Thursday, November 5, 2015

Diary of a Mid-Life Crisis

I wrote Diary of a Mid-Life Crisis many years ago and never published it.  It felt good, at the time, to write again, to get the thoughts out of my head and down on paper.  At the time, I really thought that I was the only one who had ever had these feelings, that somehow I had failed.  Now, years later, I realize that I wasn't alone.  I've walked thru the fire and I'm on the other side now.  I survived.  I share this now and dedicate it to the many women who have gone thru it, are going thru it or will go thru it.  You will all survive.  You will all grow as I have.  Stay positive thru the struggle, know that it doesn't last forever.  Keep moving forward, keep choosing positivity in the face of negativity.  Happiness is a choice and the choice is yours.

Buckle up ladies and enjoy the ride............

Diary of a Mid-Life Crisis

It was just a minute ago that I was 16 years old, walking down the halls of my high school gossiping and giggling with my girlfriends, wasn't it?  Wasn't it just last week that I fell in love for the first time?  Had my heart broken for the first time and thought -Oh my God, how will I ever get through this?  Wasn't it?

I should have been more thankful for that time in my life.  I should have appreciated that I had no responsibility, that my biggest problem was deciding which party to go to on Friday night.  I should have been thankful.  

My parents kissed me goodbye and left me in the dorm.  Its such a big place.  There are so many people!! Wasn't that yesterday?  It feels like I just pledged that sorority.  It feels like I just went out with...uh...that guy, what was his name?  No, I guess it wasn't yesterday, I'd remember his name if it was, right?  I guess 20 years have gone by... is it 20? 30?... and I just don't know how that could be?

I should have been more thankful, more appreciative of those carefree days.

I just got my first job!!! I just got my first REAL paycheck... didn't I?  Didn't I just go out with the gang after work for cocktails to celebrate?  I guess not, I guess that was a while ago now, but it sure feels like only yesterday.

I should have been more thankful, I should have appreciated having my own time to do what I wanted to do.

I just got an apartment with my best friend from college!!  We have no furniture but the bar is fully stocked, it's Friday night, the band is playing at our favorite spot and we're on a mission!!  I'm not driving... you you...ok, let's take a cab.  Woooohoooooo!  Afterhours at our house!  I can still hear the music... I can still feel the hangover.  Didn't that just happen?  Where did everybody go?

I really should have been more thankful.

My best friend is getting married today.  I'm her maid of honor.  I'll stand up for her today and wish her well but I know things will change now.  I'm the last one standing.  Everyone is married.  Husbands will come first and I'll just have to understand.  That's ok though, my adventure is just beginning, right?  Right?

I've got my career now.  I've got my married friends with all their kids who love to hear about my single life... giggle.  Oh my God I'm sick of being set up!  Why does everyone try to marry me off??

I should have been more thankful for my freedom.  I should have appreciated not having to answer to anyone but me.  I should have been more protective of my hard earned independence.  

Wow!! I think I met know, the ONE!  He treats me like a princess!  He tells me I'm beautiful!  There is nothing he wouldn't do for me and oh my God I think I love him!  

It's my wedding day!  The sun is shining and life couldn't be better!  The limo pulls up, Daddy gets out first and then holds out his hand for me.  I can still feel the wind off the ocean, it's blowing my veil everywhere.  Daddy takes a few steps toward the church and I'm overcome... with something... what is it?  I was so sure...wasn't I?  I'm scared now Daddy...wait, wait, wait Daddy!  Please... wait, not yet.  Tears...tears...tears... OMG! OMG! OMG!... He asks me if everything is ok?  Do I want to go in now?  Deep breath... ok Daddy, let's go.

It's Fathers Day 2001 and I'm in labor and I don't even know it...giggle.  She came fast and she was beautiful.  Life will never be the same.  You'll help me won't you?  She's your daughter too.

It's March 2003 and I've been in the hospital for 3 months now.  This pregnancy has been a tough one but I'm strong.  My husband is doing all he can, the very best that he can.  I miss my family, my little girl.  I mourn for her and our special time... will she forgive me when I bring.... gulp... two boys home????  My life will never be the same.

They all need a diaper change, they all need to be fed, I have to make dinner and then do the dishes... I'm  tired...won't somebody help me?  If I could only get some sleep...please, won't somebody help me?  I have to do the laundry, I have to cook dinner, I have to go to the grocery store...will you help me?  Why won't you help me?  Where is my husband?

Where is my husband?  Shouldn't you spend time with me?  Isn't that what we are supposed to do?  I guess I'm not a princess anymore.  The clock must have struck midnight.  I'm trying... I'm really trying.  I can't do it all by myself.  

You're Super Mom!  How do you do it?  You really should get out and do something for yourself...but there's no time, I can't, who will stay with my babies?  Where is my husband?  I'm tired... won't somebody help me?  They'll be grown before you know're doing a great job but you really should take care of yourself.  How?  How?  Won't somebody help me?  I can't do it all by myself.

They're in school now.  I have wonderful children.  They are beautiful and smart and well behaved.  Maybe I can do something for me now?  I know I'll....uh...what do I like?  I don't remember.  I used to love to...uh..hmmm... I don't remember.  I know, I'll get a job.  Who will hire me?  What can I do?  Is this all there is?  

Don't take that job, that's not enough money.  Why would you do that?  You should just stay home.    What's for dinner?   You really need to take the car in and go to the dry cleaners.  I have to get them to practice...there's a meeting at the school... I'm trying, I'm really trying.  I need somebody to help me.  Where is my husband?  He was here a minute ago, wasn't he?  

Is this all there is?  It can't be, this can't be all there is.  I worked so hard for so long.  Where did I go?  Where did my husband go?  Why wouldn't you help me?  I should have been more thankful.  I should have been more careful.  I should have been more protective of my independence.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Seeking Beauty From the Inside Out

It's my third time seeing Dr. Shanthala and it's just as special as the first time.  Things I can count on--a warm, welcoming hug, the offer of a cool drink and the comfort of the environment.  I feel beautiful just walking in the door. Soothing music and exotic decor are warm and inviting.  I feel hopeful and comfortable and I know I'm in good hands.  Dr. Shanthala sees the beauty inside of her patients and she lets them know, she let's me know.  She handles the skin delicately as she observes and considers her recommendations.  She compliments the canvas presented to her and her recommendations are to enhance, not recreate.  It truly is an experience to look forward to and I do.  

Our conversations are easy and move along as a conversation between old friends would after a long hiatus.  The topics are personal yet focused on what I need to feel better about me and my aging exterior. We decide on a microneedling treatment with PRP (platelet rich plasma).  I'd had two prior microneedling treatments and the condition of my skin is improving with each one.  Dr. Shanthala recommends the addition of  PRP and use of Bellafill (a filler injected underneath the deepest scar) due to the intense depth of  some acne scarring that troubles me.  Microneedling itself promotes collagen production in the skin.  When the PRP is re-injected with the microneedling treatment, collagen production is stimulated even more so by the growth factors that are contained in my own blood.  My results were excellent!  My skin was smoother and actually  glowed!  My pores were smaller and the scarring with each treatment is disappearing little by little.

I took pictures before and after and I even took a video with my phone during the procedure.  It's all so interesting to me.  I hope you will find it interesting as well.  

July 15, 2015 No Makeup

This first photo is on the day of treatment, I arrive with a clean face, no makeup whatsoever.
Numbing agent applied before treatment.
Dr. Shanthala applies a numbing cream to my entire face prior to the treatment.  It feels cool like menthol would and it definitely numbs your face!
While we wait for the numbing agent to take affect, Dr. Shanthala draws my blood.  The PRP is the yellow serum you will see below.  My blood is placed in the centrifuge and spun to separate the PRP from the rest of the blood product.  The yellow serum is rich is growth factors.  It will be re-injected into my face during the microneedling procedure.

Supplies used for my blood draw.

Centrifuge used to separate the serum from my blood.

My blood product post-centrifuge.  The serum is yellow.

Once my face is adequately numb, Dr. Shanthala marks my face for specific areas of concern.  In my case, I was troubled by some acne scarring.  You'll see that she has circled these areas in green.
My face is marked for areas of concern--scarring.

Here's the video I took during the treatment.

The image below is how my skin looks post-procedure.  It's a bit red as a sunburn would be.  The skin is soft and shiny.

Post procedure, my skin is red.

The images below were taken one day post-treatment and then again several weeks later.  The deep acne scar is almost completely gone.
Top photo is one day post procedure.
Bottom photo is 19 days post procedure.

45 days post procedure

I'm still so very pleased with the result!  To think that I had been bothered by those scars for the majority of my life and now to be rid of them!!!  I'm very, very happy.

Thank you Dr. Shanthala, from the bottom of my heart.....


Monday, September 14, 2015

Finding Balance

Life really is a journey, isn't it?  It's an amazing collection of gains and losses, successes and failures, struggles and triumphs and what I believe to be most important, lessons and personal growth.  I love it all, every last bit of it!  You can't have one without the other, it's life's balance.

As I approach 50, I am, more than ever, introspective.  Everything seems to be about reflection, self awareness, and betterment.  I want to be the best possible Me I can be both inside and out.  I want to associate with only the most genuine of people, spend my time doing only the most worthy of activities and have a life rich with meaning.  I want to fill my space with charity, kindness and warmth and in the end, happiness.  I want to feel good about Me.

While my own personal journey has become more focused, it's not been without struggle.  The last two years have been tremendously challenging for me.  While I intentionally choose not to elaborate on the battle, or focus on it, it's important to mention as it's all part of the balance.  The gain/loss, success/failure, struggle/triumph.  I'm growing so I must be doing something right!!  I'm happy despite the struggle, or maybe because of it, the jury is still out on that one.  

I may be at peace with who I am on the inside but 50 years of this "balancing act" will naturally take it's toll.  I don't consider myself to be vain but I do like to look my best and when I look in the mirror I see tired.  I see scars of a childhood illness and scars of teenage acne.  I see damage from baking in the sun when I was in my foolish 20's.  I see lines from the pitiful smoking habit that I continue with to this day.  I feel fresh and new on the inside but the outside just doesn't match.  It's time to see Shanthala.

I've seen Shanthala ( before and I've even written about her.               Dr. Shanthala is a wonderful friend and physician of all things aesthetic.  The beauty of Shanthala is in her ability to nurture her patients, her ability to nurture me and that's what I need.  I take care of everyone in my life and for the time I spend with Shanthala, she takes care of me.  She really is a love.  Most importantly I trust her skill and judgement.  She would never give me something I didn't need.  That is to say, if I requested some sort of procedure and/or an injection of some kind, she would not do it if she did not feel that I would benefit from it. It speaks volumes about her integrity and well meaning spirit.

I will see Shanthala and I will share my wonderful experiences with you.  Join me on yet another journey of self care.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Last 5

If it's not going to take up major real estate in your head during the last 5 minutes of your life then it's really not worth getting upset about. Let it go!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ken's Ramen

I love Providence, Rhode Island!  When life gets to be a bit too much and I'm craving a quick adventure there is no better place to explore.  A friend of mine lives in this artsy mecca and she's a gal in-the-know when it comes to the hot happenings about town.  "Adventures with Jen" are always new, interesting and loads of fun! 

I had less than 24 hours to kill before I was back on duty as Mom to my three babies so Jen had her work cut out for her.  She never disappoints!  We started the the evening at The Arcade, the nation's oldest indoor shopping mall.  This historic site is a three story building that includes a first floor filled with interesting shops and restaurants while the second and third floors are a series of efficiently designed micro-loft residences.  We browsed the retail shops filled with vintage wares, designer clothing and jewelry originals from local art school RISD (Rhode Island School of Design).  

With our thirst for the arts quenched it was time to eat!   Food is not just food in Providence.  Food is art, food is, in and of itself, an adventure.  There would be no burger and a beer, no no no, tonight it was authentic ramen at Ken's Ramen on Washington Street.  The wait was a bit long to get into this hotspot but it was well worth it.  After taking our seats and briefly scanning the menu, I had no idea what to expect or how to even order a meal.  I wasn't at all sold on it at first because to me it was just soup, right?  Well, yes and no. 
The waiter came to the table and took our drink orders.  We both ordered a beer. Sapporo for me and a Hoegaarden for Jen.  Both the waiter and Jen were quick to make suggestions on what I should order and I followed each and every one of them.  

We started with a "Pork Bun".....  tender pork with a hint of sweet and smoke, peppery arugula and a spongy soft bun.  Not too big and not too small.  A perfect few bites to get things started.

Then the main course, a steaming bowl of Ken's Paitan Ramen with scallions, beansprouts, nori and chicken.  Eating this hearty bowl of soup was a true test of my chopsticks skills!

The food was de-lish and the company was, as always, the best!  Another perfect adventure!


+My Baked Stuffed Life
+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro

Sunday, April 19, 2015


We are all troubled from time to time but at the end of the day ask yourself, is it really that bad?


Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I've struggled for a while with my writing.  For one reason or another it doesn't flow as easily as it used to.  I like to say that life gets in the way and it does.  Life is fast and furious.  Life is hurried and busy.  I crave a slower pace but I'm not sure  it's something I'll ever achieve.  

For reasons I won't discuss here, 2015 has not been a banner year for me thus far.  I mention it only because it's just one more thing that gets in the way of my writing.  I love writing.  Writing forces me to sit at the computer and think, it forces me to take the time to sit in one spot and let my mind wander and create.  It's the closest I will ever come to achieving that slower pace that I crave so much.  When my head sparks with an idea or when one just lands in my lap, I jump at the chance to let it flow and see where it will take me.

Just such an occasion arose the other day.  It was late afternoon and my son came bursting thru the door waving a sheet of paper in his hand and talking so fast that I couldn't make out a word.  After getting him settled enough to repeat himself slowly, it became clear that he wanted me to read the paper in his hand and I did.  I was so impressed.  It was a sample of his "free writing" as he called it.  Apparently when the children in his class are finished with their work the teacher will give them a short sentence or topic and tell them to just write something quick about it.  Matthew's assigned short phrase was "will it find us."  This is what he came up with.....

The Fish
By Matthew Cucchiaro

One day a guy was fishing off the dock.  I almost bit the hook but then my friend Larry did and well...RIP Larry.  Then one day a big fish came into the harbor, me and my family hid under a rock and I said "will it find us?"  Then my friend Robert didn't hear the news about the big fish and well...RIP Robert.  Then one day I didn't hear about another big fish in the harbor and I almost got eaten but then he went after that guy's bait and well... RIP Big Fish.  Then one day I grew so big I couldn't fit in the small hole in the rock and I heard that there was a shark in the harbor and the shark chased me and well....RIP Me.

Matthew is in the 6th grade and just turned 12 years old.  There are so many interesting things in this writing sample that I'm not sure where to begin.  I'm impressed with the voice of the piece.  Matthew is a fish in this story and he writes from the fish's perspective.  At his age I found it impressive for him to do that and I was proud of him.  I like the humor in the piece-- "...and well..... RIP..."  It's cute and funny and it's so like Matthew's personality.  He's a witty kid and he makes me laugh.  His only instruction was to use "will it find us" and he built a "big fish story" around that one phrase.  According to him he took just ten minutes to write it.  It's a well developed story with several characters, there is developed and pertinent humor and he met the teacher's criteria.  All very impressive.

Maybe I'm just a mom who is proud of her son.  Maybe it really is impressive work for a 12 year old boy.  In the end, either is ok.  It made me smile and feel warm in my belly.  It was the inspiration for me to sit and write.  My son gave me a small dose of that slower pace that I need and want and crave.  Thanks honey, I love you.


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Searching for Fresh and Lovely, the Journey Begins

With a heavy sigh I begin again.  I can remember starting my last journey and how it felt to step foot in that gym again, go to my first exercise class and experience what I was certain was a near death experience as I gasped for breath.  I promised myself I'd never let it get that bad, yet here I am again.  I don't know how it happened and I'm not going to bother trying to figure it out.  I'm going to take a long look in the mirror, re-evaluate the situation and start again.  I'm a work in progress, I'm always going to be a work in progress.

I took that first step, I looked in the mirror.  Aside from seeing the 20lbs I had lost last year reappear, I'm also seeing a few things I knew would eventually come.... wrinkles.  I know they don't appear overnight but, honestly, I never saw them coming.  One day they aren't there and the next day they are.  What to do?

Diet and exercise are an extremely important foundation for being healthy and looking great but you just can't "undo" a wrinkle no matter how faithful you are to living a healthy lifestyle.  Or can you?

Shanthala MD Medspa and Laser Center
Many women have seen, heard of or been invited to what is commonly referred to as a "Botox Party" and I'm no different.  I'd heard about them, received invitations here and there but I just passed them by without much thought.  I guess I was under the impression that injections were something reserved for Hollywood.  Silly, I know, but that was my initial impression.  They are much more mainstream now and far more accessible than ever before and as I mentioned, this year I was feeling a bit different about the reflection staring back at me so when an acquaintance of  mine included me on the guest list for just such a "party", I was intrigued.  A few phone calls and several conversations later and I agreed to attend.  Why not?  

It was a snowy Monday evening in February and I was nervous and excited.  I wasn't at all sure of what to expect from this experience but I knew I wanted to check it out.  I would sit and listen to what the doctor had to say and then make up my mind as to what, if anything, I'd have done.  No pressure.  I parked and made my way inside.  Any nervousness quickly subsided as I entered Dr. Shanthala's warmly inviting reception area.  It was serene.  Tastefully decorated in richly toned decor from the doctor's native India, comfortable seating and a beautiful array of healthy snacks awaited the arriving guests.  It was the perfect combination of relaxation, beauty and warm hospitality. I was greeted by a lovely woman who offered me a comfortable seat and my choice of a variety of different beverages.  I chose a warm cup of herbal tea to sip while I nibbled on hummus and fruit.  

Dr. Shanthala

Just moments passed and Dr. Shanthala quietly entered the room.  She came toward me and introduced herself.  She was lovely and warm.  She was interesting and knowledgeable.  She asked if I was ready and I was so she lead me to a treatment room for further examination and discussion about what was to be done.  We talked as we walked and I really felt like I was with a friend.  It's hard to describe unless you meet her but it felt as though I'd known her for a very long time.  I wondered if that was everyone's experience?  She's lovely.

Before Dysport
After Dysport

We arrived to the treatment room and I was gently directed to the treatment chair.  The treatment room, like the reception area, was comfortable and tastefully decorated.  Soft music played.  We discussed injections, what they could and couldn't do.  She assessed my face and offered expert advice about products and services that could help me with the areas I felt uncomfortable about, areas that robbed me of feeling my best.  She explained the different products that could be injected and I made an informed decision.  I had two areas I wanted her to focus on, the lines between my eyes and my "crow's feet."  The lines between my eyes give the appearance of constant stress, they make me look tired and old and it wasn't a true depiction of how I felt so I wanted them gone.  The "crow's feet" also make me feel old before my time and if she could get rid of those then I'd be happy to see them go.

The process was simple, and relatively painless.  A slight pinch made by the tiniest of needles in the area of the injection(s) is all you will feel.  Dr. Shanthala was gentle and concerned throughout the process that took a bit less than an hour as she carefully chose each injection site for maximum benefit.  

Before Dysport

After Dysport

You can expect some immediate results but full results can take up to two weeks to reveal themselves.  I was immediately pleased.  I've included some before and after pictures so you can see the difference.  I felt exactly how I wanted to feel..... fresh and lovely.  What a perfect start to the journey that lay ahead.

Stay with me........


+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It's Time

The snow is piled high outside and the threat of more snow looms.  We've been in a record- breaking deep freeze for weeks now and going outside to escape this stifling cabin fever is just not an option.  I've never been a cold weather girl and this year I'm not alone.  Extreme weather tops the list of everyone's conversation.

Outside of traveling for family responsibilities, I'm held captive in my home and it's taking a toll on me.  I sit more, watch television more and let's not forget the real casualty-- I eat more.  I eat more, I exercise less and the sum of that equation is one hot mess.  I've sung this song before, I've walked this very path.  I know what I have to do and I'll get around to it but this time it feels different and it looks different. This time diet and exercise may not be enough.   I look in the mirror and while I know I can lose a bit of weight and tone the muscles that need toning, will that be enough?  Will it be enough to make me feel better about what I see?

Facing AgingI'm aging.  I don't know how it happened or where the time has gone or why it went by so fast but it crept up on me and there's no turning back the clock.  I used to think that I'd never have a problem getting older.  My mantra was "there's something great about every age," and that's easy to say when you're twenty years old with full, youthful lips, smooth, wrinkle-free skin and healthy flowing hair.  Not so easy to say when you're pushing fifty.  I still think that there is something great about every age (especially when you consider the alternative!) but there is also that whole sagging, wrinkled skin thing that I'm just not crazy about.  What can I do about that?

I know that diet and exercise are the tools necessary for living healthy and looking your best.  I'm fairly certain, though, that you just can't "undo" a wrinkle no matter how faithful you are to living a healthy lifestyle, or can you?  Maximizing your God given assets may require a different approach and a different set of tools. It's time to pick up the journey of self care where I left off.  It's time to restructure and reorganize my life and there's no better time like the present.

Join me as I begin yet another journey of self care.  As always I will share my soul with you.  I will be open and honest with my successes and my failures and I will reveal to you the truth as I know it about the experiences I have along the way.

It's time.....


+My Baked Stuffed Life
+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro