Posts made in October, 2008

Trick or…

Posted by on Oct 31, 2008 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

Today’s Halloween! A wonderful day to eat candy, admire costumes, and… bitch about the shaft that women are getting when it comes to healthcare premiums?

Okay, guess that you didn’t have that particular goal in mind today. But I do have a rant so I’m going to go there in the spirit of goblins and witches and spirits, oh my. Because what’s Halloween without a good-spirited spook?

I read an article yesterday describing the large disparities in health insurance payments between the genders. In fact, across the board, women are being forced to pay higher premiums, sometimes as much as a third more than men of the same age. The reason why? Insurers say that women use healthcare more, especially during childbearing years. But the rub? Most of these policies don’t cover maternal care and in fact, charge extra for that coverage.

As we grow older, insurance rates tend to rise. Clearly, the majority of older people require more visits to the doctor, more medications and more procedures. But this means that the disparity only continues to grow, even though theoretically, men and women are both using healthcare services, perhaps in equal numbers.

I am not an expert in this area nor do I have any solutions. But I wonder when the gender gap is going to be bridged?

Any thoughts, suggestions or tricks up your sleeve to solve this problem? BTW…this post is cross-posted on, a great site for supporting your rants and bitches. If you haven’t visited BitchyBetty or another fav, Bitchbuzz, do stop by and support those sites!

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Wednesday Bubble: Go deeper than the symptom

Posted by on Oct 29, 2008 in emotions | 1 comment

Too often we find ourselves paying attention to what we want to “do” as opposed to what we want to “be.”  I’m not referring to the smaller “be,” as in, I want to be a ____ when I grow up. But rather, the intrinsic yearning that forms the fabric of our souls and lays the foundation for our footing.

I spoke with the extraordinarily gifted Patti Digh last week to discuss her book, 37 Days, and try to gain some insight into the book’s messages. Patti shared much of the magic behind her words and our conversation was so inspiring and provocative that I have decided to break up the interview into several posts.  Today, I’d love to share with you what Patti said about yearning and how it defines who were are.

So what does Patti mean when she says “go deeper than the symptom?”

“I do a lot of work around story,” explains Patti, adding that author Robert Olin Butler once said that “story is yearning meeting an obstacle.” She describes meeting lots of folks during her book tour and having conversations about what it is that they yearn to do. Not be, but do, the bigger picture if you will. For example, “it’s not so much that I want to open a gift shop,” she says, “but there’s a yearning below that.”

The challenge lies in gaining a larger sense of what the yearning is that is driving the desires and also, what the obstacles are.

When was the last time you stopped yourself from doing something because of lack of money or time or overcommitments? And do you truly believe that these are the real obstacles or is there something larger lurking below the surface that is keeping you from moving forward?

“A lot of times we stay at the surface of things and we don’t go below that to [explore] what’s beneath that, and beneath that, and beneath that,” notes Patti.

In essence, what Patti is describing is the distinction between the self and the soul. Not surprisingly, her book has been described by critics as a “soul-help” book. But what does this truly mean?

“I think that self is a construction of sorts that we learn very early in life to create to protect ourselves, to ingratiate ourselves to others, to play, to perform in the world that we find ourselves living in. So I think that there’s a deeper part of us that is untouched by that and if you can tap into that, you are better able to blossom and hold space for who you are.” Self, on the other hand, is more ego-driven and a barrier to soul and the connections to ourselves and others.

Within each of the book’s six sections are essays, followed by an action step, often a writing exercise, that allows the reader to tap into process of change, and then a movement challenge, which for all intents and purposes, provides a strategy to move abstract thought or change into reality so it becomes a permanent part of your fabric.

Start with “I”

In the second chapter of 37 Days, appropriately named “Start with I,” Patti writes that she stepped back from three years of writing and suddenly “saw patterns of colors, lines, contexts, and meaning that never existed while on the ground.” Perhaps patterns keep emerging because we keep not seeing them, she says. What would happen if you suddenly started to inhabit your life, rather than living right on the surface?

So ask yourself, as Patti did: What is holding you back from fully participating in your own life?  And when was the last time you gave up the”self” to “go below the symptom?”

So today, I am challenging myself to stop waiting for permission, throw away the excuses and start breaking down the barriers that prevent me from defining my yearning and stepping into my full potential. I am going to start by taking care of the “I.”

What about you? Why not try to dip your toes, even if it’s baby steps. Today, go deeper than the symptom.

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She works hard for the money

Posted by on Oct 26, 2008 in stress | 1 comment


Work’s hard enough without having to worry about menopausal symptoms, right?

A recent survey of 961  busy female executives suggests that in addition to work stressors, a majority (88%) of professional women have personally experienced menopause and a whopping 95% have experienced symptoms. What’s more, 79% report emotional symptoms.

In a nutshell, menopause symptoms significantly affect daily personal, professional and social lives, which is why it is so important that we continue to have open communication and dialogue about this transition in our lives. The thing is, what are employers doing to insure that female workers can continue to be productive AND comfortable? I would suggest that most employers don’t even consider this obvious issue among their workers. And with the health of the current economy, I would also guess that physical health takes a back-seat.

So, when it comes to your work, what can you do to reduce the additional stress and interference brought on by menopause symptoms?

I had the opportunity to interview Author Patti Digh last week about her book, 37 Days. This week I’m going to be writing about what we talked about. Not surprisingly, many of the strategies that Patti discusses correlate to how we can make our lives easier as we grow older, even in the midst of blood, tears and well, sweat!

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do YOU do to relieve some of the extra stress brought on by menopause symptoms while you’re at work?

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Bad to da bones

Posted by on Oct 24, 2008 in bone health | 4 comments


Many of us have reached for that third, sometimes fourth glass of wine when out with friends. An occasional trangression never hurts, right?  But for years now, researchers have been warning us to skip those last two glasses. Besides the usual suspects, like breast cancer or stroke, binge drinking (4 or more drinks in a 2 hour period for women, 5 or more for men) can also reduce bone mass and bone strength and consequently, increase the risk for osteoporosis.

Now, for the first time, researchers have identified why binge drinking is bad for da bones – it’s all about genes!

What they found that rats given amounts of alcohol equivalent to binge drinking showed altered expression of two molecular pathways directly responsible for for normal bone metabolism and bone mass. These effects remained even after factors such as body weight or bone mass density were accounted for.

The researchers also found that an anti-bone resorptive agent known as ibandronate was able to correct changes in gene expression., which suggests that alcohol-related bone loss may be correctable. The study was published in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

So, why should you care?

As I’ve written before, women undergoing menopause are already at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Binge habits may simply exacerbate this process, leading to an even greater risk.

My grandmother always said “everything in moderation.” She lived to be 90 and was still moving furniture around her apartment in her mid-80s.  That lady was bad to the bone, for sure!

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Wednesday Bubble: Midlife is not a four-letter word!

Posted by on Oct 21, 2008 in women's health | 13 comments

“The cultural narrative provided for women at midlife is either medical and menopause oriented — hot flashes, osteoporosis, heart disease, the estrogen replacement therapy decision — or socially devaluing –“empty nest,” a fertility has-been, abandoned for a younger woman, depressed.”

Wow! I read this introduction to a study that was published in the journal Social Work in the late 90’s and it got me thinking: what’s wrong with this picture?

Is midlife truly nature’s death sentence, a curse, a crumbling foundation foretelling a  life well (or not so well) spent? When does this characterization become a self-fulfilling prophecy? And what can we do, as midlifers, to reverse this image? After all, change has to start somewhere, right?

A perfect place to initiate change is from a place within and a place outside of ourselves — by distinguishing ourselves from generations of women who came before us (for whom a self-view was often seen as selfish and whose opportunity to work outside the home was often trumped by the lack of quality positions) — and by asserting and reasserting our identities.

Are these steps in-line with the study findings?

The researchers, who investigated midlife experiences of 103 women between the ages of 40 and 59 reported the following:

  • Respondents expressed high degrees of well-being, with 72.5% indicating that they were “very happy” or “happy,” and 64.3%, that this time was “not very confusing” or “not confusing at all.” However, despite being happy, many women still found this time of their lives challenging.
  • Women who reported being most satisfied in their lives had a family income of at least $30,000 or more (which in today’s economy, is roughly equivalent to a little over $40,000), had good health, had at least one confidante or group of friends, had a high self-esteem, were not prone to self-denigration, and had a benign super ego.

One particular discovery that I find intriguing was that the groups scoring both the highest and lowest in midlife satisfaction unanimously agreed that what they liked best about midlife was increased independence and freedom, including freedom from worrying what others thought and freedom to develop a self-identity.

Not surprisingly, what women disliked the most about being middle-aged were physical changes, i.e. decreased energy, gray hair, wrinkles and extra weight.

Women scoring the highest in satisfaction and well-being also stated that they disliked the divide between how they saw themselves and how they imagined society saw them (positively and unattractive, respectively).  Also at odds was the fact that they felt that men of the same age were revered for gray hair and wrinkles and did not lose social value in the same way that women did.

So, what are the biggest take-away messages?

  • What matters most is not what women have but what they do with it
  • Women actively participating in their lives and looking forward to new opportunities were the most satisfied
  • Having a social world or at least one confidante with whom to speak freely and honestly about themselves, and feel understood, was critical
  • Three selfs were also essential to wellbeing: self-effectance, self-acceptance and self-esteem

I know that certain things have changed since this study was published, such as the fact that research dollars are now being diverted away from simply looking at midlife changes in men and broadly applying the results across the genders,  towards exploring midlife changes and how they specifically affect women’s health. What hasn’t changed, however, is the invisibility factor, that somehow, women over age 40 are no longer relevant.

So this is what I say:

Be relevant. Take the reins and effect change. Take a chance, a plunge. Value yourself. Embrace your friendships and your life. Grieve your former self and celebrate who are you are and who you will become.

Michelle Shocked once wrote “When I grow up, I want to be an old woman.”

When I grow up, I want to be. What about you?

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