Friday, March 30, 2012

Maryl models: Her Miracle Dress

Maryl wearing Celeb Boutique "Miracle Dress"

You may recall last month I blogged about the pluses of Stella McCartney’s Miracle Dress (a.k.a. the Octavia dress). Due to its unique fiber and optical illusion design, it can compress excess body fat and smooth out curves before your very eyes. The only minus is the $1600 price tag. The knock-off I ordered from Celeb Boutique (CB) at 1/10 the cost finally arrived after being on back order all this time. 

Here’s my up-close and personal assessment based on three criteria and scoring of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest): 
Kate Winslet wearing Stella cCartney
"Miracle Dress"
1) Fabric: 3
Both dresses are made of synthetic fabric but the original has a softer and more substantial feel to it.
2) Body shaping: 2
There’s no miracle fiber with the CB copy. (The good news is that a Spanx body shaper can take up the slack and is much cheaper than the price differential between the McCartney and CB dresses.)
3) Design: 5
The dress looks the same complete with the bust and side seamlines. 

And I’ll give it another 5 for just being fun to wear. So what do you think?  I'm no Kate Winslet but miracle or not?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Caryl discovers: Undiscovered Florida--Part 2

If you haven’t been to Florida recently, you may be under the mistaken notion that the Snow Birds are still sitting in their beach chairs, riding their golf carts or tirelessly playing bridge--or worse, bingo. (Does anyone play bingo anymore?)  Well, you’d be wildly wrong.  The notion of retirement has changed, starting with the word itself. Here at Second Lives Club, it never passes our lips.  No one we know ‘retires’, they are fully engaged in their new repurposed lives.  

Many, in fact,  are living out their dreams. For example, one of my much older sister’s friends plays three sets of tennis a day and in her down time raises race horses. Last season, one of her horses was on track to the Kentucky Derby, which Kathy, the owner, described as “very stressful”.  (The horse didn’t qualify, and Kathy's and husband Bob’s heart rates have returned to normal.) Another recent acquaintance of my sister's, a widow who turned 70 recently, bought a night club in Chicago to keep her life interesting. She renamed the club previously called 12 West after herself: Marianna’s.  Roll your r’s when you say it--and please remember to call the former Mary Ann by her new hot cha cha name when you meet her.

My favorite “I have a dream” story belongs to Mary Lee, a former nurse from Guilford, Connecticut who relocated to Sarasota, Florida to open a museum. Her Second Life tale brings us to Part 2 of my "Undiscovered Florida" posts. (For Part 1, scroll back to our March 13 post where my sister and I dip our toes in the fountain of youth. . . and I try to pick up a man from Slovakia.) After taking the water cure in Northport, Florida, Pat and I hit the highway in a race to make it to The Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy before it closed.  The admission-free museum is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1pm to 4pm.  We pulled up in front of the flamingo pink building with less than a quarter-hour to spare.  
Mary Lee bought the former 5,300 square Buddhist meditation Center in 2008 for $1.55 million and opened it two years later as the Marietta (Lee’s given name) Museum of Art and Whimsy to house her light-hearted but wholly-impressive collection of folk art, painting and sculpture. "I like goofy things,” Lee told the Herald-Tribune in 2010. “But I also like quality.” Given our 15 minutes to tour (and our need to use the bathroom: see female torso sculpture displayed there below), I was  unable to formally interview Lee. And, she unarguably declined having her picture taken.  The Herald-Tribune article by Billy Cox, however, provides an excellent introduction to (and photo of) this fascinating woman.
Nevertheless, let me share a few critical facts about Lee. Along with her nursing degree, she graduated in 1991 from the nearby Ringling College of Art and Design in painting.  Her nursing and emergency room dramas provided subject matter for her paintings. "From a quasi-abstract take on hysterectomy, to a portrait of chemotherapy-induced isolation, to the horror of a family incinerated in a plane crash, Lee's brushes with darkness literally fill a book," Cox writes .  Is it any wonder she turned to whimsy?
Lee has a curator’s eye and a philanthropist’s pocketbook. In the garden—the only place photography is allowed (unless you count the bathroom),  larger than life size sculptures share space with  candy-colored tables and chairs purchased from Good Will,
native palm trees and plenty of faux flamingos. Center stage is a gleeful metallic ballerina rotating atop a stunning pink marble pedestal.  Lee imported 23 tons of the Stony Creek stone from her native Connecticut, the same material used in Grand Central Station and the Lincoln Memorial, to build the base. The museum may house the whimsical but the collection  is substantial in scope.  The same can be said of Mary Lee.  The woman, who is in her mid-60s, was locking the door at 4pm sharp, shooing us out and heading to an art opening that evening in Sarasoto,  I think.  Nothing retiring about her.
Post-script: If you liked the triumphant tales of Kathy and Marianna (cha cha cha) and museum founder/whimsy collector Mary Lee, you'd like us.  We hope to hit 200 "likes" by April 1.  Please go to the upper right hand corner of this post and click "like"; if you have already done so--thanks so much, and --please forward to a friend and ask them to do the same. We are counting
on you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maryl swallows: The hard truth about sleeping pills

We just closed our unscientific poll on the sleep habits of second lifers and reported that we are a very, very tired demographic. And now we learn this week from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that sleeping pills present more risks than rewards. They went online with a study that concluded patients using prescription sleep aids on a regular basis were nearly five times as likely to die over a period of two and a half years than non-users. Those using drugs periodically were at some risk too but heavy pill takers were even more likely to develop cancer. Yikes!

To be clear the research that comes out of the Viterbi Family Sleep Center at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego does not prove that these medications were the exact cause of these risks but that at the very least there’s a correlation between the two. Patients with sleep problems tend to have other health issues, such as cancer, heart disease, depression, to begin with or may develop them as a result of sleeplessness.

The study involved the use of benzodiazepine and barbiturate drugs and the more popular non-benzodiazepines, such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata. I’m often faced with the quandary at 2:30 in the morning whether to give in and take a pill and risk feeling groggy the next morning or to continue plumping my pillows and pretend sleep is imminent. I guess this study will help with that dilemma.

So where does that leave us? We’ve already had to rule out Hormone Replacement Therapy, which quelled night sweats and anxiety that can keep women awake at night. Over the years my doctor has prescribed several antidepressants, such as Zoloft and Effexor, the anti anxiety drug Xanax and Gabapentin, a drug used for seizures that also treats hot flashes. None of these were worth the morning after dizziness and drowsiness and they shouldn’t be used long term. Basically I’m not a comfortable pill taker. So at my last visit, my doctor tossed out “just take some Benadryl,” which targets allergic reactions and has quieted many a small child on those long car and plane trips.

Benadryl….I can do. It’ll work on my sinuses too. It’s also the PM component of Tylenol PM and other sedative antihistamines that several friends swear by. But then I read about the danger of anticholinergic drugs, which antihistamines as well as many other popular painkillers and antidepressants are classified as. The cumulative effect can be cognitive impairment and memory loss and heavy users had an increased death rate in a recent study conducted by the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in England. Oh no!

You can’t avoid some of these medications but you can be sure to make your doctor aware of all that you are or have been taking so that you don’t experience an anticholinergic overload. And they probably shouldn’t be prescribed to older patients who have likely been taking them regularly for many years already. If you would like to know which drugs fall under this classification (and sometimes ignorance is bliss), you can acquaint yourself with the Anticholinergic Burden Scale here. A score of three is the most serious.

So now where are we? Drugs are not bad unto themselves. It’s the frequency with which we take them and how we balance the variety of medicines that are now available for whatever ails us. But sleeplessness can be chronic. Maybe we should take those healthy sleep habit tips (no daytime napping, darkened room, etc.) we’ve often skimmed past more seriously? Learn from our rare friends who sleep like a baby? My 94 year old aunt told me at lunch today that the only time she remembers not being able to sleep was when she was a toddler. Her mother made her a cup of Ovaltine and tucked her in. Hm. Could be the Ovaltine that worked. Or just maybe it’s the being tucked in we all miss?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Caryl visits: Undiscoverd Florida--Part 1!

I’m not one for the Sunshine State but my much older sister, who lives on a small island off the Gulf Coast, was celebrating a significant birthday, a number that matters little to her but I can barely say aloud.  The first night I arrived there was a small party which Pat (my much older sister) was unable to attend because she had caught  a 24-hour flu that very day. It was still a fun gathering of spirited women of many ages including a spritely one in her 90s, whom was celebrating a different occasion. She had just passed her driver's test and told me: “I can now drive until 2018!”  Ahh Florida!

Once Pat felt better, we decided to go off-island.  In the process of our road-tripping we discovered a couple of points of interest I doubt are in many guide books.  We are always in search of new horizons, both physical and mental.  And, on the last day of my brief visit, we hit the jackpot finding two places: one that renewed the body and the other that tickled the mind.

Not far from Sarasota in a town called Northport, we came upon THE MIRACLE WATER! This little-known pool contains nine million gallons of healing water filled with 51 minerals—more than Vichy or Aix les Bain in France, or even Baden Baden in Germany.  The waters have the highest mineral content of any in the United States, all heated to a bathtub-like tempeature of 87 degrees. Back in the 16th century,  the Native Americans had told Ponce De Leon about a place that could make people young again. While in search of this fountain of youth, he came within footsteps of this site. Today the National Register of Historic Places lists the locale, and a small fountain and marker at the entry documents this is indeed the place de Leon had been pursuing.

So why haven’t you heard of it? Maybe because it is a nondescript place with tall, dignified palms and tacky plastic chairs. In other words, it hasn’t been gentrified yet.  Consider its (marketing) slogan, for example: “You’ll feel better.”  Where's the hype? What about looking younger? There are no deeply-tanned bikini-wearers with their Louis Vuitton beach bags and La Mer sunscreen here. Rather the crowd we saw were mostly Eastern Europeans and Russians wearing sometimes wacky hats--one woman had a flower-covered sombrero-- and conversing in their native dialects while clinging to flotation noodles. A man I encountered neck-deep in the waters told me he was orginally from Slovakia and had relocated to Toronto but had been coming to these springs for more than 35 years.  A fairly fit and healthy fellow, he applauded the properties of the water for balancing out the toxins of modern life.

Pat and I only stayed a few hours, enjoying the warmth of both sun and water.  We had gotten used to the smell of sulphur and almost didn’t mind the straight-backed chairs. We read the local papers--those are Pat's decidedly youthful gams above--between dips and found out the county government had approved a proposal to upgrade the mineral waters to more spa-like facilities. Once we had slipped out of our swimsuits and into street clothes, we agreed our skin did feel silkier-- and my knees barely ached despite the previous day's four-mile-long beach hike. As we got back in our car and headed toward I-75 and our next adventure, I swear the birthday girl (that's her below) looked a mere 60.

Part 2:  The Museum of Art and Whimsy

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The polls are closed. Your votes are counted.

And the real winners are the 9% of us who have no problems sleeping at night with the 25% who aren’t worried about going gray. We’re referring to the two polls* conducted on this site for the past few months that asked “What’s your biggest sleep problem?” and “At what age will you let your hair go gray?”

No wonder we’re so tired. Over half (58%) of us wake up in the middle of the night. Add to that another fifth (19%) who can’t fall asleep at all and can probably identify every plot of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” within the first three seconds. That makes three-quarters that are tossing and turning and wondering how they’ll get through the next day without yawning nonstop. Finally there’s the 16% who give up and take the little pink (or white) pill and wonder if someday they will ever be like the 9% that sleep throughout the night.

Is going gray keeping us up at night? The 29% who agree to put bottle to head said loud and clear that they will never go gray. Nearly half will let nature take its course but on their time table: some 7% are okay with being gray after 50, 17% after 60 and 21% after 70. A quarter take the laissez faire path…..whenever it happens. Bet you natural beauties overlap with the ones that sleep like a baby.

highly unscientific, randomly selected, on-to-something results.
    The least takeaway being we think about sleep and hair.

Now look to the right for the next burning question: How much makeup do you usually wear?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Caryl takes: A second look at Second Look

You've come a long way,  Ms. Ireland
When we started Second Lives Club 15 months ago, we had many goals, not least the desire to destigmatize aging. We also wanted to celebrate how women continually reinterpret themselves throughout their lives. The intersection of those ambitions is Second Look where we feature women whose beauty comes from living a confident life. Sometimes our subjects have been in the public eye early in their lives when their physical attributes outshone their accomplishments. When you take a Second Look at these women now, there is more integration of who they are with how they look. They’ve honed their game; they have built on their former experiences; their lives—not just their looks—are why we admire them. And, of course, their staying power.  As we say
in the tag line (and I've said before): Second Look reveals "The beauty of a confident life."
Maryl and I will continue to take a Second Look whenever it is timely—or catches our fancy. Sometimes it will appear on the left side and be a single, contemporary photograph of the subject. (But we want to make sure you know to click on the current picture to see the subject’s earlier self. Give Penelope Tree a try right now if you haven’t already done so.) Other times like today, a Second Look may warrant a center post with "then and now" photos side by side. You may have forgotten that Kathy Ireland in her first life was a model and three times the “cover girl” of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. But did you know now she's a highly successful entrepreneur? Today, at 48, Ireland is the CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a company that sells $2 billion annually in merchandising, mostly home furnishings and barely a swimsuit, outpacing Martha Stewart (another former model). The mother of three children, Ireland earns between $350 to $400 million annually from a brand that is predicated on “finding solutions for families, especially for busy moms.” She aptly depicts the beauty, brains--and confidence--it takes to continue to move forward in life.  A Second Look is more than just another pretty face.

(Please remember to "like" us.  We may be confident in real life,
not nearly as much on Facebook. We are trying to hit 200 by
April 1.)