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 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.


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.