Turkey Day: Make It a Hoot!

Have you ever listened to a turkey? I’ve never heard one say “gobble.” Other guttural sounds, perhaps, but not “gobble.” What turkeys say and what we think they say are different.

It’s the same with Thanksgiving. The way we celebrate now and the way that very first Thanksgiving — held in 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native American tribe to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest — was celebrated are very different.

First, the one surviving written account of that meal does not mention turkey. Nor mashed potatoes, gravy or cranberry sauce. More likely, the people celebrated with roast duck, venison — courtesy of the Wampanoag, who were key in helping the Pilgrims survive — as well as seafood, squash, corn and cabbage.

Also, many of the illustrations we’ve seen of that first Thanksgiving show the Pilgrims wearing clothing better suited to spring than late autumn: tall hats and tailored suits for the men and cotton dresses and caps for the women. Nearby stood a few Native Americans wrapped in furs. They were the smart ones.

C’mon, folks. It was the end of November outside of Boston. The weather must’ve been freezing. If the Pilgrims actually dressed that way, it’s no wonder they didn’t survive the next few months. Most of them must have died from pneumonia.

However, one real thing does live on from that first Thanksgiving: giving thanks. I believe the Pilgrims did do that. (Whether it was before or after they went to war with the Native Americans, I’m not sure.)

For those of us ages 50, 60 and over, we remember a Thanksgiving where we watched the Macy’s Parade and ate a big dinner with people that we may or may not have liked. We said a thank-you statement, prayer, or comment at dinner. Then it was over.

Now, Thanksgiving is a big commercial deal. Families still get together, but they may have to travel halfway around the globe, all the while fighting their way through crowded airports and praying for no weather delays. And we’ve institutionalized Black Friday and Cyber Monday as de-facto holidays.

It seems that what we’re thankful for is if we don’t have to talk to that relative whom we can’t stand, or if we can beat the crowd at the mall so we can get that big discount. When did we get so cynical? Today, pressure and stress seem to be more intense than in previous years. As a result, everyone is pulled in 50 different directions.

It’s impossible to get the Norman Rockwell holiday we hope for. I’m not sure if it ever really was possible. Even as a little girl in the 1950s, while I remember scrumptious pumpkin pie and that satisfying feeling of having a belly full of turkey and dressing, I also remember family gossip, heated arguments, and hidden resentments bubbling up to the surface.

But there is hope! It’s called using your sense of humor Make yourself laugh. If you are alone and haunted by losses and can’t think of anything you are particularly thankful for, you need to laugh. If you are with family, and dreading every second, you need a hearty guffaw. If you are with friends, and the holiday is not what you anticipated, you need a good chuckle.

This is my Thanksgiving gift to all of you – a good laugh. Share this humor with your friends:

I saw this sign outside the coffee shop at the Whole Foods Market in San Francisco: “Everyone loves a good grind.”

If that’s not enough, check out Grumpy Cat.

Still need another giggle?  look at these test answers from high school students:

Happy Thanksgiving to all my beautiful, vivacious, buoyant women! Whether you are alone or with family and friends, make it a hoot!

An Unexpected Wake-Up Call


So there we were, my daughter and I, nestled in our seats at an off-Broadway play in the Big Apple. The show was Mr. Burns, a smart, offbeat play in which cartoon character Bart Simpson and his friends help a post-apocalyptic America recover.

Since every word counted, my daughter and I were the picture of rapt concentration. Yet we struggled to hear what the actors were saying.

Now, it’s easy for anyone who’s had too much wine at dinner beforehand to fall asleep in the darkened theater. And someone apparently had. We heard deep, regular breaths. Loud guttural snoring.

The entire theater audience started to fidget. A woman three rows ahead of us stood up to see who had fallen asleep. Assuming it was a man, I said to my daughter, “Wouldn’t you think someone sitting near him would wake him up?”

No one did. The snorer was so loud that he was upstaging the actors’ rapid-fire dialogue. And the snoring continued for the entire first act.

How could someone be so rude?

I decided the snoring was intentionally being pumped through the speakers as another way of eliciting emotion from the audience. Especially since the actors didn’t seem to be bothered at all. How clever of them, I thought. It was a ploy.

Still, I decided that I was tired of being “had.” Whether this was a real person disturbing us or a trick of the play, I would leave at intermission. At Intermission, I turned to the couple next to us to share my irritation. The theater had emptied as patrons streamed into the lobby for the short break. That’s when everything changed.

We all saw her. At the far end of our row, an older woman sat in a wheelchair next an oxygen tank, which was hooked to a ventilator in her mouth. The “snoring” was her ventilator. She was alert, though unable to move. It dawned on us that she was here to enjoy the play. Just like the rest of us.

It’s all in your perception, isn’t it? The second act began, and I tuned out her “snoring.” Of course, it was only right that she shared the play with us. We could hear over her.

This story reinforces what I tell my audiences and clients on a regular basis: Your brain believes everything you tell it. In that scenario, I chose not to remain offended.

Our five senses constantly deliver data for our brains to interpret. At the play, I let my assumptions get in the way of really hearing. In my six-step process, step two, which is Adjust, allows us the precious freedom to redefine how we hear and see the world around us.

Next time someone disrupts your life, tell yourself, “I choose not be offended.” You may just find a woman on a ventilator that explains it all.

JFK’s Assassination: Life Lessons

Where were you when JFK was shot? Only our generation knows exactly what that question means.

I was in chemistry class, a sophomore at Ferndale High School in Michigan, when the somber message arrived: President John F. Kennedy had been shot. Like everyone else, I bolted home, stunned and terrified. That’s where I found my mother – the epitome of fortitude and reserve – crying on the couch.

JFK was assassinated 50 years ago today. That CAN’T be right. The event and the days afterward are still so vivid. I can see, feel, and hear it all over again: the despair, fear, and strength of Jackie Kennedy in her little pillbox hat, the shock when Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered (I saw it on TV, did you?), America’s inconsolable grief as a riderless horse cantered behind the president’s coffin while a military band played “Hail To The Chief” one last time for JFK, and the halting, teary voice of broadcaster Walter Cronkite as he narrated the funeral.

I didn’t know it then, but the era of manifest destiny, of a safe, secure, and impenetrable United States of America had just ended. The era of terrorism had begun. Life in the afterglow of World War II – was over.

Here’s the best brief recall and commentary I could find of that day.

This life lesson of the highest degree came at a time when we were interpreting our world. We carry the lessons we learned that day about trust, leadership, and the world deep inside us for the rest of our lives.

How do you recount this story? Listen to your words. You’re sharing the wisdom of growing up during of the age of innocence that even 40-somethings can never grasp (not to mention your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.) You have an obligation to younger generations to share your wisdom so they can savor what it was like “back then.”

Of course, there’s more than JFK’s shocking death that shaped you into who you are. You bring a palette of colorful life lessons to your life. All of them define your “self” today – the joyous, the painful, even the terrifying.

Life has taught you how to be the woman you are. JFK’s death was just one of many momentous historical events that molded you. How did you react to the Roe v. Wade court decision? To the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas scandal? To the Pres. Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair?

All of them flavored and shaped your thinking. What messages do you internalize from your family values, your culture and ethnicity, spiritual and religious traditions, friendships, lovers, educational institutions? Don’t underestimate the power of the lessons you have learned.

Most importantly, it’s critical to grasp your many facets and which life lessons shaped you, so you know which lessons to carry forward and which to leave in the dust.

If you’d like to learn more about this process, pick up a copy of my book, Exhale Mid-Life Body Blues: 6 Steps to Loving Your Body at Midlife and Beyond, which takes you on a six-step guided journey of life lessons.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Love Your Life Now! How inspiring. How renewing. You can do this! Yes, you can!

But maybe not today.

 “You can’t always get what you want, but when you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

Thank you, Mr. Jagger.

There are days when I’m fed up with getting what I need instead of getting what I want. Today was one of those days.  Enough already with the life lessons.

I’d like my life to go my way. Frankly, I don’t feel very much in love with life today. I feel overwhelmed, overworked, out of balance, and I miss my kids. I’ve got a body that’s aging at every angle: My joints ache. My tooth crowns need replacement. My retinas are detaching from the back of my eyes. My lips are starting to pucker – and it’s not a precursor to a kiss. It’s not going the way I wanted. Darn it.

You know that feeling?

Then on my way to my office here in San Francisco, I walked past the Philippine Consulate General.  At 9 a.m., the line was out the door and around the corner.

Of course, I thought. Typhoon Haiyan.

I saw crying mothers holding babies and men pleading with dignitaries. The air was thick with fear, panic and nervousness.

A wake up call? At first, not as much as it should have been. Yes, my heart broke for their worry and loss. And I did donate to the Red Cross as soon as I got to the office. But did my own selfish melancholy persist? Yes, quite honestly, it did.

Then I remembered what my mother told me: Just because your headache isn’t as bad as your friend’s headache doesn’t mean your pain is negligible. But it does mean that you should get your life in perspective and move on.

This is what I told myself:  Get over it (one of my favorite phrases!). You are not a victim. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Why impose melancholy on yourself when there’s plenty of sadness to go around in the world?

Kat, I said, put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

I had to grow up and realize that while I can’t always get what I want, sometimes, when I pay attention, I get exactly what I need. And walking past the consulate general was exactly what I needed.

When I shut the door on negativity and open the door to hope and resilience, I see that my life is not so bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn nice … and blessed, as well, for crying out loud!

Perhaps that’s why that Rolling Stones song is still so popular. You just can’t always get what you want. But sometimes — pay attention here — you really do get what you need.

Starting Over, Again and Again

“The world is your oyster! You’re just getting started.”

The speaker was the police chief of Ferndale, Michigan. The time was June, 1966, and the event was my high school graduation. The chief’s task was a formidable one – enlightening us about life’s opportunities on a muggy, sticky day in early summer.

I wondered, “What does an oyster have to do with me?” I also wondered when he’d stop talking, because I wanted to bolt with my friends to the beach.

At 18, I was invulnerable, immortal, and full of myself. The future? That was something my parents worried about.

But the oyster thing kept surfacing. I heard it at college graduation. And again at my first teaching job, when I got married, when I gave birth to my first child, and when I started my corporate work.

Then, I hit my mid-50’s. All talk about oysters stopped. Life’s opportunities got less metaphorical and more serious. Now, I was told I would have a “fresh start” with my marriage when the children left home.

Instead, I got a divorce. All of a sudden, I was starting over against my will – and it didn’t begin with a trip to the beach with my friends. To survive, I had a major life lesson to learn: I had to adjust my mindset to see starting over as a golden opportunity.

In the eight years since then, I’ve had more  “starting over” than I ever dreamed possible: six relocations (moving to a new home) and five new business starts.  I couldn’t have done them if I hadn’t constantly reminded myself that every one of them meant new possibilities.

It came down to a simple verb change. Instead of “I have to start over,” I told myself  “I get to start over.” Some days, starting again felt like a delightful walk in the park. Other days, the “golden opportunity” eluded me and I was brutally depressed and lonesome.

There was one constant that got me through, however: How I thought about the new starts made all the difference. My mind believed me when I said I was happy. It also set all systems to miserable, when I said I was lonely. Your brain believes everything you tell it.

The famous psychologist, Sol Gordon, once said, “There’s nothing as energizing as starting something new.”

From where I sit, after a half-century-plus of living, there are still oysters to be eaten. Now, however, I prefer them on the half shell with lemon and Tabasco.

And starting over? Oh yes, I’m a pro at it, as are you. We’re lucky, you and I. We’re not getting older. We’re getting started. And every day is a fresh one.



How to Love Your Life Now at 50, 60, 70 and beyond!

This is my tag line: Love Your Life Now.

With the cascade of changes, challenges, and new starts for women after 50, is it really possible to love your life now – every day- for the rest of your life? Or am I simply playing Pollyanna?

Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, my friend, Susan Sullivan, was dying from ovarian cancer. Susan struggled for several years with the disease that ultimately took her life.  One day, at the end of her fourth brutal bout fighting it, she reached out and took my hand.

“You don’t have time for negative energy!” Susan said. “Why does it take cancer to see how blue the sky is? Love your life now!”

Those words changed my life.

Even though she was exhausted and in pain from chemotherapy and the disease, Susan continued to laugh and love life. Ever the college professor, she helped young doctors better understand ovarian cancer. Up until two weeks before she died, Susan presented herself, bald-headed but bodacious, to answer questions from medical students at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Her parting words to me were: “If I’m not afraid to die, you mustn’t be afraid to live.”

Pretty somber stuff. Those are words you never forget.

What does it mean to lovelife?

Our youth-centered culture blithely bandies about the term “love.” For me, loving life means an intimacy with life not found on the common plane

To love life means to savor, to fully engage, to take a big bite out of life and own it – all of it – the good, the bad, the ugly. Loving life means to recognize that from this moment forward, life will be a series of starting up or starting again – each and every day.

Some of what life brings will be joyful. Other times, life throws mean, nasty curve balls. Regardless, we can choose how we think about it. For me, loving life means tapping our inner resources, a positive mindset, a plan, and a circle of support from others. Loving life means knowing how to get energized and empowered all over again – whenever we need it.

Scent of A Man who loves Women

scent-of-a-woman-2In an attempt last night to procrastinate at all costs, I curled up on the couch with the Oscar-winning 1992 drama, “Scent of a Woman.” It’s the story of a cantankerous, blind Army colonel (Al Pacino) who hires a timid 17-year old prep student (Chris O’Donnell) and takes him to New York City over Thanksgiving to complete his bucket list before ending his hopeless, useless life.

Talk about learning to Love Your Life Now! Is there a better example of overcoming deep depression and discovering life again? You must re-watch this movie! No matter where you are in your journey, this gem takes you all over the place.

You’ll laugh hard, cry intensely, and be stunned by the wisdom of the film’s message: Life is always worth loving, no matter how awful you feel about it. Don’t give up.

OK, so you don’t have time to watch the entire film. Give yourself a gift and watch these highlights:

  • The colonel gives his legendary earthy diatribe on women (and Ferraris, but only as a distant second). For us women, watching this is inspirational and illuminating. So this is what men think!
  • The colonel’s notorious “to-do” list before his suicide includes one last dance with a beautiful woman and test driving a Ferrari. Remember, the colonel is blind!

There’s a part of Colonel Slade in all of us. It’s that dark, lonely place where we think that life as we know it is over … and it can lead some of us very close to the edge. In the end, the colonel’s Manhattan rendezvous reinvigorates him, and he begins to taste and savor life again.

Starting over and starting again later in life can be darn daunting. But like Colonel Slade, we can get past that bleak place. It’s all about our inner dialogue. It can change! We have to tell ourselves we can change, then take the tangible steps to do so.

Own it! It’s all about the ‘tude

It’s all about the ‘tude, ladies.

I did a local radio show this morning in Sonoma (KSVY) and had 2 male co-hosts. We talked about beautiful women who have “it” – classic beauties who Own It! You can guess the usual suspects … Susan Sarandon, Raquel Welch, Meryl Streep, Lauren Bacall. Plastic surgery notwithstanding, all of these women exude self confidence.

We decided the poster child for beauty is Sophia Loren. Yes, ok, she was born with a predisposed genetic makeup to simply be magnificently beautiful for a lifetime. Nonetheless, she’s the embodiment of easy beauty.

We hear much about celebrities fighting depression, and many of the names mentioned above have had their personal lives ripped apart by public discussion of depression. Not Sophia! Read her secret in Daily Mail – quoted at age 76.

Sophia, who once famously claimed she ate a plateful of pasta a day, adding ‘everything you see, I owe to spaghetti’, said recently her slim figure is down to a combination of exercise and positive thinking.

She said: ‘I always wake up early and jump out of bed – sometimes not wanting to, because one can always find an alibi not to exercise – and then I take a walk for an hour.

‘And as I walk round the park I always think, “Maybe round the corner I am going to find something beautiful.”

‘I always think positively. It is very rare that you find me in a mood that is sad or melancholic.’

Read more

sophia_lorenHow we present ourselves makes all the difference. Look at her! Shoulders back, big stride. My male co-hosts and I agreed, it’s the ‘tude that makes us spectacular, vital, juicy, and beautiful. Next time you walk away from something as mundane as the grocery store checkout, throw that head back, strut slightly, and let ‘em look. Own it!

I would love to hear your thoughts! Share them here.

Craving compliments? Own it!

I complimented a magnificently adorned woman in her mid 60’s, yesterday – at the corner of Market and 2nd in San Francisco. It was exactly what we talked about in our “I Want My Neck Back … Reclaiming Your Body” sessions. As I approached the corner, she stood there in the most beautiful royal blue and black (trimmed) light coat. She was “owning it” so aristocratically – shoulders back, head up … just waiting for the light to change to walk across Market. Perfect picture? Nope. It all worked except for the frown on her brow. At first I thought to myself, “There’s an angry woman.” (Remember, we lead with our face). Then I stopped myself. Wait a minute! No drama and no stories! She needs a compliment. I said, “I love that coat.” She looked at me and a huge grin spread across her face. “Thank you,” she said. That’s all she said! (Had she secretly attended one of our sessions?) I continued, “Did you get it around here? It’s lovely!” She answered with glee, “No, I made it. I make all my clothes. I learned to sew when I was three.” “You sewed at three?” I asked. She replied, “We were really poor and my mother was a seamstress – no time for anything else with nine kids. By the way, you look amazing, too.” I simply said, “thank you,” smiling to myself as the light changed and we crossed the street. I’ll never see her again, but it was a bonding moment for both of us. The kind of moment that only we women can do. In less than one minute, we both left feeling wonder-full, with a brisker stride. My resolve is even firmer, now. We need to support each other, no matter what. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, join us for a complimentary event (I Want My Neck Back – Reclaiming Our Bodies) as we laugh, learn and share our woes and wonder-fullness around these ever changing bodies of ours. Sags and settling? Enough is enough! Join us and learn the secrets to “anti aging.”  Hint: It’s not about needles or knives, salves or supplements, food or fitness …