March 28, 2011

April Fools

Photo by Stephanie Hofschlager,  Germany

As some of you may know, my husband Tom loves games and especially likes to play a good April Fools prank.

I have gotten use to this over the years and every April Fools day I tread very cautiously so that he can’t be successful in fooling me again.

One year recently Tom woke me up at the crack of dawn on April Fools Day and said that his big toe was killing him. He told me that it had started to bother him the day before and was throbbing so horribly throughout the night that he couldn’t sleep.

“Maybe you have an ingrown toe nail honey,” I responded half asleep. “Maybe you should see the doctor today.”

Tom agreed that this was a good idea.

During the day I called his cell phone to check in to see how he was doing and if he had seen the doctor. He didn’t call back. I tried him again awhile later. Still he didn’t call.

At dinnertime I was in the kitchen cooking. The kids were busy making chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Tom was running late but finally we heard him at the back door. He came limping into the kitchen with the look of horrible pain on his face. On his right foot was a white plastic grocery bag. You could see blood on the inside of the bag.

“Oh my god what happened?” I asked very concerned.

“The doctor had to take my whole toenail off,” Tom winced.

“And then he put your foot in a GROCERY BAG ??? I exclaimed. “Is there even a bandaid on your toe?” I asked very concerned.

“No,” said Tom, “It was so late in the day that they were rushing to close the doctor’s office and told me to just put a bandaid on it when I got home.”

“Are you KIDDING ME?” I yelled. “This is HORRIBLE! We are never going back to that doctor again!”

I told him to sit down in the other room and went to get him some aspirin for the pain.

“Let me see your toe,” I said returning with the aspirin.

Tom removed his bloody foot from the bloody bag. I inspected it. “Oh my god-I hate to tell you this- but your toenail is still on there Tom…”

“No it isn’t. You just can’t see under all the blood,” Tom replied.

At this our younger daughter yelled from the kitchen “Nice April Fools joke Dad!!!”

I shot back “ This is serious!!! Dad is in PAIN. This is NOT an April Fools joke!”

At this Tom limped into the kitchen and stuck his foot into the kitchen sink to wash the blood off. Our kids, still skeptical, and horrified by his actions, hastily moved the chocolate chips cookies out of the way that were cooling next to the sink.

At which point Tom started laughing and said “Happy April Fools you guys!”

Realizing that I had been taken ONCE again, I hit Tom over the head with the kitchen towel and very slowly, finally started to laugh.

Tom hadn’t stopped at the doctor on his way home. He had stopped at the local pizzeria and asked for a white plastic grocery bag and several packets of ketchup :-)

March 25, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Captains of Industry

This week's beauty is Ted Page. If I had to say one thing about Ted it is that he is a very funny guy. He is also a wonderful story teller and has a great voice. Ted is co-founder of Captains of Industry a strategic marketing and communications agency in Boston with expertise in branding, renewable energy, video production, and viral marketing.

Without further ado I bring you our beauty of the week and his tips for aging gracefully.

"Hi. My name is Ted Page, but everybody calls me Mr. Beauty. Why? Because for some inexplicable reason, this older version of me stands out as someone who could offer advice on how to age with grace. I think the real reason I’m standing out more these days is because of my pattern baldness, which reflects the suns rays and shines like a beacon for those seeking advice.

In truth, I think growing older is a lot like falling backwards from an airplane into a void – not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just that there is a certain lack of control in the aging process and the knowledge that no matter how many organic vegetables I eat, I’m heading to the same place as the folks who eat chicken from a bucket. I’ll likely live longer, but the destination is the same. That said, while there is an inevitability to growing old, I have found that there are some things that have kept me feeling and looking a bit younger than I actually am at 51.

First, lying. I met two people at a trade show who both independently swore I was 39 years old. So, I immediately spoke with one of my younger employees and asked him, if I was 39 years old, what kind of music and movies would I like? The answer: Michael Jackson, and Tron. For weeks, I swore that Michael was the BEST. And Tron was a formative movie-going experience for me. I even changed my Facebook profile with the bogus date. A friend (damn them) called me out immediately. So I changed my Facebook birthdate to 1922. Now all the Google ads they stick on my Facebook page have headlines like, “Don’t go to a nursing home!” and “The New England Bucket List.” This gives me a delightful peek into what the future holds. Laughing is very therapeutic and good for your body. There’s a whole branch of yoga, in fact, that gets people to laugh uproariously in group sessions. Which leads to my next tip:

Hot yoga. You look at people who do yoga all the time, and it’s hard to tell how old they are. That’s a place I’d love to get to. The yoga studio I go to in Watertown heats up the room to about 100 degrees, then puts you through 90 minutes of intense workout. It’s intense. I’m gradually getting into shape after a year – but I have to admit that once I hit 40 or so, my body reminded me of a Pop N’ Fresh dough container that had already popped; getting the dough back in was nearly impossible. I’m six foot six inches tall and make for a very large Pop N’ Fresh container. Nobody wants to put their yoga mat next to mine for fear I will fall on them like a tree.

Scotch. It’s not just a beverage, it’s a preservative. A lot of people get really hung up on eating and drinking only whole foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, and drinking purified water. And they take vitamin supplements. And avoid being in the sun. All those things may be a good thing, but the sheer obsession with always doing the right thing can wear on the spirit. It can be unhealthy to always worry about healthiness. Whereas Scotch makes no pretentious health claims, and is in fact deadly in large quantities. But sitting by a lake with a glass of Scotch on a summer day, or reclining by the fire in winter with my friend Mr. Dewars, makes me feel good. That counts for something.

Being who you are. I went through a very bad hair period, when I was getting a bald spot and my wife accused me of doing a “comb over.” I ended up getting a buzz cut, and – ironically – for the first time in my life people complemented me on my haircut. Why didn’t anyone ever compliment my haircut when I had hair? The reason may be that when you stop trying to cover something up and you just are who you are, warts and all, people respect that. They say, “Look. He’s not a comb-over douche.” It’s probably the same reason people sleep with midgets who don’t wear high heels.

Turn off the crap. I was amazed recently when I went to a conference, and everyone “listening” to a lecture was looking down at their phone, tweeting and texting. This is billed as progress. All I can see is people who are so incredibly distracted they’re not really experiencing anything fully and powerfully. We’ve gotten so used to having devices attached to our heads so we can answer phone calls, that I think there’s a real danger of becoming deaf to reality. While a certain level of connectivity goes with work life as part of the package, I do make a point of shutting it all down on a regular basis. It’s relaxing. It’s good. I wish everybody did it more often because there would be a hell of lot less road rage and arguments and stress.

Sing. I sing renditions of Pennies from Heaven or other old jazz when I’m walking through Boston. If people think I’m odd, fuck ‘em. But I actually don't’ think they do. I think they want to sing, too, but are worried it will make them look strange. If everybody was singing, though, it would seem entirely the norm. This is something to shoot for that I know will never happen, like getting all the dough back into the Pop N’ Fresh container.

Celebrate. When I look at my face, or my wife’s face, there are lines. We raised two children who are now 21 and 24, both now living in New York. I figure we earned the lines. The time my then 3 year old son, Nicholas, threw up down my wife’s dress on a day she was rushing for an important business meeting (that led to a facial line for sure). Or the time my daughter’s boyfriend gave her a ring that was a little too small, and her finger started to swell when she couldn’t get it off, and I ended up in the hospital emergency room with her at 2:00 am with a doctor and his bolt cutter. That was at least line or two on my face. A thousand other moments, a thousand lines. I’ll take them all. They’re scribbles on my wall, like the markings we made on the door jamb showing the kids at different heights and ages. Why would I ever want them erased?

That’s all the beauty tips I can muster for now. I hope this helps you on your journey."

Thanks Ted!

Below is Ted's video where he pledges that he will eat his boxer shorts if he doesn't land a new solar account. But guess what? He didn't have to eat them :-)

March 22, 2011

Happily Ever After

This past weekend while on Real Simple's website I came across an article on the top six things people worry about and how to calm them. The first five things are job security, the safety and well being of our children, the threat of terrorism/natural disasters, our health, and of course, money. Our sixth biggest worry is about relationships failing. The article said that we know that a relationship is in disharmony when we take each conflict with someone as a sign that the relationship is failing, or we stop enjoying the time that we spend together.

My husband Tom and I have been together for over twenty-seven years. For the most part we have had a loving, mutually supportive,enjoyable relationship that has weathered well in the normal ebb and flow of a long marriage. We have however gone through two phases that have been especially challenging. The first was when we first became parents and had to adjust to having our lives tipped upside down after having our first baby, and the other phase is right now as we sadly become empty nesters and begin to navigate a life with just the two of us again.

So my ears perked up yesterday morning when I was half asleep on the couch watching The Today Show. They did a great interview with Alisa and Mark Bowman about revitalizing their marriage after the couple had several years of relationship discord. Alisa documented their journey back to love in her book Project: Happily Ever After. In the book she suggests ten steps to help renovate a relationship. Step one is 'find yourself/change yourself'. Step ten is 'write your spouse's eulogy'. Ooh I like that.

The 'find yourself/change yourself' step I know is an important one. I have heard many times that when we are standing around pointing our finger at someone else that it is really ourselves that we need to work on first and foremost. I have found this to be true. Likewise, if we are feeling bored with someone- what we really need to do is broaden our own horizon.

The Bowmans interview made me want to read Project: Happily Ever After as soon as I finish Anne Kreamer's book Going Gray  from last week's post, which I am really enjoying.

I also came across something called The Long Haul Project, an interesting documentary on marriage. The Bowmans were one of the couples interviewed for the project.

In closing, no matter what kind of relationship we are in, I think one of the best ways to gain intimacy and a closer connection with anyone is to share our reality with them. It almost always opens them up as well and creates a tighter bond.

And if it doesn't, maybe it's time to move on.
Have a good week everyone,

March 18, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Authenticity and Compassion

This week's beauty is Elizabeth Dodson Gray who is 81-years-old.  Elizabeth is an author and well-known lecturer on ecofeminism. She recently celebrated her retirement after 32 years of leadership of the Theological Opportunities Program, a lecture series that began at the Harvard Divinity School. Fabulous pro-bono speakers have enabled more than 4300 participants from a multitude of faiths and backgrounds to find intellectual excitement, empowerment and nurturance in the mission of women committed to feminism, justice and peace.

Elizabeth has this to share about her life:

"After years of fashioning custom-made valentines for friends needing affirmation and encouragement in the 'season of love,' the after-effects of two breast cancer surgeries made it impossible for me to use my arm without pain.  So my husband and I reluctantly agreed we had to move to a different kind of creativity for our yearly Valentines. We decided to design a printed Valentines greeting which we could send to more of our friends. Our previous customized Valentines had been so personal and so closely adapted to each individual's life journey. The questions now became: "What one message is worth saying to more people? We searched and found a quote by Henri Frederic Amiel:

Life is short
 and we never have
   enough time
   for gladdening 
    the hearts
    of those
  who travel the way
     with us.
    Oh be swift to love!
      Make haste to be kind.

The first line resonated deeply in me because once you have a cancer diagnosis, the threat of dying hangs over you like the sword of Damocles. The injunction to 'gladden the hearts' of those who travel the way with us made enormous sense to me.
With my cancer I had stopped identifying with the healthy in the world and had begun identifying with the wounded and the sick. I saw myself in the wheelchair and behind the walkers. I needed to reach out to connect, to affirm, to empathize, to reassure, to 'notice,' to try and to 'gladden the heart.'  It was a profound turning point in my psyche, which I owe to that one particular Valentine.

I look for 'lines of beauty' in people's faces and lives, when they come from authenticity for themselves and compassion for others. Seeing oneself in all those who suffer, and are in need, is for me a key to beautiful living."

Elizabeth thank you so much for your wonderful contribution to Lines of Beauty.  In the wake of all the suffering that is occurring in Japan since the earthquake and tsunami, I think your piece is very timely.


March 16, 2011

To Gray or Not To Gray. That is the Question.

Do you remember when you were little and were standing on the end of a diving board wanting so badly to jump off into the pool below, but you were just too scared to do it? This is how I kind of feel about letting my hair go gray.

As I wrote in Gray Gorgeousness, I have been highlighting my hair since college and I've basically been happy with it. Recently though more and more gray hair has come in and it's getting so hard to cover it that I just feel like going natural. But I'm scared to do it because I don't think my hair is going to be a pretty gray yet- probably more of a mousy yucky gray, I fear. And then what if I try going gray and hate the hard is it going to be to go back and successfully highlight it again I wonder... So that's my quandary as of late dear readers...

I've been very inspired by my friend Karen who stopped coloring her hair this past year and looks so terrific. Check out her before and after photos below:  The 'before' is a not-so-great one of Karen and me when we had dinner together in Napa two years ago (post wine...I'm looking a little googly-eyed..)

Now look at Karen below since she has gone gray. She looks so great. Don't you think? (thank you Karen for obliging.)

To further support any gray wannabes, or kind-of-wannabes like myself, check out this article on the Silver Sisters Club who I first heard about on the Today Show. These going gray groups are forming across America. There is lots of other great support on this Going Gray Looking Great website as well.

And one more thing- there is a book out too by Anne Kreamer called Going Gray: What I learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, and Motherhood, Authenticity and Everything Else that Really Matters. I love the title. I haven't read it yet but I have it on order. It's gotten great reviews on Amazon.

Plus, I like the cover :-)

March 11, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Children

This week's beauty is Susan Millstein Waldron who is 49-years-old and a mom to two college age children. Susan is a first grade teacher, and coaches both kids and masters swimming at the Ocean County YMCA. During the winter months she is the assistant swim coach for the Howell High School swim team as well. Susan is also a supporter of St.Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Susan has this to share about aging:

Years ago I swam on the swim team at Ithaca College and when I was first married with two small children, everyone would always ask me if I was still swimming.  My favorite reply would be, when I'm 50, I'm making my big comeback. This always amused me. I thought this was funny. Until I went to say it last summer and realized I'd be 50 in a year and if I was making a big comeback, I'd better get on it! I swim once a week, and try to fit yoga, Zumba and long walks in the park with my dog the rest of the days.  Each day I make sure I'm doing something! Yoga is keeping my knees young and my mind calm and open. The Zumba dancing is just so fun and I dance each day with my first graders as well. If you're feeling old, find some young children and dance with them!  I'll see some wrinkles on my face and some veins in my legs, and I think, oh well, I've earned them.  

Thanks Susan for being this week's beauty, and best of luck in the pool!

March 09, 2011

Smiling Eyes

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker
This past year I met someone who I never see smile. At first I thought, "Is it me?" It was just so strange to venture upon someone who doesn't smile at all or even acknowledge your existence when you walk by them. I see her several times a week and out of uncomfortableness, and curiosity, I finally turned her into a little observation/research project for myself to try and figure out what is going on.

Well the first thing I discovered is that she doesn't smile at anyone. Whew! As I am new to the group that we're both in, this came as a relief. Anyway, I'll spare you all my research details but she got me thinking about smiling in general and what the benefits are of showing our pearly whites- and the drawback of not showing them. Some of these are very obvious but they're still worth mentioning I think:

  • Humans are drawn to people who smile. It is a great connector. Smiling is contagious.
  • Smiling increases happiness both in yourself and those around you. It makes us feel the way chocolate does when we eat it :-)
  • Smiling is good for our immune system because it relaxes us. Smiling helps to reduce stress because it lowers our blood pressure. Try smiling when you are stressed and notice how much better your feel.
  • Smiling is a natural drug. When we smile we release natural pain killers, endorphins and serotonin which automatically change our mood.
  • Smiling can improve our confidence, help us make friends, and help us to succeed in our lives. It also enhances other people's perception of us. Smiling people are more likely to be promoted.
  • Smiling is a great instant face lift.  
  • Smiling helps us stay positive. Try this test: Smile. Now think of something negative without losing your smile. It's very hard to do. Smiling helps us stay away from depression, stress and worry. 

Deepak Chopra talks about giving each person you encounter a small gift. I think giving a smile is a good idea. Just think- you get to give a gift and get one at the same time. :-)

    March 05, 2011

    Aging Gracefully in Hollywood

    This week's beauty is actress Jacqueline Bisset. Jacqueline is now 66 and was on The View this week to talk about her life and her role as spokesperson for Avon's new platinum line for women over sixty. She was inspiring with all she had to say about aging.  Being British, she said that European women are not nearly as obsessed with growing older as American women are. She also said that she believes that actresses need to look authentic. She said that she has never had any nipping or tucking done or any Botox either but only dyes her hair and has had work done on her teeth. I think she looks fantastic. I was intrigued to hear her say that she doesn't know anyone who looks better having had work done. That is quite a statement.

    A few years ago when being interviewed on the Today Show Jacqueline was quoted as saying, "I haven’t had Botox, I haven’t had any of those things or plastic surgery. I just believe in–it sounds so corny, I believe in thinking clearly. I believe in personal integrity. I believe in not having nasty stuff on your mind, which pollutes your system and your face. … You think [nasty] things, you just end up looking mean."

    Jacqueline, thank you. You are among only a handful of women in the movie business who have come forward publicly and are such a great role model for women aging naturally.

    March 02, 2011

    The Beauty of Gardening

    Have you been dreaming about gardening again like I have?

    The thought of it seems so wonderful this time of year, especially after this long, cold, harsh winter.

    Up until now I've only dipped a toe or two into the oasis of gardening, but I look forward to it being a more prominent pastime as life goes on.

    Photo by David Stern      Sydney, Australia

    After my Dad retired I remember him saying that he had heard that the key to happiness, besides having your health, is to have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. I think this is very true.

    This week when I read about Eunice Wickstrom, who is 97 years old, she made me think about what my Dad had said. Eunice has had a lifelong love of gardening. Her garden not only provides her plenty of nutritious food that she incorporates into her homemade meals, but it also helps her physical pain from mild rheumatism, and helps relieve the stresses of everyday life.

    “I go out in my garden and dig when I’m feeling rotten and soon I feel like a million bucks," she says.

    Photo by Christa Richert    Berlin, Germany

    At 97 years-of-age, Eunice doesn't have to take any medications. She is still very self sufficient and drives her own car to do errands and she doesn’t even nap during the day! She says that gardening helps to keep herself strong and happy.

    Eunice has been a widow for twenty years but for the last thirty she has volunteered at a food bank and donated extra produce from her garden to those who are less fortunate.

    “Just get out of bed every day and do something useful for other people,” she says.

    Photo by Florin Garoi       Bucharest, Romania

    Sounds like a recipe for happiness to me.