Easing Back into Life

I’ve been home for almost two weeks, and am just starting to feel like myself again. Jet lag after a month in Europe and days of walking seven to 10 miles each day definitely took their toll! But I absolutely loved every minute of our travels, and especially my 10 days in Tuscany with my colleague Helena Hill and the 11 women we took on our writing and painting retreat. (See my previous posts for more on our retreat and my subsequent travels through Italy. I will post more photos from our time in Spain, as well.)

One of the things I realized once I got home is I want to do it again! So I am looking into leading a writing retreat to southern Spain in 2020, and Helena and I are talking about another writing and painting retreat in Tuscany in 2021. Stay tuned for more details, but if you’re interested, take a look at this trip’s itinerary, and let me know if you are interested in a future retreat. And if you would like to get my Weeping Willow Books newsletter, sign up here.

Meanwhile, here are more images from our time at Casa Fiori in Tuscany:

Painting our ceramic plates at the watercolor studio of Katinka Kielstra near Lucca, Italy

Painting our ceramic plates at the watercolor studio of Katinka Kielstra near Lucca, Italy

Lunch at Katinka’s

Lunch at Katinka’s

Cooking class with Karolina

Cooking class with Karolina

Helena with a typical lunch at Casa Fiori

Helena with a typical lunch at Casa Fiori

Celebrating a successful shopping expedition into Lucca

Celebrating a successful shopping expedition into Lucca

Ciao, Casa Fiori. See you again soon!

Ciao, Casa Fiori. See you again soon!

Ciao from Lucca, Italia!

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Greetings from beautiful (and, today, rainy) Tuscany. My colleague, Helena Hill, and I arrived two days ago with one of the eleven women joining us on this writing and painting adventure for the next ten days. All but one of the rest of the group are expected within the hour. 

We are at a 400-year-old villa run by the inimitable Karolina Lenart, a fabulous chef, and her husband and family. We were welcomed warmly with a lovely pasta lunch and wine. 

Yesterday morning I walked down from our rented flat in Lucca (we came two days before the retreat) to the cafe below to be greeted by Boris the bulldog and the friendly, and, thankfully, English-speaking staff.  I gobbled a sticky and sweet rice pastry with my cappuccino as I wrote. Boris was friendly but not so much that you were assured he liked you. Coincidentally we encountered another bulldog this afternoon at the villa— Bonito. See if you can guess which is which.

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The overnight flight from LAX was uneventful and I even managed to sleep about five hours, though fitfully. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had the entire row of three seats to myself. I also watched two movies and listened to almost four hours of my audio books—Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow and Pam Houston’s new memoir, Deep Creek, Finding Hope in the High Country. I finished Pam’s book early this morning when I awoke at 2:30 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Honestly, every human being who cares about the natural world—and perhaps more importantly those who don’t—needs to read this book. It is a lovely treatise on the value of hard work amid the reality of nature and death and grief and loss, humanity and animals and the environment, human folly and hope and despair. It’s funny how someone whose life experiences are so vastly different from your own nevertheless can feel like a deeply connected sister or best friend. 

Our flat in Lucca was vast by European standards—three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the heart of Lucca town. Lucca is a medieval walled city filled with colorful buildings, fine leather shops, boutique clothing and pottery shops, restaurants and gelateria. Oh, and churches, towers and cathedrals. 

Tomorrow—Casa Fiori, painting and writing, on our Call to Adventure.  

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Have You Heard About 'Girl Talk,' the Podcast?

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I started a podcast last fall called “Girl Talk, Women, Aging and Sexuality.” It’s a 20-minute romp through all things related to women, health, aging, and sexuality, not necessarily all at the same time or in that order.

What a wonderful learning curve this has been! And thank goodness for my awesome sound engineers, who make me sound halfway decent (and know how to delete those pesky “ums”). Give a listen to my latest, featuring NYT bestselling author Gail Hudson. And while you’re there, check out earlier episodes with such luminaries as philanthropist Eva Haller, psychologist (and my co-author of Unmasked) Kathleen Barry; professor and author of Becoming Clitorate Laurie Mintz, hormone expert Dr. Erika Thost, and others. I am having a blast getting to know them and also bringing these important topics to you. Please subscribe and consider sponsoring the podcast. (Here is the interview with Gail.) And do tell me what you think!

Wishing You a Wondrous Holiday Season

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Haven’t written much on this blog this year. My only excuse is work and life have taken more of my attention. But I didn’t want to let this season of love and peace go by without expressing my gratitude for all of you who are (or have been) clients, family and friends. You sustain me throughout the year.

I will be taking on new projects in the new year, and I’m excited about what will come into my life. I am so grateful for the clients I have had over the years, and especially those who have become friends, as well. If you have a book you’ve been working on that’s ready for an experienced development editor, or you would like the little nudge that comes from working with a writing coach, I would love to hear from you. May the peace and promise of this season settle upon you. May the love of family and friends surround you. May the abundance of the natural world visit upon you the nurture of nature. May you feel the love of the people who hold you in their hearts. Happy Holidays.

Love in a Later Age

Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock / Getty Images

I met my current love when I was 59 and he was 60. We both had had very long previous marriages—25 years for him and 28 years for me. After my divorce, I thought I might never find another to love. It took almost eight years. But find someone I did. And it wasn’t at all in the way I expected.

After my divorce, I waited several years—until my daughter went off to college—to begin dating. My ex had stayed in town until then, which made me feel a little weird about trying to date, as well. I hadn’t been with a man other than my husband in more than 30 years, and it felt, well, strange to consider even kissing someone new. But the really honest truth is I feared no one would want a woman who was nearly 60.

There are so many stories of older men looking only for younger women—women who were still buxom, drop-dead gorgeous, thin, blond and under 40, or whatever the latest cultural view of sexy and desirable is. Other than the thin part, none of those things describe me.

Online dating proved to be a huge disappointment, and often was the subject of hysterical stories my girlfriends and I shared about being on “the hunt.” (In fact, it was what prompted my colleague, Kathleen A. Barry, and I to embark on publishing our anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty.)

Mature women are mostly invisible in our society. At 50, we begin to experience menopause (if we haven’t already), and that entails such fun things as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, not to mention aging stalwarts like unwanted lines on our faces and weight gain. My doctor once told me to expect to gain five pounds for every year over 50. Yikes! Our hair turns gray (unless we color). Even those of us who do yoga begin to lose strength and tone. Our upper arms begin to jiggle. Our thighs start to look like cottage cheese. Oh, God!

Ultimately, I met the man who is in my life today at a concert for a non-profit organization. And it happened only a month before I planned to move to Santa Fe from Santa Barbara, where I had lived for more than 30 years. You can read the entire story here.

But what I want to talk about is my experience with how men view women of a certain age. I never was one to turn heads, but after my divorce, no matter how sexily I dressed or how confident I felt, no one of the opposite sex seemed to notice. Honestly, women over 50 pretty much don’t exist.

After talking with girlfriends who were similarly single, we realized we all were invisible. Online dating seemed to emphasize this, especially match.com, where most men seemed only to be interested in younger women.

I dated two guys before I met Rob. I met one at a high school reunion; the other online. What both told me (and Rob agrees) is that they find women their own age much more compelling. We share similar backgrounds, grew up in the same eras, listened to the same music and watched the same movies, lived through the same world events.

Younger women might have fewer wrinkles and toned thighs, but they don’t have the wisdom that comes with age and experience. Frankly, we women over fifty are just more interesting. Thank goodness for the smart men who know that.

 Despite the conventional wisdom, many women and men over 50 still love sex. Research shows that men and women both remain sexually active into their 70s and 80s. Age-related declines do not necessarily translate into a decline in sexual functioning. In fact, men, who typically peak in sexual performance at age 18, tend to become better lovers, able to slow down and focus on pleasing their partners. Women come into their own sexually in their 30s and 40s and maintain that into their 60s and 70s. In short, we all come to a place of mutual pleasure and appreciation when we get to be 50 and beyond. For some couples, love-making may be less frequent, but it’s far more satisfying. For some, sex is just a hot as ever. Sexuality, after all, exists mostly in the mind.

Here's what I have discovered—there is always time for love, whether you are 25 or 65. Unmasked is a strong testament to that. Here’s to love and intimacy—at any age.

(If you’re in Santa Barbara, come to the LIVE performance of Unmasked at Center Stage Theater, the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are only $23, and you can buy them here.)

 

 

Poem—Ice Water

Photo by borchee/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by borchee/iStock / Getty Images

I grew up in Michigan, and wrote this poem remembering the cold winters and walking on Lake Michigan icebergs.

Ice Water

Walking on Lake Michigan icebergs

water flowing through fissures beneath our feet

Tenuous footfalls on ice that heaves,

cracks, then holds as your arms flail

My grandmother clucking from the shoreline,

bundled into woolen hat and coat,

her gloved hands fluttering

as my brother and I step onto

the ice, tempting God, or fate

or the universe

falling through, boots filling

with the shock of ice water

snowsuit ballooning, sucking

us down, arms reaching to pull us free

And my grandmother pacing, weaving

consternation on shore, a frustrated hen

Like that first step into another’s space

entering hopeful, knowing the well

will be deep

and perhaps a little murky