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My Favorite Obscure “Holiday” is This Month!

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Happy Monday everyone, and more importantly, Happy National Book Month!

Books are some of my favorite things. Nothing quite compares with curling up on the couch with a good book, and I think October is the perfect month to observe this national “holiday”. October is when the temperatures start to drop, apple cider and pumpkin spiced coffee flows freely, and it starts to get darker sooner.

Is there anything better than curling up in  your favorite blanket in front of a fire, feeling the crisp air around you, sipping on something warm, and reading one of your favorite books by the light of the fire? I think not.

And so I welcome the month of October with this blog post, and my list of some of my all time favorite books.

Here are my favorite (magical) books of all time:

  1. The Naming by Alison Croggon – If you enjoy reading about magic, history, and medieval lands, this book will have you hooked by the end of “A Note on the Text” before the first chapter. Let me warn you though, this is the first book of the Pellinor Series and if you get hooked as quickly as I did, you will be rushing out to get the next three books as soon as you finish the first!
  2. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – This is a great book that is a pretty short read. It takes place in a medieval land and is centered around the journey of two sisters. If you want to read about the bond of sisterhood or the power that women posses, this is a perfect read for you!
  3. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce – This book comes with a great big warning! If you start reading this series and are anything like me, you have a lot of reading in your future. This is the first book of the second series of books in this “universe” of books. If you want to start at the beginning (which I probably suggest) the actual book you should find first is Alanna: The First Adventure. This is a really wonderfully in-depth story that spans generations. If you want to fall in love with some characters (and want to be reading consistently throughout the winter) these books are for you. Here is my big warning, there are 5 series in this “universe” which total 18 books to read – but, if you are up to the challenge, they are definitely worth it.
  4. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – I couldn’t help myself. Everyone has read these books, and if you haven’t, you need to (although, in my honest opinion, the new screenplay is not worth your time). My favorite in the series is The Goblet of Fire, simply because of the other schools that are introduced and Hermione’s dedication to the house elves! If you want another series to take you through the winter, start at the beginning and go through the original 7 again!

Now, here is my bonus. Since you are reading this blog post, chances are you know about The Back Forty. And if you don’t, check it out! This is The Back Forty Blog after all. What is my bonus you ask? Co-Founder of The Back Forty, Darrell Gurney, recently published two new e-books!

  1. The Birth of the Back Forty by Darrell Gurney – Both of these bonuses are available on Amazon.com. This one is only $2.99 and a great short read about how The Back Forty came to be.
  2. Crisis or Opportunity compiled by Darrell Gurney – This is another great option if you want something a little longer. It includes not only his story, but also the midlife success stories of 6 other authors, comedians, and more.

If you’re still not sure, check out the eBook trailer below!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V59ip5Z_oks]

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I Am In Love with My Wrinkles

I am in love with my wrinkles.

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Me at nineteen!

We all have wrinkles. We can choose to hide or get rid of them, or we can choose to embrace them.  Here is why I am in love with some of my favorite wrinkles, and why I invite you to fall in love with yours.
I got my very first wrinkle at 19.  I was an only child of doting Jewish parents, both a mama’s and daddy’s girl at the same time.   I was protected and taken care of.   Our family had attempted to leave communist Russia for 13 years (since I was 6) and the government consistently refused.  Twice a year we applied for exit visas, and twice a year we were denied.  Then, at 19, I was unexpectedly given permission to leave Russia… but on my own, without my parents.

Fast forward three months, and I find myself on a plane leaving Leningrad.  I was 19, feeling desperately alone in the world, terrified, and not knowing if I would ever, EVER see my parents again.

That is how I obtained my first wrinkle. What I got with it was the gift that, at 19, I learned how strong I really was: that I was capable beyond my own imagination, that I could do anything.  I received THAT learning and lifelong insight out of the most devastating experience of my teenage years.

I am definitely keeping that wrinkle.

More favorite wrinkles formed when my 20-year-old daughter was planning to travel to Israel right in the middle of a war.  Everyone in my family questioned me as a mother for allowing her to go, and demanded that I stop her.

I did a lot of soul searching.   How would I live with myself if I didn’t stop her from going and yet…?  I could not even let myself think beyond the yet.  Scary.   What if everyone was right, and I was wrong, and it was my job as a mother to stop her?  What if…?

Yes, of course, I wanted my daughter to be safe, and yet I also wanted her to know that she is free – given our family fought so hard for our freedom.   What lesson would my daughter be learning if someone else (even her mother) had more power over her choice than she did?  After all, I had been given the gift of a tough choice myself at about her age.  Then I made a decision: I told my daughter that I trusted her to choose for herself and that I would support her in that choice.  My daughter chose to go.

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My daughter on her trip to Israel.

This sweet basket of wrinkles revealed themselves when I took that stand for my daughter and her right and ability to make choices in her own life.

Because of those wrinkles, my daughter went to Israel and had the most profound experience of her life.  It formed within her a passion for travel that now has her just returning from her second summer-long backpacking trip to Europe, writing a travel blog, and making spectacular travel videos.

At age 20, my daughter learned that she can trust herself with life-impacting decisions… and, more importantly, that she has a voice and a choice.

That is a bunch of wrinkles I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Click here to read part two.

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What it REALLY Means to Dress Your Age

woman-1535584_1280Dress your age. It’s a phrase that I’m sure you’ve heard before. Either you are saying that someone else should really dress their age, or people are saying it about you. When you go online, there are countless articles about “dressing your age”. Bazaar says, “the older you get, the less you can do prim, girlish, preppy, and cute.” According to the Huffington Post, “You never show your arms when you’re over a certain age and you don’t wear shorts”. Even GQ Magazine suggests that once you hit your 50s you should be buying loafers, knitwear, blazers, ties, and thickening shampoo!

Can I say yikes? There seem to be more and more rules as you keep aging about what you can and cannot wear. Often the advice comes from good intentions. These articles are meant to help you look your best, but using age as the standard for when you can and cannot wear certain types of clothing is ridiculous.

Why is it that when you hit the age of 40 you magically are no longer allowed to wear jeans with holes or skinny jeans or leggings? Why do people think that once you are in your 50s you can no longer wear sleeveless shirts or shorts? There is no reason that this fashion advice should be tied to your age at all. So what should this advice be tied to? Well, let me tell you.

This advice should be tied to your health. And I don’t mean specific aspects of your health like just your fitness level, I mean your health overall. For example, a 45-year-old woman who goes to the gym three times a week, avoids eating unhealthy foods, and has a clean bill of health from her doctor should feel free to wear a completely different wardrobe than a 45-year-old woman who hasn’t exercised in years, eats junk food in lieu of healthier options, and was just diagnosed with diabetes. How you treat your body matters and shows! There is absolutely zero reason these two women should have similar wardrobes simply because they are both 45.

So don’t “dress your age“, dress your lifestyle!

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Re-Evolution

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Often when we step off the non-thinking train that’s been running since…

…we started in a particular career that we never left

…we had kids and then spent 18yrs giving them wings

…we began a relationship or marriage that got caught up in the swirl of the items above

…we developed financial security that disappeared in some recession, depression, transgression or repossession…

…there’s a questioning period of what we coulda/shoulda/woulda done had we been more aware and alert.  Along with that questioning can come a seeming lack of confidence to step out, take a risk and/or play big again.

The adage “youth is wasted on the young” doesn’t necessarily apply to daring because young folks have no real experience of “failure” yet…and therefore they swing boldly (and sometimes blindly) at balls coming over their plate, making each new swing a learning experience (whether they would call it that or not).  They are “daring” if simply by the lack of knowledge of what can and can’t be done.

In The Back Forty, however, there can be so much protective gear weighing us down that our ability to swing is hampered…if we’re brave enough to even get up to the plate again at all.  After a few fast balls clocking us in the head or heart, we can become skittish to stretch out and unprotect ourselves for a good, honest swing.  Relationships, careers, building businesses – taking risks in all of these can get over-thought to the point of inaction.

For example, having built a home and family in my late 20’s, two-car garage with Mercedes, backyard with hot-tub, and extra room with crib, I experienced the non-thought of simply doing what people do as they get married and settle down.

Yet, within 10 years of such natural, life progressions, a divorced-and-co-parenting relationship had been in place for years, the house was owned by another, and a two-year custody suit was just starting.

I doubt I’m the only one who has seen the “little pink houses for you and me” picture burn to ashes.

In the wake-up call that gets termed “midlife crisis”, however, we have an opportunity to actually begin thinking vs. being scared to move or make a mistake (again).

One new way of thinking is to reframe all of it as having been for our highest and greatest good and to look for and see our evolution possibilities that arose from it.  What have I been through that I can help others with?  What gifts, talents, abilities, new superpowers did I develop as I went through the crucible and/or chrysalis of all that stuff?  How can I consciously use daring to grow and no longer be weighed down by victim stories of what he/she/they did to me?

Perhaps it’s this second wind of evolution – our Re-Evolution – that is the real game to be played in this span of time called a life…and what if, at midlife, it’s only beginning?

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The Difference between Men and Women in Midlife

group-headshot-1I admit that sometimes my blog topics don’t come to me right away, and this morning I was calling on help from the almighty internet. I searched and searched for different topics and then different bloggers, anything to give me a spark of inspiration. Suddenly I saw it.

I saw the difference between men in midlife and women in midlife, and I was shocked that I had never noticed it before.

What did I notice? As I was scrolling through all of these blogs, articles, and websites devoted to midlife I noticed one shocking truth. There were no men blogging about their midlife journey! I saw countless examples of women talking about their midlife struggles, sharing their beauty hacks, talking about how they are finding themselves, but there was absolutely nothing from the other half of the population. Occasionally I find a man in midlife who has a blog, sometimes even a blog about midlife. But what are his topics? Finances, business, retirement planning – not once have I found a male blogger who is talking about his midlife experience.

Although this may be relatively isolated, I feel it supports an overarching theory. Women in midlife are often searching to better themselves, and what better way to succeed at bettering yourself than to reach out to others who are also going through midlife? This is why there are so many women with blogs, websites, and articles devoted to their journey through midlife. Men on the other hand, although they often want to better themselves as well, are far less likely to share their personal journey. The idea of someone judging your failures can be crippling.

This is why I feel that The Back Forty is so revolutionary. First of all, the original idea of The Back Forty came from a man. Darrell Gurney was wading his way through midlife and had an epiphany. He realized that your second half of life is where you have the chance to truly achieve what you are on this earth to achieve. As his idea evolved from a book to a program, to a movement – his mission began to become clear.

Not to say that he did all of this alone, there was a woman in the background, Alexandra Levin (who is now the Co-Founder of The Back Forty INFUSE Program). In many ways, Alexandra helped Darrell push the idea of The Back Forty toward the program and movement that it is becoming today.

So, if you are currently working your way through midlife alone, don’t! Check out The Back Forty. It might just be the community you are searching for. After all, as Darrell always says:

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No More Little Miss “Good Girl”

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I’ve been called a good sport, agreeable, and easy-going.  All good things, right?

Wrong.  For me, they are not.

I have been accommodating my entire life, starting when I was 2 or 3. I was a good girl – in fact the best behaved child around (my mom’s friends always told her so).  Being a “good girl” became my instrument for being liked by others, and getting my family’s approval and love.  

I’ve been a people pleaser. With a smile. Happy to oblige.  I’ve thought others know better, are smarter, and that I should just do what is wanted of me.  To keep this thinking in place, I’ve subconsciously surrounded myself with plenty of people to accommodate.

One example is my ex-husband of 15 years, who was scary-smart, headstrong, and had a temper.  It was much easier to say “yes” and do things his way than to say “no” and stand my ground.  So I went the easy route.  Except it only looked easy.

The very hard costs were my respect for myself, my self-expression, and the absence of a stand for who I am and what I believe.  I was lost to my Self.  In the end, the marriage ended and I decided that the only way to break that accommodation pattern and allow for my self-expression was to stay away from relationships. That changed when another way of thinking and being came along, called The Back Forty.

In my Back Forty, I have no interest in being an accommodating, people-pleasing, agreeable good girl.  

Change is not easy after being a people-pleaser and accommodator for 48 years.  It is still much easier for me to agree (with you, them or whomever) than to stand my ground for my perspective, values and desires. Patterns of behaving and thinking are deep and well-established.

My brain has been trained for a lifetime to perceive failure to accommodate as a threat to my survival. The temptation to agree and accommodate is high. Yet I am learning to stand for my Self and my full Self-expression.

It can be messy, like a child first learning to feed herself.  And while it can be easier to err on the side of continuing to accommodate and agree, I choose to err on the side of my stand, even if disagreeable.  I’m ready, willing and fully able to make mistakes, clean up the mess, and move on.  Change can and will only come this way.

I do this because being accommodating is deadly. It kills who I am, it kills my joy, and it kills my relationships and, interestingly, it kills other people… because it doesn’t require them to learn and deal with what they need to figure out or improve about themselves.

I choose to be a stand for my Self, as a way to honor those I love, those I care about, those relationships I treasure, and what is possible for me when I am fully Self-expressed.  I choose to be disagreeable and unaccommodating when my Self is at stake and to risk argument and disapproval.

After many years of first-half-of-life research, I’ve learned that being a good girl is overrated. For my Back Forty, I choose ME – and the difference I can make – when I am true to my Self.

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Busting 5 Myths about Sex During Midlife

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There is no doubt that our bodies change as we get older, and it seems as if middle age is the culmination of all of our fears surrounding aging. Estrogen and testosterone decrease in both men and women as they age and this can cause many shifts in our emotions, physical appearance, and viewpoints. It is common to experience changes in appearance, weight, libido, behavior, and sexual response. Because of this, many people end up believing countless myths about sex as they age. Well, today I am here to bust those myths!

1. As you age, you lose interest in sex.

People of every age have a desire to have sex. However, after you make it to midlife your sexual desires change. It usually just takes a time to figure out how your body and desires have changed. To prove this point, a National Aging Survey found that over 70% of people over the age of 60 who were having sex regularly found their sex lives more satisfying than in their 40s.

2. Men lose their ability to get an erection as they get older and women lose the ability to orgasm.

Aging does not cause erectile dysfunction – changing hormone levels do. As men age, they simply need more physical stimulation to become aroused. Also, women’s orgasms actually tend to increase in frequency and intensity after menopause due to the shift of hormonal ratios within the body.

3. Women lose their desire to have sex because of the psychological and emotional factors surrounding menopause.

Usually, the physical factors outweigh the emotional and psychological factors when it comes to decreased sex drive for women. When going through menopause, the decrease in estrogen can cause vaginal dryness. If sex is uncomfortable because of vaginal dryness, simply speak to your doctor and find a solution that works for you.

4. Middle-aged people are done exploring their sexuality.

Baby boomers are reporting a surprising willingness to explore their sexuality in many different ways. They are exploring tantric sex, taking retreats surrounding sexuality, and reaching out to sex therapists and coaches.

5. By the time you are in midlife, your sex has become boring and you’ve lost your desire to be sexually adventurous.

People who are in middle-age are very interested in learning new ways to pleasure each other (since the way they are stimulated often changes due to hormone shifts). They are reading books, watching videos, and attending retreats to learn new skills.

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Sources:
The Truth About Sex After 50
Busted! 5 Myths About Sex After 50
Sexual Issues in Midlife

Midlife Exercise – Is it Important?

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Many people have the viewpoint that once you hit “midlife” working out and staying fit is no longer important or a priority. Of course, they have their excuses:

  • “I’ve had two kids and your body never really comes back from that”

  • “No matter how much I exercise, I’ll never look as good as I did when I was young”

  • (and my favorite) “My life is way too busy right now, I simply don’t have time”

Do any of these excuses sound familiar? Well, I’m here to tell you that exercise IS important, even if you are “too busy”. Studies suggest that even if you’ve never been one to spend time exercising, being or becoming fit in midlife can completely re-shape your aging process. People who don’t bother with fitness in midlife are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s (among other diseases). This doesn’t mean that if you exercise, you won’t get these diseases later on. However, those who exercise tend to have these diseases for maybe the last five years of life while those who don’t exercise tend to have their diseases for the last 10 to 20 years of their life!

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be healthy until the age of 80 instead of being chronically ill at the age of 65.

So what do we do about this? We get fit! Here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Realize that you don’t have to work out constantly. You need only 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity or 1.25 hours a week of vigorous activity. That means that you only have to exercise moderately for 22 minutes a day or exercise vigorously for 11 minutes a day! Where did your excuse about being too busy just go? And here are some bonus tips:

    • When you work out, make sure that you exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time (so you can increase your heart rate).

    • Also, exercise first thing in the morning. By the end of the day it is much easier to say you don’t have the time or are too tired from your busy day. First thing in the morning, you don’t have any excuses yet.

  2. What does “moderately” and “vigorously” really mean?

    • Here are some exercises that fall under “moderate” exercise: dancing, bicycling (less than 10 mph), brisk walking, tennis, and even gardening!

    • Here are some exercises that fall under “vigorous” exercise: jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope, bicycling (more than 10 mph), and hiking uphill.

  3. Use it or lose it! Make sure you spend a least two days a week working on strengthening your muscles! This can help you gain strength, minimize joint pain, and boost your mood!

So how about you? Can you find 11 to 22 minutes at the start of your day to improve your health for the rest of your life?

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Sources:
Eight Secrets of Boomers who Exercise Regularly
Getting Fit, Staying Fit During Middle Age
The Benefits of Middle-Age Fitness

Parenting Adult Children (Part 2)

See Part 1 of this story here.

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Gone were the days when I could direct his actions.  Gone were the days when I could logic/convince/velvetly force him into anything.  Gone even were the days where my opinion mattered at all.  Though individuation for a growing person begins much younger, I was present to the full brunt of it when he was now out of house and completely out of influence.

Thankfully, I have a dear friend and prayer partner who passed through this phase many years earlier with her two sons and yet was still “writing the book” on parenting of adult children.  She called this phase unique in that the kid-come-adult is trying to be an adult – but doesn’t know how – and the parent is trying to not micro-manage their life – but doesn’t know how.  It’s a very weird and challenging stage for both young adult and parent alike.

The first bit of wisdom she passed on was to cease all attempts to advise: regardless, whatsoever, notwithstanding anything!  Then, the challenge was to simply acknowledge whatever could be acknowledged about the paths, choices, or directions he was taking…”challenge” because, as the parent, we think we know better.  The idea was to become an acknowledging and validating machine, and close the mouth of “the wise one”.

What that also meant was being able to hear the need for financial support and stand strong in allowing the necessary path of growth from kid-wanting-to-be-adult to, possibly, actual adulthood.  That is a tough one.

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There’s a story I once heard about a man who saw a butterfly just beginning its exit from a cocoon.  He thought he would aid in the process by using his fingernail to help nick away parts of the cocoon shell so that the butterfly could get out easier.  What happened, however, once the shell was eventually removed, was that the “butterfly” became a would-be butterfly because, as the bloated insect lie there with wings full of fluid, there was no way it would ever be able to fly.  The very act of having to force itself out of the cocoon was a critical process in squeezing out the fluid so that the wings would be light, airy, and flight-worthy.

Learning to let my son learn what he needs to learn – without meddling one way or the other – is, for me, a big Back Forty growth endeavor.

Yet another more recent bit of evolved advice from my sage veteran parent partner was this: when he tells me something he did that I feel like praising, instead of being the one approving and acknowledging of that action, I am to put it back to him: “How did that make you feel?”  This act of turning him toward the source of all approval as being within him vs. my “guidance” slipping in through some side door of “approval” is another way of pulling back so my adult child can become adult.

I’m in no way through this process, and we all know that our kids are our kids for life. Yet going through this requisite phase of Back Forty parenting upgrade is a unique period in which I’m learning just a thing or two about a thing or two.

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Parenting Adult Children (Part 1)

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One of the many new dimensions of our midlife, The Back Forty, is the necessity to parent differently.  I’ve practiced this a great deal over the last several years, as my son went from 17, with an appropriately growing voice in how his life goes, to now being 22.

I was an “involved” parent all through his growing up.  Following a divorce when he was 2½, I focused my half-time custody on all the typical things a dad and son would do as he grew: YMCA Indian Guides, AYSO soccer, YMCA swimming (first Guppy, then Minnows, then Sharks), Tai Kwon Do (first Tiny Tigers, then…)…moving as he got older into Cub and Boy Scouts, geckos, rats, fencing, and persistent video game systems (Gameboy, Nintendo, X-Box).  Not to mention church on Sundays where he took classes over the course of 12 years.  My involvement and guiding direction of my son’s life was strong.

From age 2½ to 7 or so, my parenting was pretty default: play, learn, discipline with timeouts when necessary…but all fairly easy and without thought.  Around that time, however, I went through a custody suit lasting a couple years.  One of the many blessings that came out of that whole process (from a Back Forty INFUSE Program perspective) was a more conscious study of parenting.

Parenting was different now than in the days of my simple, country upbringing.  Plus, I lived in California, in many ways a far-cry skewed mentality than that of my Texas roots.  Having come to California specifically for consciousness reasons, I was always on the touchy-feely side of most things anyway.  Still, when California new-age consciousness and attitudes about the raising of indigo/millennial/Gen Z individuals come together, parenting looked a lot like coddling to my tainted eyes.

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Upon moving out of the parents’ house, however, parental views about how to relate to “adult” kids differ… especially among divorced parents.  My own (right or wrong) basic stance was “If you’re going to school, I’m supporting you (financially).  If you’re not, I’m assuming you want/need to learn about life…so I’ll support you in that too by letting you support yourself.”

I’ll relieve you of the litany of differences of opinions and challenging interactions a stance like that can take – both with adult child and ex – and yet something became very clear: I needed to find a new way to relate to my son…

To be continued…

Read Part 2 here.

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