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.