Christmas past


I write two columns for Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner and Chicago Restaurant Examiner. They changed their policy recently and decided we writers who keep their website pages full of fascinating, informative, newsy or simply interesting information must not write our material in the first person. In other words, no editorial stuff; write the way salaried reporters write.

I thought, oh, well, they changed their policy, and I started writing that way as much as possible. Today I discovered that not only did they change their policy but they actually went through and un-published posts that retroactively did not comply with the new directive. Wow.

Well, I hate to waste hard work. So I’ll be publishing here and writing in the first person. Hope you’ll find things interesting. Starting with a Christmas reflection I wrote several years ago that I just discovered has been un-published:

Life doesn’t look quite the same at 50 as it is does at 60 or 70. I personally didn’t start thinking differently about past and future until I was into my mid- to later 50s. And there just isn’t a better time to reflect on such things than the end of year. Another year of a down economy. Another year of significant physical challenges–had a hip replaced this year and let me tell you, the recovery is a bear. Another year of working at remaining centered while the media keep continually reporting bad news.

Having watched the endings of two different versions of the Charles Dickens story, Christmas Carol, I’m thinking of Scrooge’s lessons with the spirits of Christmas past, present and future. It’s wonderful how often we can experience the same thing (I also find it so with books and movies) at different times in our lives and get something completely different out of it.

I’m sitting here in my living room on Christmas eve morning with candles burning merrily on the coffee table, jazzy Christmas music flowing through my venerable (had them nearly 40 years), irreplaceable McIntosh stereo speakers, and life feels terribly precious in spite of it all.

To make it an even more poignant time for me, I’m moving in a few weeks. In preparation I’ve been sifting through my accumulated stuff. Interesting what I thought was essential when I downsized to move to my Chicago condo. Now I’m turning my heart and mind to starting a new, modified-minimalist approach to living–i.e., working to let go of so many “things.” Here’s what I wrote about living sparely and yet generously over at my single-woman blog SWWAN. [BP 2015: yes, that’s this blog]

No matter how much I love my “stuff,” there’s a freedom to letting it go out and bless others in the universe. In my current neighborhood, west Logan Square, I don’t even have to drive over to the thrift store. Just carry a box or a bag or a small piece of furniture out to the dumpster and it’s gone in minutes. Sometimes it gets into someone else’s car before you can put it on the ground.

Whatever you do to celebrate this time of year–whether you choose to celebrate with friends or family or you decide to have a peaceful time alone–I wish you the very warmest thoughts. Dismiss any haunting from the past. Refuse to let thoughts of the future ravage your peace today. When it comes down to it, this moment is all we are promised. And it’s all we need.

Have a Merry Christmas full of love–if you have grandkids, hold them as tight as you can for as long as they’ll let you. And may your new year begin well–and remain as prosperous and peaceful as you would ever wish.

Valentine’s Day – a reason to celebrate being single

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While tradition honors coupledom on this made-up American holiday, there’s plenty of room to be creative about making it a day to celebrate your singleness.  One simple way is just to smile and ignore the day! Another is to choose a friend or relative or two you really like and send them a Valentine’s wish.

One SWWAN member has another idea. Ever the hopeful romantic, Jacquee Thomas, who writes a delightful website called A Romantic’s Perspective, suggests some neat ideas for throwing a singles-only party. Themes and all that. And here’s her idea of making a singles-only party one big date.

But if you aren’t into pursuing dates or romance or relationships, that’s perfectly okay. You have tons of company. If you know or can find any little kids, buy some of those cute-saying sugary heart candies and give them some with a little card. The kids love it, and they’re not worried about romance at all. And you’ll have fun watching their expressions.

Or if you’re like me, you may stay home, pour yourself a glass of something delicious–champagne, cognac, perhaps a La Pinta Royale cocktail, or whatever makes you feel special—and sit back and enjoy the evening. Listen to music, watch a good movie (do you know how fabulous Netflix instant view is on your computer?), read an engrossing book, or just light a candle and appreciate the night.

Happy Valentine’s day to you all.

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HuffPost author tells single women: “don’t be so picky”


Yesterday I followed a Google News alert link to an article telling single working women how to increase their chances of getting a partner. I definitely wanted to express an opinion about the article, but when I tried to write this as a comment on the column itself, after multiple frustrating tries, it simply didn’t allow me to post my comment. So I’m writing here on SWWAN.

Holly Sidell, author of the Huff Post Women section, does tend to write about dating, so you might expect this sort of thing. But still I was surprised to find her suggesting that some impliedly-significant percentage of women are “still” single because they’re too picky. She writes about how she decided to negotiate her “deal breakers” (I can’t be with anyone who…) with her latest flame and how she has now found love. She then suggests that perhaps if other women would do the same with their deal breakers, they, too, might find the perfect mate. My thoughts:

A) Seems wrong to write as if being paired up is the state to which all women aspire. Not every woman feels that way.

B) Regardless of  what boundaries a woman creates, it seems just as reasonable to assume that deal-breakers become negotiable not when you randomly decide to negotiate them, but when the circumstances fit and the feelings between the two people are strong enough to allow, or even compel, them to work such things out.

That’s one thing I don’t enjoy: lectures about ways to get un-single.

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British stars surprise on Intl Women’s Day

Български: Джуди Денч на церемонията по връчва...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a strange video. British film star Daniel Craig, better known as the latest James Bond hero, walks solemnly up to the camera while Dame Judi Dench, known as M in those Bond films, describes the ways in which women are not yet remotely “equal.”

Then she asks if you don’t believe it, “What if you were a woman?” and slowly a blonde-bewigged Bond girl walks up to the camera. As Dench continues speaking, the blonde slowly removes the wig and reveals her/himself as Craig in drag. Dramatic way to point out the significance of the 100th annual International Women’s Day.

For those of you too young to remember, I was reminded  of the good-natured 1974 commercial when New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath sported a pair of pantyhose. While it was encouraging women to wear that brand—and Namath was demonstrating his own considerable sense of humor—this celebrity spot certainly wasn’t making any political statements.

Turn up the volume and listen to the Craig-and-Dench reminder that we women still have a long way to go. Good for you, Daniel and Judi. Just like SWWAN, you’re out to raise awareness.

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Singles: Loving life–but paying more!

Robie House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), ...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s work. He designed some of the world’s most unique architectural designs back in the early 20th century—a time when thinking out of the box was still unusual—and his work has survived the test of time. He lived in Chicago for a while, and there’s an active preservation society here. My sister and I visited his studio out in Oak Park a few weeks ago and enjoyed it immensely.

Today I received the below inviting me to attend a 4-day tour of Wright’s works on the North Shore. And I was sad to see—as Bella DePaulo has often pointed out—that singles pay more for the privilege of participating in this tour. Since the price for the tour is all-inclusive, how would the tour operators make more money from people doubling up in rooms? Is it because the hotel might not have enough rooms if too many demanded single rooms?

In any case, the “single room supplement” (see the last line below) equals an increase of more than 13% in the price. Hmmm. Anyone out there get paid 13% extra for your work because you’re single?

Ultimate Plus℠ Package

Extend the magic of Wright Plus to a unique long-weekend experience, including accommodations. Immerse yourself in six spectacular events in four unforgettable days.


  • Invitation-only Chairman’s Reception in the spectacular lobby of Chicago’s Rookery Building, and Private Tour of the Burnham Library.
  • Private Passage to Wright’s North Shore, a delightful all-day excursion with a tour of privately owned Wright-designed homes located in Chicago’s exclusive North Shore neighborhood. Ultimate Plus Exclusive.
  • The celebrated Wright Plus Housewalk. You will enjoy a Housewalk Fast Pass – allows immediate access to all Housewalk homes. No waiting in lines.
  • A private lunch and lecture exclusively for Ultimate Plus guests on the day of the housewalk.
  • Exclusively Wright Dinners, private dining at an exquisite Wright-designed home.
  • A gourmet breakfast at the hotel and a private tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House.
  • Three nights’ accommodation in a deluxe room (double occupancy) at the historic Carleton of Oak Park, Official Hotel of Wright Plus 2012. Includes welcome basket.
  • Transportation to and from all events as well as a Sunday drop-off at Chicago’s O’Hare airport (directly from Frederick C. Robie House Tour).

Ultimate Plus Weekend Package: Purchase Tickets Now

$2350 FLWPT member; $2600 non-member
Single room supplement: $325

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Singles: loving, fearless and free


Saw a great quote today in my HeartMath daily dose:

“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.” ~ Dalai Lama

Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama

Image via Wikipedia

A beautiful thought, indeed. When you listen closely to someone else’s problems, when you respond thoughtfully, when you express understanding without judging or telling them what to do, that’s love at work.

When you respond to a political situation by getting all the facts and looking at both sides before you react, making sure your sources are as unbiased as possible, that’s love at work.

Too many people assume that if a single woman lives alone, she doesn’t love. How wrong that is! There is ample documentation that shows the exact opposite. Singlism expert, Bella DePaulo, says “research shows single people are more connected to friends, siblings, parents, neighbors” than marrieds. Which only makes sense. Human beings are social creatures. When you don’t have just a single person with whom you live and share your life, you’re more likely to reach out to others.

Women in particular tend to create communities of friends, relatives, coworkers, and others to whom they can turn to relax, go adventuring, describe frustrations and joys, discuss ideas and just generally share their lives.

Single men, thanks to powerful strains of homophobia in our society, are a little less likely to develop a strong community of fellow males. But some men have no fear of that kind of judgment and simply go forth, sharing time with male friends, attending men’s groups, and so on.

The point: as love grows, so do our hearts. And as we single women continually reach out with love to others, we also tend to feel more fearless and free—and often look that way to others. I like that idea. ” )

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Help for Chicago singles caring for aging relatives

Nursing Home

Nursing Home (Photo credit: LOLren)

How many single women (or men) are eventually entrusted with caring for aging parents? Nobody’s got hard statistics, but I’ve read of many cases where the single relative is simply expected to do so, since it would be “too much trouble” for the married couple to have that interference in their lives. The single person is assumed to have no life because she or he is not sharing a home with another person.

Well, we all know how untrue that is. See previous post about the joy and activity in most single lives. But anyway, if you are the one who has to look for a long-term care facility for an aging relative, at least in the Chicago area you’ve got a trustworthy way to tell if a facility is high-quality or not. It’s an online service called Gunther’s Grades where you can find reviews of facilities by real people just like you. You can also write your own reviews to help others understand better how their loved one will be treated in a particular place.

Read more about Gunther’s Grades on my Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner column.

Book review: Singlism – Proof positive it’s rampant

days Elena Kagan since 2010

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know you pay more for most things in our society just because you’re single? Are you aware of the tax disadvantages you live with because you’re single?

Did you realize that single women—even accomplished, high-profile single women like Elena Kagan, the 112th Supreme Court Justice—are often subjected during interviews to intrusive questioning about their dating life and their feelings or intentions about marriage and children, that single men almost never encounter?

And OMG, I am freaking out. I just realized something. As I’m writing this post Zemanta, which is a very cool service that scans the words you’re writing and brings up various “related” images you can use in your blog posts, brought up the picture you see at right of Elena. However, most of the other images it called up are pictures of mental health institutions.

What in the world do Zemanta software writers (probably mainly young men as most software writers are) think a mental health institution has to do with being single?

Bella DePaulo, who writes the Living Single column for Psychology Today, would love it. In the newest book she edited, Singlism, which holds a compendium of posts on singlism from her PT blog, you can enjoy the unshakeable logic, solid research, and pithy comments with which she skewers the many instances she finds of the stereotyping and prejudice singles endure. She also edited the brief contributions from others who write with enlightened voices about singles issues.

DePaulo actually coined the word singlism when she first began to realize the stigmatizing that goes on, and she wrote her first book Singled Out. I like the format of the new book—short items, quick reading, hard-hitting. It’s a good one to keep on hand in case you want a quick reference to keep you fired up.

After all, it took women being fired up for more than hundred years to finally win the vote.

P.S. In one of her posts, DePaulo laments the fact that marriage is the occasion for out-of-control gift buying. Yeah, and anniversaries, too. Not to promote the idea that singles should become avid gift-hoarders, but hey, that’s one of the reasons we created Single Working Women’s Week, and now Single Working Women’s Day (August 4). So mark your calendar for next year and either buy a single friend something you know she’d love, or give her the gift of time and energy—cook her a dinner, take out her garbage, babysit her pet, whatever.  But celebrate!

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The power of forgiving


“When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.”

– Alan Paton

Sexually Abused child.

Image via Wikipedia

What a thought.  I love and believe the idea that it is within our power to heal ourselves. But when I think of terrible injuries such as torture, child abuse, sexual abuse, and the double-edged trauma of war—which inflicts not only the receiving of terribly injury but the giving of it—it’s harder to paint with that brush.

Yet what else is there? Many of the greatest minds have said, forgive thine enemies. A pop song puts it this way, Forgive Thine Enemies–But Don’t Forget Their Names. That’s it, I guess. Forgiving does not mean you have to be naive about evil and hatred. It just means you have to stop blaming.

I remember how hard that was for me to do sometimes after my marriage ended during all the times my ex refused to pay child support (and because he was a lawyer he got away with it).

And in contrast, something so small compared to rape or murder can still charge my feelings. I remember how hard it was for me to forgive after an occasion when a nasty, road-raging driver attacked my car with his van after we’d both spent a frustrating 15 minutes on a one-lane road behind an old man who drove consistently under the speed limit.  The van driver raced around me into the right-turn only lane at one light and aimed his vehicle directly at my right front fender. He smashed it into the wheel and tore my bumper off as he slammed to a stop in front of me.  I thought he was going to have a gun in his hand when he got out, slammed his door and came stomping towards my car.

Then, after I’d reported it to the police, and the body repair shop said to me there’s no way this could have happened except someone driving directly into your car, that van driver blithely told his insurance company he hadn’t the vaguest idea how this accident occurred. Tried to tell them maybe I’d been pulling into the right turn lane and ran into him.

I had a hard time even getting on a highway for months after that—the terror that some other maniac might deliberately plow into me. And seriously, it took me almost of year of working at it to truly forgive that injury. I’d have flashbacks. You see how the details are still so vivid in my mind? Just think how it must be for some deep personal violation of your spirit or your body.

I reviewed a book once by a man who’d been held as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp during WWII. It was a horrendous accounting of physical and mental torture that went on day and night for a couple of years. It must have been somewhat cathartic to write about it, but he said all he could hold onto was his story of what he’d been through.

Can we forgive an injury of any magnitude? For anyone who’s suffered torture, there are agencies and organizations that can help. What about your parents? A lot of us could use some balance there. Here’s a

P yin yang

Image via Wikipedia

beautiful idea from a soulful colleague and supporter of SWWAN, Cat Thompson:

Hola amigos!  Can you believe summer has so quickly left the building?  Yet according to the Chinese Five Element calendar, fall is half over this weekend.  Yup, this friday is equinox, that magical time when the planet’s energy shifts direction, and the light and dark are perfectly equal.  It’s a great time to do ceremonies for healing the masculine/feminine.  A great little ceremony I learned from one of my earliest teachers was to balance the Mother/Father within myself.  He said, “it doesn’t matter if your parents are still married, hate each other, love each other, divorced, whatever.  What matters is that you are made up of each of them.  And if they are out of balance, you are out of balance.”  I came home and made a shrine for my inner parents.  Inside a heart shaped box, I put a picture of my parents when they were dating, one of each of them looking across the box at each other.  I added some stones (rose quartz for the heart) and an engagement ring I had sitting around (from a marriage that never manifested!).  I also added some beautiful ribbon and paper to the box.  It sits in my partnership corner of the bagua of my bedroom.  Even if your parents are still happily married, creating a shrine to their love within your own heart will go a long way to balancing the yin and yang of your life.

Cat’s a true teacher. Enjoy her Fall Equinox newsletter.

Even if you’re not ready yet, it can’t hurt to hear what others think about how much forgiving can change your life. Here’s a list of the ten best books on forgiveness. Check them out at your library.

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How to build a friendship

Two friends

Image via Wikipedia

Friends are precious to everyone–men, women, kids. But it seems to me women in particular have a lot to gain from each other’s friendship. And of course single women give and get a tremendous amount of love, companionship, understanding, and sharing with their good friends.

How do you make someone a good friend? Sometimes people click instantaneously. There’s just that magical connection that simply can’t be forced or produced on demand; it’s either there or it’s not.  But there are things you can do to foster a friendship if you feel the raw material is there—you have enough things in common, you share some of the same values, etc.

1. Be patient. Some people want to be best pals right away. Some are much slower to warm up to others. Try just being interested in the other person. Pushing to be friends before the other person is ready is a sure-fire way to sabotage a friendship before it has time to develop.

2. Be kind. Even if you have a great deal in common with someone, they’ll probably have quirks or characteristics you don’t like. First, decide if you can live with these things if you should start spending more time together. Do you go crazy if someone slurps their coffee? If you think you can’t, just let the other person lead the way in connecting by phone and email and in setting times to get together, etc. If you think you can be comfortable enough with the quirks, or you can arrange to avoid them most of the time, think about how you will deal with them when you can’t avoid them.

3. Be creative. Don’t always leave it to the other person to come up with things to do. Figure out things you both like to do, look up places, performances, etc. and suggest times/dates when you could do them together.

4. Be generous. From the beginning and later always be generous with positive feedback for things you appreciate about this person. As you get to know each other better, if you have the money, treat your friend occasionally. A drink, a dinner, a bouquet. If money’s an issue, volunteer to help her with an errand, a chore, a shopping trip, a pet walk, a home-cooked meal, or whatever. Giving and sharing are powerful agents for making people feel close.

TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 09:  Anna Robinson is ove...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Be generous with your time and your kind words/praise for your friend, especially when she’s down about something. Help her focus on the positives in her life.

5. Be alert. No matter what stage your friendship is at—from beginning to long-term—pay attention to how the other person is acting and reacting. Sometimes something you’re not aware of will get under a person’s skin. It may or may not be something you’re doing. Or it might be something that’s happening to you that’s causing an emotional reaction in your friend.  Or it might be something that’s going on for her that she doesn’t feel comfortable telling you—or can’t really even articulate to herself.

First, ask if she’s okay. Probe delicately to see if you can get her to say what’s bothering her. If she seems reluctant or closed off, let her know you care and would like to talk when she feels like it. If she denies there’s anything going on but still acts distant, that’s a little tougher. You can try backing off a little. Sometimes a little break can allow a person time to process whatever’s going on for her. Then later she may be able to talk with you about what’s been happening.

6. Be philosophical. If a friend whose company you valued decides to break off the relationship, you have two choices. First, you can be angry and bitter—for sure, it’s a major blow to lose a treasured friendship—and blame the other person. But that takes a lot of energy and keeps negative vibes resonating in your life.

Alternatively, you can try to understand what went wrong. Examine your own conscience for what you could have done differently. If you find something, resolve to work on that in yourself. Then accept that this friendship was a gift for the time and place you shared it. You may be able to continue being friends on some level or not. But know that you can now be open to receiving and building friendship with one or more new people.

This August celebrate Single Working Women’s Week by doing something nice for a single friend—help her with a chore, run an errand for her, walk her dog, make her a meal or whatever. [Comment from fellow-SWWAN Perri: Don’t just barge in and do something for your single friend. “Many SWWANs are juggling so many balls that to have one plucked out of rhythm by a well-intentioned friend can be more disruptive than helpful. ASK before doing! I’m not the only freak out there that wants things just the way I want them.”]

And if you’d like to have more friends, get out to someplace you can meet new people. Don’t worry about being a great conversationalist; just be interested. We never know when the precious gift of friendship is out there waiting for us.

P.S. If you can’t immediately think of places to meet new, hopefully similarly like-minded people, try There are Meetup groups in all major cities for almost every imaginable interest. You’re bound to find a group that resonates with yours.

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