Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Caryl and Maryl discover: The Fountain of Youth

When we started Second Lives Club, one of our goals was to destigmatize aging. At first we couldn’t believe that we ourselves had crossed the border into a scary new decade. We didn’t feel our age, we hoped we didn’t look it, and our lives certainly didn’t resemble those of our parents when they were our age. We—and many of our friends -- were starting new careers, learning new skills (from Arabic to Bach to blogging), still raising children thru their prolonged adolescence (and often still living at home), traveling the world, running triathlons and falling in love all over again. Sometimes when we looked in the mirror we didn’t quite recognize ourselves but there was no denying the fire in our eyes and in our bellies. We had enough enthusiasm and energy for at least two lives. Through triumphs and tragedies, twists and turns, we have found our way and learned from our successes as well as our failures to create a more meaningful, joyful life. A second life. Why should we hide our beautiful, older faces?

One of our favorite bloggers, Tish Jett from “A Femme d'un Certain Age,” has been publishing photos from her readers in a glorious gallery of “Your Faces Through the Ages” for the last couple of weeks. It's been a refreshing change from the bombardment of images of women we often see in the media. (Think young, thin, vacant.) The women on Tish’s blog are in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. They have in common the insatiable urge to continue to make more of their lives. And, they share, in the vocabulary of the site: “A joive de vivre.”

When we started Second Lives Club less than a year ago and with more than a little trepidation, we each chose a nom de plume for our individual posts and showed ourselves only in silhouette. Well, we’ve come out of the shadows (see About Us), and we are taking our "banner" women with us (see About Them) into the limelight. We will be continuing to add new photos to the banner. So be sure to check often. You may even see yourself (Mary Kay!!!). And, soon we will
also be launching profiles of women describing their

second lives in their own words with trademark honesty, humor and humility.

While we are talking about coming out and owning our age, we got brave and sent a photo (see above) to “A Femme d'un Certain Age.” Thank you, Tish, for adding us to your sorority. “You look so happy,” Jett wrote in an email informing us she had posted the picture. “Maybe reinvention really is the true fountain of youth. Who knew?”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caryl reads: The Red Book

Someone recently gave me the galleys of a novel that comes out next spring called “The Red Book”. The reason for this unanticipated gift was because of my fascination with all things Harvard. (More about that later). The eponymous Red Book, for those unfamiliar with this tome, is a collection of short essays (three to five paragraphs is the suggested length), prompted by the Harvard alumni office and written by former students summing up their professional and personal accomplishments over the previous half-decade. These mini-memoirs are then published in a hard-bound book with a bright red cover and poured over by those who contributed (and those who declined) to see how they measure up against the only meaningful cohort—their classmates from the same year.

Author Deborah Copaken Kogan (Harvard, Class of ‘88) uses fictional entries from the red book as a structural prop to follow four Harvard women and their classmates as they come together for their 20th reunion weekend in June, 2009. Two decades after graduation, these women have for the most part all the accoutrements that accompany an ivy league degree: important jobs, successful marriages to successful men, brilliant children, beautiful houses, and second homes in beautiful places. But over the last few years, the real world--a deep recession, the deaths of parents, spouses and friends, infidelities and infertility—have begun to intrude. The women are faced with the inevitable mid-life question for which even a Harvard education doesn't provide an answer: What’s it all about?

Kogan's novel unfolds with even more questions. Should a high-powered banker leave her husband for her freshman boyfriend and first love? Should a stay-at-home mother of four children figure out a way to follow her deepest passion--the stage? Should the perfect wife mother and former Harvard "it girl" come out as a lesbian and start a business to support her family? Should a widowed foreign correspondent forgive her philandering new boyfriend and have his baby? These are just some of the plot twists Kogan's characters face. Each woman inevitably has to deconstruct her own biography and figure out how to rewrite or edit her life so the next entry in the red book will reflect more accurately the life she truly wants to be living. Or, as we like to say here at our blog: Your consciously-constructed second life. By the end of the book, Kogan’s four Harvard women of the Apocalypse are well on their way. The book concludes with future entries to the red book on the occasion of their 25th reunion. And, these newly-examined lives of the four women are well-worth reading.

* * * * *
By the way, I am thinking of writing my own entry summing up my past five years. The University of Dayton (where I got my BA) couldn’t care less but I think it will be instructive, at least for me. I am already realizing how much I’ve accomplished in terms of living authentically in the last half-decade. Why don’t you do a quick sub-total yourself? You can't see anything looking forward--the future's mostly white space--but the past can be illuminating.

(Photo Caption: Some of my red books, from left: my Kate Spade planner from 2005, my Filofax from 2002, my Kindle (a Christmas gift from my daughters, 2008), On Becoming a Person by Carl W. Rogers, copyright 1961 ( from the Chicago public library taken out --and never returned--OMG!!! --1972), The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan, copyright 2012; front center:my lizard Smyson date book from 2010, my Smyson address book (a Valentine's Day gift, 2009)

Post Script: If you want to sample Kogan's writing, see Second Thoughts for her non-fiction memoir.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maryl supports: The Occupy Wall Street protests

I'm thinking of joining the Wall Street rally this week.  Something about it just seems right.  Maybe it's taking me back to our protests of the 70's or maybe I'm just fed up with the continuing self-serving and unchecked trickery of the financial community.  
I had recently been in several discussions with friends about our economic crisis and the lack of accountability and corrective measures being taken for the future.  And that “the people” would need to take a stand since our politicians and civic leaders haven’t a clue or the clout or the inclination to do so.  Then  Occupy Wall Street happened and I was reminded of my earlier days when protest rallies for peace and women, racial and gay rights were fairly common.  What had happened since then?  Was it complacency or a better quality of life that had moved us back from the brink of despair and frustration.

I was delighted and supportive to see this effort being made but ambivalent when my daughter said she was going to Wall Street to find out what it was about and take pictures.  The media really only began to more fully cover the event after last Saturday’s arrest of 700 protesters.  I was nervous but felt I couldn’t keep her from experiencing one of our inalienable rights to protest and speak out….as long as we don’t stop commerce or traffic or provoke the nice policemen.  After all my parents didn’t object when I took off with friends to Washington DC to rally against the Viet Nam war. 

There’s a lot more organizing that is needed and goals and demands must be clarified before this Wall Street movement can have any kind of a positive impact.  But it's only three weeks old and already  the numbers are building and the rallies spreading rapidly across the nation.  Could it be a counterweight to the Tea Party movement or a way to pressure Congress to do something about regulation and job creation?  Wall Street workers (most of whom work uptown) have become vocal defending their work ethics and comparing themselves to those making up the 99%.  I’d hate to see the discourse going down this road and becoming personal.  The issues are with the financial institutions as a whole that are not going to self-regulate or change their marketing of products that have made them wealthy.  That’s got to come from somewhere else.  That's why I'm thinking of joining the Occupy Wall Street rally this week. It's the least I can do and it actually feels like the right thing to do....again.

All photos by Svetlana Blasucci

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maryl finds: Five fall fashion trends for all ages and sizes

What’s in my closet for fall?  I’ve attended Fashion’s Night Out; was early to the Jill Sander (+J) designer launch at Uniqlo; was one of the multitudes repeatedly kicked off the Target website for their latest Missoni designer promotion; shopped all my favorite department stores, boutiques, web sites and my closet.  (Caryl even stood in line at the new Century 21 grand opening.)  I’ve assessed the fall fashion looks through the second life filter and here’s my findings.  There's five trends that are fitting for all ages and sizes and that can take us through fall and winter 2011-12.  They are:

 1)    Simple sweaters and skirts (or pants).  They’re never out of style, just don’t pick out another black cardigan like Caryl!  So I did manage to score a couple of Missoni pieces which will work great with brown and black skirts I had from past seasons.  (In fact the black one is also Missoni but purchased at an end of season sale at Sak’s.)
2)      Tall black leather boots.   I mean real talllll….almost thigh high and you don’t need a heel.  What could be sexier aside from a thick platformed highhhh heel but who can walk in them?  (I’m not that well balanced – I can barely do tree in yoga class!)  I found these boots discounted at a department store outlet (Neiman Marcus)…probably there because they seemed like too much boot.  But not so.  The best news is that they fit up and over my calves.  I finally have a boot that I can wear over my pants without the zipper getting stuck half way up.
       Dior                                  Kate Spade                     Michael Kors
 3)      Reptile shoes or handbags or both, preferably black and white or two contrasting tones.  It’s the new "leopard print" for this year.  Of course the real thing will cost you in the four digits range but the reptile leather printed versions are quite attractive as well.  I have that Michael Kors tote in a shopping cart right now online at Bloomingdale’s!
Pendant against teal (the new black) dress
 4)      Long chain with a big pendant.  There’s some fabulous jewelry designers and stylists at work out there but who has the time to pile all those necklaces and bracelets and rings on?  Simplify!  I’ve seen quite a number of dresses and sweaters adorned with an effortless long chain – about 36 inches  - and an easy swinging pendant.  I just attached a couple of chains I found in my jewelry box and added a large locket.  I’m also eyeing one by designer AlexisBittar.  (Accessories are what differentiate you and make people take notice.  Shop your basic dresses, skirts and pants in your closet and make them look new with powerful accessories.)
Black wool +J sheath 
 5)      Fur accents.  I apologize now if this is offending anyone but if it’s any consolation the trend is not full length fur coats but fur trimmed coats, dresses, boots, handbags, gloves even jewelry.  Fur around collars and cuffs on coats and dresses isn’t anything new although the coats I’ve seen lately have the cuffs trimmed to the elbows and the collars plain with the fur on the bottom almost to the waist.  But an elegant fur collar on a simple coat and dress does wonders to not only liven it up but to take the focus away from a worrisome neck and chin line.

What to wear for fall?  It's really easy.  Shop the stores, the web and most important your closet; mix the old with the new, patterns with your basics, reptiles, fur - faux or real if you like - topped or rather bottomed off with more boot than you're used to. And don't forget the importance of accessories-- some safe choices (sentimental lockets) or not (Lucite baubles).  Fall wardrobe 2011 done; case closed!!