Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Lazy Mom's Meal Planning Guide

For many years my day job has been a stay-at-home mom, so you'd think I'd have developed some superlative housewifery skills over time. Not so. I adore my kids, hubby and home, but I have no affection for many of my job requirements. Cleaning, ugh. Gardening, why? Sewing - oh, come on! But the unavoidable task that makes me break out in hives each day at 4 p.m. is preparing the evening meal.

"What's for dinner?" asks my ravenous swimmer, the moment I pick him up from practice.

"It's a surprise!" I chirp brightly, covering up the fact that I don't have a freaking clue.

A lot of my mom friends stress out over what to make for dinner too. Feeding offspring is THE #1  responsibility of motherhood, right? But with our crazy schedules, it isn't easy to have a hot, nutritious, tasty meal ready to go during the few precious minutes all my family members are actually present.

When I talked with professional organizer Colleen Collins Josellis, I asked her how she handled meal planning for her family.

"I always say I'd be great mom if I didn't have to make dinner," she laughs. But of course she's on top of it. Here are her secrets.

1) Use a limited repertoire of meals.
Unless cooking is your passion, forget experimenting with new recipes. Busy moms should rely on a rotating menu of meals that are easy to prepare, easy to shop for, and that the kids will eat. "90% of the battle is knowing what to make," says Colleen. "I've narrowed it down to about 10-12 meals."

2) Plan dinners for the entire week.
Put the menu on your calendar and post it in your kitchen. Then everyone knows what to expect at mealtime and might even be willing to help cook it! And don't worry about your kids getting bored of eating the same foods. According to Colleen, "Kids don't require as much variety as you might think. They love routine and knowing Tuesday is taco night."

3) Minimize shopping trips.
I'm always running to the Jewel at the last minute - a habit Colleen says is a big time waster. By planning ahead and making a single list, you can be much more efficient when you hit the grocery store.  She allocates time for one big grocery shop and one visit to a specialty store (i.e Costco, Trader Joe's, etc) per week.

I'm trying to implement Colleen's system. I asked Nick and Emma to make a list of their favorite dinner entrees, then I edited their list based on ease of preparation. My repertoire now contains seven basic meals (hey, we eat out a couple nights a week) and the menus are all stored in one convenient place - my head!

Here's what I'll be making for dinner over the next month. If your family has some favorites that are simple and delish, please share them and I'll consider them for next month. But keep them under 5-6 ingredients - my memory is limited!

Killeen Rotating Dinner Menu
 (serve with veggie of choice )

1. Grilled Flank Steak -marinate 6-8 hours in equal parts olive oil, soy and lemon juice. Add garlic & seasonings. (We like oregano and pepper!)

2. California Turkey Burgers - top with jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion & avacado.

3. Oven Baked Salmon topped one of two ways: 1) mayonnaise and dill (kids like this best), or 2) chopped onion, tomato, lemon and capers.

5. One Pot Pasta Primavera - Cook pasta as directed, then throw in a few cups of cut up veggies (we like broccoli, zucchini, & tomatoes) midway through the boil. Drain, stir in olive oil and cottage cheese. Top with herbs & Parmesan. Only one dish to clean!

4. Barbeque Pulled Pork on buns -  put 2 pork tenderloins in a crock pot and cover with a bottle of BBQ sauce and a bottle of chili sauce. Cook on low all day until it falls apart.

6. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup - my personal favorite, no recipe required.

7. Chicken Pasta Caesar Salad - If you're a slacker like me, buy the prepared salad kit then toss in cooked chicken, rotini and tomatoes. (We're having this tonight.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Devil wants you to shop - the evils of owning too much mediocre junk

Daniel's idea of a good storage area.
My brilliant writer friend Daniel just moved into a new house and is in serious purge mode, dumping crates of belongings and selling his entire cd and movie script collections online for cheap.

Whoa, this is some impressive and decisive clearing out!

Since I'm looking for inspiration to cut the clutter myself, I asked Daniel what's going on in his mind as he casts off these intimate objects that surely had meaning and purpose at one point.

Here are his feelings about his stuff:
"It's exactly like this. They say "good is the enemy of great." 95% or more of everything we own is not truly great, inspired, and essential. In tossing boxes and boxes of stuff yesterday, I found a note from my daughter, in little kid writing. It said "I love you, daddy. Forever & ever! I will never not love you!!!"
The things that are most essential lose their power if they're just one of hundreds of okay things we own. 
Gluttony is not just about food. It's about stuff. We need to put our homes on a diet. The more junk you toss the lighter and more free you feel. If I were The Devil I would love and encourage mindless consumption and clutter."
I recently cleaned out my closet, evaluating each item by asking these questions: Do I love it? Does it have a purpose? Does it have meaning? Does it represent who I want to be? Daniel uses a more visceral sorting system.
"No joke, like a great big pussy man, I get in touch with my feelings, and go through boxes, looking at items. If they have personal resonance or emotional charge - vacation photos, gifts, things we bought traveling, I keep em based on how they make me feel. If they stir nothing they must go. Not only do I not feel bad about losing junk, I feel like good riddance. I wish I could burn the wicked mediocre stuff as it is wicked and vile and blocking all that matters most.
I figured this out before my move. While studying martial art I would often walk into the dojo which literally means "place of enlightenment" and instantly solve a problem I'd been stressed over. I'm convinced it was because the dojo is empty except for a few sacred objects."
Way to go, Dan! If I had any lingering doubts or guilt about getting rid of things that are only so-so, you've blown them straight to the dumpster. Surrounding ourselves with meaningless objects is sinful. I can't turn my home into a dojo, but I can make room for what really matters, as well as new experiences and ideas and creativity and light. And I'm going to teach my kids to do the same!

Pure evil.
If only I can convince my daughter that her Ugly Doll collection is possessed by demons.

Friday, February 18, 2011

11 Things I Learned from Cleaning Out My Closet

I actually will wear all of these things.
I've been goofing around, telling myself that sorting my purse and washing my car are worthy organization projects. But finally I've tackled my clothes closet, and man was it worth it.

I followed my organizing guru Colleen's instructions:
  • Put all like items together (i.e. jeans, sweaters, etc.)
  • Edit ruthlessly according to these three criteria: 1) Does it have purpose, 2) is it meaningful, 3) do I love it?  In honor of my midlife crisis,  I also added this one  -  Does it represent the me I want to become?
  • Get rid of anything that didn't meet at least one of the criteria. 
  • Organize the keepers
The organizing was a cake walk compared to the torture of editing. Each piece that didn't measure up felt like a failure. But I did it. I took every single t-shirt, every shoe, every skirt, every belt out of my closet and determined if it merited a place in my new life. So many things didn't. 

The process was like therapy. Not only did I learn how to set up a workable closet - I learned some surprising things about myself. If you're like me, here are 11 things you can expect from cleaning out your closet.

  1. You'll feel fat. Trying on every article of clothing you own is daunting. After the first 15 minutes of wriggling and fastening and tugging and inspecting, I felt so blubbery, I had to go weigh myself to make sure I hadn't gained five pounds since breakfast. I hadn't, but, ugh.
  2. You'll feel stupid. Why did I spend so much money on that Elie Tahari jacket that I never wear because it's as itchy as burlap? Why do I own seven black cardigan sweaters? Facing the evidence of poor decisions and wasted money is sickening. At one point I found myself moaning.
  3. You'll have changed. My black mini skirt is not only too small, it's ridiculous. I had some really good times wearing it, but for many reasons, skirts that short don't have a place in my future. Sigh. Goodbye mini-skirt wearing me. 
  4. You'll confront your life.  I actually have some nice clothes but I rarely wear them because I never go anywhere that requires dressing up. "I need to go more fun places!" I wailed to my 14 year-old daughter, Emma. "Why don't you call your girlfriends and go have coffee?" she suggested. Which I thought was funny because, sweetie, I need to go someplace a lot more exciting than Starbucks.
  5. You'll need a good friend. Certain items paralyzed me. Should I keep the expensive Teri Jon evening suit that's perfect for the black tie business functions I never attend? What about the flowy leopard print tunic - is it sexy or scary? I ended up making a "maybe" pile, then asked my friend Lisa to go through it with me.  With her help, I was able to make the tough calls. The suit stays because it looks good and serves a specific purpose - the tunic is out. Thanks Lisa!
  6. You'll need an entire day. You will, just trust me.
  7. You'll get on a roll. As I got into a rhythm,  the decisions got easier. I had no trouble getting rid of anything itchy or binding, turtlenecks (very sweltering during hot flashes), anything dull brown or wide striped, and all capris and dingy white tees. 
  8. You'll feel better in heels. I tried on everything wearing heels or boots. Honey, if it doesn't make the cut when you're three inches taller, it's out!
  9. You'll want new hangers. Once you've edited, hang up everything you can. Hanging garments are easier to see and stay unwrinkled. I hung almost all my street clothes - even t-shirts. It's very satisfying to have a closet full of clothes you feel good about displayed on matching hangers. I bought a box of 50 velvety space saving hangers at Costco and they are awesome! Nothing slips off these streamlined babies - I wish I'd bought another box. 
  10. You'll organize your way. There are many opinions about the best way to organize your closet. Some experts advise grouping your clothes by outfit; others say to put all similar colors together. I decided to sort mine by type of garment - all tanks in one area, all jackets in another, etc - and I mixed up the colors so they'd stand out from one another (helps with my ongoing vision problem.) I also put several plastic shoe boxes in my deep lingerie and sock drawers so I could subdivide them. Now all my panties are in one place. I love it.
  11. You'll feel great. I'm telling you, I am basking in the afterglow of my organized closet. I feel so productive, so virtuous, so clean! I arranged for a charity to pick up my discards and I have not a single regret about the six bags of stuff I donated. Getting dressed is more fun now, and - because I like everything and can see it - I actually feel like I have more clothes.
Clothes for donation, ready for pick up.

So don't procrastinate like I did. Go forth, my Forty Fabulous friends, and confront your closet! You'll feel fantastic when it's done, I promise.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Organizing Finances & Files - What to keep, what to shred

Kelley Long, Financial Coach
I'm in charge of most of the day-to-day finances in our household and I'm ashamed to say I kind of suck at it. Staying on top of the influx of statements and receipts and bills and filing is a tedious chore that I dread. 

I've already learned from organizer Colleen Collins Josellis that I need to allocate more time to paperwork, which is certainly helping. But I've turned to Kelley Long, a Financial Coach and CPA,  for expert advice on what to do with all of those financial documents once they hit my desk. 

When it comes to getting organized, no area can be more intimidating and nerve-wracking than your finances. Kelley, who works primarily with women, says "It can be very emotional; clients are often fearful and embarrassed about what they don't know."

Unfortunately, staying in the dark doesn't make the issues go away. "They'll only stress you out more later," says Kelley, "so it's better to face the initial pain and take control." Kelly helps her clients get a grip on their finances so they can assess their situation and begin taking steps toward where they want to be.

Here are her answers to some of my most pressing questions.

What documents do I need to keep and for how long?
Kelley offers these guidelines:

  • Receipts - at least until they've cleared your credit card or bank statement; longer for return or warranty purposes. 
  • Monthly Bills - at least until they show as paid the next month. If you want to compare, keep up to a year on file. Longer if you use a home office deduction.
  • Pay stubs - until receive W-2.
  • Bank & Credit Card Statements - 2 years
  • Investments & Life Insurance - Keep monthly statement until you receive quarterly, quarterly until you receive annual. Keep annual statements for the life of account.
  • Tax Returns & Supporting Documents - 7 years
  • Home or condo paperwork & documentation of improvements/repairs - as long as you own home.

I don't have room in my desk for all those files!
Only keep your current files in your workspace (last 12 months.) The older files should be boxed, labeled and put in the basement or accessible storage area.

Do I need to rent a safety deposit box? And what documents should go in it?
"Forever" documents like birth certificates, passports, Social Security card, Marriage license, Divorce decree, Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, transcripts and diplomas should be kept either in a safety deposit box or a fireproof safe in your home.

Can I just recycle my old statements and bills?
No! I've seen very well-dressed people digging through my dumpster on trash day. To protect against identity theft, it's important to shred any account information that has your identifying information on it (name and address.) You can recycle the shreds.

Are there some things I don't need to hang onto?
There's no reason to keep user manuals or stock and mutual fund prospectuses because they're all available online now. As for warrantees, it depends on the item and if it's worth the hassle to get it fixed.

After talking with Kelley I have a much better understanding of how to organize my files. Now armed with my labeler, my three inboxes, my shredder and fireproof safe (from Target, where else?) I am ready to assume control of my household finances!

But Kelley had one last piece of advice, the same she gives to all her clients.

"I tell everyone who is beginning a new organizing system to take it easy on themselves. It's a big change, like going on a diet. Don't feel bad the first time you slip up, just get back on track."

Note: Kelley works with her clients on a session basis; she doesn't sell products or collect commissions. She lives in Chicago can be reached at her website:

Other related posts:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oprah Mistakenly claims March is De-Clutter Your Life Month

O Magazine's March issue -
a bit behind Forty Fabulous

I just received my copy of the March O Magazine in the mail and was shocked to see the lead story - De-Clutter Your Life! - Say Goodbye to the Stuff that's Weighing you Down. I'm glad Oprah considers this subject as important as I do,  but I feel like we should have coordinated better. Girlfriend, February is "Time to Clear Out Month" here at Forty Fabulous.

Sheesh, could it be any clearer that I should become the next Oprah? (Or at least write for the magazine.)

Hey O, if you need an idea for a future issue, I'll be devoting Forty Fabulous to Intuition and Introspection in March. But for now, I'm going back to cleaning out my junk drawer.

Organizing Pick Me Up - Purge the Purse

Over the last few days I've lost my enthusiasm for this organization project. I've tackled my calendarpaperwork, and am working on my filing system (more on this soon) but I have yet to get going on the clutter. I just dread opening those closet and cabinet doors and dealing with all the icky junk that lurks there.

But I have vowed to free myself of all unnecessary, irrelevant items this month, and damn it I will! So I started with a very small container of junk - my handbag.

A purse is a very personal expression and every woman has different requirements of the bag she carries. Some women change their bag as often as they change shoes, but I am not a switcher. I carry the same bag day in and day out for an entire season. I like my purse to have the following characteristics:
Even a small mess can cause big stress.

1. Big enough straps so I can swing it over my shoulder with one arm.
2. A neutral, go-with-everything color.
3. Main compartment opens with a single zipper, buckle or snap - no multiple fasteners.
4. Opens wide so I can see all the contents without rummaging around.

I am very happy with my current purse - a black Hobo brand shoulder bag that I bought at Nordstom Rack for about $140. I think my style is discontinued, but it's similar to the Hobo Paulina line which is part of their current collection. Excellent handles!

I'm getting off track here - back to organization. You can see from the above picture that even my compact purse contained way too much junk. I had old receipts, about nine bucks in loose change, expired coupons, tattered business cards, candy wrappers, two bottles of nail polish, three pens, four lipsticks, and an unopened bottle of eyedrops - all of which were either unnecessary or duplicates. It was a mess in there!

After a mere 11 industrious minutes I had pared my purse down to the following contents -

  • Wallet with ID, credit cards, debit card, health insurance card, business cards, and grocery store member cards.
  • $60 in cash + 8 quarters for parking meters.
  • One lipstick (okay, two)
  • Reading glasses, mini flashlight (I can't see!)
  • iPhone + headphones
  • Notepad and pen
  • Keys

I assigned each object a specific (and hopefully permanent) place. Then I did a little online research and found this helpful article on Squawkfox which told me I was missing a few critical items. So I added -

  • My son's allergy medication (He's allergic to walnuts, my benadryl had expired.)
  • Emergency contact information - my husband's work and cell phone number
  • Roadside assistance card - in case I get locked out of car!
Other items I think are practical to carry are address labels (so you don't have to hand write personal information on forms) and a travelers cheque for emergency cash. Also, if your purse is large enough, carrying a light scarf is handy - it's a versatile extra layer that allows you to adapt to changing temps, disguise a stain, or switch up your look. 

With my newly organized purse, I feel lighter and more efficient already - and ready to tackle the bigger projects. I CAN get organized, I know I can!

What other things do you think are essential to carry in your bag? Please share. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Paperwork, Filing, and Bills, Oh My!

Next to our schedules, professional organizer Colleen Collins Josellis says that the area that causes us the most stress is managing our paperwork. On the day Colleen visited me, I needed to pay my bills and oh, how I dreaded the task. I knew it would take hours of sorting and reading and filing.

My bills were somewhere in here.
Colleen took one look at my basket and stacks of paper and said, "You need a triage system. You probably don't even know where your bills are." 

She instructed me to go out and buy three stacking letter boxes and a label maker

"What do I need the label maker for?" I asked. 

"Everything!" she said.  

The first things to label were the three inboxes - To Pay, To Do, and To File. Colleen told me I  needed to sort my incoming mail and papers daily into those three slots. Then I should schedule short windows of time once or twice a week to actually handle the paperwork.

After Colleen left, I headed to Office Depot and bought the file boxes and labeler. Then I came home and slogged through four weeks of mail and a two month backlog of filing. It took me over three hours, but here's what it looked like afterward.

This looks manageable

Even though I hadn't filed or paid a single item yet, it seemed much more manageable and friendly. Most of all that paper needed no action other than to be recycled.

To the recycling bin with you!

When I finally sat down to pay my bills, you know what? It took about 15 minutes! My "To Pay" slot was empty and I felt very virtuous. I immediately pulled up my calendar on my screen and scheduled more time for paperwork later that week. So far, I'm a week and a half in to my new triage system and the benefits are huge. I know where everything is, I know where I stand, and my credenza is neat and tidy.

Of course, with all that paperwork comes another stressor -  the need for a filing system. Join me on Monday when a new expert, financial coach Kelley Long, tells us what keep, where to keep it, and for how long.

Calendar Update!
I'm trying to stick to the time I allocate for all my activities, including writing, which I'm finding really tough. I know this post would be much better written, wittier, and more useful if I spent more time on it. Arrgh. It probably isn't even grammatically correct.  But I'm trying to write more frequently and can only do that if I write faster. So, it is what it is now. And I'm on to my next task! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We interrupt this program for some S-E-X

I'm still getting organized, but want to share this post I wrote for another fabulous website. In a way it's a triumph of efficiency, since I used some of my material from my Sex & the Suburbs column in a new way for Valentines Day.

This was originally posted over at The Succulent Wife (see link below.) How great of a name is that?

4 Things I Learned From my Job as a Sex Columnist

Read more:

Although my 17 year-old son calls me a “Sexpert”, I’m definitely not one. I have no special sex training or credentials. But, during the last year of writing my column, “Sex & the Suburbs ” for, I’ve interviewed many people who really are experts in the areas of sex, sensuality and relationships and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
I’d like to share these tidbits of wisdom with you – just in time for Valentine’s Day.
1. When Mama’s Happy, Everybody’s Happy
Honey, here’s the good news. Being sexy is all about YOU. Women are often so busy trying to please everybody else, we lose touch with our own bodies and what brings us pleasure.  Pamela Madsen, the author of the provocative new book, Shameless, says we deserve it.
“Women don’t have to earn the right to have pleasure in life. We don’t have to lose three pounds, or jog, or take out the garbage, or get a raise. We’re all entitled to have pleasure, just the way we are! And when we finally figure that out, pleasure can transform our lives,” she says.
Instead of planning a romantic evening around your man, plan it around you. Do you want an hour alone in the bathroom to primp? Do you want oysters and champagne and a foot massage? Set it up, girl! Ask for it. Your sweetie will find nothing more seductive than a woman who knows what she wants and expects to get it.
2. New Stuff is Hot Stuff
According to Licensed Family and Marriage Counselor David Klow, “Familiarity is the enemy of eroticism.”  If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s important to shake things up once in a while.
Cheryl Sloane, owner of Chicago’s sexy G Boutique for women, urges, “Try one little thing that may create change. It will enhance all parts of your relationship.” Her feminine shop (and website) is chock full of fun products to sample: lingerie, sex toys, lubes and literature.
But sometimes a change of venue is all it takes. One of my favorite date nights is a “sleep under.” For the price of a meal at a good restaurant you can catch a last minute deal at a boutique hotel, spend a few memorable hours there, and be home in time to pay the babysitter. Who needs to eat?
3. Good Sex is Good For You
Maintaining a good sex life with your partner has lasting benefits. It helps your relationship and makes you feel positive about yourself and life.
Psychiatrist and marriage counselor Art Nielsen says, “All of the dynamics of a relationship—power, play, control, trust, love—are active in the bedroom. If the sex is good, you feel good about the marriage.” On the flip side, many of the couples he sees in therapy haven’t had sex in a long time.
Dr. Todd Newberger, an internist agrees. “Physical intimacy is an enormous part of healthy adult relationships,” he says. “It helps people maintain closeness and feel young and vibrant.” And there are real health benefits as well. “If the equipment is being used, it is likely to keep performing well.”
4. Spontaneity is Overrated
It’s nice to think that you and your guy will passionately fall into one another’s’ arms, but most couples benefit from a little planning and anticipation. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, your anniversary, or next Wednesday at noon, take the time to plan a romantic encounter and remember to spice it up with something different that appeals to you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Expert Tips to Organize Your Time

TIME to get organized!
This month I'm getting organized; making room for the exciting transformation I hope my midlife crisis will deliver. Who knows? The new me might wear peasant skirts and tap shoes. The new me might need a recording studio or a pilates reformer or an herb garden.  I've got to get rid of the stuff that doesn't represent me anymore so these new, cool possessions have a place.

But, according to my organizing guru, Colleen Collins Josellis, getting organized isn't about the stuff or even the system, it's about the schedule.

"People need time to manage their lives and their things," she says. Yes, Colleen helps people clean out their closets and organize their files, but her goal is to teach them to do it themselves. And it all starts with the calendar.
Professional organizer Colleen Collins Josellis
at my messy desk.

Women our age, especially women who work in or from home, are bombarded with requests for their time.

"We often give away our own personal time to the lowest bidder. You have to protect it like a junk yard dog," says Colleen. "You have to be vigilant about not letting appointments and responsibilities into your life that don't serve you. No one else will do it for you - they're all out there waiting to sign you up."

Here are some of Colleen's tips for managing your time - which will help get a handle on the clutter throughout your life.

1. Make your calendar your best friend. You don't need a fancy system, just one that you'll use consistently. It might even be a hybrid of online and paper. Colleen recommends allocating 20 minutes/ two times a week to keep it up to date and comprehensive.

2. Schedule time for to-dos as well as to-bes. Don't just put the places you need to go on your calendar, make time for all the things you need to do. For example, if you're invited to a party, you should allocate time for buying the hostess gift and making the appetizer as well as attending the event itself. Once you assign time to all the things you want to accomplish, you'll know if you really can handle chairing that committee or not.

3. Break down the biggies. Our lives are so busy and scattered, we often don't have big blocks of time to devote to complex projects.  That's okay! Colleen's advice is to tackle the project in stages by booking small pockets of time on your calendar - say 30 minutes. Before you know it, the garage will be clean, the photos will be sorted - and a lot sooner than if you waited to have a free weekend to do it.

4. Don't be surprised by your life. Review your calendar and prepare yourself and your family for the week ahead. Is it manageable? If the answer is no, get rid of things! Colleen and her husband do this Monday at 11:15am at a local cafe. They discuss their work schedules, their four sons' sporting events - even plan what's for dinner. If the week is crazy, they'll warn the kids and enlist their help. Then everyone knows what to expect.

5. Forget about perfection. "Perfectionists struggle most with organization," says Colleen. "If they can't do it perfectly, they won't do it at all." Colleen tries to help her clients see that living in the middle is fine. "My house isn't perfect, but that's not my goal," she says. "I want it to be functional and fun. Being caught up the majority of the time is good enough."

6.  Don't book every minute. You need free time and so do your kids.  The goal is to keep your baseline life manageable, so you can handle the inevitable curveballs without everything falling apart.

I'm starting to implement Colleen's recommendations, and it's been enlightening. Instead of writing out my daily to-do list and hoping for the best, I assign start and end times to the tasks. Usually my to-do list has far too many items to squeeze into a single day, so I have to prioritize, find short cuts, reschedule or change my expectations. The whole process is very empowering, because now I can actually accomplish what I set out to do.

Unfortunately, the time I've allocated to writing this blog entry has now expired. So get out your calendar and book a time to check back here on Friday when we'll discuss the next big source of anxiety - managing paperwork, bills, and filing. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Time to Clear Out - Making Room for My MidLife Crisis

Welcome to February! If you live in Chicago, you're still digging out from the blizzard of the century, but here at FortyFabulous we're beginning a clean-up of a different sort. This month's theme is all about getting rid of the stuff that weighs us down - the clothes, the objects, the paperwork, the time commitments, the assumptions.

If it's going to be a year of meaningful change, I need to create room for my crisis! And that means approaching my daily life differently.
 "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
I'm really excited, because I found the best expert to help me tackle the task - Colleen Collins Josellis, owner of Organized Chaos. She started her business six years ago when she went through something of a midlife crisis herself. She'd had a long career as a clinical social worker, then taken time off to raise for her four boys, now 16, 14, 11 and 11 (yes, twins.) Once the twins hit first grade, she needed to return to work, but wanted to be home for her sons after school.

"I carved out some time for self analysis," Colleen tells me. "I asked myself - what do I do well? How can I use my strengths to earn enough money and still have the flexibility I want?" Since she'd been organizing people for free all her life, doing it professionally was the natural next step.

I met with Colleen on February 1, the morning before the storm hit. This chick is so passionate about organizing it's absolutely invigorating. In an hour and 15 minutes, she gave me so much powerful, actionable information that it's going to take me a couple posts to share it all with you.

But here's the surprising starting point when it comes to organization. It's not how you handle your stuff. It's how you handle your TIME.

"Schedules are like closets," says Colleen.  "Most disorganization comes from poor time management."

We're going to talk about this concept more in my next post, and please stay with me. Getting organized may sound dry and boring, but it's one of the most uplifting, thrilling things you can do for yourself, and unlike a diet or a budget - the results are immediate.

That's why Colleen loves her job. "When you start getting organized, it goes to other parts of your lives immediately. After I've worked with them, my clients are so happy! We're hugging and crying, they're so excited. It's wonderful to have a job that energizes you."

I've already started implementing Colleen's tips on how to effectively manage my calendar, paperwork, meal planning and belongings, so check back soon. February is gonna be a great month. I'm making room for a new me!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Rant on Weight: Skinny Bitch, Fat Ass and Everywhere in Between

How'd she do it? She ate less.
I've been blogging about body issues all month and I've barely mentioned the biggie - WEIGHT. Why? Because I'm so enlightened about the importance of health and inner beauty that my weight is no longer of concern to me. I've risen above it.


Of course I care about my weight - I think about it all the time. It influences how I feel about myself on a daily basis. Does this make me shallow or vain? Have I been victimized by the unrealistic body images portrayed in the media?

I'm going to get a cookie and think about that.

The answer is - No! I'm not a misguided dupe. Weight matters to me and probably to you too. Most of us are obsessed with weight for very good reason. We know we need to lose some, and that we'd feel much happier and healthier if we did.

Being at a healthy body weight is so important for women our age. It is one of the single biggest factors in maintaining our joints and heart, and can significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers. But also, it feels damn good to be fit. Everything is easier and more fun - from climbing stairs to choosing an outfit in the morning.

I'm not talking about looking like a Hollywood starlet. Celebs look amazing on camera, but it's surprising how slight and insubstantial some appear in person. A few years ago I went to a taping of the Oprah Show and saw actress Patricia Heaton, who played the "average" mom on Everybody Loves Raymond. She was so tiny I could have encircled her delicate ankle with my thumb and middle finger.

I don't blame the stars for being extremely thin. They're like jockeys and wrestlers; to succeed in their chosen profession their bodies have to weigh a certain amount and they'll do what it take to get them there.With all the fasting, cleansing and exercising, I wonder how some of the waifs have energy to lift their heads from the pillow each morning.

But there's a lot of working room between the average woman and the average movie star. The latest government stats are sobering - over half of all American women are overweight or obese. To stave what has become an epidemic, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services have issued some new dietary guidelines. Their basic advice: don't eat so much

Wow, that's simple. Don't consume more calories than your body needs. The tough part is that our calorie requirement goes down as we get older, which is why we women over 40 have a harder time keeping off the pounds. (Click here for tips to lose weight after 40.)

How much should we weigh? I checked the ideal weight chart at, and I think the range is valid for me. When I felt my absolute best I was toward the bottom end - right now I'm pushing the ceiling. I'm still in the zone, but it doesn't feel or look nearly as good.

So, what to do? There's so much - too much - information out there about weight loss. There are diet books and websites and spiritual weight loss guides and exercise programs and supplements. Jennifer Hudson lost 80 pounds on Weight Watchers; Valerie Bertinelli lost 40 on Jenny Craig. It's daunting.

It helps to know that it all boils down to this - to lose weight I have to consume fewer calories. Exercise is great and has physical and emotional benefits in it's own right, but weight loss is about reducing intake. To burn off the two cookies I just ate, I'd have to jog for a half an hour. It would have been much easier not to eat them to begin with!

So, today, as I wrap up a month of writing about the body, I'm going back to the only tool that has ever worked for me - a Food Journal. I'm returning to the plan I used successfully two years ago  and shoot for 1600-1700 calories a day while making sure I eat plenty of fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt (for calcium!)

There are yummy treats on offer everywhere - it's easy to just eat without really thinking about what I'm doing. But starting right now, I'm going to at least be conscious of what I consume. I'm gonna write down every single thing I put in my mouth - even those damn cookies.