Felice’s Blog

 

Felice Shapiro, Founder and Publisher of Better After 50, muses about life as a BA50.

Connect with Felice on her Twitter and her Facebook.  You can also connect on the BA50 Twitter or BA50 Facebook Page.

My Interview With Arianna Huffington

ariana-huffingtonI was thrilled to have an opportunity to interview Arianna Huffington this past week prior to her appearance at the Simmons Leadership conference (on April 2nd).

Arianna Huffington has been a mentor to me (even though she doesn’t know it). I followed her closely after her sale of the Huffington Post to AOL three years ago, which was the impetus behind starting www.betterafter50.com.

I was pleased that she was open to sharing her insights into her publishing success and also her personal life as she embraces her 60-something years.

I hope you find this interview as fun to read as I did to conduct.

Felice: As a woman and an entrepreneur in your sixties, has life in your 6th decade affected how you balance your work and personal health?

Arianna: Yes, very much so. In recent years I’ve made many changes that I wish I’d made much earlier in my life, from trying to get eight hours of sleep a night to having a specific time at night when I regularly turn off my devices – and gently escort them out of my bedroom.

If I could, I’d go back and tell my younger self that there would be no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and my ability to do good work.

I’d have said, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.”

That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion.

Felice: What are your favorite blogs?

Arianna: Too many to list!

Lately, though, I’m especially excited about blogs, like the one run by the Solutions Journalism Network, that focus just as relentlessly on what’s working in the world as on what’s going wrong.

Felice: How do you decide what to write about on your blog?

Arianna: It varies, depending on what’s in the news, what I’m reading at the moment or what’s on my mind. In the past few years I’ve very closely followed all the new science and studies that have emerged around the need to unplug, recharge and reconnect with ourselves, and these have been central to a lot of my blogs.

We’re living through an incredible time, when modern science is validating a lot of ancient wisdom.

Felice: What do you think caused the Huffington Post to gain so much velocity and prestige so quickly?

Arianna: HuffPost was created in the midst of a perfect storm for a political news and opinion site. Blogging was rapidly transforming the media structure in America.

Twenty years ago, it took twenty years to build a new media brand. Ten years ago, it took ten.

By 2005, we felt we could build a new media brand in a year. The Internet had flattened America’s hierarchal media structure.

Felice: What is the most daring physical experience you have had in the last year?

Arianna: I’m not a daredevil, so unfortunately I don’t have any extreme sports stories to share!

My new year’s resolution this year was to read more for pleasure – for someone who aspires to have more pauses and stillness in my life, maybe that’s physically daring in its own way.

Felice: Who is your role model?

Arianna: My mother. One of her favorite sayings was “Don’t miss the moment,” which embodied the philosophy of her life.

Felice: When you move between your work day and your evenings out and don’t get home – how do you refresh your look – because you seriously always look great!

Arianna: That’s so nice of you to say.

I rely on little touch ups, quick checks in the mirror, and asking whoever I’m with to make sure my makeup and hair aren’t going to cause any alarm.

Felice: We would like to send you our new book: “We Are Better After 50 Because….”  as a thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. It is guaranteed to make you laugh – where shall we send it?

Arianna: Of course! If you’d send me two, I’d love one for myself and one for our Huff/Post 50 editor.

Felice: Thanks so much for all the work you do to support women entrepreneurs while reminding us how important it is to nurture our selves.

Her latest book (2014) is Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.

 

Why Our Seder Is Fun

pharaoh3I love a good play and a memorable story line. And that is one reason why I love the Passover Seder.

We act out this timeless story at our dining room table with puppets, costumes, poems and song. We bring to life the evil leader whose politics of oppression and dastardly antics (plagues) forces a group of believers (our invited guests) to leave their homes – to escape in the middle of the night – to pull up their roots and find a new homeland.  We philosophize about  leaders and community. This is the story of our ancestors and sadly, the very same story that is playing out again today throughout the world most notably in Africa and in the Middle East and the Ukraine. We talk about all of this.

I have heard and read this simple bible story of the Jews leaving Egypt for at least a half a century. And no matter where I am in the world, I always feel its relevance. Every year I feel the presence of the ancestors and of my loved ones as I take my seat at the Seder table.

Since I left my home in Boston at 17, I have never missed going to a Seder because it keeps me feeling connected to my community. I observed and participated in a Seder in Japanese when I lived in Tokyo for 6 months. I have participated in a Seder in French during my year abroad in Paris. My husband and I brought our matzo and Hagaddahs to a hotel room in London with the boys and dear friends the Fredmans (nope, note a typo…blame it on the Ellis island clerk) so as not to miss this special night.

I dragged my aching legs across the finish line of the Boston marathon with my son Jake in 2011 and we went that very evening to “sit” at my friend Debby Green’s Seder table.

Bill and I sat at my darling Susan Sirkman’s Seder for the past 6 years on the second night of Passover but her death last year ended this tradition …we will bring her spirit to our table this year, but will miss her laughter beyond words.

I have sat with my grandfathers, in-laws, and aunties and with my dad, all who are no longer at our table. And each time I sit at the Seder, I bring all these places, and all these people with me, as a reminder of my rich history. And I know, that I too will inevitably become an integral part of this Seder for my children.

When my husband Bill and I visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam this past Fall, I thought of their Passover in hiding as we stood in their home. And, I think about how this tradition has endured because its message is timeless. No matter where in the world you are, you can come together with others and share a story that connects and reminds you to treasure the freedom you now have and to open your heart to those who are suffering and oppressed.

And the craziest thing is, this “heavy” message is told in the liveliest and most celebratory way at the Seder, which makes it accessible to all generations. We always sing and laugh side-by-side, with our young and old, and we leave the table full of hope and renewal,optimism and very very drunk.

And, as much as I love the Seder, I love getting ready for it especially this year because the “kids” are now outnumbering the adults at the table.

Setting the Stage and The Table:

With young children I learned to make the Seder food with the help of calls to my auntie for her jello mold, to my nana for her brown sugar and butternut squash, my best friend’s mother for her Passover Kugel, and my Mom for her matzo balls. I learned to cook brisket in my 30’s from friend Leslie Garfield, and matzo covered in chocolate from my business partner. This year I’m learning a new gefilte fish recipe from my foodie friend Susan Leon (maybe someone will actually eat this version).

My Leonard Baskin Hagaddah needs an update but I use them anyway, because my dad gave them to me 30 years ago when I was first married. He was thrilled I was making a Jewish home. (I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I figured if I could pull off a Seder I qualified).

It doesn’t really matter that the book is dated because it’s only a backdrop for the evening’s discussion. It’s filled with simple timeless readings that are not the main event. What matters is the discussion. We will surely talk about the elections in Israel and most likely our outrage and fear. We will talk about what it means to be Jewish in the world today.

The Cast:

My son Jake is the eldest of all the kids by months. He has led the Seder since his dad passed 10 years ago. He was 18 then. He will be red-eyeing in from Seattle that morning to lead us once again from his father’s highlighted Haggadah.

My husband Bill, who converted to Judaism 7 years ago, loves this holiday and has claimed his place each year with a provocative contemporary story that inevitably ignites a heated discussion. He will most likely bake an astounding dessert.

At our table youth will reign. This year there will be 10 “kids” (4 who are not Jewish), 3 parents and my Mom (Nana Carol).

It’s amazing how the table has turned over the years.

And, we will sit for hours and laugh and talk and eat and sip our wine, sing our hearts out and in so doing embed our own living history on this generation and for future generations. And this is what makes for a great living play that never gets old, and why this night is different from all other nights.

Looking for a fabulous Passover dessert recipe? click here, and here, and here.

 

 

19 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Adult Kids

I will try harder in class“Please Mom, do not put me on a group text!”

That was the latest “corrective” that I was given in a litany of behavior/technical modifications from my boys who I believe I have a fantastic relationship with – except for a few items that apparently are really annoying them.

“Really!” I replied, “I love group texting. It’s efficient. It’s so easy to just get everyone on the same page and make a plan.

“Because, it’s annoying!”

“Ok, well, what else is annoying?” I asked, because I really want to know. (This conversation was happening, by the way, in a group text format because at least I had their attention and we were having a conversation and I wasn’t giving this behavior up yet).

With one on the West Coast in a 60-hour-a-week job plus a three- hour time difference, and the other on the road with his music career – no one is in my time zone anymore. I added, “I don’t want to be annoying, I just want a little communication – you know – a high five from time to time – you don’t have to respond ASAP – but at least we can keep the conversation going through our family texts since we won’t all be together for well – for a long time.”

“(Oops, I shouldn’t have texted that – I sound like I’m guilting them.)”

I decided to text a group survey  (because old habits die hard) to a few of my young 20-something girlfriends, nephews, niece, and of course my boys, to find out what else annoys these emerging adults about their Moms whom they do love very much.

And here’s what I learned which may be helpful to all of us (parents and kids alike) who are navigating this next phase:

  1. Calling their girlfriends to locate or urge the boys to check in. This is a no- no and only to be used in case of emergencies, and “emergency” is not to be loosely defined.
  1. No more group GUILT texts! Something that goes like this: “We are all going to be at Nana’s for dinner, so glad everyone can make it – but wait we haven’t heard from ….!” This is so not OK on so many levels including the group text format, for starters.
  1. When they send you a pic of their new beloved, this is not the time to delay in responding no matter how busy you are. I was so busy showing my friends how beautiful my son’s new girlfriend was, I forgot to text him back. A prompt response is essential if you ever want to be asked again. Our feedback still matters.
  1. You may be “Facebook Friends” with your kids – but they are not really into your comments. Actually NEVER comment on their posts – you have the right to look but do not enter any further into this sacred space.
  1. Techno-nagging. When they lived at home and you nagged them, they left the room. Now, they live on another continent or in another time zone. Emailing multiple reminders followed by multiple texts – Face it – your kids are avoiding you – give it up.
  1. Questions that you are not willing to ask face to face and aren’t conversation starters, shouldn’t be texted. Like, “How’s your diet going?”  “How do I call an Uber?”
  1. Duh is Duh. Here is something the kids really don’t love in response to, “Hey Ma, I’m feeling really sick.” Do not respond with “Really you’re sick again. Are you getting good nights sleep? You probably need some homemade chicken soup and vitamin C and a lot of water.” (Duh)
  1. Here’s a question to never ask before October. “Can we talk about vacation — we need to figure out when we are going to see each other over Christmas break.” (Chances are you are not number one in their vacation plans, especially if they have significant others – you’ll be lucky to get a few days),
  1. “You sound really tired – are you hung over?”
  1. Asking your kids for help with work is not always a two way street. Here’s a response I got to my survey: “It’s annoying when you send out group texts to source your blog ideas, MOM!”
  2. “Your boyfriend sounds great.” (That’s OK.) Here’s what is not OK to ask: “Is he treating you right?” WHAT? Why is that annoying? – but trust me, it is.
  3. Please don’t ask after every test how it went. If I was proud of it I would tell you!”
  4. “Rent is almost due.” OMG if you are the kids’ landlord in any capacity – that reminder is doomed. Trust and they will send it.
  5. Please do not send a text telling me to “leave work on time” to meet up with you – NOPE that is really annoying – if we could we would.
  6. Banish the voicemails – we aren’t listening.
  7. Curb the emails – we’ve stopped reading beyond the first sentence.
  8. “Have you talked to your grandparents lately?” Really? Are you kidding…and thanks for making me feel totally guilty!
  9. “Have you been eating healthy?” OK, that is just plain annoying.
  10. “Can you come home to clean out your room and get rid of some stuff?” That is so not something we are signing on for – just sayin!

 

If You Relate To This… You May Be Dog Obsessed

cute dog videos cockapooOnce the kids moved out of the house, things really started to shift. My dog, became the center of my universe. Transference of my maternal instincts immediately moved from kid to canine and to be honest, it’s been a bit more rewarding. Very little pushback, lots of gratitude and cuddling round the clock.

I haven’t had my dog Jazz’s IQ tested but, I know her EQ (emotional intelligence) is off the charts. Living with her is like dancing the Tango with the perfect partner. When I am sad – she snuggles me – when I tell her to “go to bed” she goes to my room to wait til I call for her. She waits patiently for my return each day and performs a ritualistic “Honey I’m Home” dance which instantly erases the stress of the most challenging day. She licks tears from my face and grabs her leash when I put my sneakers on. And when I am reading or watching TV, she pushes her head into my body to connect and flips over for a well deserved full belly scratch. She brings me the mail (ripping it away from the postal slot), and barks by the back door when it’s time to go out.

When my dog Jazz – a 12 pound leggy and lean Cockapoo, turned 10, this past January 22, an alarm when off! I have heard tell small dogs live longer (like up to 15 years) but since I lost my Wheaton, JoJo who died at age10 years – I’m not confident about canine longevity predictions.

Cockapoo dog videoWhat has become clear over the last few months is, being away from Jazz for more than 48 hours is no longer ok for me.

Jazz and I have been in our own love cocoon for a full decade and she really is my best friend. I often wondered if my relationship with my dog bordered on the obsessive, ridiculous – over the top? I don’t really think so and, by the way, I don’t really care. If you aren’t a dog lover – you may just write this behavior off as kooky – but if you love your dog – then you understand that loving your dog is a connection bound by unbreakable heartstrings.

Now that the kids have their own apartments – Jazz is the child at home who I nurture. My husband Bill is the most patient soul ever and loves Jazz however, I have noticed that he often falls into the trap of treating Jazz as a dog, albeit a brilliant one. Our marital tension is most amplified around the topics of Jazz sleeping in our bed and coming on vacation with us. So far Jazz has won out on both counts with no compromise in site.

What I’ve noticed is my dog’s needs trump both mine and my husbands and at the ripe age of 10 — I have wrought what I’ve sown and that’s just fine by me. I have willingly knighted Jazz as the lady of our house and as long as she reigns she rules.

In order to clarify a my relationship with Jazz for myself and my family I put down a few confessions — a doggy test of sorts –to see if my behavior favored my doggy over the rest of my loved ones.

If you are a real dog lover – I am assuming you may be nodding in agreement with all 12 of the below confessions. Sharing these statements with the family may help your family understand who’s at the top of the family pyramid. If you are dog obsessed, you may want to share this to clarify with your loved ones who rules your roost.

1. My dog is invited into my bed to spoon with me – and if she passes gas I do not shoo her away (this applies to none-other).

2. I make my guests take their shoes off when they come to my house – but Jazz well –it’s just a paw print – it will come off.

3. When my dog throws up – I am on my hand and knees scrubbing the carpet and feeling so sad for my pup (for my boys – I shove a bucket next to the bed)

4. There is always food for Jazz – plenty of supplies in the pantry. – (the boys – well they have an APP for take-out)

5. Jazz has a regular Doctor’s appointment, which we go to together. (I hope my boys remember to get their check-ups – it’s their responsibility)

6. Jazz gets at least 45 minutes of personal walk time with me each morning (I greet my husband after his spin class and hope it’s been good)

7. I pick up my dog’s poop (no one else’s)

8. My dog barks at me to let her out in the morning and I instantly jump out of bed (my husband brings me coffee in bed)

9. When friends tell me they like my dog better than any other dog they have ever known (I believe them).

10. The friends I like best are the ones that love my dog. (ok maybe it’s a bit childish but I’m just being honest)

11. When strangers tell me my dog is brilliant and adorable – I agree. (witness — no humility to be had).

12. When I post pictures of Jazz on Instagram or Facebook – I am proud of the number of likes she gets (and I tell her).

Care to share a few of your dog confessions. I’m wondering if you can relate or not? Apparently there are plenty of US out there. I just found this link on facebook called I Love Dogs (https://www.facebook.com/TheILoveDogsSite — (it has over 1.5 million likes)

Here’s a recent video the kids made of Jazz ripping mail out of the mail slot – hilarious and I think this one should go viral:

Don’t you think she’s cute?

Love Blooms When You Take A Chance

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Gere

Lillete Dubey (age 61) and Richard Gere (age 65)

I saw the trailer for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which is about to hit the theaters, and it got me thinking about how much I loved the first film and why.

Whenever I meet single women in their 50’s and 60’s, the topic inevitably turns to – how did you meet your second husband?

I try not to act nonchalant, because I know I was damn lucky that Bill walked into my life – but to be honest – I would not call it THE perfect moment, nor could I have anticipated we would end up together.

The timing was far from perfect, because I was rather pre-occupied with grieving. My first husband had died only 6 months prior and although I was concerned that I would be alone forever – I wasn’t actively “dating.”

Dating Bill was like jumping off a cliff into the unknown. Jumping off cliffs, taking chances, trying on something new, is frightening  –and something I wasn’t looking to do. I had already been thrust out of my comfort zone with my loss and now, I was being courted into an area that felt frighteningly new.  But, as I look back after almost seven years of marriage, I am clearer than ever about how I ended up with Bill.

Let me start by saying the odds were against this relationship. Bill did not fit the bill at the outset. First of all he was 8 years older and that seemed like a lot. Second, he didn’t live in the same state. He lived and worked in Boston and I lived in New York. Third, he was a tad shorter than I. He didn’t bike and was an intermediate skier – both sports that defined how I spent my leisure time. And, his personality was actually the opposite of the husband I had just lost, and whom I had loved very much.

I smile thinking about how I ended up with my Bill and I love sharing the story. It wasn’t an obvious match — it wasn’t a sure bet— but Bill’s twinkly blue eyes, easy laugh and steadiness were a draw and softened the obstacles.

I was able to set aside what didn’t work and say “Yes” to his requests to take me out in New York. I was able to put his hometown on the back burner – and focus on getting to know Bill.

Despite BIll’s old fashioned, patient courtship, I hadn’t dated in 25 years and it felt awkward. Bill was sweet, safe and wanted me. He believed I deserved to be happy after so much loss, and that kindness pulled me in. He could listen compassionately to stories about my husband without feeling threatened. He was confidant we would create our own stories and that I would eventually “let go” and love him.

Did you ever watch the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? The film is about letting go of the past in order to move forward. It’s about love – at any age. It’s about a bunch of English retirees who head to India to live because it’s less expensive and it’s an adventure. Love begins anew, life has a new energy because they took a risk and a leap and courageously moved into an unknown place despite their fears that it would be awful – which much of it was.

The theme of taking risks, and living out of the “comfort box” can bring unimaginable surprises – maybe even new friendships, love and happiness. We may know this to be true – but what does it take to actually brave the unknown?

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTELThe Exotic Marigold Hotel is about taking chances. It’s not just a fairy tale – it could happen – and it DID happen to me, and I didn’t even have to go to India.

Not everything has to be perfect to leap into love.

Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith were so wonderful to watch and it’s fun to try to figure out “which one to identify with.”

I’m thrilled that the sequel- The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is coming to theaters THIS WEEK. I can’t wait to see it with Bill, as I love the cast (and especially Richard Gere) and I’m a sucker for stories of second chances and new love.

Here’s the trailer:

Watch the trailer
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“This post is sponsored by Fox Searchlight Pictures”

 

Which Oscar Gown Do You Want To Wear?

Oohing and aahing as Robin Roberts interviewed the Oscar stars on the red carpet in their amazing dresses I had a brief fantasy moment. Could I wear some of those dresses please? Even if I could fit into them, where would I ever wear them?

We know Hollywood isn’t about reality – but we can’t help but think – what if we could wear one of those dresses just for one night? It’s the Hollywood trap — thinking that people actually wear these clothes. I admit to falling victim to a night at the Oscars fantasizing about wearing one of Oscar’s prized outfits. How fun would it be to try on a few of the amazing gowns and even wear them out on the town.

I would love to suspend reality a bit and play in Oscar’s closet — wouldn’t you?

If you could wear one of the Oscar dresses anywhere – which one would you wear and where would you wear it to?

I’m thinking the only chance I would ever have to don a facsimile of one of these gowns is for a super big event but gee – I can’t think of one on the near horizon. As a guest at my friends’ kids’ weddings – I don’t think an Oscar # equivalent would work at all. The only event I could even imagine dressing in a memorable treasure dress –could possibly be as a MOG (mother of the groom) –but that will have to wait.

So when fantasy and reality collide what does that look like?  Trying to be fair and not too critical — I really tried to imagine these dresses with small breasts and wider hips to fit my 50-something figure.  And when I slipped into one of these in my mind’s eye – I think I may have found 4 that I love.

Here are a few of my favorites from Oscar’s closet. I couldn’t  pick just one of these, I would love to try on Emma’s, Sienna’s, Cate’s and Laura’s.  Which ones do you want to wear?

Emma Stone at the Oscars 2015

Emma Stone

Sienna Miller at the Oscars 2015

Sienna Miller

eddie-redmayne-wife-hannah-bagshawe-oscars-2015

Hannah Bagshawe

Robin Roberts 2015 oscars red carpet

Robin Roberts

jennifer-aniston-nude-versace-dress-oscars-2015-h724

Jennifer Aniston

kerry-washington-miu-miu-dress-oscars-2015

Kerry Washington

cate-blanchett-black-dress-necklace-oscars-2015

Cate Blanchett

laura-dern-silver-alberta-ferretti-dress-oscars-2015-h724

Laura Dern

What Not To Wear On Your Feet After 50

what shoes not to wearI fancied myself a pretty stylish girl for a time subscribing to the motto that shoes make the outfit. Whether it was a cool pair of Frye boots in my teens (and now actually yet again) or a pair of great wedges, I knew the outfit was not “together” without the right shoe. Sexy, hip, youthful, stylish – in an instant the shoes were the ticket.

But that all changed after I screwed up my feet with sports in my 40’s. Both my running and biking shoes transformed the shape of my toes, width of my feet and added a knobby bunion to each foot. My feet that had grown from size 8 to 9 in my 30’s (a ½ size with each kid) grew another half a size in my late 40’s to a whopping 9 ½. (I’m a late bloomer). I suffered from a bout of plantar that forced me out of my favorite flip flops for a whole summer – ouch!

So after 50, I became the arbitrator between my feet and my shoes – negotiating between pain and pleasure. The ache in my stride did not keep me away from shoe stores and I began to cut deals with my feet. I was so not going orthopedic! My clogs and flats were not invited to the party. I chose fashion over pain…I sold my sole (get it?). I would wear the irresistible stylish discomfort to a party, knowing I’d last a dance or two before kicking them off opting for barefootin’.

Ever hopeful, slightly deluded and unwilling to face reality – I spent way too much money on a fleet of un-wearable shoes. And over time, sadly, reality has trumped. My party shoes are lined up neatly in my closet and I know it’s time to move on.

So, this month, with the onslaught of blizzards and cold keeping me housebound — my closet became an unavoidable project. My shoe collection beckoned me for a thorough weeding.

The purge was emotional. I decided it would be fun to catalogue a few of my most special pairs.

This was to be the Goodnight Moon of my party shoes.

Goodbye to my lovely silver Prada slip-ons that actually cut a wound into my bunion after a few dances at a spectacular wedding.

prada silver slip ons

Goodbye Prada

Ciao to my Made in Italy lacy black with silk bow Isaac sophisticates. No longer could they contain my foot girth. Shoe flesh overhang made my metatarsal scream. I only wore them to dinners where I wouldn’t have to walk, but no more – I can’t even get out the front door in them anymore.

isaac shoes declutter

Ciao Isaac!

My Giuseppe Zanotti’s (who is that anyway), with a dazzling bronzy jeweled strap never really worked and I have no idea why I bought them. Oh yes, they matched a bronze skirt that I adored. They were last worn to a birthday bash that my slashed feet barely recovered from.

jeweled sandals

Failed Sandals

Bye bye delicious beige suede hipster J. Crew wedge boots. You can no longer hold me erect. Shame on me for believing the false marketing. These were no “comfort shoes” and would never keep me fashionable and pain free.

J Crew What Was I Thinking

J Crew What Was I Thinking

Goodbye to my Olivia Rose, too small, too pointy, they can not contain my heel overhang and I must bid them adieu.

Olivia Rose Tal: Too Small

Olivia Rose Tal: Too Small

Oh and Anyi Lu, what to do? Au revoir. Your strappy patent harnesses do not enhance but moreover accent the miles my feet have seen.

Can't Do Anyi Lu Sandles Anymore

Can’t Do Anyi Lu Sandles Anymore

It turned out my party shoe purge forced me deeper into the closet and I began pulling and pruning and tossing spikes, and boots into a heap of embarrassing dimension.

I was unstoppable. I could not quit until every shoe remaining passed the wearability test.

VICTORY!

Exhilarated and exhausted I gazed proudly at the pile of shoes and knew they could have another home. Someone would enjoy them.

And so – with a spring in my step I sprinted to the Salvation Army and was greeted by a lovely woman who was thrilled to receive the donation.

Later that evening dining at our favorite restaurant, I told my husband about my success. I confessed that I felt liberated until …. my friend walked in wearing a pair of the most fabulous Manolo Blaniks and I knew that my shoe detox would not hold. I could feel my foot twitching and I knew, I was already beginning to relapse.

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik: My Demise

 

Where to donate:

I googled and found a great name and a great organization with a compelling global anti-poverty mission: Souls4souls.

distributing shoes and clothes both via direct donations to people in need and by provisioning qualified micro-enterprise programs designed to create jobs in poor and disadvantaged communities.”

Unfortunately Souls4souls didn’t have an outlet in my area – so I opted for the Salvation Army which does a great job too.

 

 

 

Hot Off The Press! The Perfect Gift For Your Girlfriends!

 

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better after 50 book for women 50 and over

Buy your copy on Amazon today!!!

How To Avoid The Valentine’s Day Blues

hearts on iceI’m not a big fan of holidays that make others feel badly – and Valentine’s Day can be brutal for those who are alone and don’t have a lover/husband/or are in a bad way with a partner or family member. For many this Hallmark holiday can feel grim. If you’re not partnered up to your satisfaction, it’s an in your face reminder that you are alone or you feel lonely. So—- how can you avoid the Valentine’s Day blues?

I speak from experience about these “blues.” I have had my share of watching the world become RED with hearts, candy and flowers knowing that I would not be a participant. I know what it’s like to want a Valentine and not know if there will ever be one. Valentine’s Day was really a sucker punch for me the year after I was widowed and I cursed that Hallmark holiday for adding to my already painful loss. When I was remarried a few year’s later, I was always conscious about how my friends who were not “coupled” felt during this time – knowing that it can be a tough week leading into the big day.

The marketing of Valentine’s Day is ubiquitous and thus tough to ignore, no matter how hard you try.  Sometimes the best (and only) strategy for dealing with discomfort is facing it head on.

So, if you are feeling lonely, or isolated –this may be the perfect time to reach out and invite the love in and not wait for it to come to you.

Here’s some ideas that could give you a lift and make this Valentine’s Day feel great.

  1. Red Velvet CupcakesCook some love food for yourself or a neighbor. My husband is a baker – last year he made these fabulous red velvet mini-cakes which were not only delicious but the presentation felt like pure love.
  2. Get your hair done. You can surely find a local salon to give you a loving wash and a blow out. For me – this gives me an instant lift.
  3. Flowers seem to magically create a celebratory mood and why wait for them to be delivered. Fill a vase with some fabulous arrangement which you have personally selected and enjoy them all week long.
  4. expensive braClothing: For some of us, taking off the old sweats and dressing up in a little sexy anything can lift the heart rate beyond a mild flutter. If that means buying sexy underwear – do it.
  5. Give Give Give: Nothing better for the soul/heart than to give to someone in need. Go to the local nursing home and distribute roses to as many people as you can connect with. Maybe you can read some love poetry to a willing recipient at the home. Lighten up someone else’s day.
  6. Call an old friend who you have been missing or send them an e-card. Surprise them with love.
  7. Move your body in a way that will lift your spirits. Back bends are also known as heart openers. If you like yoga, then go to a yoga class and get that heart opened up.
  8. Show your kids the way. Send them a note that’s a keeper. Maybe you can tell them all the things you really love about them – hopefully they won’t be surprised.

After 50 we know what we need to make ourselves feel better — so don’t let Valentine’s Day pull you off your center. Don’t hesitate – take care of what you need. Why not? You deserve the love right now!.

Wishing you a happy happy week ahead and a sweet loving February 14th.

Felice

 

3 Great TV Shows To Binge Watch Now

We’ve been watching a lot of great TV lately. Not in “real time” of course, because we are TV series bingers. We’ve discovered that watching an entire series in one-to-two seatings is our favorite viewing style — it makes for an ideal date night. It’s pure, delightful gluttony when you hook into a great series.

We watch most of our shows on our very “Smart TV” which makes binging particularly easy, and I have learned to master the clicker so I no longer feel stupid. Thank you Samsung. No more pathetic tech calls to my kids for help.

There was a time, not that long ago, that I was a tad judgmental about people who admitted to watching a lot of TV. I assumed they were not too bright and probably didn’t read much. Since I didn’t watch much TV, it wasn’t a topic that I could join in on. Now however – even in my book club – what are we watching next gets everyone’s attention, and we all pull out our I-phones to jot down the newest show.

I wanted to share some of our new favorite TV series that we have immersed ourselves in over the last month. If you haven’t seen these shows – frankly, I’m jealous because I wish I were seeing them again for the first time. I hope you have a chance to watch these and please let me know what you think.

  1. The Honorable Woman – an 8-episode mini-series created for BBC and Sundance TV is available to binge on in its entirety on Netflix. And I suggest you do!

I have my sister Jane to thank for recommending this just as the snow was beginning to fall for 2 days in Boston during the Juno Blizzard. She had admitted to her own non-stop binge-fest just the week before, and that was enough to get us tuned-in . We watched all 8 episodes over 2 consecutive evenings which was the ideal way to indulge in this story as there were so many plots and subplots. It takes a few episodes to grasp what is going on – and it’s so worth it!

This story is complex in its’ politics and story line. It tangles with the Israeli/Palestinan issue in the context of a who-done-it. We loved not only the story, but also the acting and the intrigue. Maggie Gyllenhaal who plays the main character, Nessa Stein is spectacular. Check it out – you won’t be disappointed.

There’s some great reviews about this show – one on NPR – which you should check out.

 

  1. Transparent-  Jill Soloway won Sundance Best Director for Transparent and the show won the best TV series at the Golden Globes so there is a good chance you have already heard of it.

Because my son signed our family up for Amazon Prime – it was an easy download on our super “Smart TV.” We binged on this gem over the Christmas holidays while my sister Jane visited and we didn’t stop until dawn. We were totally wowed.

Mort, played by Jeffrey Tambor (70 years old) comes out to his family as a transgender woman named Maura. He’s brilliant (we love him from the series Arrested Development which is another of our family favorites). Tambor won best actor at the Golden Globes.

This series gave us an introduction to the transgender world with humor, kindness and sensitivity. The characters are hilarious, outrageous and surprisingly relatable. We weren’t surprised to read that the story was based on Soloway’s own dad who had come out just 3 years before.

This You Tube trailer gives you a taste of the what’s to come:

Click here to start watching Transparent on Amazon.

 

  1. Mozart In the Jungle- This one is another Amazon Prime easy grab. My friend Lizzy gave us the heads up on this pearl. A true cultural immersion into the classical music world in New York – this series is full of love, intrigue and gorgeous music.

It’s about musicians, behind the scenes at the symphony, artistic egos, and has plenty of sex. The series is hilarious and fun, and Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell are fantastic. The incredibly sexy Gael Garcia Bernal (you will remember him from the Motorcycle Diaries) is the new maestro whose charm and sex appeal disrupt the old guard at the symphony.

My husband and I were sucked in immediately but admittedly we have not finished the series yet. We promised not to watch another episode without each other – so this one may take a bit longer to finish.

Here’s the trailer:

…and so if you’re intrigued.. well then…

Click here to start watching this on Amazon.

 

Have fun and let us know what you think in the comment section below.

It’s My Husband’s Fault We Are Unprepared For The Blizzard

unprepared for blizzardI am writing this post on Monday morning, January 26th at 4:30 am.

The Blizzard, which is predicted, to start later today, is supposed to be a doozy. By tomorrow morning, Tuesday January 27th, when you read this – we will all know if our forecasters deserve to keep their jobs.

I’m up at this ridiculously early hour obsessing about the storm — because my minding is doing it’s “listing” thing — i’ve been running through the essential inventory of our in-home storm emergency supplies.

I finally pull myself out of bed at this crazy hour of 4:30 am, to check if we have the following essentials to survive:

A Flash Light or 2

A Shovel

Wood for the Fire

Car Scraper

My Jawbone Jam Box

A full freezer

Any food at all

And matches.

Turns out we have none of these and there’s a simple reason why we are totally unprepared for this imminent “weather event.”

It’s my husband’s fault. Although he converted to Judaism 6 years ago when we married, not every bit of him converted. The neurotic/Woody Allen  “Jewish” gene that is embedded in my DNA was not transferrable.

Phew! My Bill is in fact a living breathing “port in the storm” for me, his sisters,our 4 boys, his business partners and friends. Calm, capable and unflappable, my Bill is steady and grounded no matter the curve balls he’s been thrown – and trust me – he’s been tested. There is not a neurotic bone in this man’s body.

But frankly,if he had just a smidge of weather anxiety, that would have been helpful — after all, there’s a blizzard coming and we have NO emergency anything in our Boston condo!

Yesterday, Sunday morning, the weather forecast began to encroach on our leisurely day. We were at the house in New York where we spend most weekends. We’d started with an early morning spin at #soulcycle before heading into New York City to meet our friends for a Sunday afternoon brunch and theatre matinee. It was then he landed the weather bomb on me. “Felice, after theatre we need to come straight home, pack quickly and leave for Boston so we don’t get stuck in the snow – it’s going to be a whopper.” I knew this was a serious call to action that wasn’t debatable.

My husband is not a weather alarmist, in fact he is a pretty accurate forecaster. He is the most precise person I know and has 3 weather apps on his phone, not because he has weather anxiety, but because he is a trained airplane pilot. He doesn’t believe in spending a lot of time worrying about weather because “forecasts are 90 percent inaccurate”. He reads radar maps and knows when to be concerned. So when he told me almost 48 hours before the storm that we needed to head to Boston so he could be at work on Monday — I agreed.

Our 6 – 9 pm drive that evening was a breeze. We had a great car-date immersing ourselves into our new podcast “Start Up”. Our friends had recommended it as the follow up to “Serial” at our lunch that very day, and we downloaded it at the table in about 4 seconds. We were totally ensconced for the whole 3-hour drive by Alex Blumberg’s story (you will recognize him from This American Life). It’s about his attempt to start up and raise money for the very podcast we were listening to. Frankly, it felt almost exactly like the story of www.betterafter50.com without the outside investor piece. It inspired me about next steps for our business — (stay tuned). I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of launching a business but more importantly a media company.

But I digress.

It is now 5:30 am on Monday and it’s hard to believe by tomorrow the snow drifts will be at our door. Like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of the Oz — my mind is chanting: “Flashlights, candles and firewood — oh my”. Damn why did I leave my Jam Box in New York which would be perfect if we have a power outage. And then when I opened the fridge, I was greeted by that old block of parmesan and a measly bag of mealy carrots. How early do the grocery stores open anyway – I need to go shopping NOW!

When we’re not at the New York house on the weekends where my boys grew up, (where we do have plenty of emergency supplies) – we are at my husband’s (and now mine, I guess, after 6 years) 3-floor condo near his work in Cambridge. Although I have tried to bring in my own personal stamp to the condo, new paint, fabric, art and closets full of stuff– it remains to my mind – my husband’s place — even after our 6 year marriage. And that’s why I have no idea what we do and do not have in case of an emergency.

And, because he’s not a worrier, it turns out –there are no flashlights or extra wood or even a shovel! There is no emergency back up anything here!

I’m ready to join the hoards of shoppers when the stores open and get my emergency supplies but it’s too early. I don’t think the stores open til 8:00 am at least. With a quick google, I see there’s a  6 am yoga class to tie me over til then. A little OM would be perfect to settle me.

It’s 11 degrees outside but no matter. A hot yoga class awaits at my favorite studio. As I go through the poses with a packed room of yogis who are clearly trying to fit in their class before the storm,  or are biding their time before the hardware store opens — I am suddenly exhausted. Shivasana – in this darkened studio could not come soon enough. And as I lay in the final “resting pose” I drift into the most magical peaceful trance.

And then I hear the voice of the teacher: “Are you OK?” I open my eyes to a bright room and she’s standing next to me with a broom. The studio is empty – i’ve been asleep for 15 minutes.

“Oh dear, i’m so sorry – i must have drifted off.”

Although I am slightly embarrassed, I am laughing. Who needs all those supplies anyway?

I think about the blizzard and realize — I’m so prepared. All I need is my yoga mat, some tea and blankets. It’s going to be a lovely blizzard. And as my OY turns to OM –I head home knowing I have a few things to learn from that husband of mine.

 

 

 

Retail Therapy Works

76750437I’m not a girly girl. I rejected shopping as a teenager, opting for sandpapered jeans and hiking boots. I had long stringy hair and embraced my hippy stylin’ ways. My mom so didn’t get it. For Mom, shopping was her most joyous parenting time. It was her pleasure to spend hours scouring Boston’s Newbury Street stores buying for her four girls.

We would arrive home from school to department store boxes piled high on our beds from Lord &Taylor, Ann Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. I’d open them reluctantly and think – “I feel so misunderstood – this isn’t me. I don’t like girly clothes.”

I would plead with her not to shop for me anymore – I didn’t want all that stuff. I had my favorite jeans and favorite sweaters and that was enough. I thought I looked pretty cool.

Rejecting retail was my rebellion. It was my way of rejecting my mom.

And then it was my turn to be the mom. It was a good thing I had boys. When I wasn’t exercising or working I was hanging with my boys – not shopping. I tolerated shopping sprees with girlfriends but preferred long walks, gallery visits and of course girls’ night out.

I had friends in my 30’s who could spend days together shopping and returning and I would often ask them to “pick me up a sweater or t-shirt” on one of their outings. Shopping made me feel claustrophobic – I would overheat and my heart rate would accelerate as my cellulite and large butt glared back at me in the mirror under the florescent light of the dressing room. Piles of rejected clothes lay in heaps on the floor. And the drudgery of cleaning up my horrible little dressing room space was a cruel finish to a bad start. It seemed burdensome to hang all the stuff I didn’t want back up. I usually would return home depleted and empty handed or with something that I didn’t like and would never return– what a waste of time.

Well the times they are a-changing. I’m not sure when it happened, perhaps in my mid-40’s, but I actually started to enjoy shopping. Maybe it was because I really needed to spend quality time with friends as the kids were busy with their own stuff and this seemed like an easy upbeat activity with no required entry fee (play now, pay later). What I had once considered a waste of time became an activity that felt delightfully indulgent and bonding.

Time in the dressing room with a girlfriend became playtime.

Retail Therapy 2So, this last week when I was feeling particularly low after losing my dear friend – my sister agreed to meet me to shop before we went to the Shiva.

It sounded like the perfect medicine for my blues and the plan brightened up an otherwise dreary cold January day.

And so, off we went — my sister Julie and I scoured the aisles of EMS for ski pants, parkas and layers for our upcoming adventures. With arms full we hauled half the store’s merchandise off the racks into “our” shared dressing room. As we played dress up, admired, oooed ahhed and rejected unflattering waistlines and butt grabbers we weeded out some real gems from the January sale items.

Happily, our 90-minute dressing room marathon did not wear us down. As we checked out, thrilled with our savings, we headed on to our next destination.

Lord & Taylor was having a shoe sale and it just so happened to be on our way home. As the 4 pm dark winter chill was settling in, we saw the Lord &Taylor’s beacon of bright lights welcoming us in. An inviting display of 30 Percent off treasures awaited.

After perusing every boot possibility, our fabulously handsome salesman brought us boxes and boxes piled so high we could barely see his face. What a brilliant tradition. A dashing salesman bearing gifts of new shiny boots in lovely boxes waiting to be opened and unwrapped from their delicate tissue paper. And there we sat, side by side, in our comfy chairs, joyfully slipping on pair after pair. In store shopping is a decadence of old that I’m thrilled on-line shopping has not yet destroyed.

Once again Julie and I shared in our excitement at the great deals – rejected many for looks and convinced ourselves one particular pair of gorgeous boots actually fit. (It didn’t). We left with 2 pairs each. And just like Carrie and Miranda – it’s not always about the shoes.

As we walked out of the store – I felt complete and I’m not ashamed to say it. I had spent 4 hours of much needed time with my sister. We were in our own retail bubble. We had time to talk about our “life stuff” but mostly we were immersed in our “playtime.” And it was real therapy – not just an indulgence.

So, as we said goodbye to each other at the Shiva a little later that evening – I actually felt lifted by our time together. Magically our shopping spree seemed to infuse us both with the feeling of hope and connection amidst the sadness of loss. And, I knew my friend would have totally approved, as she was a believer in retail as therapy.

Like all good experiences – they should be cherished and not overdone. So, it was no surprise that when I returned the “too tight” boots a few days later, I didn’t even look around the store for one second. There was no more magic left in the merchandise. The store looked very ho hum and full of too much stuff – not glittery, not a playground and certainly not a place I wanted to spend a precious hour.

And that makes me smile just to think of it. My sister’s visit for hours on end was the sweetest gift in the midst of an otherwise sad bleak wintery day. That kind of therapy has no price tag and doesn’t need a January sale to lure me in for more.

I Felt Her Heartbeat In The Music

bankybanksLast night after you called with the news, the weight on my heart got so heavy I almost fell back. I stood listening as you cried, and I shared in your tears. We knew she was sick, for goodness sakes – we’d had plenty of warning – four years of almost non-stop treatments.

Somehow knowing it would be any day, any time at all that she would be gone, did not prepare me – clearly did not prepare you either. The words – “she’s gone” didn’t allow us to make up our own stories any longer. Our habit of hoping came to a screeching halt as reality trumped it.

Being on an island far away – there was no need to stay on the phone any longer. I couldn’t hold you like I wanted – I couldn’t make it better. We both understood – I would be home in a few days for the funeral.

After dinner, Bill and I walked down the beach in front of our hotel. Our friends had turned in for the night. It was already 11p.m., but despite the late hour, BIll sweetly agreed to come with me.

We walked barefoot down the beach near our hotel to hear music. I wasn’t certain what we would be hearing, but it had to be better than the voices playing in my head.

I couldn’t talk – I just wanted to feel. I wanted to feel Susan, and I was hoping the music would take me there.

We walked up to the beach shack, filled with old couches and driftwood chairs. “Just found furniture” is how I would describe the look. The place was tiered and tucked into the side of a dune organically spreading out like a tree house. It was very hip, very cool and very island. Nothing fancy –kinda Robinson Crusoe gone Rasta.

Bankie Banx owns the place. He’s the main act and the club is a direct extension of his personal vibe.

It was a Thursday night but it wasn’t busy. The band was playing as we walked in. We paid our “cover” and settled quickly onto an enormous ottoman close to the stage where we could lie back and gaze up at the stars.

Bankie Banx came out to join the trio. He moved slowly – really slowly, and he had a huge presence- very tall, very skinny, with salt and pepper dreds and a full gray beard. We figured he was at least in his mid to late 60’s but no matter, everything about him was “cool.” His movements were slow and graceful but it was hard to see where he was focusing as he wore his sunglasses at night.

He threw back his drink, placed it on the stage and rapped his long, long fingers, which could easily span 2 octaves, around the microphone. As he took a final toke on his joint, he leaned in and a deep, deep voice, full of the richest and raspiest of tones, came at me like a blanket of comfort.

It’s amazing how sometimes you know what you need– and you can actually get it. The music was medicine and it was covering my aching heart with comfort.

He sang on and on til late into the night. Bill and I sat mesmerized. My mind began to let go and I felt my sweet friend with me. Susan and I loved to listen to music together – to feel it. We would look at each other in the midst of a song – mostly my son’s music, rap our arms around each other smiling and just feel it. That was happening for me right on that beach at that very moment – and as I brought her in with me – the tears poured out and the warmth of her settled me.

I pictured her greeting me as she always did – with a hug in her smile ever-ready to settle in for a long, long visit.

It seemed we were never done and our conversations would just pick up where they left off. Susan saw me inside and out and I loved being “seen” by her. No judgment, total acceptance, truly unconditional love. She invited me to reciprocate and welcomed the honesty we shared which made us both feel delightfully safe together.

Well, that kind of friendship is truly a gift, and not easy to say goodbye to.

During the entire set, Susan was in the music for me and it felt good to keep her close. What is so odd is, the last song they played was “R.I.P.” Man-o-man – really?

At that moment, as I listened to “R.I.P”, despite the vastness of the beach, out on a far away island, under the endless canopy of stars – I felt connected to Susan. As I listened to the words, the universe shrunk to a single heartbeat. Susan and I were together.

15 “Better After 50″ Predictions For 2015

487506915We don’t have a crystal ball.  We are not even sure we have all our marbles.  We are not shamans, or psychics, or mind readers.  We are not even sure we really know the difference between them.   But because we are living the BA50 life right along side you, we are pretty sure of a few things that will be in store for almost all of us in 2015.

This is what we see:

  1. One day, you will pick up a weight at the gym the wrong way, or you’ll turn quickly, or you’ll reach for your purse in the back seat of your car. Ouch. Boom. Bam. In 2015, we predict a least one visit to a physical therapist.
  2. You will begin to look for something sweet after a meal, or in the middle of the night. Perhaps you will keep a special stash in your purse or the car. Perhaps you will take the chocolate cake out of the garbage the “morning after.” In any case, we predict you will not be giving up chocolate in 2015.
  3. It may be a fart at yoga class.  It may be when your macho guy friend orders a cosmo when everyone else is drinking beer. It may be something really stupid or so outrageously un-PC a friend says. We predict (and sincerely hope) by the end of 2015, you’ll have a whole bunch of good belly laughs.
  4. You’ll be called on to drive a friend to chemo.  A parent, or other loved one will pass.  Unfortunately, in 2015, we predict you will also have a few substantial (and hopefully cathartic) cries.
  5. You will have a sleepless night, or two, or three (or weeks of them) and think, “this is normal.”
  6. From seemingly nowhere, we predict in 2015 a friend or acquaintance will surprise you by offering you the support you really need.
  7. You will read a great book, listen to a great podcast, hear a lecture or even speak to a wise old woman (or perhaps you will read a great article on betterafter50.com.) Our prediction in 2015 is that your mind will be turned on and you will be inspired.
  8. The light will be a little dim, and you will wonder why they don’t print menus in bigger font.  You will reach for your purse and search around for your reading glasses.  They will not there.  We predict that in 2015 there will be multiple occasions when you will not be able to find your reading glasses (look on your head.)
  9. You will look around at your friends sitting at your restaurant table and say, “I can’t read this.  I forgot my reading glasses.”  We predict that in 2015, there will be at least two other people at the table who can lend you a pair.
  10. You will visit your kid’s room and marvel at its cleanliness.  You will rearrange a few things and straighten out the t-shirts. You will get some new sheets for the bed. You will move the trophies into storage. In 2015, you will slowly accept that your kids have really moved out and perhaps it is time to redecorate.
  11. In 2015, you will continue to say, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.”  Because it is true, no matter how old they are.
  12. You’ll have spent an ungodly amount of money and time in the salon.  You will have been in the chair for so long for so many years your ass will be starting to make an indentation.  We predict that sometime in 2015 you will look in the mirror with foils adorning your hair and wonder, “is it worth it?”
  13. You will pass by a store window and be surprised by your reflection. You will see a new line, a change in your brow or an extra neck that looks somehow like your mother’s. In 2015 we predict you will begin to create a new dialogue about how you see yourself, and with a little practice — you will learn to be kind and embracing.
  14. You will look in the refrigerator, and see almond milk, yogurt and eggs.  You will pass by the market, and think, “I really should go shopping soon. Maybe tomorrow.”  We predict that in 2015, you will feel a little less guilty about your empty fridge.
  15. We hope that in 2015, you will continue to read BA50, comment, and submit your stories about midlife.  We would be nothing without our readers and writers.  We wish you all the best for a healthy and happy new year!




Speed Decorating For The Holidays

holiday table ideasI’ve never hosted Christmas until last year and I am not long on Christmas Décor.

I don’t have glittery reindeer (or I didn’t yesterday when my friend just gave me one) or elves and I don’t have red napkins or gold plates. Nor do I own a Christmas tree. The truth is – I love all that stuff.

Christmas has been a bit confusing for me as I’m Jewish. You know, it’s like there’s a party going on everywhere –and you’re not really part of the festivities. But, when I get invited to friends Christmas parties, I’m thrilled, as I love when everyone gets into the holiday spirit and my most favorite are the group sing-alongs. Confession — I know almost every Christmas carol by heart. I’m a Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby devotee.

My parents were adamant about us not having any Christmas decorations, as it wasn’t our religious holiday. We went on ski vacations where the holiday vibe at the Inn in Sugarloaf, Maine was awesome. Despite “not celebrating” we were treated to presents Christmas morning, because, as much as my mom hated skiing, she loved shopping. So… there really in fact, wasn’t a Christmas void.

But, when it came time to feather my own nest — my husband and I agreed we needed to keep a Jewish home as much as we loved Christmas. Until a few years ago, we had a ski place in Vermont and it didn’t take much to bring in the holiday spirit… a roaring fire, lots of snow, fresh ski tracks outside the front door and always plenty of singing.

I’m remarried now, my husband actually converted to Judaism but, he had a full past life of Christmas – his kids celebrate Christmas and all our boy’s dates celebrate as well.

Plus – since the kids are grown and only come home together once a year, I’m feeling it’s more important than ever to make the house look as festive as possible.

We’re no longer in Vermont; we’re in a village outside of NYC. There’s no snow on the ground – and it’s forecasted to be a dreary rainy day this Christmas. It’s looking a little bleak outside and inside the house is begging for some sparkle.

The challenge is to dress up the house for the holiday without dealing with anything particularly religious. I’ve decided to embrace the challenge.

At the time of this writing I’ve got 2 days to bring on the home Holiday Décor before the kids and extended family show. I feel like I’m throwing together a Martha Stewart Pop Up Store.

Here’s the Plan:  I’m  going on a two-stop shopping sprint. I’m heading to Trader Joe’s for plants and Crate and Barrel for the rest

  1. The Happy Hipster Table:  A white spotted red batik tablecloth. Crate and Barrel’s got one and I’m going for the hippy meets holiday look.
  1. Mismatched china:  My mother in law’s china – it’s got a gold rim – looks festive and I’m mixing it up with some stray pieces — Mismatched china is all in vogue and looks really playful. (Just saw it everywhere at ABC Kitchen in NYC)
  1. Candles: lots of them tapers of gold and silver.
  1. A sparkly reindeer my friend gave me for my birthday. It’s going smack into the middle — I’ve got my centerpiece!
  1. A homemade garland of holly and pine running along the center of the table if there’s room.
  2. Turn down the electric and bring on the candles: Tall pillars, votives and more votives – lanterns and hurricane lamps
  3. Seasonal scents– plenty of eucalyptus and pine draped on the fireplace mantle.
  4. White sparkly lights bordering the windows ( I actually put these lights up 3 years ago and keep them up all year long)
  5.  Pandora Plus Piano Means Fun: Bing, Frank and Michael Buble on endless rewind. And, when we’re ready to gather – the Christmas song book is set out at the piano. There’s a few of us who can lead a sing-a-long.

I’m already in the holiday spirit just thinking about my manic decorating challenge. Plus, tomorrow – because I’m so last minute — there should be some great sales by now—right?

Christmas time carries with it beautiful universal messages …Giving, gratitude and a little glam. Combine that with love, family, friends and community. All of these elements are the perfect recipe for joy and are easy to embrace.

Here’s to lighting up our homes and bringing in the sparkle.

 

When Cancer Invades A Friendship

494762663As I walked away from her back door for the 4th time — feeling defeated — I tried really hard to summon up an image of us holding hands during that last sweet visit on her couch. It was a freezing cold morning, but I needed to run. With every step the thickness in my throat moved it’s way up until the tears poured out. My head slowly began to lighten and clear as I ran down to the water letting the sadness move up and out. Just two weeks after Thanksgiving, it feels like a cyclone of chaos has swept me into its funnel. My mind needs a harness.

The holiday season is everywhere but at her house — where it has traditionally been filled with Chanukah decorations and gifts for not only her children but my boys too. If ever there was joy in giving and receiving my friend set the bar high. Now it takes a committed meditation practice alone on my mat or on my morning walk or run to screw my brain on straight to process what is happening.   I breathe in the gratitude thoughts attempting to dispel the toxic ones.  I know there’s so much to be grateful for – it’s just not easy to “feel it” amidst the sadness.

You see, my wonderful friend who has been battling cancer for these past 3 years has stopped her treatments. As the cancer takes its hold on her now, unrestrained by interventions, her pain is intensifying. It is brutal for her and her fabulous husband and amazing family who surround her with love 24/7.

I love her like a sister, like one of my own – like family – but in fact I am not family.

I don’t get to sleep over like her sister does; I don’t get to bring her tea in the middle of the night or even in the afternoon. I don’t get to cry with her anymore.

As her pain increases and her ability to receive a visit dwindles, the loss of her physical presence feels profoundly sad. It’s hard to know as a friend what to do. It has become increasingly difficult to have a positive way of helping, because as her pain keeps getting bigger, her world is getting smaller.

If ever we have a season that comes with “marching orders” it is this time of year — Tis the season to give – yet, it’s difficult to know how to give to my sweet friend at this time as our time on the couch has diminished.

It turns out a massive dose of acceptance is in order and this is a huge challenge.

The truth is — shelter from the pain of this seasonal storm is the living room couch with my husband Bill and our dog Jazz at the end of the day. Reading, listening to our new favorite podcast together, a cozy lunch at our kitchen table — just hanging out is miraculously good medicine.

Actually, she was the one who taught me how to sit still. Over these past 3 years, my kinetic jumpy energy settled when I would visit with her. Between chemo treatments, I would tuck in with her on her bed or couch and we would just hang out – she would let me massage her – and we would talk for hours. I so loved these visits.

Hours were spent on our couch as well – where we would talk the afternoon away. With a quick press on my Iphone, I would call up my darling friend from my “favorites“ list and instantly – if she was well enough — she’d head on over. But now she doesn’t answer – she can’t.

As the countdown to Chanukah and Christmas ramps up into an accelerated spin cycle – my heart aches knowing the passing time brings my friend further and further away. And that’s when I truly need to remind myself to roll out the proverbial Yoga Mat and sit – just sit and be grateful for the friendship and love we have shared, and all the love that still surrounds me.

Given that it’s December, with twinkling lights and frantic shoppers everywhere – it feels frivolous to join in, scurrying about my days, knowing how much she is suffering.

It’s not always easy to tune out the noise of this impending loss intertwined with the twinkling lights and joyful holiday music and the meet-ups with girlfriends – knowing she’s not there. It’s hard.

Salvation army bells ringing, gridlocked horns honking and crammed pedestrians pushing on through at the narrow crosswalks – All this noise fills the space during this holiday season. And my head feels like it’s bursting.

And to top it off – suddenly I’m panicked. I have no idea what to buy my boys for the holidays except socks– they seem to have enough of everything. My husband – well he doesn’t like “stuff” and I already gave my sisters their gifts at Thanksgiving. But my friend, she loved gifts – every single one and it was so easy to give to her.

Every gift I ever gave her was unwrapped like a Faberge egg – precious and worn or displayed on her mantle. The other day I saw the 3 little pumpkins I’d brought at Halloween still on her mantle ( I couldn’t believe they hadn’t rotted).

Compounded with all of this emotion, my birthday falls smack dab into the middle of the holiday season and I know she would want me to enjoy every second. But, there’s a very dark cloud that covers the ability to let go.

But then I sit quietly and repeat to myself what I am grateful for – the noise clatter in my brain quiets and the sweetness of the moment flows in.

I hear my friend’s words and feel her arms surround me and I am lifted. And I am at that moment – celebrating. I am grateful for that.

Waking Up Inspired In Miami

If you’ve ever felt that the “youth” culture is confusing or out of reach– or you are getting behind on your hipster vocabulary – a little dated in your wardrobe or just feeling drab and uninspired due to the darkening skies of winter — then get yourself out to see some art — in MIAMI.

robe-first-painting-art-basel-wynwood-street-art-miami-sean-was-hereNothing better than a sensory fix that combines color and light, water and warm sunshine. This magic cocktail is what they were serving in Miami this past week.

As often as I’ve treated myself to frequenting the galleries, museums and art fairs of wherever I am, I was blown away by Miami’s art scene.

My husband and I were thrilled when we found out our business trip to Miami the first week in December coincided with their art fair — “Art Basel.”

As good as the fair was, there’s no reason to wait until the next Art Basel to go to Miami. There’s plenty of permanent installations thoughout the city that are worth seeing this winter because the Miami art scene is fully embedded in it’s very fiber and frankly, it feels electric.

Let’s just say – no one goes hungry for stimulation in Miami.

We started our visit with a bang when our hip 20-something friends took us to see graffiti art and have dinner at Joey’s in Miami’s edgy new arty Soho area — Wynwood. http://www.joeyswynwood.com

The restaurant was great but there was so much more than the food to focus on. Actually I can’t even remember the food. Let’s just say it was hard to take a bite (never mind order) as the onslaught of visuals distracted us from our plates. I’m not kidding. The food fell to the background immediately – I have no idea what I ate or if I ate at all.

Sitting next to us body art was everywhere and I found myself reading the Tats on the wrists and necks of the people at the next table. Was that Sanskrit, hieroglyphics or Morse code?

Rockers, models, punk and chic all metaled and messaged with plenty of visible breasts and abs — it was a mix of art and porn and we hadn’t even hit the real exhibit.

Body art branded youth were everywhere. Tats on palms and shoulders with messages of peace, love and rock and roll and personal purpose statements begged me to look closer. I’m glad I wasn’t with my kids because they would have scolded me for staring.

Graffiti Wall Art at Wynwood

Graffiti Wall Art at Wynwood

After dinner, we went next door to the Wynwood Walls and got our just desserts.

If you ever wondered if Graffiti equals art – it does! And, it can transform dead neighborhoods into vital economic zones when orchestrated properly.

The Wynwood Project is an example of how to revitalize a forgotten “bombed out” looking warehouse neighborhood. This began in 2010 and the area is on fire with art and energy. As an aside, this area reminded me of the art scene in Berlin. We saw this very transformation a few years ago at The Berlin Wall. The graffiti brought a profoundly sad period in history to life through color and play on those concrete barriers.

Really good graffiti art is not to be shrugged off despite its lack of permanence. Plus, it’s a fabulous way for emerging artists to get recognized. Shepard Fairey is just one of the graffiti artists who has contributed to the Wynwood walls but he’s no longer emerging. (You may know him from his Obama poster and “Obey” campaign.) Shepard was jailed many a time for his graffiti art — but not in Wynwood. His stuff was selling for a million plus in the adjacent gallery. This area was “tagged” (that’s art vernacular for this genre) and revived with an invitation to graffiti artists to bring in their work. Every year the Wynwood Walls are reworked and this week a new cast of artists collaborated yet again with amazing stuff that hasn’t gotten pricey – yet!

Graffiti art at Wynwood Walls, Miami

Graffiti art at Wynwood Walls, Miami

It’s wonderful to see art that is not just for those with deep pockets and Miami Vice styled living rooms to display it.

It turned out there was so much to see in the ancillary art tents and edgy neighborhoods that surrounded the main Art Basel fair at the Miami Convention Center – that we never got there – and that was just fine by us.

Miami is totally fun and vibrant and as we boarded the plane back to Boston we felt a little hipper a lot happier and a tad younger. Hey, we’d been welcomed into the big 20-something street art party for days on end, and we hadn’t even been aged out or edged out.

We’re definitely going back.

Here’s a few of the fabulous Miami Street scenes from this past weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sit, Stay, Get Stoned?

stoned dogWe are a dog family. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law is not a canine loving man. He reluctantly tolerates dogs in their home… out of love for his wife.

Fortunately, my sister’s open doggy door policy trumps his doggy disdain. So, when we go for our annual Thanksgiving four-day visit, our doggie Jazz comes too. We are not the only guests who arrive with our pups. If you’ve got a dog that is well behaved, doesn’t snarf table food, or start fights with other dogs – well then – your dog is welcome, which means your dog gets a biscuit, a hug and a daily walk up the local mountain each morning.

At this year’s Thanksgiving there were four dogs: my sister’s 10 year old Golden Doodle – Teva, my Cocka-Poo Jazz, Brady, also a Golden Doodle and a new brilliantly trained 10 month old Bernice mountain dog – Nike.

With so much food around –it’s surprising how few incidents we’ve had. A few years back, my cousin’s dog got into the grease around the convection oven in the garage which put her out for a day with “wicked” runs. But overall, the dogs are additive and they just go along with the backyard football games, the feasting and the couch cuddling.

That’s why, this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we were truly baffled when my sister’s dog Teva appeared to be totally dazed and confused.

Friday morning, I met my sister for our regular hike up her favorite mountain. We had the dogs with us as we trudged through fresh powder on a 25-degree crystal clear morning. Invigorated from our outing – two of the dogs took off into the woods near where we’d parked our cars. It was odd – as they’re normally ready to jump into our car lured by treats and warmth. This time however, it took awhile for them to appear from wherever they’d been, but we thought nothing of it.

We left the dogs at the house for a few hours and met up with the kids, had lunch, went to a movie and didn’t return until 5 pm. When we arrived home, Teva was lying flat out with an oddly dazed look. She could not stand up – she was staring at her paw -licking it and focusing on nothing else in particular. When we called her name, she could barely turn her head our way – like we were some distant voice. My brother-in-law said she’d been like this for quite awhile – he’d figured it would pass.

After a few minutes of observation, my sister and I transported her to the local vet who was luckily still open. We lay her down on a blanket in the back of the Prius and Teva’s head bobbed sloppily as we headed through the dark Vermont night. We talked dog talk. My sister’s gratitude for her doggy poured out of her – and we wished that dog could talk. We had no clue what the problem was – no clue at all – we didn’t want to think that this could be her last day but it was hard not to.

The Vet greeted us warmly and looked into Teva’s eyes.

“Looks like this dog has gotten into something toxic and we need to do a blood and urine test.”

“Really – ok – great – whatever it takes.”

Hmmmm- now I’m thinking about my almost 10 year old dog and wondering if it’s too late to get long term doggie insurance.

Teva meanwhile started leaking a little urine on the examining table – whoah! We panicked — “oh dear, she is so sick,” we both thought.

The Vet assured us that this was typical for certain toxins – not to be concerned.

“What kind of toxins?”

“Pot,” she said.

WHAAAAT! Not possible.

“Is there any medical marijuana around your home?” she asked.

“No, No – None!” My sister said.

“Good,” said the vet, “because that is way stronger than recreational pot”.

Who knew?

The Vet took our dazed little pup into the back room for testing and my sister and I reviewed the possibilities.

“This is not possible. No way this dog ate any marijuana. No way there’s any lying around our house. Plus,  Teva is so not a foodie. She is slightly disinterested in food – never gets into coat pockets filled with treats, never mind eating a twiggy bag of herbs.”

Certain there was no “weed” at home, we wondered where she could have scored the narcotic.

And then we Sherlocked Holmes it together. That very morning Teva had taken off into the woods — for way too long. She must have eaten something – (maybe some pot cookies at a campsite) – some chocolate chip cookies laced with THC.

Just then, the Vet walked in with the container of urine with a marker showing no exposure to Meth, no Oxy or PCP – but yes indeed – THC. The diagnosis: Our 10 ten year Doodle was high as a kite –stoney baloney – wasted –toasted — higher than Snoopy in the Thanksgiving parade — totally gone.

It was hard not to laugh. But poor Teva was not out of the woods yet – her temperature was low – she was slightly dehydrated and she was clearly too “chilled” to move.

It was hard to look at Teva’s dazed face and bobbing head and not think, “I’m so glad that’s not me.” She looked like a poster dog for “Don’t Do Drugs.” I would so not want to be Teva – she was not having fun – but then again – she was feeling no pain. Never whined, never winced, just blinked a lot, clearly trying to figure out, “what’s happening man?”

Just trying to figure out – “where the hell am I – why am I here – what’s the meaning of a dog’s life – what is with this paw – how comes it’s shaped like that? – If I’m a dog – why does my mother look so different –hey, does anyone have a doggie treat”?

We were advised to take her to another ER where she could stay the night to be observed and continue with the fluids. So we drove the 40 minutes and arrived at a lovely Vermont animal ER. The Doctor smiled when he saw the diagnosis. “This is classic! Clearly a THC issue – your dog will be fine.”

He made a few cute jokes about our glazed pup and after another hour or so we said goodnight, leaving her in good care.

So what happened next is the truly “classic” piece. We brainstormed on our way home about how to tell a pretty straight family that our dog was stoned. With 20 family and friends still at the house – how could we walk in with these findings? We both felt “guilty” – embarrassed and not sure we could deal with the conversation.

We were however one hundred percent certain Teva had gotten into some “cookies” in the woods. However, there was still the  lingering question  that we didn’t want to address —

“Are you sure it happened in the woods? Maybe it came from an open suitcase in the house?”

Paranoia had already set in and we weren’t even under the influence.

Just like teenagers caught with the “stuff,” we began to put together the “story” so as not to shock the family and have to deal with disapproving looks.

Not guilty, not our fault, not our drugs – but alas – we felt like we were about to be busted!

So we went home and glazed the story with vagaries about how the dog was totally fine – they’d tested her – she’s gotten into something and we didn’t have to worry.

And P.S,, Teva was totally fine by morning, back to being high on life.

 

A Thanksgiving Party Rap Slam Game — Try This!

Thanksgiving gameThe Thanksgiving tryptophan coma sends our gang – like clockwork — onto the couches way too early into the evening after our late afternoon feast. And frankly, it always feels premature to be that comatose. This year, we’re suggesting a post meal game that could potentially raise us from our stupors.

To shed a little background on our family tradition, my brother-in-law runs our Thanksgiving day schedule like a gentle, loving drill sergeant. He’s been in charge for the past 30 years and we all love what he creates. He is the master baster, chef tete of the turkey fryer, which he runs from the garage, and stuffing aficionado.

All 28 of us are his dutiful guests (17 actually sleep at the house). We each contribute to the meal – I’m in charge of the Brussels, my 3 other sisters have their specialties – as do the cousins and in-laws. We jockey for a spot in the single oven and on the four burners. We come equipped with rubber gloves and we work together all day to make this fabulous feast. Miraculously we gather, dressed and ready for our cocktails and meal by 4 pm sharp.

Ninety minutes later, we are as plumped out as the gobbler, and ready to get horizontal.

So, here are a few thoughts on how to rouse the troops and beat back the bloat.

I’m proposing an adrenalizing game that will keep us as glued together as the stuffing sitting in our guts. This game should be completed by the time the professionally scheduled evening football game kicks off. Expectations are low on selling this idea but hey, if we even get half of our posse to participate it will be a success.

The Turkey Rap Slam Game

The Turkey Rap Slam is not something you eat — it’s something you create. And — you don’t even have to leave the table to make it happen. Even better, it’s easy and your end result is something you can have forever. All you need is willing participants, paper and pen and someone to video tape the finale.

The object of the game is to create a Thanksgiving Rap Slam.  You are welcome to add musical effects (either boom box background or drumming on the pots and pans).

The rap should be at least 6 verses long in order to be interesting — writing a catchy repetitive refrain is totally acceptable.

How To Start:

1. Pass a piece of paper around and everyone adds a line or a few lines to the rap.

2. No theme is required – just start writing and pass that paper Here’s some  suggestions however on topics that you can put on the “header” of the paper to inspire ideas if people feel stuck:

1. Slam about the funniest Thanksgiving story;

2. Slam the food;

3. Slam the family;

4. And slam plenty of gratitude into your rap.

5. Showtime! Hopefully you’ve got some volunteers to perform the finale of your Thanksgiving Party Rap Slam.

Try to get one person willing to video tape the performance. This should be a riot to watch next Thanksgiving. Who knows, your gang may have created the next You Tube viral video or at least, something to laugh at for years to come. Have Fun!

Wishing You All A Happy Healthy Thanksgiving.

How To Put On Make-up To Look Younger!

Buy all 8 pieces for $299.00 and save! Special package discounts for BA50’s. THIS WEEK ONLY! Or you can purchase them individually (see links below).

 

I happily agreed to have my face made up by the folks at Gloss 48 last week and it seemed like a great idea at the time. But, when I looked at this video – well – you’ll see.

These Gloss 48 products by Senna are transformative — if you can make it to the end of the video you will see how much better I look if I do say so.  However, please suspend judgement as you watch my totally unprofessional performance. I was given the toughest job I could ever imagine — “sit and try not to talk” with a video camera perched 6 inches from my crows feet. It was all a  bit daunting.

Let’s just say, the Gloss 48 crew was brilliant but moi — well! my husband and I were roaring with laughter watching my eyes jump around searching for a place to focus.  Where to look –the camera, the make-up artist or the ceiling?  Plus, the no- talking thing — you can see,  i’m ready to burst — which I do at the end — finally alas – a few words.

I would recommend however, that you watch this video and learn some  techniques you can actually do yourself with their great products.  Do you see how it made my face look brighter and perhaps a tad more youthful? Love the eyebrow shadow and the cupid’s bow lightener and the “down to earth” lipstick. I could however learn how to “contour”  better – that stumps me a bit.

Nevertheless, I think these products feel great and i’m a convert. I bought them all! Now I just need to practice.

 

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Brow Kit in Ash Blonde:
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Brow Kit in Neutral (for those with a bit darker brows than Felice):
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Face Sculpting Kit:
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Brilliant Bronze in Sunset:
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Lipstick in Down to Earth
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Lip Lacquer in Blush Wine
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