Issue #37, December 2014

Welcome to the December 2014 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.


 It is now winter for all our readers in the Northern Hemisphere, but of course that means it is the beginning of summer for the ones in the south. As I write this, it is getting a tad chilly around our little Devon cottage so I decided to feature a warm and sunny picture at the top of the page.
It is a photo we took back in October in the beautiful north-east corner of Sardinia and looking at it again makes me want to feel that warm sand on the soles of my feet again. I'll have to wait till next year for that, now. But meanwhile I can enjoy looking back over the pictures of our latest jaunt around Italy, this time with some other family members in tow--see:
Right now, like the bears and the squirrels and the hedgehogs, we are settling in for the winter and making lists of the various projects we want to get on with when it is too cold and/or wet to work outside. Though I must confess that at this time of year, as the sap falls and my energy falls with it, I find myself envying those bears their ability to sleep right through till springtime. Unlike my daughter, who gets ecstatic every time the snow falls, I am definitely not a cold weather person!
I welcome all those new readers who have joined us since the last newsletter and I hope you will find this one full of interest. And by the way (I think everyone knows this but just in case there is anyone who doesn't) all the back issues of the Elderwoman Newsletter are archived online at in case you ever want to browse through them. Speaking of which: I just realized that I forgot to add the June 2014 one to that list  -
oh dear, yet another senior moment!! - so I have now done that.

Love and blessings to all,



Between Good and Enough 

by Kathleen Martin


In those years when I was rushing headlong from one moment to the next, from getting one thing done to doing the next undone thing, I bypassed everything between those moments. I didn’t even realize that there was a between.  I was so busy tying up loose ends that I had no appreciation for their looseness or that maybe they weren’t ends at all.  I’m now beginning to recognize that there is a between and that loose ends might be better left loose.  I like to think about between as that space to the right of good and to the left of enough, a place where there is always room.  It’s that place I never want filled because I want to experience it again and again.  It’s that place where I want to leave loose ends because I so enjoy the tying up process.  Gardening is such a place for me.

I can never get enough of gardening.  For me it’s an ornamental art that is forever inviting me to invest my decorative inclinations.  I even cultivate weeds, managing and maintaining space for what I deem desirable weeds from the invasion of undesirables.  I don’t always plan my gardening; I get unintentionally sucked into its inexorable pull.  I’ll simply walk outside with my coffee to enjoy the morning air and, before I know it, I’m pulling unwanted weeds or deadheading dying blooms.  My coffee grows cold and unattended despite my craving for caffeine; my addiction to gardening is stronger.

Whenever I step back from one of my immersions in gardening, I find myself sighing deeply and with satisfaction.  I have that good enough feel and want more of it.  Gardening always obliges with its many loose ends—weeds and bugs and fertilizer; aerating, mulching, and composting; harvesting one crop and replanting the next.  I’ve tried organic gardening, straw bale gardening, and keyhole gardening.  I’ve planted annuals and perennials and hybrids.  I’ve pinched back stems to promote branching, pruned away dead wood to allow new growth, and propagated cuttings.  And always there is more to do and more to learn.  With gardening I am guaranteed lots of opportunities for that good enough feel.  There’s always one more good enough between good and enough. 

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More Thoughts on Electronic Communication

My article in the last newsletter about electronic communication ('I Post, Therefore I Am') attracted several letters from readers. One reader, Jenny Jones, sent me her own article, explaining her mixed feelings on the subject, with particular reference to social networks.  Here is what Jenny had to say...

I would agree that the ease with which we can now communicate with one another using technology is wonderful, and it’s particularly good for enabling families to keep in close touch even when they may be thousands of miles apart. In fact, using technology for this purpose with those you are close to, those you can trust, is a modern miracle. It’s particularly important for grandparents whose children have moved to another county, state or country. Children grow and develop so quickly and grandparents can feel part of their development and their lives if they speak to them regularly using Skype or another medium where they can actually have visual contact. 

The world is made up of many different types of people who are all at different stages of development in their lives and in the greater journey of their souls. Some of the joys we find in communication are the different connections we make during our interactions. We use so many skills when we are in contact with one another and many of these are essential to give us the security of knowing that what someone else perceives from our contact is as close as it can be to what we, as communicators, are putting across. 

In face-to-face communication, most of us pay attention to facial expressions. When someone is being ironic, we often pick this up through facial expressions. When someone is trying to suppress their emotions, we can see that emotion in their eyes. A person who is finding joy or humour in their contact with us has an expression that is pure happiness – it radiates from their whole face. When someone is uncomfortable with us for whatever reason, they tend not to make eye contact or have a permanent scowl on their face. These, and many more facial expressions, act as our cues for how we respond or react to others. 

 Body language is also a factor in our communication efforts, and this can often be more obvious to us than we think, working at a deeper, subliminal level. The way someone shrugs their shoulders or tilts their head can give us an indication of whether or not they are resonating with what we are saying. When someone leans forward it is often a signal that they want to know more. If they start to fidget, cross their arms, or cross their legs, it can be an indication that they either disagree or have no interest in what we’re saying. 

The tone of voice someone uses when responding to us is very important in giving us clues as to how they may feel about something we’ve said. All of us have probably been in the situation where someone is saying one thing but their intonation tells a different story. 

All of these indicators are vital in clear and meaningful communication and some or all of them are absent from many electronic communications. Many people would not say things to someone’s face in the same way as they might in an email – they might not even say them at all in person because they know it might upset, anger or disappoint, and would possibly create an embarrassing or confrontational situation.

I have come across quite a large number of youngsters, both inside and outside of my healing room, who have been seriously distressed by statements made about them on social networking sites and by text and email messages they have received, sometimes in the form of serial bullying. There is little anyone can do or say to make them feel better because they know that once the information is on a website of whatever type – and usually it’s embellished negatively or it is completely untrue – they know it will be there forever and can be used in many different ways, having the potential for further feelings of shame that attention has been drawn to them in such a negative way. 

For many people, the concept of ‘friendship’ has changed when it takes place on social networking sites. People vie with one another for how many ‘friends’ they can have on their page, but these are mainly people who barely know them and could care less about their lives. It is just an artificial yardstick for how popular a person you are, with no validity whatsoever – and whilst most people understand this, it is still of enormous importance to a large number of others. 

In the world of most teenagers, anything to do with social networking, texting or emailing often becomes a significant part of the fabric of their lives, so that if it does go wrong for any reason it feels like the end of the world. We all know how important certain things were to us when we were teenagers and how, with hindsight, we realise how trivial they were. But at the time this was our whole world and being accepted by, belonging to, a group of friends was vital to us in so many ways.

Many teenagers don’t have the experience and knowledge of life to be able to discriminate between those ‘friends’ who will be loyal to them and those who will deeply upset them on social networking sites. And they have none of the clues of facial expression, body language and voice intonation to help them. These clues are all part of learning how to interact with others in a meaningful, successful – and dare I say it – loving way. Those teenagers – and even those who are in their thirties – that I have come into contact with face-to-face who have had to endure insensitive treatment on social networking sites, often by those they trusted, have found it very difficult to trust again, either electronically or in person. I find this very sad.

 I would emphasize that I’m not a Luddite where electronic communication is concerned. I use email extensively but not social networking sites.   I know that electronic communicationsare vital in social and business arenas, and I have enormous admiration for the talent and inventiveness of those who have created these media. But when I see a family of perhaps five people sitting around a table in a restaurant all totally absorbed in their particular electronic gadget, not interacting with one another only with the gadgets, and when I see mothers too absorbed in their mobile phones to talk to or keep an eye on their children, I know the balance has been distorted. I mourn the loss of sensitivity to others by many using these media and hold the strong hope that we will reach a better balance overall as time goes on; a time when we understand we have to be actively aware and wary of the pitfalls of electronic communication. 

Jenny Jones 

Another reader, Ginny Braun, wrote...

I am quite involved with Facebook and have been for several years. I got on it reluctantly to stay in touch with a wandering teen granddaughter, but have found it very enriching for many other reasons. I have connected with high school classmates, some of whom I barely knew when we were in school together in another state. We are all 70 or 71 now and the things that separated us are unimportant now, at least to me.

It is also very useful to me as a La Leche League Leader of only a few years. At the urging of my daughters, I became a Leader to help a Group in a nearby suburb. I was retiring from social work and this adventure fit nicely into my life.One of my daughters and I co-Lead the Group (breastfeeding/mothering info & support in case you're not familiar with it). I am constantly working to keep up on what's new in this field and to reach out to mothers who have questions and challenges with their little ones. I am on several sites where mothers trade ideas. It is a daily learning experience for me, and I am also able to sometimes be helpful. 

I find that texting and occasional e-mailing are the best ways to reach my daughters and older grandchildren, though one daughter often calls me late at night on her way home from her hospital shift ( she's an attending physician). I have 4 daughters, 17 grandchildren ages 6-30, and one great-grandchild who's 3. Four years ago, after my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we moved to a senior apartment near all of them so we can be more involved in their lives.

Ginny Braun

It has been great to hear other people's thoughts on this subject. Thank you, Jenny and Ginny! As for me, my motto, when it comes to social networks, is 'horses for courses.' Facebook is useful for (a) promoting my books and the 'good causes' that are important to me, (b) keeping track of what is happening in the daily lives of a wide network of friends and relations around the world, and (c) getting a sense of what is going on in the popular culture - especially as we don't watch TV. But if I want some in-depth interaction with like-minded people I go to one of the lesser-known or 'members only' networks those people hang out on. And if I want to talk with other elderwomen, well...asyou all know, that's why I started Elderwomanspace. It's a warm, lovely, lively place to go.

Losing the Knack: old age and multitasking


Multitasking—defined by the dictionary as the performance of multiple tasks at one timeis something I used to believe I was very good at. I prided myself on it, in fact. And back in those years when I was working in a busy health and welfare agency with lots of things happening at the same time and never enough hours in the day, it was useful to be able to do several things simultaneously. Like for instance writing up file notes from the last interview while talking on the phone about something unrelated.

 In the home, of course, there are even more situations where the ability to multitask is necessary—even essential. Anyone who has ever worked single-handedly to prepare a complex meal for half a dozen people and have everything ready for serving at the exact right time can vouch for this. A young mother sweeping up crumbs, stirring a pan of soup, and keeping an eye on a toddler—and all the while chatting to a friend—can vouch for it too. 

As this article suggests, multitasking is probably something born in humans out of  evolutionary necessity. And I have always subscribed to the notion that women are even better at it than men, although this other article says that science has now cast some doubts on that. 

But what I have been noticing about myself lately is that now, at 78, I seem to be fast losing the ability to do more than one thing at a time. That even includes the ability to do some straightforward physical task while thinking about something else. Take yesterday, for example. After picking some greens from the garden and washing them, I placed a pan of water on the bench and placed the steamer next it. And then, in the fraction of a second it took my mind to get captured by some unrelated thought, I picked up a handful of greens and dropped them into the water instead of the steamer.

 So is there, I wondered, any documented connection between getting old and losing this multitasking faculty? As usual, a quick search on Google and the answer was there. Yes, there is a correlation. Not because we are losing our memories but because in fact we never could really do more than one thing at once; we simply thought we could. The word 'multitasking' actually comes from computer science. A computer can appear to perform several functions in the same time frame because it is actually switching so rapidly from one to another and back again that we don't realize that is what it is doing. Likewise with our brains. What really happens when we perform two tasks together is that our brains switch our attention back and forth between them so fast that they fool us into thinking we are doing them simultaneously. The only reason it changes when we get older is that our switching mechanism gets less efficient. Here is an article that explains the science behind it. 

So is this bad news? Well I thought it was, at first. But then I suddenly realized that this change in my brain is really a highly significant developmental marker. It brings an important message. What it is signalling to me, in the most clear and obvious way possible, is that if I haven't already learned to practise mindfulness it is now imperative that I do so. For it is only by staying in the present moment, being fully there and present with whatever I am doing, whether it is writing a letter or simply chopping carrots, that I can finally make that crossing from a life of 'doing' to a life of 'being.' This is, of course, the Stage 8 ('late elderhood') that Bill Plotkin described in his marvellous book Nature and the Human Soul. It is our soul's relocation from the 'Grove of Elders' into the 'Mountain Cave.' You may remember that I wrote about this in some detail in one of these newsletters three years ago. (Here's a link to that piece: ) 

So if and when you find your ability to multitask starting to diminish, take heed. It may feel like a loss, but if you can see it as an invitation to deepen into the practice of mindfulness then suddenly it might feel less like a loss and more like a spiritual signpost, guiding you along the path.

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...And so say all of us!!


Congratulations, Elaine!

Massachusetts author Elaine Frankonis, who has been a reader of this newsletter since 2007, has finally filled the only item on her bucket list. Elaine is proud to announce the publication, in January 2015, of her first ever poetry chapbook. She has called it What the Seasons Leave.
“The poems in this chapbook,” she explains, “become a brief episodic memoir of an ordinary life lived with a sense of personal myth and magic." 

A “chapbook” is a small collection of poetry centered around a specific theme and published in a limited edition.  What the Seasons Leave begins with the metaphor of a compost pile and ends with the image of: 

...spears of brazen Jerusalem artichoke,
that perplexing garden gypsy
that blossoms and burrows,
grows up to nine feet tall, and
in the harsh summer storm
dances her defiance
to the grim arrogance
of gravity.
Over the past 50 years, Elaine has had her poetry published in a variety of small presses and online journals (some of which no longer exist). Earlier versions of several of the poems in this chapbook have previous appeared in The Berkshire Review, the Ballard Street Poetry Journal, and Mused: the BellaOnline Literary Journal.  In 1998, several of her pieces appeared in the anthology Which Lilith:  Feminist Writers Recreate the World's First Woman. 

You may also know Elaine from her blog, which was one of the early blogs by women to appear on the Internet .

Copies of What the Seasons Leave can be pre-ordered online at  Click on “preorder forthcoming titles.”  It can also be ordered directly from the publisher.  Send a check or money order in the amount of $15.58 (includes $2.99 shipping), to: 
Finishing Line Press,  Post Office Box 1626, 
Georgetown, KY 49324. 

...and another of our readers, Alice Theriault, has just published a book she would like to tell us about.  Alice writesI would like to tell you about my newly published book entitled, 'Take Hold of Heaven, Thirteen Spiritual Truths for Parents and Children,' self-published by Balboa Press. It is not about religion but about spirituality, the common thread among all of us so easily overlooked. It is a wake-up call for the great potential and connection amongst us all---our source of being, abounding everywhere and in everyone. I hope you will take a look on or Barnes & Noble online.

Click on the banner above to go to Alice's website and read some more about her and her book 

A Passionate Woman Speaks Out  

"How to Live Passionately, No Matter Your Age"

A TED talk by popular novelist Isabelle Allende

Click HERE to view it


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Wisdom of the Crone

Lani and Melinda from Wise Woman Ink write…

Greetings One and All!

It's amazing to imagine that the Wisdom of the Crone, daily wisdom card deck is turning 10!! So in her honor we are releasing the Wisdom of the Crone 10th Anniversary Limited Edition! We have added new cards and brought the deck up to her full potential.

For this edition we have gone back to the original price of $19.99, this is a run of only 1000, and so far the pre-orders keep flowing in!

Wisdom of the Crone can be ordered by emailing us at, Thank you so much for all your support and love over the last 10 years! Here's to many many more!

"When you seek the truth, ask the wise woman within."

Lani & Melinda
Wise Women Ink
POB 1450
Mt Shasta, California 96067


Crones Counsel

Lastly, for those of you who may have thought of going to a Crones Counsel gathering and wondered what it might be like, there is now a very full description of this year's gathering, along with dozens and dozens of photos, here. (If I was not limiting my flying in order to save carbon, I would have been there too, for sure, hanging out with those beautiful red rocks and beautiful crones.)

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                    Interpreting Signs


The pluckÚd eyebrows still grow back; 

A secret symptom only we,

The caged in age, perceive.

We watch and seldom grieve.

We know our bodies

Singular- collectively;

We see what’s stopped,

What’s slowed, what’s new;

We know what we inhabit but,

We feel what we have always been.

We know how to interpret.

Arlene Corwin

Contributions for this newsletter are eagerly sought. Please send in your writings, your thoughts, your poetry, a book or website you have found, an announcement or news item that you think would be interesting to others, a comment on one of these articles, a subject you'd like to see, an anecdote, something that moved you - whatever snippet you want to share.  Don't be shy. You do NOT have to be a professional writer, artist or photographer to send pictures or pieces of your writing to this newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you.


The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, December, 2014
The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at) 
NB: replace 'at' with the @ sign, and please remember to insert OKEM in the
 subject line to make sure you get through my three layers of spam filtering!

Unfortunately, the filters are a necessity to stop my in-box flooding with spam.
 - oh and when you write to me, please remember that my name is spelt MARIAN with an 'A' (the same as Robin Hood's girlfriend) 

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