Thursday, October 15, 2009

Skills Every Woman Should Master

In May 2008 Tom Chiarella published an article in Esquire listing the “75 Skills Every Man Should Master”.

By the way, my personal favorites are numbers 22 & 73.

I took a crack at my own list of skills every woman should master. I’ve been working on it for some time and have a tentative list of 75 but would be interested in your comments and suggestions. Here are my first 31. Please feel free to add to the list.

1. Train a dog

You don’t have to own a dog or even like animals. To train a dog you need patience, persistence, a clear instruction and positive reinforcement. Incidentally, this skill works with people too.

2. Conduct a meeting

I don’t care if it’s a senate meeting, board meeting, community meeting or family meeting. You need to know how to get a group’s attention, identify a goal and get them moving in the right direction.

3. Talk to a child

Not baby talk. Talk to a child like the remarkable, near perfect, little human being that they are.

4. Listen to an elder

If you listen closely you will get inspiration for the kind of experiences you want to accumulate.

5. Say No gracefully

Don’t argue; don’t whine; don’t launch into a mini series of excuses - just “thanks but no thanks”.

6. Say No with force when necessary

Stand up and move forward. No means no. If you’re 17 and it involves a boy getting too fresh slap his sorry face. He will appreciate it when he has daughters of his own.

7. Read a map

Speaking as someone with the world’s worst sense of direction a GPS and car compass will only take you so far and sometimes will fail you completely.

8. Add panache to a picnic

It doesn’t take much – add some votive candles, a nice blanket for the beach, linen napkins, or a bottle of bubbles. It’s not always about the food.

9. Write a letter

Whether you put your own words together or go in search of the perfect quote you should be able to construct a note of congratulations, thanks, sympathy and celebration in writing.

10. Style your own hair

Look, there’s nothing like having a good stylist in your corner but you need to take the reins between appointments.

11. Kiss

If you are going to share this perfect expression of intimacy with someone put some thought and heart into it. Think Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis in Bull Durham “…I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” For further inspiration check out the last scene of Cinema Paradiso on YouTube.

12. Kill a bug

I don’t know of many bugs that can throw and pin a human being. Step on the thing and get on with it.

13. Complete a simple yoga routine

Soft music, deep breathes and gentle stretches – what’s not to love?

14. – 19. Know when to:

Throw out food (somewhere between my mother’s 3-day rule and my own when-it-can-walk-out-on-its-own rule)

End a relationship (somewhere between an hour into the first date and 10 years, 8 months, 1 week and 1 day into the last date)

Leave a job (going to lunch on the first day and not coming back might be just a tad premature)

Repair a friendship (there’s a reason some people never make it to your future)

Replace your car (when the amortized repair bills exceed the monthly payment on a Lexus it might be time to pull the trigger)

Let go of loss, guilt or resentment (no time like the present)

20. Dress appropriately

Wedding, funeral, interview – unless they are taking place on the beach the flip flops are probably not appropriate.

21. Ask for what you want

Ask – don’t demand, mandate, intimidate or manipulate.

22. Control your temper

This isn’t about being lady-like. Pick your battles so that when you do let it rip it’s worth something.

23. Pack for a week in a single bag

I hear this is important but it ain’t happening. I use a single bag for just shoes.

24. Create a budget and work it

This has so many benefits I don’t know where to begin. It sharpens your analytical skills, strengthens your self control, focuses on what is truly important and puts you on the path to fiscal security. I’m all about having options and this will help you get there. Apply to your professional and personal life.

25. Accept an apology

As in accept it and move on. No fair banking the offense to use later.

26. Give an apology

Admit what you did; say you’re sorry only if you truly are; and tell them what you learned or what you are going to do to fix it.

27. Rock a baby to sleep

Even better than yoga.

28. Flirt

Generally subtly is lost on men. This may be the only instance where less is more. Leave the giddy girly laughs behind and flirt like an adult – lower the voice, tuck the chin and lift the eyes – a direct gaze and a small smile.

29. Discourage a suitor and leave him his dignity

Give the guy credit for good taste if he approaches you. We don’t fully appreciate how much courage this takes. Pointing and laughing with your girlfriends is not nice.

30. Intimate communication before the “big event”

Some of my male friends say that this skill is their personal favorite. These guys want to please their ladies and are completely baffled by the fact that the same routine doesn’t score a homerun every time (because, you see, in their case our same moves do score a homerun every time). Women are complex, moods and circumstances change, and what worked last week isn’t going to cut it this week. So, ladies, think clear instruction and positive reinforcement, remember that you chose this guy and give him the courtesy of at least a hint of what you like – he will move heaven and earth to do it for you.

31. Intimate communication after the “big event”

This one if far easier - let the guy rest. If you’ve honed your skill in number 30 he’s earned it. And, whatever you do, do not ask what he is thinking or feeling. All the blood has left his brain. He’s not thinking or feeling anything.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Confessions of a Failed Femme Fatale

According to the movie Mildred Pierce, it can be defined as "the kind of woman men want...but shouldn't have.” Allure, mystery, and classy, dark glamour embody the femme fatale. (excerpt from

I always wanted to be a woman of mystery, a femme fatale. I yearn for that elusive quality that draws in strangers because they just know there’s more to you than meets the eye – someone with secrets and dimensions that are slowly revealed in the course of whispered conversations in smoke filled, dimly lit rooms.

I have never been able the master the art of mystery. I laugh loudly when I’m delighted, cry easily when I’m touched or saddened and stutter wildly when I’m grappling for self control. I’m more like Lucille Ball than Lauren Bacall. has some guidelines for becoming a femme fatale. Here is an excerpt from their list with my commentary…

Speak in a low voice. Not creepy low, just attractive low. In typical conversation not so much but if I concentrate or if I’m inspired to lower my voice register I might actually be able to pull this one off. Of course then there’s the whole giggling thing that completely breaks the mood. Grade: B+

Wear dark, sexy, retro clothes. I’m not quite sure I walk the line between “retro” and “old” but I make an attempt. I’m thinking I get points for the perpetual black dresses in my wardrobe and the 1940 peep toe pumps. Grade: B

Hang out in mysterious places. Not sketchy or scary - just unusual. The problem with this guideline is that there aren’t that many unusual places to be found in Northern Indiana that aren't scary. And, if you do manage to find an unusual place everyone flocks to it like the opening of a new Walmart. Grade: D
Hold your own with the guys in their poker, pool, or video games and occasionally win - be one of the guys. I fail to see how being one of the guys gets you into the Femme Fatale Club. Besides, I’m not a good winner. The little happy dance I do might be frightening but it definitely does not help my mystique. Grade: F

Be mysterious. Don't let everybody know what you are feeling or what's going on. Oh boy I don’t even come close to this one. Don’t misunderstand. I’m capable of being discreet and keeping confidences. But, if you are standing before me delivering what I believe is a load of fiction you can practically see the word “Liar” written across on my face. Grade: F

Find some unusual interest, skill, accessory unique to your femme fatale and work it. I can’t tie a cherry stem in a knot. I don’t smoke so I never learned how to blow smoke rings. I can, however, make a mean pineapple upside down cake but somehow I don’t think that qualifies. Grade: D

Wear a signature scent - not wimpy little fruit-foodie sprays, something oriental or woody. I do have a signature scent and the signature is Jovan White Musk sold for $14.99 at the corner drug store. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to get me into the Femme Fatale Club either. Grade: D

Wear your hair in an extreme side part with Veronica Lake-esque waves. Yeah right, as soon as I part my hair I look just like Veronica Lake – wait, isn’t she dead? Grade: F

Wear pale foundation, 'cat's eye' eyeliner, and red or maroon lipstick. Even if I could pull this off I wouldn’t. Can you say mortician? Grade: F

Watch old movies. Hell, if I was going to stay home and watch old movies why would I want to be a femme fatale? Grade: B

Make guys wonder. How? How? How? Can I get a little more detail here? This is like saying that in order to be a millionaire all you have to do is make a million dollars. Duh. Grade: F

Bonus Question:

Situation: Snotty remark made by a clerk in an upscale clothing store
Femme Fatale Response: small indulgent smile while she begins to compile a list of ways to embarrass her villain publicly – revenge served up cold.
My Response: “You bitch”

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Sounds of Love

Most of my friends know that I have been going through a serious romantic drought for quite a while now. Some of it stems from a self imposed relationship vacation but, if I’m honest about it, most of it comes from a lack of opportunity and effort on my part. While having a romance appeals to me in theory, I don’t mind my own company and I’m getting a lot of sleep.

I have been giving it more thought lately. What do I ultimately want? The flowers, dinners, concerts, vacations, walks, talks and the ever popular sex are great benefits but they don’t always translate into genuine love or even like. I decided that this time around I would go for the real thing – not romantic posturing but genuine love.

I can’t say if I will ever find that special someone. I don’t know exactly what genuine love will look like but I certainly know what it sounds like. I hear it every day from my friends and family. And, since I’m a compulsive list maker I started a list of the sounds of love I’m already hearing…

You make me smile.

I understand.

What do you need?

I trust you.

You can do this.

How can I help?

Be careful.

Call me when you get there.

You are the smartest person I know.

You deserve to be happy, too.

I forgive you.

I’m sorry.

I’m proud of you.

I’ll be there.

I couldn’t have done it without you.

I need you in my life.


I care about what happens to you.

Don’t go.

I’ll go with you.

You inspire me.

I don’t want to disappoint you.

I remember.



I may be on a romantic diet but I am certainly surrounded by genuine love every day. What was I so worried about?

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Tim Left for Me

The suffocating grief that followed Tim’s death is finally starting to lift. I still think of him several times a day. I miss him and my world and his family’s world will never be the same. But, I have started to think about how to honor him rather than mourn him.

I decided that I would take the best parts of Tim and display them to the world each day so that those who didn’t know him could still appreciate the man he was and those who did know him could catch a glimpse of him along the way.

Here are just some of the things I learned from my brother…..

  • Never miss an opportunity to enjoy a dog or child.

  • Confidence is attractive in any package. My beautiful brother was short and solid with a receding hairline and gray wiry hair that he pulled back into a pony tail.

  • Don’t avoid the camera. Pictures of Tim enjoying his life, his family and friends have been a tremendous comfort. I have one picture of Tim and me together that I now cherish. It is one of the few of us – just us – together as adults.

  • Never put housework and yard work ahead of spending time with family and friends.

  • Life turns on a dime. Never miss an opportunity to tell someone that they are important to you, that you like them, appreciate them or love them.

  • Some people may ridicule your quirky traits. They are the most memorable parts of your personality. Embrace and showcase them without apology.

  • Never stop creating …you have talents, skills, and passions to share.

  • Never stop recreating….play.

  • Celebrate…holidays, birthdays, achievements, perseverance, survival, haircuts, Tuesdays

  • Believe every wonderful thing that someone says about you. Cast off the bad stuff – those are products of someone’s agenda.

  • Forgive easily and quickly. You don’t have to condone the behavior – just allow others to struggle with their own demons.

  • Your occupation is what you do – not who you are.

  • Take care of yourself. You are taking care of someone who is precious to your loved ones. It is not selfish. It is an act of love.