Daily (ok, Weekly?) Thoughts: April 23, 2020

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Ok, so I’ve skipped a few days. Or weeks. But does anyone really know what day it is anyway? We’re in our SIXTH week of staying at home and social distancing and I don’t know about you, but even though I’m used to working from home, one day just seems like the next.  So, let’s try to stay grateful, engaged and entertained…

Gratitude: I started working from home in 1993 and have never looked back. All those years ago, there was no Zoom or Skype and I was actually glad for that, given one of the huge benefits of working from home is cutting down the commute time to that thirty-second stroll from coffee maker to desk in PJs, sweatpants, workout clothes – whatever – and not having to do the hair, make-up and dress routine.

So I’m grateful that I have a job that can be done from home and that I’m already accustomed to that routine. All that said, I’ve turned on my camera regularly since this pandemic began because there is so much comfort every day in seeing the faces of my team members and all those with whom I work. I guess that means I’m also grateful that technology has progressed and allowed me to do all of these things. But all those folks who are telling you that you have to get up and shower and get dressed for the office in the morning and only work from your designated workspace and so forth…I mean, if that works for you, go for it. For me, I’ll be in my yoga pants and moving around from my desk to the kitchen to the table in the backyard and happy that I can do so.

Related Quarantine Thankfulness:

Thank you to my hairdresser, Randall Koff, for saving my hair. Given I’ve been on camera more during these Zoom calls, it’s inevitable that first-world vanity would return. Specifically, I had to wonder, how did that grey overtake my entire head of hair?! Thanks to the ingenuity of my hairdresser, I solved that problem last weekend. I made a Venmo payment and she dropped off a home color kit on my doorstep, customized with my hair color and containing all of the things I needed – gloves, clips and most of all – instructions – so that I could apply my own color. With a bit of help from my daughter (the back is very tricky), I successfully applied the color and while we missed a few spots, overall, I’d have to say we did a pretty good job. I feel like myself again and I’m so happy to support Randall until she can get back into the salon and begin seeing clients again.

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Thank you, Sara Goldin, one of the excellent Pilates instructors at Club Pilates for saving my broken body. I found out from a couple of friends that Sara, one of my favorite instructors from my Pilates studio, was conducting daily classes via Zoom. I jumped on twice this week and couldn’t believe what an excellent workout she packed into a little less than an hour. I’ll definitely be returning to the mat with Sara many more times so I can get back into my pre-quarantine shape (or at least as close as possible to it).

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Thank you, Staples, Target, Wayfair and a little help from my family members for my reimagined office space. Despite the fact that I’ve been working from home for 20+ years, I never paid much attention to my office space.  It has a desk, it has a window, it has a chair. I guess I didn’t think there was a point to making it pleasant or interesting and once my laptop and mobile phone became my primary tools, I could make the living room, the kitchen or the backyard my office, too. But given I’m connecting much more often via Zoom these days – both for work and for more recreational meetings like virtual book club – it occurred to me that having a more functional and pleasant office might be worthwhile. With a little help from my older daughter’s eye for design and my hubby’s handyman skills, I redesigned my office space. Not only has this given both me and my other Zoom participants nicer digs to view on calls, it has been a fun quarantine project. I ordered a new chair and desk lamp from Staples, some floating shelves and plants from Target, some new pillows and pillow covers from Wayfair, and dug out some of the artwork, photos and certificates that had been sitting in a pile in my closet, just waiting to be hung on the walls – including my cherished collection of framed album covers. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m pretty pleased with the results to date.

And now, for your shelter-in-place pleasure, some entertainment recommendations.

Today’s Tune: It was a  little more than a year ago that Kurt Cobain decided this world was too much for him. What would he have thought today? What kind of music would he be making? Would Dave Grohl still be his band’s drummer or would he and Kurt have battled for the spotlight and would there be a Foo Fighters? We’ll never know, but we can still enjoy their signature song and to be honest, I’m not sure they could have made anything better.

 

Today’s Book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThis book was published back in 2010 and to be honest, I took no notice of it at the time. Left to my own devices, I’m a novel reader. I will always walk past the non-fiction aisle of the bookstore and head straight for fiction. That’s the great thing about being in a book club the past few years – I’m forced to step outside my comfort zone and read things I’d likely never pick up otherwise. Thankfully, someone in my book club pitched this amazing story. It became a made-for-TV-movie because Oprah took a shine to it, but the book is SO much better than that movie. It’s a fascinating look at the ethical and moral issues behind science and research, the suffering of a woman who unwittingly became critical to the future of medicine, and the human tragedy of a family searching for answers long after their loved one was gone. Author Rebecca Skloot won a ton of awards for this compelling story and deservedly so.

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Today’s bingewatch: Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu. Hulu eeked out this series one episode at a time (like the old days!) and that’s how we watched it in my house, but if you’re not on board yet, the full season just completed this week and you can now binge it. And it’s worth it, because it seems like whatever novels Reese Witherspoon touches these days turns to gold (aka, her previous hit, Big Little Lies). I personally think Kerry Washington is guilty of over-acting in this one, but the rest of the cast  – including Reese, who you will alternately love and hate – do a fine job. Hulu has free trials going on right now and apparently, if you’re a Spotify user, you get Hulu (with a few ads here and there) for free (thanks to my younger daughter for the access!).

Why I’m Ok With Not Being “The Hot Mom”

At my younger daughter’s graduation dinner the other night, my mother and I were talking about perceptions that my friends had of her, as a young mother. My daughter, knowing some of the history, said, “Grandma, you were the cool Mom! And the hot Mom!” Yes, it’s true that my mom was way “cooler” than I will ever be and my house was frequently the place you came to let your hair down, talk about your troubles and of course, party. Times were different and my Mom was only 18 years my senior. As my male friends can attest, my mom was, indeed, “the hot mom” on the block.

Then, an interesting thing happened. My mother asked her granddaughter: “What would you and your friends call your mom?”  Without hesitation, my daughter threw out three words in quick succession: “Successful. Smart. Hardworking.”

Now, I must admit, I’m female and I’m vain, so part of me was hoping she’d include the word “hot” in there somewhere! But all in all, I’d have to say that I felt immense pride and pleasure in her words.  There are so many moments spent raising children, most of them wondering if you’re doing the right thing. You know you are often making mistakes and you just hope they aren’t the sort that will take permanent root in your child’s psyche. The moments when you know you’ve done something right are few and far between, and often don’t come until after your children have become adults and flown the coop. That’s why hearing these words from my younger daughter – with whom I seem to battle so much these days – was so rewarding.

I’ve always been a working mom and don’t expect that to change. I know that I’m fortunate, having been able to start my own business when my oldest was just a baby and to be able to work from home for the past 19 years. I know for many working moms it’s not that easy and they have to add a commute and a typical 9-5 corporate day to their endless juggling. Like every working mother, at times I’ve felt guilt at my desk, thinking about my children, and guilt with my kids, thinking about work. I’ve multi-tasked to exhaustion, questioned my sanity, and wondered if what I was doing was right for both me and my kids.

At the end of the day, work became important not only for my sense of self and to be an equal partner with my husband in providing for our kids, but also critical to the values I wanted to impart to my girls. I wanted to show them that women can be whatever they choose: that they can have both a family and a career, that they can be successful in the corporate environment or forging their own path, and that they can find a partner in life who respects and takes pride in their success.  To find fulfillment in my job and to share that with my girls has been an essential part of my parenting.

So the other night it seemed that in just a few select words, my younger daughter told me all I needed to know about my choices. That she sees me as successful, smart and hard-working, gives me insight into her perception of moms and women, as a whole. And it gives me hope that she understands that hard work, a good education and a whole lot of enthusiasm and drive will also bring her success, in whatever way she chooses to pursue it.

So while she could have really made my day by adding “hot” to the already stellar list of adjectives, I’ll take what she has given me and know that on this long journey we call parenthood, I’ve done something right!

No Virginia, There is no Fountain of Youth

My oldest daughter recently turned 19 and is about to conclude her freshman year of college. I have many feelings associated with this milestone – excitement for her experiences, pride in what she has accomplished, sadness at how quickly the years have passed. And of course, there’s that recognition that if she’s now an adult, I’m beyond adulthood. Yes, I’m, by the standards I set myself as a 19-year old, OLD.  They say that 50 is the new 30. I’ll let you know how I really feel about that later this year, but in the meantime, let me just say that nothing makes you feel older in some ways than having a college freshman. You think it was just yesterday that you were living in the dorms, going to frat parties and rushing from class to class on a campus where it seemed the possibilities for your life were endless. But then you realize, ummm…that was actually a really long time ago.

Complicating the normal feelings that come with the aging process is our society’s continual worship of all things youthful and the ongoing pursuit of a magic elixir that will deliver us from old age.  While the concept of a fountain of youth is not new, it’s only in modern society – and primarily in the United States – where one finds such an obsession with staying young. This pursuit of continual youth is what sociologists would call a “First-World Problem”, given it can only occur among wealthy communities, where the worries of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your head have been removed.

I think about this often in my little suburban world where it seems that Botox injections and breast implants are as commonplace as the common cold and where moms frequently wear the same outfits as their teenage daughters. What does it say about our society when people – mostly women, but increasingly (in Hollywood anyway), men – will spend thousands of dollars and put themselves through multiple, elective surgeries to chase eternal youth?

A few years ago, on a summer trip to Sweden to visit my husband’s family, we went to a local, community pool so my now-nineteen year old could get in a swim workout.  In the locker rooms, my two girls’ eyes were wide as saucers. They could not understand how every Swedish woman in the locker room – regardless of height, weight and most of all age – could walk around stark naked so comfortably and without the slightest trace of self-consciousness.  Having been raised in the modest (some might say repressed) US of A, I could not fully explain it either, except to tell my girls that 1) Swedes are much less hung up on nudity than we are (as one example, Swedish television is much more concerned with keeping violence off the screen than nudity and sex), and 2) Swedes, and the rest of the world, from my experience, are much more accepting of differences in body shapes and sizes as well as the aging process, and are much less focused on youth and beauty than we are in this country. Interestingly and despite all of this, Sweden seems to have a very high proportion of beautiful people, who age remarkably well.

The point is, my girls were used to seeing people all around them who fear the aging process and who will do anything to try to keep it at bay.  They are used to having the airbrushed images of fashion magazines and the nipped and tucked celebrities of television, movies and theater all around them.  And even in their own neighborhoods, they are used to seeing moms who fight the process daily with creams, treatments and injections, gym trips and diets, clothing from the junior department and yes, surgical procedures. Given these role models, it made me wonder, what messages were my girls hearing about what should be the very natural, and let’s face it –inevitable — process of aging?

I want to be clear that I am certainly not immune to vanity.  It’s hard to look in the mirror and see skin that suddenly sags where once it was firm and lines appearing on a forehead that was once smooth, not to mention those joints that creak and pop when I get out of bed in the morning. There’s definitely a reason I still wear bangs and buy more expensive bras. And I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t take care of yourself through healthy eating and exercise nor do I think it’s wrong to want to look attractive by wearing nice clothing, taking care of your skin, getting your hair done and using a little make-up.  But it seems to me, you have to draw the line somewhere because no one – no matter what they do – is immune to growing old. And by showing that we view the aging process as “bad” we’re sending a clear message to our kids to fight it– no matter how costly, how time-consuming, how risky or how ridiculous they may look. I say this also on the eve of my younger daughter going in for surgery and as I worry over the risks of anesthesia and the inevitable pain, I can’t help but wonder why anyone would put themselves through this by choice.

I was saddened to read the other day that one of my favorite actresses, Susan Sarandon, admitted to having plastic surgery.  . I realize in Hollywood, it must be hard to compete for great, female roles and the pressure to look young is intense. But I’d hoped that she’d hold out and continue sending the message that aging is ok, that her acting talents are more important than her image and that young girls should have strong, capable women who don’t run from life’s inevitable course as their role models.  I realize Susan is no Joan Rivers – yet.  But I think of plastic surgery as akin to remodeling a house. When you redo one room, the others look tired and run-down by comparison. So you do one more. But you can’t stop there, because the rest of the house doesn’t look as good as those brand-spanking new parts, right?  Next thing you know, you’ve re-done everything. Where does it stop? When you’re spending loads of time and money, and undergoing surgery that can put you at risk, just to prevent yourself from looking older or aging, you have to ask why and what message you’re sending. And if you’re a Mom, you have to wonder what you’re communicating to your kids about your priorities in life and how they should view themselves as they age.

The irony in all of this is that neither Susan Sarandon nor Joan Rivers has succeeded in hiding their age or stopping the aging process – and neither can you or I. The other day I was in the grocery store and saw what I thought was an attractive twenty-something ahead of me, pushing a grocery cart. She had long, flowing blond hair, a tall, lithe body and she was wearing leopard-print leggings, a close fitted tee, a short denim jacket and sky-high heels.  She stopped to grab a box of cereal off the shelf and I almost dropped my own groceries. This was no twenty-something; the woman had to be in her sixties which, despite the collagen lips, very obviously, face-lifted skin and fake breasts, to boot, was quite obvious. I suddenly realized the hair was fake (extensions), the body was courtesy of lipo plus lots of gym time and she’d clearly raided a middle schooler’s closet for her wardrobe. She looked ridiculous. An aging woman chasing dreams of being 19 again.

At the end of the day, you can get new breasts, lift your eyes, pump collagen into your lips and smooth out your wrinkles with Botox. You can wear your teenage daughter’s trendy clothes. But no one will think you’re 19, you still won’t be 19, and you never will be again.  I think that the sooner we can all face that fact and quit fighting it, the less “old” we’ll feel next to those actual 19 year-olds. And perhaps we’ll finally deserve the adage that with age, comes wisdom.