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Rockin’ Free Birds

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“Oh… so you are an empty nester…” (sad face).

Well, no. Actually, I am a free bird!

That’s a choice I made when my daughters were both about to move away to college at the same time.

I’ve listened to friends lament on how empty their house feels with their kids in college: their childhood rooms vacant, the void in their life, unfulfilled expectations on children coming back to visit, returning phone calls, etc.  

I realized this very clearly: I was NOT interested in living my prime years as if the best of life was behind me, nor burdening my kids with any expectations that somehow they were responsible for my joy, happiness, or fulfillment.

Eeeeeew!  Not my cup of The Back Forty tea!

We’ve all heard “Let them fly” said as a consoling and empowering way to hold our children growing up and moving on.  So, I say this to us: “Let US fly!!!”

Therefore, as my daughters spent a year designing their college career, I spent a year creating what my life will look like after they move out!  Where do I want to live?  What environment do I want to live in?  What will I do that will be an expression of my passion and purpose in this next/best half of my life?  

Two months after they moved out of our 14-year family home, I moved out too.  Together, we had ALL set out on creating the next era of our life.  

This Thanksgiving season, I am profoundly present to my deep gratitude for my daughters, our relationship, and the deep love and appreciation we hold for each other.  I am immensely grateful for their opportunity to go to college and their freedom to build a life of their own design, unconstrained by external expectations and unencumbered by feelings that MY happiness or satisfaction depends on them.

Do I miss them?  Of course!!!  Do I delight in seeing them every chance I get?  Absolutely!!!  I cherish every moment I get to spend with them.  Yet as part of giving my daughters the space to spread their wings and fly free, I created the same kind of freedom for myself and my own second half/best half of life.  Just as they are creating their life and future, I am overjoyed that I get to create my Back Forty Future of my own design…with the zest an excitement of a twenty-year-old!

When my daughters return a phone call or text, and when they work out coming home from college to join our family for Thanksgiving dinner, it is a gift, a joy and a blessing – not an obligation or dutiful fulfillment of an expectation.  

I am blessed.  I am deeply grateful.  And I have a kick-ass playful, passionate and purposeful Back Forty ahead of me!  Rock on radically free birds!!

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Flight-Focused Future Surroundings

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“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”

-Eleanor Brownn

It’s amazing the amount of physical unconsciousness that can surround us in life…simply because of the wild card of “sentimentality” that we can often play.

I have to admit that I’m one who can fall into that trap, either by abdicating responsibility and claiming my upbringing as shaping me that way (mawkish “stuff” all over the house; Dad’s shed full of everything he “might need one day”) or my zodiac proclivity as a sentimental Leo.  Yet, sooner rather than later in moving into midlife, I’m onto the seductive design of the trap and at least on the way to one day claiming “that gig is up!”

I can be grateful for both a partner coming into my life who leans toward the practical and dispassionate as well as a growing sense of what it will take to become a true Back Forty Freedom Flier.

Whether my mother encouraged me to hold onto items because I might want to “look at them when I get old” or my father was the garage and shed black-hole filler does not determine my Big Game Back Forty Future…if I get and remain conscious.

To live inside of the philosophy that “the best is yet to come and, babe, won’t it be fine” as well as the belief that “I have yet to do what I came here to do” means that my eyes, ears, environments, mind and heart must be forward-focused vs. rear-view-mirror fixed.  Living in that paradigm requires being nimble, quick, light and bright…without the weight (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) of past, past, past globbing onto me at every turn.

I don’t need to watch 10 episodes of Hoarders or even to memorize and recite all passages of “The Japanese Art of Tidying Up” in order to awaken my need for Back Forty above-the-surface oxygen. These tools may serve to initially inspire me, but the critical and necessary ocular redirect toward what is in front of me (in life, purpose, passion, play) vs. what has taken place behind me is the key action to take.

Dropping past-based ballast and replacing with future-focused environmental influences creates lightness and directional guidance.  Exchanging the diploma for a dream board?  Substituting an old picture with a graphic plan? Swapping a souvenir for a framed list of intentions?  All are ways to detach from the lines so that our Back Forty Balloon can gain the altitude and attitude for a second half/best half impact.

“The true heart of organizing is about gaining your freedom.”

-Unknown

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Bring Something New to The Table This Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving draws closer, thoughts of turkey and stuffing are beginning to fill our heads. For me, another dish that comes to mind is scalloped oysters.

As I was growing up, my parents made scalloped oysters every year for Thanksgiving. Imagine my surprise when I realized that oysters were not a standard dish at everyone’s Thanksgiving table.

So this year, I thought I would share my family’s tradition with all of you. Maybe I can even inspire you to bring something new to your family’s table this Thanksgiving!

Look through the recipe below:

scalloped-oysters

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How are These Unique New Houses Uniting Families?

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The other day I stumbled across a unique ad and immediately decided that I needed to write an article about it. It was a relatively new way to solve an age-old problem.

For thousands of years, families have lived under one roof. Children, parents, grandparents, and sometimes even aunts, uncles, and cousins used to live in one home. This tradition evolved into the “in-law suites” that were so popular in the early 1900s. However, in-law suites lost their appeal in the late 1940s, after WWII, which has added to the increase in retirement homes.

More and more often families are thrown on opposite sides of the country, and when the older generation gets too old to take care of themselves they are put in a retirement home. It seems that the days of many generations living under one roof is gone.

plan_imgEnter Next Gen Homes. These homes took the idea of the in-law suite and brought it into the 21st century. These homes are literally two homes under one roof. There is the main residence which is connected to the smaller home with a wraparound porch. The smaller home includes a kitchen, living area, bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, and even it’s own garage.

The company selling these homes (Lennar) are trying to show the flexibility that comes with this style of home. One family turned the smaller residence into a music studio, others invited parents or children to live with them. Click here to find out more.

So this leads me to my final question, and I hope that you comment below! Would you live in a Next Gen home? Would you invite your parents? Your children? Turn it into a workshop/business?  What do you think of this re-invention of the in-law suite? Let me know!

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Remember the History of Veterans Day when Celebrating Today

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Veterans Day. Everyone knows it and everyone knows that the day is used to thank veterans for their service. But how many people actually know the history behind why we celebrate it?

November 11, 1919

President Woodrow Wilson declared the first Armistice Day in remembrance of the end of WWI (which took place a year earlier).

June 4, 1926

Congress requested annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11th.

May 13, 1938

Armistice Day was officially declared a legal holiday as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace”.

May 26, 1954

President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the idea that Armistice Day should celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in WWI. President Eisenhower had been given this idea by a WWII veteran in 1945 before he became president.

June 1, 1954

Congress amended the law to replace “Armistice” with “Veterans” which leads us to the Veterans Day we know today.

So how are you celebrating Veterans Day today? Are you taking a moment to remember all veterans who have served our country? Maybe you can think about just how much our country has gone through. Or maybe you just thank the veterans in your life.

However you choose to celebrate this special day, remember the history behind it!

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Ultimate Aging Advice: How to Keep Your Skin Healthy & Beautiful

Happy Healthy Skin Month!

November is National Healthy Skin Month, so I thought it was only fair that I created a post dedicated to helping women in midlife keep their skin looking healthy and beautiful. Healthy skin is extremely important, and as you create your second half of life, it gets absolutely vital!

You may find yourself wondering, “Is it normal for my skin to be doing this?” or “What should I be doing to promote having healthy skin?”. After all, there are TONS of anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams and products out there, but how do you keep your skin looking healthy and how do you know which products are the best?

Well, I’ve done some research so that I can bring you the answers you want and need.

First of all, the most important thing to know is MOISTURIZE! As you age, your skin is literally deflating. By moisturizing regularly, you help your skin stay hydrated and smooth. When looking for moisturizers, the two most important things to look for are SPF and Retinoid. By making sure your moisturizer has at least an SPF 15, you can help protect your skin from skin cancer. By choosing moisturizers with retinoids, you are able to speed up your cells. Retinoids target the DNA in skin cells to boost the cell’s functions.

My other big tip is to remember the rest of your skin! While you face should get the most attention, making sure to moisturize your jawline, neck, and chest on a regular basis is just as important.

To find out how your skin changes as you age, what the top three moisturizing products are, and more, check out the infographic below:

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Most importantly, don’t assume that wrinkles are something you need to get rid of. Just ask The Back Forty Co-Founder Alexandra Levin. Check out her blog series about why she is in love with her wrinkles!

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Divorce and Friendships

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Playing guitar on the beach

I’ve gotten divorced twice…and twice found myself facing the same curious situation.

All of a sudden, many of the people I’ve been friends with for years just drop off. We didn’t get into a fight or disagree.  We just stopped spending time together.  I have wondered ‘why’ for years, and I think I may have finally figured it out for myself.  Can you relate to my own answer?

Part of the reason for my second and more recent divorce, in particular, was that my then husband and I had grown and changed in ways incompatible or inconsistent with continuing the marriage.  Sometimes society calls it “growing apart.”  Even the path itself, leading to the difficult and final decision of divorce, was for me a path of massive growth and change.   I looked the same, but I was not the person I used to be – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. My evolvement in becoming more and more of who “I” am — as an individual — was afoot, and probably became pronounced in my ways of being in the world.

I realize now that it must have been very challenging for my longtime friends to have found, all of a sudden, that the person they used to be friends with (the married Alexandra) didn’t live here anymore.  I look the same, but something was significantly different, and they can’t quite put a finger on it.  This must be tough…to see somewhat of a stranger inhabiting your once-known-friend’s body.

So, it gives me peace-of-mind to now understand that it isn’t like my friends no longer want to spend time with me: it’s simply that the Alexandra they used to hang with left town and there is a new and evolved “me” they have the opportunity (choice) to now meet and know.  Like a very real budding friendship with someone new, they probably simply feel a bit apprehensive and in heightened-alert.

Thank God for those willing — after many years of what, in the first half of life, can become same o’ same o’ relationships — to explore a Back Forty of getting to know and grow with the new beings we all have the opportunity to become.  Some have come around, and some (God bless them) may not.  Using words from an unknown author, whether old friends or new, “let the friends be the friends of your deliberate choice.”

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Midlife + Instagram + Style = Chic?

Instagram. That crazy social media platform that is nothing but pictures. Not many people in midlife use it, after all – it’s for kids.

59 percent of all 18 to 24-year-olds use the app. Meanwhile only 11 percent of all 50 to 64-year-olds and only 4 percent of people over the age of 64 use the app.

Well, now there is someone trying to change that.

Meet Nikki Garnett.

She is a 48-year-old woman in England who is trying to change how women in midlife see themselves. As she aged, other aspects of life got in the way of her style. Between family, work (or the lack there of), and wanting to fit in with other people her age, she lost her “style mojo”.

Many women in midlife can relate to this. After all, who has the time to go shopping for the perfect outfit when there is so much going on in our lives?

This is why Nikki created the Instagram profile midlifechic. She wanted to prove that you can “get your groove back” in your 40s or your 50s or even your 60s!

If you still aren’t ready to jump on the Instagram bandwagon, don’t worry. Nikki also has a great website where you can learn more about her, get your own fashion inspiration, and follow her own mission to become happier.

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I Am In Love with My Wrinkles (Part 3)

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Click here to read part two.

I’ve been sharing with you that I am in love with my wrinkles.  Here’s how I got to fall in love with them…

It all hit me one sunny Sunday morning as Darrell and I were making our way through Los Angeles traffic.   I thought about how I have been transformed by the gift of my life’s challenges, wins and losses, and how much I love the older and wiser version of my Self that I have become.  I saw that my wrinkles are not only part of the package that came with those life experiences, but they were the very stripes and awards earned due to them.  I realized that who I am today is inseparable from the wrinkles that formed me.

Every wrinkle, every experience, every lesson I learned and challenge I faced, contributed to making me exactly who I am today.  All the gifts and talents I now possess and use to create my life according to my own design, to live it on my own terms, and to contribute to others are represented in those wrinkles.  Because of everything I claimed along with the territory of those wrinkles, I am now creating my own inspiring, playful, passionate, and radically purposeful second half of life.

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My grandmother loved her wrinkles!

According to the Ancient Art of Chinese Face Reading, when we erase our wrinkles, we erase our gifts.  Our wrinkles show how we have lived our life and even what we are designing in our future.  Horizontal lines on the face are signs of lessons learned in life when we experience challenging times.  This philosophy states that, if we remove those wrinkles, we lose the lesson… which means we may encounter the same challenge again to re-learn the lesson.  Now why would we want to do that!

My wrinkles remind me of my growth, the path I have traveled, and who I am becoming.  They serve as road signs alerting me to utilize my choice of who I want to be.  They wake me up daily to the power I have to transform who I am as a matter of my word and commitments.

In The Back Forty, we propose that we have all chosen the specific experiences and events of our lives to create a laboratory for research and development which, when assessed, allow us to discover what we are really here to do.

My wrinkles remind me of the lab experiments I chose to conduct in my life to gain the gifts, the learnings, and the growth I now possess.…which give me the keys to an exciting, joyful, and radical Back Forty – my second half – and to living it on my own terms.

I am in love with my wrinkles.

And I invite YOU to fall in love with YOURS.

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I Am In Love with My Wrinkles (Part 2)

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Click here to read part one.

As I mentioned before, I am in love with my wrinkles.  I have shared a couple of my favorite wrinkles with you, and here are a couple more…

I earned another set of wrinkles when, at 25, I found myself in a lifeless marriage with my first husband and the father of our daughters.   Married for eight years, I had tried everything I knew to make the marriage work.

The wrinkles started to appear when I felt like I had to choose between my daughters having their parents together or me being happy.  More showed up when I finally chose to get a divorce.

What I learned with those wrinkles is that I deserve to be happy, and that I am the only one responsible for that happiness.

I’m keeping that batch of wrinkles for sure.

More stripes were earned a few years ago when I found myself at the end of a 14-year good (second) marriage gone bad.  I had been stuck for the last three years, married to a man who turned emotionally unstable and verbally abusive.  I doubted myself and my value.  I questioned the viability of my gifts and talents.  I forgot how capable I really was. He had me convinced that I would not survive without him…and told me so regularly.

Those wrinkles emerged as I went through the eye of a needle to find the keys to getting unstuck. Why was I staying stuck in a marriage that I really wanted to be free from? I found the answer in the process of reviewing a manuscript for a then friend of mine, Darrell Gurney.  He had asked me and several others to give him feedback on his unpublished manuscript, The Back Forty: 7 Critical Embraces for Life’s Radical Second Half.

Take a peek at what I saw:

I am 19, on that plane out of Russia… I am scared and alone… wondering if I will ever see my parents again… wondering if I am making a mistake…  and I am on my way to the freedom that our family so sorely dreamed of for 13 years… yet, I am afraid of going out into this new free world by myself… I am actually afraid of freedom.

To that 19-year old, freedom looked scary.  At that moment of realization, I saw clearly that what kept me stuck in the marriage was a 19-year-old, scared of the freedom she wanted so badly.  However, now I was no longer a scared 19-year-old.  That story was complete… so I put it back where it belonged, in the past.

Becoming freed up from this past-based fear of freedom, within a day I told my husband that we would be getting divorced and declared that it would be amicable.  Within a few months, I was out of that that marriage… as well as that mindset of fear around my own freedom.

What I gained along with those wonderful wrinkles was the confidence that I can not only survive, but thrive on my own.  I wasn’t sure how I would make it at first, and yet I knew that I would.  Within a few short months, I realized that I could stand financially and mentally on my own two very capable feet.

Click here to read part three.

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