Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Style: How to Accentuate the Positive (Plus Foot News You Can Use)

Fashion expert Lindsay Weiner
As we move deeper into Shoe Season and think about holiday ensembles, we hear from Lindsay Weiner, fashion expert, certified image consultant and personal stylist. She's consulted on "Wha Not to Wear," "Moving Up," the "Today Show" and the "Jane Pauly Show." She's styled fashion editorial shoots and is an expert citied in books and articles about fashion. Her company, www.stylemeasap.com, is an organization dedicated to keeping people stylish, organized, and confident in their wardrobe decisions.

She answered some crucial questions:

1. What worked in our 20s and 30s that no longer works now? 
Dressing appropriately is something that is important for all women and this includes dressing for your body type, lifestyle, and age. When it comes to women in their 40s, this often means that a little more coverage is required than what may have been needed in their 20s and 30s. And this is not to say that fashion and allure should go out the window, it just means they need to be tweaked. What does remain the same is the idea that you should dress to accentuate your favorite features, as this is still the key to a flattering and successful look. So if you have great pair of legs, show them off by wearing a shorter skirt. Instead of going bare legged though, add more coverage with a pair of tights or leggings. Or if you have fabulous Michelle Obama-like arms, wear a tank top and balance the bareness on top with a more covered bottom. Evolving your style with your age, doesn't need to be anything drastic, but a slight change here and there will ensure that you continue to look put together AND appropriate.

2. Can anything go with color and style or are there rules we need to understand?
When it comes to color, it's important to choose shades that match with your skin's undertones - either cool (blue) or warm (yellow). You can wear whatever colors you like, cool skin tones can wear yellow and vice versa, but following this guideline will ensure that the hues you wear "pop" and make you look your best. You can also use color to accentuate your favorite features. Bright and bold colors draw the eye in, so use them accordingly! And don't be afraid to mix things up. The old rules of fashion used to state that you couldn't wear navy and black, red and pink, or brown and black together, but that is no longer the case...you can! The key to wearing these combinations is to make it look deliberate. For example, don't just wear black shoes with a navy dress. Balance the look by adding other black accessories like jewelry and a purse. Doing this ties the look together and is a fun twist on typical color pairings.

3. How can you wear good shoes but not spend a ton of money? 
Just because you like and want nice shoes, it doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on them - you just need to know where to find them and how to get the best deals. One way to do this to buy your shoes off season, as this will be when they're on the biggest sale. Yes, you might have to wait a few months to wear them, but getting boots during the summer and sandals during the winter is a great way to save money. Flash Sale websites, such as www.gilt.com and www.ruelala.com, are also good resources for scoring designer shoes at a fraction of the cost. Another bargain finding trick is to visit consignment stores that specialize in high-end clothing. These stores only sell items that are gently worn, in good condition, and sometimes even new(!!), so you can definitely find deals at these stores. 

4.  Any other advice for women in their 40s regarding shoes/style?
Here are three of my favorite shoe tips that I share with all my clients, and even follow myself!
1) A nude pair of shoes is a must for every woman - they go with everything and will instantly add inches to your legs and make you look taller.
2) To avoid truncating the leg, stay away from shoes with ankle straps that hit at or above the ankle bone, as the horizontal line cuts the line of the leg and makes you look shorter.
3) To make any pair of heels more comfortable, have a cobbler add a thin, rubber sole to the bottoms. The rubber is shock absorbing and makes it easier to pound the pavement all day in your fabulous shoes.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Style: Shoe Season Begins Now

Gucci "Lisbeth" red patent leather Mary Jane peep-toe pump

The holidays are arriving quickly. I know this because I made a pumpkin-cream cheese swirly cake thing and ate half of it the day before I was going to enter it in the work Halloween baking contest. So I had to make another. (I won the contest, if you were wondering.) 

Which brings me to shoes. The pre-holiday season is really about shoes, not just because of leftover back-to-school feeling, but also because no matter how much we eat, we will fit in our shoes. The right shoe is the difference between you owning the room and merely displacing some air in it. Also, you can wear the same black dress every year and nobody will really notice or care, but the right accessories can send you home with a charming English base player just in town for a few days on tour. 

So I've recently interviewed a bunch of shoe experts for my book, including my new girl crush Meghan Cleary, from whom you will hear in the coming days. But first up is Linda Arroz, co-author of "Affordable Couture" and major fashion influencer.


Linda Arroz
About style: "What works in our 20s and 30s may not work for us in our 40s.  By the time you're 40 you may be well on your way to establishing a professional image in your career. In your 20s, you were more carefree, experimented with fashion, had a lot of fun and maybe even changed jobs a few times. The 30s bring about some clarity, maturity and are about building a body of work, perhaps having children."

About trends: "Unless you're a model, actress or exotic dancer, a lot of trendy stilettos may not work in your favor, especially at work. That's not to mean you can't be fashionable. A stylish platform pump with a high heel works for women in their 40s, while a shoe with 'no-heel' could make you look like you're trying too hard to be cool."
Indulge in the "no heel" look at your peril.

About classics: "Some shoes are timeless, like a 2-inch heel pump with either a pointed or oval toe box. Find your fit in a shoe like this and buy it in the season's trend color or material, as well as black. Try colored suedes in the fall, and leopard print, which has become a fashion classic, can be worn all year long in any style of shoe. Looking fashionable from head to toe means evaluating the shoe. Often the entire outfit is based around the shoe, if it's not right, everything looks off, regardless of your age, but especially in your 40s. If you work in a creative field, all bets are off. You wouldn't wear shoes or boots with lots of buckles and studs with a work suit, unless you work for an advertising agency or as a fashion designer."

About comfort: "Comfort counts more as you get older, but you don't have to sacrifice style. In your 40s you may be traveling or attending trade shows for work, or keeping up with your children. A lot of high-end shoe designers like Stuart Weitzman say that lower heels and flats are their most popular styles. Why else would the perennial ballet flat be so fashionable? If your feet hurt, it will show, and body language gives off signals. When you're in your 40s your confidence levels should be at an all time high. Don't give it all away because your desire to wear ill-fitting or higher heels won over logic. Podiatrists and other medical experts have been telling us for years about the health hazards of wearing stilettos. The higher the heel, the balls of the feet take on the bulk of your weight. Combined with a more narrow toe area, called the toe box, women experience a variety of problems like bunions and hammer toes. Do an internet search for celebrity feet, for example, and you'll see links to ugly and hideous feet suffering from these exact issues. Logic suggests that women's feet aren't shaped like a triangle, yet most women's shoes feature a narrower shape near the toes. High heels and platform shoes are often the culprits in ankle and feet fractures. I'm a fashion victim myself, having broken my left foot twice. The first time, my foot twisted sideways wearing cork wedgies, and a few years later, my fabulous burn out velvet platform slides bumped up against an uneven sidewalk and caused me to fall and twist the foot. I've since learned my lesson. Try watching women walking in their high heels. You'll observe the instability of the feet and ankle. Even runway models have been known to fall off their shoes. (Mashable posted a compilation video of models slipping and falling on the catwalk.)

A classic example is from an episode of 'Sex & The City' (season four, episode 'The Real Me') when Carrie slipped and fell down on the runway."



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Money: 100 Ways to Keep More Money in Your Pocket


Image courtesy peasap from Flickr Creative Commons
Last night some friends and I held a brainstorming session on Facebook about ways to save or make money. Here's what we have so far:    
  1. Hold clothing swaps with your friends – everyone brings their never-wear-but-too-good-to-get-rid-of clothes, shoes and accessories.  
  2. Shop at thrift stores.
  3. Split entrees at restaurants, or take leftovers home.
  4. Look on Craigslist or EBay first for electronics and furniture.
  5. Ask your stylist to hook you up with haircolor so you can do your own roots in between visits. Drugstores also have root treatments that can help until your next appointment. And, if you find the right non-damaging product and you’re good enough to do it yourself, try home color.
  6. Trade babysitting with friends.
  7. Walk instead of taking cabs in NYC. It's usually quicker.
  8. Make your own dog treats. Cheaper and you know what's in them.
  9. Shop at farmers markets for in-season produce, which tastes better and is usually cheaper than the supermarket.
  10. Don't order takeout or delivery unless there's a legit reason.
  11. Buy food that won’t go bad quickly (such as oatmeal or beans) in bulk instead of cans.smaller portion … if the math works out. Sometimes you can also find crazygood sales on the smaller items.
  12. Make your own coffee in the morning and bring it with you in a travel mug to work.
  13. Negotiate with your phone company, cable company and Internet provider. They don't want to lose your business. I've only been paying a tiny amount for Internet service for years because I threaten to leave every six months.
  14. Stop buying bottled water – for what other product would you happily pay a 1,000 percent markup?
  15. Get a soda stream and a water filter so you can make your own bubbly water to replace your ridiculous Pellegrino habit.
  16. Stop smoking.
  17. Use both sides of the paper.
  18. Stop emotional/impulse spending: If you're dying to get that dress/makeup/pair of boots, wait a day, see if you're still jonesing for it, then make the purchase.
  19. Organize your stuff and have a place for everything: You'd be amazed how much extra stuff you buy when you're disorganized and can't find something you already have.
  20. If you do NEED really need a new dress shop at Ross or TJ Max or some suchanother discount store first... If you do buy a dress full-price, make sure you love it, it’s good quality, and that you can wear it for a few years.
  21. See if you can make Halloween costumes for your kids from stuff you already have (cowgirl, tourist, gypsy, zombie, nerd ), or swap costumes with friends or other parents.
  22. You don’t need that much meat. Try using half, or go meatless a couple days a week.
  23. Re-evaluate how much you're paying in bank fees, insurance, credit cards, etc. Do a full financial inventory. Try calling to get the fees waived or lowered.
  24. Shop in your closet. Look for fresh ways to wear forgotten items.
  25. Read parking signs carefully and keep cash in the car so you never get a parking ticket.
  26. Kids grow so quickly that some of the best clothes hardly have a chance to be worn – consider a hand-me-down arrangement with a friend or family member, consignment, or thrift-store search.
  27. Cook at home. Take a yogurt and granola bar for breakfast, and pack a nice lunch of leftovers or soup or cold cuts.
  28. Give up alcohol for a month and you'll save money and even lose weight.
  29. Fabric painting and decorative patches: they save stains and holes in clothes, brighten them up and give them a new look.
  30. Get worn boots and shoes that still look good resoled, don't throw instead of throwing them out.
  31. Ribbons make great shoelaces.
  32. Use it up, wear it out, make it do ... or do without.
  33. Use your apps to keep an up-to-date inventory/shopping list.
  34. Use a lipstick brush to get every last drop of your favorite color!
  35. Thrift-shop online at Poshmark, Twice and Threadflip.
  36. Trade skills at your local time bank: Some neighborhoods have organizations in which members can barter their time and skills for other goods and services.
  37. Try getting it at Trader Joe's or the ethnic market before the regular supermarket.
  38. Grow your own herbs.
  39. A chicken or turkey gets double mileage when you use the carcass for stew or soup.
  40. Use Freecycle and Craiglist to score free stuff. Sometimes it's yours for the asking.
  41. There's this thing called the library where you can get free books, music and movies. Seriously. For reals..
  42. Order cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, diapers and other non-perishable stuff you replace regularly through Amazon.com Subscribe 'n' Save, which saves you a big percentage off the price, as well as time shopping and parking. If you’re a frequent online shopper, the Amazon Prime service is totally worth it: You get free shipping and access to hundreds of on-demand videos.
  43. What can you do as a side gig? Copyedit? Build websites? Babysit? Walk dogs? Housesit? Teach guitar? Draw pet portraits? Paint decorative mailboxes? If you think about it long enough you'll figure out your side gig. One person I know saved up enough from cocktail waitressing on her off-hours to put a down payment on a house.
  44. Aside from the library, there's soooo much music you can listen to for free: try Spotify, Pandora and of course, you can go to the library and get music risk-free and download podcasts or live-streaming from your favorite radio station. (I’m a huge fan of Santa Monica’s KCRW.)
  45. Upcycle your clothes: Can that dated dress become a cool tunic top? With the flash of the scissors and a little sewing skill (or learn for free on YouTube) that unwearable cashmere sweater with the moth holes can turn into cute leg warmers or  the best scarf ever. If you're good at it, you can sell your creations on Etsy.
  46. Use your fresh and perishable food first so it doesn't go bad. If necessary, develop a system in your refrigerator so that the food that needs to be eaten first is most accessible.
  47. Join a Yahoo! online community specific to your profession, neighborhood , hobby, interest or kids’ age. You’ll be amazed how generous people can be with advice, discounts, insider information and gear.
  48. Use Gasbuddy or another app to help you find the least-expensive gas in your neighborhood.
  49. A neighborhood mechanic can change the oil just as well as your auto dealer can but usually for less. Shop around and develop a great relationship with someone who can work on your car.
  50. Get your utility to come out and do a free energy audit of your home. You’ll learn low- and no-cost options for saving money on energy.
  51. Combine trips and errands in the car to save gas and time. Don’t go to the store for just one ingredient – use what you have, improvise, or borrow from a neighbor.
  52. Use Netflix streaming ($9/month) and shut off cable ($30+/month)
  53. Dinners out with friends can get really expensive. Let your friends know you’re trying to save money and join them for a glass of wine, cup of coffee or dessert.  
  54. Shop for recycled building materials before you plan your home building or renovation, you might save thousands.
  55. Slay your energy vampires: Unplug chargers and other devices when they’re not in use. Anything with a clock or light on it is still “on” when it says it’s “off.” You can also invest in a smart power strip that knows which devices don’t need to be energized 24/7.
  56. “Set and forget” your temperature with a programmable thermostat that keeps your air conditioning and heating from working too hard when you’re not in the house, but so you can come home to a comfortable room.
  57. A microwave uses far less power than an electric stove, and in the summer it won’t heat your home so you save on air-conditioning costs.
  58. CFL and LED lightbulbs use a fraction of the energy that incandescent bulbs do. They also create less heat, so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard in the summer.
  59. Do your holiday shopping year-round, and keep a “generic gift” box going so that you don’t need to blow your cash around the holidays.
  60. Negotiate your property tax if that’s possible where you live.
  61. Use the ATM for your bank so you don’t have to pay out-of-network fees. Most credit unions let you use any other credit union’s ATM for free.
  62. Consider giving up either your landline or cell phone – keep the one you use the most.
  63. Set up automatic deductions to a savings account that is not linked to your paycheck. You are less likely to spend what you can’t see.
  64. Keep track of every penny you spend through a spread sheet or a program such as Mint, then take a good look at where your money is going and see where you can easily cut back.
  65. Share a Netflix movie membership with a friend.
  66. Cancel your cable and watch shows on DVD or directly from the channel’s website.
  67. Develop a hobby and use what you make for gifts, or to sell on Etsy, eBay or your own website.
  68. Borrow a special occasion dress you’ll only wear once from a friend.
  69. Stop drinking soda, drink water instead. It’s better for you and will help your skin tremendously.
  70. See if your yoga studio or gym offers a work-study program in exchange for classes.
  71. That lint in the dryer? It’s your clothes slowly decomposing. Line drying saves energy and helps your clothes last longer.
  72. Instead of going to a pet store or a breeder, adopt a pet from a shelter and take advantage of the low-cost vaccinations and spay/neuter service usually provided.
  73. Evaluate your subscriptions: Are you really reading that newspaper and those magazines? Is there anything you could read for free online instead?
  74. Save gift wrapping, pretty shopping bags and tissue paper for wrapping other gifts.
  75. Save and recycle last year’s Christmas cards by cutting them up and creating funky, unique collage cards with a new note on the back.
  76. Cut the picture side of a card off and use it as a postcard.
  77. You’d be amazed how well vinegar and baking soda clean the house, toxin-free.
  78. Honestly? You don’t need to wash your hair every day. Unless you work somewhere it gets really dirty.
  79. A full refrigerator or freezer is more efficient and costs less to run than an empty one. Even water jugs work just fine.
  80. A small crack around a door or your windows is the equivalent of a hole in your wall. Invest a couple dollars and a few minutes in weather-stripping your home so you don’t spend as much to heat and cool it.
  81. Learn an incredible trick and bet people $5 that you can do what seems impossible.
  82. Turn out lights when you leave a room. You know, like your dad said.
  83. Moths can take out an entire winter wardrobe in a few days. Save soap slivers or cedar shavings in a zipper bag with holes poked in it, and store it with your clothes. You can also store clothes in a vacuum-sealed bag or sealed plastic container.
  84. Most theaters in major cities have discount outlets where you can buy half-price tickets. You can also get on the theater’s mailing list for special deals.
  85. If you had a particularly good or bad customer experience, take a moment to write to the company – you may get a discount.
  86. Book your air travel as early in advance as possible and use a service such a kayak.com to predict the best time to buy a ticket.
  87. Adopt a low-maintenance hairstyle that suits your life – you’ll save time as well as money on products and frequent cuts.
  88. If you’re shopping for a specific make or model of a major purchase, such as a computer, camera or appliance and can’t find it used, go online to a shopping comparison site such as Shopzilla or Pricegrabber to find free shipping and the best deals.
  89. How much are you spending on storage? Do some hard math: Say you have $1,000 worth of items and you pay $150 a month to store them. That’s $1,800 per year you’re spending to keep things you rarely use. If you’re storing sentimental items that have absolutely no value, offer a friend with a bigger home half that to keep your stuff in her garage, basement or attic.
  90. If you have a separate living space or if you’ll be away for a while, consider signing up with a vacation rental service such as Vacation Rentals By Owner, which can match you up with someone happy to rent on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis.
  91. Save hundreds of dollars by scouring thrift stores for eyeglass frames and getting your own lenses put it.
  92. Sign up for a daily email from Dailyworth.com for free advice on ways to save, earn more and invest.
  93. Stop impulse buying in the drug store. Before you go, see what you can use up or combine (if you’re like me, you may have two or three bottles of shampoo and several half-full body creams in rotation at any one time) before buying new.
  94. Before springing for a hotel, post on Facebook or another network that you’re coming to town and need an inexpensive place to stay. Hopefully you’ll get an invitation from a friend or a friend-of-a-friend; otherwise you’ll at least have great insider scoops on cheap-but-good places to stay.
  95. Before signing up for a costly gym membership, see if they’ll bargain with you. And also consider what natural resources you have for exercise – can you run in a nearby park, woods or beach? Is there a playground near you with exercise equipment?
  96. If you’re considering going back to school and don’t necessarily need the credit, check out the multitude of free online educational lectures available from Ivy League professors and TED conference speakers. www.education-portal.com is a good place to start.
  97. If you rent, be an amazing tenant. Any sane landlord may cut you a deal when your lease is up, or not raise the rent, in order to keep you there.
  98. Make double and freeze half your dinner (and label the container!); you’ll have a full stock of ready-to-heat food so you won’t be tempted to order takeout when there’s nothing in the fridge.
  99. It’s one of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have, but talk to your parents about their wishes for what to do when they can’t take care of themselves and more, and what their expectations are. Planning for disability is much less expensive then paying retail for it or having to suddenly move house to accommodate an aging parent.
  100. Remember, everything is negotiable … the job offer, the housecleaner, the hotel room, the furniture store, the stuff you’re buying from Craigslist, the discount at the department store, the landlord, the caterer. Pretty much anything you can walk away from you can negotiate.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Money: Is Owning a Home Your American Dream?

Only one of about 1,000 press releases catches our eye here, like this one from TD Bank. (We came for the news but stayed for the infographic.)   A recent study by TD Bank reveals that 64 percent of women believe homeownership is essential in defining the American Dream. In comparison, only 52 percent of men felt owning a home was important. Furthermore, aspirations of homeownership are more prominent with women, with 66 percent of current female renters stating they intend to own a home in the future as opposed to 57 percent of men.

 What do you think? Is a home essential to YOUR American Dream?




Saturday, September 15, 2012

Money: It's Different for Women in Their 40s

Kevin Brosius
Today's interview is with Kevin Brosius, president of Wealth Management, Inc. He is a fee-only financial planner (which means he's not paid by an investment firm to sell their products) and investment advisor with offices in Allentown and Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

  1. By the time a woman hits 40, there are a lot of variables she may be facing financially, especially if she's dealing with a blended family, supporting a spouse, or starting over again financially. What are some of the most common financial situations you see for women in their 40s?
I used to do some work for a law firm, providing a financial overview for divorced couples after their divorce is final. 90% of those that took advantage of the session were women (average age 40-50) and overwhelmingly what I found was that most were legitimately surprised about their financial situation. I don’t think the post breakup financials for everything from current cash flow to retirement savings were properly thought out or negotiated. It can be devastating to find out that you can’t afford your home and have to move out. Another issue I see with women is their desire to pay for their children’s college in full. Even divorced women with limited resources seem to want to go down this path. That can be a huge expense and usually a very difficult strain on family finances, especially if it is a single paycheck household. First thing I tell them is don’t commit to that for your children unless your retirement is fully funded.

  2. What are the most important ways a woman in her 40s should protect her assets, even if she is blissfully coupled? Make sure you have the appropriate levels of insurance. I think many women don’t give this enough due diligence. Disability Insurance is so very important as women age (men too for that matter). We are three times more likely to be disabled than die before we retire. If your employer doesn’t provide one as part of your benefits package, get a commercial package but don’t go without it. Have enough life insurance to provide for your family should something happen to you. There are many cases where the woman is the major breadwinner for the family. Should her paycheck suddenly disappear, it would be a real hardship. Also, check out long term care policies. Take a look in any nursing home, vast majority of residents are women. This care can really drawdown assets in a hurry. Get a quote for LTC, see if it fits your budget.

 3. What are the most fair ways to arrange or split finances if one partner makes more than the other? Or should it all just go in one pot? I like the single pot approach. However, I have created budgets for remarried couples. A lot of them have some kind of arrangement like 50-50 for all household expenses, groceries, etc. Then they are on their own for autos or other activities they want to do. Seems to work for those that I worked with. As long as the arrangement is understood upfront, it’s usually OK.

 4. Anything else people should know? 
A lot of women in their 40’s don’t understand how their money is invested – like in 401ks or IRAs. They really seem to be clueless about this and that is very important to funding their retirement.

Where do you start to take control of your financial life? Read books, ask people, and you can also contact Kevin or another fee-only financial advisor through NAPFA. Happy planning!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Style: 40licious Women Getting Edgy with Their Hair

New York Times photo
One thing you finally learn when you're 40licious, hopefully, is where your hair can and can't go. For example, in 1982, I decided I wanted an asymetrical cut, short on one side, angled down the back, then long on the other. Which would have been on trend if I had thick, straight, shiny hair. I do not have thick, straight, shiny hair. I have very curly hair with a mind of its own. And back then the best I could do in the way of styling produts was Dippity Do that I had to sneak into our shopping cart.

When you are 40licious, you are also, hopefully, rocking your own bad self. Like a slew of women 40 and older who are filing into salons demanding cuts on the wild side, reports the New York Times.

Come on, how about a few pink tips, just to keep it fun?


Monday, August 6, 2012

Relationships: After the Worst Dates Ever, What Next?

Today's post comes from Marcy Miller, author of Rebooting in Beverly Hills, who needed to figure out what came next after being married for most of her life.


After a self-esteem damaging divorce -- my husband cheated with a younger woman and discarded me like day-old sushi -- I needed positive reinforcement that I was still desirable. Being over 40 in our youth-obsessed society also added to my anxiety. I needed professional dating help but I did not know where to turn. I kept up my active social schedule, I continued to ask friends and acquaintances to be fixed up. But dates were few and far between, and the idea of a professional dating guru became more and more attractive.

One day I happened to be talking to a friend about matchmaking services, and she told me that she had just heard about a single woman in West Los Angeles running her own private dating agency. She tracked down the cell number, and I called immediately. Harmony wanted to meet the next day at a neighborhood Starbucks to interview me. She clearly wanted to make sure that I was datable before taking me on as a client. She would not even tell me how much her service cost. I was game for a latte and a little fun. She was there early, and I felt like a model on a runway. She looked me up and down, had me twirl around and then whipped out her MacBook to show me her line-up of eligible men. I must admit, the array was very impressive. She had me pick those whom I found attractive and then read me short bios on each. It was like picking out chocolates at See's Candies. I was having a great time with no calories. The time arrived for her sales pitch. She charged $2,500 for a woman and $5,000 for a man for an annual membership, with a $5,000 premium if she made a marriage. She handed me her contract, and as a good lawyer, I changed the language so that the marriage premium was to be paid by the man. I could only hope that this clause would be used.

I wrote a check on the spot and could not wait to be introduced to one of her stable of bachelors. First, she needed a picture for her female computer line-up. She sent me to her photographer (another $200) to have some pictures taken in pre-approved venues. I was draped across the sidewalk and leaned against the back of a Porsche. It was all very contrived but I did as I was told. About two weeks later, she called with the first date. It turned out that the way she worked was to show my picture to the men and see if they were interested in meeting me. She would then send me their pictures with a brief bio -- usually formulaic. "Seth is a lawyer who likes fine dining, travel, movies, romance." I knew that I would agree to meet every person she sent. After all, she was the professional and I wanted to get my money's worth.

 The first date did not start well. He called and asked where we should meet for a drink. I suggested a well-known lounge in Beverly Hills. He said that he did not want to drive that far, and suggested another place quite far from my home. The message was clear -- I was not worth his time, and it was fine for me to brave rush-hour traffic. But seeing as this was my maiden voyage on the see of matchmaking, I acquiesced. At least he looked exactly like his picture, which wasn't bad. He ordered a glass of merlot for each of us without asking me what I liked to drink. He then droned on and on about his children, his lousy ex-wife, his golf game and the knee he injured while skiing, never once asking me a question. When I managed to interject a word into his monologue, he ignored it. Finally, I had had enough. I looked at my watch and explained that I had to leave. He stopped abruptly and told me that I owed fifteen dollars. Shocked that he expected me to pay, I slapped a twenty dollar bill on the table and started toward the door. He stayed seated, finishing his wine. As I was about to drive away, I discovered that, in my haste, I had left my sunglasses on the table and rushed inside to retrieve them. What I found was my date drinking from my half-filled, lipstick-stained glass of red wine. Instead of ordering more for himself, he was drinking the dregs of a stranger's glass.

When I arrived home, I emailed Harmony: "I will not bore you with the details, but my date was a heathen and should not be dating anyone of our species." I was beginning to worry that my $2,500 might not have been the wisest investment. As it turned out after five more equally miserable dates, I had thrown the money down the drain. My advice: Beware of matchmaking services unless you are permitted to speak with other clients who have been successful or are given one free match.

 So how do I spend my time instead? I found a new group of single friends of all ages. They have more time to spend with me and have more in common with me anyway. They give me dating advice and are more interested in girl talk and female bonding. They are looking for company at art exhibits, gallery talks, movies, lectures, spa time and even travel. They have free nights and weekends, as do I, to pursue all the fun things a great city has to offer. My new friends are fun, smart, engaging women of all ages. I also bought a pair of season tickets to the opera, symphony, and theater and invite a different new friend to dinner and a show. Now, when I bump into women from my old married life, many of whom disappeared, I honestly am grateful for the time I spent with them. But it reminds me how fortunate I am to have my new women friends -- they are now like family to me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Spirit: Forms of Forgiveness

This tree in Duekmejian Park is called the McFall Oak. During the Station Fire a couple years ago, firefighters surrounded it while everything else burned. Now the rest of the park has forgiven the fire, and it is moving along with its life. 
We live in uncertain times. By "we," I mean we as a world, a nation, a bunch of Southern Californians, but I also mean "we" as the McGrady/Spiller household, our family. Among our major decisions these days: how do we remedy our poor choice in Ikea entertainment centers; should we move to a bigger place; and which is the best sippy cup for 1-year-old Grace. We are on type no. 4 or 5 now.

 I keep dropping things.

Today at the Armenian market I spilled some limes and an eggplant. And also, at the pharmacy while I was waiting in line holding Gracie and trying to unblock the straw from aforementioned sippy cup no. 4 or 5, the stroller tipped over backward. And then I dropped the cup. And then the baby slid out of my arms and onto the floor. She was still and quiet for a second and then wailed, turning kind of pink. I picked her up right away and bounced her and cooed to her, saying "sorry, sorry, sorry" softly in her ear.

 I'd let the woman behind me in line step in front, and she said, "no mama, you'd better go." I was moved and teary by her simple kindness, the kind you expect from friends but is so rewarding when it comes from a stranger.

Gracie stopped crying a moment later and threw her little arms around my neck, and hugged me tight, and babbled on about her day as she peeked curiously at someone (who surely has eight cats at home) reading a magazine with a magnifying glass sitting next to us.

Tonight I am thinking about forgiveness and all its forms. And how forgiveness separates us as a species from something like reptiles, or Ikea furniture. And that I will work harder to forgive strangers and the people I love.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Style: Mixed Chicks Tell How to Rock the Hair Your Mama Gave You

Mixed Chicks are Wendi Levy and Kim Etheredge

Today we're so happy to talk to the chicks behind Mixed Chicks, a cruelty-free and vegan natural hair care brand specially formulated for multi-textured hair.

1. What is the most important thing women in their 40s need to know about their hair?
That they are stuck with what God gave them!! Actually that now that we are in our 40's there is no better time than now to take chances and wear the styles you never thought you would. If you're looking to go natural go for it. Whatever your heart desires you should fulfill.

2. Let's talk about style: What worked back in the day that won't serve us well today?
I would have to say the jheri-curl and the shaved look on the side. Now women can wear their hair in a curly style without the greasy, smelly product that can ruin your clothes and pillowcases and have curls that flow and move naturally. There are so many products on the market that can help one achieve the look for their specific curl pattern. In the 80's it was popular to shave off one's side of the head and women today were trying to bring that back. It's not really in your best interest because the waiting time for your hair to grow back in and the awkwardness of the way it looks is enough to stay away!

3. What advice does Mixed Chicks give to a woman who has a radically different look for work and for play?
Versatility Rocks!!!

BONUS GIVEAWAY: "Like" us on Facebook between now and July 1, 2012, at www.facebook.com/40licious and get the chance to win a free Mixed Chicks leave-in conditioner, perfect for your gorgeous summer hair.

Mixed Chicks offers a complete hair care line at more than 350 stores and will be expanding to more than 700 in July, including Target and target.com.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Relationships: Learning How to Be a Mom (The Hard Way)

Today's guest post comes from Teresa Rodriguez, an Emmy-Award winning newscaster. 


As a little girl, I knew my mom would always be there for me…..whether it be waking me up to go to school, preparing breakfast and making sure I had all my books before she kissed me on the cheek and waved me off to class or buying remnants at the local fabric store to sew clothes for me so that I would have new dresses to wear.  She was my hero, a statuesque, beautiful, brunette with the tiniest waste, the longest legs and a smile that could conquer all.  She never mastered the English language, a native of Cuba, she came to this great country well into her thirties and as was the custom there, she became a housewife, taking care of my older brother and me, while our dad worked as a busboy at a popular South Florida hotel.  We grew up in a lower income neighborhood, but our memories were always happy ones….now I realize how difficult it must have been to make ends meet, but by the look on her face, you would never have guessed it.  In fact, she turned our rented home into a shelter for others arriving from the Communist island – offering them free room and board until they were able to afford a place of their own, often times, serving herself the smallest portion in order to make sure the children ate first.  Some of these “families” became an extension of ours.  Somehow, despite our limited resources, she managed to feed anywhere from 4 to 10…every night.

She never got beyond an eighth-grade education which is why she wanted me to go to college, to get an education and to explore the world.  Although I helped her with household chores, she always explained that I would have ample time to learn the basics of cooking and cleaning, but an education came first.  Her words became my impetus for achievement.  Four years after my high school graduation, I became the first one in my family to obtain a college degree and move on to a very successful career as a Spanish language news anchor, broadcast journalist and author.  

Unfortunately, breast cancer claimed her life before she was able to witness any of these milestones.  Today, as I write this tribute in her memory, I think back to how she always wanted a better life for me, how as a struggling immigrant herself, she gave of herself and what she didn’t have to total strangers and how, despite her failing health, her positive outlook and incredible disposition never waned.

Little did I know that I would become a widow in my early forties, raising two boys by myself, then 10 and 15, while working full time in a very demanding field which included traveling at the drop of a hat and where the forty hour work week is unheard of.  It wasn’t until that moment, nearly ten years ago, when my husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack, that I found myself mimicking my mother’s actions.  I recalled her smile and as I held on tightly to my boys, I reassured them that we would get through this.  Her example was etched in my mind and heart.  She had given me the strength and conviction that I would later use with my own children.

Today, those boys are men – one is a sports anchor at a Miami television station and the other will be a junior at the University of Michigan this coming fall, where he will most likely continue on to law school.  They are not just my sons, they are my best friends. I know she would have been very proud of what her grandchildren have become.  Somehow they, too, are fulfilling a part of her dream.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mom, her examples and her smile.  She created a strong, independent, hard-working woman with a generous heart and an optimistic outlook on life.  I’d like to think that someday my kids will have those same memories of me and hope my example will leave an imprint on their lives, above all may they never forget the power of love, the power of a smile and the power of a mother.







Monday, April 23, 2012

Health: Stories We Were Told

I have a deep resounding gratitude for the sisters and mothers and grandmothers who came before us, who told us we could have it all, who forged a truth that we could delay motherhood until we were bored with the corner office. They made me feel a little sorry for the girls I knew who got pregnant so early on, one kid after another, who kept putting their career dreams on hold.

At 22, I figured I'd delay getting pregnant for two more years. And then it was two more after that. And a career and trips around the world and inappropriate boyfriends and some miscarriages and living in the woods off the grid in a tiny cabin and more just messing around and whoa, suddenly I'm 40licious. And the baby part became complicated. And my girlfriends 35 and up are having a helluva time starting families. There are a couple successes, but those have been harrowing. One girlfriend suffering through infertility treatment laments, "but I did everything RIGHT!!!"

I am at peace with how I got here. I fully believe that every day, every second on this earth so far has led me to my sweet Grace Magnolia, my daughter whom we adopted when she was born nearly a year ago. I can't be mad at the Liberation sisters, either, because I do have it all now -- but just not in the way I thought I would. It's better. And I believe the Libbers truly, truly believed you could do everything. What our sisters didn't really count on was the science of the body.

My mother occasionally says something so wise I remember it forever. In this case, "whatever you want to be doing in 10 years, you have to start now."