PowerPhrases® for Women: Decisiveness Speech for Better Results

Dressed in a business suit with a brief case in hand, a dark-haired woman stepped up to the counter next to me at California Kitchen and said: 

Can I have a sausage pizza? 
And can I have a coke? 
And will you get me some fries? 

It was as if she was asking permission to place her order. I wondered how she spoke at her business meetings. Here is my guess:

May I make a few suggestions? 
I’d like to talk now, okay?

Or how about with her kids? 

Turn off the TV, will you please? 
Do you mind helping me? 
Can you be quiet? 

I wanted to give her a copy of my book, PowerPhrases®! The Perfect Words to Say It Right and Get the Results You Want

How often do you speak with indecisiveness and uncertainty? Women complain that men do not take them seriously at work. Women complain that their kids only respond to their Dads. This is because women are more prone to use tentative speech.  

While she says: I feel pretty good about this proposal
He says: My proposal will increase revenue by 32%

While she says, I don’t think you should be watching TV until your homework is done
He says: Turn the TV off right now and do not even think about turning it back on until your homework is done! 

It is said that men state opinion as fact and women state fact as opinion. Opinion stated as fact sounds judgmental, however, fact stated as opinion sounds weak. PowerPhrases® provide the middle ground where words are chosen to mean exactly what you want to say. Facts are stated as facts and opinion as opinion. Requests are made as requests and instructions are given as instructions. A PowerPhrase® is a short specific expression that gets results by saying what you mean and meaning what you say without being mean when you say it. One of the PowerPhrase® principles is that your words are as strong as they need to be and no stronger. Women often need to up the amperage; men often need to tone it down. 

Upping the Amperage
 
Kinda, sorta and maybe are Killer Phrases that weaken your message and keep you from being taken seriously. Instead of saying style: you might want to consider, say I recommend.  Instead of saying "I’ll try" say"I will" 

And take those tags off the end of your sentences that make you sound like you are asking permission, like "you know?" And "right?" 

If you are placing an order such as the woman at California Kitchen, do not imply you are seeking their approval of your order! Simply say,  I’d like a sausage pizza, a coke and some fries. 

If you want to make a point at a business meeting, again, do not ask permission; just make your point. Or you can request the floor decisively. Say: I need your complete attention here please. 

If you want the TV off, say it like you mean it. Turn the TV off I'd like it turned off now. 

Back yourself up with action. If they balk-they do it because they have learned that you do not mean what you say. 

If you need help and expect to get it, say so. Instead of asking if they mind helping you (which they probably do mind,) simply say: I need your help.

If you want them to be quiet, don’t ask if they can be quiet, (you know they can if they want to), say: I need you to be quiet. 

Let your voice carry your message. Say what you mean and speak with the decisiveness you feel and you will get more powerful results in the world. 

Women Who Reach Beyond the Stars A tribute to women making aviation and space history

Guest blog by Marion E. Gold
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them." Louisa May Alcott

When Louisa May Alcott said these words, she likely had no idea that women one day would not only look beyond the sunshine, but travel beyond the stars to brave new frontiers in outer space. 

In 1961 aeronautics history began a new era when 13 women reported to the Lovelace Clinic in Southeast Albuquerque, New Mexico. They were carefully selected to be the FLATS, the First Lady Astronaut Trainees - candidates for a mission to be known as Mercury 13. Their names are: Myrtle "K" Thompson Cagle, Jerrie Cobb, Jan Dietrich and her identical twin Marion Dietrich, Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk II, Jane Hart, Jean Hixson , Gene Nora Stumbough Jessen, Irene Leverton, Sarah Lee Gorelick Ratley, Bernice "B" Steadman, Geraldine "Gerri" Sloan Truhill, And Rhea Hurrle Allison Woltman.

The program was so secret, according to an article by Funk, that not all the Mercury 13 candidates knew each other during their years of training and evaluation. It was not until 1994 when ten of the Mercury 13 met for the first time. 

Funk is a member of the "Ninety-Nines, Inc.," an international organization that was founded in 1929 by 99 licensed women pilots for the mutual support and advancement of aviation. In 1931, Amelia Earhart was elected as the first president and the group was officially named for its 99 charter members. Today, the 99s boasts more than six thousand members, all licensed women pilots, from 35 countries. Its International Headquarters is located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In documenting the history of the Mercury 13, Funk said that despite their outstanding test results - all passed the same tests as the Mercury 7 men-- these exceptional women never got a chance to fly into space. But their hard work paved the way 22 years later, in 1983, when Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space. (http://www.ninety-nines.org/mercury.html)

Ride was not the first woman in space, however. That bold step was taken in 1963 by Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union - the first woman to orbit the earth. Ride's journey to the stars was followed in July 1984, when another Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya made history as the first female spacewalker.

Ride, Tereshkova and Savitskaya have been joined by many more daring women who are committed to trailblazing their way into history - space history. 

Today, if you visit the "Women of NASA" website, there are biographies of dozens of women throughout the program: Administrators and Managers; engineers, technologists, and astrobiologists; astronauts who are mission specialists, pilots and commanders; astronomers and astrophysicists, biologists, chemists, computer scientists, system specialists and programmers; aeronautics, aerospace, biological, chemical and biomedical engineers; educators who reach out to the public; computer and design engineers; environmental specialists and geologists; pharmacologists and psychologistsŠ. The list goes on and on. (http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/women/WON.html)

This month - women's history month - we honor them. This month, and every month, we especially pay tribute to the four brave women who gave their lives in the daring quest for knowledge. Four trailblazing women who reached far beyond Louisa May Alcott's sunshine and into the heavens: 

KALPANA CHAWLA emigrated to the United States from India in 1980s and became an astronaut in 1994. In a 1998 interview with the newspaper "India Today," Chawla said: "When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system." Chawla was killed on February 1 when the space shuttle Columbia STS-107 tragically disintegrated just sixteen minutes before its scheduled landing in Florida. DR. LAUREL CLARK was a diving medical officer aboard submarines and then a flight surgeon before she reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. After completing two years of training and evaluation, she was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. She also died in the Columbia tragedy. DR. JUDITH ARLENE RESNIK was selected as a NASA astronaut in January 1978. She became the second American woman in orbit during the maiden flight of Discovery, STS-41-D, between August 30 and September 5, 1984. During this mission she helped to deploy three satellites into orbit; she was also involved in biomedical research during the mission. Resnik was a mission specialist on the Challenger (STS-51- L) which exploded just after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on January 28, 1986. SHARON CHRISTA MCAULIFFE was the first teacher to fly in space. Selected from among more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession for entrance into the astronaut ranks to be trained as a payload specialist. McAuliffe also died on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger exploded.

Their legacies live on in the hearts of all women who reach beyond the stars to follow their dreams.

Timeline of Women in Aeronautics
1910 Bessie Raiche - First woman to fly solo. She flew in an airplane her husband built of bamboo, wire and silk.
1911 Harriet Quimby - First U.S. woman to receive a pilot's license. In 1912, she also became the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel.
1913 Ruth Law Bancroft- First woman to fly at night.
1914 Katherine Stinson- First woman to fly a loop (Cicero Field, Chicago, IL). In 1917, she
set flight endurance record of 9 hours and 10 minutes.
1918 Anna Low- First Chinese-American, female aviator who flew in the San Francisco, CA region.
1921 Bessie Coleman- First African-American female aviator to qualify for an international pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
1924 Ruth Nichols- First woman to earn an international hydroplane license.
1929 Ninety-Nines was founded by women pilots - female aviators club with Amelia Earhart as president. The name comes from the fact that out of 126 female licensed pilots, 99 of them joined.
1929 Elinor Smith-Sets solo flight endurance record of 13 hours and 16 minutes.
1929 Bobbi Trout-First woman to fly all night.
1930 Florence Klingensmith - First woman to set loop record for 143 consecutive loops.
1931 Anne Morrow Lindbergh- First woman to earn a glider pilot's license.
1932 Olive Beech- Helps to found, with her husband, Beech Aircraft Corporation. Also in
1932, Kathryn Cheung- First Chinese-American female to earn a U.S. pilot's license;
Amelia Earhart- First woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean (in just under 15 hours); and Ruth Nichols- First woman hired as a pilot for commercial passenger flights, on New York Airways.
1936 Louise Thaden, pilot and Blanche Noyes, co-pilot- First women to win the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race from Los Angeles, CA to New York City, New York.
1937 Willa Brown- First African-American woman to earn a commercial pilot's license.
1938 Hanna Reitsch German WWII test pilot who was the first woman to pilot a helicopter.
1943 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) -The government program in which female pilots were used to train the male pilots for combat duty. The U.S. female pilots also ferried airplanes across the Atlantic Ocean for use in combat.
1944 Ann Baumgartner- First U.S. woman to fly an experimental jet airplane. She reached speeds of 350 mph and altitudes up to 35,000 feet.
1947 Ann Shaw Carter- First U.S. woman licensed to fly a helicopter.
1953 Jacqueline Cochran- First woman to break the sound barrier.
1955 Whirley Girls-Female helicopter pilots start their own association.
1960 Jerrie Cobb - First woman to undergo the testing developed for the selection of the Mercury Astronauts. 
1961 Jacqueline Cochran- First woman to fly the highest to an altitude of 55,253 feet; that same year, Cochran also Established a new altitude record for the T-38 aircraft by flying 56,071 feet.
1963 Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was the First Woman in Space.
1964 Jerrie Mock- First woman to fly solo around the world. She made the flight in 29 1/2 days flying 22,860 miles.
1973 Emily Howell-As second officer for Frontier Airlines, she became the first woman to fly Boeing 737 jets for a regularly scheduled airline; Bonnie Tiburzi-First female jet pilot hired by a major airline, American Airlines.
1984 Betsy Carroll-First woman to fly a jumbo jet across the Atlantic Ocean for a commercial airline (People Express).
1984 (July) Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya - First female spacewalker.
1984 (October) Kathryn Sullivan -First American Female Spacewalker.
1986 Jeana Yeager (and Dick Rutan)-First pilots to fly around the world non-stop and non-refueled. They accomplished this in a specially designed aircraft called the Voyager.
1990 British Chemist Helen Sharman flew to Mir Space Station for a week long stay after answering a newspaper advertisement. " Astronaut wanted - no experience necessary".
1990 Jean K. Tinsley-First female to fly a tilt rotor aircraft.
1992 Mae Jemison-First African American woman in space.
1995 Eileen M. Collins-First female to pilot U.S. space shuttle; 
1996 Shannon Lucid returns from six months aboard Mir, setting a space endurance record for women and a U.S. space endurance record.
1997 Kalpana Chawla -First Indian woman in outer space.
1999 Eileen Collins made history once again as the First Woman to fly as a Space Shuttle Commander.
Doris Brell a hellicopter pilot Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

The Power of Color

Guest blog by Mari Lyn Henry
Author of How to Be a Working Actor, 5th Edition: The Insider's Guide to Finding Jobs in Theater, Film & Television

All of us have specific colors--whether they are dramatic, understated, or neutral--that look better on us than other others. Wearing the right colors next to your skin can have a rejuvenating, uplifting, and healthier impact on your overall appearance. You will know the colors are wrong if you suddenly look older, sallow, or blotchy, or your cheeks seem drained of color.

If you have pale skin and dark hair, the jewel tone colors (sapphire blue, emerald green, ruby red, dark amethyst) and the icy pastels (orchid, lemon, pink, pale blue) will bring out your natural blush. Skin tone with a beige, pink, or ivory undertone wears more muted rosy colors extremely well. Yellow or peachy undertones suggest deeper pigmentation, and the ability to wear bright colors or richer and deeper golden-based hues. Some skin tones are so balanced that they can wear both cool-based and warmer colors. Remember, there are no absolutes. Wearing what makes you feel good when you put it on should be the general rule. But bear in mind that you must wear the color; the color must never wear you.

The color you choose to wear to an interview can have a psychological impact on the interviewer. So choose carefully to avoid sending the wrong vibration. For example, red is associated with passion, ambition, desire, assertiveness, and self-sacrifice. It is the ³I am² color. If you are meeting someone for the first time, be careful about the red you select. Avoid reds with too much yellow; they can overwhelm you. Reds with more blue in them such as the wine colors (burgundy, maroon, merlot) or berry reds (cranberry, raspberry, currant) or brown reds (terra-cotta and brick) will be less intimidating. Red is also effective as an accent color in a scarf or pocket square.

Green has a cooler energy and, like the color of the forest, is calming, non-threatening, balanced, and restful to the eye. The deeper shades of green (fir, cucumber, and hunter) are terrific to wear to the interview and on camera as well.

Blue is the color of trust, loyalty, wisdom, and inspiration. Corporate executives in navy blue suits inspire confidence. It you want to appear credible and confident, wear blue.

Yellow is so bright and dynamic that it can cause anxiety and hyperactivity. It is more effective in a print design. Large doses should be avoided, unless you have a tan to balance the color. Orange may be the color of geniuses, extroverts, good negotiators, and safety on the construction site, but it cannot be worn by everyone.

Purple is the color associated with artists, writers, and spirituality. Michelangelo kept purple stained glass in his studio when he sculpted his masterpieces. Wagner wore purple robes to compose. Studies have shown that meditating on purple can reduce mental stress. So when you choose a royal purple to wear at the interview, you will be relaxing the pressure felt by the interviewer and, in turn, feeling connected to your creative center.

White is reflective and can upstage your face. Gray represents passivity and non-commitment. Black, technically, is the combination of all the colors, and not a color at all. It is distancing, lacks vibration, absorbs color and light, and can drain it from your face. Both gray and black keep your energy contained and rob you of vitality.

Neutrals like black, gray, brown and deep navy can always be enlivened by accessorizing with colorful scarves near your face or a string of multi-colored beads. Even a black-and-white ensemble can be enhanced with red or hot pink.

Color triggers memory more readily than your name. Actors who audition before a casting director, director or producer will observe them taking notes. After auditions, clients will frequently say, "You know I really liked the girl in the purple jacket," or Remember that guy with the red vest?"

WHAT THE COLORS YOU WEAR REVEAL ABOUT YOU

Red: Ambitious, energetic, courageous, extroverted
Pink: Affectionate, loving, compassionate, sympathetic
Maroon: Sensuous, emotional, gregarious, overly sensitive
Orange: Competent, action-oriented, organized, impatient
Peach: Gentle, charitable, dexterous, enthusiastic
Yellow: Communicative, expressive, social, people-oriented
Green: Benevolent, humanistic, service-oriented, scientific
Light Blue: Creative, perceptive, imaginative, analytical
Dark Blue: Intelligent, executive, responsible, self-reliant
Mauve: Delicate, reserved, sensitive, encouraging
Purple: Intuitive, regal, spiritual, artistic
Brown: Honest, down-to-earth, supportive, structured
Black: Disciplined, strong-willed, independent, opinionated
White: Individualistic, egocentric, lonely, low self-esteem
Gray: Passive, non-committal, stressed, overburdened
Silver: Honorable, chivalrous, trustworthy, romantic
Gold: Idealistic, noble, successful, having high values

WHEN YOU ARE FEELING "BLUE" WEAR....
Red gives you an energy boost.
Pink relaxes mental tension
Maroon protects you from intrusive people.
Orange combats confusion.
Peach protects you from energy loss.
Yellow balances depression.
Green helps you deal with emotional stress.
Blue-green restores faith.
Dark blue protects against failure.
Mauve helps you stop worrying.
Purple reduces outside pressure.

Enjoy the power in your colorful palette.

Radical Common Sense

Guest blog by Marilyn Ferguson
Author of Aquarius Now: Radical Common Sense and Reclaiming Our Personal Sovereignty

When we got organized as a country and we wrote a fairly radical constitution with a radical amount of individual freedom to Americans, it was assumed that the Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly.       —Bill Clinton

To get out of the bottle we need radical common sense. Radical common sense is common sense deliberately encouraged and applied. Radical common sense reflects the growing realization that individual good sense is not enough—that society itself must make sense or decline. Radical common sense is a spirit. It respects the past, it pays attention to the present, and therefore it can imagine a more workable future.

On the one hand, it looks as if modern civilization hasn’t the time, resources, or determination to make it through the neck of the bottle. We can’t get there from here. We can’t solve our deepest problems through such traditional strategies as competition, wishful thinking, struggle, or war. We can’t frighten people (including ourselves) into being good or smart or healthy. We find we can’t educate by rote or by bribery, we can’t win by cheating, we can’t buy peace at the expense of others, and, above all, we can’t fool Mother Nature.

On the other hand, maybe the answers lie in the problem—our thinking, especially our ideas that nature is to be mastered rather than understood. We have tried to run roughshod over certain powerful realities.

Radical common sense says let’s ally ourselves with nature. We have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain. As the old saying has it, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” We can apprentice at nature’s side, working with her secrets respectfully rather than trying to steal them. For example, scientists who observe natural systems report that nature is more cooperative (“Live and let live”) than competitive (“Kill or be killed”). “Competing” species, it turns out, often co-exist by food- and time-sharing; they feed at different hours on different parts of the same plant. Among moose and some other herd animals, the old or injured members offer themselves to predators, allowing younger and healthier members to escape.

Altruism appears to serve an evolutionary function in living creatures. In its inventiveness, nature—including human nature—may be on our side.

By documenting the health benefits of such traditional virtues as persistence, hard work, forgiveness, and generosity, scientific research is validating both common sense and idealism. People who have discovered a purpose feel better, like themselves more, age more subtly, and live longer.

Radical common sense derives its conviction from science and from the inspired examples of individuals. 

Top Cops: Profiles of Women In Command

Guest blog by Marion E. Gold
Author of Top Cops: Profiles of Women in Command
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

I'm not a law enforcement officer, so readers may wonder why I chose policing as a book topic. Carrying the dubious title of “The Company Feminist,” I broke—more like crashed—through the glass ceiling and landed in a lush corner office, complete with a mahogany desk, seat on the executive board, and a variety of other perks. I hired women into professional jobs, mentored them, and was even advised that onc day some man might sue the company and me for reverse discrimination.

It was a good fight, but a lonely one. Like the few other women in other companies who had reached senior executive positions, I was wounded by the flying shards of glass. I grew weary of climbing the same hill every day, and contending with the overt, but more often subtle discrimination levied at me and not only from the men. Even some of the younger women wondered why I didn’t just become “one of the guys.” Why did I care if they used gender slurs during meetings? Why did I care if women had to be “perfect” while some of the men were mediocre? Sound familiar?

I finally walked away from that corner office—but not to hide in some other corner. I decided to talk about it, write about it, and work from the “outside” to make a difference for women and minorities in the workplace. What better way to make my point than by writing about women who blasted through one of the five remaining professions virtually dominated by male stereotypes? I believe with all my heart that all career doors must be open to women—a career in policing is one of their options. More than that, women who choose law enforcement as a career must know that they will be mentored by the women already on the force, will be free from harassment, and will have equal opportunity with men to advance into command positions. Top Cops: Profiles of Women in Command is this feminists way of shining a light on just a few of an elite group of women in policing whose persistence and dedication place them among the trailblazers in law enforcement. They are not only mentors for women in law enforcement — they are examples for all women of how skill, dedication, and a much-needed sense of humor can succeed in breaking through a male-dominated “blue wall” in order to achieve command positions. Who are the women who have attained command positions? They are tall, short, sturdy, and petite. They are blond, brunette, redheaded, and gray-haired. They are from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds. There is no physical stereotype. But they do share some characteristics. Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a psychoanalyst and a storyteller. She wrote a book titled “Women Who Run With The Wolves.” Estes says that as women have attempted to fit into society’s rigid roles, they have allowed themselves to become over- domesticated, fearful, uncreative, and trapped. She also says that within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Estes calls her a “Wild Woman.” I CALL HER A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. In the interviews I conducted to write Top Cops, and in the many women officers I met and spoke to while writing the book, I saw those good instincts. I saw their passionate creativity and ageless knowing. Each of the women I spoke to showed an overwhelming sense of maintaining their identities—as strong, determined women who did not choose to succeed by being “one of the boys,” and who believe strongly in individual responsibility. They see the world as it is, not as they wish it were. But at the same time, each has a clear focus on how it should be, and a truly burning desire to make a difference — one step at a time — and to make policing better — for themselves, for society—and sfor the women who will follow in their footsteps. 

They were not afraid to fail — and all were eager to try something new. ALL OF THE
WOMEN I INTERVIEWED ALSO MADE A POINT OF SAYING THEY MAINTAINED THEIR FEMININTY — that was very important to them. Whether it was keeping their hair long, their fingernails polished, or ho\v they carried themselves. They felt no need to “swagger like the men — as one put it; or “drink with the guys” or “cuss” — as another said. 

All of the women in Top Cops dared to dream — at first about becoming an officer, and later about being in command. This type of spirit, this courage, is evident in every one of the women I interviewed. They did not \wake up one morning and decide to take a leading role in the fight for equal rights in the \workforce. That role was foisted upon them by an unenlightened society, and by an occupation still clearly identified with masculine stereotypes. But each and every one of these wonderful women — these wonderful law enforcement officers — accepted the challenge, and encourage others to do the same! Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. In the words of Marian Wright Edelman: “If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”

Invisible Veil

Guest blog by Margaret Benshoof-Holler
Author of Burning of the Marriage Hat 
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

She could have been any of the veiled Afghani women written about in the U.S. media in the months following September 11. But the woman I stood listening to one Saturday afternoon last fall in Sacramento, California was an American woman whose veil was invisible, whose story had been silenced and hidden. 

Her child had been taken away. It was as if it had died. But, there was no funeral, no wailing wall for her to go to pound her fists and cry! The woman was expected to just get on with her life and pretend that she hadn't just given her child away. 

With 30 some years of internalized emotion still causing her voice to quake when she spoke of signing her name on the relinquishment papers, the 56-year old woman in Sacramento spoke of the pain and grief of losing her daughter to adoption. As I listened, I was reminded that here in the U.S. we often deal with loss by covering up our emotions. I was also reminded that the U.S. was bombing Afghanistan because we lost over 3,000 very dear people. No one, though, ever went to war for these women whose losses were in the millions of newborn lives. 

Two-hundred fifty thousand women per year relinquished a child to adoption in the 60s. That number fell to 150,000 per year in the 1970s, 100,000 per year in the 1980s, and 50,000 per year in the 1990s. In the year 2001, there were approximately 51,000 surrenders in the U.S. 

There were more adoptions in the 60s than in the year 2001 for a number of reasons. More teenage girls and young women were getting pregnant then because the birth control pill, relatively new on the market in the 60s, was not readily accessible until late in the decade. Sex education classes were not part of the curriculum in most schools. Few got abortions, which studies show are easier on a woman than giving up a child for adoption, because abortion was illegal in most places. Before Roe vs. Wade, women basically had no choice except to get married, have the child, and give it up for adoption. Most young women were not able to make legal decision until they turned 21 in the 60s. And the self-esteem of many young women was low because of the rules set forth by the strong patriarchal society of the times which held a lot of them back from developing fully as human beings. 
If even half of the women who gave their children up for adoption in the 60s had banded together and cried, their voices would most surely have been heard. But they had not been taught nor encouraged to use their voices. So, societal dictates including puritanical attitudes about sex and women and pregnancy helped silence the voices of so many women for so many years. 

When one loses a child or a mother or father or husband to death, there is a funeral and a time of mourning. That hasn't usually been the case for most of the 6,000,000 birthmothers in the U.S. who have lost their children to the U.S. adoption system. Adoption is looked upon as a single mother's duty for getting herself into that situation to begin with rather than as a deeply painful separation of mother and child. In that respect, not much has changed a lot since the 60s. Societal attitudes towards unwed mothers have made adoption a logical sequence to keeping out-of-wedlock pregnancies permanently hidden. 
It was a guilt and shame thing that kept unwed mothers' voices stifled during the McCarthy and post-McCarthy era of the 60s. 

But, a small group of birth mothers began in the 1980s to find the children they gave up for adoption in the 60s. They began to come to terms with the loss. Still, it's only been with the advent of the Internet that many more birth mothers began to come out of the closet and speak. Many still only talk about what happened to them with each other in much the same way that veterans of World War II and Vietnam only talked afterwards with those who understood what they had been through. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms have also effected a number of birthmothers. 

There has been an undercurrent of thought for some time in today's system to move back to the era when women had no choice. Taking away a woman's right to choose would be a major setback and take us back to the times when giving up a child for adoption was a woman's only option. 

When President Bush proclaimed November 2001 as National Adoption Month, he did not mention nor honor in his proclamation the large group of American women who lost their children to adoption. He did not present a plan of prevention of unplanned teen pregnancies or a way to provide free daycare to help financially strapped mothers keep, rather than give up their babies to the adoption industry. But then I supposed he wouldn't since the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the biggest contributors to the National Council for Adoption to help keep birth records closed, generously donated money to the Bush presidential campaign. So, he didn't address the issue of opening birth records either, which in California have been closed since the Depression era. Closed birth records cut adoptees off from knowing who they are because the system is keeping their birth certificates locked up tight and hidden as a way they say of protecting somebody somewhere. It's certainly not birth mothers they're helping because the majority of them do want to be found. Adoption is an antiquated system filled with a strong need to hide and keep people hidden. 

Even though U.S. women have progressed since the 60s in the areas of education and upward economic mobility and many single women are raising children on their own today, there is still a stigma about anything related to a woman having a baby outside of the confines of marriage. I see it in the way that stories about single mothers get reported (or don't get reported) in the media. Young women are made to sound like criminals if they want to keep their children. 

One-hundred and forty million people in the U.S. have an adoption in their immediate families. Engrained views and practices pertaining to loss and sex and adoption help keep many, like the birthmother in Sacramento, veiled and hidden. In this respect, the U.S. tends to fall behind every other industrialized country most of which have stopped separating the natural mother from her child after it is born except in extreme situations. 
The woman that I stood listening to in Sacramento was coerced into giving her child up for adoption in the 60s. She was then encouraged to keep the whole thing hidden. Her story stayed that way for over 30 years. This mother's day, I would like to honor her and all birth mothers who lost their children to adoption. 
"Invisible Veil" © copyright 2002

I LOST HOPE

Guest blog by M.J. Rose
Author of In Fidelity
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Dear Reader:

In 1999, for the first time in my life I lost hope. Not as an author – but as a human being. To deal with it, I did what so many writers do –I buried myself in writing a new novel. But it was only when In Fidelity was finished did I realize that in writing it, I had also unburied something I’d lost.

In Fidelity is not a story about my life that year. It is a fictional story that explores the ties that bind us each to the other. It is suspenseful, a little bit sexy and very much one woman’s psychological adventure.

But I want to share with you what was going on in my life that fueled this novel.

In the fall of 1998, just as I was ending a twelve-month mourning period for my mother, Doug, the man I live with, went into the hospital for a routine out-patient kidney biopsy. 

An hour later, his doctor came to the small, windowless waiting room to tell me something had gone dreadfully wrong and Doug was bleeding to death. They had fifteen minutes to save his life.

Doug survived and spent the next two weeks in intensive care. It was while I was sitting by his bed in Stamford Hospital, while he slowly came back to life, that the idea for In Fidelity was born.

Was I cold and heartless to be able to think about a book when the man who I was very much in love with lay there asleep, hooked up to monitors and machines? I don’t think so. It was how I survived. It was how I prayed. 

A few weeks after Doug came out of intensive care he was back in the hospital to begin kidney dialysis. For the next year, this brilliant 41-year-old composer and musician lived a half-life of doctor’s visits and five-hour treatments three times a week. His work was no longer writing music it was staying alive. He was in and out of the hospital over thirty times in twelve months.

And I? When I was not being a caregiver – I wrote In Fidelity. 

I did it to escape into a world I could control. I did it to hide. And I did it to prove to myself that there was life outside of the illness we were facing. 

And then after a long year of hospitals and doctors and infections and waiting, we were given an amazing Christmas present. David, Doug’s brother decided to give him one his kidneys.

On December 30, at the Yale New Haven Hospital, Doug’s received a new kidney. On January 4th 2000 we came home. Doug was able to go back to work in less than a week and I was able to sit down at the computer and finally finish In Fidelity.

This novel has given me much more than I’ve given to it… it’s kept me company and kept me going. It has also helped me put into words what I have discovered about the powerful connections between people who care about each other – connections that neither time or deed can sever.

My wish is that you enjoy In Fidelity’s twists and turns and get completely caught up in it and can’t put it down. 

But I also wish that when you come to the end of the last page– you too will feel a little of what I felt writing it – hope.

I’d like to let you know that a part of the proceeds of In Fidelity will be going to the National Kidney Foundation in honor of Doug’s brother and the wonderful doctors at The Yale New Haven Transplant Center.    

Give Up on Giving Up

Guest blog by M.J. Rose
Author of In Fidelity
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

If you are thinking of giving up on any idea you have – first think about whether or not you are using all as much creativity to solve the problem as you did to create the idea or product. I learned this the hard way. 

In 1996 I thought about giving up my dream of becoming a published author. I had written two novels, found a wonderful agent and by her account had the best rejection letters any writer could wish for. 

“Rose’s novels are riveting but they cross too many genres.”  “We don’t know how to market novels that don’t fit into one category.”  “Rose’s work is too intelligent to be contemporary fiction but not literary enough to be literary fiction.”

“We’d love to see her next novel.”

I asked my agent what I should do? I didn’t want to give in and change my style to fit the publisher’s marketing dilemma. She thought I should write a third novel. I thought I was headed for a massive depression. 

I actually thought about giving up and tired to figure out what I’d do if I couldn’t be a writer. 

Go back to school and become a therapist. 

Open up an antique store. 

I made lists of alternative careers. But each one suggested a character in a novel and I’d wind up making notes on possible plots.

All I wanted to do was write. It was all I’d ever wanted to do.

“So, why not just keep writing?” a friend asked. 

Good question. Well, it wasn’t for the money. I knew few novelists make a living. And I had a very lucrative career as in advertising. 

No, it was that to be a writer – to keep spinning stories - I needed to know people were reading what I was writing. Like every author, I dreamed about those reams of readers - hundreds of thousands of them who would stay up all night with my book, caring about my characters, getting caught up in their lives. 

Well, if all I needed to keep writing was readers - how many did I need? Perhaps not the multitudes I’d wanted. What about just one? Ten? Twenty? 

Would twenty readers keep me going?

Maybe they would. 

And if I couldn’t do it the traditional way and have my readers find me in a bookstore…maybe I could self publish my, Lip Service, on the web as an electronic download and find those readers myself. 

Little did I know the derisive laughter that would greet my decision by every one I’d ever known connected to the field of writing. 

To a person, everyone said self-publishing is nothing more than a huge ego-trip. 

And they all thought the concept of an electronic file was ludicrous. (Remember, by now it was only 1997 –three years before Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet made e-books an almost household name)

But what did I have to lose? What was so crazy about downloading a book to your desktop and then printing out or reading in segments? And what was so terrible about self-publishing?

Independent filmmakers who finance their own movies are lauded, I’d explain. Indies even have their own film festival at Sundance. 

But it is different - self-published authors, my well-meaning friends told me, are writers whose books are not good enough to get published by the big NY houses. Whereas indie filmmakers are iconoclastic visionaries who make gems of movies.

But despite them all… or to spite them all - I’m not sure which - I took to the web. 

I had a website built and a book cover designed. And then I spent four months figuring out where my kind of readers lived online. It took over 2000 hours to research and develop a marketing plan, learn about self-publishing, make mistakes and then correct them. I offered hundreds of free books to webmasters who might like to review my novel. I joined endless lists and newsgroups to talk to other writers and readers about what I was doing. I lived online.

And then slowly, very slowly, I started to get reviews. And then I got my first reader. A month later I had ten. Three months later I had 500. 

And then… ah then… I was finally a writer. I knew I was okay. I would be able to write my next novel and my next. 

Let someone else breed the dogs and sell the antiques. 

About 16 months after my web site went live, in February of 1999, Lip Service - the little book that could - was discovered on line by an editor at the Doubleday Book Club who bought it as an alternate book club selection. 

It was the first time a major book club and bought a self-published novel. The first time a book had been discovered online. And two weeks after that Pocket Books offered my agent a contract. At that point Lip Service became the first ebook to cross over to become a main stream novel.

Lip Service – the book no one wanted in 1996- has now sold over 60,000 copies and has been published in England, Germany, Israel, The Netherlands, France and Australia. The trade paperback version has just gone into a second printing.

In January of 2001, my non-fiction book, How to Publish and Promote Online – co-authored with Angela Adair-Hoy, was published by St. Martin’s Press and my new novel, In Fidelity was released by Pocket Books.

In reviewing In Fidelity, Publisher’s Weekly praised the book saying it was an entertaining and exciting read. But my favorite part is the end of the review where they say it is hard to fit the novel into a category but that doesn’t matter since “Rose is becoming her own category.”

How ironic. The very reason I couldn’t get published five years ago was because I didn’t fit in. Now it’s an accolade.

These days, you can find me at the laptop, working on my third novel or writing about epublishing for Wired.com. And if all this isn’t enough of a reason to convince you that giving up are the only two words every creative person should erase from their vocabulary – then I give up.

From the Ashes of Europe to the Wedding Aisles of New York City

Guest blog by Michelle Roth

I was born in Sydney Australia in the late 1950's. My parents are Holocaust survivors; I was immersed in the creativity of my own parent's bridal business "Henri Josef" from a young age. As young as I can remember. I always felt I was born to do something great in my life, as my parents had been denied so much.

My parents wanted to afford me all the things that were stolen from them as children. Their efforts concentrated on survival, whilst cheating the death camps of Europe. College education would be my privilege of liberty. And so an education was a top priority. As was, dancing lessons, singing lessons, guitar class, gymnastics and opera singing lessons. I was "deep fried" with stimulus.

As a child, dinner conversations centered on lace, silk satin, tulle and embroidery. I thought that was what all kids did at dinner. Talk about design and business! My school vacations were spent at my parent's atelier, consumed in patterns, fabric, sketching and draping. International buying trips landed me at the fashion centers of the world including Paris, Rome, London, Milan and New York. Design was a lifestyle. Fashion experience and training lifelong.

In 1972, I completed high school. I was accepted to study at The University of Sydney, one of Australia's finest houses of learning. I do not think it was ever a question that I would not go to University. In 1978 I graduated with honors in political science.

In 1979, I decided that I wanted to join my parent's business. It was so second nature to me. I formally entered "Henri Josef" as junior designer alongside my mother, Aneta Weinreich. Four years later in 1984, whilst on a buying trip in New York City, I was offered a position at the Australian Consulate. I leapt at the opportunity, hungry to absorb and grow, joining an international milieu. It was something my parents not only supported, they
encouraged it.

This was not your typical' Chicken soup and clutching" Jewish parents. They wanted all of us (I have a Sister Lilian and Brother Henry who both now live in New York) to achieve greatness.

After 5 years of diplomatic service in New York City, two things were clear:  
I feel in love with The City and I decided to return to my first love, design.

I knew that I could source from generations of knowledge and experience that span three generations. In the 1900's Malka Sofa Schreiber, my paternal great grandmother from whom I am named, ran a bridal charity organization in Poland. My maternal grandfather Samuel Baral built a thriving upscale furrier import/export business in Krakow, Poland during the 1920's. My maternal grandmother, Franka Baral, ran her own major textile company in Australia after the war.

In 1992, I opened for business from my own small apartment. Dresses took most of the available space. I sold my parents collection, importing them directly from Australia. Then, in 1993, I moved to a small downtown space in the Bridal Building. I named my business," Michelle of Australia". I remember my first day of business was in the middle of a blizzard. My small show room was buzzing! I was surprised and overwhelmed by the response. The
sensitivity to color and the revolutionary use of silk satin won me attention. My pedantic attention to detail, and highly personalized service won me business.

In 1996 catapulted by the momentum of success of my studio I opened my European style multilevel loft salon on 57th street. I felt as If had come home. Featuring my own custom work, The Salon was called Michelle Bridal. Later to be renamed Michelle Roth, after I was married.

In 1997 my brother Henry joined me to help spearhead operations.

I have been gifted with a drive that comes deep within. Partly fueled by the fear of failure and partly by the pride I have for my cultural heritage and the dedication my parents have given me.

My mother Aneta repeats a phrase that rings often in my ears" whatever the mind can perceive can be achieved".

My father Joseph has the disposition of an angel. He is often quoted as saying' If I could live through the war, then every day after that can only be fantastic"

With that in mind I have been privileged to be featured on many coveted and respected national shows across the country and around the world including Martha Stewart Living, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Entertainment Tonight, The View and receive editorial features in Vogue, In Style, Town and Country, Elle and Glamour to mention a few.

The year 2000 was when I decided to launch my collection nationally. The response has been phenomenal. My evening collection is planned for a spring 2003 launch, with expansion into Europe and Japan, by the fall of 2003.

Product extensions in beauty, book launching and a ready to wear collection are in the works.

I believe whatever you do in life, do it with passion and conviction. We are all-unique and bring to this world one precious gift. The gift of individuality and self.

Fear in Kandahar

Guest blog by Masha Hamilton
Author of The Distance Between Us
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The engineer from Florida seemed the perfect seatmate on that eight-seater Cessna flight from Kabul to Kandahar over the rugged reaches of Afghanistan. It was my first visit, and he’d already been living six months in the former Taliban stronghold, overseeing the construction of highways and schools as part of the effort to rebuild the war-shattered country that America bombed in response to Sept. 11.

“What sights should I see?” I asked as we flew over the Kfar Jar Ghar mountain range. I’d heard of the shrine to the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed and of Chihil Zina, the forty steps up a hill that lead to a 16th Century memorial.

Tom laughed at my question. “I don’t go anywhere in Kandahar,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything. Guards pick me up at the airport and drive me to my compound. When I need to visit a construction site, they drive me to a helicopter and I fly there wearing a bullet-proof vest.” He leaned toward me and spoke just loudly enough to be heard over the hum of the engines. “The best choice you could make is to follow my example.”

Fear. It has become our closest companion in Afghanistan, even when we are there to “do good.” Doctors Without Borders recently decided to pull out of the country after two dozen years of providing humanitarian assistance there. The United Nations’ relief agency is scaling back its operations around Kandahar, and other relief agencies are considering following suit. 

U.S. Embassy officials warn against venturing beyond the capital and the bulk of the relief workers, private and public, generally adhere to this advice. There is, in fact, what Afghan-born author Tamim Ansary calls a “shadow nation” on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, peopled by those who actively oppose foreign involvement in their country.

Yet it is a mistake to allow suspicion to dominate our actions there. Human interaction, not simply a military or economic presence, is a critical component if our policies in Afghanistan are to be successful. When the only Americans visible in Kandahar, the country’s second largest city and its spiritual center, are armed soldiers glimpsed inside passing tanks, we create a barrier that breeds mutual distrust and will make forming lasting ties virtually impossible. And in the years to come, we are without doubt going to need every friend in the region we can claim. 

The politics of fear have been a favored tool of the Bush administration but they nearly always backfire. Under that influence, we begin to view everyone as “the Other,” alien, incomprehensible creatures of ill intent. And in response – here’s the rub – we are soon viewed in much the same way, as conquerors out to shame and rob this impoverished country instead of help it rebuild. Without human connection, these perceptions remain even when the U.S. government and private agencies are pumping in dollars.

Abdullah, who goes by only his first name, is an engineer and a devout Moslem in his 40s from a prominent Afghan family. He lived in Kandahar during the Taliban years, when the ignorance and cruelty of the country’s leaders practically paralyzed him. He hated rules that required him to pray at the mosque instead of at home, that regulated the length of his beard, that barred him from listening to music in his house or humming on the street. He hated the undercurrent of dread and violence, the seemingly random beatings and shootings.

“I was so glad to see the Americans – at first,” Abdullah told me one night over a late dinner eaten on the floor at a Kandahar guesthouse, moonlight shining in through the large windows, the dust finally settling for the day. “But now they don’t talk to us; they just drive around in armored cars and watch us suspiciously. So now, I’m suspicious of them.”

Afghan tradition says a guest must never be asked to leave. But when a host wants to signal that a visitor has outstayed his welcome, the joke is that he should serve lentils for every meal. “The time has come,” Abdullah said, “to serve lentils to the Americans.”

The truth is, though, that foreign armed presence is necessary for the moment to help maintain the fragile stability. And it could be argued that fear is understandable: after all, over 30 aide workers have been killed in the last 18 months, and more than 130 U.S. soldiers have died since Operation Enduring Freedom was launched. So what is the answer?

The vast majority of Afghans, and Iraqis for that matter, are not terrorists, just as most of us are not sadistic torturers. We know this. So instead of pulling out, foreigners who are contributing to rebuilding the country – particularly by funding small start-up businesses – need to get to Kandahar, Jalalabad, Herat and other towns and villages. The answer, in other words, lies in more and closer involvement, not less.

“The U.S. is building bastions so Americans can fly in and out safely, but they might be more effective in their war against terrorism if they would instead help Afghanistan become normal,” says Ansary. “If you talk with Afghans on a one-to-one basis, you find that everyone has a scheme. Funding those ideas would make a difference, and that requires direct contact between Americans and Afghans.”

I did not follow Tom’s advice. I visited private homes, met the city's Taliban-era chief justice, shopped in the local bazaar and posed for a snapshot with a group of grinning, armed Afghans. I encountered curiosity and courtesy. Once, in a village outside Kandahar, a bearded man watched me with suspicion. But when his brother invited me into their home, he followed, removed his turban, and soon was asking questions and telling me stories along with the rest of his family. Turns out he had a great sense of humor.

President Bush often calls Afghanistan an “ally in the war on terror” and describes American policy there as successful. But if we can’t find a way to make authentic human connections where they are needed most, in the southeastern heart of Afghanistan sandwiched between Iran and Pakistan, our alliances can be neither genuine nor lasting.  

A New Conversation About Dreams...Who's Directing Your Life?

Guest blog by Marcia Wieder

While aspects of you encourage, “Go for your dreams,” simultaneously other parts threaten, “Don’t you dare.” A cast of characters lives inside of you and at different times you may receive conflicting or contradictory messages. If you are want to be happy, successful, and fulfilled, consider putting your “dreamer” in the director’s chair.

What are the voices inside of you saying? As you turn the volume up on the voice of your dreamer and down on the voice of your doubter, you can practice discernment allowing for greater clarity. To assist you in hearing these voices, let’s set up a simple scenario. Picture something you want, something that matters to you. Choose a personal or professional dream and consider how these various parts of you might respond.

Dreamer – The dreamer inside says, “What if…” and is open to a creative process without over-analyzing it. This is the part of you that imagines, believes in possibilities, has hope, and seeks kindred spirits. Dreamers talk about their ideas with intention, clarity, and passion. Great dreamers get others excited about their vision. And most importantly, successful dreamers take action to make their dreams a reality.

Doubter – This voice is often heard saying such things as, “I don’t think this is a good idea.” The doubter provides concern touting, “But what if…” and imagines the worst. If you crank the volume up it can even become annihilating with accusations shouting things like, “Are you out of your mind?” William Shakespeare said, “Our doubts are traitors.” Carlos Castaneda said, “In order to experience the magic of life, you must banish the doubt.” My favorite quote on this subject is in The Prophet where Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Doubt is a feeling too lonely to know that Faith is its twin brother.”

Realist – “Be realistic…” Modulate the doubter down a notch or two and it becomes the essential voice of the realist. This part wants to know, “What’s the plan?” including where is the time and money coming from. However, in the early phase of dreaming, you may not know. The challenge is not to allow the realist to immediately turn into a doubter who might judge or obliterate your idea. Honor this voice by (to the best of your ability) giving it the information it needs. If you ignore or reject it, it will cleverly agitate or distract you. Being realistic offers prudence and makes you do your homework but if you are overly realistic or go to strategy too soon, you will most likely compromise the dream and kill your passion.

Visionary – This voice says, “Anything is possible so let’s dream big!” These are the leaders and people we look up to and admire. They have learned the process of realizing their dreams and embody what it means to be a big dreamer. Setbacks or failures do not stop them. Simply put, a visionary has a vision and invites others to join them. They are found in all walks of life and we are often so inspired when they are in the presence of a true visionary that we sign up just to be near them or part of what they’re doing. 

A visionary is not defined by the size of the dream since dreams are precious and come in all sizes, shapes and areas of life. If you were living your dream life, how would it be different? What do you see yourself doing? How many lives would you touch? What would you change? Who would you help if you were truly living as a visionary?

Avoid Sabotaging Your Dream

When these different voices merge they can become muddled and result in confusion and poor decisions. For example, you might poison your dream by projecting doubt into it. Then with each step you take toward what you want, you also move toward your doubt. Doubt and fear, which most of us may have at some time or another (especially when embarking on a new or big dream) do not belong in your dream. These feelings are simply part of your reality. This is a subtle and essential point.

Here’s a simple technique for avoiding this sabotaging pattern. On a piece of paper draw a line across the middle. On the top half write out your dream with as much detail as possible. On the bottom write out your reality in relationship to your dream, where you are now. Reality usually includes good news and (so called) bad, as well as any fear or doubt you may have. Just state the facts and your feelings about them. 

Now, which one are you more committed to; your dream or your reality? We tend to choose “reality” when we don’t have a clearly defined dream or when we saturate our dream with doubt. If your dream is loaded with your worst imagined nightmares, reality will always seem safer and saner. But doubt placed appropriately as part of your reality, allows two things to happen. First, no longer blown out of proportion, it’s an obstacle that basically requires a strategy to manage it. But more importantly, with doubt where it rightfully belongs, you are free to move forward.

It’s like a play. All the characters have wisdom and insight, but you can’t clearly understand them when they’re speaking at once. Take time to tune in, to listen, and on a regular basis, have the courage to give your dreamer its directorial debut or even the leading role.
 

A Personal Journey of Grief, Recovery and Remembrance

Guest blog is a personal message from author Marion Gold
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Mothers and daughters. We may argue and disagree about many things - yet we are forever bonded in a way that cannot be shared between fathers and daughters, or siblings, or friends. 

When a parent dies, well-meaning friends, colleagues, and loved ones provide their sympathy and other words of comfort. Most often the love and kindness they bestow is appreciated and helpful. But grief is a path we must travel alone as we embark on a journey towards comfort and renewed strength. How we travel that path is highly personal. It may include sharing our feelings with others, crying inside or outwardly, reaching towards religion. There are as many ways to grieve and heal, as there are personalities among us.

When my mother, Ray Katz Gold, passed away last year, my journey took me down a path that was surprising, comforting and enlightening in ways I could never have imagined. I had lost both parents in just two years, my dad to progressive supranuclear palsy after years of bravely fighting this rare and untreatable illness. I was utterly devoted to my dad. He was my hero - a hard-working person who stood tall, spoke with a clear and confident voice - and provided a role model of entreprenuerism and self-sufficiency. I was daddy's little girl - regardless of my chronological age. 

So growing up, and as I reached adulthood, I thought my strength and tenacity came only from my father. But I learned after Dad became so ill, that much of my strength and purpose also came from Mom. I learned that despite their separate "family roles," they were a team, a strong team - and I was the result of that teamwork. 

During my father's dreadful illness, my mother was constantly at his side, tending to his every need. She never failed to rise to the occasion during many crises. After dad passed away, my mother and I grew much closer, spending hours and hours burning up the phone lines between Fair Lawn and Chicago. I began to know her in ways I never imagined - to understand the depth of her knowledge of life, her varied interests, and her spiritual strength. 

Most people knew my mother as the wife of Larry Gold, or as a daughter - the youngest and only daughter in a family of six children. They knew her as the mother of three children, and later as a grandmother to my sister's two sons. Mom loved her traditional family roles, but there was so much more to Ray Gold that she yearned to express. During our long nightly talks, I learned that it bothered Mom how most people didn't realize that beneath the caretaker and cook, mother and daughter, wife and sister - she was an intelligent woman who kept up to date on current events that included local and national politics - and feminist issues of the day. 

My mother was also a talented artist. When I was a young girl, Mom would spend hours with me drawing fashion figures of elegant women. She had a great sense of color and design that she expressed in many works of art. Her once nimble fingers crafted beautiful needlepoint, and she crocheted blankets and pillowcases that are our family heirlooms. Her paper sculptures of people and animals were thoughtfully framed and sold in a local shop near my father's shoe store, with others given lovingly to family and friends. 

As Mom grew older, she stopped working with paper sculpture because her arthritic hands could not manage the delicate maneuvers of the tiny scissors and other materials nor could she withstand the fumes of the glue that would hold the sculptures together. As my father grew more ill, in those rare moments that weren't given to his care, she was a voracious reader of cookbooks not just the recipes but the history and culture behind the menus. "I read cookbooks like other people read novels," Mommy told me more than once. Over my desk I keep one of her favorite recipes, "easy chicken fricassee," on which she wrote, "Made - very good - next time I will mix dark & light chicken." I don't think there was one recipe among her collection to which she hadn't added her own special touch.

After Dad was gone, Mom still insisted on living life on her own terms, and sadly to her physical detriment. Although Mom had never lived alone, she wanted to remain in her own home, in her own way -with the loving memories of my father and their life together enfolding her. It was not an easy path for Mom to follow. But she was determined to do things her own way. It was her path, and that was important to my mother. She was far stronger and more determined than I had ever realized. 

In the months following my mother's passing, I found it very hard to write. A book I was writing languished. Articles and editorials didn't get beyond the first two paragraphs. I began to realize that it was my mother's strength that had helped me face the grief of losing dad. Now, they were both gone and regardless of a satisfying career and personal home life with Jerry, my partner of 25 years, I felt like my soul had been torn from me and I would never again find peace. I kept thinking of my mother's artwork, looking with fascination at the care with which she placed each tiny piece of paper onto her canvas to create a lifelike picture. Her needlework that I gently touched, hoping to feel the softness of her hands as she worked so carefully on every stitch.

Among the artwork tucked away in our New Jersey home, I found boxes of vintage beads that she had been saving for one of her projects. I set aside the marketing book I was writing and began to work with the beads - and it seemed to soothe me - and to help me deal with my grief.

In looking through craft magazines, I found new ways to work with the beads, and began stringing them on to carved pewter bookmarks. I added to my mother's bead collection and used them to form the basis for colorful ballpoint pens. Soon I had dozens of these "products." I gave several as gifts to loved ones, as memories of my mother. Then I thought, my mom sold some of her artwork. Why couldn't I sell my pens and bookmarks? Why couldn't others give these one-of-a-kind designs as loving gifts? Or collect for personal use? 

I felt a sense of energy again, and I imagined my mom and dad encouraging me - as they had always done. I know my mother would have really loved the bookmarks to use in her collection of cookbooks. And the pens, well, they would have been carefully placed in the shoeboxes my father used to store his collection of ballpoint pens - hundreds of them that I also found carefully packed away in our New Jersey home.

To market the pens and bookmarks, I took the artisan name of Miriam Bat-Rachel: My mother's Hebrew name (Rachel), joined with my own (Miriam), and then adding the Hebrew term Bat, meaning daughter of. I created and mailed a press kit, and started calling on several local shops. Imagine my delight at seeing the pens and bookmarks displayed in two top-notch boutiques in the high-rise malls on North Michigan Avenue - colorful and creative items that my Mom would have enjoyed using and collecting.

I've slowly been able to get back to writing my marketing book, and ideas for new publishing projects are starting to take shape. I've even set the plans in motion to create a series of children's picture books that use my dad's wonderful photography to celebrate his love of animals and zoos. But my beaded pens and bookmarks will remain an important part of my creative life as a tribute to my parents as well as a remembrance. 

My mother and father set a beautiful example of great strength, courage and love throughout their lives. They understood that life is indeed a journey, and often a journey in the midst of trouble. Life takes us through conflicts of passions and conscience, the disappointments of business and false friendships, and the tragedies of poverty and prejudice. But life also takes us to unknown places in the heart and mind that are filled with wonder and creativity. My parents gave me the gifts of their love and strength, and the encouragement to explore those unknown places - and so I am.

Generally, I am a very private person. I've confined my writing to marketing, healthcare education, and women's advocacy issues. But it is my hope that my personal journey will inspire others. I will miss my parents forever, and not a day goes by that I don't think of them with a mix of joy, sadness and cherished memories - and the creative process is but one way I chose to honor them.

Written in loving memory of Larry and Ray Gold. (c) 2003 Marion E. Gold. Reprinted with permission.

Three Things to Look for in A Movie That Can Change Your Life

Guest blog by Maria Grace, Ph.D
Author of Reel Fulfillment: A 12-Step Plan for Transforming Your Life Through Movies

If you want to be happier and you also love movies, this article will teach you how to use their lessons to change your life. To achieve this, you must look for three things in every movie you watch. If the movie has all three, it can be a rich, meaningful experience that can change your life while you're also having fun. Here's what to look for: 

1. Does this movie inspire you? Great mentors must be able to bring out the best in us. A good movie must have the power to inspire you through the characters it brings to life. If you love a movie, you can use it as your inspirational force by answering these questions: How did this film inspire you to go after what's important in you life:· What did the characters teach you about success and what will you do to follow their examples?· What did the characters teach you about mistakes and what harmful actions will you avoid in your life? 

2. Does this movie stir in you powerful emotions? In watching a movie, it's safe to feel emotions you usually hide in real life, from sadness and pain to joy and bliss. Life is full of emotion. If a movie can not stir powerful emotions in you, it's not a story about real life but a lifeless illustration in motion. To make the most out of a good film's ability to stir powerful emotions, answer these questions: 
· What powerful feelings did this movie stir in you?
· How have you been handling those feelings in real life (such as avoiding, suppressing, or letting out of control) and what results are you getting?
· Can you make any improvements in the way you are handling those feelings?

3. Does this movie show you how to handle the unknown? Like a great teacher, a good movie must have lessons that prepare you for the unknown and warn you about the dangers of the future. The characters must be honest examples of real people and their ways of dealing with life's curveballs must teach meaningful lessons for your life. To make the most out of those lessons, answer these questions: 
· What did this character (or characters) do to face that unexpected challenge?
· What happened as a result?
· What am I learning from the example of this character (or characters) that I must use (or avoid) in my own life, when I face a similar challenge?
When a movie does not meet the three criteria, it can still influence you through other, equally important elements, such as special effects, cinematography, great action sequences, or the soundtrack. In such a case, ask yourself: "What do I like about this movie that I want to have more of in my life?" If it's the music, then put more music in your life. If it's the cinematography, then add in your schedule some art-related activities. If it's the action sequences, then pick an area of your life that lacks action and do something about it.

How to Apply the 3 Criteria
Get together with two or three friends who love movies. Pick a movie from the following list and watch using the three criteria above. Keep in mind the questions listed within each criterion. Then, answer the questions that follow below. 

1. "The Aviator" is a biopic about Howard Hughes, who became a magnet following his passion for aviation as he fought the debilitating effects of mental illness.
2. "Ray" is a biopic about singer Ray Charles who achieved world fame as he fought blindness, poverty, racism, and heroin addiction.
3. "The Notebook" is the story of two people who grow old together letting nothing stand in the way of their love for each other.
4. "Million Dollar Baby" is the story of a determined female boxer who achieves her dream just before life throws her a punch that she's not prepared to return. 

Questions to answer: 
- How did the film inspire you?
- What powerful feelings did it stir in you?
- What did it teach you about handling the unknown?

Now make a list of:
1. Something you have a desire to achieve.
2. An obstacle you think is blocking you from achieving it.
3. Three strengths you gained from watching the recommended movies. 
Put your learning to practice with concrete actions. Enjoy the results.

The Rules for One Night Stands

Guest blog by Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer
Author of A Piece of Cake: Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure

The number-one piece of advice women give to each other is to know yourself and the context, and be sure of what you want. Set boundaries on one-night stands, boundaries that are both emotional and physical. To have a good casual encounter, you have to protect and assert your own needs, along with respecting what your partner wants. 

After all, what's the point of getting down if it doesn't feel good? If we could be assured that our orgasm would be a priority, then it would seem that casual sex encounters would look a lot more attractive to a lot more of us. A sexy smile can last only so long, and once the romp begins, we are looking for the skills to match our attraction. 

During her first one-night stand, Jennifer (24) hit the jackpot. It was the holidays and most of her college friends were out of town. All alone in the big city, she decided it would be fun to hit one of her favorite wine bars for her first solo bar experience. After a few glasses of wine, she strolled over to a group of five men who had just come in after work. Feeling confident and independent, she decided she would try going home with a stranger for the first time. After about an hour of speaking to one guy whom she was particularly attracted to and felt comfortable with, she asked him if he'd like to leave with her. He responded by grabbing her arm and pulling her out the door. 

Without exchanging names or any personal information, they got in a cab and drove uptown to his apartment. Once inside, he slowly undressed her and laid her on his bed, then took his clothes off. He was a very good partner: He was verbal, which she found terribly exciting, and was careful to take his time, making sure she was sated. Jennifer swears he went down on her more than ten times. After their romp had concluded, she got dressed and slipped back into the night, feeling just a bit guilty because he kept asking her to stay. The next morning, she still couldn't believe what had happened. She never would have imagined something like that was within her command. 

Unfortunately, we may not all be lucky enough to come upon a partner with mad skills. Frankly speaking, many men do not know their way around female pleasure, and in the case of an unfamiliar body are either clueless or careless. This is when we have to take matters into our own hands. It's up to us to let the new boy on the block know exactly what we need, even if he's going to be around for just one night. Casual sex can be an opportunity to demand that male partners get with the equality program by putting our orgasm on the same level as theirs. 
Copyright © 2005 Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer

It's Not What We Say, But What We Do

Guest blog by Marianne J. Legato, MD, FACP and Laura Tucker
Author of Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget

Despite the vast numbers of sonnets and songs penned in an effort to attract the attention of a beloved, scientists believe that courtship between humans happens predominantly on a nonverbal level. 

Hey, Good-Lookin' 

Physical appearance is, of course, one of the very first things we notice about one another. A male bird's beautiful, brightly colored plumage intrigues prospective mates. The same is true of humans. I recently tried to persuade a good friend that charm and charisma were the things that men eventually and ultimately responded to in a woman. "The first thing we notice," he replied, without missing a beat, "is how she looks. If we don't think she's attractive, we never even get to the charm and charisma." 

A study done in 1990 showed that women favored men with large eyes, prominent cheekbones, a large chin, and a big smile. The researchers who did the study said that these features indicated "sexual maturity and dominance." These characteristics are indicative of high levels of testosterone, which shapes the larger size and sharper contours of the male face. (Estrogen, on the other hand, is responsible for the round softness of women's faces and the extra fat in their cheeks and lips.) On some primal level, women found these very "masculine" facial characteristics attractive. Women were most attracted to men who seemed sociable, approachable, and of high social status. They also gave high marks to expensive or elegant clothing; apparently, it's not just birds who like beautiful plumage. 

Men, on the other hand, look for features that signify good health: regular features, a good complexion, and a good body. (It will perhaps interest you to learn that -- as you dreaded in junior high school -- while large breast size does influence sexual attractiveness, it does not carry a lot of weight in mate selection.) 

Another interesting observation: People choose mates with physical characteristics similar to their own (hence couples really do took alike, as dogs resemble their owners). 

Are we all just fundamental narcissists? I think it's more likely that after a lifetime of looking at ourselves in the mirror, our features and coloring seem "right" to us somehow. Maybe we choose the genetic material closest to our own, in an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" paradigm. 

Don't Limit Your Options! 

A few months ago, I ran into a friend of mine, out for a walk with a male companion. The first thing that struck me about my friend's date was that he wasn't very handsome or well dressed. But the next things I noticed about him were his lively and intelligent eyes and the laugh lines around them. In the brief chat the three of us had on that street corner, he impressed me with how charming he was and how attentive he was to my friend. I walked away very pleased that she had found someone so appropriate. 

My friend is not a shallow person, but she clearly felt uncomfortable with the social pressure of dating someone who didn't look the way she thought her escort should. She undoubtedly knew, without my saying a word, what I had thought when I first laid eyes on him, and I wish that we were close enough for me to tell her what I thought next. I felt very sad for her when I heard they had broken up, and even sadder when she showed up at a dinner party we were both attending with a stunningly handsome man who treated her as if she were a not-very-intelligent child of 5. 

I'm no soothsayer, but I feel sure that my friend had a much better chance of happiness and laughter with the man she was with when I ran into her that day, even if she had to stoop a little to kiss him. And yet, women like her throw away great relationships all the time (or nip them in the bud before they even begin) because the man is "inappropriate" in some way -- too short, not handsome enough, not well dressed enough, not intellectual or wealthy enough, the wrong race or religion, too young or too old. 

The social pressure isn't limited to women; in fact, it may be worse for men. (There is a play right now on Broadway by Neil LaBute, painfully titled Fat Pig, about a man who, because of social pressure, is incapable of dating an overweight woman with whom he has a terrific connection. Needless to say, it ends badly, as all the classic tragedies do.) 

If there's one thing I know as a doctor, it's that you can't control other people's behavior. But if you take one piece of advice from this book, I hope it's this: Throw away all your old preconceived notions about what Prince Charming is going to look like, how old he will be, what he will wear, or what he's going to talk about at parties; it will make you much more likely to find him.

A Token of My Affection

Psychologist Linda Mealey, PhD, of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota demonstrates how many of the mating behaviors of animals echo our own behavior, particularly in the use of carefully chosen objects to entice the female. 

For example, the bowerbirds of Australia collect brightly colored objects that they display for the female's consideration in a cleared area called a court. Some select only blue decorations; others collect the plumage of a rare bird of paradise. These gifts offer a female the chance to assess how good the male is at accruing resources and how well he will provide. 

In many cases, the quality of these gifts -- which are not really so different from the diamond solitaire that traditionally accompanies a marriage proposal -- can weigh heavily in a female bowerbird's decision about whether or not to mate with a given mate. We don't have to look too far to find parallels in human society as well. Indeed, many women are likely to favor the man with the resources to buy her that house in the country or the status car and jewelry she's always longed for. 

Ask any woman what's most important in a prospective mate and 9 times out of 10 she'll say "a sense of humor." It's my theory that this is another, more modern way of sniffing out his ability to accrue resources. A sense of humor takes intelligence and indicates charm: Surely these are far more useful skills in earning a good living in today's world than big pectoral muscles or a square jaw! 

Copyright © 2005 Marianne J. Legato, MD, FACP and Laura Tucker

"BANG, BANG " Choose your Target

Guest blog by  Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer
Author of A Piece of Cake: Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure

While it's still a serious matter, and maybe the most important choice you will make all day, choosing a casual-encounter partner is, well, more casual than choosing a long-term lover. You don't have to worry about whether you'd want his toothbrush on your sink, whether you'd have to bring him home to meet your parents, or whether he'd get along with your girlfriends. More important, if we always practice safer sex, we do not have to worry about whether our sex partner will be a good dad. A casual-sex partner does not have to fill your every expectation, but there is one basic requirement: attraction. 

Acting on a feeling of instantaneous attraction can be very exciting; in turn, the feeling that you're so sexy that a stranger is overwhelmed by his attraction to you can be equally mind-blowing. From both perspectives, the possibility of being so passionate with someone we don't know but have a spontaneous sexual connection with is enough to make our heads (or bodies) spin. A perfectly common reaction to physical attraction is sexual excitement, and we can get turned on, often and easily, by people we don't know. 

Of course, a hot body and good looks can always whet our palates for some lovin'. But above and beyond simple attraction, anonymity, in particular, plays a big role in female fantasy. The exciting part for some of us is particularly that which is not connected to a relationship: the freedom of indulging in attraction without ever having to know someone's name. Pure physical pleasure can be heightened when we are freed from having to consider what will happen when the moment is over. Anonymity resolves the issues of consequences. There are no sacrifices. No one gets hurt. 

Copyright © 2005 Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer

Author on Burning of the Marriage Hat

Guest blog by Margaret Benshoof-Holler
Author of Burning of the Marriage Hat
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Some might think of the title of Burning of the Marriage Hat as an act of rebellion against the sanctity of matrimony. That's not what I had in mind in the writing of the book. When marriage works, it's very beautiful. But one need only look at the divorce rate to see that perhaps marriage, or the way that we marry or the reasons why we marry in this culture, have not brought the best results. Something must be wrong. I have seen too many women who have married and given up half of whom they are to follow someone else's dreams and not their own. I see them die a slow death and not even know it. I have seen other women marry men who give them plenty of space and who are not threatened when a woman needs to follow her own path. Those marriages seem to work. 

On the issue of being single in the U.S. culture, all types of articles and research studies have been done which analyze the single life, take it apart and come to conclusions and set the terms for how many people think. If anything, I would like to dispel that type of myth about single people which comes out of mass produced newspaper reporting and I would hope that some might gain a larger view by what I have to share. 

I think of the title Burning of the Marriage Hat as something like the road less traveled, choosing one route over another. In the case of Katherine, the narrator in the book Burning of the Marriage Hat, it means leaving one route behind or rejecting a role that was set up for her and following something different as a single woman. She, though, is not the typical spinster, the term often used to label such a woman, but an adventurous, courageous, and experienced and sensual woman who has a strong yet cautious attraction to men.

The symbol of the Burning of the Marriage Hat relates to the cleaning up of unresolved issues and denial within a family.

In a more profound sense, Burning of the Marriage Hat has to do with cleansing or being tried by fire like metal when it is shaped and molded. A jewelry maker begins with a raw piece of metal, puts it to the flame and ends up with something entirely different, something very beautiful. In a way, that's what my life has been about. 

A marriage hat is a term that came out while I was writing the book before I had even given it a title. Literally, it's the hat that the narrator Katherine's grandmother Naomi is forced to burn when her marriage to her husband Sam falls apart. It's the wedding veil that narrator Katherine burns when she finds out that her first love Joe is not going to marry her. It also has a more symbolic meaning. 

In life we find ourselves wearing different hats for different occasions. American women have worn many hats during the last 100 years -- the "married woman hat," "housewife hat," the "wife and mother hat," the "working woman" hat, "the liberated woman hat," "the single woman hat," "the marriage hat" and so on. The marriage hat has a more significant meaning when applied to a certain group such as the unwed pregnant women. 

I began writing this book on a journey back to Wyoming to dig into family roots and to uncover some past mysteries. On one trip back, I also wrote a journalism piece about Matthew Shepherd, the gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and tied to a fence post and left to die in sub-zero temperatures in 1998 near Laramie, Wyoming (entitled "Love and Hate in the Equality State" and published in the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner). Not being gay myself, but a woman who grew up in Wyoming during an era when conditions for women were not the best in any location in the U.S. (this was before the 1964 Civil Rights Act had a chance to settle in to prevent discrimination against anyone on the basis of sex, race or religion and before the 1972 passage of Roe v. Wade), I had a feel for the Matthew Shepherd story. And wrote it. But, in the process of writing that piece and developing the narrator Katherine in my book, I knew there was something more that I should be writing about Wyoming. This was a story that had been buried. 

In the process of fleshing out the narrator Katherine, I began fleshing out myself as a birthmother and coming to terms with many things that I hadn't faced exactly. This is the story of the narrator Katherine. It is also the story of approximately 2.5 million women who gave their children up for adoption in the U.S. in the 1960s --"the unwed pregnant women." I drew from my own experience. I am a birthmother. And I came of age in Wyoming in the 1960s. So I drew from that experience and also what I observed around me. 

So, there we have the narrator Katherine. It was only later that I realized that it wasn't only my experience. It was the experience of approximately 250,000 unwed pregnant women a year who gave their children up for adoption in the U.S. in the 1960s. 

This is not a typical birthmother finds daughter kind of book, the kind of story that tends to get printed in the media. Those sensational types of stories get old and I quit reading them many years ago. This story goes deeper and turns the characters into real people. I was able to do that because I wrote it as fiction. Similar to how an actress projects her voice on stage, these characters are actually able to use their voices. 

In many ways, I see fiction as being truer than journalism because journalism limits one to writing about facts and figures and dates and getting things exactly right and doesn't always gets down to the deeper layers of the psyche and emotions. Journalism can do that depending on the writer. For Burning of the Marriage Hat, I had to write it in a different way. So I drew from my poetics experience and my inner core to write this book along with my journalism experience as far as structure. They all fit together and work quite well. One has to draw from real life experiences to get to deeper levels though -- one has to be very honest. And in a sense, because of the objectivity of journalism, there's a tendency for the writer to hide. A writer has to remove his or her mind from many things that might hold him or her back --i.e., the safe bureaucracies or other well-meaning people or friends who can push a writer or an artist towards self-censorship. If a writer listens too closely to the everyday voices, he or she might end up writing interoffice memos instead of a story or book that brings to light issues that have never been dealt with and still affect women today.

Burning of the Marriage Hat is the story of a woman who returns to her roots to free the ghosts of her past and come to terms with a culture that has oppressed women. Set in Wyoming, known as the "Equality State" because that's where women first gained the right to vote in the U.S. and also where I came of age on the cusp of the 1960s sexual revolution, the book is also about a place. It's also a story about a middle-class family in a small prairie town in Wyoming and the coming of age of a young woman during the post-McCarthy era of the 1960s. 

A good part of the book was written on the road. I made several road trips back and forth across Wyoming with miles and miles of open space around me. The ideas came to me on the road. The fleshing out of characters came when I returned home to San Francisco and my computer.

Another part of the book was written from my dreams. In the early 1980s while I was studying poetics with Allen Ginsberg at Narapa Institute in Boulder, he told me one night as feedback to a description of a dream that I had written that "You should write down all of your dreams." So, I've been doing that off and on since. And sometimes I happen to have very profound dreams. So part of this book came from dreams I have had at different times. It was a dream, in fact, that gave me direction when I first started writing the book. And other dreams came to me along the way as if to guide me. The dreams came at unexpected moments when I was needing a voice. The dreams and the voices I heard in them helped me get the book written. I had help from the voices of my dreams. 

Ginsberg's words and actions and feedback still speak to me. He, too, has appeared in some of my dreams. 

Back to the unwed pregnant women. In the year 2002 in the U.S., we have teen pregnancy and single welfare mothers along with six million birthmothers, many of whom gave their children up for adoption in the 60s and early 70s. This is a large group of women with strong voices and we almost never hear them. They are a group of women who have been kept out of sight. And for what reason? This must say something about whether the stigmas of the 60s are still with us. 

Also, marriage was one of two ultimatums (not choices but ultimatums) for the 60s unwed mothers. And some today would like to make it an ultimatum again for single welfare mothers. So here we have history repeating itself. 

What happened to women in the 1960s helped shape the title of Burning of the Marriage Hat. It is a fiction book that explores real social issues in the United States. I drew from my own experience. The narrator Katherine is a birthmother and I'm a birthmother. I'm also a writer and a creative women who has written about many issues. This is the first time that I have written about unwed pregnant women. This because the medium of fiction helped free the pen and the voice of this writer. 

With that, I'd like to say that a woman doesn't have to get married. She can make it alone. Not all women can do that, though. Many women can't. I have found the single life to be full of adventure along with the gamut of emotions that one deals with in any environment--married or single. A woman needs to find herself first before she takes the step towards marriage, I feel. She needs to find her creative core, her inner voice, begin the journey of following her own dreams before she even thinks of getting married." Otherwise, she will end up following someone else's and get lost in the process. Marriage can be a very beautiful union between two people and one should be open to all possibilities. 

"It is much more difficult, though, for a woman to be a strong writer within the institution of marriage. I have seen the tendency for women to hold back their voices when they are married. The stronger women writers, I feel, are those who haven't been married to a man, woman, organization, conglomerate, bureaucracy, corporation or any other system that tends to control the voice of a writer. If a woman can find freedom and space within that institution to be totally free with the pen, then we may see something very different." 

Sexual Crisis in Midlife

Guest blog by ChicagoHealers.com Practitioner Dr. Marilyn Mitchell MD, BHSP

We are often surprised by changes that occur in our sexual lives during middle age. The two hormones that most affect sexual physiology, estrogen and testosterone, tend to decrease during midlife, in both women and men. As a result of these hormone decreases, the most common symptoms we experience are a decreased libido (desire) and changes in sexual response. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sexuality is complex, especially at this life stage, and we go through other shifts on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Our roles and relationships change. While it is common for people to experience changes in sexuality during the middle years, it may not happen to both partners at the same time, further complicating the issue.

There are four components of sexuality that may be challenged at midlife: 
• Self-perception: At midlife, it is common to experience changes in weight, fitness, appearance and mood causing us to feel less desirable and therefore less interested in sex. The challenge is to do what is reasonable to improve health and appearance, and then move to embrace and accept ourselves as we enter this new phase of life.
• Sex role behavior: Women at midlife experience shifts in their psyches and often have a shift in priorities. Commonly, women begin to focus on their own needs and self care, and have more time to devote to creative endeavors. They often have a change in career and focus. Men are more likely to slow down at work and are looking to balance their lives with more leisure. This impacts behaviors, including sexual behaviors, and can require negotiation of the relationship. This is true in same sex relationships as well. 
• Sexual desire (libido): Loss of libido is common in women as they go through peri-menopause into menopause. Typically, women in this life stage don’t think about sex, don’t initiate, and don’t care that they don’t care! They are surprised at the sudden change. For some, just going ahead and starting foreplay will cause arousal and interest to follow. This dramatic change is the result of a drop in testosterone (mostly) along with lowered other sex hormones. Men may have a decreased libido as well, as their testosterone slowly wanes.
• Sexual response: Women tend to complain of slow arousal and difficulty coming to orgasm. Orgasms may elude them altogether, or be less satisfying. At the same time, men who are having difficulty with sexual response most often report erectile dysfunction. This may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease and a medical workup is advisable.

What you can do:
• Healthy diet: Eating for health, mostly fresh whole foods without preservatives, additives, and trans fats will provide energy to all your cells.
• Exercise: Women who exercise has been shown to have fewer symptoms of menopause, including sexual symptoms. Men and women who exercise have better cardiovascular health and sexual interest.
• Sleep: Adequate, uninterrupted sleep is important for stress reduction, hormone production, and sexual desire and response.
• Manage stress: Stress often increases at midlife, especially with the many changes that occur. Taking an honest look at your stressors and working to eliminate any of those that are possible will help. Finding practices to manage stress will improve well being in general, including sexual interest and response. Deep breathing and meditation (even 5 minutes twice a day) have been shown in formal research to improve medical health and sexual health and satisfaction.
• Improve self image: It may be enlightening to focus on your own thought messages to self Working on the above factors can enhance your positive self talk. Improving your relationship with yourself has a positive effect on sexual health. . 

Therapies for treating sexual dysfunction:

• Medications commonly used include bioidentical testosterone supplementation, either oral or cream. This will usually accompany hormonal treatment with bioidentical estrogen or progesterone in either an oral form, as a cream for local external treatment, or in a vaginal form. 
• Medicinal treatment may also extend to adjunctive anti-depressants for you or your partner or a change in current therapy for other diseases. Some antihypertensives and antidepressants will alter sexual function in men or women. 
• Herbal therapies include the herbs Damiana for improved libido, Chinese ginseng for improved libido, potency and fertility, and Yohimbe. Ashwaganda is also helpful on a long-term basis for improving sexual response. 
• Behavioral approaches can help improve sexual satisfaction. An aid to sexual health may be a change in sexual foreplay to accommodate changes in each partner and to rekindle interest. Couple therapy may be helpful, either with a professional or with the couple alone. Intimacy "planning" can help when this part of life seems to get squeezed out. 
• Energy Healing has profound effects on improving sexual health and connection. Higher levels of healing, as used in Energy Touch work, can assist with connections through multiple sets of chakras and quickly improve sexuality on the physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational levels. 

When dealing with the sometimes sudden changes that come in midlife sexuality, it is important to approach this with the same openness and honesty that is used in other areas. Sexual problems often seem insurmountable and confusing, difficult to approach and embarrassing to talk about. Knowing that this is a common problem and there are effective solutions can be helpful in working through the issues. By focusing on specific factors and symptoms and improving communication, a healthy sense of sexual balance can be achieved.

All About Apples & Pears

Guest blog by Dr. Marie Savard
Author of Apples & Pears: The Body Shape Solution for Weight Loss and Wellness 

Are you an apple or a pear? Most women understand intuitively whether their bodies tend to store fat around their waists (forming an apple shape) or lower down around their hips, thighs, and buttocks (forming a pear shape). But few of us understand the dramatic impact body shape has on our current health and risk of future disease. Every aspect of a woman's life is affected by her shape, including her ability to lose weight, her fertility, severity of menopausal symptoms, response to birth control pills and hormone replacement, emotional volatility, body image, and long-term risks of breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other disorders
Determining your body shape is easy: First, measure around your waist to get your waist circumference. Next, measure around the widest part of your lower body to get your hip circumference. Divide the first number by the second to get your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). If your WHR is 0.80 or less, you are a "pear." If your WHR is greater than 0.80, you are an "apple." 

How important is body shape?
Although we've known for decades that these different body shapes existed, only now are their causes and related health risks becoming clear. The startling discovery is that these two categories of women-apple-shaped and pear-shaped-are as physiologically different from each other as women are from men. The reason is fat. 

Fat comes in two main varieties: subcutaneous fat, which is located under the skin; and visceral or abdominal fat, which packs itself around the inner organs of the abdomen. Subcutaneous fat, being closer to the surface, is always easy to see. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is not always visible from the outside. It jams up against the intestines, kidneys, pancreas, and liver (and sometimes even inside the liver). We all have some visceral fat because it protects our internal organs, acting both as shock absorber in case of trauma, and as insulator to help us conserve body heat. While some visceral fat is necessary, too much can create serious health problems.
Most people think of fat as inert material, much like the rind of fat surrounding a steak. But fat is actually living, breathing, hormone-producing, metabolically active tissue. Fat is critical for survival because it stores food energy, and because it helps regulate body functions through the give-and-take of chemical communications with the central nervous system. 

Subcutaneous fat may be visible and annoying, but it is relatively harmless. In fact, fat in the pear zone-hips, thighs, and buttocks-helps to protect us from disease. Scientists believe that pear zone fat acts like a fat magnet, trapping certain fats from the foods we eat and keeping them from escaping into the blood stream where they can damage our arteries.

Excess visceral fat, on the other hand, can be dangerous. Visceral fat is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat, and most of what it does is harmful to the body. Visceral fat decreases insulin sensitivity (making diabetes more likely), increases triglycerides, decreases levels of HDL cholesterol (the good one), creates more inflammation, and raises blood pressure-all of which increase the risk of heart disease. Instead of trapping fat, visceral fat releases more of its free fatty acids into the blood stream, further increasing the risk of both diabetes and heart disease. The overall effect of excess visceral fat is that it creates a physical environment that is primed for heart disease and stroke, and greatly increases the risk for certain cancers. This is why apple-shaped women, who carry their weight around their waists, have an increased risk of metabolic and vascular diseases. 

Although pear-shaped women are protected from heart disease and diabetes, they have health risks of their own. Because pear-zone fat produces a less potent form of estrogen than apple-zone fat, pear-shaped women are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of menopause, and to develop osteoporosis. Pear-shaped women are also more likely to develop eating disorders, probably because society tends to value the narrow hips and slender legs that are impossible for pear-shaped women to achieve, even with liposuction. 

Health tips
No matter which body shape you have, how old you are, or how much you weigh, there are many things you can do to decrease your personal disease risk. Diet and exercise are only part of the equation-medical monitoring is critical, as is a change in mind-set. We need to stop thinking of our weight problems, and learn to accept ourselves as women with figures. Every woman can become stronger, look better, and feel healthier. My top tips for getting started:

For apple-shaped women:
· First step: throw away the scale and dig out a tape measure…from now on you should measure your health by inches instead of pounds.
· Long-term goal: lose just two inches of fat from your waist to significantly decrease your risks for the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.
· Diet strategy: Think high complex carbohydrates, moderate fats. Avoid foods made with white flour; eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Choose olive oil instead of butter or margarines. Avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils-those are the dangerous trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease.
· Exercise strategy: walk 30 minutes ever day to burn apple-zone fat.
· Medical monitoring: Get yearly tests for cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose.
· Secret sabotage: STRESS-it adds inches to your waist!

For pear-shaped women:
· First step: understand that pear-zone fat is actually healthy.
· Long-term goal: Avoid weight-gain after menopause, which can turn a pear into an apple.
· Diet strategy: Think low fat, high complex carbohydrates. Avoid fatty foods, especially cheese and butter. Avoid candy, which is associated with a high risk of osteoporosis. Avoid salty foods, which can worsen varicose veins. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. 
· Exercise strategy: resistance training three times per week to build bones.
· Medical monitoring: Get a bone density scan at age 45, and again every year or two after menopause.
· Secret sabotage: poor body image-it can lead to eating disorders. 

(For additional information and downloadable forms, see the website at www.applesandpears.org.)

Ten Psychological Tips that Will Change How You Look and Feel About Beauty

Guest blog by Vivian Diller Ph.D. with Jill Muir-Sukenick Ph.D., edited by Michele Willens
Author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change 

Face it: there is no magic solution to aging with grace and dignity. Having just written a book offering guidance to millions of women who feel trapped by conflicting feelings, we think we are on to something. We have found satisfying, long term solutions that help us deal with a culture that virtually programs women to have a crisis over their aging appearance. We were once professional models, so we were made acutely aware how quickly a premium on physical beauty can fade with age. It took hard work and time, but we learned the secret of how to enjoy our changing appearance. Now we are therapists treating hundreds of women who may be fulfilled and evolved in many ways, but are still having difficulty coming to terms with the lines of time. Here are some great psychological tips we tell women to "think" about that help them change the way they "feel" and "look." They worked for us. They can work for you!

1) Beauty is not just a physical experience, but a psychological one as well. We all tend to think of beauty as a skin-deep issue, all about how we physically look. But research tells us that perception of what is deemed attractive and unattractive is much more complicated. Why do you think some beautiful women say, "I've never thought I was pretty"? Yes, even beauties like Uma Thurman and Michelle Pfeiffer have drawn attention to what they consider flaws. Similarly, there are women who may not be your typical image of beauty, yet when you ask them they say they are quite confident in their looks. Serena Williams never tries to cover up her unconventionally muscular physique: in fact, she flaunts it and somehow it makes her more appealing. What makes people feel attractive goes well beyond our physical self. It runs deep, much deeper than the eye can see.

2) Although we can't stop the physical changes of aging, we can change our experience of aging. No one, not any doctor, dermatologist or surgeon can stop physical changes of aging. There may be ways to look better, take care of your skin and bodies that put things temporarily on hold, at least on the surface. We're all for that! We're also for ways we can experience -- and even enjoy -- our changing looks. If we take care of ourselves, it makes us feel better and we smile more. When we smile, we look more attractive. The sooner we go through an interior process, (we offer six steps in our book) the better you will feel inside and out.

3) While aging is inevitable and irreversible, self-image is not. Self-image can be fluid and timeless. Self-image is not an actual still picture of oneself. It is an internal experience, how we see ourselves from within, over time throughout our lives. It's flexible and malleable. And if we understand that self image is changeable, then that is what we try to help women conquer. Not age itself. That's a battle we can't win.  

4) Beauty is in the "I" of the beholder. If we become our own internal "eye," we can take control over how we see ourselves, rather than give it over to other people to determine if we're attractive or not. Our six steps serve to change the internal lens through which we see, not only ourselves, but others as well. The result? Women will be less self critical and less critical of each other.

5) Chronological age does not have to define you. You can define yourself at your chronological age. A particular age has little to do with how old you feel. You can define how you want to be 40, 50 and onward. We also don't have to let magazine images define what is beautiful. Some women in their 20's feel old. Some women in their 60's feel young.

6) Put your beauty in your identity, not your identity in your beauty. Your identity is made up of many aspects of yourself. How you look is just one of them. As you get older, more aspects of yourself can make up your identity; for example, your experiences in life, your accomplishments and your relationships. If you hold onto youthful beauty as a narrow definition of yourself, you're especially unlikely to enjoy your looks as you age. You leave out so many other ways to feel good about yourself.

7) Take an honest look at who you are, not what you look like. Mirrors tell only a little of what we really look like. Gaze again and go beyond, past your reflection and see who you are as a person. Think of what you see as only the image of yourself, that informs the world of your physical self. But who you are is more than what they see.

8) Rob beauty of its power over you. Take back that power and you will feel more beautiful. Our culture has given beauty power over women. We are told who and what is beautiful. We know that youth is beautiful. Most people see babies as beautiful. But grandmothers can be beautiful as well. Some of the most beautiful women in the world are those who smile, engage and appear happy at any age. If you take back the power of what makes you feel attractive, you will become more attractive to yourself and others.

9) Become less afraid of aging and you will look more beautiful. When you see a face that is scared, you would hardly call it beautiful. There is nothing pretty about fear. Women need to accept that aging happens and that becoming more courageous about all aspects of our lives will enhance them . . . and us.

10) Beauty matters to all women, but to those who age beautifully, it matters neither too much nor too little. We all know that a core aspect of our identities is our appearance. No doubt our looks matter. But women who allow beauty to matter, but keep it in balance with all other aspects of their lives, can enjoy their looks at any age.

Bottom line: Dealing with your looks as they inevitably change is a psychological process as well as a physical challenge. Master the first and the second will come with much more joy. When it comes to your face, your body and your aging process, be smart, be thoughtful and you'll be more beautiful.