Thursday, April 6, 2017

You Gotta Get a Professional Headshot

Today I went to Brian McConkey's photography studio to update my headshots. Brian last did my photos over six years ago and I love them, but they don't really represent the way I look now. As writer who promotes the joys of mid-life, I think it's only fair that my photos reflect my current age.  A general rule is that you shouldn't use photos that are over five years old, so hey,  I had a good run with my six year-old pics and my 47 year-old face.

At the shoot with the winning team of make-up artist
Megg Clement and photographer Brian McConkey
These days, everyone needs a professional headshot.  With corporate websites and google searches and networking sites liked Linkedin - not to mention social media - the first impression you make is likely to be online. Who doesn't do a little web sleuthing before meeting or hiring (or dating) someone for the first time? Getting a headshot taken isn't vanity, it's an important part of your professional and personal image.

I use my headshots for several things. On my blog (new photo coming soon) I want to show readers a fun, approachable image and make my website look more professional. As a freelance writer, my photo is often published on the contributors page of magazines, so I want to look smart and current. And, as a corporate trainer/speaker, I want new clients to see that I'm poised and polished so they'll feel comfortable booking me to their events.

Family snapshots or vacation photos just don't cut it. A photographer will do things with lighting and focus and angles (and some gentle retouching) that work magic.

I've worked with Brian three times now (he calls me a hat trick client) so obviously I love his work. I always use his hair/make-up artist as well (thanks Megg Clement!) because applying make-up for photography is a specialized skill set that I don't possess. It's worth the money, hands down. Another tip:  even it you're doing a simple shoot, bring more clothes than you need and focus on the waist up. Bring a variety of colors, necklines, sleeve lengths and accessories and let the pros help you choose what to be photographed in. Shoes don't matter much because they're rarely in the frame.

I'll be able to check out the results from today's shoot online in a day or two and I'll share my final picks here soon. But for a trip down memory lane - here are my headshots from 11 and 6 years ago. Man, time flies.

photo by Brian McConkey 2011
photo by Brian McConkey 2006

Monday, March 27, 2017

Looking my Age, Loving my Stage

Do you ever realize that others don't see you the way you see yourself? It just happened to me.

I joined a new tennis club in the city and Friday I attended a drop-in doubles class for the first time. It's flexible and fun and turned out to be great tennis. After the class the pro, an older woman, came up to me and we chatted a bit. "I've never seen you here before,"she said.
Trying to look city chic for a date night with the old man.

"Yes, I'm a new member," I explained. "But I've been playing tennis at the North Shore Racquet Club since I was 40."

"And that was a long time ago," she said matter of factly.

"Well, yes," I agreed, but inside I was all, "Say what?"

Despite turning 54 yesterday, I guess I've been thinking I project an aura of "a woman of a certain age that could possibly be close to 40." But my new tennis pro didn't hesitate to pronounce that being 40 was clearly part of my distant past.

Oh, whatever.

Since I moved from the suburbs to Chicago and Sioux City, I get confused by people's ages. The friendly couple living in the condo across the hall  - are they 27 or 35? They just look young. A woman in Iowa who's five years younger than me has three grandchildren, while in Chicago a new yoga friend who is my age has kids in middle school. Well, I think she's my age. Maybe she's much younger and I can't tell because I'm deluded about how old I look. Also, my vision isn't so hot.

As a young mom, I bought all those Louise Bates Ames parenting books like "Your Three-Year-Old, Friend or Enemy"  or "Your Eight-Year-Old, Lively and Outgoing" because each year seemed to make such a huge difference in what was required to parent my ever-changing kids. But now, someone's actual age doesn't seem very relevant, even my own.

What seems more important than our age in life is our stage of life and I'm excited about mine - especially living in the city. The energy of the streets and lakefront and all the interesting people, culture, restaurants, and nightlife has me pumped. I'm trying to amp up my style and get out of my jeans and sneakers occasionally, but my goal is more "city chic" than "hip and young."

Most importantly, I feel good! I can jog five miles, ski the Rockies, do a yoga backbend and play competitive tennis. What does my age have to do with any of that?

In fact, it just occurred to me as I'm writing this... perhaps I was too sensitive about my tennis pro's age comment. Maybe she didn't mean 40 was a long time ago because of the way I looked. Maybe she was saying that because of my tennis prowess!

I'm gonna go with that.

I say let's keep the focus on life's stages and not get hung up on our ages. For inspiration, I'll leave you with a couple quotes from some kick-ass women. (source: Goodreads)

Ani DiFranco
“If you're not getting happier as you get older, then you're fuckin' up”
― Ani DiFranco

Sophia Loren
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
― Sophia Loren

PS - For fun, upload a picture of yourself to be analyzed by before they solve their technical difficulties. Their age-guessing robot said I look 24!

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Lovely, Lazy Empty-Nest Morning

I'm obsessed with people's daily routines - the little habits, preferences and practices that add up to define a person's way of life. In fact, I just binged on the New York Times Sunday Routine section which details the way notable New Yorkers spend their day off.

I'm especially interested in the way people spend their mornings. Now that I'm an empty-nesting, marriage-commuting, freelance-writing, pet-free gal, my weekday mornings are often open. As a result, I have been able to create the most enjoyable, liberating routine for myself - both in Chicago and Iowa -  and it goes like this.

6:00am Coffee in Bed
I love my morning routine so much I get up early for it. If Liam's around he wakes me by bringing me a strong cup of coffee with a splash of milk on his way to the gym. If I'm solo I'll set my alarm then stagger into the kitchen to fetch my own. Either way, I enjoy that first cup of coffee in bed, often in the dark, and I keep it warm with a nifty little Brookstone cup heater on my bedside table. The key to maximum enjoyment is to set up the coffee pot the night before.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Fashion Minute - Spring Tops

The world is a crazy place right now, so as a concerned citizen and deep thinker I'm writing about a very important topic. Spring tops.

In the spirit of public service I've created a one minute video showcasing what I think are some of the freshest, most fun, feminine styles out there right now. Because, as a dear friend who is no stranger to hardship once told me, when life seems to spiral out of control you can still make a choice about what to wear. A small but meaningful triumph.

Here's the video.  There's an abundance of styles like these out there but  if you're interested, I've listed the stores, brands and prices of the tops featured here below.

Happy Spring!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Must Haves for City Living

We moved into our Streeterville condo three months ago and although we split our time between Chicago and Sioux City, I'm settled in enough to report on the essentials for navigating downtown living. I am loving getting out and exploring the city so much. Every day is different and invigorating -especially now that I've made these adjustments.

Comfortable Shoes
I had this vision of myself moving into the city and becoming incredibly chic. While I'm not giving up on that entirely, you cannot survive in the city without practical walking shoes.  For any destination within a mile and a half, it is more convenient, cost-effective and pleasurable to walk rather than drive or use public transportation. However, walking a mile in pinched, unsupportive, or slippery shoes is pure hell. So now I have a small range of shoes and boots that I can walk in and look, well not too frumpy (Stan Smith Adidas, a pair of the new-styled Uggs, and a pair of Clarks.) What I lose in fashion I make up in mobility. And if it's a snazzy destination, I simply carry my heels in a tote bag and slip into them when I arrive. Speaking of totes....

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Forget Writing, Now I'm a Cartoonist

One of the reasons I've been excited to move to downtown Chicago is to expand my creative influences and bring new energy and focus to my writing. As a first step I took an  Adult Continuing Education class through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago called Creative Encounter. I convinced my friend Laura to take it with me and we planned to meet for a quick dinner before class each week, so I knew it would be fun no matter what.

The class was cool - an exploration of the creative process for non artists, centered on the idea that all of us have the capacity to take our perceptions and ideas and turn them into creative expressions that have substance and value.  While we spent a lot of time exploring the "process" side, the goal was that we'd all end up with some  final "product" or piece of work. Last Thursday, we each presented our projects to the class and I was blown away by what my fellow students had accomplished. We had evocative video, origami story telling, multi-media collages and paintings, a sensory feminine altar (complete with chocolate cupcakes) and my project, a comic strip.

I wanted to do a comic strip for a few reasons:
1. I love to doodle.
2. I enjoy writing dialogue but I wanted to try something more "arty" than just writing.
3. I saw the Chicago version of the Tony award winning musical "Fun Home" based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechtel and was intrigued by cartooning.
4. After the crappy election, I craved humor and light.

After a little research and a lot of practice I began to draw two female characters somewhat consistently. Here are my first three strips based on what these 50-something chicks wanted to say to each other about getting older.

1. Multi-tasking

Monday, November 21, 2016

Post Election/Winter Blues Pick-Me-Ups

Are you feeling blue about the election? I'm certainly not over the results but I can't go around feeling angry and dismayed ALL the time. Here are some things that have been lifting my mood during these unsettling weeks. (And Trump fans read on - these tips can be helpful to get through a long, bleak winter too.)

1. Get Outside
A good brisk walk (or run) makes everything better. Find a spot that inspires you - a park, the lakefront, an interesting neighborhood - and march around until you feel your blood pumping and the knot in your chest begin to loosen. Feel the wind on your skin and the sun on your face. You're alive! The world looks just the same as it did a couple weeks ago. Breathe deep and enjoy. In this moment all is well and, not to get all Eckhart Tolle on you, this moment is all we have.

2. The Crown on Netflix
I just finished the first season of this show about the early years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and I'm obsessed. Watching this young woman struggle with her duties as monarch and her desires as a woman/wife/mother/sister/daughter is fascinating and inspiring.  It's even more compelling when you realize that Elizabeth II has been ruling Great Britain and beyond for almost 65 years. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted - it's an escape and a timely history lesson combined.

3. Make Up a Little
It may seem frivolous but a mini-makeover always gives me a lift. Play around with a new shade of lipstick or eyeshadow then take some silly selfies to celebrate the new you. A nice make-up artist at Nordstrom helped me select this color-drenched Giorgio Armani Rouge Sheer Lipstick. It wasn't cheap but I think $37 is a small price to pay for looking and feeling brighter.

3. Clean Up Your Act
Organize a drawer, wash a window, or just throw out a pile of old magazines. The simple act of completing a small job makes you feel positive and productive and improves your surroundings at the same time. Here's an interesting story about the therapeutic effects of cleaning.

4. Unfriend/Unfollow as Needed
That person whose political comments are making your social media life a misery? Take control. After spending countless hours worrying how to respond respectfully to one dude's right wing rants on my page,  I realized we'd never really been friends to begin with and I'd miss nothing if we were no longer connected on Facebook.  I blocked him. Another option is to simply remove a person's annoying posts from your feed by using the "unfollow" setting. Hey, if I'm bumming you out, feel free to do the same to me!

5. Donate Some Cash
If you're unhappy about a particular aspect of our new leader's agenda, put your money where your mouth is and donate to a cause or organization that you believe in. I donated to the Human Rights Campaign but if you're looking for a list of pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-earth, anti-bigotry organizations, this story at Jezebel is a good place to start.

6. Bottoms Up
And if you're still feeling upset, there's always this. Cheers!

It's an act of courage to stay positive my friends. I'm going to do what I can to stay in a productive, optimistic frame of mind, otherwise I'll be no use to anyone.  If you've got some suggestions, please share.

Sending you warm wishes for a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!