Love + Family = Oxygen

I love love. And I love weddings. Last Saturday, my sister Rachel got married, and I was able to be there, in the beautiful vineyard Domaine du Daley, a place of UNESCO-protected vineyards (in Switzerland, after a government-mandated 10-day quarantine). 

In true pandemic fashion, this was a small affair, everything took place outside, and personalized masks were the party favor. 

In true Rachel and Bernard fashion, this was an emotional scene. My husband called it a “tear-jerker wedding.” The best man commented at the reception after a particularly moving speech “Well, it’s time for tears again – I haven’t cried in about 10 minutes.” 

Maybe it’s because there has not been much to celebrate in the past few months. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t been home with my family in eight months (a first in my life, one I wish not to repeat). Maybe it’s because of how my brother-in-law Bernard looks at Rachel. Regardless of the why, this wedding touched my soul more deeply than anticipated. 

It reminded me of the power of love, of everything that is shared between two soulmates that does not require words. A look. A kiss. A smile. A squeezing of the hand. The intimacy and team feel of a couple in love. It also reminded me that love is as essential to my well-being as the air I breathe. 

It reminded me of the importance of family. Family defined as those whom you love and for whom you will always be there. Those whose welfare you put above your own. Rachel has a daughter Sasha (Bernard is not her father). Bernard has two daughters Clara and Margaux (Rachel is not their mother). These three beautiful, strong, young women are sisters. My parents are divorced, yet as their speech to the newlyweds indicated, they are family. 

This weekend reminded me that family transcends law and biology. And that love does sometimes need to be celebrated in front of an audience.

Sisters = Antioxidants

An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules, minimizing the production of free radicals, and thus protecting cells. Antioxidants = anti-aging, antioxidants both prevent and correct signs of (skin) aging. They are at the core of my skin care brand, Alchimie Forever. We use both plant antioxidants (such as blueberries, rosemary, red clover), and synthetic antioxidants (such as vitamin E, vitamin C). We always combine antioxidants in our formulations, because they have synergies. Some prevent the formation of free radicals, some neutralize existing antioxidants, some protect and potentiate other antioxidants. Indeed, in the world of antioxidants, 1+1 = 3, 3+3 = 10, and so on. This is the power of synergy. This is the power of the whole being greater than the parts. 

Over the past ten days, I have realized that sisters are like antioxidants. In the world of sisters, 1+1+1+1 is not equal to 4. Instead, 1+1+1+1 = 10. Or more. Or infinity. We, together, the four Polla sisters, are greater together than our individual parts. We are stronger together. We are smarter together. We are funnier together. We bring out the best in each other. We protect each other. Antioxidants work to prevent and correct signs of skin aging. When we are together, we prevent and correct signs of (our) life aging. I feel more youthful, more childlike than I have all year. (And my first Botox of 2020 is not until tomorrow). 

Merci mes soeurs.

Back in Quarantine

My sister Rachel is getting married next Saturday, July 25th, and I can’t imagine not being with her on that magical day. So here I am, on my third COVID-19 quarantine. Like much of the US may be feeling (closed bars, moving “back” to Phase 1), this quarantine feels like I have taken a step backward. I am not allowed to leave “my house” except for an emergency medical reason. No walks. No runs. No grocery store trips. 

Quarantine feels different in different cities. In DC, it felt like being undercover in the center of a quiet city full of possibility. In Hammond, it felt like a country retreat. In Geneva, quarantine feels “real,” particularly after the lovely yet stern conversation I had on Monday with the Canton of Geneva representative. I had to confirm my physical address, and together we counted the days until end of quarantine (just to make sure our math was on the same page). 

I am a planner, and I had a plan for this quarantine. 

  • Live in a neutral ground AirBNB with outdoor space (The Hamlet, which is family-run, is exceeding all of my expectations) 
  • Stay on US schedule (sleep in, work late) 
  • Have socially distant meetings on the terrace with my family and Swiss colleagues 
  • Spend morning hours (before the US wakes up) on creative thinking 
  • “Do Zoom” per usual 
  • Be open to what 24/7 with my husband would teach me (different from our previous quarantines, which involved space on different floors, versus sharing 700sq ft)  
  • Eat healthy 
  • Don’t drink too much 

My plan is working, other than the creative thinking, which as has been the case throughout this pandemic, is harder than it has ever been. 

I have also already learned a few things that I did not expect. 

  • I love being in Geneva “in my house.” I know this is not my house, and, I am not in a hotel and not at any other person’s home. This has never before happened in my life, and it is quite lovely.  
  • Birds help me stay sane. I feel like I am living in a tree house, with the wall to wall windows open (thank you Geneva July weather) and a constant chirping concerto, allegro at dawn, adagio at dusk. 
  • I think about leaving “the house” more than I would if I were not prohibited from doing it. (I guess like a child thinks about doing the things her parents have told her are forbidden). 
  • Smood is the most dangerous food delivery app I have come across. I can order McDonald’s (which I will not). I can order Lake Geneva perch and steak tartare from the neighborhood restaurant (which I have). There is an unlimited wine selection. And groceries from Migros are available. 

This time in Geneva brings home what I love. Not seeing my family for seven months was painful (it felt like losing part of myself). Home is laughing with my sisters and hugging my Mom (who is immune to COVID-19).

 

Up In The Air

On Monday this week I boarded a plane for the first time since March 13th

As someone who pre COVID-19 traveled about 125,000 miles per year, the last three-plus months have been strange for many reasons, including because all plane travel in my life came to a complete halt. I have had many conversations with myself about how much I have missed flying, I have loved and reposted travel memes about “walking down the aisle again,” and have told anyone willing to listen about how I could not wait to get back on the road. 

Now that I have done it, however, I am not sure that is the full truth and nothing but the truth. After imagining for so long how it would be to get back on the road, here is what I learned on Monday. ( For context, I flew American Airlines, from New Orleans to Washington National, a flight leaving at 7:30 am). 

  1. If I am honest with myself, I must admit the day leading up to this flight was filled with anxiety (which I have never had about traveling, ever). Anxiety at leaving my two kittens (who have I become?!), and anxiety about the actual travel experience. Would I be safe? Would I remember what to do? 
  2. I was surprised by the number of people at the airport. I imagined it would be deserted, yet the crowd felt relatively normal for an early morning flight.
  3. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people wearing masks. I can count on one hand those who had their masks around their necks instead of in front of their faces. 
  4. The only face shields I saw were those the TSA personnel was wearing as I walked through security. I imagine this is because they ask travelers to lower their masks (to check facial features against your ID). 
  5. Few of the amazing restaurants in the new New Orleans airport were open. Emeril’s  was… and the very nice gentleman who brought me coffee (Carlos) told me that some places had not yet reopened, and some only were open 11 am to 6 pm. 
  6. I missed random conversations with strangers, such as the one with Carlos. While I am not one to have random conversations with strangers, I apparently do so at airports, and I enjoy them. 
  7. Everyone on board wore their mask and kept it on for the duration of the two-hour flight. I wore a N95 mask, and while it was uncomfortable, it made me feel safe. 
  8. The mood on the plane was definitely subdued. Lots of empty seats, everyone being very careful with their personal space, flight attendants definitely caring more for our “safety” than our “comfort” – no food or beverage service for example. 
  9. I forgot how beautiful the clouds are from 30,000 feet up in the air. And how that view helps my creative thinking. 
  10. Overall, traveling was like getting back on a bicycle. Call it muscle memory or automatic pilot… that memory kicked in the minute I walked in to the airport. Checking in. Working at the airport. Working on the plane. I didn’t have to think about it, I just did it. I am grateful for that muscle memory. 

Did I love it? No. Do I think I will be back to flying 125,000 miles per year anytime soon? No. Will I be anxious next time I fly? No. Did I feel safe? Yes. Do I miss my kittens? Yes.

July First Musings

July 1. New month. New quarter. 2nd half of 2020. 183rd day of the year, 183 days to go. Today, I choose to celebrate. celebrate. I have once and for all put to rest all of my grand 2020 plans (made pre-COVID-19), I have once and for all accepted that this current reality is indeed the new normal and will be for quite some time. Today, I choose to celebrate. 

I celebrate the first half of the year.  

  • My family and I are alive and healthy. 
  • My Mom got COVID-19 and beat it. 
  • I have spent 107 days and nights in a row with my husband and we are more in love than ever. 
  • I am still in business.  
  • I work in an industry that will never go away and that makes people not only look better, but also feel better. 
  • I did not lay off or furlough anyone on my Alchimie team. 
  • I became a cat mom. 

Today, I also choose to focus on all that I have to look forward to in the second half of 2020.  

  • My sister Rachel’s wedding (praying to the travel gods).
  • Botox at Forever Institut (praying to the travel gods).
  • A couple of weeks in Tinos, Greece (praying to the travel gods). 
  • Hamilton on Disney Plus
  • The elections. 
  • Quiet dinners at home with my husband and cat babies. 
  • Quiet dinners out in those places that are excelling at safety measures and social distancing (including Bourbon Steak and Peacock Café
  • Getting back out in the field. 
  • And, I am sure, many (hopefully good) surprises…   

 Here’s to the second half of 2020! 

Summer 2020 Reading List

I can’t say It really feels like a “normal” Summer, yet we are officially in Summer! Every year, I craft my Summer reading list thinking about reading these books at my favorite beach on my favorite Greek island. I would typically be there right now… but then again, this year is a little bit different than most. Nonetheless, I am excited to read these books before Fall is upon us. 

I have writer friends, including the witty, funny, and glamorous Karin Tanabe. I finished her latest book, A Hundred Suns, this past weekend as the Summer Solstice was upon us. I could not put it down. 

Possibly the opposite of a “summer read,” yet I don’t think I need to explain why this is on my reading list.  White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo.

 And because it’s all about balance, at the other end of the spectrum, a summer crime series read: The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women  by Barbara Hackman. Because my friend Marc Ross said I should read this, and Marc Ross is very smart. 

Another Summer read, on the theme of female friendships, that I can’t wait to dig in to, is Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, which comes highly recommended by two of my Book Club girlfriends. 

And The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, which I have been carrying around with me since I last traveled in March. In true escalation of commitment, I will not stop carrying it around until I read it cover to cover! 

What are you reading this Summer?