Saturday, April 30, 2011

Here Comes the Sun - and a lovely lunch al fresco

After the rainiest Chicago April in 50 years, the sun came out on Friday - just in time for a Springtime birthday celebration for several friends (including me) hosted by my talented and gracious friend Suzanne. It wasn't even all that warm out, but armed with wraps, pink champagne and an outdoor heater, we were thrilled to enjoy the beautiful al fresco lunch Suzanne provided on her charming front porch.

Oh, heck - just scroll down - the pictures speak for themselves.

When it comes to inspiration, there's nothing like  the beauty of a sunny early spring day - and the company of girlfriends!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Is a Midlife Crisis all about Sex?

As I continue to create my own midlife crisis, this exploration is suddenly resulting in many connections and coincidences - discoveries that are kind of amazing - and the unifying theme here is none other than sex.

The classes I'm taking, the books I'm reading, the people I'm meeting, the dreams I'm having -  the stars are aligned. My new  guru has an S-Factor pole in her living room and attends conferences with Shameless author Pamela Madsen. My friends are scheduling Enamour photo shoots, sex toy parties, and romantic getaways. They're getting frisky, taking ownership, celebrating themselves. Which all leads me to conclude -

A midlife crisis is all about sex.

Dana Delany is a chick who clearly
feels sexy (pic  from
It's not a complete shocker that I've come to this conclusion. After all, the two things I write about are 1) middle age (here at Forty Fabulous) and 2) sex and relationships (over at I have fun exploring titillating topics, but I've never felt that sexuality was my main focus. I've seen it as just one tool - along with curiosity, courage, wit, and generosity - for a mature chick to get it going on.

But when I get specific about what it means to have it "going on," I mean a woman who feels great about herself, is excited by life, is physically, emotionally and intellectually alive, who connects with others and has a rockin' good time. A woman who is sexy! Someone like Dana Delany, pictured, who at 55 seems to embody all those traits. She obviously feels like one smoking hot babe. Do you?

I do!

       Well, sometimes.

                   Lately not so much....

                            Thus my midlife crisis.

Like pretty much everybody, sexuality is an important aspect of my identity. The idea of going through the next half of my life not feeling hot is a bleak prospect. I don't mean other people thinking I'm hot (although, feel free.) I don't even mean having lots of hot squealy-pig sex (though I'm a fan.) I mean feeling hot about myself and feeling connected to that electric vibe that runs through my core, the sense of anticipation that says - hey I'm ready, everything is possible, bring it on!

Because when you feel like that, age is irrelevant.

The job here is to figure out how to dial up that current; keep it zipping and zapping as long and strong as possible. At this point in life - with kids and hormones and bills and responsibilities - what's exciting? What's a turn-on now? It's not the same stuff that did it 20 years ago. Just a few of the things that get my pulse racing are singing onstage and dancing in the kitchen and interviewing someone fascinating and getting my husband to... Oops. I've promised to keep him out of this - at least as far as the blog is concerned.

Anyhow, I intend to have a lot  of fun exploring this area. Check back soon, because I'm going on a retreat where I hope to gets lots of inspiration. Til then, have a sexy weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Musings on Men and Personal Power

This month, as I've been looking for inspiration, I've also been playing around with the theme of empowerment. Part of my midlife crisis is that I waste a lot of my mind time questioning what I'm doing - is it the right thing, am I doing it well, does it matter, what do other people think, am I being selfish? All of these thoughts are undermining and unproductive.

You know who doesn't waste time with all this paralyzing, wobbly self-doubt? Men!

I've been watching  The Tudors  series on DVD - if you didn't see it on Showtime, I highly recommend - and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (hot!) as King Henry VIII embodies male confidence to the extreme. His attitude is simple: he is entitled to any outcome he desires and whatever he desires - no matter how self serving, contradictory, or reckless - is worthy.

It's not exactly a kindly, moral attitude but I kind of dig it. It's damn efficient.

Obviously, not all men feel as divinely empowered as a medieval king, but I do appreciate the male trait of straightforwardly owning their skills, opinions, and accomplishments. So often women demure, side-step, make excuses. We rethink even our tiniest decisions.

I've started taking an inspiring women's class (more on this to come) where we practiced giving and receiving sincere compliments. If I need a role model for this, I only have to look as far as my own husband.

"You look great," I'll tell him.

"I do," he'll reply, "I'm a f**king stud." And he's not kidding.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Men are insightful about midlife too

While I write from the female perspective, I love knowing that men are also thoughtful about the meaning of this time of life. My friend and former colleague (okay, boss!) Jim Sullivan is a leadership consultant who helps executives lead from the heart. His recent blog post about age not being the true measure of life really resonated with me. Here's an excerpt:

"Mae West was famous for saying “It’s not the men in your life, honey; it’s the life in your men.” That’s a funny way of saying that, in a heads-up trade-off, quality beats quantity any day.
So, I’ll offer this thought to a couple of days of brilliant blog posts from my gifted colleagues:
Your life is measured by what you pay attention to.
When you think about it, your attention is YOU. It’s literally your “life force.” It’s the energy you summon and give to the world around you.
It’s really the scarce resource in our lives. Not money. Not even time. It’s our attention."

Follow this link to read Jim's complete post, titled "What we Attend To."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Midlife Crisis Reading List

In a month when I'm looking for inspiration, I thought I'd share some of the books that have helped put my midlife crisis in motion. I've read them all (except for the last three which are next  on my list)  and highly recommend them. Some are heavy, some are just plain fun - but I'm sure you'll find something on this list that will spark your interest.  If you click on the title, it will take you to the book's page over at Amazon.

Books on Women's Roles, Transitions, and Positive Change

Books on Reclaiming your Juicy, Sexy, Bad-Ass Self

Books on Creativity and Performance

Books on Looking Great After 40

Next on My List

If you have a book that has inspired you, I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

3 Good Things - Write them down and Get Happy

In today's Sunday Trib Magazine I read an article by Nara Schoenberg titled Happiness, Meet Science. In it is a simple, scientifically proven way to get happier. Every night before bed, write down three things that happened during the day that made you feel good or grateful. Within weeks, you'll be measurably happier.

"The research here is pretty clear," says University of Michgan psychology professor Christopher Peterson. "People who do ("Three Good Things") on a regular basis get happier."

Okay, it seems easy enough. Here are three things that make me happy today (and it's only noon!)

  1.  My usually intense hubby's goofy animal imitations. His moose is my favorite, but today he was a very silly bunny.
  2. The sunshine and soaring temps. It's like summer today! 
  3. A breakfast of chocolate cake, clementines and coffee in bed while reading the newspaper. Ahhh.
Gee, that took about 2 minutes - this is one habit I can keep up. And I'm feeling more cheerful already.

Got three things that made you feel good today? Go write 'em down. Or better yet, share them here and we'll get started together.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Out of my head and into the world - starting with Sex with Strangers

As I continue to create my midlife crisis in 2011, I'm excited to move into April's theme - Inspiration. I used the frigid winter months to figuratively and literally clean house - take care of my body, my surroundings, my calendar, my mind. I've decluttered, pared down and cut back. Now I'm ready to get out there and seek  new ideas and experiences.  And April is the right month to get started.

It's still gray and bare here in Chicago; we're caught in the fifth season columnist Mary Schmich calls "Waiting for Spring." Her article about it in today's Chicago Tribune is hilarious. But I like e. e. cummings' sentiment for this time of year, 

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful."

I'm going to go out and splash around!

Originally, I wanted April to be the month of feasting on the arts. I intended to see at least 20 concerts, plays, readings, art exhibits and performances.  Then, I planned for May to be all about travel and experiencing new cities and sites of natural beauty. But real life has mixed up my schedule, so I'm adapting my plan and mixing up the months. I'll be traveling and devouring every cultural event I can for the next two months - and reporting back on how all this stimuli affects me. And I've already begun.

Sex with Strangers is hot!
Image from ChicagoNow. com
Photo by Michael Brosilow
Wednesday night I saw Steppenwolf's "Sex with Strangers", a play by Laura Eason that is right up my alley. It's about sex and blogging and literature and aging and hot younger men and privacy and trying to be true to yourself while attracting an audience for your work in this digital age.

My friend Mary and I have season tickets to Steppenwolf and we like to see shows there on Wednesday evenings after dinner and a half-price bottle of wine (Wino Wednesdays!) at the hip Landmark Grill across the street. Since we enter the theatre a tad buzzed, our first criteria for any show is - does it keep us awake until intermission? Sex with Strangers passed that test and more.

I loved it! And I'm jealous. I wish I'd written this play Laura Eason, you brilliant bitch! And I completely envy actress Sally Murphy who plays Olivia and gets to explore these powerful, topical issues for two hours on stage with her smoking hot co-star, Stephen Louis Grush. I've always been turned off by tattoos, but Grush's portrayal of Ethan is making me rethink the appeal of a heavily inked torso. 

I guess feeling jealous, envious, and turned on are signs of being inspired, right? April is off to a good start. Now I've got to go pack my suitcase for the weekend, cos I'm heading to  Philadelphia.

Sex with Strangers runs at Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre through May 15th. Go see it! Here's the link for tickets:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lessons from a Month of Getting Quiet

I have mixed feelings about leaving March and my theme of mindfulness behind. The month spent trying to get quiet, calm,  and focused while paying attention to my inner voice and uncovering heart's desires has been both frustrating and enlightening. The first week I was sleepy, the second week I was cranky, the third week I began to make progress, and the fourth week was kind of magical.

Here's a quick summary of what I learned from the experience and then - on to April, when I am switching it up big time!

1. Quiet feels strange. At the beginning of March I banished TV, news and excessive internet use from my life and then I didn't know what to do with myself.  I knew my life was noisy and cluttered, but I was surprised to find how uncomfortable the peace and quiet felt at first.

2. Sleep is a beautiful thing. If you find you can't keep your eyes open when you first try to get centered and calm, it's probably because you're exhausted. Our minds are so chock full of to-do lists and fretting, it's no surprise that when we finally stop to take a breath, all we really want to do is take a nap. Don't fight it - get the Z's you need.

3. Meditation - Just Do it. For all you skeptics out there that think meditation is a new-age, touchy-feely, mumbo-jumbo, slacker waste of time, I say this - just try it. After just a month, I feel calmer, more confident, and happier! The benefits don't stop there. According to the Mayo Clinic,
"Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and improve certain medical conditions."
4. Meditation takes practice. If meditation makes you feel bored, frustrated, scattered, or stupid - don't get discouraged. I've found it takes time and repetition to get into rhythm; just keep at it for a few minutes each day. And don't think you have to just sit there with your legs crossed, chanting "ohm." There are lots of ways to be mindful including yoga or going for a walk. The point is to fully experience the present moment, take a break from all the planning, guilt and worry, and relax.

5. Tip - Use a Playlist as a Timer. One of my biggest blocks to meditating was that I constantly worried about what time it was. Had 5 minutes passed? Had 30? I couldn't relax unless I knew. I tried setting a timer, but I'd finally get settled and it would beep and ruin the whole thing. Finally, I made a playlist of calming music, and now I just select the number of songs I have time for (usually 5-6 songs, or 20 minutes.) When the music stops playing, I can stop or continue in silence.

6. Pictures are Powerful. If you read my last entry, you know that my vision board workshop has already produced real events in my life. I'm still blown away that I ending up swimming in a cave only days after putting a similar picture on my vision board. But we humans are visual creatures, and being specific about what we want and picturing that thing in our life is much more powerful than writing a goal on a piece of paper. But you have to decide what you want! ( I'm still working on that part.)

Make sure you visualize what you really want, not what someone else wants for you."

- Jerry Gillies

7. Write it Out. I spent a lot of time writing in my journal this month. I've kept a journal since I was 15 and I still have each and every volume I've ever written in a box in my closet. Every once in a while I'll pull them out and frankly, it's awful reading. I'm a sniveling whiner, I'm horribly self-absorbed, I use terrible grammar. But the power of my journal lies in the act of writing it - the finished product is irrelevant. I work out all my problems on the page and venting there never fails to cheer me up. I'm sure it has saved thousands of dollars in psychiatry fees!

I'm not sure how profound all these realizations are - I know I'm just scratching the surface - but that's what I've learned this month. Now, I'm already a week into April and it's time to switch gears. Check back in a couple days, because now that I'm all centered and in touch with myself, I am getting out of the house and into the world, and honey, I'm looking for some inspiration!

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Vision Board is coming true - and no, I'm not drinking

I was swimming through a luminous, stalactite covered underground cave in Mexico this week, when I realized I'd put the experience on my vision board. Really.

After making my first vision board with Carol Moss and friends, all those old magazines stacked on my dining room table proved irresistible, and I had to make a second one. I decided board number two would be about strength and empowerment. Because, you know what? It's time for me to stop waiting around, hoping to get noticed or validated or... chosen.  It's time for me to harness my own power, dammit!

Anyway, one of the images I chose was from National Geographic of a diver swimming in a mind-blowing cave system recently discovered in Vietnam.  As I positioned the picture on my board, I hesitated. I knew I'd never come close to doing anything that daring. But the photo was so powerful, I glue-sticked it down anyway.

 Here's the original cave-swimming pic from National Geographic:

And here it is on my board (partially pictured):

I would never have left the comfort of my all-inclusive Riviera Maya resort if my husband, kids and family friends hadn't had their hearts set on visiting Xplor - a zip-lining, ATV driving, underground river adventure park - the thought of which made me shudder with dread. Boarding the bus that morning, I longed for my beach chair, book, and lunchtime Corona with lime. But I was determined to be a good sport.

That's how I found myself swimming through a magical, prehistoric cave.  The picture below is not of me, but it's exactly what I experienced. Laughing and splashing in the glowing river it suddenly hit me.

"Hey!" I shouted to my friend Tricia, "I put this on my vision board! Nick, Emma! Cave swimming is on my vision board." It was a very cool moment.

image from

The cave system might not be as vast as the one in Vietnam, but it was breathtaking. And don't you think it's too much of a freaking coincidence that a mere six days after I slapped a picture of a person swimming in a cave on a piece of poster board, I became one?