Lifestyle expert of McCall's magazine and prolific author of low-calorie self-help (Daring to Be Yourself, 1990, etc.), Stoddard offers her personal reflections on turning 50, revealing how she met the conflicting demands of a beautiful home, family, and life. The audience advised to nurture their spirits by surrounding themselves with flowers in Living Beautifully Together (1989) is here exhorted, first, to get rid of weeds they didn't plant, to become the architects of their own lives, to choose their own happiness, take charge of their own finances, face difficulties (``bite the bullet''), and learn the ``Art of No''—which could possibly allow them to dispense with a lifestyle expert. To this counselor on surfaces, decorations, and accessories, whose children are beautiful, whose marriage is successful, and whose siblings (the only dark note) are expendable, the philosophy of choice means that everything in life can be replaced, rearranged, recovered or purchased in a different color. Stoddard takes up the subjects of family, parenting and being parented, marriage, divorce, friends, occupations, along with the problems, challenges, and blessings of life generally, and concludes that the best life—self-fulfillment- -comes with power, with choosing, trusting, and affirming: with acting rather than reacting. The death of a child, the infidelity of a spouse, losing of a job, having to move—all can be handled by making choices. For the Stoddard addict, paralyzed by the shopping, fitting, and matching that the beautiful life requires, courage lies in choosing what color sheets to buy or who to invite to dinner. With quotations in the margins from real philosophers (from Samuel Johnson to Sartre—more choices), Stoddard offers a comforting anodyne, a palliative to get through the middle years. Harmless and, to the totally inert, perhaps inspiring.
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