Issue #34, May 2013

Welcome to the May 2013 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.


It is already May and this is the first newsletter I've had time to prepare since last year. In the old days I would probably have felt guilty about that, but it eventually dawned on me that practically all of the things I do these days are things I do because I want to and the agendas I have are mostly set by me so I am not actually answerable to anybody. 

I have at last reached that happy stage of my life where I am no longer bound by anyone else's schedules or expectations. And that is a good feeling. About time too, with my 77th birthday now looming, that I finally got the message! It's interesting though, isn't it, how many of our habits are formed by all those decades of our lives—at least six for most of us and even more for those who still have others they need to care for on a daily basis—when we are governed by other people's needs and requirements. Little wonder, really, that when we finally emerge from all those obligations we have a hard time getting used to the freedom and autonomy of it.

We've had family visiting from overseas too, and that has been wonderful. Showing the grandchildren the sights of London has been such fun for all of us, not to mention what a wonderful thing it has been for their education.

Here in our rural corner of England Spring is well and truly happening, with flowers everywhere, birds singing and the trees all leafing out beautifully. Mind you, the weather forecasters are predicting another washout summer for us—which will be the third in a row. I sincerely hope they are wrong. But even if they are not, we shall be heading towards the Mediterranean later in the year for some guaranteed warmth and sunshine. Meanwhile, wherever you are in the world and wherever the weather I send you blessings and good wishes and all good things for the rest of 2013.


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From survival to rediscovery, unfurling and blossoming

 by Mary Lunnen

This is a special time of year for me as on 12 May I was called into my doctor's surgery to be told I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. That was nineteen years ago and was the start of a journey of personal growth for me, and the anniversary is now a time of celebration. Every year I renew my commitment to living each day to the full.

Over the last few years I have been rediscovering my own inner wisdom, and beginning to trust it again. I’ve been reading many inspirational books, and – at last – realising that those authors are messengers sent to enable me to rediscover my own message, to sing my own song if you like. I am happily in my sixties now, and I like the sound and feel of that. This image I took this week in my garden, of our tree fern’s new fronds unfurling,  conveys for me a feeling of gentle expansion and growing into the real me.

Another image I have found inspiring, also my garden, taken last summer. The Morning Glory plant produces new flowers each day: every day the new buds open and share their inner glory with the world.

When I saw the photograph on screen I was struck by the internal light that appears to be shining from the centre of this flower. What an inspiring metaphor for starting each day afresh, living in the moment and daring to blossom, sharing our light. 


All the work I do is about personal growth and spiritual awareness (my own and others’): each of us, everyone, is already perfect. We can grow as we become aware that each of us has that seed within, like the Morning Glory. A seed has everything within it to develop into the full glory of the plant, just needing the right conditions and nurturing. 

'Growth' does not mean that I need to be more than I am, or do more or have more. Growth is becoming the fullest and most glorious expression of who we are, living in our full glory. Awareness helps us to see and to live in this knowledge, day by day. 

My personal journey of rediscovery is growing into something that I am offering to others in the form of my writing, one to one coaching and the Dare to Blossom Rediscovery Cards. If this interests you, I am posting a weekly reflection on my blog about how using these cards is helping me along my way. 

To finish, a poem that has inspired me immensely is this from John O’Donohue:

To Come Home To Yourself

May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released.
May your fears yield
their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.

~ John O’Donohue              

May you rediscover all that is unlived in you and blossom into the future.

 Thank you to all Elderwoman friends who are sharing the journey. Please feel free to contact me through my website at or visit my blog at

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 Bone Density—What's the Truth?

by Marian Van Eyk McCain 

Like so many other women of my era, I was thoroughly convinced by the supposedly definitive argument by the medical profession that osteoporosis was an ever-increasing threat to a woman's health and wellbeing as she grew older. And like many other writers on women's health issues, I even included this in my writing, along with what I thought was good advice about the importance of calcium supplements for post-menopausal women. 

For quite a few years, following my own advice and the conventional wisdom of my day, I took high daily doses of calcium supplements, confident that I was protecting my bones and my general health by doing so. 

Several years ago, however, I became concerned that by taking so much calcium I might actually be upsetting the all-important mineral balance in my body and I started to cut down the dosage. Not long after that, I began to see references here and there to a completely different theory about bone density—i.e. the theory that we are not really 'designed' to maintain a high bone density to the end of our lives and that in fact taking all that calcium—especially in the form of calcium carbonate—might actually be doing us more harm than good. 

I had been taking my calcium in a more expensive, bio-available form, but nevertheless I stopped taking it altogether after I read this latest article 

So whose advice to follow? As a lay person rather than a scientist, all I can do is listen to all the arguments, read the research reports and try to make up my own mind about what is best for me. And for me, a great part of that is trusting my intuition and, ultimately, trusting that Nature itself is the ultimate source of wisdom when it comes to anything to do with my body. That stood me in good stead, after all, when it came to having pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and parenting. 'Doing what comes naturally' always felt to me like the right way—and it still does. I truly believe that as a primate species we have far more animal wisdom available to us than we ever realized. So I need to tune into that when it comes to the health issues of old age. 

Interestingly, when I first started going to an Ayurvedic medical practitioner and was given the list of foods that were said to be particularly good for my physiological 'type' I was delighted to discovered that they 'just happened' to be all my favourite things. Funny, that!! But it helped to prove to me that my natural instincts were something I could—and should—trust. 

Of course there is the argument that Nature didn't 'design' us to live to the ages we are living now. Maybe, just as we need reading glasses and dental crowns and hearing aids we also need 'artificial' ways of staying healthy in advanced old age. It is tricky, trying to figure out what is best. 

However, the above article convinced me. I have decided not to resume taking calcium supplements routinely. But I am no longer willing to advise anyone else on this point and I only wish I had not so blithely done so in my books and articles. My only excuse is that I was echoing what all the highly-qualified 'experts' of that time appeared to agree on. 

Ultimately, though, advice is only ever someone's opinion. Each of us has to figure out her own responses to this bone density argument and make her own decisions. It is your body, after all.


The Old German Shepherd:
A story with a moral

(thanks, Pam for this one)

An old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that she's lost. Wandering about, she notices a panther heading rapidly in her direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, "Oh, oh! I'm in trouble now!"

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, she immediately settles down to chew on the bones with her back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly, "Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more around here?"

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. "Whew!," says the panther, "That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!"

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, "Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine!"

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, "What am I going to do now?," but instead of running, the dog sits down with her back to her attackers, pretending she hasn't seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says, "Where's that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!"

Moral of this story:

1. Don't mess with the old dogs. 

2. Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery

3. Bullshit and brilliance only come with age and experience.

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 Joseph Atkins, who is webmaster for a senior dating site recently sent me a useful list he has compiled of what he calls  the  Top 100 Blogs On Senior Rights, Elder Law, And Anti-Ageism

I haven't had time to look through all of these myself yet, but at a glance it looks as though the law-related sites, at least, are specific only to US law though the anti-ageism ones, at least, will surely have universal relevance.

What's Wrong with Aging? Some wise and poignant words from Thomas Armstrong (thanks, Emily Kimball for alerting me to this lovely little piece of writing)

A sweet elder love story from the NY Times

As always, there are some really interesting short articles in the latest 'Positive Aging Newsletter' from the Taos Institute. Click here to read it.

Those of you who read Ronni Bennett's Time Goes By which is probably more than half of you, will have already seen this but thanks, Ronni for alerting us to this great article by Laurie Lewis:
 I'm a sexually liberated woman, finally - at age 80 

If you missed it on Ronni's blog, be sure and read it here-it's lovely.

And here is a truly awesome video that took my breath away...

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.


Two poems by Nancy Coker (thank you, Nancy!)


Is this it?

Is this all the cycle?

Tempers, time, tweezers,

Touchy, toothless, tubby


Yesterday was fine.

Day before was pretty good.

What happened?

It seems I missed a beat.


I missed the boat…

I know it.

Good thing another one leaves tomorrow.

Nancy, a wonderfully feisty elder, currently living in a hogan on a Navajo reservation in NM, describes herself as "a crone of some knowledge and interest" who finds power in not being too conventional. She is—and always has been—a passionate worker for many causes but finds time to grow things in her spare time. Pictured above is the outhouse which has painted to match the hogan. She says "I call it my fecund potting shed! Inside has tiny potting table, pots, tools and an array of seeds."

All My Selves

Loving all My Selves

Sorting out names known

By talents, gifts, or by

Job descriptions:

Gardener, janitor, cook

Finding the new names

In attributes, characteristics

Loyal, trusting, loving, courageous

Ghosts too familiar

Letting go of grudge memories

Intention of shameful vignettes

Reruns of old regrets

Discovery of new old selves

Finding goodness instead

Abashment at abasement

Learning Generosity, Mercy, Forgiving

Of all the selves deeply

Ascertaining the view

From different shoes

Different points of stand

Permanent pardon of perspective

Replenish the voids

With love and absolution

Replace events with acquit-ment

Re searching

Re examination

Re focus

So difficult

So shame full

So un forgiving

SO full of self unhappiness


Turn the joy inward

Find happiness in service

Capture the goodness

Fill the heart as it empties

With pleasure and delight

Own love in every cell, atom

All my selves!

...and here's a wonderful poem by Laurie Lewis that I found on the internet called 'Late Bloomer'

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A 65 year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.

While on the operating table she had a near death experience. Seeing God she asked "Is my time up?"

God said, "No, you have another 33 years, 2 months and 8 days to live."

Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck.

She even had someone come in and change her hair color and brighten her teeth! Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance.

Arriving in front of God, she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 33 years? Why didn't you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?"

God replied: "Shit! I didn't recognize you."

There were five houses of religion in a small town:

The Presbyterian Church,
The Baptist Church ,
The Methodist Church ,
The Catholic Church and
The Jewish Synagogue.

Each church and Synagogue was overrun with pesky squirrels.

One day, the Presbyterian Church called a meeting to decide what to do about the squirrels. After much prayer and consideration they determined that the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn't interfere with God's divine will.

In The Baptist Church the squirrels had taken up habitation in the baptistery. The deacons met and decided to put a cover on the baptistery and drown the squirrels in it. The squirrels escaped somehow and there were twice as many there the next week

The Methodist Church got together and decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God's creation. So, they humanely trapped the Squirrels and set them free a few miles outside of town. Three days later, the squirrels were back.

But -- The Catholic Church came up with quite an effective solution. They baptized the squirrels and registered them as members of the church.
Now they only see them on Christmas , Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter.

Not much was heard about the Jewish Synagogue, but they took one squirrel and had a short service with him called circumcision and they haven't seen a squirrel on the property since.

... Oh and by the way, while we are on the subject of squirrels: for all who appreciate the outdoors, here's a picture of the rarely photographed South Florida Squirrel.



The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, May 2013
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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