Monday, March 31, 2008

Standing Up for Silda

Silda Wall Spitzer has been criticized for standing next to her husband, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, as he publicly apologized for “acting in a way that violates my obligations to my family.” Those actions were soon known to be his long-term patronage of a prostitution ring. I wonder what Silda was thinking as Spitzer delivered his statement.

I watched the March 10th video. Silda, with downcast eyes and a pained expression, stands tight behind her husband’s right shoulder. She is obviously in distress. Yet, it looks like she’s leaning into Spitzer, as if she’s trying to physically reassure him, provide him support.

Silda’s support is nothing new in the Spitzer’s 20-year marriage. A Harvard law school grad, she gave up her successful law career to take care of their three children. She devoted herself to Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign. In a recent interview she was quoted as saying,

“Eliot and I both grew up with parents who worked together as a strong team. That's the only way I know how to go about it, to be as supportive as I can be for him. He, in turn, is as supportive as he can be with my interests and endeavors."

Well. I wouldn’t characterize Spitzer’s 10-year history of dalliances with high-class hookers as being “supportive.”

Perhaps Silda thinks so too. Because two days later, when Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation, things looked a little different on the podium. Silda again stood at her husband’s side, but there was no contact. The space between them was noticeable. Silda’s eyes were not downcast – she looked at Spitzer as he spoke and glanced directly out to the audience.

If I were Silda, I’d be thinking this: “How do I minimize the impact of this scandal on my three girls and maximize the amount of my divorce settlement?” So I’d stand strong, try to maintain my dignity, and do what I could to make sure my husband remained financially solvent. Then a few months down the road, I’d hire the best divorce attorney in the state of New York and sue the bastard.

To hell with taking one for the team.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Marjie's Mainstays - Stuff that never fails to make me happy.

If Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart can publish lists of their favorite things then so can I. I may not have a celebrity budget, but I’ve found a few things over the years that make me consistently feel good. Unlike Oprah and Martha’s lists, you won’t find anything outrageously expensive on mine. No Manolo Blahnik stilettos, no trips to Madagascar for the holidays. But here are a dozen things that I feel are worth spending money on time and time again.

Does a Body Good
1. Crest Premium White Strips
For we middle aged babes, there are very few quick fixes and this is one of them. Wear these teeth whitening strips for a week and you will have noticeably whiter teeth. Nothing is more youthful than a dazzling smile. I use them now once a week to touch-up. $34.99 at Drug Stores.
2. Neutrogena Build-A-Tan Sunless Tanning Lotion
Forget the hassle of spray tanning booths. This lotion is quicker, easier and cheaper and results in with a much more natural look. Essential for the long Chicago winters. Who wants to look like you’ve crawled out from under a rock? $9.49 at Drug Stores
3. Body Shop Body Butter
Even Victoria Beckham agrees that this rich cocoa butter based cream is the best body moisturizer around. It comes in a wide array of yummy “flavors.” My favorite is the Mango. $20 at Body Shop.
4. Tweezerman Slanted Tweezers
If, like me, you suffer from what my Aunt Mary calls “wild hairs” listen up. These tweezers are absolutely the best on the market. They can grasp any hair on your face, no matter how stubborn or slippery. $20 at Ulta.

Shopping Bag
5. Gap Long & Lean Jeans
I’m only 5’3”, so I can’t tell you how much I adore the Gap for offering their jeans in three different lengths. This Long & Lean style delivers what the name promises - and the jeans are so comfy. $58 at the Gap.
6. DSW Shoe Store
Thousands of pairs of shoes in your size! No waiting to try them on! Discounted prices! New stock every week! What more could a woman wish for? Prices range from $19 for flip-flops to over $100 for designer brands.

Definitely Delicious
7. Chipotle Mexican Grill
I’m addicted to Chipotle. The food is fresh, colorful and delicious. To keep calories under control, skip the tortilla by ordering a Burrito Bowl and go easy on the sour cream and cheese. You’ll be back. A hearty entrĂ©e and drink cost under $8.
8. Bertolli Frozen Meals
Too busy to cook? You’ve got to try these. Due to Bertolli’s innovative freezing technique, you can serve a restaurant quality Italian meal, full of veggies, in less than 10 minutes. Buy two bags to serve a family of four. Regularly $7.99 at Jewel (but I stock up when they’re on sale).
9. Veuve Clicquot Rose Champagne
If you want to get the party started, nothing does it like a bottle of bubbly. And if you’re popping a cork, you might as well make it something good. This beautiful pink champagne is a splurge, but that’s what makes it special. About $65 at wineries and liquor stores. Too rich for your blood? Try an Italian Prosecco like Zonin, for only $12.

Mood Elevation
10. Chicago Botanical Garden
While simply gorgeous in the warmer months, it is an uplifting place to visit any time of year. With endless gardens, walkways and water views, you can’t help but feel joyful. A guilty pleasure of mine is checking out all the wedding parties that come for photographs on late Saturday afternoons in the summer. 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. Free admission, parking $15.
11. Metra Rail
Why fight traffic? Metra makes a trip into Chicago a pure pleasure. It’s fast, on time, provides great people watching and a spectacular view of the city. And if you want to indulge in a little champagne on the train (see #9 above) it’s safe and legal. One-way fares are comparable to a gallon of gas.
12. KT Tunstall
Cool music from a cool chick who doesn’t sell herself short to sell her albums. For a boost, check out her new album, Drastic Fantastic, at She’ll be playing at the Vic in Chicago on May 16th. Tickets $40.

These are some of the things I love, now how about you? What are some tried and true products and places that make you feel good about life? We are all in need of a pick-me-up from time to time, so pass on the knowledge, sister!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Facing Facts About My Face

Hey, what’s with all these new cosmetic procedures? Botox, Restylane, Laser Surgery – there are so many new products being aggressively marketed to women my age that it’s overwhelming. I’m not ready to go under the knife, but I do have a few issues and it seems to me I should at least know what’s out there. So I decided to attend a group consultation hosted by noted cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Andrew Scheman.

Dr. Scheman’s suburban Chicago practice is booming. It can take over a month to schedule a private appointment with him. To meet consumer demand, he holds regular group consultations, where he presents the latest and greatest products and techniques for achieving a younger looking appearance.

There were two other women at my group consult, held in the elegant waiting area of Dr. Scheman’s offices. I eyed them both furtively, trying to guess their ages and figure out what their skin problems were. Me, I wanted to know what I could do about the blotchy spots on my face as well as the lines on either side of my mouth.

Dr. Scheman started out our session very matter-of-factly. There was no discussion of the ethics of cosmetic enhancements or any salesmanship about the benefits of looking younger. He simply asked us what areas we were interested in learning about. Turns out I was in luck. One of the women, Debbie, was also concerned about deepening smile lines. The other, Maureen, had pigmentation issues like me. Dr. Scheman addressed the smile lines first.

The lines around the mouth, or nasolabial folds, are more than just wrinkles and can’t be treated with topical creams. As you age, your face begins to lose fat. Lacking the underlying support, the skin on your face begins to sag, making expression lines around the mouth look more pronounced. (Here’s a case where losing fat is a bad thing!)

The way to diminish these lines is by injecting “fillers” under the site to plump up the area. Dr. Scheman uses a variety of hyaluronic acid based products. After a quick examination of my lines, Dr. Scheman recommended Juvederm for me and estimated the cost of a single treatment at $400. The treatment would take less than 30 minutes, have minimal side effects (maybe a little swelling) and last about nine months.

“But what about Botox?” I asked. Dr. Scheman explained that Botox is used to treat “dynamic” lines caused by muscle movement. Botox relaxes the muscles that create frown lines on the forehead. Since the lines around my mouth are considered “static” – visible even when the muscles are at rest – they are best treated with fillers. Got it, now what do I do about these dark patches on my face?

When I was first pregnant 15 years ago I developed the “mask of pregnancy” and it never really went away. Dr. Scheman examined my face and said that I indeed had melasma. Melasma is mainly caused by hormones and is light sensitive, which explains why my patches become darker in the summer. I’d seen these amazing transformations on “Extreme Makeover” where years of sun damage and age spots were erased by lasers or deep peels. I was hoping there would be some quick fix for me too. Unfortunately there isn’t.

Because my condition is sensitive to light, laser therapy would just make the spots worse. The only treatment, said Dr. Scheman, is a combination of a fading cream and a killer sunscreen. Did you know that most sunscreens on the market don’t protect against the rays that cause aging? I didn’t! Most sunscreens block UVB rays, which cause cancer, but do not protect against the UVA rays that cause wrinkles and age spots. But Dr. Scheman knew of one sunscreen that blocks both types of rays.

“Uh-oh” I thought to myself, “Here comes the sales pitch for the $100 sunscreen.” Nope. Dr. Scheman recommends Neutrogena’s Healthy Defense 45 SPF Moisturizer with Helioplex, and you can buy it for about twelve bucks at the drugstore. He did recommend a prescription fading cream called Tri-Luma, but cautioned that it would only be effective if I were diligent about using the Neutrogena sunscreen. I bought a tube of Tri-Luma for $90 on the spot.

I left the doctor’s office feeling comforted. I realized that I’d been blaming myself for not taking care of my skin properly. But how could I fight losing facial fat and my own hormones? Now I had a fairly straightforward cure for my blotchy face and a not-too-scary option to deal with my most pronounced wrinkles.

Have I booked my appointment for Juvederm injections yet? I’m not saying. But if you see me with a smile playing around my unblemished, unlined cheeks, you’ll know I’ve been re-juvedermated.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Are You Your Mother?

When my husband tells me “you’re being just like your mother” it’s not a compliment. It means I’m being bossy or stubborn. In other words, I’m not accommodating him. Now, if I were behaving like his mother, he’d be thrilled. It would mean I was nurturing and admiring him - and probably baking him cake.

It’s my mother who gets the bum rap. I’m partly to blame for this. Since I was a teenager, I was determined not be like her. My mother did not represent the hip image I aimed for. She did incredibly annoying things. I remember sitting beside her in the car and listening to her snap her chewing gum as she drove. “Mom, could you stop that?” Wounded, my mom removed the gum. “For heaven’s sake, Marjie, I can’t do anything right around you.”

No, she couldn’t. She got embarrassingly excited at parades, cried at commercials, and was crazy for garage sales. She snorted when she laughed, drank too much at parties, and always wanted to go on mother-daughter expeditions. “Let’s go for a canoe ride,” she’d urge. “Let’s go apple picking!” I shuddered at the thought of us being seen together in public. Hanging out with your mom was definitely not cool.

By the time I went to college, I’d eased up. I no longer felt that everything my mom did was a direct reflection on me. And being away made me realize what a generous, supportive person she was. I appreciated her, but I still didn’t want to be like her. I was going to create my own unique identity in the world that had absolutely nothing to do with my mother.

But now that I’m in my forties and my identity is pretty well formed, I’ve got to ask myself. Have I turned out to be like my mother?

At forty-four, my mother was married for the third time and had already sent my brother and me off to college. I’m still with husband number one and my two children will be around for another eight years. When she was my age, my mother owned and managed two childcare centers in our hometown, while I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom just beginning to restart my career. She lived in a small town in Michigan. I live in Chicago. But we aren’t really talking about life events here.

We’re talking about character and personality. And in these areas I admit I’ve turned out to have some strong resemblances to my mother. Both of us are independent and opinionated, which sometimes gets us in trouble. We are both optimists – we wake up happy and find there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. We get engrossed in a good book and tend to bite our nails when doing so. We generally expect to get our way and become impatient and cranky when we don’t. We drink chardonnay. We’re generous to the people we love.

Hmm. Looking over this list, I guess it’s not so bad to have turned out like my mother after all. But I still don’t chew gum.