Incredible Life. Guts Required.

Yep, that’s me. In the hills of Umbria, Italy looking for a taste of Frances Mayes’ life.

Have I ever mentioned my love affair with author, Frances Mayes? Well, technically there was no love affair. She’s been long-married to Edward and, together, they appear to lead an amazing life split between their homes in North Carolina and (“swoon”) Cortona, Italy.

Frances Mayes is the author of many books, most noted for ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, which became a popular movie (and one of my favorite movies, which we’ll address later). Frankly, if you read her work, you know the movie and the book are very different. Under the Tuscan Sun, the book, is more of a journaling of her experience in purchasing and renovating a very old house in Italy. The guts and gumption a project like that takes screams volumes of her persistence to pursue a dream and the balls she grew to get through it. But what’s even more interesting, she was in mid-life – around 50 years old – when she took that huge risk and bought the old, run-down Italian villa. That villa was halfway across the world from her then-home and busy career as a university professor in San Francisco. A few years later, she married her partner, Edward, who as it turns out is more than a decade younger. (Good for you, Frances!)

Since that wildly successful book and movie, she’s written several other books, journaling her travels in Europe and life in Italy. Her books have an intense cult-like following from people she has inspired. Find any blog or article that allows for comments and people are clamoring to tell her how she has changed their life. Take a risk! See the world! Experience the sounds, sights, and tastes of life! Once I dove into her books, I couldn’t stop salivating at the chance to experience just a tiny bit of what she has and made the trip to Italy. See the picture? That’s me (yep, it is!), sitting in the grass of an agriturismo in the Umbria region of Italy drinking local wine and savoring an incredible experience. (Must go back! Must go back!)

Last year, she released her book, Women in Sunlight (on the Beige Read list) and will release another book this year right around the time she turns 79 years old. Let me repeat. Wrote and published two new books at almost 80 years old! I love the fact that age does not slow down her professional life, instead she owns it. Controls it. Instead of letting it, whatever that ‘it’ is, happen to her. This is what makes her so highly interesting, such an incredible force of a woman who took charge and drove her own way. Grabbing mid-life and completely reinventing what mid-life would mean for her. It took risk and risk takes guts. (Note to self!) But, she created and defined life for herself regardless of stereotypes and social norms about gender and age.

Frances, you’re my hero for a life less-beige.