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

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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! 

 

Lorraine C. Ladish Fierce, Fit, Fascinating

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 For day three of our Fifty and Other F-words book launch interview series, we're talking with Lorraine C. Ladish. Lorraine is a whirling dervish of enthusiasm. Founder and CEO of the popular bilingual online 50+ community Viva Fifty!, she is a survivor and a visionary, encouraging women to become the best version of themselves. Born in Spain into a family of writers, Lorraine spent her weekends as a child helping her grandfather collate books created on his printing press. Her passion for writing has led her to publish 18 books, beginning with her first non-fiction book where she shared her struggles with an eating disorder she battled for years before turning 30.

In 2008, she found herself divorced with two young children, broke, and unemployed. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of her defeat, she took her writing and editing skills into the digital space as editor-in-chief of Mamiverse.com. A year later, she met and later on married the love of her life, Phillipe Diederich also a bilingual, multi-cultural single parent and writer. Her writing has appeared in a dazzling array of publications including HuffPost, NBC News, AARP, Redbook, NBCNews.com and more. She recently published an e-book Reach: from Single Mom on Welfare to Digital Entrepreneur and Tu Mejor Edad: Para tener una vida extraordinaria for HarperCollins.

I met Lorraine last year at Blog Her, and her energy was electrifying. She’s a dedicated practitioner of yoga, which has resulted, at 54, in a toned, slender physique that 20 somethings would envy. However, she’s not the kind of woman who inspires envy, she’s the kind of woman who inspires other women to become the best that they can be, whatever that means to them. She is not defined or limited by her age, in fact she believes that whatever age you are is your best age.

There’s something about women who have risen from the ashes, a fortitude that is built from losing everything and refusing to give up on yourself or your dreams. You radiate that kind of vitality. You are a powerhouse, a dynamic and enthusiastic woman who inspires other women to become the best version of themselves. When faced with what seems insurmountable, how can women survive and thrive? What do you think the secret of your success has been?

Oh, goodness, when people ask me: “how did you keep on going when you were broke and middle-aged,” my answer is, “I had no other option.” I´ve gone through life without a plan B, and always going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Sure, I´ve been down, I´ve even battled clinical depression at least three times, and anxiety. I still do. It´s not easy. I´m not always happy, joyful and enthusiastic, either. Menopause hit me hard at 51 to the point that I had to sometimes spend an entire day in bed. Hormone replacement therapy was the best thing I could ever do for myself, but it´s no substitute for the willpower needed to forge onward no matter what. When my daughters try to cheer me on a down day, I tell them that as they know, I laugh hard, but when I´m not ok, I need to feel that down-in-the-dumps feeling with the same intensity, so that I can overcome it. I don´t shy away from crappy feelings. I do my best to feel them, and then work through them. We´re all handed difficult cards in life, now and then, or maybe more often than not, but we all have the capacity to overcome being knocked down. I´ve done it so many times, I´ve lost count!

Viva Fifty! is a bilingual community for women in mid-life. What drove you to build this platform? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them? The internet has changed so much over the past 5 years, it’s so much noisier and there is a lot of competition for attention. Your platform seems to be thriving despite these changes, what sets Viva Fifty! and your message apart?

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When I turned 50, I felt on top of the world. I was engaged to the love of my life, whom I married a few months before turning 51, I was in good health, in good shape and in the best mental and emotional state I´d ever been in. I grew up without a mom (my grandmother raised me) and I had really bad self-esteem perhaps until my mid thirties, when I started trying to have a baby. I spent my youth hating myself and thinking I was just not good enough. I didn´t even finish college, I was so depressed. But at 50, I was thriving. After losing it all to the Great Recession and divorce at 45, here I was at 50, making a living writing online. I started posting on social media how wonderful it was to be 50 and only then did I realize other women did not feel the same way. It was hard for me to understand why … I didn´t feel – and still don´t feel – I had peaked and I certainly did not and still don´t, feel over the hill. So Viva Fifty was born out of the desire to share with English and Spanish speaking women that life isn´t over at 50 or at any age, really. My surprise came later, when younger women started following me and thanked me for posting my yoga photos alongside my age. They said it helped them lose their fear of aging. Then Viva Fifty and everything else became about just thriving.

What helps me make a full-time living with Viva Fifty Media, and support a family of five with it is mainly that I´ve always worked for myself. If I could do it in the 80s when there was no Internet, no cell phones, no faxes, imagine what I can do now! I´ve spent my entire life adapting to changing markets. If you consider I stared working full-time at 18 and I´m 54, that´s a long time. I´ve also lived in different cities, different countries, which requires mad adaptation skills. I always try to focus on solutions instead of complaining about a problem. When people are on Facebook bitching about the latest change in the algorithm, I´m already figuring out my next move. I have zero time to waste dwelling. My brain is wired for social media apparently, and yet I can´t even copy a phone number (I have awful short-term memory). Another reason behind my productivity is that I learned early on in life to turn an addictive and compulsive personality into being productive in ways that matter to me and hopefully make a difference. I have multiple streams of income – all having to do with the written and spoken word – and I´m also bilingual and multicultural. All of this helps make my business successful. I can, and do, reach different audiences. Also, as I mentioned, I hardly ever have a plan B, so plan A just has to work. What does change overtime is what plan A looks like.

Your first book was about your struggles with an eating disorder as a younger woman. Now that you’re in your mid-fifties, you practice yoga and you’re in amazing physical shape. How did you get here from there? A lot of women over 50 are fighting menopause and weight gain, their bodies are changing. Their metabolisms are slowing down. Do you think anyone can benefit from yoga?

I started out in sports when I was 12 and haven´t looked back. I´ve never not practiced a sport or a form of fitness. I started running and practicing yoga at 12 in an attempt to control sad and dark thoughts. By my teens I was battling full-blown depression and an eating disorder. I´ve been blessed and cursed with self-awareness. Running always helped me have a certain feeling of control. In my 20s I became a certified fitness instructor in a (failed) attempt to control my bulimia.  When I told students anyone could be fit, they told me I was wrong. They said I was fit because I was young and hadn´t had kids. Now I´m 54 and I´ve had two babies. Older people still tell me I´m fit because I´m young. Go figure! I started modern and jazz dancing in my 20s, when I was “too old” for that. I cried after each and every class, because I didn´t get the steps. But I never stopped going and of course I got better at it. Never made a living dancing but it was a wonderful escape. It also proved to be a lifesaver when I continued dancing through my divorce and poverty and met people on the dance floor willing to give me work writing. Had I stayed at home feeling sorry for myself, I would not be doing what I do now. I took up yoga again at 51 after I injured my hip at 48 after a half-marathon. One week into yoga, my hip was fine again. I don´t practice yoga to look good. I do it to feel good. If I don´t exercise in some form and/or meditate daily, my mood takes a nosedive. And yes, anyone can practice yoga. I´ve even seen people who are missing a limb practice yoga. Even visualizing yoga moves helps. I was on bed rest on one of my pregnancies, and visualizing workouts helped a lot!

 As to having managed so sidestep weight gain in midlife, I´m naturally thin, as is all of my family, including my 101-year old grandmother and my 80-year old dad (who I started running with as a kid). My doctor told me I lucked out during menopause because of this. But being thin isn´t always a great thing. I get a lot of side-eye and not exactly great comments from people telling me they´d love to have my “problem” of not being able to gain weight. I don´t follow any kind of diet, I eat what I like and I´m not vegetarian. I drink beer for goodness sakes! I´m half Spanish and I believe in enjoying life. I would tell woman concerned about weight gain in menopause to see a doctor her for menopausal symptoms, whatever they may be. I did and I am ecstatic that I did. If your doctor won´t listen or plays down your concerns, change doctors. Speak up, it´s your life, your body, your menopause!  I also don´t take anything for granted. I know being fit doesn´t guarantee being healthy. I´ve shared about my midlife health scares online. I try to appreciate what I have for as long as it lasts.

Kathy Cano Murillo and I have talked often about reinvention. We’ve both reinvented ourselves many times, usually with each new decade. The idea of reinventing yourself can seem impossible, especially after 50. Yet, we live in a time when job security and that lifetime career are becoming less certain. A lot of women in their 40s and 50s are returning to the work force after raising children. You have reinvented yourself multiple times, most recently online. Do you have some pearls of wisdom for women who find themselves facing the daunting task of reinvention?

Yep, I´ve reinvented myself plenty of times. I know it´s easier for me to adapt to change because I´ve been a rebel all my life and just the idea of having a 9-5 job gave me nausea. What was initially perceived by others as a defect when I was young turned out to work in my favor later on in life. People I went to school with are now jobless or stuck in poorly paid jobs they hate. Being weird, always working from home etc. proved to be an asset for me in the long run. I would tell women who feel lost professionally in midlife to seek out others who are like you and ask them to help you find your path. A job – in my eyes – is the most insecure way to live. You get canned and then what … You´re just not prepared for the hustle. This moment in time is the best to be an entrepreneur, to be a consultant, to work on your own terms. But not everyone is cut out for it, and it has nothing to do with age. My daughter is 17 and I can already see she´s not going to settle or try to fit in, whereas other kids her age are happy making hourly wages. Become obsessed with where you want to be and what you want to do, forget that age is supposedly an issue, and go for it. Heck, I make a living talking about my age. It´s absolutely liberating.  If I can do this, anyone can!

You remarried at 50, creating a blended multi-cultural family. I have several friends going through painful divorces and others whose spouses have passed away. It’s hard to imagine finding love again, especially in mid-life. Do you have any thoughts on how to find love in mid-life? How did you meet your husband? Can you share some of your love story?

Of course. I never was great at picking the right partner. I have no idea whether this stemmed from a lack of self-love, and fear of abandonment. (My mother was not a part of my life after I turned 5). I´ve made my share of mistakes in the love arena. I´ve suffered heartbreak, and plenty of it. But one thing I never became was jaded. Perhaps because I suffered tremendously after my parents´ divorce and my dad´s remarriage, I promised myself I would never have that happen to my kids. Of course, I did not marry at 35 to later divorce. But when the marriage was unsustainable, after giving it a million chances (and plenty of couples counseling) I thought I could not teach my daughters it was ok to stay in a toxic relationship. It was not an easy decision and I somehow felt some PTSD when I went through my divorce. But I worked with my ex to make sure my girls would have both parents and never see us yelling at each other. So far, so good. I´m a dreamer, I believe in love and good stuff. I kept my heart open. I still dreamed of having a family … maybe not the kind I had envisioned, but a family. I wrote a list of attributes that I wanted in a potential partner. It included detailed stuff like “bilingual, bicultural, responsible, loving, has a kid,” etc. To my surprise I met that guy. He had also come out of a divorce, had a kid similar in age to that of my daughters, he had also never had a 9-5 job … was a photojournalist back in school to switch careers. He wanted to be a book author, something I had already done. Long story short, we were introduced by a common friend and after our first date, we pretty much knew we wanted to know each other better. We were both committed to building a new family and well, in November it will be 9 years. Our kids were 5, 6 and 8 when they met. We´re a clan. And none of this would be happening if I hadn´t made some crappy choices earlier in life. I moved to the U.S. from Spain at 41 because of my ex. I owe him that!

I love the new video podcast! You maintain multiple websites, manage several Facebook groups, and you just published a new book. You’re constantly expanding your reach, which is admirable. What’s next for Lorraine?

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Well, first of all, let me make it clear that I have a team. Three people help me with the website, VivaFIfty.com and some of the social media handles. I have two Twitter accounts and five FB pages. But I also have writers and translators. My husband takes my photos. I do manage Instagram and YouTube on my own because that´s more personal. I started working with a business manager, Johanna Voss, one year ago, and could not be happier. I knew I could not grow without someone managing the business aspect of Viva Fifty Media. This is both my livelihood and a lifestyle. What´s next is I´m already working on my next book, in English, about how to turn our flaws into assets. I´m in awe of the opportunities that come my way just from showing up online every day and doing my best, whether I´m paid for it or not.  I will also be getting certified as a yoga instructor at 55, not to teach in person, but to better serve the women who follow me for inspiration and advice. No better way to learn than by teaching!

Debra Quartermain Fabulously Fun Filled

 Debra Quartermain

Debra Quartermain

 For day two of the Fifty and Other F-words book launch, it's a pleasure to introduce you to a true Hostess with the Mostest. Debra Quartermain has that rare and wondrous ability to make everyone she encounters feel cherished. She’s warm, gracious, thoughtful, and present in a way very few people manage to be. In our fast paced, hyper connected, digital reality, civility and kindness are often lost in the day to day hustle. Debra is the embodiment of both. It’s not at all surprising that her Bed and Breakfast, Quartermain House located on historic Waterloo Row along the Saint John River outside of Fredericton NB Canada, was the number 1 rated North American B&B on Booking.com for 2014 and 2015. The historic 175-year old Gothic Revival home has been lovingly renovated and appointed by Debra. Much like the proprietress, it’s enchanting.

A licensed designer, blogger and social media co-ordinator, Debra is a DIY doyenne well known and much beloved in the craft industry. Her design work has a signature stylish charm showcased in hundreds of published articles, several books and two lines of baby quilting fabric. She’s Chair of the Designer Section of the AFCI Association for Creative Industries and Design Team coordinator for Kunin Felt.

Debra is grandmother to 11 grandchildren she calls her “grandlittles.” A single mother who raised two daughters by herself, Debra discovered love and marriage in her middle years. She’s proof that Fairy Tale happy endings do happen, sometimes at the most unexpected times. And in this case, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more deserving woman.

You raised two daughters on your own. I know how difficult that must have been, I was raised by a single mom. Growing up I wanted so much for her to be happy, to be able to exhale a little. She sacrificed so much of her talents and her dreams to raise us. What insights do you have from your experience as a single mother in terms of how it shaped you and continues to inform you?

 Debra's Playroom for her Grandlittles

Debra's Playroom for her Grandlittles

Looking back there are times I remember thinking, "How can I do this?" but being creative was my saving grace. I would always look for a solution, some requiring much more creativity than others. I could always make something and sell it. I have always been an eternal optimist.  What I brought out of those years as a single mom was the belief that it would get better and easier and an immense gratitude for all the moments of joy in between. I have two beautiful amazing daughters and they were always my beacon, to make a life, a home for them. Some of their memories shared made me realize that the little things, a surprise handmade doll outfit by the bed or a wake up in the night to watch fireflies were and are so very important. Making little surprises, taking time to just be present and spend time with my grandlittles I realize is the most important gift and has always been the most important gift of all. 

How have things shifted for you now that you’re a grandmother of 11? You’ve made wonderful play spaces for them at your B&B, it must be such fun to play in such a magical home!

 Debra has tea with one of her grandlittles.

Debra has tea with one of her grandlittles.

I still lead a very full life between the B&B and my design work, but family comes first.  All the grandchildren live nearby so we have play spaces for both, the boys have a cabin loft and the girls have a fairy tale attic play space. They love to play hide and seek, and scavenger hunts are a requirement of every party. Being a grandmother is truly the best role ever! We love our children and when they have children, it is so very special. When you think you cannot possibly love any more you do, it is such a gift.

We know each other from the craft industry. It’s changed so much over the past ten years, as you know, but you’ve managed to carve a place for yourself in the new landscape. You’re such a creative and inspiring woman. I think having that creative spark helps keep you young, vibrant, and playful. How do you think women can maintain or if they’ve not explored it yet, discover their playful, creative side in their middle years?

I celebrate my 65th birthday this year, I really cannot believe it.  The sixties are turning out to be the best decade ever. About eight years ago I went through a time of some very serious loss of loved ones, my girls on their own and my creativity disappeared. It took a little time, but I still knew that it would get better. I started going to belly dancing where at 50+ I was the youngest in the class! When I saw 80+ women moving and dancing, having the best time, I knew then that there was a whole lot more to come. My advice or really what I have learned is try something new, age does not matter, if you want to go for it. Just take a step and get out there, ask a friend along for the adventure! Finding something that ignites a passion may take some time but trying a few new things or returning to a past interest that was lost. Sometimes it can be as small as just wandering in a beautiful shop or a market, being present and buying an item which speaks to you. Start a journal, buy a beautiful one and some colored pencils, write, draw or doodle, just play with the pages. So many little ways to get started because really everyone is creative.

How does creativity inform your day to day reality as a designer and B&B proprietress?

I have thought a lot about creativity and what it means to me, I am aware of my footprint in this life and what I want to create and leave. My design clients manufacture products which work well together, I use them in thoughtful, useful and fun ways for special events at the B&B, party décor and playthings for the grandlittles and home décor. Providing inspiration in an authentic way

I think people are surprised to find out that the possibility of romance awaits them, regardless of their age. So many people give up on that idea of finding a life partner. Your love story is so delightfully romantic. How did you meet your husband?

 Debra and her husband Russ

Debra and her husband Russ

Well, we met in a very unromantic way but at the suggestion of my daughter I tried online dating. I made a list of what I was looking for in a partner. I looked at the responses to my profile and there was one, no picture and five years older but what he wrote was intriguing. I replied, and his response of a beautifully written page long answer was the beginning of a couple weeks of correspondence as I was travelling.  On my return we met downtown for a drink and I knew when I took his hand and looked in his eyes that he would be very good for me. Were you surprised to find love in your middle years? I was and yet I always felt I was meant to be married by the time I was 60.  Do you have any insights for women over 50 who may be widowed, divorced, or single and looking for love? Never give up on love, I truly believe Life is simply a love story. Write down what you are looking for in a partner, what is important. I had decided to look for someone my age or three years older at most, I would have missed out on my darling man as he is five years older if after his initial inquiry I had dismissed him as too old. I am a hopeless romantic but also practical if you have your life set in a place and do not see yourself moving ever then do not start something too long distance either. Opening a B&B I needed to date someone close by and he showed up. So, a list does really help, know what you want and then open yourself up to go find it.

You own and operate a five-star Bed and Breakfast on the east coast of Canada. This is a somewhat new adventure for you, and it’s been such fun watching it unfold. The Quartermain House is magical! How did you find it? What made you decide to open a B&B? What did it take to make this dream a reality?

 Quartermain House

Quartermain House

I had downsized into an apartment after my daughters left home and my mom had passed away but really missed a house and garden. My brother on the west coast was looking at coming home three or four weeks a year and missed my home as well. We decided to buy a family home together and were interested in a historic property along the river. When my real estate agent took me into 92 Waterloo Row, 175 years old, I knew it was the house, I fell in love with it immediately. Why showing my brother around via Skype, he remarked “I guess you will live there alone except for when you have family and friends to visit.” I walked around a little more and said to myself, this would make a wonderful B&B even though I had never stayed in one, don’t drink coffee and have a gluten intolerance. However, I have always loved cooking breakfast and having guests. I also knew I was meant to meet someone too. We agreed it would be a great idea, the city did too and after several months of renovations we opened for business. I met my husband Russ about a month after the B&B was to be a reality. We now have the best of all worlds, the B&B has welcomed guests from twenty different countries and we have a wonderful family home for all our family, we close when my brother and daughter living away come home and for the rest of the family locally they visit all the time. The little girls often greet guests with a “pleased to meet you” and shake their hand.

I love this quote from your website: “Live with a young heart, a generous spirit and immense gratitude, never lose your sense of wonder, joy and magic!” Can you talk about how you infuse your life with these principles?  

We all travel through life and deal with all that it brings, in the mix is the best and there are the times of immense change, of loss and pain. That is life but in between all those times are all those moments, the everyday moments to enjoy and truly savor, to be grateful for. There is always wonder all around us, grandchildren are such great teachers of that. I believe what we give out comes back and what we fill our spirit with reflects on our entire wellbeing. We have the power of immense energy, I choose to share my power in wonder, joy and magic. That is what I do best, I make the magic for my family, friends and guests. I care so deeply, and I know this is not forever, so I am keenly grateful for every moment that is.

What’s next for Debra?

For the next few years everything I am doing now I will happily continue to do so. Art and writing are finding their way into my life more, that is exciting. The B&B needs its history told I believe. Being part of all these grandlittles growing up, possibly more to come, that is such a joy! I look out every morning on the river and feel grateful, this is my wonderful life!

Mel Kobayashi: Fearless Fashion

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For the launch of my new book Fifty and Other F-words, I'm sharing a series of interviews of women over 50 who are kick ass warrior women. They exemplify the message of the book, that rules are made to be broken and women over 50 are fascinating, fabulous, fierce creatures! I wanted to make a virtual version of The Lady Party, inviting powerful, persistent women to the table. These women are redefining what it means to grow older, through their art, writing, businesses, and even their romantic lives. 

We begin with Melanie Kobayashi artist, writer, provocateur, stylist, public speaker, videographer, and wonderfully wild woman over 50. She’s the fascinating personality behind the popular Instagram and blog of the same name Bag and a Beret. She pens a Vancouver street style blog Culture Serf and creates surrealist videos on her YouTube channel. Her paintings are alive with color and movement, fascinating, energizing, beguiling. From abstracts to social commentaries, she has a distinct voice and perspective.

Mel has been featured in Elle, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire Ukraine/Brazil/Hong Kong/Netherlands, and PopBee. She was named one of the top 7 best blogs by older women and Over 50 women with ridiculously good style by Who What Wear. She was also listed as a top 10 fashion blogger over 50 who completely dominates the style game by Pop Sugar.

 Mel with her alter ego Miz Bagg.

Mel with her alter ego Miz Bagg.

There’s a connection between her paintings and her fashion images. She’s become the canvas and the clothing and accessories the paint. Mel loves fashion, fashion loves Mel. Mel and her outrageous alter ego Miz Bagg are proof positive that age has absolutely nothing to do with style. If you aren’t following her adventures online, get on it. She’s puts the f in fabulous, one of our favorite f-words.

I have been following you for the past few years online. You have such a great sense of humor and fun, and I think that sets you apart from other style bloggers and Instagrammers. Did you have a plan when you started Bag and a Beret, or did it grow organically?

First, thank you for those words of praise. It almost feels like you’re talking about someone else!

I started my blog in early 2012 to have a blast with “Style, Comedy, Art,” which is my tagline. I still do; that basic tenet hasn’t changed. Outfits, sketches, videos, mini rants, style fictions, art, a satirical life/style magazine, I’ve played hard. And aging and fashion are fertile grounds for comedy and exploration. But there have also been subtle organic shifts in my blog too.

At the beginning I was all about pushing my style boundaries. Through that process, I discovered that my clothes are almost secondary to how I “own” what I wear. So now, with limitless style options, I’ve begun asking myself, what do I really, really want? My stage covers a wider scope of expression as I feed myself in new ways.

Many new real-life challenges that have come up through my social media. I’ve confronted the terror of modeling, auditioning, public speaking, schmoozing, being interviewed, and filmed, things I never imagined doing when I started out, and I blog about it all. Now I can imagine anything.

Which brings up this next point, the idea that social media success means monetization. At first it freaked me out. Would that make me a sell-out? I’m not alone in this; it’s a convoluted idea held by many artists, especially women. But now I say, hurray! Get paid for my social media success and creativity? That’s wildly empowering when I retain editorial control.

What drove you to explore style as a form of personal expression? Who is Miz Bagg and how does she factor into your equation?

There was a confluence of three major events that propelled my style explorations. 1) In my late 40s I noticed that people started to gaze right through me like I was invisible. I was not!! Their vision was broken and I used my personal style to fix their “youtheyetis.” It worked. 2) I lost my big art studio where I did large-scale action painting, so I started funneling that pent-up energy into action styling. 3) I was going through life turbulence beyond my power and surrendering to the chaos through creative expression in art and style saved me.

 Miz Bagg by Melanie Kobayashi

Miz Bagg by Melanie Kobayashi

Miz Bagg, I love her! She is my alter ego - outrageous, narcissistic, super-high-fashion, absurd, Anna Wintour on crack maybe. Miz Bagg is an extreme risk-taker who enjoys satirizing fashion, lifestyle rules, and aging beyond my own comfort level. She is a scapegoat and cultural vanguard at the same time.

You have a very strong sense of color. It’s clear in your paintings and your fashion photos. Women tend to tone themselves and their fashion choices down after 50. You’ve dialed it way up! I’m with you on this 100%. There’s this weird pressure on women to “age gracefully” and become invisible. In Fifty and Other F-words, I encourage women to age in whatever manner they see fit and to allow other women the room to do the same. Talk to us about your thoughts on color, style, and being Technicolor after 50!

We are definitely on the same page here, Margot!

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It’s ironic that just when women are starting to become invisible, a bunch of style rules kick in on how to stay that way. I don’t get it. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg: are we invisible because we want to be or are we invisible because people treat us that way?

Personally, I’m doing my best to be seen and heard through styleactivism, a word I made up which means, when I dress to feel fabulous, those positive vibes impact my environment as well. It’s a form of community care. I have never felt more alive.

My clothes bring any movie, song, character, or scene to life, real or imagined, from Tilda Swinton to Charlie Chaplin. They affect my movement, attitude, and even interactions, full-on Technicolor. Dressing in something I love can turn a down day into something extraordinary – without drugs, well, except caffeine and chocolate.

I think it’s a shame when women looking for more excitement in their lives don’t take advantage of this easy pick-me-up because they are afraid, so I feel fantastic if I can motivate them to embrace a more colourful existence.

Finally, for me, clothes are also not just fabric on skin; choosing to wear what I love is an exercise in freedom. Use it or lose it; that sounds implausible, but is it?

We share a deep love of thrift shopping. You’ve made some great thrift store videos.  Do you have any thrift store tips to share? What’s the coolest thing you’ve found at a thrift store? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found at a thrift store? What do you say to women who are hesitant to step inside of a thrift shop?

 Melanie Kobayashi strikes a pose!

Melanie Kobayashi strikes a pose!

Haha, my thrifting videos are a blast to make with my friends. In fact, thrift shopping with friends is one of my top tips - it’s never time wasted laughing, rummaging, and trying on outfits in a thrift shop. Where else can you relive your school days, your prom, and your first job? Of course, it’s always a shock that these clothes are now, gulp, vintage.

On the practical side, thrift shop clothes can be mis-sized and mis-hung, so it pays to have a peek through several sizes. Also, check the sections you might usually overlook, like sportswear or suits, or even menswear, I’ve found great robes and t-shirts there.

The coolest thing I’ve thrifted is also my best score – a pair of lace-up Miu Miu boots for $15, which I saw featured in a Vanity Fair magazine the next day. The shop thought the crackle finish was damaged leather. Of course I have many vintage pieces that are also contenders for first place. The weirdest thing I’ve found is a tie between a pair of faux-suede, fringed short shorts and a real tutu.

To the hesitant woman, do your research in advance to find a thrift shop that looks the least intimidating – there is a wide variety of them. It would probably help to make your first visit a fun outing with friends, and consider following it up with a debriefing at a favourite hangout. Also, keep an open mind. You’ll be amazed at the range of quality and variety, and the low prices make it easy to experiment with new looks. My only caution? Watch out – you might get addicted!

I am intrigued by the Art and the Brain lectures you did with Dr. Paul Swingle. A lot of my fans are artists, can you talk to us about Unlearning How to Paint? What does that mean? How does it work?

The university where I studied art specialized in what I call brainy art, the kind that sacrifices beauty for deep meaning, so art for beauty’s sake was a no-no. Realism was a no-no. Painting itself was pretty much dead.

 Mixed Media Abstract by Melanie Kobayashi

Mixed Media Abstract by Melanie Kobayashi

At the time, I liked the intellectual exercise, but I didn’t know it would cripple my ability to make joyful art for the next 20+ years. Every time I’d try to do a still life or landscape, I’d hear the questions – Does this have meaning? Is it valid? And stop. I was so stuck!

Then, on impulse, I started making art that integrated, say, joyful colour, but within a critical framework, as a sneaky way to get my happy fix, although I didn’t see it like that at the time. I went through tons of these exercises exploring different themes. Of course, I was subconsciously creating a roadmap for Unlearning How to Paint – or deprogramming myself from the rules.

One day, a couple of years into the journey (yes, it took a while), I found myself poised over a carpet of paper 5 feet by 12 feet, a one-foot brush in each hand, with several cans of house paint, great music, and no brainy context whatsoever, just the freedom of the moment. And it hit me: I was CURED!!! This is the success I shared in the lectures and workshops.

Now I’m amazed that I can create paintings that look not unlike those of one-time child prodigy Marla Olmstead from the documentary, “My Kid Could Paint That.” Or brainy art if I choose; the point is, now I have choice, and I see the value of each approach. Getting there wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. If someone now looks at my painting and says, my kid could paint that, my reply would be, Thank goodness! Could you?

Let’s talk about the Travelling Yellow Skirt Freak Show. You took a negative comment from a friend and turned it into an invitation for women to celebrate positivity. It’s interesting to me, because it’s such a layered thing that you experienced and shared. You let it breathe, and considered it, and that’s powerful. What I like best is that you’ve decided not to give negativity power. I think that’s wise. I’m a huge fan of delete, block, exhale. We don’t have to accept or entertain every thought that someone flings in our direction. Can you share the story of the skirt? Is it still on the move?

Like you, Margot, I try to celebrate the positive and exhale the negative. This is exactly what the Travelling Yellow Skirt Freak Show was all about.

The Freakish Yellow Skirt (FYS) is a big, bold, bright-yellow maxi with an elastic waist, which I bought on super-discount at a retail shop. The first time I posted on it, I received a negative comment from a male friend. The other women on my blog immediately sprang to my defense. I tried to make light of the comment, but it was the first critical one I’d had on my blog.

A blogger in Australia, Sarah of Misfits Vintage, suggested that I send the skirt out into the world for a cleanse and as a symbol of positivity. This was her idea, not mine, but I thought it was excellent and The Travelling Yellow Skirt Freak Show was born. Australia was the first stop. Another blogger, Shelley of Forest City Fashionista, soon joined in to help coordinate FYS’s itinerary.

Six years later, FYS now hangs in my closet, retired, safely home after thousands of miles logged around the world, heavy with the imprints of 35 woman, including myself, who have worn her, photographed her, and honoured her spirit with the addition of a unique signature in fabric, paint, and notions. Clearly, it’s not my skirt anymore; FYS belongs to every woman who has contributed to her fabric. And her energy still shines.

Although FYS is not still traveling, I feel that her journey is not over. It’s possible there may be a little book about her adventures or a small gallery show.

What’s next for Mel and Bag and a Beret?

 Mel Kobayashi in Armani

Mel Kobayashi in Armani

Ah, the big question. The success I’ve had with social media is creating many exciting new opportunities. I am starting to offer style-boost coaching and an e-course. I’d love to do more motivational speaking on the topic of joyful pissed-off aging as well. I say “speaking,” but what I do is a bit more like performance art. I have other projects in mind too that feature the words Think Big. Heh.

In general, I am more proactive than reactive in my life now. When I started out, I named my email actlikeadiva because I figured if I aimed over-the-top, falling short would still be a step toward empowerment.

So get ready for more Mel and Bag and a Beret – if you can stand it! Hahaha!

Can #MeToo Go From Moment to Movement?

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It's funny how many famous men feel compelled to weigh in on the #MeToo movement with completely tone deaf observations. It's as if they just don't get it that women are no longer willing to put up with this bullshit. There's a current that flows beneath their narrative, that men have a right to abuse women and women need to accept it. The patriarchal construct is unraveling, but these men are clinging desperately to the threads. Posing as allies, they are parroting the very attitudes the #MeToo movement seeks to confront without the slightest whiff of self awareness. Some men are convinced the momentum will dissipate and they will be able to return to the status quo.

After all, boys will be boys.

Amirite?

Not so fast, fellas. 

That means, you, Matt, Louie, Mario are not welcome back to the party. We see you lurking outside, hoping to slip in the side door. Not now, not six months from now, not ever. Your fifteen minutes were over months ago. You aren't in a time out, your time's up and you're out. You traded in your fame card when you assaulted, degraded, and abused women merely because you felt you could get away with it. There's no acceptable amount of time for you to avoid the public spotlight and then come skipping back as if all is forgiven. Your contrition is false, you are tainted, stained, deflated, and defeated. You don't get the shiny prize of fame and fortune anymore, you get the sad sentence of humiliation borne from your abhorrent actions. 

And you would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling women.

You know, the women you abused without compunction, until you got caught with your pants down.

It means that you, Karl, need to wake up and realize that young women are not required to endure sexual harassment so you can sell couture. You're a fat shaming, woman hating, out of touch narcissist who sullies the legacy of Coco Chanel. Sexual abuse is not part of the job description for a fashion model. Curves are not ugly. You know what's ugly? Your archaic attitudes. They're out of fashion and irrelevant. We're fed up, with you. Sashay away. 

It means you, Tony, have shown your true colors, and your special magical self-help bullshittery won't protect you. If you truly valued women, you would never have physically intimidated and attempted to humiliate a woman in a public forum, a woman who paid for the privilege of being insulted and verbally assaulted. We see you. We heard you. You can't walk this horse back into the barn. 

It means you, Donald, and your grab 'em by the pussy "locker room talk." The manner in which you regularly and shamelessly insult and demean women is inexcusable. Your absurd early morning Twitter rants, the endless deny, deflect, distract, repeat, it's deeply disturbing. Your vitriol may play in your rallies, but your days are numbered. 

#YouToo shall pass.

#MeToo is a moment but it won't become a movement unless we maintain the momentum. We will have to fight to keep this energy moving forward. We can't capitulate. We can't make exceptions. We can't give a free pass to men with intellect or talent or money or power or creativity. Women are equals. We are not objects. We are not less than. We have a right to move through the world unafraid, unashamed, and unimpeded. Sexism is deeply ingrained in cultures around the world, tied to firmly entrenched religious, social, political ideologies. Challenging these ideologies will not be easy, but it must be done. We must do it for ourselves. We must do it for each other. We must do it for our young women who are STILL being treated as second class citizens. We have to challenge the status quo. Shift outmoded perceptions. Rewrite the code.

It's not just men who abuse women, women abuse each other when they excuse, encourage, and enforce sexist ideologies. When women refuse to stand up for each other, to protect each other, to fight for each other, we are participants in the patriarchy. When women see each other as competitors, we are playing into a false narrative that holds us back and keeps us down. And, sadly, there are also female sexual abusers and they must be held to the same standards. 

It's not just women who are victims of sexual harassment and assault, we need to acknowledge this. No one should be abused or assaulted at work, at school, at home, at church, or anywhere by anyone, ever. That revelation needs to be part of the equation moving forward. More than that, we need to acknowledge and illuminate the myriad ways that women of color and LGBTQ people suffer systemic abuses daily, and do everything we can to help them rise. 

As the daily onslaught of assaults on decency continue, from the casual and overt acceptance of racism, to the rising tide of Xenophobia, to the rhetoric of fear and hate gaining sway, to the sanctioning of homophobia and the eroding of women's reproductive rights, to the backsliding of decades of progress, we must stay focused and committed. We must be a rising tide, lifting all boats, maintaining and gaining momentum. So that when arrive at the shore we are a tsunami bringing a wave of acceptance, equality, and possibility.

We must take this moment and turn it into a movement so that one day no woman, nobody will ever have to say #MeToo again.

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Fifty and Other F-words Book Trailer

Hello, Gorgeous!

 So excited to see this book sharing the shelf with some of my favorite writers! 

So excited to see this book sharing the shelf with some of my favorite writers! 

Last week I shot and edited a book trailer for Fifty and Other F-words. You can watch it below. It's a humor book, but it's more than that. It touches on a variety of aspects of life after 50, career challenges, reinvention, menopause, diets, the Empty Nest, fashion and style choices or the lack thereof, relationships, and aging DISgracefully. What does that mean, exactly? I believe that we should all age in whatever manner we please and allow other women the breathing room to do the same. We spend so much time judging others and enforcing arbitrary rules about how women should age, dress, act, think, and age. There are no rules.

As far as I can tell, 'aging gracefully' is just code for becoming invisible. 

No, thank you.

If you're not a woman, or over 50, or experiencing all of the things in the book, there may still be something of value inside. Consider it a primer or a sneak peek of upcoming attractions, or distractions as the case may be. Or think of it as a window into one woman's struggle to rise from the ashes of her defeat in spite of a dizzying array of challenges. It's funny, it's thoughtful, it's visceral, it's raw, and it's real. You don't have to read it all or even love it all. You can skip the chapters, poems, listicles, or essays that don't resonate, because my experience is not your experience. There is some advice, but it's not a self-help book. I'm not here to tell you how you should age, in fact, I'm hoping to help free people from the arbiters of aging and their rigid proclamations. 

I need your help spreading the word. If you like the book trailer, please share it! If you get the book, share a pic and tag it with #over50andfearless and I'll share your post. If you read and enjoy the book, write a review online, or tell two friends, so they tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on. If you do any of these things, you have my deepest gratitude. Thank you. 

People have been asking about signed copies. I'm in a quandary here. If I buy the book with my author discount and pay for shipping here, then sign, sell, and ship it to you, in order for me to make even a few dollars and make sure it gets to you in a timely fashion I have to charge you more than the retail cost of the book. Also, my handwriting is hideous. Many years of tapping on keyboards have turned my penmanship (which was always questionable) into a scribbly mess. I'm not sure you want my scribblings in your book! So, for now, I am not officially selling copies, but I am working on the logistics so stay tuned. If you want a scribble signed copy, I will have to charge for shipping and if that's not a problem, then we're a go! Email me at margot@margotpotter.com to discuss.

Meanwhile, you can grab a copy of the book online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon (affiliate link), and in Barnes & Noble bookstores and other bricks and mortar retailers. Ask your favorite independent local bookstore to order it for you!

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