Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Frozen Peas, Mint Chocolate Ice Cream and a Side of Guilt

Last week, my husband had knee surgery; not a big deal in the universe, but a very big deal to him, and me. He's doing really well and following doctor's orders, I'm making sure of that.  

I'm also making sure he keeps bags of frozen peas on his knee so it doesn't swell or gawd forbid, hurt. Hubby dear, is not so great with the pain part of surgery.  

I've babied and pampered him like only a devoted, loving wife could.  The other day, for example, I gently unwrapped the huge, bowling ball-sized bandage from his knee and cleaned the three surprisingly small incisions. Then I re-wrapped his knee in Saran Wrap so it would stay dry when he took his first shower in 72 hours. And it actually worked! 

Afterwards, I helped him dry off and applied three Sponge Bob Band-Aids over the tiny holes.  He felt so much better, although he was not crazy about my choice of bandages; but hey, you work with what you have.  I parked him, again, in front of the big screen TV, elevated his foot above his knee, with his knee above his hip, just like the doctor said to.  Last, but not least, I applied two bags of frozen peas for the five-hundredth time.  He gave me a big kiss and thanked me for taking such good care of him. 

That's where the guilt comes in.

My husband knows I would go to the ends of the earth to make him happy and comfortable, and I've proven it in more ways than just the 14 bags of peas in our freezer. But what he doesn't know is that his "nurse" is hiding a carton of Dibs Mint Chocolate Ice Cream amongst all those bags of frozen peas that I keep insisting are changed every hour on the hour.

It's like this.... The Dibs would cause quite a ruckus in our household because I banned all ice cream from our home last year-- as I started gaining weight-- when I turned fifty. Seriously, no ice cream, whatsoever, except Rum Raisin, and who the heck cares about Rum Raisin!  I sure don't.  Bless his heart, my husband went along with the ban to be supportive.  It helps that he actually likes Rum Raisin and can eat it directly from the Haagen-Dazs carton since no one else will touch it; but he often comments that a little chocolate would be a nice change.   
My guilt began with the knee injury.  I stressed out about his surgery, and stress drives me to eat sweets; and when I spotted the Dibs in the frozen food aisle opposite the vegetables, I swear, I heard the angels singing-- cheering-- calling my name-- Nurse Joanna, we're here for you!  And I bought a big tub of those calorie-laden mint ice cream delights all covered in chocolate, despite my constant bitching about my expanding waistline.  It was just one of those moments and well, ice cream happens.

To make matters worse, I have not shared the Dibs with my poor, sore-kneed husband.  In fact, he doesn't even know they are in the house-- Which technically they aren't.  They're hidden in the extra fridge in the garage, behind all the frozen peas.

Oh the guilt.  The shame.  The increased stress.  So, when I went to the grocery store to pick up new "generic" Band-Aids today, I bought another tub of Mint Chocolate Dibs because I'd eaten all of the first bucket without sharing a single nugget with my beloved, and well, I wanted more.

Here's the dilemma--  I did not buy plain Chocolate Dibs-- his favorite, I bought Mint Chocolate Dibs, which are my favorite. So not only am I hiding banned contraband, I'm also blowing the whole devoted wife award by not being all that thoughtful about my "patient".  The Dibs were an impulse buy for me, not a "my husband would loves this buy" for him.  

I know.  I'm a bad wife....

So, should I tell him-- share some-- fess up and "own" my ice cream shame?  

As I sit in the kitchen typing, the Dibs only a few yards away, I'm thinking long and hard about my decision-- Right up until my husband hollers "Honey, I need another bag of frozen peas please!".  I gulp down a couple of Dibs, wipe the cat-who-ate-the-canary smile off my face, and take him his frozen peas-- Just, frozen peas.

On my next trip to the grocery store, I'll buy him his own carton of Chocolate Dibs.

What would you do?
Welcome to TheFityFactor  -  Joanna

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Unanswered Questions About Cosmetic "Enhancements"

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much is too much when it comes to “cosmetic enhancements”—You know what I’m talking about—Botox, brow lifts, Rejuvaderm and the likes; but also the smaller things like hair coloring, brow waxing, teeth straightening, personal trainers and all the lotions and potions that promise ageless results in a bottle.

On one hand, there are the countless magazines; their pages filled with airbrushed to the max celebrities—More magazine especially comes to mind; Jane Fonda, Tea Leoni, Sharon Stone, Dara Torres and Brooks Shields were so flawless on their cover that you’d swear they used photos from Madame Trousseau’s Wax Museum.  Poor Sharon Stone was barely recognizable; and Brooke Shields "celebrating her body as it is" made me laugh out loud--  I guess she didn't mention the "as is" part to the airbrush guys.  (I won’t even start on 70-something Jane!) 

I realize these women make a living off their looks-- and that's fine-- but I have to think that between “the work” they’ve may or may not have had done, and the extreme airbrushing in their photos, we’re not seeing their true faces or being given “real” role models on women's magazine covers to compare our appearances to.

On the other hand, there are the mountains of advertisements targeting women over 40 with models barely 20 years old, all hocking age reversing creams guaranteeing to erase lines in weeks without surgery or injections-- as if the 20 year olds have any idea what the ads are talking about.

Then there is singing sensation, Susan Boyle from Scotland, and the countless questions about her appearance.  Should she get a makeover to minimize her bushy brows, fuzzy gray hair and matronly attire or should she stay au naturale?  Well, guess what--  Susan “went Hollywood” and got a major, head to toe makeover.  Does that mean, at 47, she’s finally bought into the mass marketing and magazines’ portrayal of the “perfect woman”?  Is that what it takes to "win" or get a record deal despite an exquisite voice?  Did she feel pressured to change when the world made snarky comments about her appearance?  I hope not.  And I hope she feels good about herself.

So, where does that leave the rest of us mere mortals with wrinkles and puffy eyes?  

For me, I’m just a 50-something gal trying to look my best and feel confident about my appearance.  But, with all the perfection splashed across magazines and in the media, it’s tough to live up to all the youthful, glowing, wrinkle-free expectations.  It leaves me wondering if I’ve crossed the line and bought into the marketing schtick.  Or, am I at an acceptable level of “enhancements” to make the best of what I have to work with for my age?

For the record, I’m a Botox (brow and crows feet), brow waxing, skin bleaching (brown age spots), teeth whitened and straightened (with braces at age 45) gal with a twice-weekly personal trainer.  I don’t color my hair (yet) and I view that as God’s way of making up for the ultra thin hair he graced me with, which is why I’ve also used hair extensions on special occasions.  I have drawers full of lotions promising miracles--Oh, and I spray tan—a lot, especially in the summer.

I've also had a successful career, and yes, I have a life-- so there’s no spending every minute of every day looking at myself in the mirror.  I know there are much bigger fish to fry in our universe than a few wrinkles, but, obviously, my appearance is a factor in how I view myself.  Right or wrong, it’s just the way it is.  And I don’t think I’m entirely alone on the subject.

I may sound “high maintenance” and shallow, but then again, I live in youth obsessed Los Angeles and compared to many an LA babe, I’m an old hag with barely a make-up brush in sight.  Is that an excuse or a cop-out?  You tell me-- please!

Have I been manipulated into thinking I need all this stuff or am I really doing it for myself—to feel good.  After all, none of this is lowering my cholesterol, reducing my blood pressure or eliminating my arthritis.  Does that means it’s pure vanity or does self-esteem count as a stress reducer?

And more importantly, I wonder how long I’m supposed to keep it up?  At what age do I knock it off-- Skip the Botox, cancel the personal trainer, go with the uni-brow, and lose the retainer on my teeth at night?  Is my "enhancements" clock ticking?  Is there a magic age, a magic moment, a blaring alarm that will sound when enough is enough?  And when it does, what expires?  Moisturizers?  Hair coloring?  Brow waxing?  Some of it?  All of it?  What?  Will the day come when all these “enhancements” I’ve grown to include in my daily grooming regime cease to be relevant or necessary?  

When, or should I say "if", I decide to stop, THEN what happens?  Do I ween myself off one-by-one?   Stop everything cold turkey?  What?  It's a big step!  Life without Botox will look very different-- Literally!

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, no matter how hard I’ve looked, but I'll continue to search.  If you have a clue, please, by all means, bring it on!

What do you think?

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Nearly Bad Haircut

It was a record-breaking 101 degree day in Los Angeles, the kind where your allergies kick up, your eyes itch, and your throat is horse from coughing-- And it's only April. So much for spring!

The heat was sweltering and since we don't have air conditioning it felt even worse at my house-- in my attic office, where the heat rises and hugs my desk.  My husband is "saving the planet for his grandchildren".  You know, the grandchildren that are sitting at their home, in the air conditioning, all nice and cool.  But hubby dear-- who works in an air-conditioned office all day-- likes to think he's doing his part to save them and the planet.  I, on the other hand, am not a happy camper, but that's a whole other rant.

Anyway, like I said, it was nasty HOT and my long hair was sticking to my neck.  I hate that and I'd had it!  I'd been trying to figure out what to do with my 50-something hair for a long time to no avail.  I know it's time to lose the ponytail but what to replace it with was a mystery.  Until this really hot day!

I should have stepped away from the telephone and not called my fave hair dresser, Louis, but dial I did, and an hour later I was sitting in his chair, draped in his fancy kimono, telling him it was time to cut-- it-- O F F.

I love Louis.  He's been doing my hair since I moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago which is about the same time he started trying to get me to cut my hair short.  

Over the years, my hair has been half way down my back, shoulder length, permed, straightened, poofed, curled, cropped, chopped, cut, and on special occasion, I've even had him "bring his hair" aka a ponytail hairpiece that matches my color perfectly, to add to my skimpy locks when I wanted a great up-do.  Yes, we've been through thick and thin (hair), literally.

So today, as I begged him to cut all my hair off, he calmly brought me an ice tea and waited until the heat exhaustion slide off my face.... along with most of my mascara.  Louis knows me well enough to know that I'm not a "drastic measures" kind of girl. 

I've fought him long and hard over the years about keeping the length on my hair but 101 degree temps pushed me over the edge.  I wanted a Victoria Beckham pixie cut and I wanted it NOW! He protested, I pushed. He reasoned, I cried.  He sang me the theme song from Hair, I pleaded.  We took a vote in the salon and a pixie cut won hands down! But would he take this hollow victory to our long running battle and snip away while the snipping was good?

Ohhhh nooooo, he wanted to cut my hair short "fair and square" and that did not involve a hysterical "mercy cut". No matter how hard I tried to convince him I really was ready to take it off, Louis simply would not budge.

Instead, I got an inch cut off and a fast blow dry.  Nothing drastic, nothing life changing, nothing special whatsoever-- just a plain old trim and he called it a day.

Thank gawd!

A few hours later, as I fastened my hair back into a ponytail, sitting at my very hot desk with the fan blowing my my skirt, I was so relieved.  I'd come to my senses and knew beyond a doubt that I was definitely not ready for a pixie cut-- ever-- in my lifetime.  Yes, I still need to find a "new do" but it will have to wait another day.  

I sent Louis a big box of designer cupcakes and thanked him for his loyal friendship and support because, I know, a great hair stylist is hard to find--  One that won't let you lose your head is priceless.

What's your hair like?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Golden Arches Of Yesteryear

It was one of those conversations-- The "ubelievable, are you out of your mind?" kind of talks-- with a young boy, who, at the time, was dressed as a Ninja, with only his eyes showing.  But oh the volumes those eyes spoke.

I am lucky to have a very cool kid in my life who also happens to be one of the few on the planet that actually needs to gain weight!  Unusual I know, but it sure makes for guilt-free trips to the fast food drive-thru for milkshakes and french fires.  Can anyone say McDonald's-- I'm lovin it!?!

Recently we waited our turn at "the box" with the anonymous person on the other end asking to take our order.  There's a tight squeeze and hairpin turn at our local Mickey Dee's because there apparently was not a drive through window when the (ahem) restaurant was originally built.  We wound our way in the line, paid our $5.18 for a ton of calories, and almost ripped my side-view mirror off in the process.  That's when the conversation began.

I told my little guy about the Golden Arches of yesteryear and how you actually had to park the car and go inside to order, then take the food home to eat because there was no inside seating.  I was purposefully vague about the details and could see my Ninja's eyebrows raised.  There was some deep thinking going on in the back seat.

The idea that drive thru windows weren't "always there" was, in his mind, right up there with black and white televisions, rotary phones, macaroni and cheese from scratch and walking to school in the snow.

His response was simple.  Why?  Followed by, "Weren't people smart in the olden days?"  


I explained the modern conveniences and new technologies of my generation so he'd know just how smart "we" were.  He brought up questions like when the invention of Star Wars-type special effects, 3-D IMAX and snow boarding in the winter Olympics took place.  And we talked about the latest advancements since "his" olden days, i.e., the iPhone and Facebook.

Driving home, Ninja boy's eyes continued to roll as he sipped the calorie-filled chocolate shake under his mask.  So much of this sounded ancient to him, so he started pointing things out on the street and asking if they were around when I was a kid.  

Fire stations, street lights and Chinese restaurants (of course!), doggie daycares, Kinkos and recycling bins (none of the above), Dominos Pizza and Costco (I wish), vacuum cleaners, Dairy Queen and Coca-Cola (yes!) and, as we passed another Big Mac stand...... Ronald McDonald?  That last one gave me pause-- and he noticed.

You see, I lived in a small town in Ohio-- a very small, rural town, in the middle of nowhere.  A McDonald's rolled into "the big city" about 30 miles away when I was in elementary school.  I think we drove out there maybe three times on special occasions, like when we got "good report cards", or the likes.  But we didn't actually get a McDonald's in my town until I was 18 years old, and it did not have a drive thru! Technically, this would qualify as a "yes" in my book.  But my Ninja wasn't buying it.

So you are actually older than Ronald McDonald?

Obviously I was not going to shatter any illusions here, I mean, he already knows there isn't really a Santa Clause, but did I need to completely blow the lid on the fact I'm older than Ronald McDonald?  And trust me, when I realized that tidbit of useless information, I hesitated to share it, even now.  (The first McDonald's opened in 1940 but the Happy-Hamburger Clown has only been around since 1963-- five full years after I was born.)

I gently explained, to his peering eyes through my rear view mirror, that in the "olden days", life before Happy Meals, was different.

Without a doubt, he is now convinced I am, absolutely, older then dirt.  He bought my "before computers" talk.  And he understands that I no longer actually "run" unless it's a life or death emergency.  But the idea that I could grow up without a McDonald's was beyond comprehension; that McDonald's in "my" day did not have drive thru windows was simply impossible; and that I was born before Ronald McDonald hit the scene was, well, shocking to him.  I knew at that moment, our "play dates" were numbered.

About the time we reached the driveway at home, I heard him slurping the bottom of the milkshake through the straw.  When I hit the automatic garage door opener, his "olden days" questioning started again.  I simply raised my hand in a "don't go there" gesture.  It was easy to see by his eyes that he was stifling a laugh under his Ninja mask.

How old are you?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ode To Restoration Hardware

I can never step foot in my local Restoration Hardware store again.  And it's a crying shame.  There are so many cool retro toys and gadgets for gifts and the linens and towels, well, I confess, I'm addicted and have closets full. But it's all coming to a tragic end.

First things first--  For what seemed like an eternity, I was waist-deep into a major bathroom and bedroom renovation.  We did the whole shebang-- gutted two bathrooms down to the studs, added "real" hardwood floors to the bedroom-- the kind that required massive sanding, built extra closets and waded through more dust and dirt than any human being should ever have to live with.

But finally it was done!  And my house was once again pristinely clean-- or at least as clean as it's going to get on my watch. That's where my beloved Restoration Hardware (R.H.) store comes in.

For five straight days, I shopped at R.H. for the perfect towels, sheets, duvets and shams to complete the remodel.  Each day, I bought complete sets of everything I needed-- 8 sets of towels, 3 sets of bedding, and pillows in every shape and size.  The problem was, each day, it was all the same stuff, just in different colors.  It's embarrassing to admit, but by the end of the week, I literally had 40 complete sets of towels before I made up my mind on which color, and which 8, to keep.  Maybe all the dust had gotten to me, because not only was I suddenly color-challenged and unable make a decision, I was also too stupid to just buy one towel and pillowcase, in each color, to try them out at home.   No, I brought ALL of them, in five different shades.

But the salespeople at R.T, were so darn nice and kept assuring it I was making great choices.  They told me not to think twice about the mounds of shopping bags I was accumulating at home filled with thousands of dollars of wrong-colored towels and linens.  To the R.H. staff, every choice I made was absolutely brilliant and they encouraged me to "try things out" all I wanted.

The truth is, every time I walked into the store, the entire staff would greet me like an old friend, even on the days I came straight off the treadmill still sweating and looking like hell.  On those days, they'd even bring me an ice cold Perrier to sip while they followed me around, pad and pen in hand, making notes of the merchandise I'd selected so it would be all packaged and rung up waiting for me to sign for at the cash register.  Talk about service!   

David, the store manager, was especially nice.  He always dressed like he'd just stepped out of a Polo advertisement wearing pastel v-neck sweaters and stripped button-down shirts. His khaki pants were perfectly pressed and he wore dock shoes with argyle socks that matched his sweaters.  He was a big guy too, so the sweaters always made him easy to spot in the store. Not that I ever had to chase him down; he was like radar.   When I'd appear at the front door, so would he, asking me how he could help.  I have to admit, they really spoiled me.

But finally the dreaded day arrived and I had to return the mounds of towels, countless sheets, and ridiculous quantities of pillows, comforters and throws to the store; so I loaded my SUV until I couldn't see out the back window. Honestly, I had towels crammed in every available square inch of the car.  

Since I was about to blow someone's sales quote all to hell, I made a point of cleaning up and dressing like a respectable person before I drove the mile and a half to the store. That's when the reality of things hit me.  I had so many bags of merchandise to return; I gave a whole new meaning to the term "bag lady".  

I called the store from the parking lot and asked for someone to come out and help me schlepp the carload of stuff back in.  As soon as I said my name, David and three helpers were by my side carrying bags like pack mules.  They insisted I not carry so much as a single bag!  It was nice, but frankly, kind of embarrassing.

Inside the store, David had another ice cold Perrier waiting for me and said he'd be right with me to carry my new purchases.

Purchases???  What new purchases?  I wasn't planning on buying anything else!  I'd just returned half the contents of his store for crying out loud.  I started to pace.  He followed me. Finally landing at the potpourri section, I decided to buy a few bags as a parting gift-- since they'd been so nice to me and all-- and I wanted to finish my Perrier.  

As I sniffed the lemon-fresh packages, David leaned in, and in a hushed whisper, asked "What are you working on?"

He's kidding, right?  "Um, my bathroom and bedroom, you know, all the stuff I've been buying?"

"No, seriously... what projects are you working on?  You can tell me.  I'll keep it under wraps?"

David, honey, what are you talking about?

And then he says it.  And I almost fell on the floor.

"We know who you really are."

Don't laugh but, apparently, David and all the lovely staff at Restoration Hardware were under the impression that-- I was Patricia Heaton-- the Emmy-winning actress from "Everybody Loves Raymond".  Holy crap were they wrong!

I explained how very, very flattered I was but, no, I definitely am NOT Patricia Heaton. 

But he didn't believe me!

He insisted my credit card was issued under a "cover name" and I could "just be myself" at R.H.  He promised they'll never call the media or mention my name to anyone.  I could shop in peace anytime I wanted in his store.  This seemed to be a big point for him since Miss Heaton was, at the time, starring with Kelsey Grammer in "Back To You" on Fox.

Now, for the record, on my very best, most fabulous day, I do not look anything like Patricia Heaton.  I wish I did, but I don't.  Not even a little.  The only thing we have in common is we're both 51 and have brown hair. Where David pulled this case of mistaken identity from is beyond me.  I sincerely tried, for several minutes, to talk him down from his crazy idea, but he wasn't buying it.

By this time, I was beyond embarrassed and realized Patricia Heaton was the only reason David had ever brought me an ice cold Perrier.  Has a sales person EVER brought YOU an ice cold Perrier while you were shopping for towels?   I didn't think so, but that fact, while I was shopping like a crazy fool, was totally lost on me.  

No matter how much I protested the more convinced he was that Miss Heaton was in his presence.  So I gave up. Which is why I can never go back to my favorite store.

You see, Patricia Heaton lives here in Los Angeles and this particular Restoration Hardware could possibly be a store she'd actually shop at in the future.  It's a long shot, but can you imagine if we were both in the store at the same time?  Oh my gawd!  I'm afraid David would snatch his ice cold Perrier right out of my hand.

As I signed my return receipt, with over $3000 deducted from my Visa, (phew!) and watched as my two piddly bags of potpourri were being extra-specially wrapped just for Patricia Heaton, I realized David was once again by my side.... with a fresh ice cold Perrier.... "for the road".  To make matters worse, he insisted on walking me to my car, as he carried my mini shopping bag of potpourri.  Driving away I saw him waving until I was out of sight.  

I'm sure going to miss him..... and Restoration Hardware.

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Friday, April 17, 2009

10 Lessons Learned From My 50th Year

As I reflect on my first 365 days as a "fifty-something"," I realize I've learned a few things.  Some good, some bad and some, dare I say, sensible.

For the record, at 51, I still do not like being 50-anything. The word fifty does not roll off my tongue, it more like spits out when I can't avoid saying it.  Throw in menopause mania on top of it, and well, the morning of my 50th birthday is still a distant, painful memory, to say the least.  You see, 50 and menopause hit me simultaneously like a mac truck.

Over the past year, it seems like so much has changed-- other than just my body.  I'd like to think I've learned something in the past 12 months and half a century on earth, but believe me, there are many, many days when all I've learned is that I don't know jack!  So now, as I face my 51st year head-on, I'm making note of a few things I did learn but wish someone had warned me about...

1)  I do not look "40-something".  Period.  I look pretty good "for my age" but that age is now 51 and I'm not fooling anyone when I don't fess-up to it.

2)  Many women in their fifties, and facing the cringing realities of menopause, prefer not to talk about it.  I, on the other hand, am going into it kicking and screaming-- I write and rant about it all the time.  Others prefer to keep it under-wraps, are in denial or believe the "new forty" applies to them.   Whatever works ladies!

3)  My husband doesn't care how old I am; he loves me unconditionally.  That's a nice feeling and one I've come to believe with age.

4)  I have less patience these days-- a lot less.  I remind myself to take breath and let things go, but honestly, I'm shocked at my short fuse and hope I can blame it on menopause-- Which means eventually it will get better?

5)  It's true, damn it!  My metabolism has come to a screeching halt.  There are not enough hours in the day, to rack up enough miles on the treadmill, to thin things out again.  I'm afraid I'll have a permanent speed bump in the middle of my stomach for the rest of my life--  Not a happy thought.

6)  If I don't make a daily list and carry it around with me, I will not remember where I'm supposed to be, or what I'm supposed to be doing.  That's a fact of life these days.

7)  I'm more aware of my big picture "Things To Do In Life" list and make a concentrated effort to make them happen.  At the top--  Dancing at the Rainbow Room in NYC before it closes for good, see Paris, learn to make the perfect pie crust and, as crazy as this sounds, grow corn.
I'm also learning to accept a few things that will never happen again, like (8) looking good in a bathing suit-- those days are over.  (9) Gone is my ability to wear 4 inch heels for hours and hours at a time.  Oh how I love a great pair of heels, and have a closet full to prove it! Unfortunately, I now also have several pairs of sensible shoes-- Because I've learned (10) my aching feet need them.  

But, oh well, along the way, I've gained character, confidence (well, sometimes), a great credit score and, occasionally-- the reality check of common sense.  

If only I could wear those ruby slippers and click my heels together three times....  

I wish!

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna
Glittered Platform Pumps by Christian Louboutin - $775

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Didn't I Just Turn Fifty?

How on earth did 51 happen so darn fast?
What do you think of the picture?  I got it especially for my 51st birthday and this post. Not bad for an old broad, huh?  It feels kinda hip without trying too hard, don't you think?  I saw the proofs and thought, WOW!  "50 really is the new 40"!

Well, it's not a picture not me-- Not even close, but she looks pretty good. It could have been me, oh about the time of my Bat Mitzvah, but it sure as hell isn't me today! Oh, no, no, no.

Actually, maybe, perhaps, possibly, I could have, kinda, pulled that picture off about five or six years ago before my thighs rubbed together when I walked and I could still find the pockets in my blue jeans.  But, big sigh-- That ship has sailed, sistah.

I tried desperately to embrace turning fifty along with the body changes menopause had slapped me with over the past year. Really, I did.  But now at 51, well, the whole "fifty thing" is still... just... not... working... for me...  And it probably never will.  

Can you tell I am not a fan of birthdays?  Actually, I never liked them, not even as a kid.  The whole idea of people watching me open gifts is always embarrassing.  The blowing-out-candles ritual makes me nervous.  And the "woo-hoo you're older" part is right up there in my "I'd rather have a root canal" category.  And I have no idea why.

I envy those who can embrace their birthdays and I love celebrating with them.  I've thrown my share of birthday parties for other people over the years and they've been huge hits.  I even make homemade cakes-- not the kind from a box! Birthdays are great-- just as long as they are someone else's.

So to "celebrate" my birthday today, I'm digging in the very back of my closet to pull out my favorite jeans-- the ones like the model is wearing the picture.  You know what I'm talking about-- the skinny jeans that haven't fit in years.  I just want to have one more look at them.  You see, I may not be able to find my car keys but I can always put my hands on my precious, size four, jeans from yesteryear to remember the girl I once was.  I will never part with them no matter what my menopausal apple-shaped figure becomes.  I view those jeans, with fond memories, as the lifeline to my youth.  

Oh and by the way, the model in the picture, she really is 50-- The skinny, airbrushed, bitch.

How do you celebrate birthdays?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna
Photo credit: Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ode To The Obama Dog - Not The Crazy Dog Lady

I absolutely love babies and animals but I do not have either.  And, I'm not complaining.  I knew early in life that I wasn't cut out for motherhood on any level and I've never regretted either decision for a moment.

But with all the "Obama Dog Drama" of late, I've been tempted to pick up a pooch or carry a cat home from my local shelter. They're just so darn cute!  It would be nice to have a furry friend curled up at my feet.  But no!  I must stand firm.  The older I get the more sure I am about my "no pet" policy.

You see, in my small Midwest hometown there was a lovely spinster librarian who lived on a big piece of land on the main drag of town.  Despite the property's size, it's location lent itself to the whole town always knowing her business.  One day, the locals noticed she had a few sheep roaming in the yard.  Then more sheep.  And more sheep.  And more sheep!  I'm talking about A LOT of sheep roaming outside and inside her house.  It was quite a sight and you can only imagine the smell.  Since she had no children, she immediately became known as the town's "Crazy Sheep Lady" who had sheep instead of kids.  It was such a stinky spectacle, and people talked about her so much, that she is why, even after all these years, I simply cannot have a pet of my own.

I have no doubt that, like the Crazy Sheep Lady, I too would not stop with just one fluff-ball to call my own.  A person always needs at least two pets so they can keep each other company. And of course I'd feed any stray cats my precious flea-bag might bring home.  Then, before you know it, I'd be the Crazy Cat Lady-- The nut case with too many cats instead of kids.  No thank you.

A dog would be even worse.  Do you ever notice that nobody makes fun of grown women-- with children-- who coo over their pampered pups?  You know the type.  They talk baby talk to their doggie-woggie and put bows and in their fur and booties on their paws.  But a woman without children dressing and carrying their pup in their Prada-- Well, the Crazy Dog Lady title is all but hers.

So no pets for this fifty-something non-mama.  I'll live vicariously through Malia and Sasha Obama and hope they love their new Portuguese Water Dog, named Bo, enough for all of us.

What's your take on pets?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Friday, April 10, 2009

Modern Technology And Other Airport Chatter

Not having to travel anymore with my laptop is my favorite perk of retirement. I hated schlepping that thing with me everywhere. Canceling my Blackberry email account and using a plain 'ole cellphone, is something I consider a life-changing bonus when I stopped working.  Ahhh to be disconnected.

But, during a recent cross-country trip, I was delayed for hours in an airport with absolutely nothing to do, so I decided to kill some time and "rent" a keyboard and Internet connection at one of those kiosks they have in airports now.  You might have seen them but refused to pay the hideous, per minute charge?  Well, I was that bored, and had already read three newspapers, all the tabloids, plus "The Economist" and  "More" magazine.  

I inserted my American Express card into the computer station and was connected surprisingly fast. Once I scraped the mystery stickiness off the Return key, I got to work and flew through my messages in about 15, very expensive, minutes.  After logging out, I gathered my belongings and found an empty seat next to a scruffy looking college student apparently on his way home for Spring Break. 

His name was Mark-- I could see it in big letters written in Magic Marker on his backpack.  He had the usual electronics that come with teenagers-- the latest iPod and the coolest Blackberry on the market.  Mark was texting a mile a minute as Bono rocked, at an ungodly decibel, in his ear.  I felt fairly cool having recognized it was U2 playing as I twiddled my thumbs praying for our delayed flight to get a move on it.

After another hour of sheer boredom, I dug through my carry-on and found a big bag of M&M candies.  I was starved but ate them slowly, one at a time, to make them last for the anticipated three more hours of flight delays. After my third bite, Mark, who had barely looked up from his keypad, suddenly found me incredibly interesting.

He struck up a conversation typical of a 19 year old-- This sucks, that's a drag, what a bummer-- you get the drift.  After a few minutes, I offered him some M&Ms. Now I was, apparently, riveting.

Mark munched away by the handful and the conversation eventually lead to my having "rented" the airport computer. He'd seen me on it and thought I must be "really rich to waste my money" on something like that. Ha!  If he only knew. Anyway, eventually he gave me the once-over from head to toe, then stared deeply into my eyes.  What's up with that, you ask?

His next words are ones I will not soon forget....

As if I was an ancient dinosaur he said, in the sweetest most condescending voice you ever heard, "It's really great that you know how to use a computer.  I mean, not every one your age can." 

Hello-- I'm 50 years, old not 115.  The putz.

Without mentioning I retired last year, I explained I was in the advertising business and actually knew a thing or two about computers and the great big World Wide Web.

He looked at me with amazement.... and scepticism.

Seriously, I said.  I've been in the Internet game since before most people had email addresses.  He thought I was full of crap as if, duhhh, email had, like, always been around.

I moved my M&Ms out of his reach.

Mark mocked the idea of people still relying on fax machines and others who couldn't program their DVR. There were numerous comments about his mother-- who I surmised, is actually younger than me-- and how she can't figure out the house alarm system let alone Google or Facebook.   Geezers and old-timers were laced through his conversation as he laughed at the "older generation".

Before I bitch slapped him, I changed the subject by asking what his major was in college. Believe it or not, it's Communications! I nearly choked on my candies-- At which point, he asked for the rest of my M&Ms.... Since I was choking and all.....

Yes, I was conversing with a future marketing maven of America-- The kind that wouldn't pay two cents for the over 35 demographic, let alone the graveyard category of over 50. Grrreeeaaat.  This is what we have to look forward to from the Class of 2011?  

After Mark held the bag of M&MS up to his mouth and poured the last few dozen down his throat, he had nothing else to say. We sat in silence as he laughed and chuckled over emails and texting with his college buddies.  When our flight was finally boarding oh those many hours later, dear Mark asked if I needed help carrying my (very small) bag.  Ah, no thanks Dude.  This granny can carry her own stuff, thank you very much.

Communications major, my ass.  

Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Generation What?

Recently, I came across an article online from an April, 2000 issues of Esquire magazine, by Paul Begala, who summed Baby Boomers up as "The Worst Generation" of "self-absorbed" nasty "greed is good" jerks, full of guys who "once dropped acid and now do Viagra" and chicks who used to "do lipstick and now do liposuction".  Sounds kind of harsh!

I'll admit I've been known to refer to Baby Boomers as "they", "them" and "those people" who were former hippies and draft dodgers.  I was a Disco Queen and that was all so far from my universe growing up that "they" seemed like the "older generation" to me. 

So you can imagine my absolute shock and mortification when I realized that I, was in fact, a member of the Baby Boom Generation that's constantly getting trashed in the media. How could that be?  I'm only 50 years old.  

Technically, Baby Boomers are considered those born in 1946 through the end of 1963.  They are classified as having grown up with Howdy Duty, Woodstock and anti-Vietnam War protests.  I was born in 1958 and never did any of that.  Somebody check the dates!

Seriously, I thought I was part of the Pepsi Generation ('63)-- We were born after World War II in time for, us-- the "younger generation", to take the "Pepsi Challenge" ('75).  The Baby Boom started a full ten years before I was even born!  Who do I call to file a protest?  The Pepsi Generation just sounds so much nicer anyway.  Besides, I was only 5 years old by the time the Boomer Generation ended.  

"Officially" Boomers include folks like Donald Trump and George W. Bush ('46), OJ Simpson (47), Cat Stevens ('48), Richard Gere ('49), Arianna Huffington ('50), Rush Limbaugh ('51),  Mickey Rourke ('52), Ben Bernanke ('53), Howard Stern ('54), Steve Jobs ('55), Bill Maher ('56), Spike Lee ('57), Michael Jackson ('58), Marie Osmond('59), Bono ('60), Dee Dee Myers ('61), Tom Cruise ('62), and John's son, Julian Lennon ('63).

That means Michelle Obama, Tavis Smiley, Russell Crowe and Bobby Flay (all born in 1964) are too young and just missed the "Boomer" title.  I doubt they're upset.

If that doesn't surprise you, how about the folks that are too old to be Boomers-- Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Eric Clapton and Diane Sawyer, were all born in 1945.  George Lucas ('44), Geraldo Rivera ('43), Aretha Franklin ('42), Martha Stewart ('41) and John Lennon ('40) didn't make the cut either.  I wonder if they realize they're part of the "Silent Generation".  (1930-1945) Nice, huh?

There is a glimmer of light at the end of my tunnel.  Additional research revealed there's "technically" an in between generation that I'm a part of, even though I've never heard of it before. Does that still count?  Maybe I've lived a sheltered life, but has "Generation Jones" ever come up in your dinner conversation?  It hasn't in mine.

Those born between 1954-1965 fall into the "Jonesers" category as they apparently are known.  According to Wikipedia, we were the children raised in the "optimistic '60s before the realities of the pessimistic '70s hit".  We dealt with things like Watergate, the cold War and the oil embargo.  For many of us, Jimmy Carter was the first president we voted for.  (Um, sorry about that.) People like Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld and President Obama run in our crowd.  Madonna and Prince brought us MTV.

Where does "Jones" come from, you ask?  Think, as in, "keeping up with the Jones".  Not very flattering but we're a competitive bunch, or so they say. But I guess it's better than being lumped into the Generation X crowd (1966-1980).  They're a bunch of "slackers" according to society's standards.

So here I sit eating crow.  I admit, I have not had many nice things in the past to say about "my people"-- the Baby Boom Generation.  But I felt better learning that in 1967, when I was 9 years old, Time magazine named "Middle Americans-- The Baby Boom Generation, as their "Persons of the Year".  Although I do wonder how they feel about that today.

Pondering life as a "fifty-something" now also includes the "Baby Boomer Generation" name tag.  I'm still adjusting to both labels with trepidation.  I've long since switched from Pepsi to Coke... so I could "Teach The World To Sing In Perfect Harmony" (1971), but maybe I should reconsider and step out of denial and explore my "roots" a little deeper, this time not as judgemental in my old age.

Do you have a generational "label"?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Monday, April 6, 2009

What To Expect When You're Menopausing

Researching menopausal symptoms seems to be my full-time job of late.  I have a variety of other chronic illness that have accumulated over the years-- nothing major, just mostly annoying ones, so I often feel the need to compare the chronic crap to the budding menopausal side-effects now targeting my increasingly freaky body.

I thought I had a fairly good understanding of what was in store for me during "the change" but quickly realized I needed a modern day "What To Expect When Your Menopausing" type of book.  

Seriously.  If you have a baby, you can read a step-by-step narrative on what's happening to your body, practically daily, for a full nine months.  Then there's a second book to tell you what to expect, moment-by-moment, for the first 12 months of your little tike's life. That's hugely helpful!  Why isn't there one for menopause?  A simple, week-by-week wrap-up on menopausal happenings, would be a best seller!  I know it would be a much bigger book because menopause is not wrapped up in nine or twelve little months, but I'd buy that book no matter how big it was, as long as it's not a book associated with a celebrity, product or service someone is trying to hock me.  That doesn't count.

I know, I know, every woman is different, so are the drugs to take for it.  It's not cookie-cutter, I get that, really I do.  But come on-- I just want a blow-by-blow on what to expect, when to expect it, and a few pointers on when the hell it will be over! Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, because I've yet to find "the source" for all things menopause.

In my quest for answers, I discovered something absolutely shocking.  Did you know there are as many as THIRTY-FIVE symptoms of menopause?  I sat straight up in my chair when I read that tidbit of horrifying news. Until that moment, I only knew about the "top eight". (Irregular periods, decreased fertility, hot flashes, sleep issues, mood swings, weight gain, hair loss, and dryness you know where.)

But THIRTY frigging FIVE symptoms????  Who the hell counted and why didn't they tell anybody-- Like my doctors-- who continuously dismiss my whining about these wacky symptoms, or my best gal pals?  I know some things are embarrassing and potentially pretty unattractive, but really, someone could have pulled me aside and whispered the other twenty-seven possibilities that lurk in the shadow of very hot, sleep deprived, menopausal women.

Okay, so only 5% get the "burning tongue" thing, but a heads up would have been nice.  Same goes for the ringing in the ears.  Or how about the "itchy skin" which usually turns up early in the change process?  I just read it's associated with the loss of collagen and makes you look older.  So that explains it!  

And like a late night infomercial-- Wait, there's more! Pass the tissues because some experts say menopause "increases allergies" which is not to be out-done by tingling extremities and the feeling of ants crawling all over your body.  Nice, huh?  Or the whole bleeding gum thing--  I can't even go there!

But my personal, mind-blowing, fave, has to be the peculiar "electric shock sensation"-- like a rubber band snapping on your muscles-- That's a red alert for an impending hot flash.  Did you know that?  Think of it as your body's very own early warning system of a flood about to rush from your head to your toes.  Not one single person mentioned that to me-- ever.  See what we have to look forward to?!?!

No wonder menopause is kicking my ass!  And according to my research, I'm just getting started.  Damn!  It's going to be a bumpy ride.

How are you doing?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  -  Joanna

Friday, April 3, 2009

Did That Guy Just Hit On Me?

It's been a very long time since a guy hit on me so I'm a little rusty at this stuff. But I swear, a nice looking, 60-ish guy made a pass at little old fifty-something me.

And it freaked me out.

Last week, I was on vacation in Palm Springs at a lovely resort, with my husband, I might add. It was early and I was on the hunt for the gift shop to buy some Diet Cokes for the room. I don't drink coffee and I needed my morning caffeine fix.
Basically, I had just rolled out of bed, put on my yoga pants-- even though I have never, ever, stepped foot into a yoga class in my life-- and threw on yesterday's wrinkled tee shirt. I pulled my too short hair into a scrawny ponytail, added a big sun visor and my wrap-around Fendi sunglasses. I was anonymous and incognito.

Or so I thought.

It's a big place and I got lost looking for the gift shop. Walking in circles, I passed the resort's coffee house-- twice. That's when I noticed this 60-ish guy, with a puzzled look on his face, staring at me. Did I still have toothpaste on my lip or was my outfit just not working for him? I ducked into the first open door I saw, which turned out to be the gift shop I'd been looking for! How I could have missed its big sign remains a mystery.

Before I even paid for the Cokes, I chugged an entire can-- Then I coughed up a hideous $13.00 for three 16 ounce cans of soda. But the burn of an ice cold Coke at 8AM was well worth it, so was the caffeine rush I was beginning to feel.

As I exited the store, there stood the 60-ish guy again, coffee in hand, with a sweet smile on his face. Did I mention he was cute too?

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stare." He's touching my arm lightly. "It's just that my wife passed away three years ago..." I step back to remove his hand. He seems embarrassed. "And you look exactly like her. You stopped me in my tracks. It's unbelievable."


I'm speechless so he keeps talking. "Seriously, you could be identical twins. I can't believe there are two such beautiful women in the world." He seems genuinely sincere. Or am I just a sucker?

What does a girl say to that? I mumble a thank you for the compliment and something about being sorry for his loss. Then I made a hasty exit and ran (something I never do) back to my room.

So the question is-- Was that weird or am I just cynical?
I mean, could this guy be for real or was that the world's worst pick-up line ever? I teeter between being appalled, flattered, and feeling sorry for him.

Don't get me wrong, I am NOT interested in being picked-up by anyone other than my dear, sweet hubby. It's just that the possibility of using your dead wife as a come on is freaking me out. Seeing dead people that look like ME is even freakier. Maybe it's time for that makeover.

I never saw the 60-ish guy again that weekend. When I told my gal pals a few days later that I'd been hit on, they jumped up in unison, did a group high-five and chanted "you go girl!". Then I sheepishly told them the "but" part-- Why do these moments always have a "but"?-- His "dead wife" words were met with absolute silence and a lot of eye rolling. The girls sat back down and finished their lunch, never mentioning it again-- at least not to me. I can only imagine how the phone lines burned up after our gathering.

Note to self: Be nicer to husband when in an irritable menopausal mood. I would suck at being single.

When was the last time you were hit on?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor - Joanna

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blame It On The Kids

I did a bad, bad Oreo thing.

Consider, if you would, a box of Oreos.   Do you know how many Oreos there are in a row?  I'll tell you-- A shameful 15 Oreos are in a row-- That's how many!

It started innocently enough. Wide awake yet again, thanks to menopause insomnia, I roamed the house trying to exhaust myself into sleep.   Finally I decided on some Sudoku action at the kitchen table.  That usually has me snoring in no time.  

The next thing I knew I was in front of the open "snack drawer"-- The place where sweets and treats are kept for the younger generation.  It's filled with tons of confectionary crap I usually never eat myself but always delights the kids, making me a hero in their eyes.  You know what I'm talking about-- The junk foods their parents won't buy for them.  Well, I've got it, and they love me for it.

I just needed a little something.  Just a tiny taste.  And then it happened-- In 3 short minutes-- before I even realized it.  I downed an entire row of Oreo cookies from the package, along with a quart of milk.  Damn!

Yes, I actually gulped 440 calories per minute.  That's 1320 calories in less time than it takes me to tie my shoes.  Damn, I can't even remember what they tasted like. Guilt rushes in as I look down at the crumbs on my nightgown.  Now I'll never get to sleep.

You see, other than the hideous calorie overdose, Oreos are a fave of my young godson, Jacob, who, I might add, keeps count of the cookies in the package.  He's at our house two or three times a week and picked Oreos as his fave after-school snack for the drawer.   Jacob is somewhat territorial about his Oreos and is not inclined to share-- with anyone.

I know I will be totally busted when he arrives tomorrow.  I pace the house again, this time trying to find a reasonable explanation for pigging-out on his Oreos.  The sugar rush is increasing my headache as the sun starts to rise over the horizon.  

The way I see it, I have two choices.  I can blame the missing row of cookies on the "other kids", or I can buy a new box first thing in the morning and hide the evidence. In my sleepless sugar haze, those are the only two options I can come up with.

But wait, no one is looking.  I can eat the last row of Oreos tonight AND buy a new box in the morning.  Now there's an idea.....

What's your favorite sweet treat?
Welcome to TheFiftyFactor  - Joanna