Category Archives: Turning 50

The BRAVE Interview #14 September 2017: Sylvia Wesley

Here is this month’s BRAVE Interview with Sylvia Wesley! Enjoy!

  1. WHO are you? I’m a 61-year-old white woman—wife, mother, nurse, and pseudo-bon vivant!
  2. WHAT is your One Brave Thing? Sometimes I feel like just living every day is a Brave Thing and it is difficult to choose a single event!  As a nurse, it seems like so many of my ‘brave things’ encompass caring for people—my dad and my brother, who both died of cancer; my mom with multiple surgeries; friends with HIV/AIDS.  As a mom I gave birth to twins who were 10 weeks premature and their first 6 months of life was pretty hectic, to put it mildly.  As a wife, still being married after 38 years could be considered brave—but probably the bravest aspect there is that I married a black man in 1979, only 12 years after the Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage was not illegal, and our early years involved some struggles in a very white New England. So, after all that, I decided to choose a joyous adventure as my One Brave Thing—I went to Burning Man!
  3. WHEN did you do it? 8/28-9/1, 2006
  4. WHERE did it occur? Black Rock Desert, NV
  5. HOW did you make it happen? Mostly my daughter made the initial experience happen.  She had been going to Burning Man for a few years and always marveled at how awesome it was and she was sure I would love it.  So for my 50th birthday, I was given a ticket to TTITD (aka ‘that thing in the desert’).  Which meant I would be sharing camping space with 38,000+ other adventuring nomads for a week in rather hostile environmental conditions, and only knowing one other person.  A little scary having to be self-reliant in an unknown situation, camping with my daughter’s friends who only had her assurances that I was ‘fun, non-judgmental, fully capable of taking care of myself, and would not act like everybody’s mother.’  So I packed my bags and flew to LA.  We readied all our camping equipment, some party outfits, food and water for a week, and did a 12 hour ride/drive-share to the event with a heretofore unknown person.  After 12+ hours, in a very small mini-van, we were all fast friends.  Getting to and from is just as much of an adventure as being there!
  6. WHY did you do it? For the adventure!  It was one of the best experiences of my life—the bigger-than-life art, the music, the people, the sense of oneness—all magnificent.  I came away with a whole new sense of self.  And as my daughter predicted, I would want to go every year after that, and did so for the next 7 years.  ‘Life’ has since interrupted my annual trek, and I have not been for the past 3 years, but look forward to resuming visits to my personal Mecca in the near future.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Sylvia!

If anybody wants to learn more about the culture that is Burning Man, go to

Read the other BRAVE interviews here:

If you would like to be interviewed for this series about something brave you have done in your life, email me at!


Coming full circle (and announcing a free class!)

When I was in elementary school, I was in a new school every year.

Every. Single. Year.

No, my parents weren’t in the military. My father was disabled, and when money got tight, we got moving.

Kindergarten: The Hancock in Medford. First grade and half of second: The Emerson in Malden. Last half of second grade and third: The Parker in Billerica. Fourth: The Hajjar in Billerica. Fifth: The Davenport in Medford.

Maybe you noticed that Billerica is up there twice in a row. We actually didn’t move that year, but as luck would have it, the town built a new elementary school to accommodate its growing population and (you guess it) I was zoned to move to the new school.

Oh, happy day.

Moving can be hard for anyone at any age, and I was no exception. Every time I made a friend, we moved, and I had to begin all over again. As I got older, it seemed as if everyone was already paired up with a best friend, and had been forever. I always felt like the odd girl out. Like I didn’t belong.

And then something wonderful happened. I discovered my BFF’s in books!

Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking were among the first and are still my friends today.

Of course, Judy Blume’s books were part of my life back then, and the one that immediately comes to my mind when I think of that time is this one: Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how reading books can help us find meaning and insight into our lives. Even in fiction–maybe especially in fiction–it’s the story we connect with, and how it resonates for us in our real lives, and through which we can find comfort and clarity.

The phrase, “Go back to go forward” popped into my head not too long ago, and it kept popping in, over and over, so I thought, hey, I have to do something with this.

About the same time, Margaret was also intruding on my thoughts

Pretty much everyone I know that is past puberty has read the Margaret book. Maybe because I have been re-reading other books lately that impacted me, it occurred to me that it might be very interesting to re-read this particular book now. Maybe that’s why it was so persistently intruding in my thoughts. It wanted me to read it again!

And then I had another thought: maybe other women would also enjoy this.
And my free mini-course idea was born!

You can join the Facebook group now to get notified when the free course is available. As of now, I expect it to be ready on the Tuesday before Labor Day (August 29, 2017). Once it’s live, this link should work to sign up for my free mini-course, GO BACK TO GO FORWARD! 

Feel free to share this with anyone else who has read this book and might enjoy coming with me on my learning curve to take this free course!

An old dog, a new (cheap) trick (part one)

Cheap TrickYou know how they say that your tastes change as you get older? I have found this to be true in my own life.

  1. I never liked cheese on my pizza. When I was little, maybe 4 or 5 years old, my parents used to scrape it off (and onto their own slices, I imagine) and tell me that they got some cheese-less pizza, “special” for me.  That changed by the time I got to high school, when I ordered my pizza with ‘extra cheese’, just like everyone else.
  2. I never liked seafood. With the exception of canned tuna (white, tuna, in water), and the odd clam strip filched from Dad’s plate once a year when we ate out at HoJo’s, nary a fish crossed my plate…for years. I didn’t start eating (fried only) seafood until I moved to Maine because, you know, it’s the law.
  3. Melted American cheese. No, wait, I still hate that.

To approach this from the standpoint of musical tastes, I also have undergone a transformation. Back in the day, I liked The Cars. The Motels. Face to Face. Fleetwood Mac. Still do.

I didn’t like Kiss. Def Leppard. Guns N’ Roses.  Headbanger music is what I called it.  Poison. Motley Crew…and Cheap Trick. As my grandmother would say, I ‘had no use for them’.

Then I met my husband. The first time I got in his jeep and heard what he was listening to on the radio, I knew that we had, um, widely different tastes in music. I was a Kiss 108 kind of girl. He was an FNX (listen to it? I’d never even heard of it) kind of guy.

We met in the middle with John Mellencamp and Bon Jovi and made the best of it. I didn’t make him listen to my music and he didn’t make me listen to his.

Then Cheap Trick (did I mention that’s my husband’s favorite band?) came to town.

(to be continued…)


daffodils 2013I am not exactly sure if  ‘metamorphing’ is the correct word; maybe ‘morphing’ would suffice. I only know that this year of being 50 has been much different from what I expected. My forties were a decade of furiosity, including but not limited to: furious writing, reading, cooking, baking, yoga-ing (walking, hula-hooping, Wii-dancing and other activities of the exercise type), short day tripping, collecting, shopping, scrapbooking, ‘friend’-ing, gardening, fighting (for FAPE), class-taking, picture-taking, meetings (with friends), working…and of course, wifing and mothering. I expected that my fifties would be more of the same, a sort of continuation of the frenetic activities that defined my forties.

No frikkin’ way.

So far, it’s been very different. In fact, it’s like my life as I knew it screeched to a halt when I turned 50. I feel, well, bewildered by it all. I feel encumbered. I don’t feel like ‘do’-ing much of anything (may I just mention here that I have 184 unopened emails, last count?). Mostly, I just want to, well, ‘be here now’.

You know, sitting on the couch with my husband and watch Survivor or Bigfoot or FoodTV with my daughter, sitting in my car and staring at the ocean, appreciating the view of flowers (planted for me by my husband) from my front door…things like that.

I still don’t feel like doing housework though; isn’t it comforting to know that some things never change?

50: The year I got old

I was thinking about how I have been in a funk these past several weeks, when I realized, no, it’s actually been several months now that I’ve been feeling this way.  I realized what is partly affecting kneemy mood and my decisions is this: I feel old.

  1. My skin looks old.
  2. All of my joints hurt all the time so I don’t want to exercise.
  3. If I do exercise, all my muscles hurt the next day.
  4. My bowel pattern is a constant concern.
  5. No matter what time I go to bed, or how late I sleep in the morning, I’m still tired all the time.
  6. I don’t want to do any work anymore.
  7. I don’t want to eat “healthy” anymore. I want cappuccino whoopie pies and DQ blizzards and apple crisps and Peanut M+M’s every frikkin’ day.
  8. I don’t even want to read anymore because my expensively, progressively, trifocally, Transitions vision sucks.

How’s that for pathetic? After I read my list it dawned on me: I’m depressed. SAD probably, since this is the longest, coldest, snowiest winter in the last, what, million years.

My daughter was reading this over my shoulder without my knowledge as I was writing it. A little while later she said,

She: “Mom, it’s not true.”

Me: “What’s not true?”

She: “That stuff you were writing; it’s not true.”

My daughter: yep, think I’ll keep her.

Choose happiness

happiness jarI read about Liz Gilbert’s Happiness Jar idea last year when I was turning 50. I thought it was a great idea. I thought I would do it.

I did not do it.

Today, I was thinking about how I used to get on the scale every day, so I could nip any pesky post-Weight Watcher’s weight gain in the bud. I was thinking about it because my friend revealed her current weight to me yesterday and I realized that I had no idea what I weighed any more since I had no idea when I had braved the scale last.

I braved it this morning.

I immediately wished I hadn’t.

I started thinking that I should go back to eating in a healthier way, so I had some Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (okay, okay, full disclosure: à la mode) for breakfast. Then I recalled the Cappuccino Whoopie Pie that I had for a snack last night, and the piece of chocolate fudge from Divine Chocolate I treated myself to earlier in the day.

I love chocolate. 🙂

Then, when I was putting my finished pie dish into the sink, I spied the jar that I used to keep chocolate in (before I ate it all) which was now empty, languishing on the kitchen counter, waiting to be useful again.

The twain met.

My former (pre-weight gain) chocolate jar could be my new happiness jar!

Then I remembered that I still have a little piece of that fudge left.fudge divine chocolate

The first entry into my 2013 Happiness Jar is this: Chocolate fudge made me happy today.


Best_Year_hardcoverI remember getting to the end of 2011 and thinking “What an awful year this has been,” and hoping 2012 would be better. Fast forward one year: I remember getting to the end of 2012 and thinking, “What an awful year this has been,” and hoping 2013 would be better.

I’m sensing a pattern here, people.

So, when I saw this online course on The Daily Om’s websiteThe Best Year of Your Life by Debbie Ford, of course my interest was immediately piqued. Then I thought, “What if this year, instead of just hoping that it would be a better year (reference the definition of insanity), I took some active, conscious steps to try to make it happen?

What this course has going for it:

  1. It’s online. No hauling my sorry ass out of the house in -1 degree weather to get to it.
  2. It’s relatively cheap: $21 for the year.
  3. No stupid, exorbitant, deal-breaking shipping and handling charges are tacked on at the end.
  4. It’s structured. I like structure.

I am not sure if I’m going to sign up for this course or not, but I’m leaning toward it at the moment. Debbie Ford has written a book with a similar title The Best Year of Your Life: Dream It, Plan It, Live It (2005), but so often I buy books then put them in the to read pile, where the languish indefinitely. It might be 2014 before I find it again, and then 2013 might end the way 2011 and 2012 did.

What good would that be?