A few weeks ago I bought a copy of How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie for my 18-year old daughter, a freshman in college.
I remember reading it after graduating, embarking on my new life out in the “real world.” It was recommended to me by a professor who believed that this book should be required reading for every college student. He was right.
Before giving the 75th Anniversary copy to my daughter, I re-read it, and once again recognized the simple wisdom on each and every page.
There’s no question that one of my “life creeds”–which I shared with my two daughters’ continuously as they were growing up–is a loose variation of something I read in the book:
An interesting person is an interested person.
If you are genuinely interested in others, you will BE interesting.
Dale Carnegie wrote:
I know and you know people who blunder through life trying to wigwag other people into becoming interested in them. Of course, it doesn’t work. People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves–morning, noon and after dinner.
Another “life creed” I’ve tried to instill in my daughters is so deceptively simple, it’s scary: smile.
Dale Carnegie devoted an entire chapter–-A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression–-to why smiling is essential to success in life. He wrote:
The expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.
He continued with . . .
That’s why dogs make such a hit. They are so glad to see us that they almost jump out of their skins. So, naturally, we are glad to see them. A baby’s smile has the same effect.
There are gurus galore telling us how to achieve success in our lives, hoping we’ll spend a few bucks for their words of wisdom. We’re certainly not wanting for self-help books, television programs, magazines, websites or the newest things, ‘life coaches.’ But, sometimes all we need is a little inspiration, a little push to get us over the mental hump.
Instead of picking up the latest issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, pick up a copy of this simple little guide to life. And get one for your kids, too. They may roll their eyes and smirk (yes, that’s what mine did), but trust me. They’ll read it.
This week America celebrated the 90th birthday of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, creator of “Peanuts,” who passed away in 2000. During his 50-year career, he introduced us to hapless Charlie Brown, mischievous Snoopy, know-it-all Lucy, and many other absolutely delightful and relatable characters.
He also introduced us (for some, including me, it was for the first time) to arguably (but don’t get into an argument with me about this) the best composer who ever lived . . . Ludwig van Beethoven.
In his own words, Schulz became an ardent admirer of Beethoven early on in his career:
“Having been fascinated for several months by Strauss waltzes, I graduated one day to the purchase of Beethoven’s Second Symphony, and I remember that this record opened up a whole new world for me.”
Beginning in 1951, Schroeder, one of my favorite Peanuts’ characters, channeled the genius of Beethoven through his toy piano. Most scenes of Schroeder find him bowed over his miniature instrument on the floor (often with lovesick and bored Lucy hovering over him) performing incredibly complicated compositions. And woe to anyone who doesn’t know it’s Beethoven he’s playing.
Schroeder was so obsessed with Beethoven he once asked no one in particular, “How can anyone be Beethoven and not be happy?” Thanks to the combined genius of Schulz and Schroeder, my love for Beethoven blossomed when I was five.
I first learned about Beethoven by reading the Peanuts cartoon strips in the newspaper my grandfather brought home, and then the books Schulz published which I collected as quickly as I started collecting Beethoven records. My obsession with Beethoven has grown over the years and now his music literally permeates my home.
A creature of habit, I rarely vary my routine: wake up at 5:30 a.m., stumble to the kitchen to turn on the Nespresso machine and radio (yes, I think listen to the radio) simultaneously and sit down with my laptop to find out what happened in the world while I was sleeping. Because I work from home, the radio stays on until I go to bed. Even when I leave for meetings and appointments, my dog has the dreamy and often melancholy sounds of Brahms and the drama of Verdi to keep him company until my return.
My husband of almost twenty years has come to not only accept this quirk of mine, but to enjoy it. My youngest daughter, a freshman in high school, does her homework at the kitchen table with Mozart and Chopin sometimes serving as “background noise,” but more often than not, it’s a piece by Beethoven. A college freshman, my oldest daughter recently admitted to plugging Beethoven into her ears while studying in the library. She finds it soothing and a “connection to home.”
Perhaps you think Mozart, Mahler or some other musical genius deserves our undying devotion. Of course, they all should hold special places in our hearts for bringing such beauty to the world. But in the final analysis, it is Beethoven . . . and it’s only ever been Beethoven. After all, as he himself once said, “There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”
Just ask Schroeder.
Lipstick is always on my lips and a tube is always in my bag (or pocketbook, depending upon which region of the country you’re in. I used to say ‘pocketbook’ because I was raised in Brooklyn–that’s what we say in Brooklyn–and when I moved to Manhattan, way back when, I switched to ‘handbag’ which I shortened to ‘bag’ . . . but I digress . . . )
I just spent a week pretty flat out with the flu. Most of the time I asked my husband, daughter or doorman to walk Gunther the Wonder Dog (our Brittany), but a few times I felt the need to get out and get some air. While I had no interest whatsoever in wearing makeup during these short strolls (too sick to care what I looked like and the makeup just seemed to melt into my skin anyway), I always put on lipstick. In fact, I even wore lipstick while shuffling around the house, coughing and sneezing and feeling sorry for myself. Seeing a little color on my lips lifted my spirits and actually made me believe that I didn’t look as truly horrible as I know deep down I did.
One of my biggest fears is leaving my home or office without a tube of lipstick and my adorable little silver heart-shaped mirror from Tiffany’s (my first Mother’s Day gift from my older daughter), which is the perfect size to throw into the smallest of evening clutch bags and whip out at the dinner table to apply a dab more “Tulle” from Bobbi Brown or my new favorite, Nars’ Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil in “Baroque.” I’ve been known to run back into my building to get a tube if it dawns on me in time that I failed to bring a lipstick with me. More than once I’ve had to stop at a Duane Reade to pick up a temp.
If I were on a deserted island and could choose only one thing from the “beautifying” category to have with me, it would be lipstick, hands down, bar none. Not only can you brighten your entire face with a little dab of color on your lips, but almost any shade of lipstick can be used on cheeks, too (which I do, often).
It’s impossible for me to go into a Sephora and leave without a new lipstick in tow. The crazy thing is I sometimes buy the same exact ones I already have and love because the print on the tube is too small for me to read without my glasses and I simply think I’ve discovered a fab new shade.
I cannot live without lipstick. Am I crazy?
Well, at least I don’t go to the extremes that Cleopatra and her girlfriends did. Those fashion forward ancients used crushed beetles and ants for color, and pieces of fish scales for shine.
Now THAT’S nuts.
I wasn’t one of those young women who gained the extra, unwanted 15 lbs. (famously called the ‘Freshman 15’) after starting college, probably because I was a commuter college student (or a ‘commuter chick’ as we were called at St. John’s University in Queens, NY). I was way too busy going to classes, then to work selling shoes at Bloomingdales (probably my all-time favorite job: I got a 20% employee discount) at nights and weekends, and then back to classes again the next day. I was too tired to eat most of the time.
According to my many friends who lived on campus during college, it was very hard not to succumb to the siren call of Twinkies, chips and all-you-could-eat meal plans. My daughter, a freshman at a Pennsylvania college, is relating to all that now, and bemoans the fact that food seems to be just about everywhere she turns. However, so far my years of parental nagging about foods to eat (and not eat) for good health are winning the battle.
I wish I could say my advice stayed with me during the last few weeks when we all were glued to the TV, watching the devastation from Sandy, stuck in the apartment, and doing nothing but waiting, getting stressed and . . . eating.
It was so beyond anything we had imagined would happen that to say we were shell-shocked is not an exaggeration. Even though my immediate neighborhood suffered a loss of trees and bus stop poles, it was nothing compared to what our neighbors downtown, or in parts of Queens, or Staten Island and many other places, experienced. We still needed to be comforted, however, especially as the loss of homes, belongings, and more importantly, lives were reported in the media and it became obvious how truly severe this storm was.
I couldn’t run, but for sure I could have climbed up and down the stairs or gone to the little gym in our building. But I didn’t. I could have at least done my usual daily 20 push-ups and the Plank. But, that didn’t happen either.
Instead I ate. I ate all the things that are easy to buy, easy to eat, and stuff which I had pretty much given up when I turned 50, except for when I allowed myself an occasional indulgence: cookies, ice cream, PB& J sandwiches (made with Skippy, not my usual organic sugar free peanut butter), Snickers bars leftover from Halloween. My healthy routine of devouring a daily bowl of kale was thrown out the window (mostly because I just couldn’t get any from the stores), and I ate and ate just to make myself feel better.
So, what do I have to show for it? Well, it’s not exactly ‘Sandy 7’ . . . but there’s no question that if I hadn’t stopped myself from succumbing to mindless eating, I’d be inching closer to ‘Sandy 17’. I was having flashbacks to when I turned 50, looked in the mirror and realized that almost 15 lbs. had been superglued to my body, and quickly understood that this was a road I had no interest walking on . . . ever again.
By late last week, as the city started to get back to normal, I got back to exercising and eating kale and all the other foods I genuinely love that make me feel good, and strong. Whatever weight I did gain is slowly going away. Like all of us, I’m still discomfited by the storm, but Sandy has done enough damage. No more mindless eating!
Now pass me those fries…
Starting a new business can be daunting and scary. It brings out every insecurity you can imagine: Will they buy it? Can I get the financing? Is this crazy? Will I lose all my savings?
It’s also frightening to consider leaving a marriage or starting a new one in midlife, or thinking about retiring. Any change can make us want to put the proverbial blanket over our heads and simply do nothing.
When I decided to launch Best of Everything Media, Inc., I stopped myself from moving forward because I was scared and felt alone. But, I quickly turned that fear into action by starting my own Board of Directors (which I also refer to as my “Kitchen Cabinet”).
Here’s how it works: The three of us (but any number of people will do) get together every week, without fail, at the same diner. Each one of us gets 15 minutes to discuss everything and anything that needs discussing. Usually it pertains to our blossoming businesses–or, as in one member’s case, getting a new job–but not always. Sometimes we talk about exercise, or men, or kids, or whatever is most pressing. But the real goal of this club is to get input, to brainstorm and to create a level of accountability that is often hard to do on your own. We leave the meeting each week with our own personal “To Do” lists, and the items must be checked off the list by the next meeting, or there’s a lot of explaining to do.
This is a very simple, but extremely powerful tool, and one which I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage you to embrace, especially if you are considering making changes in your life, and aren’t quite sure how to begin. This can be particularly useful for those of us who are over 50, unemployed and trying to figure out a way to get back into the workforce, or start a new venture.
As with many great ideas I’ve incorporated into my life, this one came from an incredible woman. Cozy Friedman is a successful and smart entrepreneur who saw the need for a new kind of hair salon for kids: fun, not just utilitarian. Almost 20 years ago, she started Cozy’s Cuts for Kids in New York City, where she now has two salons, and followed up with So Cozy Hair Care for Children products, which is sold in stores nationwide and online. Most recently, Cozy came out with a best-selling book, “Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girls’ Hair.” Both my daughters had their very first hair cuts at Cozy’s Salon–a NYC ritual–when they were each about one year old, way before I even realized that Cozy was a real person and that, yes, her name is actually Cozy.)
At some point, Cozy realized that if she was going to push aside her fears of failing and grow her business, she would have to take some risks. But even though she understood this intellectually, emotionally, she couldn’t get herself to make the moves she needed to make alone. That’s when this simple but powerful idea came to her: She would create her own personal Board of Directors who would hold her accountable, help her with key decisions and be there to support and encourage her when she was in the throes of self-doubt.
This turned out to be one of the best business and personal decisions Cozy has made. The group–the members jokingly refer to themselves as “The Diner Gals,” since they always meet at the same place.
While they may cover some non-business subjects from time to time, Cozy made it clear that this is not the morning version of a “girls’ night out.” On the contrary, it is quite serious, and every member is expected to adhere to the rules.
According to Cozy, the most important features of any successful “Board of Directors” are:
- Be on time
- Be committed
- Be honest
- Be supportive
- Be creative
- Be an active participant
- Don’t be embarrassed
- Don’t be afraid to share
- Don’t hold back
- Don’t judge
- Check your ego at the door
- Everything must be held in strict confidence
- Each member must be accountable to the group
- Expect greatness from each other
Sometimes it does take a village to get where you want to go.
There are so many words we could pull out of our hats to describe a woman over 50 with kids who still need her (whether they’re living at home or not) AND parents who need her, too. Sometimes even more.
A lot of us are members of that so-called ‘sandwich generation’ which, in my mind, always conjures up images of peanut butter and jelly coddled (or squished) between two pieces of equally important slices of bread (preferably whole wheat).
I prefer, though, to think of it in other terms: as an Oreo cookie . . . and I’m the yummy cream in the middle being hugged by two sets of sweeties.
But when you throw in work, partner, home, friends, community, dog, YOURSELF (yes, YOU!) . . . perhaps a ‘7-layer cake’ is a more appropriate analogy.
My youngest daughter is a freshman in high school, my oldest daughter, a freshman in college, and both my mother and mother-in-law have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (in addition to a multitude of other health issues). Sound familiar?
Every day, there are volleyball games to attend or help with homework, meals to prepare, bills to pay, household “things” to take care of, a dog to be walked, or I’m phoning, texting or emailing my oldest daughter as she works her way through the psychological maze known as the ‘first year of college.’
And, there’s work.
Simultaneously, it seems, I take my mother-in-law to doctor appointments, or I can be found cruising south along Rt. 13 on the 8-hour drive to Virginia (with earbuds glued to my head so I can carry on with life via iPhone without skipping a beat) to spend a few days or weeks with my mother so my sister can take a break and come back to New York to continue to bake her own ‘7-layer cake’.
For the moms, medications are carefully counted and placed in “day-of-the-week” plastic pill dispenser boxes, blood sugar levels checked, bills paid, and so on.
For the daughters, as long as they know I’m there for them, they seem to be just fine.
I move seamlessly from one woman to another, giving them each what I hope they need, when they need it, thanks to computers, iPhones, and my husband.
We are a family of hardworking, tough women. There’s all of us . . . and then there’s him. He watches a bit from the sidelines, my husband does, in awe and wonder (he told me not long ago), ready to jump in with support, whenever it’s needed.
But, instinctively he knows it’s me that the other women in his life need most right now, as each of them negotiates the unknown.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s a quick video with Brian Williams talking about the psychological impact of being part of the ‘sandwich generation’.
What’s your story? Share it here.
I do, and it’s highly recommended.
Good grief, not money!! But every once in a while you should take a look through his closet to see what you can take.
My most recent journey into his sacred space produced the perfect hat. Howard had gotten this Arnold Trilby hat by Kangol earlier in the summer, thinking he would wear it when he walked the dog.
He didn’t and still doesn’t.
So I popped it on my head . . . and I knew, just knew, I had found MY perfect hat. The best part is he was totally okay with it.
I’ve been known to take ties, jackets, scarves and even more importantly, ideas. You see, my husband is the shopper in the family. His idea of fun is to spend hours with his iPad searching for the perfect pair of jeans or shoes, and I rely on his investigative skills to fill me in on what I should and shouldn’t be wearing right now.
Me? I’d rather empty the dishwasher.
My favorite pieces were all gifts from Howard, including (and especially) my black leather motorcycle jacket (so cool, so soft, so totally perfect), which is something every woman (even us FOFs!) should have and wear with just about everything.
There are things my husband owns that I truly covet: his Belstaff jacket, for example, and his Nudie Jeans. I can’t steal them because they just don’t fit. But, I CAN be inspired by his exquisite fashion sense.
I know women who wear their husbands’ vests and neck ties with a crisp white shirt and a great pair of jeans for a very sexy look. And just yesterday someone told me she steals her boyfriend’s socks whenever he’s not looking.
I think my husband gets a kick out of seeing me wear something of his. Howard told me last week after I returned a scarf I had borrowed (which I had also knitted) that he loved how he could still smell my perfume (Jill Sander Woman III) lingering on the scarf. Nice.
Sharing clothes is a lovely thing to do, for sure. He just better not start looking through MY closet. That’s where I draw the line.
Hi. My name is Barbara G. and …
I have an addiction to kale.
I eat it, drink it, write about it. Once I even had a dream about a kale salad that’s served at a fab restaurant called Ouest in Manhattan.
I especially love kale lightly sautéed with sliced almonds and organic dried cranberries, with just a drop of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
I eat it every day.
Sometimes twice a day.
Often with brown rice.
If I’m going to be out of the house, or traveling, as I am now, a few bottles of Juice Generation’s Supa Dupa Greens comes with me.
Can one eat too much kale?
No, because it’s a superfood. Researchers have identified 45—count ‘em—different flavonoids in kale. Kale is also high in fiber, packed with antioxidants, and rich in vitamins—particularly vitamin K.
And don’t get me started on how much calcium one serving of kale will give you.
Kale just has a lot of good stuff in it. How could anyone eat too much good stuff?
Each day I wake up and worry that today will be THE day when I grow sick of eating kale.
What would replace it?
I guess it’s better to have an addiction to kale than to a lot of other things. Right?
Here’s my favorite recipe. Make at your own risk.
1 1/2 lbs. kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable stock or 1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
Dried organic cranberries
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine.
Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all (most) the liquid has evaporated. Kale should be brightish green.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and add cranberries and almond slivers.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Even though women over 50, across the board, earn less money than men and their younger counterparts . . . we give more. I guess our hearts grow bigger with each passing year.
The stunning study—Women Give 2012–was conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Boomer (and older) women gave a whopping 89% more of their total income to charity! Are we amazing, or what??
But why, you might be asking yourself, would a woman who could take that money (or part of it) and pay for some fab new shoes or a trip to Paris, instead give it to a charitable cause (hopefully she can also buy the shoes!!)? There are, according to the experts, a few reasons:
- We’re programmed to take care of kids, husbands, friends, parents, the world, so why wouldn’t we keep on giving?
- Women are more empathetic and can get more easily moved into action
- Men generally view charitable giving as a financial transaction, thinking about the tax write-off, whereas women are thinking about changing the world
- Women often get involved with and support (or event start) charities when they’ve had a personal experience connected to the charity (breast cancer, for example)
- Women are better at networking than men and the proliferation of social media has helped us to share information and stories related to charitable giving more easily, which is why the women’s philanthropic movement has been growing since the 1990s
- We’re just super cool
As a boomer babe, I was so proud to read the report and know that I am part of a huge (and growing) demographic that has a huge heart.
Do you give to charitable causes? And if so, why?
When I turned 50 a few years ago, I looked in the mirror and said, “Now what?”
That was the start of my new life as a post 50 FOF woman. I wasn’t an FOF right off the bat, mind you. It took a bit of time and work . . . and a lot of soul searching.
But, I had to start somewhere so I began by taking a really long, cold, hard look at my body. Not just to see how I “looked” necessarily, but how I felt, inside and out. Truth be told, I was a bit out of shape, had gained close to 15 lbs., was a bit tired some of the time, and imagined that this was what being over 50 was all about.
Appointments with doctors were made, which was something I had put off doing for what seemed like a very long time. Colonoscopy, annual physical, mammogram, and a DEXA bone density test. The works.
A few years earlier, when I was around 47, my doctor sent me for my first DEXA test because I was already perimenopausal and he wanted a baseline. At the time of the test, I was pretending to work out, by joining an expensive gym and never going, and that was about it. I was still an Atkins-style eater—low carbs, very few fruits and veggies, lots of meat, and very little calcium. Supplments? None. Vitamin D? Nope. I was still in that delicious “I’m invincible” mode. Remember that?
When Dr. Antoine sat me down to review the results of first bone density test he had a very stern look on his face. My numbers, he told me, were closer to the “borderline” than he was comfortable with, and I needed to take specific actions—immediately—if I was going to keep them from going on that slippery slope toward the big “O.” Strict orders were given: more calcium-rich foods, 1,500 IU of Vitamin D, strength training every day. Uh-huh, I said. Will do.
But I didn’t.
I stayed with my own program—which was doing nothing—because I was convinced that I knew better. Like all of you, I was busy with work, kids, friend, life. Who had time to think about it? And, I wasn’t yet fifty, and had gotten so used to excellent health my entire life (with not a single broken or fractured bone, not even a small toe) that I couldn’t imagine my bones would actually start to work against me.
Fast forward to that day I looked in the mirror and said, “Now what?” I made the appointment to get my second DEXA test, followed by an appointment with Dr. Antoine to review the results.
Here’s what it said: Osteopenia. There it was right on the report, in black print on white paper. Osteopenia.
I didn’t feel so very invincible at that moment.
Osteopenia is like the first stop on a train. In a few more stops you’re at osteoporosis. And just having osteopenia means you’re more apt to actually fracture a bone if you fall. In the few years since my last DEXA, I had done NOTHING at all to prevent this train from chugging down the tracks. The numbers were just slightly below the normal line and not in all areas, but the facts were clear—in four years I had lost a measurable amount of bone density. A trend had been established, and now the time had come to do everything I could to head off a train wreck.
With my new resolve to get strong and fit for life, I went to the best experts to tell me what to do and how to do it. My goal was to create a program that included cardio to strengthen my heart, lungs and lower body, burn fat, and lose (and then maintain) weight; strength-training to build muscle mass and bone density; and more activity throughout the week to keep my energy levels up and everything feeling (and looking!) good. All that I learned was put into my book, “The Best of Everything After 50,” so other women could do exactly what I was doing and hopefully sooner than I did!
A few years went by and last year, at the age of 55, I had my third DEXA test. Result? The all the areas that had been labeled “osteopenic” had improved and were in the “normal” range, while those that had been “normal” stayed right where they were. Good news for me because a few weeks later I ran the New York City Marathon! There’s no way I could have accomplished that feat four years earlier before I started to take charge of my health.
It was fantastic news and served to underscore three important things I learned since becoming an FOF:
- It’s never, ever too late to get fitter and healthier
- It doesn’t take very much to get there
- We can’t control getting older, but we CAN control how we do it
I am proud to report that the National Osteoporosis Foundation—the leading organization devoted to the education, prevention and treatment of bone disease– has decided that I should get an award! Not because I did such a good job at whipping my bones into shape, but because I write so much about it, inspiring other women over 50 (and younger!) to take control of their bodies and health.
If you’re in the New York City area, please consider joining us. I will have the honor of receiving the Generations of Strength Award at the annual “Mothers to Daughters Luncheon” (my husband and two teenaged daughters will be in the audience), and the award will be given to me by Gail Sheehy, the internationally acclaimed best-selling author. I am thrilled, proud, excited and nervous (still not sure what to wear!!), and would love to see all my FOF friends. Geri Brin, fabulous founder of FOF will be there to cheer me on!
In the meantime, take a look at this short video showing probably the single best exercise anyone—especially those over 50—can do to tone and strengthen almost every part of your body. After all, if you’re like me, you want to feel good and look good but you don’t want to spend hours getting there. Yay!