clarity

present moments

Drink In The Respite and Renewal of Ordinary Present Moments

Take five for a new coffee break story!

The present moments feel satisfyingly full when I appreciate what a gift they truly are!

I’m referring to the mundane tasks, ordinary moments, and non-events that are legitimate parts of my day. Those commonplace aspects are invaluable counterparts that let the occasional extraordinary moments and thrilling activities shine. And they also give relief to my active squirrel brain, ha!

Young children and older adults seem to readily grasp the beauty of average present moments. The former are yet unburdened with the business and busyness of life. And the latter are wise to fewer days stretching ahead than behind; they no longer take any time for granted. 

Today’s 2-minute Coffee Break Story celebrates our present moments! If you’re new to these tiny tales, they’re short form reads, 5-minutes or less. You’ll find links to prior #coffeebreakstories below.

For now, refill your cup, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

present moments
Image by Artem Beliaikin

Present Moments Matter

Present Moments
Mary V's Happy Place

Coffee Story Wrap On Present Moments

We are served selected slices of other people’s stories all day long. It’s easy to get caught up in 24-7 cajoling to constantly be in motion with something exciting, admirable, or new. Sometimes, it makes our own ordinary days feel lacking. I don’t buy into that (any more), nor should you! 

Slow down. Breathe. Step mindfully into your day.

Focus on your commonplace present moments and you’ll start to treasure just how invaluable they are.

+++     +++     +++

Make room for this soulful contemplation of the ordinary by the extraordinary Eckhart Tolle. His calm delivery lowers my blood pressure!

Head here to catch up with the kickoff of Coffee Break Stories. 

And thanks for stopping by!

authenticity

Authenticity Means Making Mischief, Mayhem, and Mistakes—Wheee!

“The authentic self is soul made visible.” —Sarah Ban Breathnach

authenticity
Author feeling frisky at Praza do Obradoiro, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

S.W.S.W.S.W.N.

Which means:

Some Will, Some Won't, So What? Next!

Mischief, mayhem, and mistakes: What could go wrong? How about what could go right!

authenticity
Mary V in her beloved Sonoran Desert, Carefree, Arizona

The Wrap On Authenticity

Browsing through my photos from a visit to the culmination of the Camino pilgrimage in Spain provided the prompt for this story. The combination of both sacred and playful moments on my journey was exhilarating!

For an approach I use to unleash courage and curiosity, try this.

What’s Love Got To Do With It? Everything!

Serving up a coffee break story!

Where is the love? If you’re like me, you’re feeling the weight of way too much anger and grief headlining the news. It’s exhausting and incredibly frustrating to witness or read about rampant deep divisiveness and tragedy unfolding. The negativity is a weight on our collective souls.

Which is why I’m focused on being a positive influence in all my social engagements. My reach may not extend far. But I know I impact each person I encounter.

More than ever before, we need to share Love!

Without Love, we disengage and build barriers. Silos form. 

I don’t know anyone who can turn the current world trajectory around any time soon. But I do know that we can each take responsibility for how we as individuals interact with each other.

We can create little circles of love that begin rippling outward.

Won’t you join me?

Disclaimer: Today’s post is in no way intended as a political comment nor am I seeking political discourse here. Everyone is hurting. Everyone is troubled with the state of the world. Let’s focus on what we can do to soften the current mood. We can agree on that, no?

love sculpture

Every Day and Every Way, Love is the Answer

Love—Spread it!

Tag a friend

Tell a neighbor

Show a stranger

Set the example

.   .   .

Love—Rep it!

Listen 

Learn

Respect

Forgive

.   .   .

Love in a time of turmoil and change—What does it mean to you?

The Wrap on Community Love

In an ever-changing world that never stops spinning, remember: 

  • We are wired to be connected, not compartmentalized 
  • Our energy impacts each other
  • Our thoughts and beliefs fuel our words and actions
  • Circle back here for a short story on the art of conversation

"Unity is not something we are called to create; it's something we are called to recognize."

P. S. I highly encourage you to save 12 minutes this weekend & listen to Starla Fitch  —then you’ll know why I say to you, “sawubona” (I see you) ♥ and “sikhona” (I am here) ♥

personal health

Better Personal Health Journeys with Carolyn’s Community

Feeling our best matters, especially as we enter our 50s and beyond. Who doesn’t want to continue living a vital life? Which is why managing our personal health is super essential.

Yet how long was your last convo with your primary physician? If it was over 30 minutes, you’re lucky—the average PCP exam in the USA is less than 20 minutes!

Did you leave with a new diagnosis or health alert, armed only with general instructions? Or a new Rx (or two) for managing your medical status quo? Again, you’re not alone! Were you satisfied? Fully informed?

This is not intended as a condemnation of the medical community. Medicine has morphed into big business. Doctors and nurses are equally frustrated with the charting and coding activities that monopolize and divert from patient time. And the growing emphasis on monetizing a fractured health care system has led to abbreviated appointments and a lack of adequate patient education. 

So now enter my friend, Carolyn: She and thousands of other certified health coaches are filling the growing gap between the medical community and the patients they serve.

======================================

ALERT:  Carolyn and I are not doctors or mental healthcare professionals of any kind. All medical statements by either Carolyn or myself in this post are for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers.

======================================

Personal Health

Carolyn is the fourth in my monthly Midlife Stories series, which introduces Everyday Women Over 50 pursuing a life chapter that brings fulfillment and joy.

These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms. They’re doing what they are curious or passionate about— not what social media or anyone else tells them they should be doing! Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I have links below to the prior posts for this series if you’re just joining us now. But meanwhile, sit back and hear all about my friend, Carolyn, a savvy health coach and emerging personal health community builder!

How Personal Health Issues Led To Health Coaching

Carolyn’s mom actually played a pivotal role in her quest for nutritional well being. Growing up, there was no hint of processed food in the house. While Carolyn laughingly labels her mom as “a health nut ahead of her time”, there was good reason: a history of heart attacks for the 50-year old males  on her dad’s side!

While she looked longingly at the Ding Dong cakes or other sugary treats in her classmates’ lunch boxes, she had to make do with a small bag of raisins (yeah, that got tossed!). Then Carolyn broke free of the restricted food environment when she attended summer camp. She was in (temporary) nirvana, filling up on Wonder bread and margarine.

But when her folks showed up for Parents Day, they had to bring her new clothes, one size larger—whoops! Yet that didn’t alter her subsequent resolve to follow a more relaxed eating regimen once she left the nest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More Personal Health Issues Cropping Up

Fast forward to life in the Boston suburbs with her husband and growing family. After an initial career in marketing and advertising, Carolyn chose to be a stay-at-home Mom. The complexity of juggling the busy schedules of four active young girls in combination with an outside career was too daunting, especially since her husband traveled abroad extensively for his own career. However, she nails what being a SAHM really means: 

“Unpaid, equally stressed and busy, in order to spend more time with my own kids!”

In other words, she wore many hats for many years, volunteering on numerous school committees and community boards, plus chauffeuring to  and organizing various extracurricular activities and field trips. It was during this time that Carolyn developed IBS symptoms, which she is convinced were stress-induced. Lifestyle and diet are also classic major contributors.

And then her children started to exhibit allergies and ADHD. In fact, nationally, there were more and more reports about the rise of allergies, asthma and a new diagnosis of autism.

The more she read, the more she became convinced that she had gone overboard with allowing junk and processed food in her pantry. Mom was right! (side note: Carolyn’s dad is now in his 80s—more proof about the impact of good nutrition.) So yes, it was time for a change!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Searching for Personal Health Resources

Happily, Carolyn was able to get her IBS symptoms under control. Thanks to her newfound passion for eating right, she had already done extensive research on ways to mitigate IBS symptoms on her own.

Next, she consulted with a well-known physician, who concurred with her conclusion. He handed her a stack of prescriptions and a $5.00 refill coupon. 

 Yet rather than immediately relying on drugs, Carolyn wanted to start with incorporating some small yet powerful everyday dietary and meditation habits first.

But when she shared her desire with the doctor to postpone the drug regimen, his immediate response was, “If you don’t take these, then we’re not working together!” 

Time to get a second opinion— and so she did! Fortunately, the next physician was amenable to a “wait and see” stance. Carolyn was prepared to take the prescriptions if her lifestyle changes were insufficient. As it turns out, her IBS side effects were effectively wrangled, woohoo!

This experience was evidence of a belief that Carolyn fully embraces: we can exert a certain amount of control over our own personal health by mindfully tweaking our lifestyle choices. 

“Genetics loads the gun; environment pulls the trigger” —Francis Collins, M.D., Director of NIH

And so yes, because of this experience…a lack of medical resources (time, attention and information) for her as an individual patient…she shifted into a new life chapter. Health Coach Carolyn was born!

body acceptance

Carolyn's Coaching Philosophy

Once she earned her first Health Coach certification in 2010, Carolyn was on her way to creating her own unique method for helping others with their personal health journeys.

She attended numerous lectures and logged in hours (and hours) of research. Her Masters in Psychology combined with additional intensive courses on functional medicine has resulted in a very positive, client-centric approach.

As she puts it,

“I don’t tell people what to do. I listen. I look for their strengths in order to learn how those can be applied to their health concerns. I’m by their side, encouraging them with making small steps.”

In other words, she has no preconceived remedy or path for new clients. For Carolyn, it starts with being a companion. And that’s what she does in personalized, one-on-one sessions. Some of her clients are referred from a local physician, who readily acknowledges the gap she fills.

Then, as a way to spread the word about the unique role that health coaches play, she launched a podcast in 2020. Carolyn was completely new to the whole podcasting platform, but she dug in anyway!

Wellness While Walking Podcast

Each episode focuses on sharing 30 minutes of encouragement and education while her listeners are exercising (walking). What a brilliant concept! And she has the perfectly modulated voice to deliver a quality listening experience (my unbiased opinion, hehe!) She also includes a variety of guests.

Shameless plug: Be sure to check out episode 94, Swedish Death Clearing With Mary V.

While her daughters mostly thought of her as “Mom”, they did take notice of her coaching commitment. Carolyn overheard one them saying to a friend, “You can try new things, even if they are hard at first. My mom started a podcast at 57!”

Her topics cover a broad array, from organizing your home (lowers stress), mindset, and meal prep, to breaking the twitch with alcohol, productivity, and purpose.

When you think about a lifestyle approach for better personal health, there are all kinds of things we can do to feel and be better. And it all starts with taking small steps.

personal health steps

Her Vision For A Personal Health Community

Like the rest of us, the recent pandemic stay-home period was a wake up call for Carolyn, the Health Coach. When “meh” was sarcastically voted the word of the year in 2021, it epitomized our spirit, languishing in separation from others. With that, she knew creating a community for helping improve personal health was an essential undertaking.

So this is exactly her latest wellness endeavor, which is currently a work-in-process. I don’t want to give away too many details ahead of the launch but it will be another ingenious mashup of online group meet-ups and one-on-one coaching sessions. 

Designed with a lifestyle-driven concept, her community will welcome all age groups because issue like getting rid of household toxins, reducing inflammation, or getting better quality sleep are universal topics.

Carolyn is convinced that  strength and support can and should be found in community. The rampant fragmentation we are all witnessing in the world today makes her wince.

In her own way, as a compassionate health coach, Carolyn strives to bring people together for better wellness. I, for one, have faith in her…and I think when you meet her, you will, too!

midlife stories

The Wrap on Personal Health with Carolyn

Together, we are better!

This truly summarizes Carolyn health coaching philosophy. And little steps go a long way for improving our personal health and well being. 

As a self-described “card-carrying realistic optimist”, who better to have by your side, cheering you on!

And you’ll never be alone, when you’re part of Carolyn’s Community. As she envisions it, 

“I will be the maestro of this orchestra. Each member has their own instrument to play. Together, we will create beautiful music!”

In her “spare” time, Carolyn loves word games, dance class, funny talking IG dogs, and time with her family.

Where to find Carolyn?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Where to meet the other Women Over 50 featured in this series:

♥ Got thoughts about what you read here? Drop a line below … And thanks for stopping by!

(Note: images of Carolyn and her IG posts were created by her & stylized by this author)

coffee break stories

Two-fer You: Dishing Up 2 Shortie Coffee Break Stories

Introducing weekly coffee break stories!

I’m kicking off a new writing form which I’m calling coffee break stories. Each is less than a 3 minute read—perfect when you’re sipping a cup of coffee.

The content can be anything at all, but the length is similar to “short form”, which is typically 150 words or less. I’m a tad casual with this, so sometimes stretching to 175-ish or so. (My forum, my choice, hehe!)

In fact, today is a bonus, or “two-fer”: two short stories I recently published on a different platform called Medium. I hope you find value in these little snippets of personal observations. They’re snack-sized musings to inspire, support, amuse or connect us in spirit.

But before you dive into today’s double shot coffee break stories…

What is Medium?

This social platform is for anyone who wants to write and everyone who wants to read. Over 175,000 writers publish stories about everything under the sun. And it’s estimated there are well over 60 million readers for said stories.

You can read 3 stories for free each month or sign up at a mere $5.00/month to receive unlimited access using my link over here.

Initially, I was hesitant to jump on yet one more social platform. I abandoned Clubhouse, I’m mostly a random lurker on FB (gotta grab the latest memes there!) and I sporadically post on IG. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate in a community that’s focused on writing and reading—two of my favorite activities!

Once you have achieved 100 followers, you can be paid for your writing in Medium’s Partner Program, based solely on the time people spend reading your words. So I thought, why not?!

Then I quickly realized there’s an algorithm at play (of course!) that determines who sees your stories. Which is why so many writers create “reciprocal-reading” pods to boost each others’ earnings. It’s not unlike IG’s follow-for-follows/like-for-likes groups, which I find problematic … what if you don’t like someone else’s stuff? Sigh! So I haven’t done that.

You can have hundreds or thousands of followers. But if they don’t take the time to read your articles, your work could go largely unnoticed—and unpaid. If the platform editors find you and like your writing, they can disseminate your work. And then if your article goes viral, the dollars can roll in. Lotta “ifs” there!

The top writers reportedly make $25,000/month! But we’re talking about a rarified few. The majority of paid writers realize less than $100/month and some stories make less than a dollar. Obviously, talent and writing about popular topics matter. But beyond that, it takes a lot ( and I mean a LOT) of reading and writing. Best not to quit your day job. Unless you have the time.

So why did I join?

It’s become a great place for me to experiment with different writing styles. Like short form, poetry, or essays. And I’m exposed to so many other writers! Some good, some not-so-good. It gives me a sense of what’s being shared in the writing world and where I find myself fitting in.

Also, about that monetary payout: it’s humbling to labor over an article … searching for the perfect image … pulling my thoughts out of my head … capturing them on paper … polishing my words until I tell my Inner Perfectionist to stop! And then getting only a dollar or two for those hours— double sigh!

But that’s the dirty underside of the writing world. “Best selling author” status? This refers to who gets disseminated the best—not necessarily who writes the best! Not all gifted artists are gifted with selling.

One can write soul-stifling manuals for a corporation. Or clever, SEO-loving content for publications. Or from-the-heart ideas and musings for personal pleasure. The pay range is vast and is determined by demand.

Ultimately, you simply need to work the writing venn diagram to find your own sweet spot for why you write and what you expect (or need) in return. 

Me? I’m writing because I can’t not write. When I’m in alignment with my higher self, inspiration comes. And then the words follow. Truthfully, I’m often taken aback at the direction my writing takes but I’ve learned not to question my muse.

Now on to the two coffee break stories for your weekend pleasure, while sipping on your beverage of choice. Enjoy!

Coffee Break Stories #1

coffee break stories

Attack of the 50-Foot Woman!

Coffee Break Stories #2

Don’t Forget To Applaud Every Step Of Your Journey

It’s about more than just the arrival

As much as we admire a lush bouquet, the real beauty is found in the transition from bud to bloom. Just look how far this flower has evolved!

There’s tremendous inspiration with witnessing the process, not just acknowledging the end result, no?

“Everything is hard before it’s easy” —Goethe J.W.

Not unlike the work of growing outside our comfort zone. It’s quite impressive when you reflect on your determined endeavors to flourish.

Start your own evolution with steady steps. There will be effort required to push through some dirt and rocks, no doubt about it.

But you can do it … I believe in you!

Do you?

The Wrap On Coffee Break Stories

Who doesn’t have an overflowing in-box? Lots of intel coming our way, all the time. Yet finding the time—so challenging!

None of my Medium stories (so far) have exceeded 5 minutes. If you’re curious for more, circle back to this Medium story which I reposted here.

Let me know your thoughts about receiving little weekend nuggets to accompany your coffee … and thanks for stopping by!

Pro-Ageing

Pro-ageing Personified: Stylin’ A Joyful Life With Mimi K

“I feel like I’ve lived three lifetimes, jam-packed to the max!”—Mimi K

And at this rate, you can be sure she’s in the thick of crafting her fourth! Meet my friend, Mimi Krohne— a Pro-Ageing Ninja!

Mimi is the third in my Midlife Stories series, which features everyday Women Over 50 pursuing a life chapter that brings them joy.

These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms. They’re doing what they consider to be right for themselves— not what social media or anyone else tells them they should do. Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I have links below to the prior posts for this series if you’re just joining us now. But meanwhile, sit back and hear all about my friend, Mimi, who is the most delightful and effervescent pro-ageing 72 year old I know! 

(By the way, bonus points for identifying the band for each of the three songs disguised as section titles below….drop your answers in the post comments.)

pro-ageing

"Girls Just Want To Have Fun"

Mimi is part of an exclusive demographic group on IG: users 65 and over who are just 2.1% of all IG users! Millennials and Gen Zs comprise the majority of IG’s audience.  

So what prompted her to join 4 years ago? She’s a classic extrovert: when she doesn’t have something going on with someone else, she ain’t happy. The term, FOMO, came to mind while we chatted last week—and then she herself confessed that’s one of her driving forces! Having too much time on her hands makes her restless. Such a Doer, this one.

Yet when the pandemic reared up in 2020, Mimi reacted with an abundance of caution. She retired from a long and successful career as a hair stylist in the Orlando, FL area. Then she stepped back from her church’s social activities, as well. It wasn’t a planned change, yet it was time for a change. Time for different energy.

That’s when IG became her new community. As she sees it, it was truly her savior. 

IG reaches across the world and connects likeminded people who are compatible for me. It’s the new pen pal and that is golden!

Mimi’s joyous demeanor makes chatting with her effortless. Laughter is one of the love languages she speaks fluently. She also punctuates her posts and DMs with emojis. One can’t help but relax and smile in her presence, no matter what concerns might be swirling inside. She just radiates happy!

And while she believes herself to be wantonly niche-less on the ‘gram, (I’m an old hippie at heart) Mimi tends to feature the following topics:

  • fashion (former model married to a former photographer)
  • yoga and tai chi (focused on staying limber)
  • books (delves into a myriad of topics that make you think)
  • lipstick (bold red, please!)

But wait, there’s more!

over 70 and rocking it

"Born This Way"

Now you may be thinking Mimi rarely sits still. But it all depends if she’s nourishing her body or her mind. She’s a voracious life-long learner, taking advantage of free online courses. One day, it might be a Harvard class; another day, it’s a YouTube tutorial. Or the Gaia channel.

What doesn’t air in her living room is network TV. 15 years ago, a bet with one of her daughters continues to this day with banning that particular media. It’s all part of her pro-ageing strategy to carefully cultivate what gets the privilege of her focus in her 600 square foot condo.

Yes, you read that right! When Mimi and John got married in 2011, they realized how little space they truly utilized in their large townhouse. She promptly got rid of 98% of her stuff in one month— whoa! —and just like that, they moved into their present sweet abode.

While her friends thought she lost her mind, Mimi said, 

Best decision I ever made! More freedom, less stress! 

She’s definitely not one to brood or agonize over her next steps. If something makes sense, done and next! Which is another pro-ageing characteristic: Mimi is not afraid of change. In her mind, it’s how life works.

Downsizing allowed the two of them to pursue more of their shared and individual passions. In particular, they enjoy exploring the outdoors together, camera in hand. Her Instagram account is chockfull of their little adventures.

pro ageing

"Talkin' Bout My Gen-er-a-tion"

While I am enamored with Mimi’s joie de vivre, I can’t help but wonder if her free wheeling outlook makes her an outlier for her age group. She does not disagree.

Mimi was born at the tail end of the Silent Generation. Her parents endured World War II and the Great Depression so their household like so many others was very traditional. Children of this era were expected to be seen and not heard. To not put themselves first or front and center. 

In her mind, this led to pervasive pettiness and excessive competition. Work hard and be the best—but don’t flaunt it. Mimi wistfully remarks, 

You’d be glad for your friend’s success but you wouldn’t say much about it. Maybe you’d say something behind her back. There was no lifting up of each other like what you’re doing now.

So how did Mimi break rank from that repressive atmosphere? How did she embrace her self-described “inner troublemaker” and put herself out there on the ‘gram? And unapologetically pursue what makes her happy?

It all started with John and I working the typical photography/videography sessions, like weddings. He also did occasional shoots with me posing outdoors, by graffiti. People started saying we should do that on Instagram! I had to work through the emotions. Finally I thought, screw it! If I get to be 85, I can’t afford to base myself on what others think of me.

What’s her friends’ reaction to her social media presence?

I’m sure some think, ‘What the Hell’s she doing? Then down the road, ‘How did she do it?’

And now? What’s her aim on IG?

To give courage to my age group and forgiveness. 

Mimi explains that everyone was caught up in the post-war mindset. Not only was there no such thing as self-care (that’s selfish), but people really lived in a fear-based environment. No one was to rock the boat or break the rules.

I’m truly happy our Little Troublemaker broke out of the mold and freely showcases her dynamic pro-ageing activities—keep it coming, Mimi!

pro age

"Don't Fear The Reaper"

So I had to ask about death. I’m thinking about it a little more, now that I have fewer years ahead than behind. I wondered where Mimi’s mind was at, since she’s further down the road.

She describes the Warrior pose as a metaphor for her 70s: her right leg is bent with her right arm extended forward, reaching for her Future. She is looking backwards over her left arm extended to her Past. Her position is neutral. 

The 70s are a place to make peace with your past. This is the beginning of the ‘Big Wind Up’ as your age group is starting to check out. I suppose people my age don’t fear death but really hope for a dignified exit.

For both Mimi and John, it’s been a beautiful ride on this fabulous planet. And even though her daughters are in their mid 30s, independent and “off and running”, Mimi still feels the tug in her heart to be around as long as possible so she can take care of them and the grandkids. 

Yet interestingly, she has witnessed a sharp divide between how men and women her age approach their mortality. Remember, she was a successful hair stylist for many years.

When you’ve cut someone’s hair for 20 years, you get really personal. And the men tell me they can avoid thinking or dealing with stuff until about 65. Then all the ‘shoulda-coulda’s come to roost when they lay their heads on their pillows at night! Women process more emotionally on their own and with their friends.

And for this Pro-Ager? How is she feeling about “checking out”, as she puts it?

It’s not death that bothers me—but the process is the rub. I know there’s a transition of sorts between life and death, from what my mother and grandmother said they could see on their deathbed. No one else could see what they saw.

But for me, it’s feeling like a veil. A soft, light veil descending.

And then this reminds Mimi of one of her favorite poems. In turn, it confirms how engaged my friend is with living fully in each and every moment—which is my definition of the ultimate pro-ageing attitude.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep! —Rumi

shift your stories

The Wrap on Pro Ageing with Mimi

Yes, I’m including this image: a shameless plug of Mimi endorsing my book —such a discriminately literate soul, hehe!

But back to Mimi, while she’s still in an introspective mood. What’s her pro-ageing take for living life fully over 50?

Our 50s are a call to action. Time to lay the ego crap down. Target dates for retirement loom.

Our 60s are a really great decade. We can get a lot done, get focused, and calm down. We want to have nutrition, alcohol, drugs and exercise in order by now or it gets worse.

Our 70s, the picture of approaching death becomes crystal clear. I am beginning to see the fruition of bad choices with so many of my friends. Sad.

Yet even those who have taken excellent care of themselves may have their ‘check engine lights’ come on. But so far, so good for me! I am very, very careful with what I digest with my eyes, ears and mouth.

Isn’t Mimi a “walkin’-on-sunshine” soul?!

Your turn!

  • What’s your take on Mimi’s pro-ageing attitude?
  • Who are the 3 bands for the song titles above?
  • Drop your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!
listen

Listen: Be Known As A Great Conversationalist By Saying Less

“The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”—Ralph Nichols

Shaking his head, David grimaced as they cruised past a pan handler at the traffic light near the end of the highway exit ramp. “What is with these people? Why doesn’t he just get a job? Everyone is hiring these days!”

Nina glanced over as she tensely replied, “I always give a few dollars. How do you know what their situation is?”

“I know our tax dollars fund lots of agencies who can help, Nina!” David retorted. “How do I know this guy isn’t just scamming us?”

“I really don’t like when you assume the worst about people!” With each word, Nina’s voice got higher and tighter. “Would it hurt us to give a little? We never really know their situation, do we?”

David rolls his eyes and wonders how Nina can be so naive.

Nina sighs and questions how David can be so unsympathetic.

Impasse alert!

I’m not gonna say who’s wrong … but what if our process is?

Have you ever had a conversation like this that just goes South? I know I’ve had more than I care to remember!

We don’t see each other’s point of view because we are deeply entrenched in our own. Even a compromise can feel dissatisfying for both. There’s a whole lot of eye rolling and sighing going on everywhere, don’t you think?

And other times, you’re not even focused on the same issue. There’s back and forth sparring as you each insist on what the “real” point is. You know, the old “it’s not me, it’s YOU that doesn’t get it” clash.

It’s so distressing because we all want to be heard and understood.

Yet we actually can converse peaceably, even when we don’t agree … because 

“It’s not about being right. It’s about getting it right.” — Elizabeth Spelke

3 Listening Tips

  1. Start with recognizing an impasse is forming

Certain things trigger each of us. And then we automatically revert to a defensive position. We don’t budge. We are consumed with the feelings that descend and the words we reflexively utter reflect this unexamined state of mind.

So when someone insists they are right … when their body braces and their voice rises … when they adamantly repeat their take on things— these are clues!

Stern body language and high emotion make for a toxic combination.

Time to back off.

Equally important: pay attention when these clues describe us!

Unless we’re in a dire situation requiring action, is it really worth escalating as we go round and round? Is anyone really listening to the other? Does anyone really relish that? What does that accomplish?

   2. Next, gather more context

Adopt an attitude of curiosity. Are we sure we grasp what the other person is saying? Where is it coming from? What has been their experience? What additional intel would help us better understand their position?

Ask them to tell us more. “That’s interesting. Why do you think/feel/say that?”

Then—let’s stop talking. Start listening.

An open mind is comfortable with inviting a different perspective into a conversation.

   3. Now, end with smile

This is the moment to let it go! If we didn’t come to an agreement, that’s fine. If there were mutual questions that enabled both of us to expound on our positions, ponder that.

Our final words? “Thanks for sharing.” or “I never thought/felt about it that way.”

And now? (brace yourself)

Let them have the last word (I know, I know, argh!). But consider this: it’s actually a power move on our part.

A well-time pause can speak volumes

Wow, what just happened here?

By paying attention to emotional and physical cues, we step back timely and focus on how they see things. When others are wrapped up in their own point of view, they are not poised to entertain ours—yet. Now politely give them the platform to provide their rationale thoughts (or irrational feelings). Whether we agree or not, let’s thank them for sharing. Let’s indicate they’ve given us something to ponder. And then? Let’s ponder it! That’s how we learn!

And now, imagine if David and Nina had followed this suggested 3-step process. Perhaps their conversation could have ended like this instead:

David winked at Nina and marveled at what a wonderful listener she was!

Nina smiled lovingly at David and thought, “What an idiot he is!” NO, scratch that! She thought, “David always shares ideas that I hadn’t considered before!”

Hey, I’m just being realistic that we may still agree to disagree! But why fan the flame of division? 

Sometimes things are better left unsaid, no?

After all, being more gentle with each other recognizes that

“We’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming” —Bob Goff

listen

The Wrap on How to Listen

As Dr. Joyce Brothers says, “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”

Who doesn’t feel the world can be an incredibly noisy place? Particularly when it comes to social media, everyone is seeking attention. Hardly anyone seems to be listening … to be available to others. Maybe this is one of the reasons we find social media to be so exhausting.

And divisiveness only gets deeper when no one takes the time to listen to the other side. Yes, it can feel painful to hear a view that may be radically different from our own. But when we pay full attention, we can discern non-verbal clues about what seems to be important to someone else. It may very well be a shared value. But we won’t know unless we truly listen.

Multitasking is often the culprit when we aren’t fully present. Circle back here for a reminder to look up from your screen!

Or listen here for a powerful Tedx talk on listening!

What do you think? I'm listening!

Interior Design

Interior Design: Taking Center Stage In A Fab Midlife Pivot

“The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them” —David Hicks

Meet my friend, Linda Holt, interior design consultant and smart phone photography instructor extraordinaire! Based in Boston, Linda is the second in a new series spotlighting Women Over 50 crafting a midlife chapter that brings them joy.

When your timeline opens up for something different, what will you choose? Social media relentlessly serves up unrealistic images of the “perfect” midlife chapter. Which creates anxiety, stress, and unrealistic pressure for what we “should” do—and guilt when we don’t. Who needs that?!

So the purpose of my series is to share Midlife Stories of real women pursuing a variety of personal interests. These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms, unapologetically and contentedly.  They’re doing what they consider perfect for them…not what someone else tells them. Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

By the way, there’s a link at the end if you missed the kickoff post with Katherine, The 5 Kilo Traveller. But for now, settle in for a delightful introduction to Linda who forged her own path with what lights her up: helping people create a fabulous home space that supports their true lifestyle and individual taste. 

about linda holt
"Design is a journey of discovery" —Billy Baldwin

From Marine Biology to Interior Design

How Her Journey Started

Yes, you read that right! Even as a child, Linda loved rearranging her bedroom furniture. Growing up, she eagerly delved into anything to do with decorating a home. Then she’d head outside and use her Kodak Instamatic camera to capture vignettes of her beloved dogs. Interior design school was an ideal choice for her continuing education.

However, her dad had very traditional thoughts. Linda was told to pick one of three “practical” fields: science, business, or education. In his exact words which she remembers to this day, “We’re not sending you to college so you can learn how to pick out pillows for other people.”

Moreover, she had multiple colleges vying for her enrollment. Yet even there, he selected the one he felt offered the best chance for her to marry a rich husband (remember, this was 40+ years ago). Linda was good in science—hence, marine biology.

But 3 years into a lab job, it wasn’t what made her heart sing. She’d need a Master’s degree to advance into a more challenging and lucrative position. And then one day on the commute home, she looked up and saw an advertisement above the bus seat across from her: “You, too, can become a photographer!” Linda believed it was a sign … and so she did!

Shifting Into Photography

The photography school tuition was $11,000 which sounds reasonable in today’s dollars. But in an era when $6/hour was the minimum wage, it took working three years in various part-time positions to pay for full-time classes. 

Fortunately, her patience and determination paid off: Linda enjoyed a 25-year career as a professional photographer. She had her own studio in Boston, specializing in headshots and portfolios for actors and models. Yet even though she found photography rewarding, interior design remained her top passion.

“I spent my weekends wandering through flea markets or antique stores, making window treatments, trying out a new wall color, or painting a dated piece of furniture. My husband and two sons never knew what room was going to get torn apart next.”

It was the real possibility of undergoing spinal surgery due to the toll of lifting and toting heavy photography equipment that signaled the end of this career chapter and the start of the next: her beloved interior design!

interior design
"The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are" —Carl Jung

An Award Winning Interior Designer

Linda and I connected on IG in 2019, thanks our mutual love of all things home beautiful. Her photos relay a story that consistently draws your eyes in. And her videos and captions exude calm authority about industry trends. 

So when I interviewed her last week, I was floored to learn that she did not officially open Linda Holt Creative until 2011! When I asked her how she broke into a competitive business, she replied, 

“Baby steps! I joined a business networking group. I teamed up with a realtor from that group and provided home staging for his listings. This led to another realtor asking for my help. And then one of her clients wanted my design services for a new home. From there, my business grew, thanks to word of mouth referrals.”

Moreover, Linda never said no to any invitations to speak at webinars or to consult in small gatherings. So when she was asked to speak live at a Design Influencers Conference, she knew this would be her watershed moment.

How does one prepare to address 350 strangers when you have a “crippling, life-long phobia” for public speaking?

Practice, practice, practice! Linda not only memorized her speech. She also spent countless hours reviewing self-help YT videos and analyzing her own recorded dry runs. Nine months later, she delivered her speech and received a standing ovation! 

In fact, here’s what also happened:

“I can honestly say that talk propelled me to where I am today. I was nervous walking onto stage but I took three deep breaths and delivered my speech. Afterwards, someone came up and asked me to talk at another event. And then another invitation arrived. All of these opportunities snowballed and I can trace it back to this one event. It’s probably the proudest thing I mastered in my life!”

However, Linda has many other accomplishments to be proud of: she has earned a very long list of industry awards and client accolades. Houzz, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful … she’s been recognized by the best!

Yet Linda is not one to relentlessly broadcast her talents. (I actually had to go to her website to discover her industry gold stars!). Self-promotion makes her cringe but as an essential part of a business, she continues to speak about her customer-centric approach: 

“Not only do I save my clients from making costly mistakes, but I empower them to create the homes of their dreams, not mine.”
interior design
"Creativity takes courage" —Henri Matisse

A Slight Pivot In Her Journey

The latest shift with Linda Holt Creative occurred in 2019. While Linda thoroughly enjoyed helping her clients create a home that suits their lifestyle, she became weary of things going wrong in the process that were not her fault. There are many players involved, i.e., furniture manufacturers, installers, construction crew, etc. Yet her deep commitment to her clients’ satisfaction sometimes led to Linda bearing the fallout when other project facets outside her control went South. 

Then she had the idea to refine her business model from full service into a consulting service. It really makes sense when you think about all the inspirational resources homeowners can now access, such as HGTV, Pinterest, and Houzz.

Most people already have a design vision. They are capable of hiring trades and buying products. But what they can really use is someone with the interior design expertise and sourcing connections to bring it all to life. So enter in the ability for the homeowner to obtain professional guidance and recommended resources. Then Linda exits and the homeowner carries on!

Whether virtual or in person, the consulting approach has really resonated with all her clientele. It also worked beautifully for Linda’s peace of mind, particularly when the pandemic hit: supply chain snags were not her problem!

The other shift was a dive into creating smartphone courses for fellow interior designers. After casually and regularly sharing tips for better images, she followed through on their clamor for formal instruction.

While her online courses are geared for her colleagues, you can always catch her “Two Tip Tuesday” live IG videos when you follow her. How impressive that she’s continuing to speak live, when once upon a time, she would’ve blushed if someone in the grocery store stopped her to ask a question!

Linda has clearly come into her own when she pivoted professionally into what sets her creativity on fire. And she did it with her customary hard work, laser focus, and quiet determination. 

"Don't shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like!" —David Allen Harvey

The Wrap on an Interior Design Journey

Linda’s own words really capture how she created her Midlife Chapter, when she was a Finalist in Design Hounds 2021 The Change Makers awards:

11 years ago I started my decorating business. For the first few years, I was still shooting headshots a couple days a week because I was too scared…to make a commitment to a totally different career. I lacked self-confidence, felt like a fraud and was embarrassed to tell my friends…I was so worried what everyone would say. It’s taken 10 years of coaching, mindset work, and many ‘life is short’ wakeup calls, but…all my internal struggles and consistent ‘stepping out of my comfort zone’ paid off. If you had told me 11 years ago this [award] would happen, I would have believed it as much as if you told me I would be living on Mars in 2021 or working as a brain surgeon! …To be in the company of the other winners is truly humbling.”

Here’s how to connect with my talented friend, Linda Holt:

I’m certain you’ll enjoy Linda’s warm, welcoming & lighthearted spirit! Be certain to stop and admire her deft interior designs displayed in her website portfolio.

Who knows, perhaps she can pull together your vision for your next renovation or home purchase. And don’t forget: she’s got the smart phone photography tips you can use when sharing your refreshed home space with family and friends!

—image montages were created on Canva, using photos from Linda Holt Creative

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Catch up on the Midlife Stories series which debuted with  Katherine, The 5 Kilo Traveller.

Do you dream of shifting into your own new adventure? Head here for 5 Ways To Harness Your Midlife Transition.

What’s happening in your Midlife Chapter? Share a little about your journey with a comment below…and thanks for stopping by!

Stay tuned for another Woman Over 50 feature next month!

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Ageing

Ageing In The City | A New Season But What’s Changed?

And Just Like That...

"Maybe you have to let go of who you were in order to become who you will be"— Carrie Bradshaw

Amid sobering current events unfolding around the world, humor me. Let’s take a break as I delve deep to uncover ageing revelations within a series that teeters between superficial and soulful.

Sex & The City made its HBO debut in 1998. It chronicled the dating adventures of four single career women taking on the privileged social scene of The Big Apple with steely determination.

Yet swirling beneath the cutting-edge fashion were relatable dreams, insecurities, and challenges that all women have as they search for love and acceptance. Above all, there was a constant spotlight on valuing the power and security of female friendships.

ageing
It was always Happy Hour somewhere, with Samantha!

I remember never missing an episode when the first season aired. I was also in my 30’s, but that was the only commonality. I lived in the Midwest suburbs, juggling a full-time career with chasing an active toddler. There was no late night clubbing in spiked Manolos and satin slip dresses. Nor did I regularly sip on Cosmos during Happy Hours, chattering about current boyfriends or new restaurant openings.

“I don’t believe in the Republican party or the Democratic party. I just believe in parties.” —Samantha Jones

Now, don’t misunderstand: I wasn’t unhappy with my life. But who doesn’t seek a little change of scenery every now and then? The S&TC sparkling repartee, the full social calendars, and the endless appearance of intriguing new men satisfied my yearning for a little escapism.

ageing
Charlotte, the Romantic, ISO the perfect man!

And for those who also tuned in eagerly, who didn’t ponder endlessly if they were more like Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte? In their own unique ways, each was independent and smart, yet tenderly vulnerable. Sometimes even comical.

“I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted! Where is he?” — Charlotte York

Yet consider this:

  • Each was in search of her Best Self, on her own terms
  • Each waffled between confidence and uncertainty
  • Each had a distinctive style
  • Each was on a journey to evolve

In a way, there was a little bit of each of us in each of them.

ageing
Old York or New York?

After an 18-year hiatus, the series resumed last year with And Just Like That. The series continues to dish up witty lines and feature beautiful people inhabiting penthouse pads or Brooklyn brownstones. It’s an affluent slice of life most of us don’t experience.

Now the ladies are navigating their 50’s and I was curious to learn what had changed with the ageing of the Fab Four?

  • What emotional baggage was shed?
  • What new paths were they forging?
  • What visible signs of aging would be present?
  • What frivolous footwear would middle-aged Carrie strut in?

While I don’t want to present spoiler alerts, I’ll confirm that the fashion show continues, along with the women’s nonchalant acceptance of their privileged status. But there are definitely some curve balls pitched for three of the four friends (Samantha is not part of the cast).

I was disappointed with the fatuous, slap-stick lines about ageing sprinkled liberally throughout. And the show’s heavy-handed inclusion of LGBTQ and POC characters felt contrived and calculated. Whatever was deemed essential for a PC cast or script—that was stuffed in there.

Regardless, this series was never about a deep dive into the challenges and issues unique to women. It was about skimming these topics in a superficial manner so we could focus on the eye candy and effortless banter. And they demonstrated how good friends keep us centered and moving forward.

Carrie nailed it with this statement:

“No matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never go through it without your friends.” — Carrie Bradshaw

Who can argue with that?

The Wrap with Mary V

The Wrap on Ageing in The City

While ageing may not be realistically  (dare I say respectably) represented in the new series, it does deliver on plenty of frothy fashion, true to form.

I welcome the new cast lineup which is studded with diversity—yet it feels rather forced. Reminds me of how the last season of ER ended with a bang, literally: one after another of some of the most improbable hookups!

Female friendship continues as the enduring theme. Yet have you noticed that the ladies only gather when Carrie is present? Without her in the mix, you start to wonder exactly what the ladies have in common, other than her.

For a sneak peek (if you haven’t watched it yet) check out the trailer. 

A short read on my own midlife search for female friendship, is over here.

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Your turn!

  • Did you watch “And Just Like That…”? What did you think? Yay or Nay? 
  • What’s your take on how the series represented ageing?
  • Are you not a S&TC fan? Why is that?
  • How have your female friendships changed in midlife? Have they? Why do you think?

Drop your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!

new midlife friends

Midlife Adventures With Making New Friends

This is a 6-minute article I recently published on a platform called Medium. It’s an amazing space for writers to write. The audience is comprised of said writers and also non-writers who love to read. Enjoy!

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What I learned

When I reflect on my last five decades, I’m not really a hermit. I’ve had a lot of female acquaintances but usually just one Bestie to do things with when I actually leave the home.

Now I know this is not unusual. But when social media shows women constantly hanging in squads, doing things with girlfriends they’ve known for years? Or easily bonding with women they meet in everyday situations? I sometimes feel like quite the outlier.

  • Three of them are Pretty Good: we easily pick up wherever we left off, the last time we chatted. They are invite-to-the-house worthy.
  • The last three are Solid Situationals: we don’t often talk, but when we do, it’s genuine.
New Midlife Friends

Your Turn!

What’s your female friendship situation at the midlife marker?

  • Have you also relocated and needed to start over like me?
  • Have your strongest friendships remained intact?
  • Have you stayed in the same location but also had a shift with who you hang with? What caused that?

Drop a comment below. I’d love to hear! 

And thanks for stopping by!

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