Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mad About Harassment? Me Too.

I'm really angry at all the powerful men who have been abusing their positions to degrade and undermine women they work with through sexual harassment.

Who do the hell do think they are? Where is their judgement, their ethics, their basic human decency? In what world do these odious creeps think it's okay to whip out their wormy dicks or show up in a towel to meetings with younger women and expect sexual favors? It's disgusting, vile and wrong and paying a few million bucks of hush money doesn't clean up the mess. Yet guys like Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK and Bill O'Reilly and all the endless other men we're hearing about - talented men, funny men, smart men, men with influence - continuously prioritized their sexual urges and puffed up egos over treating a woman fairly and professionally. It didn't bother them. They just kept on doing it. Year after year after year. Did they feel they had earned the right to treat women like playthings; a perq like a trip on the company jet?  Or were they simply confident that their money, position, and minions would protect them from any consequences? Well, those days are gone, guys.

I'm really happy about #metoo. In a time when the internet seems to be a thicket of lies and ugliness, the #metoo movement on social media is like a rose rising from the thorns.

Because women who have been victimized by these assholes are able to find one another! The aren't isolated anymore. When one brave woman speaks out against a bigwig, it's her word against his and she's either dismissed or vilified for daring to open her mouth. But five women making the same claim - twenty, fifty?  It shouldn't take that many, but their combined stories are credible. Together, the women gain power and their abusers - at least some of them - are held accountable for their actions.

I know that most men would never treat a woman the way these clowns we're seeing in the media have. However, I don't think the type of man who commits sexual harassment is gonna stop because of his conscience or some newfound professionalism. I think the way to get these men to stop the abuse is if they fear the consequences of their actions. My hope is now, when a guy feels the urge to grab a woman's pussy, masturbate in her meeting, or force her to massage his hairy rump, he'll stop and think of the risks.

I imagine him pondering the situation, "Dude, messing with this chick could lose me my job, ruin my reputation, cost me my family, or even land me in prison. For my own good, I better just stick to business here."

Self interest can be a powerful motivator, and although it's not the ideal solution to workplace equality, if it makes women safer and gives them more opportunities, I'll take it. And for those men who want to protect their careers but aren't exactly sure what behaviors cross the line, I've written a guide over at to help them out.

Update - I just found this cartoon that expresses what I'm talking about - credit Scott Stantis at the Chicago Tribune. Follow this link to see more of his brilliant work.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Stitch Fix - They Got Me

I'm always looking for ways to dress better with less effort, because left to my own devices I'm kind of lazy and don't know what I'm doing. I think that's why I address style frequently on this blog - I'm trying to figure out a magic formula that helps me dress for my day feeling comfortable, confident, pulled together and current. But I've got some constraints - I've got to be able to walk a mile or two in whatever I'm wearing and I'm over 50, short, curvy and like a good deal. I'll invest in a classic piece or two, but I prefer moderately priced clothes or designer stuff on sale.

Anyway, I've been seeing a lot of ads online for Stitch Fix, the service where a stylist sends you five pieces and you keep what you want and send back what you don't. It seems like a low risk way to get some professional style advice, so I decided to give it a try. I filled out a lengthy survey about my size, shape, lifestyle, budget, preferences and where I need help. After about a week, my first Stitch Fix box arrived. Here's what they sent me and how the clothes look. (Note: I am not sponsored or compensated in any way for this post, just wanted to give the service a try!)

I was excited to open the package and see 
what my stylist, Sarah, had chosen for me. 
Impressed! Everything was fitted, comfy and fashionable. The items were things
I'd never seen or wouldn't have thought to try. Also, loved the color palette for fall.
Nice mix of items - dress, blouse, pants, sweater and necklace - in a price range
that was totally in line with what I'd said was acceptable.

Keep reading to see how everything looks on me:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Comfortable, Stylish Shoes Your Feet Will Love

Melanie may be wearing stilettos to check out the damage from hurricane Harvey, but this post is about my latest obsession - comfortable shoes! One of the biggest changes about living downtown is that I walk everywhere, which is great, but my feet hurt all the time unless I'm really careful about the shoes I wear. (It's probably a middle age thing too.)

After a year of dedicated research, here are eight pairs of shoes I can walk in for miles, and look pretty stylish too (if you don't mind a sensible heel.) The brands and prices are listed below, and oops - the Adidas sneakers I mention are Superstars, not Stan Smiths. Got some comfy shoes you love? Please share them here, and happy walking!

Here are links to the shoes mentioned in the vid:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ripe for Change: An Evolving View

The Vista Tower construction site from my window
The biggest construction project in Chicago is taking place directly across the river from our condo. The Vista Tower in Lakeshore East  will eventually be the third tallest building in the city (after the Willis and Trump Towers), but right now it's a massive squatty lump of cranes and concrete and it's ruining my view, damn it.

We knew Vista Tower would be built when we bought our Riverview condo a year ago, but it didn't seem to matter. It was the views of the lake and river that sold us and they aren't going anywhere. And, as I said to Liam, we're not moving to Streeterville because we want  a quiet little neighborhood where everything stays the same. We want to be part of a vibrant, growing city that has a lot of action and excitement!  I still feel that way, but I'm beginning to mourn the loss of the view I've come to love.

This weekend I could see the stages of Lollapalooza from my balcony. Today, framed by bright yellow cranes, I'm enjoying the sun shining on the jets of Buckingham Fountain and the wall of historic buildings on South Michigan Avenue. But I won't be able to do that much longer. The Vista Tower is rising up a brisk pace, and long before it reaches its full height of 95 stories, my 16th floor view of Grant Park and much of the sky above it will be gone. For good. 


Change is hard, right? I'm dealing with a lot of it these days and I bet you are too. My kids move out of the house, my dog moves to Florida, my husband takes a job out of state, we sell our family home and move into two new ones, my writing takes a detour - those are big life changes. Then there are niggling physical changes - like my vision is getting worse, and my joints ache in the morning, and my cranky feet reject almost every cute shoe at Nordstom. And I can't even deal with the overwhelming global and political changes that have occurred over the last year. Ugh. Why can't things just stay the same?

It's easy to think of change as loss. 

Which I've decided is a completely unhelpful outlook.

I choose to see change is growth. Yes, it's uncomfortable, but it's a completely natural process.  Everything changes, absolutely everything. Our bodies, our relationships, our points of view, our surroundings, our jobs, our passions, our friends and family. We can resist the change, we can lament it, but that won't prevent anything and only makes the transition more painful. So, barring a real tragedy, I say embrace change! When something ends it makes room for something new (and possibly even better) to move in. 

So sure, I miss my kids, but we have the best times and a real appreciation for each other now when we're together.  And yes, my vision is bad but now I can pop over to Warby Parker to add some cool multi-focal shades to my corrective lens collection. And okay, I can't wear Jimmy Choo stilettos or Valentino pointy toed flats (um, actually I never did) but I can rock a whole new array of cushy, supportive shoes as I walk through this wonderful city. *

Who need Manolo when
you've got Mephisto?
Warby Parker shades round out
my corrective lens collection.
And about that view I'm losing? The Jeanne Gang designed building is going to be simply stunning so maybe I'll even prefer the new "vista." And bonus - according to my realtor, the sales of those ultra-expensive condos across the river should help boost our condo's real estate value.  So here's to change!

My eventual view. Pretty cool.
Photo via

* I do so much walking now that I live in the city, a comfy shoe guide is definitely in the works.

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....