Why write?

Today I celebrate reaching over 50,000 views on this blog, with over 24,000 visitors!

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This is my second major blog. My first, Midlife Crisis Queen, racked up hundreds of thousands of loyal followers from all over the world in its eight years of existence. However, I did not stay in crisis for long after I learned how to take control of my own destiny. My books are a summary of how I changed everything, soon after I discovered it was up to me to wield my own power in transforming myself and my life. I quickly moved from chaos and crisis to an amazing array of new opportunities, once I understood the purpose and power of midlife.

Along the way, I started a few smaller blogs, all of which are now deceased, except my “How To Believe in Yourself as a Writer” blog. I like to think that the byline from that blog explains everything:

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

writing penSo why do I still make this daily effort to reach others with my writing? My best answer at this point is, I can’t help myself. I love words and composition, I believe this practice helps me to recover from a traumatic brain injury back in 2008, and I love making new friends through my writing. Perhaps now writing is my own version of an addiction.

But, as most of my sister writers know, it isn’t easy to believe in yourself and your craft, when we so rarely hear back from our readers. Blogging and book selling has become so impersonal these days. The evil empire, Amazon, basically owns our business. We often sell books and never know what our readers think of them. I have found that to be so frustrating through the years!

Most do not relate to the experience of writing first blog posts and then books for over ten years, and so rarely hearing anything back. Yes, I love what I do and I would do it no matter what, but the occasional “your book changed my life!” soothes my soul.

Find Your Reason Cover smallThat is why I cried when I received the most fantastic fan letter this week. He started out by ordering my new memoir, and loved it so much, he then ordered my other books. My 2011 book: Find Your Reason to Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife inspired him to write me a long letter about how that book changed his life. Here’s an excerpt:  “For the first time in literally decades, I finally found an author who really “speaks” to the core of who I am as a person; who I not only identify with, but who I strongly identify with. Beginning with your need to flee Fort Collins’ frantic “retirement haven” pace to your craving for silence…YES! Me too! Before I even finished “From Suburbia…”, I was online ordering your other 3 books. “Find Your Reason To Be Here” was a HUGE wake up call to me. I’ve found it to be far, far more helpful and truthful than ANY of the other books I’ve read that purport to help one find one’s purpose in life. Thank you!”

This man has read most contemporary titles on midlife and finding your life’s purpose, and he found my book to be more useful than those by Marianne Williamson and other famous writers.

He now likes to hand my books out to friends and family who are suffering from midlife angst, which brings me to the true reason for his letter. He wanted to order more copies directly from me. This is how I prefer to sell books now, to people I might be able to build relationships with, instead of impersonal internet sales. I think it is good for readers to know that there is a genuine human being behind every line in my blog posts or books, one who would love to know if their writing is impacting your life.

So the next time you read something that moves you, why not send the author a note letting them know that their efforts are making a real difference in the world?

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Any interest in learning more about midlife change, or purchasing my books? I’d love to hear from you! Please drop me a line at:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

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The Elephant in the Room: The Vietnam War

“Military madness is killing our country, solitary sadness comes over me…”

It seems impossible not to discuss “the war” that helped to shape our lives at this time. The amazing new PBS documentary put together by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is impacting me now, and the war it represents is still present in the hearts and minds of those of us who experienced it either on TV or directly, in our own lives.

the_vietnam_war_pbs_civilians_after_attack 1965

The curious thing is how we ended up making this war about us, when it was always about the people of a tiny country in southeast Asia.

Last night was about 1965, when we first started sending in troops, not just advisers. I had no idea that the Vietnamese came out to welcome the first American troops to land there. Young Vietnamese girls in white dresses came with welcome signs, food and flowers.

vietnam river scene

One American who was there, noted what a beautiful and ideal country they saw when they landed. I have some idea what he means. I lived in Thailand near the end of the Vietnam War. I agree.

This documentary provides much background information and detail into how this terrible war came about as a result of a century of Western colonialism in southeast Asia. The French dragged us into it, and we stayed. Most Americans don’t know these facts. I studied Asia in college, so I am quite familiar with this history. I loved the part last night about Eric Sevareid’s first honest report back to us through the evening news, documenting what American troops were experiencing daily there. LBJ called the president of CBS the next day and said, “Are you trying to fuck me?”

The dishonesty of our government is appalling even today. Oh sure, let’s send in thousands of young Americans to fight a war over 8,000 miles away, but let’s not tell the American public. Once we became involved in fighting there, the number of dead from each battle included both Vietnamese and American numbers, but we did not care how many Vietnamese had died, only Americans.

I do not blame anyone who chooses not to view this documentary at this time. It brings up overwhelming sadness and many tears for me. I was born in 1955, so “the war” only became a part of my daily awareness when I was ten or so, after the assassination of JFK. In my family, we were required to watch the evening news, and then discuss world affairs at the dinner table every evening.

It was only after the “wise old men” in LBJ’s world decided to start sending thousands of young Americans to a war 8,600 miles away that Vietnam truly entered my consciousness.

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Besides the evening news reports with Walter Cronkite, my most powerful memories are of the Kent State shootings and the Democratic Convention protests in 1968. I remember watching tears roll down my Dad’s face as we watched the protesters get severely beating by Mayor Daley’s thugs. Yes, there was violence on both sides, but the police had all the weapons and they used them too!

The first time I ever protested anything was by wearing a black arm band to a junior high band concert after the Kent State shootings. I felt so conspicuous and yet I’m sure nobody else noticed. Mike was in the Navy at the end of our involvement in Vietnam. He chooses not to watch this special and I respect that. One of his best friends, who he has known for over 30 years now, was a medic in Vietnam. He definitely saw the worst of it. That war ruined the rest of his life in a number of ways, both with a broken back and severe PTSD.

What can we say now about a war most of us did not want, that destroyed the lives of many thousands of Americans, both those who fought and died, and those who loved them? This war challenged deeply my trust in our government, and by watching this timely documentary now, I learned even more about what I didn’t know about the war in Vietnam. This makes me wonder what else I don’t know about what is happening right now in our world.

“War, what a lousy way to settle politics. And the faces of the dead are all the same, just fucking kids!”   — Ernest Hemingway

Boomers discuss the power of NOW!

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One of the things I love about bringing together current posts from a few popular boomer blogs, is their occasional synchronicity of thought. From the apparently mundane, to the future of our world, we are certainly still giving lots of thought to the circumstances we find ourselves in in our 60s.

purple nerves in brain COOLOne challenge we face is keeping our brains working well, at least most of the time! We have known for years that games can help to keep our brain active. Now Carol Cassara directs us towards online games and these games aren’t just for the young. Many Boomers enjoy them, but who knew online games have brain benefits?

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GROWING PLANTS INSIDE AND OUT GIVES MY LIFE MEANING!

We had two posts this week about one of my favorite pastimes, gardening. What could be more positive and gratifying than helping plants grow inside and out? Unfortunately Meryl Baer can’t seem to make this happen. She says: Folks have many talents and skills, some the luck of our DNA and others cultivated and nurtured over the years. Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting does not consider gardening one of her many skills. She tries and sometimes succeeds, but this year proved disappointing, as she points out in Gardening Guru I Am Not.

eggplant on the vineOn the other hand, over at the Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how much she loves her garden. See Robison’s articles on how to make tomato sauce, her garden in full production, eggplant goodness, and tips for cooking collards. Rita encourages everyone to plant a garden to enjoy organic vegetables. They’re good for your health, and gardening gets you off the computer and into the yard exercising.

Tom Sightings has been focusing on the BIG PICTURE lately, always a dangerous pastime. He has taken several road trips, spending a lot of time behind the wheel of his car, giving him time to think. This week he focuses on What’s Important, two important issues, plus a postscript that might just save your life. HINT: I don’t know what I would do without my shower grab bar!

dike running up to snowy West Peak

DIKE & WEST PEAK A FEW MILES SOUTH OF LA VETA COLORADO

My week was spent dealing with a couple health issues (like continuing to breathe!) and wondering why this post about life in a very small town went viral by my standards. Are we all so anxious to believe that life can be slow, caring, and friendly again? Judging by the number of boomers moving here, YES! We almost never have a hurricane, but the wind can be incredible here!

Life in a very small town: La Veta Colorado

View of La Veta valley from highway

Entering La Veta Valley, September 30, 2014

I loved yesterday! It started out like so many of my great days… badly! Mike has been very ill so we had to cancel our anniversary trip. I was disappointed and a bit grumpy, but I had promised to go into La Veta to meet a new friend who only comes through occasionally, so I drove into town. We met at Mountain Head Pizza. There I had some tasty pizza, along with a great time talking and laughing about “family problems” with my friend. It turns out my new friend has a wry sense of humor and, guess what? Everybody has family problems… who knew? On the way out the door I ran into another new friend.

Then we took a walk around tiny town for a few errands.

La Veta Public Library

La Veta has the best public library! If they don’t have a movie, they get it for you from their extensive network of other small public libraries. That’s how I keep current on my movies. It’s free and I get to watch them in the comfort of my own home.

memoir of retirement 2016Speaking of libraries, I met my new friend when I was at a Christmas festival in La Veta last December, selling my new book. She came up and we started talking and before I knew it she bought a copy. Now whenever she comes down here, she looks me up. I love the person-to-person contact that comes from selling my books one-on-one to new friends, instead of through the “evil empire” Amazon. For one thing, it is so much more friendly and personal. And another, Amazon doesn’t take half of my profit! We have even had these new friends up to our solar home to show off our incredible views. I guess I’m trying to get them to think about moving here….

My new friend and her husband enjoyed my new memoir so much, they wanted to buy my other books, so we walked over to my car to get them. As luck would have it, there were two ladies sitting on a bench near us when I opened up the back of my Forester. They giggled and looked at us, so I said, “No, I’m not dealing drugs out of my car. It’s even better! I’m selling my ‘feel good’ books!” We got to talking to them about books, love and dating (because of my love book), and life in La Veta. They said it’s tough meeting good men here. The good ones are married. One older gentleman walked by, overheard us, and I think he was about to join in to disagree! They asked me to bring more of my books into town. They wanted to buy a few.

Octoberfest in La Veta and West Peak

I said goodbye to my new friend until she comes down here again, maybe for Octoberfest. That’s when they close down Main Street and everybody parties together. This will be our fifth one!

Next I went to see another friend I met through my exercise class. Such good people in La Veta, and it’s amazing how quickly you can recognize so many on Main Street. Sometimes you may be talking about someone and they will walk right by!

So glad I chose this quiet, slow and friendly lifestyle for my forever home & retirement.

To learn more about how we ended up here, living in a solar home in the Colorado outback, check out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado…  

Also, please follow me on Twitter!

Find Your Own Personal Freedom

I can hear you now. In response to my last post about freeing your mind, some of you are saying, “But I can’t afford that kind of freedom! How might it affect my relationships with my family and friends if I become completely me?” Yep, there’s the rub…

First of all, most of us haven’t a clue who we really are by the time we’re forty. We have made so many compromises to conform to society, family, and every other person around us for decades. We all know the rules. They are ingrained in our soul at this point. The Buddhist call this “armoring”: the persona we put on each morning in order to interact peacefully with those around us. This is how we keep our Self in check.

Have you ever sat and thought about who you might be without all your own rules of behavior? What time would you get up? Who would you spend your time with? What might you do each day with no rules at all? As we age we come to know, it’s now or never…

Gloria Steinem on the truthI started my own leap-of-faith back when I was living single. I had lost my job and I was living on severance, so there were only a few parameters controlling my days, my mind or my energy. Besides looking for a job and worrying about money, I spent my time reading a number of liberated thinkers like Gloria Steinem: “Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem,” I also began experimenting with the idea of personal freedom. The largest stumbling block for me was my family. Getting past so many rules in my head was daunting. I knew I had to find the courage within to go against most of the rules I was raised with and create my own solutions this time. As you might guess, my parents and siblings aren’t always pleased with the “new and improved me.”

Eventually, I did change my way of thinking enough to attract a partner who also believed in following dreams and personal freedom. It really helps if you can share your life with a partner whose vision is solid and whose goals are similar to yours.

Can that much freedom be bad for a person?

That is such a personal question. Ask yourself: Who would I be without my job and all the rules I now live by? The rules are there for a reason, to make us feel more comfortable with the freedoms we have given up to be in society. Freedom is not a common commodity in this world, even here in the USA.

The Money Trap:

money on the brainMost of us are permanently distracted with fears about running out of money, but could it be worse to run out of time? Time for what? Time to live our lives the way we choose. Time to wake up each day free of all those rules about what we ‘should’ do today, and not just those annoying “shoulds,” but the even more insidious, unconscious “have-tos.” Start monitoring your thoughts today and see how automatic most of them are!

price and life ThoreauI was required to write one full-length “term paper” in high school. I chose to study the world of Henry David Thoreau and his life. This was a mind expanding experience for a woman in her teens. I absorbed his wisdom, but I didn’t have the courage to follow his lead until decades later. By age 49 I found that I had followed all the rules and lost my job and career anyway. I married according to the rules and found myself more miserable than I had ever been. I knew I needed a new way of seeing and being in the world, or I would end up as miserable as most do.

leap_of_faithSo I gathered all my collective wisdom and courage together and took what felt like a gigantic leap of faith; faith in my own ability to live a life better than my upbringing could offer me, faith in my own inner wisdom, intelligence and skill set accumulated over decades, faith that I could do much better than the mediocre existence I had experienced up until then. Since those difficult, challenging days of solitude and constant questioning, my life has been transformed. I no longer fall back on the old rules in my head, I seek out more innovative and creative solutions to my day-to-day problems. I also find fewer problems, since I stopped living on brain autopilot. Sometimes I think my brain injury in 2008 shook me up enough to begin to see everything differently… but in a good way!

the highest art Thoreau

This is what worked for me. This is what a personal revolution looks and feels like, from the inside. How you spend your time is worth more than money!

Caution: Once you begin this process, it may snowball into your best life ever!

Freedom in Retirement: We are all prisoners of our own experience…

make the world with our thoughts BuddhaSilly me. For the longest time I thought there was some connection between age and higher levels of consciousness. I mean, as we age it seemed likely that we would also evolve in essential psychic ways. But now I know age has nothing to do with it. Our varied levels of consciousness depend more on how much we limit our thoughts, experience and options. I’m speaking from 60+ years of experience…

My upbringing demanded a certain way of thought, and a phenomenally large set of rules about how I should live. Think a mild case of German authoritarianism with “my way or the highway” thrown in. We were raised to expect to be, to quote my first boyfriend, “something at least semi-great.” When I became interested in China back in my teens, I immediately jumped to the realistic goal of becoming the first US Ambassador to China. Such a happy mix of egotism and narcissism, with tons of PRESSURE too!

After I studied librarianship at the graduate level to get a job, and Asian History, I then turned to Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. There I felt quite at home with what I was learning.

Besides the standard counseling psychology curriculum, we studied the interplay between psychology and spiritual development, the benefits of a contemplative practice, and moment-to-moment awareness, with ample opportunities to develop a compassion practice. There I met Ken Wilber, an American philosopher and author of a number of books on transpersonal psychology. Ken taught me to see consciousness as a wide spectrum of thought, with ordinary awareness at one end, and more profound levels at the other. The natural human progression is from lower consciousness, to personal, and then altered states of consciousness or spiritual experience. Some call these transpersonal levels.

if-you-obey-all-the-rules-you-miss-all-the-fun Katherine HepburnI experienced excellent instruction in limited thinking as I grew up. Even as my father said he encouraged an open mind, the rules were clear and I generally followed them well. It was only much later, after I realized that the rules I was raised with weren’t working for me, that I started my midlife do-over, my personal revolution. I felt drawn to questioning just about everything in my past, especially all the rules in my head. There I found such a cruel mix of self-deprecation and criticism.

tell negative committee to shut upIt is only in the past few years that I have made a quantum leap in self-compassion and consciousness. I no longer tolerate negativity and craziness around me, and have gained many new insights into the voices in my head… 🙂   Please, don’t believe your “negative committee” any longer. Question the way you approach every decision you make. Are you doing things the way your parents would for unknown reasons, or moving on to higher levels of thought and experience?

what lies behind us what lies within us Emerson

Question what you think you’ve known forever. Is it true or just some rule you’ve been following mindlessly for decades? Embrace your freedom to think the way you choose now, not the way previous generations did.

Don’t just save up your bucks for retirement, prepare your mind for a whole new level of freedom. The older I get, the clearer my moment-to-moment choices become. It can be so freeing to stop your brain autopilot in its tracks, and begin to live a new life!

To learn more about how midlife questioning helped to create a new lifestyle for us in an amazing passive solar home in the Colorado outback, go check out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Teach kids how to connect with Mother Earth!

“A garden symbolizes what a faith community is, connections, caring for the planet and caring for life in urban areas where people don’t have the opportunity to grow food or be in nature.”      — Claire Baglien

The Benefits of Starting a School Garden Program 

By Abby Quillen

“A garden is a grand teacher,” horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll wrote. School administrators obviously agree because the nation is in the midst of a school gardening boom. The number of school gardens nearly doubled between 2013 and 2015. More than 7,000 American schools now have a garden.

Most teachers start a school garden program in elementary schools, and grow flowers or veggies. Some include unique features, such as chickens, orchards, and aquaponics systems (where students raise fish and use the fishes’ waste to feed plants). Teachers use gardening activities to teach nearly every discipline, including health, nutrition, science, math, environmental studies, language arts, art, and social studies. Students in one California school sow native plants to learn what the state looked like prior to European settlement. In other schools, kids test soil composition, learn about food chains and ecosystems, measure plants as they grow, calculate the perimeter and area of garden beds, and keep gardening journals.

Researchers examining how gardening impacts students have found that school gardens–sometimes called “living classrooms”–cultivate more than just plants. Students who participate in school gardens are on average more engaged in what they’re learning, boast higher science test scores, and eat more fruits and vegetables than their non-gardening peers.

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Cultivating Young Minds

Teachers who integrate gardening into lessons say it is a powerful, hands-on learning tool that engages kids better than typical classroom instruction. Quantitative data supports these observations. Middle schoolers who took part in the Edible Schoolyard Project at a large urban California school improved both their overall GPAs and their math and science grades.

In a review of 12 studies, students who gardened performed better on standardized science tests than their non-gardening peers in all 12 studies. Fifth-grade gardeners in one study scored nearly 15 percent higher on the standardized science test than a control group. REAL School Gardens, an organization that builds gardens for low-income schools, says students at their partner schools improve 12 to 15 percent on standardized tests after gardening is integrated into school curricula.

Fertilizing Social and Emotional Development

Caring for plants together and waiting for them to grow also teaches kids about cooperation, responsibility, patience, and delayed gratification. In a study of a year-long garden program for third, fourth, and fifth graders, students improved teamwork skills and markers of self-understanding, a term used to describe a person’s ability to comprehend his or her own actions. Nature-based activities, including gardening, also help kids relieve stress, improve attention spans, and ease symptoms of ADHD.

Most kids love learning in the garden. In an evaluation of seven qualitative school garden studies, the majority of kids in every study said they enjoyed gardening at school. Elementary–aged students in one survey reported feeling “happy, relaxed, calm, and safe” while working in their school garden. And it’s not just students who benefit emotionally and socially from school gardens; teachers who are trained to do garden activities with their students report higher morale and job satisfaction.

Planting Healthy Lifestyles and Environmental Consciousness

Learning to garden as a kid can shape life-long habits. School gardens can improve children’s eating habits, at least in the short term. In an analysis of studies on the subject, researchers concluded “gardening increased vegetable consumption in children, whereas the impacts of nutrition education programs were marginal or nonsignificant.” Advocates hope the healthier food preferences inspired by school gardens will last into adulthood and help curb the current obesity trends. In the past three decades, childhood obesity has more than doubled, and 42 percent of Americans are expected to be obese by 2030.

Gardening may also inspire an increasingly urban population–81.5 percent of American kids live in urban areas–to take care of the environment. Many kids put their hands in dirt and relate with the natural world for the first time in school gardens. A number of studies show kids who participate in nature-based activities in elementary school are more likely to have an affinity for nature as adults.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.”  — Baba Dioum 

Conclusion

Not all school gardens flourish. They require time, support, and hard work. And they have the most impact when teachers are extensively trained in gardening curricula. That said, research suggests the effort is worthwhile. When school gardens thrive, they have the potential to nourish academic learning, social skills, healthy lifestyles, and environmental consciousness.

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BEAUTY is the GARDEN where HOPE GROWS!