by Jessica Warzeniak
photos by Alexis Ann
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On November 1, Well Healed Woman celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a record-breaking 861 attendees at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa, Groton. Each year, Lawrence and Memorial Hospital presents the dynamic one-day conference for women. This year the keynote speaker was actress and activist, Jamie Lee Curtis who epitomizes the theme of Health, Healing, and Humor.
Well Healed Woman co-chair Pat Romano, president, The Auxiliary of L&M, opened the conference with details of the monies raised by the Auxiliary including a $250,000 pledged to the hospital. The first installation of $50,000 will be presented on November 11. Fellow co-chair, Kim Kalajainen, Chief Information Officer, L&M, thanked volunteers, including: the two men from L&M that help make it happen – Bill Stanley, Vice President, Development & Community Relations, and Graham Gavert, Director of Development – Rose Baker, the originator of the Well Healed Woman program, and the Mystic Marriott.
State Representative Betsy Ritter and Senator Andrea Stillman presented a legislative proclamation in honor of the Well Healed Woman’s 10th anniversary. The general assembly citation was introduced by the women of Southeastern CT.
This year introduced the Well Healed Woman award. The award was established to recognize an individual in Southeastern CT who embodied the theme of health, healing, and humor, someone who was an advocate for change and had personal warmth and humor. The first ever Well Healed Woman award was presented to L&M nutritionist Mary Ann Nash, MS, RD. “I’m never speechless and I’m speechless,” said Mary Ann. “It is humbling. I don’t do this alone. As they say, it takes a village.”
Mary Ann was one of the guest speakers at last year’s conference where she imparted wisdom on how to help stop the aging clock by focusing on what we eat, how we burn it, and how we deal with stress. This past year Mary Ann earned her Board Certification in Oncology Nutrition. She is one of only 77 in the country to hold this certification.
During lunch, which included recipes from Mary Ann and Sal Argento, Executive Chef, L&M, Jamie Lee stopped to speak with each table, picking up bits of wisdom that she shared with us during her program “Live Wisely, Love Well: An Afternoon with Jamie Lee Curtis.”
Jamie Lee began her presentation with her own definition of being a Well Healed Woman. She joked that she initially thought it meant going to the shoe repair shop to “get that little piece of rubber put on your shoes that keeps heels from making that awful clickity-clackity sound.” She removed one of her 4” heels and compared it to the delicious dark chocolate shoe that was served for dessert. “It looks just like mine!” she exclaimed. “Except, I decided to wear a sling-back today. I was feeling a little flirty.”
“How is it possible I am here today?” Jamie Lee asked herself, wanting to know why she was chosen to be the keynote speaker. “I am wildly unprepared for life, yet I managed an unbelievable one.” She told of how she is “genetically predisposed to be drunk, naked, and kissing your husband in a movie.” She talked about barely making it through high school, being an alcoholic, her insecurities and about going, and staying, grey – issues that plague everyday women.
During the question and answer period, an attendee asked Jamie Lee about her state of mind during “A Fish Called Wanda,” a well-loved crime comedy in which Jamie Lee plays Wanda, an alluring con-artist. “I wish I could tell you a funny story about the making of Wanda, but it was really a deep, dark truthful mirror.” At the time, her daughter, Annie, was six-months-old and the movie was “a chance of a lifetime.” They moved to house in Chelsea, England. “It was an hour’s drive to the studio and an hour’s drive home. At the first block, I started sobbing. I worked through my daughter’s entire childhood. I had a choice. I could have easily said no. I could have worked hard to change my hours. I felt like the worst mother in the human race.”
Jamie Lee urged working moms, “Try to stay home as much as you can. It’s hard, having to give up something, but your children are getting something. Nothing can replace the mother.” But she also warns that you must lead by example, “Children are paparazzi. They take your picture when you don’t want them to, and then they show it to you. I love that description, but I can’t actually take credit for it. It belongs to Dr. Susan Williams.”
“This is how I became me,” she described, telling about the day Princess Diana died. Jamie Lee came home from vacation and her nanny told her Diana was in a horrible accident and was gravely injured. She remembers the numbed shock she felt when “the woman came on with that quivering voice” and said Diana hadn’t made it. She turned off the TV and picked up a book a friend had given her that she kept at her bedside about Buddhist meditation. She laughed and said, “Can you imagine me meditating?” Then told of how she left it by her bedside so people would think she did.
In the book it said, “That at the time of death, people who live mindfully ask themselves just two questions: Did I learn to live wisely? Did I love well? ” Thinking of old stories and photos of Diana, Jamie Lee was able to say yes, Diana had learned to lived wisely - she hadn’t started there, but had learned – and yes, Diana had loved well. The though put Jamie Lee at ease.
That was Jamie Lee’s “enlightening moment.” It opened the door for her to live her life with those questions as her “frame.” She said, “I am not a Buddhist or a meditator, but if I can answer those two questions every single day satisfactorily, then I have had a good day.”