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July 31, 2012

Please join us in reading this week’s blog written by Jennifer Cruet, chairperson and founder, Women Recreating Retirement.

“The Times They Are –A-Changin” Bob Dylan wrote and sang in 1964.  Those of us growing up during that era were swept up in that sea of change.   Women finally had the same opportunities as men educationally, occupationally, and even athletically.  This revolutionary generation of women created history and fresh opportunities for themselves and women of the future.  The concept of the New Age Woman was born. That is who we were and are.

Many of us from that generation are now approaching or in full fledged retirement…hence the title of my blog, New Age Retirement For The New Age Woman.   Each time I submit my blog to Share Our Voices the title will remain the same.  There will be a subtitle with the blog’s current topic. This month’s topic addresses the reasons behind the blog’s conception and birth.  I previously had a false labor trying to get this blog going but this time it is here to stay.   I believe this blog is necessary, as are women’s retirement groups, to serve as resources for the newly retired baby boomer woman.

The new opportunities of the 60’s and 70’s were an abundant unprecedented buffet of delights for women of that era.  We wanted to indulge but often didn’t know where to start or how much or little to put upon our plates.   Some of our plates were filled to capacity while others contained smaller samplings.   We experimented with the options available to us and rejoiced in their vastness.   The table seemed never to be lacking with new choices and possibilities.

The 60’s and 70’s vast buffet of life’s opportunities and choices ultimately shaped who we are today.    Now…. VOILA!    At midlife we are faced with a new buffet!   This time the buffet is of retirement choices and possibilities unprecedented by previous generations of women.   This buffet does have more desserts than the one of the 60’s and 70’s because we now know who we are and what we want out of life.

Where and to whom do we look for guidance?   Our mothers were never faced with such a smorgasbord.   The men in our lives approach retirement from an entirely different perspective.  The information highway certainly can give us financial and technical advice.    But how do we fulfill our needs for camaraderie, community and enrichment?      Once again we are trailblazers.

Baby boomer women can now turn to each other.    Competitions of work and early lives are now behind us.  We are now on equal footing.   We can leave our egos at the door.   We have intellectual and spiritual resources, which served us occupationally, that we could now use to become more enriched and connected. We are able to service communities and those in need.  We can be as committed or as free as we want to be.    And we are not done having fun yet!

It is my hope that this blog will become a resource for the newly retired woman to   keep her plate full of delights that will enrich and fortify her life and the lives of others.

Carpe Diem,


The Not-So Sexy Side of Running

July 3, 2012

Please join us in reading this week’s post written by marathoner-in-training, Page Pelphrey.

Women around here are big into running.  I can’t drop my son off at preschool without at least one of us wearing workout clothes.  Then when it is time for pickup, everyone has that freshly showered and clean look.  That means they worked out and cleaned up while you were …hmm…what were you doing while your child was at preschool?

It’s a contest.

Are you wearing your workout clothes?  Is she wearing workout clothes? How many times did she wear them this week?  Did she workout more than I did?  She could just be wearing the clothes to trick us…that is not entirely impossible.

It gets worse. One woman suggested I was going to run a marathon in the fall for my 40th birthday.

I hit the roof.


Oops and my apologies to all my buddies already there.

For whatever the reason, wherever we are, we like to run.

I really don’t do anything else and nothing else feels like exercise to me-no Zumba, no yoga, no Pilates.  It’s a mental thing. I can clear my head while I am running. I can write a blog post.  I could write a comedy sketch all within a five or eight mile loop.

Speaking of comedy sketch- women may look beautiful after they are clean and primped from the run, but getting to that point isn’t always glamorous.

Just yesterday morning I did a fourteen mile run in preparation for the 26.2 in October.  Although I despise it when people ask me about the big 4-0, I’m not near the 2-1 anymore either.  I couldn’t just roll out of bed, put on running shoes and whip around town in less than two hours.  Screw the Barbies that can, but that’s another blog post.

First I had to find the sunscreen-no, I don’t tan and I don’t think I ever will. I’m going for the porcelain doll routine with the red hair.  Before I leave for a two and half hour run I have to make sure I am quite lathered up with the sports sunblock that won’t sweat off half way to the beach.

Step two is the bug spray.  Connecticut has to have more mosquitos than any other state or country I have lived in.  If the sunburn isn’t attractive enough, couple it with bug bites that have been scratched.  I spray the bug repellant on top of the sunscreen and then have to break up a wrestling match between the boys about who gets to spray for bugs next.

Lovely-now I’m smothered in sunblock and bug spray and breaking up a man fight and I haven’t left the house yet.

Do I dare go into details about chaffing balm and cotton on your toes so your nails don’t fall off?  No, I won’t go there today.

I have lived here so long that I know which streets are shadier than others and can just randomly show up at a friend’s house for water while she is packing to go on vacation. The routes are good.

I was about to walk the fourteenth mile, but then  Shane McGowan busts out on the shuffled play list with my  all-time favorite Pogues song about a man having to jump on a train to avoid being killed by the husband of a woman he…well, you get the idea.

What happens when I get home?

My sons tell me I look absolutely disgusting and won’t come near me.

Then I dump two trays of ice in the tub to soak my muscles.  That was actually kind of refreshing.

Too much excitement for you?

You have to start to ask yourself, why am I doing this?  Pick up and drop off at preschool is only twice a day for less than ten minutes-are the moms keeping that close a score?  (Yes, yes they are)

The original reason was I wanted to look like Nancy Botwin before the season premiere of Weeds, which was last night.

That didn’t happen.

It’s all about the endorphins, is… and the ideas I come up with as I go…and the bathing suit and sundress later.

But to do that, you have to use the bug spray and the sunscreen and accept the possible loss of toenails.

The things we do to be sexy…

The wrong in “right,” as learned in Havana, Cuba

June 26, 2012

Please join us in reading this week’s blog written by contributor Ana Rader, former WFL intern and a recent graduate of Dickinson College where she majored in Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies.

Three months ago, I was sitting on a school bus with sixteen peers, seven professors, and the school photographer.  I wasn’t sitting actually, not really.  You don’t just sit on bus when you’re in Havana, Cuba.  On our fourth day there, I was still hanging my head out the half-open window. I barely allowed myself to blink as we cruised alongside crowded public buses on main roads and won chicken fights with motorcycles in narrow alleyways.  Every person and dog, every market, sign, and sidewalk fascinated me as I was finally able to marry reality with the historical context I had been learning and writing about all year.

At first glance, vestiges of past decades, centuries even, define the landscape in Havana. Like the American cars from the 1950s- clunky, Easter egg-colored, smelling of diesel.  And the buildings- centuries old, crumbling reminders of Cuba’s colonialist past. Even the billboards look dated, with phrases like “Siempre en 26,” a reference to the start of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, printed in retro block letters.

Cuba? Can we even go there? You might be thinking.  Don’t they have a dictator or something?  Don’t they hate us?  That’s just what I wondered last semester when I received an e-mail about a sociology course that involved a ten-day trip to Havana.  At that point, I knew Cuba only as forbidden.  The chance to go there, I felt, might not come again**.

In perusing the Internet for more information about the country, I found that unfortunately, most information available online about Cuba is either adamantly against the socialist country, or unfailingly supportive of it.  It all reads like propaganda and left me with completely confused notions of what Cuba is like.  Are the people brainwashed, forced to work like robots for the government, kidnapped by secret police if they disobey?  Or, has socialism liberated the people in a way we can’t even conceive of— issues of racism, classism, and sexism virtually nonexistent in this egalitarian society?  In the months leading up to the trip, the more extreme articles I read, the more desperate I became to experience Cuba for myself.

Which brings me back to that time, three months ago.  I’m on a school bus in Havana, transfixed by the passing scenery, but having trouble putting my finger on just what is so fascinating.  I sacrifice precious sightseeing moments to page through my journal from the trip so far.  I think about all the times Esteban, our driver, welcomed random people onto our private bus because they were headed in the same direction as us. I think about the night a man sitting on his front step enjoying the Silvio Rodríguez concert in the street in front of us happily led me into his house so I could use his bathroom.  He apologized that it didn’t flush, and asked nothing in return.  I think about one of the women who spoke to our class, who said that in Cuba, “merit is found when you share that what you don’t have enough of.”

In that moment, with a beautiful camera hung around my neck, I realized that what is fascinating about Cuba is actually not the visuals.  What is fascinating is the alternative cultural narrative.  In the United States, our culture values individual success— letting the needs of others hold you back is seen as a weakness.  Cuban culture values community and solidarity— “individualism” is seen as a vice.  The two are diametrical opposites.

And yet, I’m not about to say that going to Cuba changed my life because I found the ideal way of existing.  Not at all. The Cuban system— and Cubans themselves—are flawed. My journal contains memories not just of Cuban generosity, but of being catcalled on the street, and of having the bracelet pulled off my wrist by a woman who offered to take our picture.

What I learned in Cuba that is remarkable, that forever altered my perspective, is that Cubans are normal.  They’re human. Some lie, some tell the truth. Some steal, some don’t.  Some are lazy, others determined.  They love, and they betray.  Understanding this reality, this humanness, made me realize more fully than I ever had before that there is no one right cultural narrative or philosophy, no one right way of existing in the world.  While our perspectives may differ from one another— not just between the United States and Cuba, but in any relationship—as humans we will never be diametrically opposed.  We are too dynamic, complex, and ever-changing to be the opposite of anything.

I am thankful to have had this realization as I begin life after college in a world that fiercely clings to dualities despite its exquisite pluralism.  While my outlook has changed over time, however, many others’ views have not.  The U.S. government, for example, still views Cuba’s socialist philosophy as inherently oppressive.  I hope that as more people from the United States are able to find themselves staring in disbelief out a bus window in Havana, they will recognize the need to set their cameras, and criticisms, down. One day soon, I hope we as a nation will embrace differences in perspective and, above all, acknowledge the humanness that binds us.  Upon arrival, the oldness of Havana’s sights is what seems most captivating about Cuba, but upon departure, the wisdom gained there is most worth taking home.

**A (very brief) note on U.S. – Cuba relations: The United States created an embargo against Cuba in 1960 after the Cuban Revolution.  Briefly, the embargo forbids the exchange of trade, travel, and assistance between the two countries.  Over the past 52 years, the United States has typically increased, not decreased, the intensity of such measures.  On January 14, 2011, the White House broke this trend when it announced that the United States was lifting certain travel restrictions, and that people in the United States could now go to Cuba on academic study tours. To learn more about U.S. -Cuba relations I suggest reading Chapter 5 in Isaac Saney’s book Cuba: A Revolution in Motion.


June 18, 2012

Please join us in reading this week’s post written by contributor Jennifer Greenwald, mother of three and founder of the New Haven County Chapter of the Holistic Moms Network.

When I was a kid, before the modern conveniences of iphones and ipads, when we made mixed tapes off the radio, and telephones had busy signals, if a close friend moved away, it was devastating. It was the end. Even if that friend moved just a town away, that was it.  All contact was gone, unless serious effort was made to write an actual letter, with pen and paper, which then had to be put into a real mailbox, which then could take a whole week for delivery, whereupon you had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for a response.  Then, under those conditions, you might stay in touch. Maybe.  Of course there was always the option of using the familial telephone hanging on a wall, but with busy tones and no answering machines there was a small window of opportunity when someone would actually answer it. Luckily, gone are the archaic days when communication was so cumbersome.  Thankfully, smoke signals have been replaced with some extraordinary technology.

So, when my dear friend broke the news to me she was moving 600 miles away, my heart began to sink; however, that somber feeling didn’t last long. I thought with all the nifty modes of communication these days, it will barely feel like she is gone. Really, she is just an email, a text, a phone call away … and I can “see” her on Facebook whenever I want or follow her activity on Pinterest.  Heck, we could even Skype if we want.  It would barely feel like she was gone. I kind of wondered if I would actually even miss her.  I mean, even when she lived 6 miles away, we regularly communicated through text or email or Facebook.  So in many ways, I thought, nothing was really changing.  I barely shed a tear the day the moving truck drove away.

It didn’t take long, maybe a week or so, when something happened.  I was driving in her neighborhood and I had the inclination to stop by. It stung a little when I realized I couldn’t.  I grabbed my phone and sent her a message telling her I missed her and that stinging feeling quickly passed. Well, at least for the moment. Soon enough, it happened again.  It was morning and as I was dressing my two-year old, he asked if Oliver could come over to play.  Since he doesn’t text or email or use Facebook or even talk on the phone yet, he didn’t have a way to connect with his missing friend.  I explained in my best two-year old vocabulary that Oliver wouldn’t be coming to play anytime soon. That he had moved away.  It hurt to acknowledge their move again.  It made the reality of their absence a little more real.  But I quickly remedied the situation by getting on Facebook and telling my friend the cute little conversation I shared with my son about missing them. Oh, the loveliness of technology, I thought, and I went about my day.

And then it happened again.  It was a beautiful spring evening, wine was being poured, kids were frolicking outside and that feeling of somberness and longing seeped in and tugged at my heart. As I sat with the feeling, I realized how much I simply missed my friend. I missed her in a way technology couldn’t cure.  Suddenly, I saw how a text or email or phone call can only reach so far and dig so deep.  LOL’s don’t come close to the genuine laugher shared together. Following her recipe boards on Pinterest can never replace the dinners prepared and enjoyed over rich conversation.  An email message or Facebook post suddenly felt so cold compared to the warmth that existed in our friendship.  And it was in that moment I realized that with all the amazing advances in how we communicate… no matter how connected we are through our phones and our personnel computers… nothing can replace the actual connection of sharing space and time together.  In this big world that has grown so small through technology, nothing can ever replace the human contact, the touch, a smile, a shared sigh, an understanding embrace or the genuine comfort that can only be felt by being in the presence of those we love.  Some things are simply irreplaceable.

The Benefits of Infant Massage

June 12, 2012

Please join us in reading this week’s post by our own Executive Director, Peggy Britt.

In a month my baby becomes a teenager! It is going to be a momentous milestone for both of us and we are already getting ready–by arguing over new boundaries and expectations, with my little girl explaining to me that I know nothing about anything, and all the typical teen-mom interplay. We are also cleaning out all the “little kid” toys from the basement to make it a more teen appropriate play space (excuse me, “hang out”). This process has given rise to many nostalgic moments as we remember the toys and games of childhood together.

At the same time, there are more and more babies at Women & Family Life Center due to our new pre/post natal programs. I love seeing the moms and babies arrive and compare where I am now as a mother to where I was 13 years ago. I remember the wonder and joy, exhaustion, and angst at having to share my baby as she got passed around at family gatherings and parties. I also recall my worry for her safety as my older children treated her as their real-life doll.

At the same time, I remember the isolation of being home alone all day with this little miracle. As soon as I felt ready, I signed up for every baby/mom class I could find.

Without a doubt the best one I took was an infant massage class. I took it for fun and I had heard the instructor was great. I had no idea it was going to forever deepen my relationship with my daughter. I got to know which strokes she liked and which she didn’t and found new ways to communicate with her and understand her needs. I learned simple techniques that helped her relax so she could sleep more soundly at night and others that helped alleviate gas and stomach upset.

To this day, my daughter and I enjoy a physical closeness at a time when most kids don’t want to be seen with a parent. We enjoy walking arm in arm together (in public yes!). We swap shoulder rubs on a regular basis.  And on occasion, she still asks me to rub her belly in that way only I know how to do to make her upsets go away.

I’m no fool, I know we are still early in the teen transition and this may all go away too. But, I thank infant massage for getting us this far!

For more information, about Women & Family Life Center’s infant massage classes or other baby programs, contact us at (203) 458-6699 or  

Call me an Attachment Parent (who knew!)

June 4, 2012

Please join us in reading this week’s blog written by Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC and Director, Cradlehold Breastfeeding Education & Support.

Thank you, Time Magazine!

While most of the country is aghast at the picture of a beautiful young mother breastfeeding her 3 year old on the recent cover of Time magazine, I am sitting back and smiling.

I am a wife, the mother of 5 (28 down to 7.) I also work outside the home. And now I guess I can add Attachment Parent to describe me. Let’s break down just want Attachment Parenting means.

Attachment parenting (“AP”) helps you develop your own personal parenting style.

AP is an approach, rather than a strict set of rules. It’s actually the style that many parents use instinctively. Parenting is too individual and baby too complex for there to be only one way. There are 7 attachment tools:

1) Birth Bonding – skin to skin at birth promotes bonding and early breastfeeding. After all, who doesn’t want to hold their babies at birth after their long anticipated arrival and hard work to bring them into the world. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my babies to check for all of their fingers and toes and to nurse them for the first time. Pure joy!

2) Breastfeeding (which by way is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for as long as mutually agreeable) – compared to childhood obesity, asthma, allergies, a diet of cow’s milk formula/soy formula, processed foods, is giving breastmilk to a toddler worse? That’s just silly because of course we know it’s better. Power to the mamas that continue to breastfeed or pump past the first year. My children went to daycare. I provided them with protection from germs and loved reconnecting with them with our nursing time.

3) Babywearing – can be done by a care-giver or after work hours which is useful when trying to multi-task. I went to a great workshop with Bean Tree Baby, women that are experts at baby wearing. But with or without a “carrier”, I always had a baby on my hip or in my arms or hanging on a leg. I guess that qualifies as baby wearing!

4) Co-sleeping (which can be done near bed not in bed) – first we had a cradle near the bed and then a co-sleeper. I just loved not having to get out of bed for those nighttime feeds but to just lean over to scoop up my baby. I was close enough to pat his back or rock him to sleep or just listen to his breathing.

5) Belief in the Language Value of your Baby’s Cry – every cry is telling you something different. I’m wet. I’m hungry. I miss you. Babies are not manipulative. I don’t give them that much credit when they are newborns. Manipulation is a learned behavior. Crying from a newborn is an instinct to alert you that they need you.

6) Beware of Baby Trainers – that should be self-explanatory.

7) Balance – Wife – mother of many children – nurse- employee – without balance their would be chaos.

Dr. Sears provides these “tools” to support healthy parenting styles — I used each one of these tools at one time or the other. I don’t consider myself extreme anything. I love my children but children take time and work and planning. These are tools to help parents manage through their busy days, get some sleep and feel close to their babies. When you break it down and leave out the sensationalized photo, it will probably sound a lot like your life too.

Thank you again, Time Magazine, for opening the discussion about breastfeeding and parenting styles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) goals for breastfeeding are 75% exclusively breastfeeding at discharge from the hospital, 50% at 6 months and 25% at one year and beyond. With Connecticut falling short on these goals, mothers coming forward to proudly say that they continued breastfeeding long after what we consider a social norm will support other mothers to do the same.


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