Tag Archives: change

Summer Changes, Summer Chances

After a long, cold winter, I feel a bit like I’m coming out of hibernation. It’s time to get moving and doing. A friend is leaving New York City in August and has a bucket list of New York memories she wants to create before she goes. As I looked at her list, it got me thinking about what I wanted for myself this summer.And what chances I wanted to take.

I have my own agenda of places to go and people to see and kicked off the celebration of warmth and light with a conference in Orlando that felt like a family reunion.

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Since we were staying in a Disney hotel, we had a number of interesting guest appearances. I used a free morning to pop over to Universal to commune with the folks at Hogsworth. Had a great time and can now check that off my list. My advice: walk around, admire everything, stay off the rides! (I spent most of the time with my eyes closed, praying that my glasses wouldn’t fly off.)

At the conference, I focused on renewing and strengthening friendships – less content, more collaboration – and fun.

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We’re moving forward with some wonderful collaborations this year and will be connecting virtually until we are together again next May.

The Clearwater Festival was another opportunity for celebration and reunions. In the face of so many sad and terrible examples of hatred in the world, the message on Pete Seeger’s banjo – “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” – rang loud and clear in the faces and voices gathered on a peaceful weekend. Saturday was a flashback to Woodstock 1 for some of us – music despite torrential rain. Sunday was sunny and delightful, a time for deep conversations and planning along the bank of the Hudson.

My promise to myself for this summer is to have an adventure a week, large or small. I will stretch my muscles and my mind. I wi explore my city and myself, renew old friendships and create new ones, write, learn, laugh and dance like no one is watching.

Both Sides Now (Of Your Brain, That Is)

Many of us enter a new year with all kinds of energy and all sorts of plans for personal development, improvement, expansion, change. By the time February looms, many of us have forgotten those plans.

My approach to resolutions and plans, most of the time, has been more logical and analytic that creative and intuitive. I’ve made lists and plans and this year even experimented with (uhg!) spread sheets. I’ve concluded already that another approach is called for. Logic and creativity. I’m revisiting my overarching vision for this phase of my life and revising my vision statement, then taking it a step further and painting it. I’m not creating a vision board, although I may do that for my goals. I’m creating something completely abstract.

I expect this to help my creative side kick in as I move forward. I also expect my painting to help me create richer, more meaningful goals. Then I’ll switch to logic – subgoals, action steps, potential obstacles and steps to eliminate those obstacles. At that point, those spreadsheets will take on more meaning.

This will be a shared experiment. Karen Friedland and I are using this technique in a workshop in February. It’s on the events page here. Our next step will be to repeat this in a virtual environment, so if you want to come play with us and can’t make it to Brooklyn, stay tuned for updates – both about how the experiment is progressing and how you can join.

Are You Open to Synchronicity?

I had an interview for 50 Over 50 with the always-interesting author and consultant Shoya Zichy this morning and she reminded me of the importance of synchronicity in creating an interesting life.

The following comes from Wickipedia’s discussion of synchronicity:

One of Jung’s favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”.[12][13]
‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first–‘
‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’
‘–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’
‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

What does this have to do with synchronicity? For me, synchronicity is all about being open to all kinds of things. It’s about looking at the world a little differently. It’s about expecting good things to happen – a parking space opening up, meeting someone who leads you to your next job or life partner or passion.

How many ways can you put the details of your life together in a different pattern? How many different groupings are there for your talents? Are you looking for new experiences? Open doors to walk through?

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Speaking to so many women who have been open to possibilities has been a joy. Helping others along this path is my passion.

Why Not?

As I begin to review the 34 interviews I’ve completed for my book, 50 over 50, I’m seeing what these incredible women have in common. All of them are willing to try new things. They are curious. They enjoy a good adventure.

And they know how to recover from setbacks. One woman had a terrible attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro for her 40th birthday. So she tried again at 50 – and succeeded. Several others were forced out of jobs, only to find something better.

But what struck me about all of them is that, when presented with new possibilities, they all said, “Why not?” As one woman put it, “if I see an open door and it looks reasonable, I walk through it.”

What do you do when presented with a new option? It’s so easy to over-think the situation. It’s so easy to find myriad reasons to not do something. It’s so easy to come up with dozens of reasons to postpone a decision or convince yourself it will never work. Why not?

Saying “why not?” doesn’t have to be as big a challenge as climbing a mountain. One woman who spent many years doing data entry decided to return to work after a lengthy absence. She saw an opening for a home health aide. She had cared for her mother, but had no paid experience in home care. That didn’t stop her. She said, “why not?” and never looked back. She loves her new career and her clients adore her.

Another women decided she needed to step back and enjoy life more. She said “why not?” to the opportunity to move to Florida and live on her boat. She now has a captain’s license and just might open a sailing school.

A third said “why not?” when her husband suggested that their life would be enriched by owning a few alpaca. She’s now one of the top breeders in the country and is starting to sell alpaca products as well.

Why? is a good question too. I’ll save that for another day. For now, start with “why not?” Say it with a little shrug. Envision yourself having already made the choice to try whatever it is.

Why not?

Midlife – At the Cusp? A Few Hints.

What happens when, at mid-life, you wake up feeling that there must be something more? Anne’s story provides some clues. Anne went from jet mechanic in the military to legal secretary to sales professional to sales management back to sales professional. In her last career, she was doing recycling – “which is pretty much, you know, what kind of trash can I buy? And now I’m doing technology sales.”

When she “got fed up” with technology sales and was also transitioning through menopause, she walked away from her job and detoured into recycling before moving into technology sales. She said:
“I moved into technology sales because I was ready for a change, but I don’t like it. I find that these kids – and they are – just kids – they’re half my age and they just don’t get it I was taught that when you’re at a job you run it for profit and you follow business ethics and you don’t cut corners. You don’t cut throats, you respect one another. There’s two type of people – there’s the kind – you know, when you walk into a furniture store and they’re all can I help you, can I help you and then there’s the kind of sales person who wants to build a relationship and develop that relationship. These kids don’t get relationship sales. They have this what’s in it for me mentality and I just got fed up with the whole environment. I was just fed up with these whiny, backstabbing kids. They aren’t taught that businesses are run for profit – that you run it as if it’s your own business – they don’t have that mentality. They have a drama queen mentality.”

This might have been a great place to do some research and some reassessment. When you suddenly feel out of place, one first step is to find out more about the people surrounding you. There are excellent resources for understanding Gen X and Gen Y. Are they truly a whiny bunch or do they simply think and express themselves differently? The newest cohorts in the workplace don’t defer to authority the way older workers do. They express their ideas and opinions. They look for ways to improve processes and they move quickly. Perhaps understanding this might have helped Anne.

Reassessment should be part of every life transition. Who are you now? What do you want? Anne did this:

“It was a real journey. Yeah – I really started to look at me as me. I mean, me as a bottom-feeder. You know, I guess I really allowed myself to feel kicked down. It lasted until I decided to get back into technology sales. Which was 13 months. And I don’t know if it was brought on by menopause – I mean, I really and truly don’t what brought that on – or post-menopause.
I didn’t realize that was my next journey – my next transition, if you will. And it was a transition, because I did feel completely kicked down. I read a lot of therapy books. And start seeing a psychologist – a psychiatrist . I mean, literally, to pick myself back up. I’ve spent this whole year reading all kinds of books. I read The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for the Effective Communication in the Workplace by P.F. Perkins – she really did do a good job writing about interracial – or different groups – she writes about working with these young kids, The Last Lecture- everybody knows that was a good book, by Randy Pausch, The Secret – and then I found a really good tape called The Secret Things to God – every Sunday now I’m pretty darned religious. I don’t know that that had popped out, but now it’s back in. Keeping the Love You Find, 7 Habits of Effective People, The Power of Positive Thinking, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Giving the Love that Heals. I mean, I was really kicked down. I really, um – Your Perfect Right, which was an excellent book by Albert Nevins.”

And she found a good therapist:

“When I was growing up – and I’m a 60’s child – late 60’s , early 70’s is when I graduated, and coming from California, Haight-Ashbury – and I know that growing up I’d always heard about a generation gap. Well that’s what I feel I’m caught up in right now. It is a generation gap. And that’s what prompted me to start seeing Dr. B – was that there was such a communication gap between myself and my peers and these younger kids.”

There are great self-help books, excellent therapists, wonderful workshops and brilliant coaches all out there for you. I love Suzanne Braun Levine’s Inventing the Rest of Our Lives. A big portion of my own coaching practice involves working with women at midlife who want to sort out what’s next. As Anne says,

“Let’s just say when you’re kicked down, it’s a a journey to pick yourself back up. It really is. And it’s a lot of self-assessment. And its not so much of looking backwards. Its living in the now and what can I do to adjust to the now.”

Feeling down? Confused? Here are a few resources available to you at www.susanrmeyer.com/free-resources/:

Creating Your Goal Blueprint Part 1: Tips From a Life Architect
Having trouble creating a clear action plan? Visualizing your goals in detail? As a Life Architect, I’ve noticed that a few simple steps can change vague plans into a detailed blueprint, a clear vision of your future, and actionable plans.

Creating Your Goal Blueprint, Part 2: Tips From a Life Architect
Do you create wonderful goals, only to flounder when you try to make them a reality? As a Life Architect, I’ve noticed that this is often true – unless you’ve completed your goals blueprint. Learn how to create a plan to create sub-goals, identify potential obstacles and plan to overcome them to achieve your goals.

Making Your Support Network Work for You
Feeling overwhelmed? Alone? Stressed out? Building and maintaining a good support network will work wonders. Find out how!

Mapping Midlife – The Magic of Friendship
Lucy and Ethel; Rachel, Monica and Phoebe; Betty and Wilma. What do they all have in common? They were – are – lifelong friends. Somewhere out there almost any day you can find a rerun of these great friends supporting each other, sometimes annoying each other, but always there in the end.

Five Easy Steps to Repurpose Your Skills For a New Career
Ready for a new career? Whether you’re re-entering, moving up or moving on, knowing how to repurpose your skills can open new doors. What do you already know that you’re not showcasing?

Look around – most coaches offer free resources; bookstores and libraries are full of books to choose among.

The “secret to a successful midlife transition? Explore, learn, experiment!

Midlife Madness? Musings from the Cusp

What happens when, at mid-life, you wake up feeling that there must be something more? this is Anne’s story. She’s now 54, long-divorced with one adult daughter.

Here’s a short career short synopsis:
From jet mechanic in the military to legal secretary to sales professional to sales management back to sales professional. And there’s a huge difference between managing and being part of a team.

In her last career, she was doing recycling – “which is pretty much, you know, what kind of trash can I buy? And now I’m doing technology sales.”

I got fed up with technology sales. And all of this occurred during my menopause. I’m very serious. All started out at about age 50 – the rollercoaster ride. From a good management position to buying trash to what I’m doing now, which is technology sales.

In technology, recycling is sort of reverse logistics – it’s where I would meet with government – federal and state and I would procure obsolete electronic equipment because there’s a lot of money in electronic equipment. There’s a lot of gold and platinum – they have a value on the market – they’re a commodity. You can’t resell government equipment. You have to break it down into the raw commodities and put it back on the market. Smelt – you know, melt it down so it can be reused. Now on the business-to-business side, which I was not involved in, yes – that’s exactly right – we would broker it out. And whatever was not able to broker out they would strip down.

I moved into technology sales because I was ready for a change, but I don’t like it. I find that these kids – and they are – just kids – they’re half my age and they just don’t get it I was taught that when you’re at a job you run it for profit and you follow business ethics and you don’t cut corners. You don’t cut throats, you respect one another. There’s two type of people – there’s the kind – you know, when you walk into a furniture store and they’re all can I help you, can I help you and then there’s the kind of sales person who wants to build a relationship and develop that relationship. These kids don’t get relationship sales. They have this what’s in it for me mentality and I just got fed up with the whole environment. I was just fed up with these whiny, backstabbing kids. And that’s exactly what – they create drama. But it wasn’t just one company. It’s that – I mean, I’ve had other positions. I’ve some 40, 42, 43 – within this 7 or 8 year stretch – companies that I’ve worked with – these kids – and they are kids – they don’t have what we had. They aren’t taught that businesses are run for profit – that you run it as if it’s your own business – they don’t have that mentality. They have a drama queen mentality.
Well, there’s been a lot written that that generation does things very differently from us.
They do, and I don’t get it. I really and truly don’t get it. It’s a frustration. There is no book out there for our generation to understand their mentality.

I did the recycling thing for a little over a year. And I will share with you that it’s a little like a being a bottom-feeder in the food chain because you’re buying trash. I mean, so it’s like from silk dresses to jeans. I mean, literally skirts and the mentality changed too. I mean, it was like going from queen to the ugly one instead of ugly one to queen.
Humbling. Very humbling.

It was a real journey. Yeah – I really started to look at me as me. I mean, me as a bottom-feeder. You know, I guess I really allowed myself to feel kicked down. It lasted until I decided to get back into technology sales. Which was 13 months. And I don’t know if it was brought on by menopause – I mean, I really and truly don’t what brought that on – or post-menopause.I took the job because I was frustrated with dealing with all these kids and the company was – I mean, it wasn’t – it’s like corporate America is just loaded with these kids, and by corporate America, I wasn’t talking about the Cingulars, the Verizons, the AT&Ts, I’m talking about corporate America. I’m talking about the companies that are going after these young kids so that they can hire them for half of what you or I would get.
Sure – and I get that – but why recycling?

So I didn’t realize that was my next journey – my next transition, if you will. And it was a transition, because I did feel completely kicked down. I read a lot of therapy books. And start seeing a psychologist – a psychiatrist . I mean, literally, to pick myself back up. I’ve spent this whole year reading all kinds of books. I read The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for the Effective Communication in the Workplace by P.F. Perkins – she really did do a good job writing about interracial – or different groups – she writes about working with these young kids, The Last Lecture- everybody knows that was a good book, by Randy Pausch, The Secret – and then I found a really good tape called The Secret Things to God – every Sunday now I’m pretty darned religious. I don’t know that that had popped out, but now it’s back in. Keeping the Love You Find, 7 Habits of Effective People, The Power of Positive Thinking, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Giving the Love that Heals. I mean, I was really kicked down. I really, um – Your Perfect Right, which was an excellent book by Albert Nevins.

When I was growing up – and I’m a 60’s child – late 60’s , early 70’s is when I graduated, and coming from California, Haight-Ashbury – and I know that growing up I’d always heard about a generation gap. Well that’s what I feel I’m caught up in right now. It is a generation gap. And that’s what prompted me to start seeing Dr. B – was that there was such a communication gap between myself and my peers and these younger kids.

Let’s just say when you’re kicked down, it’s a a journey to pick yourself back up. It really is. And it’s a lot of self-assessment. And its not so much of looking backwards. Its living in the now and what can I do to adjust to the now.

I read a book called Parent, Adult, Child – and that’s what – what prompted all this. And I must have been just on my 50th birthday or thereabouts. And I picked it up at a garage sale. And I thought, what a good book. And I guess at that point it was just a turning point for me. And I guess I allowed myself to get kicked down. And you know, the job was not bad – it’s not like I was crawling in trash or anything, but I guess I felt kicked down, because I was feeling – I knew it was trash. It was all about association, if that makes any sense to you. And I mean seriously, if you saw my wardrobe – all silk dresses, and some Cappeli’s – I mean, I’ve got some very nice attire here – to go down to buying trash. And I don’t know if it was the hot flashes, the lack of sleep, I mean, I don’t know if it was the whole pre-menopausal that led me to be fed up with corporate America. I don’t know if it was the body changing that led to this escalation. And I do sometimes think about that. And I wonder if there are any studies on that, because I do know that there are hormonal changes. And I opted to not take any hormones. I refuse. Including that Black Cohash. 100 years ago, women didn’t do anything, so why now? I will not – knowing that my grandmother dies of cancer, my grandfather died of cancer. Nope – I will not subject myself to that.

I think I came to terms with me. I’m finally at peace in my journey of life. I’m finally at the level now that I realize that everything is OK. There’s only so much – you know, you and take on jobs and go to work and come home so unfulfilled or you can just say the hell with it. And I did. When I got out of the recycling I didn’t work for three months. I spent a good month and a half not looking for work – just looking at who am I? And journaling who am I? Where do I want to be in life? What are my goals? And it wasn’t work related goals. You know – do I want to have my house paid? Do I want to take trips? Do I want to take life a little easier now? Now that my child is grown and out of the house. Do I even want to own a house any more? And those are the things I’ve evaluating right now and assessing as far as do I want to sell my home.

And do I just want to – and I’m seriously considering – do I want to just get myself a Winnebago and travel the country. I’m seriously considering it. You know, I’ve got a good 20 years left to work, according to Social Security, if we have it last. And I can pick up little odd-and-end jobs – Walmart greeter, waitress, here and there. And just not have any responsibility. I’ve had responsibility for so many years. I’m to the point in my walk of life where I wonder do I want responsibility any more, other than to myself. And owning a home is a responsibility. Or do I want to be free like I was before I got into the working world? So I don’t know why people ever contemplate whether there would be a journey, cause I’m living it right now.

But I am – because that’s where I am – at that cusp – and I think that’s what it is – a cusp of what direction do I want to go now. I’ve worked almost half my life and do I want to work hard the rest of my life to maintain the lifestyle that I have or do I just want to become free? Because I’m not married, and I have that choice.
How does that effect your going back to sales again?

My heart is not in my job. It truly is not. My heart is really weighing towards selling my home and – and getting a Winnebago and just journeying – just travelling and meeting people. You know – living in these HOA parks and just going from park site to park .site. But what keeps me from doing it are these sexual nuts that are out there these days. We didn’t hear about that growing up. We didn’t have that magnitude. And that’s what preventing me from going forward with this particular goal or journey. I’m not sure that the number of sexual predators has increased, its just in the news more.

And I agree, but what’s the volume? You know, we didn’t have the internet, so we couldn’t see how many sex offenders and my past industry was that I was hooking up ex-offenders on the release program. I was setting offenders free. And they were being GPS tracked. So it really made me aware that we’re not talking, you know, that one in every hundred thousand are criminals. So I think that being exposed to that environment was very surreal to me. And maybe that’s what prompted me to getting kicked down. Being that I was around what I was around. I don’t know – I haven’t dug that deep, I guess. All I know is when I got out of the criminal justice system I got into the trash business. That’s the bottom line. Regardless of whether I was selling or buying or whatever, those were the industries. I got out of the criminal justice business into the trash business industry. And now I’m in the school district industry.

I’m selling software to school districts. I’ve always worked selling to state and federal agencies. I’ve always been in sales. But I’m really weighing this HOA camping business. Winnebago – that’s the deal. And I wish I could find another 50+ year old who would like to take that journey with me and just shrug responsibility other than to ourselves.
I’ll bet you can.

I know I’m at a turning point. And I truly believe I’m at a turning point in my life.
If I could, I would go back to school. I mean, to get a Winnebago with the price of gas being so low and sleeping in the Winnebago you know, and buying food and cooking food on gas or a charcoal grill is very cheap to live. You know, you can live on $15 a day. So it can extend out for a long, long time. To go to school, you have to have thousands of dollars or take out thousands of dollars of loans. And at my age the thought of having $20,000 or $30,000 in notes in front of me – it’s just, no, I don’t want that burden. Ten more years and I can go to college free. Ten more years, but I think they should change that rule and make it in the 50’s. You know how they talk about men having that mid-years crisis and men have it in their late 30’s, early 40’s? Well I really believe that women go through it in their 50’s.

I truly believe it and my friends who are in their 50’s are going through the same kind of change that I am and its an unexplainable change. And its not a physical change. Its more of a whole new mental playing field. Its seeing life from a whole different perspective, a whole different vision.

Turning a Bad Habit Good

Have you ever left home to do one simple thing and return exhausted five or six hours later? For a long time, this was my story. I had a close friend living down the hall and we regularly went grocery shopping and did other errands together. As we headed out to drop off the laundry, one of us would mention that we were near the Italian grocery store, so maybe we could just squeeze that in … and the bakery … and that great discount store … and … and … and. The simplest trip became an excursion. On the way to the Greenmarket, why don’t we stop at the coffee store – and maybe sit down for a cup of something while we’re there. And maybe we can look at that sound system. And the dress I need for the wedding. And stop at the Strand to see what great books are on sale, etc. etc.

It finally occurred to me that this might be a bad habit. It wasn’t serving either one of us well to hold the fantasy that we were doing only one thing. Or that we’d be home in an hour. We left a wake of undone chores and cranky people and usually came home to tired to do anything else.

We learned to set limits. And to stick to them. We set time limits that allowed for some flexibility in terms of the number of activities we might add to the schedule. We set a limit on the number of things we would do and committed to holding ourselves to it. It worked. We had enough flexibility to enjoy ourselves and allow for surprises and reasonable boundaries to keep the rest of our lives on schedule.

Well, recently, I’ve been thinking about an issue that needs resolving. I really enjoy a clean, neat apartment. I hate carving out huge chunks of time for cleaning. And I’m not ready to hire someone to clean for me. Inconvenient. Involves a lot of pre-cleaning. (Yes, you know what I mean.)

I’m recycling my “bad” habit of adding things on to a simple journey. Since coaching and writing are both sedentary occupations, I’m working hard at getting up out of the chair at least every two hours so I don’t turn into a pillar of stone. Why not make that a productive time? Why not add a little housekeeping to each walk through the apartment? So, I’m back to adopting the add on routine. Now, whenever I get up, I find one thing that needs to be returned to it’s proper home or one thing that can be dusted or cleaned or recycled. Instead of spending half a day cleaning, I’m spending a manageable 30 minutes to an hour a day without even noticing it.

Hey, it’s working! I don’t notice the time invested in this way and the place is looking good. It’s almost better than magic elves coming in the middle of the night. I’m going to apply it to work projects I dislike as well.

Are You Dancing at the Shame Prom?

Twenty seven courageous women write about their dance in the moving compilation of personal stories that is Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small. Some of the stories made me laugh; some made me cry. All of them moved me.

How, I wondered, could some of these women have survived such abuse? Could I move on from seal abuse passed off as “God’s will?” What would me life have become if my alcoholic grandfather had escheated from verbal abuse to physical? If he had poured a jar of sauerkraut over my head? These were powerful tales of survival. Some shocked me; some made me cringe.

Other stories were much lighter. I laughed at one woman’s revelation of what happened in the sandbox. I smiled in understanding as I read about the beautiful but dumb boyfriend. Some seemed beyond my understanding. I will never truly understand what it is to be biracial, but the story reminded me of what it was like to be excluded for not being Jewish enough or Italian enough or Waspy enough. There are so many ways to not quite fit and you too are likely to find emotional connections to stories that are outside your life experience.

Sometimes, it was hard to not be a little judgmental – is that really a shameful experience, I asked myself a few times. It is in these stories, though, that I found the greatest learning. I had no problem relating to the body dysmorphia shame stories, but I had a hard time seeing frizzy/curly hair as a cause for shame. Of course, I must admit I have plenty of body issues of my own but happen to really love my hair, so that has something to do with it.

So, it was a surprise to find that the hair story was one that had a strong impact on me. Every time I have recommended this wonderful book to friends, I’ve mentioned that story. I love the author’s act of courage – jumping into a pool because she promised her daughters she would and emerging with no further though about how her hair looked. Don’t go with my oversimplification – read the whole story. Read the whole book. Share it. Buy it for your friends.

Finally, think about your own participation at the shame prom. Are you a wallflower? Are you pretending you weren’t there at all? Or are you ready to speak up, own your shame and move on? I want to be as brave as these women. What about you?

The Shining Hope Community is Changing the World – One Community at a Time

When I first met Jessica Posner, two years ago, and heard about Shining Hope for Communities, I was amazed by what the organization was accomplishing in Kibera, the biggest and worst slum in Nairobi, Kenya. I was even more amazed that this work was being done by 20-something Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede. Working together, they fulfilled Kennedy’s dream of creating a school for girls.

Fast forward two short years. Kennedy has graduated from Wesleyan University. He and Jessica have married. The first tuition-free school for girls is just one project provided by this organization that provides a wide range of services to the Kibera community, including the Johanna Justin-Jinich Community Clinic, the Shining Hope Community Center that provides women’s empowerment programs, youth programs, adult education and job training, and library – and more. They have also created a toilet access program, a clean water program and gardens.

Shining Hope is saving lives. Jessica and Kennedy have created a sustainable model for helping people at a local level in ways that work for their community. In 2010, Jessica was named America’s Top World-Changer 25 and Under.

Jessica and Kennedy Odede are amazing people – modest and driven to change the world one community at a time. Can you imagine where they will be ten years from now? How this model will grow and spread to other slums? How many lives are not only saved but expanded through their work?

I told Jessica that I want to be her when I grow up. I can’t go back to change the course of my 20-something self, but I can spread the word about Shining Hope. And I can contribute to their work. Here’s a link if you would like to contribute too.

WoW – Reclaim Your Body: Follow Elaine Morales from Cellar to Stage

Like so many work-at-home Moms, Elaine took care of her business, her husband, her kids – but not herself. She loved everything about her life except how she felt and what she saw when she looked in the mirror. The effects of spending hours in sloppy sweats in her basement office led to “this kind of malaise … dealing with it with this long term emotional overeating and kind of closet eating sugar addiction that led me to not be happy with my body and to have tremendous moods and GI problems.”

She knew she had to change, “And so, I attacked it by buckling down with nutrition and an exercise program and deciding to make that part of my life and just getting it done.”

Now, don’t get the idea that Elaine was a natural athlete who had just temporarily stepped away from the gym. No – she had flunked gym in high school. But she was determined. And, in the process, she made an interesting discovery.

As she tells it,
“I got stronger in the gym and I started to really have the chance to get to know myself again. And to see myself in a new way and to gain an inner strength and really get to know myself. And, suddenly, it occurred to me, this is not just about my muffin top. This is about connecting to who I am, what are my values, how do I live out my values I all areas of my life and how do I challenge myself to go beyond my limits? And I – and also in taking care of myself – getting stronger and getting healthier with good nutrition – I felt like a gazillion bucks and all kinds of health problems I had cleared up. My mood improved – all kinds of wonderful, wonderful side effects, and I just thought, if I could bottle this up and sell it, I’d be a gazillionaire.”

Well, Elaine didn’t figure out how to bottle her results, but she has learned how to share them. She received my training as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program and studied dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts, including Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition at Harvard University, and Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert on emotional eating.

Oh – and along the way, Elaine became a competitive body builder. As she describes it, “I was really enjoying the changes in my body and I felt so empowered in the gym and by getting stronger. And one of my mentors said, did you ever think of competing? I loved the training. The hardest part for me was going from sweats in the basement, no makeup, married for almost 20 years, and putting myself out in public in essentially a crystal bikini, five inch stiletto heels, and drag queen makeup – getting up there on stage with barely any clothes on. That was just – that was TOTALLY out of my comfort zone.”

Elaine won’t ask you to get into full competition get-up; she will help you come to terms with your relationship with food. You can find out about her individual coaching and workshops here. You can also read more about Elaine on Motherfitness.com and Healthyblenderrecipes.com.

Why is Elaine the Woman of the Week? Because she understands that fitness and wellness begin in the mind. Because she was so excited about her self-discovery that she knew she was called to share it. And, finally, because she got the training and did the research to be of service to her clients. She knows that everything she suggests works and she can tell you exactly why!