What’s The Story?

IMG_4587I love stories. I spend a lot of my time either telling them or trying to get others to tell theirs (in 650 words or less) in their college application essays (shameless plug). I remember the low-tech days of yesteryear fondly, unfurling the knots in the extremely long phone cord, dragging it through the kitchen, down the stairs, and into my room. The best stories were swapped holding that hard piece of plastic to my ear, with nothing else to take my focus away. And I think that with all the ways we have to distract ourselves today, personally told stories are even more critical than ever. They take time and care to craft and tell well, and they require the focus and attention of others. If you have a story to tell, I want to hear it. Last Friday night, I sat in a little quiet nook at the Yale Club and told my story to Kim Berns for her new podcast, What’s The Story with Kim Berns  available on iTunes (although my episode is not up yet). We talked about what it’s like to pivot at a certain age and find fulfillment by taking an unexpected path. We spoke non-stop for about twenty minutes, and then I earned my fee; a well-made Tanqueray and Tonic.

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I was able to sneak in a quick Broadway show with Toni on Wednesday. We saw A Choir Boy, which we both thought was fantastic. It’s a 2 hour, no intermission drama, but it’s also got great music due to the subject matter. And even though the play is twenty years old, it is still extremely relevant, sadly, today.

Did I mention I have a sister who’s a vegan? She’s been opening my eyes to a culinary world where you can’t cook with anything that makes food taste good. We met for lunch at Nix, which boasts a brand new shiny Michelin star. I took a picture of the gorgeous beet salad with quinoa, but the real star of my meal was the mushroom veloute that was so creamy I wanted to go back into the kitchen and have them prove it was vegan.

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I took my first yoga class at Humming Puppy. We can all agree the name is ridiculous. I’m even embarrassed typing it, but the experience was nothing to laugh at. It’s a new way to yoga, brought to you from Australia. The main difference between this yoga studio and all others is the humming. Throughout the practice, there is a constant hum in the room that comes from surround sound speakers. It sounds like the tones made from Buddhist temple bowls. Something like this. I will return, but it won’t be my go-to spot due to the temperature in the studio. Women going through menopause have no business doing yoga in 80-degree rooms.

I’m always keeping an eye out for a fun, casual restaurant on the Upper East Side with decent food, as most of my friends live up there, and I feel bad always recommending restaurants downtown. Last week I went with friends to The Writing Room. I chose it because of its hugely storied literary past (as in Billy Joe’s song Big Shot “…they were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine’s…”). There was a great buzz in the room, it was packed, and the food was really good. I’ll keep it on my short UES list.

Saturday we killed two little birds with one round-trip Amtrak. My oldest son was in Philly visiting his girlfriend at med school, and my youngest goes to Penn. Tom and I got on a late morning train, arrived in Philly 1 hour and 15 mins later, just in time for an incredible brunch at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Fishtown. The restaurant is located in an old rye whiskey distillery and has four extremely cool hotel rooms upstairs. I am already planning on renting these rooms for Annie’s graduation in a few years. Sshhhh don’t tell anyone with a sophomore at Penn. The food was fantastic, and after we ate, we moved to the couches in front of the wood burning fire for coffee.

We had some time to kill before the next meal, so we walked up Frankford Avenue which is one of the main streets in the Fishtown neighborhood. This street looks so freshly gentrified, it’s almost as if the paint is still wet.

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There are a number of fun restaurants and bars and an inordinate amount of vintage clothing stores, all carefully curated to the point where you don’t know if the clothes are new or used. Here are a few we stopped into: Two Percent To GloryJinxed, and Urban Exchange. We also passed at least two open breweries on our way up the road. From there we ubered to another fun neighborhood, Queen Village. We started with happy hour cocktails at Tatooed Mom, a place we all loved. From there we walked to Hungry Pigeon a restaurant that has been on my radar, and I was excited to get a reservation (albeit 5:15). The menu is small, and is meant to be shared family style. We sat at this beautiful communal table and enjoyed everything we ordered.

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But I want to return for lasagne season. You need to pre-reserve with 24 hours notice. You get your own lasagne (classic bolognese or vegetarian) with a few accompaniements for $80 PER ORDER. It feeds 4-6 people or 2 who like leftovers. I’m intrigued.

I love Philly, and I’m grateful that I get to continue to explore it over the next 2.5 years while visiting my daughter. It’s a city of neighborhoods and stories – my favorite kind of city.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Just When You’re Comfortable In Your Own Skin, It Starts to Sag

 

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Great title, right? I agree, but it’s not mine. It’s the title of a new book, just out from the dynamic duo Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth. If you haven’t read one of their previous books (also with amazing titles) I Was A Really Great Mom Until I Had Kids, and I’d Trade My Husband For A Housekeeper…among others, you need to get this one. (Full disclosure, I’m quoted twice in the book – try to figure out which ones…)

I virtually sat down with Amy and Trisha to talk about their book and the concept of perennials – the rebranding of Middle Age.

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Me: Hi Ladies! First of all, I want to say thank you for writing this book. It’s long overdue and after reading it, I can say that the wisdom within these pages completely spoke to me. I’m on a mission to make 50-something relevant, and sometimes I feel like the world is standing in my way. It’s a daily fight against age and gender bias.

Them: YES – we even fought age bias in pitching this book to the media!  Women’s magazines and some of the big national tv shows are shying away from the ‘midlife’ topic, as it’s just not ‘sexy.’  Yet women are buying the book like crazy for themselves and their friends!

Me: I love your goal of rebranding middle age, of rewriting the rules of midlife. And I appreciate your usage of the new term “perennial.” It’s so refreshing to hear something other than millennial. Explain that.

Them: Every time we interviewed a woman and used the word ‘’midlife,’ we could feel her cringe over the phone.  So we finally just put it in the spotlight and asked women what word they’d rather use, and there’s a page in the book that reflects these ideas (“kindergarten 2.0,” “Becoming”).  The word that seemed to light up each woman was “Perennial.”  They all seemed to love the symbolism – everlasting, ever blooming, more vibrant year after year.

Me: The book starts off with a question: “Is this it?” It’s something I ask myself on a daily basis. I guess I’m not alone?

Them: No you are most certainly NOT alone!  It’s a strange concept to feel like we are a lucky generation, that we have choices that are so much more bountiful than our moms, yet feel unfulfilled on some level.  We heard it over and over again – women whispering into the phone that they feel guilty/bad about feeling that they’re somehow lacking, or stuck.  And not sure of how to get themselves ‘unstuck.’

Me: Many of my friends are dealing with the family sandwich: parenting their newly minted young adult children and their elderly parents. It can be overwhelming. Any advice?

Them: This is a perfect storm situation.  It’s happening everywhere, yet we’re still shell-shocked when it affects us.  We’re having kids later, and suddenly we’re hormonal, they’re hormonal, and our parents need us as caregivers.  It’s incredibly overwhelming and once again, we put ourselves at the very bottom of the priority list.  The first step is to put ourselves not only back on that list, but near the top.  What are your weekly/monthly non-negotiables?  It could be something as small as a 20-minute walk or meditation each day.  But it’s vital to put that on the family calendar, let everyone know it’s happening and don’t overlook it.  We have to stay strong and start saying ‘no’ to some things in our lives to make room for these situations.

Me: My kids will roll their eyes at this, but my husband and I are extremely excited about being empty-nesters and have a new lease on life. That being said, it can be a huge transition from a busy, child-filled home, to it just being the two of you.  You sort of have to figure it all out again. What have some of your responders said about this transition?

Them: It’s a time laced with so many different emotions all at once – pride, excitement, fear, loss, sadness.  A lot of women told us that sending their kids to college was a sock in the stomach, and completely took an unexpected emotional toll on them.  Other women talked more about the transition in terms of how it shaped or shifted their marriages – you’re really forced to look at each other again, and some marriages don’t survive it.  In fact, after age 50, 3 out of 5 divorces are initiated by women, and the numbers are rising.  A smaller number of women said they were overjoyed to have their lives back in a sense, and described being empty nesters as like being in Kindergarten all over again.

Me: And how about girlfriends? Things change in that regard as well. The reason we became friends in the first place (kids, kids, kids) have gone to college. We have less to talk about, and sometimes it can be harder to connect in a meaningful way. Any suggestions?

Them: A lot of women talked about feeling very alone during this phase – and yes, it’s true that those friends we made because our kids were BFF’s aren’t usually the best fits as we progress, and the kids aren’t the common thread anymore.  We need to reassess who is in our lives now, who is serving us, who is not (we call this ‘pruning’), and make some decisions about what we really want in terms of friendships.  Even one solid meaningful girlfriend who truly gets you and is there for you in a positive way is worth more than 5 friends who are more superficial.  One way to meet new friends is to enroll in a class or club to do something you love – gardening, writing, running.

Me: After decades of others being the priority in our lives how do we put ourselves front and center?

Them: It takes a true effort to decide to focus on ourselves.  It’s a choice, every single day. It’s a conscious choice to be happy, to choose ourselves as someone we love.  Once we begin seeing each new day in that light, things will start to shift.

Me: And then, there’s the big M. Can we blame everything on menopause? What can we learn from those on the other side of the transition? In other words, am I ever going to get a good night sleep again?

Them: There is sooo much misinformation out there!  Even the doctors we interviewed had so much conflicting advice; it makes our heads hurt.  And menopause is so steeped in taboo that women are hesitant to talk with each other about it!  What surprised us most is the long laundry list of odd symptoms — like hearing sensitivity, anxiety (sometimes crushing) and changes in eyesight.  But once women got through it, and were on the other side, many of them said their sex drives were better than ever, they could lose weight again, and they were happier.

Me: There’s hope!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions today. I know you are going to be very busy with the book tour. Looking forward to seeing you next Wednesday at the 92nd Street Y

I can’t think of a better book club book for women our age to talk about!  You can order one here.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Seeing NYC Through A Different Lens

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This week was action-packed, and curiosity filled. Thankfully, the weather cooperated, and by Friday it was downright balmy! On Monday, I locked myself in the Rose Main Reading Room at the NY Public Library to edit my middle-grade novel for the 78th time. I’ll be attending the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference the first weekend in February, and my goal is to submit my manuscript The Curse of the Baseball Oni to agents attending the event. There is no better place to sit your butt in a seat and write.

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Tuesday, I spent a busy day with a long-lost friend in lower Manhattan. We started early with a visit to the mock-up of The TWA Hotel in the Freedom Tower. You can contact them via email to request a free tour. It’s a wonderful way to get inside the Freedom Tower (the views from the Sky Lobby are insane – the pic at the top of the blog is from the Sky Lobby), and the TWA exhibit is fun.

 

It was a day of non-stop catch up which included what Ginny’s been up to over the last few years. After a very intensive training program, Ginny is now a docent at the MET leading tours for public school students. She also gives tours of Grand Central and the surrounding neighborhoods for the Municipal Arts Society. I would hire Ginny in a hot second to take out of town guests for an inside personal tour of NYC. She can lead tours in any of the following areas: Grand Central & Environs, Herald Square to Empire State, Chelsea and The Highline, Chelsea Galleries, Lower East Side Galleries (plus history), Upper East Side Galleries, and the Flatiron/Ladies Mile. She can be reached at ginnypoleman@me.com and followed on Instagram at @art_encounters.

After a delicious spontaneous lunch at Gotan in Tribeca, we arrived for our 4 pm guided tour of the artist Donald Judd’s private living and workspace. The The Judd Foundation is located on Spring Street in Soho and is a great way to get a birds-eye view into the life of an artist who lived and worked in Soho for twenty-five years.

On Wednesday night, Tom and I had tickets to see Magic After Hours with Noah Levine. It’s not like I’m a huge magic enthusiast, but this show checked a lot of boxes. It was to be held at Tannen’s the oldest magic store in NYC (I love historical NYC), there would be around 10 audience members (I hate crowds), Veuve Cliquot would be served (doesn’t need an explanation), and the show would last about an hour (perfect amount of time on a weeknight). I absolutely loved it, and Noah Levine is adorable.

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Before the show, we enjoyed a delicious bowl of ramen at a new Herald Square area ramen shop. If you spend time in this midtown area, you’ll know there is a shortage of good places to eat. Next time you attend a sporting event or concert in the Garden, I highly recommend a stop at Tonchin. Just make sure you leave some wiggle room for the line. We waited about 30 minutes.

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Thursday included a visit to an “old faithful” with new eyes. Together with a few friends, I booked a spot on the Yum Yum Met Tour through In Food We Trust. Our tour guide Angelis was a treasure! He took us on a whirlwind tour through many different areas of the MET spanning thousands of years showing us how food impacts art. I highly recommend this tour for anyone; from the savviest of art fans to the least initiated – there is something for everyone. I’m still thinking about many things I learned that day, specifically the concept of tables for ladies which is beautifully rendered in Edward Hopper’s painting with the same name. This is a picture of our fabulous tour guide Angelis with your group:

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We worked up quite the appetite and were happy we booked ahead at Flora Bar located in the MET Breuer, only a few minutes walk from the MET (it’s the old Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue). It’s the perfect place to cap off a morning spent looking at priceless works of art.

It’s Saturday afternoon, and there is a whole world out there to explore! Thanks for reading.

Have fun. Be bold.