Friday, May 29, 2009

The Four Fs to Losing Four Fast Pounds

Personal trainer Sharon Davis explains the four "F"s of how to lose four pounds in just 2 weeks - and I sign on for the program! Today is my first official day, and I admit, I'm nervous. I haven't consistently worked out or paid attention to my diet in about a year. But I'm working on the first "F" - Focus.

Check back over the next two weeks to read about my progress - I'm going to provide regular updates. And if you're also trying to shed a few before hitting the beach, I'd love to hear how it's going!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What I Watched this Weekend: Star Trek, The Tempest and Jon & Kate Plus 8

This Memorial Day weekend I had the chance to view a an eclectic assortment of shows - the Star Trek movie, The Tempest at Steppenwolf, and the Jon & Kate Plus 8 season premier. Here are my reviews of each.

Friday night: Star Trek - An intergalactic roller coaster ride chock full of hotties & humor
This action-packed romp through space and time is pure fun, fun, fun! The special effects were great and I appreciated the treasured Trekkie "beam me up" and "warp speed" references, but the best part was discovering each member of the Enterprise crew as his or her younger self. The new cast is outstanding - Chris Pine is perfect as a brash, charming, daredevil Kirk and young Spock is surprisingly studly. Even the tattooed goth bad-guys were kind of hot. And while whole planets end in destruction, the violence is secondary to the good-natured rollicking cheer of the film.

The only thing I could have done without was Leonard Nimoy's appearance, boy does he look old with his wrinkled pointy ears. And Winona Ryder is strangely cast as Spock's mother. But I'm nitpicking now - just go see it!

Sunday afternoon: The Tempest - Only dozed off once!
I treasure my Steppenwolf season tickets, but I wasn't dying to see this show. Shakespeare's archaic language, twisted story lines and longwinded speechifying often leave me snoozing in my seat. And I wasn't encouraged by the barren and gray Steppenwolf stage. "Where's the set?" I whispered to my friend Mary, stifling a yawn. Then - kaboom! I was in the midst of a hideous storm.

The opening shipwreck scene was brilliant - something right out of Cirque de Soleil - with sailors dangling precariously from swaying rope ladders above our heads. I sat on the edge of my seat, heart pounding. This was no boring musty classic here. Things proceeded at a relatively brisk pace. Led by Frank Galati as Prospero, the talented cast interpreted the cumbersome language in a way that I actually got what was going on. And with the political intrique, magic spirits, love-at-first-sight, and slavery-bondage themes, there was something for everybody. I admit I did nod off a bit in the first act. But overall, it was a provocotive and cool show.

Sunday evening: Jon & Kate Plus 8 Season Premier - Compellingly cringe-worthy
My sixth-grade daughter loves this show, but all those screaming little kids and sniping parents stress me out. Still, I couldn't resist watching the season five premier last night. The sextuplets were celebrating their 5th birthdays, but the real action was watching Jon and Kate deal with the tabloid reports that they've cheated on each other.

I have one word to sum up their interactions - awkward! Kate is so pissed she can't even bring herself to say her husband's name and Jon slumps around like a sulky teenager. Obviously the strain of living their lives and bringing up eight kids on TV has taken it's toll. But it's so bizarre that they would continue to play out their private difficulties in public. It made me sick, and I think the exploitative producers should be ashamed of themselves. Of course, last night's episode got probably got the shows highest ratings ever.

Okay, that's my round-up. What are you watching these days?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seeing Old Grampa Leo with New Eyes

I'm beginning to act like my Grampa Leo, and that's not a good thing. Leo was my widowed grandma's second husband and he took some getting used to. He was hard of hearing and barked out orders, he was missing his right pinkie finger, and he seemed really old. Leo taught me play gin rummy, though. He'd give me a head start of 60 points (because he was 60 years older,) but after making that concession, he was a merciless shark.

Though he was kind of fun at a card table, Leo was downright embarrassing at a restaurant table. "What kind of a place is this?" he'd bellow, "I can't read the menu, it's pitch dark in here!" As a kid, I'd cringe in shame. The menu was perfectly legible, our table was well-lit, what was the old coot talking about?

Now I know. Because suddenly, I can't read a menu to save my life.

It's like a flip has been switched and my near vision is now OFF. Friends have complained of this - they can't read the tiny label on their lipsticks, they've had to hang reading glasses from lampshades throughout their home - while I've been smugly perusing the fine print all along. No longer. And restaurant menus were one of the first things to go.

I tried a few tricks to work around my declining vision. I held the menu far away, but my arms weren't long enough. I'd hold up the votive candle or my cell phone as a flashlight. It was no use, the menu was still a blur. When all failed, I'd place a generic order - "just a burger" or "same thing she's having." But clearly the writing was on the wall. I went to see my eye doctor.

I already wear contact lenses for distance, so his solution was to upgrade me to "baby bifocals" - lenses for people like me who's near vision is just starting to go. Apparently I'm not alone. Millions of Americans over age 40 suffer from this condition, called presbyopia, latin for "elder eye." Presbyopia is caused by the natural course of aging and there is (cue sinister music) no cure.

Wow, my first official incurable old-age disease, what a milestone! What should I do to celebrate, toast myself with a bottle of Geritol? I think not. I'm going challenge my daughter to a mean game of gin, peer at my cards through my new baby bi-focals, and think fondly of old Grampa Leo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Pediatrician wants to sell me Botox and other Pet Peeves

I try to stay positive here at Forty Fabulous, but today I'm damn cranky. It could be my hormones, could be lack of sleep. Whatever the reason, I've got a few things that are bugging me and I'm gonna get them off my chest.

Peeve #1: My pediatrician wants to sell me Botox.
I've got an excellent pediatrician, the best. My kids love going to see her. The examination rooms are delightful, she's got creams and sprays so shots don't hurt, she's knowledgable, available and sympathetic. Over the years I have been grateful for her care.

But being a top-notch pediatrician must not pay, because now she's opened a side business, a Medi-Spa. At my daughter's last check-up she gave me a free estimate of how much it would cost to "freshen up." She handed me a diagram of my face covered with an alarming amount of X's - sites that could use a dose of Botox. A fresh face would cost a cool $800 every three months. Since then, I've received lovely invitations and medi-spa menus promoting her new line of services.

As my girlfriends would say, that ain't right. This woman is an amazing pediatrician; she should stay focused on taking care of the children in her practice, not exploit the vanity of their mothers. A great pediatrician is a rare find - I can get Botox at the mall.

Peeve #2: My dog doesn't love me, she's just using me for food.
Last week, the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn reported some cold-hearted facts: dogs don't love their owners, they merely manipulate them for their own gain. According to dog expert John Katz, "Over 15,000 years of domestication, dogs have learned to trick us into thinking they love us."

I adore my West Highland Terrier, but I suspect it's true. Though Kelly dances for joy when I walk in the door and sweetly snuggles with me on the couch in the evenings, she'd do the same for anyone with kibble in their pocket. I understand that dogs don't feel love as we humans do. But knowing that Kelly is merely a highly-evolved affection faker is a bit of a let down.

Peeve #3: The Real Housewives of New York aren't housewives.
This Bravo "reality" show may feature real women, but by no stretch of the imagination are they housewives. Not only do all these abrasive Manhattan chicks have big-time careers, their children are cared for by others and half of them aren't even married.

Of course it's more glamorous to follow women to designer fashion boutiques and charity tennis matches in the Hamptons than to show women in sweatpants folding laundry, but at least call it what it is. Because of programs like this, the word "housewife" has become synonymous with spoiled, shallow, gossipy bitch. As a mom who spent the better part of a decade putting her career on hold to focus on home and family, I object!

Oh my, I've been kvetching for too long, so I'll end here. I didn't even get to Peeve #4: Sarah Palin is Writing a Memoir or Peeve #5: I Can't Read a Menu Without a Flashlight. But you can probably fill in the blanks on those.

Got any pet peeves of your own? Post 'em here!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Shunned as a Chaperone

I’ve committed an unpardonable parental sin – I’ve volunteered to chaperone my son’s high school dance. It’s not my usual thing, but the Freshman Spring Mixer Committee had been sending out a series of increasingly desperate emails, pleading for help. They were only asking for an hour or so; it would barely interfere with my Friday night. Figuring it was no big deal, I signed up for the early shift.

Big mistake, according to my son, who demanded in disgust, “Why are you doing this to me?”

“Nick,” I said, “They need parents to help or they can’t have the Mixer.”

“Well, it doesn’t have to be you. A thousand kids go to my school, Mom. Let someone else’s parents do it.”

“Come on, I promise that I won’t talk to you. You won’t even see me there.”

“I don’t want anyone I know to see you there.”

I’m not really offended by his loathing because I get it. The last person I would have wanted hanging out at my high school dances was my mother. But someone has to help out, right? The thought of a thousand unsupervised 14 and 15 year-olds getting their dance on is scarier than an outbreak of the Swine Flu.

I tried to get my friends to chaperone with me, but only Jenny replied to my email and her refusal was curt. “My kid would kill me!” Yeah, I can relate.

I’m committed now and it’s the right thing to do, but I want Nick to feel comfortable and have a good time. So for my shift on Friday, I’m going to dress nondescriptly, button my lip, avert my eyes, and pretend I don’t recognize a single kid there. And when it’s time to chaperone the next dance, it’s someone else’s turn!