A collection of tote bags with flat straps so they won't fall off your shoulder.

Tote Bags with Flat Handles: A Very Particular Request

I was DMing on Facebook with my friend Chris and she was asking me if I could think of a good tote bag without rolled handles. I was baffled as to why she didn’t want rolled handles but Chris has a very active life. With a pre-school aged child, a busy career and an online community devoted to baby-wearing on a budget this is a woman who knows what she needs and why.

Chris is like many other women who want a flat handle. The rolled shoulders slide off her shoulders.

So I went in search of great, not good but great, tote bags that feature flat shoulder straps. Here are my favorites. Whenever possible I’ve included everything from OMG that’s expensive to OMG that’s all? To etsy, loaners, and secondhand finds.

img src=”http://wearemidlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/tote-bags-with-flat-handles.png

Who should you trust with your DNA? Are there privacy concerns that we should pay attention to when it comes to genetic testing?

DNA Testing, Heritage, Health, and Heredity

This morning I was reading The Forward and they had a little blurb about how Wirecutter recommended Ancestry.com’s DNA testing but not 23andMe. As the child of an immigrant with limited documentation of births, deaths, and backgrounds I had a unique interest in some of this. Firstly I’ve used 23andme for my own personal results, and secondly, I have used Ancestry to attempt to locate documents.

My experiences with 23andme and Ancestry.com might surprise you.

I was invited to Silicon Valley in 2009 along with some friends of mine to try 23andMe. It was still very much in start up mode and at the time I was neither curious about my DNA nor was I interested in leaving an eight and ten-year-old child home so that I could learn about a new company. So I declined the invitation. After hearing about it later I still wasn’t curious.

About a year after that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and instantly I gained interest in my genetics but was also terrified to learn too much. What had I passed along to my children? Sometime in 2016 I bought a 23andMe kit and found out some of the most boring information ever doled out. I found out I was likely to have brown eyes. I found out I was more than 96% Jewish. I found out that I was likely to have RA. I was waiting for them to tell me the sky was blue.

More recently I decided to apply for German Citizenship under article 116 (2) of the German Basic Law. This required me to locate documents from Germany proving that my parent and Grandparents had been stripped of their citizenship. The documents required were hosted on JewishGen.com, owned by Ancestry.com. They charged me to have access to my family’s information; birth dates, death dates, incarceration dates, marriage licenses, notes from concentration camps, and the like. There is something so inherently distasteful about profiting from someone trying to document their family’s demise in concentration camps that I held my nose and paid the $100 fee.

After selling me access to my Grandfather’s vital records Ancestry.com wants to sell me DNA testing services. Does that sound like a good idea to anyone?

Here’s the thing. 23andMe may be imperfect but it was founded by tech pioneers whose goals were to serve science. Ancestry has its home in Utah where the founders were Mormon. The LDS Church has long been a great resource for genealogy. The Church has this to say on the matter:

Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestors or family history, is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. People of all faiths and nationalities enjoy discovering where they come from. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, learning about one’s family history is more than just a casual endeavor. Latter-day Saints believe families can be together after this life. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen relationships with all family members, both those who are alive and those who have died.

Now, I understand that Ancestry is no longer a Mormon holding but it is still based in Lehi, Utah where 93% of the population is LDS. This is not a criticism of Mormon beliefs or philosophies, but there needs to be an acknowledgment that when you entrust a company with your most personal data an understanding of why the company exists may help you decide if you trust their privacy policies.

I’m not sure that sending your DNA to a privately held company that sells birth certificates is a good idea.

I am, however, certain that DNA testing is a great idea. I was able to take my raw data from 23andMe and input into a website called Promethease. Promethease’s privacy policy is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Your reports are deleted from their servers after 45 days if you’ve created an account and if you choose not to create an account it’s deleted after 24 hours. Promethease encourages people to pay using Bitcoin and to use their service from behind Tor.

The information I got from taking my raw data from 23andMe and running it through Promethease was actually quite helpful. I found that I’m one of the people who doesn’t synthesize methotrexate well and since that is one of the first treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis this would have been extremely useful to know in 2010 when methotrexate was leaving me bruised and destroying my stomach while doing nothing at all to alleviate the symptoms of RA. I also found out that my genotype is 3.5 times more likely to suffer liver damage from the use of NSAIDs as well as gastrointestinal bleeding.

If you have a chronic disease like RA detailed genetic testing might be a good idea.

The information I was able to share with my rheumatologist is vital to sustained good health. I’ve been in remission with hardly a flare for several years now, but when things flare up (and they will because diseases suck that way) we’ll know that NSAIDs are the last course of treatment, not the first.

Genetic testing isn’t for everyone. Surely there are results most of us don’t want to see. I personally didn’t look at the results for a few of the higher stakes tests: think Alzheimers and Parkinsons. It’s extremely personal.

I worry though when sites like Wirecutter, that are respected by the tech community

Your vagina is just fine. Really. And your labia do not need a trim either.

7 Things Every Midlife Woman Knows Her Vagina Need Not Do

By the time you’ve hit 47 your vagina has either stretched to accommodate a child or been given a hall pass. The good news is that they’re really just a tube surrounded by muscles and most often things go right back to where they began, or pretty darned close. Of course for some women there are issues and they’ll need to consult with a gynecologist but for the vast majority we have compiled a list things your vagina never has to do.

1. Go Flamenco Dancing: I mean, sure you can go flamenco dancing and obviously your vagina will accompany you but she needn’t carry her own fan. Give the little lady a rest. Let her enjoy the dance without the work.

Go flamenco dancing but let your vagina just be there with you. She doesn't need to carry her own fan.

2. Shoot ping pong balls: If you’re looking to play a little beer pong this lady can teach you how and your vagina can just come along for the ride without doing any of the heavy lifting.

A post shared by Jared Pope (@jaredpope1) on

3. Squirt: If you are a squirter have no shame. If you don’t that’s okay too. This article explains squirting pretty well and and links to some research if you want more information.

4. Get Bleached: that color, whatever color your labia may be, that’s the right color. Don’t change it.
Do not bleach your labia. There really shouldn't be more discussion than this but really, don't do it. There's no reason at all.

5. Putting rocks in her: Anything GOOP recommends is suspect. I’m pretty sure they’re trolling us more often than not. But your vagina doesn’t need a $65 polished rock. It just doesn’t. If you think that putting a jade egg inside of you will have strengthening and healing powers go for it. Just make sure it’s clean and you use a fragrance free soap. Here's an egg you put in your vagina. GOOP says you need it. We say.... 6. Douches: Unless a gynecologist recommends one (not even sure how that would happen) douching is on the short list of things your vagina should never need to endure. A 2011 study concludes that frequent douching increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and, possibly, cervical cancer.Current literature suggests that frequent douching increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and, possibly, cervical cancer.7. Have Plastic Surgery: There’s a special kind of sadism that markets labiaplasty to women who think their labia are too big, uneven, or somehow otherwise imperfect. Unless there’s pain involved there’s nothing to fix. Leave your labia alone.According to the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology:A recent analysis of internet marketing for labiaplasty by Liao et al. (BMJ Open 2012;2:e001908) found unsubstantiated claims for physical, psychological and sexual benefits on every website studied. Far from reassuring girls and women about healthy genital variability, surgeons are active participants in distorting the norms in ways that can undermine vulval confidence and put pressure on women to modify their vulva.

Women’s vulvas haven’t changed in the past decade. Our physicians have. One plastic surgeon has the gall to make you click through to see the highlighted text:
Plastic surgeons are telling women that their vaginas need to be trimmed

If We Had a Queen Leader Her Name Would be Celeste

If the midlife community were to anoint ourselves just one leader it undoubtedly would be the great Celeste Barber. She’s a truth teller. A giggle maker. A holder of mirrors to our absurd celebrity culture.

She’s willing to be the butt of the joke. But really, is she? Or are the celebs?

Celeste Barbor accepts the Kelly Osborne challenge and the results are hilarious

Because let’s be candid I don’t even understand why Kelly Osborne took this photo. No one does.

Just a quick poke around Instagram with a quick search for #celestechallengeaccepted and you’ll find Barber recreating all sorts of interesting Instagram poses.

There are no words for any of this.

You’ll learn fun facts, like that boys lie but carbs do not.

Celeste Barbor accepts the Kendall Jenner challenge and we find out that boys lie but carbs do not

Also, who is this person and why are they doing this? I’ve often affirmed that your 20’s should be spent more naked but… well this is a head scratcher. Not Celeste’s photo. Celeste is perfection.

Celeste Barber the queen of midlife

We hope that if we find ourselves in Oz our leader would take us boating.

This is an entirely normal way to go boating.

Because the only thing more absurd than Celeste’s bikini photo on the bottom is whatever it is that’s happening on the bow of that ship.

And the only had better than my CREATIVE F*CKER hat is Celeste’s #CHALLENGEACCEPTED trucker hat. I feel like we could be friends.


It was only after the first tuition bill arrived that I learned about how people pay for college. http://wearemidlife.com

Things I Didn’t Learn About the Cost of College Until After the Bill Came

My daughter is off to college in a few weeks and the bill for the first semester has arrived. After the smelling salts kicked in and I regained consciousness I found out a few things that I wanted to share with my friends. We’ve been paying for the kids to go to private schools and I’d (wrongly) assumed that paying college tuition would work the same way.

My first surprise was a happy surprise. Maybe not just happy but joyous. I might have danced a jig. Private secular schools in Los Angeles (I’m finding that some but not all of the parochial schools do not do this) have a finance charge as well as requiring tuition insurance. When I combined the finance charges and tuition insurance for one local school it was an 18% increase in cost over the course of a year. The sad part of this is that a lot of families who pay for private educations can just barely afford it and they are the ones who end up paying the most.

In any event, that first bill came and it wasn’t for the entire year. It was for the first semester! Who knew? Also guess what the finance charge is if you’re planning to pay monthly? $50. That’s right fifty dollars. Not all Universities are the same so it’s going to require research at each school.

It appears that finance charges and tuition insurance are not a given as they are in K-12 education.

Then I found out there are other ways that the rich stay rich and decided to go on the hunt for an expert to tell me more about it. Leah Ingram has written a book about how to pay for college. Here’s something else I didn’t know. You can prepay all four years at some schools, hedging your bets against the 2-3% increase you can expect at private institutions. I asked Leah about this she told me that in the state of Florida you can prepay four years of tuition and housing for less than what one year of college at a Florida state university costs today.

She went on to say that some colleges have allowed freshman to “lock in” their tuition prices for all four years so that if tuition goes up for the next incoming class, it won’t go up for you.

Leah said, “That being said I wondered if colleges did actually offer these prepayment options outside of state plans and they DO. I found prepayment options at both Harvard and Dartmouth, so I guess that is a way for the rich to get richer and not pay for tuition increases that the middle class have no way of avoiding.”

It seems like many of the older private schools may end up being more affordable than a state school. I was sharing some of what I saw on Naviance with a community college student. He is preparing for a transfer and the UC schools would probably cost him more than USC because he’s the first generation to go to college. I relayed this information to Leah and asked what else would shock me about funds available?

What you’ve stumbled upon is a big misconception among so many parents. Everyone is led to believe that a state school is cheaper, and when talking apples-to-apples tuition, it is. However, there are two things that can weigh in parents’ favor with private schools. One, you get financial aid based on cost of attendance (COA) and expected family contribution (EFC). While your EFC doesn’t change depending on where your kid goes to school, the COA definitely does. So an EFC that nets you zero financial aid at a state school could net you significant financial aid at a private college–because the COA is significantly more. The second thing weighing in your favor is that if you do qualify for financial aid, private colleges are more likely to have more money set aside for grants and scholarships. And actually third, a private college looking to boost its student profile is more likely to throw money at a smart student who stands above their “average” student. This is usually in the form of merit aid, not need-based aid.

Leah’s book The Complete Guide to Paying for College: Save Money, Cut Costs, and Get More for Your Education Dollar  comes out in September and if you have a high school sophomore or junior you’re coming up on a busy couple of years. I highly recommend preordering it now.



Fabian Blank

What could possibly make a woman react like this to a house?

A Million Dollar Home in Texas

Stefanie and I were thinking about writing a post about what a million dollars will buy you in a few different regions. With that in mind I started poking around the web and found a house to show her. 

And then I jammed a camera in her face because I’m kind of an a**hole sometimes.

The front gate was inviting enough…

A normal looking gate for a mansion until you look closely

but upon closer inspection the guy standing there is a little different.

You realize that he looks a little like the girl who is busy TAP DANCING ON THE CEILING of the study

Artists have a child tap dance on their ceiling

And this is the moment where I realize that I don’t want to own this home. I want to befriend these people. I want to hang out with the woman whose master bath looks like this:

This is what an artist does in their master bathroom

Because I’m pretty sure she knows how to do a perfect manicure and I’m equally certain that her makeup blending skills are excellent.

I’m not sure what shocked Stefanie most, the tap dancer, the adult mannequins, or perhaps the fact that this is what $1.1 million gets you in Los Angeles.

This house is for sale in Los Angeles for slightly more than one million dollars.

And this is what the front of the artists’ house looks like.

A million dollar home in Texas looks lovely from the street and has surprises inside.


AMEX and Chase both have great travel reward credit cards but there's one big difference with AMEX if you have a family that travels a lot and travels independent of each other.

AMEX Platinum: Not All Premium Cards Are Created Equal

Currently us four Gottliebs are on two continents. Of the three here in North America only two of us are in California. This is not unusual. We travel a lot. We travel for business. We travel for pleasure. If we’re really lucky we travel for a little monkey business.

We are a family on the move.

Back in 2011 someone got ahold of my Chase account number and could have financially destroyed us (shred everything people!). The help I got from my local branch was nothing short of spectacular and I’ve been a happy customer since.

I really liked Chase’s Sapphire Credit Card and when the Sapphire Reserve Card made its debut it was a no-brainer. That card pays for itself by March every year and the miles are really the best ever. I ended up taking my family of four to Europe, business class, for $900.

Because the Sapphire Reserve Card is so generous with its benefits I’d come dangerously close to canceling my Platinum American Express Card, particularly because the fees for it rose this year. When AMEX added $200 a year of Uber (we use quite a bit more than that as a family) to the $200 flight credits, and threw in free gold cards for four more people I decided that I’d wait a year before canceling the card. I decided that I’d do the math and only jettison cards that didn’t pay for themselves.

We all have both the AMEX and the Chase Credit card.

The Platinum AMEX paid for itself this week in a way that I’ve learned only AMEX can. 

My daughter is traveling in Europe. My husband was in New York. My son and I were in Los Angeles and my AMEX was being used in Portland Oregon. This isn’t really that big of a deal on a normal day. You call AMEX, alert them to the fraud and typically a card arrives before 48 hours has passed.

The only reason that this was a very big deal was because Mr. G’s Chase card had been stolen the week prior and replacements had been sent after our daughter had already left for Europe. This means that she would have two credit cards that didn’t work and that I’d have to throw cash onto her debit card and hope for the best. Typically a terrible plan with a teenager for a million different reasons.

I called American Express, possibly while hyperventilating, and explained the situation to the lady on the other end of the line. She commiserated about how annoying all this theft is and then explained to me that my daughter’s card wasn’t stolen.

Yes it was!!! I might have been shrill.

Then she explained me that that even though it’s one account we all have different card numbers so when one is lost or stolen they needn’t all be replaced.

I will never get rid of that American Express. I’d never checked the cards closely (only the bills/balances – eek!) and hadn’t realized that our numbers were different. I can’t imagine why other banks don’t offer this within their accounts. It’s easy to offer customers rewards. What’s not easy is protecting a traveller and her family.

I do have one complaint about both of these cards. They’re made of metal. Does no one at AMEX or Chase have a manicure or a new wallet? Do they not understand that when credit cards don’t bend a little they’re near impossible to get out of a wallet? I know it’s an absurd problem since I mostly use apple pay anyhow. But really…. plastic. We want our plastic to be plastic.


If you've ever wondered what a $2,500 iron looks like we are here to show you. We were invited to come see the new Miele Steam Ironing System. Which is a really great product for everyone from crafters to seamstresses and fashionistas. Of course we turned it a little silly but we also have some information to share. WeAreMidlife.com

Miele and Me: A Steam Iron System

When the folks at Miele invited Stefanie and me to visit the showroom and learn about Miele’s new steam ironing system I jumped at it. I might have sent an overly enthusiastic email about the four different dry cleaners/laundries I use. I might have mentioned that my secret dream is to own a mangle. I might have come off like a complete and utter freak, and guess what? I don’t even care.

We both have Miele canister vacuum cleaners and we both needed vacuum bags too so we decided to call it an errand and booked an appointment.

We’d both seen the webpage for the Fashion Master but neither of us had seen it in action.

We went to the showroom on Robertson and were greeted with the Miele Fashion Master in it’s storage position. If you’re curious about the footprint of this it’s a lot like taking the space an ironing board occupies and making it square. Not much more of the closet than what mine already takes up, plus the iron and steamer are included.

Miele Steam Ironing System

The folks at Miele set the system up and we were curious how it would work for different heights. The ironing board does adjust quite high so if you’re taller it’s a treat to have an ironing board that actually suits you. Then they were like, would you like to try it and we did this:

The Miele Steam Iron System has a heated ironing board as well as a blower

After giggling a bit we got in there and played with some of the features. Seamstresses and crafters already know that a heated ironing board cuts your time in half, maybe more. Adding fans to the board as well as a nonstick-delicate soleplate means that you can steam silks and screen prints without scorching anything.

A heated ironing board means that you don't have the flip your shirts over. You can just iron on one side and be finished

The steam is simple and you can use tap water. The system has water testing available so you can adapt it to suit your water’s mineral levels. It also lets you know when it’s time to descale. We did not see descaling (not time yet) but it appears to be as simple as using a cleaning solution and pressing a button as there is a computer system that cares for it all. Stefanie and I are accustomed to descaling as I do so for my teapot and she does for her coffee maker.

Once we tried the Miele Iron it was fun for everyone.

We started to use the Miele Ironing system and then burst into laughter after realizing that we'd just driven across town to do chores! www.WeAreMidlife.com

In fact everyone got a little silly, check behind us at the register.

We were having so much fun laughing while we were trying the Miele Steam Ironing System that even the store employees got in on the silliness. www.WeAreMidlife.com

We did get to ironing and there are some things about this that make it right system for the right buyer. Firstly, whomever owns this needs to be forward thinking and completely devoted to an impeccable wardrobe. The model we played with is priced at $2,499 and there’s another available at $1,999. I spend about $40 a week at the laundry and more still at the dry cleaner. I’d be wise to buy something like this and iron at home. I am not wise but I’m working on it.

For a seamstress or a crafter this makes infinite sense. The lightweight iron, the fact that the steam never drips, the ability to handle delicate fabrics and the structure of the board will make your hobby even more fun and productive.

Miele honeycomb makes it difficult to scorch your clothing with their iron

The honeycomb pattern makes it difficult to scorch your clothing and the extra template for delicates means that you can manage silks at home. A soft pad and heated board enable you to iron right over buttons and not in between them. This will cut down on loose threads and a significant amount of time. You just put the shirt button side down and run the iron.

Miele Fashion Master Steam Iron System has a board that heats up so you can iron right over the buttons.
We ironed a shirt right over the buttons, no more of that in-between.

Miele Fashion Master Steam Iron System has a board that heats up so you can iron over the buttons.

If the Miele Fashion Master reminds you of the giants rigs you see at the dry cleaner, you’re right. It’s a scaled down version of what the pros use.

Miele honeycomb makes it difficult to scorch your clothing with their iron

I’m curious what y’all are using at home and if your ironing board is tall enough for you? Mine is not. It was fun not having to hunch over.

We were invited to come see the new Miele Steam Ironing System. Which is a really great product for everyone from crafters to seamstresses and fashionistas. Of course we turned it a little silly but we also have some information to share. WeAreMidlife.com


A Woman’s Last Words with her Mother

Just before a young woman’s mother died she had a conversation with her mother and it was recorded on video. It looks as though they lost the sound.

She took to the internet to ask if anyone knows how to lipread and could tell her what her mother’s last words to her were.

A redditor called FriendsAreSh*t wrote this:


Uh huh.

“Did you pack your stuff away […]?”

I’m okay


Do you have anything you want to tell me [….]

“Oh. Is there something you want me to tell you?”

Tell me you love me.

“I love you.”

Thank you

“I do. I think you’re […]”


“You’re pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you/you’re pretty hard on yourself, aren’t you?”


“Oh, I think I would say.. uhh.. maybe about 75% of the time.”


“Strong 75%.”



I’m trying/I try.

“You do good […]” ??

“I have to apologize.”

Okay/for what?

“For some strange reason […]”

It’s okay.


I don’t know sound with shrugging shoulders

Mom takes a drink of water.


Okay, sounds good.

“But, I do […]”


“Don’t eat em all at once, you’ll get pimples”



And then user ThisIsMyDesktop added the following:

If you crank the original audio right up and put your headphones on the side of your throat instead of your ears, you can hear the voice quite clearly.

Uh huh.

You should pack your stuff away and let me read it to you

I’m okay


Do you have anything, do you want to tell me that you like me?

Oh. Is there something you want me to tell you?

Tell me you love me.

I love you

Thank you

I do. I think you know that.


And then we all fell in love with the internet one more time.

Can you help decode this video? I was stunned to learn about the neck trick. Let’s all work together to help this young woman with her video.

What three items should every tennis bag have in the hot summer months

Tennis Gear Discoveries

This week I had three discoveries in the tennis pro shop that are changing my game. Firstly, it’s hot here. Not a little hot. Very. Saturday’s match began in 90° heat. USTA rules don’t call games for heat unless the temperature is 95° or higher when you begin.

So we played. And we struggled and my opponent tried to sit longer than 90 seconds when we switched sides, and I tried to move her along without making either of us too miserable.

I had a secret weapon and it’s about to be the worst kept secret ever because I’m basically telling everyone I know that Endurolytes will change their game.

You’re supposed to take two an hour with lots of water. The guys at the bike shop explained to me that it’s important to make sure you’re drinking a lot of water with them or you’ll be out of balance. One said to treat water and Endurolytes like peanut butter and jelly. I nodded thinking I’d just bought the world’s most expensive placebo. But during my match when I was drenched with sweat and popping just one capsule an hour while feeling no effects of the heat I decided that Endurolytes were the best trick ever. Even better than the salt packets I stole from fast food joints when I used to run marathons.

Endurolytes saved me from muscle cramps and fatigue in the heat.

The next time I play I’ll try taking two an hour. I just love getting electrolytes without having to drink sweet things or eat candies.

My second discovery only applies if you wear a women’s sized shoe up to size 9.

I’ve had a really tough time finding no-show socks that don’t slip down my shoe when I’m playing. It seems as though when I jump or serve the socks sort of slide down my heel and into the arch of my foot in the most uncomfortable way. I mentioned this to one of the ladies in the pro shop and she said, “Don’t you know about the socks.”  And I just stared at her dumbfounded. I did not know about the socks.

Nike No-Show Tab Socks in a Youth large size is the right size for most women

Apparently the Nike Elite Cushioned Support socks in 4-6 youth is the perfect size for my foot (Women’s size 8.5 US). Buy some, you’re welcome.

Lastly I found that CVS’ spray bottle hand sanitizer is a lifesaver when you need to get sunscreen off your palms during a match.

I coat myself in sunscreen before I warm up, spray my body again after warming up and reapply to my face and neck. Every 30 minutes or so I’m spraying again so by the time I’ve had a couple of hours on the court (sometimes three if I’m playing doubles) there is a thick layer of sunscreen all over me and it does nothing to help my grip.

I found that a couple sprays of this hand sanitizer is extremely helpful when there just isn’t the opportunity to wash your hands.

CVS hand sanitizer is a must have for your hot weather tennis bag.

I’m ready for a hot summer with plenty of great match play. What are your hot weather gear tips?