Thursday, December 18, 2008

F-Bomb Etiquette: What's Really Obscene

Patti Blagojevich (43), wife of FBI indicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, can really express herself, and she's not afraid to use profanity to do it.  "Hold up that effing Cubs bleep."  she said emphatically in the background of one of Rod's wiretapped phone calls, "Eff them."

This vulgar language used by the first lady of Illinois has set off quite a furor in the press, which has caused me to evaluate my own views on swearing. I'm no stranger to it. First of all, I live with an Irishman, and cursing is an integral part of his vocabulary.  He can get away with it because his accent makes everything sound charming and and also because Americans don't fully appreciate the nuances of his invectives. "That's complete bollocks!" may sound jolly and quaint to us, but it's actually considered very rude back in Cork, along the line of our "bull-bleep."

Also, I live with a 15 year-old boy. I'm sure Nick and his friends swear cheerfully at each other all the time, but rarely in front of me. I'm not too concerned with the adolescent potty talk, but I constantly remind the boys to be discreet. "Guys, while 'sucks' and 'pissed' are not technically curse words, it is disrespectful to use them in the presence of adults."  Yes, Mrs. Killeen.

I think the heart of the issue comes down to respect and knowing your audience. Therefore, when I am all alone in the car and some jerk cuts me off, I feel no shame in calling the guy a stupid dumb-a**. Using the term makes me feel better and doesn't offend anyone.

But what about the F-word? I admit, I do use  the "ing" version on occasion, mostly to add emphasis or humor to a story I'm telling socially.  It makes me feel a bit naughty too, a feeling that's harder to come by in my forties. But perhaps using the big bleep detracts, rather than adds to my conversation.  As the saying goes, "Profanity is the weapon of the witless."

At least I'm selective in my use of F-word variations. For me, the F-you, the F-er and the foul Mother F-er forms are absolutely taboo. Based on the FBI tape,  the Blagojeviches (especially Rod) have no such scruples. They used the word in all it's flagrant forms. But honestly, the language isn't what shocks me.

What shocks me is the Governor of my state seems to have been auctioning off Barack Obama's Senate seat to line his own pockets. Now that's obscene.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kelly Corrigan's Inspiring Words for Women

Two of my friends sent me this video yesterday, saying it reminded them of me. I think it's a sign to post it here. Kelly Corrigan, 41, author of The Middle Place, is a writer, mother and breast cancer survivor. As she illustrates so beautifully, we women handle a lot and our support of each other is how we make it though. It takes about five minutes to watch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Only 10 Damn Shopping Days Left

Today is December 15th and wham!  the holiday stress just hit me. Yesterday, I was feeling good about decorating the tree with the kids, but today I'm overwhelmed by all the housework, shopping, cooking, mailing, wrapping and card-writing I haven't begun to think about. What the heck have I been doing all month?

Everyone I know is much further along, and they're pulling off gracious holiday feats that won't even make my list. Tricia spent five hours making candy for thank-you gifts for teachers and bus drivers. Jenny took her daughter shopping for presents for needy kids. My elderly neighbor is packing up boxes of goodies for the troops in Iraq. Barb down the street is hosting her annual neighborhood coffee. Handmade holiday cards, gingerbread house decorating parties, monogrammed gifts with six-week lead times - I can't keep up!

I'm sure I have a horrible character flaw buried deep in my psyche that's causing me to be such a holiday slacker, but I don't have time to analyze it. I gotta get to the mall.

There is one unique gift of comfort and joy I am able to offer this season. No matter how behind you are in planning for the holiday, I'm far worse.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Label Lit: Nail Polish Bottles Make Good Reads

I'm a recovering nail biter and regular manicures are an important part of my therapy.  I've discovered a new source of amusement at my local nail salon -  selecting my shade of polish. The colors are pretty, but what really gives me a lift are the names at the bottom of the bottles.

OPI nail lacquer names are the best.  OPI was one of the first companies to ditch boring labels like Pink #2 and give a shade multifaceted cachet with a name like Aphrodite's Pink Nightie. Their bestseller, I'm not Really a Waitress, is a shimmery red that conjures up a daringly trampy image.  My favorite color is Oh to be 25 Again, a deep burgundy that makes me feel playful, yet knowingly mature.

Other OPI colors with witty, inspired names are: Friar, Friar Pants on Fire, a red so hot it's almost scandalous; Baby it's "Coal" Outside, a naughty gray for the holidays; and I'm Fondue of You, a saucy chocolate color from the French Collection.

For frivolous fun right here on your computer, click over to the OPI website and browse their entertaining selection of shades. It'll give you a giggle, and is easier on your eyes than having to squint at the tiny labels on the bottles. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All I Want For Christmas - From You

Even though the economy is dismal and we're all cutting back this Christmas, I still want presents.  So, to help guide my family and friends, I've put together a wish list of gifts that are low on cost, but to me, priceless.

From My Children
Nick and Emma, just give me a juicy novel and an uninterrupted day by the fire to read it. No, I won't make you a sandwich or help you find your snow pants, I'll be too busy reading. A couple novels I'm yearning to curl up with are The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. They're out in paperback, so the price is right.

From My Husband
Liam, take me out on a real date. To refresh your memory, a date is when you invite me to join you for an activity that you've planned in advance. It doesn't have to be fancy, just buy the tickets or make the reservation and figure out what to do with the kids. Then, give me an hour alone in the bathroom to primp. Once we're out, ask me questions about myself, appear fascinated  by all my answers and tell me I'm pretty a few times. After all, I will be wearing the sexy new lingerie I bought on clearance at T.J. Maxx. That's my Christmas present to you!

From My Friends
I know you're feeling the pinch gals, so I've come up with a couple gift ideas that will cost you next to nothin'. Give me a funny old picture of us together, send me a holiday card with a handwritten message, or post an affectionate shout-out on my Facebook wall. You'll make me feel appreciated and special - just what a gift is meant to do.

From My Parents
Mom and Dad, all I need from you is your continued love and support. But you could hand over Grandma's silver. Wouldn't cost you a dime.

I guess when you step back and look at the big picture, with all that's going on in the world, what's really important this Christmas is... I still want gifts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seizing the Hump-day

It's just a ho-hum Wednesday, but I'm not in the mood to have the same old type of day. So I'm taking inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt, who said
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences." 
Off I go to experience something new and rich today! Right after I load the dishwasher, take out the recycling and shovel the stinkin' sidewalk.

Monday, December 8, 2008

“Do you want to be an artist and a writer, or a wife and a lover?” - Stevie Nicks

  One of the  cool things I've been doing since I turned 40 has been singing in a band. Our band plays classic rock songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s; as a result, I've become enamored with groundbreaking rock chicks like Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, and Stevie Nicks.  Back in the day, these talented women had to make tough choices to succeed in a music industry dominated by men.

For Stevie Nicks, this meant taking a pass on motherhood.  "I made a conscious decision that I was not going to have children. I didn't want others raising them, and looking after them myself would get in the way of being a musician and writer."

Whoa - Stevie Nicks clearly viewed committed relationships as roadblocks to reaching her full potential. Isn't this kind of anti-feminist? Come on, Stevie, I know you're pushing 60, but even in your day, women could be both mothers and artists, lovers and writers. It just takes hard work, resourcefulness, and a little compromise.

But Stevie Nicks didn't want to make compromises - instead, she made a choice. The radical thing about her choice was that she put the highest value on her own creativity and self-expression.

Not all the early rockers made the same decision. Chrissie Hynde has two daughters; even the the androgynous Patti Smith has a couple kids. Did their art suffer by becoming mothers? Well...maybe. Patti Smith was quoted as saying, "If I have any regrets, I could say that I'm sorry I wasn't a better writer or a better singer."

Stevie wouldn't change a thing. Recently, when asked if she regretted not having children, she answered, "Would I really want to give up all those years of singing? Would I just have been not that great a mom and not that great a singer because I tried to do both?"

I put my career on  hold to stay home with my kids, so I definitely didn't follow Stevie Nick's path. Still, I admire (and maybe even envy) her for prioritizing her life as an artist and being brave enough to live on her own terms.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Latest Word on Women over 40

Last Sunday, the New York Times Magazine claimed its favorite new word of the year to be frugalista,  defined as "a person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc."  Frugalista was made popular by Miami Herald reporter Natalie McNeal's blog, The Frugalista Files, which provides tips for living "the frugal side of fabulous."

I'm motivated.  I blog, I write about being fabulous - I want to invent a new word for the dictionary too. So here are few new terms I've come up with to describe cool chicks over the age of 40. New Oxford American Dictionary, are you listening?
  • Fortabulista  - A fabulous woman over forty who conducts her life with zest and creativity. Can also be an adjective - "Wow, you are so fortabulistic!"
  • Fortgetful  - When a woman can't be bothered to recall her actual age after turning ... um, I forget. 
  • Kenopause  - The phase of life when a woman no longer requires a perfect man to live happily ever after.
  • Grandivma - a glamorous, rockin' grandmother.
  • Hotorty - A hot woman over 40.  Hotifty for those over 50. "Did you see how that hotorty rocked her mini-skirt?"  I dunno. Maybe this one is ruined by the "ho" prefix.
Okay, not all of these terms may make it into the American vocabulary, much less the dictionary. But our age and stage do require some new definition, don't you think? And "cougar" is so 2007. 

I'll keep working on it, but in the meantime, go out there and have a fortabulous day!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Teens - What Have They Done for You Lately?

My son, Nick, is 15 and I know firsthand that being the parent of a teenager can seem like a thankless job. Teens are moody and uncommunicative, dramatic and demanding. They think that they know everything while we parents are hopelessly uncool and out of touch. Teens resent all rules and responsibilities and yet expect to be driven around and fed hot meals at a moment's notice.

It's just give, give, give without getting anything in return. But lately, I've noticed some unexpected benefits from having a teen around. 

First, they're a great source for hi-tech entertainment. Teens have some really cool ways to amuse themselves. Nick has introduced me to Facebook (I originally signed up so I could keep track of him); Anaconda, an irresistible snaky game; and Shazam, an amazing application that listens to a few seconds of music and then tells you what song is playing. It's frivolous, it's fun, and I wouldn't know about any of it if I didn't have a teen.

Also, teens read good books.  Young adult fiction is heavy on plot, so these books are action packed. If your book club's pick is putting you to sleep,  steal from your teen's bookshelf.  For a really juicy read try Stephenie Meyer's Twilight - it has all the freshman girls' moms in a tizzy.

Nick doesn't drive yet, so we carpool to swim practice. A car packed with five high school boys makes for very interesting conversations. On our last drive we discussed Nostradamus, World War II, the Presidential election and, of course, hot girls. I'm telling you, those 20 minutes in the car were more thought-provoking and amusing than any North Shore cocktail party. 

Speaking of driving, I've discovered a great use for teens once they get their licence - as designated drivers. For their parents.  Last weekend, Liam and I went out to dinner with our good friends, Tricia and Chuck. Everyone wanted to have a drink or two so I suggested we taxi to the restaurant. Not necessary. "Kyle will drive us," offered Tricia. So their 16-year-old son, Kyle, chauffeured us to and from our dinner. He didn't mind, because it allowed him to stay out past his curfew, and we adults were able to safely enjoy ourselves. That's what I call win-win.

You know, I'm actually getting quite a bit of value out of my teenager. If I could only get him to pick up his shoes.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall Shopping in a Falling Market

Ah, Fall! My favorite time of year. I welcome the cool nights, crisp days and changing colors. The sun rises lower in the sky and apples ripen in the orchards,  yet the scent of a fresh start wafts through the air. Squirrels scurry to hoard acorns and Canadian geese take honking practice flights as they prepare for migration. In tune with the eternal rhythm of the Earth's rotation, a deep autumnal instinct stirs within me as well. To go shopping.

I know you feel it too. Fall is the best time to shop. The cooler temperatures mean an abundance of colors, layers, and textures. Our light-weight summer cottons seem flimsy and drab compared to the gorgeous knits, rich hues, and leather boots on display right now.

But who can enjoy a Fall shopping spree when our economy is in a free-fall? While big spending  isn't an option for me right now, I can't completely deny my seasonal urges. These tough times require new shopping strategies, so I asked noted Chicago fashion stylist Kate Shifrin for help.

Kate, always up on current trends, has already been helping her clients deal with the bail-out blues. She has some great advice for punching up your fall wardrobe without spending a lot of cash.
1. Go shopping in your own closet.
We all get into habits, and that extends to how we dress.  This is the season to mix it up in different ways and take some risks with the clothes we already own. Kate recommends we mix complementary patterns - like a print blouse with a tweed jacket - and forget about black as the only neutral color. She suggests trying fresh color combinations like brown & blue and gray & brown for an updated, modern look. So spread all your clothes out around your bedroom and get creative. Be brave, urges Kate. "The rules are that there are no rules. It should be what you like."

And while you're in that closet, get rid of anything you don't absolutely love. Your closet should only contain your favorites.  "And I don't care if that's five pieces," says Kate, "Just don't have a closet full of stuff."

2. Less is More
When the budget is limited, a few key accessories can boost an entire wardrobe. Purple is this Fall's hot color, says Kate, and the easiest way to include it in your wardrobe is to buy a purple purse, belt or pair of shoes. "It's actually a neutral" she explains - since it goes well with black, blue, brown or gray - so you'll get a lot of wear from a single piece. 

Kate also likes scarves as a way to introduce color and texture to a fall outfit. She especially loves the versatile scarf pictured above, from Anthropologie . "It can be worn with a t-shirt, outside a coat, or in your hair."

If you have to choose one area to invest, make it a pair of great fitting wide-leg trousers or trouser-style dark jeans. The fuller cut is basic but very stylish and can take you from work to evening.

3. Bargain hunt
Since times are tough, Kate anticipates that many retailers will be marking down prices, perhaps sooner than usual. Don't pay full price. If you see something you've got to have, ask the salesperson to give you a call when it goes on sale. In the meantime, explore discount stores, thrift stores, and maybe even your friend's closet.
One of Kate's overriding principles, regardless of the economy, is that we should focus on quality, not quantity. So while a thinner stock portfolio is definitely not a good thing, a thinner wardrobe just might be. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sexy - Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

"I like your haircut," my mother told me over lunch when she was in town last week, "You know I've always thought you look better with it cut short."

"I like it too, " I agreed, "But I have to say,  I don't feel quite as sexy as when it's long."

"Sexy?" snorted my mom. "At some point you have to get over that."

I was taken aback. "I do? I have to get over the idea of being sexy? When, exactly?"

Mom raised her eyebrows and smiled sympathetically.  It took a while for her meaning to sink in. Hey!

"I am not too old to be sexy, Mom, and neither are you! Feeling sexy is all in your own mind anyway and no matter what anyone else thinks, I am going to maintain my illusion that I am  a sexy woman." My voice was getting shrill, so I took a sip of iced tea to calm down. "I'm a damn hottie." I muttered around my straw.

"Oh, yes you are, dear. You're very sexy - in a nice way." She patted my arm consolingly, speared an asparagus tip from her roasted vegetable salad, and changed the subject. 

Since that lunch, the topic has been irritating me like a prickly tag inside a tight collared shirt. I'm 45 and I accept that things have changed. I'm not attracting wolf whistles from construction workers; no one is lining up to buy me drinks at happy hour. But inside, I'm still operating from the assumption that I am somewhat of a babe. But now my mom has me worried.

Is that little motor running inside of me - the one that makes me smile at my reflection in store windows,  puts an expectant spring in my step,  urges me to text silly things to my husband - is that motor gonna conk out one of these days?  Gosh, maybe I'm already running low on fuel. After all, I cut my hair to my chin - is that a clue that my days of sexy are numbered?

My focus on my haircut is not mere frivolity. According to Dr. Debbie Then, a psychologist who specializes in physical appearance, "there is lots of research to show that men prefer long hair and that it's associated with sexual desirability."  Long hair is alluring to the senses and, according to evolutionary theory, communicates good health and reproductive fitness. 

A few decades ago, women of a certain age cut their hair because long (often graying) hair became too difficult to care for.  Also, the heavy, flat styles of the day were unflattering to a maturing face, emphasizing sags and wrinkles. But today, layered cuts are the norm and with a vast array of hair care color and styling products, a woman over 40 can have the same silky, shiny mane of hair that she had as a teenager. 

Times have changed - all the hot women over 4o in the media have long, flowing, sexy hair now. Just look at Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter and the cast of Desperate Housewives. For that matter, look at Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. But I digress. 

My point is, that whatever the length of your hair, and however old you are, you deserve to keep your inner motor revving. There is no age limit on long hair and there is no age limit on sexy. Vroom, vroom.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mom for Hire

After ten years, I've got this stay-at-home mom thing nailed. My kids just left for school and thanks to an efficiently orchestrated  sports carpool, I won't see either one of them until 6:30 tonight. My husband is working late, so dinner can be something quick and easy from the freezer. My house is clean - my kids actually made their beds and did their dishes. Ah, the whole day stretches endlessly before me. I can exercise, I can read, I can have lunch with a friend, I can organize my photos, I can go to a museum, I can... 

Damn. I can go back to work.

I've always been planning to go back to work, so I don't know why writing that sentence just made my heart race like a Kitchenaid blender. I never expected to stay at home for this long. Before I had two kids, I had a big-time career. I made presentations, I analyzed data, I managed people, I strategized. I can't exactly remember what it was all about, but I was really good at it.

When I quit my job to take care of my two tiny children, it was only temporary. As soon as Liam's job settled down and Nick and Emma were a little older I would be right back to taking the meetings and earning the big bucks. But somehow one year slid into another, and, well here I am. 

I don't regret staying home. In addition to letting me focus on my family, it's given me time to accomplish some things I'm really proud of - getting my Masters degree, volunteering in the community, developing a local TV show, learning to play tennis, singing in a band.  But the fact is, my kids and home are not a full time job anymore. I'm a housewife who's been pink-slipped.

It's time for me to get back out there and look for a way to put my talents to use. It's a scary prospect and I'm not sure how to begin. But I know I'm not the first mom to head back to work. If you've been there and have any advice, please share it. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

Macho, Macho Me

Not only did I survive the dreaded family vacation in the wilderness of British Columbia, I actually enjoyed it. No one was more surprised than me. I mean this was a trip where I brought no cute shoes. I packed hiking boots, Keen water sandals and  sneakers. In the end I threw in a pair of flip flops, but nothing with the semblance of a heel. The thought of wearing nothing but sturdy shoes for 12 days - and the vigorous activities the footwear implied - depressed me. 

We traveled with our good friends the O'Briens and the other mom, Lisa, was as bummed by our packing as I was. Wicking materials, sports bras, long underwear - it was the most butch set of clothing we'd ever assembled. But we resigned ourselves to our high performance wardrobes and vowed to be good sports.

Who knew that our dad-designed adventure itinerary would turn out to be so empowering? Within the first three days, we'd climbed 3000 feet up a treacherous mountain path called "Grouse Grind",  dangled from a cable at staggering heights while zip-lining through a rain forest, and hiked a glacier - fully outfitted with rope harness, crampons and ice ax.  Through each new challenge, I discovered that I wasn't a wimp. The speed, the heights, the sweat, the gear - all while surrounded by  breathtaking scenery and my delighted kids - it was all really fun.

By the time we hit the camping/kayaking leg of the trip, I was feeling the confidence of a hardy outdoors-woman.  Good thing, because three nights sleeping on a tent floor and bathing with handi-wipes might have been too much for my previous self. And when, after two long days of sea kayaking on the Johnston Strait, a pod of a dozen Orca whales swam right by our tippy little boats, I  thrilled, not scared. (Well, that big one that kept circling around us had me kinda worried.) But these Orca don't eat people, you know. They prefer salmon.

We've been back for two weeks and I'm settled back into my tame, risk-free routine.  I've been sporting short skirts and high-heeled sandals, but I admit I'm feeling a bit blah. I might have to get out my hiking boots and ice ax for a rush of adrenaline.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Don't Have Enough Balls for my Family Vacation

Sea kayaking with migrating Orca whales. Zip-lining over 300 foot ravines. Climbing a glacier. Camping. In just a few short days, I'm going to be packing up my biodegradable shampoo, bug spray, and bear repellent and heading out to the beauty and wilderness of British Columbia.

This sounds like somebody else's family vacation, not mine. I'm not one for taking physical risks. But I'm on the record as being a proponent of saying "Yes!" to new things, so when my husband, Liam, and our friend, Jim, came up with this adventurous itinerary for our combined family trip, what else could I say?

Now that the departure date looms, I'm feeling a little chicken. Do Orca eat people? I mean, there must be a reason they're called KILLER whales. And how can we be sure the zip line over the jagged ravine will hold? Not to mention my concerns about where I'm gonna plug in my flat iron.

I'm not just worried for myself, you know. I have children to protect. Although they don't seem quite as worried as me. Actually, they don't seem worried at all. I keep telling myself if an 11 year old girl can do it, I can surely do it.

I'll let you know how it all turns out when I get back. If I survive.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feeling Down about Aging Up? Not to Worry

In my first blog entry, “Coolest So Far,” I wrote how the forties are the coolest age of my life to date and wondered if things would keep getting better. Good news - according to the latest research, the best is yet to come. Marti Barletta, author of “PrimeTime Women,” has found that women are happiest between the ages of 50-70, a fact that seems quite surprising in our youth obsessed culture.

Barletta, CEO of TrendSight Group, a consulting think tank that specializes in marketing to women, says women in their 50s and 60s “truly feel at their peak – personally, professionally, financially and psychologically.” PrimeTime women enjoy a new sense of freedom as they move beyond trying to conform to pressures to be, act, or think a certain way.

In our 50s, we finally come into ourselves. How cool is that?

While I love my forties, I must admit, I’ve looked at the big 5-0 with certain amount of trepidation. It’s not just the physical changes I am resisting. I also worry about getting out of touch, losing my drive - basically becoming irrelevant.

But according to Barletta, that's not likely to happen. She’s found that older women are more deeply involved with their family, work, community and society than younger women. They are more politically active, they are more likely to volunteer and they are happier with their careers. In fact, most women aged 50 -70 feel their greatest achievements are still to come.

It’s a relief to know that I have every reason to look forward to those next two decades. So, the next time I see a hot young woman romping in her bikini on the beach, I’m not going to envy her. She’s got the benefit of youth and health, but I’ve got the ace in the hole.

I’m way closer to 50 than she is.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dara Torres Swims Mid-Life in the Fast Lane

"Age is just a number,” says Dara Torres, who at 41 will become the oldest American to ever swim at the Olympics. At last week’s Olympic Trials, this middle-aged mother shattered her own world records in the 50-meter freestyle along with our preconceptions about age and women in competitive sports.

It’s not that Dara hasn’t felt her age over the years. After three Olympic games and four medals, the champion swimmer retired, feeling she was too old to continue the high level of competition. She was 25. Now on her second amazing comeback, this swimmer is faster, fitter and foxier than ever.

Dara is not exactly your average 40-something woman. A gifted athlete, she trains her ass off – she swims, hits the gym, is fanatical about nutrition, and stretches, stretches, stretches. She has a team of coaches, trainers and masseuses. But when Matt Lauer asked her about the key to her success, she mentioned none of those things.

“I believe.” Dara said. “I think that the biggest thing is mentally to believe that you can do it. The water doesn’t know what age you are, so why not?”

We may not be headed for the Olympics, but just because we are over 40 we don’t have to let our age limit us. Like Dara, we can believe in ourselves – whatever we choose to do – and we can all be winners.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Backyard with Benefits

I’m enjoying a new, secluded vacation spot this week - my backyard. For the last fourteen years, our backyard has been pure kid territory, but this week, it belongs to me. My 11-year-old daughter, Emma, is off to overnight camp, and my teenager, Nick, has a job! So it’s quiet back there. No kids bouncing on the trampoline, running through the sprinkler or demanding popsicles. With my newfound backyard access, I’ve discovered a few luxurious pastimes that I can’t do anywhere else.

I’ve embraced wanton, shameless sunbathing. Oh, I know all about the dangers of UVA and UVB rays. But I live in Chicago, man, and sometimes a northern girl needs a fix of vitamin D and some genuine, natural color. In my backyard I can put on the ratty bikini that I wouldn’t dare wear to the beach and sprawl on a blanket without worrying about my flabby stomach or razor stubble. Age spots be damned; letting it all hang out in the sunshine is bliss.

Another pursuit I’ve taken up is tacky decorating. I’ve been combing the sale aisles of Marshall’s and TJ Maxx for little treasures to spruce up my favorite new space. Silly, cheesy doodads that are too trashy for the inside of my home look charming and whimsical when dangling from a tree branch. Bird houses, ladybug garden stakes, alligator stepping stones. I’d never appreciated the garden gnome before, but mine looks so cute peeking out from under the rosebush.

Last, I’ve found the joy of something I haven’t really done since I was a kid: daydreaming. It’s not even close to meditation, which I’ve always found to be way too much work. I mean pure daydreaming, staring up the sky and letting my mind flit idly from one inconsequential topic to the next. Why do I only see robins on the ground, never up in trees? Is my right big toe bigger than my left? Would it be wrong to drink a Corona with a slice of lime at 11:30 in the morning?

I’ve only got a few days left of privacy, then my kids will reclaim the backyard along with their lemonade-swilling, soccer ball-kicking, water-squirting pack of friends. But for now, I’m making the most of my daytime retreat. I may even try the trampoline.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Aunt Mary's Life Lessons

Last week, I imagined what I’d tell my 24-year-old self to do differently based on what I know now, 21 years later. I realized that while it was too late to change the person I was back then, I could take advantage of the wisdom of older women right now. Since my female family members have never been shy about expressing themselves, they seemed like a good place to start. Seeking advice, I called my 67-year-old mother, Jane, in Florida.

“One thing I learned from having breast cancer”, she said, still out of breath from her three-mile walk, “is to stop and smell the roses. Don’t be so overscheduled – that goes for your kids too.” Wow, that sounded really enlightened. I wanted to hear more, but my mom was running late for her painting class, book club, and library board meeting.

So, I moved onto Mom’s younger sister, my hip Aunt Mary, who has always lived life with flair and enthusiasm. Aged 64 and a former therapist, Aunt Mary has a lot of knowledge and experience to share with women our age. She emailed me this comprehensive list, and I am now passing it on to you.
  • Forget the word "don't." Think "do."
  • Enjoy the present. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Not only is "a lot still going to happen," a lot is happening right now.
  • Talk to your 60 and 70-year-old mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles. Get to know them now. Encourage your children to do this too.
  • Planning for the future should be part of your present. Have frequent talks with your partner about the values, ideals, desires you each have and what kind of future you would like to have together.
  • Find some way to give to your community. Make it a priority.
  • Stay healthy with exercise, a good diet, and yes, frequent sex!
  • I have a prediction: You will go through a period of uncertainty, even chaos, and you will get through it. Be patient.
Okay, the uncertainty and chaos part is a little unsettling, but overall, I really appreciate Aunt Mary’s advice. Older chicks really are wiser and there’s a great body of knowledge out there for us to tap into. If we think we’ve learned a thing or two since our twenties then we can expect to become even savvier in our sixties and beyond. Until we get there, let’s value the lessons already learned by our more mature friends and family members. And if you discover anything juicy – post it here!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Advice to my 24-Year-Old Self

I've been keeping a journal since I was fifteen years old and I still have every volume. This morning I leafed through my journal from 1987. Ugh. I had just ditched my boyfriend and well-paying corporate job to move to Chicago and start over. While I searched for a job, I lived in a tiny studio apartment near the lake.

I was lucky to have some good friends in Chicago, but it was still an unsettling time for me. Reading through my journal entries, I can see now that I was insecure. I was lonely. Oh, I have to face it - I was an idiot. Why did I waste so much time obsessing about things that have turned out to be completely unimportant? I wish I could go back and give my 24-year-old self a few sound pieces of advice.

If I could sit myself down over cocktails, here's what I'd tell me:

Shut up, you look great!  Stop being so critical of your appearance.   You're not fat and you're not ugly; you're young and gorgeous. Embrace who you are and stop comparing yourself to other people. Don't take your perky breasts, tiny waist, smooth complexion and bright smile for granted. Give yourself permission to celebrate your body and the unique way you look.

Leave those old boyfriends in the past. You broke up with them for a reason; now let them go. So you haven't found anyone new in Chicago - that doesn't mean you can reel your former lovers back in whenever you need an ego fix. Let those guys get on with their lives and stop depending on them to make you feel good. Move on.

You will not end up alone. Honey, you are just getting started. You're not supposed to have everything all figured out right now. There are a lot of places to go and people to meet, including a charming Irishman who hasn't even set foot on American soil yet.  Relax, enjoy the freedom of being single, and spend some time getting to know you. A lot is still going to happen.

If my younger self were still paying attention, I'd advise me never to perm my hair, wear stirrup pants, or do shots of Jagermeister. I'd also urge me to save more money, visit my grandmother, and join a gym. But by then, my 24-year-old self would be heartily sick of being lectured by some middle-aged shrew and would have slipped off the barstool and out the door to flag down the nearest taxi.

I know there's no rewriting the past. The only self I can influence is the one who is 45 years old, sitting right here and now. Perhaps I'd better focus on the advice that she needs to hear. Anybody got any pearls of wisdom? It's a topic we'll explore next time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Moms ♥ Cubs Games

Last Thursday, three of my girlfriends and I snuck off to an afternoon Cubs game. We rearranged carpools and called in favors for after school play dates for our kids. Feeling as giddy as teenagers cutting class, we stuffed cash and lipstick into our back pockets, shoved baseball caps on our heads, and caught the “EL” into the city. Once on the train, packed with like-minded Cubs fans, we grinned at each other. We’d successfully made our escape.

The weather was gray and chilly, but it was warm and toasty within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field ‘cause the Cubs were up and the Padres never got on the board. Winning Cubs fans are happy Cubs fans and Lisa, Suzanne, Cheryl and I were no exception. Especially after we’d chugged down a couple of the big Bud Lights we bought from the beer vendor.

We weren’t up to speed on the nuances of the game but the guys sitting behind us – Desmond, Tom and Tommy - were happy to educate us. “ This may be the last time you’ll ever see Greg Maddux pitch at Wrigley Field,” Desmond informed us, as Tom passed around his nachos. They were nice. Everyone around us was nice - and almost entirely male. We four gals found ourselves getting a lot more attention than we were used to on an average weekday afternoon.

And it wasn’t because we were looking all that hot. We sported sweatshirts and fleece, sneakers and scarves. One of us (okay, it was me) wore long underwear. But who cared? It was two-thirty in the afternoon and the Cubbies were ahead and the good will and camaraderie flowed through the stands along with the Budweiser. When we stood to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch, I knew there was no better place in the world for a forty-something suburban mom to be.

The beer buzz wore off on the train ride home, when we had to switch seats to avoid being barfed on by a drunken high school girl who really was playing hooky. We shook our heads with maternal concern. As the train lurched north, reality began to seep in. There was dinner to make and homework to supervise and bedtimes to enforce.

But still, we’d had our afternoon in the (figurative) sun. And now, a week later, what Lisa, Suzanne, Cheryl and I want to know is this – anyone got Cubs tickets?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Privacy Alert - Your Secrets Aren’t Safe With Me

Over the years, my hometown has produced some big celebrities: Charlton Heston, Bill Murray, and Ann Margaret to name a few. Younger and hipper stars are actor Rainn Wilson of TV’s The Office, and rock band Fall Out Boy bassist, Pete Wentz. Wentz, 28, announced his engagement to pop singer Ashley Simpson a few weeks ago. This mildly interesting tidbit hit my radar in an unexpected way that made me realize how much my notion of privacy has changed.

My involvement came through a friend of a friend, like the game “Five Degrees of Separation.” My buddy Tammy* has a high school pal, Shelly*, who writes for People Magazine. Shelly was assigned a story on the hometown reaction to the Wentz/Simpson engagement. Tammy circulated Shelly’s email asking if anyone knew the Wentz family and would agree to be interviewed. While I've never met the Wentzs myself, I do have another friend, Jennifer*, who knows the family well. So, trying to be helpful to Tammy, I shot Jennifer an email.

My email went something like: “Hey Jen, I know you’re friends with the Wentzs – any interest in being interviewed for People Mag for local reactions on P & A’s engagement? Could be fun!”

Cause everybody wants to get into People - don’t they? Not so much. Jennifer made it clear that she would never consider violating the Wentzs’ privacy. Her tactful but firm reply made me think about what I’d really asked her to do.

Hmm, I guess I can see how you might not want to expose your friends to media scrutiny, especially when it’s about a personal matter like their son’s engagement. Real friends probably don’t exploit relationships for personal gain or to get their picture or name into a national magazine.

I felt kind of like a loser. Why hadn't I thought of that beforehand? 

It’s because I blog. Even though I’ve only been blogging for a few months, I’ve come to accept a loss of privacy as the norm. Friends have said, “I read your blog, you’re so brave.” Brave? I haven’t written anything all that revealing. Oh sure, I’ve discussed my fantasies, sex life, skin problems, parenting issues, and character flaws - but nothing personal.

I don’t have the clearest idea of what should be kept private anymore. With the prevalence of the Internet, this is an issue we all will have to negotiate. If your view of privacy has changed recently, please share your story.

And feel free to use a pseudonym.

*Names changed to make sure my friends don’t get mad at me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Forty-Four More

According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, the average life expectancy of a 44-year-old white woman in the United States is 38 years, meaning she is most likely to die at age 82. That means statistically, my life is more than half over. Say what? I admit, 82 sounds like a ripe old age, but it’s not nearly old enough for me. I, for one, am not going to accept the data - I refuse to conform to the mean. I really liked my first 44 years of life, so I’m ordering up 44 more.

How can I get an extra six years out of life? Forbes Magazine reports that there are ten things you can do to live longer: don’t oversleep, be optimistic, have more sex, get a pet, get a VAP test (whatever that is), be rich, don’t smoke, chill out, eat your antioxidants, and marry well.

Looking over the list, I feel pretty good about my chances. I actually sleep between six and seven hours a night, the recommended length. (Who knew that sleeping too much could actually be bad for you?) I’m an optimistic person, I have an adorable little West Highland terrier, and I don’t smoke. I’m happily married to the father of my children and while we’re not exactly rich, we’re doing okay. Other than freaking out about the fact that I only have 38 years left to live, I’m pretty chill. But there are a few areas where I can do better.

First of all, I’ve never heard of a VAP before. Apparently, it’s an advanced cholesterol test that detects heart disease much better than regular tests. It’s been a few years since I’ve had even a basic cholesterol test. If I want to live to see 88, I better make an appointment for a physical and get that VAP. I’m just glad I can wait a few more years before getting my first colonoscopy.

As for eating enough antioxidants, I’m falling short here too. Antioxidants, found in a variety of foods like blueberries, artichokes and beans, are great for cleansing the body of free radicals – the toxic molecules of oxygen that can damage and age our bodies. Antioxidants are like an inner fountain of youth. From now on, walnuts, kale and raspberries are going to be my foods of choice.

Finally, I’m going to step things up in the sex department. In addition to the obvious physical gratification, frequent sex has lots of other benefits – like stress reduction and better sleep – that can lower blood pressure and reduce risks of stroke and heart disease. Besides, this is a fun way to increase my life span. And it will benefit my husband too. As a 44-year-old white male, Liam can only expect to live another 34 years unless he takes action.

I just hope he’s interested in living longer too or else improving in this area is going to be a little tricky for me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Look Younger and Hotter or Your Money Back

There are a lot of fashion and beauty companies catering to us these days. Women over age 40 are emerging as a powerful economic force. And though we may be getting smarter, wiser and even richer, one thing’s for sure – we ain’t getting any younger. Many of us have mixed feelings about aging, and the beauty industry is poised to take advantage of our insecurities.

A book that’s getting a lot of buzz right now is called “How Not to Look Old - Fast and effortless ways to look 10 years younger, 10 pounds lighter, 10 times better” written by Charla Krupp. Krupp, a veteran beauty editor and style expert for NBC’s The Today Show, provides detailed advice for women over 40 regarding clothing, make-up, hair, and skin care. While she offers some good suggestions, I wouldn’t exactly call them effortless.

If you’re too busy to develop an intimate relationship with your hair stylist and refuse to wear those tight tubes of constriction known as Spanx, then my rules are the ones to follow. They are guaranteed to make you look younger and hotter – or your money back!

1. Ditch Your Younger Friends
Hey, we only look old compared to people who are younger than us. So don’t hang out with them anymore. Would you have hung out with high school kids when you were in college? No way. We’ve always had more in common and better conversations with people our own age. And compared to them, we look as good as ever. If you want to branch out and make new friends, consider the older set. And remember, you’re still a sweet young thing for a big portion of the male population, even if they are in the AARP.

2. Dim all the lights.
When my friend Lisa enters a party, she marches straight past the cocktail bar to the nearest dimmer switch. And she’s right; we all look better when the lights are low. So whether you are entertaining at home or dining out at a restaurant, seek out flattering lighting and candlelight. In addition to softening the lines on your face, it’s romantic.

3. Put a smile on your face.
No matter what age you are, you’ll look younger and more vibrant when you are smiling. Do the things that make you happy - and learn to tell a good joke. Everyone has smile lines when they’re laughing, and a good sense of humor is the most attractive thing of all.

4. Get into the trenches.
I’m no stylist, but one thing I’ve learned is that a great trench coat can disguise almost any fashion blunder or figure flaw. I’ve worn my Burberry trench coat to the grocery store over my pajamas and people assumed I was on my way downtown to the office. A classic trench coat is universally flattering and, especially if worn with sunglasses and tall boots, is sexy and mysterious. Forget the designer wardrobe, accessories and shapewear - all you need to look hot is the right coat.

My tips are 100% guaranteed to work. If you have any foolproof suggestions for looking younger and hotter, please share them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sizing up my Competition

I started playing tennis four years ago and now I play on a mid-level women’s doubles team (4.0 level for you tennis players). There is a lot of variation in skill at this level. You’ve got former high school champs getting back to the game after twenty years. There are women in their sixties who have been playing tennis their whole lives. And enthusiastic middle-aged newcomers like me. So when my partner and I walk out onto the court for a match we really don’t know what to expect.

The first thing we do to size up our competition is check out how they look. Now, I’m not a physically intimidating person. By that I mean I am short. And not particularly buff. Almost everyone I face on the court is either taller or more muscular than me. So if you walked onto a tennis court and found that I was your opponent, you probably wouldn’t feel too worried. But in tennis, looks can be deceiving.

I found that out the hard way when my partner, Susan, and I were matched against a pair of wealthy-looking babes in their late fifties. Lipsticked up, with diamond tennis bracelets dangling from their wrists, the gals limped onto the court with their knee braces and ibuprofen. You knew they wouldn’t be able to do much sprinting. “Let’s just have fun, girls” they called as they popped open the new can of balls. I grinned confidently at Susan and murmured, “Let’s move the ball around. Make ‘em run.”

Yeah, right. Our opponents may have been older and less agile, but we were the ones doing the running. They placed their shots with the precision of surgeons. If I charged the net, they lobbed it over my head. If I hung back, they executed a perfect drop shot. They had spin, they had angles, and they had strategy. By the end of the first set, Susan and I were panting and dripping with sweat while our opponents’ lipstick wasn’t even smudged. After that match, every time I faced an older woman with a knee brace I knew I was in deep trouble.

So, now, when I meet my competition and see that they are 34 years old, six feet tall and as toned as Maria Sharapova, I tell myself not to worry. I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve that might surprise them. I’m even thinking about getting my own knee brace.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Too Old to be the Next American Idol

In our forties, we often get a second shot at pursuing dreams we’d put on hold to focus on careers, marriage and kids. For me, one of those dreams was to become a singer. But according to American Idol, the national showcase for emerging vocal talent, it’s too late. I am just way too old.

In 2004, American Idol decided to increase the maximum age for contestants from 26 to 28 years of age. The minimum age, 16, remained in place. The reason for the change, explained FOX programming chief Gail Berman, was that the network felt too many talented “older” people had been turned away in prior seasons.

What I want to know is this: why must American Idol impose an age limit at all? Musical knowledge and ability don’t peak at age 28. According to Joni Wilson, renowned voice trainer and performance coach, "There is no reason for the voice to age except for poor voice technique." And American Idol knows this. FOX’s Berman stated, "I'm sure there are people who are tremendously talented above that age, but we're talking about people who hope to have pop careers afterward."

So, according to FOX, people over age 28 can have tremendous talent. They just can’t expect to be pop stars. Well, I guess no one told that to Sheryl Crow, Daniel Powter, or KT Tunstall, all successful pop artists who each had their first record released when they were past American Idol’s age limit. Older touring acts are some of the industry’s top sellers – just look at the Police, the Rolling Stones and Madonna. They’re all over 50 years old, practically geriatric by American Idol’s standards.

Age is the single demographic characteristic regulated by the show. The only other requirements are that a contestant be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and not have a recording contract at the time of his or her audition. A contestant can be of any ethnicity, income bracket or sexual orientation. They can even be (like this season’s David Hernandez) a former male stripper. They just can’t be “older.”

Winning American Idol doesn’t guarantee a successful pop career anyway. Yes, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have been hugely successful. But Ruben Stoddard and Taylor Hicks haven’t fared as well. Does that mean men should be barred from the competition?

Of course not. Musical stardom is a chancy dream for anyone to pursue; the odds of making it are miniscule. But making predictions based on a contestant’s age is plain discrimination. American Idol should accept contestants on the basis of their talent, not their age, and let the audience decide who has the most appeal. Only then will we really know what Americans want from their pop stars.

And only then can I audition.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Should I Ground Myself?

As a mother of a tween and a teen, I'm the maker and enforcer of many rules. I monitor my kids’ diet, television viewing, Internet usage, homework, chores, manners, activities, grooming and grammar. It’s my job as a parent, but still, it’s exhausting. So exhausting, that I tend to slack off when it comes to my own behavior. I’m doing a pretty good job managing Emma and Nick, but no one is holding me accountable to the same rules I set for them. And I’m breaking a lot of them. So I’m wondering, should I ground myself?

In the last couple of weeks, here are just a few of my infractions:

1. Excessive use of the Internet
I’m addicted to my computer. Unlike my kids, I don’t play games or chat with friends, but my activities are just as frivolous. I google acquaintances, check out gossip websites, window shop online. I check my email, watch funny videos on YouTube, download songs from itunes and plan imaginary vacations on I know it isn’t good to waste so much time online. I wouldn’t let my kids do it. But no one tells me when enough is enough.

2. Partying
A few weeks ago, my husband and I went with friends to the House of Blues to see a really fun band called the Subdudes. We thought that they would start around 9pm, but the band didn’t take the stage until close to 11pm. By then, I’d definitely had a cocktail or two too many. By the end of the concert, I was in the front row, banging on the stage and screaming at the drummer “more tambourine!” I think he was a little scared of me. Was this appropriate behavior for a grown woman? I’d say not. But who was gonna stop me? At least we took a taxi home.

3. Late Homework
In my house, I’m in charge of the bills and administrative stuff. If I dedicated an hour or so a week to the job, it would be no big deal. But I’m not that disciplined. I stuff all the mail in a big basket and hide it in a cabinet until the last day of the month. By the time I get to the huge pile, I’ve inevitably missed deadlines or incurred fines or am rudely late in responding to things. If I were being graded on my work, I’d get a C-. If one of my kids got a rotten grade like that, I’d be calling an emergency parent-teacher conference. But no one around here has noticed my weak performance.

I break a lot of other rules too. I eat junk food, stay up too late watching trashy TV shows, forget to write thank you notes, say bad words. My closet is a mess! Nick and Emma would get in big trouble if they behaved as I do. Luckily they haven’t called me on it. And my husband isn’t the type to criticize. Looks like the only one I’m accountable to here is myself.

I guess I’m grounded.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

You've Got it, I Want it - Taming my Envious Ways

Now that I’m in my forties, I think I’ve got myself pretty together. I like who I am; I like my life. But sometimes there’s this tight little knot in my gut that tells me that you’ve figured it out far better than I have.

Sometimes you’re a stranger and other times you’re my best friend. I see you at the grocery store and you stand out with your perfectly styled hair, diamond earrings and designer coat. I call you up for a chat and you’re baking tarts and practicing French with your six year old. I glance over at you in the locker room and see that your stomach is as taut as a trampoline. We’re giggling over drinks when you share a bedroom secret about your sexy husband. You just bought a summer home in Michigan. You’ve been asked to speak at a conference in Vegas.

Good for you, girlfriend, I’m sure you’ve earned it. But why does your success feel so bad for me? Why do I end up feeling frumpy, stupid, lazy, and unsuccessful? And why am I so mad at you?

It’s envy.

According to The Psychological Bulletin (2007), envy is best defined as a “state in which the desired advantage enjoyed by another person or group of people causes a person to feel a painful blend of inferiority, hostility, and resentment.” Oh, yeah. That’s me.

To try to deal with my envious feelings, I’ll make a list of all the things I have that the other woman doesn’t have. Melissa may have started her own business, but her house is a shambles. Eileen is as fit as an aerobics instructor, but she hasn’t read a book in over a year. Telling myself that myself that I’m better organized and more literate might ease the knot in my stomach a little bit. But not much.

Because I shouldn’t have to put another woman down to feel better about myself.

You’re not my competition because there is no game being played that either of us can win. Your success doesn’t take away from my ability to succeed. But, your accomplishments might just be a signal to me of what I really want.

So here’s what I’m going to do when that envious knot starts its twisting. I’m going to recognize that you’ve achieved something that matters to me and I’m going to stand back and admire you for it. I think it will make me feel a lot better about both of us.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Standing Up for Silda

Silda Wall Spitzer has been criticized for standing next to her husband, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, as he publicly apologized for “acting in a way that violates my obligations to my family.” Those actions were soon known to be his long-term patronage of a prostitution ring. I wonder what Silda was thinking as Spitzer delivered his statement.

I watched the March 10th video. Silda, with downcast eyes and a pained expression, stands tight behind her husband’s right shoulder. She is obviously in distress. Yet, it looks like she’s leaning into Spitzer, as if she’s trying to physically reassure him, provide him support.

Silda’s support is nothing new in the Spitzer’s 20-year marriage. A Harvard law school grad, she gave up her successful law career to take care of their three children. She devoted herself to Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign. In a recent interview she was quoted as saying,

“Eliot and I both grew up with parents who worked together as a strong team. That's the only way I know how to go about it, to be as supportive as I can be for him. He, in turn, is as supportive as he can be with my interests and endeavors."

Well. I wouldn’t characterize Spitzer’s 10-year history of dalliances with high-class hookers as being “supportive.”

Perhaps Silda thinks so too. Because two days later, when Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation, things looked a little different on the podium. Silda again stood at her husband’s side, but there was no contact. The space between them was noticeable. Silda’s eyes were not downcast – she looked at Spitzer as he spoke and glanced directly out to the audience.

If I were Silda, I’d be thinking this: “How do I minimize the impact of this scandal on my three girls and maximize the amount of my divorce settlement?” So I’d stand strong, try to maintain my dignity, and do what I could to make sure my husband remained financially solvent. Then a few months down the road, I’d hire the best divorce attorney in the state of New York and sue the bastard.

To hell with taking one for the team.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Marjie's Mainstays - Stuff that never fails to make me happy.

If Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart can publish lists of their favorite things then so can I. I may not have a celebrity budget, but I’ve found a few things over the years that make me consistently feel good. Unlike Oprah and Martha’s lists, you won’t find anything outrageously expensive on mine. No Manolo Blahnik stilettos, no trips to Madagascar for the holidays. But here are a dozen things that I feel are worth spending money on time and time again.

Does a Body Good
1. Crest Premium White Strips
For we middle aged babes, there are very few quick fixes and this is one of them. Wear these teeth whitening strips for a week and you will have noticeably whiter teeth. Nothing is more youthful than a dazzling smile. I use them now once a week to touch-up. $34.99 at Drug Stores.
2. Neutrogena Build-A-Tan Sunless Tanning Lotion
Forget the hassle of spray tanning booths. This lotion is quicker, easier and cheaper and results in with a much more natural look. Essential for the long Chicago winters. Who wants to look like you’ve crawled out from under a rock? $9.49 at Drug Stores
3. Body Shop Body Butter
Even Victoria Beckham agrees that this rich cocoa butter based cream is the best body moisturizer around. It comes in a wide array of yummy “flavors.” My favorite is the Mango. $20 at Body Shop.
4. Tweezerman Slanted Tweezers
If, like me, you suffer from what my Aunt Mary calls “wild hairs” listen up. These tweezers are absolutely the best on the market. They can grasp any hair on your face, no matter how stubborn or slippery. $20 at Ulta.

Shopping Bag
5. Gap Long & Lean Jeans
I’m only 5’3”, so I can’t tell you how much I adore the Gap for offering their jeans in three different lengths. This Long & Lean style delivers what the name promises - and the jeans are so comfy. $58 at the Gap.
6. DSW Shoe Store
Thousands of pairs of shoes in your size! No waiting to try them on! Discounted prices! New stock every week! What more could a woman wish for? Prices range from $19 for flip-flops to over $100 for designer brands.

Definitely Delicious
7. Chipotle Mexican Grill
I’m addicted to Chipotle. The food is fresh, colorful and delicious. To keep calories under control, skip the tortilla by ordering a Burrito Bowl and go easy on the sour cream and cheese. You’ll be back. A hearty entrĂ©e and drink cost under $8.
8. Bertolli Frozen Meals
Too busy to cook? You’ve got to try these. Due to Bertolli’s innovative freezing technique, you can serve a restaurant quality Italian meal, full of veggies, in less than 10 minutes. Buy two bags to serve a family of four. Regularly $7.99 at Jewel (but I stock up when they’re on sale).
9. Veuve Clicquot Rose Champagne
If you want to get the party started, nothing does it like a bottle of bubbly. And if you’re popping a cork, you might as well make it something good. This beautiful pink champagne is a splurge, but that’s what makes it special. About $65 at wineries and liquor stores. Too rich for your blood? Try an Italian Prosecco like Zonin, for only $12.

Mood Elevation
10. Chicago Botanical Garden
While simply gorgeous in the warmer months, it is an uplifting place to visit any time of year. With endless gardens, walkways and water views, you can’t help but feel joyful. A guilty pleasure of mine is checking out all the wedding parties that come for photographs on late Saturday afternoons in the summer. 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. Free admission, parking $15.
11. Metra Rail
Why fight traffic? Metra makes a trip into Chicago a pure pleasure. It’s fast, on time, provides great people watching and a spectacular view of the city. And if you want to indulge in a little champagne on the train (see #9 above) it’s safe and legal. One-way fares are comparable to a gallon of gas.
12. KT Tunstall
Cool music from a cool chick who doesn’t sell herself short to sell her albums. For a boost, check out her new album, Drastic Fantastic, at She’ll be playing at the Vic in Chicago on May 16th. Tickets $40.

These are some of the things I love, now how about you? What are some tried and true products and places that make you feel good about life? We are all in need of a pick-me-up from time to time, so pass on the knowledge, sister!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Facing Facts About My Face

Hey, what’s with all these new cosmetic procedures? Botox, Restylane, Laser Surgery – there are so many new products being aggressively marketed to women my age that it’s overwhelming. I’m not ready to go under the knife, but I do have a few issues and it seems to me I should at least know what’s out there. So I decided to attend a group consultation hosted by noted cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Andrew Scheman.

Dr. Scheman’s suburban Chicago practice is booming. It can take over a month to schedule a private appointment with him. To meet consumer demand, he holds regular group consultations, where he presents the latest and greatest products and techniques for achieving a younger looking appearance.

There were two other women at my group consult, held in the elegant waiting area of Dr. Scheman’s offices. I eyed them both furtively, trying to guess their ages and figure out what their skin problems were. Me, I wanted to know what I could do about the blotchy spots on my face as well as the lines on either side of my mouth.

Dr. Scheman started out our session very matter-of-factly. There was no discussion of the ethics of cosmetic enhancements or any salesmanship about the benefits of looking younger. He simply asked us what areas we were interested in learning about. Turns out I was in luck. One of the women, Debbie, was also concerned about deepening smile lines. The other, Maureen, had pigmentation issues like me. Dr. Scheman addressed the smile lines first.

The lines around the mouth, or nasolabial folds, are more than just wrinkles and can’t be treated with topical creams. As you age, your face begins to lose fat. Lacking the underlying support, the skin on your face begins to sag, making expression lines around the mouth look more pronounced. (Here’s a case where losing fat is a bad thing!)

The way to diminish these lines is by injecting “fillers” under the site to plump up the area. Dr. Scheman uses a variety of hyaluronic acid based products. After a quick examination of my lines, Dr. Scheman recommended Juvederm for me and estimated the cost of a single treatment at $400. The treatment would take less than 30 minutes, have minimal side effects (maybe a little swelling) and last about nine months.

“But what about Botox?” I asked. Dr. Scheman explained that Botox is used to treat “dynamic” lines caused by muscle movement. Botox relaxes the muscles that create frown lines on the forehead. Since the lines around my mouth are considered “static” – visible even when the muscles are at rest – they are best treated with fillers. Got it, now what do I do about these dark patches on my face?

When I was first pregnant 15 years ago I developed the “mask of pregnancy” and it never really went away. Dr. Scheman examined my face and said that I indeed had melasma. Melasma is mainly caused by hormones and is light sensitive, which explains why my patches become darker in the summer. I’d seen these amazing transformations on “Extreme Makeover” where years of sun damage and age spots were erased by lasers or deep peels. I was hoping there would be some quick fix for me too. Unfortunately there isn’t.

Because my condition is sensitive to light, laser therapy would just make the spots worse. The only treatment, said Dr. Scheman, is a combination of a fading cream and a killer sunscreen. Did you know that most sunscreens on the market don’t protect against the rays that cause aging? I didn’t! Most sunscreens block UVB rays, which cause cancer, but do not protect against the UVA rays that cause wrinkles and age spots. But Dr. Scheman knew of one sunscreen that blocks both types of rays.

“Uh-oh” I thought to myself, “Here comes the sales pitch for the $100 sunscreen.” Nope. Dr. Scheman recommends Neutrogena’s Healthy Defense 45 SPF Moisturizer with Helioplex, and you can buy it for about twelve bucks at the drugstore. He did recommend a prescription fading cream called Tri-Luma, but cautioned that it would only be effective if I were diligent about using the Neutrogena sunscreen. I bought a tube of Tri-Luma for $90 on the spot.

I left the doctor’s office feeling comforted. I realized that I’d been blaming myself for not taking care of my skin properly. But how could I fight losing facial fat and my own hormones? Now I had a fairly straightforward cure for my blotchy face and a not-too-scary option to deal with my most pronounced wrinkles.

Have I booked my appointment for Juvederm injections yet? I’m not saying. But if you see me with a smile playing around my unblemished, unlined cheeks, you’ll know I’ve been re-juvedermated.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Are You Your Mother?

When my husband tells me “you’re being just like your mother” it’s not a compliment. It means I’m being bossy or stubborn. In other words, I’m not accommodating him. Now, if I were behaving like his mother, he’d be thrilled. It would mean I was nurturing and admiring him - and probably baking him cake.

It’s my mother who gets the bum rap. I’m partly to blame for this. Since I was a teenager, I was determined not be like her. My mother did not represent the hip image I aimed for. She did incredibly annoying things. I remember sitting beside her in the car and listening to her snap her chewing gum as she drove. “Mom, could you stop that?” Wounded, my mom removed the gum. “For heaven’s sake, Marjie, I can’t do anything right around you.”

No, she couldn’t. She got embarrassingly excited at parades, cried at commercials, and was crazy for garage sales. She snorted when she laughed, drank too much at parties, and always wanted to go on mother-daughter expeditions. “Let’s go for a canoe ride,” she’d urge. “Let’s go apple picking!” I shuddered at the thought of us being seen together in public. Hanging out with your mom was definitely not cool.

By the time I went to college, I’d eased up. I no longer felt that everything my mom did was a direct reflection on me. And being away made me realize what a generous, supportive person she was. I appreciated her, but I still didn’t want to be like her. I was going to create my own unique identity in the world that had absolutely nothing to do with my mother.

But now that I’m in my forties and my identity is pretty well formed, I’ve got to ask myself. Have I turned out to be like my mother?

At forty-four, my mother was married for the third time and had already sent my brother and me off to college. I’m still with husband number one and my two children will be around for another eight years. When she was my age, my mother owned and managed two childcare centers in our hometown, while I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom just beginning to restart my career. She lived in a small town in Michigan. I live in Chicago. But we aren’t really talking about life events here.

We’re talking about character and personality. And in these areas I admit I’ve turned out to have some strong resemblances to my mother. Both of us are independent and opinionated, which sometimes gets us in trouble. We are both optimists – we wake up happy and find there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. We get engrossed in a good book and tend to bite our nails when doing so. We generally expect to get our way and become impatient and cranky when we don’t. We drink chardonnay. We’re generous to the people we love.

Hmm. Looking over this list, I guess it’s not so bad to have turned out like my mother after all. But I still don’t chew gum.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Techno Teen

My son, Nick, is a technology whiz. If you’ve got a teenager in your house you know what I mean. These kids have grown up on the computer. Burning a disk or laying down tracks on Garageband comes as naturally as sleeping ‘til noon on Sunday. Teens are masters of digital multi-tasking. Nick can simultaneously play a computer game, chat with six “buddies” and consult his on-line math tutorial – all while rocking out to itunes. As you’ll see, his skill on the computer puts me at a distinct parental disadvantage at times.

Nick’s passion for the computer confounds me. I’m certain there’s something really wrong with it. I’m just not sure exactly what it is. To appear like I’m in control, I randomly forbid stuff just for the hell of it.

Look, I love the Internet too. Email is efficient and fun, Mapquest is a huge timesaver, and who can resist Will Ferrell’s website? Still, most of what goes on inside the expensive machine on my desk is a mystery to me. You can’t blame me for feeling a little fearful. But that’s because I’m old. Like our grandparents hated rock & roll in their day, we parents today fear technology as a corrupting influence. We will never feel as comfortable with the computer as our kids do.

Sometimes Nick’s techno know-how comes in handy. It’s like having our own in-house Geek Squad. When our PC crashed last month, we decided to replace it with an iMac. Who is the resident Apple expert in our house? The fourteen year old, of course. Schools use Macs. Steve Jobs understood the value of getting consumers at the earliest age. He must have known the Jesuit saying “give me a child when he’s seven and I’ll give you the man”. Nick, who created his own website on a Mac in sixth grade, is now completely proficient. So we took him along to the Apple Store to help make our purchase.

It was a good move, because Nick could really relate to our nineteen-year-old salesperson, Jason. In fact, Nick taught Jason a few things about adding widgets to his dashboard (don’t ask). And when we got our bright, new, totally cool iMac home, Nick promptly set it up for us. Relieved and grateful, we heaped praise upon him for his impressive computer skills. Big mistake.

Unwittingly, we had confirmed Nick’s growing suspicions about us. You know, that we didn’t know everything. In fact, when it came to computers his parents didn’t know much at all. Nick liked being the computer authority in the house. He liked it a little too much.

Nick began to assert his power. He made rules about the iMac. “We will each log into our own screen name and log out when we are done,” he instructed. He set and reset our passwords so we had to check with him before we could access our email. One Saturday morning I signed on to review my checking account and found a huge blinking message on my screen “LOG OFF WHEN YOU ARE DONE”. That did it. I stomped up to his room.

“You are not the boss of me!” I yelled. Nick looked up from his book and said calmly, “Mom, the rule is you have to log off every time. That was just a reminder.” “YOU don’t get to make the rules!” I shrieked. “You are the kid! I don’t have to log off if I don’t want to and you better take that obnoxious screensaver off my computer right NOW!”

With a shrug, Nick sauntered down the stairs to the iMac and pressed a few keys. The offensive text disappeared. I glared at him and sat down in front of the computer, huffing in indignation. But, I’d shown him who was in charge hadn’t I?

Now, if only I could remember my bank account password.

“Um – Nick?”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Newly Sporty at Forty

Growing up, I didn’t play sports much. In the late 70’s, Title IX, the law banning discrimination in school sports, was far from being implemented in my small town high school. Most of the sports opportunities and glory belonged to the boys. In my mind, the highest athletic feat I could achieve was being a cheerleader. Instead of practicing my jump shot, I worked on pointing my toes during cartwheels and punching out precise arm moves. While it made for a pretty picture in my Lakeland High School yearbook, cheerleading hasn’t been of much use to me, especially lately.

Now that I’m in my forties my athletic prowess is being put to the test - and it’s coming up short. My husband and I have fallen in with a sporty group, the kind of people who play coed softball every Friday night, and beach volleyball every Sunday afternoon. For years we would come out to cheer them on (something I’m good at), mostly hoping to tag along to the post-game beer and hotdog parties. But this summer we were talked into joining a beach volleyball team. And let me tell you, it’s been pressure.

First of all, although everyone says these games are just for fun, they lie. The only purpose of the game is to win, preferably by crushing and humiliating your opponent. As a player, you’re very aware if you aren’t pulling your weight. The first six times I served, the ball plopped lamely into the net. Though my friend Tricia called out encouragingly, “Almost!” I couldn’t help but notice the guys on our team rolling their eyes and kicking sand.

When I wasn’t serving, I was never sure when it was my turn to hit. The ball would sail high over the net, and hang suspended in the wind. I’d squint up at it fearfully. Was it coming my way? Was I supposed to bump it or set it or something? Surely someone else would get it. Splat. The ball would land at my feet. “Oh, was that one mine?” I’d ask timidly. From my teammates’ silence, I gathered it was.

My husband was no help. Growing up in Ireland, he’d never played a day of volleyball in his life. Still, he was able to serve overhand and spike like a pro after only a few games. Apparently he had developed excellent hand-eye coordination in his hurling days. My toe pointing skills were not applicable to volleyball. For three weeks I had nightmares about being cut from the team. I had to try harder.

Eventually, my effort paid off. By the end of the summer I could get my serve over the net most of the time. When a ball came my way, I screamed “mine!” with gusto. I made mistakes, lots of them, but more often than not I kept the ball in play. As we neared the end of the season, our team was winning more and more.

One Sunday, Stephanie joined our team. Man, was she awful. She whacked the ball with such force it flew sideways into the parking lot. She whiffed, missing the ball completely. “Ha-Ha,” she tried to laugh, though her cheeks were burning. “Just for fun, right?” My teammates did some sand scuffing and eye rolling, but not me. I walked over to Stephanie and patted her shoulder. “Absolutely, Steph. And don’t worry, you just need a little practice. Let me show you the right way to bump.”

As I demonstrated the proper form, I thought about how far I’d come that summer. You know, there might be a competitive athlete in me yet.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mid-Life Marriage Makeover

In August, my husband, Liam, and I celebrated our 16th anniversary at a posh restaurant. We toasted each other with champagne. “Here’s to another sixteen years!” Unfortunately, if we follow current trends, we aren’t likely to make it another nine. According to a study reported in Divorce Magazine, only 33% of couples that marry reach their twenty-fifth anniversary. While that does take into account spouses who die, the real culprit is divorce. And more people in their middle years are getting divorced than ever before.

People of all ages are divorcing more often - over half of all marriages now end in divorce. But the middle years are especially tough on a marriage. Studies show that these are the years when marital satisfaction can hit bottom. The decline in satisfaction is often caused by stressful events that occur at this stage of life like parenting teenagers, becoming empty nesters, caring for aging parents, and dealing with financial and career pressure. Also, unlike at younger ages when husbands are the most likely to do the leaving, the wife initiates two-thirds of divorces after age forty.

So statistically, I have a 2 out of 3 chance of getting a divorce in the next nine years and I’m likely to be the one filing the papers. This is scary. I never thought that my marriage might be in danger. But I do seem to have a lot of friends who are suddenly calling it quits. What they are going through is painful and messy, to say the least. If I want to avoid a sticky mid-life divorce, I guess I’m going to need to pay a little more attention to my relationship.

That’s just what Cathy Brody, marriage counselor and co-author of Renew Your Marriage at Midlife, says needs to happen on a regular basis. She says, “Marriage is a constant cycle of renewal and rebalance.” In order to survive, a marriage needs upkeep. But what is the goal? John Gottman, PhD, has been researching marriages for decades. He has found that “happy marriages are based on deep friendship.” This means that a couple shares mutual respect, enjoys each other’s company, and knows each other intimately.

Sounds good on paper, but how do we do that? After sifting through what the experts have to say, here are three things I plan to work on.

1. Do things together when we are both at our best.
I’m pretty sure I’m not at my best before 6:30am or after 10 pm, which are the main times I’m alone with Liam. To avoid only spending “leftover time” with your spouse, you need to plan fun things to do together. I’m booking a babysitter and buying us concert tickets for next weekend. I’m even looking into golf lessons.

2. Show Appreciation
I think Liam is a great guy, but I’m not sure if I’ve told him that lately. According to the experts, you can’t underestimate the power of sincere compliments or expressions of affection. No one likes being taken for granted.

3. Set Common Goals
According to the experts, teamwork and goal setting is essential for married couples. We used to do this. We used to have actual meetings when we wrote out what we wanted for our family, our relationship, and ourselves. But that was ten years ago and our lives have changed a lot since then. Now we tend to handle things on our own. It’s time to dust off the flip chart.

The realization for me is that if I want to make it to my 25th anniversary, I’m going to have to put some time and effort into making my marriage work. Hopefully, my husband will follow suit. The three areas I’m going to work on are just a few of many things you can do to liven up your relationship. My friend Suzanne has a recommendation that involves a blindfold and a cherry lifesaver. But I’ll save that one for another time.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Feline Fantasy

I want to be a cougar. Not the four-legged animal, silly. I want to be one of those glamorous confident older women who go on the prowl for younger men. Cougars are the “it” girls of choice right now. Fueled by TV shows like Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives, women over forty are now seen as hot stuff. And well-known Hollywood couples like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have made the older woman/younger man pairing not only acceptable, but downright steamy.

I’m forty-four, the perfect age to be a cougar. I’ve got the right feisty attitude. In the dim light of a smoky bar, I can look darn sultry. The only thing stopping me from going out on the hunt for a young stud of my own is the brawny Irishman I’ve been married to for the last 16 years. Oh, and my two kids. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

If I wanted to kick it into Cougar-drive, I’d have lots of resources to help me out. Dating websites like help older women and younger men find one another. The definitive book on the subject was written by Canadian author Valerie Gibson, “Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men”. This guide tells you how to find and identify the different types of “prey,” prepare the perfect seduction, deal with body image problems during sex, and survive the inevitable break up. What more do you need to know?

Women prefer younger guys because they are more relaxed, have more energy, and are just more fun than older men (not to mention their smokin’ hot bods). Many receptive young men, referred to as “cougees,” welcome the attention of more mature women. They admire the gals’ confidence and experience. As one young cougee puts it, “Older women are sassy, bold, cerebral, know what they like, are good conversationalists and are incredibly delicious lovers. These things are a turn on.” Grrrrrreat!

The website provides guys with tips too, like “tracking a cougar in her natural habitat.” Apparently, one of the most fertile hunting grounds is the supermarket. It’s true; I do spend a lot of time there. Hmm, just yesterday, a young guy was very chatty with me in the Costco meat department. Was I being stalked? A real cougar would have identified the signs and stalked him right back.

A man is considered officially younger if he is at least eight years your junior. But how young is too young? Dating men younger than your children is definitely a no-no. One rule of thumb allows you to date any man who is at least half your age plus seven years. At forty-four, that means anyone over 29 years old would be fair game for me. How exciting! Who could I date?

I eagerly logged onto my iMac to search for some potential targets. Josh Hartnett is 29, so he’s up for grabs. I could hook up with singers James Blunt and John Mayer (both 30) or actors Colin Ferrell (31) and Joaquin Phoenix (33.) Jude Law (35) gets my whiskers quivering, though he’s kinda getting up there. But while these guys are prime specimens, they aren’t exactly baggage free. They’ve got ripped abs and full heads of hair, but they have pasts checkered with messy relationships, legal troubles and children to support.

Just for comparison, I looked up some men my own age. Brad Pitt, John Stamos, Benjamin Bratt, Seal – these hotties were all born in 1963, and meow, they compare quite favorably to the younger set. And come to think of it, so does my forty-four year old Irishman. Okay. It’s fun to fantasize about catting around with younger guys, but I guess I’ll stick with the middle-aged dude snoozing on the couch next to me. He’s kind of cute when his mouth hangs open like that.

But you know I’m wearing lipstick and kitten heels the next time I head to Costco.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Coolest So Far

Since I turned forty a couple of years ago, I’ve never been so cool. It’s been a surprise. I thought I’d basically be washed-up by now. But I’ve got it going on in ways I never did when I was younger. And looking around at my fellow forty-somethings, I see I am not alone. The forties are the coolest decade by far.

There isn’t any single recipe for being cool. But cool women usually have a few things in common. They like themselves a lot, show discerning taste and do interesting things with interesting people. It takes some effort to be cool. But it’s actually easier to achieve in your forties than any other decade.

20s – You think you’re cool but you’re not.

In your twenties, you’re young and good looking and have lots of enthusiasm for life. You’re out on your own for the first time and everything around you is new and exciting. All this action makes you think you’re cool. But you’re not.

The twenties are an age of worry and insecurity. The pressure of trying to fit in while you’re still figuring out who you are is intense. There are so many choices and decisions to make you’re overwhelmed. There’s even a term for this phase – Quarterlife Crisis. I certainly suffered from it. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I lived in three cities, worked for four companies, had seven different apartments and a half-dozen half-hearted relationships.

Without an established identity, you tend to be easily influenced by the media and trends. I quit my (second) job in Memphis and moved to Chicago based on how glamorous the city appeared in a brat pack movie called “About Last Night.”

All the turmoil makes for a very heightened, vivid time of life. But you can’t be cool if you don’t know who you are and like yourself for it. Hopefully, by the end of your twenties, you’ll begin to feel more confident. Then you can make informed choices based on discrimination and taste.

30s – Too tired for cool

No matter what level of cool you managed to achieve in your twenties, you are destined to lose it in somewhere in your thirties. Because inevitably, your discriminating choices start leading to more responsibilities. Your job becomes more demanding, you get married, buy a home, start a family. You suffer through pregnancy, lack of sleep, financial pressure and home maintenance.

You swap your Elle and Vanity Fair magazines for Parent and House & Garden. Taking care of your home and kids becomes your priority. You let yourself go to pot. You are flabby, worn out and just plain cranky. You’re too tired to exercise or go out for dinner and you can’t remember the last time you had sex.

As least that’s how it was for me when my kids were little. After a long day feeling inept at work and incompetent as a mother, I was wrecked. All I wanted to do was crawl into my flannel pajamas, slurp down a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, and get and a good night’s sleep. As for being cool? I couldn’t have cared less.

40s - Discovering your Cool

Then, one day in your forties, standing in your sparkling, remodeled kitchen, you notice something strange. It’s quiet. The kids are in school, the dog is housebroken, and you’ve paid your Visa bill in full for nine months in a row. “What’s this?” you ask yourself uneasily.

Honey, I believe you’ve discovered TIME FOR YOURSELF.

When this blissful point arrives, a woman in her forties must take action. This is not a signal to defrost the freezer. You’ve put your hopes and dreams on the back burner for long enough.

You’ve got more time, more money and more self-knowledge than you did when you were younger. And suddenly, you really don’t care what other people think. You’re ready to take risks. This is your time to be cool!

Women I know are practically flaunting their newfound fabulousness. They are starting businesses, going back to school, exhibiting in art galleries, writing books. These grown-up babes look hotter than they ever did in their twenties or thirties. They understand their figures, dress well, pamper themselves and stay in shape.

Since turning 40, I’ve sung in a rock band, produced my own TV show, and played on a beach volleyball team. My younger self would have been too self-conscious or afraid to try these new things. It’s a combination of knowing myself and knowing how fast time goes by that makes me want to experience things right now.

The forties are definitely my coolest age so far. But I’m wondering about what comes next. Do we women keep getting cooler? Hey, you hip chicks in your fifties, sixties, and seventies – let me hear from you!