Who Are You Calling Old Lady?

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Greetings and Salutations,

Today we're talking about ageism and archaic linguistic idiocy.

Yeah, it's about to get real.

According to Dictionary.com:

"OId Lady: An elderly woman.

Elderly

eldərlē/ 

adjective

  1. (of a person) old or aging.

    "she was elderly and silver-haired"

    synonyms: aged, old, advanced in years, aging, long in the tooth, past one's prime; 

    gray-haired, grizzled, hoary; 

    in one's dotage, decrepit, doddering, doddery, senescent; 

    informal getting on, past it, over the hill, no spring chicken

    "her elderly mother"

    old people, the aged, senior citizens;

    geriatrics, seniors;

    retired people, retirees, golden agers;

    informal oldsters, geezers"

First and foremost, who are you calling hoary, honey?

No spring chicken?

Cluck off.

Decrepit? Grizzled? Doddering? Geezer? OLDSTER?!

Seriously?

Nope. Not having it today...or tomorrow. Fairly sure that I'm not having it ever. Take that and stuff it in your toaster oven. 

Ageism is real, it's shitty, and I'm done with it. Why do we continue to cling to these archaic modes of thinking? People are living much longer, and more than that they're thriving and evolving and contributing much longer. They're retiring later, and many people aren't retiring at all. Old age is not what it used to be, and it's is changing rapidly as science continues to discover new pathways for longevity and vitality. Yet, our attitudes towards numbers on a timeline have not shifted, we're more age-phobic than ever.

Long in the tooth. Aged out. Over the hill. Past one's prime. There is inherent bias in all of these phrases and that bias trickles down into our cultural subconsciousness. Then it filters into the way in which we treat people over a certain age, and the manner in which we lump them all together and roundly dismiss them. We don't respect the elderly, we just insist that they disappear so we don't have to think about them. This starts at age 50, which is patently absurd as I've bemoaned vociferously in the past. 

We are terrified of death, and concurrently we are terrified of aging. Old people remind us of our fragility. Old women, in particular, terrify us. After all, the archetype of the wicked witch is the haggard old woman so desperate to regain her youth she'd murder children or beautiful young women for it. Youth being the prize we all covet, above wisdom, experience, insight, skill, and knowledge. All of the things we gain as we make our journey from youth to old age are meaningless when compared to youth, according to our cultural mythology. 

Age may just be a number, but people are obsessed with the numbers. They're also obsessed with telling other people how to think, act, dress, love, and live. This is particularly true for women. It is even more true for women of a certain age.

Age gracefully! Don't dare wear this after 50! Act like a lady! Act your age! You're too old for that!

The scrutiny is excruciating, and the rule making and judging relentless. 

I will not fit into your box. I will not conform to your requests. I will not accept your labels. I will not age gracefully. I will not make myself smaller to make other people comfortable. The world will have to shift, because I'm not shifting. I'll be an 'old lady' when I'm damn good and ready and not a moment sooner. I don't owe anyone an explanation or an apology for being five notches too loud, three notches too sparkly, and aging disgracefully. I will wear what I please, say what I please, think what I please, love whom I please, vote as I please, and live as I please. I will allow everyone else the breathing room to do the same. You do you, I'm going to keep doing me over here. I intend to keep being a bold, bodacious, bad ass bitch until the bitter-no scratch that-until the blissful end. If that's a problem for you, it's entirely your problem.

That's all I've got to say about that. Today. 

I made a video to go with this post, perhaps you will enjoy it. 

(If you like this post, you might like my new book Fifty and Other F-Words. I'm just sayin'.)

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Defiantly 55: Rewriting Outmoded Aging Scripts

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Hello, Gorgeous! 

When I turned 50, I was surprised to find out that I had crossed over into the dark side. According to the arbitrars of aging. I was...old. 

"What? 50? That's not old!"

"Oh, honey, 50 is old." 

"It is?! Why didn't anyone warn me I had an expiration date? Damn it, people!" 

Media, advertisers, marketers, manufacturers, and retailers ever in search of the younger demographic, are happy to drop older women like hot potatoes. Or hot flash potatoes. Or sweaty old spuds.

"Sorry, sweaty old spud, but we're keen on tastier tater tots these days."

"Tater tots? Please. They're so juvenile."

"Exactly." 

I'm sliding into 55 next month and suddenly I'm hitting a new milestone. I'm even less desirable than I was at 50, because I'm about to join the auspicious group known as 55 and older! Aw yiss! Congratulations! You made it! Woo hoo! Hello SENIOR! That's right, you can move into a 55 and older community! You get old people discounts! You are completely irrelevant to marketers! Are you a lady? You're even more irrelevant, because you don't need Viagra! We won't show ladies like you in sexy commercials with a hot young guy lounging on a bed while soft porn music plays and your old lady hair blows in the breeze of a fan. That's right, you're special like that. Nobody cares about your sex life, lady. Get a cat and some sensible shoes and exit stage left, thank you.

This is patently absurd! I don't feel old, I don't look old, and I'm not interested in 'old lady' things. I don't even know what 'old lady' things are. What are 'old lady' things? Doilies? Rubber swim caps? Toilet paper cozies? Gingham bloomers? Do they even sell those anymore?

Who decides this stuff?  

I imagine there are lots of women over 55 collectively scratching their heads. We're punk rock, independent, defiant women of substance, and that doesn't change the moment we hit some arbitrary age milestone. We're the same person at 55 that we were the day before. We are the largest demographic with the most discretionary income, and we've got YEARS left to earn it and spend it. 

Old lady my ass.

You can take that outmoded, archaic, patriarchal pile of crapadoodledoo and stuff it in a pair of gingham bloomers. This feisty feminist isn't having any of it. And hey, media, brands, marketers, advertisers...wake the hell up! 

"That sweaty old spud's got some spice in her britches."

"Yes, yes I do. Take that, tater tot." Tosses back her hot pink mane, straightens her lady pants, and sashays into her day. 

(If you like this post, and really what's not to like unless you're a tater tot, you might like my new book Fifty and Other F-Words. I'm just sayin'.)

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How to Sell and Market Your Book

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Hello, Gorgeous! (or Handsome, what have you...)

Happy Thursday, which feels like Monday. I'm not sure that I'm down with the mid-week holiday. Alas, I am not in charge of scheduling. If I were, we'd probably have a lot more holidays and four day weekends would be a thing. Or, in the case of this week, the elusive five day weekend. Can I get a what, what? 

Today I'm talking about How to Sell and Market Your Book. I get messages and emails from people all of the time asking me these questions. It usually starts with something like, "I was hoping I could pick your brain..." 

My first thought is, "Um, no. Ew. Please keep your pick away from my gray matter."

My response is usually something more like, "I wish I had concrete answers, a 12-step program for writing a book, getting it published, and marketing it successfully. I don't even have a 3-step program, or any program at all. I'm not even good at getting with the program or sticking to the program."

Years back I wrote a series on The Impatient Crafter blog called How to Write and Publish a Craft Book. This was because I got so many emails from people asking for advice it was easier to just point them to my blog. Everything is different now, and my new book Fifty and Other F-Words (affiliate link) is a non-fiction humor title. So, here's my newly created program for How to Sell and Market Your Book. The short version is this: Honestly, I don't know, but here's what worked for me.  

Step One: Be prepared. If you want to get published, have a pitch ready and a manuscript or at the very least an outline and some sample chapters. In fact, it's a good idea to have a few pitches in your pocket, you never know which one might be the right one at the right time. (This is obvious, but it's kind of important that you have a 'voice' and a strong grasp of writing basics.)

Publishing has changed. Advances are smaller. Publishers are much less open to taking risks. Like most creative endeavors, it's a crap shoot and you need to be prepared, flexible, tenacious, and resilient. If you believe in your ideas and your talent, keep pitching, some of the most successful writers in history were rejected many, many, many times before becoming successful.

My most recent book was an anomaly. I spoke with an editor at a craft industry trade show who was looking for a book on metal stamped jewelry. I just happened to have a proposal I had sold to another publisher. The advance they'd offered was so paltry, I declined their offer. So, I pitched the slightly retooled proposal to the new publisher, they reviewed it, and they loved it. 

Step Two: Always, always, always be diplomatic. People like working with nice people. 

We went back and forth about this book for months. There was no formal offer, timeline, or contract. After six months of waiting, the editor emailed and said a contract was on the way. I waited. I waited. I waited some more. Finally, several months later, I heard from the editor again. She was leaving the publisher to go back to school. They dropped the book. What?! I was deflated and upset, but I did not fire off a snarky email. The email was cc'd to her bosses, a senior editor and the Editorial Director. I typed out a brief and diplomatic reply thanking her for letting me know and suggesting that they keep me in mind for future opportunities.

Step Three: Make it easy for people to find you and your creative content. Make a lot of content, because the more you put yourself out there, the easier it is for people to find you. 

There was a link to my blog in my signature, that blog was all about being a woman over 50.  Two hours later I got an email from the senior editor and Editorial Director. They wanted to know if I'd like to talk with them about writing a humor book about being a woman over 50. WHAT?! YES! YES! YES! We chatted, we clicked, and we moved forward. I had dozens of essays already written, so it was easy for me to put a proposal together. They loved the proposal. Sales loved the concept. They purchased the book, and I got to work.

Step Four: Do your research. Why do they want your book? What do you have to offer that they can't find somewhere else? What makes you and your book worthwhile?

My first book The Impatient Beader was sold with a blind query. That means I sent a proposal to a publisher following the guidelines on their website and they purchased it. It was a craft book on jewelry making. The chance of getting a book deal out of a blind query is pretty slim, yet, as evidenced by my experience, not impossible. The timing and the approach were in tune with what the market needed at that time. I did a lot of stealth market research before I pitched, to see what was already on the market and what was missing. It's my best selling book to date. I have not made a fortune on craft books, even though three of my books were in the center of every bead aisle in every Michaels craft store in the country for three years. This leads us to contract negotiations.

Step Five: Contracts are for suckers, try not to be one.

Don't just sign the first contract you receive. Contracts are created to favor the entity presenting them. Look for royalty percentages, ask a lot of questions like: Can I have more of this and more of that? Can I retain these rights? Ask for more, because you aren't going to get it unless you ask and the worst they can do is say no. Grab a Sharpie and your resolve and get ready to ask for MORE!

There is a lot to pick through in a contract. This is why an agent is helpful. They can look through the horrid contracts publishers give to authors and get you a better deal. I have no idea how to get an agent. I hear good things about them, though. 

Step Six: Bring your fans with you!

Once you've sold the book, you need to start working on PR and marketing. Don't start this until you've signed the contracts. Once the ink is dry, let folks know you're on your way to having a published book. Start with the announcement that you sold the book. Post regular updates to maintain momentum and interest. People like to feel like they're a part of your journey! Bring your friends, fans, and followers along for the ride!

Step Seven: Make a marketing plan. 

When you have a firm publishing date confirmed, start making a master plan. Who is the demographic for your book? That will determine which social media platform will require most of your attention. My book is for women over 50, they are mostly on Facebook. There is also a contingent on Instagram. So most of my efforts have been focused there.

Think about the content you will share on the platforms. I made a book trailer, which I paid to promote on my public Facebook page, cross posted it on my YouTube Channel, and promoted across social media. You can watch it, if you're so inclined. For my book, memorizing and reciting part of an essay seemed like the best approach to give people a taste of what was inside. If your book is fiction, that may not be the best approach. If your book is a DIY book, maybe show some projects and give some tips/tricks. The Book Trailer should entice people to buy your book, so make it interesting. I'm an actress, so I appear in my trailer, if you're camera shy, maybe use images and voice over. Or maybe a book trailer isn't a good plan for your title, peek around to see what other writers in your genre are doing. Lots of people hate book trailers, but I really felt it was a good way to promote my book so I went ahead and made one. 

Step Eight: Launch your book with some BUZZ!

Fifty and Other F-Words (affiliate link) launched with interviews of seven "kick ass warrior women" over 50. It was fun to share the spotlight with a variety of fascinating women and it also allowed me to reach new people because all of these women have their own followings. Cross marketing is always a good idea. That's how you build a tribe. 

If you have an email list, send out newsletters! Send one out when you sign your contract, a couple of updates as you work towards publishing date, a reminder right before the book publishes, and a book launch email! 

Step Nine: Have a Book Launch Party and make it social media friendly!

My book launch party on the date of publication was at Club Cumming in NYC. My friend Brini Maxwell co-hosts a Knitatnite event there every week. This gave me a built in audience within the demographic of the title and lots of fun fodder for social media. I brought some books and prizes to give away, and gave away some sweet swag bags. I put a promotional card for the book in every bag. I did a reading from the book that was thematically relevant to the event. My husband shot a video which I edited and shared via social media. You can watch that video too, if you're so inclined.

I had another event in Denver Colorado at Cultivated Synergy with the Denver Public Library. We tied crafting and the book together, and I was able to get a craft company to help with free kits for folks to use at the craft event. I had to pay for my travel, and got a small compensation that covered half of my expenses. (Note: It's not cheap to launch a book tour, which is why I am not on a book tour. Most publishers don't have money for book tours these days unless you're a big name author.  Be strategic and reach out to any contacts you have who might be willing to let you host an event.)

Step Ten: Be a squeaky wheel. Don't wait to get invited to the party. Ask for help, ask for more, and be willing to go the extra mile in service of promoting your book.

I pressed my publisher to let me sign books at BEA-Book Expo America. I paid for my hotel and travel expenses and cost of attendance. The signing was a huge success and hopefully helped to sell some books to retailers and libraries. BEA was a an eye opening experience, and I'm so glad that I spent the money to attend. (Note: I requested a marketing budget on top of the initial advance offer. Basically, I asked for a larger advance, which means it's still on my dime. They agreed. The events and the marketing online have all been funded by that budget.)

Step Eleven: Be creative! Try a variety of approaches to getting the word out about the book!

I've been creating graphics with quotes from the book for Instagram, which has gotten some decent traction. Every platform is different; you have to think strategically. What works on one may not work on another. Also, if you want to get real traction on Facebook, you will need to pay for promotion. They are very particular about your content. The word to image ratio is a factor if you're using graphics. They don't want anything that blatantly looks like an ad. If a post is not approved, you may need to tweak it to fit their parameters. I find spending about $20.00 a time to boost a post works just fine. You can go in and target the post to the demographic you're trying to reach. Facebook lets you drill it down pretty far. Try different approaches/audiences/content to see what gets the most traction. 

Ask your friends and fans to review your book. The more reviews your book gets on Amazon, the better it will be positioned in the algorithms. I ask people to be honest if they decide to leave a review. People seem to genuinely like my new book, but I'm sure there will be folks who don't and I'm prepared for that. 

Step Twelve: Don't get discouraged, stay tenacious. 

What I'm finding difficult is getting traction in the mainstream media. The publisher sent out press releases and advance copies, we've both contacted a long list of media outlets. I've also sent out my own releases and book copies, and there has been no response. This is ironic, because a big part of the book and the impetus behind it is that women over 50 are ignored. We feel like we're becoming invisible. Retailers, manufacturers, advertisers, web, print, and TV media...focus on younger women. So, the fact that I can't get traction in the mainstream media is not surprising. However, I will not stop pushing this book and the message because I know there are millions of women out there just like me and they want to be celebrated. 

The truth is, publishing PR budgets are small, so it's mostly up to you to market your book. That means getting comfortable with tooting your own horn. Connect with other writers online, join groups of writers who regularly cross promote, sign up for newsletters from websites with information for writers. You can do this! Really!

(Note: If you can afford a publicist, I am sure they're well worth the expense. They have contacts and connections you do not have, and they can get your book into the right hands to help amplify the message. Unfortunately, I don't have a budget for a publicist. Therefore, I'm the publicist. That's the case for most authors who aren't famous.)

And that, my fine friends, is a bit of insight about How to Sell and Market Your Book according to Margot Potter author of Fifty and Other F-Words, available wherever fine books are sold. (See what I did there? Tee hee.) Hopefully this helps get you on your way. I wish you the best in pursuing your publishing dreams and in promoting your books. It's a bit of a crap shoot, but less so if you prepare yourself with information and maintain your enthusiasm. If you are a writer or agent or publicist with some insights, feel free to add them to the comments below. Oh, and if you'd like a little insight on The Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion (affiliate link)I wrote the book on that.

No, seriously. 

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Beulah, Peel Me a Grape

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Hello, Gorgeous!

Yes, I'm talking to you!

Some things happened over the past week, interesting things. Subtle shifts in attitude and perception. Internal shifts in perspective. A little moving and shaking, if you will. Nothing tectonic, but a blip on the Richter scale. The plates are most definitely adjusting.

It started with a realization that my upper arms, though saggy and lumpy and quite frankly lacking in appeal, can no longer live under oppressive sleeves when it's over 90 degrees outside. That's right folks, I'm letting my flappy arms flap freely. Flap it, who flapping cares? I mean, at least I have arms and they work! How flapping cool is that?

Waves her arms in the air, waves 'em like she just doesn't care. 

Because she doesn't.

Maybe if I dream big enough and flap vociferously enough I can achieve lift off! You never know until you try.

Speaking of flappy, or flabby, or saggy, or what have you, I have also decided that I'm accepting my new body as it is. It is not the original model, and I've not been a fan of the alterations made over the past 7 years by menopause and medicines and my inability to breathe. (Okay and yes, perhaps some culinary predilections and questionable beverage choices.) Still, it is the body I currently inhabit and as such, I can no longer pretend it is a temporary situation. 

I've got a big butt and I cannot lie!

With this new level of acceptance, weirdly enough, I'm newly motivated to change my eating and moving habits. I am not holding my breath, because I can't breathe that well. I am releasing the hold that caffeine has on me by giving up coffee, a drink I cannot consume without half and half and a lump or two of sugar. 

Bye, coffee!

I'm also putting desserts, bread, and other such carbohydrate and sugar rich things on notice. Not to say I will never entertain them again, I'm just taking them off of my regular rotation. So, that's happening, and if I should lose a little flappy flab, that would be delicious. If I don't, that's okay too. I like me, big me, little me, flappy me, mid-range me...whatever me I am at any given moment. 

In other news, we're walking in the mornings! I hit 10,000 steps yesterday! This is new and exciting! Since I sit on my big butt and type most days, this is a big deal! I make no promises, but hopefully I can maintain forward momentum.

In other, other news, I had a pre-cancerous thingy (acnitic keratosis) freezer ray blasted off of my face today. So, that was fun. Okay, not really. It hurt. It still hurts. I'm just glad it wasn't skin cancer. Once it flakes off or saunters away or hits the road with a tiny knapsack on its back, it's one less thing about which I have to worry. To be honest, I've been worried about a few skin thingies for a while now, and I'm glad to find out that all is well in Skin Town. Phew! Sunscreen, cover ups, and big hats are your friends, folks. Trust me. 

In other, other, other news, I was rejected by a big retailer who I was hoping would carry my book yesterday. It hit me a little hard, and I cried and felt sad for myself. Then I got the hell over it because it's their loss. In spite of their suggestion that it was not 'worthwhile', this book is fabulous and so am I! So there.

Every day around 4pm I hit a wall and feel completely defeated and deflated and dejected. I get up early every day filled with enthusiasm and give it 100% until I can't give it any more. Then I unwind and let go of the things I cannot control. This is a shift, because I am a control freak. I want the world to find Fifty and Other F-Words, so much so that I'm trying everything in my power to amplify the message. It's frustrating not getting as much traction as I'd like and yet, it's kind of ironic. The gatekeepers in general are disinterested in women over 50, and that's the challenge, that's a major point in the book. So...how do I get around the gatekeepers?

I don't know, but it's almost 4 and I'm on day two without coffee and my face thingy is hurting, so I'm going to sashay my big sassy ass upstairs and unwind...which may or may not include unwine-ding. Just because I'm changing my diet does not mean I'm giving up wine, folks. 

Oh. Hell. No.

Not until the Orange Menace has left the building, and by Orange Menace I mean POTUS and by the building I mean the White House. In case there was any confusion.

Oh Beulah, peel me a grape!

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Guest Post: Recreating Her Identity, One Day at a Time

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Today I'm delighted to share a guest post from author Cheryl Bannerman.:

Four years ago. Two days before Thanksgiving to be exact. It was a day I will never forget. Not just the day before I buried my father, but the day I lost my identity. I guess it would be better if I start at the beginning.

Growing up in a rural part of Southern New Jersey, in a middle-class family, the youngest and only girl of three siblings, I enjoyed a good life of private schools, lavish vacations and the adoration of my parents, married for 54 years to date. My mother introduced me to books at an early age and encouraged me to not only read, but also write. I remember having my first poem published in a collective book of poetry at the age of only 13.

As an adult, I achieved various Undergraduate and Graduate degrees, successfully founded and operated my own Training and Development company, raised a special needs child on my own, and became a published multi-genre author of fiction.

But then....at the age of 42, before burying my father, I learned a truth about my entire life that would shatter my identity, as I knew it. I was NOT my parent’s biological child. It was a secret that apparently every single person in the family knew…but me.

Soon after, I was forced to bury my mother along with the family secret, proceeded to finally break free of a 10-year abusive marriage, and pick up the pieces of my life to start over in Florida. Searching tirelessly through public records for answers, with zero results, I had emotionally crashed and burned, with no hope of a happy future. And unfortunately, the emotional pain triggered even worse results on my medical conditions. But one day through my pain and tears, I saw a light of hope. I realized that my mom and dad loved me, and gave me a good life, and that I could mold my future into whatever I wanted it to be. I immediately wanted to spread the good news to other people who had also lost hope, were suffering from depression, or were caught in an abusive relationship, that there WAS hope. You CAN recreate your identity at whatever age and create your own ‘happy ending’ in life.

Ultimately, through my faith in God, sense of humor, and intense ‘talk’ therapy, I was able to ‘recreate my identity’ and come to terms with the truth. Here are some of the ways I did this:

*   Asked for help/support/guidance

*  Allowed myself to grieve (i.e. cry, scream, sleep, shop, etc.)

*   Learned how to say NO/Set boundaries

*   Detoxified my life of all negative people and influences (includes news & social media) & forgave those who were not sorry

*  Treated/Pampered myself

* Talked about those I missed – i.e. happy times as a child, funny stories about my parents, etc.

* Achieved my short-term goals and set new long-term goals

Another way I healed is through my writing. One of the few female authors to introduce topics of social concern within ‘fictional’ stories, my books draw from my most intimate life experiences and include characters who have been victims of child molestation and domestic violence, and who suffer from depression and various other addictions. For example, my second book, Words Never Spoken, which just won the 2018 Book Excellence Award, is a self-help, poetry, chapter-book about a woman who escaped an abusive relationship, and even includes self-reflection journal pages for you to document your feelings and begin healing.

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My goal now is to continue helping victims of Domestic Abuse/Violence, Grief and ANON family groups, and Corporate Health and Wellness groups, to heal — creating their own ‘Happy Ending’…One Day at a Time.

Author/CEO/Speaker: Cheryl Powell (writing under Pen Name: Cheryl Denise Bannerman)

You can learn more about the author, Cheryl Bannerman, on the Bannerman Books web site.

And purchase any of her works of fiction on her Amazon Author page.

Connect with her on Social Media here:

Facebook Twitter Instagram Goodreads

 

More Fun with Mean Girls

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Speaking of civility, which I was yesterday, I stumbled on yet another thread of women whom I thought enlightened and thoughtful disparaging a women they do not know on social media. It's a topic that fascinates and frustrates me, because I believe passing judgments is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that keeps women from progressing.

Why do we do it? What is the point?

I'm particularly disappointed when it's women over 50 acting like mean girls, because we should know better. C'mon, ladies. Haven't we learned anything about the impact of words, the importance of kindness, the joy of being a rising tide? Not a thing? Zip? Zilch? Zero?

After all, we're being judged constantly by a society that insists we've reached our expiration date. Somebody get the hook!

This is nonsense, of course, but it's a prevailing narrative. In silently accepting it and then enforcing it, we are dragging other women down.

Did you see what she's wearing?

Oh my GOD, that hair!

Why did she do that to her face, she was so pretty?

She'd be beautiful if she'd just stop...

Like hens in a barnyard, women attack other women pecking at them relentlessly until they bleed. If a woman dares to step outside of the circle of what is acceptable, well, she better gird her loins. The mean girls are coming for her, and they're not going to hold back. 

Seriously, WTF, women?

And yes, I realize that I am passing judgment on these women. Judge Madge-y here. I'm judging the judges.

Bangs gavel, stands, yells, "MEAN GIRLS! PARTY FOWL! NASTY PANTIES ARE ON THE LOOSE!"

Ahem. Sits back down for thoughtful contemplation. 

If that's how they wish to comport themselves, it's their choice. Still, when people are being bullies someone needs to point it out. It's dangerous and cruel and we can make better, more uplifting choices. That person being bullied is a real person with real feelings. We know nothing about what demons they're battling. You might think they'll never find your thread of nastiness, but trust me, they might. Speaking from personal experience, it can be soul crushing. What you tap into your keyboard has power, use it wisely.

The bottom line is that it's none of our damn business how other women choose to present themselves to the world. So what if someone 'lets herself go' or decides to get a boob job or a face-lift or opts out of the make-up/hair color/fashion meme. You may think she looks hideous, she may think she looks fabulous. What you think is likely irrelevant, unless she asks your opinion. How do her choices affect you, exactly?

This idea that we have to make ourselves smaller to make other people happy is a false narrative.

We don't owe anyone anything. 

Other people are responsible for their own happiness. 

I may be a lone voice in the wilderness, but I will keep banging the drum for women to be kinder to each other. I believe women could change the world if they opted out of these false narratives and rigid rules of conduct. The only thing holding us back...is us. 

We tell a lot of stories in our culture about women and their bodies, about what is beautiful, what is ugly, what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable. Every time we hear one of these stories it chips away at our self-worth. We need to start telling another story.

What can women do to fight limiting narratives and shift the dialogue? We can start by not participating in negative discourse. We can refrain from making the offhanded, mean-spirited, attention-seeking comments about celebrities or women we see as we move through the world. We can shut those thoughts down and replace them with positive, uplifting, expansive thoughts instead. If more of us stand up for women and their right to be exactly who they are, wear what they please, say what they think, and live their lives as they see fit, the story will begin to shift.

Let’s change the story. We can do that, together.
— Fifty and Other F-words by Margot Potter

If you like this post, you may like my new book Fifty and Other F-words, I'm just sayin'.

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What Happens When Civility Takes a Holiday

Hello, Gorgeous,

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I'm a big proponent of civility, kindness, courtesy, and compassion.

Big time. Big league. Bigly.

Still, sometimes, civility is ineffective at propelling change or resisting evil. All of the civility in the world will do nothing to change the nature of the demagogue, sway the emotions of their impassioned followers, or stop the tides of facism.

The freedom to 'tell it like it is' is part of the appeal to those looking for permission to unleash the darkest side of their natures. Once they feel free to be hateful, they will do so without compunction. It's becoming rampant. 

They really don't care. No, really.

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
— Thomas Jefferson

Yet, somehow, those who reject this messaging are being held to a higher standard. This is nothing new. When they go low, we better go high or they'll make sure to call us out for our 'bad behavior.' 

Words can be weapons. We can repel them. We can opt in or out of responding. Just because millions are mesmerized, does not afford the words merit. Still, words have power. Power to influence, power to incite, power to transform friends into enemies and neighbors into threats. 

When the words and the ideals behind them lead to unconscionable actions, we cannot ignore them. There comes a time when we have to confront evil, and that might get ugly. 

Be best? Be better. Be humane. Be human. 

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
— John Adams

Civility is earned, and sometimes when decency is under siege, civility takes a holiday. 

When our elected officials and their representatives launch attacks on truth and decency, we can't combat that with pretty words. When our Supreme Court ignores the constitution and runs roughshod over liberty, we have a right to fight back. When the government twists and bends the law to oppress, we can't deflect that with flowery speeches. When children are torn from their families and shoved into cages, we can't just sit around writing thoughtful social media posts. 

If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
— George Washington

All of the pleas for politeness are pointless when faced with an unrelenting assault on everything we hold dear. Passionate passive resistance has its place, but so do anger, disgust, and civil disobedience. Asking people to be polite when their rights are threatened, when every day brings a fresh threat to decency, when lies are being spewed by talking heads who insult every citizen with their shameless behavior is absurd.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
— Thomas Jefferson

We're all being bullied. This is what bullies do, taunt their victims mercilessly and then when they finally get a rise out of them, use it to destroy them. It's what demagogues do. It's what dictators do. It's what assholes do. It's what narcissists do. It is being done to us on a daily basis and it is driving us slowly insane.

That is the plan. There is no appropriate response, because this is an inappropriate situation. We can't ignore it, because the policies being created by elected officials and upheld by Supreme Court Justices have real effects on all of us. Some of them devastating, life threatening, and cruel. Divide, distract, deflect, deny. Create a constant state of chaos to create chaotic reactions, use those reactions as an excuse to control the uncontrollable masses. 

Do and say the worst possible things until you drive your enemies to do the same, then switch gears and take the high moral ground. It's masterful manipulation. We are all being gaslighted.

It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.
— Thomas Paine

It's not my place to tell other people how to act or react. I'm living in a bubble of privilege, at least for now. I cannot deny that. I have a unique responsibility to speak up and speak out, to reject the comfort of my privilege and do what I can to support those who are not equally protected. The founding fathers suggested a revolution every now and again to prevent tyranny. If ever there was a time for such a thing, the time may soon be upon us. This goes beyond civility, it's about survival, it's about justice, it's about fighting for the rights of every single citizen to be treated equally. It's about those who have the most to lose being willing to fight for the least among us. Sometimes we have to stand up and speak out and even take a stand for what we believe and that means the shit may get real, the discourse my coarsen, and the fucks may fly freely.

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.
— Benjamin Franklin

So be it. 

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Updates from the Hamster Wheel

Hello, Gorgeous!

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"Lighten up, Buttercup."

This is my mantra today. I've been a little ratcheted up by the constant chaos, as have we all. There's only so much I can do in a day, and I'm feeling more than a little like a hamster on a wheel. I think I'm gaining ground and yet...somehow I'm in the same place as I was when I started. Or maybe I've progressed, but it's so incremental that it's almost imperceptible. Yet I keep marching bravely forward.

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In other news, I've been creating graphics with quotes from Fifty and Other F-words as a way to promote the book on social media without it feeling quite as shameless. Not that I have any problem with Shameless Self Promotion, as those of you who read this drivel on a regular basis know. Still, at some point shameless self promotion crosses into obnoxiousness. I don't wish to be obnoxious, just persistent. 

Have I mentioned that I have a new book? It's pretty fabulous. At least that's what people are saying. Real people! Might I share some snippets of reviews?

Yes, yes I might. 

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"A rare find, a book like this, which offers wisdom, humor, insight, and encouragement, without endless pages of unasked for advice. I found this not so much self-helpy, and more "girlfriends weekend getaway," filled with genuine, caring, lean-in-and-laugh-about-it companionship." Kim Miles

"Margot Potter has written an in-your-face, hilarious, brilliant and worthwhile playbook for those of us who are searching for guidance concerning anything which has confronted us since we turned fifty. In fact, if you are younger, yet you want to be enlightened, or you are older (as I am) and need to understand what the midlife crisis is all about, this book has you covered." Jean Yates

"While she waxes poetic on the benefits of good cosmetics, I would suggest going bare faced while reading this book as you will ruin your makeup as you will laugh until tears stream down your face. Margot Potter's book should be gifted to every women who is approaching the half century mark. Wrap it up in a gorgeous scarf and add a card with loads of glitter!" PC

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"Margot captures in the most deliciously irreverent way the adventures (& a few calamities) of aging ever onward. A wondrous read, on so many levels. Forget being just a great book for a friend's 50th - give it to the youngers in your life so they can know that life need not wind down, but reboot & hit WOW." Deev Murphy

"She is inspiring, irreverent and makes you feel like you're chatting with a friend over cocktails. She takes you behind the curtain of what it is to be a woman, a mother, a wife and a friend after 50. Let your hair down, pour yourself a drink and enjoy this glimpse in the mirror. And for the record, we are all fabulous, Margot has just helped us to see it." Susan Flesher

"It's been YEARS since I've read a book nonstop, back to back in a day! Filled with things you never heard your Mom or her friends talk about in a humorous way. I laughed, had a few sad moments but mostly "same here" stuff! Come on girls of over and under 50, throw this baby in your cart and get a better grip on shit that happens!" Judith Noble

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"Every woman's midlife is different - mine definitely is - and yet I agree with much if not all of what Margot Potter writes about in Fifty and Other F-Words. From learning to laugh at ourselves to also love ALL of us, sagging parts, facial hair and more, to dealing with menopause as we see fit (I am a happy HRT-taking camper) to speaking our minds and standing up for ourselves, she covers it all. Including how and why women should be lifting one another up instead of tearing each other down. Buy the book, read it, gift it. It's absolutely worth it!" Lorraine C. Ladish'

"Oh my gosh!! This had me in stitches...and she makes everything even more ok!! Love it!!!" VKJ

"Margot offers inspiration for a positive life experience in a humorous, powerful, thought provoking, and entertaining must read. Laughed out loud and seriously reflected on my own self-judgement. Margot has a gift of providing encouragement and humor for accepting ourselves who we are. Highly recommend this book for women of every age." S. Scanlin

I'm getting emails, social media comments, texts...all from women and men who are digging this book and the message behind it. This is good. I am hopeful that this little book will begin to roll down hill, gathering snow, and growing exponentially. If you have it, love it, and wish to help promote it, please consider a review on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and/or Good Reads!

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Forward ho!

 

 

Sleepless in America

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"Turning and turning in the widening gyre.                                The falcon cannot hear the falconer;"

I could not sleep last night. My mind racing around and around and around in endless circles, a dog chasing its tail. There are 2500 children who have traveled here, in the vague hope of salvation. The shining city on a hill proving to be a terrifying mirage, a wicked monster waiting to devour them. They've been torn from their families, shoved into cages, and now the stories of drugging and abuse are unfolding. Our Mad King Donald, chaos creator, shit stirrer, lie machine, narcissist, a heartless, cold, bitter old man drunk on his own power, signing another duplicitous decree to the applause of his sycophants and co-conspirators. Then, driven by an insatiable need for constant approval, this twisted shell of a human stands on a podium crowing for adoring crowds infected with cognitive dissonance, convinced that these beautiful brown babies and their loving families are a threat to their soft, cozy, whitewashed comforts.

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold:                                                                                                                                                    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,"

Mad King Donald is right about one thing. There is an infestation in our country, it has risen from the shadows. It threatens everyone and everything. It is fed by the demons of racism, sexism, homophobia, and Xenophobia, cloaked in the robe of self-righteous indignation, and it is growing stronger and more twisted every single day. If we don't rise up and stop this monster, it will devour us all. 

"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere                                                                                                                                      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;"

This monster is not new. This monster has always been lurking in the shadows, occasionally emerging to remind us of our collective shame. 

This is America. This is America. This is America. This is America.  This is America. This is America. This is America. This is America.

How can anyone defend the indefensible? Aren't they exhausted from twisting themselves into ugly new shapes? Who among us would not travel through the pits of hell to save our children? Who among us would not risk everything to give them a better life, a sliver of hope? How can anyone hear the plaintiff cries of innocents begging for their parents and not be moved?

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst                                                                                                                                                  Are full of passionate intensity."

Yet, what do I have to offer, beyond words? My cocoon, my privilege, my whiteness protects me. My physical limitations, my financial obligations, the animals who depend on me to care for them, all of the complexities of my sheltered life prevent me from standing outside the gates of the prisons in which these babies are being held hostage and demanding their release. 

"Surely some revelation is at hand;                                                                                                                                                                      Surely the Second Coming is at hand."   

I cannot sleep. I cannot focus. I cannot understand how anyone can turn away. I don't know how anyone can concentrate on anything else. I'm disgusted by friends who announce they're no longer going to pay attention and they're going to turn off the feeds of anyone who dares to speak truth to power. Those who refuse to face the cold, hard, difficult truths are making a conscious choice to look away. They are being seduced by the monster. This is a choice I cannot make, even if I can hide within the safety of my whiteness.

"The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out                                                                                                                                               When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi                                                                                                                                                Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert"  

Yet, who am I to judge, the tapper of keyboards, the wordsmith? I, I, I, the self indulgent I.

Talk is cheap.

"A shape with lion body and the head of a man,                                                                                                                                                A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,                                                                                                                                                                    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it                                                                                                                                                        Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds."  

All I have are words. Words won't save these children. Hope won't save these children. Marches won't save these children. Speeches won't save these children. They can't wait for the mid-terms, they can't wait for the courts. Every minute that passes takes them further away. 

"The darkness drops again; but now I know" 

So I tap into the keyboard. I fax, I email, I call, and I write. I make plans to march. I stare down the monster, and I refuse to turn away. I keep shouting that the Emperor Has no Clothes, in hopes it will awaken some of the sleepwalkers who still cannot see it. I hope that with the eyes of the world opened wide, the monster will be forced back into the shadows.

"That twenty centuries of stony sleep                                                                                                                                                           Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle," 

But, what about the children? 

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,                                                                                                                                    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"                                                                                                                                               William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

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Seeking the Compassionate Heart

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Over the years I've often heard people ponder how something like the Holocaust could have ever happened. I've heard people say that it could never happen again, that people would step up and fight that evil, that we'd not allow another Hitler to take power. We've progressed, we're awake, we're aware! 

In a time when we can connect with people across the globe at the touch of a keyboard, when cell phone cameras are poised at the ready to record atrocities and broadcast them live to millions, you'd think evil would find it far more difficult to prevail. Yet, you'd be incorrect. Evil is finding it even easier to prevail. The most powerful country in the world, one that quite frankly lacks much of a track record for compassionate international behavior, is precariously perched on the precipice. We're watching the rise of a finely tuned, fresh new evil with its seductive, insidious messaging swaying millions once again into seeing 'the other' as their enemy. Misdirected, divided, distracted, and deluded-people have willingly been twisted into seeing family and friends as enemies and believing sociopaths to be saviors. They'll parrot the propaganda with such alacrity, it would be impressive if it wasn't so terrifying. 

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.
— Joseph Goebbels

People are hard wired for The Big Lie, which is why it is so effective. Add the micro-targeting capabilities of social media, our willingness to offer up every intimate detail of our psyches to the algorithms, the insatiable 24 hour corporate news cycle, and you have the perfect recipe for the propaganda machine to reach maximum effectiveness. And the truth is, how can any of us know the whole truth? We only know what we are fed, and what we can discern through digging deeper, but how deep can we dig, really? The "news" has never served us the whole truth. It's a business, entertainment designed to gain our attention long enough to sell us something from their sponsors and distract us from focusing on what is actually happening while we scream obscenities at our screens.

You risked your life, but what else have you ever risked? Have you risked disapproval? Have you ever risked economic security? Have you ever risked a belief? I see nothing particularly courageous about risking one’s life. So you lose it, you go to your hero’s heaven and everything is milk and honey ‘til the end of time. Right? You get your reward and suffer no earthly consequences. That’s not courage. Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one’s clichés.
— Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

Eat the red pill or the blue pill, it doesn't matter. Stay distracted, stay divided while the purveyors of The Big Lie, those who owe no fealty to governments or religious institutions or their fellow man, continue to fill their coffers and consolidate their power. Freedom is an illusion, but a powerful one. We're not free. We've never really been free, not unless we've been willing to lift the veil and take responsibility for what our ignorance has wrought. And even then, we are not free, we're just painfully aware of our lack of freedom. 

Lines on maps are illusions, sky daddies and their prophets who offer us a guarantee of eternal salvation are false idols, governments are not representatives of the people, they're pawns of their corporate overlords. Your friends and neighbors, even those with whom you passionately disagree, are not your enemies. Asylum seekers are not coming to harm you. Your God is not better than anyone else's God.

Religion is a powerful drug. Race is a social construct. Lines on maps creating non-existent borders are man made. Sexuality exists on a spectrum. Marriage is a tool of the patriarchy. Money is just printed paper. The truth is subjective. We are all made of the same star stuff and we will all return to the great cosmic dust bin. Nothing can change the end of every story.

Yet, we can seek the compassionate heart. We can be kind. We can offer connection, safe harbor, and light. Because that is all that is real. We're all in this together, we're all connected. There is no other. There is only us. Don't let The Big Lie make you forget that. 

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.
— George Orwell, 1984

I've heard a lot of grown ass people say the following, "Thank GOD the children are going to fix this!"

Oh, they are? Really? 

We fucked this all up, and now we're going to step aside and let the children clean up the mess we've left behind? 

That is unacceptable. WE NEED TO FIX THIS, FOR THE CHILDREN. For fuck's sake people, stop pining for the good old days and waiting for the mid-terms and passing the buck to those other people who are going to fix this shit, because they're mirages. The good old days weren't that great. You are those other people. 

The time is now. The evil is here. The messengers are fine tuning the message. We are being misdirected, distracted, divided, and deluded. What unites is is far more important than what divides us, and what unites us is our humanity. There is no other. If we want to prevent another Hitler from taking power, every one of us needs to rise up and resist. It may well be too late, I don't know, but I damn sure know that I won't go down without a fight BECAUSE the children, the next generation, those who will inherit our legacy, need us. And the youngest children being shoved into cages, ripped apart from their families, denied human contact, merely because their families fled unspeakable atrocities in search of a better life need us. RIGHT NOW. Not six months from now or two years from now or whenever those other people get their shit together and fix this mess. 

I ate civilization. It poisoned me; I was defiled. And then,” he added in a lower tone, “I ate my own wickedness.
— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

I am seeking the compassionate heart, every day. Some days I get closer, others I feel separated by light years. I get distracted by my ego. I tap into this keyboard sending messages in bottles through the vast and powerful internets hoping they reach safe shores. Yet, who am I to think my messages in bottles have resonance or meaning or worth? How do I know that I am any closer to the truth than anyone else? 

I don't.

Yet, I do know that evil is rising and I am not willing to be complacent or complicit. If you could travel back in time to the rise of the Third Reich, what would you do to prevent it? Do that, right fucking now, before it's too late.

Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.
— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
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Processing This Weird Week

 Make a wish. 

Make a wish. 

It's been a weird week, to say the least, on many fronts. Sad things, scary things, unfuckingbelievable things...it's a lot to process. 

Kate Spade, gone, then, Anthony Bourdain. The first was heartbreaking, the second gut wrenching. We'll never know what demons people are battling. We'll never understand what drives a person to decide that they cannot make it through another moment. What we do know is that fame and fortune are not the keys to happiness. What we also know is that abject poverty and isolation aren't much of a recipe for joy, either.

It's easy to stand on the outside of someone's life and make judgments. Even people we know, intimately, are still a mystery. For some people, choosing joy is not a possibility. They're not wired for it. No amount of external affirmation can change that. Medication may dull the sharp edges, but it isn't going to fix what's broken and often it makes it worse. That's self medication and pharmaceutical medication. It's hard to understand if you're not wired that way. I am not wired that way. I used to think suicide was a selfish act, but now I think that was misguided thinking. I have enough to do navigating my own life. Ultimately, it's none of my business. Who am I to judge? I wish everyone love. Unconditional love. Period. 

"And when no hope was left in sight, on that starry, starry night. You took your life as lovers often do. But I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you." Don McClean

Speaking of judging and the pitfalls of even quasi-pseudo marginal fame, yesterday I got my first one star review for the new book. Woot. This was not a shocker. It's inevitable.  I'm surprised it took this long. You're never, ever going to be everybody's favorite flavor. I've written 8 books, appeared on TV, performed in plays, fronted bands, written blog posts, designed DIY projects. I've been praised and panned and occasionally eviscerated. I'm going to be honest here, nobody likes being panned. I'm no exception. It hurts, but you process it and then you let it go. It's not personal, and that's the bottom line. Nothing's personal, unless you give it that power.

Someone got personal on my social media post about this one star review yesterday, which was bizarre and disappointing. I had a detached reaction to this person's escalating comments, almost as if I was watching it from a distance and not actually participating in it. It's so weird to me when people come out of left field with some long standing animosity. Where did that come from? What? 

I am not forcing anyone to stay connected. If you don't like me, grab your coat and hit the road. No hard feelings, unless you take a crap on the veranda on the way out. I mean, really, people. What's up with that?! Keep that shit to yourself. 

As for one star reviews, I come from the 'if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing' school of thought. No one forces you to read a book, watch a film or TV show, read a blog post, or listen to a song. I realize, in this nasty, mean spirited, ugly age when civility is rapidly plummeting into extinction, saying nothing instead of saying something snarky is not the norm. I also realize that the internet has given everyone with a keyboard a platform and a feeling of power. We all get to choose what we do with that power. If someone took the time to create something, I applaud them. I may not love what they've created, but I don't have to dismiss or demean it. They don't owe me anything.

You can make someone's day or break their heart with a few strokes of your keyboard. You choose to lift them up, or tear them down. I prefer rising tides to anchors. 

That's how I feel about that. 

In other news, there was the small cloud hovering over me after the miserable mammogram. I got a call just as I was heading to the first day of Book Expo from my doctor. They needed a follow up. Something was wrong, but I was in the middle of Times Square, so it was hard to understand them. Even though I knew that it was probably not a big deal, there was still that nagging thing in the back of my brain wondering if it might actually be a big deal. That stayed with me through the weekend and lingered until Tuesday when it was confirmed that I'm fine after the painful ultrasound. Ouch.

Exhale.

Then came the news that the DOJ is taking a hatchet to pre-existing conditions in another effort to kill the ACA. The fear of losing my health insurance is palpable. I was denied insurance for several years because of my asthma, even though I never go to the ER and I only see my specialist twice a year. It doesn't matter. I have a Scarlet A on my chart. It's lurking around the periphery. Having access to affordable healthcare should not be a partisan issue. 

Speaking of asthma, breathing is not overrated, folks. Sleep is also not overrated. Damn it, pollen, why you gotta be so prolific and persistent? Snork. 

So yes, it's been a weird week. Yet, oddly, as I head into the weekend, I feel hopeful. No matter how hard a week or a day or a moment, it will pass. As long as I'm still here, still standing, still able to fight the good fight, I can shift the sails and head into new horizons. You get that upon which you focus. On the bright side, my book has scads of lovely reviews! My boobs are cancer free! I have a supportive and wonderful circle of uplifting people in my life! I'm making serious progress on a new manuscript! I still have health insurance! I'm still breathing! There are chipmunks spramping about outside of my office door! Right there! Chipmunks!

Who can be sad around chipmunks?

Life is large, my friends. I wish you love, light, and joy. If you feel lost and alone and adrift, know that you are not alone. We're in this together. I see you, I hear you, and I believe in you.

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BEA 2018: The Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion

 Fifty and Other F-Words book signing with Sterling Publishing BEA 2018

Fifty and Other F-Words book signing with Sterling Publishing BEA 2018

Last week, my loving husband drove me into the heart of the Broadway theater district at the height of rush hour to drop me off at my hotel for Book Expo America. He was none too thrilled about driving in Manhattan, but he loves me and I appreciate the sacrifice. I have attended this 'to the trade only' event only once before, years back in D.C. when my second book debuted. This time, the impetus and expense was on me. Sterling Publishing rose to the occasion with a Fifty and Other F-words book signing on Friday, which I greatly appreciated. More on that, later.

Shameless Self Promotion Tip: If you spend your life waiting for an invitation, you may find yourself waiting indefinitely. Sometimes the only way to get to the ball is to invite yourself. Be your own Fairy Godmother.

 Adult Author Panel with Nick Offerman, Megan Mulally, Jill Lepore, Nicholas Sparks, Barbara Kingsolver, and Trevor Noah BEA 2018

Adult Author Panel with Nick Offerman, Megan Mulally, Jill Lepore, Nicholas Sparks, Barbara Kingsolver, and Trevor Noah BEA 2018

The first morning I attended the Adult Author Breakfast, enjoying some coffee and mini muffins while being regaled by a panel of fascinating people: Trevor Noah, Megan Mulally, Nick Offerman, Nicholas Sparks, Jill Lepore, and Barbara Kingsolver. Bonus, we received advanced copies of each of their new books! I hit the floor sauntering after this event, and quickly assessed the focus of the show. This is a show designed for publishers to sell books to retailers and libraries. This is NOT a show designed for authors to sell themselves or their manuscripts to publishers who are busy selling their newly printed books. I have a publisher, so I was not hoping to sell new books. I was hoping to have a presence at the show and perhaps in doing so to make some new connections for possible PR appearances, book reviews, and book placement. I also had vague notions of finding an agent and or a publicist. I realized neither of these goals was likely, so I focused, instead, on learning what I could from writers who were hosting panels and gaining a sense of what was happening in publishing. 

Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion Tip: READ the room and conduct yourself accordingly. Sometimes just being present is powerful. 

 John Kerry Talks Diplomacy BEA 2018

John Kerry Talks Diplomacy BEA 2018

Publishing has taken a big hit over the past 15 years since I sold my first book. The big box book chains crushed the independents, then big box book chains were crushed by Amazon. Social media has diverted attention and attention spans away from book pages and towards bite sized narratives on small screens. Big advances are rare, big budgets for PR and marketing are a thing of the past, and publishers are tending to focus on things they feel are good bets. There were LOTS of celebrities hawking books. Some of these celebrities are really terrific writers, like Chris Colfer former Glee cast member. Some are perhaps more terrific at marketing themselves. I didn't stand in line to get any signed books, because the publishers were not at the show to give authors free books and the lines were epic for most of the writers I had hoped to meet. Some of the authors had ticketed signings and many signings took place off of the main show floor. I tried to respect that reality, and I still got a stack of terrific books to read from attending the many events at the show floor stages. If one wanted books signed by favorite authors, the event that followed BEA, BookCon, is designed specifically for this agenda. Many publishers stayed through the weekend for this purpose.

 An Evening with Bernie Sanders BEA 2018

An Evening with Bernie Sanders BEA 2018

Quick assessments: Young Adult or YA is an important focus, which is a good sign for the future. I saw lots of magical, mythical books being promoted. Politics is, of course, another trending topic and there were many, many books dissecting the current climate. Thrillers and romances along with memoirs and historical non-fiction also loomed large. 

As my signing approached, I began to worry. Not going to lie, folks. I saw many authors sitting in booths with stacks of books and no people waiting in line to have them signed. I saw stacks of free books discarded on chairs, ledges, and tables. My book is a hardcover, so it's heavy, and people were already lugging around totes straining at the seams with paperbacks, thus the discarded books. What if I got to my signing and...ack...no one cared? I have been there before. There has been more than one afternoon sitting in a big box craft store with a pile of books and a free craft project (often with my then young daughter by my side) while people avoided us like we were doling out the Bubonic Plague.

It's free! No, really! Come make these earrings! 

Hey, where are you going? Don't run away!

Crickets.

I decided to make the most of my adventure and let the chips, or the books as it were, fall where they may. I sat front row for John Kerry, attended the Bernie Sanders event, saw panels of fascinating people discuss politics, publishing, racism, sexism, history, and even sexy puzzle assembling adventures. By the time my signing beckoned, I was ready to face it head on. I had freshly pinked hair, a big bag of Smarties, a rainbow palette of Sharpie markers, a handful of unicorn rainbow straws, and I was ready to rock and roll.

 They liked me, they really, really liked me! BEA 2018

They liked me, they really, really liked me! BEA 2018

Then something amazing happened. A line of people began forming. I spoke to each of them personally, asking them about where they were from and what they did, letting them pick their favorite color marker. The people kept coming, the stack of books kept dwindling, I ran out of unicorn rainbow straws...and then we ran out of books. People were EXCITED to meet me, to read the book, to share the book, to buy the book for their stores and their libraries!

It was incredible.

Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion Tip: People want to feel valued, and connected. When promoting yourself, don't forget that you can't achieve success without the support of other people. They are the point, so celebrate them!

The only thing that put a small smudge on it was a woman who showed up after we ran out of books. We explained there weren't any left and she said, and I'm quoting here, "I don't care about the book, I'm an author." Then she proceeded to pitch herself, demand to see my Botox (which is not currently part of my budget), scoff at my lack of Botox, and press the PR people standing with me to listen to her pitch. None of them were in a position to give her a book deal. Awkward.

Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion Tip: Don't insult someone else to make yourself look good, and surely don't horn in on someone else's moment. 

I believe there is room enough in the sky for every star to shine, and we shine much brighter when we share our light freely than we do in attempting to dull another's. I have no problem with anyone promoting themselves, but there's a time and a place for everything. The journey that it took for me to be there, at that show, with that book, was epic. I earned that moment.

 Another Stellar Fifty and Other F-words Event at BEA 2018

Another Stellar Fifty and Other F-words Event at BEA 2018

After the show, my kick ass editor Jennifer, and I went to a divine little French bistro across from my hotel and enjoyed a nosh followed by a night cap at the Hotel Algonquin, where Dorothy Parker once held court. Believe me when I tell you, my editor is amazing. She navigated my big personality and strongly held opinions and the considerable pressures from the publisher along with carving an epic 75,000 words into a far less epic and overbearing 45,000. I could not have done it without her, the design team who made the book so visually compelling, the PR team helping to promote the book, and the publisher who believed in an entirely unknown writer and her memoir.

Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion Tip: Nothing happens in a vacuum. 'It takes a village' to take an idea from gestation, to birth, to bloom. When you succeed, don't forget to acknowledge and thank the many people who supported that success. 

Now I'm home and back to the grind. I have to keep promoting Fifty and Other F-words, finding new ways to reach a larger audience. Seeing the reaction of people at the show affirmed that this book will resonate with people. It's my job to help them find it. And then there's the manuscript for the next book...

If you like these tips, check out my e-book with more tips about The Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion! (Affiliate link, if you purchase the e-book I get a small percentage of the sale!)

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Women, Boundaries, and Abusive Behavior

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Today I'm feeling sad, angry, frustrated...and more than a little deflated after several abusive incidents over the past week. This kind of crap happens to women constantly, and I've had enough of it. I'm tired of smiling and saying, "It's okay." when it is most definitely not okay. How many wrinkles must I smooth? 

Since I turned 40, (14 years ago) I have been mostly diligent about getting mammograms. Nobody enjoys a mammogram, but in the past it's mostly been uncomfortable, not miserable. I had a 3-D mammogram a couple of years ago, and it was not painful at all. Yesterday, I went for a 3-D mammogram with little anticipation of more than a bit of discomfort. The tech was pleasant enough, but the manner in which she treated my body was anything but pleasant. She compressed my breast tissue so vociferously that it hurt, a lot, enough to make me whimper, wince, and cry.

Stand here, put your arm down, grab this, move your chin. Squeeze. Squeeze. 

Ouch, ouch!

Squeeze, squeeze. Move your hand. Squeeze. Squeeze.

How can she possibly squeeze my breast any more than...FUCK! Ouch!

Hold your breath.

Are you kidding me? I'm about to pass out, lady.

And then I actually APOLOGIZED for saying "fuck." It fucking hurt, why did I apologize?

Lest you think me a wimp, I gave birth with a midwife and a doula and no pain relief AT ALL. I have a chronic medical condition that I rarely discuss that is extremely challenging, sometimes debilitating, and often painful. Yesterday was not a great day because of this condition. Yet I suck it up and try not to whine, because that's what women do, right?

I'm sick of sucking it up. This tech slapped my breasts around like chicken cutlets and ignored my obvious signs of distress. I have never had this much pain during a mammo, it was brutal. I am hesitant to get another. I did some research, and 3-D mammograms are supposed to be LESS painful. So it's not me.

This isn't the first time I've had a situation like this happen.

Have I ever told you the story about the grumpy phlebotomist? I had multiple run-ins with this sociopath until I finally contacted the company and complained. She forcefully stabbed me with multiple needles for blood tests, all the while ranting loudly about how much she hated her job. This happened on two separate occasions. After complaining, the company did nothing, so I took my bodily fluids elsewhere.

Then there's another situation, one I've been keeping to myself, and I don't know why. I've had a long term relationship with a person who provides what should be a relaxing service that has become dreadful. I don't know how we got here, but I think it's because we've been together so long she feels less inclined to treat me like a customer. There's the specialist I've been seeing for years who condescends to me every time I have to go FIGHT to be heard who finally admitted that I was right about my condition after years of insisting I was wrong, the family doctor who misdiagnosed me twice and when I finally diagnosed myself, agreed and offered no apology for not listening to me in the first place, the pharmacy tech who announced at the top of her voice when I handed her my insurance card that WE DON'T TAKE OBAMACARE sliding the card back at me with a look of disgust, the annoyingly chatty urologist who asked me a series of personal questions while sticking a camera through my urethra into my bladder, the pervy orthodontist who brushed my breasts with his hands whenever he tightened my braces, countless numbers of unbelievably snarky salespeople, the fellow actor who grabbed my ass seconds before I went on stage every single performance, and the ticket person at a major airline who screamed FRAUD at the top of her lungs in front of a line of people when I tried to pay for an accidental undercharge on a baggage fee. 

Endless amounts of microaggressions and blatant abuses that I've endured quietly...

Why? Why do I put up with this shit? Why am I allowing people to abuse me? I'm a strong, independent woman, yet I have said nothing on countless occasions when someone was abusive to me. 

And then, yesterday, after returning from my breast tissue torture session, I saw multiple threads on social media about the Morgan Freeman situation. Women were insisting that this stuff happens all of the time so why are we so upset about it? 

Just roll over and take it, honey. That's the way it is. 

And there it is.

Well, I've had ENOUGH. That is not the way it us unless we keep telling that tired ass story.

I matter. My body matters. My feelings matter. My right to be treated with respect and dignity and kindness FUCKING MATTERS. I refuse to let people treat me like crap any more. I'm done smoothing wrinkles. I'm done with making excuses. I'm SICK TO DEATH of hearing women apologize for the bad behavior of other people in the service of maintaining the status quo. Screw the status quo. If we can't stand up and say NO and support other women when they do, we're never going to progress.

And because a MAN on social media asked this absurd question,

"What is harassment any more? GO away!, get me a coffee?, Please leave my office?, Don't eat your lunch in my office, Please?"

Here is my answer,

Well, sir, let me articulate for you what harassment is, any more, and ever more, and ever was, because apparently you and millions of other twatwaffles like you missed the mother fucking memo. 

Harassment is:

Verbally attacking a woman, belittling her, insulting her, making unsolicited comments about her appearance, her gender, her sexuality, or her body, touching her without permission, touching her in a sexual manner without her permission, continuing to touch her if she's given you permission but then rescinded said aforementioned permission, treating her like she is 'less than' because you think you are more important, dismissing her, ridiculing her, publicly shaming her, using force against her, or abusing your power over her.

Thanks for asking. You can no longer claim ignorance. 

I am no longer entertaining abuse from men or women who believe they have a right to abuse me. I will not be demeaned or dismissed or manhandled or woman handled, or shoved, pushed, prodded, poked, or squashed until I cry.

This is my line in the sand. No more Mrs. Nice Gal. 

And that's all I have to say about that.

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Stylish Sandals for Ball of Foot Pain

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About ten years ago, after many years of traipsing about in all manner of absurd footwear, my feet betrayed me. I'd had ball of foot pain, discomfort, burning, that sort of thing on occasion through the years, especially after dancing the light fantastic on a pair of sparkling stilettos or hoofing it all over San Francisco from dusk until dawn before taking the BART back home. This was different. It was excruciating. It felt like someone was stabbing my foot with an ice pick. I'd had a massage a few days prior, which was a thoughtful gift from my husband, and I thought perhaps the masseuse had been a bit too enthusiastic. I was incorrect. 

I spent the rest of the week at a trade show limping, wincing, and hoping no one noticed that the formerly fabulous Madge was feeling far less than fabulous. When I got home and the pain persisted, I visited a podiatrist. This is when this shoe lover found herself facing a most unfortunate reality.

My second toes are longer than my big toes on both feet, but for some reason this is more of a problem for my left foot. (Paging Daniel Day Lewis.) Normal feet distribute the pressure from walking and running evenly, but all of my body weight had been pressing down on the thin long bones of my second toe. After years of this, my long bones were protesting, vociferously. There was nothing they could do.

Nothing? Not a single thing? Seriously?

Wear comfortable shoes.

Wait, what?

I tried Birkenstocks, Aerosoles, Kork-Ease, Sofft, Naot, Merrells, Keen, Bjorn, Sanuk...all well made shoes designed for comfort, but for my condition mostly useless. The only shoes I could wear for any extended period of time without pain were Target's rubber flip-flops. Not apropos for all occasions. I went to another podiatrist, same answer. Then another, and another, and yet another. Wear soft shoes, you need cushioning under your foot, and arch support. This sounds simple, but try finding stylish shoes with soft, squishy foot beds that also have arch support. Then I got plantar faciitis, which added another level of complexity to my situation, because I needed more support than the soft soled arched shoes were providing. I have literally tried on every single sandal and comfort shoe at DSW and left without a single pair. I've gone to comfort shoe specialists and purchased obscenely expensive shoes that offered little to no relief. 

If you have extreme ball of foot pain, you've come to the right blog post. These are the sandals that have worked for me. They provide arch support, soft foot beds, and some modicum of style. I can wear these for hours without foot pain or with minimal foot pain. No, they're not as pretty as a pair of Jimmy Choos, I'm not going to lie. Still, if not being in immense amounts of physical discomfort trumps looking like Carrie Bradshaw, then they'll do the trick.

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You can find all of these in my Margot Potter LIST on Amazon! One stop stylish comfort shoe shopping, huzzah!

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Rockport Sandals: I found the pair on the left recently and they are amazing. I have a pair of Rockport boots I wear with insoles in the cooler months, but these are even more comfortable. They have great arch support and a super soft foot bed. I can wear them for hours without feeling any pain. These have man made uppers, so if wearing leather is a concern for you, no worries! Look for Rockports with this specific foot bed, trust me. 

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FitFlop Sandals: I replaced my well worn pair of the sequin encrusted numbers last summer. They're still going strong! FitFlops are seriously comfortable and the added details make you feel a little less frumpy. I like a thong, but if you don't they have other styles. I have tried the cork and leather slimmer profile versions of FitFlops and they just don't provide the softness and support I need. If your feet aren't as challenged as mine, you may find you like the other styles. Size down a little, I usually wear a 6.5/7 and in these I buy a 6. The only downside if you have thin feet like mine is they may be a little lose around the top of your foot. They do make some styles with buckles you can adjust.

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Teva Mush Flip Flops: If you're looking for great day to day upgrade from the rubber flip flop, these can't be beat. I wear them like slippers when I'm home, since walking barefoot on hardwood floors causes me too much pain. The other non-mush foot bed Teva sandals are too hard for my feet, this mush foot bed is the ticket. They also offer excellent arch support, and there's a version with a little wedge and fancier straps. They all come in a variety of patterns and colors to boot. Highly recommend!

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Dansko Clogs: I can wear Danskos for several hours without foot pain, more than most shoes, but I still find the foot beds a bit too hard for extended all day wear. For times when I'm not going to do tons of walking or standing, they're terrific. Bonus, they look cute with dresses! I have two pairs of Dansko sandals with pretty details. If you have a half size foot like mine, you will either have to size up or down. I size down to the 6 because my feet are thin, but I can't wear the closed toe/closed heel styles because the 6 is too small to accommodate my toes and the 7 too big so my heel slips. Just an FYI.

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White Mountain Sandals: I keep trying their sandals on, and they are most definitely comfy, but I haven't found a pair that looks just right. Too many sparkles? I can't put my finger on it. Depending on your sense of style, these may work for you!

Clarks Sandals: Another brand that makes very comfy and well constructed shoes, but I'm not 100% sold on any style. I am leaning towards the gladiators. These may be perfect for you and I can attest to their comfort!

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I've also heard very good things about Jambu, so I tossed a couple into the mix. I love the combination of sporty and strappy they've got going on here. Plus they come in fun colors and are very well constructed. 

I am sure there are more stylish sandals that might work to alleviate ball of foot pain. I'm ever on the prowl. If you have extreme ball of foot pain and you've found some shoes you love, please share in the comments below! If you've got another foot condition that presents challenges and you've found some footwear solutions, share below too! Let's help each other out, women. No one should ever pony up their hard earned cash for shoes that don't deliver again! 

PS: I've got a great book out right now that has an entire chapter dedicated to fashion after 50. It's a humor book, but I take my fashion seriously, folks. Fifty and Other F-words, check it out!

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In Search of The Zen Mind

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She was here and gone in a flash, our Summer of Love truncated into a week at the front end and another that awaits us at the back. I did my best to embrace this first half, but I could have done much more. Not enough snuggling, not enough laughing, not enough listening. I'm half in, half out most of the time as my brain races from one thought to the next. It's a frustrating condition, likely more frustrating to the people who are trying to reach me and finding me half engaged.

I told you that, Mom. 

No you did not!

Yes, I did.

You did? I didn't hear you.

But you answered me.

I didn't hear you. I'm sorry.

My brain is a hummingbird, in constant flight. My heart aches for stillness, connection, the simple bliss of being fully immersed in the moment. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. If there is a Zen Mind, I do not possess it. What is the opposite of the Zen Mind? I'm not sure. The Chaos Mind, perhaps? If so, I signed up at birth and it has only been exacerbated by the exit of my hormones post menopause. 

Ooo, the chaos mind? Sounds fun! I'll take it!

54 years later and...

...I'd like to return it, please.

No, seriously. Take it back. 

In our increasingly noisy, frantic reality, I am struggling more each day with finding focus. This is the plan. Keep us all so distracted by an endless parade of insanity that we begin to doubt ourselves, each other, our institutions, the very nature of reality.

Which is tenuous at best. 

Add to this The Chaos Mind, and it's a wonder I am able to complete this sentence.

What was I writing about, again?

I had a revelation last week, or a realization, depends on your perspective. I realized based on observation and personal experience, that women who have raised children and become 'empty nesters' tend to redecorate their homes and create a pristine, pretty, ordered, tidy, non-chaotic environment. After all, kids are messy and destructive and expensive to raise, and it's hard to keep a home clean, neat, and damage free with children running roughshod over it all. When my daughter was growing up, we had so much going on that any clean surface would be covered with detritus within moments of being cleared. Pillows and throws carefully arranged on furniture scattered hither and yon, impossible numbers of crumpled tissues, squashed juice boxes, and empty wrappers littered across the floors and shoved into couch cushions, endless papers from school stacked haphazardly and needing constant attention, samples from clients still in boxes stacked on top of other boxes creating towers of random craft supplies...dirty towels, used glasses, random socks...all proliferating with astounding speed.

Then she left for college. We moved. We moved again. Messy, cluttered, and unkempt shifted to clean, simple, and ordered. This makes The Chaos Brain happy, yet it does little to soothe the aching heart beyond keeping it and the caretaker of both of these organs from falling apart. I will put this here and add this over there, I will keep this surface uncluttered, this bed made, these towels folded just so, and these plants alive because I finally have time to remember to water them. 

Hooray. 

When my daughter comes home, I have to reset myself and remember that the clutter is good. I have to let go of the desire for order. I have to remember that I cannot control everything, or much of anything. I have to let the heart take hold and The Chaos Mind take a breather. 

She was here and gone in a flash, and the house has been duly re-ordered. The Chaos Mind has been appeased. The aching heart still aches. I should have done more snuggling, laughing, and listening and less worrying about the things I cannot control. One day, perhaps, I will find The Zen Mind.

Or not, but I strive.

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If you like this post, you might like my new book Fifty and Other F-words: Reflections From the Rearview Mirror. I'm just sayin'. 

Vanessa Kiki Johanning: Blooming in Living Color

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Vanessa Kiki Johanning

Some people color inside of the lines, some people color outside of the lines, and then there’s Vanessa Kiki Johanning. Vanessa colors outside of this world. Her Technicolor art is not limited to a canvas. Her home, studio, and gardens offer a wild panoply of hues. She’s an explosion of delight and being around her either virtually or in real life shocks you into a state of pure bliss. Her positive, persistent, playful nature draws people into her orbit and her uplifting, energizing messages keep them coming back for more. With 21 years in landscape garden design, Vanessa’s love for color sprouted from her love of flowers. That’s evident in her mixed media art, which features vibrant floral motifs as a recurring theme. 

Known as The Rhinestone Contessa, Vanessa is a landscape and floral design expert, fine artist, trend forecaster, teacher, consultant, event planner, and life-styler. That restless creativity has resulted in an impressive body of work. From journals to canvases to licensed clothing to fabric and even entire cars and trucks, she’s a prolific artist who sees the possibility for embellishment in every surface. She’s recently emblazoned her artwork on an array of products ranging from home décor to wearables, all of which you can find on her website. Endlessly inspired, constantly evolving, Vanessa is a one of a kind, rare and wondrous, walking work of art. 

First off …thank you so much Margot for including me in this series, I am honored and extremely humbled! You are such a Light shiner, in this world because Your integrity will always be the bottom line, that is sooo special in this day and age!

Let me see, where does it all begin?

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With your background in landscaping and your love of gardening, flowers play an integral role in so much of what you do. Your art is a virtual garden, and nobody paints flowers like you, Vanessa. What is it, exactly, about flowers that intrigues you? How have they informed your creativity? 

I started my love of horticulture with my father, we spent many hours together in our Large Midwest Yard. I have three younger sisters and they all got the inside laundry chores, I was the oldest and the one that got sent outside to help him. Sometimes we would even be working in the Gardens till way after dark, he was so passionate about it so I really felt special and close to him. He taught me how to plant the right way, and really nurture the growth. You can see right away that flowers have super special meanings, and that feelings attached to them! This is where my artwork comes from.

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I have designed hundreds of Gardens, and the Main ingredient to having a special space is to add feelings… Yes! its true! That is what my secret to design always is! Whether its to plant with names of friends or words that resonate with the overall theme, that was what makes it so special! Flowers to me will always represent rebirth and growth…for instance when you unfurl a tiny new leaf, YOU are the ONLY person in the world that has ever seen it! Its so magical! 

I’ve also always taken thousands of photos in the spaces I created, this became helpful when I began painting full time, later in my career. It was filling up my paint palette with every color imaginable! Some times I would plant 200-300 of a single variety, because I could just tell that it was needed, the same judgment is used now in my art!

You have a fabulous sense of style and a fearlessness in how you dress. Even though you were bullied relentlessly as a child, you’ve refused to shrink yourself or become invisible. I love this about you. Many women over 50 feel as if they’re disappearing or feel pressured by society to fade into the background. You’ve taken the opposite approach. You’re a wild, unfettered, fabulous force of nature! Have you always dressed outrageously? 

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Yes looking back I guess I always did, even in High school I would alter my clothes, but we always thought that was ‘Normal!’ Nowadays, I dress for Comfort, and I enjoy the fine art of Pattern Collecting. In my artists eye, I see my daily clothes choices are like a happy quilt, the patterns have a chance to dance and it makes the day so much Fun!  

How would you describe your approach to fashion?

A little too much, but still adorable and fun. Pippi Longstocking goes shopping at Anthropologie!

How can other women follow your lead and tap into their wild side?

I feel my best when I try to look like an artist. Getting a little attention is okay! Believe me! You never know where your next inspiration will come from, and it might come from a clothes conversation! Just do it! There is no such thing as 'The Clothes Police!' Have Fun! You don’t have to go full out wild, if you don’t feel like it. Try dressing like a Artist/Designer, and soon you will be one. Be Yourself… however that looks!

 Some days I’m a wild Hippie, other days I'm comfortable in a Chanel suit. NO rules!!  

You married your high school sweetheart, and the two of you have been together for 35 years. That’s a long time, and very impressive. So many marriages fade away or fall apart or become untenable. Tending to a marriage is like tending to a garden, you need to nurture it, water it, feed it, or it withers and eventually it dies. Can you talk about how you’ve cultivated your relationship? How have you two managed to make it work for 35 years? 

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First off, He is incredible! He is a robotic engineer and a super creative. He just thinks up inventions every day… and then I come along and want to add color to everything. We are a great team.

It just works… We always seem to have a project going on to work on together, it adds to the spark into the everyday. We have found out that we are most successful at anything we do together. We do a lot of singing and joking all the time at our house. We both Love experiences! Having his and her garages has been a lifesaver!  He is a great cook, and I’m a great eater! (Ha ha!)

In the book Fifty and Other F-words, I talk about facing the empty nest. How have you and your husband navigated this, especially with your children moving to another state? 

We always raised them to be ‘World Thinkers’ My husband has traveled in the service to over 20 countries, so it was not a surprise to us that they would “grow wings.” Of course it was sad, both our children left on the same day with our blessings after they graduated from college. They were ready to have some adventure! It is hard to not have them so close, but thank goodness for FaceTime and airplanes! In these times, we are still considered a close knit family. They are super creative, and believe in living a positive motivational life. Its always great to hear what they are up to! 

You’ve navigated your share of difficulties in your lifetime, as have most women over 50. I’m a believer in perspective, and how that informs our reality. We get that upon which we focus, and if we focus on the positive, it shifts our attitude into attracting more of the same. You’re a beacon of positivity, and so much of your messaging is about embracing happiness. You said this, “I never consider the story of my past to be a ‘weight’ of the future…it’s more of a slingshot!” How has your past, even the painful aspects, been a slingshot for your future?

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When we think long and hard about the paths that we have chosen, You can see the lowest moments were actually the ones that you can learn the most. You hear that a lot nowadays, but its so true! Tell me I can’t do something and I will want to do it even more! 

I have had traumatic things happen in my life that I have turned into a Focus. For instance I am an extreme cheerleader for bullied kids, I just want them to know that there are ways they can turn it around, to reset the narrative that will try to worm its way into their head…it is possible! I am proof! 

One of the recurring themes in these interviews is the idea of reinvention, or as Kathy Cano-Murillo reframed it, evolution. This is perhaps a more apt description, since we’re not tossing out what we’ve gathered along the way, we’re just tapping into new avenues of expression. Can you talk about your evolution? What led you from landscaping to retail to full time art? How did each experience feed into the next? How do you see yourself evolving in the future?

I sold my Landscaping company and my store in the same day, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I needed to find a new way to create and the voice in my heart was screaming to walk a new path. I still didn’t know I was an “Artist” believe it or not, but I had a taste of the Good feeling, and that would not let go of me. I wanted more.

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Somewhere along the way I heard “Fake it till you make it”… and it was not in a negative way! I truly believe that there are many jobs or roles in this life that you can just grow into! You can reinvent yourself at any time. Just TRY to become what you want! Try reading every book, blog watching every movie, and YYouTube video on the subject that you can! Take some classes! Immerse yourself into believing it can happen, and then don’t be surprised when you wake up one day and you will need to find New dreams to fulfill, because you've reached your goals!

I have always been creative and kept looking for outlets that made me feel accepted. The Art world is my home now…and can proudly say I am an artist, without blushing. 

Its the most wonderful time in the universe and I’m loving to create within these moments! I want to have my artwork in homes across the world, in anyway I can! 

I’m also loving your products, they need to be everywhere!!!! What else is on the horizon for Vanessa? Where can people find you and dive into your world?

Of course I post daily on Instagram and Facebook. They're just other ways to express creativity and artwork, right? Also super exciting news, I will be teaching Live at “Art is You” in Stamford Connecticut this fall, and other venues around the county! Check out their website for all the details coming soon! 

My colorful art products are with a company called Vida. They feature all of the creative parts of me that love color and Joy! They are always having great sales and amazing products! I love this company! 

Speaking of evolution, can you tell us about your Bohemian Forest Workshop Event? It sounds incredible!

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Yes! It is going to be so Special! My latest project is one I have been planning for 3 years.  “Bohemian Enchanted Forest Workshop” is coming up June 23, 2018, in Southeastern Wisconsin. I have been making and painting creative gifts for many hours into the night!  

Working together with the famous Artist named Bonnie Lynn Laduha, we are so excited to have a space to make into an magical fantasy Woodland Dream for the day!

 Its a workshop that will be so fun with the motivational speaker; Rachel Awes, a wooden angel Fairy Art project (we supply everything!), a Gorgeous salad luncheon, and so much more! With photo booths and fairy costume prizes, its sure going to be a memory for sure! Look for more info on my website: www.VanessaJohanning.com, tickets are still available until the June 18th deadline! Please come and bring a special friend for a super, once in a life time day! 

Thank you again Margot for taking the time to chat!! Your writing is mesmerizing, stimulating, and so Fresh! Love all your ways that you jump into Life! 

I look forward to all the amazing future adventures these moments have to offer!! Bring it!! We are ready for anything !! ~VKJ

Kathy Cano-Murillo Fantastic Fortitude

 Kathy Cano-Murillo

Kathy Cano-Murillo

For our final Fifty and Other F-words Book Launch Kick Ass Warrior Woman, I'm excited to shine a spotlight on one of my favorite women Kathy Cano-Murillo, a.k.a. The Crafty Chica. Kathy is a glittery ray of sunshine in a dark and weary world. Her Mexican-infused DIY ideas have been inspiring crafters for over 16-years through her wildly popular website CraftyChica.com where she shares crafts, recipes, motivational tips, travel ideas, storytelling, and more. Kathy describes herself as a crafty version of Selena-meets-the-Hallmark Channel-with a dash of Oprah optimism. That optimism is a major key to her success. She’s inspiring, she’s engaging, she’s joyful, and she’s one of the hardest working people I know. Kathy has written seven craft books and two novels, penned a nationally syndicated craft column for the Arizona Republic, and has designed several popular product lines sold in national craft chains. She does the crafty hustle on the daily, recently opening the Mucho Más Art Studio in Phoenix with her husband, musician, and artist, Patrick Murillo.

Kathy’s over 50, but she’s got the energy and enthusiasm of a 20-something. She radiates happiness, which keeps her looking and seeming far younger than her years. Never afraid to jump in with both feet, she embraces new adventures and new technology with open arms. If you want to know what’s going to trend, pay attention to Kathy because she’ll be one of the first to start the ripples and then ride the wave.

Writer, designer, artist, speaker, storyteller, motivator, mother, and entrepreneur Kathy Cano-Murillo has figured out the secret to success. It’s not just doing what you love, but knowing what you want and going for it with everything you’ve got.

We’ve known each other for many years, we both started in the craft industry at the Atlanta CHA show. It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? You’ve done so much since then! When other people have given up you’ve kept going strong. Your tenacity is inspiring. What do you think is the secret to your success? How do you maintain forward motion even in the face of disappointments?

 Kathy with some of her vibrant, beautiful art.

Kathy with some of her vibrant, beautiful art.

Thank you so much, Margot! I’m so happy and proud of you for your fabulous new book! Thank you for including me here! Honestly, I’ve found the secret to success is pursuing my own kind of happiness without expectation. Having the mindset that no one owes me anything. I feel like it opens up more space for me to have control of my life and feelings. However, it took some hard lessons and some healing time to get to that point! I focus on what I know to be true: I love to make things. I love to share ideas. I love to meet new people. I love to share a brighter outlook when things seem bleak. I have faith in the future that there will always be an awesome destination ahead. I move forward to take chances, explore, try new things. Throughout the years I’ve learned that I can actually set my own course, which helps a lot!

You told me a few years back that you like to move in a new direction with each decade. I’m with you on that front! Can you talk a little about your many reinventions? What motivates you to try something radically different? Is that scary to you or exhilarating or a bit of both? A lot of women over 50 feel stuck, because we’re the most unemployed segment of the population. This is even more true for women of color. I think being an entrepreneur prepares you for the inevitable ups and downs professionally. Do you face or feel age-ism or do you think being self-motivated and self-employed has made that less of an issue for you?

 Ceramics by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Ceramics by Kathy Cano-Murillo

I’m barely in my fifth decade and haven’t quite set a concrete plan, but I am sketching out a loose blueprint! I opened a retail boutique in Phoenix and am loving the shopkeeper life. I originally had it as a bucket list item – a one-year pop-up shop, but now I feel it’s part of my destiny! I’ve recently thought about the term of reinventing and realized it doesn’t quite suit me. As I look back over my life, I don’t want to reinvent. I’ve accepted there is nothing wrong with the former me that I feel I need to give it an overhaul. My strength has come from my epic failures, my scars and battles. And my wins, loves, and friendships! I love who I am and who I’ve grown into. I feel really proud to have made it through the stressful times and still come out with hope. However, I do embrace the reality of evolving!!! It happens to all of us and it’s a bizarre and beautiful experience! You can fight with it, or open your front door and invite it in for an all-out party!

Honestly, the women I know 50+ are badass go-getters! Especially women of color! With the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the DACA situation, I feel like this time we are in, women are embracing the importance of speaking up, self-care, self-expression, and striving to live their best life despite these unjust challenges. They are incorporating their dreams and goals into daily life. I meet so many women online and in real life who have a side business, or are excited to retire so they can launch their longtime idea, or those who have become activists/artivists. And they are doing it! And being at this age is great because we’ve already seen what does and doesn’t work, so a lot of time is saved, lol!

Okay, now about ageism. Naturally it is out there. We all know it. But at the same time, there are also plenty of opportunities. I’d say I’m in the busiest era of my career these days, go figure! I did not expect that at all! I still do craft tutorials, but I changed my brand to be more lifestyle so I also do a lot of travel and food content, motivational speaking, product design, and so on. I absolutely love the variety!

It makes me happy to see so many young Latinas diving into DIY! It’s the whole reason why I started CraftyChica – to have the Latino community be part of the bigger story. A lot of the Latinx comunity never even heard of my brand so sometimes it’s like I have to reestablish myself all over again! But that’s okay because I’m all about meeting new people. The ones I have met embraced me and include me in events and that makes my heart sing because it proves creativity has no age! Or I’ll meet young girls who say they read my craft books in their grade school library, or that their moms have my books. For the emerging Latinx creators community - This is their time to shine. They are bursting with so much talent and innovation! I had my time in the DIY arena of Latino crafts, I am perfectly happy to cheer all of them on!

We’re both empty nesters with successful children who are thriving as young adults. It’s such a cool thing to see our kids bloom. It’s hard to let them go, and it can be a struggle for women as they redefine themselves once the children are gone. You and Patrick opened Mucho Más Art Studio recently. I’m so excited for you guys! It’s kind of a full circle, but the circle is so much bigger now. You started out making and selling handicrafts together. Did the empty nest play a role in this adventure? What’s it like working together? How are the two of you navigating the empty nest? What’s the big picture goal for the gallery?

 DeAngelo Murillo, Patrick Marillo, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Maya Murillo

DeAngelo Murillo, Patrick Marillo, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Maya Murillo

It’s been so wonderful to see our kids grow up! And it’s difficult when they leave because they’ve been by our side for so long. But it’s also very freeing and makes us reconnect with our own inner spirit and original life goals. Readjust and recalibrate!

TRUTH TALK moment…

It’s funny, recently Maya and I attended a large conference (separately). We happened to bump into each other on the Expo floor between our respective sessions. One of her followers who was there asked me, “So, what does it feel like to have a daughter in this space? Do you understand all the stuff she does, it must be so weird, huh?”

GULP.

OMG.

These were the exact questions people would ask Maya when she came with ME to my events over the years! It was such a humbling moment. Before I could even process a reply I blurted, “Actually Maya helped me with my brand since she was 8-years-old and she did such a great job, I bought her a web site when she turned 16! And that led to what she is doing now!” SMILE.

I know I should have just nodded kindly and not gone into details, but the tone kinda rubbed me the wrong way, even though this girl totally meant well. She was very sweet, but she had no idea. So even though I’m all about positivity, I have my weak moments of pride, lol! And then later in the conference, that girl ran up to me and said, “Oh my God, I looked at your web site, you are amazing!”

Back to your question – yes, both kids are moved out. The first two days, we binge watched Stranger Things and then got up from the couch decided we better start our new life. It’s actually pretty cool now. We have the Man Wing and the Chica Wing of the house. We each have our own studio and bathroom. We have a housekeeper and we order Hello Fresh. I get monthly massages. Less dishes to wash, less trash, less laundry. We adjusted with luxury. We really found our groove and picked up where we left off B.K. (before kids). I started going to Patrick’s concerts again and reconnected with a longtime friend who told me about the available gallery space!

We had nothing to lose, so we went for it! I love it so much. It’s like a job where you don’t get in trouble for talking too much. And now we are expanding! After being a digital entrepreneur for so long, it’s wonderful to connect with my local community. I’ve made so many new friends, young and old. I started a Latino Blogger Boot Camp, and I do a lot of mentoring and teaching. 

A lot of women over 50 feel invisible. We, as a society, are fearful of aging and death. I think that filters into attitudes about older people, and older women especially. We don’t have to be invisible, though, because it’s a choice. Our 50s are the perfect time to shine! You live life in Technicolor, and I can’t imagine you ever fading into the background. Can you share a few tips on staying vibrant and sparkly at any age?

 Kathy Cano-Murillo COPYRIGHT All Rights Reserved

Kathy Cano-Murillo COPYRIGHT All Rights Reserved

I always think of the Victor Hugo quote – 40s are old age of youth, and 50s are the youth of old age. We’re young! We are only halfway through our lives!

I think our 50s are the BEST because in our 20s we are worrying about what we want to do when we grow up. 30s are about locking in a career and family life, striving for wealth, 40s is being stressed about if we did all we want to do. But 50s is about making that to-do list and actually taking action! At this point we have released the pressure we put upon ourselves in earlier years.

The first step is release expectation of what people think. Who cares if we are invisible to them, it leaves more freedom to be loca and do what we want! No one is watching! My tips are a lot of what you share, Margot! Go get your life, try new things, have grace, pay it forward. Know that every day you are younger than you will be tomorrow so live it up!

Don’t be shy about what you wear, if it makes you happy, own it and rock it!

Don’t hate on the younger generation, learn from them and be an example for them. We were all there too. Don’t hate on the older people because we are going to be them someday!

Look at your parents’ health as a blueprint for you, factor it in, prepare accordingly, and see if helps alleviate the stress.

More than ever, make sure you are good with your finances, make a plan for retirement. That will curb some stress and maybe even prevent wrinkles? Don’t fear any of this, educate and empower yourself!

Lastly – say yes and embrace NEW! New music, new places, new foods, new crowds, new skills. Go be the new girl in a situation, it’s fun to meet new people! Even if you think you already tried something, if its been a few years, try it again!

You always have something new and exciting happening in your world. Can you give us a little sneak peek into what’s ahead for Kathy and Crafty Chica?

 Kathy and one of her beautiful handpainted ceramic mugs!

Kathy and one of her beautiful handpainted ceramic mugs!

Sure! Thank you for asking! You can find all of the following info at CraftyChica.com: I just released a new t-shirt line! I’m doing a Summer of Crafty tour this summer for Toyota. I have The Crafty Chica Show podcast where I share fun interviews and tips for creative business owners. I have my third line of Sizzix products coming out this fall, which I’m super excited about. And this December I’m leading a group to San Miguel de Allende for a crafting retreat! If you are in Phoenix, come see me at Mucho Más Art Studio (@muchomasartstudio) – or just check me out on social media @craftychica

Margot, thank you so much for having me as a guest! Congrats on your new book, it’s been so inspiring to see it all unfold from beginning to release date!!! Felicidades, amiga!

Lille Diane Fierce, Formidable, Fun

 Renaissance Woman Lille Diane

Renaissance Woman Lille Diane

Our sixth Kick Ass Warrior Woman being featured on the Fifty and Other F-words Book Launch is Lille Diane. Lille is a creative chameleon, a Renaissance Woman, an artist, vocalist, writer, healer, and 'human sparkler.' She radiates pure joy and shines it on everyone she meets. If you’ve not joined her Soul Picnic yet, you should. Lille's life has been a wonder filled journey of exploration even in the darkest of moments. Her talents seem endless. She’s turned her challenges into her gifts, sharing them with due reverence sprinkled with a judicious smattering of whimsy in her art, music, and musings.

After a devastating automobile accident, and a horse riding accident she’d had years before that resulted in traumatic brain injury, Lille was plunged into the depths of PTSD, multiple chronic, debilitating illnesses and MCS, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. The physical assaults on her brain, body, and spirit sent her into a spiral of dis-ease, depression, isolation, self-doubt, and fear. Through focusing on creativity, Lille was able to make her way from the darkness back into the light.

Lille has synchronized her creative gifts and the lessons learned as she lifted herself out of the undertow in a series of workshops, classes, essays, videos, and content to heal PTSD she calls Armchair Adventures. You can explore it all on Lille’s website Your Soul Picnic. Even if you don’t have PTSD, there is lots of juicy good stuff there.

“I created this picnic basket for all the armchair adventurers out here who are in various stages of healing and for those of you who are traveling alongside the one healing. I made this for people with PTSD. I made this picnic basket for myself and others like myself who are back out into the world functioning, thriving and embracing their newfound freedom. I made it for you reading this page. I made it especially for you, dear one.” Lille Diane

You’ve taken what could have been a life sentence of darkness and turned it into a high beam of light. That’s magical, truly. Was there a moment in the darkest part of your journey when the light was switched back on, or was it a series of incremental moments? How did you start your journey back to you?

Great question, Margot! I lived in varying degrees of shock for several years after the auto accident, especially that first year after my life flipped upside down. My brain was a jumbled-up, sticky mess as life became a series of surgeries, doctor’s visits, and psychiatric care appointments. I had no magic mirror to see myself clearly and my rearview mirror took a hit, too.

 Laughing Lille 

Laughing Lille 

PTSD is a wily foe. It doesn’t play fair. Nor does it show up in a logical, chronological order to help you sort your shit out. Trauma stacks, shifts, shape-shifts again, and hides in crevices in our brains. I’d never experienced something smacking me down so hard even though I’d gone through far worse trauma in my life. The old ‘me’ that bounced back effortlessly with a dimpled-smile and brightly, colored cartoon Band-Aids on her knees after the shit storms in life pummeled her was now MIA. Poof—gone! I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. Try as I may, I just couldn’t resume life as it was before. I was forced to go on disability through my employer while seeking psychological help so I could work again.   

While I was receiving treatment to help me locate my missing sassy pantaloons, I decided to use writing to help me unscramble my brain. Journaling and songwriting had always been my go-to self-help therapy when my life was happy, victorious, sad, confusing or tumultuous. I tackled a book idea about an event during the late 60’s, the Summer of Love era, when I was a teen and ran away to San Francisco to be a part of the Haight-Ashbury experience. I’d had this book and screenplay idea on a back burner for 20+ years so I jumped in with an almost hyper-focus to give it life.

The story line bounced between flashbacks of childhood trauma and ongoing tribulations of a 15 year old trying to escape an abusive step-father which in turn told the story why I became a habitual runaway in the first place. Yes, #metoo. I wrote page after page of graphic details about my childhood as a victim and my teen years to set the story line up as it happened. Unbeknownst to me I inadvertently unlocked Pandora’s Box letting loose villains, old ghosts, and wounds I was certain I had dealt with, yet, apparently I hadn’t. Combined with the recent trauma of plummeting 125 feet off a cliff, literally, I didn’t stand a chance. PTSD had me by the adrenal glands.

While it appears this might have been a negative unfolding of events, I can assure you, it was not. Shining a big ass flashlight on the accumulative layers of trauma I’d buried gave me much needed clarity and understanding why I needed so many fricking Band Aids in the first place. Shit happens and sometimes poopage hitting the fan isn’t a bad thing. It can be the beginning of fulfilled hopes, dreams, and opportunities to connect wayward dots to find true inner freedom. My seemingly rude, abrupt bump off the road of life was exactly what I needed to have the amazing life I have now. Transformation begins when we can say thank you for the shitty days as well as the sweet days.

You’ve packed several lifetimes into one, I relate to this on a cellular level. As you know, we live in a time when becoming a shape shifter is a necessity for survival. That lifetime career track has disappeared, and people are finding themselves having to continuously reinvent. This is particularly challenging for women over 50, because we are the least employed demographic. You’ve stitched a variety of things together to make a pathway forward. How did you weave the fabric of your current career track? What did it take to make this happen?  

 The colorful, joyful world of Lille Diane

The colorful, joyful world of Lille Diane

At the time of the accident I worked for a national art college and traveled extensively for the organization as a recruiter. I was diagnosed with acute and chronic PTSD and placed on disability before being dismissed permanently because I couldn’t drive or be in a car. I was crushed hearing the news, “I’m so sorry but we have to terminate you.” I was in my mid 50’s when I was fired. My boss, a woman I loved to bits, didn’t know the depths of hell I’d gone through to find that job after my 25 year marriage came to end and how damn hard it was to find employment at midlife after divorce. I choked back the guttural wails until I hung up the phone and spent the next couple of days in a prenatal ball.

I’d worked hard to build a successful music and speaking career before my divorce but without a partner I couldn’t do it and raise my teenage son as a single mother due to the cross country travel involved. I canceled my bookings; some nearly two years out, and reinvented myself (again) to support my situation. That being said, it took me almost seven years after my divorce to land a better paying job with health benefits because my work history of being self-employed and time off for motherhood disqualified me from getting hired. However, my biggest disqualifier was being in my late 40’s and it only got worse as entered my 50’s. It was the first time in my life to experience discrimination because of age. Not lack of experience. Now here I was again only ten years older in the same sinking raft.

My son was now grown and away living from home. I sunk my teeth into my new career working for the Art Institute and soon became a top recruiter. How could one not love being a cheerleader cultivating creative soils, planting seeds of possibility, and watering seedlings who dared to dream? Each day, I would tell students with heartfelt enthusiasm “Don’t settle! Live your wildest, creative dreams like you were born to do! You can be an artist AND survive because the entire world is run by artists: from the artists who create the food we eat, to the cars we drive, to the clothes we wear, the chairs we sit in, the magazines we read, the movies we watch, the houses we live in, and the devices we use! Art is Life and Life is art!” And yet, deep inside I knew I had stopped living my own creative dreams years ago.

When our van was tumbling down the steep mountain side I had the experience many say happens when you are close to death’s door. My life flashed before my eyes with my son being the brightest thought and then a brief sadness filled my heart. I was sad I hadn’t done all the things creatively that I’d dreamed of doing. I thought to myself, “Oh no! Not now! I still have so many dreams to fulfill, art to make, songs to sing, and people to love! I need more time!” I clearly saw I’d put my creative life on hold and was merely sleep-walking through my life. Then a tranquil peace filled me seconds later. Profoundly beautiful peace, with no screams leaving my mouth, as our car rolled onward to what I was sure was my impending death. Death did not take me that day. Instead, depression killed me softly with its unending song one thought at a time as soon as I left the hospital.

After having such a profound aha-moment in the car during the accident I sunk deeper into depression which I didn’t understand.  Instead of becoming a human whirlwind of creative genius because I got a second chance at life I became lifeless and paralyzed with fear. I wondered in silent horror what would become of me during the next decade and beyond. I fought flashbacks flying at me left and right and sleep didn’t happen unless I was medicated. The accident became my identity--not all the wonderful things I had done in my life. Down, down I fell in a spiral all the while hoping Scotty would beam me up from the nightmare my life had become.

 Lille Diane

Lille Diane

One day I looked around my office and faced the hard facts I wouldn’t be returning to the corporate world or most likely any job for an unknown amount of time. I couldn’t even leave my house to go to the store for food let alone a 9-5 job. That’s when I got the idea to toss anything that resembled a typical office décor or reminded me of my former corporate lifestyle. I no longer called my desk a “desk”. I called it my play station. I unpacked my art supplies that had been in boxes for over 10 years and turned the space into an art studio. Next I sat down and wrote a list of 100+ creative things I wanted to do and set about to check them off the list. I was surprised to see how quickly and easily my list grew.

This act alone was the visual and physical stimuli I needed to kick all my gears into fast forward. I ‘pretended’ I was an artist, acted like an artist, and practiced answering people when they asked what I did by saying, “I’m an artist.” I immersed myself daily in art making and discovered not only did it help me to focus—it calmed me. On days when I was bedridden, which was often, I’d watch artists teaching others how to make art on YouTube. I stumbled onto creative journaling and jumped in full throttle. Then I started taking online classes and began making some kick ass art. What flowed out of me astonished me with its beauty. Art making became my mental therapy and consistently worked to calm me. Eureka!

Out of nowhere I got an idea to start a blog which I named Woodstock Lily to document my journey as I crawled through the trenches of PTSD using creativity as my road map and healing method. Making or doing the items on my 101 creative thing’s list, and checking them off, began a life changing act of rewiring my brain. Then one day what began in April 09 as writing to an audience of one, my Superman, turned into an audience of thousands as I chronicled my PTSD journey on my blog. I never imagined anyone would ever read my blog that first day I hit “post”. I was wrong. I discovered people everywhere were dealing with PTSD and looking for a way out like I was.

The benefits art making provided to my overall physical, spiritual, and mental health was enough for me to see I had an opportunity, and a responsibility, to show others who were dealing with similar issues how art making could benefit them, too. My life changing event labeled “an accident” provided me the next steps of becoming who I am now, doing what I do now, and gaining my life back even brighter than before I gave up my creative life to raise my son 20 years ago.   

Music is a large part of your story, and music is a universal healing force. Sound reaches into our primal brain, resonates deep into our bones, and alters us fundamentally. You are using your music as a healing tool. Was this always your approach to music, or was this a revelation that came later in your life? What role does music play in your Soul Picnic basket?

I haven’t been able to sing since the accident like I used to. I recently learned I have scar tissue on my vocal chords and in my neck that affects my ability to sing. I’m currently undergoing treatment to remove the blockages in my throat and diaphragm. I have no expectations or lingering sadness about this situation. It is what it is and I had 45+ years being a songbird. So, for now I mainly listen to music and inhale the healing benefits like I do the negative ions here in the Colorado Rockies. If we experience a breakthrough in my ability to sing again, I want to belt a tune out with you, Margot. I’ll use this as my carrot to keep on trying.

 Lille Diane Chanteuse

Lille Diane Chanteuse

Your art is an explosion of color and happiness, much like the maker. Have you always been an artist? Do you recall your first artistic explorations? Creativity is the opposite of destruction, how has making art helped you heal yourself? What would you say to someone who thinks they aren’t artistic or creative? How do you use art as a tool for healing?

Art and music have been on my radar since my earliest memories. I guess you could say, “I was born this way” but Lady Gaga already said that. In fact, art and music are what kept me interested in school. That and boys, however, I digress. I was the kid that lit up like a Christmas tree when the hot off the press stinky mimeographed paper the teacher passed out was something to color instead of math problems to figure out. Academics, especially math, put me to sleep or offered me legitimate reasons to daydream. Art and music—I’ll continue to date them heavy until I put on my sparkly suit.

I love it when someone tells me they aren’t creative or they can’t draw a stick man. I smile and ask them if they can make the number 10? Usually everyone nods yes because everyone knows it’s a straight line and a circle. The exact same components it takes to draw a stick man.

More often than not, it’s this very person who thinks they have no natural skills to make art that totally rocks the art project I’m teaching and blows everyone away with their talents. All it takes is some art tools, a little time, and some encouragement for most people to remember to remember that enthusiastic kid they once were that loved art making, too. For me, there’s nothing more rewarding than observing a person finding that sweet spot of fully engaging with their creativity again.

In regards to how I use art as my healing modality I think my paragraphs above tells the readers how art saved me, bathed me, and illuminated my soul beyond the stars and still accompanies me on my Earth walk today. How grateful I am for this!

What’s next for Lille Diane and Your Soul Picnic? Do you have a road map or are you allowing the journey to unfold organically? What’s on the menu for your Soul Food?

During the past three years an amazing amount of longtime goals, dreams and aspirations have come to fruition in my world. It feels like the Universe poured honey all over my life. I find myself saying “thank you” over and over again with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I’d like to share one last short, sweet story with your readers as I approach the ten year anniversary of the accident on May 4, 2018.

 Lille's 63rd Birthday Mesa Verde National Park

Lille's 63rd Birthday Mesa Verde National Park

My word for 2015 was Emerge. I did that by pushing through the debilitating pain of fibromyalgia, broken ribs and torn abdominal muscles from coughing due to pneumonia, and an out of shape body to get our home ready for market, pack and move cross-country to CO in early April. Later that year in October I emerged on a mesa top in Mesa Verde National Park victorious after a strenuous, not-for-sissies 8+ mile hike on my 63rd birthday. Sassy pants and girl-spurs! Boy Howdy!

In 2016 my word was Engage. Superman and I became part of a tour team here in the majestic Four Corner’s area. I worked the Tucson Gem Show with the team, who appeared on TWC’s hit TV show, “Prospectors”, climbed and hiked all over the southwest with our guys finding dinosaur fossils, gems, minerals and groovy rocks galore. I created my first online creative classes on SkillShare and learned how to use Adobe Premiere Elements, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Photoshop.  It’s also fair to mention, I survived being bitten by a brown recluse—twice, two weeks apart! Bought a house and moved again to our forever home!  Holy moly, what a difference a year makes!

In 2017 my word was Miraculous—a year of miracles… and oh baby, that’s exactly what happened! My new website Your Soul Picnic was created by my husband and myself and launched May 4th. I created and held my first art related gathering/retreat in Mancos, CO at the Painted Turtle Studio & Gallery in the downtown creative district. I began volunteering at the Turtle and became the gallery manager which included redesigning the gallery and helping to boost sales tremendously for this non-profit art studio and clay-co-op. I started teaching locally, sold bunches and bunches of my art (squeee) and was invited to become a board member for the Mancos Creative District. Whoa! That’s a whole lot of miracles right there!

This year, 2018, my word is Illuminate. I’ve dedicated this year to help others shine and sparkle. To uplift, encourage, exhort, showcase, walk-beside, support, and spotlight others that are Human Sparklers. I’ve had a dream for years and years to work with teens and teach them about art making as a tool to help with mental well-being. This fall I will be helping our local art teacher with her high school and middle school students to make murals and art journals. Pinch me! No, don’t! I love this fantastic dream!

And lastly, I have plans of doing more online and in-person teaching, blogging with more intention and regularity, making more art, and helping our community of Mancos, CO, the gateway to Mesa Verde, grow as the 17th Creative District in the state of Colorado. I trust the Universe that I am right on-time to shine, sparkle and illuminate organically as I continue to support the Turtle, other creatives, our youth, and beautiful souls like yours this year, Margot.

Thank you for inviting me to sprinkle some inspiration on the topic of midlife for your fans and readers, Margot! I love being in this grand stage of life called Grandmother Wisdom in many cultures. I choose to look at myself as a faerie godmother to those who see my sparkle and shine. If I’m invisible to some it’s simply because I am not their personal faerie. I’ve honestly never felt freer and more alive in my entire life! The only challenge I see ahead is bargaining for another 65 years to do all the things percolating in this silver-haired head.

Bio: Lille Diane is a lifelong creative entrepreneur and human sparkler. She lives in Mancos, CO with her super hero husband and rescue LabraDane. Her great hope is that her mini mesa she planted with thousands of Hollyhocks will become the largest Hummingbird haven on the planet and the luscious colors will be visible on Google Earth for the entire world to see. You can find out more about Lille at yoursoulpicnic.com and follow her on Instagram at lillediane.

Vicki O'Dell Fantabulous Female

 Vicki O'Dell

Vicki O'Dell

Vicki L. O'Dell is a maker of magic, an alchemist, a soothsayer, a wild, wonder full, woman of substance. Artist, gardener, Reiki practitioner, writer, and backyard farmer, regardless of what she's doing, it's done with heart and soul. She sums things up on her website with the following:

"Midlifer, empty nester & breast cancer survivor who lives on coffee and creativity. ♥ Lady Farmer wannabe ♥ Artist ♥ Writer ♥ Earth Energy Master ♥ Reiki Practitioner ♥ Believer of living in the moment."

Vicki is a survivor, but more than that, she's a thriver, and she shares her journey with other women encouraging them to slow down and savor life. Never one to take the main road, she's spent her lifetime exploring the side roads and creating new pathways. This restless creativity has led her on all manner of fascinating adventures that can be explored in depth on her website Make. Midlife. Magic. Vicki is, like many women over 50, redefining herself while rejecting the status quo. A gifted wordsmith, artist, and designer, she never ceases to inspire! 

We both spent many years working in the craft industry, and we’ve both segued into new directions. Things really changed in that industry, especially with the explosion of DIY blogs and the proliferation of what I jokingly call craft porn. Pinterest and Instagram shifted the landscape, making a very specific kind of image with a very specific color palette take over the internet. Then came the huge wave of bloggers willing to work for free product and exposure. It’s noisy out there, and there’s a lot of bad information. I know we both felt the crunch. What are your takeaways from this experience? How has that refocused your blogging?

 Mixed Media Canvas Vicki O'Dell

Mixed Media Canvas Vicki O'Dell

Wow! You summed up a few years worth of tears and heartbreak into one paragraph. That’s some kind of skill there, ladyfriend.

I have never been the kind of woman who likes what everyone else likes. In fact, once I see that something is becoming popular, I’ll drop it like a hot potato. Even when I LOVED it. And now that everything on the web looks similar I sit back and wonder why all of the photos I see look so washed out? Where did the COLOR and vibrancy go? Why is everything so BORING?

As usual, when something becomes super popular I turn my back on it and walk the other way. I don’t know why I’m like that but there ya go. All of this creative whitewashing has helped me to see that folks that live in bold color (like you and I) are needed in this world. The pendulum will swing back again and all of those white loving people will need us. I just keep my head down and keep doing what I love. How can I do anything else?

It’s made me stronger, helped me to narrow my focus and also helped me to see who I am as a creative. I’d rather not work than create things I hate. So I’ll work my part time job to get by and ride things out. Creating what I love and minding my own business.

You’re a mid-lifer, empty nester, and breast cancer survivor. I think a lot of women over 50 can relate to all three of these experiences. That’s a lot of change to navigate at the same time. That’s a lot of loss to navigate at the same time. Can you speak to how these three things have informed your journey? What have you lost? What have you gained?

By the time we women get to 50 we’ve seen a thing or 20. Sometimes the only thing to get you through the loss of today is knowing that you’ve lost before and survived so you’ll do it again. And again. It’s never easy but we do what we have to.

Also, I think the best thing we can do when we are experiencing one loss after another is to sit with the feelings and just let them be. It never does us any good to push them aside or try to pretend they aren’t there. Sit with them, feel the loss, and then give yourself time to deal. It took me nearly 3 years to get over the hellstorm that was 2014-15 but I’m still here. And quite frankly, I feel like I’m better than ever.

It’s true that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!

According to your website you’re a “Lady Farmer Wannabe”, would you really like to live on a farm? How much space to you have now? I’m fascinated by the rabbits, are you spinning the angora into yarn or selling it? What made you pick quail and angora rabbits? They’re wonderful unconventional choices!

 Quail eggs!

Quail eggs!

Haha! See my reply in the first question above. I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing. In this case CHICKENS. I have 1 acre outside a pretty big city here in Ohio. While I’m allowed to have chickens, and I enjoy hearing my neighbors chickens, I wanted to be different. Also, quail are much quieter and less destructive than chickens. Also, the eggs are pretty darn tasty.

I grew up on farms with both sets of grandparents. Yes, I’d like a small farm. I have this idea that most of us in our 50’s had grandparents who farmed, or at least had big gardens, but our parents had fast-food and TV and no garden. I think it’s why my/our generation has the health problems we have. Instead of turning into my mother I like to think I’m turning into my grandmother. I’m volunteering with a local group that hosts a community garden and I’m teaching women how to can and preserve the food from their gardens. It’s an important skill that most of our mothers didn’t pass down to us and I want to make sure that other women have that skill in their arsenal to help their families.

Also, French Angora rabbits create the most lovely yarn.

You practice Reiki and you’re an “earth magic maker.” Way back we chatted about moving in new directions and you were concerned about sharing those aspects of yourself online. I am so glad that you decided to go for it! Fifty and Other F-words is all about becoming your full self without fear, shame, or apology. I believe that when we do that, life unfolds for us. Did you have any negative reactions from craft fans? How has Make. Midlife. Magic. been received? Can you talk a little about Reiki and earth magic and what they entail?

 Making gardening magic.

Making gardening magic.

Every now and the someone will step up on their soapbox and point their finger at me and loudly proclaim that I’m wrong, but I don’t really give them any space in my head.  I have my opinions that are pretty strongly held, and I try to give others the same leeway. To a degree. No one has pushed me past my tolerance level yet.

I know from family history that some of the women back a few generations had some “gifts” that they used to help care for their loved ones. Cancer put me in touch with that part of myself. Receiving Reiki treatments at a local cancer support center helped me to see that maybe I had retained one or two of those gifts.

I took the Reiki certification courses and my instructor mentioned that I intuitively used a lot of earth energy in my practice. That lead me to becoming an Earth Energy Master. I’m part Cherokee and using the energy of the land around me is intuitive to me. It just feels right.

It is what centers and grounds me. Also, I’m an empath (I pick up on the energy of those around me and it affects me) having a way to ground and center is invaluable when it comes to the energy I receive.

You went gray a few years back and your hair is spectacular. What motivated you to do it and how did you manage the transition? I know a lot of women over 50 want to take the leap, but they’re afraid of the in between phase.

Honestly, it had a bit to do with time but even more to do with money. I was at a place where I had to color my hair every 3-4 weeks because it grows super fast. Also, the white hair wouldn’t hold the color, so it faded fast. It got super expensive to keep it colored so my stylist and I came up with haircuts and ways of coloring it that would allow me to grow it out without too much drama. My hair was short at the time, so I was also growing it out. That allowed us to cut layers into it that helped hide the “line”.

The in between phase stinks but once it’s done you’ll never regret it. I cut my hair short when I was diagnosed with cancer and donated it (Don’t even bother donating white hair BTW)  and from then on I’ve only trimmed it now and then. I get comments on my hair all of the time.

What’s next for Vicki? Where can folks find you?

 Vicki's colorful home.

Vicki's colorful home.

Well, I’m changing things up. Again. I think that creatives have a tendency to do that fairly often.

I was doing work as a Virtual Assistant, but I’ve let my clients go as it’s not something that I enjoy doing. And honestly, I’m burned out on it. Especially since social media seems to be changing on the daily.

I’m working out some new art processes and working hard in my gardens. I’ve been taking master gardener courses and permaculture courses to help me become a more earth friendly gardener. I’m teaching art classes at local rec centers and making appearances at home and garden shows and other public events. I’m not sure what I’ll get into next, but I know for sure that it won’t be boring!

You can find me on my blog Make, Midlife, Magic.

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Carolee Clark Flexible, Free-spirited, Feminist

caroleeprofilepic.jpg

Carolee Clark and I met online and later in person, for coffee, which has turned into a semi-regular respite from the day to day drudgery. Get the two of us together, and it's likely hours will pass in moments. She's smart, funny, insightful, and fearless. Beloved in the folk art community for her Halloween and fantasy themed art, she's a prolific painter and maker of hand painted delights through her company King of Mice Studios. Making is her full time job, and one she takes very seriously. Yet, her art, is full of whimsy. 

Since the 2016 election, Carolee has created a series of provocative paintings, asking other women to contribute to these statement pieces through their words. Each piece is infused with the collective energy of these women, making them powerful works of art. This new feminist art, and her "wicked and whimsical" folk art pieces, have created a body of work that is impressive and inspiring. Most of her pieces are sold before the paint has dried to a dedicated fan base of collectors, and it's no surprise. Just like Carolee, they're overflowing with enthusiasm, beauty, and joie de vivre. 

People think being an artist is a fun filled adventure. It’s easy to dismiss artists as flaky, but this is a mistake. Being a working artist is an incredible amount of work. Making things is just the first part of the equation, you need to make them, promote them, sell them, pack them, and ship them. You wear all the hats in your business and I know that can be exhausting. Yet, you do it so well! Can you talk about how you turned what you love into what you do for a living? What’s a day in the life of Carolee Clark like?

 Through the Forest Copyright Carolee Clark King of Mice Studios ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Through the Forest Copyright Carolee Clark King of Mice Studios ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Well, thank you for the kind words; you make me sound much more pulled together than I feel some days. I've worked as an artist in some capacity for the last twenty years or so, but it began as a part time thing; something I enjoyed immensely, and could do to supplement my late husband's income. When he became ill several years ago, and eventually fully disabled, I found myself in a position many women do later in life, of having to work full time and then some. He passed away two years ago, and my art is now my sole income, so I guess you could say a lot of what I do was borne as much out of necessity, as it was a love for creating.

A day in the life? There really is no typical day, except that I try to spend at least some time in the studio. I usually wake without an alarm clock, get myself up and ready, put the kettle on, feed the furkids and myself, and from there it might be sketching, painting, shipping, computer work, errands, or a break for lunch with friends. One of the things I enjoy most about making art for a living is that despite the best laid plans, every day is a bit of an unknown. 

 Nevertheless She Persisted Copyright Carolee Clark ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Nevertheless She Persisted Copyright Carolee Clark ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

We’re both unafraid to be politically vocal. I know a lot of people poo-poo that online. I could not stay silent after this last election and neither could you. You’ve made some powerful, beautiful art inspired by the Women’s March, Nevertheless She Persisted, and #MeToo. What inspired you to combine activism with art? How has that been received?

The election was devastating for me. It rocked my world at a time when it had already been turned upside down by my husband's death. I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under all of us, and I no longer knew this country in which I was living. I remember friends cautioning me against speaking out because they thought it would alienate some of my collectors and hurt my business. But history teaches us that there are times we must speak up, and I felt strongly (and still do) that this was one of those times. As an artist, I communicate visually, so the feminist pieces I've done in response to recent events have been as much a personal statement as a public one. And I must add - giving credit where credit is due - when I created "Nevertheless She Persisted", I first put out a call on social media to women everywhere to share every "warning" and every "explanation" they'd heard from childhood on up, to be included in the piece. The response was overwhelming, and I'm very proud of the fact that those contributions helped make this piece a universal statement, as well as a personal one.

Making feminist art was a leap for me, a step outside the comfort zone of contemporary folk art, Halloween art, and mythic art. But it's been very well received, and has been confirmation - and in some ways validation - that creating from the heart is OK. When I painted the words "Nevertheless She Persisted", it was just months after losing my husband, and months after the election loss, and it felt like a personal affirmation too; like "I can do this. I can move forward. It will be OK".

You’re a widow. Many women over 50 find themselves in a similar boat. It’s a shitty boat, but you’re doing a damn good job as ship’s captain. I don’t think I could rise to the occasion as well as you have. Do you have some thoughts on how to navigate losing a life partner? Are you getting your sea legs?

I am getting my sea legs. It's not an easy ride by any means, and I still have my moments. I miss him terribly and always will. But I'm navigating life without him now, and for me, the only way to do that is to focus not on the loss, but on the thirty six years we had together; on the good memories we made, on treasuring the relationship I have with our daughter, and on gratitude; on knowing that this life I have now is in large part because of his encouragement and support. None of us move through life in a vacuum. We're all the product of our experiences and relationships, and I try to recognize that a large part of him lives on in our daughter, and in my heart and my work. 

You have a moving #metoo story that you shared on your blog. I was so impressed with your willingness to put yourself out there like that. You’re a strong woman, Carolee, and I admire you greatly. Did sharing you story have a positive impact on you, personally? Do you think that this movement is going to shift the Zeitgeist?

 Me Too Copyright Carolee Clark ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Me Too Copyright Carolee Clark ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Well, again, thank you, but any courage it took to go public with a very personal narrative came from other women who stepped up first. As for positive impact, it was a bit of a catharsis, but more importantly I think - or at least I hope - it may have an impact on other women, and in particular on young women who may find themselves in a similar situation. On a personal level, there was some criticism as to why I would dredge all that up, and there were people in my life who I think found it unnecessary and self indulgent. A few friends who were actually there at the time were silent, which surprised me, but the general public was incredibly supportive. I received so many messages of encouragement and support from women I'd never met. "Me Too" is an important movement, and I think we're seeing a shift. Hopefully the momentum will continue.

One of the most impressive things about you to me is how you forge and nurture connections with other women. I have a tendency to curl inward, which can be isolating. You make a concerted effort to cultivate friendships and get out and do things. I think a lot of midlife women could benefit from some of your wisdom on this front. Can you talk about how you motivate yourself to stay engaged, involved, and connected?

The older I get, the more I realize how precious my friendships with other women are. If I could tell young women one thing, it would be to treasure and cultivate these relationships, because if you make an effort to stay connected, they will be with you for a lifetime. They'll give you camaraderie and support in a way that a relationship with a man will not. That's not to discount men at all, and I think they're wonderful! But just to say that we need those female friendships too. We need to spend time with people who "get us".

What’s next for King of Mice Studios? Where can people find you and your art?

 Art by Carolee Clark Copyright ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Art by Carolee Clark Copyright ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The best part about this "job" (I really dislike that word, because it's so much more) is that I never know what's next, or what's around the corner. Art is only limited by the scope of imagination, so the possibilities are endless. I look forward to seeing where it leads as much as my collectors do! If anyone would like to see my creations, I have an Etsy shop , blog, and can be found on Facebook , or by searching King of Mice Studios. Or join me and an array of incredible artists at the annual Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween show in Marshall, MI on September 29th!