Monday, April 30, 2012

Caryl recounts: Anna Quindlen and Me

I met Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, author and, according to her newest book jacket copy, America’s laureate of real life, when we were both young mothers. Anna lived in Hoboken, and I lived in a Greenwich Village brownstone on the property of St. Luke’s where her children went to school. She’d schlep her children by path train across the Hudson River to the school yard. I could watch her from my kitchen window give her kids one last kiss, sometimes several last kisses, another hug. (I also remember watching Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor, arrive by town car to drop her children. I don’t remember kisses.) On those same school mornings, I’d wait with my girls and our over-eager beagle puppy for the bus to their public school in Tribeca. At least once, Anna (Quindlen, not Wintour) came upstairs for a cup of coffee, and we talked about our lives in our 30s.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Maryl wishes: Happy Birthday to Eileen

We have another birthday this week. My older sister Eileen would have been 65 today…..more on that momentous age in a moment. Eileen died from encephalitis at age10 before there was a successful treatment for the disease. I’ve lived my whole life wondering what it would have been like to have an older sister, how my life would have been different, and more so what Eileen would have done with hers. I imagine she would have been in a creative field. She was a very sensitive little girl, she liked to draw daffodils and our father was a graphic artist.

Me and Eileen

So would Eileen be retiring from an advertising agency, a design studio, a fashion house or an art school this year? Probably not if you look at a recent AP/CBS poll that finds 73% of baby boomers plan to work past retirement and that number continues to increase. Some are doing it for economic reasons, others because they enjoy the stimulation they get from working or pursuing a vocation of their own design. It’s interesting to note that almost half of the 7.4 million self-employed workers in the USA are baby boomers according to the US Department of Labor. And a third of them began working for themselves at or after age 50.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Caryl lists: 17 Things I've Learned in the Last 5 Years (about life at this age)

That's me in the hat celebrating a milestone birthday at the Taj Mahal.
Birthdays, like reunions, are occasions for looking back--and since my birthday is tomorrow, I thought I'd share with you as I promised in my last post what I learned in the past half decade. I was surprised how much more of life has come into focus. I was shooting for 5 things but stopped at 17 because I know your time is precious.

By the way, this is neither the format nor the tone of Harvard's Red Book because if there is one thing we have all learned in our second life,  it's that we can do what we want now (and we really don't give a damn what other people think).  Clarity, in fact,  may be the prize for being this age (see #16).  So here's what I've learned--from the trivial to the imperial--and in no particular order:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Maryl puts: Her better foot forward

That would be my right foot. More on that in a moment but first did you happen to see Habitually Chic’s post last month about the latest must-have Charles Philip slippers. Those who left comments were drooling over them, and that’s how I found out that they ran wide. Yay! I found a selection online and ordered the ambrosial shoes right up.

The slippers are handmade from shirting material in a variety of solids and stripes and reasonably priced but it’s the packaging that really blew me away. They arrived in a reusable lined box with a magnetic flap closure and with an embroidered cotton shoe bag, a beaded and satin toe cushion and bamboo shoe tree. The packaging just might be more beautiful than the shoes themselves. 

I held my breath as I slipped them on. I’m in love but heartbroken at the same time, and I’ll probably have to return them. Can you guess why? It’s my darn bunions, especially on my left foot. There’s no heel but the shoes are stiff unlike my Repetto ballet flats that are like being barefoot (but probably worse for your feet without any support) or my Tory Burch’s signature flats that feel fine for the first three to four hours before the rubbing against the sides of my toes becomes really annoying.

I go back and forth with the big question those of us with bunions consider -- whether to have surgery or not. I’ve been to two podiatrists and one orthopedic surgeon over the years. The first podiatrist dissuaded me from having the surgery for the usual reasons—the real possibility the bunions could reoccur and the long and painful recovery time. He wouldn’t even allow his wife to have the operation. (They had two small children and who would take care of them!) The second one gave me inserts but had her scalpel at the ready. She is a regular contributor to network news, a number of women’s magazines and the book, Bad Shoes and The Women Who Love Them (I’m afraid that’s me). Her overall mantra is that high heels destroy your feet. The surgeon I saw advised against surgery all together for the most reassuring and persuasive reason—my type of bunions wouldn’t keep me from being active later in life.

Strappy sandal
So medically, I’m good to go, jog, run, Zumba! But aesthetically, my feet are not so good to look at and it’s not that easy to camouflage distorted big toes. Numerous pedicures are not a cure for toes that deviate in the wrong directions. Shoe shopping—once fun—has now become a soulful event as I eliminate designer shoes because the toe box isn’t wide enough and pretty sandals because a strap cuts across and puts too much pressure on the knobby area. Must I reject my Charles Philip slippers too? Is there nothing I can do? 

Thong sandal
I went online again where you can find non-surgical treatments such as toe spacers, night splints, bunion booties, padded inserts, shoe stretchers and more. Do any of these work? I don’t know, does anyone?  I also found a very helpful discussion board at, which addresses some of these recommendations. In addition, a search will return that specializes in “fashionable finds for fussy feet.” It’s an attractive and informative site but you won’t find any Manolo’s or Jimmy Choo’s here.  

Even my Tods
hurt after an hour!
At least for summer, I have my gold Italian thong sandals and another black pair where the straps just miss the bumps on the sides of my feet….as long as no one stares at my feet for too long. I have  flats and some heels that I can wear for limited periods of time and for as long as the bunions don’t get any worse. I’m going to look into those non-surgical devices more seriously and would welcome comments as to which ones are more successful. But that still leaves me with what to do about the Charles Philip slippers? Well . . . if nothing else, they make a nice still life.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Caryl sums up: A Half Decade of Life

How much a difference does five years make? Well, if you are a newborn, those first five years are supposedly the most critical. But what if you are our age, does life change that significantly in a half-decade? Is it important to tally up occasionally just to understand where you’ve been and where you are heading? Isn’t that the value of sub-totaling? There’s still opportunity to influence the final tally. There is, isn't there?
Deborah Copaken Kogan
The reason I was thinking about this particular increment of time is because Deborah Copaken Kogan’s new novel The Red Book just came out. I wrote about The Red Book earlier at Second LivesClub, and I interviewed Kogan for Publishers Weekly. The actual red book is a legendary document among Harvard graduates. Every five years following graduation and until the day they die, Harvard alumni receive a hardbound crimson-colored book filled with the mini-memoirs of themselves and their classmates. The entries contain the usual biographical data (addresses, emails, occupations, spouses, children) and a short narrative (three to five paragraphs) putting their successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies into context. As someone who has dated several Harvard boys in her time, I can tell you that much time is spent finding just the right words and the perfect tone--all the while recasting events in the best light possible. My last Harvard boyfriend-- class of ’71-- had all his red book volumes lined up on his bookshelves somewhere between his Fitzgerald novels and the collected short stories of Hemingway.  (Note: They were shelved in fiction!) 
In her new novel, Kogan (Harvard ’88) follows four female friends who reconnect at their 20th reunion. Over the next five years and against the backdrop of the current economic recession and their own midlife crises, the women reconsider their future, what they really want from life. By the end of the book and their 25th reunion red books entries, they have put into motion some radical changes that end up altering the course. Or, as we would say here at this website, they had begun rewriting the plot line for their second lives
If you had to sum up the last five years, what would you write? What are your highlights—and lowlights? Would the entry reflect your shifting ambitions, how you've kept alive your earlier passions or find new ones? Would your entry acknowledge who you really are right now---or would you shade the truth? The book trailer for Kogan’s novel suggests: “There’s the story we tell the world, and then there is the real story.”
My alma mater
If you want to know what I’ve been up to for the past five years (even though my humble college in the Midwest has no such tome), just leave a comment here.  I might even tell you the secret Kogan told me about how she was able to write four books and raise three children at the same time. I am pretty sure she didn't reveal it in her red book entry.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Maryl tries: Online Dating

I have been looking for a partner for a while now in the usual places and not having any luck. Finding the right match with the ideal background, age, trustworthiness, level of commitment, willingness to be monogamous and whose personality complements mine is quite the challenge. I have to be able to really communicate with this person; we have to “click.”

My family and friends have been very supportive in helping me find someone; my husband especially.  He thought I should just go for it. They understand my need for a partner in order to get my online brand business off the ground and how critical it is for her/him to have the right character traits and skill sets that enhance mine. I had exhausted my network, worked my LinkedIn connections and couldn’t join one more Meetup group. So I turned to online dating.

Start-ups are on the rise and great business ideas and the resources out there to help get you going are endless. There’s a growing recognition that this all begins with a great partner or co-founder. Just go to and search under “co-founder” and take your pick.   For that matter, go to Google and search the same.

I’ve already found, which is an online and in person matchmaking service for entrepreneurs who want to launch a startup together. “Think eHarmony for entrepreneurs.” There’s also that leverages “advisors’ experience and expertise to create pre-screened matches between founders.” And (founding startups) has a personal account of one women’s quest for her ultimate soul mate.

But I went to first and completed a profile. “FounderDating brings together super talented entrepreneurs with different backgrounds” and attributes and helps you find someone who will complement yours. They conduct in person sessions in various cities and, sad to say, I didn’t make the cut off for last month’s event closest to me. I was told not to think of it as a rejection as the selection process is based on assembling the right number of candidates together with the most complementary expertise. So there may have been too many applicants with brand marketing experience like mine last time and I’ll try again next month.

The marriage metaphor is the right one for this step in building my company. So I’ll keep on dating until I find “the one.” Do share any similar challenges you’ve had in the Comments below but please no fix-ups. I’m too old for blind dates.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Caryl reveals: Lies, Dyes and her Miracle Dress

First of all, I lied.  Not even a little white one, this lie was many-hued.  When I told you in my last post that I had given up the Easter ritual of dying eggs, it wasn't true.  The thing about giving up family traditions, you have to get the family onboard. When my daughter and I arrived in the country this weekend and she spotted the chalk eggs, she exclaimed with audible horror:  “You mean we are not going to dye eggs this year?”  So we did. (I told you that ours never look Martha's, and they especially don’t look like Martha’s on Econesting. (Check out this terrific site and the incredible eggs pictured in the 4/7 post.)

I remembered that last Easter I was in New Delhi. It
happened to be my birthday as well so I went to the Sacred Heart Cathedral for mass and then to an Indian friend’s home for lunch.  I was wearing the bright yellow dress (shown below) over hot pink silk pants. I imagined I looked like the modestly dressed locals but I think I looked more like a psychedelic egg. I own this same dress from Dosa in silver-grey and an iridescent green and love them both. But the yellow, which I bought on sale (I forgot the cardinal rule of never buying anything on sale that you wouldn’t pay full price for) was a disaster.
As long as I was dying things this Easter, I decided to color my dress, give it a second life--so to speak. I used Rit’s (remember that stuff?) color extraction to remove the baby chick color. Initially, it turned the dress the color of early summer peonies, then white (except for the yellow thread).
Step 1: Color Extraction

Next I prepared the dye, using two packets of Rit’s Navy Blue. I moved the whole operation outside, where it couldn’t stain the blue stone patio. By now, I was really into this crafty scene.  Generally, I’m not much of a DIYer except in the country where I do things I never do in the city (like garden and cook!). 

Step 2:  Dye Mix
 Voila!  The dress came out navy blue. It was a miracle, if not a miracle dress.  I am pretty sure that Rit stuff was not exactly natural, however.  The directions said to wear gloves and to not inhale the dust from the packet. I wondered if I'd see another Easter.

Last year, after Delhi, I flew to the little-toured Indian state of Orissa and met with champion weavers who were making extraordinarily colored Ikats from natural dyes. But, alas, I didn’t have any cow dung available  this season; it makes a beautiful deep red. I do have plenty of flowers and berries and seeds, however, and according to a New York Times piece last week I can learn to make natural dyes.  Instead I just picked my garden's offerings for a spring bouquet and put them next to my chalk eggs, which I intend to keep until next year when I hope my family will be more accepting.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Caryl drops: The Eggs

Yes, that’s my stone table in the country.  I was dashing back to the city earlier this week but knew my daughter and I would be returning for the weekend and wanted to have something evoking Easter to welcome us upon our arrival.  I love traditions; it’s the connective tissue for the generations and a momentary meditation amid our fast-paced modern life. I can recall with pleasure coloring eggs with my young children, hiding them wherever we were for the holiday (Grandma’s house, Maryl’s house, Florida, Jamaica).  Our family is scattered this year: two of us are in New York, the other two far-flung (Toronto, Prague), not to mention my daughters are 28 and 24.

Nevertheless, I pulled out the yellow wooden chickens my grandfather made for my mother and her sister more than 80 years ago.  I use them every year to hold the  hard-boiled eggs we’ve colored.  Then I remembered I hate coloring eggs! It’s messy and disappointing (ours never looks like Martha’s) and wasteful (you can’t eat them, right? I never have been quite clear about that.)

 Still eggs are widely used in all cultures as symbols of new life.  And you know, how we love new lives here at our website. So I broke out the eggs.  What do you think of the ones in the picture above?  They are made of chalk and I found them at a general store called Sickle’s in our country village.  At Second Lives, we love rituals, AND we really love short cuts!
                                      *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Oh—and one more thing, I’ve been meaning to remind you that April is National Poetry month.  If you go to, you can register to have a poem a day sent to your email address every day. Like traditions, it’s a literary kind of connective tissue, an inspiring meditation.  Whether you celebrate Easter or Passover or just Spring, I wanted to send you a favorite poem from a favorite poet of mine to acknowledge the occasion and to thank you for stopping by in this busy world to spend a little time with us at Second Lives Club. It’s even about eggs.

With Thanks to the Field Sparrow, Whose Voice is so Delicate and Humble
Mary Oliver
I do not live happily or comfortably
With the cleverness of our times.
The talk is all about computers,
The news is all about bombs and blood.
This morning, in the fresh field,
I came upon a hidden nest.
It held four warm, speckled eggs.
I touched them.
Then went away softly,
Having felt something more wonderful
Than all the electricity of New York City.