.

No Shit.  No Drag.  No Mask.

Exposed. Unprepared. Vulnerable. Spontaneous. Open.


Love, Lelly

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reversing Direction

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier.  The way it actually works is the reverse.  You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.  ~Margaret Young

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Do you have a courage ritual?

Here's a quickie about courage. We all have personal rituals that we perform when we need a little something extra. A pep talk. A virtual butt kick.

I've got a song.

I sing this one on the very top of my lungs in the car (do beep if you see me barreling down the highway, mouth wide open, red in the face, windows rattling) on my way to job interviews, first dates, new classes -- any situation where I could most certainly fall flat on my ass. Those times when I have to channel my inner rock star; grow some 'brass ones,'  paste on a big smile and JUMP! This played in my ears as I sat in the QVC green room, waiting for my airtime (every single show for 7 years). This played in my ears before I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, then later as I drove to family court for my divorce hearing. This played in my ears when I quit my job and began this terrifying and exhilarating journey.

Don't tell me not to fly. I've simply got to.
If someone takes a spill, it's me and not you!
Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade?

A song about authenticity and accountability and risk/reward. "Yes I know. I could very well be out of my mind, but I'm going to try and if it doesn't work, at least I didn't fake it." I'm not going to provide any context for this clip. If you haven't seen the film, get on Netflix right now and add "Funny Girl" to your queue.

What's your courage ritual? Please do share....

Love, Lelly

[P.S. I'm very happy that Gleeks are Googling this song and hearing -- and loving -- it for the first time.]

Working at the Car Wash.

I wrote about my 60-hour crying jag in an earlier post. At the time, I thought my subconscious was yelling at me to get into the shower and out of the house before I turn into something like:

[No worries; I’m fresh-y-fresh, clean and coiffed as I type.]

Today I am convinced that this crying jag was the final phase of an arduous 16-month exercise in change.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

My tears were disposing my body of the sadness still left behind after months of difficult decisions, introspection and good, old fashioned, hard work. I think of this process as a trip through a car wash. 16 months ago, I drove up to the entrance covered in emotional gunk. I paid the attendant and slowly worked my way through cycles of lather and rinse, scrubbing away the sources of my unhappiness, getting to my shine. It was dark and sometimes scary, violent -- pelted with monstrous strips of heavy, wet regret. Sometimes pleasant, easy -- lathered with encouragement and hope. A few weeks ago I passed through my final rinse and emerged out of the dark tunnel of the car wash and into the brilliant sunlight. 

Beads of water sparkling like diamonds. 

A rainbow in my rear view.

Love, Lelly

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Managing the ups and downs.

Over the course of the last week, I have found myself on an emotional roller coaster. From confident, joyful and full-of-beans one day:
  • I am going to package my skills and knowledge together and give birth to my new, fabulous portfolio career! 
  • I’m launching my own direct sales business! 
  • I am going to raise thousands of dollars for a local church and change lives! 
  • I am going to lose 10 pounds! 
  • I am “this close” to finding the love of my life! 
...and crying my eyes out in panic and despair the next. I literally spent 2 and a half days on a crying jag, a la Diane Keaton in “Something’s Got to Give.”

Driving and crying
Baking and crying
Eating and crying (and then crying while standing on the scale)
Knitting and crying
Vacuuming and crying

Hmmm...something was wrong. My subconscious was literally crying for attention. Was I mourning my recently deceased love relationship? Suffering from depression? Succumbing to the isolation brought on by living and working alone? What was the source of all this misery and despair?

Somehow I've been managing to get things done, but I was on a scary, slippery downward slope. I was a heartbeat away from being that woman in the liquor store in her slippers and bathrobe and 3 good teeth, playing Keno with her unemployment check, bragging that she “used to be on TV.” 

My week at  a glance:

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays: sitting at the dining room table watching the Golden Girls and stalking Facebook -- in my pajamas and coffee and wine-stained bathrobe --- my hair in its “I slept in my own sweat” fright wig state, mascara down to my chin. Last night’s cookie crumbs in the corners of my mouth.

Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays: laying on the couch flipping between HGTV, Food Network and Bravo and stalking Facebook -- in my still-damp Zumba clothes, leaving sweat rings on my sofa pillows and stinking to high heavens.

Sundays, God Bless me. I shower and do the Globe crossword and go to Mass before I hit the couch or the kitchen for marathon baking.

It is time to Pull.My.Sh*t.Together.

As I write this, I am sitting in Panera Bread, a living, breathing suburban cliche. (Seriously, if you had told me “Helen, in April 2011, you will be BLOGGING in freaking ShoppersWorld.” You have been in for a bitch-slap.) There’s someone hunched over a MacBook Pro on either side of me. Three silver, glowing apples in a row, sipping our designer coffees.

It’s ok. I smell good. My hair is combed and I’m wearing lipstick and a shiny new necklace. My subconscious is cool with this.

Love, Lelly

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good for your Body. Good for a Smile.

I LOVE Zumba.

I've been a group fitness instructor since 1986 (imagine shiny spandex and leg warmers and Reeboks). Over the years, I've taught high- and low- impact aerobics, step, group cycling and muscle conditioning. I enjoyed these fitness formats but I never forgot for one minute that they were workouts. I worked hard, physically and mentally, every single second of every one of these classes. I probably didn't smile much at the time.

Zumba Fitness is different. If you haven't tried it or know what it is about, do a Google search. There are dozens of classes each week in gyms and churches and dance schools in neighborhoods across the globe.  Go and visit a class and watch what happens when the music starts.

Zumba found me after I had "retired" from teaching and was traveling a lot, with regular appearances on QVC and leading project teams based in Massachusetts and Tokyo and Sidney. I had been to a demo at a local gym and thought it was fun, but it was more about the dance moves than getting sweaty. I could workout more efficiently with 30 minutes on the eliptical.  I'd chalked it up to another trendy fitness wave, like TaeBo.

Then I went to a dynamic, sweaty, nutty class in West Chester, Pennsylvania and was hooked for life! (Thank you ACAC) I searched out classes when I got home and was soon getting a bi-weekly fix. Then, driving home from class one night, I thought "You can do this, you know." Crazy. I tried out the idea on my boyfriend and my sisters, thinking that at least one of them would tell me that I already had enough on my plate. They nodded yes. They know me so well. It was very easy to come out of retirement. I got my group fitness certification renewed and took the Basic Zumba training. A few calls to old friends and some good, old fashioned networking got me on the schedule at a couple of gyms.

I did all of this because Zumba makes me SMILE. I grin like a fool for 60 minutes, sweating like a pig. I wear lime green and purple and lots of hot pink and colorful rubber bracelets and glittery silver shoelaces. I am essentially tricking 1-3 dozen people into a highly effective, interval based cardio "workout" each class. I am watching my clients shed pounds and get healthy. At 51, I am in the best shape of my life -- including those years in my 20's wearing spandex and leg warmers. The warm, sweaty smiles that beam back at me at the end of each class are the best gift a girl could ever get.

Here's a fantastic "commercial" for Zumba that was created by a group of instructors as part of a contest. It pretty well captures the spirit of Zumba. I hope to see you in class someday soon.

Love, Lelly

Monday, March 28, 2011

April 1. Time to Get Started.

You may ask if 2011 is my year to make changes, live dangerously and follow my bliss, then why did I wait until the end of March to start this blog?

Good question.

After so many years in the corporate world, I still think in quarters. Consider January 1 to March 31 quarter 1, fiscal year 2011. I spent these first 90 days or so tying up loose ends.
  • I worked the corporate job until the end of January.
  • I went on a couple of job interviews and spoke with recruiters about my "stellar" resume and what I wanted to do next.
  • I cleaned my house like Martha Stewart on crack.
  • I bid on 2 used American Girl dolls for KnittedByH.A.N.D. and rephotographed and remerchandised the Etsy Shop and launched parallel shops on ArtFire and Zibbet.
  • I played with the dolls.
  • I baked cookies and cakes, and made a lot of soups.
  • I ramped up my Zumba teaching schedule from 3 to 9 classes per week.
  • I dabbled in some pro-bono social media and ecommerce consulting.
  • I broke ground on a new direct sales business (more on that later).
...and started this blog. In project management terms; my first quarter was the Discovery phase of my adventure. Beginning April 1, we start Planning.

Love, Lelly

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011. My Year of Living Dangerously

I am not learning to sky dive, ride a motorcycle or drive a mile with the gas gauge on E. Nonetheless, this is my year of living dangerously. I left a 6-figure corporate job -- that was wrong on so many levels -- in pursuit of happiness.
  • I slipped the golden handcuffs.
  • I escaped from cubicle prison.
  • I am following my bliss.
  • I am woefully under-employed.
GASP! Go ahead and clutch those pearls. I have never done anything so irresponsible in my entire life! I am the ever the good girl. I eat my vegetables, return my library books on time, recycle. I'm in bed by 10pm and take my vitamins every day. I have worked at least 2 jobs since I was 14. So why am I taking this leap? Well future posts will go into more detail, but in the meantime I'll use this chestnut:
"If not now, when?"
Two of the most important and influential women in my life -- my Mom, Bernice, and my Gran, Helen No. 1 -- died at the age of 61. 61! They were good girls too. They worked hard and produced some pretty amazing people. They died too young. They died toiling for the next paycheck. They died never having seen a Carribean sunset or their grandchildren become rockstars. Last November I turned 51. I decided that if these next 10 years are my last on earth then I'm going to make each day meaningful. I'll be eating a lot of peanut butter and using teabags twice, but I'm going to live dangerously and fully. I am going to dig deep and find my bliss and follow where it leads. I'm taking spiritual inventory. I am going to find ways to support myself by helping others. 

How? Dunno. Let's find out together.
Love, Lelly