The Apple Watch? The Fitness Assistant of My Shark Tank-Type Dreams? I’m Out

Imagine my surprise and delight after complimenting a tech colleague on her Apple Watch when she offered me a chance to try one!  I was very excited about it, especially since I used to imagine how all my weight and fitness goals could be met if I had a bracelet that would beep when I ate my allotted calories for the day and burned them off through exercise (and this was five years ago–before the Fitbit–darn it!).  I heard that *the reason* to love the Apple Watch was for its fitness components,  so for the past month I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch off and on and, so far, I don’t find it to be everything I had hoped:

Here’s why:

Since you have to have the I phone with you to keep your Apple Watch working, it is just. another. thing. to. charge.  I like efficiency!

It would not BE inefficient IF the watch lived up to my expectations.  So far it just makes me look a little show-offy. (that’s an official term) Talk to the watch, people.

My iphone app “Moves” counts my steps and MyFItnessPal helps me with calorie intake.  They are fine and handy.

Even though Apple products are known for their gorgeous designs, to me, the Apple watch  is NOT stylish (at least it isn’t *my* style).  The band is big, plastic, bright white and makes my wrist sweat.  And even though I tried to glam it up with some bracelets (see photo), I think it is kind of big and bulky and not that fashion-forward.

So, I’m going to use it through the fall semester, get a bit more training on the fitness apps it has and see if I change my mind.

My daughter, a devout runner, likes hers for the running and other fitness tracking, so I think there is a good support base for this, I’m just not in it since I don’t need the sleekness of it for my fitness calculations.  I can put my phone in my pocket or even my purse and it counts my steps.  But I’m going to let her show me a few of her Apple Watch favorite features to see if I will write a new blog in a few months saying that I can’t live without this watch.

If it would  beep when I’m done with my calorie intake (and save me from myself)……it would have my attention. Although I bet there will be an app for that for my iphone, and some studies are showing that people are eating to their quantification (not good).img_4367Now my  Mac Book Pro 13″ laptop with retinol display you could not prey from my cold dead hands…..but that’s a blog for another day.


Look and Be Good

This recent NY Times article that describes how young women in New York are dressing for themselves, and not the male gaze, was of interest to me and drew considerable backlash from readers who wrote that just because a woman dresses femininely does not mean 1) she is not a feminist and 2) that she is inviting the male gaze.  Right.  We knew that, didn’t we? And the irrepressible Jennifer Weiner wrote about the pressure to look good in an article that underscores what many women feel is a cultural imperative to keep up appearances.  

A couple of weeks ago, a recent honors college alumna, who has started her career in New York City, wrote to ask for dress for success tips because, as as she wrote in her email, “You always look ready for the day.” That made me smile.  Her inquiry also made me reflect on the many confusing messages that women, particularly our young women just starting out in the world, receive regarding looking good.  These messages range from presenting themselves in hyper-sexualized ways (the Kardashian effect) to paying no regard whatsoever to how they look, lest they seem “frivolous” or actually covering up (wearing winter clothes in summer – see the first article).  

How about some middle ground — looking appropriate and comfortable all while staying within the dress code of wherever you are and within your own personal style comfort zone?  There is nothing vain about wanting to look your absolute best. Wash your face, style your hair off your face, and find a look that makes you feel comfortable and the way you want to look. Most of us want to dress professionally and maybe a tad stylishly, too without spending all day and night on it.  Over the years, as I taught introduction to communication, I tried to impart to my students that a neat and clean look and the tendency to dress up a bit will almost always serve them well.  But John Molloy’s 1980s “Dress for Success” advice is quite a bit dated now.  The padded shoulders and men-style suit dressing are not required for women in the workplace anymore.  So here’s my advice for young women joining the workforce and thinking about their look:

1.  Wear clothes that you like and feel comfortable wearing that are within any kind of company dress code

2. Avoid anything sexy

3.  Almost anything can be made work appropriate if you add a jacket so buy at least three well-fitted all season jackets to start:  black, beige or grey and a bright color (maybe red or whatever looks good on you).  Since I work for Penn State, am a proud Penn Stater and I love blue, I have a few great navy jackets and I wear them a lot!

4. Solid color dresses/skirts/pants are great  Simple recipe:

     —(A simple dress, with a simple jacket plus a scarf and voila — you look darn good!)

5.  Black pants are a must 

6. Have one full skirted (or pant — whichever you prefer) suit in navy or black that looks good on you

— buy a couple of solid color modestly cut “shells” to go underneath — white and beige will go far

7. Scarves   –they are inexpensive and add a lot to your outfits –  buy them in every color/print/style

8.  Buy a nice trench coat


9. Too-thin knit wear (unless it is a blouse under a jacket)

10. Short skirts (save them for the tennis court) or a night out

11. Open toe shoes — peep toe is OK but sandals just don’t look professional in the office, especially when you are just starting out, no flip flops and keep the heel height of shoes under 3″.

12.  Looking sexy — cover up — I know!  I’m going to say it again!

13. Hair in your eyes

14. Too much make up, especially as you get older — less is more!  Lipstick and mascara are probably enough for work

And none of this “dress for success” matters if you don’t know your job well or you are unprepared.  So study, be sharp, get as many credentials as you can (research shows women need more than men just to break even) and be prepared and do the absolute best job you can for your organization.  Knowing you did your best is the greatest reward and will always make you “look good” to the person who matters the most:  yourself.


What’s Next? Nothing Like A New Year To Start Thinkin’ About Tomorrow!

We have received a number of beautiful “year in review” letters in holiday cards this year (you know who you are) and I always tell myself when I read these that I’m going to write one and put it in cards next year but I never do! I enjoy reading these letters so much that I thought I’d write a year-end post holiday card “year in review” blog.  Here it is:

It has been a year full of many great moments and at the top of the list is our son Ian’s graduation from Oberlin College with high honors in history.  Emily, Geoff, and I and Ian’s cherished grandparents–90 year old Manny and his faithful and loving wife of 50 plus years Annette–all made the trip to Oberlin, Ohio to experience the joy of all of his hard work and determination.  It was truly a moment.  Ian bravely accepted a teaching position at an inner-city school in Detroit and is discerning the priesthood, graduate school and what path he will take.

Emily Ann continues to thrive at Penn State.  She is perfectly suited to her communications major and she has blossomed as a Lion Scout, tour guide, Lion Lines representative and Kappa-Delta Associate VP.  Her exuberance is infectious.  She leaps out of bed in the morning to run her 4 miles every day and always has a smile on her face. One of the many benefits of being in State College is that she is here!  We see her more often that we would have if we were still in the Lehigh Valley, and that has made her transition (or should I say our transition of her in college) easier and certainly more enjoyable.  We often meet for Sunday brunch at the Nittany Lion Inn and sometimes she makes the big four mile trip home to sleep in her own bed on the weekends.

Thanks to my good friend and yogi Lisa Hogan, I took up yoga and a more dedicated exercise routine this year.  It took a hard fall down steps and a bout of Lyme disease for me to realize that taking better care of myself through exercise is a smart move.  Now I’m more active and feel 100% better.  Having a big birthday this year also motivated me to move it.  My wonderful sisters Teri and Julie helped me celebrate with a wonderful lunch at–my favorite–you guessed it–The Nittany Lion Inn!

I traveled a lot this year — several trips around the US and India, Ireland, and Canada.  They were incredible experiences and I took away some important lessons from them.  I’ll remember always the heat, the busy streets with rickshaws, the exotic and delicious food in India!  Can’t forget the friendly people, the many pubs (everything seems to spill into a pub) and Book of Kels in Ireland and our family time (which included two trips to hospitals because of my fall–not fun at all) at Niagara Falls.   Geoff and I also had a blast discovering the strip district in Pittsburgh and enjoyed the ethnic foods there.  What a great place to go if you are hungry!

We continue to meet great people every day in State College.  I LOVE entertaining and we hosted several dinners and parties.  That’s the most fun for me!  I love cooking and having people over.  I’ve enjoyed reaching out into the community by lectoring at the Catholic services at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center and planning to start a women’s clothing resource at the Women’s Resource Center.  And I’m really proud of my work at the Schreyer Honors College. Meeting the Schreyers and seeing (and living on a daily basis) their commitment to Penn State has been an honor. At a public meeting I heard the words “If Nikki had only done one of these things, her work here would be considered a great success, but she accomplished both.”  Seasoned administrators have told me that my approach — a full assessment of programming–my work ethic and collaborative nature are administrative assets.  It feels good to bring together a group of people and to achieve a goal.  I can identify strengths that are serving Penn State and that feels fantastic.  Penn State has done so much for me and I want to continue to serve Penn State at my highest and best level. The beauty is that this is such a comprehensive university, it is easy to find increasing ways to be challenged, grow and serve.  I put a high premium on loving my work, and I’ve always been able to do that at Penn State.  What a blessing this has been, due in part to a wonderful mentor years ago who encouraged me to stay with Penn State.  It will be TWENTY years in June!  What a great ride!

My trim, fit and ever younger looking husband Geoff of 27 years (where did they go) has lovingly supported me and always says: “what do you want to do?” when I come up with my next. big. plan.  I can always count on him for outstanding coffee, always being here, and usually coming around to my way of seeing things.

Speaking of passion and loving, my long time dream of publishing a children’s book became a reality!  We are getting very good buzz and response from Madam President:  Five Women Who Paved the Way and I could have never done it without Jane Ramsey, a gifted illustrator and friend, Schreyer Scholar Abby Kennedy and Penny Eifrig, our publisher who believed in the project.    Here’s a link to the book!!   We have lots of talks and signings lined up and more to come!

SO what’s next?  I’ve got lots of “to-dos” on my personal and professional list!

Oh, and I’m keeping those twenty plus pounds OFF that I lost almost four years ago, I’m learning French, and I’m plotting my summer travel plans!!  Life is beautiful, I’m so grateful for mine and to have you in it.  Thanks for reading!

Happy, Healthy New Year, everyone!  Here  comes 2015!  Wow!imgres


Chop Some Broccoli, Have A Revelation

Loss. Love. Beginnings. Daring. Living. It has been a wonderful year of growth for the Gutgold family! It was hard to just pick up and leave what we had in the Lehigh Valley; wonderful neighbors, family and good friends, work I loved (never did call it work), a volunteer community we enjoyed and a church where our children received their sacraments. (It took a whole year to make the move to this house and technically we still own some houses there — but probably not for long). Our son Ian is off in another state beginning his career, and we are so proud of him, though we miss him. And, lucky (at least for us) Emily is right here in State College, a sophomore at dear old State. But it won’t be long before she sets off for her own life. The way it should be.

Recently I fell down steps and got Lyme disease, but I’m fine!  I’m almost 100% back to putting weight on my right foot and I am on an antibiotic for the Lyme.  I think falling down the steps was a blessing because it made me look at the black and blue mark on my hip, which made me realize it was more of a tick bite than a black and blue mark.  The 103.4 fever clued me in, too.  After I started to heal, my good friend and fabulous yogi Lisa Hogan introduced me to yoga and though I’m definitely in the VERY beginner stage (I’m not that flexible), I am learning to breathe, relax and enjoy and respect that my body needs a rest sometimes.  That was an awesome lesson!  Thanks falling down the steps!

Over the past four months Geoff and I have settled into our cozy and comfortable new home in State College and as anyone who has ever moved knows: it is not nothing (pardon my grammar).

There was the searching for a new home (they sell fast here), the packing (dread), the moving, the losing,
(I still don’t know where my winter boots are and Emily keeps asking about her treasured copy of the third Harry Potter book in her collection–we will find it, Em) and the unpacking. There are still six very large boxes that are unopened in the garage.  Funny what you can live without.

But this morning, as I chopped the broccoli in anticipation of dinner guests (I love to entertain and we’ve made wonderful friends here already), I could sense my mom in the air. (She’s been deceased since 1993, and did not see the last three of the homes we’ve lived in). I never sensed her in our house in Fogelsville, but I often felt her spirit in the large kitchen in the house where we mostly raised our kids in New Tripoli. She would love that house, and the property, where sunflowers grow very large.

The sense of her presence instantly made this house a home. Maybe we should play a little Joni Mitchell tonight? Something’s lost and something’s gained, from living every day.


The silverware holders from Mom. We are using them tonight!

Life is a miracle. I’m so grateful to be here.  I’m grateful to everyone in my life and even to those darn steps that I tumbled down.  Namaste.


Reading of the Crimes Against Women and Girls in India Made it That More Shocking

I recently returned from a week in Delhi, India as part of a tremendous five week academic travel experience with Schreyer Scholars.  It has been an incredible experience.  I was drawn to India for a number of reasons, including my research on gender.

One of its most celebrated structures, the Taj Mahal,  was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his cherished wife.  It took more than 20 years to build and is one of the most outstanding examples architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. It remains one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history.

Female gods are also a big part of Indian culture.

But, open any newspaper in Delhi,  or the New York Times, and the crimes against girls and women are hard to comprehend.  For weeks I had been forcing myself to read about the monstrosities and on my first morning there, I opened the Delhi Times and read about the rape of a seven year old girl as she walked home from a market.  Somehow reading it while in the country made it more real, and even more horrific, if that’s possible.  Indeed, we were warned not to leave the International Guest House without male accompaniment, and indeed the gated entrance and the personnel have repeatedly warned me to stay inside and wait for a male to come to pick us up to take us less than a mile to the Shim Ram College of Commerce for daily events.   By the end of the week, I just wanted to walk somewhere — alone!


While in India we visited the Centre for Social Research photo[6]where we learned about the grassroots programs to prevent violence against women.  The director explained that education and intervention are the key.  One of the ways women are marginalized is through staring.  Some men harass women by straight staring at them.   The clothing of Indian women range from saris to jeans and long sleeve cotton tops, even in the blaring heat that was all around us.  When the director of the Centre for Social Research spoke about the number of women in politics in India, it didn’t sound much different from what we have in the US, where, like India we are trying to reach a critical mass.  Though in India, there is a movement to have at least 33% women in government, we have no formalized movement in the US. There are 20% women in the US Senate, which is not a critical mass, but more  than the 11% of women in government in India.    The same gender hassles:  appearance over performance and the accusation of women being too emotional to lead–still haunt women in politics both in India and the US.

Will the increase of women in government in India find more forceful demand for the end of crimes against girls and women?   Who knows and only time will tell.


On Leaning In — Circa 1991– and Letting Go — Circa 2014

It has been an eventful year, but then, I’d like to think that most of my life has been eventful.  What is life, if not one event after another?  Some more celebratory, for sure, but events, nonetheless.   One of the best parts of this past year when I accepted a new job, in a new town, has been meeting new people, especially a network of women at Penn State who have become a great support system.  We meet regularly, sometimes in a group and sometimes just one-on-one over coffee or lunch to discuss how things are going.  What has sprung from these new connections is the idea to edit a collection of essays by women academics, asking them essentially to “tell your story.”  An observation from our informal group meetings is that many of us lacked  female role models as we carved out our lives and careers and this book promises to help younger women learn how others have made choices and forged their way in a career that is underrepresented by women.  As I consider what to include in my chapter and as our son, Ian is about to have a birthday, I thought of this “pre-lean in era” big lean:

August 23rd was Ian’s due date.  You are probably thinking:  “not one of those ‘when I gave birth’ blogs, right?”  It seems that every woman who has ever given birth has a “my-experience-was-unique story” and most people are bored to tears by them. Including me.  I remember siting in the OB/GYNs office where pregnant women over shared more detail about their childbirth experience that I ever wanted to hear.   While childbirth is a true miracle, I would prefer to talk about something else.  Like how about the third season of House of Cards.  I am a lady in waiting for that, for sure.  Can’t believe we gorged on the whole second season in two sittings and now we are just waiting.  But I digress.

I was 26 years old when our son Ian was born, and I felt ready to be a mom.  But when he came into the world on July 10, 1991 instead of August 23rd, I was not ready exactly.  In fact, I promised Penn State Allentown (now Penn State Lehigh Valley)  I would teach the second summer session that ran from July 10 through about mid August.  Instead, early labor meant that I was being prepped for a C-section at just about the time my class was going to start.  Anyone who knows me well knows I’m almost never late for anything. Both my mom and dad were never late and they instilled the timeliness trait in me. If anything, like my dad, I usually show up a bit early.


Ian, Age 7


Ian, the Oberlin College graduate, 2014

It drove me crazy to think I was going to let my class down.  I can’t not be there, I kept thinking to myself as the doctor explained that I was going to have the baby early.  So, I sent Geoff to the campus to open up the class, distribute the syllabus, and told him to please do not say: “Your instructor is having a baby tonight, so read chapters 1-3,write a reaction paper instead of a face-to-face class tomorrow night and your instructor will see you right here, in this classroom on Monday.”   Instead he said something like:  “Your instructor had an emergency…but the class will continue as scheduled.  Plan to show up Monday, and she’ll be here too.”   I’ll never forget the look on the faces of my students when I showed up the following Monday and explained the reason for my absence. But it felt right to fulfill my agreement to teach the class.   My word is my bond.  Beisdes, Ian was “booked” in the neo-natal intensive care unit till mid-August.  In essence, perfect timing.

Ian will be 23 this July 10th.  I know it is cliche, but it is hard to believe it.  Gretchen Rubin, author of  The Happiness Project, an inventive book I very much enjoyed, describes the journey and passing time of motherhood this way:  she says, “the days are long, but the years are short.”  I think she means that when you are in the middle of parenting young children and there are a multitude of responsibilities:  scout camp, clothes shopping, cleaning, cooking, school supervision, driving (lots of driving)  and room parenting, vacation planning, etc., etc., etc., it seems like it will never end.  But, one day, you turn around and the child who consumed so much of day-to-day living is grown.

I thought I dodged the “empty nest” syndrome by taking a new job and kicking up enough new dust (moving, new house, new almost everything) but the graduation of Ian from college (Oberlin, with high honors, history) and the realization that he’s off to his first real job in the fall (an incredible one in Detroit, Michigan, teaching for the Cristo Rey School) makes me realize that Gretchen is right:  the days are long, but the years are short.   Ian was a fascinating, intense child:  obsessed with keys, computers, building, space and passionate about politics in 2008.  I think especially because I never had a brother, I marveled at all the toys he loved:  legos, Thomas the Tank, Matchbox and Brio and I got into his childhood in a way I simply didn’t expect.  I loved being the mom of a boy, and that caught me by surprise.  Though we always traveled as a family,  and he took a trip to Peru in college, he chose to spend a semester volunteering at a homeless shelter in Rochester, New York instead of the usual study abroad and it led to his life’s calling.  He is an associate in the order of the Basilian priesthood.

There isn’t as much day-to-day mothering anymore and to let him live his life and reach his potential, there is a certain amount of letting go.  That doesn’t mean I’m not really looking forward to (okay, counting the days) till we head up to Rochester to visit and have a little family time at Niagara Falls.

Ian has been a wonderful son who continues to make our lives more interesting and wonderful because he is here.  I feel very fortunate to be his mom and I’m really proud of the man he is becoming.

And I hope he lives his life just the way he came into the world:  in his own time and on his own terms.




Geography Matters – Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!

We are our places.

That’s why I can’t wait to see and experience Dublin, Ireland to get a sense of the Marys who have served as presidents, to visit the archive at University College, Dublin and to talk with older locals about the two women–the only two ever–to serve as president of the tiny island always looking to brand itself as a more independent, progressive place, and not a place in the shadow of Great Britain.

Mary Robinson was upper-class and from the south, and Mary McAleese was a blue collar woman from the scrappy North, both fiercely Catholic and both questioning women’s place within Catholicism.  

When a new politician bursts on to the scene, one way to learn and know about them is to go to their home.  If you do that, you are likely to “get” them.   I’ve had some memorable trips to get the geography of women I’ve written about:   I recall a fun family road trip to Salisbury, North Carolina to see the childhood home of Elizabeth Dole (grand) and to wander around the downtown she warmly described in her biography.  A visit Skowhegan, Maine to see Margaret Chase Smith’s childhood home–the same one her mother had been born in– and you get a sense of the constancy and conservative nature of her upbringing.  Shirley Chisholm’s Barbados and Brooklyn roots were evident in her style, a ramrod seriousness combined with the hubris of city dwellings.  Pat Schroeder, who moved multiple times as a child, as her father pursued a career in aviation learned to make friends wherever she went and brought that sensibility to her adult life.  When I interviewed her she said bluntly:  “it’s all geography.  If you want to know about a person, ask where they are from and the circumstances of their lives.”   Elizabeth Dole, spoke “fluent southern” on the campaign trail (for better as a spouse of a candidate, but worse as a candidate herself) and Hillary Clinton, who was born to a “middle class family in the middle of America”  — was the only girl in her family, rejected from joining NASA because of her gender and avowing to right that wrong with her future career.

I research and write about women in non-traditional fields.  It is what I know so in a year that has brought many changes:  new career direction, new town, new house, it feels good to  do what I know best — read and write about women.   So today I’m thinking about geography as I work on a new book about women world leaders, and do some “make-this-house-a-home” maneuvers in our new home in State College. 

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat — May I the road rise up to meet you!


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