Turning Fifty-ish: Surefire Way for Thriving and Living Well

Fiftyish is a quarterly perspective on health, wellness, beauty and graceful living.

The acceptance of aging is a process that had to mentally unfold before I began to appreciate wellness, health, fitness and anti-aging products.  I’ve maintained good health, always enjoyed clear skin – nary a pimple as a teen or young adult — and my 105-pound young adult and post-pregnancy self really believed I would be Olive Oyl skinny my entire life.

All lies, I say!!!! 

“Age is just a number, and agelessness means not buying into the idea that a number determines everything from your state of health to your attractiveness to your value.” 

― Christiane Northrup, Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being

My Body is Broken

My brain says I’m 33 but that morning backache and knee pain suggests more my real age of 53.  While internally I feel youthful exuberance, and gratefully, my God-blessed melanin keeps me wrinkle-free, my physical reality is that my body has aged, and it is broken with weight gain, high blood pressure, aches/pains, skin hyperpigmentation, and other effects of menopause.

Okay, “broken” is a stretch…but I have come to terms that my body needs regimented self-care, self-love and some healing during this naturally-progressing stage of my life’s journey.

Pioneering women’s author, health and wellness expert, and board-certified ob-gyn Christiane Northrup, M.D., wrote in her New York Times best-selling book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing, that “the secret to thriving is the knowledge that we are never simply victims of our bodies. It’s very reassuring to know that we all have within us the ability to heal from anything and go on to live joy-filled lives.” 

Me on my 53rd birthday sans makeup.

We cannot stop aging or turn back the clock, so the goal for us fifty-ish age women should be looking and feeling good no matter what age we are.  Northrup has widely used terms such as “gracefully aging” and “ageless” beauty to describe an overall mindset for women to embrace and own their body’s changes, and she has written extensively in books and on her blog about the subject.

These are themes that have also become more commonplace in my friend groups and amongst peers as we embrace graceful aging and laugh about being the old ladies in the room. However, we don’t sit idly by as if we have no say in the matter.  My belief is that if there is breath in our bodies and we can move, we can – no we MUST — adapt and modify our lifestyles to embrace and love our matured, beautiful selves with intentional focus and some lifestyle, dietary and skincare changes.  Oh yes, and some inspiration and motivation, too.

Finding Inspiration

My fitness inspiration comes from my Goddaughter’s mom and friend, Lorna. For pretty much the 15 years I’ve known her, she has always gone to the gym. And in the last five years, she considered training for a fitness competition.  I didn’t think she was serious because at that time, she was married with four kids, worked full time, active in church ministry, working on a master’s degree, started a storefront retail cake bakery, got a divorce, then later earned a doctorate. 


Dr. Lorna, 51, a natural body pro fitness competitor.

But in the past several years, each time I saw Lorna, I exclaimed “girl, look at your arms and legs.” She was transforming right before my eyes.  And then last year, I attended one of her first natural body fitness competitions, and I was in awe and shock (in a good way) about the whole experience and what I saw.  She was 51 but looked 25.

It also gave me pause to really think about my priorities and why I could not commit to ANY type of fitness routine for the betterment of my health and overall wellness. I do want to be healthy and keep my blood pressure in check, feel good about myself, and look comfortable and toned in my clothes. I recognize that stress, mindless eating, and bad habits took over as life happened, but it’s never too late to regain control and make conscious, healthy lifestyle choices.

Yes, I got all of that from attending one of Lorna’s competitions. Here’s her story:

From Step Class to Fitness Pro

Lorna S. Deshay, Ph.D., (Mom, Marketing Expert, Cake Decorator, and Pro Fitness Competitor)

When did you begin your fitness journey?

Dr. Lorna, July 2018

I began working out in 1998 in a step class that was offered at a Rehabilitation Medical Center. In 1999 I began working out at Australian Body Works who later was bought out by LA Fitness. I have been working out consistently since 1999. At times I would work out two times a day, five days a week. My current regimen is working out one time a day, six days a week.

What was your initial motivation for beginning a workout regimen?

My initial motivation in 1998 was just to do something during my lunch hour. Who knew that the lunch time filler would be become an activity that I became so passionate about. I began to enjoy working out and didn’t feel complete if I missed a day or two.

How did that morph into fitness competition? 

As I was working out at the gym, you begin to see the same people all the time. Especially if you are consistent with the times that you may go. There was a guy who asked me if I “competed.” I know I looked at him side eyed because that isn’t anything I ever considered. I worked out consistently and hard just because I enjoyed it. From that point, he began to train me. I still did not make a commitment to compete, I just thought maybe I would consider it. Well, as of May 2018 I competed in my first show as a Figure competitor. Before stepping on stage, I thought I would do one show and be done. The following day after the show, I was looking up other shows that I could compete in. Since May 2018 I’ve competed in six shows and have obtained my Pro Figure status with three natural bodybuilding organizations (SNBF, ANBF, and One World Alliance). My current goal is to compete in a World Championship show and the Natural Olympia.

Throughout your 20-year fitness journey, how have you balanced being a wife, mother, friend, employee, business owner, doctoral student and all the other things you’ve had going on in your life?

All In The Family
Both Dr. Lorna (51) and her oldest son, Sadik (26) have successfully competed and placed in fitness competitions.

Regardless of my responsibilities, I had to keep up with my workout regimen. I specifically designated time at lunch to go to the gym and when I was working out twice a day, I would go to the gym again before I had to pick up my younger kids from after school care. When I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the gym at lunch time, due to a meeting or other work-related obligation, I would get up early and go to the gym at 5am and be there when they opened. When I had to travel for work, one of my hotel requirements was the fitness center. If there was a LA Fitness in the area, I would map out how far was the hotel to the gym. I remember traveling to Columbus, OH and there was at least a foot of snow on the ground. I layered up and went to the gym. I prevented myself from having excuses for not going.  My friends laughed at me one time because Atlanta had an ice storm and we were stuck indoors for a few days. They couldn’t believe I was calling the gym to see if they were open.

A lot of women just may not feel motivated to work out because they don’t feel they have the time or don’t feel they can commit.  What would you suggest?

Dr. Lorna and her Fam.

I think women should consider how they want to see themselves one year, five years, or even 10 years from now. A healthy body will not just happen or sprinkle over you. To prevent medical conditions as you get older, live longer and healthy, and even look better, women must set realistic goals. I suggest that if women need to lose weight, they should hire a trainer so that they can learn the correct way to eat and how to incorporate a workout regimen. Dieting is never the answer, eating correctly to be part of a healthy lifestyle is the answer. Most women may not be motivated to work out so finding a friend who will commit to work out, is the ideal solution. Accountability will help. It doesn’t matter what age women are, deciding to begin working out would be advantageous to a healthy lifestyle. Please remember that if you are having medical complications, on medication, or have had any surgeries, discuss with your physician before you begin any workout program.

Thanks Lorna. You are very disciplined and make good points about nutrition, dieting and accountability. What about women who may not have the financial resources to join a gym or hire a trainer or nutritionist? 

I would suggest looking up beginner at-home workout programs on YouTube. Here is a link I found for a 15-minute beginners at-home cardio workout (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHyGqsPOUHs).  Please remember to take it slow and work at your own pace if you are just starting a workout routine. Over time you will build up endurance to keep up with the instructor. Also, here’s a basic eating plan that is very easy to follow.

Keeping Perspective

Maybe fitness competitions or intense workouts may not be a motivator or even a realistic expectation for most women to consider or pursue, especially in middle age, but a few things can be learned from Lorna’s competitive fitness journey, like discipline, attitude and commitment. She is focused and balances her family life by incorporating wellness, fitness, and health into activities, the types of natural products she has in the home, and preparing well-balanced, nutritious meals.

It also comes down to a matter of perspective and how one can translate lessons from another’s experience and journey into their own personal goals. Age really is only a number and for my fellow fifty-ish aged women challenged with their own wellness and mid-life aging concerns, recognize that feeling and looking good is possible and doable with the right mindset. Free your mind and rest your soul. You can look youthful and vibrant by creating your own style and finding your path for taking better care of yourself.

My #Thrive2019 Lifestyle Goals

In addition to visiting my doctor(s) for a physical and wellness checkup, I continue to seek out natural remedies for improving my sense of physical and mental wellbeing. I now primarily use items like castile soap, shea butter, coconut oil and honey regularly for my facial and skincare regimens.

I am also now more conscious about what I eat, making sure to include salads and raw and cooked vegetables in my daily diet, whether at home or at a restaurant.  I drink primarily water as a beverage, either alone, infused with fruits and vegetables, as an herbal or green tea.

I move more, too.  Either I’m walking at lunch, doing a Zumba class, punching and jabbing in a kickboxing class, periodically doing yoga, meditation and mindfulness activities, or taking advantage of the equipment in my complimentary workplace gym facility. My routine rotates weekly because I adjust based on my schedule and how I am feeling that day. But one thing is constant is that I am committed to doing something every day to actively move my body, even if it’s as simple as stretching to improve flexibility and balance. 

How are you inspired and motivated to be an ageless beauty? What are you committed to doing to improve your health and wellness? Self-care is self-love and involves making actively conscious decisions about one’s wellness. Share your thoughts below.

#Thrive in 2019

Life always moves forward regardless of circumstances.  Even if you become stuck and are trying to figure out a solution, life lives on. And sometimes the best solutions are patience and time.  Patience to allow the universe to align in your favor and time to allow the work to transpire.

But when you are in the thick of it, it is easier said than done. No one wants to be stuck, feeling emotionally, mentally or physically trapped without answers. It’s a painful, lonely and gut-wrenching experience.

I know. This same feeling has intermittently disrupted my life for 38 years since when my Mom passed in my teen years, and I felt abandoned, unloved and rejected by my family. I’ve been stuck more times than I care to remember trying to navigate life. Sometimes because of circumstances, bad timing or just plain, poor decisions. 

But what has been constant in all my travails is my ability to learn, grow, recover and renew.  So, when it was time for me to again reflect, plan and identify my yearly guide word, I knew “THRIVE” was my word.

Thrive (verb) \ˈthrīv \

1: to grow vigorously FLOURISH

2to gain in wealth or possessions PROSPER

3to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances

I remember when I was going through an especially difficult hardship a few years back and feeling depressed, a woman who hired me to do freelance writing said, “you are thriving; you are making it, and that’s something to be proud about.” And more recently, I had a college friend tell me that I make rebounding seem easy, so others can’t see or don’t understand my struggle.”  In both those scenarios, I was so caught up in how I felt or what it looked like, I didn’t even see that I was indeed moving forward and thriving in my life at the age of 53. As my peers are winding down, I’m gearing up and thriving, looking youthful and feeling good. That’s a true blessing and one that should not be taken for granted.

Me at work holiday dinner, South City Kitchen, Midtown Atlanta; December 2018. Photo by co-worker.

So even though it never feels easy or fun to me because I’m living it out, my heart chooses to intentionally thrive in all areas of my life in 2019. My #Dream2018 efforts won’t go to waste because patience and time are on my side. As a matter of fact, several of my dreams began to manifest last year, and I look forward to seeing them thrive in 2019.

#oneword365 #nevergiveup #stayfocused #believeinyourself#

What’s your word for 2019? Pick one and find your tribe at oneword365.com. Let’s keep life simple and enjoy every moment!!!

Black Violin in Atlanta on Sunday, December 2

Black Violin (www.atlantasymphony.org)

The talented musical duo, Black Violin, continues it Classical Boom Tour with a second Atlanta Symphony Hall performance on Sunday, December 2 at 8:00 pm. This is a special treat that I wrote about in May, and a perfect way to embrace classical music with an urban twist.  Experience something new with your young budding musician, a night out with family or friends, or maybe even a unique date night experience. Limited tickets remaining. Black Friday discount promotion may apply (Friday25). Learn more or purchase at  https://www.atlantasymphony.org/ConcertsAndTickets/Calendar/2018-2019/Black-Violin-18.

When Mozart met Cardi B:  Outside the Box with Black Violin

Violin music can be soothing and entertaining, and the violin is a beautiful instrument.  I remember for one year during middle school that I attempted to learn to play the violin.  I would practice but just couldn’t seem to get the sound right.  It sounded more like grating and I didn’t feel encouraged to try because it wasn’t coming naturally, and I knew my Mom couldn’t afford lessons or to rent the violin. So why bother, right?

Not so fast with that line of thinking. I should have stuck with it because those early memories came flooding back a few Sundays ago as I listened to classical music with hip-hop influence performed by two very talented African American men, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, of Black Violin along with the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra.

This experience was a breathtaking musical treat that included the two violinists along with DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes helping to liven the illusion of a underground classical concert party scene (if there is such a thing).  The laid back vibe was set to tempt emotional sensibilities that included Wilner belting out smooth vocal tunes and Kevin charmingly hyping the crowd with his infectious smile and personality. The music was romantic and simultaneously robust while capturing the urban rhythmic essence of Cardi B over Mozart and Bruno Mars and the old school sounds of Michael Jackson and Boys II Men in some of their music.

My mind was all over the place thinking about what great role models these men are in supporting music education for our youth and showcasing the uniqueness of culture, music and art. Kevin and Wilner were able to conceptualize the idea of Mozart being hip and capturing the ingenuity and improvisational versatility of music as a multi-genre art form referred to as “classical boom.” A beautiful experience and powerful expression of what musical genius looks like when limits and stereotypes are removed.

Below is a short video of some of the performance.  Hope you enjoy and plan to check out Black Violin for yourself.

Writing with Nina Ann – April 1 Deadlines and Kickoffs

Let’s Get the Writing Done!!!!

The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is accepting entries with NO FEE and $2250 in prizes.  The deadline is April 1, so HURRY!!! More information at https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/wergle-flomp-humor-poetry-contest-free.

Looking for more ways to focus your writing?  Consider the 30-day writing challenge with Shut Up & Write!  The challenge begins April 1 and involves daily writing exercises that can be completed in 20 minutes.  This challenge can help aspiring and dormant writers to develop a writing habit or spark creative juices to get those stories written.  Learn more at http://www.shutupwrite.com/30-days-of-writing/.

Happy Writing!

Lessons Learned:  Women Wow in Marvel’s Black Panther

“Wow” is the best word for me to describe Marvel’s Black Panther.  It really requires no introduction but in case you aren’t aware, it has quickly become a top-grossing movie directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed).

I went solo and saw it on a very late Friday night in an IMAX theater several weeks after its opening. The IMAX ticket was pricey but I had heard so many positively encouraging reviews and comments about the film that I felt it necessary to be immersed in a complete theatrical experience when I viewed it.  Words really cannot explain my giddiness at the vastness of messages and positive portrayals in this film, and I am definitely happy for the IMAX experience.

I am no comic book fan by no means.  My superhero knowledge is, or let me say, WAS limited to the regulars. But this Black Panther movie, let me tell you, was excellent.  I felt so much pride in seeing all the beautiful Black faces, acting finesse of seasoned and newcomer talent, the superhero storyline and the vivid imagery of Wakanda (a fictitious African nation).  The character of King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was great.  But honestly, most of the movie I forgot it was about Black Panther.  But no movie spoilers or critiques here; you must go see this movie yourself.  This post is on my women-centric thematic takeaway from the film in honor of March’s Women’s History Month (with respect to February’s Black History Month).

https://www.grass-fields.com/blogs/news/black-panther-dora-milaje-based-real-african-warrior-women

Year of the Adored Ones. It seems so apropos that this movie released in an immense season of female empowerment where women have used their collective voice to create societal change and norms about valuing women. I became enamored by the character and strength of the warrior women body guards called Dora Milaje, the general of armed forces (Okoye), the smart, tech-savvy younger sister (Princess Shuri), and of course the characters Mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Wakandan spy Nakia (Lupita N’yongo). In doing a little Black Panther and Marvel research, I learned that the name Dora Milaje means “Adored Ones”, and that truly is an apt name and description for all of the women.  The Adored Ones are courageous, confident, loyal, smart, talented, persistent, tenacious and regally beautiful.  In their core beauty and essence of black femininity, these women’s hearts reminded me of myself, my friends, and any woman that I admire for being true to their power and uniqueness.

Beauty in (Black) Women’s Complexity.  The principles of honor, love and power are thematic throughout the movie, and are adeptly representative of real life challenges that many black women face.  For example, there is a scene where Madam General Okoye immediately makes a dramatic decision during the height of the movie that I’m like, “Yes!!! Stand in your truth.” From a survival perspective, I see similar daily scenarios by black women but which often get overshadowed under misogynistic labels and negative stereotypes that dare acknowledge the complexity of womanhood and blackness. It is not always easy to stand on the principles of survival because our hearts get in the way and passionate presentation is misinterpreted. But more representation of Wakandan warrior princesses on film could help shape a conversation on the perceived mysticism of black womanhood and their real world instinctual survival skills, perspectives and experiences that are too often devalued.

https://www.themarysue.com/character-bios-women-black-panther/

Endless Possibilities Do Exist.  The telling is in the sharing of our stories.  Last year we learned in Hidden Figures of the amazing contributions of black women in science at NASA.  We also learned how a black woman’s cancer cells have advanced international medical research with the immortal cell line HeLa in the film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  While ficticious, what makes Black Panther’s Wakanda just as powerful is the telling of its technological advancement led by a young black woman, who looks all of 15 years old. If I were a young black girl or teen in 2018, I would be doing flips at the commanding presence and intelligence of Princess Shuri while signing up for my local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes.  When given the opportunity to be and show our best in an inclusive and supportive environment, black women can and will do much to advance society and life.  This is what we should be teaching our young black girls and supporting and encouraging them towards greatness and excelling in areas in which they show gifts, talent and technical strengths.

Lastly, I learned of a petition to create a Wakanda series on Netflix and wanted to share for those who also have fallen in love with Wakanda and want to watch the backstory unfold.  I imagine it would be rich in African history and pride and a great legacy story.  Please share and spread the word.

Three Life Lessons from Taraji P. Henson’s “Proud Mary”

Sonypictures.com (Click image for trailer link.)

I am a Taraji P. Henson fan.  I love every character she has played, especially as Cookie in Fox’s Empire.  She always exhibits a level of sincerity, grit and tenacity as an actress. For me, her characters are always very relatable and multi-dimensional.  She’s like your favorite cousin, keeping it real auntie, friend that has your back. When I saw Sony/Screen Gems’ thriller action Proud Mary last weekend, I was again impressed with Taraji. But not because the film was great.

I did enjoy the movie, but Proud Mary was not a box office hit, grossing about $14 million by its second weekend amidst projections of $20 million in its opening weekend, and debuting in eighth place as a box opener. The movie, however, broke even so that’s always a good thing, especially since Taraji has executive producer credits.

There were elements of the film that were lacking (production quality could have been better, writing could have been tighter, would have liked a better build up in beginning and more action in the middle, maybe her face off with another female — something her Cookie character does flawlessly), and several character’s acting were not up to par (what was up with Danny Glover and Billy Brown).  But looking beyond all of that to focus on Taraji’s character, Mary, she performs entertainingly (albeit stereotypical) as a fearless, bad-ass, gun-toting female assassin showing maternal instinct, empathy, and survival skills in protecting Jahi Wilson’s character, Danny, the son of one of her victims.

As a sparse movie goer but avid supporter of black women-led roles, I always look beyond the entertainment aspect of films and focus my understanding on the character’s backstory and its reflection of societal norms, values and beliefs.  Mary’s backstory was not fully developed, but the storyline was clear enough to ascertain that she was an orphan taken in by a crime family who had an encounter that woke her up.  She decided to reclaim her life, her goals and dreams while also giving Danny a chance to experience maternal love, hope and stability. Trying to regain control from a patriarchal environment is a familiar script that many women face in navigating their lives, but just like a bad movie, there are always some take-aways worthy of any experience.

  • Trust your gut. Mary’s career choice was more about survival that desensitized her actions and ruled her life. But when she saw the kid in her mark’s home obliviously playing video games, her instincts told her it was time to move on, but not without curiosity or concern of who she was leaving behind.  She thought about the kid often and checked up on him.  She recognized that a change in life was due. As women, we have a unique gift and often know when we are in a bad job, have toxic relationships, and make unhealthy life choices.  We must remember that it is our divine nature to trust our gut and know when it’s time to make change to do the right thing, not only for ourselves, but often for others. Let’s not ignore that nagging feeling or sign that we know is meant to get our attention.
  • Be willing to start over. The organized crime family decided Mary’s destiny was assassinating folks. It took her orphaning a child to realize her life was more valuable than that, so she decided on a re-do, to live life differently, and on her own terms. A re-do can happen at any time, age or stage in life but a person must be willing to let go of the past and anything negative weighing them down.  Unlike in the movie, I am NOT suggesting being extreme and taking out an entire family, lol, but there is no shame in distancing yourself from people who keep you in a bad place because of their lifestyle, actions, dysfunction, and/or attitudes. It is possible to outgrow people and move on, especially after we’ve learned the lesson they were in our life to teach.
  • You can always make a difference. Danny needed Mary in his life as much as she needed him. She learned that his mother left him and he felt abandoned, and that his father was not a good guy. Just the little bit of compassion she showed to him softened him to know that he mattered to someone. We never know someone’s story and the impact that life has had on them. Kids do become the adults we interact with and it’s the sincerity and small kindnesses that can make a difference, like a smile, holding the door for the person behind you, a quick email, text or phone call to let someone know you were thinking about them, an authentic compliment, or just paying it forward in your own unique way with the expectation of only good karma from the Universe.

Writing with Nina Ann – (revised) January 2018

Are you a closet writer looking for an audience? Have you been told that you are a great storyteller? Personally, I enjoy writing and creating meaning through words.  Often in my writing journey I find interesting and helpful information to share with others.  For January, consider joining me in entering a flash fiction contest with The A3 Review’s Losing It writing prompt.  Cash prizes are $220, $130 and $95 and the contest only requires 150 words due by January 27, 2018 with a $5 entry fee. May seem simple enough, but flash fiction tests your ability for brevity in writing while still developing a character(s) and a plot. Ready, Set, Go!

There are other ways you can let your voice be heard through your writing.  I recently learned about a few other writing contests that may be of interest.

Old Farmer’s Almanac Essay Contest (Deadline:  January 26, 2018)

  • Sponsor:  The Older Farmer’s Almanac
  • Theme:  How Weather Changed My Life
  • Prize:  $250 / $150 / $100
  • Entry fee:  $0
  • Words: 200 words or less
  • NOTE:  Yankee Publishing retains rights to submitted materials.

For more details and contest guidelines, visit:  https://www.almanac.com/form/2018-essay-contest

 

#MeToo Nonfiction Essay Contest (Deadline:  February 28, 2018)

  • Sponsor:  Memoir Magazine
  • Theme:  Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse
  • Prize:  $500
  • Entry fee:  $12
  • Words: 100 min/7000 max
  • NOTE: Pseudonyms allowed. All writers welcomed; emerging writers and underrepresented voices encouraged to submit.

For more details and contest guidelines, visit:

https://memoirmag.com/contests-and-prizes/the-metoo-nonfiction-contest-500-publication-judged-by-chelsey-clammer/