Beauty Musings 03.23.11

As I’ve been contemplating a lot of things these past few weeks, nothing makes you stop in your tracks like finding out that an icon has passed away.

Elizabeth Taylor.  Her violet eyes, her sex kitten ways, her marriages, her divorces, her diamonds, and her legendary walk through the hearts of many…she is the embodiment of a woman who lived a long and incredible life.

Dame Elizabeth, at 79 years old, was even on Twitter.  Here are some of the classic lessons she tweeted to her followers:

You are who you are. All you can do in this world is help others to be who they are and better themselves and those around them.

Give. Remember always to give. That is the thing that will make you grow.

That is the thing that will give back to you all the rewards that there are. Don’t do it for yourself, because then it becomes selfish.

Because then it becomes about yourself…which is wrong. Giving is to give to God. Helping is to help others.

Every breath you take today should be with someone else in mind. I love you.

No one is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself.

Not at least until I’m dead, and at the moment I’m having too much fun being alive…and I plan on staying that way. Happiness to all.

One of the most amazing films I ever saw was “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”  She was just unbelievable in that film.  I turned the movie off after the film was over and just thought…”WOW!” Her performance literally took my breath away.

I wanted to get violet contacts because of her…but as we all know…no one has violet eyes except Elizabeth Taylor.  And who does Elizabeth Taylor best?  Only Elizabeth Taylor can.

She married one of my favorite actors…Richard Burton…not once, but twice.  She was a woman that loved passionately, was loved by many, gave her heart to many, and lived as happily as she could all the days of her life.

For many women, she was the ideal woman.  She was the icon we looked up to.  Her beauty, no matter what her age, lived on.  Her work and her life, her intelligence to create beauty (White Diamonds fragrances) for every woman in the world…she was the embodiment of a successful woman.

She lived a great life…and it’s that great life we think upon as we say goodbye to a legend.  Gone, but never forgotten.

For me, Elizabeth Taylor was an inspiration.  Her passions in life made her a success.  The great lessons in life she tweeted at the end of her life are all lessons that you’ll find here in this blog.  At the age of 78 and 79, she was passing on that wisdom of how to have an amazing life.

Those are things I try to pass along to everyone I meet. 

I have a friend who told me once that just being in my presence made him want to be a better person.  He went from having a bad cocaine habit to being drug free, finding his new love in NA, and losing a lot of weight.  He thanked me for the reason he changed.  I told him, “But I did nothing.  You did it all.” 

He said, “You don’t understand…you inspired me to become a better man.” 

We are the masters of our own fates.  We have a choice to get involved in the dramas of the world, or to create a life filled with happiness.  There are many people that believe that ‘shit happens.’  They don’t realize that even though life is filled with surprises, we are our own masters of our destiny.  We are the ones in control of everything that happens in our lives.  That includes, how we react to those little surprises.  We can look at things in a good, positive light, or look at it through the eyes of negativity.  How we look at life and how we approach it is exactly the kind of life we deserve.

God never gives us burdens that are too heavy to carry.  He gives us just enough to help us grow.  There are lessons in every burden we carry.  They’re all designed to make us into better human beings.  The heavier the load, the greater the lesson, the greater we become.

I’ve noticed over recent years (since I started attending the Meditation Center), just how out of balance people really are.  When people describe me, they usually use the word ‘calm.’  I had never thought of myself as calm, but standing in front of Penn Station this morning, looking out across the street at the other pedestrians, I realized that I was the only calm person standing there. 

One man was so frazzled.  He was shaking his head, cursing at himself at how horrible things were in his life.  A woman across the way was running through the lists of things she needed to do today before work, during lunch, after work, and the shopping list was running through her head. 

And I was the only one at peace and in a complete state of calm listening to the minds of New Yorkers.  I preferred to be in that calm and peaceful state over what was happening in everyone else’s minds…worries, fears, pain, drama, stress…

It takes a lot of practice to find that place of peace and calm inside your soul.  Once you find it, you hold onto it because you remember what it was like to be stressed out, worried all of the time, and frazzled.

That was me before I found the Meditation Center.  People that are in that state of stress and worry have a hard time letting it go.  They want peace, but don’t know how to find it.

If you want peace, you have to let go of the stress and worry.  I mean letting go of it all in its entirety.  In a class I took on letting go of worries, the teacher asked the simple question: how does worrying about the situation help you? 

Worrying helps nothing.  It only aggravates the situation.  If you truly feel worry, just say a silent prayer, hand it over to God, think good thoughts and say within your soul that everything is going to be alright.  Worrying does not help you.  What helps you is thinking that all is well and is going to be well.  That’s like putting good wishes out into the world that all really will be well.

Once you know what it’s like to let go of it all, you realize that you can control the situation peacefully without getting stressed out over everything.

Over the years, cancer has taught me to listen to my body.  It has taught me the importance of not carrying too much burden.  It has taught me to rest the second my body demands it.  If I don’t, things could get worse. 

It has also taught me that worries and stress will only make the situation worse.  Thinking positively will only see me through the next second, the next hour, the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year, the next decade…  And no matter what happens, I am content that all will be alright.

Some people are always on the go…thinking a mile a minute of all of the things they need to do in a short amount of time.  I used to be that way.  I sometimes get caught up in that stuff…but then I realize that I can take control of the situation and take the time to simplify what needs to be done and what can wait.  It’s called prioritizing.

The number one thing that always takes priority in my life is how my body is doing and reacting to the world around me.  If I feel an overwhelming sense of fatigue, then I have to rest.  Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough that people around me sense it when it happens and offers me a seat.  That, to me, is an angel talking to someone nearby telling them…offer her a seat. 

When that extreme fatigue hits, all of the other stuff that I have to do…can wait.  None of it matters at that very moment.  I can’t do any of those things when the body has hit a stop sign.  I would be doing myself serious harm if I continued as if there was no fatigue.

What’s more important…the to do list or me?  That’s something you have to ask yourself.

Thanks to the internet and the local businesses in my neighborhood, they have helped me to simplify my life dramatically.  A lot of things that I need to do can all be done online.  Local businesses have been great about coming to my aid and helping simplify the things I need to do. Groceries can be ordered online and they’ll deliver it directly to my door (yes, they ask if it should be taken upstairs because they know sometimes I can’t physically carry the heavy stuff).  Clothing can be ordered online and delivered directly to my door (thank you UPS, FedEx and my local USPS guy/gal). 

I can comparison shop online and still find the best deals.  I can read up on financial news, manage my stocks and banking accounts online.  I can even find new recipes online for the ingredients I have in-house. 

Since I was hit with the news the second time that the cancer returned, I have done everything to simplify my life and take out every single piece of stress in my life.  I’ve simplified my life in so many ways. 

Even though we have simpler ways of doing things with fast food and express checkouts, we still have too much to do and so little time to do it in.  Why is that?

Why are moms going haywire to be supermoms?  They take their kids ADD medicine just so they can do all of the regular mom stuff, bake 100 cupcakes, have their costumes made from scratch, meet with the PTA, head to all of the after school activities, cheer their kids on, and blah blah blah and blah blah blah and blah blah blah.

Seriously…my mom didn’t do all of that stuff.

We rented our costumes for the school play.  The glee club raised money to buy their uniforms.  I found rides to practices and rides home.  We did the stuff we had to do…but she didn’t have to bake 100 cupcakes.  If anyone did the baking for the church bake sale…that responsibility came to me. 

I informed my mother what she had to do, which was normally just telling her what I needed (as far as money or supplies went), what my schedule was, and where I was going to be.  That went the same for my brother. 

She wasn’t trying to be a supermom.  She was trying to raise a family and prayed that it would all work out well somehow. 

Why bake 100 cupcakes when you can just buy them?  Why make all of the costumes from scratch when you can rent them?  Why not carpool?  Better yet, give that 16 year old a beat up car (that they worked hard to get) so they can drive themselves to practices/rehearsals…along with their friends.  I say that friends part, because if it weren’t for friends picking me up to go to rehearsals and practices, my parents would have it rough…including me.

A family works around each other.  They help each other out.  Each one has demands…you work together to take on some of the responsibility to make it work.  A parent should not shoulder all of the responsibilities upon themselves.  Teach the kids responsibility.  Don’t let them think you have all of the time in the world to be supermom/dad.  You’re not supermom/dad.  No one can be unless they have a village to help them out.

That’s the thing about worry and stress…you don’t have to do it all.  You don’t have to put yourself at the top and take on all of the burden and workload.  People take advantage of those people. 

You can care about your family, but caring doesn’t mean worrying.  When you worry, bad things happen.  When you are at peace, only good things happen. 

It’s a hard concept for the majority of the world to believe in, but I’ve put it into practice and it’s worked for me.  Apparently, it worked for Elizabeth Taylor too.

Sure, I have lists of things I need to do, things I need to buy…shopping lists, budgets, bills to pay, errands to run, etc.  I never look at it as everything has to happen in this very second.  I look at it as things I need to do over the course of a month.  Bills…on the calendar according to the date and how much is owed.  I could automatically do it, but I feel better pressing the “SUBMIT” button online to pay the bills (takes a total of 5 minutes a month to pay all of my bills).   

Chores around the house…divided up according to the day.  I cook all of my meals for the week on the weekend, put them in glass containers (I don’t like plastic), and it keeps me from dining out during the week.

I usually work late and when I get home, I don’t want to cook because it will be 9PM by the time I sit down and eat.  Instead, I make at least 4 different kinds of meals (they have to be tasty or forget the whole ideal), which can be changed into different kinds of meals in case I feel like eating something different during the week.

That means I’ve saved over 2.5 hours by making a pot of oatmeal on Sunday for the week (because Irish Steel Cut Oats takes about 1/2 an hour to make).  I’ve saved an additional 2.5-4 hours in the evening by warming up a meal that was cooked up over the weekend (soup, curry, tikka masala, pasta, casserole, chicken and rice…).  There are ways you can reinvent every meal to be something different the next time you eat it.  If you don’t, trust me…you’ll get bored!

The plus side of doing this is that it has saved me over $100 a week (for just breakfast/lunch alone) and another $100 (for dinner), by cooking all of my meals for the week on the weekend.  Yearly cost savings: $10,400.

That’s like a down payment on a home.

Taking my meals to work has been a good thing for me because I prefer to eat clean.  That means I can maximize the types of food I can eat at home and at work, instead of paying extra for a clean restaurant to make my meals for me.  [Clean eating is eating organic foods that have no chemicals and none of that bad stuff that is bad for your body…like sugar and processed foods.]

What I’ve also changed recently is going to the grocery store on a weekly basis, rather than once every three months.  My grocery bill (at the finer food stores) has gone from $80-90 to $40.  How?  Because I’ve been picking up some of my ingredients at Target.

My local Target has added on a grocery section in their store.  They not only have the run of the mill supermarket foods, but they also have a lot of organic products.  Since I know I can get a lot of the staple items like eggs and organic milk from Target at half the price of the finer food stores, it saves me a bundle.  All that’s left to buy at the finer food stores is the organic chicken and the organic fruits and vegetables. 

Since I’ve been saving a bundle at the finer food stores, that means I can pick up a little something more extravagant like the good goat’s cheese or olives from the olive bar (I highly recommend picking up some olives at the olive bar…make sure to choose the ones soaking in olive oil; add some olives to the container, but load up on the olive oil…the olive oil is much tastier for dipping bread than the expensive run of the mill olive oil.  Trust me, it’s heavenly.)

I love saving money…and I also love to cook.  So these two passions makes my kitchen the most loved place in my entire home. 

Kind of strange, right?  I mean…I have the Lap-Band and it’s supposed to make me not eat, right?  Well…that’s very true, but I use it more as a ‘portion control’ method.  If I let the Lap-Band do what it wanted, I’d be in the hospital.  If I make it bend to what it really should be doing (monitoring portion sizes), then I win.

What I’ve learned over these past few years is that my body is very sensitive to toxins.  I was forced to re-learn how to eat and what kinds of foods I can eat.  Luckily for me, if it’s bad for me (processed crap), it’s not going to go down.  Bread…carbs…not my friend.  If you think about how the bad stuff is no longer your friend because you’ll be in severe pain if you eat it…technically, it’s a damn good diet because it keeps your brain from craving all of the bad stuff.

Trust me, walking by Zaro’s in Penn Station in the morning always makes me crave bread.  Then I immediately think of how that feels in my body…instant trigger to think…NO WAY would I eat a bagel.  The pain (sometimes followed by vomiting) is not worth it. [Bread…can’t be processed.  Has to be fresh, dipped in a lot of oil so that it won’t be problematic.]

That’s what I’m talking about when I say ‘re-learning’ how to eat. 

The first year after getting the Lap-Band, I had to test the body out and see what I could eat.  I came up with new recipes (all healthy) and ways to sneak in fruits and vegetables (took 2 years for the body to allow fruits/vegetables in).  Now, I can eat carrots with no problems, watermelon is put in the blender (becomes basically watermelon water), asparagus is my new best friend, and I crave green beans like a mad woman.  [I’m still working on the whole mango thing…the body likes it shredded, not sliced.] 

I had to figure out ways to create new recipes for this lifetime diet.  My mother always said that it’s one thing if you can cook, quite another if you can invent recipes.  That is the difference between a cook and a master chef.  A master can invent new things…and be damn good at it.  Just ask my dad.  He once said that I was a better cook than my Mom…pissed her off like you wouldn’t believe.

He’s been trying to duplicate my recipes ever since.  He still can’t get it right. 

But since my mom is a great cook too…she always likes to learn new recipes.  She could never get my brother to eat sweet potatoes.  Then she tried my recipe…he can’t stop eating them. 

I was invited to a former New York Islander’s home for Thanksgiving the second year I was in NYC.  I made my famous sweet potatoes (with a new twist).  I didn’t say that I made it.  I just sat there and listened to everyone exclaim that this was the best thing on the table.  That was when I ‘fessed up and said that I had made it.  Who would have thought that ginger, garlic and sweet potatoes would go so well together?   

When you’re doing something that you love, enjoying every second of it, that chore isn’t a chore anymore. I find that the time and money I’ve saved by making all of my meals (from scratch) on the weekends has been a win/win in so many ways.

I now have more money to put towards other things (like savings) and that new pair of white jeans from the Gap I keep seeing in every friggin fashion magazine these days.

All of the time I’ve saved can go towards doing something more relaxing when I get home, like read another 50 pages in Rick Riordan’s latest book, or re-organize my closet (because you know…spring is kind of here and the spring wardrobe needs to be brought out), or flip through the pages of the latest magazine that just came in…basically…I have more time to relax and have some time for myself.  How many people can say they’ve done that for themselves?  Not too many…because they are stressed out and worried all of the time about all of the things they need to do in the little time they have to do it in.

Do yourself a favor…quit making life so hard on yourself.  Make it easier on yourself.  Enlist help where you need it.  Spread your schedule out visually (I use a monthly calendar to visually see everything).  Take notes on things you need to do and don’t stress out when you can’t get it all done today.  Approach what needs to be done on a daily, weekly and monthly schedule.

Take advantage of the internet…order your groceries online and schedule a time to have them delivered to you (or a time when you can pick it up).  You could probably order all of the groceries during little Jimmy’s soccer practice, and then arrange to pick them up after little Sarah’s ballet practice the next day.  That saves on the time of going through the market, the kids going nutso because they want their favorite cereal, and it will save you money in the long run because you’re not buying things you don’t need while you’re at the store.

Just save the real grocery runs for the small stuff you need and can’t get online.

Most people in the big city drop their laundry off at the laundromat and pay by the pound to have their laundry done.  Saves you 2-3 hours at the laundromat and all that time you would spend folding everything (as my friend says…they do a much better job at folding everything so neatly than she can do herself).  It’s only a few dollars more for the service than what you would do spending 2-3 hours on the laundry yourself.

That is also one less chore you have to do.

There are so many people out there that feel like they have millions of things to do and not enough time to do it in.  Try delegating all of that responsibility out.  Not only does it help local businesses, but it also helps you and your family.  Have the kids help out.  Let them take some responsibility for the things that need to be done.  Let the village help you and your family.  Don’t take on all of the burden yourself.  You can help the village, and the village can help you.

Who knows, you may even have time for that bubble bath…

About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth is the voice behind