Sunday, January 29, 2012

Maryl asks: Do you really "like" us?

"You like me.  Right now, you like me!"
Remember those immortal words from Sally Field’s 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech? As much as they’ve been bandied about since then, who would have guessed they’d become the catchphrase for the current social networking craze? Today “you like me” is more than just words though; it’s a button that you click on a Facebook fan or business page and it’s not to be confused with “friends” on one’s personal profile page. The distinction can be fuzzy because big name brand companies have fan pages to ultimately promote their products whereas sites and blogs like SecondLivesClub have them to create a community that is united around a topic or manifesto. So we use Facebook to get followers and to follow others and ultimately to get people to this web site. The more people who “like” you the more people have the opportunity to see what you’re posting on your page. 

As much as I hate to admit it, we’re caught up in the hustle of getting more “likes” on Facebook. But if someone likes me is she really going to follow me? I try to keep up with all the pages we’re following but there’s over 300 now. SecondLivesClub currently has nearly 400 “likes” but some of the pages I go to have thousands. It takes time to build those kinds of numbers although I have a hunch some of them cheat. Well it’s kind of cheating: you can go to web sites like or and someone will get you 200 “likes” for $20, for example. These small job sites can fulfill a range of work assignments and needs for reasonable prices and have received favorable reviews. The issue with the 200 “likes” is that they will most likely not include your target audience and most likely not follow you.
SecondLivesClub targets Gen X and Boomer women, the fastest growing groups on social networks. A very effective way we’ve increased our “likes” and a following at the same time is with a practice started by a few of my LinkedIn women’s, business and reinvention groups. One person will start a discussion asking for members to leave their Facebook page addresses so others can check them out and “like” them if it’s to their liking, which it typically is since the group is already made up of like-minded people. I was part of a recent group discussion on the legitimacy of using one of these small jobber sites. In the long run it doesn’t pay off but it can be helpful for new business fan pages that need some early momentum.

So we’ll keep working the “like” numbers just because, but real success for us is when our followers comment after our blog posts. That’s how we find out what they think and are interested in and we love the input. Not everyone participates in this way and that’s okay too. I attended a social marketing seminar this week and learned that typically only three to six percent of a community actively comment and 30 percent occasionally. So like us on Facebook if you like but if you really like us, you can make a comment here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Caryl writes: The End of the Story

The 90-minute ride to the “charming village” followed the Hudson River due north from New York City, where I lived with my daughters in a mid-19th-century loft with fir beams, steel columns, and the original factory floors. You don’t get more industrially charming than that. More interested in the aesthetic arts than home crafts, I was a deeply urban creature. The only thing I had ever built was a fierce career. The only thing I raised was my consciousness—and of course, my daughters.

When I did fantasize about a place outside the city, it was rarely a cottage. I imagined myself in an eco-chic structure—perhaps prefab, even—that was distinguished but indistinguishable from the landscape, welcoming sunlight from every window. Not an inaccurately described cottage (it was nowhere near Nantucket) with a fussy garden in a too-quaint village.

Nevertheless, Mary Lou and I hopped aboard Amtrak’s Empire Service line and headed upriver. In less than two hours, we were lunching on homemade bread and soup at a Main Street cafĂ© and shopping in the notions department of a five-and-ten, an almost museum-quality replica of another time. Finally, we headed to The House. “If it has a trellis with roses, that will be the tipping point,” I said. “Tipping toward ‘Get me out of here.’“

We approached the corner of Mulberry and Chestnut streets (am I on a movie set here?), and there it was: the world’s cutest cottage. It had lilac French shutters (I could already see them in Farrow & Ball’s Studio Green), a white picket fence, and trellised roses. We were well beyond the tipping point. Inside, the two bedroom, bath-and-a-half house was tastefully decorated and pristinely maintained. (A rigorous inspection turned up a tiny chip in a soap dish.) Did I mention that the garden shed reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s writing shack at Monk’s house in East Sussex? I was certain the seed of a book idea I had been contemplating could florish there.

On the train ride back to the city, we hypothetically considered the house’s merits. It was easily reachable along a glorious train route. (I didn’t have a car.) It was in great condition. (I wasn’t handy.) It was enough for one (I was one) but big enough for my daughters to visit. (Later I would reprise their childhood room, complete with canopied cast-iron beds and their Steiff bear collection.) For the past few months since my mother’s death, I had been debating how to invest a small inheritance that sat restlessly in my bank account. Add some of the severance I received from a job I had loved and lost and the house would be mine. By the time we returned to Penn Station, I was ready to make an offer.

There were two other bidders, it turned out, but my all cash offer sealed the deal. (Thanks, Mom). The owners, a couple in their 80s, didn't attend the closing (which happened to fall on my late mother's birthday) and hadn't wanted to sell (their son insisted they move closer to him). Dottie and Joe were sad to be leaving their cottage, and that afternoon, when I visited my new house for the first time I found a welcome present: tools for the garden (from Dottie, a passionate gardener) and for the house (from Joe, a talented handyman), along with a directory they had compiled of local service people, including a slipcover maker and a septic tank repairman. Sometimes you choose a house--and sometimes a house chooses you. You just have to get on the train.

Thanks to all our commenters for expressing interest in the ending to my previous post, to my daughter Annie who typed in this entry and to Huck Hill who had the house photographed when I couldn't make it up this weekend because of snow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Caryl asks: Does she or doesn't she buy this house?

Here's an essay I wrote recently that appears on the last page of the February issue of Martha Stewart Living, the one with the cover of a beautiful tissue-paper flower heart that we will never make (and the cover line suggesting 147 ways to show your love.) The story, (which includes this picture-perfect illustration of a house I fell in love with), is called:


The newspaper ad read like a wish list of everything one might want in a second house---if one wanted a second house. "Nantucket cottage in charming village: bluestone patio, wood-burning fireplace, English garden." The listing didn't mention that the house was within walking distance of an independent bookstore, an art cinema, a health-food store, a yoga studio, and two farm-to-table restaurants. But it was.

Let's go see it," I said to my friend Mary Lou (aka Maryl). I wasn't really interested, but the two of us had a habit of taking trains to random destinations. Train trips assured a nice long visit with plenty of talking time, few interruptions, and on occasion, heart-stopping scenery. We were lucky this time. The 90 -minute ride to the 'charming village' followed the Hudson River due north from New York City, where I lived with my daughters in a mid-19th century loft . . . .

Now if you want to know how this little tale ends, whether I buy the house that was not my taste at all or if I just went along for the ride, you will have to read the magazine. Or, if I get five comments begging to know the answer (yes, it's come down to that), I will print the ending which, by the way, involves my dead mother, a kindly old couple and a Steiff bear collection (have to keep you interested). Or maybe you want to know instead how to commission a painting of your own home or a dream house or maybe the portrait is of one in the same. Well, I know a talented artist: the girl with the pearls shown here. But you'll have to leave a comment to find out her contact information. Looking forward to hearing from you on either account. Think of it as the 148th way to show your love.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Maryl eyes: Oscar’s Documentary Shortlist

The Oscar nominations will be out Tuesday, January 24. It’s the documentaries that interest me most. That was the film genre I worked in years ago. I even had one qualify for the documentary shorts category. There were 124 films that qualified for feature length documentary consideration this year and that list has been shortlisted down to fifteen. I’ve had a chance to see and enjoy only four so far.

Buck and Bill Cunningham revealed the rare livelihoods and personalities of two unusual men. Buck is a real live horse whisperer and was the inspiration for the film Robert Redford made famous. As remote as that profession is, it’s his back story that will make you wince. Bill Cunningham is the photographer and octogenarian who chronicles fashion trends on the streets of Manhattan, on his bike, for the New York Times. These boys are still on their first lives and probably permanently but they're having fun. 
Pina, the documentary on the brilliant German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, is one of only two documentaries on the short list about women. (The other one is on Dr. Jane Goodall.) Dance may not be to everyone’s taste but experiencing Pina’s expressive ballets explains why she was so loved and appreciated. Especially since the director, Wim Wenders, shot the film in 3D with his camera moving among the dancers. Unfortunately the film winds up being a tribute to Pina as she died suddenly just before production began. One can only imagine what she would have done second. 
That last somber thought underlies We Were Here, a documentary on the aids crisis in San Francisco. What makes this one especially moving is the five individuals who actually lived through the epidemic right there on Castro Street and tell us what it was like with heavy heart and tears. I remember travelling to SF during that time, looking up an old friend, David deCastro (apropos), and learning he had just died of AIDS the week before. He was a young man who bravely came out while in college and needed the freedom to express himself.  David was my best dance partner ever and a talented artist. Here was a first life that was just getting off the ground.

Over 15,000 people died in San Francisco during that dark period. AIDS drastically affected the death rates in New York City as well. But today better HIV testing and treatments are behind NYC’s recent highest life expectancy statistics. It would be a different world if we hadn’t lost so many to AIDS. We miss those that didn’t make it this far and value our second lives that keep getting longer.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2nd Look: Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda's Workout Book

Jane Fonda first wore this leotard on the cover of her famous 1981 workout book. Now more than 30 years later and at age 74, she put on the red and black striped number to promote her new exercise videos – Jane Fonda Prime Time. The series' title takes its name from her most recent memoir, which mixes tales from her own journey post 60 with scientific breakthroughs and self-help remedies. Unfortunately the videos don't show you how to stretch the life span of your spandex but they do provide Fonda-tested exercises to keep you fit and strong whatever your age.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Today is the first day of your 2nd life!

Second lives are always about fresh starts. Begin again, we wrote in our first blog post on the first day of last year, the opening salvo of Second Lives Club.

Second lives are also about fits. . .as well as starts. And, this holiday season we were catapaulted back into our first lives, filled with super-sized to-do lists and dominated by tasks directed mostly towards others (not bad). The feverish frenzy distracted us from our core values and we forgot that life's about the journey rather than the destination (not good).

Luckily, we knew to push pause --( that’s why you haven’t heard from us for a while): to stay calm and follow along with what we know works. We cooked indulgent meals (oysters and lobsters on New Year's Eve), we read in lazy stretches (The Marriage Plot and Steve Jobs), we saw movies, even a triple feature of our own making (A Dangerous Method, The Artist and Pina in 3D!) The first morning of the new year, we walked the beach—the sun was bright, the weather uncharacteristically warm, our spirits joyfully replenished.

We could see our true selves again . . . in the shadows cast upon the sand. (Our own version of ground hog’s day. A second spring is on its way.) We were moving forward once more, encouraged by every step—even the backwards ones--into a new year.