Gilda Radner: Most of us remember her for the hilarious “Roseanne Roseannadanna”

Gilda Radner

(June 28, 1946 – May 20, 1989)

Hats off to a woman who made the world laugh at itself. It’s the 25th anniversary of the untimely death of the funniest darn woman I ever met. Gilda Radner lived across Hill Street from me in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1968. We worked together at WCBN radio station, at the University of Michigan. I recall thinking she was destined for greatness.

Every time she walked in the room, she made you laugh. She was one of those people who had “I want to be with her” written all over her. You simply rose to a higher level of pheromones when Gilda was around.

She didn’t need to die. She was misdiagnosed for 11 months before doctors figured it out. She had advanced ovarian cancer. Remission was hers for a few years, but in the end, during the height of her wondrously humorous career, during her marriage to Gene Wilder, she succumbed. I miss her still, today.

Most of us remember her for the hilarious “Roseanne Roseannadanna” and “Baba Wawa” in the beginning glory days of Saturday Night Live with Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and John Belushi. She was the first female comic on the show – a first for women. Her parodies of Lucille Ball, Patti Smith, and Olga Korbut were legendary.

When she went in for her last CT scan, she begged not to be sedated. She told Gene Wilder she would never wake up. She was right. She went into a coma and died three days later.

Through senseless loss, like the passing of Gilda at such a young age, and the silencing of a gift that gave us the belly laughs so badly needed in such an anxiety ridden society we were alerted to the dangers of ovarian cancer. The gene is transferred from mother to daughter. Her mother, her aunt, her grandmother… wouldn’t you think they would have connected the dots?

That was another time and another place but because of her death, the disease has been studied at the Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai (established by Gene Wilder) to screen high-risk candidates. It’s no longer the absolute death sentence it once was. Still very dangerous, but it can be handled if discovered early.

Gilda, you make me laugh to this very day. One quirky grin, and I can be in stitches. I miss you. We all do. I can only begin to imagine the laughs we would have had over the last 25 years. Thank you for the short, sweet, very wacky, zany, and poignant moments with you.

Janet Yellen: The key to her success is to remain flexible and open to new information.

Janet Yellen – 67

(August 13, 1946)

At 67, Janet Yellen runs our money.  She’s the first woman in U.S. history to chair the Federal Reserve, taking Ben Bernanke’s place at the helm, appointed October 2013 by President Obama.  In a man’s world of economics and monetary policy, she’s steadily and consistently risen to the top.  Her love of life NOW expresses itself through her tenacity to “do the right thing,” uncluttered thinking and quiet brilliance.

Respected by men and women equally, her dossier reads like a dream sheet of intellectual and professional accomplishment: Brown University 1967 and Yale University PhD 1971.  Janet has taught at Harvard, London School of Economics, and UC Berkeley.  Needless to say, she was valedictorian of her high school graduation class… and that’s just the academics!

She spent a majority of her career in leading roles at the Federal Reserve starting in late 1970’s through today.  In 2004 she was president and CE0 of Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, not to mention becoming vice chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve in 2010.

On top of all these accomplishments, she’s been married to the same man, George Akerlof, for four decades.  She’s a Mom too – with one grown son.

Janet Yellen personifies Love Your Life Now, Step 2: ADJUST (among others) in our 6 Steps to Loving Your Life Now.  The key to her success is to remain flexible and open to new information at any moment – ready to adjust your position.

President Obama praised her because “she knows how to build consensus.”  Of course she does!  She’s a woman – and like the rest of us, she knows that it’s all about the relationship. She’s been building consensus all of her life – in and out of business.

Please leave a comment and don’t be shy about recommending other women over 50 for us to honor!

Ellen DeGeneres: Laugh as much as you can. Laugh until you cry.

Ellen DeGeneres – 56

(January 26, 1958)

“Just go up to someone on the street and say, ‘You’re it’.  Then run away.”  – Ellen DeGeneres. If humor is the best medicine, Ellen doctors us all – including herself.  She Loves Life Now through her gift of laughter.  Her life has been no joke, however.  She’s seen it all: abuse, rejection, hatred, joy, and wild success.

Our lesson from Ellen is to keep on laughing, even through the tears.

“Laugh.  Laugh as much as you can.  Laugh until you cry.  Cry until you laugh.  Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, “I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.”  Emote.  It’s okay.  It shows you are thinking and feeling.” ― Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously… I’m Kidding

No, life hasn’t been a giggly game of Chutes and Ladders for Ellen.  As a teen, she watched her mother struggle with breast cancer while secretly struggling against sexual abuse from her stepfather.  In 1997, she declared to the world “Yep, I’m Gay” on the cover of Time Magazine.  For that courageous coming-out, she paid a price: losing her Ellen show, the near end of her partnership with Anne Heche – and the resulting media swirl that led her into 3 years of deep depression.

Laughter literally saved her life.  In 1980, when she was 21 years old, she lost the first love of her life abruptly to an auto crash.  That incident caused her to write her first monologue: “A Phone Call to God.”  She made us laugh about mortality.  It was her first stand-up job, emceeing at a New Orleans comedy club. Her performance won her the 1984 Showtime’s Funniest Person in America award.

After many loves and breakups, Ellen married her beautiful girlfriend Portia de Rossi in 2008, at their L.A. home.  She says, “What can I say.  I’m the luckiest girl in the world!”

For other fun factoids about Ellen, check out this article in People Magazine.

Like the rest of us, Ellen’s ridden the roller coaster of life through the ups and downs, the pain and the joy.  She teaches us to love ourselves just as we are, to laugh through it all – that life is always worth the chance to enjoy the ride.  You just have to keep going.  She’s the epitome of my message to many of my clients, “What if it were just fun?”

Please comment about what Ellen means to you.  Also, if you have suggestions for other women 50+ that deserve honoring, please let us know.




Sophia Loren: Mature beauty is very different than youthful beauty.

Sophia Loren – 79

(September 20, 1934)

The most beautiful woman in the world! – Kat’s opinion.  Her grace, her charm, her style, her disarming honesty, her outspoken views on mature beauty, and her oft declared most cherished role – that of the mother of her children – all of these mold this timeless teacher of true beauty into a classic role model.

Sophia Loren personifies our Love Your Life Now, Step 5: ADORN – the wisdom and commitment to drape ourselves with pleasing attire and attitude that makes us ooze with contentment and confidence.

This is her conviction: “Mature beauty is very different than youthful beauty.  It demands a different approach.  Youthful beauty is ‘dewy cheeked and made up to disguise an imperfect nose.’  Mature beauty is knowing and sophisticated.  It admits to effort.  It is also much richer and more complex. … I’m convinced that nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is so” (Women & Beauty, 1986).

Does she love her life NOW?  In her own words: “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.”

Little Sophia learned the harsh rules of poverty as a child, living with her mother and her grandparents.  She shared a bedroom with eight people.  World War II bombs ravaged her struggling village of Pozzuoli.  She lived in famine – her mother resorted to capturing water from the car radiator and rationed it by the spoonful.  Bomb shrapnel flattened little Sophia and split open her chin with a scar she bears today.  Her sickly physique earned her the nickname “little stick.”

At 14, everything blossomed, and the beauty we know today emerged.  The war was over, and the family opened a pub in their living room, popular with American GIs.  Sophia waited tables and washed dishes.  Fate changed at age 17 when she landed her first acting job, an extra in Quo Vadis (1951), then Hollywood, and over 100 movies.

Through it all, she has kept her style, poise, savoir-faire, and incandescence.

Good news: Sophia Loren has a film comeback due out soon, in an Italian adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play The Human Voice (La Voce Umana) which charts the breakdown of a woman who is left by her lover – with her youngest son, Edoardo Ponti, as director.  Filming purportedly took under a month during July 2013 in various locations in Italy including Rome and Naples.  It will be Loren’s first significant feature film since the 2009 film – Nine.

We welcome our stunning Sophia Loren back to the silver screen!

Please leave us your comments about Sophia Loren, and please give us suggestions of names of women in their 50’s who exemplify loving life now.

Body Image Blues: Shopping When Nothing Fits

Sometimes, practicing what you preach is not as easy as it looks.

On Black Friday, my daughter and I were at the shopping mecca of New York City: Fifth Avenue. We were betting on grabbing good deals at the high-end boutiques, and guessed that shoppers would be fewer in this more chic area of town.

If nothing else, we would window-shop, admire the elaborate “sidewalks dressed in holiday style” as only NYC can do and cap the day with a glass of wine at the St. Regis Hotel. What fun! We giggled about playing “grown up” for a day.

I decided to splurge on something magnificent for my speaking engagements – a holiday treat to myself to celebrate being with my daughter for five luscious, luxurious days in New York City.

We stepped through the doors of a tasteful, elegant, and very expensive retailer. We were immediately immersed in racks of lovely clothing to adorn the woman of style in her 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. The boutique was inviting and gracious, albeit with a staff that seemed only moderately congenial and interested in helping us. (Was it my NYDJ jeans?).

Nonetheless, the garments were so beautiful that I asked to have four outfits brought to me. I could see myself modeling them for the gentleman I’m dating, and feeling oh-so-confident in front of my next audience of beautiful, zesty women.

The retail clerk brought the requested treasures. That Mandarin red jacket! And that gentle peacock blue silk blouse with matching silk tank! Delicious. With black silk pants – a magnificent outfit!

Then I tried them on.

“Well, well,” I thought. “It seems clothes now fit a little tighter than last year. That’s OK.  I’ll just get one size larger.

But as I tried on more tops, slacks, jackets and skirts  — all of which didn’t fit, I began to get that horrible feeling that I call fitting-room fatigue, or body image blues. I didn’t like my body: That turkey neck, those heavy arms unable to fit comfortably in the sleeve, that blubbery tummy making the trousers and jackets tight.

Frankly, I was feeling old and unattractive, and I said so to my acting advisor, my daughter.

Suddenly, she stood up straight, put both hands on my shoulders and said, “Mom! You teach this stuff about managing your thoughts while shopping! So stop the self-defeating thoughts right now!

“Get real. Let go of the size thing. These clothes weren’t made for you. Big deal! And nobody looks good unclothed in front of these mirrors. Where is that beautiful, confident, sophisticated mother of mine? Let’s leave.

Isn’t it amazing how our own offspring can give back what we so blithely hand out? She was correct, of course. Those clothes weren’t right for me. It didn’t mean I needed to lose 20 pounds or commit myself to the gym. It simply meant it didn’t work this time. That’s it!

I hope this lesson will help all of you destined for fitting rooms over the holiday season.

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.

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.