Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Relationships: 20,000 Ways to Die

When I became a mom, I realized there were about 5,000 ways to die. Now that Gracie is pushing 7 months and is all over the place, putting everything in her mouth and grabbing anything in 10-foot radius, I realized there are 10,000 ways to die.

Then my mother came to visit.

And now I realize, through Mom's advice and observations, that there are 20,000 ways to die.

I'm always a little on the morbid side since I have lost so many I love way too early. And now I'm following a really sad blog from a mom who lost her baby at 9 months to SIDS, and she writes every day and brings us along on her grief. Which is maybe why I hold this baby a little tighter than I might otherwise, and try to make sure she's happy every moment of her life.

Stay safe, Baby Gracie. Here's part of a prayer I say with her: May the angels protect you every second of every day, and all the space in between the seconds. May you always know luck, love, peace and happiness. I will always be your mama, forever. We will be together no matter where we are in this world or out of it. I love you.

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Spirit: Holiday Apologies

I am sorry, friend, that I can't make your holiday thing this year. I can't add one more thing to the calendar for fear of imploding. I love you so much though.

I am sorry, dogs, that I can't take you out at 4 in the morning. Go ahead and pee in the kitchen, see if I care. OK, I do care. But I'm still not taking you out at 4 a.m.

I am sorry, Christmas presents, but if you could please wrap yourselves this year that would go a long way.

I am sorry, housekeeper, that I can't make the place a little easier to work with when you come every two weeks. I would really, really, like to. I might not have the technical knowledge though. I hope you don't leave us because we're too messy.

I am sorry, sweet baby girl, that your clothes, while, clean, are stuffed in your drawer with no apparent organization. I do keep shoes, socks and hats in the bottom, though, if that helps.

I am sorry, husband, that I walk around with mascara smudged under my eyes and my black sweatpants that I originally got for my mom but kept for myself. And that I go to bed much later than you. That is because I am trying to stave off an avalanche of our stuff until every other Wednesday when the housekeeper comes, usually.

I am sorry, shrink, that I stopped going to you after the baby came. I would actually like to speak with you sometimes but I think I should use that money to pay the housekeeper for an extra week.

Here is what I am not sorry about, though. I am not sorry I have an amazing family, a warm cute home albeit small and cluttered, food in the fridge, a smart & talented & beautiful baby, and a husband who brings in a Christmas tree every year without being asked.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spirit: One Perfect Christmas Thing

The week had been nothing short of hellacious. We were slammed at work with an epic crisis. I somehow ended up taking a 36-hour shift with only a four-hour sleep break. I am not a doctor or firefighter or a coal miner or an air-traffic controller by day, mind you. I work in a grey cubicle. In my extreme exhaustion, I felt unappreciated and undervalued and like the littlest thing could shatter me. Which it did.

Our daycare was closed and I was expected to return to work after said 36-hour shift. I needed something in the office, so I packed up my baby and took her in while I collected my computer so I could work from home and watch Grace. Gracie is a very good baby. She smiles at strangers and hangs out on the floor and plays with her toes and gurgles. Everybody falls madly in love with her, even the guys who work in the TMobile store.

Without going into details, my baby and I were unceremoniously dismissed. A liability, they called it.

I went to the parking lot and cried, feeling like a child scolded for an innocent transgression. Grace wailed all the way home.

That night I had tickets to the Joffrey Nutcracker, where my 10-year-old neighbor/BFF was dancing the part of a Snow Angel. My husband was stuck working, so Gracie and I put on our Christmas best and headed to the ballet.

We sat in the nosebleed section, getting the stink eye from the usher, who made sure I knew that if she cried we'd need to exit. Gracie settled in. The overture began, the lights dimmed, and guests began to arrive at Clara's party. The Snow Queen floated amid sparkly drifts to her King.

Ballet is perfect for a 6-month-old, by the way, as it's all action and music, never a still moment, always changing light and something different to see. Grace was silently entranced on my lap for about 20 minutes, then settled into a deep sleep.

I thought about how my dad used to take me to the ballet and to musical theater -- it was our "thing" together -- and I so wanted to share with him these perfect moments of peace and art and beauty strung together, the twinkling lights of the soul. Wherever he is.

Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker 2008 from Sasha Fornari on Vimeo.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Money: How to Save the Most on Cyber Monday

Savvy shoppper Andrea Woroch
Even though the philosophy at 40licious is to be more spiritual than material during the holidays, and to not add our karma and our crap to the waste cycle, we do realize that sometimes you need to shop. And when you shop, you should get the absolute best deal for your dollar -- we work too hard for our money. Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert who brings us today's tips about shopping on Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday sounds like the title of a futuristic sci-fi movie; an event triggered when robots gain consciousness and attempt to take over the world. Your imagination could run wild if you don't know that last year, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping event in history. With the promise of so many bargains, it's still tough to keep visions of iPads and big-screen TVs at bay. As you prepare to load up your virtual cart with discounted gifts and gadgets, consider some of these Cyber Monday shopping strategies.

1. The Wish List The most elementary element of any smart shopping strategy is a list. It keeps you on track and prevents unnecessary impulse buys. As with Black Friday, many merchants announce their online offers well in advance. At sites like CouponSherpa, they have a roundup of deals available from popular merchants to help you compile your list ahead of time. They also have special coupon codes available to enhance your Cyber Monday savings.

2. Pre-Shopping Clever marketers can make a reasonable regular price seem like a steal. They bank on shoppers being swept up in a bargain frenzy, desperately buying to make sure they're one of the lucky few. Before you start loading up your cart, do some comparison shopping. Sites like allow you to easily compare prices across the web and at local stores.

3. Use Protection Online shopping has become so commonplace we rarely consider the risks. With tons of shoppers eager to transmit credit card information over the Web in one day, scammers are salivating. One easy way to protect yourself is to download the latest updates for your anti-virus and spyware software. Also, confirm any page during checkout is secure by looking for the "https" in the address bar before giving the e-retailer your billing information.

4. Read Up on Rules Though this online shopping day is considerably more casual than Black Friday, each Cyber Monday offer has different guidelines about when it starts and how many items are available. Being aware of such details ensures you won't sleep through a deal that begins at 12:01 a.m.

5. Under Review Many of Monday's markdowns are nothing more than attempts to unload junk and make room for something better. When you're shopping for high-priced items like TVs, go to stores and compare features you can't view online, such as picture and sound quality. Try for in-depth, credible reviews of everything from cell phones to slow cookers. When you start to notice a pattern, it's best to pass, even if the deal seems exceptional.

6. Fast Friends Though there's some debate as to whether or not corporations are people, don't feel bad about taking advantage of their cyber friendship offer by liking them on Facebook. In the days leading up to Cyber Monday, stores post additional offers exclusive to followers. Tracking feeds for a few days keeps you from missing anything critical.

7. Find Free Shipping When you're shopping online, steep shipping and handling costs quickly cut into your cyber savings. Luckily, merchants are starting to respond to customer demand for free shipping. Best Buy announced in late October that it would offer free shipping on everything over the holidays, and is the latest retailer to offer site-wide free shipping.

8. Keep Your Eye on the Prize You'll likely be bombarded by a slew of offers for accessories and add-ons as you search for a special sale price on a particular laptop. Typically, the savings on these items are minimal, so buying them later won't make a big difference. Plus, spending an extra $100 on items you otherwise would never have bought quickly counteracts your discounts.

9. Preparation Pays When you're getting ready to run a marathon, it's essential to prepare with a good warm-up. The same goes for shopping on Cyber Monday, and we're not talking about stretching your mouse-clicking finger. Get ready by bookmarking your favorite sites in advance. Keep them open in different tabs so switching from store to store is easy. If a merchant requires you create an account to make a purchase, do it ahead of time.

10. Read Up on ReturnsWith deals flying around furiously throughout Cyber Monday, make sure you don't get stuck with any items that don't meet your expectations by brushing up on online return policies. Some major retailers allow you to return online orders to a local store at no extra cost, while other smaller merchants might charge you for return shipping as well as a restocking fee. Return windows are often limited, so it's important to act soon once you've determined an item won't work.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spirit: How to Change Your Inner Monologue

This post comes from author Kim Malchuk, a motivational coach, speaker and award-winning author of "Tasting Rain." Her book is about her personal journey of loss, healing and hope. 

Kim Malchuk
A shift will occur at some point during our 40s. It will come into our life quietly with no fanfare or parade; yet, it will leave behind a powerful gift. People will notice a difference in the way we walk, talk and look at life. They will be intrigued and want to know our secret. When we tell them...they won’t believe it! Why? Because it sounds too simple to believe that by simply altering the way we talk to ourselves can bring about tremendous change in our lives.

The conversations that we have with others are important and should not be taken for granted. These interactions are necessary in order for us to function in society; however, the most critical conversations we will ever have are the ones we have with ourselves.

Do you remember growing up and having our parents teach us that if we don’t have anything nice to say to someone then don’t say anything at all? That golden rule would hit me on the side of my head when I was 37 years old and realized that I was the one standing in my own way of having a better life. My pessimistic and negative internal chatter was holding me hostage from life’s many possibilities. The thought of living out the next 50 years in this state came to an end when I decided to sit down and give myself a good talking to. I needed to focus on what was in my control and a good place to begin was by changing my inner vocabulary.

Words are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. We need to be very careful with how we choose to aim and fire them at others but, more importantly, how our word selection can destroy our own self-confidence and keep us prisoners from reaching our true potential. I think it would be safe to assume that I am not the only one who talks to themselves on a daily basis. We all do it. Actually, I find that the older I get this activity is more frequent than not. It’s okay to have these consultations with ourselves but only if our words are positive and encouraging.

After having this meeting with myself I came up with a new plan. Going forward, instead of being the school-yard bully in my mind and thoughts, I was going to become my own personal cheerleader by choosing to use more active and positive words. The first order of business was to immediately stop using words like "can’t," "won’t" and "shouldn’t." Those "n’t" words are stagnating and damaging. Every time we use them we have already convinced ourselves that we will "not" be able to do something. I wanted to change all of that and focus my thoughts on what I could do. It was amazing how quickly opportunities started to appear when I eliminated using those types of limiting words.

The second challenge for me was to mind my own business. How others chose to live out their lives was no longer any of my concern. When I placed my attention on fixing me (and let me tell you, that was a tall order) it was manageable and achievable. It’s not our responsibility to change others. Change begins and ends with ourselves. All we can do for others is to love and accept them for who they are. Re-training my thoughts and dialogue is an on-going daily exercise. I compare it to an athlete preparing for their sport. Without training and practice they cannot expect to be a superstar when stepping into their arena. It takes time, dedication and patience but the results are priceless. The payoff is freedom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Relationships: November is National Adoption Month

Hey 40licious ladies, and those approaching 40licious, and those who love us: I'd like to take this space to remind everyone that families are made in a lot of different ways. Some of us have struggled and suffered through infertility, with good and devastating results. Some of us marry into families and we become instant mommies or stepmonsters. We also choose are families from the people we've met along the way, who aren't necessarily blood-tied to us.

Personally, my family is made from all the above.

November is National Adoption Month. Today and every day I celebrate because this is another way our little family was made. Last June, we got a call on a Friday about a possible situation with some birthparents. We met them, hit it off, and our sweet baby Grace was born four days later. We took her home from the hospital. To her home. I can't imagine having another person as my child. We love her profoundly, as you love your children, no matter how they came to you. So please let's keep talking about adoption, and foster care, and all the other ways families come about. Let's remember that infertility might just be the beginning of the journey to your family, but in no way does it have to be the end.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Money: Men Are Better at Retirement Planning

We are likely the ones who will take off time to raise children and take care of aging parents. And most of us wouldn't have it any other way. But by being good-hearted, we're not putting away enough for retirement. Couple that with the fact that statistically we will live longer than our men friends, and are likely to require long-term care as we age, girl, it's time to do some planning.

A new study by MetLife shows that men are doing a better job planning for retirement than women. They're paying attention to how much they will need and socking it away. Sadly, women aren't doing as well. Here's the US News story that does a great job outlining the issues around this.

What actions can you take right now? Let's recall advice from our friend Barbara Stanny, author of "Secrets of Six-Figure Women" and other books on women and money:

1. Every day, read something about money, even if it’s just for a minute. It could be perusing headlines in business section, scanning Money magazine instead of People in the grocery store, or reading one paragraph from a financial book before you go to sleep. “It’s amazing how much you can pick up by osmosis,” Stanny says.

2. Every week, have a conversation about money, preferably with someone who knows more than you. If you’re wondering how to start, just ask, “Can I take you to lunch and pick your brain? It’s amazing how much people want to help you,” Stanny says. “We’ve been doing this for generations about raising babies, making pies … we need to start doing this over kitchen tables and back fences.”

3. Every month, save money. You can set up automatic transfers to a savings account for as little as $5. Stanny recalls a conversation with an editor who wasn’t a high earner, but who saved her change in a bowl every night. In two years, she was able to open an investment account.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spirit: Big Fat Lies Moms Believe OR How to Break Free From Your Inner Critic

Today's post comes from Amy Ahlers, a certified life coach and author of Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves: Ditch Your Inner Critic and Wake Up Your Inner Superstar. 

When I became a mom I also became more self‐critical. It was as if when I gave birth to my daughter, I also gave birth to a new clan of Inner Critics whose mission was to create a swirl of negative thoughts in my head. I like to call these addictive negative thoughts Big Fat Lies.

I’m also a life coach, so I’ve coached hundred of moms and have witnessed firsthand how they become their own worst enemy. After more than a decade of coaching moms from every walk of life (from CEO moms to stay at home moms to mompreneurs) I finally got it: we are all hard on ourselves despite appearances. I am not alone (and neither are you!). We beat ourselves up for both the big things and for the tiniest imperfections. And all this punishment isn’t helping us be better moms or feel more fulfilled or even to get more done. Who can blame us for being so hard on ourselves? We have a lot on their plates: kids, careers, romance, health . . . the list goes on and on. We’re supposed to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, have incredible sex with our partners, get the laundry and housework done, have healthy, accomplished kids, and a tight butt and perky boobs to boot. We feel like we’re supposed to enjoy being pulled in a million directions at the same time. And that we’re supposed to be as flexible as Gumby on muscle relaxers. But we’re only human.

What would happen if we gave ourselves a break?

To get started, see if any of these Top Three Big Fat Lies sound familiar and then go easy on yourself by tapping into the truth:  

1. I’m a failure (can also show up as I’m a terrible mother, I suck at motherhood.): This Big Fat Lie is pandemic among nearly every mom I’ve talked to. The truth is that we all have moments of failing as moms (you know like when your kid spills milk and you completely loose it because you’ve had the worst day filled with traffic jams, a failed bake sale fundraiser and your mate just called to say he’s working late…again), but that does NOT make us a failure. Winston Churchill put it brilliantly when he said, “Success is leaping from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I would add that to be a successful parent, success is leaping from mistake to mistake without loss of compassion. So, why not get your compassion on?!

2. ___________ is a way better mom than me (can also show up as I’m a way better mom than _________.): The comparison game amongst moms can be intense and grueling. We can feel like we never quite measure up and develop a serious inferiority complex or we can turn the tables and find our Inner Critics telling us that we are a far better mom, creating a superiority complex. Either way, the comparison game is a losing one. The truth is that this isn’t a contest…and it’s time to put your focus on being the best mom you can be and leave others out of it.

3. Taking care of myself is selfish (can also show up as self‐care just isn’t a priority.): This lie is one of the biggest traps moms fall into, leading to overwhelm, depression and downright resentment. When we put our own well‐being first, we are more able to be there for others. I know how hard it can be to carve out personal time. . .boy, do I know! But it is vital to do so to be a present and caring mom. By deciding to take responsibility for your self‐care, you are giving yourself the opportunity to be a good parent, friend, partner, sibling, and/or coworker. Why not get started with simply 1 hour/week of ME TIME and ease your way up? The more you recognize your negative self‐talk as Big Fat Lies and tap more into the compassionate truth, the more you’ll increase self‐love, self‐esteem and self‐respect. And what better gift can we give our kids than to model that?

Join Amy Ahlers for the Exposing the Big Fat Lies Summit in which 21 world-class experts disclose their secrets and share like you’ve never heard them before … really!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spirit: Really Want to Know You

You'd think that at 40licious you'd get more fixed in your beliefs. I think I am becoming more fluid. There are some basics that I know won't change: I must exercise every day or I will get wonky and fat. I must be my best self and as nice as I possibly can be, in writing and in person, to each being I encounter during my day. I must tell the truth.

But occasionally one must look beyond one's own moral compass for help. I suppose that's why there's the bible, the koran, the watchtower, the tarot, a horoscope, the i ching, the fortune in your cookie. For a decade my mother, a mash up Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, has been feeding me books by the Dalai Lama. And a couple years ago, I started reading "How to Expand Love" when I'd finished the last novel by my bed. It was life-changing as a guide to try and love people who are not particularly kind to you; to see the "diamond" inside everyone. The Dalai Lama's words on compassion made the difference between us moving forward with our adoption or not, proving that when you act with love -- even with someone who is difficult -- everyone will win.

Enter the Modigliani.
My mother had asked me to get an appraisal on a piece she'd been given in the 1960s. As I navigated the fine art world to try and find the best way to get a fair deal for my mom, an artist herself on a fixed income living a meager life, I felt badgered by a relative as he criticized every choice I made: handing it over to one of my closest friends, an art dealer, to find an appraiser. The auction house. The contract. The reserve price. The $90,000 estimate from the appraiser at the auctioneer. After some research, it was determined that the drawing is a very, very, good print and is not worth anything.

And then the relative became invested in a theory that while the piece was being appraised, it was switched for a fake, like some Oceans 11 scheme. He brought up distorted versions of past events. All the while I tried to do what the Dalai Lama asked, to be loving, to be compassionate and understanding. To keep boundaries. Even though I felt attacked and that every button that could be pushed got punched.

I want to address the wild misconceptions. I want to punch back with the truth. But this will not help. I don't know what the Dalai Lama would have me do. How do I be loving but protect myself? How can we move forward without looking back? Today I listed to "My Sweet Lord" in a new way. When George Harrison sings "I really want to know you," I'm taking it to mean, "I really want to understand what the spiritually correct course is to take at this particular moment." And when he sings, "it takes so long," it means, "it takes so long."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Money: A Fork in the Road Is Better than a Fork in the Eye

I've been blessed to have really smart, wild-minded and powerful women around me my whole life. I have many mothers and friends and sisters. When I lived in Seattle I was in a group of entrepreneurial women who met monthly. And Kathlyn and I would meet each week and go down a list of stuff we'd need to accomplish in the personal, professional and creative realms, and then report back to each other on status over a cup of tea and giant muffin at Irwin's Bakery.

Over six years, Kathlyn and I moved to Los Angeles, got jobs, got boyfriends, got shacked up, and got married. Our little formal accountability system faded away. Recently we started up again with a small group that includes an artist/gallerist, a writer/educational consultant, a chef/journalist, a public affairs consultant/strategist, an executive director for a nonprofit/art historian.

I wish with all my heart I could be one of those "stay at home bitches"* who spends the day doing art projects with the kid and hitting the zoo and figuring out how to cobble together dinner. When I was on maternity leave, I had a lot of guilt and fear and distress at the prospect of returning to work, as people would come over with their offerings of homemade blankets and adorable baby clothes and baked goods and tell me how stressy everything was at work. The anxiety was worse than the re-entry, though. I slid right back into it.

Last night the group of entrepreneurial women met at my house. It was my turn to take 10 minutes to talk about my situation and I explained that where I work now is undergoing a reorganization. There has been a lot of anxiety over a year about how it will play out, and in a way, I'd be disappointed if there were no change to my job at all. Meanwhile, I have had three very decent companies (and even a recruiter calling about my OLD job!) come calling to see if I am interested in talking to them. I am certainly interested in hearing what they have to say. But nobody is making any sudden moves.

It took sitting in this group, with my baby falling asleep into sweet breathy little dreams on my chest, to help me realize I am standing at a proverbial fork. There is no strong wind or blinding neon sign to guide the way. There are no omens. Only pros and cons and known vs. unknown.

So I will wait patiently at the fork until the breeze picks up and pushes me. That way I have time and space to watch my baby sleep.

* I know a lot of these women and they are not actually, personally, bitches. I know they have made a lot of sacrifices to stay home and it's hard work. It's the jealousy talking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Health: How Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy Works

Today's post is from Dr. Michael L. Gross, MD, medical director of the Active Center for Health & Wellness and orthopedic director of Sports Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center. Because of his interest in preventative medicine, he is currently enrolled in a fellowship in anti-aging and restorative medicine and is working toward board certification form the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

Dr. Michael L. Gross
As people age, their hormone levels decrease and cause an imbalance in the body. This imbalance causes changes in the body that we attribute to aging such as weight gain, hair loss and fatigue. This decrease in hormone levels also plays a large role in perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause, which effects, on average, women between the ages of 45 and 55. During menopause, a woman’s body produces less estrogen and progesterone, thus throwing the body’s hormones out of balance and producing symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, loss of libido, mood swings, fatigue, hair loss, sleep disorders, anxiousness and memory problems.

Over the last 50 years, there has been an impressive amount of evidence that has revealed the vital connection between declining hormone levels and the occurrence of diseases associated with aging such as heart disease, the leading cause of death in women ages 65 and older, and osteoporosis, which affects more women than men.

More attention is being paid now to treatments that are integrating mental wellness and healthier lifestyle choices. One such treatment is Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), a therapy that replenishes the hormones the body has lost, restoring balance and well being, while enhancing the body’s energy and vitality. Bio-Identical Hormones, molecule-by-molecule, are exactly the same as the hormones normally present in the human body and the therapy is all natural.

BHRT can help to improve the symptoms associated with perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause, in addition to Premenstrual Symptom (PMS) and Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Benefits of BHRT include improved hair, skin and nails, enhanced mental functioning, improved sexual energy and desire, improvement in mood, increased bone mineral density, better response from the body to diet and exercise, as well as decreased incidence of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes. Women who experience hormonal imbalance, whether from PMS, menopause or the overall aging process, can all benefit from BHRT, both with improvement in symptoms and preventing age-related diseases from progressing.

Women interested in finding out more about BHRT or starting therapy should contact a medical doctor specializing in anti-aging medicine to set up a private consultation. During this time, the doctor will take the patients health history and perform a series of blood, urine and saliva tests to determine their hormonal and nutrient levels. After the patient’s analysis is complete, a customized program is created and a specific arrangement of hormone medication is ordered for the patient. Every three months, the patient should be re-tested to access their progress and monitor their medication levels, which can be altered for optimum results.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spirit: Lessons of 9/11

These ones came back.

I don't know how I will talk to my daughter about 9/11. She is only three months old. I don't know when I will tell her what the story through my lens on that day 10 years ago: The booming growl of the first plane waking me up from a sound sleep on Linda's couch. The thought "Those damn Blue Angels. Why so early?"

Linda's friend called and we woke her up and looked out the window to see the very nearby Twin Towers. One was smoking. Through sobs and screams and stunned disbelief, Linda and I watched it all unfold that day. The smoke. The second plane. The papers and people falling through the sky. And finally, the crumbling. The terrible, crushing crumbling of two monuments and all that it would symbolize.

We went outside to join the ash-covered refugees. Ash everywhere. Posters of the missing already on the walls. We thought it was a good idea to give blood and by some fluke of my subconscious mind I remembered my gynecologist's phone number and found out my blood type, and hopped on the O+ bus that would take us uptown -- albeit a detour all the way through Central Park by a very flustered driver -- to the Red Cross. As if there were no people uptown to give blood. Waited on line for a couple hours and then saw a payphone -- remember those? -- and made calls to my mother, my coworkers, the Seattle Times. And then I got back and the line to give blood had disappeared because there were fewer people alive that they'd anticipated to use the blood. So the guy let me give anyway, and then they closed up shop.

I wandered downtown. My dad happened to be staying in NY because he'd won a trip for signing up for the Fashion Channel.

But it was hard to commune with my family. They were not there. They did not see what Linda and I and so many thousands of other New Yorkers had. It was even harder going back to Seattle, where people were even further removed from it. Yes, people were upset and thought it was sad. But they had so easily moved on. They did not run out of the movie theater in a panic when faced with scenes of people running downstairs, or fire. They didn't stop breathing at the sound of a low-flying plane.

About a week after I got back from New York I had a dream. Or maybe it wasn't a dream. Seven or eight glowing figures were around my bed. They were the spirits of people in the Towers. I told them how upset I was and they said they are OK, and to not worry. And then they drifted off, and I was calmer.

This morning I engaged in a discussion on Facebook, saying that I don't see the people who lost their lives in 9/11 as "sacrifices" for a patriotic duty. They were killed by madmen, murdered by ideology. I guarantee that nobody who went to work in the Towers that day, or got on one of the ill-fated planes, would have willingly done so "for their country" if they knew what was to happen. I will count responders also as mass-murder victims. I am sure you have your own way of looking at it too.

For me, patriotism is an overrated virtue. We don't know most of what's going on with our government. Our government has done and continues to act in shameful ways. I work in an corporation in an office in a gray cubicle and a third of my paycheck goes to taxes, which fund war and torture and killing of innocents. I do not think an Iraqi life is worth less than an American one. I do not think we have asked ourselves the basic questions of what we've done to contribute to this climate. You can't keep blaming it all on the other guy.

Ten years later and I am still cranky and so so so so so sad about what happened. I am forever haunted by the stories of people who left work in a spat with their spouse and never came home. The people who made a last-minute decision that changed their fate, for better or worse. The small action, missing a subway or being the last to cram in an elevator.

And that is why, after 9/11, I made a point of saying "I love you" to people on the phone and at emails, even if it's someone I'm going to see tomorrow or later on. Because I might not.

9/11 will be something far far away for Gracie when she's old enough to understand. So I will start with "I love you" every day, and take it from there.

Linda and I spent a lot of time searching for meaning in the hours and days that followed. We found it, but not in the way you'd expect.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Style: How to Fix a Hole in a Cashmere Sweater

While our boots straighten themselves up in the closet, anxiously awaiting to traipse and frolic in the chill of fall, our cashmere tends to come out beaten and defeated from wily critters that take a bite from the most inconvenient places. It makes me sad.

Here's a cashmere sweater I got for $1 at the thrift store. I figured I could darn the hole, but as I looked closer I got a better inspiration: Patch it. In a cool way.

So I ransacked my fabric bag and found the remains of a T-shirt I'd recycled as a dress for a friend's baby. Then I found an image of a bird silhoutte I liked online, and to make it the right size, just copied it to a Word document and expanded it. Then I cut it out and traced around it on the T-shirt fabric, and sewed it on with black thread.

Sad for me but happily for someone else, it turns out this sweater is a little TOO complimentary to my bustline, so I will end up passing it along.

Send in your stories and pictures of [clothing] salvation and we'll feature them on 40licious!

I liked the bird so much he lives on my window now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Work: How to Balance Career and Family (Hint: Maybe You Can't)

We were raised around a bunch of women who were tired of being directed to secretarial school when they expressed career aspirations. They were tired of having their fannies slapped. They were tired of of biology getting in the way.

So they worked really hard AND raised families. They demanded to wear pants and went on The Pill. They indoctrinated their spawn with "Free to Be You and Me," an all-star tribute to equality and genderless capability.

And so I thought I could have it all, and that everything would just glide into place when it was time. My career path has wended its way through streams and around mountains and on rutty side roads; It didn't get on the Interstate until I moved to California six years ago and took a corporate gig.

And then, lo, the husband came at the relatively late age of 42, and exactly nine months later, our precious angel baby showed up. And after nine weeks of sticking to each other like cling monkeys, it became time for Baby Grace to go to daycare with lovely grandparent types in their comfortable home, and for me to return to work.

I am jealous of the women who can stay home. On maternity leave I did the math over and over again to see if I could get someone to come in and clean a few times a week so I could just nap and mush up with the baby all day and take her to Anthropologie. I wanted to have quality time during our limited days, not endless shit-tons of laundry. Some days the height of my productivity was unloading the dishwasher. I certainly didn't get my book proposal done. (In my pre-baby delusion, I'd chirpily announced to my therapist that during maternity leave I'd have time to write it WHILE SHE WAS NAPPING. Which is about 40 minutes a stretch. Fool.)

Now when I'm at work I'm a little raggedy from a 4 a.m. wakeup. This morning some last-minute spit-up forced alternate outfits for both me and Gracie, and tacked on another 20 minutes. I work like a steam engine, chugging through, skipping lunch and small talk, so I can get out and hold my baby as soon as possible. As regular as a Japanese train, I start getting anxious to see her on the 10 freeway just before getting on the 5.

I was just invited by the EPA's ENERGY STAR division to make a presentation at their annual conference in North Carolina in November. Normally I would have jumped at the chance to do this, and figured out logistics after. It's huge props for me and for my company. Then I talked myself into going for just a day and turning around on the red eye and coming home. Then I looked closely at the invitation and saw that they'd want me to present three times, on three consecutive days. My heart sank. I can't imagine going that long without inhaling the sweet baby smell, bouncing her on my knee as I eat dinner, snuggling in bed with her and slipping off into a dream together after the 4 a.m. feeding. I still don't know if I'll go. It's a broken heart either way.

My friends Shannon Kelley and Barbara Kelley over at Undecided have become the experts on the impossibility of having it all. At this point, I'm not sure I want it all. I just want enough.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Relatonships: Sex Is Different for Women in Their 40s

Pat Love
This is the second post featuring Pat Love, an aptly-named expert on relationships and author of many books including “Hot Monogamy” with Jo, and “The Truth About Love.” In a recent interview, we talked about how sex changes for many women in their 40s.

PAT LOVE: Two-thirds of women don't feel like having sex until orgasm is imminent. Right before orgasm, you think, "Oh this is so much fun, I'm going to do it again, why did I wait so long?" you know, you do that little mantra to yourself. And once you have an orgasm, you have lots of memories.

In fact, I was asked at the Lake Austin Spa, which is a wonderful world-class spa where I was speaking, and I was talking on the subject of sex over 40, and I got to thinking about it, and I thought, sex before 40, is not as relevant, as distinct as sex after 40. Because being with the same person has a lot more parameters and consequences than sex after 40, because whether you're 40 or 50 or 70 or 20, you've been dealt this hand of hormones, and I was so it's not like, "I was so sexy in my 20's or 30's and it's going to go downhill." It's not like that at all. You've been dealt a hand of hormones. And whether you're more estrogen-dominant or testosterone dominant, it’s going to determine your walking-around physical urge to engage in sex. I talked to six women. One high-testosterone woman was saying, "When my husband and I get really bitchy at each other, I realize, hey, we need to go to bed." And the other says, "Well how can have sex with him when you're mad at him?" and she says, "Well, honey, that's what makes it better!" That's a high testosterone woman; you can just see it too. They look different.

But you know most women they try to understand their sexuality in their 40's, you have new relationships ... because there are two types of people in the world. There are the autogenic and the psychogenic pathways to arousal. The autogenic is that person that walks around with a sex-ready body. It's the more testosterone dominant hormone hand. These are the nice guys, the sensitive guys, the very emotional guys, the guys who like to talk about feelings, I'm not talking about gay, I'm talking heterosexual: they're more estrogen dominant, and they have the psychogenic arousal pattern. They do need the contact. They want to talk, they want to be close, they have to have affection, and they have to have their stress lowered.

In your 40's, you start to get more curious, a lot of tasks are already done, you have time for yourself, and you're still young, and you might feel frisky and you want that romance, or you want sexual passion, and you start to be investigative. And you're still menstruating, so maybe you have these little bumps in elevation around sex drive and you want that to be there all the time, and you're wondering where the female Viagra is.

And so I think there’s a lot of sexual curiosity, and a lot of sexual unrest and sexual dissatisfaction in your 40's. One because you have time to think about it, and two you've been with someone you've probably had 10 years of complaints by now, and that is a complaint by women in their 40's. And most women when they get to gather, they talk about, "Ain't it awful, why does he want sex?" if you're in a heterosexual relationship, "Why does he want sex more than I do and it's all he thinks about?" But then you have that girlfriend or two who says "Well, I'm the one who wants sex more, and I get my feelings hurt and I don't feel attractive, because my partner doesn't desire sex like I do." Opposites attract, not just with sex drive, it's personality characteristics. They go with the sex drive, with the hormones.

VANESSA: A tantra class probably has a lot more 40-year-old people in it than 20-year-old people.

PAT: Yes it does. I think part of it is that you're more confident and you're proactive, and you still feel young in your body, and you're not ashamed of your body, gravity hasn't taken over, and, age spots, and all those ugly things that you just get later. I think it's a fantastic decade for women, and I think we could argue it's one of the best decades, because 40 is still young. ... What I would hope that women in their late 30's would start buying this, so they can really see what the roadmap would be.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Relationships: Write out Mr. Wrong & Create Your Own Happy Ending

Amy Beth O’Brien’s friends think she watches a few too many movies, but she just may be on to something. O’Brien, author of "Stuck with Mr. Wrong? Ten Steps to Starring in your own Life Story," suggests that women look at their relationships through a different lens.

“Are you playing the role of the victim, or are you the inspirational character?” asks O’Brien. “If your life were playing out on the big screen, would you want to stand up and cheer, or leave the theater in frustration?”

“Everyone loves the movies,” said O’Brien. “We get to lose ourselves in a story and live vicariously through the main character. I encourage women to be the main character in their own life story by stepping into their starring role as leading lady and stop playing extra or best supporting actress to someone else.”

Her steps include:
  • Embrace Your Inner Screenwriter – Do you view change as though you were living in a horror movie? Every woman has some version of the story they want to live. You can write your script based on fears of what would happen if you made any changes or out of faith that taking control of your life, and being your most authentic self, is the best story you could ever write.
  • Listen to Your Director – Like Dorothy, do you feel like you are stuck in Oz, wondering how to get back home? When the story seems to take a wrong turn, your director, like the Good Witch of the North, guides you to make the best choices that put you back on track. Listening to your director means understanding that your intuition is your best friend and guide.
  • Pick your Princess but Pick her Well – Wish life were like a fairy tale? You may know that Cinderella was just a story, but who hasn’t at one time or another wished for a fairy godmother? A true princess rescues herself.

“Your dreams, values, passions, and creativity are meant to be expressed,” O’Brien added. “Relationships may challenge us, but they should never turn us into people we are not, suppress our talents, or squelch our dreams and desires. I encourage women to stop acting — to stop conforming to another person’s tastes, keeping silent when they have something to say, compromising their spirit, or staying in a bad situation out of fear. Move forward with faith toward the life of your dreams.”

Stuck with Mr. Wrong contains 100 tips for becoming a star in your own life and a free journal.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spirit: Donate Your Bra to Support Domestic Violence Victims

Soma Intimates, a national chain of lingerie stores, is holding a charity initiative to collect new and gently used bras for women in need. "Giving Is Beautiful" takes donations of bras at Soma Intimates boutiques, or via a mail-in option is provided with details at through Aug. 14.

According to Soma executives, bras are one of the least donated but most needed items by women who are homeless or victims of domestic violence. " It’s such a small and easy thing to donate, but it truly makes a big difference to women who are experiencing financial or emotional hardship," a company release read.

The donated bras will go to local women’s shelters and other charitable organizations. Soma also uses this initiative to help women who have lost personal items in the wake of destruction from natural disasters. Any non-wearable donations are sent to The Bra Recyclers, a textile recycling organization that ensures no bra ends up in a landfill.

First launched in July 2010, this marks the third bra donation initiative for Soma Intimates. To-date the retailer has collected more than 68,000 bras to help women in need across the country. The goal is to collect 150,000 bras by next year.

You can also enter the “Bra Guessing Contest” to guess how many bras will be collected this season to win a $500 gift card!

Learn more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Relationships: How to Meet and Marry the Man of Your Dreams - When You're All Grown Up

Today's post comes from Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl, and Tish Rabe, authors of "Love for Grown Ups: The Garter Brides’ Guide to Marrying for Life When You’ve Already Got a Life."

It’s a wonderful feeling to discover in your 40’s that falling in love can be just as exciting, passionate, fun and sexy as falling in love in your 20’s.

In our new book, "Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides’ Guide to Marrying for Life When You’ve Already Got a Life," we give our readers lots of practical field-tested advice on how to meet Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness.

We call ourselves the Garter Brides. Why? Because two of the authors of our book wore the same garter at their weddings and went on to share it with mature brides across the country and all of the Garter Brides got married after their 35th birthdays had come ... and gone.

So, how do you meet the man of your dreams when you are 40+?

The Garter Brides urge you to be open to meeting someone new. If you have had disappointments in love in the past, leave them in the past. Look at every date as a new possibility.

Look at finding a mate the way you would look at finding a job. Let all your friends, especially your married friends, know you are actively looking to meet someone.

Remember the perfect partner may not look perfect on paper. Just because he doesn’t match every characteristic on the “list” your hold in your head and your heart doesn’t mean he’s wrong for you. The Garter Brides will tell you that the “morning people” marry the “night people”, the “neat people” marry the “messy people”, the “shy people” marry the “party animals” and somehow it all works out!

Consider blind dates “first dates”. Blind dates have gotten a bad rap over the years, but two of the authors of our book, and many of the other Garter Brides, met their husbands on blind dates so do something fun and give him a chance. Don’t think about marriage, just relax and have a good time and remember nobody’s perfect- even the fabulous you!

Know that happiness is contagious. The powerful, positive energy of happiness radiates to others and is highly attractive so be sure and do things that make you happy. One of the Garter Brides decided to take flying lessons and married her flight instructor!

Be sure and keep the first date just about the two of you. There is no reason to bring up stories about your aging parents, your teenager’s moodiness or to bash your ex. Just have fun and get to know each other. As the Garter Brides always say: “One date can change your life.”

Share your stories with us at

We look forward to learning more about you. And remember: it’s never too late to find true love.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beauty: Britain Bans L'Oreal Age-Erasing Ads

When Julia Roberts was the Pretty Woman, we were also wearing midriff-baring shirts and skirts that could better be described as big belts. When Christy Turlington was in Duran Duran's 1987 video, we were pretending to be Girls on Film in nightclubs. We all grew up together.

Recently Britain's Advertising Standards Authority banned L'Oreal's ads featuring Roberts and Turlington, saying that the photos of the 40licious women had been too doctored to fall within truth-in-advertising standards. Which reminds me of when Jamie Lee Curtis had a groundbreaking revelation in 2002 about what she really looks like without the Photoshop for a spread in More magazine.

Which makes me wonder if anyone at all really believes an over-the-counter cosmetic product could erase their life lines the megastars wear so beautifully on their faces? Come on, L'Oreal. We weren't born yesterday. Far from it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spirit: What Are Your Core Values?

Pat Love
When I mentioned my blog and forthcoming book to my cousin Jo Robinson, who is a rock star in the health and relationship writing arena, she said I absolutely must talk to Pat Love. And she was right, because after we spoke, I realized that the work Love is doing is the lynchpin to what we’re navigating as 40licious women. The aptly-named Love is an expert on relationships and authored many books including “Hot Monogamy” with Jo, and “The Truth About Love.” Her new book, "Never be Lonely Again: the Way Out of Isolation, Emptiness, and a Life Unfulfilled" takes cues from the Dalai Lama and asks readers to address a basic question: “Who am I”?

The next few posts will be pearls of wisdom from my interview with Love. I hope you find them as insightful as I do.

Vanessa: What are you seeing in relationships for women in their 40s?
Pat: It's interesting I just spoke with a group of 40-something group of women on Saturday in a small group, spa setting. It was an exclusive group and they asked me to talk about sex over 40.

V: We love that.
P: So if I had to make some generalizations, I'd would say, in their 40's, women come up for air. At this point, they've launched the activities that involve major tasks in life. If they wanted to have children, they've probably done that, or taken the means to make that happen. They've launched some kind of a job or career or some kind of a work history. They've probably tried a love relationship or two. I think what happens in your 40's is you become consciously aware that "I'm a person too" and you start asking the question, "Who am I?"

In fact I had a woman in my office just yesterday, a couple, actually, and she was just approaching 40. And I asked a question, "What are your core values?" In other words, "When you're dead and gone, how do you want the people you love to remember you: your children, your friends," and she teared up and she couldn't answer the question. It's a very thought-provoking question.

To be honest with you, I'm not sure I had a conscious thought 'til I was close to 40. But somehow, and maybe this is projection, because of the biological imperative that's built into our bodies, 40-something is the first time you might get to think about yourself, and I think that's a major life task of your 40's. And I think that's a major life task of your 40s. And so I don't know if that's an answer that you're seeing. To think about yourself might be, "Well, I'm not really interested in sex, and why should I have sex if I'd don't feel like having sex, and yet, it's a deal-breaker with my partner, OK, I've gotta figure out a way to feel sexier and more motivated," or, "You know what? I'm tired of working for somebody, I want to work for myself," or "Now that I have my teenagers at least I have part of my day" if it's a stay at home mom, "I can do something, and maybe this is the time I'll go back to school, or whatever feels right."

PLEASE COMMENT: What are your core values? What actions do you take to demonstrate your personal "brand" to the world?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Money: How to Land on Your Feet When You're out of Work

Today's Q & A is with Lisa Beck, the national strategy officer for Fresh Start Women's Foundation. The organization is dedicated to helping women in transition.

1. What is Fresh Start and how did it begin?

Sisters Pat Petznick and Beverly Stewart wanted to help women who, like their grandmother, suddenly became the sole support of their families. So in 1992, they started a non-profit organization in Phoenix called Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. Aiming to empower women to transform their lives through engagement and education, they created the first comprehensive self-help center for women in the country. And it has been quite a success. Fresh Start has helped more than 200,000 women through career changes, divorce, new financial plans and other life transitions.

In March 2011, Fresh Start launched a new national website to offer women around the country these same resources. Through, women can now take interactive e-learning courses on career, finance and personal development.

2. It's heartbreaking to have to start over in a job or relationship when you're in your 40s. What's the first step after chocolate and wine?
The first step would be to reach out for support. There are people and organizations such as ours that can help get you back on your feet financially, professionally and personally.

3. What's the most important thing a woman in her 40s should know about looking for a new job?
There is a new world of work out there. The concept of “go to college, find a good job and stay there until retirement” really no longer applies. One of our career e-courses titled Career Invention shows women how to take advantage of the new opportunities the modern-day work environment offers.

4. How can you act confident when it seems like every answer is always "no"?
One of the most important rules in this new work environment is “Work Has Many Unexpected Forms.” There are many new opportunities to make money. So if you don’t land the job in the corporate world right away, consider turning a hobby into an online business. With modern-day tools, you can get a business up and running quickly and with little to no overhead. (Our Career Invention e-course can show you how.)

5. Can you tell us a success story about a Fresh Start member?
Ann DeWolf was a 51-year-old divorcee stuck in the humdrum of administrative work for more than six years. Wishing to go back to her love of sales, the fear of failure kept her from pursuing her dream.

Seeking guidance in her career change, Ann came to Fresh Start, and what she learned truly changed her life.

Not only did Fresh Start give her the necessary tools and knowledge but a new-found perspective on how to find the right career for her. The career courses helped her create a vision and the strategies to achieve her goals. She learned interview techniques, how to highlight her skills and gained the confidence to apply for positions she may never have considered before.

A residential resale representative for the no. 1 security company in America, Ann now has an exciting career that challenges her every day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Relationships: Who's Got Your Back?

Yesterday I took a few hours off from the most adorable child in the universe to visit one of my favorite LA spots, Wi Spa, a traditional Korean bathhouse. After soaking in various hot tubs and resting in rooms heated to 135 degrees or more, I got the scrub. For those who have never had the unique pleasure: For $30, a woman wearing only a black bra and panties will use a rough webbed glove, which we will call the Mitten from Hell, to exfoliate your skin. Every single inch of it as you lie on a vinyl covered table, watching the dead skin roll off with each pass of the Mitten. You emerge, new and soft and clean and ready to take on your life again.

There are babies and grannies and everyone in between at these places. As I was lounging in a tub, I noticed pairs of old women helping each other in and out of the pools and saunas, and taking turns scrubbing each other with their own personal Mittens from Hell. I made a mental list of potential girlfriends who would trade back scrubs with me when we are 70licious.

If you ever want to know who is in your largest circle of friends, have a life event -- a wedding, a baby, a major illness, that kind of thing. But if you want to know who your dearest circle is, imagine who is most likely to scrub your back when you are 75, when the babies are off and gone, when the wedding pictures have faded, when the illness has left its faint scars.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Style: Use Coupon Codes for Online Shopping

If the surfing you do today is more on the web than on the waves, try these coupon codes for smokin' hot deals:

1. Kohl's: Take 15% off everything with coupon STACK15.
2. Ann Taylor: Extra 40% off Sale Styles with code EXTRA40.
3. Sears: Get $20 off orders of $200 or more with coupon code FIREWORKS.
4. The Body Shop: Get $10 off orders of $40 or more with coupon code 10OFF.
5. Coldwater Creek: Receive $20 off orders of $80 or more with coupon AFLC628.
6. Sierra Trading Post: Save 20% off your order with code ALVJUNE1.
7. Crate and Barrel: Get 15% off all outdoor furniture purchases.
8. Finish Line: Take $10 off orders of $60 or more with coupon code GAN2011.
9. HP: Get $30 off orders of $150 or more with code SAVE30HP.
10. Take 20% off your order with code SECRET20.

This great info today comes from our friends at, which is one of four websites operating under the brand name and is dedicated to helping consumers save money and live more frugally. Other members of The Frugals family include, and

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spirit: How to Feng Shui for Baby

Laura Carrillo
Today's post comes from Laura Carrillo, a Los Angeles-based feng shui consultant. I met Laura on a transcontinental plane ride a couple years ago and we've been friends ever since, and I was one of her first guinea pigs when she started her practice. A couple months ago she saw how distressed I was from waiting what seemed like forever for our adoption to happen, so she offered to feng shui, this time for baby. Now, believe what you want, but our baby showed up less than a week after she visited. A lot of 40licious women are struggling with fertility, adoption and other baby-making efforts, so who knows -- it can't hurt, it could help!

Here's Laura's website.

In Feng Shui there is something called a Bagua that serves as a map or a grid of the nine different life stations. It looks kind of like a tic-tac-toe board. The nine guas of the Bagua are as follows: from top to bottom, left to right:

1. Prosperity
2. Fame & Reputation
3. Love & Relationships
4. Family
5. Health
6. Children & Creativity
7. Skills & Knowledge
8. Career
9. Travel & Helpful People

In Feng Shui for Baby, I focused on three specific guas. Children & Creativity, Fame & Reputation, and Travel & Helpful People. Children and Creativity was the obvious area to address and for Vanessa; this gua was in her living room. Here is where you want to focus on symbols of children, toys, artistic endeavors, games, the metal element, round shapes and the color white. Fame & Reputation happened to be where the baby’s room was located in Vanessa’s house and is also a key gua in garnering positive public attention and in this case from prospective parents. This gua is associated with the fire element, the color red or any color in the red spectrum such as pink or peach, and symbols of your accomplishments, or people you respect, etc. One of my favorite and often ignored guas, is Travel & Helpful People. This is the gua of synchronicity and assistance from both the divine and the mundane. Here is where it is best to place symbols of spiritual figures and at the same time where you might want to keep the business cards of your plumber or doctor … For Vanessa, this gua is in her entry way/porch so I suggested an angel statue that looks like a cherub, spiritual and infant-like.

All the guas are important and in Feng Shui balance is key, but in Vanessa’s case we had Feng Shui’d the home as a whole the previous, year and on this occasion, it made sense to focus our energy on the baby’s room and the other 2 corresponding guas. I also decided to do a Baby Blessing for the home. In planning for the Blessing, I chose to incorporate Space Clearing and the elements of an altar utilizing the principles of Feng Shui.

We spent time in the baby’s room which was the day’s initial focus. We discussed crib placement. Ideally, you want the bed or crib to be in full view of the door and with a solid wall behind it. Art and imagery are very important and Vanessa had three small paintings placed on the fame wall of the baby’s room. They were representations first of mother and child, then father, mother and child, and finally of the sun. Perfection! She had incorporated the number 3 in three perfect ways for that room. The images of family are symbolic of what she was inviting into her life and the sun is a fire element representation that is perfectly placed in the fame gua where the baby’s room resides. My whole premise behind calling my business Narrative Space Feng Shui is specific to the stories we tell through our homes and our art, and Vanessa understood that. One of the additional suggestions I had was that she make three copies of the adoption paperwork she had and place them in the three pertinent guas. The paperwork can be hidden as this is more of a transcendental cure with specific intent behind it.

Next, we did the space clearing prior to and in preparation of the Blessing. Vanessa and I walked through the house with my burning bundle of sage clearing each room and welcoming a baby into the environment. When we completed that, I went about the business of creating an altar for the Blessing. I chose to perform the ceremony in the living room which as mentioned is her Children & Creativity gua. We cleared the coffee table and I pulled out my bell, some incense and requested three white candles that we lit and something metal from Vanessa. She had her own three bells which were perfect elementally and symbolically. Bells can be rung to begin and end a blessing … I grabbed three yellow lemons from the kitchen. Lemons are yellow, which in Feng Shui is considered a representation of the earth element and because they are fruit, they are also considered of the wood element. The number 3 as in mother, father and child is important to note.

I had Vanessa place her wedding necklace on the altar as a symbol of her marriage and family bond. I was creating an altar that was symbolically and elementally balanced but with an emphasis on metal. I also requested some mood enhancing music which Vanessa supplied; an unusual instrumental arrangement that incorporated gongs. (It’s important to create a mood.) Steven, Vanessa’s husband, arrived and we began the blessing with the ring of a bell. I spoke a few words about what a loving and beautiful home and family this child is being invited to join and had Steven and Vanessa each say a few words. The true impact of a blessing is the energy of the participants and their intention.

In blessings, there is power in numbers and everyone involved should participate. I am there to facilitate for them but it’s their home, their blessing, and their emotion that energetically manifests their intentions. When we finished, I asked them to blow out the three candles and as they did, three gongs went off in the music as if on cue. Vanessa and Steven were matched with a birth family six days later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Relationships: Bringing Home Baby

Cinco is alternately curious and sulking

Adopting our baby was like being pregnant for two years in that everyone we know is invested in it by this point. Countless friends called and wrote with tears steaming down their cheeks upon hearing the news of this little miracle we call Grace Magnolia, as if they were watching the last scene of a magnificent film. It was also like being pregnant for four days: exactly how much time we had from meeting the birth parents until the baby was born. Team Grace moved into action: bags of clothes and gear from one friend, another took the mission to grab the bassinet and supplies as we beat it to the hospital to bring home the baby. A steady stream of well-wishers bring clothes and almost more important, dinner.

I realize that I'm not the first person to have a baby and gush about it. I know I'm not the only woman who has tried to navigate sleeping and feeding, HR labyrinths, and how to tie a Moby baby carrier. I am also not the first to be taken aback by surprise tears walking into Naartjie Baby, or seeing the little sleeping child curled up next to my big snoring husband.

But as a first-time mother at 40licious, I feel like the instincts are on high-alert, and even better, I know how and when to use them. I know what I don't know, and eagerly listen to advice on babies and their accoutrements. But most of all, I know that the little cooing child snuggling on my chest, this perfect baby girl, is the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I speak from experience.