Encouraging women to evolve and create new opportunities at any age.

Unexpected New Adventures

Highlights of  April’s Newsletter 
Kendra Brown

It seems the pathways to productive and happy living often take unexpected, and even circular turns.  This month, we have several articles that prove the point.  Dianne Spina, one of the Pages, tells us about her experience when for a brief time, she took on the role of parenting her grandson – not something she had foreseen on her planned path to art and social engagement!  Terry Gray, our website manager and newsletter editor, has some observations about how younger women can use the wisdom of The Pages to re-invent themselves in ways they hadn’t expected.  Edie Donohue, another Page, endorses a movie about musicians making a comeback.
It will not come as a surprise to you, our readers, that life has a “habit” of surprising us just as we think we have it all arranged.  It seems to me that sometimes these unexpected turns in the path may open us up to new adventures, new points of view, and even new routes to happiness and fulfillment.  I hope this will be true for you.

Hello everyone from Dianne Spina,
one of the Pages

(for background information on Dianne,click here to see her bio on our web site)
Life, it seems, is a continuing series of reinventing ourselves.  Until last fall, I was feeling pretty pleased with my daily routine and new lifestyle.  My freedom to choose allowed me to focus on my love of art – painting and taking art classes – and I had ample time with friends, getting together for dinner or just meeting to chat.  It was smooth sailing!
Then, in November, my love and loyalty for my family presented a new challenge. My 16 year-old grandson was in the process of changing schools and needed to live with me during the transition.  We spent the next three glorious months together (well maybe not all glorious), but special, nevertheless. 
Together, we negotiated the changes in both of our lives – big and small.  And even the small changes were sometimes mind-boggling:  cooking and shopping for a teenage boy was especially challenging at first.  In my easy/breezy pattern, I had cooked whenever I felt like it – or not.  Now, cooking became a marathon-like event.  His choices included steaks and fried eggs, followed by more steaks and fried eggs, followed by ice cream, sodas and cookies.  We found that we both enjoyed Special K with blueberries.  The possibility of frozen dinners (convenient!) was responded to by “Oh no!  Could we have something freshly cooked?”  I’m happy to report that we made it through menu choices and nobody starved!
In the following weeks, I compromised on more than menus:  my schedule changed to accommodate the ordinary needs and sometimes entertaining activities of a young man.  I exercised my therapeutic ear while listening to the conflicting wishes of a normal teenager (“I want to lose weight.” …at the same time adding soda, cookies and ice cream to my grocery list). (“Have I grown since I have been here?” A real possibility, I thought, judging from the amount of steak and eggs consumed!)
I got to glimpse what makes my grandson “tick” as we negotiated our way through those three months.  Even though he sometimes acts a lot older than sixteen, there is still a little hint of “I need guidance and patience and unconditional love.” I found I was good with the guidance and the unconditional love.  However, he also needed patience from me, and that was an area in which I had to stretch!
I got unexpected help during this adventure from my village!  I re-read the chapter in our book on building a village.  I realized my village was changing (at least the “huts” in it) and my grandson’s village was changing too – from his family hut with his mom and brother (where the school was not accessible) to a temporary one with me.  However, he needed his own hut while he transitioned to the new school.  Once I gave him that space, I could relate to him and feel closer to him.  His hut has a path to my hut, right next door. 

Today, I can see the guest bedroom floor - without the piles of clothes.  My grandson has moved on to his new start at his new school. (And his new huts!)

You can bet….my village is stronger than ever.  I am back to normal and that means art and checking on my huts now- and- then.
I hope you enjoyed my adventure.  I surely learned a lot about my grandson and myself and I enjoyed sharing it with you.
My Best,

Join the conversation:

How many times have you re-invented yourself?
Gifts of Age

From Edie's must see list:

Don't miss the film Quartet.  Retired musicians rediscover romantic love and their passion for music, in a moving and highly entertaining film directed by Justin Hoffman, of all people.  The music is absolutely heavenly and I intend to buy the sound track.  I saw it twice and may have to buy the DVD when it comes out.  Be sure to stay for the credits.  You will discover who in the film actually performed the music.

Click here to see the movie trailer.
Observations from Terry Gray, website manager and editor
Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead has re-ignited not only the  discussion of women in leadership roles but also the dilemma of balancing career and personal time and commitment.  The struggle to balance family needs and happiness and career fulfillment is further complicated by peer opinions and implied expectations.  It seems a misguided tribute to the women who went before – who forged the way and broke the glass ceiling – to take on the unrealistic pursuit to be a superwoman:  the expectation that you have to do it all - be the prominent business executive, amazing mother, supportive spouse, volunteer extraordinaire, etc.
This is particularly unfortunate because the glass ceiling wasn’t broken with the expectation that subsequent generations of women would be pierced by that very glass on their way through.  The glass was broken so that women would have opportunities to choose what they wanted to do and how they could best achieve success. 
From the discussions in the book, Eavesdropping: As Real Women Talk About the Gifts and Challenges of Aging, it is apparent that the Pages believe there is no single answer – no one right direction to take at any of the cross roads in life. The same women who broke the glass ceiling talk about how to break out of a box and how to avoid setting expectations for daughters, nieces, granddaughters.  Instead, they encourage them to explore and define what works best for them, how to use their gifts and talents to achieve their goals. 
So the lessons from these books:  don’t get caught in anyone’s expectations.  Enjoy and honor the work of women and men who have broken glass ceilings and opened doors before you. Kick that door wider if you want; break a few more panes of glass. But, avoid leaving harmful shards of expectations for those who walk with you or follow you.      
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Copyright © 2013 Kendra Brown, Ph.D, All rights reserved.
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