Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Willing Life

The will to live—it’s an unfathomable thing. What drives it? I mean there are days when the news is so grim, the air so cold, and the people we love so unlovable that it’s easy to wonder why we bother.

But sometimes, something—faith, hope, or belief in the power of human relationships—must urge us to stay the course. When I arrived at the hospital last Friday, six days after I had left, I was prepared for the worst. I had spoken with my brother, Chris, the day before, and for the first time he had sounded distraught. It had been a bad day. Dad was grey, puffy, unshaven, sedated, and hadn’t been able to tolerate even a few minutes of breathing on his own. The doctors were beginning to talk about a tracheotomy.

Yet, when I called Chris on Friday afternoon, as my cab pulled up to the hospital entrance, he told me the tide had turned. Dad was awake, alert, and communicating with nods, even small smiles. The nurses had bathed him and shaved him as much as they could around the breathing tube. I walked into the ICU and experienced it for myself. His eyes were only half open, but they knew me and I could see them shine and crinkle the way they always did when Dad was happy. He was still there.

Somehow I knew that it was time to tell him the many things that I had never taken the opportunity to tell him before. I talked to him about what a good dad he was. And thanked him for the many lessons he had taught me—like the significance of ethical behavior, honesty, civic responsibility, education, and lifelong friendships. I reminded him about the special moments we had had in our family because of him: the trips to Sea Island, our Halloween costumes, summers in Stone Harbor, my backyard wedding reception, and the way he had embarrassed us as kids by singing “California, Here I Come” in the jet-way before a flight to San Francisco 38 years ago.

I could tell that he heard me, and it seemed that my words brought him some contentment. I hope that they formed beautiful pictures for his mind’s eye to remember as he navigated those last hours. I wonder if he rallied Friday because he knew I was coming and he wanted to hear what I had to say.

Dad once told me that his mother, who died of breast cancer when he was 25, had willed herself to live so that she could be there for her daughter’s wedding day. That is the only real image that I have of my grandmother...determined. Maybe he was determined too.

The prospect of death does its mean duty. I picture it like a mother saying “You’ll thank me for this someday.” I am thankful for the fear that surfaced when Dad’s surgery lasted 5 hours instead of 2. I am grateful that I had a heads-up, and that his strong will was to live long enough for me to see him, and that I had the good fortune to be able to tell him that I loved him, and to remind him of his legacy—two children and nine grandchildren—one of whom peacefully awaited his company.

The will to live is unfathomable. Death, a mystery. The only thing that we can truly know is that love is the reason we hurt, and why we will life. And that is not a bad thing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

When Mid-Life Brings End-of-Life Issues Closer to Home

Thanksgiving brought mixed blessings this year. After a whirlwind but wonderful week visiting with family and friends in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, it ended at my father’s bedside in ICU. Twenty-four hours after a long, complicated multiple hernia surgery on Monday, he seemed amazingly well. But at midnight on Wednesday he was moved to ICU. Agitated, disoriented, and in considerable pain, the stress on his body was proving too much. Black Friday morning was exactly that as the doctors prepared us for the possibility that he would not make it.

As my brother, mom, and I read through Dad’s living will, we had to weigh the decision to put him on a ventilator to ease the strain on his heart with his wish to not be kept alive artificially if his condition was terminal. The fact is that there is no way to know yet if his condition is terminal. When my brother asked Mom if Dad had a strong will to live, she hesitated. But when he asked if he enjoyed his life, the answer was an unequivocal yes. So giving him a fighting chance seemed like the right thing to do.

A week ago he was a relatively healthy, though sedate, 79 year-old who loved his wife, his home, his children, grandchildren, and friends. He loved his books, crosswords, meals, movies, music, and memories. He walked (slowly) but faithfully every day, as he had since his first heart attack 23 years ago. He still has things to live for. We have to hope that he does live, and if he does, that he can still enjoy the things he loves. That is where it gets so complicated. Mom says she wants him back whole. How can we promise that? How can we not?

Last Thanksgiving we were all together. With my brother’s family, my family, and my mom all surrounding him, I’d never seen my dad happier. He was excited at the notion of doing it all over again this year. He had even carefully completed his Christmas shopping and wrapping in anticipation of celebrating that holiday early, on Black Friday, while we were all together. The last thing he said to me on the phone on Wednesday was how disappointed he was to not be with us. He told me we should unwrap the gifts, and enjoy them and take them home in our suitcases. Even in his deteriorating state, my proudly frugal dad couldn’t bear the thought of paying to ship!

We’re about to board the plane. The gifts are still stacked in his study. I hope when I fly back this weekend, he is there to chasten me for not taking them home on the plane. And if he is, then that next time, I will.

Monday, November 16, 2009

River Trip

Two or three years ago I spent an extended Labor Day weekend on a canoe trip down the Green River with eleven other women. We camped, canoed, divvied up chocolate bars around the fire at night and drank cowboy coffee (with grounds and no cream) in the mornings. The first six hours of the trip I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The first night, I finally crawled out of my tent to escape my tent-mate’s snoring and rolled my sleeping bag out under the stars. This is the first time that I think that I have ever done that. Slept outside, all night under the stars. It was incredible.

They did have us do some journaling and other soul-seeking exercises. I felt kind of sheepish at first. But actually got a lot more out of that process than I thought. I came home from the trip very inspired. Recently I found my journal and was amazed at what I had written about “What I Learned on My River Trip.” It reminded me to always think about all sides of people, experiences, moods, decisions, beliefs.

Hope it helps others to think too…

Don’t trust your first impressions. Trust your first impressions. Drink lots of water. Don’t drink too much water. Paddle hard. Hardly paddle. Share your fears. Lose your fears. Don’t forget your sarong. Always plan for weather. Be prepared. Be quiet. Kind words are remembered. Everybody has many stories. Struggles are part of feeling satisfaction. There is always more to learn. Learning something is better than learning nothing. Small things can make big impressions. Being physically active makes the day better. You’re never too old. If you don’t steer right, it doesn’t matter how fast you are going, you’ll never get there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Middle-Aged Women

It was probably more than 15 years ago when I first heard someone refer to middle-aged women as invisible. It was incredibly depressing...even for someone who felt like she had eons until she was middle-aged.

The eons went by at light speed, but fate was with me. And the future is good. That someone may have been right about middle-aged gals then, but he (you knew it was a he didn't you?), is dead wrong now.

Women over 50 are 16% of the U.S. population, 22% of US adult population, and 41% of US adult female population. According to the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau, every fifth adult in the United States is a female over 50...and plenty more are on their way!

As Avivah Wittenberg-Cox & Alison Maitland point out in their book Why Women Mean Business, women have been elected to the highest political office in countries from Germany to Finland and Chile and made their way to the foreground of presidential battles in France and the U.S. for the first time. They make up half the governments of countries like Spain, France, Finland, and Sweden.

As noted by USA Today, in January of 2009, 13 of the country's 500 largest publicly traded companies were headed by female CEOs. The Center for Women's Business Research has found that over the past 15 years, women have started 70% of new businesses and that relative to the economy at large, woman-owned businesses are growing twice as fast in number, three times as fast in employees, and four times as fast in sales revenues. And 73% of women business owners in nontraditional industries are age 45 or older.

And according to the National Institute for Educational Statistics, in 2006-07, women earned 62% of Associates, 57% of Bachelors, and 61% of Master's degrees.

So women over 40, and you thirty-somethings who feel that middle-age is eons away, take heart. You and I are members of the healthiest, wealthiest, most independent, most active, most educated, and most politically and economically powerful generation of women in history.

Guess we're not so invisible anymore!

To learn more about this extraordinary transformation and the opportunities it presents I highly recommend reading: The She Spot by Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen, Why Women Mean Business by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox & Alison Maitland, and my personal favorite, PrimeTime Women by Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women.

Monday, October 26, 2009

MidChix Start Up Financing Part 2 or "My Money or My Life"

By January of 2009, MidChix haunted my every waking moment, and I began searching high and low for funds. I needed $50,000 dollars and it was nowhere to be found. I sold some jewelry. I looked under the seats of the car. I pocketed bills that showed up in the lint screen. I cashed in the kitchen change jar. I consigned clothes. I substituted in the office at the school. I did everything I could think of short of pulling a Bernie Madoff.

True confessions. I actually contemplated the number of sexual favors that it might take to land a big fat loan from my supportive, but cautious husband.

Then one day, the light bulb went on. Didn’t I have a life insurance policy somewhere? I raced upstairs to the study and the file cabinet. Yes! There it was. Now technically, this wasn’t “my” money. My practical and organized (yet prudent and possibly sexually deprived) spouse, had realized when our fourth child arrived well before our oldest turned 6, that he would be TOAST if I ever took up sky-diving. Nevertheless, I felt, at this point, that I had earned that money. I mean for heaven sakes, it was there to pay some poor slob to fill in for me if I was dead. I mean, if I was dead wouldn’t that make him sad and he’d do anything to make me feel better…I mean make him feel better…I mean make me feel so good I wouldn’t be dead?

Okay, okay. I decided that I had earned the money, because I had ended up being the poor slob bringing up our four kids (later 5) while he was working his cute little investment banking butt off providing for the five kids that we would need to pay some poor slob to take care of if I died.

Fast forward. I didn’t die. The kids got older. (Even the youngest one.) We moved to Denver and my practical hard-working husband continued to be practical and hardworking, but available enough that he learned how to hold down the fort.

So on a wing and a prayer, I pointed simultaneously to him and our 14 year old daughter (while glancing meaningfully at her little brother) and announced, “If I die, you’re it!”

After returning the rescinded Mother-of-the Year Award to the proper authorities, I cashed in my life insurance, hired the software developers, and decided to live the dream.

So far, so good. But if you ever see me outside in a lightning storm, please make sure the wine glass I am holding doesn’t have one of those metal doo-hickeys hanging from it. And in the meantime, Cheers!

Monday, October 12, 2009

MidChix Start Up Financing Part One or Cleaning Up

I wasn’t complaining, I swear. It’s just that for the 54th consecutive Monday, when I turned on the living room lamp, nothing happened. For the 54th consecutive Monday, I went out to the garage, retrieved a new bulb, screwed it in, turned the little knob and…still, nothing happened. Oh yeah, I thought, the cleaning lady unplugged it again.

Believe me, I knew I was lucky to have a cleaning lady, I got hives anytime I recalled the first eight weeks in a new house still under construction sans one with a new baby, a six-year old with asthma, and three older kids whose idea of helping around the house was flushing. Still, I have to admit I went crazy every time I found that the shampoos had all been moved out of the shower to the tub, or my night table water bottle had been tossed, or the blow dryer unplugged and hidden in a drawer (a different one each week). The best is when I would find all the dirty sheets and towels deposited on top of the clean clothes in the laundry basket.

My husband went nuts every time they folded the end piece of toilet paper into a neat little triangle (just like in fancy hotels)…even when it was literally the end piece of toilet paper. He is still traumatized by the last time that he had to waddle to the linen closet with his pants around his ankles.

So early this year, when finding funding for MidChix was keeping me up at night, I began pecking around for any and all sources of cash. And after replacing that light bulb for the 54th consecutive Monday, I had an epiphany. I could clean my own house! And pay myself! Admittedly, I don’t clean the whole house every week, but I have developed a pretty good system that manages to keep the sinks relatively free of toothpaste and the dust bunnies to only a couple of generations.

This seems like a natural evolution from a prior epiphany, which I think should be a future topic on this site: Stay-at-Home Moms should get paid. My preference would be that the government paid us…but until we manage to have that legislation passed, having the household account pay me will have to suffice.

The best part is, I never replace a light bulb that isn’t burned out.

Stay tuned for Part II of MidChix Start-Up Financing Story. It promises to include seamy details including sexual favors and life and death decisions!

Monday, October 5, 2009

MidChix Mission and Mantras

As I made my way down the start-up path, I had some pretty firm ideas about what I wanted for MidChix. After realizing that it's not that hard to get blown off course, I decided to put a few promises in writing so that when the inevitable mission-creep threatens, we can refer back to our original purpose.

When I began to investigate the world of social networking, I was dismayed to discover that many social networking sites allow advertising and fees hidden in the small print that compromise the security of their members. Here are a couple of examples:

Early in the year I was drawn in by a Google ad on Facebook and ordered a free sample of two skin care products. Unbeknownst to me, I also signed up to be placed on auto-ship for both. A charge of $39.99 showed up on my credit card bill a few weeks later, and when one of the products arrived before I became aware of this scam, I was told that the product could not be returned after it had shipped. So next time you are tempted to click on that ad which promises a no-fail method for weight-loss, or wrinkle-reduction, or some other miracle cure, BUYER BEWARE.

The following month, I registered for to help with research for MidChix. Though charges a fee to members, I figured it was worth it to learn about a different revenue model. Once again, I was scammed. Turns out when you sign up you are also sold a credit check service. It was three months in before I happened to be the one paying our Visa bill one evening and noticed the $19.99 charge from "Privacy Matters." Guess my husband didn't want to pry when he saw that charge, or secretly hoped it was some erotic product that I was planning to surprise him with...

You can be assured that MidChix will never put revenues ahead of your rights.

We promise:

  • We will never hide fees/charges/contracts in small print.
  • We will protect your privacy.
  • We will never provide personally identifying information to anyone.
  • We will only support advertisers that have demonstrated a commitment to women through their products, employment practices or charitable endeavors.
  • And we will do our best to expose sites that are not safe or that hide fees.

Monday, September 21, 2009

MidChix: A One-Stop-Shop for Women

When I joined the social networking scene last fall, it was eye-opening to see how useful these sites can be when it comes to staying in touch with the people you care about. However, I found that not enough of the people I care about were using them, and it occurred to me that women like me might appreciate a site that was developed specifically for them. is a unique new wire where mid-life women can gather, share, laugh, and learn. The site is designed to facilitate connections between old and new friends, to provide education on emerging technologies, to share inspiration in the form of profiles and personal stories, and to support charities in our local communities and around the world. is the first social networking boutique that caters to the needs of this very powerful demographic. Women 40+ have a firm grip on the consumer market through increasing purchasing power and independent income. In fact, women make 85% of all brand purchases in American households and because of their growing prominence the workplace during the last 30 years, women are powerful buyers in categories not traditionally marketed to them, including cars, computers, financial services, home improvement and consumer electronics.

While MidChix appeals to a wide range of advertisers, my fellow chix and I have developed very specific standards for potential advertisers, and we promise to only partner with companies that serve the best interests of women through their products, services, employment practices, and/or charitable endeavors. This approach seeks to shift the paradigm of online advertising to partnerships that are authentic and mutually beneficial.

As women continue to wield a growing amount of influence online, particularly in social media, there is a significant opportunity for our partners to create ads that are relevant, reliable and trusted. MidChix is a virtual one-stop-shop for women seeking to find the information they need and want with no exceptions!
Stay tuned for more on MidChix and the benefits of marketing to women over 40…