Hello, it’s me.
Hey, it worked for Adele. Why not for me?
Lately so many people have queried, “What happened to your blog?” that I feel compelled to explain. I honestly had no idea that my little unpaid writing gig had any impact on anyone. So to know that my absence was missed is heartening.
Here is what happened:
It started with chronic back issues way back when and reached a crescendo last January when I had spinal stenosis surgery called a laminectomy. Unfortunately, that surgery caused a cyst to press on a nerve which left me unable to walk without excruciating pain and led to procedure #2 in March.
I moved from Connecticut to Massachusetts in May where I ran from doctor to doctor pursuing a diagnosis and solution to low back and radiating leg pain that dug in and wouldn’t let go. After many MRIs, Xrays, PT, Chiropractic measures, acupuncture, epidurals and enough steroid to rival Lance Armstrong, I am scheduled for spinal fusion surgery tomorrow.
Last weel, my husband and I spent an entire day undergoing pre- op testing at the hospital and then consulting with the surgeon and her nurse practitioner. As Richard avidly scribbled down every word, I was instructed on what to do and not prior to surgery and during recovery. My head began swimming. Then my surgeon began to lay out the mechanics of the procedure. As I heard “rods, screws, ground bone and cage”, I started to glaze over. By the time she got to “indwelling morphine pump ” I had checked out entirely. Just do it already.
I am learning that the greatest challenge after 50 is NOT wrinkles and sagging skin. It’s losing the ability to lead an active life. I was previously a 6 day a week gym rat. Weights and Pilates were my drugs of choice. i had energy to burn.Now, in the week leading up to surgery, I was allowed to sit on my bed or couch, interrupted hourly with a 2 minute walk around the house.
With a walker.
Shades of my mother at 96. It’s demoralizing. But not quite as much as having to have a wheelchair at the airport on my recent trip home from California. Talk about a low point.
Which brings me to an important issue.
My husband has been harping on me about the “Mind/Body” connection. And I am beginning to get it.
When you are dealing with constant pain, you are no longer yourself. It’s virtually impossible to keep up a pretense of normality. I know; I’ve done my best Oscar worthy performances when necessary. Depression is inevitable and when I was prescribed a substantial dose of anti depressant, my mood went from 0 to 60 in 24 hours. I fought it but it made a huge difference. I am now able to call upon that spark of humor and sarcasm that are central to my personality. I can appreciate the benefit of being served breakfast in bed and getting to pick which TV show we watch. Seriously, without my ardent and conscientious care giving husband, I would be toast. But this is just the warm up. We are steeling ourselves for what is coming down the road post surgery.
Here is the essential truism of dealing with illness, no matter what it is: if it affects you, it also affects those around you. Spouses get the really short end of the stick. It can be very tough on relationships when there is so much anxiety on both sides. And I have found my husband’s anxiety causes me even more stress, a vicious cycle. So communication is vital.
And drugs, definitely!
I have great plans for my recovery period, anticipated to be 2-3 months.
Lots of great TV, the more escapist, the better. Scandal, Billions, The Catch, House of Cards. And that hilarious political spoof, the Presidential campaign!
Re reading every Nora Ephron book at the library; laughter being THE best medicine.
Completing my first hand knitted sweater in 20 years so I can get to baby things for my highly anticipated first grandson.
Revisiting favorite movies like Dr. Zhivago with my friend Johanna and a trough of popcorn.
And of course, Food Network. So I can fantasize about all the things I’ll make when I can stand up for more than 5 minutes.
Patience has never been my forte. So to hold myself back for weeks and even months is going to challenge me to the max.
Time to see what this girl is really made of.
Hello, it’s me.
I imagine that for the mother of a girl, there are years of tulle wrapped fantasies starring their daughter as a bride. But for those of us with boys, it’s a whole different ballgame. The wedding itself is not even part of the scenario. It’s the wondering: will my son ever find a girl good enough for him/who really appreciates him/or even, who can tolerate him?!
So although the wait seemed interminable, when the day finally came that my 41 year son, Adam, announced he’d found THE ONE, I felt relief and yes, euphoria.
I had already had ample exposure to THE ONE and witnessed how smitten they were with each other. Maybe besotted captures it better. Anyway, they were madly in love. Even better, they seemed perfectly matched and so happy and at ease in each other’s presence. My son and I were totally in sync for a change; PJ was everything I could have wished for in a daughter- in- law.
Once he put a (vintage) ring on it, the next step was meeting her family, who live in Atlanta. Shortly after they had made it official, we were invited to join the whole clan for Thanksgiving. It was clear that her family was a warm and welcoming one who seemed as delighted with our son as we were with their daughter (sister, niece, granddaughter etc.) and when I dove in to help with the dinner, we all got very comfortable very quickly. The highlight of the weekend for me was being present at the initial search for The Dress. As a mother of sons, I relished being included in this ritual usually reserved exclusively for the mother of the bride.
As the months went on, PJ and I forged a connection. Again, she invited me to join her and her bridesmaids in the hunt which took us to the legendary Kleinfeld’s in NYC. Suffice to say, it was not a rapturous “Say Yes to the Dress” experience. But PJ continued her search, undaunted, and finally zeroed in on a dress that she loved, fulfilled her desires, fit her budget and made the most of her assets.
Having been to umpteen weddings, Adam and PJ took the reins themselves and planned it all down to the last detail. As mother- of- the- groom, I had to learn restraint, which does not come naturally, and when to shut up entirely. Forwarding emails of Vogue-ish weddings was not welcomed. Little ideas were politely spurned. They were clear in what they wanted and emphatic in what they didn’t. The learning curve had started for “How to be a Mother- in- Law who does not induce eye rolling.”
The destination was chosen: Stowe, VT, a sentimental choice having been a frequent vacation spot for our family over many years. Fortunately, the bride responded to the natural beauty of the locale as much as my son. It was, quite frankly, a schlep for her family from Atlanta and ours from Washington State, California, New Orleans, Dallas, D.C. and Santa Fe but everyone got on board, most for their first look at Vermont and the glorious Fall color experience.
The time honored advice for the mother- of -the- groom is “Shut up, sit down and wear beige.” The first and second were possible. The third? Not a chance. Given the bride’s blessing to wear what I wished, I went the hunt for the ultimate mother- of- the- groom dress. Early October in a Vermont meadow suggested floral to me. But not summery, and not black.
I spent hours poring over websites looking for something that would capture my imagination and I found it at Neiman Marcus, god bless them, online, a Badgley Mischka gown of navy lace. It was sleeveless, the bateau neck and squared arm holes edged with faggoting, the fitted torso flowing into one long, slender pour to the ground. The back was cut out, but not too provocatively, and it swished into a train. The whole thing was covered with delicate hand painted flowers and embellished here and there with discreet clumps of navy sequins. Elegant, feminine, and just a bit sexy. Having not been made available yet, it had to be ordered and altered to the max, my 5’2” frame somewhat smaller than the designers had probably envisioned. When it was done, it was perfection. But SO perfect, that I dared not gain a pound before the wedding. Which was months away. Will anyone ever appreciate my sacrifice and deprivation? Unlikely. But I had extra strength Spanx at the ready for insurance.
I think I had as much fun making my fantasy come to life as the bride. As the day drew near, we were all glued to the weather projections. It was going to be cool. I was going to need a wrap. The dress was so gorgeous, the last thing I wanted to do was cover it up with a jacket or shawl. Enter my friend, Johanna, who took my somewhat vague comments about shrugs and stoles and came up with several websites with options. Ultimately, I chose a navy marabou stole that skimmed my shoulders and fastened in the front. It came from England and I sweated a bit the possibility that it might not arrive on time. But it did and it was sublime.
Having found some “statement” earrings, I opted to contain my unpredictable hair for the event to let them shine. I wore it middle parted and pulled back into a chignon which hid the elastic on a braided (hair) headband that matched my own tresses. Dare I say, vaguely reminiscent of the Von Trapp Family? But in good way. Sprayed within an inch of its life, my hairdo was going nowhere during the proceedings.
And then it was THE DAY. The excitement and stress were palpable. But the morning dawned sunny and calm and it all went off without a hitch. I dressed with the bride and her “girls” and after a little bubbly, we were all very sanguine. PJ was a vision of beauty and radiance in her gown, her hair in long, loose curls partly clasped back with a sparkling hair clip. No veil, no jewelry; truly, she needed no ornamentation to glow.
My son ultimately decided to have his dad and I walk him down the aisle. It was a transcendent moment in my life, leading my son toward the brink of his future. As the bride glided down the aisle on the arm of her beaming father, my eyes went to my son. I wanted to mentally record the moment he saw his bride. As I watched, his expression of nervous tension transformed into a smile of unrestrained joy. My eyes filled with tears. I saw his life on fast forward, bookended by the first time I held him in my arms with awe and the moment when he joined his bride under the chuppah to launch his own family.
A milestone moment in his life, and mine.
I have always been self conscious about my teeth. Saying “cheese” was not an option, and the order to do so would simply produce a tight lipped, close mouthed smile. Due to a botched adolescent orthodontia job, an uneven number of teeth were pulled from my “too small” mouth and the bottom choppers became totally jumbled. And as time went on, one of my front teeth crossed over the other. In every photo it appeared that the more forward tooth stuck out and cast a shadow on its twin. It drove me crackers.
Somewhat resigned to this particular flaw, it never occurred to me to try to correct the situation til I met my husband who practiced restorative dentistry in Greenwich, CT for over 40 years. On our first real date, I threw out at him, “So you are a big time dentist, what would YOU do about my front teeth? Veneers? Caps? What?” To which he answered, “Nothing, I think they are charming!” This was diplomatic but not at all helpful.
What WAS helpful was meeting his favorite former student and now orthodontist extraordinaire, Dr. Rosemary Ryan at a (scintillating) dental event. Rosemary is so warm and approachable that before long, I was confiding my desire to present a straighter smile to the world, especially because I now represented my husband. She suggested I try Invisalign, a clear, nearly undetectable solution to the conventional wire system.
Here’s how it works:
A modern approach to dental straightening, Invisalign uses a series of custom made, smooth and virtually invisible plastic trays worn over the teeth. The trays are switched out every two weeks as they gradually shift your teeth into place, based on the exact movements designed for you by your orthodontist.
The process starts with x-rays, photos and impressions of your teeth and then the trays are created. Dr. Ryan was even able to show me the computer generated, gradual moves my teeth would make on their way to a smile I could proudly display. Although each case in unique, the typical time for adult correction is one year. Mine lasted just a couple months longer.
SO what’s the catch?
Commitment. I had to wear my plastic trays 24/7 except for removing them before eating and to brush and floss morning and night. For someone like me who eats little meals every 3 hours that was a royal pain. I seemed to be constantly removing them (not pretty when done in front of others, BTW), rinsing and brushing them. My speech was not as distinct with the aligners in. And they were a real romance killer. (Wait, don’t kiss me, I have to take out my braces!)
Still, I was determined and I persisted. I have very sensitive gums so each time I received a new package of 3 pairs, they had to be buffed and honed for comfort. But I started to see my little pearls improving weekly and at the end of 14 months, my treatment was complete.
However, I was (am) not done. Following the end of alignment, my middle six top and bottom teeth were secured with tiny wires on the inside (not at all visible or uncomfortable) to hold them in place. And I am required to wear a night guard, very similar to the Invisalign trays that continue to lock in the new positioning of my teeth. For those inclined to fudge the rules, be aware that without retainers, straightened teeth can gradually shift back to their original position, making the whole process a total waste of time and money. The retainer is lighter and fits very precisely so comfort is not an issue for me. Remembering to put it in nightly, however, is!Every morning I clean it in a little warm water bath with Kleenite, no brushing required.
According to recent stats, conventional metal braces cost between $3,000 and $7,000 while Invisalign clocks in at $4,000-$7,500. As an adult female considering the costs of other facial improvements like Botox, fillers, nips and tucks, this price may or may not phase you. To me, the ability to smile and laugh freely without holding back is worth every penny.
I was all thumbs in high school chemistry, but when it comes to blending ingredients in my bathroom, I’m rather brilliant. Since summer snuck up on me while moving, it is time to fine tune my summer mixtures, all designed to give me the kind of glow I can only get the “better living through chemistry ”way.
I am normally pale, pallid, freckley; the polar opposite of the bronze, healthy look I covet. But I have learned to fake it with various products which I am only too happy to share with you.
Last year’s Eureka moment was the discovery of Clarins Golden Glow Booster. Just 3 drops mixed with your moisturizer, serum or sunblock turns it into a subtle self tanner. But we’re just getting started!
Australian Gold Sheer Coverage 45 Faces sunscreen does all the mixing for me, combining a robust, water resistant SPF 45 with instant bronzing and gradual self tanner. But why let my face have all the fun? I am now slathering it on my arms and legs before I hop in the convertible.
Everyone knows that white legs are the anathema of a sexy summer look so I have to dedicate more attention to my glaringly white limbs. St Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil is great for legs but I found it too strong on color and too difficult to control a streak less application. Then I hit on mixing it with a body lotion and voila!, it worked like a dream. Just shake well to mix (being careful where you do this, the stuff stains) and add some to your cream or lotion mixing well. I keep empty sample jars for just this purpose.
Recently, I succumbed to a TV come- on from Jane Seymour and Dorothy Hamill for Crepe Erase, which they touted for its ability to firm up lax, crepey skin on arms and knees, the bane of the after 50 woman. After using up the tub I cannot say my skin has regained its former elasticity (I wish!) but I have to admit, it looks more moisturized and smoother. So it became my conduit for combining firming and self tanning. But anything will do.
I am a huge fan of anything in the Armani cosmetic line. Since falling for the Maestro featherweight liquid foundation, I have added the Maestro Fusion Blush . A single drop dotted on cheeks and melted into skin with a damp makeup sponge or brush yields an easy to blend, believable and lasting flush. Now that classy Italian has added Maestro Liquid Summer to his arsenal. It comes in 3 shades and a dropper bottle like the others. Although you can use it “straight” as a bronzer, I love to add to either my liquid base, BB cream or sunscreen, turning any and all into a glow-y version of itself. No need to purchase foundations in various colors anymore when you can create your own bespoke version. And don’t stop at your chin! Continue your glow onto your neck and décolleté for seamless, authentic color.
The latest entry in this market of chameleons is Cover FX Custom Cover Drops. The weightless and highly pigmented drops instantly infuse any water, oil or silicone based liquid product with sheer color. The more drops, the more coverage. With 24 shades, one is sure to duplicate YOU! It’s on my “lust list.”
My last mixer is Paula Dorf Transformer. I’ve used this for years to transform any eye shadow to a liquid liner. A teensy drop blended into shadow and applied with a skinny liner brush gives you custom color that lasts through blood, sweat and tears.
For summer when of less is most definitely more, a swipe of colored liner, a flick of mascara, sheer bronzy skin and soft peachy, pink or coral lip gloss will take you anywhere you need to go.
*A special shout out to my friend Susie Kane who finally taught me how to provide links to the products I mention. Hey, I’m old, it took awhile!
I know, dear readers, that I have been M.I.A. for awhile. What happened to Zoe?, you may ask. The answer is LIFE intervened.
After having spinal surgery in January, I needed a second surgery in late March to revise an issue from the first. Don’t ask! While recovering, we were preparing for two major life changes: my husband’s retirement and a subsequent move. It was the height of bad timing.
Some major changes after 50 are voluntary; others sneak up on us and some just hit us like an oncoming train. We got ourselves through the rigors of packing up and then the day of the move, I had a rather spectacular, banana peel type fall on the mover’s ramp, landing right on my lower back. Within days, I was squarely back where I started pre-surgery in terms of pain. And in the past few weeks, I have been too busy, too uncomfortable and too bummed to write. But I’m attempting to make a mental and physical comeback with a new cadre of medical professionals.
The day after we moved in, exhausted, surrounded by boxes, and overwhelmed by all that needed to be done, that train slammed into our world. Richard’s sister had a massive stroke in Arizona and within 12 hours, he was on a plane there. We were reminded in tragic fashion that life turns on a dime. Now we are adjusting to this new reality and how it will impact us.
With Richard suddenly gone, I was overwhelmed by being alone in a new house and new place with so much on my head. But I rallied, determined to have the house looking like a home by the time Richard returned. I threw myself into the task, having truly nothing better to do, and whipped the place into shape.
The other aspect of the life change was retirement. Although I walked away from a 25 year career in real estate 5 years ago with a huge sigh of relief, Richard loved the practice of dentistry and mourned the loss of clinical practice and the many generations of patients he served happily and with tremendous gratification.
Doubtless, adding a physical move to the equation doubled the impact. Both events are way up there on the trauma scale. One involves redefining your life, the other creating a new life. I faced that head-on when we moved back to Connecticut from Santa Fe and can’t stress how difficult and depressing it was, leaving a job that filled all my hours and a large social circle of great, supportive friends. Now Richard was squarely in the same situation.
So preparing for the move was anxiety producing for both of us. How would he adjust to not having patients to serve? How would we, as individuals and a couple transition to this next phase of our life and relationship? Leaving good friends behind is always difficult. Would we easily make new friends in our new community? Would we like small town New England, an essentially rural life, better than the bustling and populous area we were leaving behind? How would it feel being closer to Richard’s daughter and family yet further from my two sons? These were/are all potential issues of a retirement move. Yet we jumped into our new house with a spontaneity that can only come with a gut feeling of being in the right place at the right time. Sort of like we jumped into each other’s lives in the first place, and a little like jumping off a cliff hoping for a safe landing.
So at 67 and 73 respectively we are starting over. Having lived in MY house and HIS house, we now have OUR house and it feels good to be shaping it, and our new life together. However, I deal with physical change far more easily than my husband. While he spent his entire life in Connecticut with the exception of our four years together in Santa Fe and a stint in the army, Massachusetts is my 8th state of residence! I’m like that plant with legs that creep everywhere, a literal wandering Jew. I’ve live in a duplex, split level, lots of apartments, a Dutch colonial, tract colonial, English Cotswold, adobe hacienda, water view condo and now a Nantucket style cottage. Stylistically, I’ve covered a lot of ground. And I admit it; I get bored and welcome change. At least this kind of change. Am I done? Who knows. In 10 years, our infatuation with Santa Barbara may beckon us to a Grand Finale in the Golden State. Never say never.
Physical change has impacted us to0. I was a mere 59 when we met and he, 64. Since then, I’ve seen him through two major heart procedures and he’s nursed me through five orthopedic surgeries. So are we still the same couple that met and had a fairy tale romance in late life? Not hardly. Too much of real life has intruded: the loss of both my parents, the passing of several friends from devastating disease, financial ups and downs, and now two moves. That’s in less than 7 years of marriage.
Yes, aging is NOT for sissies.
So the ONLY constant after 50 is that life as you knew it will change. And the best you can do is roll with the punches and keep your sense of humor. Take care of yourself. Communicate; share your anxieties (and your Xanax) with your partner or trusted friends so they don’t overwhelm you. Focus on your priorities for a gratifying last act. Get to the Bucket List while you still can.
Once we are done feathering our nest, we will be focusing on our new life, opening ourselves to new people, places and experiences.
I look forward to growing, not just growing old, together. With whatever that brings.
We all receive a lot of useless, time wasting email enticements, but occasionally something piques my interest and I go for it. A couple weeks ago, it was the draw of finding out what was the #1 song on the charts the day I were born. Ok, I’ll bite. So I plunked in my birthday (1/28/1948 in case you’re interested) and the result was “Dance, Ballerina, Dance” by Vaughn Monroe. Mildly interesting, meh,whatever. Or so I thought.
Then the other night I woke at (my usual) 3 a.m. with the lyrics on a continuous loop through my head and it hit me; the thread of dance throughout my life, beginning with Day One. According to my dear, departed mother, who dubbed me The Ballet Dancer, I continually slept from infancy with one leg extended and the other bent, toe touching the opposite knee in pirouette position. Still sleep the same way!
Sure I would be a tiny dancer, she enrolled me in ballet and tap dance lessons for which, sadly, I had no aptitude whatsoever. Although I dreamed of tutus, they were not in my future. Piano was my forte and I learned “Swan Lake” so I could accompany my more nimble cousin, Shelley so got the dance gene. Never mind, I was in love with dance. Mom shlepped me from Sioux City to Omaha to see my first live ballet and I was hooked.
From there it was on to the movies, where dance was a staple. My older sister (grudgingly) took me to the movies every Saturday afternoon where we thrilled to all the movie musicals of the day. The incomparable elegance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the ebullient athleticism of Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain” (my all time favorite), Donald O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, and the tragic “The Red Shoes” with the gorgeous Moira Shearer; I was enthralled my them all.
Fast forward to Houston, TX., 1972, where I snagged my first substantial post- college job as Promotion Director for the Houston Ballet. Every day I got to hang with the dancers, watch them practice and occasionally take class with them. Wish I had a picture of my pint-sized self amongst all those long, languid dancers! I was there for every performance, including umpteen “Nutcrackers”. My husband and I became friends with the Finnish stars of the company; I ferried around visiting guest artists from New York like Ted Kivitt and Cynthia Gregory from ABT. It was divine!
Much later, when I moved to Santa Fe, I was invited to join the board of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and again indulged my love of dance with a great regional company. Santa Fe drew many other companies and I delighted in performances by Hubbard Street, Paul Taylor and others.
Once we moved near New York, world class dance was available 24/7. I would see it all, if finances allowed. Most recently, we were able to take in “An American in Paris” on Broadway with Robert Fairchild of NYC Ballet and Leanne Cope. I am a sucker for a sexy pas de deux and their climactic finale to the sumptuous Gershwin score was sensual to the max.
Next anxiously anticipated performance is my lovely and leggy step-granddaughter, Micaela, in June doing the Spanish dance from “Nutcracker.” Can hardly wait!
So, “Dance, Ballerina, Dance”. A chance occurrence or a significant link to a life-long love affair with dance? You decide.
If you want to check out what was #1 in Pop music on the day of your birth, go to http://www.thisday in music.com
For more artwork by Johanna Bohoy, go to