Yes, I Was A Baby!

While our kids’ merrily document their entire lives on computers, much of our past is memorialized through old photos, videotape or 8mm Kodak home movies from the fifties and sixties. And it’s all probably gathering dust in the attic because we no longer have the machines to show them.

Now you can bring your past to the present through digital conversions of your videotapes and home movies that you can enjoy right on your iPad, iPhone or computer.

Seven reels of film my dad took during the first three years of my life (1947-1950) sat in the closet for decades, until I recently learned that YesVideo could digitally convert them in less than two weeks. Not to mention the cost is genuinely reasonable, considering the priceless gift you’ll get. Each videotape conversion is $12.99 and 8mm reels range from $8.99 to $59.99, depending on their size.

I couldn’t wait to watch the 90 minutes of video once I received the link.

It was a unique experience to see my mom parading me around her Brooklyn neighborhood when I was weeks old, my cheerful grandparents attentively gathered around my high chair as my mother speed-fed me Gerber peas, and three-year-old me bottle feeding my own “baby doll” with anything but tender, loving care.

Each YesVideo order also includes a private online account, tools to create custom DVDs, free iPhone and iPad apps and online sharing. Colby and Simone, my grown-up offspring, loved seeing me as a baby (yes, I was a baby!) and my parents as 20-somethings.

It’s about time to dust off your memories, place your order and ship your film or videotape to YesVideo. You’ll also get an exclusive 20% discount until February 3rd. Use code FOF20 at checkout.

What’s more, you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win an iPad to show off your family’s memories.

Enter code FOF20 at checkout
for 20% off

and automatic entry in the iPad giveaway!

Click here to order

Offer will expire February 3rd, 2014 at midnight E.S.T.

I Surely Must Be Dying

Gulp! You discover a lump in your groin. Maybe you pee and your urine seems to have an unusual smell. Or you get your blood test results and learn that your liver enzymes are somewhat elevated. You head right for your computer and type in “lump in groin,” “unusual urine smell,” or “high ALT levels.” After reading a half dozen articles, you are sure you’re in the final stages of lymphoma, your kidneys are failing or your liver is riddled with cancer.

Worrying about a host of potential life-threatening illnesses is definitely not the fabulous side of being over fifty. But using the Internet to make a self-diagnosis only makes us worry more, and it’s usually needless worry. Even pretty good sites, like WebMD, can’t possibly tell us the significance of our lump, smelly pee or high liver enzyme levels. They can only explain what our symptoms could mean, which is kind of like telling us we could be hit by a car, a falling meteor, or a speeding bicyclist when we leave our house in the morning.

I have always believed that knowledge is power, that the more I know about something, the better I am equipped to deal with it. When it comes to health coverage on the “all-knowing Internet,” however, the more we read, the greater the potential of becoming confused, panic-stricken and woefully ill informed.

Making matters worse is the reality that “new media journalists,” with little to no education about the subjects they’re covering, are creating most of the Internet health coverage. Trust me on this. I’ve been an “old school journalist” for 45 years, and while no one “back in the day” would have been permitted to cover the health category unless they practically had medical degrees, that’s surely not the case today. Seems everyone now thinks they’re experts in all kinds of subjects, simply because they have the ability to post stories on the Internet. That may not matter when we’re reading about fashion or beauty, but it certainly matters when we’re seeking information about lumps in our groins or excess fat in our blood.

In fact, I did discover a lump in my groin about five years ago and although I ran to the doctor right away, I also scoured the Internet and definitively concluded that I had lymphoma. I just prayed it wasn’t the lymphoma that would kill me. I could find nothing that told me it likely was a benign cyst. After having a sonogram and surgery to remove the lump, I learned it was just that: a benign cyst, unknown cause.

Granted, the likelihood is small that any of us will completely keep our fingers away from the keyboard when we sense something is physically amiss. But I urge you to try and keep things in perspective when you embark on your online health research. While a suspicious lump, a high blood count or a pain in your lower back might indeed be an indication of something pretty serious, or even life threatening, there’s no point in giving yourself 12 more reasons to be stressed. Just get to a doctor you trust and get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

OK, Time To Stop Playing The Victim

By now, you might have heard the inspirational story of Des Moines woman, Brenda Schmitz, who died two years ago of ovarian cancer, at age 46. Before she died, Brenda gave a good friend a letter she wrote that she wanted read on her favorite Des Moines radio station “when the time was right,” which meant when her husband was about to remarry. Brenda and husband David had four sons together; the youngest was two years old when she died.

The time was right. David is engaged. After receiving the letter, Des Moines radio station, Star 102.5, called him to come and hear it read.

If you haven’t heard the story, I don’t want to tell you what the letter said, so please watch this video. Once you’ve watched it, think about your answer to this question:

Have you ever considered yourself a victim?

Of course you have. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, thought a boss was treating us unfairly, a boyfriend had deceived us, a competitor was “out to get us” or an illness was preventing us from doing something we desperately wanted to do, and was therefore something we “didn’t deserve?”

Brenda wasn’t going to see her sons grow up. She wasn’t going to enjoy growing older with David. She was losing her young life to a horrendous disease. But Brenda didn’t, for one minute, think anyone or anything was victimizing her. Not only did she accept her situation; she embraced it, determined to share her warmth, love and kindness, even when she no longer could physically do it.

I don’t really believe we’re “victims” of circumstances or others. Most of the time, I am the only one with the power to turn myself into a “victim.” If my house is robbed, I can call myself a victim and spend months bemoaning my losses and wishing that harm befalls the robbers, or I can accept what is. If I get an incurable cancer, I can spend the time I have left crying and pitying myself, or I can strive to be like Brenda and make something positive of the situation. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but the former option is pretty depressing.

“At all times and under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives,” said Werner Erhard, one of the leaders of the emerging self-empowerment movement in the seventies. Erhard’s “est” (short for Erhard Seminars Training, as well as Latin for “it is,”) offered intensive communications and self-empowering workshops “to transform one’s ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, [will] clear up just in the process of life itself.” I can constantly bellyache that my mother is self-centered, nagging, doesn’t listen to me and ruined my childhood, or I can accept who she is and choose to see how much she loves me in her way. “Create your future from your future, not your past,” Erhard said.

“Responsibility begins with the willingness to be cause in the matter of one’s life. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt.

“In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what’s so, and your stand,” Erhard also said.

“Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. That is not the truth. It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself—an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.”

Think about the difference between those who are able to survive—and thrive—despite horrific circumstances and people (e.g. living in a concentration camp during The Holocaust, being imprisoned when you’re innocent, getting a crippling disease) and those who cry victim over everything. Think about the difference between those who scream “why me?” when they learn they’re going to die and those who move through their dying process with clarity, grace, even growth.

That’s you, Brenda. You are my inspiration in 2014.

Does A Man Define You?

My mother was 66 when my dad died in 1988, at 69. He was the love of her life and although financial hardship, and then his cancer, defined the last years they had together, she weathered through them like a soldier. After mom sold their house in Queens, she moved to Manhattan and joined the 92nd Street Y, which offered a rich program for FOF women and men (I refuse to use the S word!)

I wonder why some women need men, even less-than-desirable men, to help “define” them.

At first, she dated two men she met at the Y, but reported that they were always kvetching (chronic, whining complaining) about one thing or another. “I took care of your father when he was sick and I have no intention of taking care of another man now,” I remember her declaring (mom was a declarer; she didn’t voice her opinions meekly).

Once she dismissed the two complainers, mom was perfectly content to play bridge and mahjong, attend Shakespeare and other classes, coordinate the Y holiday parties and go out with assorted lady friends for dinner, the movies, jaunts to Atlantic City for a day of gambling and buffets, museums and countless other excursions.

Mom didn’t need a man to be happy. She spent the next two decades with her Y family, her blood family and with herself. She’d be satisfied to return home after a full day, put on the TV and relax, an old photo of her and my dad always at her side.

I know many FOF women today who are just like mom. Their husbands died in their primes, and they never craved the full-time company of new men. They’re smart, attractive, self sufficient and lead fulfilling lives. Who needs a man if he isn’t going to bring something to the table (humor, culture, caring, money, sex!), they say. I wonder why some women need men, even less-than-desirable men, to help “define” them.

One FOF friend is the polar opposite. She has a boyfriend whom she sees often. He helps her out a bit, financially, and takes her to dinner and away for many weekends. Even though he’s still legally married, my friend cares most about having his companionship. She just doesn’t feel whole without a man.

When they’re asked to describe themselves, they start out by saying, “I’m married…” Marriage is a state of being between two people. When the union dissolves, does that mean you do, too?

What’s The Scariest Fact of Life?

My sister Shelley went to the wake tonight of a former colleague’s husband, who died of lung cancer yesterday. The man was diagnosed with stage 4 of the horrific disease only a few months ago. When I emailed Shelley to inquire how her friend was holding up, she responded: “She said her husband is ‘now out of pain.’”

One of the most difficult things about maturing (I hate the word aging), at least for me, is facing my mortality.

It actually gave me comfort to read that line and I emailed Shelley back, “No one should have to live with terrible pain that is going to kill them anyway. The mental anguish alone is bad enough. I am always grateful that daddy’s cancer wasn’t physically painful [our dad died of melanoma in 1988, when he was 69 years old]. Seeing him suffer like that would have been horrendous.

“If I’m ever in bad pain from cancer I will make sure to take so many pain killers all at once that I will die.”

One of the most difficult things about maturing (I hate the word aging), at least for me, is facing my mortality. I don’t want to be morbid, but it’s hard to ignore the subject of death when more and more people I know are getting sick and, yes, dying. And many of them aren’t octogenarians or nonagenarians; they’re decades younger, some in their fabulous fifties.

When I hear about young people, like the 40-year-old actor, Paul Walker, who lost their lives after taking needless risks, I am bewildered by their motivations. Doesn’t life bring us enough excitement, and normal risks, without having to seek pointless, and perilous, thrills?

As we approach a new year, my FOFriends, I hope that you all will take good care of yourselves, physically and mentally, so that you can live the best lives possible.

How To Tell If Someone You Know Is A Narcissist

I know a woman who constantly needs to tell everyone how great she is. Everything she does is fabulous, wonderful, brilliant and popular beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Her plans are always grand. Her posturing is insufferable. She also puts others down to make herself look good. She thinks she’s doing it subtly, but she couldn’t be more obvious. When she talks to me, I feel like I’m back at Francis Lewis High School, listening to a “popular” girl regale her hangers on about her dates.

I’m all for competition and I love winning. But I’m not the smartest, prettiest, nicest person in the room all the time and I’ve learned to watch out for those who announce they are. It often belies their insecurity, I’ve learned, or their narcissism. Really smart, pretty, nice people don’t need to broadcast their intelligence, looks and generosity. Their acts and their demeanor should speak louder than their words.

Sure, it’s nice to have a child who does great things, but why isn’t it enough to enjoy his or her success without shouting it from the rooftops (or the manicure chair?).

I put mothers who relentlessly brag about their children in the same bucket. Somehow, they feel that their offspring’s accomplishments demonstrate their matchless parenting skills. In fact, one often has little, if not nothing, to do with the other. Sure, it’s nice to have a child who does great things, but why isn’t it enough to enjoy his or her success without shouting it from the rooftops (or the manicure chair?).

Sharing nice things that happen to us and to those we love is delightful, but beware when sharing turns into soliloquy about son Jack’s Harvard acceptance or daughter Jill’s impending marriage to a doctor.

I decided to Google “are narcissists really insecure?” to see if anyone backs up my theory, and came upon an article by Dr. Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist and author, who wrote that obvious narcissistic traits—besides pretentious plans and posturing—include “the apparent absence of even a shred of empathy and the rage at being called out on the slightest of imperfections or normal human missteps.” Yep, when my narcissistic acquaintance talked about her sister-in-law dying of cancer, it was with the same affect of someone talking about a change in the weather.

Dr. Malkin also says narcissists “say and do things, subtle or obvious, that make you feel less smart, less accomplished, less competent. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘I don’t want to feel this insecure and small; here, you take the feelings.’ The narcissist loves to knock out your lights to seem brighter by comparison.”

Do you suppose that narcissists know they’re narcissists? Of course they do, I say. Some studies suggest that narcissists care more about being perceived as superior on traits such as industriousness, assertiveness and dominance, compared to traits such as honesty and agreeableness.

Narcissists don’t seem to care whether they’re thought of as good people. Being admired is more important than being liked. What’s ironic is that they usually can’t get enough admiration. They’re constantly looking for more, which further fuels their narcissistic tendencies.

50 Years Ago Today

I got home from Francis Lewis High School, in Queens, around 1 PM that day. A Friday, like today. I was 16 and a senior. My younger sisters were still at school and my parents were undoubtedly tooling around, a favorite Friday activity since my dad took off that day and he was the driver of the household. I was glad to have the house to myself.

I grabbed a few cookies and turned on Channel 2. Walter Cronkite was uncharacteristically at his CBS desk. I heard his somber announcement moments after it happened. President Kennedy was shot in Dallas and rushed to the hospital. I sat on the edge of the brown vinyl sofa in our small den and hung onto every word. We had to rely on reports from the TV folks on the ground in Dallas to learn exactly what happened. It was pretty sketchy, but based on the bits and pieces I was hearing, I knew Kennedy was dead.

At around 2 PM, Cronkite announced that the president’s death was “official.” We’ve seen the now-famous news clip over and over throughout the last half century: The usual stalwart Walter Cronkite choking up, barely able to deliver the news.

I had to talk to someone, so I called my aunt at her job in Manhattan. “President Kennedy was killed in Texas,” I cried. Like many of my peers, we were in love with him, even if we didn’t exactly have a solid grasp of politics in those days. We lived through the Bay of Pigs and Kennedy was our hero. We loved Jackie, too. We thought she was so beautiful. We wanted to be her.

My family sat glued to the TV for the next few days and watched history being made. I witnessed Jack Ruby shooting Oswald on “live” TV. To this day, I can remember calling to my mother, who was in the kitchen adjacent to the den, “Oh my god, Oswald was just shot.”

I was a naïve teenager in 1963. Kennedy’s death profoundly affected me. During the weeks following, I couldn’t stand to watch people having fun. When my 13-year-old cousin had his Bat Mitzvah about a month later, I left the party.

To this day, I have a hard time grasping the death of young and relatively young men and women (famous or not) with so much yet to give: Steve Jobs, James Gandolfini, Cory Monteith, and so many more. I cannot believe 50 years have passed since that horrific day in Dallas. But I am lucky to still be alive and to be able to appreciate all that I have.

I Have A Crush on William Shatner

I developed a crush on William Shatner the moment he and I started chatting.

“William Shatner?” you’re thinking. “You’ve got to be kidding!” you shriek.

I kid you not. I’ve watched maybe 2.5 episodes of Star Trek my whole life, and although one of my sisters was once an executive at Priceline, I never had much interest in Mr. Shatner. Actually, I never had any interest in him.

But when I received a call from a woman named Vanessa, asking if I’d be willing to come to California to be interviewed by Bill for a book he was doing, called Hire Yourself (coming out Spring 2014), I was game. Vanessa had discovered and, after reading how I launched the site in my 60s, she thought my story would make good material for the project. Hire Yourself, she told me, would be an inspirational book for people over 55 who are out of work or want to leave their jobs to launch their own businesses. (Bill, himself, launched a second career when he was older than I.)

My California accommodations weren’t especially glamorous (Burbank is not Beverly Hills) and the studio where the interview was filmed (do people still use the word filmed?) was really basic and dingy, but the room immediately lit up when Bill walked in to introduce himself to me and to a coffee entrepreneur from Hawaii.

Bill appears taller than his 5’10”, maybe because he’s got such a big personality. He speaks beautifully (he was trained as a classical Shakespearian actor in Canada, from where he hails). He doesn’t have that “I’m-a-star” demeanor.

And he’s just plain smart and passionate, I discovered during our hour-long conversation, which covered subjects such as what makes entrepreneurs successful as well as my personal career path.

A sharp interviewer (I speak from experience, since I’ve been a journalist for 45 years and have interviewed hundreds of people), Bill came well prepared, since he knew a lot about me. He’s also seems pretty insightful about human nature, a trait I don’t usually attribute to celebrities. And he’s got a keen sense of humor. (“Did you have to do anything special with your boss to get ahead in the 80s?” he asked me.)

The hour flew by and I could have gone on far longer, but the video crew and editor were anxious to move on to the next interview. As we walked out of the room, I told Bill, “Too bad you’re married,” happily, apparently, to his 4th wife, “Otherwise, I would have asked you to marry me.”

“I’d have taken you up on that,” Bill joked.

I wasn’t kidding. Maybe I’ll see him again at the book launch.

Fancy These ‘Fannypants’

Years ago, I took my mom to the drugstore to help her choose “adult diapers” for an incontinence problem she was experiencing. “Yuck,” I thought. “Never! I’d rather die than wear those.”

Today, I have “stress incontinence,” a condition that is far more common than you think (millions of women, post menopause, have it). Thankfully, I can deal with the issue in more agreeable ways than my mom, which include a new over-the-counter product, prescription medications and surgical solutions. And, I can buy honest-to-goodness lingerie. Sexy lingerie. Lingerie that would never give away my condition if someone saw me dressed only in a bra and panties.

A new company, which manufactures a line called fannypants smartwear, asked me to try its panties and let my FOFriends know what I thought. After wearing them for a few weeks, I can happily tell you that I’m delighted with my new fannypants. They fit beautifully, feel luxurious and wash well. Unlike other panties for stress incontinence (which have extra absorbent padding sewn into the crotch), fannypants are designed with four layers of protection, using a patented technology.

Fannypants smartwearPanty styles (from L to R) Venice, Midnight, Paris, and (pictured above) Balance.

First, a waterproof gusset insures that my clothes stay dry, and pockets built into the gusset hold a washable and removable “smartPad” in place. Each pad has three additional layers of protection: A biodegradable, chemical free organic Eucalyptus core surrounded by two microfiber layers that absorb “seven times more moisture than cotton,” according to the company.

By the way, fannypants also are perfect for all active women who experience “light bladder leakage” (LBL).

Fannypants are made of either nylon or cotton and Spandex, which provide nice stretch. Each pair is packaged, with two additional smartwearPads, in a waterproof travel pouch that can be tucked into your handbag. That way so you can slip out one pad during the day and insert a new one if you plan to go out for the evening straight from work. The pads and panties can be washed in the machine and tumble dried.

From L to R: Fannypants smartwearPouch, smartwearPad refills, and view of the smartwearPanty waterproof gusset.

Fannypants will cost you more than regular panties you’ll find in any mass merchant, but considering the comfort they provide (in more ways than one), and the quality construction, they are well worth it. I’ve been wearing the styles called Balance and Paris.

I’m pleased to tell you that FOF members can get a generous 20 percent discount on your purchase. Just enter fab-over-50 when you place your order.

Enter fab-over-50 for 20% off!

Click here to order

Offer will expire December 31, 2013 at midnight E.S.T.

It’s The Little Things: Benefits of Walks In Autumn

Experts consistently recommend that we fit at least 30 minutes worth of exercise-based activity into our daily schedules.

With so many beautiful colors, mild weather and a more relaxed atmosphere than summer, autumn is my favorite season for a walk. Whether you live in New York, London or a rural area, autumn and early winter have a distinct level of charm, and when you venture out during this time of year, you’ll notice that many others also want to experience the great outdoors.

Now that autumn has officially arrived, here are some benefits of autumn walks.

Maintaining & Losing Weight

Once the holiday festivities begin, it’s likely you’ll be less active. Walking during the period leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas will help you maintain a comfortable, healthy weight, as well as help you to feel energetic and good about yourself. Walking for 30 minutes, at 3 miles per hour, will burn 176 calories in most individuals. Invite your friends or use the walk to work through your daily stress. Keeping active also helps to prevent and manage various illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes. Walking is a low impact exercise that any of us can enjoy.

Remember—in order to be healthy, you MUST eat healthy and be active.

Lift Your Mood And Be Happy

Being confined at home, in the office or in a car for long periods of time is not good for your well-being. In fact, if you stay at home too long, it can make you feel frustrated and down. Walks will benefit your mental, as well as your physical, health.

Walking Tips

Although we learn to walk as babies, we can forget how to walk properly as we age. Quite simply, our technique suffers. This can result in blisters, sore feet, and even leg injuries. The most important part of walking is your posture, so focus on walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.

And make sure to wear appropriate shoes and clothing so you stay comfortable, even when the elements are against you. Besides coats to keep you cozy and allow you to move freely, always have a waterproof coat at the ready for those walks in the rain, I like this Windermere ladies waterproof jacket from Cotton Traders. If you choose a coat with fleece, it also will protect you when the weather turns colder.

I usually grab a comfortable (and sloppy) pair of sweat pants when I walk, but these Cotton Traders walking trousers will give you pizazz and comfort at the same time. After all, you never know whom you’re going to run into when you’re out for a stroll!