Posts Tagged "women"

A celebratory year… Guest post by Laura Bowman

Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Inspiration | 2 comments

I’ve run across two ponds to get away from turning 50. But evidently, you can run but you can’t hide. At least according to my friend Laura, who’s agreed to guest post while I’m gone.

Enjoy and thanks Laura!

It’s been a big year for celebrations; mostly 50th birthday celebrations.  Yup, the big five-oh.  Fifty, freakin’ fifty.  I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to celebrations, so it’s also been an uncomfortable year.  Discomfort has found me wondering why we have to make such a big deal about birthdays and other milestones.  Much to my surprise, my pondering has landed me on the favorable side of the whole celebration issue.  Here’s why. Forget year, it’s been a whole decade for disappointments – Disappointments in career, disappointing health news, disappointments in relationships.  If it really is true that negative emotions impact our health, shorten our life span, etc., then I need a big ole load of counteractive medicine.

I don’t think I’m in the minority here.  As we grow older, the stakes are higher.  We become parents, bosses, and caretakers.  Our knees fail.  Our memory goes.   We’re passed over for a promotion.  By someone younger. The calls come in.  Someone is very sick, and it’s not a cold.  Some days, there aren’t enough cupcakes in the world to make us feel better.

So on those occasions when we mark an important event, be it a birthday or just making it through a work week, it seems important to form some sort of ceremony that lifts our hearts and makes us smile, or better yet, laugh.

It shouldn’t be news to you that laughter appears to really be the best medicine.  If the Mayo Clinic is to be believed  laughter not only reduces stress, long term laughter may improve immune systems and ease pain!  (There, that’s my little health plug, since this is, after all, a health related blog.)

However, the health angle isn’t enough to get me psyched about a celebration.  For me, the attraction of the celebration is to focus on something positive and to create a memory that will get me through hard times.  I want reasons to laugh hard, from my belly, until tears are rolling down my eyes.  I want the intangible comfort that comes from being with people who really know you and still want to be with you.  I want, if only for a fleeting moment of time, to believe that it really is all about me and the people I love.  That’s gotta be good for me – right?

Of course, planning a celebration can be a stressor all in itself.  At least, that’s my favorite reason for avoiding the whole party.   So, I’m starting a list of very simple tried and true ideas that I’ve picked up from my friends–most of who have fearlessly faced down fifty:

  • There is always the dinner party – cater or reserve at a restaurant if you can.
  • Organize a kayaking, hiking, biking, or other activity adventure
  • Participate in a community event (one friend got a bunch of girlfriends together to walk the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston – over 6 miles one way)
  • Learn something you new – I’ve tried cross country skiing and one year plan to take a cooking class.
  • Go someplace you’ve always wanted to go (now who do we know that’s going to Spain?)
  • Play miniature golf!!  Or go to a batting cage!!!  Or both!!
  • One friend wants to dress up in thrift store evening gowns and go sing at a karaoke bar; we haven’t indulged her yet.  Maybe you will.
  • Remember slumber parties??
  • And, of course, there’s everyone’s favorite – the spa…

Feel free to add to the list.  What do you do to celebrate?  And Liz, Happy Fifty – Fifty, fantabulous fifty!!!  May your celebrations last all year long.

About the author…

Laura Bowman is a health policy analyst with the Department of Veterans Affairs and, like so many of us, trying to figure out how fifty came so fast and how best to approach the next third of her life.

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Wednesday Bubble: celebrating Women…a reprise of my conversation with chef/author Mollie Katzen

Posted by on Mar 9, 2011 in women's health | 0 comments

I know that yesterday was International Women’s Day. So I’m one day late reprising this post from last year. And ever so grateful for the women whose company I keep. So far as I am concerned, every day is women’s day. So here’s to all you ladies I know and love. And to you, my dear readers, without whom, this blog would not exist.


It’s International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate women of all ages, races, ethnicity and religion, to celebrate women as essential and relevant beings. Yet, as I write today in a post onWomen Grow Business, although women are more engaged and successful than ever, the woman in the mirror might not have much to say about the fact that her image is likely disappearing right before her eyes — just as she’s reaching the pinnacle of her career.  In fact, in a ‘visual culture’ like ours’, where youth and beauty are often valued more than experience and ‘foundation,’ many women find that they eventually cease to exist.

The Woman Grow Business post primarily focuses on how ageism affects our careers and the steps we can take to overcome inherent societal challenges. My friend, chef/author Mollie Katzen,played an important role in shaping that post.  In fact, it evolved out of an initial conversation that we had when we were discussing women, food and aging.

However, I’d like to share some additional insights that Mollie lends to concept of the disappearing woman. Let’s face it: although we live in a society that is “no country for old women,” [Credit for tag – Sadhbh Walshe,] perhaps we can shift the societal gaze to within and not without. Like Mollie, I know a number of middle-aged women who feel the need to adjust their physical appearance in order to compete. The gambit runs from hair color and botox to face lifts and labiaplasty. The question is, are these things taking time and focus away from our work (or who we are)? Granted, I color my hair and have been doing so for decades. I am not ready to embrace my gray. Does this mean that I am not ready to embrace myself or that I am somehow exacerbating my disappearing act?

Mollie is fortunate in that her chosen career is one of the few where, she says, “women are not only allowed to age but that [age] is seen as an enhancement to credibility.” However, she suggests that the more women are out there looking their age, the likelier it is for older women to do so.

However, here’s the rub: What does your age look like?

Mollie says that throughout her life, she’s been greatly helped by Gloria Steinem’s famous quote when told she didn’t look 40: “this is what 40 looks like,” said Steinem. “That phrase has been my mantra,” explains Mollie; “this is what I look like.”

For me personally, this gives me permission to dress in ways that make me feel good about myself, and perhaps even color my hair to reinforce that feeling. Mollie concurs:  “instead of hoping to look 35, try looking your best for who you are. Emphasizing that she dislikes and tries to avoid platitudes at all costs, Mollie agreed to share a few strategies that she and her friends have created. “They seem like small things,” says Mollie, “but they make a huge difference in how you come across:”

  • Posture! The first sign of “older” is often stooped shoulders. Standing tall conveys confidence and strength. “Anyone who is not attracted to that is someone you don’t need in your life.”
  • Keep a focused gaze. “Looking sharp sharpens, Mollie explains. “Glazing over glazes you over.”
  • “A smile is the best and cheapest face lift. Especially when it is genuine; your smile, not theirs.”
  • Breathe deeply. Then speak. “When you do speak, let your voice come from your abdomen and be fueled by that deep breath.” (This isn’t easy, btw.)
  • “Don’t ask your sentences unless they are questions.” (Remember Valley Girl by Frank Zappa?)
  • “Try to find the love in all situations.” (I need work on this!). Mollie explains that in most cases, this needs to come from within. “Recognize that sometimes that love can take the form of putting up a boundary. Recognize also, that putting up that boundary can be cloaked in warmth and humor, even while you are being assertive.”  She adds that “true personal power can be a warming and loving representation.”

Additionally, perhaps we need focus more on playing up our strengths and working on self-acceptance.  “Develop your own style of centering and use it to solidify,” advises Mollie. “Change or leave bad relationships.” (This could also refer to bad business relationships.) Seek support.

Platitudes or reality? As middle-aged women, can’t we create (or redefine) our reality. Most successful revolutions start with small steps. Our evolution as women depends on it.

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Mindful living: learning to ask for help

Posted by on Feb 28, 2011 in women's health | 4 comments

How often do you ask for help? Better yet, how easily do you ask for and receive help?

Reading Karen Rosenthal Hilsberg’s “Lessons in Living” and her struggle to make sense of a life unraveled as her husband dies, I can’t help but reflect on a close friend who is ill. Despite a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, he has had trouble acknowledging the seriousness of his condition and even more trouble asking for support. Quite honestly, he doesn’t do too well in that department and neither do I. However, like him, I readily offer assistance to those I love and care about, whenever I can.

So, why the divide between offering and taking?

Hilsberg writes that “what I learned during this intense time of life was profound. I learned to ask for help from others.” Utilizing the mindfulness practice of the Zen Master, Buddhist monk and scholar Thich Nhat Hanh and the Buddhist Master Thich Phuoc Tinh, she says that she discovered that asking for help really wasn’t much different than providing it, that the helper and ‘helpee’ were intertwined, unable to exist without the other.  By allowing assistance, she was able to provide others who cared about her and her family an opportunity to “be of service and to practice generosity” and in doing so, make a shift away trying to do everything on her own. Most importantly, by reflecting on how much she personally enjoyed being of service when loved ones needed her, she was able to accept how appropriate and okay it was to actually ask for help from others — to allow them to “do” as much as she did. The result? Her “wellbeing improved as [she] felt [her] burden shared by many hands.”

As caretakers, many women often do not adapt well to being on the “receiving end.” And yet,  most of us are aware of the importance of social ties, friendships and support to our health and wellbeing, particularly as we age. So why do we find it so difficult to ask for and receive help? How do we acknowledge that be cared for does not equate to losing power or control but actually improves outlook, wellbeing, and ability to deal with any challenges that we might be facing, that allowing others to “do” empowers and does not ‘de-power?’ Is it fear of refusal? Or fear of letting go?

Mastering the art of asking for help is difficult. However, it behooves us to do so, not only for our wellbeing but for the wellbeing of those around us who wish to help.

My friend deserves the kind of care that he has provided to others in his life for most of his life.

Guess what?

So do you.

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Becoming your mother. Effects and misconceptions of aging. A guest post by Cherry Woodburn

Posted by on Feb 4, 2011 in Inspiration, women's health | 25 comments

There are some days that the people in your circle introduce you to individuals who literally rock your world. When a colleague and friend suggested that Cherry Woodburn was a woman that I wanted to get to know better, she couldn’t have been more correct. Cherry is the founder of Borderless Thinking, a business that teaches women to ‘tame their inner shrew’ and do and become who they really want to be. What a message!

Cherry hits on some very important points in this post on becoming our mothers, on aging and on misconceptions. Denial? You bet I’m in it. Cherry’s post opened my eyes a lot wider.


About 3 or 4 months ago I lost my waist. I had it in the evening when I went to bed and when I woke up and put on a pair of my pants that are designed to be worn on a waist I discovered my waist was missing. Gone. I don’t know where it went. I searched the closets, trying on other pants thinking perhaps I’d accidentally left my waist behind, but nope, not there.

I’m sure you’ve had it happen: a set of keys, or reading glasses or a bookmark – you knew where they were the night before and since you didn’t leave the house, they still must be there yet you can’t find them in the morning. Familiar right? It’s happened to me too, but this was the first time it occurred with a body part.


Seriously, when it came to the thickening-of-the-waist that happens to women in middle age, it didn’t happen to me.  I was quite smug about it. I liked beating the system. Then, as I mentioned – without warning – several months ago I learned that not only did I not beat the matronly waist system, but I’d become my mother in the process.

“I’m going to be the exception.”

Growing up (which is happening every day of our lives so I don’t know why that expression applies only to our youth) when I spent time with “old” people I knew that some of the things they did were never going to happen to me:

  • I would never not want to drive at night. Now I understand why they preferred not to drive at night – your night vision changes as you age. I still drive at night but would prefer not to, at least when it’s rainy. But my night life also doesn’t start at 10 pm like it did in my 20s so it’s really not that big of a deal.
  • I’d never re-use aluminum foil like my mom did. You can safely place a large bet on what I’m doing these days with aluminum foil (and it’s not using it as a hat to communicate with aliens).
  • I would always make sure I understood what my kids work entailed. At some point my parents stopped asking me questions about my work, which had been teaching Statistical Process Control. Although they tried to understand it, without a frame of reference it made no sense to them. Now my younger  son is working with computers in areas that are far beyond how I use computers, with no frame of reference, no real understanding.
  • Saying things like my mother did: ” You’ll understand when you get older.” I particularly dislike this one so I rarely say it out loud but I must admit to thinking it.
  • Wearing muu-muus and flat shoes. I never, never thought I’d want to wear shapeless things and no cute high heels. But “you’ll see when you get older” that saying “never” ought to be avoided. When you lose your waist you find comfort, literally, in clothing with no binds.

Things I Had Wrong About Aging

The reason that I grapple with the fact that I’m 61 years old is because I haven’t eradicated the misconceptions I formed in my youth about what 61 meant. The misconceptions, in large part, come from a culture still obsessed with youth and perpetuated by the media and cosmetic industries.

Here are a few things I, in my youth, had wrong about the older generation(s).

  1. Older people curse. In fact I knew the word fuck long before it became the f-bomb; so when a group of kids increases the volume of their cursing when I walk by, they’re not shocking me.
  2. Old(er) people still want to have sex. [eww…] It’s extra heavenly now – no need for birth control, no kids to hear it or come into your room.
  3. Old(er) people still feel like they did in their 30s. It’s only our bodies that belie our age.
  4. Old(er) people still have active brains even if their experiences and opinions are different than younger – still menstruating – generations.
  5. Old(er) people use to be young. I know I found it hard to imagine. They/we rebelled against our parents, stayed out late, partied and more.

Stereotypes, labels and generational profiling is a trap that’s easy to fall into, but like racial profiling, it’s dangerous territory – too many mistakes can be made. “When we accept [generational/age] labels, we foster division. Each person, not generation, brings something important to the party. It’s our job to figure out what that is and grow from it.” Dawn Lennon, Business Fitness

About the author…Cherry Woodburn is a speaker, writer and facilitator on behalf of  women’s issues and the power of women sharing their stories for growth, healing, fun and community. Cherry blogs at Borderless Thinking and you can also find her on Twitter. Her mantra? Embracing the real you.

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Monday Musings: who are you wearing?

Posted by on Nov 29, 2010 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

Labels. Our world’s full of them. And they are no more pervasive than when applied to women, particularly as we age and start to become invisible, not only to others but also to ourselves. In fact, I am becoming acutely aware that some of these labels have slipped into my vocabulary.

That’s why I’m beginning to more fully appreciate the move that Prince made years ago when he changed his name to a symbol and became “the artist formerly known as…”Granted, one can argue that it was a publicity move of epic proportions and it sure did garner a lot of attention. But at the same time, it also shifted control. Perhaps he became himself again.

As of today, I am challenging myself to step outside the comfort zone that labels provide and consider if I am not one of the following, who am I?

  • a middle-aged woman
  • a Cougar
  • menopausal
  • a woman ‘of a certain age’
  • an old maid?

Better yet? Who are you? Have you, like me, allowed yourself to slip into these labels like a comfortable pair of socks?

Our generation of women came of age on the tails of Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisolm, Ann Richards and Bella Abzug, women who not only reinforced the message that we should live within our skins but, that we should do so proudly. And yet, many of us have shed that pride and as I wrote last month, have somehow stopped wearing ourselves, as if we’ve somehow crossed into the wardrobe of no return, where invisibility is safer than rebellion.

I’m certainly not going to start burning my bras or marching in Washington for older women’s rights (see, there I go again). But I am going to make damn sure that as I near my 50th year, I start wearing myself again.

What about you? Who are you wearing?

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