Thursday, December 10, 2009

Silver Hair? No! Colored Hair? No! Choose One!

Silly me. I believed that by letting my hair return to its natural color (silver?) I would naturally progress along the Sage Woman's path. This return-to-natural began a year ago, as I approached the big six-oh-dear! day in December.

Six months later I saw a photo of me and my natural hair color. Shock! Horror! No Way! The seedier side of my personality groused something like, "Blank this s..t! I'm off to the hairdresser now."

And then my sage-ier side leaped forward and argued the enviromental and C02 issues, and a muffled voice whimped "Your silver shows wisdom." Seedier side yelled, "Screw wisdom! I'm not going old!"

Meanwhile my young hairdresser wrapped my shoulders with her plastic cape, ran her hands through my thick hair, commented about what wonderful condition it is in, and asked "What do you have in mind today?"

Seedy Charmaine and Sagey Charmaine met in the middle. "Light weave as close to the brown hair in the back as possible. Leave some silver as highlights."

I left Pacific Hair Design twenty years younger--in my mind.

So I'm living in this 60 is the new 40 mind set. Spouse and I make regular visits to the local tennis courts where I envision myself gracefully leaping through the air while my brown locks glisten in the sun and glorify my fashionable tennis attire.

That's just a dirty mind-trick. My tennis attire is the baggiest shorts and t-shirts I own so as to accomodate the near-mummy wrapping over my wrists, knee and ankle. No hair shows because I wear a full hat to keep evil sunlight from my face and eyes. I'm glad we play during school hours because I would frighten anyone under age 16. "Mommy, Mommy, a big fat mummy is on the tennis courts!"

Yet I remain firm in my youth. Well, until last night--a five-finger count from my six-one-oh-dear-day.

A younger news editor commented on the state of the proposed health care bill and discussed the expansion of Medicare to 55-year-olds. He said, "I don't know if this proposal to serve THE ELDERLY...."

WTF! The ELDERLY! At 55! I don't think so. Doesn't he know that the new 55 is 35--probably his age, and that he's the new 15.

Unless one dies young, aging happens. I remember my 35th birthday, and then that 40th birthday, and then that 50th birthday and then that 60th birthday. The only changes are the numbers (well maybe that along with some extra aspirin and Ben-Gay), some silvery strands on the head and the will to stay relevant.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hillerman, Swenson and McNamara--Ladies of Talent

When I recently traversed the carved trails through Bandelier National Monument, I explained to the young person with me, as we stopped to imagine what living inside those ancient cave dwellings must have been like, "If you lived here when these dwellings thrived, your mama would likely be buried by now. Women didn't live very long. And you would probably be on your way to becoming a mother--at least by the time you were 14." In other words, my young friend's mother is 47 today. That would have been gone and buried-time in the Ancestor Pueblo culture.

Ladies of a certain age today laugh in the face of 47, kick the 50Th birthday in the hind end, and maybe a decade or two later, continue demonstrating extraordinary energy and creativity.

, "Tony Hillerman's Landscape, on the Road with Chee and Leaphorn."Anne Hillerman, along with her husband Don Strel, await the fall publication of their new book I spent some time with the pair in Santa Fe, shot a photo of them (which is on the back cover), and walked away amazed at Anne and Don's endless creative founts.
I recently discovered a new and favorite blog, One Heart Many Gardens--Psychology and Spirituality in the Garden.

Through the never ending 40Th year reunion of Alemany High School in Mission Hills, CA, several years back, the author, Sarah Doni Swenson and I reconnected. Her insightful blog touches my love of the garden, the human mind and spiritual quests.

Then there is the artist, Shannon McNamara.

Her watercolors are my fave. Shannon presently has a show at the Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens in Cambria, CA now through September 3, 2009. A Plein-air artist, Shannon continues running her creative juices at high levels.
Shannon McNamara and friends,from left, Ellen Nishijima, Shannon, Lisa Bertrand, Margaret George, Judy Fitzgerald, Eve Opinion

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dealing With The Worst Kind Of Food Critic

Distracted by the challenge of becoming the birth coach for my daughter's second child, developing, and my obsessive reporting about our environment at, has led Queen Six-Oh-Dear author astray.

I'm half-way into that Six-Oh-Dear thing, and filled with more creativity and enthusiasm ever. Thank God!

Why thank God? Presently, after a successful night of birth coaching, I'm the chief cook for the daughter's family--which includes the biggest, pickiest, most blunt food critic of all times--Quinlan.

Planet Quinlan, as he is best described, will soon be two. With four planets in Leo, including his Sun, he knows what he wants and doesn't want. Food included.

A BFF recently noted that she doesn't invite me to dinner because I'm too intimidating. I'm a decent cook but unaware that my skills are intimidating. I know if I invite folks for a dinner party, the table is full. No complaints.

An then there is the Planet. Hankering for some enchiladas, I made a chicken enchilada that had no spicy stuff in it...and lots of cheese. The Planet took a bite, pulled the chicken and corn tortilla from his mouth, announced, "Yucky! Trash," as he handed the slightly chewed mess to his father. He makes a high end food critic seem timid.

Finally, after a week of inventing toddler food that we adults could eat with pleasure, I tossed a bowl of yucky veggies into the food processor, mixed it with ground sirloin and a dab of salt and ketchup, baked, prayed and served. Voila! We have a winner. "Yum! More!" announced my worst food critic.

A Green Surfing Movement: Mermaids Cry Tears of Styrofoam

A Green Surfing Movement: Mermaids Cry Tears of Styrofoam

Monday, March 30, 2009

Breast Cancer’s Five-Year Journey Ended Today

Five years ago today we (spouse, family and I) waited for my left breast to heal from its lumpectomy before I could begin the next six-weeks of radiation. I did not know what was ahead. Every cancer survivor has felt this drift into cancer-treatment-oblivion. The scalpel had done its job; now my oncology battle blueprints included precise radioactive mechanics along with a five-year chemical assault.

The emotion remains obtuse. And this word, obtuse, I'm not sure if it is the correct one or not because I remain slightly addle-brained from the anti-cancer drug saturation.

Tonight's blog, however, is not about then. It is about TODAY. Yesterday I flew into Santa Fe so that, today, I could take my final 6th-month mammogram, and meet with both oncologists. Mammogram clean; blood samples clean. Oncologist One, gave me a hug and said, "Take the last of your Arimidex, and get on with your life. If you want, you can see me next year, but your primary physician is really all you need now." Oncologist Two said, "I can't promise that you won't be 'slightly addle-brained,' I mean, I'm your age and I struggle with names—but unless you notice something really odd, I don't need to see you again."

That's it. I'm done. My daughter and son-in-law brought home champagne and flowers. We hugged and hugged. I cried.

How much change has occurred within me since 2004? Enough change to write a book.

Would I do this again? I pray I don't have this decision to make again.

It's estimated that 211,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. So, I am not that unique. Sadly, 40,000 will die from the disease. About 1,700 men are diagnosed each year with breast cancer.

The majority of diagnosed women will survive. They will survive, in part, because of the tireless work by the volunteers who walk, run, bicycle, and donate funds to organizations devoted to finding the cure.

Thank you.

It's my turn now. Maybe I'll see you on the next walk to find the cure.

Meet Mawser--he's the furball that let us know that something was wrong with me long before the humans discovered cancer inside my breast.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whales, Death & Dragons

When our cable 'bundle' crashed yesterday (no phone/TV/internet) we took our evening chairs to the Pacific Ocean-facing window. A dozen or more northbound gray whales swam through the sunset-tinged waters. The cows and calves were close enough for us to see their backs and an occasional fluke. The twitch in my get-a-long relaxed with each new sighting of an incoming spout.

I can't explain how these marine mammals affect me, but they do. It's a feeling that is lost on words. My head clears and life's pages clarify.

This brings me to death and the death of a mother.

While engaged with our whale watch, my oldest daughter called in(my cell phone)her Caribbean vacation report. She shared the beach tales and our grandson's adventures. She then mentioned that she just heard that her friend's mother had died. Her friend I know, but her mother I don't. I was, however, aware that her friend's mother had been battling cancer for some time. It was a fierce mêlée that seemed to have made some positive changes until recently.

Specialists told her to go home and find her peace, there was nothing more that they could do. I imagine that she took her last deep breath, departed from her malignant body, and then swam into a sunset-tinged sea.

Leaving her beloved daughter behind could not have been easy, except that her fatal battle wounds forced her to accept, and maybe wish for a quick exodus.

Meanwhile, e-mails arrived from women who have survived cancer, or are still in combat with it, about the purchase of a dragon boat for us to paddle for both personal growth and competition. We intend to take this fight to the level of mastering the dragon while mindful of those who lost this battle because it can be bigger than our medicine.

The migrating mother whales and calves, the woman who died, the women who form an unlikely team of "surviveoars" and knowing that I'm blessed to still be near my daughters in this strange journey through life's seas, brings me to that place I found yesterday: A wordless sensation.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Soon-To-Be Six-Oh-Dear! Inductee Writes

A California Girl, and a soon to-be-member of the Six-Oh-Dear Club, sent me the following e-mail. This woman, is an inspiration, and imagining her as one who has left her fifties behind, it unimaginable.

Charmaine.... I have six (count them.........6) more days to be that youthful age of "in my 50s."

I'm not a real birthday party kinda girl but a couple of weeks ago I thought What the Hell!!!????!!! I'm not taking this lying down!!!! No way...I'll show them (Them??Who's that?)

I had just put in a CD that my brother had made for me and as dorky as it seems, the sound track to the movie "Forest Gump" really rocked big time!
All those great sixties, seventies and eighties rock 'n roll tunes inspired me .I made a plan: PAAAAAAAAAARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've invited a dozen or so friends and neighbors over on Saturday to back me up on my message ...Hell no, we won't take it!!!! I even told them all that I didn't want to have to cook for anyone and could it please be a pot luck. How's that?

Truth be told, I (like others, I'm sure) am fairly OK with this birthday. I mean, it's just another day. I just don't like the sound of that horrible word,"sixty". So I will either not ever use it out loud or I will totally embrace it (oh yeah). I am just going to go on as usual doing what I do in life. And no youngster better call me their "elder" as has happened in the past.

The good news, if there is any, is that I already had store clerks ask me ages ago if I wanted the senior discount! The first time that happened, my friend Julia Butterfly, "Of course she doesn't!" I've loved her ever since.

Another good bit of advice I've gotten lately was a friend who said, "Just look at it as a success."

How simple, why didn't I think of that ?
I'm hoping that the angst of arriving to this upcoming day is just that---the Arrival! And that once I'm past that day, everything will go back to normal. Please, tell me that it will.
So, my friend......I am ready for your words of wisdom.

So what say the Santa Fe Mother Blogger? Party on, Garth! The good news is that you get to do this just once. We'll be the last generation to collect our Social Security in a few years; and you can cancel a non-refundable, discounted flight on some airlines and not be penalized (which is good for you, oh traveling one). You can climb one of those mountains that require oxygen, and really laugh at the youngsters wheezing and trailing behind you. Now you have bragging rights. If your figure goes a bit south, you can blame it on age, not the extra scoop of ice cream. You don't havta take crapola from any one any more because you ARE the elder. You can reverse-mortgage your house in a few years. And now if you want to take a mid-day nap, you can. Now you can have fun shocking the heck out of folks you can't believe that you are in the Six-Oh-Dear! Club.

My birthday passed like the 59 before it. I felt better the day after realizing that I now have advantages I had not had prior. Party on, girlfriend!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

10 Breast Cancer Survival Tips

Right now I have upper body awareness thanks to a group of breast cancer survivors. (This is my way of saying, "Ouch!") I spent the morning on Estero Bay paddling—aggressively paddling—a canoe.


A sister breast cancer survivor hooked me on this weekly Saturday morning event, with other breast cancer survivors. See


This is the first time since my cancer adventure began in 2004 that I have participated in a collective breast cancer survivor activity. The painful truth is that I could not emotionally deal with it. This summer I will round the corner to my 5th survival-year. I pray I'll be released from my daily drug dosages and experience how life feels without chemical side-effects.


At night, when sleep escapes me, I recall what I did to make it through the day I found the lump, the day the biopsy was performed and the subsequent call that began, "Charmaine, I'm so sorry, but…," the day I marched into the hospital for surgery, the day I celebrated in the halls of the Santa Fe Cancer Center after completing six weeks of radiation, and finally the night I broke down into inconsolable sobs with pillow bashing and bad words.


But like my survivor sisters in that canoe this morning, I'm okay. Maybe changed, but okay, nonetheless. So here are my Top 10 Breast Cancer Survivor Tips

  1. Faith and hope. Prayer/meditation in any form is good.
  2. Dignity. I dressed up and wore make-up for my daily treatments.
  3. Knowledge. I read and researched.
  4. Trust. I acknowledged that my medical team knew more than I ever could.
  5. Willfulness. No excuses. Just keep moving toward the goal of health.
  6. Acceptance. Any woman of any kind or type can get breast cancer. It wasn't my fault.
  7. Rest. I spent at least six-months sleeping.
  8. Avoidance. Avoiding negative people, places and moods.
  9. Walking. Not power walks, but admiring the countryside, the passing pooches, and the sky.
  10. Humor. So maybe some of the ensuing breast jokes got bad, but it relieved my anxiety when I could laugh, even at myself.

There is one other element that I didn't realize until the night I bashed pillows. The support of family and friends was the secret ingredient to my recovery. Those people in my life remain golden forever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presient Obama's Day Empties Tissue Boxes

Yesterday, Martin Luther King's birthday, I was on elephant seal docent duty. Three pups were born, and I named them, Martin, Luther & King. Previous blogs on have noted my affection for the late hero of the civil rights movement.

Today, I'm a freaking basket case watching President Barack Obama's inauguration. Well, I'm not out of my mind, but I can't seem to shut off the internal spigots.The new president and his first lady just left their armored vehicle and walked the parade route. That was it. The spigots turned on again.

It's overly emotional and silly on my part. Not really. Several email and phone call exchanges have each noted, "I'm half-way through a box of tissues!"

When now President Obama gave his first fully exposed public speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, I flashed on him being Abraham Lincoln's reincarnation. Well, that's a tad hippy-dippy, and I kept it to myself.

After Obama announced his candidacy, I was at a lunch were many politically thoughtful people stood, and was asked my opinion. After stammering, I said, well, I like Obama, but I can't imagine him actually becoming president. I went on to explain that it wasn't because HE was black, but because I did not have the faith in our current culture that America's voters would hear him beyond his African-American heritage. It was the voter I doubted.

Looking back, the darkness of the time--yes, I mean the days when light was sucked from our souls by the foul presidency of George W. Bush and that nightmare, Dick Cheney, I succumbed to the rhetoric of hate and separation. (See my earlier blogs.)

Now I'm watching a dark skinned man and woman, holding hands, walking among cheering crowds along Pennsyvania Avenue and re-infuse light back to our nation and souls.

Get me some more tissues.

I can only image the late Rev. King doing the happy dance up in heaven.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Travel Writers, Fein and Ross, Show Hope is More than a Campaign Word

My first thought at year's end is to reflect. But the year ended and other people's reflections came through my email that I could not top. One came from writers Judith Fein and Paul Ross.

Maybe hope is more than a campaign word. Here's some of what Judie and Paul wrote:

The year 2008 is hobbling to the finish line. It's been a tough twelve months for many people--personally, economically, professionally, emotionally. Everywhere, holiday banners and songs proclaim "joy to the world" and a "season of joy." But how can one find joy at this time?  As always, we look to our travels for lessons…In Damascus, Syria, a successful and well-known restaurant owner confessed that his satisfaction does not come from renown or money. He derives joy from helping orphans and refugees…In Israel, a rabbi derives joy by combining  Kaballah and Chinese medicine to help people heal….In Turkey, the Mevlevi order of Sufi dervishes twirl ecstatically to get closer to the Divine and shed their attachments to the material things of the world. One of them explained to us that everything in nature rotates--from atoms to planets-- and the dervishes turn too…All of these people undoubtedly experienced difficulties in their lives, but they also displayed a deep capacity for happiness.  We have no control over what life slings in our direction. But even when our hearts are heavy and we are weighed down with worries; even when we are crying and feel hopeless, we can always find a glimmer of light in the darkness by choosing to do whatever brings us deep joy."

So, that is exactly what I plan to do--bring deep joy daily into my life. The recipe includes savoring my family, blending my time between longtime and new friends, learning more about the world around me and sharing what I learn through words and action.

When I'm not trying the twirling dervish move, I have on the front burner a new blog: In the oven is a book writing project, there's a stew of paddling a dragon boat with other women cancer survivors, weekly hikes, tennis, and docent work.

Sixohdear remains alive and well. I'm grateful for my readers and wish all a brightly colored year.