Friday, July 18, 2008

A New Blog Address!


Oops, where did I go?? I've made a change in my blog address folks!

My blog is now sitting on WomenBloom so I have everything rounded up in the same place! I hope you'll find it easier to check out the articles, stories and forums since the links are just above!

If you're arriving at this page, just click the heels of your Ruby Slippers twice and click here or this address to be transported toute suite to the new blog:

www.womenbloom.com/blog/


If you, were subscribing by email or RSS feed sorry you have to set that up again, but it will be worth it, I promise!

I'm learning a new blogging platform so I hope you'll be patient with me as I get that in place.

Happy Blooming!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A New Kettle Of Relationship Fish


A month or so ago, I published an article on WomenBloom on polyamory. For those of you as in the dark as I was about this concept, it is basically having intimate or ‘romantic’relationships that are open, with the full consent of all concerned, to other sexually intimate relationships.

BTW, we’re not talking swinging here. ‘Polys’ as they call themselves, are about relationships, not just sex. They believe no one person can fill an individual’s emotional, intellectual, and physical needs and so, why can’t you love more than one person concurrently? Yep, if you’re not sure whether you feel like spending time and your bed tonight with Pierce Brosnan or George Clooney, you don’t have to choose. Well, maybe you have to choose for one night (or maybe not!), but you don’t have to limit yourself. And, George and Pierce are fine with that.

I admit it blew my mind when a friend told me that she was involved in one of these relationships. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. It seemed like a crazy idea. So, I did what any snoopy and curious nerd like me does when confronted with a mind bender like that, I researched.

Long story short, what I came to see is that, while certainly not for everyone, I do believe it is a viable alternative for some. And, it stretched my own ideas of what relationships can be although I’m still a good ole monogamist.

Last night I went to a book discussion led by my friend Karen Kreps who writes True Intimacies for The Good Life Magazine. Jenny Block, who was there, is a successful writer and a bi-sexual woman who has written a book called Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. She and her husband of many years have had other relationships while married. And, they are still happily married, despite that Jenny also has a girlfriend she’s been seeing for almost 2 years. Out of the 45 or so people there at the discussion, a good 70 percent identified themselves as polys AND most of those were well into midlife.

This past year, I’ve had a housemate who is lesbian so I’ve gotten to know that community pretty well. Suddenly that experience and listening to all these poly folks last night crystallized something for me that’s been cooking. And that is, it’s REALLY hard to put human behavior around sexuality and relationships in a neat little box. Our behavior is so diverse and what works for people so varied that it seems more and more unrealistic to me to say that traditional, ‘cleave unto no other’, monogamous marriage is the standard. We like to pretend it is, but let me tell you when you get out there and start listening to lots of people, it just isn’t.

We talked last night about how ‘cheating’ is more accepted in our society than open relationships. The stats on cheating are high, peeps. Most experts guess it’s 40 to 60% of people in supposedly committed relationships have strayed. And yet, people in the group noted that folks often say the equivalent of “If you’re cheating, at least have the decency not to tell your boyfriend/husband/whatever”. Hmm, so cheating and lying is better than being honest about what is going on. As someone wisely pointed out, “well, being honest about open relationships is challenging The Rules, cheating and lying help preserve the status quo so it’s less threatening in some ways.”

I’m not sure if I’m just getting a skewed view or not, but I do know it seems as though there is a lot of redefining going on with regard to relationships. With women more financially independent, we have more options. Which means we can focus on how our relationships meet our emotional needs rather than having to have them meet our economic needs.

How people get their emotional needs met is a WHOLE other kettle of fish....what is y’all’s experience with how relationships are shifting? Or, are they from your perspective?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A 21 Year Old's Perspective On Midlife

I'm fortunate enough to have a college intern working for me this summer. Lindsay Sellers is in between her junior and senior year at St. Edward's University. Poor thing, she didn't know what she was getting into coming to work for this scattered, midlife woman's evangelist. I thought it would be fun to have Lindsay write a blog post about how she thought of midlife BEFORE she came to work at WomenBloom and now, since she has a little time under her belt. Following is what she has to say!

I am a 21 year-old college student, and some of my interests include “shakin’ it like a Polaroid picture” (or, for those not “hip with the lingo,” dancing) and eating deep fried Twinkies. I love to go see midnight movies, and have my picture taken. Contrary to my age, however, I also love to cook, crochet, cuddle up with a good book (the older the better!), and am trying my hand at cross-stitching. Despite the hobbies that place me well above my age, until recently I held an incredibly shallow conception of mid-life compared to what I now know mid-life to actually be.

Before interning for WomenBloom, the word “mid-life” was not one used frequently in my everyday conversations nor was it a concept I thought about. Frankly, if I did think about mid-life, a slight feeling of dread would usually be my companion. I knew that mid-life for me would be nothing like how it is for the mid-lifers on The Real Housewives of Orange County or New York City. I could say that the epitomic image of a mid-life woman was Evelyn Couch from Fried Green Tomatoes. If it’s been awhile since the last time you watched Fried Green Tomatoes, Evelyn Couch was played by Kathy Bates. Yep, Evelyn Couch – fat and lonely.

I was afraid of veiny hands, crow’s feet, and cellulite. I would thank God that I’m only an A cup – my boobs won’t sag too much. My future husband might not find me attractive anymore. I might not even have a husband! Mid-life crisis – crazy hair cut, possible new tattoo or piercing, new job, new car, new color for the living room. My kids will be teenagers, and if they will be anything like how I was, I should be scared. Because of the number of Boomers now retiring, I probably won’t be able to collect my Social Security. How will I retire? MENOPAUSE. Scary!!!

True, my mom is living well in her mid-life. She made a move to change her career while in her mid-thirties, so now at the age of 44, she is doing well as a personal chef. She looks better than ever, sports a new sassy hairstyle, and, no matter what the weather, she can typically be found in a “flouncy” skirt and heels. My mom is in love with the life that she is living, in love with her partner, and is blessed with two wonderful kids (I’m her favorite, of course. *wink*).

I thought that she was an exception to the rule, however. I thought that she had somehow escaped whatever gray cloud that is supposed to start raining on you the day that you are considered a mid-lifer until the day you die.

By working for WomenBloom, I have discovered that there are more successful, beautiful mid-lifers out there than I thought. It is a time to be looked forward to because I will be wiser and more mature (hopefully). I will hopefully have the funds to travel. I can still be beautiful! I can still be as sexy as I am now, just more in a Sharon Stone or Kim Cattrall kind of way. Mid-life does not have to be the start of the end of your life; it can be the start of the rest of your life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Blog Award!

Well, blow me down! My thanks to Ms. Meta at Metafootnotes for awarding me the Arte y Pico blog award. It’s a little fuzzy to me exactly what the award is since it’s a Spanish language blog but it’s supposedly something to do with ‘style and substance'.

What I do know for sure is that it is a chance to recognize other bloggers that I think are up to some great things. So, hey, I’m all over that! And the winners ARE.....

Karen at Midlife’s a Trip (I think she already has one but she deserves two)

KK and SalGal at Midlife Gals (crazy crazy ladies and soooooo very funny!)

Nanny Goats In Panties (hilarious and who can resist a name like that?)

Lori at Between Us Girls (love her outlook!)

Kim at Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (I’m very jealous of Kim as she has just set sail for a Big Adventure in France—I’m definitely living vicariously through her)

The rules for the award are, you have to list the rules, so here they are:

1) You must choose 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of language.

2) You must publish the name of each award-winning author as well as a link to his or her blog.

3) Each award-winner must post a picture of the award and link back to the blog that has given the award.

4) Both the giver and the recipient of the award must link to the “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) You must post these rules.

Onward, fellow bloggers!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Midlife Sex Conversation

There is going to be a sex question and survey for you at the end of this post so I hope you’ll read through.

This week we are having an ongoing conversation in the WomenBloom forums about sex and midlife. We have a couple of guests in the conversation, Gayle Michaels and Jade Beaty, who between them have an amazing breadth of sexual experience and wisdom to share. Both of them are firm believers that sex is a sacred and spiritual gift that has the capacity to add enormous joy and intimacy to our lives. And, that it is all too often treated with secrecy, shame and disrespect. They are on a mission to help people experience it more deeply and joyfully.

The reason we decided to do this is because I don’t think we midlife women talk about this very much, I can pretty well guarantee not with the complete frankness Gayle and Jade do. Oh sure, the occasional semi-embarrassed giggly exchange with a girlfriend but not really conversation. Am I wrong about this?

And, am I the only middle aged woman who still has a conservative voice in my head telling me that sex is only to be enjoyed within the sanctity of a marriage? And, I better not think about enjoying that too much or, heaven forbid, having it with myself, because I’ll go crazy and end up in a mental institution. Oh, no, I think the mental institution is only reserved for those who pleasure themselves. Oh yeah, that’s right, the marriage one is primly doing the wifely duty thing but not having an orgasm. Anyway....

I even used to think that ANY physical contact even as simple as a kiss MEANT something significant, a kind of implied launch down the path to matrimony or something like that. I have a guy friend whom I met a few years ago now on Match. For various reasons, we never connected ‘romantically’ but we kept up and would occasionally get together for a glass of wine. Well, at some point I found myself making out with him in the back of a dark bar and enjoying it immensely. After the first time, I had some angst about ‘What Did It MEAN?” After it happened a couple more times, I came to see that it’s possible to just do it for the sheer pleasure of it. It doesn’t have to mean ANYthing.

I know. Duh.

My views of sex have changed quite a bit since I was married and widowed 14 years ago. Most certainly, I’ve become more curious and relaxed about it. My attitudes about sharing sexually aren’t as casual as deliciously making out in a dark bar, but if there is someone you like and respect, and there is some chemistry there, and each is free from other commitments, what is wrong with that? With all the usual warnings about STDs and safe sex and the rest, of course. Most of us aren’t gonna be doin’ the baby thing anymore so....what?

I’m told by my friend, Karen Kreps, who writes a column called True Intimacies that 50-something men tell her that us middle-aged women are pretty much rarin’ to go on the sexual front, screw long term relationship or commitment of any kind. And, if you can believe this, the men are the ones protesting, ‘hey wait a minute, can’t we connect on a deeper level before we jump in the sack?’ Hmmm.

Anyway, I’m curious how you see it. How have your views about sex changed as you reached midlife? Or, have they? I hope you’ll comment but you can also take this easy as pie survey which might be kinda fun. Or you could do both in the interests of giving me both subjective and rigorously quantitative data. hee hee.

Then, I’m off to call my guy friend for, er, a glass of wine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Accepting Ourselves As...Who?

I’ve had a couple of conversations recently that have provoked ponderment on my part about just how far to go with maintaining a youthful appearance. Conversations about going gray, about Botox, and ‘letting oneself go’. They’ve sprung from the research and writing we’ve been doing on WomenBloom about 50 something women having trouble on the job hunting front.

They’re kind of tricky, I find, those conversations.

A friend and I fell into conversation about what she feels are the mixed messages in magazines and other media. On the one hand, they encourage women of a 'certain age' to accept themselves, embrace who they really are, etc etc. Admirable. Yet, on the other, they are filled with ads for skin salves, plastic surgeons etc. What gives?

As far as I can tell, in this context anyway, 'embracing one's real self' seems to mean things like canceling future color and highlight appointments with Jean Paul. Leaving plastic surgery and Botox behind (not that this would be a sacrifice seeing as how I have no personal experience with either, but you know what I mean). Not succumbing to the blandishments of cosmetic companies trying to sell expensive creams and salves to keep the wrinkles at bay and the skin as youthful looking as possible.

I’m trying to be open minded here.

From that perspective...I should let Mother Nature take her course with a minimum of interference. Hmmm, let my hair go gray, allow nature to take her course with my skin, embrace breast sags and skin that is losing its texture and elasticity, and smile at hairs that miraculously sprout to unbelievable lengths overnight, appearing in places that haven't had hairs before! Oh yeah, and all at the same time I’m losing my close in vision. (What is with THAT anyway??)

Alright, SCREW open mindedness! I don't THINK SO!!!!

OK, get a grip, Al. Whew, clearly I have some unresolved issues around this :)

Well, what does accepting yourself as yourself mean....really?

It seems to me that acceptance of self often implies doing nothing to hold gray hair, wrinkles, dry skin and wild hairs at bay. But couldn't that be imposing a stereotype every bit as much as the other end of the spectrum? I mean, where does it all end? Does that mean I shouldn't work out to maintain as much strength, flexibility, and muscle tone as possible? Next time my gall bladder acts up or I crack a tooth, I should just let Nature take her course?

I mean, if I've been inclined to have what Jean Paul calls "Effect Hair", dress some years younger than many women my age, and freely apply ceramides, anti-oxidizers, and killers of free radicals on my skin, wouldn't it be NOT being myself to let myself suddenly go gray, wrinkly, and hairy? What if being me means being my somewhat vain self? What if I've never been the au naturel type?

Then, in a burst of self examination, I realize that hair color, skin creams, and Botox seem more benign to me than tummy tucks and eyebrow lifts. Obviously, that's where my particular line of prejudice begins. Although my boundary with that eyebrow thing is a little fuzzy.

I don't have a good answer for this. But, it seems to me that embracing and accepting who who we really are means just that. If you’ve always been the au naturel type, great, continue that line. If you’ve played with the color of your hair, bought every new miracle skin product that comes out, and winced mightily as the aesthetician ripped off your short hairs, wouldn't it be out of integrity to stop doing those things because that's what women of a certain age should do, according to media or other women?

I met with a physician recently (to research articles, really) who does nothing but aesthetics, that is, he specializes in a number of non-invasive procedures and treatments that get rid of wrinkles, improve sun damaged skin, and re-plump saggy skin. I was surprised when he said his experience was that many women 50 and up thought they shouldn’t be doing these things. They seemed somehow ashamed or guilty about it even as they were handing over their plastic.

That seems wrong to me. Why should they have to feel that way?

This is a huge subject obviously. I guess I’ll wimp out and just say, I think it’s a matter of choice. I certainly don’t have any problem with women who decide to free themselves from the expense and maintenance of coloring their hair, who want to embrace that aspect of who they are. Or, who see their wrinkles as merely the 'patina' acquired from a life's worth of experience. Or, who get the occasional Botox injection. I’m struggling with the more invasive procedures, I admit.

I am clear on one thing though. That the beauty of redefining middle-age means we get to say who we are.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth, Y'all!

Happy Independence Day, Y’all! I hope everyone is planning something suitably celebratory that includes grilling, friends, family and fireworks.

It’s easy to forget that the day means more than that; I have to consciously stop myself to remember what it means to live in America. For all that our world reputation is tarnished, and our domestic picture is gloomy in a number of ways, that doesn’t take away from the basic premise: we live in a country where we always have the opportunity to make a change. So it gets bad. As citizens, we can make things change. Our system is set up so that can happen. Only a small percentage of the people in this world can say that.

The system is one half of the equation, the other half is us. As Pogo famously said, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” We can expect the situation to be no better than we make it. No better than we demand of ourselves and our public servants. I think that’s why Barack Obama has struck such a nerve. He is asking us to be bigger than we are. Bigger than we have been in a long time. And I believe the American people are starved for that. We know we can be bigger than we are. But no one since JFK has asked that of us.

Obama is asking that of us. Hillary told us, with very good reason, that she would be a highly competent Chief Executive and I believe it’s true. But, she didn’t manage to tap the piece of our self-identity that aspires to live up to the ideals of our Founders.

Whether you’re a McCain fan or an Obama fan, I hope we’ll all ponder what we can do a little differently to be bigger citizens than we are.

And, have fun too!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Middlescence

Janie at Midlife Slices is a visiting blogger today. Wherein she gives us a look at her view-with-a-bite of midlife AND a new term for the midyears.

When Allison asked if I'd be a guest blogger on WomenBloom, I happily said yes. Then she said I could blog about something especially for WomenBloom or I could use an older post I particularly liked, and that's when I started chewing my fingernails to the nub and rethinking my decision. Yikes, what to do? After reviewing all my older posts, I realized I didn't "particularly like" any of them so I had to write something new, but what?

I was throwing different subjects around with my husband when I asked him this question. "If mothers of young children are called young mommies and midlifers with all their children grown and gone are empty nesters, what are midlifers who still have young children and grown children called?" He laughed and said..."tired?"

He might have been kidding but it's true. And I'm still asking, what are we called? Anyone? There are lots of us, ahem....whatever you'd like to call us, still attending summer league baseball games, junior high football games, basketball, school events and the likes. Some were empty nesters but were suddenly thrust into the role of raising their grandchildren. I sit in the stands of a sporting event and look around at how young most of the other parents look and then I remember, oh yes, it's me that's out of place in this scenario.

Besides having a 13 year old at home, there's much more to my midlife baggage when you add in 12 grandchildren, 92 and 93 year old in-laws, an 83 year old dad and a 27 year old daughter with a chronic illness. What's the big deal about midlife? I'd just like to HAVE a life, period.


I know I'm not alone as I juggle midlife demands and I think our numbers are steadily growing, so this got me wondering about actual statistics and here's what I found.

(note the sound of crickets) Did you blink? You mean you missed the statistics?

That's right. There aren't many statistics out there for what I was looking for. Sure, I can find how many typical midlifers there are and what our median household income is but nothing I could sink my teeth into and really run with. But I did find other interesting tidbits that I thought I'd share.

It seems midlife is that time of one’s life when we wonder what the first half is or has been about and where we are going during the last half. Last half? *blink blink gulp* Sociologists call this period of disequilibrium "middlescence". Webster’s defines middlescence this way.
mid•dl•es•cence–noun: the middle-age period of life, esp. when considered a difficult time of self-doubt and readjustment.[Origin: 1960–65; b. middle and adolescence]
Self doubt and readjustment? No wonder the word is a combination of adolescence and middle. Great, now we get to deal with the bad and ugly of both worlds while grasping desperately for the good.

The Harvard School of Public Health says Boomers, mid 40s to late 50's, fall into five general categories: Strugglers 9%, Anxious 23%, Traditionalist 25%, Self-Reliant 30% and Enthusiasts 13%. It was disheartening to me to see that over half of us aren't self-sufficient and I'm puzzled as to why that is. We weren't given the world on a silver platter like the Millennial generation so what happened? Maybe we thought we were bullet proof and invincible? Maybe we simply weren't paying attention and thought Woodstock would go on forever? If anyone has the answer to this, please share.

I don't know who Peter Drucker is, but as quoted by Harvard SPH, he makes a good point with these sad, but true words that unfortunately apply to many midlifers:
"When we look back on this era from 100 years out with the perspective history affords, this age will be known not for the internet or biotechnology but for the first time in history we have options of what to do in the second-half of life and were unprepared for it."
Thus, for the first time in history an intentional look at midlife makes sense for an entire adult generation. We need to address the obvious issues such as balancing work and family responsibilities in the midst of the physical and psychological changes associated with aging and believe you me, those physical and psychological changes blindsided this ole’ gal and I'm scrambling to get my bearings and back on solid ground while I have the chance.

I think back to the first time I ever thought about midlife and it was a cold slap of reality that I promptly filed in the back of my brain deep enough I hoped it wouldn't resurface. I was in my early 40's and enjoying a movie of which I wish I could remember the name, but unfortunately I can't.

Anyway, this mother and daughter were arguing about something and the mother used midlife as an excuse for something that was obviously upsetting to her daughter. The daughter rolled her eyes and said "oh please, Mother! How many 120 year old people do you know of out there?"

I did some quick math on my fingers and thought...Oh holy crap! It dawned on me if midlife is a halfway point, then I was more than likely already a midlifer. I shook my head to try to clear that thought out of my brain, but it wouldn't budge no matter how much I tried to pretend I'd never heard those words, so I buried my head in the sand and kept repeating I will always be young, I will always be young, I will always be young.

I stand up and admit I was unprepared for midlife and I'm clambering to catch up to where I feel I need to be right now. I think it's imperative that we find significance in our second half of life even knowing we have no idea how long the second half will be. Mainly I want to wake up in the morning with a greater anticipation of the day ahead and not want to bite the head off a snake because I'm so frustrated when I look in the mirror and a stranger is staring back. But I also want to reflect back on these middle age years and know I did the best I could and have no regrets.

The important thing is to find significance in our second half of life and make the most of those years for our own sake.
Live your life and forget your age.
-- Norman Vincent Peal
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Happy Trails Y'all!

Monday, June 30, 2008

EveryWoman And Sex And The City

I think I’m the next to the last woman in the country to see Sex and The City. Better late than never, I say. I finally saw it and I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what I could say about it that was brilliant, and profound. I mean it’s not really a brilliant, profound movie is it? If you’re up to here with commentary on it, I won’t hold it against you if you stop right here. No spoilers here though if you decide to read on and you’re one of the few who haven’t yet seen it.

The truth is I liked it a lot. It wasn’t always that way.

I was a slow convert to being a fan. I did not watch the show during its original airing, I felt it was beneath me somehow, way too popular. I only caught it later in reruns and even then I thought those girls were awful, awful and shallow. I know I’m being a hard ass, give the girls a break, they were 30 somethings, girls just want to have fun, for God’s sake!

But, slyly and insidiously, they crept under my skin until I would catch myself on Wednesday evenings arranging my schedule to watch the latest rerun. Still telling myself they were terrible, but going out of my way to watch the show. Unh hunh. By the last episode, I had melted and was proud of all of them for showing discernible and quite respectable personal growth.

Their fashion-saturated, hip hanging out, cocktail sipping, glamming it lives are just irresistible. How could you not be seduced by it? Weeellll...that’s a different post, so onward.

Why do they have such universal girl appeal, to young and more mature alike? It IS the girlfriends for life thing, no doubt about it. Where would we be without our girlfriends? And, I think it’s because, despite their completely unrealistic lifestyles--it would take several tens of thousands of monthly dollars to live in NYC the way they do—still, at bottom, they are just regular girls like the rest of us trying to figure out love and life. Making just as many mistakes as the rest of us, suffering heartaches just like the rest of us, struggling to maintain their sense of identity in the face of these crazy, mystifying things we call relationships.

Granted they are doing that more glamorously and beautifully coiffed and coutured than the rest of us could hope for, but nonetheless....

That’s as brilliant as I could get, sorry. So now, let’s turn to the completely girly, gossipy part!

I mean, the clothes! The stupendously fashionable, clothing–as-art, over the top clothes made my mouth hang open at every scene change. I’m not a fashionista by ANY stretch, but honestly, I LOVED THOSE CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES!! If I ever manage to look even remotely fashionable, I usually run out of steam (and money) at the accessorizing stage of things. Which is why nobody would ever mistake me for even a fashionista wannabe.

The girls all looked absolutely FABulous, even better than in the TV show, didn’t ya’ll think? It was gratifying to see Kim Cattrall play the hottest 50ish woman on the screen in recent memory (Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair was a close second). I think they must have put all four through a 6 month daily training regimen prior to even beginning to shoot. What would it be like for your JOB to be working out with your trainer 2 hours every day, getting your hair done, visiting the aesthetician for a little Botox, and all the rest? I'll certainly never know :)

Anyway, enough of that. Bottom line is, I can forgive the outrageously unrealistic, glam lifestyle portrayal and impossible stereotypes of beauty they present, because the bottom line is, those girls manage to pull at our heartstrings.

They couldn’t do that if they didn’t have something of the Every Woman in them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Juno On Giving Away Our Power

Last week, WomenBloom published an interesting article by Rebecca Hamm, a Master Sufi and therapist, about personal power. How we give it away, or not. Basically, Rebecca explained that when we put someone else’s needs, expectations, or demands in front of our own, in a way that ignores our higher good or our own ‘truth’, we are asking for trouble.

Basically, the concept as I see it means putting the responsibility for stuff smack where it belongs. We always have a choice to keep our power even if we think we don’t. If we think we have no choice because it would upset the spouse, or disappoint our mother, or a million other things, it usually just means the choices are sucky and we don’t want to make them...but alas, it doesn’t mean they aren’t choices we have.

Dang!

I watched the movie Juno over the weekend which seemed like a great illustration of what I’m talking about here. It was a great lesson in keeping one’s power. Juno could easily have gotten an abortion and given her power away by saying she had no choice, she was only 16 and too young to be a good mother. Or, she had no choice, she couldn’t embarrass her parents by going through a pregnancy. Her choices were pretty sucky, but she didn’t blame anyone for her predicament, and she got in touch with her own ‘truth’ which was to have that baby and find a loving home for it.

That might not have been someone else’s ‘truth’ but it was hers, and she endured quite a bit of hardship for her choice, and for keeping her power. Her internal truth revealed that for her an abortion would not be in her highest good even if it might have saved her a lot of embarrassment and discomfort in the short run.

Thankfully, her parents supported her but if they hadn’t, it would have been easy for a 16 year old to put the embarrassment of her parents before the lifetime of regret she would endure for making a choice she felt wasn’t in her highest good. In other words, it would have been easy to give her power away.

Just to be clear, I intend no judgment on whether abortion is right or wrong, the answer is different for everyone. It’s about the difficult choices one young woman had before her, and whether she made the one that was right for her.

One thing Rebecca said that stuck with me was that giving our power away often comes from the assumption that we are solely responsible for someone else’s emotions and psychological well-being. That we have to control and manage their feelings because they can’t, or won’t. We treat them as if they are powerless to do that for themselves. It often means giving way to someone else’s feelings even if it means doing something we know isn’t good for us.

Juno’s parents no doubt endured some embarrassment and angst about her decision, but rightfully, they took that on as their own responsibility to deal with and trusted that their daughter was doing the right thing for her.

In the process, Juno learned some valuable lessons about love and the messiness of life.

Which begs the question....Why is it that we usually have to learn valuable life lessons in the midst of messy/painful/challenging/sucky situations?? That’s a whole other subject....sigh.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Midlife Gals: This Is Not Your Mom's Middle Age!

Whoo hoo! I have to just tell you about my friends, the Midlife Gals!

We bumped into each other by accident in cyberspace several months ago as the three of us middle aged women were trying to figure out the derned blogging/social networking thing. Well, after an email exchange or two and realizing that, as luck would have it, we lived in the same wonderful city of Austin, Texas, I knew I had to meet these two wild ladies!

We met for lunch, bonded and became fast friends. These are two funny, SMART women. They are poster girls for WomenBloom’s mission of highlighting the fact that we are NOT living our Mom’s Middle Age! At least we don’t have to :)

These late 50s gals didn’t know what a blog was a year ago, but they decided they should have one. Did I mention they were smart?? They figured out the blogging thing AND the video thing with a vengeance. They were featured in MORE magazine a few months after getting started, were finalists in SXSW Interactive’s On Network Project Greenlights award, and have got PAYING blogging/video gigs with a large health network site.

This morning, as I sat down bleary-eyed to sip my cup o’ tea and read my newspaper, there they were!!! Featured in the Austin American Statesman’s Masters Of Their Domain section that features cool websites.

HELLOA!!! All this adds up to some pretty groovy press for what midlifers can learn and accomplish. I love it! If these two aren't helping change the perception of middle-age, I don’t know what or who is!

KK and SalGal, keep on keepin’ on, sistahs!

And now, for your viewing amusement....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Real Secrets of The Secret


Most of you have heard about The Secret. Haven’t you? You know. That slickly produced and marketed, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’/History Channel looking, prosperity promising book and DVD that was all the rage a year or two ago?

Don’t get me wrong. While I sound a little disdainful, it’s only because I’m jealous that Rhonda Byrne made a bazillion dollars re-packaging a concept that can be found in no fewer than 257 (I made that number up) self-help books and seminars. It’s the Law of Attraction which says that you attract to yourself people, situations and experiences that match how you think and what you think about.

I used to teach critical thinking in a university and I will tell you that once you understand how humans’ perceptions form, and how those perceptions then determine their choices and decisions, the Law of Attraction makes a lot of sense. Human beings see what they expect to see, we have filters that screen out what doesn’t fit our beliefs. We take actions (this is important) that tend to reinforce what we believe and see. That means you often get what you expect to see. If you expect a certain outcome, it’s more likely to happen.

Therefore, I believe this principle even while I think Ms. Byrne’s product takes such a superficial and overly materialistic view of it that it does it a real disservice.

Regardless of my cynicism around her take on it, I must tell you that I have had, and several friends have had, this last year astounding experiences with this concept.

Really astounding.

The latest is a friend who about a year ago decided she was going to get a great job for a certain state agency, and she was going to have that job by the end of June this year. She set a salary figure she wanted and wrote it on a piece of paper that she put on her nightstand.

Then the heavy lifting began which incidentally is where the Secret falls short in my humble opinion.

This friend, myself and a few other friends have all set intentions around certain things we wanted to accomplish, visualized them in great detail, we journal about them, and focus all our attention and energies on them…and then have consistently made decisions, sacrifices, and taken action that 'fit' what we wanted to see. The Secret makes it sound like you sit in your easy chair, just visualize and think about it and voila! No, no, no, Glasshoppah! You have to take focused and consistent action toward it.

Despite fears, discouragement, and other obstacles, we have kept our focus and attention on our goal. And, in the course of our line of action, each of us has numerous examples of asking the Universe for the next step, or the next contact, or the person with the answer we needed…and gotten it, sometimes almost immediately. It has been downright spooky at times.

That isn’t to say the next step or person or whatever always look the way I expect, but without fail what has come up has been one more helpful step towards my goal. And, most of the examples I have in mind are not about money although money is part of the outcome we’ve envisioned. It’s been more about stretching ourselves professionally or personally.

Back to my friend, after a number of interviews and offers of several jobs at this agency that didn’t seem like the right fit to her, she got an offer yesterday for a job that is a perfect fit…and the initial salary offer was $10 less than that figure she had written so many months ago. And, with 2 weeks notice, she should start right at the end of June.

I’m tellin’ ya….

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cougaring: Older Women On The Prowl

I like to think of myself as a pretty hip 50 year old but there are times when I realize that there are, er, a few gaps in this hipster’s knowledge base.

So, I’m at a party this last weekend and I was introduced to a new concept…’cougaring’. I had the vague feeling I had heard this term floating around but I was flat-footed and clueless when two middle-aged women began talking about it with glee.

For those of you who, like me, need some elucidation, a ‘cougar’ is an older woman who dates younger men. The term refers to the ‘older’ woman who has reached some professional success, who is fit and powerful. Get the feline allusion?

Supposedly the way this works is that she fulfills the young man’s fantasy of being tutored by a sexually experienced (and assertive) older woman. And, he fulfills her…well, I think we all know what he fulfills for her. Think Samantha from Sex and The City and you’ve got the picture.

This has some biological basis according to some. Women hit their sexual peak in their 40s while men hit it in their 20s.

Well then. Sounds like a match made in heaven!

While I can certainly appreciate the stamina and sexual intensity a 28 year old would bring to the bed, I’ve always wondered…what in the world would you talk about after the sex? Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always found that life has a way of kicking you around a bit, or a lot, in your 30s and 40s. It’s when a man learns that he isn’t bullet proof, and he gets a bit of patina and experience on him that things begin to get interesting.

Like any good blogger, I turned to YouTube for further research on the subject.



Nice, am I the only one who thinks this is bizarre?? Clearly, Samantha and the women attending Cougar Camp aren’t placing great emphasis on stimulating conversation. It seems to me they are mostly wanting to turn the tables on men and use their professional success and looks to assert their power. That’s OK if you’re into that sort of thing I suppose.

Most of us middle-aged gals out there, however, haven’t got that particular kind of power. We don’t look like we just walked off the catwalk, nor are most of us pulling in the 6 figures necessary to exert financial power. I think a bit of caution is called for.

Nothing wrong with an age difference, but I think it’s not that easy for women to have easy sex for sex’s sake.. We do tend to want a deeper connection ya know. Seeing any relationships for what it is is the key. And, that isn't always easy.

One of the women who was telling me about her cougaring experiences had begun her story in a cocky, braggadocio tone. But, as the conversation went on, she became quieter and quieter. She finally admitted she’d just given up, the young guy was being kind of flaky, wouldn’t call back, clearly wasn’t looking for that deeper connection. I got the feeling ‘given up’ went deeper than this particular man.

She sadly wandered off and I didn’t see her again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Midwives And Doulas To The Dying

I spent part of last weekend at a conference for women called Remarkable Women. It was very well organized and clearly the organizers put heart and soul into it.

While I learned some great things and met a lot of wonderful women, one of the sessions made a particularly strong impression on me. It was about the concept of midwives and doulas to the dying.

It seems to me that we ‘do’ death so badly in this country for the most part. We take such care for births, baptisms, confirmations, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, and weddings, but we somehow have a much harder time giving the same attention and intention to dying. A lovely funeral comes a little late for the loved one who has passed on.

That is why, when a friend recently told me about a friend of hers who was training to support terminally ill people and their families, I was deeply touched. This goes way beyond hospice care. Making dying as intentional and loving a process as possible seems so important to me and I was very eager to learn more.

Deanna Cochran is the certified hospice and palliative care nurse who conducted the session. She is part of a growing movement to help manage the emotional, spiritual, and palliative care needs of a dying loved one and his or her family. I spent only an hour with Deanna but I can see that she is following her calling. What a loving and supportive energy she gives out.

Here are the 3 things I learned that are important to offer to those with a dying lvoed one, among others:

Be conscious of the primary caregiver’s and the dying person’s comfort zone. You must be tuned in to their needs and leave your own discomfort and baggage behind.

Shut up and listen. Being silent can be the hardest work of all. But that provides the sacred space for them to go as deep into their pain as they choose.

Advocate for physical relief of symptoms. This is called palliative care and it’s a relatively new concept (I have to shake my head over this) to the medical community for the most part. Deanna is very clear that there is NO reason for someone who is dying to suffer physically. There is always something that can be done to alleviate pain and discomfort. You may have to contact a number of physicians to find one who will work with you on it, but they are out there.

There is much more, but I simply encourage you to go to Deanna’s site to learn more about this very important and sacred service. We also have a WomenBloom article on palliative care written by Dr. Sue Bornstein, former Associate Director of Baylor Medical Center’s Palliative Care Program, if you'd like to know more about how the medical community is thinking about this.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Inner Game of the Job Search

A few weeks ago, I did a couple of posts about women in their 50s having a tough time finding a job. There are of course puh-lenty of external factors: society’s view of older women, technology advances driving rapid change in how one conducts a job search, and a recession.

But, there is also the internal game that has to do with how confident we are within ourselves and the kinds of unconscious messages we send based on the stories we believe about ourselves. If I lack confidence in myself, that is likely to show up in subtle and not so subtle ways my job interviews. And, the rest of my life as well, but that is another story.

That’s the unfortunate thing…we believe we mask these things so well. Or, perhaps, we aren’t trying to hide them because we are unaware of them. But the truth is they are usually quite visible to others.

Rats! What’s a girl to do??

This week, I’ve engaged in a conversation about the Inner Game of the Job Search with Nancy Oelklaus, a coach and author of Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically. It has been an ongoing conversation that continues in the Forums on WomenBloom.

We are talking about ways to surface these internal limiting beliefs that get in our way as well as a few strategies for dealing with them.

Job searching is challenging enough without us stumbling over ourselves.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Freedom From The Tyranny Of Cell Phone Carriers

As I’ve mentioned, I am MOST fortunate to have some guy friends who are total geeks, er, I mean extremely tech savvy. They are my translators for the world of computers and other tech gadgets. I frankly don’t know what I would do without them since I don’t have teenagers.

One of them, Greg, recently put me completely in the picture of something called unlocked phones.

Well, who knew? I had grudgingly resigned myself to the fact that I was just at the mercy of my cell phone provider’s whims and caprices. NOT SO!

Greg tells me that I can actually buy a phone from Motorola (and others I believe) that is not tied to any one carrier’s plan. That means I can sign up for service on a month to month basis. I can be on the lookout for the best priced plan instead of being locked into an expensive 2 year commitment that includes my first born and a second on my house. If AT&T runs a special deal I can jump on board.

Ha, freedom from tyranny! I’m in the driver’s seat!

In the lucky event, I’m headed for Europe, I can swap out the SIM card I have that is limited to service in the US to a SIM card that I can use in Florence (I wish!). I can buy pre-programmed SIM cards that are like a debit card that give me a specific number of minutes. I can also see this as handy if you have kids whose phone use is hard to control.

These little babies are also chargeable by USB hook up instead of by those little proprietary chargers I’m always losing. And, you get to keep your same phone number if you swap phones. Very cool.

The downside is you pay full price for your phone instead of the carrier giving you a deal. So, if you like to change out frequently to the newest newfangled thang, this approach might not work for you. But, if you have an old unlocked phone lying around and you drop your new one and break it, you can just take your SIM card out and swap to the old phone, and, voila, you’re in bidness.

Basically, your phone’s identity sits on the SIM card instead of the phone, sort of like a PO Box that stays the same even if you swap residences.

Don’t you love it?? And, Greg tells me, there is the bonus of deeply impressing techie guys with your tech brilliance.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Older and Getting Wiser...I Think

Karen over at Midlife’s a Trip, had a post the other day called Choices. It really resonated with me. She was recounting a crocodile tearful episode with her young niece at the zoo that was resolved by giving Peanut a choice: to either go see the hippo, or go home. Peanut chose the hippo.

It seems to me that one of the big benefits of reaching midlife is about how I look at choices.

The first change is that I see now that I ALWAYS have a choice. It may feel like I don’t, it may be the hardest, worst, suckiest choice in the world, but it’s still a choice. Alas, those kind are usually the ones that require telling someone something that I’m pretty sure will hurt their feelings or trigger them to feel bad. But, whatever it is I don’t want to tell them is having a big impact on me somehow.

So that would be called stuck between a rock and a hard spot.

Nonetheless, despite that I may be stressed, upset and frightened, I can’t really say, “I had no choice, I couldn’t tell him that he makes bad financial decisions and I’m going to open an account of my own so he doesn’t have access to my funds. I would feel mean.” That, even though I have plenty of evidence to back me up AND because I’m resentful and angry, I am passive aggressively paying him back in ways that are mystifying to him. But it would be mean to clear up the mystery about why I’m being such a b----h to tell them what’s on my mind.

Right, unh hunh..

I still agonize over those kinds of things, and I still may shrink away from doing it because I'm just not up for it. But, I never say I don’t have a choice. I at least opt out fully realizing that it’s mine to own, not the other person’s or the Universe’s, or whoever's 'fault'. And then I try really hard to quit bitching about it :)

The second part to that is when I am faced with a difficult dilemma and I really really don’t want to do what I know I need to do, I’ve gotten much better (not perfect mind you) at just dropping my resistance to it, and just doing it. It’s so much easier to just accept that it needs to be done, and do it without all the wasted energy of resisting it every inch of the way.

Geez, resisting makes it twice as bad and it doesn’t change a darned thing. Better to stop crying, buy an ice cream cone to make it feel a little better, and go on to see the hippo.

Even Peanut realized the wisdom in that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Are MIddle-Aged Women Embracing Social Media?

My good friend and social media guru, Tom Parish, and I fell into conversation the other day about social networking and us midlife gals. Tom has a social media consultancy that helps enterprises like BMC Software incorporate social media into their business strategy, both internally and client-facing. So, he knows a thing or two about the trends in this space.

I was pondering just how engaged women roughly mid 40s to early 60s were, and would be, with blogs, social networking sites, podcasts, and the like. Obviously, this isn’t a homogeneous group, and there are plenty of women in this age group who are blogging and using these other media. But in general, I think this is new territory for a majority of us.

From the women I talk to, we as a group are still more comfortable with magazine style websites than blogs, email than RSS, reading others’ comments than adding our two cents’, and using the web as a tool rather than a pastime. I had breakfast yesterday with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long while, who says the personal nature of many blogs is off putting to her. TMI, she says. I’ve been told the same by others.

Tom acknowledges the truth of all that, and points out that it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of us women regularly using this thing called the Internet to shop, sell stuff we didn’t need anymore, find the love of our life, find others dealing with similar life issues, and read consumer reviews before making a major purchase would have been incomprehensible.

Many of us have gotten comfortable with certain aspects of Web 2.0 and Tom guesses that more and more of us will find our way to other social media. We may be slower to hop on board, but in time we’ll get there as we see the opportunities for connecting and sharing with like-minded women with common experiences and interests. .

It’s mind boggling even to me the way the web facilitates connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I’m collaborating with a fellow blogger, Karen over at Midlife’s A Trip , on some things and we were laughing the other day that we’ve never actually met. But the social nature of the web has allowed us to connect around our common interest of how midlife women are redefining what it means to be at the center of life.

I hope it is as Tom predicts. I see how fast the world is changing and I see that those who do not keep up by at least being familiar with these things and understanding their implications can be left behind. I don’t think we women can afford to be behind. I want WomenBloom to be a part of helping midlife women get up to speed.

I do see points of light. My 73 year old Mom isn’t one to embrace change. But even she has used Craig’s list, and I actually convinced her to post in the WomenBloom forums.

Good gracious, can blogging be far behind?? :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Late 50s Job Search Challenge Revisited

Yikes, as luck would have it, the day after my post about job search challenges for 50 somethings, a friend sent me a link to an article on CNNMoney.com called Out Of A Job And Out Of Luck At 54. It confirms my last post on the job search challenges us midlife women (and men) face as we hit our 50s.

This article paints a grim picture. Consider they say, among the unemployed age 55 to 64, nearly 42% had been fired or laid off, up from 32.2% a year ago, according to federal statistics for April. According to AARP, it took those age 55 and older an average of 21.1 weeks to land a new job in 2007, about five weeks longer than their younger counterparts, according to AARP.

We are apparently viewed as expensive hires, salary-wise and health cost-wise. Those finding jobs are taking lower pay, and many simply are told they are 'over-qualified'.

All this at a time when many of us need to be stashing money away in 401Ks and savings for retirement.

The other point of the article which speaks to the conclusion I came to after my lunch with Kate McLagan at Right Management, is that many of us have rusty job search and networking skills. We aren't knowledgeable about how to work with the online world of job searching and how to craft effective resumes and cover letters.

Getting help with these things is the best advice I can offer. Don't wait until you've been through weeks of searching to figure out your skills are rusty.

And, another helpful resource is a list AARP has published, Best Employers for Workers Over 50. They also have a list of 6 Tricky Interview Questions For Older Workers that addresses that 'over-qualified' gambit.

Awareness is the first step to being prepared. I'll be continuing to address this subject.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Late 50s Job Search Challenge

I know a couple of women, late 50s, who are having trouble finding jobs. Both have much work experience, a healthy personal network and seem like very capable people. One took off a few years to care for elderly parents and has been looking for a job now for well over a year. The other quit a job a year or so ago and has been looking since then. Both have had interviews where it was down to them and someone else, but no sale. Needless to say, they are getting discouraged.

This troubles me. A lot. After all, it could be any of us. Why is it that they are having trouble?

I am working on some articles on the topic which will be showing up on WomenBloom over the weeks to come, but I wanted to comment on a lunch conversation I had yesterday with Kate McLagan, VP for Client Services for the Right Management company in Austin, Texas about this issue of older women having a hard time finding employment.

I came away realizing that it takes quite sophisticated job search skills these days to have success. Ladies, ladies, ladies. This issue is partly a societal thing, but a significant responsibility is on us to stay current if we want to be relevant.

Kate points out that job search strategies are a much different beast than they were a mere 5 years ago. That made me wonder how many of us 50 somethings are up to date on our job search skills. And let me tell you, ‘job search’ encompasses a huge number of skills and competencies. I realized shortly into the conversation I wasn’t as current as I should be.

Some of the pearls of wisdom I gleaned:

• Basically a job search is now a sales and marketing campaign with you selling yourself.

• You don’t get a job with a resume. But, there is an art to making networking work for you. Find help with this to keep from wasting time.

• You have to begin by getting your verbal and written strategies/materials in place. This includes distilling your particular gifts into 3 or 4 ‘diamonds’. If you skip this step, you can count on doubling the time it takes to find a position.

• Too many times, we are ‘trying to get a job’ rather than figure out what our role in the company could be. We are aiming at some box defined by a job description, rather than thinking about (and helping the hiring manager see) the broader picture of how our particular gifts fit with the organization’s goals.

• We need to understand broader trends that are driving change in our industry to keep ourselves current.

There is more but the basic idea is we need much more sophisticated skills these days to find work than many of us have. Or, many of us realize we need.

For my two women friends, it has been from 3 to 5 years since they engaged in their last job search. Things have changed. Get help.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Thinking About Retirement

I’m a looking to the future kind of gal. As if I don’t have enough to worry about in the present, I like to worry about the future too.

So, I do wonder what retirement is going to look like for us Boomers. I mean, our options, and frankly, our expectations are so much different than our parents that there is no telling how many different ways this will look. There are lots of us without kids, lots of singles, most of us with families scattered all over everywhere, many of us doing phased or ‘not at all’ retirement, and most of us feel strongly we ain’t goin’ to no nursin’ home, at least as many of them exist today. For those of us with no kids and single, we wonder about practical things like who will be checking in on us to make sure we haven’t fallen and can’t get up.

Throw in the mix that if the statistics are to be believed, it seems as though many of us are expecting a champagne retirement on a beer budget. Social security benefits account for 90% of income for 4 out of 10 single retirees, and 2 of 10 married couples. Women’s incomes lag significantly behind men’s too, so we may be more likely to find ourselves in a low retirement income situation. Hmmph.

So what do you suppose all that adds up to?

Scott Burns is a popular personal finance columnist who just wrote an interesting column that may be one answer to this dilemma: economies of shared living. Or, in the vernacular, shacking up with other folks to stretch your dollars.

He says our expectations of a house of our own, our own bedroom, our own car, our own phone/TV/computer, etc. makes living quite expensive. Gulp, what’s he going to say next? Yep, you guessed it.

Just sharing shelter costs with 3 other people dramatically increases your available income. If you think about sharing a car and other major expenses, you’ve begun stretching a meager income significantly.

This may not be for everyone, but I think it is very worth considering not only from the financial aspect, but the social aspects as well. And, I think it goes beyond just retirement thinking and has applications to pursuing a passion, or reinventing your life.

I am currently experimenting with the house sharing thing. Last year, I wanted a big change so I rented out my house and moved in with a relative stranger. It has worked out so much better than I could have hoped. Did I give up some privacy? Yes. Are there perks? YES! Not the least of which is the money I’m saving in living expenses that has allowed me to undertake my midlife women project, WomenBloom, which I LOVE! It has not only stretched my dollars, but it has opened my life up to new friends, new ideas and a richer life.

I mean, I’ve learned how to roast a chicken, compost, raise tomatoes, and make killer soups. My housemate is very wise about money so I’ve learned lots there. And, it’s not a bad place to hang out as you can see from the photos.

Is that worth giving up a little privacy? OH YEA!

Point is, I’m very curious about the different ways, now and 20 years from now, I can make my life as interesting as possible, as cheaply as possible. I think that is going to require some creative thinking outside the box about what we think we need. And perhaps letting go of old thinking about what is necessary for living an interesting, satisfying life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Middle-aged Mate Magnets Making Mojo

I recently joined a group of ladies who were 40 and above with several of us, ahem, middle-aged. We were there to become 'Mate Magnets'. Hey, when I saw the email invite, I asked myself, what did I have to lose? My single status perhaps? Hope flickered briefly. I RSVPd.

Here's what amazes me. I know ALOT of single men and women above the age of 45. And it seems that 95% of us are all yearning to love and be loved. But few of us are in relationship. Whassup with that?

This group was no exception. We ranged from fairly newly singled and happily, anticipatively dipping a toe in the dating pool, to having spent the last year dating like crazy and having a blast. Then there was me, the Cynic.

I've been single now for about 14 years. I was married for a long time and widowed at 36. After surviving that trauma, no small feat, at 40, I began learning to date. No small feat. It was fun for a while. Then, I began looking for The One. After 4 or 5 years of that, thought I'd found Him, then realized I hadn't. Suffered a fairly broken heart over it. Then a year or two later, finally started dating again. I found somewhere between mending my heart and some casual dating, the whole thing had ceased to be fun.

It seems like excitement, followed by earnest discussion about how it's going, getting exclusive, finding out some startling things about each other, telling oneself that maybe those things don't matter, maybe some great sex if you're lucky, then realizing you (or he) doesn't want to take on some of the startling things, emotional wear and tear, more emotional wear and tear, then one or the other splits.

Sigh.

But, I admit, it did perk up my tired heart to see these hopeful women being willing to learn to flirt. To support each other in going to various singles mixers. Going to see Sex and the City. They still see the fun in it. It's great to see them bravely sallying forth.

Maybe their enthusiasm will rub off. If one believes the Law of Attraction, cynicism doesn't seem like the most promising of attractants. I hope more than enthusiasm rubs off. I'd like to recover my optimistic, 'I know he's out there somewhere' attitude of old.

Maybe this group is just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Midlife Divorce Resource: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Ugh, divorce. Rarely a pretty picture and nearly always long lasting emotional repercussions. Especially if you've been in a longtime marriage and are having to make the tough decision to call it quits well into mid-life. Fear, sadness, anger, uncertainty, all very common side effects. Alas, it is a sad truth that divorce is almost the rule rather than the exception.

I’ve talked to many middle-aged women about their relationships and their marriages. I can even point to a few in one or the other to whom I could point and say, “Hah! Now that’s the kind of relationship I want!”

Mary Lou Serafine made some interesting points in an article on Being Successfully Single that a good question to ask is, “would I rather be in the AVERAGE marriage or relationship, or would I rather be in a rich, fulfilling single life of my own creation?” Hmmm...good question. Most of the ‘average’ partnerships aren’t very motivating from my perspective. But, sometimes even if they aren't the greatest, they ARE ours, they are familiar and it's painful when they break.

So,I wanted to share a site I found that pretty much covers all the aspects of divorce. It’s called, imagine that, Divorce 360. It has articles on everything from how to spot a cheating spouse, to why you should not assume your spouse will be fair and cooperative, to how to find a junkyard attorney if necessary, to how to look after the best interests of your kids to how to move on after the divorce is final. Really, it looks like an incredibly comprehensive site offering tons of useful information that can help you navigate a difficult situation much more gracefully.

They break it into Deciding, Beginning, Process, Ongoing, etc. Under each of those broad headings they break it into Emotional, Legal, Kids, Financial. Pretty slick I thought.

And I expect it’s quite a bit cheaper than a $300/hr attorney.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Midlife Women Go To The Movies

It isn’t too often you find a movie produced by youth-worshipping Hollywood that is an intelligent portrayal about women in the middle of their lives. There are some to be sure, Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson comes to mind. Love Actually’s vignette with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman struck a poignant chord of realism.

And who can forget Calendar Girls with the tremendous Helen Mirren? The story of a group of women in Yorkshire, England who pose nude, in all their middle aged glory, to raise money for their local hospital certainly helps break the ‘invisible at 50’ stereotype. It was the line from that movie “"the flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire… the last phase…is always the most glorious” that helped inspire the ‘blooming’ theme for WomenBloom.

I was very excited when Melissa Silverstein contacted me to let me know about a new movie about midlife relationships and love called A Previous Engagement. Melissa’s blog, Women and Hollywood, covers films about women as well as accomplishments of women directors, producers, etc.

The movie stars Juliet Stevenson. She is a terrific actress who starred in one of my favorite quirky movies of all time, Truly Madly Deeply. In A Previous Engagement, Ms. Stevenson is playing a woman who, decades earlier, had made a mutual promise with her then French lover to rendezvous in Malta years hence. With 25 years having passed, and with her husband and his girlfriend in tow, they keep their promise to each other. Having seen several of Juliet’s movies, I expect this to be a strong, intense performance.

Hmmm, I’m realizing that 3 of the 4 movies here are English. Maybe the English really buy into that ‘most glorious last phase’ business. And why not, makes perfect sense! I’m not sure Hollywood could say the same thing.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Hollywood as The Boomers settle squarely into their 50s. We have plenty of money to spend, and we are redefining so many things about what it means to be ‘middle aged’. You would think it would be inevitable that we would see these changes reflected in the movie theaters. But maybe not. Hollywood’s twin, the music industry, has fought digital music and new models of delivering it every step of the way.

Can Hollywood afford to ‘keep on keepin’ on’ the way they are, or will they incorporate the changing demographics into their line up? Only time will tell.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Alzheimer's and Caregiving

One of my fellow mid-life lady bloggers, Karen over at Mid-life's a Trip, has some excellent blog posts related to caregiving and Alzheimer's. As caregiver to her mother who has Alzheimer's, and dear friend to a 50 something woman with the disease, she holds the subject close to her heart.

A great informational resource as Karen points out is a recent article in the NY Times. This excellent guide provides information on causes, treatements, exams and tests, and more.

If you are a caregiver to an elder and/or are dealing with Alzheimer's in a loved one, you may find some support from Karen and those who have commented to her posts.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Telling The Truth About Body Image and Eating


No denying, mid-life is a time when most of us struggle with some aspect of our body image. Most of us have put on a little…or a lot…of weight, our metabolism is slowing down, our sex lives may be in decline because we don’t feel good about our bodies, we dress frumpily in shapeless clothes because we don’t like our bodies. Any of this sound familiar?

To explore the topic, I had a great conversation today with Lee Khoury, who is a counselor specializing in women with body image and eating issues. I was very impressed with her philosophy and her approach because I think she aims at the root of the problem.

Lee believes our relationship with our body and food is often an unhappy result of areas where our lives are out of balance. So, she begins by helping her clients explore the secrets they keep about their eating and their lives. The behaviors with food that they have never told anyone The traumas they are not dealing with, the bad relationships, the intolerable things they tolerate, the things have they ‘settled’ for. The stale areas of their lives.

She helps clients understand that food is not their lover, or their enemy. It isn’t going to fulfill their deepest desires. It is not a substitute for healthy relationships around them.



It’s a basic tenet, wouldn’t you agree, that if you can’t shine a light on a problem, the chances of fixing it are not high?

Lee excels at gently and empathetically helping women bring these issues into the open where they can begin taking baby steps to build the confidence they need to deal with them. She believes mid-life is a prime time to rebalance lives that have gotten out of whack, to redraw boundaries, and renegotiate areas of our lives that are problematic. She connects clients to their healthier selves.

She focuses on helping women transform at the spirit level, not at the superficial level of calorie counting and dieting (which she is against by the way).

Doesn’t that sound reasonable? Lee has walked her talk. Several years ago she re-negotiated boundaries in her life that had gotten out of hand. She doesn’t pretend it was easy but it has made a tremendous difference.

Lee does workshops and seminars on this subject and she is currently writing a book called Rebalance Your Life After 40: Create a New Relationship with Food.

I can’t wait to read it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Smart Financial Resources for Us Middle Aged Women


At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to share a couple of items about, yes, women and financial security. I know, I KNOW I’m on this women and wealth kick. It’s because the more I learn, the more sobering it is. The very good news however, is it absolutely does not have to be that way. We have total power to do it differently. So, on I plunge…

First, a friend and I were chatting about some of the Money posts on the WomenBloom forums. My friend is in her mid 50s, single with two grown children, good job, divorced for about 15 years. She said she realized she hadn’t been as aggressive in her divorce as she should have been given that she still had two kids to raise and all. Her assumption was that, at 40, she had plenty of time to make up for her lagging income as a Mom and loss of husband’s income.

Wrong, she sees now. You don’t make it up. She and her hubbie were fairly amicable and she (here is Dr. Frankel’s assertion that most women equate money with relationship) didn’t want to make it hard on him. They are still amicable but she would do it differently today.

Consider these nuggets from WISER (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement):

• 3 out of 5 working women earn less than $30,000 a year
• 3 out of 4 working women earn less than $40,000 a year
• Half of all women work in traditionally female, relatively low paying jobs without pensions
• Women retirees have half the average pension benefits of men retirees
• Women earn .77 for every $1 earned by men – a lifetime loss of $300,000

Hmmm.

WISER is a wonderful, absolutely wonderful resource on subjects about protecting yourself during divorce, caregiving, and social security. There is also a very helpful document by the Heinz Family Philanthropies, What Women Need To Know About Retirement.

There is so much information available to help us change the stats above. Let’s get to it!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finding your Inner Tech Diva


OK. Us middle aged women aren’t exactly known as tech divas. There are digital immigrants, and there are digital natives. As you might guess, immigrants may learn a language and culture well enough to get along but, most likely, they will never be as comfortable with it as the natives.

Think: you vs. your teenager, and your respective relationships to ipods, texting, twittering, Facebook, etc. Now, wild guess as to which one of you is the digital native?? :)

Nevertheless, the human resources and staffing folks insist that it’s very important we get on board with this tech stuff in order to stay relevant in the workplace as we get older. We will, after all, be managing or be managed by digital natives. We need to understand their world even if we don’t entirely embrace it.

So, in that spirit, a priority of WomenBloom is to help us all get up to speed on what’s happening in the tech world.

Today, Gentle Bloomers, we are going to talk about something called ‘Readers’ and tell you how they can help you.

Do you have news sites, or certain blogs you enjoy reading? Maybe you’re signed up for email notifications for new information from those sites. Or, maybe you don’t do either because the thought of opening the floodgates of information from the web makes you tired.

Well, Readers are like an email inbox that sits on the web and receives the latest information from your favorite news, blogs and other sites. Once it’s set up, you simply go to your Reader as often as you care to and see what’s new on your favorites. If you use Google Reader, which is tres simple, you simply would go to Google's home page, and click Reader to see the latest.

You can either read the latest article or blog post in the Reader itself, but you have the option of clicking through to the actual website or blog if you want to.

Benefits:
• No more going to each site individually to check whether something new is going on.
• If you’ve been going the email notification route, Readers mean fewer emails clogging your inbox.
• You can process more information from the web easier because it’s all in one place.
• You control the ‘when’ of checking for new information

Here is a great Readers for Dummies video that explains in plain English what readers are and how to set one up for yourself. It’s easy, really. If I can figure it out, any of you can.

G

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How Vulnerable Are We? The Feminine Mistake

I spoke this morning with Jenny Krengel, who is CEO of a company called Dream Jobs Inc. Jenny’s software platform helps large companies track and manage women employees who need to move in and out of the workforce, for child rearing and other reasons. They try to match them with part time, flex time or project based work so they don’t lose them altogether.

Given Jenny’s expertise in the area of women who drop out of the workforce, I had given her a call to get her thoughts on a new book by Leslie Bennett called The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? Apparently it has caused quite an uproar among some women, particularly women who are stay at home Moms.

However, I believe it has plenty of application to us mid-lifers as well. And, I feel strongly about this subject because of personal experience.

The Book:

Ms. Bennett's book presents her research about women who are economically dependent on their husbands, whether because they stay at home with the kids, don't have to work or don't choose to work. She is alarmed because that situation is so often treated as a mere lifestyle choice without addressing the serious economic ramifications for making that choice. Here is her synopsis:
My reporting revealed that the bad news is just as ominous as I'd feared; so many women are unaware of practical realities that range from crucial changes in the divorce laws to the difficulties of reentering the work force and the penalties they pay for taking a time-out.

She looked at women who had suffered economic hardship due to divorce, widowhood, spouse's illness or unemployment, etc. It wasn't a pretty picture.

Jenny’s Story:

She is a Mommy herself who stayed home with her daughter. But she eventually realized she needed some work to stay sane. Alas, she found it was next to impossible to find part time work that paid this high achieving enterprise software saleswoman what she was worth (one point made in the book).

She did some research and found that big companies were starting to realize what an expensive brain drain it was to have well performing women in whom they had invested heavily exit the company to have children or take care of parents. Often never to be seen again. She saw a business opportunity and acted on it.

The good news: the big companies are slowly coming around to the notion of part time, flex time and project based work to accommodate the needs of these women. Jenny has clearly hit a nerve because she is getting a great deal of visibility among some of the country’s largest companies. But it's slow.

Jenny says of The Feminine Mistake: “I see Leslie’s book as a resource-guide and a nudge to take stock and have insight; rather than a threat, judgment, or something to be offended by. No matter what role someone chooses to play, we all have our strengths and gifts; and the key is finding them and how to play them out in the best interest of not only yourself, but of your family."

She acknowledges it as a tough situation. She can relate to a woman wanting to be home with her children. No one wants to criticize a woman making that choice.

But I have to ask, what is ‘best’ for the kids?

My Story:

I was widowed at 36. I never dreamed such a thing would happen to me. I had worked some in my husband's business but didn't have a career. I was fairly fortunate to be left with some financial resources. I can't help though but think of the women who are married and not working, who may have very little financial cushion and who have the average American debt. What would happen to them if their spouse left, or became ill, or lost his job??

Then, there are the 6 or 7 women I know who are all in their 50s now, but who quit work early on to have kiddos, and who were Moms, community volunteers and the like. When the divorces came, they, and their children, were in a big bind.

Divorce outcomes seem to be inconsistent and not all men have their children’s best interests at heart. At least one friend had to declare bankruptcy. Two teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. They suffered and their children suffered. They haven't even come close to making up for the economic loss. And these are intelligent, well-educated women who were married to very well off men.

So, I worry for us mid-lifers who are short in the career area, or who leave their husbands in charge of the finances, or who risk being divorced or widowed later in life without work skills. And, I worry for our daughters who may have made the choice to step off the career path.

Not because of judgment on the choice itself (what is more important than raising children well I ask?). But because I know life is so uncertain, and no one is immune to bad things happening. No, I worry at our vulnerability.

Perhaps Jenny’s story proves things are changing so eventually we won't have to make either/or choices. But, I welcome the Feminine Mistake as a provocative wake up call to resist turning a blind eye to the economic realities of our choices.