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.