Thursday, December 15, 2011

Have a Merry Midlife Crisis and a Happy New Year

This year I focused on creating my own midlife crisis. My goal was to get the benefits of this critical time of life without suffering the pain and angst. As I do with any new project, I started out with great purpose and enthusiasm.

In January I worked to accept my changing body.
In February, I got organized to make room for the new me.
In March I worked to become quiet and pay attention to my intuition.
In April I went out looking for inspiration.
In May I began to lose focus and goofed off.
In June I worked on developing new positive habits, one of which was writing every day.
By July I was so damn sick of writing about myself I took the rest of the summer off.

In September I reviewed a video called "Hot Flash Havoc" and it changed my life. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and since then have been taking a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Now many of my mid-life crisis symptoms, apparently hormonally induced, are gone. 

In October, November and December, I felt really good and was so busy with other writing projects and kids and home and husband and life, I pretty much forgot I was having a midlife crisis at all. Well, hey.


I am claiming success! The combination of the research and self-analysis and hormone replacement therapy has pretty much dissipated my fear and anxiety about aging and given me a new sense of purpose. And I love that I continue to find that middle age is a fabulous time of life. 

In this  short video I share some of the most important things I learned from my midlife crisis so that you can enjoy yours, whenever it occurs.

I'm closing out the year by wishing you all the merriest of holidays and a very Happy New Year. I raise my glass to the possibilities and fulfillment 2012 holds for us. Cheers!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Have More Fun in Bed

Whee! My latest column for Make it Better is spicy! Follow the link to read 7 Naughty Ways to Have More Fun in Bed  based on advice and tips from women like you and me - including a creative use for the little candy pictured below. 




Tuesday, November 22, 2011

3 Reasons Women Look Better With Age

There's no avoiding it; our appearance is destined to change as we grow older.  Many of us dread the signs of aging because we've bought into the media hype that natural conditions like gray hair and wrinkles are ugly and unacceptable.

Well, I'm here to present an alternate view. Looking older does not mean looking worse! Women in their forties, fifties and beyond can look fantastic while still looking our age. We may not be as firm or unlined as we were in our 20s,  but we have some distinct advantages over our younger selves.

1. We've grown into our looks. As full-fledged women, our appearance expresses not only our heredity, but our personality, character and values. We've lost the baby fat, so to speak, and are emerging as distinctive, unique individuals. We're growing to look more authentically like ourselves - the glorious women we're meant to be - and nothing is more attractive  than that.
  
Coco Chanel
As Coco Chanel famously said, "Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty."

2. We're more confident. When we were young we blossomed with health and energy yet were plagued by doubts and insecurities. Now that we're older, we're past all the bullshit of asking for permission or caring what people think. We've got purpose and conviction and an agenda, dammit, and we're not looking to be rescued. This self-assuredness that comes with years is magnetic and sexy, and is cited as a main reason younger men say they are drawn to older women.

There's a kind of confidence that comes when you're in your 40s and 50s, and men find that incredibly attractive.”
Peggy Northrup, former Editor More Magazine

3. We have a better sense of style. Women over forty have learned how to dress. We've come to terms with our bodies and our lives and understand the styles and colors that work best for us. Once, we were tempted by the latest trends; now we invest in clothes that flatter, uplift and last. Oh boy, when I think of some of the awful looks I've sported over the years, I shudder. It took me a few decades to finally get it - I'm curvy and short. Pleated pants, loud prints, capris, ruffles, and shoulder pads might look good on a tall, lanky chicks, but they're banished from my wardrobe for ever. As are perms. Yikes.

For examples of all sorts of women who look better in their 40s and 50's than they ever did in their 20s, check out this gallery from More Magazine.  For fun, I've included some pics of my own.


Me at age 25
Me now, 48


And if you are over 40 and aren't feeling all that fabulous - girl, now's the time to shake things up! Here are some other posts that might interest you:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'Tis the Season for my Holiday Shopping Code of Conduct

The holidays are here, at least as far as retailers are concerned. I haven't even planned my Thanksgiving dinner, but the stores have been bedecked in Winter Wonderland themes and blaring Christmas carols since Halloween.

Some of you chicks have probably already finished your holiday shopping and, while I'm impressed by your efficiency, I'm resentful. Because the rest of us are about to become part of a teeming hoard of stressed-out, deal-seeking, time-crunched shoppers.

To make the experience more pleasant for all of us, I ask everyone to adhere to my Holiday Shopping Code of Conduct.

Shoppers
1. Give each other space.  The stores are crowded, but we still need our personal space. The ideal distance to maintain is a full arm's length, but at the very least do not touch, poke, or rub against another person with your body or belongings. It's upsetting.
2. Practice good line etiquette. No matter how merry, please refrain from whistling, talking loudly on your phone, or flossing your teeth (yes, I've actually seen this.) And move along with the line! Nothing is more frustrating than a shopper who doesn't notice when it's time to step up.
3. Stay home if you're sick. If you are hacking, sneezing, coughing or contagious, do us all a favor and shop online. We can't afford to get sick and besides, your body noises and mucus gross us out.
4. Wear actual clothes. Let's all agree that pjs are not acceptable attire in public - even on black Friday. C'mon, how hard is it to put on some pants? And while you're at it, put on deodorant too.

Salespeople
1. Let us pay the way we want. I know it's your job to ask me for my email and phone number and to join your frequent shopper program and open a credit card and donate to your charity. But if I choose not to participate, don't roll your eyes and snap huffily, "Well, fine, if you don't want to save 15%!" Call me crazy, but I just want to use my Visa.
2. Say "You're welcome." One of my pet peeves is the expression "no problem" as a response to my sincere thank you. It better not be a problem; I gave you a bunch of money! Instead of reassuring me that I didn't inconvenience you, why not say "glad to help" or "my pleasure" or  simply, "enjoy"?
3. Give thoughtful freebies. Everyone loves bonuses and samples, but the treat I'm most grateful for is a little bottle of chilled water that I can take a swig from, then slip into my purse. This is so nice! We shoppers work up a powerful thirst.

Everyone
Spread the cheer. If you have a chance to help another shopper out, do it. Share a tip or a coupon, hold the door for a mom struggling with a stroller, put items back neatly where you found them. And above all, use good manners. Everyone's nerves are frayed this time of year and a smile or kind word can go a long way toward making the season bright.

If you have any suggestions for a better holiday shopping experience, let me hear from you.

Otherwise, I'll see you at the mall!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Cool Cocktail for the Holidays

I made this drink for some girlfriends over the weekend,  and it was as pretty, bubbly and yummy as my guests.



The fresh squeezed lime is the secret ingredient - plan on squeezing lots of 'em. Oh, and my recipe should read  2 oz cranberry juice (not actual cranberries.) 

Cheers! 



Friday, October 28, 2011

Enamored With Oprah

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how enamored I am with Oprah Winfrey right now. I've had the opportunity to screen her newest show, Lifeclass, as well as attend a live (as in LIVE, as in Oprah is 15 feet away and I'm checking out her designer jeans and watching Andre touch up her hair) post-show taping, and tonight I'm attending another one.
Oprah taping her interactive new show for OWN, Lifeclass

Almost every woman in America has been touched by Oprah at some point. Even if you didn't watch her show regularly, you heard about it, or discussed an issue she exposed, or read a book she recommended or bought one of her favorite things as a Christmas gift. My book club has a longstanding joke that we have to bring up Oprah at every meeting, and over the years, we always have.

Oprah has been especially real to those of us living in the Chicago area. I've attended a couple tapings of her talk show - the Chef Art Smith cooking demonstration and the Everybody Loves Raymond cast farewell. I even ran into her years ago at her Big Bowl Restaurant (I think she was picking up some garlic smashed potatoes.)

And of course, as an inquisitive writer/blogger/journalist who's not-so-secret passion is to make it big on the stage or screen, I want Oprah's job.

But despite all of the above, I have never felt that Oprah was a mentor or role model to me personally. Her talk show struck me as was a well-oiled, slickly produced machine with Oprah acting as the masterful ringleader of a really big show. She was larger than life, she was talking to the masses, she was distant. It was fun and exciting to be part of her wildly emoting audience, but I didn't feel any intimate connection.

But with my recent exposure to Lifeclass, I'm experiencing Oprah in a whole new way. First of all, I love the format of the show - just Oprah talking to the camera (read my complete review.) I feel connected not only to her, but to her message, and most importantly, how it relates to ME. When I was at the live taping following the Lifeclass about Letting Go of Anger with guest Iyalana Vanzant, I was blown away by the real healing that occurred in that small, stripped down studio. I could physically feel the release of old grudges and buried hurts and the sweet relief of people being able to release the burden of their anger and move on. It was magical.

So here I am, 48 years old and kind of obsessed by Oprah for the first time. I think she's helping me get over my midlife crisis. 

Tonight I'm attending a second live taping following Oprah's Lifeclass. The topic for tonight is Joy Rising, and I believe Iyanla Vanzant will be Oprah's guest again. I don't know much about Iyanla Vanzant but I intend to go on Amazon and order all her books right this instant, because she was so inspiring when I saw her the first time.

Tonight's webcast will be shown on Oprah.com, her Facebook page and on the OWN cable network at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central. Look for me in the back of the audience, tweeting with my other blogger chick cohorts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Procrastinating or Flirting - Which one is naughty?

Hello my Forty Fabulous friends! While I've been a bit quiet here, I continue to sound off on other sites. Here are two of my latest pieces that I hope you'll enjoy.


1. For The Succulent Wife, my new video on midlife crisis and how to get on with your life - because, I don't know about you, but I don't have time to waste.





2. And my latest Sex & the Suburbs column for Makeitbetter.net, a discussion on the merits of Flirting for Fun.
  
Flirting is a social art as old as Aristotle, and the upcoming holiday season is the perfect time to play the coquette.
It’s fun, it’s intellectual and it’s a bit of a thrill. Done correctly, a flirtation is a light, admiring, slightly sexy interaction that’s conducted purely for the pleasure of the moment.
In France, flirting is a way of life and every woman—regardless of her age or marital status—is considered fair game. Not to flirt is practically considered an insult. Here in the Midwest, single women can flirt their derrieres off, but women in relationships are more conflicted.
Tammy from Wilmette feels flirting is disloyal. “I don’t think it’s right to flirt with someone else’s husband,” she says. ( Read full article.)



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Three Fabulous Finds for Under $50

Every once in a while I stumble on some great products I just have to share.  Last time it was hanky panky thongs and no-show bras; this time it's the world's most comfy shoe and two beauty products to die for.

1. Teva Mush Flyweight Flats - My Fall flip flop
I've been test driving a pair of these cute and colorful little flats for the last few weeks. The moment they arrived, I popped them on my bare feet and headed out for a walk with my West Highland Terrier, Kelly. Going for a long walk in new shoes with no socks sounds like an invitation for blisters, right?

Nope. These shoes barely weigh a thing ( a mere 3.4 oz) and are so flexible and breathable, there's no need to go through the painful breaking-in process most new shoes seem to require. I keep my "Mushes" by the front door for running out for errands, walks, to get the paper, etc. If only they'd make a pair with heels - I need the height!

Available at Alamo Shoes in Chicago for $45-50 a pair. Also available at teva.com. Mine ran true to size.

Also available in this strappy Mary Jane style
I chose the pink ballerina flat 

 2. Nars "The Multiple" in Orgasm
While the name alone makes this shimmery stick kind of irresistible, The Multiple can be used in so many ways, it's sure to satisfy you. Smooth it over cheeks, lips, eyes and skin - anywhere you want to add a rosy glow with a hint of sparkle. $39 at better department stores or at nars.com. Comes in a variety of shades, but Orgasm is most popular, of course.


3. Moroccan Hair Oil
I've been despairing that my hair has been so brittle, tangly, and bushy lately. I'd tried all sorts of deep conditioners and styling products, but nothing seemed to help - until a friend recommended this stuff! Just a few drops of Moroccan Oil on wet hair has turned my lackluster locks into the sleek, shiny tresses of my dreams. This luxurious oil is kind of expensive (my 3.4 oz bottle cost $44 at a nearby salon) but it's absolutely worth it.


Just a quick disclaimer - I'm not being compensated to promote these products, just passing on my discoveries like any good girlfriend. If you're interested in some of my prior picks, check out these posts:

http://fortyfabulous.blogspot.com/2010/01/tips-to-survive-long-cold-winter.html
http://fortyfabulous.blogspot.com/2008/03/marjies-mainstays.html

If anyone should be paying me, it should be Crest Whitestrips - I've mentioned them twice! Hello Procter & Gamble, do you hear me out there?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Review of Hot Flash Havoc

Until recently, I never wanted to discuss menopause. When girlfriends brought up the subject, I'd actually shudder. "Keep your voice down," I'd hiss. "People will think we're old." Then I'd recoil as if my friend had a communicable disease. I sure as hell didn't want to catch it.

But after a year of hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems and moodiness, now I'm the one talking about menopause.

I'm so glad my friends at The Succulent Wife asked me to review the film, Hot Flash Havoc. It's a comprehensive, entertaining guide to the facts and myths regarding this completely natural time of life and it's a must see for every woman over 35. I was surprised by how misinformed I've been.

Check out my complete review and how the film helped me make a "change" that's made me feel Forty Fabulous once again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not a Total Slacker

I took a vacation from blogging this summer, but I've still been writing for Make it Better and continuing my video series and exploration of midlife at The Succulent Wife.

Here are links to some of my latest "Sex in the Suburbs" columns as well as the most recent video I did at TSW.

5 Ways Sex Makes You Younger
6 Reasons Why Women Cheat
Staying Married for the Money - Can You Still be Happy?




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shrugging Off My First World Problems

Yacht trouble?
 This iphone app's for you.
There's a new trend sweeping the internet called "First World Problems" - or, on twitter, #firstworldproblem. Actually, since I know about it, this trend is probably on it's way out, but I just discovered it and I think it's both hilarious and illuminating. First World Problems are problems that most people on our planet can't fathom being troubled by, because they are the concerns of affluence.

Here are a couple I picked up on Twitter:
  • My kid just made the honor roll so now I have to deface my Audi with a bumper sticker.
  • I saw a hipster wearing a shirt I donated to the Salvation Army and now I want it back.
  • I'd just achieved the perfect blend of cream and sugar in my coffee when my waitress poured a free refill into my cup.
Funny, right? But in addition to being an entertaining way to waste time on my iMac, the First World Problem concept has made me rethink the things that I get worked up about on a daily basis. Like...
  • My daughter left six pairs of shoes lying in the front hall.
  • The sprinkler system turned on at 4am and woke me up.
  • Can I saute with olive oil or does high heat turn it into saturated fat?
I mean, really. Are these problems, or privileges?

Of course, when compared to Third World issues like fresh water, literacy and basic human rights, almost all of our modern concerns seem frivolous. Hey, I'm not taking away our inalienable right to bitch, but I think a little global perspective will help smooth out the bumps in our complicated, abundant lives. Often, the things that stress out us most, just aren't important!

So for today, instead of getting freaked out because our brand new universal remote is on the fritz or that my rotten performance in my tennis match made me move down five places on the league ladder, I'm going to appreciate the fact that I have a flatscreen TV and the leisure time to play a sport at all.

Now I'm off to eat three bananas before they turn brown in my fruit bowl. Enjoy your First World day!

For more First World Problems, check out whitewhine.com.



Monday, September 12, 2011

10 Women who Inspire Me Now

I grew up in the era of Charlie's Angels and Victoria Slims' "You've Come a Long Way Baby" models, but I was more influenced by Gone with the Wind's Scarlett O'Hara ( I read the book a dozen times) and Cher, who remains the only celebrity I've ever written a fan letter. What Scarlett and Cher had in common for me was their unabashed bravery in flouting the standards of how women were supposed to behave. They were showy and ballsy and weren't afraid to go after what they wanted. Oh, and they had fun and wore great clothes.
Does it get any cooler than Chrissie?

I'm still a fan of both, but now that I'm older, I thought I'd put together a list of women of all ages who inspire me today. I'd love to hear who's on your list!

1. Chrissie Hynde (60) - When I was the token chick in a cover band, one of the few female fronted groups that the guys were really excited to play was the Pretenders. Why? Because even by guy standards, Chrissy rocks. That bad-ass, gravelly, sexy, screw you alto was irresistible, and when I sang Back on the Chain Gang or Middle of the Road, I felt a little of her gritty, rebellious, passion rubbing off on my soul. I had the chance to see her perform a couple years ago at the Riviera, and in her late 50s, she was cooler than ever.

2. Serena Williams  (29)- I love tennis, so I have to love Serena, the most dramatic, committed, excitingly dominant player in woman's tennis today (despite her loss yesterday to Stauser in the U.S. Open final.) She has had ups, she has had downs, but when this woman is on her game, she is fucking fierce, and it's a beautiful thing to see a woman exude such confidence, power and raw physicality. I even love her temper tantrums.

Wish I looked this good.
3. Helen Mirren (66) - This brilliant, funny, beautiful Brit actress appears to embrace her age and savor her life, all while still rocking a bikini (see right.)

4. Marlo Thomas  (73) - I had the chance to interview Marlo last year, so I may be biased, but this woman continues to be one of the most significant voices for women in our time. She is so much more than "That Girl." She's a feminist icon, the face of St. Jude, and continues to bring women together to talk about meaningful, modern issues at her website. If I'm thinking about a subject, chances are, she has already covered it there.

5. Michelle Obama (47) - Whether or not you agree with her politics, Michelle Obama is a warm, dignified, intelligent, sophisticated first lady who obviously is hot for her husband, adores her children, and conducts herself with confidence and class. Not to mention, she looks fantastic - so chic, so real, and so comfortable in her skin.

6. Tina Fey (41) - Whip-smart, hilarious author and screenwriter who somehow made it into the SNL boys' club. Actor, comedian, performer, producer, star. Of course I'm inspired by Tina Fey. I want to BE Tina Fey.

7. Lady Gaga (25) - I don't get what the hell this chick is up to 90% of the time, but I love her for being so freaking creative and groundbreaking with her image, her music, and her message.

Nina Garcia -
 high fashion, high standards
8. Nina Garcia (46)- I adore this Colombian fashion editor in her role as judge on Lifetime's Project Runway. She is looks fantastic without trying too hard - a combination of classic and cool - which I aspire to as a 40-something woman. But more than her looks, I admire her exacting standards for the designers on the show and her unwillingness to pull any punches in her critique. I, for one, would hate to ever let Nina down. And she has written four books - including The Little Black Book of Style, which I own.

9. Kathryn Bigelow (59) - Bigelow won an Academy award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2010 -far from a girly film. Not only was she the first woman to ever win this category, she beat her ex-husband, James Cameron, nominated for Avatar. Call that karma!

10. Jennifer Garner (39)- In a world of emaciated, overly done, surreal looking starlets toting toddlers while tottering on stilettos, actress Jennifer Garner obviously has her priorities straight. She's a hands-on mom who looks healthy, pretty and natural when hanging with her kids, yet can amp up the glamour on the red carpet when she needs to. So refreshing!

There are a lot more women who inspire me, some famous, but many you've never heard of.  Like the foursome of ladies in their 80s who play tennis on the court next to me on Monday mornings, and a girlfriend who has turned her personal struggles into incredible activism for victims of rape and children with cancer, an insightful life coach, and my mother  - who at 70 - is just hitting her stride as as an artist.

When I look ahead and think about the qualities I want to embody, I don't need to start from scratch. There are so many fantastic women all around me to use as role models and mentors.

So, who inspires you?


Here are some other inspiring women I've written about in the past:
Annie Burnside, Soul Nurturer and Enlightened Parenting Expert
Sheri, a 43 year-old woman who went through in-vitro to have a child on her own
Singer-Songwriter Stephanie Rogers, who is releasing her new album this week!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gone Fishing

I've been neglecting Forty Fabulous for the last few weeks and I think I'll keep it up for a while. I need to regroup and find the right balance of meaningful, fun material that will satisfy, entertain and enlighten both me and YOU, my dear readers. In June, when I attempted to write every day, I fizzled. I turned to my own experiences and opinions for material too often and frankly, I'm damn sick of myself!

So I'm taking a break and going off the grid. Let's just say I've gone fishing.

But, just like Arnold in the Terminator, I'll be back. And when I am, I'll do everything I can to get and hold your attention.

If I've covered anything you particularly enjoyed over the last three years, I'd sure appreciate hearing about it. In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I've got a GILT-y Shopping Habit

Are you in the habit of shopping online? I'm in love with Gilt right now. Thursday, I was invited to a swanky Gilty Kids cocktail party at the Trump Tower's rooftop bar by my blogging brand ambassador friend Meredith Sinclair of hoo-dee-hoo.com fame. In addition to the yummy drinks and tantalizing appetizers, we guests were treated to a $100 Gilt gift certificate. So now I'm obsessed with finding the perfect object on which to blow my wad.

Yesterday I considered this Chan Luu bracelet for $110 (reg. $250)


Today I salivated over this Nanette Lepore handbag at $149 (reg. $295):


The deals are great and the designers delicious, but in the world of Gilt, if you snooze you lose, and now both of these coveted items are sold out. I can get on the waiting list, but something better might come along tomorrow. And I haven't even begun to explore the stuff for the home, or the gifts or the restaurants.

But I intend to use this gift card by the end of the week. I'll report back with my purchase!

Gilt Update as of 6/25! Here is what I bought with my gift card - a Berge Burgundy Ponyhair Belt for $95 (regularly $182.) I know it's not very summery, but I love the color, don't have anything like it, and can see myself wearing it ALL the time. It also comes in black and leopard. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Undies Uncovered - Sexy Solutions for Women over 40

It's the first day of summer and it's time to lighten up with two lingerie product recommendations I've just got to share! These two little items are not only pretty, they're practical. And they're enthusiastically endorsed by real women over 40. Of course, every body is different, so make sure you try them on for yourself to ensure they work for you.

Image - Hankypanky.com
1. Hanky Panky Thong
I can hardly believe that I'm recommending a thong, because I professed my hatred of the torturous garments at length two years ago (Confessions of a Prude.) But now I've found Hanky Panky's Original Stretch Lace style. These one-size-fits-all panties are feminine and sexy, but more importantly, the rear strip is stretchy and wide enough that it lightly skims your backside with none of the the painful wedgie effects that make other thongs so friggin' uncomfortable.  The crotch panel stays in place too, without bunching or disappearing into the nether regions.  Too much information? Oh, just try them. Hanky Panky also makes lower-rise styles and petite and woman's sizes. Sexy, comfy and no panty lines -  what took me so long? Price: $18.

Image - Bloomingdales.com
2. The NuBra
I haven't tried this one myself, but this innovative garment was a big topic at a recent moms happy hour. Unlike other bras, the NuBra has no straps or fasteners. The supportive silicone cups stay in place by suction and a simple, cleavage-creating hook. With the NuBra, your boobs look (and feel) naturally smooth, shapely and perky! You can wear skimpy or sheer summer tops without worrying about ugly lines, sleazy straps, or the dreaded "nip slip."

My Fortyfabulous friend Coco* swears by it. The NuBra also has the added benefit of covering irregularities and areas dimpled by surgery. Follow this link to see a video of how the NuBra is applied. Fits A, B, and C cups. Price: $60.

After my recent discoveries, I suspect that there are a lot of other cool and useful lingerie products I've been missing out on. So please, if you've got any tips, share them here!

*Not her real name, but she's definitely a Coco to me

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Secret to Developing New Habits

Earlier this month I vowed to devote one hour a day to new, healthy, life-changing habits (see below). An hour of change per day seemed like a modest enough goal for a gal who's in the market for transformation. Nothing too taxing, lots of variety - achievable stuff designed to build my confidence that lasting change was indeed possible at this point in life.
10 mins - Quiet Contemplation
5 mins - Keep Food Journal 
15 mins -Tackle a Terrible Task 
25 mins- Vigorous exercise 
5 mins - Bedtime beauty routine (floss, skin care)

While I've made an effort in all the areas, after two weeks, the only new habit I've integrated on a daily basis is my 5 minute bedtime beauty routine - which basically is flossing my teeth and washing & moisturizing my face.  

My gums are pink and healthy and  I wake up with a fresh-faced glow, but  this is not exactly an earth-shattering achievement. But I'm also trying to think positively, so hey, at least I've developed one new daily habit! Whoo hoo!

I'm certain the reason I've been successful with the new beauty routine is because it occurs at exactly the same point of my day - before bed. The other jobs are floating out there in whenever-land. 

This all goes back to the importance of managing your calendar, as my organizing guru, Colleen Collins Josellis taught me back in February. So, rather than beat myself up and abandon my goals, I'm going to  consider them mandatory and schedule them into my day. I hope that giving them a specific time slot will turn them into habits as rote as brushing my teeth or pouring a cup of coffee. I'll give you a progress report on how that's working for me at the end of the month.

In the meantime, for some real inspiration, check out this article written by my  friend, Christy Coughlin, called the 7 Secrets of Super Fit Women. These motivated chicks don't let anything stand in the way of their health and fitness goals. 

And if you find their routines too daunting, just remember me, dab on some eye cream and feel good about yourself!http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/skin/night-treatment

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Point of Staying in the Moment

As a latecomer to competitive sports, I'm amazed to discover how the lessons I learn on the tennis court apply to my entire life. Yesterday, I realized how important it is to stay focused on the moment. 

 (image via focustennisacademy.com.au)
My Park District team played against the Saddle & Cycle Club - a gorgeous old club tucked into the Edgewater Neighborhood of Chicago. Saddle and Cycle's courts are clay, which is good for me because I don't have a powerful game and the softer surface slows things down. Anyway, my partner Betsy and I were in a groove and quickly won the first set 6-1.

In the second set our opponents made some adjustments - they lobbed, poached, and attacked down the line. Suddenly we were down 2 - 0 and I got rattled. Instead of concentrating on hitting the ball, my mind started creating all sorts of possible scenarios; none of them good.

"If we lose this game, it will be so hard to come back to take the set."
"It's so embarrassing that we're losing! What will my teammates think?"
"They have the momentum now, we'll never get it back."
"I'm letting Betsy down!"
"I'm going to miss my dentist appointment if this goes three sets!"

My anxiety affected my play. I made errors, lost my serve - I actually swung at one ball and whiffed.

"Oh my God, I stink!" I moaned to myself.

Then, remembering the advice from Gallwey's book, The Inner Game of Tennis, I decided to pull it together. Forget about the score, I told myself. Forget about my record, my ranking, my teammates and all the various things that could go wrong in the match. Focus on this point, think about this ball.

"When we unlearn how to be judgmental, it is possible to achieve spontaneous, focused play."
W. Timothy Gallwey - The Inner Game of Tennis

As soon as I stopped beating myself up and started keeping my eye on the ball, we began winning more points. Eventually, we fought our way back to take the second set 6-4.

Driving home from the match (with plenty of time to make my dentist appointment) I thought about how all that worry was not only unnecessary, it was harmful. By thinking so much about the final outcome of the match, I'd totally lost my ability to influence the game at the point level - which is the only level any match can be won!

It's so easy to slip into a pattern of negativity and worry when something goes wrong in life, but thinking about how things could turn out is often an encumbrance to making the best out of what actually is. Making a habit of focusing on the present moment, not judging ourselves or others, and staying positive is the only way to achieve winning outcome.

I "love" tennis even more for reminding me of this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Forget Timberlake, it's Older Women Bringing Sexy Back

 I'm reading an encouraging little book called The Secret Pleasures of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup that has cheered me up about getting older. According to this prominent OB/Gyn and recent research, we women have a lot to look forward to between the sheets in middle age and beyond!

 Here are a couple excerpts from the book I'd like to pass on:
"The first idea you need to cast aside is the cultural myth that sex drive inevitably decreases after menopause. This simply is not true. The latest research shows that women in their 60s and 70's have the best sex of their lives."
According to a 2007 survey of 3000 men and women aged 57-85, "not only were most of those surveyed still sexually active, but the average frequency of sex was 2-3 times per month - the same frequency that younger adults report."

"Women aged 55 and older enjoy sex more and put more thought and effort into their sex lives than women the same age a decade ago. ... The researchers explain the difference in this way: Women who've reached midlife and beyond feel younger, are more open about their sexual needs, and are more interested in health."

Also, the study showed that a robust sex life has "less to do with how old you are and more to do with how healthy you are."

It's no secret that sex and health have a reciprocal relationship - the better you feel, the more sex you have and the more sex you have, the better you feel. The very good news is that age doesn't affect this equation.

So to celebrate, I'll propose a toast - To your health!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Man Up and Take a Compliment

I didn't post over the weekend because I was working on this video for The Succulent Wife - a chic, entertaining resource for chicks like us. I am guest posting there once a month, providing video updates to my midlife crisis.  Check out my latest, inspired by my April post on men and personal power, called Take a Compliment Like a Man.


As part of my midlife crisis, I’ve been considering the theme of empowerment. Because even though I’m on fire in many areas of my life, I sometimes feel insecure about my choices, or worry what other people think, or downplay my accomplishments.  You know who doesn’t waste time undermining themselves this way? Men!
Men are comfortable talking about themselves positively; they openly share their successes and achievements. It’s not bragging – it’s confidence. And guys know how to accept praise, with none of the shirking or deflecting that women often do. I say we women have something to learn from them in this area.
One place to begin is how we receive compliments. If someone is insightful and generous enough to express admiration for us, not only should we enjoy it – we should believe in ourselves enough to agree. It does take a shift in thinking, though. Watch my one-minute video to learn more.


Read more: http://www.thesucculentwife.com/take-a-compliment-like-a-man/#ixzz1PBKRtkWz

Friday, June 10, 2011

The "Beadafits" of being a sure thing for your husband

Last week I wrote about the book Forty Beads, the Simple Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage (see my post, Develop a Sex Habit in Your Marriage.) Author Carolyn Evans explains a system where a woman gives her husband 40 beads and agrees to have sex with him within 24 hours, each time he drops a bead in her bedside bowl.

Create your own Forty Beads kit or
order this one at Amazon.com
The arrangement is intended to balance different libido levels in a relationship, but it seems pretty one-sided, right?

I spoke to Carolyn (who is as lovely over the phone as she appears in her video, below) and asked her - so what do we women get out of Forty Beads?

According to Carolyn, here are just some of the "beadafits" she and other women have experienced:

1. A loving, connected relationship with her husband.
2. A husband who is completely tuned into her needs.
3. An appreciation of her own sensuality.
4. The best sex of her life.

"It absolutely changed the way I feel about sex," Carolyn says, "Sex gets better the more you open yourself up to it. Saying yes (vs. no all the time) is an expansive experience."

And, while beading couples do have sex more frequently than they used to, it's not as big of an increase as you might think.  The beads create a feeling of sexual abundance in the relationship - so the guys are relaxed and not always so desperate to secure it.

Y'all, it sounds like it's worth a try to me. I say, bead me up, Scotty!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Moms, do you wanna be a MILF?

The term "Milf," which originated as an acronym for the crude term Mother I'd Like to F*@k, has evolved into a semi-legit noun that creates mixed feelings amongst we moms. I mean, we're not interested in the attention of guys young enough to be our sons (are we?) but we'd still appreciate being considered hot by other men.

Check out my article at Make it Better where I delve into the contradictions of this term and interview author Sarah Maizes about her fun new book, Got Milf? The modern mom's guide to feeling fabulous, looking great and rocking a minivan.


Milfs seem to be the sexy older chicks of choice in the media these days, but I still have a fondness for the classic Cougars which I wrote about admiringly a few years back. Follow the link to my article "Feline Fantasy" to reminisce with me!

And check back tomorrow, when I give a sneak peek to my interview with Carolyn Evans, author of Forty Beads - the Simple Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shut Up Gremlins, I Know What I'm Doing

I generally have a positive outlook, but sometimes - when I get criticized, lose focus, hit a roadblock or tackle something new - doubts, worries and anxious self-talk will creep into my head.  Life coach Carol Moss calls these undermining thoughts "gremlins" and they can be vicious little monsters. Here's a sampling of the nastiness my gremlins pepper me with.

Get back in your box!
Who do you think you are?
You're ridiculous.
That's not gonna work.
No one's interested in that.
You don't have the experience.
You don't deserve it.
Your opinion doesn't matter.
You forgot something.
What will people think?
Don't stand out.
Act your age, be more ladylike.
You're fat/ugly/old/irrelevant.
You don't fit in.

When those spiteful gremlins (or some real life critic) show up and leave me feeling shaky, I've got a tried and true method for getting them back in their box - I whip out my personal mantra.

 I've used this five word phrase for years and it's nothing mystical or new age. I simply repeat to myself..

I know what I'm doing. 
I know what I'm doing.
 I know what I'm doing. 
I know what I'm doing.

This simple phrase brings me great comfort, and by placing emphasis on different words, my mantra has a wide range of reassuring meanings: I'm in control of myself, my opinion is the one that matters, I'm smart, I'm following a course of action I believe in, I'm consciously choosing what's happening to me, etc. It's awesome!

"I know what I'm doing" shuts up most of my gremlins, but you'll probably find other phrases that work better for you. For small glitches, mistakes and annoyances, I frequently mutter "It's no big deal" because most of the time, it really isn't.

I also admire Amy Poehler's proclamation (as quoted by Tina Fey in her hilarious book, Bossypants) "I don't fucking care if you like it!"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1 Hour of New Habits per Day

The forecast is a steamy 92 degrees, but it feels like January to me because I can't spend this month examining habits without resolving to change some of mine. I've made resolutions before, lots of them, and you probably have too. It's not that we don't know what we should be doing, it's just damn hard to do it!

There are many reasons it's hard - our brains and bodies are actually wired to resist change. Forming new habits requires discipline.

"Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly."  Julie Andrews  

I have been disciplined about writing every day, and I feel good about it. But here are some of the many other habits I've vowed to develop in the past:

Even little habits require discipline
Floss, keep food journal, exercise daily, meditate,wash my face before going to bed, go to bed early, drink lots of water, eat dark, leafy vegetables/whole grains/lean protein, cut out sugar & junk food, take a multi-vitamin/vitamin D/ calcium supplement, be thankful, keep a gratitude journal, expect the best, stay on top of terrible tasks, send birthday cards and thank you notes on a timely basis.

Not to mention lose 10 pounds, write a book, discover my life's purpose, spend quality time with my kids and husband, contribute meaningfully to my community, organize my closets, improve my tennis game, start playing golf, travel the world, read the classics and become a sexy hot vixen - all before I hit 50.

I do some of these things some of the time but, unlike making my bed and brushing my teeth, they're not habits. I know they're worthy goals, necessary goals, but looking at the long list is overwhelming. How can I make so many changes? And realistically, how much time do I have to devote to this stuff anyway?

Let's say I have an hour. An hour a day I can do. And I want to pack as much into that time as possible.

Here's the breakdown of how I'll spend the 60 minutes I'm devoting to new habits:

10 mins - Quiet Contemplation (to increase feelings of well-being, connectedness, gratitude, optimism)
5 mins - Keep Food Journal (to be mindful of diet calorically and nutritionally)
15 mins -Tackle a Terrible Task (handle something awful but important)
25 mins- Vigorous exercise (must include sweating and panting!)
5 mins - Bedtime beauty routine (remove makeup,wash face, moisturize, floss!)

There, I've written it and so I shall do it! Oh, and based on my experience yesterday, if I need help I will ask for it.

Hey, if you had an extra hour, what changes would you make to your daily routine?

Monday, June 6, 2011

About a Man and a Kite

I was tying my shoes before heading out for a power walk this morning, when Kelly started getting all excited, thinking this meant a walk for her. I adore my pooch, but walking Kelly is not an aerobic activity. She likes to sniff and pee and and dawdle, and me dragging her along to keep a brisk pace is not fulfilling for either of us.

"Oh no," I groaned aloud, "Kelly's going crazy for a walk, but I need to exercise."

"I'll walk her," offered my 14 year-old daughter.

"You will?"

"Sure," Emma shrugged. No big deal.

What an amazing development. I practically skipped out the door.

As I headed to the park, I thought about how often I get offers for help - from friends or relatives or complete strangers - and turn them down. I'm reluctant to ask for help too; like needing assistance makes me stupid or incompetent. I hate the idea of being a burden. Also, I'm a little shy.

I certainly don't judge people that way when they ask me for a favor or advice. I feel good that I can help out and flattered to be asked. And, like my daughter offering to walk the dog, most of the time it's no big deal.

In a month when I'm examining my habits, this is one I'd like to change. I can ask for help when I need it! I don't need to know everything. It's perfectly okay!

Lovelace Park, Evanston IL
I had a chance to test my new resolution almost immediately. Lovelace Park has a lovely half-mile track that circles around a pond, a soccer field and a playground. On my first lap around the path I passed an older man serenely flying a kite.

I gave the guy a little smile as I marched by - kites are fun! Then it dawned on me how extraordinary it was that a grown man was at the park flying a kite all by himself. This is something I couldn't imagine doing myself. I spent my second lap wondering about the guy. Why was he flying this kite? Was it for the benefit of some kid I hadn't noticed? Was he mentally impaired? Was this his regular pastime or had he  decided to give it a try for the hell of it?

On the third lap, it came to me. If I wanted to know about this man and his kite, I could simply stop and ask him about it. I could ASK. So I did.

"It's so cool that you're flying a kite!" I said brightly, because I've found that people are more receptive if you give them a sincere compliment first.

"Well, thank you," he said, clearly pleased that I'd noticed.

"I just have to ask, why are you doing it?"

"Oh, it was something I tried as a kid and could never do, and a year or so ago I thought that maybe I could give it another try," he said. "A lot of people don't know how to fly kites."

"They don't?" I asked.

"Nope. See, a kite can drop 100 feet in altitude just like that. You've got to know what to do to get it back up."

This gentleman (who was perfectly normal, by the way) then demonstrated the proper technique for getting a kite into climbing mode. His kite was admirably high. I asked him if he did this often.

 "I come out here a fair bit,"  he said, modestly.

We both were quiet, watching the kite soar in the breeze while he gently tugged on its long string. "It gets kind of Zenlike after a while."

I could see that. I said good-bye, and as I walked on I felt lighter, uplifted - from both the kite and the conversation. I'm so glad I asked.

Do you have trouble asking for things or accepting help? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one. I ask you to  please comment, below.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Develop a Sex Habit in Your Marriage

June is habit month and to develop my writing habit, I've vowed to blog every day except for Sundays. Today the pressure is getting to me. It's almost 5 o'clock and it's Saturday night and my husband is taking me out for dinner. I've got 45 minutes to come up with something good and I don't have a damn thing to say about habits.

Or do I?

I write the Sex & the Suburbs column for Make it Better Magazine and in preparation for an article,  I'm reading a fascinating book called "Forty Beads - The Simple Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage." I'm excited to interview author Carolyn Evans. Her book is creating quite a buzz and she just appeared on the Today Show yesterday to discuss it.

The book describes a system that Carolyn improvised as a gift for her husband's 40th birthday. They'd been going through a bit of a rough patch in their marriage - busy with other things, disconnected from one another, she was getting bitchy, he was feeling resentful. (Honestly, what married couple hasn't gone through a time like this?)

Carolyn wanted to turn things around by giving her husband a birthday present that would make him really, really happy. She figured that the thing guys want more than anything is sex. But not just one mind-blowing night of sex. Men want an abundance of sex and, even more, they want to know that sex is coming their way in the future.

So, Carolyn gave her man a bag of 40 glass beads to be used like this:

1. When hubby wants sex, he places a bead in a bowl on her bedside table.
2. Wife redeems bead by having sex with hubby within 24 hour period.
3. Couple repeats until all beads have been presented.

That's it. Apparently this gift has made her husband deliriously happy and revitalized their marriage.  Carolyn has reaped all sorts of unexpected and delightful benefits herself and other women "beaders" who followed in her footsteps have been similarly delighted. It's not just the regular sex that has worked this magic - it's the anticipation, appreciation, and mutual agreement that accompanies it.

Wow. I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm already formulating my interview questions. It sounds so one-sided and transactional, and it must be anti-feminist, right?

But if it really works, well, hmmm.

I can't completely give away my article for Make it Better, but I'll give you a preview of my conversation with Carolyn after we talk next week. You can learn more for yourself at www.fortybeads.com.

And now, I'm off to enjoy my Saturday night!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Don't Mess with My Morning

Since I'm writing about habits, I decided to take a detailed look at mine, starting with first thing in the morning. I'm pretty attached to my routine, and honestly, I'm not looking to change this part of my day much. I like drinking coffee in bed. I like time to myself before my kids wake up. But I bet I can tweak it a bit and squeeze in another meaningful activity or two.

So here goes - in great detail, these are the things I do every single weekday before 8:15 a.m.

6:15am - Shut off alarm
Groan, moan and roll out of bed
Must have this.
Open shades and curtains
Go to bathroom, brush my teeth, grab my glasses
Go to kitchen, turn on coffee maker
Put away dishes left in sink from night before
Let dog out of mudroom, scratch dog's ears
Grab mug, heat Land o' Lakes Fat Free Half & Half in microwave
Pour brewed Starbucks Caffe Verona into mug
Do same for hubby if he hasn't left for work
Go back to bed with coffee and dog
Sip coffee, begin to feel human
Read newspaper/book or write in journal
Wake up daughter at 6:45am
Pour more coffee, continue reading/writing
Kiss husband good-bye
Make breakfast for daughter at 7:20am (she likes leftovers)
Yell at daughter "Hurry up!"
Eat bowl of Special K w/fresh berries and multi-vitamin
Discuss plans with daughter for the day
Open door for daughter's friend, greet her
Yell at daughter "Friend is here, hurry up!"
Say goodbye to daughter
Let dog out
Feed dog, freshen water
Make breakfast sandwich for son
With this.
Engage in monosyllabic conversation with son
Give son money and/or more food to take to school
Say goodbye to son
Go to computer, check calendar, weather, email
Write top to-dos for day on orange post-it note
Go back upstairs
Close kids' bedroom doors to avoid seeing frightful mess within
Go to bathroom
Take off clothes, step slowly on scale
Squint suspiciously at weight and body fat numbers displayed
Mentally subtract 4 pounds to account for cereal and coffee consumed
Wash face, moisturize, brush teeth
Examine face in magnifying mirror for stray hairs; pluck as needed
Put in contacts
Dress in workout clothes
Make bed
Take newspapers and coffee cups downstairs
Prepare to start day

Yep, that's pretty much my current morning routine. Next, I'm going to see how I can improve it.

I actually found writing all this down fascinating and now I'm super curious about other people's mornings. How do you wake up? Do you exercise, stretch, meditate, pray? Do you do laundry? Do you listen to music or NPR? Are you going to miss Oprah?

C'mon, share some details with me - while I pour myself another cup of coffee.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bad Habits - I've come a long way baby

I'm devoting this month to an examination of habits, because I'm convinced my daily routines are the best predictors of where I'm going to end up down the road. My plan is to 1) identify bad habits and shed them, and 2) introduce good habits that will set me on the path to fame, fortune, and a bod like Beyonce's.

Now, I realize this isn't going to be easy. But I've been doing some positive thinking and realize I already have a track record of breaking some significant bad habits. I'm no longer a terrible nail biter, for example. And I don't smoke.


I used to be a smoker, though. I started early, in 6th grade, the year I moved to Milford, Michigan when my mom got remarried. Back in the 70s, Milford was a pretty, rural town with apple orchards, lakes and dirt roads. It was also a hotbed of juvenile delinquent behavior and shockingly advanced compared to Rosedale Park, my former neighborhood in Detroit.

I don't know if kids in Milford had more space and freedom to act out or if they were just bored, but lunch recess at Kurtz Elementary was a rule-breaking free-for-all.

Kids would gather under the tall oaks on the far side of the playground to conduct pretend "marriages" - really just a forum for boys and girls to suck face in public. The playground equipment included huge tractor tires that we could climb into and hide from the supervisor. It was there, desperate to fit into any social circle that would have me, I tried my first puff of a cigarette.  It was disgusting. But it was also dangerous and exciting and, even though the other kids laughed at my inexperience, I was "in."

Smoking was super cool back then. Ads made it look modern and glamorous, and tons of parents smoked, so it was easy to filch leftover packs of cigarettes from adult parties and carry them to school in your knee sock (also a good place to store a tampon, I later discovered.) I liked the rebelliousness of smoking, and even though I got into big trouble - I was suspended from school for three days in 7th grade - I kept it up. I snuck cigarettes in my basement, in school bathrooms, out in the woods.

I wasn't a heavy smoker - never more than a few cigarettes a day - but I defiantly kept puffing away until my mid-twenties, when one day I thought, "What am I doing? I don't like this, it tastes awful, and I'm always smoking stale cigarettes anyway. I'm in charge of my own life now, what the hell am I rebelling against?" I couldn't come up with a good answer, so I quit. I've been smoke free for over twenty years.

Oh, I had a few relapses. The hardest thing about not smoking is you don't get to hang around with the smokers anymore, who are often the coolest, most interesting people at any party. The whole ritual of smoking creates a bond - bumming a cigarette, getting a light, huddling together out in the cold. I missed that for a while.

But once I stopped looking at smoking as an act of rebellion, I just didn't need it anymore.

I think many bad habits originate for reasons that make sense at first, but don't stand the test of time. This month, I'm on the look out for those.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Forget the Muse, Just Get to Work

I'm taking an amazing class I call my "Woman Empowerment" class, but the name doesn't come close to describing the wide range of material we're covering. As part of our curriculum, we've read and listened to some of the works of Steve Chandler, a life coach, business consultant, public speaker and author of 30 books. Our group was lucky to have a Q&A session with him by telephone.

Steve's books have powerful titles like 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Reinventing Yourself, so when it was my turn to talk with him, I wanted to discuss writing.

Image via Wikipedia
"Steve, I'm a writer, and lately I've had trouble getting motivated. I think it's because I'm feeling really happy! I usually write about things that are problems for me, or at least puzzles to work out. But right now I'm content, so I got nothin'. Do you think creativity is fueled by dissatisfaction?"

I felt pretty smarty pants about my question. Here I was with a successful author, about to compare notes about  the creative process.

Steve has a deep voice and speaks verrry slowly, but it didn't take long for him to identify my happinesss as a run-of-the-mill form of procrastination.

"When I'm working on a book, I take a very blue collar approach to creativity," he said.

In other words, Steve Chandler doesn't wait for his muse to show up; he sits down every day and does his job. He may or may not feel inspired every moment, but he does the work because he knows it requires consistent effort to achieve his goals.

He speaks to this very issue in his book, Time Warrior.
If I only work when I'm "inspired" my work won't be reliable, and it won't be accountable. It won't be a grown-up activity. I'll be like some kid always trying to decide something.
My problem with productivity only happens when I don't have a discipline. Because then I wake up every day trying to decide if I feel like doing it. And that's like waking up and trying to decide whether I "feel like" flying to New York, even thought I have a ticket and a seat on the plane.  
Okay, I get it. It's accountability.

Happiness be damned - moods cannot dictate whether I write or not. Call it blue collar, call it grown up, or call it a good habit (this month's theme) - but I need to develop the discipline of honest to goodness hard work, whether I "feel like it" or not.

More on this and other good habits to come!