Procrastination no more… (musings of middle age in the middle of the year)

Let me be clear. I am not writing a self-help blog. I am not a life coach, I don’t profess to be a superior athlete, a nutritionist, or doctor of any type.

But I am a woman who has entered middle age and have learned a few things….

I have always been a procrastinator. I have always thought “when I’m brave enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, etc….I will do accomplish something.” I always had the creative side to me but was way to practical to be a starving artist.

First I needed a steady job with good health insurance (this was drilled into me by my frugal and cautious mother). Then, I needed to raise my kids – and this meant devote all my time to the kids because I believed I was doing the most important job in the world – and since I left the corporate world to do that and wasn’t bringing in an income, I had to justify it by being frugal and providing all the entertainment to my kids. I don’t regret that – I recently found old videos of family life back then, and life was fun and simple (before Iphones and texting and gaming – PBS TV shows were my only babysitter and guilty relaxation).

Then, my kids grew up and I needed to find work again. I was fortunate in that since we had lived frugally throughout the years – spending our time adding on to a house using our own labor (primarily my husband’s labor, but I did help raise some walls!) it wasn’t urgent to search out the most high paying job. My husband had the health insurance and encouraged of me to try my hand  in making photography a career. For the first time I was able to combine my passion with my business – which brought a whole new realization to me; I have a good amount of life left in me, for work and for fun.

And reaching middle age, I guess this procrastinator has reached the ultimate decision…I can’t wait anymore. We do have an expiration date, although none of us know what it is, and I know that if mine lasts a long time, I want to spend it healthy. And if it is stopped abruptly as it has to too many people of my age – I want to know that I spent the time I had, happy and involved in life.

Although I’ve always been a healthy eater, I started to look even closer at what I was putting in my body. I am not a dieter, I can’t force myself to set limits and portions.  So, along with the focus on my career, my happiness and my life – I have educated myself in what will keep me happy and healthy for now and the future.

So, here are some of things I have learned in middle life:

  • It’s all about food quality and less about food quantity.
  • There’s nothing prettier (and healthier) than fresh organic produce from a local farm.

We joined a CSA about a year ago and it’s almost like a mini Christmas gift every Saturday when I go pick up the order and see what is in my basket. When I don’t recognize the vegetable, it’s even more fun to research it and create a dish to try out.

  • Exercise is a self-fulfilling prophesy – the more you do it the more you want to do it. Especially if you have exercise buddies and accountability. I don’t think I would get up at 5 or 6 in the morning, if I didn’t know I was leaving someone in the dark trail if I didn’t show up. If I didn’t sign up and pay for classes (right now I’m doing pilates and yoga at Grassroots Fitness) I wouldn’t show up.  It’s also inspiring to go along on other’s fitness journey and the therapy that surrounds working out with others.

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  • Kombucha is not just some wacky health drink – it really is good! It was suggested to me by my nutrition practitioner, Julie Nelson of The Natural Health and Healing Center. I am not a regular yogurt eater and had been learning about beneficial bacteria in the body. I reluctantly tried out a GTs Gingerade and discovered it was refreshing, with a tinge of carbonation, lemon and ginger…and I was hooked.  The only downside was the $3 a bottle price tag. So, my Christmas present to myself this year was a continuous brew kombucha jar and a scoby passed on by a friend. I immediately turned into one of those people who talk about the health and size of my SCOBY and fun ways to experiment in the second ferment. To me, the health benefits are just a happy bonus. (I’m still working on the other fermented foods….I know they are good for me, but it’s hard to go from a bland, New England diet to appreciating pickled vegetables and sauer kraut….they make a pretty picture though….)

So to anyone out there who is in the middle of their life and wants to make a change – whether it be personal health, a creative passion, or a new interest – just take the leap now!

This is me (in 2018)

(warning – longer than usual post, and probably far more about me personally than I have ever shared).

My friends and I have had a running joke involving  New Years resolutions this year. We make declarations and pronouncements and then it all goes awry… we eat that sugary food, we don’t go to the proclaimed exercise class… and then we say “Next week starts the New Year…”  (at this point I think our New Year is officially beginning on March 1st). January has slipped by, with it’s frigid weather and concentration on family and home issues, but ignoring myself and my business.

But now, it’s February 18, and I have procrastinated long enough – I have finally reached the point where I can’t keep putting things off.  I’ve been a professional photographer for years now, but I feel the need to re-pronounce who I am, what I’m about and where I stand –  now that I’m officially not a new 50-year-old.

So this year, 2018, I want to declare who I am, where I am in my life and business, and what my intentions are.  To go along with this declaration, I took a quick “selfie” after working out with my messy hair and without makeup, because this is how I usually look.

With portrait photography as my passion and livelihood, I watch myself and others as we start to look and feel our age (I refuse to say “get older.”)  Portrait photography is so often about prettiness;  with glamorous outfits, full makeup applied, hair all done up, but at the same time some of us are starting to comprehend that the reflection in the mirror day to day, is more what we look like, less like our outdated Facebook or LinkedIn profile, or our doctored-up filtered Iphone selfie.

We are starting to wonder if because highlighting hair, getting facials and doing nails have become mainstream, maybe that one shot of botox isn’t going much further.  I struggle with that. Years of holding a camera up to my face has caused extreme crinkles in particularly my right eye and I look like I have a permanently worried or angry face with the vertical line on my forehead. Should I wear this as a badge of experience or should I try to look like the magazines and movie stars? (not all of them I should say – l love me some Frances McDormand)

I believe that everyone should do what makes them happy and feel good. I love wrinkles on my subject’s faces, I truly see beauty in every person I photograph, but I don’t judge. I will wipe away wrinkles in photoshop and smooth skin if the client desires.  Although I do hope that less people desire and normally aging skin becomes mainstream. 

But what I have become more interested in with my portrait subjects – particularly women – and what is encouraging me about entering the second half of my life (yes, I’m determined to live to 100) is what they are doing with their lives, how so many of us are creating a second (or third or fourth) chapter for ourselves. What’s holding us back? In fact with kids on their way out of the nest, means that many of us are finally able to fully concentrate on ourselves.

So as my first goal this year I am going to be seeking to take portraits of and telling the stories of these women who inspire me with their entrepreneurship, or their philanthropy and focus on helping others. If they don’t seek me out, I will seek them out. I am surrounded by so many inspiring people (I don’t exclude men, but am exposed more to my own gender and see more of their stories). When I have the opportunity to photograph these people, I will also share their story and hope you all become as inspired as me. I am already excited to tell you about my most recent client, Susan Niebergall who in her mid 50s, has reshaped her body into a lean, mean machine and  started a successful on-line fitness coaching business, Susan Niebergall Fitness (and btw, also has 24.7k followers on Instagram).

My Second goal this year:  because I feel prevention and health is our best insurance option in the future (can’t count on pharmaceuticals and insurance coverage to solve our health problems) I am committing to be as HEALTHY as I can, from working my body, muscles, bones, tendons, and heart health. Even after running a marathon in 2017, I never felt my body was as healthy and fit as it could be. With this in mind, I have started off 2018 taking classes at GrassRoots Fitness, which has conveniently opened a studio steps away from my home – and run by another entrepreneurial woman and former portrait subject, Joann McGinley. I am working on strengthening my core, arms, flexibility and overall strength. It frustrates me that I can’t touch my toes as I did in my younger days (as  a past gymnast). In fact I documented it here photographically – so I can see if I improve throughout the year. I really hope by the end of the year I will be touching those toes…

And because I also value the fact that my body does still allow me to run long distances, mostly pain-free, and mentally feel fired up by it, I have decided to run the Chicago Marathon in October 2018 – which most likely will be the last marathon I run. The training and pounding on the body is pretty intense and I want this body to last me for another 47 or so years. This will be a special marathon for me also because I am running to raise money for Alzheimers Research. I will talk more about that later, but I am happy to putting my body and money where my mouth is in supporting causes I believe in – this year I will be more about action than discussion when it involves issues that I value and support (or reversely, actions where I want to show my disapproval).

Finally, because I understand that there is more to health than being strong and fit. I will share with you my attempts to stay healthy with nutrition and my increasing comprehension that whole foods are so important; the value I am placing on the environment and how my food is grown and raised – that I need to look twice at everything I am putting in my body, my family’s body, on my skin and in my home. I have learned a lot this past year and I am continuing to learn about the importance of healthy whole, non-chemical foods.

OK, rant over. 2018 is just beginning! If you are someone that lives in the Northern VA area and is interested in being part of my photo journey this year, or who just wants to be photographed by someone who will take your portrait as you wish (from glamorous to natural, to highlight your physical achievements, or just for fun) you can contact me at info@melissamaillett.com or 703-850-7212.

 

 

What I remember about Mom

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As I have a rare moment this Mother’s day morning to sit and peruse my facebook feed, I am happy to see so many posts about and pictures of friends with their mothers – and  I am startled to realize that it’s been 10 years that I haven’t had mine around me. I am startled not because it’s been so empty without her for those years, but because I know she has been with me these 10 years.

For better or for worse, my mother has imprinted into my being and has made me who I am today. Whether it’s that second thought given when I start to throw away a plate of half-eaten food, or my utter repulsion when passing a fast food restaurant, I am the result of her labor  – in more ways than one.

Although I may do some things to prove I am different, from a different generation and have a mind of my own, when my husband tells me I’m just like my mother, I don’t always take it as an insult.

I chose for this Mothers Day to dwell on what I remember about my mother versus how much I miss her.

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This is what comes to mind:

Clean houses are overrated. Especially if it takes time to away from doing something more fun with your kids, like collecting shells at the beach and painting them on the patio, decorating Ukranian Easter Eggs, teaching them how to hook a rug or hand-sew bedspreads for dollhouses.

Handknit sweaters and mittens and socks are cozier than store-bought. But when it comes to down jackets and prom dresses, maybe it’s better to go to the store.

There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh-brewed coffee in the morning.

Meat “continues to cook after you take it away from the heat”

A few pieces of classic jewelry is more classy than revolving costume jewelry and more opulent items. I think she wore her little gold hoop earrings for over 60 years.

Always know where your food comes from. As one of the first natural or co-op food consumers, I remember flexing my muscles as I stirred the stiff, natural peanut butter on rock-hard whole wheat bread, while sneaking Fritos and bologna sandwiches on white bread at my friends’ houses.

Too much screen time is not healthy.  My brother and I were deprived of many of the 70s TV shows and limited to ONE show a week! And you can always tell if your kids were watching TV while you’re gone by putting your hand on the back of the TV to see if it is hot.

Hiking and getting outdoors is good for the spirit and the body. She gave me my first pair of hiking boots and I never went back to spending Sundays on the couch.

Even if you don’t believe in a specific God (or any God) you should still live by the golden rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. It’s that simple.

Always have at least one pet in the house.

You don’t need to go for the highest salary or job to be happy. Simply choose to want less and value your time not your money.

Most items of clothing, if you hold on to them long enough – will come back in style. And if it is LL Bean or Brooks Brothers purchased in the 60s or 70s, may have some “vintage” value and coveted by the younger generations.

Find a creative outlet (or many). For mom it was sewing, knitting, weaving, quilting, hand-dying fabric, spinning, beading…the list goes on and on. I guess for me it’s photography – although I still hopefully hold on to her looms, knitting needles, sewing machines and spinning wheels (yes, multiple ones) I still go for the camera.

A cancer diagnosis does not mean you should stop living. Try to enjoy and value every day you have. My kids were shocked to learn that their grandma had cancer for most of the time they knew her.  They remember instead the blueberries they picked, the picnics they went on, the beaches they walked, the games they played, the reading of books….and the unboundless love.

And that’s what I remember as well.  I love you Mom.

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How Do I Break it To the Dog: A Goodbye to Elementary School….

For 12 years, I’ve known that although I can do a quick run with friends early in the morning or maybe sit down and edit some photos or respond to emails, my day doesn’t really become my own until 9:15am when all kids are off to school.
The daily routine of “the walk” begins around 9am, when Misty comes to me as I am intently working on the computer (or scrolling through Facebook) and patiently sits in front of me to remind me that we need to leave now or we’ll be late and that we MUST not leave her behind.
We’ve walked in sunshine, in rain, in wind that blew school papers and made us walk backwards. We’ve walked in snow, jumping over ice patches, and in through tunnels of sidewalk after some of the major blizzards.  I’ve been dressed for meetings, dressed in yoga clothes, or running clothes, or making a pathetic attempt to hide the fact that I was still wearing what I wore to bed.  In every state of preparedness for the walk, we’ve become a regular fixture, with cars beeping and people waving (I recognize most of whom wave and beep, but wave no matter what, because I know I know them!)  Sometimes, a friend will pull over and we will catch up on our lives and I feel connected to the great community my kids are growing up in.
There is no reason that my youngest, who is 12 years old, couldn’t walk to school by himself, but I’ve walked with him because my dog insists on it.  And because she’s so good at that pathetic stare, he doesn’t argue or act too “cool” to walk with mom.  It’s even therapeutic, if the morning didn’t go so well, he has the dog to run with and play with for a few blocks, to settle himself down and be the last contact of home before a day of school.  Chase, himself has done the walk since birth, being born when my oldest was in kindergarten, he was carried, pushed in a stroller, and then toddled along with me until he was old enough to actually step into the building.
The routine ends this week, as my youngest graduates from 6th grade and my life of elementary school ends.  It’s sad for me – even gaining an extra hour of quiet, empty house every morning.
I’ll be OK, more time to devote to my photography business, but I do feel sad for Misty.  It’s hard to break such an established routine.  So, if you see a golden retriever walking herself the few blocks to school, you’ll know why.

 

Photos With Fathers

In celebration of Fathers Day, I thought I’d post some cute photos of dads and kids I’ve photographed throughout the years.  Yay for Dads posing with their kids!  You both will treasure these some day….

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And here’s some of my personal favorites (fathers that is):

my own dad….

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and my wonderful husband (and great Dad)…
Happy Fathers Day!

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