Ms. March is a doctor. Ms. July is a Maine guide. Ms. September works in fashion.
All are women over 45 who are celebrated in a new wall calendar that is the brainchild of Ms. January – Joanne Grace of Kennebunk.
Gracefully Yours 2004 is the first in a series of calendars Grace plans to produce that will focus on the inner and outer beauty of middle-aged New England women. She plans to begin recruiting people for the 2005 edition in February.
“This calendar is a two-year dream transformed into reality,” wrote Grace in explaining why she created the calendar. “I grew tired of being flooded with media advertisements pushing the very young and beautiful to capture the mind and hearts of people. It gave the impression that a middle-aged woman is not someone people want to see or hear about. How shallow. …
“For me, mid-life begins at 45 and is a graceful transition of daily living from one year to the next while maintaining a young mind, heart and attitude. This calendar is meant to inspire you, no matter what age you are, … to think and see yourself differently and to be bold enough to ‘go for the gold.'”
The idea for the calendar has been tugging at Grace for a couple of years, she said recently in a phone interview. This summer, when some 2004 calendars already were on sale, she made the decision to go ahead and feature friends from Maine and Massachusetts in the first Gracefully Yours.
“I chose women not just for their external, outside beauty,” said Grace, “but for their heart, spirit and experience. I want the women to benefit from being in the calendar and to inspire others with their stories.”
Each month includes the woman’s story written in the first person and a snippet by Grace about her relationship with that woman. The photographs, taken by a professional photographer, show the women wearing their own clothes in poses designed to reflect their professions and personalities.
Dr. Katherine Tsoulas of Bangor is the only woman who lives north of Portland featured in the calendar. As Ms. March, she wears a chic periwinkle suit, a stethoscope draped around her neck. Other photos show off her Greek heritage and gypsy soul.
All the pictures belie the fact that she has a debilitating disease. Tsoulas, a homeopathic physician, has multiple sclerosis. She returned to her native Bangor in 2001 from Carmel, Calif., to live closer to family.
Also a breast cancer survivor, Tsoulas met Grace online.
“My doctor friend, full of compassion!” writes Grace of Tsoulas. “She is like a sister to me. No matter how hard the MS battle is, she still reaches out to really listen and give sound advice. During her rough times we would talk and cry, but always end up laughing because of her tremendous use of words and sense of humor.”
Tsoulas, pronounced with a silent T, graduated from Bangor High School at 16 and headed to the State University of New York at Purchase, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in literature. For two years, she taught English in Bangkok, Thailand. It was there that she decided to switch careers.
She returned to the United States and “leapt into pre-med,” completing two years’ worth of work in eight months. She earned her doctorate in alternative medicine in the early 1980s from Seattle’s Bastyr University.
Twenty years later, MS has altered every aspect of her life. She went from running marathons to walking half a mile for fund-raising walks. She doesn’t get out much anymore, but is working on two books – one is about invincible spirits, the other is a humorous look at her cyber-dating adventures.
Tsoulas sees the mission of the calendar as twofold – to showcase the physical beauty and the internal beauty of women over 45. She hopes that in addition to middle-aged women, the calendar will interest and educate middle-aged men.
“I’m an over-45, single mother who’s been divorced for almost 14 years,” she said. “Men seem to think that after we turn 40, women are no longer desirable based on the wrapper. I want them to get the message that we have so much more spunk, maturity and wisdom.”
A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the calendar will be donated to charity, including Tsoulas’ charity of choice, the Maine Chapter National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Gracefully Yours 2004 is available at BookMarcs in Bangor or can be ordered on line at www.gracefullyyourscalendar.com.
Judy Harrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.