gratitude-a-thon day 2049: the ocean

Even the tiniest waft of Coppertone or the rich and aromatic odor of Ban de Soleil Federal Expresses me to all the beaches I’ve ever been. My nose, exquisitely sensitive, books me on free excursions to some of the sea sides I’ve been the happiest. Unexpectedly, there I am, swimming in a sea of white sand and roaring surf with people I have loved, with people who are no longer here. I can feel the warm sun, the salt on my skin, the taste of beach food.

My sister lives in Hull, on the border of Hingham, near the stunning World’s End and Nantasket Beach. I went down last week, during the umpteenth heat wave, with temps soaring well above 90, to cool down, not so much my body, as my mind.

The ocean has always done that for me. Liquid valium with a soundtrack. The metronome of waves lulls me into the sweetest calm. Is it the steadiness of the surf? is it the white noise? The rock tumbling sound when a wave churns up the sand? Beats me, but what I do know is that those waves and salty water are the panacea for anything that ails me.

Give me the beach. Anytime, anywhere. And as my blood pressure plummets, and my muscles unwind, I throw gratitude, like a rock, into the vastness of the sea that always connects me to myself.

gratitude-a-thon day 2046: Cadeau for me, Cadeau for you

Anybody who knows me knows how obsessed I am with flowers, and that I am unnaturally crazy about this exact type of flower, so guess who HAD TO BUY THESE. (Yeah, like that was a conundrum).

Hey, Brookline Village, and anybody in the vincinity, cool new store alert! If you’re in need of a mood boost, or a gift (for someone, or you know, YOU), or have a special (or not so special) occasion on the horizon and your loved ones are wondering where to get you a present that will elicit a “thanks” that you will actually genuinely mean, or your eyes just need a little candy, Cadeau is the place. Because this little slice of heaven has super fab jewelry, and a big line of iconic John Derian, and some perfectly curated clothing, and some pottery i fell madly in love with (see above, and did I mention my flower fixation?), and some really great art, and lots of other unusual and must-have-right-this-very-minute things. Sara, the owner who has extraordinary taste and is one of those people you can’t not like, used to manage Portobello Road and while her store has its own vibe, you can also feel the next-gen quality to it, so if you were a fan of PR, you’re going to be singing a happy tune. Also, worth noting, all the sales assistants are people who were apparently raised to be friendlier and nicer than most people in the world (including the PR fave, Janet–so good to see her). They just want to help you in whatever way you’d like, which is refreshing and fun. And sweet baby Jesus, shouldn’t shopping be fun?

The charming Sara Petras, owner of the brand new Cadeau Boutique & Gallery on opening day. She had a little party on Washington Street last week with music and refreshments to celebrate her new digs. It was kind of a blast!

It’s been a long while since Brookline Village has had a great retail store (Shake the Tree, maybe, like 147 years ago?), and I for one am just a little bit excited. Swing by and introduce yourself. And if you’re reading this from far away, check out the Cadeau website, where you can experience the magic of this charming store itself. In the midst of post-ish pandemic angst, this is just the fresh face we could all use. And by the way, Cadeau, for those un-francophile among us, means gift. And I gotta say, appropriate name, because this place is. Shopping gratitude. Yes, it’s a thing.

gratitude-a-thon day 2045: people who change you

There are some people you meet in your life that change it. In a myriad of ways. Forever.

I got Colleen Quinn’s name from a fellow spine suffering friend about 20 years ago. She had a sunny personal training studio in Brookline Village called Eutopia. I was hesitant, because my back was a problem that I’d acquired at 19, during college, which had caused me to stop running, which I loved, and doing anything high impact (sound awful? It was). I lived my life in physical therapy, having to leave jobs during particularly bad episodes, and got used to living with limitations and pain that would go anywhere from 5 to 1,987,298 in the time span of one minute.

While I had stayed active with a biking phase (my back didn’t like that after a few years), a swimming phase (my hair didn’t like that after a few years), and low impact aerobic phase (I didn’t like these after a few years), I turned to walking. I llved life in my body carefully. I lifted wisely, especially my babies, asked the grocery baggers to go “light,” never was that friend who could help move your stuff from apartment to apartment, didn’t twist for nearly two decades, and stayed obedient to the list of things which could irritate my disc (everything) so fearful was I of having an “episode’ of debilitating back pain.

But there was something about my friend’s insistence I go see Colleen that after her nagging me for a year, had me walk into her yellow studio on Washington Street. And GAME CHANGER, this former physical therapist, turned personal trainer got me and my back in a spectacularly astute way. I began training with her three times a week and with each passing session, I began to trust my body in a new way. Colleen’s exceptional ability to find the way to get me to move my parts in ways they hadn’t moved in decades was nothing short of magic. And I saw that she took that personalized and miracle-making approach with all of her clients, who like me, grew stronger with every Eutopia session. Pretty soon my husband was seeing her, and my sister, and my daughter and my son, too.

Of course, aside from her keen training smarts, I loved her personality and love of beauty and fun and nature and the beach and her dogs. She was brilliant and kind, had a spectacular sense of humor, a constant curiosity, and depth. Colleen became part of our family. All of us loved her, including our dog.

One of the worst days in my life (sound dramatic, but not even kidding) was the day she told me she’d decided to move to Northern California. Of course, I understood, who could stand these winters anymore, but I would miss her terribly, but even worse, what about my body? What would happen to me? This lead to me training on Zoom with her many years before the pandemic made it popular. Then, one day, I embarked on a yoga class, and heard about a pilates teacher, and trying both, I realized how much I’d missed in person working out, so we decided to end our sessions for the time. My husband, whose arthritis is tricky, still trains with her and she can always figure out a way to help him work his challenging circumstance.

This was the last session at Eutopia. As you can see, I’d been crying and even had a cold sore on my lip from the stress!

This all leads me to the fact that Colleen’s dream of having a retreat center is in the process of coming true! She and her fiancĂ© bought a piece of land in Northern California, where Continuum is going to be built. It’s absolutely thrilling and I literally cannot wait for this center to get off the ground. There is currently a gofundme (read all the amazing details) to help this (expensive) piece of heaven get off the ground. If you have any amount to give, please do, and if you don’t, keep it in mind, because this is a place where beauty and life and healing are going to happen.

The enchanted piece of land that the restorative retreat center, Continuum will be built on.

Anyway, I am so grateful for Colleen’s presence in my life. She’s part trainer, part sister, part friend, part wise, older -than-her-years guru. Mostly she’s a magical being who sees the world in all its complexity and still shows up for it with unbridled enthusiasm. And that alone is really something. I have endless gratitude for the naggy friend who forced me to meet Colleen long ago. It did actually change my life.

gratitude-a-thon day 2044: show up

Sometimes I wonder what the hell life is about, I mean, don’t you? You hit a wall and you’re like, what’s the fucking deal here? Well, having smacked up against some hard stuff recently, and backing away from it, at this moment in time I would say that life is about people. And love. And I guess I’d probably put potato chips in there.

If you ever wonder what you can do for someone who is not feeling quite themselves, or grappling with an issue, or having a problem, or stuck in the muck, I have two words for you: show up. That’s it. Just show up in whatever way you can. In the form of fresh baked muffins, my neighbor labeled, “as not the best,” or flowers, another friend left at the wrong house and circled back when she realized, or text messages that range from funny to uplifting and supportive. I have been asked to walk, eat, share part of friend’s vacations with them. Time, and ideas and good thoughts and Meta Loving Kindness meditations, and perhaps one of my favorite things of all, a delivery of two bags of potato chips from a friend. Because you know, POTATO CHIPS.

A few days on someone else’s vacation was a very big help. A little coffee didn’t hurt either.

Making a meal for someone who has enough on their plate, is like giving them a house on the French Riviera. One friend won’t stop making me dinner, and by the way, these gorgeous meals are not the classic casserole, each has been a gourmet preparation of exciting flavors and healthy foods, all lovingly prepared. I told her she gets the gold medal in the helping a distressed friend event. And while these dinners are delish, it’s really just the thought and care that have mattered the most.

Anyway, what I think life might be about is just being there for others, not just during the jolly fun times, but during the crap, oh-hell-you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me parts. That might be it, or at least a big part of it. So, smile at someone walking down the street, and say thank you, and just in general, be kind to others, because you never know if you’re the difference someone struggling might need to lift them back up to the sun. And gratitude to the small village that’s shown up for me.

gratitude-a-thon day 2043: fill ‘er up

How do you fill up when you”re empty? I’m not talking about potato chips. I’m talking emotionally, how do you put gas in the tank when you’re not only out, but stranded on the middle of a tumbleweed-laden desert road?

For me, it all goes back to gratitude. You knew I’d say that, didn’t you? I have to pull it all way back, go to the basics of my life and what I do have to begin the refueling.

Lately it’s been things like my bed, always so comforting and enveloping. Nourishing foods, like summer’s pickling cukes, those crunchy little guys that should have the tagline “snap, crackle, pop,” but got snagged by Rice Crispies. Juicy, drip down your chin nectarines, plump and sweet blueberries, a perfect little cherry tomato. I get energy from my plants and flowers, how they synthesize the sun, know when to bloom and when to call it a day. Breathing, that simple act, while focused on, can be a float in a sea of stress. A rich cream I can slather on my dry skin, a warm bubble bath I can sink deep down into, a good book that lets me travel to somewhere I’ve never been. Fiends who show up with a meal, or a treat, or themselves, giving you their time, are good as High Test Premium.

Again and again, I go back to those small things that I sometime overlook, but that really are the stuff of life, when you get right down to it. I go day in and day out to the gratitude, that 24-hour bodega where you can always find the goods.