Posts made in February, 2013

Reinventing Women: Paint with a broader brush stroke…meet Aliza Sherman

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in aging, career | 11 comments


I first met Aliza Sherman a few years ago at BlogHer. She walked into the hotel room that I was sharing with my sister in law, wearing a pink boa and exuding a joie de vivre air that was infectious. And that image has been indelibly sketched into my brain to this day. So, I was thrilled when Aliza wrote in response to my open call for Reinventing Women with a desire to share her story of evolution and consistent change. Just like a chameleon, it appears that deliberate transformation, however challenging at times, has allowed her to thrive.

Data have shown that when faced with significant adversity, many individuals are able to harness their experiences into ‘stress-related growth,’ thereby achieving positive and constructive change in their selves and in their lives. Aliza explains that drastic changes in her life began to unfold in the 90s, when she was held up at gunpoint and kidnapped. While she managed to escape her captors, she says that it was a turning point for her, and altered how she looked at her career. Although only in her 20s at the time, she had already lived two professional lives, first in the music business working with Metallica and Def Leppard, and then with a small non-profit working on domestic abuse. “I think that I was lucky in my unluckiness of being held up,” she says.”I lived to realize how short life really is and how I needed to pursue my own dreams.” And pursue them, she did, founding Cybergrrl, Inc — the first full-service internet company owned by a woman — and then Webgrrls International, a consortium known as the first global women’s new media networking organization.

For Aliza, reinvention refers to constantly rethinking what she’s doing — how she’s living, how she’s  behaving, how she makes decisions and how she presents herself. “For many years, I’ve said I admire Madonna for the way she reinvents herself. Every few years she pushes creative envelopes, becomes a new ‘persona,’ and controls her destiny. I love that.” Similarly, every few years, Aliza has pursued new lines of business and changes what she focuses on with her work. “While I don’t fundamentally change as a person, the incremental shifts of getting older make me want to do bolder brush strokes to redefine how I spend my time and energy and put myself out there in the world.”

Putting oneself out in the world has taken on a new meaning for Aliza. While she regrets never hitchhiking across Europe right after school, she did head out into the world in the figurative sense, forging a new and important digital path for women. That path took her out of NYC and West, first to Wyoming, where she worked for the State in a public relations capacity, started an internet marketing company, and then stopped consulting and became a television producer with Wyoming Public Television and Public Radio. Not one to rest on her laurels and clearly, changing colours yet again, Aliza explains that she met her future husband, moved to Alaska and transformed her business into a social media marketing consultancy and then an agency in a matter of only three years.

The positive aspects of Aliza’s chameleon nature have a darker counterpart. She explains that because most of her constant changes occurred while single and living on her own, the impact on others was not immediately apparent to her. “Once I got married, suddenly my reinventing felt stymied and having a baby with several years of severe complications after, I was in a fog and a very bad place.” This challenge is one that continues to haunt Aliza; she says that knowing that her husband and daughter are affected by her choices makes it more difficult to find the the proper balance between doing what’s right and best for them and what’s best for her. I’m ‘still trying to work out that dance,” she says.

Still, a life without change would be a regretful life. Never believing in the ‘shoulda woulda coulda,’ Aliza’s story forces one to focus. Her advice to other women in similar predicaments, with a wanderlust and a joie de vivre, facing significant adversity? “Trust your instincts. Realize life is short and you can’t keep saying you will get to something later because later may not be an option. The worst that can happen is you fail. And then? You pick yourself up and start over.” To Aliza, failure is fuel and she says that it should be regarded as fodder for one’s next success. “Don’t let the naysayers stop you. Surround yourself with cheerleaders. Don’t live a life of regrets.”

Aliza’s mother of reinvention has clearly been to consistently paint with a broader brush stroke. Now 47, she appears to only be warming up for what’s next on the horizon.



(If you are just catching up with the Reinventing Women Series, I want to hear your story of midlife (or like Aliza, constant) change.  Just like Hessie Jones and Karen-Rogers Robinson and my friend Aliza, I am sure that your personal pearls of wisdom can help thousands of other women. Write to me at

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Gotta go?! It may not be the ‘pause

Posted by on Feb 1, 2013 in Uncategorized, urinary incontinence/stress incontinence/overactive bladder | 2 comments


Urinary incontinence, that is, involuntary leakage of urine, affects up to 30% of women in the United States and is expected to grow exponentially as the population ages. Usually classified by type, it can be devastating to quality of life and overall wellbeing. The three main types include:

  • Stress urinary incontinence (stress incontinence), i.e. involuntary loss of urine caused by physical stress (coughing, lifting, heavy activity) and is often related to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy.
  • Overactive bladder (urge urinary incontinence), that is characterized by an urgent and mostly unavoidable need to urinate relating to a dysfunction of the bladder muscle and how it contracts.
  • Mixed incontinence, i.e. a combination of the two.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was immersed in the topic for almost 5 years; I was acting in an advisory capacity to Merck Consumer Care who recently received marketing approval for Oxytrol For Women. Oxytrol for Women is an over the counter transdermal patch for overactive bladder. However, that’s not why I am writing about it; I have wanted to address urinary incontinence for a long time on this blog but could not do so since I had a conflict of interest. Now that that conflict is gone, I am finally able to share information, and more specifically, whether or not urinary incontinence is linked with menopause and hormone deficiency as estrogen starts to decline.  Reports suggest that roughly 8% to 27% of menopausal women suffer.

Until now, only a few studies have truly focused on women between the ages of 45 and 60, i.e. what I often call the ‘menopausal set.’ More importantly (and what you need to know): when French researchers conducted a thorough review of 29 studies, culled down from an initial total of 488, they found that the connection between menopause and urinary incontinence is tenuous at best.

In fact, in one of the largest studies that they looked at — the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN, which followed 1,529 women annually for 6 years– they found that the data show that during perimenopause, women have a one and a half times greater risk for urinary incontinence, but this risk disappears when they reach menopause. In an associated study, SWAN researchers reported that data linking menopause to a worsening of incontinence symptoms appears to be due to weight gain and not hormones. Ironically, other studies have linked the decline in estrogen to improvements in urine incontinence symptoms.

So, what about HRT? Where does it fit into the picture if the link between menopause/estrogen decline is weak? Well, when the researchers looked at that data, they found that type of incontinence and how HRT is administered does matter. Both the Nurses Health Study and the esteemed Cochrane Database have shown that oral HRT increases incontinence risk and worsens symptoms, while topical treatments may actually improve symptoms and number of episodes.

The researchers write that menopause has little if any impact on the risk of urinary incontinence in general, especially when other factors such as weight gain or age are taken into account. The good news for women with stress incontinence is that the condition appears to decline after menopause, although, granted, a mixed bag may take its place. And oral HRT? Buyer beware! If you’ve got either stress incontinence or overactive bladder, it may worsen your symptoms!

Urinary incontinence may be as much as taboo subject as vaginal atrophy. But it’s definitely one that needs to be talked about, especially as more and more women transition into midlife. Fortunately, it looks like menopause is not the cause, which should bring a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, gotta go? Talk to a health practitioner. Stress incontinence can often be successfully controlled through pelvic floor exercise, and overactive bladder symptoms may benefit through a combination of exercise and drugs. The main thing is to realize that you don’t have suffer alone; there’s a lot of leakage going on.

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