15 Life-Changing Moments

Life-changing events, are, well, life changing, whether they’re helpful or heart breaking.  

Here are some that changed FOF lives.

“The day I discovered Chung King was not real Chinese Food! But on a serious note, when I lost my husband to cancer and then lost my younger brother to cancer 8 months later.”
Lori Logan Goniwicha

“With my husband’s blessing, I finally had enough of my bosses BS, got sick of the supervisors playing God in their own little kingdom. I walked into work, collected my things, turned in my badge, drove away and never looked back…Life is good and my husband is wonderful!!!”
Lyn Gunselman

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The only tops I ever want to wear!

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I’m wearing Pauline’s open collar shirt, in a rich violet shade.

When Pauline Durban emailed to ask us to help promote the tops she designed, especially for FOFs, I looked at the selection on her site and thought their easy looks would appeal to lots of women. After turning FOF seven years ago, Pauline was frustrated trying to find tops that were suitable for her changing body, so she finally decided to make them herself. She calls her line Covered Perfectly.

Supporting women entrepreneurs whenever I can, I ordered a couple of tops (a woman can never have too many tops, anyway.) When Pauline noticed my orders, she sent a third top as a gift, since she wanted me to take advantage of her buy two/get one free promotion.

That was about three weeks ago and I’ve been living in my tops (I even slept in one of them since I was too lazy to take it off.) They glide over my body, rather than hugging it, and minimize my midriff bulge and tummy, which was Pauline’s design mission in the first place. The three-quarter length sleeves flatter my arms. Made of a fabric called Micromodal, the pieces are wonderfully soft and comfortable, but still look smart, not sloppy.

I’ve read some FOF comments on Facebook, since we started promoting the tops, which question why Pauline’s models don’t look like they have much to hide. I can promise you that I do have much to hide and the tops really do hide it. Unlike oversized tops with no shape, that actually make us look larger than we are, Covered Perfectly tops have a shape and look feminine. Pauline also is introducing plus sizes in a couple of weeks in response to many requests she’s received.

My tops go with just about everything, from jeans to leggings, and they can be dressed up or down. Their clean-lined styles make them perfect attire for sitting at the computer all day, but they look great for a dinner out. Pauline has chosen a fairly neutral palette, assuring that her tops fit into most everyone’s wardrobe, and she’s introducing some hot colors in her fall line, including an orange red, my personal favorite.

I’ve washed all three of my tops and they’ve maintained their shape and softness. Pauline’s prices are reasonable, even more so since she’s offering my FOFriends 20 percent off your first order OR the option to buy two tops and get one for free. Either way, you’ll pay substantially less than it costs to buy tops elsewhere (and those don’t even fit!)

 

For the 20 percent discount, enter code FOF at checkout.

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P.S. BTW, if you need to return your top, for any reason, it’s free to ship it back to Pauline!

–Geri Brin

{My Story} True satisfaction is priceless…

FOF Judy Resnick was 40 years old, “close to broke and with no way of making a living.” In her 50s, she’s turned her life around and became a financial advisor, helping other women, including her own daughter manage their lives and money. Read her inspiring story.

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Judy Resnick is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to sara@faboverfifty.com.]

A recent photo of Judy and her grandchildren.
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{My Story} It’s My Birth Date And I’ll Lie If I Want To…

If turning 50 wasn’t bad enough I have a daughter who has taken a keen interest in my age. It’s probably because she doesn’t know how old I really am.

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Ramona Duoba is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to sara@faboverfifty.com]

By Ramona Duoba

Being obsessed with aging or anti-aging is a way of life for many women, but has the obsession gone too far when you can’t be truthful with your own daughter? I suppose many people would say I’m setting her up, or that my inability to tell the truth about my age is an example of self-loathing or some deep-rooted trauma that I haven’t come to terms with. It’s not. I just don’t like aging. It’s that simple. There’s nothing wonderful about looking at a passport photo from 10 years ago and comparing it to the one I have today. There’s a harsh difference.
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{My Story} Comic relief

FOF comedian Esther Goodhart finds humor in hard times. After turning fifty, having two heart attacks and losing her sister, comedy is her catharsis.

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Esther Goodhart is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to sara@faboverfifty.com.]

Esther performing stand-up at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City.

When I turned fifty years old my mother didn’t make her yearly phone call to wish me happy birthday.

When I asked why, my mother said unhappily, “Because you are old.  Now, everything falls down.”

Sure enough, the following week I fell and broke my ankle.  This wasn’t shocking since I’ve had Familial Dystonia all my life. I always fall.  But why did my breasts have to fall?  Before I turned 50, I had perky breasts.  Now my bra size is 38 long.

I also became totally insecure about my butt.  It seemed to get wider and flabbier.  I’d ask my husband, “Do these pants make my fat ass look fat?”

I was eating so much that, indeed, I got fat.  I’m Korean.  Korean women are usually very thin all their lives. Korean food is the synonym for “colon blow.”  There is so much fiber and roughage in Korean food, an hour after you eat it you are passing wicker furniture.

I abandoned Korean food when I converted to Judaism and discovered the joys of Jewish cuisine:  blintzes, schmaltz, kugel and my favorite, a slice of challah with a brick of butter.  Whenever I go to the store to buy Jewish food, I ask if it comes with scotch tape so I can attach it directly on my butt.

I ate so much and gained so much weight I developed Type II diabetes.  My doctors were crushed for me.  “Take this seriously.  You could lose your eyesight or have a heart attack or a stroke!” I took it in stride.

I had two heart attacks…in two months.

I was running for Town Council during my first heart attack.  In the recovery room my political opponent paid me a visit with a box of 12 Dunkin’ Donuts.  Really?!?

(Left) A political flyer used when Esther was running for office. (Right) NJ Gov. Chris Christie with her right before lapband surgery.

For most of my life I collected shoes.  Now, in my 50s I collect medical doctors. They all pleaded with me to lose weight!  As they pleaded they prescribed more and more medications: meds for my Dystonia, meds for my diabetes, meds for my high blood pressure, meds for my heart disease…forget food, I’m gaining weight swallowing all these meds!

My doctors pushed me to get the lap-band procedure.  I resisted because I believed I could lose weight by myself. I finally visited the lap-band surgeon and said to her, “I’m not that bad, right?”  She said, “Well, based on your tests you are morbidly obese.”

MORBIDLY OBESE?!  Oy gevalt, Asians are not known to be “Morbidly Obese.” Okay, maybe BUDDAH is, but I vowed NOT to shame myself, my family or the entire Asian race with my fat.

I was still running for Town Council during this time.  My mother said to me, “No one will vote for you because you are so fat.  You must reduce!”  I said, “Well at least I look young.”  My mother said, “You look young because your fat pushes out all your wrinkles.”

I had the lap-band surgery.  Immediately my diabetes was under control.  Well, all right!

But, I had to tighten and loosen the band over and over again because I would vomit up food AND my medications.  Loosen the band to keep my meds down but then I would eat.   Tighten the band so I wouldn’t eat but my meds wouldn’t go down either.

I fell into depression.  Not because of the frustration and difficulty of my meds and food, but because my belly was scarred from the implants of the lap-band. I may be fat, but I have no cottage cheese on my butt.  Cellulite, schmellulite, my satiny smooth Asian skin was ruined.  I had marks all over my belly.  I had trouble with this.

Usually when I’m upset I allow myself to wallow in self pity for 2 minutes and then I’m over it.  But this time I fell into deep depression and this depression was going on for a long time.  I’d comfort myself with a bologna sandwich and then vomit.

Then, to my despair and horror, my sister Martha died.  We were like Irish twins, one year and a week apart. She was also the complete opposite of me.  I was born pissed off.  I have a fierce and fighting spirit.  Martha was timid and sweet.  We were different in every way except we shared the same health issues.

Both of us said, when we were young, “we don’t care what people say.  We love to eat and if we die from over-eating at least we died having a great time.”  But I tried to control myself and get healthy. Martha sat at home and ate and was careless about taking her meds. I always took my meds.  I exercised sometimes—by looking for a chair to sit down in.

Martha was happy to sit home all day while I was restless and wanted to take big trips.  Martha took the biggest trip of all:  she went to heaven.

At Martha’s funeral someone tried to make me feel better by saying, “Your sister is gone but what is she missing really?  She misses getting old. She misses seeing how ugly and hard the world is.”

I responded, “But, she also misses her daughter’s successes.  She misses seeing her grandchildren grow up.  She misses being with me!  I miss her!”  When Martha died she took with her our past, our present, our future as sisters.  The one person who knew me best is gone forever.
I’m not so cavalier about my health anymore.  Her death is my spiritual rebirth.  I want to live while I’m alive.  I strive for a healthy life.  I live to honor Martha.  I live for my husband and sons.  I live for me.

Martha and I used to laugh when we saw the Life Alert commercial.  An old woman is on the floor and yells, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  We’d ask, “Are we going to be like that when we’re old? Because we’re like that now.”  We were teenagers, then.

I’m 56 years old now.  As my mother has acknowledged, my breasts fell down, my ass fell down. I still fall down…but I always get up.  I am an Asian woman rising,  I’m over 50 and fabulous and my mother doesn’t have to call and tell me that.

See Esther at one of her upcoming performances: May 1 at the Hilton Hotel in NYC, Comedy Night for the American Family Service Center or Sept. 19 at the Manhattan Beach Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles for the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Insitute.

Visit her website or Facebook page for more upcoming appearances and news.

{My Story} “I Met And Dated A Real-Life Christian Grey”

“If you met a real-life Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey) and started dating, would it send you to the post office wanting to return this package?” asks FOF Susan Hersh. Susan recently met and dated a man with Grey-like tendencies. Here, she shares her story and what she hopes other newly-single FOFs can learn from her experience.

Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Susan Hersh is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to alex@faboverfifty.com.

In 2012, I met a real-life version of Mr. Grey. Although this was not apparent during our three-month romance, after it abruptly ended, it became uncannily clear.

The terms of my relationship with this man, a publishing company executive (we’ll call him “Mr. Brooks Brothers” for the purpose of this story) paralleled the contract that Anastasia never signed.

Christian had gorgeous dresses and gowns for Ana furnished by Neiman Marcus.  Mr. Brooks Brothers requested that I wear skirts and dresses. If you are being taken to mediocre, local restaurants, there is no reason to get that dressed up. My personal style is pants and my long legs wear them well. Unlike the fictitious Christian Grey, he was not offering to furnish a wardrobe…only the thigh-high hosiery.

Christian always wanted to control how Ana wore her hair and which beauty salon she attended. While dating Mr. Brooks Brothers, I had my hair cut, one of the best cuts in four years…but he didn’t think it was necessary.  I was not seeking permission or approval.

Christian dedicated Friday evening through Sunday afternoon or any other days agreed upon, based on his contract with Anastasia. My allotted time slot with Mr. Brooks Brothers was Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon.  If we needed to change the schedule, he felt he was making a major “compromise.”

One evening, I was driving my car to a nearby town for dinner. Mr. Brooks Brothers told me he was not comfortable with me in the driver’s seat. This seemed so outlandish to me so I made a joke telling him he could drive my car anytime and I would sit on his lap.

In the end, Mr. Brooks Brothers broke up with me because I rejected his request to use sex toys in the bedroom, and his ego was stronger than his heart.  He was controlling in the bedroom, insisting on the missionary or dominant positions. He found it difficult to acquiesce and share the power. I’ve learned that a marriage license or relationship does not guarantee that you both have the same propensity for sex or tolerance for experimentation. Next time, I’ll make sure that my partner and I are both in agreement about whether or not to use sex toys, and that the mood is romantic with enough time for exploratory use.

Recently, I started to think about how many FOFs are finding themselves navigating through the sea of sex and dating after a recent divorce or becoming a widower. This can be a hard process.

Here’s what my experience taught me: No matter what, always be yourself. When meeting someone new, there is always an adjustment period and some compromise, but selling your soul and conforming to ideas that do not resonate will lead to unhappiness both in and outside of the bedroom. Tell your partner what you want or don’t want up front.  Do not cheat yourself.  Claim what is important to you and proclaim what is not negotiable.  If the relationship ceases, remember this line from the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic:  “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

{My Story} A Thanksgiving First and Last

One FOF recounts her first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner, which was her mother’s last.

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Deborah Parker, is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to sara@faboverfifty.com.]

Gratitude is the heart’s memory. — French proverb

It was time. I’d never done it. I’d gotten used to going somewhere else on this food-happy holiday to eat my big turkey dinner. However, Thanksgiving of 2009 was different.  My mother was very ill with Leukemia. This looked to be her last earthly celebration of this holiday of gratefulness.  Neither my sister nor I had ever hosted the “big meal,” normally we went to mom’s. Taking all of these realities into consideration, I decided to invite my extended family to my house (a three-hour trip) for Thanksgiving dinner.

Details such as planning the menu, shopping for food, and organizing my kitchen for my dinner guests consumed me for a few weeks. I watched Martha and Rachael for tips on my table. I coordinated with my sister on who had what serving dishes. We gradually envisioned what the table layout would be. Keeping my mother involved was essential to her well-being and our sense of tradition. Working around her treatment schedule and doctor’s appointments, she managed to bring collard greens and sweet potato pies—two items she really loved to prepare (and we loved to eat).

One Thanksgiving Eve the “cooking crew” arrived. My sister-in-law drove my mother and my two nieces to Leesburg, Virginia, straight from one of her many doctors appointments. Tired from her medical condition and the drive, my mother went to bed. The rest of us readied what could be prepared that evening–potatoes peeled, ingredients checked, and birds soaked. My stoves would be busier than ever the next day.

We went to bed once we had done what was reasonable to ensure a hot and fresh Thanksgiving meal. At around 3 a.m. I was woken when I heard my mother stirring in my guest room. I noticed she had the light on and I opened the door. She said, “I’m ready to cook. Where’s that turkey?” We came downstairs and she went to work. I watched her—she taught, and that’s how I came to learn more about cooking the big one!

As the day went on, the feast came together. My three uncles and my youngest brother arrived, along with a few friends. Prayers were said, eating commenced and then it was over–a grand occasion for all of us.

My mother passed away five months later. I am so grateful she had that experience of food, love, and teaching in my home–for her last Thanksgiving.

Every so often stopping to focus, reflect and say thanks gives us the strength to realize what was and what is—and in that gap resides a lot of blessings.

Thanksgiving is not just the fourth Thursday in November; it’s a continuous exercise in gratitude. Designating a place or space, to retreat to on our journey, allowing us to express thanks for the bounty we’ve accumulated can set us right in our soul.

What are you thankful for?

This story is excerpted from Deborah L. Parker’s autobiography: Navigating Life’s Roadways, Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey.

{My Story} How I Regret-Proofed My Life After Fifty

FOF Claire Fontaine is giving away three copies of her book, Have Mother, Will Travel. Three FOFs will win. Enter to win by answering this question in the comments below: Have you ever traveled with a grown up son or daughter?

FOF Claire Fontaine spent the first fifty years of her life “bound up being a mom,” trying to overcome her daughters drug addiction and dedicating years to her own self-discovery. Then, at fifty-one, Claire realized “oops, she forgot to plan for life after motherhood.”

Here, she shares the journey (literal and symbolic) that she took for regret-proofing her life after fifty.


Claire (left) with her daughter, Mia (right) stop to pose in front of the Great Wall Of China on their trip with Global Scavenger Hunt.
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A few years ago, when my daughter Mia asked me what I wanted to be doing with my life now that I was fifty, the answer wasn’t pretty.

“Not what I’m doing right now.”

To wit: on impulse I’d left Los Angeles, a city and a creative community I loved, to buy a historic fixer-upper in Florida, the hottest state in the nation, just in time for hot flashes and direct hits by four hurricanes; my marriage needed as much renovating as my house; I’d co-authored a bestselling book but hadn’t written in two years; my relationship with my mother had shattered; and my once close relationship with my daughter had grown stale and strained. The kind of mothering I was doing sends young women to postcardsfromyomomma.com. Everything else I was doing was sending me to fmylife.com.

When Mia called and asked me what I did want to be doing now that my life was half over (thanks, kid), my answer wasn’t any prettier.

“This isn’t going to sound very good,” I said after a pause. “But I’ve never actually had a concrete vision of my life at fifty.”

That was the wake-up call I needed, actually saying it out loud—I was fifty going on the rest of my life with no idea where that was. And leave it to my daughter to wake me up—again. Her dreadful downward spiral of drug addiction as a teen forced me to recognize that I’d been asleep in my own life, an experience she and I chronicled in our first joint memoir, Come Back. It also forced both of us through a lengthy and rather brutal process of self-examination that transformed our lives forever.

And let me tell you, transformation is hard work. I took courses and workshops on accountability, leadership, creating results; I meditated, carried affirmation cards, made Wheel of Life charts; I had terrific coaching on relationship skills and living intentionally. I knew the power of living consciously and intentionally rather than by default, I made a vision map years before most folks knew what it was. I even went on to counsel other families for several years. Yet, when life got tough, I didn’t fight for my own life the way I did for Mia’s when she hit the skids. Instead, I wallowed in irritation and blame. When I wasn’t blaming the house, the heat, or the husband, I blamed myself.

Shortly after that phone call with Mia, I came across that old vision map. I opened it up, flattened it out and marveled at the wrinkled images of my dream life: travel to Europe with Mia, become fit and strong, use my writing to help others, inner stillness, my daughter home, healed and healthy. It was the first time I realized, as wild as some of those dreams seemed at the time, I’d manifested every single thing on the map.

It was a life-changing moment for two reasons—first, I remembered how powerful I, or any woman, with a strong vision can be; second, it was a vision for who I was then: a woman whose sole identity was bound up in being a mom, a role that was prolonged first because of Mia’s dangerous behavior, then by writing and speaking about it nationally. I never bothered to dream up a new life for a post-motherhood, mid-life me.

A vision has the wondrous, empowering quality of keeping you both clear and focused on the future and fully engaged in the present. Without a clear picture of your desired future, there’s no reason to find a way around the brick walls we all hit in life. A vision prevents a brick wall from becoming a destination, a permanent address for a victim, with a BMW (Bitch, Moan, Whine) in the driveway. It acts as a filter for all your choices, big and small, sorting the wheat (future results) from the chaff (future regrets).

To know what I truly wanted, I knew I needed to remember who I truly was. Who was I before I became the “good girl,” always doing what I should – the “good” girlfriend, wife, mother, homemaker? What would make that girl I’d repressed for so long happy?

I decided to take time to find out, to hear my own voice again. And I decided to do it with the person who knew me best–Mia. We’d never used any of the money we’d made from our first memoir to celebrate its success. So we decided to finally use it and set off around the world together, to learn about ourselves, each other, and what mother and daughterhood looks like globally.

The first part of the trip was a madcap global scavenger hunt through twelve countries, followed by a summer together in South France. While there, I decided to make another vision map. I let myself dream big. And I had Mia there for support and feedback. I learned more from my wise and compassionate daughter than I ever taught her.

(Clockwise from left) Claire and Mia tour the Pyramids of Egypt on horse and camelback, Posing in front of the cliffs of Meteora, Greece, A rest stop in front of Veliko Tarnovo during their Balkin leg of the trip.

It was a happy, energizing undertaking, but bittersweet. During the trip, I discovered things about myself I’d forgotten, and acknowledged things I’d simply suppressed. And I realized that while you may not know what you’ve got till it’s gone, you also don’t know what doesn’t matter to you until you realize you don’t miss it. I gave myself permission not only to declare exactly what I wanted, but also to leave behind what I didn’t. Which was almost everything in my life: house, heat and husband (as wonderful a man as he is.)

My return would not be easy. It’s one thing to dream on a piece of poster board, another to make it happen in real life. But I did. One choice at a time. Over a year’s time I would leave it all—home, most of my belongings, the security of marriage. I didn’t even have a clue what city I’d live in. But I had a vision, I had trust, and I had me. I still do.
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Claire Fontaine is the co-author of two memoirs Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back, HarperCollins 2007, and Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other and The World, William Morrow 2012. She’s also a national public speaker and certified life coach. She divides her time between the U.S. and France, most recently Paris, where she spent five months researching a historic novel.

Enter to win Claire’s book, Have Mother, Will Travel by answering this question in the comments below: Have you ever traveled with a grown up son or daughter?

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Three FOFs will win. (See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes August 13, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.