It would be magical to wake up one morning and find I was everything I always wanted to be. As it happens, the results I’m looking for may be realistic possibilities. It’s the means to those ends that will have to be reconfigured. In life, as in all things, there are few instant successes.

My bookshelves, the whole, hardcopy kit-and-kaboodle as well as the virtual somewhat shorter version on Library Thing are a testament to expectations. It’s a fascination to see how many ways I’d like to improve by browsing my shelves . . . just look at some of these covers. I want to be thin, rich, effective, well-dressed, and articulate. I’ve read the books. I’m still “fluffy”, underfunded, inadequate, and tongue-tied. Ironically, I’ve managed to improve my fashion sense. So what’s with the wardrobe upgrade and why does that work when the rest of my yearnings are still unfulfilled?

Well, those cheeky British BBC fashionistas, Trinny and Susannah, have empathy. With careers and lives that come from outside the fashion industry, they had to learn how to dress the hard way . . . by making mistakes themselves. They also admit to their own figure flaws. Claiming neither expertise or a perfect shape, these are my kind of gals. They also expect all of us to look up-to-date, colorful, and shapely. And they start with guidance for infrastructure . . . foundation garments that shift and redistribute each woman’s natural assets. They coach, coach, coach through the racks of enticing blouses, skirts, dresses, shoes and accessories to retrain even the most fashion challenged. And they pull the pieces together into a cohesive total package.

Does it sound like a formula for coaxing the reluctant candidate along? You bet! I wonder what would happen if the other gurus of change appealed to me that way?

I’ve been tapped to support the Global Women’s Leadership Network for the NetSquared Conference. This is an organization that defines the nexus of my interests and experience. So it nudges me to frame my world in terms of those two spheres.
Women’s Sphere:
Women’s college grad; developed Women’s Connections – a center for transition and self-discovery – that won a grant for a mentoring program; served on boards for the Junior League, an academic institute for women’s education, and an AARP initiative on women and aging. I’ve worked at the HQ of the March of Dimes and Girl Scouts of the USA as chief learning officer for both organizations. In that capacity, I created executive education and career development programs and materials.

Technology Sphere:
Starting with some home-based experiments in my early teens, I have been fascinated with science and technology. That led to a BS in chemistry and work in pharmaceuticals. Time off for kids overlapped with the introduction of the desktop PC – bought an Apple IIe for them to do homework . . . and guess who was bitten by what bug. In 1992 I upgraded the PC and got a modem. Within months I audited an online course at UC Santa Cruz out of curiousity about distance learning. By 1997, I was leading my first online course development project. In 1999 I switched industries and starting working in software and services where e-learning and technical training were my primary focus. I started teaching grad school courses online, and contributed a chapter to the AMA Handbook of e-Learning. The structure and inflexibility of LMS’s challenged my notions of collaboration at work and in the classroom. Enter Web 2.0. I am now a consultant, fully engaged in fostering it’s philosophy and ways of work.
My grandfather used to marvel at the fact that he crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time at age 14 in a commercial vessel powered by sails . . . and at 80 flew from New York City to Providence, RI to visit his relatives. How will I measure the distance I would have travelled by the time I reach that age? Time will tell . . .

In the meantime, I am asking that you to contribute $21 at http://www.givemeaning.com/proposal/netsquared to a campaign that is attempting to raise $500 for each of the Net Squared projects.  There is great work insured with your small investment! 

I keep copious archives on my PC — the only place in my life where a search engine and alpha files make things accessible. While doing some spring cleaning in that domain, I came across a piece that Patricia Fleming, Ph.D. wrote a couple of years ago. It’s called Welcome Your Anger’s Gifts to You:

After taking action to prevent yourself from doing something you’ll regret later on, open yourself to the gifts of your anger. My anger, for example, gives me these gifts:

A. Vitality: I am alive. I feel the vitality in my body.
B. Agency: I am ready to go into action.
C. Self-respect: I feel that I am a good and worthy
person, deserving good treatment.
D. Engagement: Let me at it. I am going to handle this.
E. Capability: I can do it. I can handle this.
F. Valor/Heroism: I stand up for what is right; I champion what needs protection
G. Courage/Boldness: I am brave

I once thought that resilience was the answer to everything. If you could take the blows that life dealt you and bounce back, you had overcome the situation – whatever it was. Well, life has made me aware that absorbing some blows builds muscle. However, there are times when the breaking point has been reached and rearing back and letting it all go is far better. Charles Downey explains the health implications of hidden emotions in Anger: Don’t Put a Lid on It. When the essentials are at stake and who you are is far too high a price to pay for maintaining harmony, get angry!

It makes me proud to be growing mellow as a contemporary of Naomi Judd. Beautiful and elegant, she bursts on the stage at the AARP WLC and then meanders among the participants sharing her wisdom. She speaks from the heart:

We feel so disenfranchised and separated today, and it makes me happy when we get together like this in community. Everything you are here talking about – union of spirit, mind and body – is in my new book, Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully: Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers . Vitamin G – gratitude – if you practice it. Shift happens when you have a breakthrough. I’m a communicator. It’s important to figure out your story. The number one cause of unhappiness is not knowing who you are. Americans are more unhappy today despite living in the richest country in the world – we rank 23rd in happiness in the world. Start thinking about your story.

Naomi thinks that we have collective ADHD. Nobody has anytime to pay attention to her own life. We are distracted from what we are doing and why. She explains where here wake-up call came from:

If you don’t know who you are and what you stand for, you’ll fall for everything. That’s what the media wants – for us to buy their stuff. We only use 20% of what we have. I’ve had to become a detective of my life – as I saw the stories about myself in magazines and TV.

She speaks of having, “cleaned out the energy vampires in my life”. The chronicle is in her book. Her conviction on the importance of that experience compels her to say: Continue Reading »

Saturday morning may seem an unlikely time to sharpen your financial managment skills. It turns out to be, not only the right time, but with the right person to guide the way. Julie Stav, blond hair, pink suit and seriously articulate, tell us, “Let’s get our money to work for us.” Stav has starred in 5 PBS shows on the topics of her 5 books. Women know a lot more than they think they know about money but they lack confidence, she insists.

Her life lessons were first learned from her father:

Money has nothing to do with class.
Power is something that you take.

Continue Reading »

What will I be when I grow up? Is that a question or a challenge?  I top off the afternoon at the WLC Summit with a panel on Second Acts.


Jeri Sedlar, author of Don’t Retire, REWIRE, is our session moderator. She introduces the panel with high energy. In explaining the need for a second act, she reads from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (pg 94): “at every stage you know who you are, do you?”  You can only see your reflection in still water.  One size does not fit all. Don’t edit – be open to receive. Many things are changing. Get PMA (positive mental attitude). Don’t pursue passion until you have meaning and purpose. Stop being a perfectionist and thinking you need to be in control. Listen, try things and discard what you don’t need. Have the guts to listen to yourself as you listen to the panel. Wear a “so what” hat.

Continue Reading »

A real highlight of the first morning of the Women’s Leadership Circle  Summit was the presentation by Dr. Miriam Nelson, founder of Strong Women. I attended a weekend workshop that she gave a couple of years ago which was informative, challenging and inspiring.  I could use a dose of her elixer of good sense every day.


Women’s health is not an age issue is her message. At any age eating better and being physically active are important. Changing the way we think and putting ourselves higher on the priority list are a must. Inactivity and poor nutrition are directly related to chronic disease and aging. Pro-aging is about living as full a life as possible – change the paradigm about how we think about aging. Muscles keep us active, vibrant and healthy. Participation in physical activity is abysmal – and declines precipitously with age. If you are fit and overweight, you are better off than ideal weight and sedentary. Over the last 20 years the percentage of obese Americans is worsening – far more related to our environment – sheer number of brands of grocery store items, fast food opportunities, TV . . . We must change our behavior, starting with ourselves, to change our families and their health by: these steps

  • Find the switch (as we encounter and experience a startling truth)
  • Be creative
  • Change policies
  • Change the culture
  • Provide support
  • Leadership
  • Community-based program run by allied heath professionals based on research and books.  In 34 states programs are running through cooperative extension, regional health and women’s offices. Strength training programs have gained the most participation. We need more research on adherence in exercise. It’s a leap of faith.

    Those few words have resonated with me again and again over the last few years. I found the quote and printed it out big and bold, filling a whole sheet of pink paper, and hung it in my home office soon after launching my consulting practice. Having been a sidelines observer of the blame game during my career, I was ready to embrace the full package of being on my own.  From business opportunities that are big and challenging to the little stuff like choosing fax services, it’s all mine to move from concept to action.

    One of my decisions has been to devote my energy and time to a ground breaking initiative for women.  The Women’s Leadership Circle is the brainchild of Teresa Smith, an inspired AARP senior manager. Focused on the 50+ cadre that is actively engaged and aging with new commitments to society and self, this initiative soon went from concept to program through research that asked women what their issues were.  The intention of the group of us who joined in launching WLC was to provide women with choices.  Being the arbiter of your lifestyle and all that comes with it takes spunk. And it also takes shifting the paradigm for the three issues WLC research identified as the most critical: finances, health, and the images and language that represent about women as they age.

    As we kick off the WLC’s first Summit this week in Tucson, the focus is on all the opportunities as well as the challenges that lie ahead. The women who have gathered here can rely on each other for encouragement and zeal — but in the end, we must choose to be personally committed and to act on the values, investments of time and resources, and the policy issues that ultimately shape the agenda for us as women of a certain age.

    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick-Sent-Me-High-ee) has been writing interesting books like Flow and delving into well being for some time.  Time magazine, in Getting Serious About Happiness gives us a heads up about his newest endeavor, a doctoral program at Claremont Graduate University.  He will lead his graduate students in analyzing happiness and learning about positive psychology.  His rationale works for me:

    Even though the things that make people happy seem ephemeral and immaterial, they are the most important things in life, and they have not been studied very seriously.

    As I’ve clearly lived more than half a lifetime, experience in this area does count for something. I’d like to offer a few tips that Csikszentmihalyi may want to pass along to the incoming class.  First, consider the people who have something to say about happiness and give up some of your assumptions.  Cheryl Honey, founder of Family Support Network International, recently won the Jefferson Award for her work in weaving a grassroots web of support  on behalf of a more caring, just, and civil society.  When she talks about people living with few financial resources, she focuses on their resilience and how they find pleasure when they give of themselves. They may be poor, underemployed, challenged by circumstances that are unexpected. They are happy. Second, do more than try to assign a number to everything. Some of the best theory is first collected as stories. Narrative research is relatively new on the landscape of most people. Wake Me Up When the Data is Over covers some of what I’m talking about. I know that Csikszentmihalyi is enthusiastic about probing people’s psyche at particular moments — you know, taking their ‘happiness temperature’.  Some of my techie colleagues might be happy to help him out with their Twitter access.  But I’m more prone to see broader periods of contentment in my life than isolated experiences of it. As I’ve explained in my appreciative inquiry blog, discovering the best of what is comes in wonderful recollections.  And in telling the stories . . . we are happy.

    There’s strength in numbers . . .  30 million baby boomers.  We may be getting older, though it will be a kindler, gentler decline for the 217 committed members who have made the pledge on 43 Things, to “age gracefully“.  One of the recent generation of self-reminder, community building websites, 43 Things explains:

    People have known for years that making a list of goals is the best way to achieve them. But most of us never get around to making a list. 43 Things is great for that! Make a list on 43 Things and see what changes happen in your life.

    One of the featured commitments to age gracefully is titled Being able to embrace who I am . . .  This wise and wonderful intention touches my heart:

    (1) Not being bitter about any past losses or wrongs (perceived or otherwise)

    (2) Staying active, staying in shape

    (3) Being comfortable in my skin. (Maybe a little hair color!)

    (5) Never stop learning. Embrace new ideas.

    (6) Enjoy each moment, each phase of my life, not worry about what should have happened, what might happen, what could happen.

    (7) Know that I am part of the past and the present and the future and only a small part of the whole big picture.

    When I look at the list, I think of the personal support system that sustains me in many of these pursuits.  I appreciate Sandy who lovingly resolves what has been and what will be. Teresa is an eager role model of fitness.  Staying centered is a gift from Barbara.  Susan encourages my intellect as my co-author.  With Ellen at my side the present is ultimately valued, as is the past and the future.  My beloved Aunt Teresa provides the legacy of big-picture thinking and generational insights. 

    The capacity to look forward to whatever we find interesting, motivating and fulfilling is a gift. Sharing it is expansive to our circle . . . whether it’s a short list, 217 online sisters, or a big, wide wonderful generation of women growing together.