Category Archives: Parenting

My Mother’s Shoes


My mother was raised in a fashion era when handbags matched shoes and shoes matched outfits and outfits were haute couture.  The third eldest of eight children, my mother grew up poor in a house where food, not fashion, was the priority. She was not considered beautiful then. She was too tall, too big, too strong.

In the short time my mother was on her own before marrying my father, her fashion sense bust loose and her love of shoes emerged.

My mother at a wedding in April. She still has fabulous taste in shoes.

My mother at a wedding in April. She still has fabulous taste in shoes.

One minute there was an overweight gawky child with second hand clothes. The next, there was a stunningly beautiful woman with a made-to-fit outfit and dynamite shoes. I look back on photos of her then and she was the perfect mix of elegance, class and sex appeal.


The irony, of course, is that my mother never considered herself sexy. She was a wife and a mother and had a full-time job.   

But, oh, her shoes, they transformed her.

My mother had a ritual when dressing up to go out for a special occasion. I would bask in each step of the process: The bath. The powder under the breasts. The Tigress fragrance. The good bra and girdle, the good stockings, the fitted dress, the pearls. The red lipstick.

The shoes.

Black patent leather stiletto pumps with heels so sharp and lethal she should have had a license to wear them. They screamed sexy.

I would lie on her bed and watch as she pulled the shoebox off the shelf and fold aside the tissue paper to reveal its secret.  When she slipped on those shoes, it was the climax, the finale. My admiration and envy were the standing ovation.

On Saturday, my mother turns 80, which got me thinking about her when she was young and I was little and played with her shoes. She suffers from arthritis and has difficulty walking, now. She hasn’t put on a pair of stiletto pumps in 20, maybe 30 years. Still, she never fails to admire a well-designed, well made pump. I watch her as she walks by the shoes in the department store.  She’ll pick up a shoe, comment on the color or the quality of the leather and might say, “Now, I like that kind of heel.” Now, her shoes have soft, flat soles and are, for the most part, utilitarian. But every once in a while she’ll squeeze her swollen feet into a pair of classic black pumps with a more modest heel, but still, I sense a little bit of sexiness about to burst out. And I wonder if she longs for the days when shoes matched outfits and outfits were haute couture. I know I do.



Filed under Aging, Fashion, Parenting

Smarties outrage just dumb

imagesMy cousin, Judy, forwarded this Wall St. Journal article to me recently, with the  comment that even she’d pass on worrying about this one. Apparently, some kids can blow “smoke” from Smarties candies.  Parents and teachers are outraged and fearful that this trend will make smoking look cool.  I don’t know. But if I were 10, I’d think the kid that could blow Smartie smoke out of his nose would be more funny than cool. The fact that the smoking Smarties article took itself seriously is a sad commentary on our society of worry-addicted parents and educators who seem to have nothing better to do, or at best are just avoiding real issues. News flash: Kids who want to look cool “smoking” will do it with a real cigarette; probably from a pack they stole out of your purse.

When they start snorting crushed Smarties, then I’ll raise an eyebrow.

On the other hand, I don’t think the You Tube videos showing how to smoke Smarties are particularly funny, and ok, maybe the kids are a bit weird, but I don’t think they’re dangerous. These kids might end up in jail, but I don’t think it’s because they’ve smoked Smarties.

 The Girls Club (where I took swim lessons every Friday until I was in high school) had a candy counter stocked with penny candy. With a nickel, you could get FIVE packs of Smarties. I would unwrap them, holding them together with my thumb and index finger and run the line under the water spout. Then I’d suck on the saturated Smarties until they dissolved into my mouth. Adults didn’t pay attention to kids back then, but if they had, would they have seen this as a sign of a dangerous, drug-like trend? Perhaps. But nobody did care. We must have had other things to worry about in the early 70s. 


Filed under Education, Humor, Parenting

Fashion icon Barbie turns 50 today, touts tatoo

Barbie turns 50 today. What a role model she has been. She has held up magnificently well. She continues to challenge herself by mastering different professions. She has kept her style up to date and makes cutting edge fashions work for her. And, regardless of the public outrage, I think she’s old enough to get a tattoo and put it anywhere she wants. With skin that doesn’t age, why not?

Barbie, fabulous at 50

Barbie, fabulous at 50


For most girls growing up in the 60s, having a Barbie doll was a rite of passage. My sister Maryann, who is five years older than me, was the first one to get a Barbie, the one with coifed blond hair. Maryann also had Midge, who had red hair and freckles. On a good day, my sister would let me play with her, but Midge was no substitute for Barbie. Everyone knew Midge was the ugly one.  

My Barbie was the first bendable Barbie and she came packaged with a neon orange bathing suit. It was not a good look for her. I changed her into a smashing white lace two piece and accessorized with matching wrap, straw hat, beach bag, and high-heeled sandals.

The way I see it, all that controversy about Barbie’s freakishly proportioned body diminishing my worth as a female is just stupid. Everybody knows that Barbie HAD to be built that way otherwise the clothes just wouldn’t have hung right.

I may not have been a particularly astute kid, but I sure as hell knew my body was never meant to look like Barbie’s. She was plastic for heaven’s sake. She had no nipples or body hair or, um, genitalia. With all the other women in my life with real, soft, buxom, warm bodies, why would I ever think that SHE was what I was suppose to look like?

I yearned for her wardrobe, not her boobs.

Barbie was, and always will be, a fashion icon. Playing with her was about dressing up and experimenting with style. Barbie had mini-skirts and maxi-skirts, black cocktail dresses, fur-trimmed ski parkas, go-go boots and fabulous handbags.  She always had the latest in fashion and for a kid like me who grew up with three pairs of shoes: brown school shoes, sneakers and black patent leather, and hand-me- down clothes that never fit properly and were horribly out of style, my Barbie doll case was a plastic box full of fashion possibilities.

If we’re going to blame Barbie for something, blame her for the 40 pairs of shoes in my closet, my obsession with wood hangers, a compulsive collection of handbags and scarves, and for the fact that I’m willing to spend an insane amount of time finding the perfect outfit for an important occasion.

So here’s to Barbie and a half-century of teaching girls that, yes, a red velvet clutch with tiny gloves tucked inside can be the ultimate prize. And here’s to all the women who grew up loving Barbie – and their own beautiful bodies. 

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Filed under Humor, Parenting

A little more honesty (and humor) as we age, please

I’m a loyal reader of More magazine, it “celebrates” my age. Over 40. In terms of women’s magazines, I relate to it more than say Glamour or Marie Claire and certainly more than Cosmopolitan. I don’t read Family Circle or Woman’s Day, although I used to. The fact is I just don’t need another recipe for boneless breast of chicken. imageaspxSo while I prefer More than any other, I admit, I’m getting weary of the “How Great Life is over 40 Testimonials.” I know. I know. Embrace your age. Love the skin you’re in. Yeah. Whatever. Here’s what would be fresh.  Interview someone over 40 who admits to having to pop a couple of Advil with her morning coffee before she can start the day. Honestly. I want to hear a woman over 40 candidly talk about hemorrhoids and how she found a really good cream that gets rid of that awful itch.  I want to hear a woman over 40 talk to me about thinning eyebrows. I want someone to admit the reason they don’t have sex more is because they’re too damn tired to undress – and then get dressed again, not because they’ve lost their will.

I don’t feel inferior reading how some women over 40 feel more confident because I know they’re mostly full of shit. “I love being 50.” Yeah, right. You’re now ok with having stomach fat and gray hair and having to spend a fortune to replace all the metal fillings in your mouth because some 30-year-old dentist told you they’re getting old and will crack at anytime.

Look, I am more comfortable with myself than I was at 25. I know myself better. I understand the world better. I’ve traveled. I have more money. I have better friends and a great marriage. I raised two terrific daughters.  And, I don’t give a rat’s ass about so many of the little things that I used to when I was younger. But I do wish I had the more resilient body and skin I had in my 20s, heck even my 30s. I wish I were still a fearless skier. I’m not so afraid of falling, but that I won’t be able to get myself back up again. I wish I didn’t have to put on glasses to read the directions on the back of the brownie mix box. I wish I could experience the joy of being a young mother again. I wish I didn’t have to work so hard to lose weight and stay fit. I wish I didn’t have dreams about my teeth falling out.

The idea behind More is to make us feel good about ourselves. I know that. And I do believe plenty of women are OK with being 50. After all, embracing it is healthy, physically and mentally. There is a lot of really good life to be had at 40, 50, 60 and beyond.  But I just hope that as we age, we can be more honest with each other and stop pretending that we’re 100% OK with our bodies aging. I’d be so much more OK with turning 50 if I new it meant more honesty and humor and a truly effective hemorrhoid cream. 


Filed under Careers, Humor, Parenting

Is Facebook the new resume?

Branding yourself. Not a new concept. Recruiters have touted for years that branding, at least for C-level executives, is absolutely vital to a flourishing career. But with so many people out of work, this branding idea has come to the masses, thanks to the web, and if you’re job hunting without an online presence, you’re nobody. Literally. Nobody.  52881_hi

You can avoid or all you want and muss about the evils of social networking sites, but you’re just kicking yourself in the ass. 

Even the least savvy of organizations will do a Google search — at least you should expect them to. And “the complete absence of an online presence can raise red flags,” says Brad Reagan in this month’s Smart Consumer column in Smart Money  magazine. Branding is a tricky thing, though, so your online presence must be managed well, wisely and often. What a potential employer sees online can determine whether you get that interview (or job) or not. 

Discretion is the key word here. While I assume you know better, it’s my observation that networking sites can be used  for good or evil, depending on the level of stupidity. I’ve worked with people (in their early 20s) who think nothing of putting a picture of themselves in a drunken stupor on Facebook — and are aware that I (their boss) had access to their site (as a friend). Being a brilliant speech writer for president-elect Obama doesn’t preclude you from doing dumb (very dumb) things and posting them to Facebook, either.  This guy was caught clutching the ass of a Hilary Clinton cut-out and somebody put the photo on Facebook. What were they thinking? Oh, wait, that’s right, they weren’t. 

Maybe this is why a recent  Boston Globe article about using Facebook as your professional profile proved to me that too much of the job-hunting advice I’ve been reading is being dumbed down — for the really dumb. Saying a profile picture of yourself holding a beer bottle may not be good for your image, is like saying dropping a cement block on your foot will hurt like a bastard. Some things should just be obvious when you become an adult and expect someone to hire you.

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Filed under Careers, Education, Parenting, Social Media

Now I’m really depressed

There is an article in today’s Boston Globe about a job fair in NJ. The news is not good. It quotes an out-of-work tax analyst as saying, “”It’s hard to find a job. No one wants to hire anyone with any experience.” 

My friend Anne said to me yesterday that she thinks this sinking economy is a media hoax otherwise why would skiers be  swarming the slopes of Okemo like ants during Christmas vacation when lift tickets are $77/day.   I think she makes a valid point. My spirits are lifted as I think this all might be over in a day or two. But news late yesterday reported that EMC would lay off 2400 employees, 600 of them in Massachusets? Holy crap. Now I’m really depressed — especially if the line at that Dunkin’ Donuts on Rt 135 doesn’t get any shorter in the morning. 

Some stats out today according to the same Globe article: “A barometer on layoffs due out Thursday is expected to show that the number of newly laid off people signing up for state unemployment insurance last week rose to 540,000, up from 492,000 in the previous week, according to economists’ projections. The number of people continuing to draw jobless benefit is projected to stay near 4.5 million, demonstrating the troubles the unemployed are having in finding new jobs. Electronic unemployment filing systems have crashed in at least three states in recent days amid. 

What would it take to  put me in a more optimistic state-of-mind? To know that  someone is reading my brilliantly written cover letters and resumes instead of being lost in some black hole which is what I am convinced is happening.


Filed under Careers, Education, Parenting, Social Media