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


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.

• 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.


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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Free Love, Polyamory, and Mid-Life

Wow, I consider myself a pretty open-minded person. Heck, I've even been saying for a while that, being 50 and single, I need to revamp my own way of thinking about romantic relationships and partners. It's just a challenge to find The One at 50.

OK, I say to myself, maybe I need to explore different ways of thinking about this that aren't the traditional: you meet, you fall in love, spend much of your time together and get married 18 months later. Heck, is that a model for ANYONE these days?? Would I even WANT that if it fell in my lap? Oh, the choices we have nowadays!

But, these last few weeks I've come across a few instances where mid-lifers are taking it to a whole new level. And, it's rocking my world.

Can you say 'polyamorism'?

Polyamorism is the practice of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time. Yes, you're married to someone, but both are free to have intimate relationships outside the marriage. Whoa, now! You heard me right!

I know of two couples who are engaged in this practice right now. I will be doing an article on this for WomenBloom, but for now I just would like to know what YOU think of this idea! Here are just a few of the questions that come to my mind...

What is the 'glue' that sticks the marriage together?

How do you become emotionally secure enough to handle your mate sharing their affection and having sex with other people?

Just to get your commentating juices flowing, here is a video discussing this:

Here are some links that explore the subject:

Love More
Love Without Limits
Free Love Grows Up

Help me out here, I'm trying to get my mind around this.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Eldercare: Auditing Documents

In the Wall Street Journal this morning, I came across a column by a personal finance person who was describing his personal experience trying to help his mother, grandmother and great aunt manage their finances.

A couple of useful thoughts caught my attention...

First, in the case of his grandmother and great aunt who live together, they had been paying for several years on a policy they thought would pay off the mortgage on their home should one or the other die. Unfortunately, it was an accidental death policy, not the instrument they thought they had. Basically, they had been paying, out of their already meager income, money for a policy they didn't need.

Note to Self #1:
It's a good idea to look over your parents documents periodically to make sure they are what you think they are and will accomplish the goals you're aiming for. Even things as simple as making sure the correct beneficiaries are in place can save major headaches...or heartaches. I tend to think of my parents as adults, and am hesitant to 'butt into' their business. But as complicated as everything is nowadays, it pays to have the courage to cover all the bases.

Note to Self #2:
You can only do so much for your parents. They are still ultimately responsible for their decisions (this is assuming they are still in good health and mind). You can advise, support, and suggest, but they will make the decisions they make. The columnist described one success he had with persuading his mother not to give away to a friend a small financial windfall she'd received. She had great need of that money herself.

He had less success persuading her not make changes in where her money lived. He was worried about it for her sake, but realized that he had done all he could on that point.

It's difficult in that in between stage where parents are still capable of making their own decisions but don't make the decisions WE would make if we were in their shoes.

For some good tips on how to have these kinds of conversations with your parent, check this article out: 26 Things You Should Know about Caring For Aged Parents

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mid-Life Lady Bloggers Are Out of the Closet!

As I was cruising the blogosphere yesterday, my lucky stars were twinkling. I came upon a wonderful blog, ByJane, where a discussion was raging about mid-life lady bloggers.

The gist was that we are very much out there sharing our wit, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge...basically blowing to smithereens the old cliche that once you hit mid-life, you become invisible. We represent such an unprecedented diversity of circumstance and experience. We are in a place our mothers never dreamed of. That is what pulled me into this mid-life cyberjourney in the first place.

And, since a good portion of our website WomenBloom is devoted to Member Essays, poetry etc. I have been overwhelmed at the stories I read. 'Ordinary' women have such wisdom to share and are doing such cool things. It is my goal to highlight and document that. It's such a privilege to be a part of it.

There are a number of excellent blogs out there to read. And, a HUGE thanks to Lori over at Between Us Girls for her post that not only lists a number of mid-life lady blogs, but gives a short synopsis of each of them too.

It's all laid out right there for you...go to Lori's post and check them out.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why Nice Girls Don't Get Rich

I am on a mission to help mid-life women (myself included) improve their financial smarts!

Some stats for you. According to 2001 census, women in every age category exceeded men for living in poverty. The older we got, the more the gap increased.

And, men outstripped women in earnings $35,000/yr and above. In other words, the further up the income brackets you go, the further behind we fall. You can check it out here.

Dang! That is just not good!

I have a handful of friends who are very smart about money, they have made the most of their money. The stats and my experience say that many women aren't thinking about and, more importantly, behaving like my money smart friends. I've thought alot about this as it relates to mid-life.

There are many contributing factors but I think a couple of things can be said. First, being exposed to how money smart people think about and behave with their money helps one develop habits conducive to being money smart.

Second, I think it requires focusing attention and time on the many choices we make about money every day. Do we thoroughly research our cell phone plan to get the best deal? Do we stay with our car insurance agent because we've known them for many years rather than researching whether there are better deals to be had? Do we think "Oh, it's only a couple of hundred dollars a year"?

My money smart friends always consider the opportunity costs. Letting $200 go to overkill phone plans is $200 that isn't available to put in our IRA. Saving $300 on our home insurance means $300 we can use to pay down a credit card on our way to credit card debt free living.

I certainly could be much better with my money. I've committed to changing my own relationship to money this year, and I'm going to be sharing it as I learn it.

In that spirit, the first resource I've found that I found so very useful is:

Nice Girls Don't Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make With Money by Lois Frankel

I like this because it delves into the ways women THINK about money which of course dictates how they BEHAVE with their money. She has some probing assessments to help you understand your underlying attitudes about money that may be affecting you more than you know. Give some thought to your response to:

I'm not rich because...
And that's because...
Being rich would make me feel...
A rich woman makes me feel...

This is just a small sample of the assessments and coaching tips she has for you.

Look forward in the coming weeks to more on mid-life money smarts.