There’s a funny thing about aging; finding the hidden benefits

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When a group of women more than twice my age gather in a coffee shop to chat, it’s hard not to listen. It becomes even more important to pay attention when they begin dishing out advice and sharing wisdom about the benefits of aging.

After a round of gossip at the table about who is getting divorced for the second time, the women began talking about updates in their lives while giving and seeking advice from the others about various topics.

“You need to be on the Facebook,” the one said while the others politely smiled. “That is where all of the fun is happening.”

The chattiest of the bunch leaned back in her chair as if feeling defeated and started sharing the struggle she’s having with her teenage daughter.

“The coffee shop down the street is hosting trivia night Friday night. They’re even playing songs from the Beetles and ask guests to request,” she said. “My daughter will be home from college and I’d like to take her, but I know she wouldn’t want anything to do with ‘old people’.”

The women laughed and moved into a discussion about the benefits that come as a result of accumulating years.

“There’s a point you get to when you realize age really doesn’t matter,” one woman said. “I’ve decided to stop counting at 69.”

The conversation continued, with a list of important aging benefits trailing close behind.

  1.  Discounts at grocery stores
  2. Cheap Frosty’s at Wendy’s
  3. Ability to say what you want; and
  4.  An unsaid societal license to use the word “dead” without sounding to harsh, when speaking about those who have passed on before you

The best of the advice, though, was that from the last woman to leave the table.

“These are the perks of getting older. We need to take advantage of them because we’ve earned it!”

Cancer in Caribou

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Cancer.

After ordering my morning cup of joe, the friendly coffee connoisseur behind the counter began telling me the story of Amy Erickson. Who is Amy? She was a “Roastmaster” at Caribou Coffee and someone who I learned helped set new coffee standards for the company. She was also someone who loved life, and unfortunately, lost her battle with breast cancer at just 33 years of age.

After sharing, the kind gentleman offered me a bag of “Amy’s Blend” coffee beans for purchase, with 10 percent of all sales  benefitting Susan G Komen for the Cure. Being aware October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but also in a hurry to start my day, I politely declined.

Learning from a stranger

I noticed a bald woman sitting alone at a table on the opposite side of the packed coffee shop. I saw her, but didn’t want make her feel uncomfortable by staring. I found a seat nearby, sipped my coffee and went on about my business.

A few minutes later, another woman walked through the door, peering around the room as if looking for someone. She spotted the woman sitting near me and quickly ran over to greet her, telling her she didn’t recognize her without hair.

That’s when I started listening. And, began getting a glimpse of the events which occurred during the past year of this woman’s life.

Around Christmas time last year, she was in a car accident, sustaining a few minor injuries. She went to the chiropractor as part of the recovery process and noticed a few unusual lumps in her breast and started to show symptoms of a cold. Not overly concerned, she decided to continue with plans to go on a ski trip with friends. This is a trip she was looking forward to and had purchased a new ski suit for, on clearance – two sizes too big – but thought it would fit perfect after piling on layers of clothing. A few days into the trip, her cold had gotten worse and after visiting a nearby doctor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

 The cancer progressed quickly, the sinus infection continued and after three different antibiotics and a few months later, her body was showing no signs of improvement. Her spirits were still high until she learned during a regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment the cancer had spread to both breasts. It was a Wednesday and she was asked to make a final decision about the “all or nothing procedure”, scheduled to take place on Friday.

Sharing her story, she went on to explain how she almost “fell off the table” when an ultrasound technician left the room and she peeked over to see the images of the monster taking over parts of her body. Listening to her gut, she decided to move forward with a lumpectomy on Friday, but also scheduling a full body massage hours before. The procedure went well and removed all of the cancer.

Now at the coffee shop, she wears a colorful necklace imprinted with the word “journey” to remind her about the ups and downs in life. She gave a hug goodbye, as her friend brushed her hand over her soft, tiny pieces of hair and then walked out the door.

Her friend reached for her cell phone and began a new conversation with the words “she’s a fighter”.

And, I left with a new perspective on life. But, not without purchasing  my new bag of Amy’s Blend first.

Blog Action Day: Girls Rule!

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What if I said there is a woman out there who is concerned about her weight because she doesn’t want her kids to be ashamed of her? Psst… I said it.

Today is Blog Action Day 2011 – an annual online event, uniting bloggers around the world with blog posts about a global issue. Today is also World Food Day; therefore, the topic for discussion this year is food. Follow the coversation on Twitter, using #bad11.

I was recently in a coffee shop and overheard the conversation between two woman I consider a global issue because, well, this issue is there regardless of race, culture, region, family or any other of the ways we can categorize ourselves today.

My ears perked up in the conversation when one of the woman began talking about how girls in her daughter’s class had started to call her fat. The girl is 6 years old. This was heart-breaking, yes. But, what was even more was where the conversation went next. The concerned Mom started sharing her own struggles with food and weight. Her daughter’s experience had struck a chord and now, as a grown woman, she was concerned about her weight and struggles with food because she didn’t want her daughter to be ashamed of her Mom.

This story leads me to believe, as adults, we are still children, but playing on a different playground. A playground with secret tunnel clubs, monkeybars {these ones serve alcohol} and [emotional] rollercoasters. We still have the same struggles, worries and dreams for the future.

For women, weight continues to be an issue around the world – too big, too small, eat too much, not enough access to food, poor nutrition.

The story above showcases two examples of how this global issue has affected female lives. What will it take to make a positive shift for women around the world? I’ve posted a few of my favorite inspirations for change below, but please share others in your community or around the world.

And, as always, thank you for reading!


Promoting Change

  • Girls on the Run (GOTR): A positive youth development program which combines an interactive curriculum and running to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls.
  • Dove® Real Beauty Workshop for Girls: Building a movement in which women everywhere have the tools to
    take action and inspire each other and the girls in their lives. (Also watch http://youtu.be/iYhCn0jf46U – an eye-opening Dove® advertisement)
  • New York Times article “Weight Issues Around the World“: A look at how the issue of weight is perceived around the world.
  • MSNBC.com’s coverage of the ‘Girl Project’: Coverage of a project comparing weight issues of teenage girls today and stories of women from 30 years ago. [hint: there’s not much difference]