Issue 10

November 2018

Note from the editor Lesley Jane Seymour

Go Ahead and Jump!

And we’ll catch you!

That’s my message to all the women out there who are calling me in a panic during this last quarter of the fiscal year saying they need to reinvent but are terrified of taking the first steps.

CoveyClub was created as a community of nonjudgmental friends who will deploy their expertise to help you make the leap into your next chapter — whatever that is. Though I’m mostly getting calls from women who sense they are about to be downsized or fired (or let go, or moved to some marginalized department they know nothing about), there are plenty of you who might be thinking about jumping into a different, but nonetheless important, challenge: into a new life in a new city, into a healthier lifestyle, an empty nest, the dating scene, or any other midlife challenge. The point is, Covey is here to supply the information and the practical tactics — and if you step up to Lesley’s List, the sisterhood — to get you through these transitions.

And hear me now: if you live long enough, a transition will find you. The key is to make the best of it, to plan ahead so you can take advantage of any disruption and turn it into an opportunity for personal growth.

With that in mind, I hope you’ll enjoy all of the wonderful reporting and writing that passes along tremendous quantities of wisdom in this November issue of TheCovey. Perhaps you’re thinking that professional speaking should be part of your new repertoire, but you wonder (like many of us do) how to actually break into the speaking business? Glad you asked. Snowden McFall, MAT, six-time author, professional speaker, owner of Fired Up! Professional Speaking, divulges all of her secrets in “Become a Killer Speaker and Get Paid!” Did you know that early overuse of neurotoxins (the injections that relax frown lines) could lead to issues? Read “The Dangers of Using Wrinkle Relaxers — Too Early” to find out what to do (because I was a beauty editor, I started early and have decided to give my face a break!). And note: no other publication can tell you this truth because it would anger their advertisers.

With all the discussion about what will happen to Roe v. Wade in a more conservative-leaning supreme court, we have a must-read firsthand account about what happens to the unwanted children who enter our foster care system (“The Pro-life Reality No One Wants to Talk About”). Another important issue no one is talking about is the need to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy even at midlife. In “Are You Pregnant or in Menopause?” you’ll find out why your sex is not as safe as you think! Not sure exactly how to best further the causes you believe in? Check out our profile of Rogan’s List founder Susan Rogan, a librarian turned political activist (“The Rebel Grandma”).

And lastly, do not miss Courtney Kealy’s beautiful essay about how a single war-reporter became an unexpected mother. She shows us how resiliency and love can get any family through even the most tragic transitions. And yes, you’ll probably need a tissue.

Let us know what you think of every article and get the conversation going by adding your comments below each one. We really do want you to be part of the discussion. And reach out to me with any story ideas or thoughts on how we can make Covey more meaningful to you. xo


Flowers by the Fistful

She was a war correspondent in the Middle East. Parenthood could wait. Or so she thought.

By Courtney Kealy

Photo by Christopher Beane from the Gardenia Series, 2005. Courtesy of Jim Kempner Fine Art.

If I had a daughter, I would wish her to be sentimental about gardenias and pragmatic about everything else.

Gardenias were my grandmother’s favorite flower. My mom and her seven siblings always ordered them from Vance Florists in Westfield, New Jersey, for Mother’s Day.

My mother loved them too. After a night out with my dad at Trader Vic’s, in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, my mother would bring home the gardenias floating in the tropical drinks and leave them by my bedside. The leaves were a waxy green, and a single palm-sized bloom took up a whole small bowl of water.


Gardenias in Beirut

The scent was the same when I found gardenias during my first spring in Beirut, though the ones that grew on bushes there, by the fistfuls, were smaller than the ones at home. Beirutis would string them into necklaces and sell them along the diesel-filled streets. Drivers hung them from the rearview mirrors in their banged-up Mercedes taxis. And a friend brought me a bag of the blossoms to put in saucers all over my apartment while I was recovering from an appendectomy. It had been a rough surgery: The doctors in the land of bikinis and bombs apologized profusely for the two-inch pink scar just under my right hipbone. By the time I was conscious enough to call my mother, it was afternoon in New York City. Several hours before, on her way to work, a sharp pain had made her double over. She told me it was so sudden that she actually thought she’d been shot; then she threw up.

That Mother’s Day, I photographed a bowlful of my flowers in the sunshine and sent it as a card to my mom. I was a photojournalist covering the region’s conflicts, and emergency surgery had been the best vacation I could have hoped for, which I knew was incredibly messed up. But I wasn’t ready to come home. The US would soon invade Iraq, and there were plenty more stories to tell.


My Brothers are the Nesters

I often called my mother in New York but always took care to minimize the constant danger I was facing. On the same day that I telephoned to share my excitement about my first ride in a Black Hawk helicopter, my two brothers, Sean and Ben, called her to ask for some of her recipes. It pleased her no end that her boys were nesting and cooking while her daughter was feeding her wanderlust.

Back home, Sean’s wife, Cara, slogged her way through chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer and mourned not being able to conceive a brother or sister for their son, Harrison. But soon after deciding to adopt, they found themselves welcoming a “miracle baby” when their second son, Declan, came into the world. Harrison, five, was elated at becoming a brother, as was my mom at being made a grandmother again. Cara was the quintessential mom in our family, making Halloween costumes and beaming with love and joy over her brood even as she endured medical treatments that included the removal of her ovaries. Sean said that if they could have had a third child, they would have wanted a daughter who they would have called Michaela. But the cancer made that idea an impossibility.

When Declan was two and Harrison was six, Cara’s cancer came back, depositing spots on her lungs and her brain; in early 2006 she had surgery and a full course of radiation. I stayed with the boys in their suburban New York home during breaks from my Baghdad rotation. I was still single and childless but wasn’t worried about settling down and trying to have it all. I figured I could adopt someday if I wanted children, but only if I had a partner who’d make a great dad.


My Sister-In-Law Does Not Get Better

This time Cara didn’t get better. After treatment, her hair never grew back and her short-term memory impaired her ability to do tasks as simple as setting the table or making dinner. Then the doctors found that a meningioma on her optic nerve had wrapped itself around her brain stem. One eye closed over. After Harrison’s eleventh birthday, Cara was given a year to live.

We tried to keep things normal for the boys, who weren’t told their mom’s prognosis. Neighbors brought over meals and drove the kids to school. Sean continued to coach his son’s flag-football, basketball, and baseball teams. Cara cheered from the sidelines at every game.

Then suddenly, Sean died from a heart attack — the kind called the widow-maker. I still believe he died because his heart broke knowing that his wife had less than a year left to live.

Within four hours of Sean’s death, I was on my way home from the Middle East. I moved into their house and helped Cara fight for 18 more months. One afternoon, when she was lying in her hospital bed in the sunroom off the kitchen, Harrison and I were outside playing catch. He had just turned 13 and he asked me if I could answer a question. He told me he was scared even to ask it, but summoning his courage, he did: “Is my mom going to die?” I took a deep breath. “Yes.” Was there any way to soften that? “Yes, honey. Your mom is going to die, but we’re not sure when.” He asked if we could keep their house and I had to say no. He liked math, so I explained how the numbers didn’t add up. “If I pay for the house, there’s no money left over for fun stuff like camp and toys.”


I Promise to Take Care of the Boys

I promised him that by the time he was 16 he would love living in Manhattan and that, no matter what, his Yaya (my mom) and I would always take care of him and Declan.

None of this is the natural order of things.

When Cara was admitted to the hospital for the last time, she fell into a coma and had to be taken off life support. Declan climbed into her empty hospital bed at home and refused to go to school. The au pair called me at work and I told him to just let Declan stay there as long as he wanted. He spent the morning crying, wrapped in his mother’s blankets and sheets.

The boys, who now live with their grandmother and me in Manhattan, still wear their father’s cologne. I can tell the days they’re particularly sad by how much they smell like him. Mother’s Day is now a celebration of Cara.

And we don’t do gardenias anymore — not big ones, not fistfuls of smaller ones. Gardenias aren’t as readily available in New York as they were in Beirut or in decades past. Mother’s Day, the boys honored their mother with white and pink roses. On a warm, sunny Sunday, their Yaya and I watched them pull the blooms off the stems with their fists, then lean out our ninth-floor apartment window and let the petals slip through their fingers and catch the wind.

  1. Karla The Losen

    This story is so beautifully and artfully crafted. We feel so deeply for the loss of Sean and Cara but cannot be happier that Harrison and Declan have you and Christine.
    Xo Karla

  2. Patricia Mirasol

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. Your nephews are fortunate to have a devoted aunt and Yaya. I wish Harrison, Declan, your mother, and you all the best. – Patricia

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The Dangers of Using Wrinkle Relaxers – Too Early

A-list dermatologist Pat Wexler says premature use of neurotoxins can backfire. And what you can do about it if you did

By Katie Becker

Photo by Ian Dooley for Unsplash

Since cosmetic Botoxs debut in 2002, neurotoxins (including Dysport and Xeomin) — which freeze muscle movement in order to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and furrows — have become the gold standard for anti-aging treatments. In fact, some dermatologists encourage women to start using one of these three FDA-approved neurotoxins while in their 20s and early 30s to get an early start in the fight against wrinkles. The idea: If you can’t furrow your forehead in the first place, you won’t end up with etched-in lines and wrinkles.

But not everyone agrees with this logic, including prominent New York dermatologist Pat Wexler. While she is a big fan of neurotoxins (she started using Botox on her own forehead in 1990, was part of the original Botox  clinical studies, and administers it daily in her offices today), Dr. Wexler advocates pumping the brakes, not just for younger patients but also for women who may have been overdoing the treatment for years.

Katie Becker: You’ve said that you’re not on board with the concept of “preventative” neurotoxins. Why is that?

Pat Wexler: I don’t think you should be treated anywhere until you see wrinkles at rest, when they persist after using the [muscles]. Before you see wrinkles or folds, you’re not seeing evidence of damage. I do believe in being proactive about aging by using sunscreen and anti-aging products, not smoking, being careful about the environment. But this is the deal: The paralysis [caused by Botox] can cause the muscle to atrophy, which can leave the forehead looking older.

Katie: How does a weaker forehead muscle make you look older?

Pat: We’re born with a certain tone to our skin that’s dependent on the structure: your muscle, your fat, your dermis, your epidermis. When you start using [neurotoxins] and preventing the muscle movement, you eventually decrease the volume of the muscle as it atrophies over time. In fact, you can find total absence of the muscle on autopsies of somebody who’s had a botulinum toxin such as Botox in the same muscle over a period of 30 or 40 years. If you don’t use the muscle, you become like somebody who’s had a stroke or a muscular disease — the muscle gets weaker and weaker until the fibers are basically no longer there. Then the skin over the muscle gets slack because there’s no longer volume to support it. In my own case, I could no longer feel my muscle that I used to inject — it had gotten so small after 25 years.

Katie: So overusing neurotoxins can, essentially, backfire?

Pat: I find that patients who’ve used toxins for enough years have thinner, looser forehead skin [that lacks] that youthful curvature. Veins are starting to show, and their brows are getting lower. Sometimes patients complain of getting wrinkles that they didn’t have before; that’s because they’re recruiting muscles from other areas. If you’re using toxin from a very young age, and you don’t have wrinkles to begin with, you’re going to pull [muscle support] from other areas of the face; that’s why people develop bunny lines [wrinkles that appear between the nose and the tear duct of the eye]. We never treated bunny lines 25 years ago; we started because people who couldn’t use their forehead anymore started squinting with their noses.

Katie: Can you talk more about how overuse became an issue for you personally?

Pat: I had been using Botox every three months for 25 years. I used to have a very thick forehead muscle and I would pinch the muscle to inject it, but there’s nothing to pinch anymore because the muscle is so diminished. So, I stopped using Botox for two and a half years and now I realize that my muscle’s coming back. I’m just starting to squint again, so I may give myself a little diluted Botox. This is a dynamic process and it’s been very interesting to watch. I’ve been my own little study. Sometimes you need to take a break, and now I tell my patients — when they don’t need it — that we can wait for another six months.

Katie: If a woman has overused neurotoxins and is now seeing a lax forehead or a dropped brow, what should she do?

Pat: First she should take a break. Beyond that, now we’re doing procedures on the forehead like Infini  and Fraxel (laser treatments) and Ulthera (ultrasound) to make the skin tighter and lifted. It’s also not unusual for people to have volume injected into their foreheads, right above their brows.

Katie: What would you say to younger women who are considering preventative toxins?

Pat: Don’t use Botox before you need it. It’s not really preventative, and then at what age do you start? Your 20s? Your teens? There is a point when it is reasonable, when you see physiological symptoms of needing it (such as wrinkles that persist even after you stop making a facial expression), but you shouldn’t treat to prevent something that may or may not happen for 10 or 15 years.  Instead, you could have a microdermabrasion or a DermaSweep to improve the skin tone and texture. Take care of your skin now and you won’t have to worry about treating imaginary wrinkles.

Katie: What should you say to your dermatologist to prevent him or her from overtreating you? 

Pat: Say you want to look natural, you want to be conservative. That you want to relax the muscle, not necessarily have perfection-like total paralysis.

Katie: Is overuse of toxins commonplace today?  

Pat: Yes, and the same with filler. I think people tend to have full faces with little expression. But I like to leave expression. Sometimes people feel inhibited by not being able to lift their brows. If that’s how you express yourself and that’s part of your persona, you may experience a very claustrophobic feeling when you can’t. So leaving some movement for expression is important. We need to communicate with each other. For some people, it’s not much expression [laughs], but it’s helpful to get signals from people about how they feel.

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How To

Become a Killer Speaker and Get Paid!

Breaking into the speaking industry is hard; getting paid is even harder, especially for women

By Snowden McFall

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen for Unsplash

You’re a successful woman in the business world. Every so often you’re asked to speak, and you enjoy it. Perhaps you’d like to speak more often — and get paid to do it.

As a professional speaker with 25 years of experience, I can tell you that it’s not easy to break into the industry and grow your business. But it can be done. Here are my best tips and tricks for scaling the walls.

Nail The Basics

Learn the business of speaking at Toastmasters, which has chapters all over the world. After you’ve been speaking for over a year (with at least 25 speeches under your belt), attend National Speakers Association (NSA) conferences and workshops to improve your craft, discover ways to leverage your speaking into multiple streams of income, and network with other professionals who can refer business to you.

Hire professional presentation-skills coaches and voice experts. I coach a television news anchor who had confidence and charisma but lacked structure, stories, and a sense of timing. We worked on these issues, honed her delivery, and now she’s a dynamic, sought-after keynoter.

Pick a Hot Topic

Clients will hire you because only you can offer an unusual angle on a topic or industry. They want your unique knowledge, your personal stories, your inside scoop. Be sure the topic of your speech is a subject you are passionate about, because you will be spending years digging deep into it.

Prepare an Unforgettable Speech

Do your homework. Dig up and pull in the latest research. What changes are taking place in your field? Be the experts’ expert.

Learn everything you can about your audience. What’s important to them; what causes them pain? Ask questions of attendees ahead of time (through polls and social media) to use in your presentation. It always gets people’s attention when you can say in the middle of your speech “Several of you shared that you’re concerned about…”

Make sure your speech has a strong beginning, middle, and end. The best speeches have a strong opening, two or three key points with stories to illustrate them in the center, and a powerful close.

Don’t lean on audiovisual devices. So much can go wrong so fast with technology: computers that don’t sync, PowerPoints that suddenly scramble, audio that goes silent. Excellent speakers don’t need technology; they mesmerize the audience with their wisdom, stories, and audience interaction. If you must use it, meet with the AV person in advance, test all mics, and get a number to call for help.

Stories are what make a speech memorable. Tell stories about others; you should not be the hero in every story. End your stories on a high note.

Use humor. But be careful not to alienate anyone. Making fun of yourself is smart; ridiculing others is not.

Be authentic. Don’t try to be a brash powerhouse speaker if that’s not who you are. Be yourself.

Remember your “why.” Why are you speaking here? Who do you want to educate and empower? Use that as a guide while crafting your speech.

Get Yourself Booked

People often think the easiest way to get booked for paid speaking engagements is through speaking bureaus. If you are a Hollywood celebrity (or just a well-established celebrity in your field), that may be true. But the truth is that speakers bureaus will rarely take on clients who earn less than $20,000 a speech, and they almost never represent new speakers.

Instead, start by speaking anytime you’re asked — at association meetings, industry events, company conferences, etc. Speak at women’s groups, community groups, and service clubs. Most of those speeches will be unpaid, but you will improve your skills. Get known as a speaker who delivers great content.

At every speech, collect business cards from attendees by giving away something valuable, like a tip sheet or half hour consultation. Later use these for your email newsletter. If your speech is videotaped, get a copy of the master footage for your video reel. And always ask for a testimonial letter from the event organizer.

Develop Your Speaking Brand

To look professional in the speaking business, you need a company name, logo, one sheet, website, video, social media presence, and speaker’s kit. A speaker’s kit includes testimonial letters, a bio, articles about you, articles you have written, a list of clients, and a list of speaking topics. Most of these will be electronic, but there is still a market that prefers paper versions.

I’ve worked with over thirty professional speakers on their marketing. There is a specific formula for creating your brand, and it should reflect your uniqueness and your message. Speaker Cheryl Leonhardt wrote a book called Breaking the Grass Ceiling that taught women how to do business on the golf course. We branded her company as Power Golf, with the theme line, “Driving Women to the Green.” Her corporate colors were green and gold and her logo featured a golf course motif. Bullets on her one sheet were golf balls. That’s how to carry your theme through all your materials.

For my company, Fired Up!, the logo is a flame, and the fire theme shows up in all marketing, on the website, on my one sheet, and in everything from candles used in my presentations to fireballs, which I sometimes give out to reward audience participation. My first book was Fired Up! and all my keynotes and training topics are fire-related, such as Reignite Your Fire and Prevent Burnout.™ My email newsletter is called “Kindlings.” Check out my website to see how the fire theme plays out.

Get Paid!

National and local associations rarely pay speakers, but state associations often do. In corporate settings, pricing depends on budget. Sadly, women do not get paid as much as men, and frequently ask for too little.

Your pricing depends on the popularity of your topic, your expertise, your standing in your industry, and your geographic location. If you have a new book, product innovation, or major award, that will garner higher fees. Fees range from $500 to $5,000 for new speakers and expand with experience, title, and prominence in your field. Don’t expect to make five figures per speech until you have a successful track record of speaking for several years. Every book you write and get published should earn you higher fees. If you do something extraordinary that garners national media attention, that will up your fees.

The first questions to ask when someone wants to hire you are: “What are your goals for this event? What’s your budget?” And then be quiet and listen. They will give you clues about what they can afford.

If their budget is low but you still want to work with them, consider a sponsor. Sometimes you can get an outside industry-related sponsor to underwrite your fee. For example, I was speaking at a women’s conference for an organization that had very little money. I approached a medical clinic that specialized in women’s natural hormone replacement treatments and asked if they would sponsor me. They did, and in exchange I distributed their brochures at every seat at the event, referenced the clinic in my speech, and made sure their logo and contact information were in all event marketing and in the program. It was a win-win-win, as women attending the event looking for this service found a new resource.

Always get a signed letter of agreement that specifies your payment terms. Accept credit cards by establishing a Square Up account. Ask for half of the money at the time of booking and the other half on the day of the speech. Make it clear, and put it in writing, that the organization will pay for your travel and hotel fees, and provide microphones and AV. Everything is negotiable, but those requests are standard.

Maximize Your Networks

To get more paid engagements, share your marketing materials with everyone you know. Kelly Tyler Byrnes of Voyage Consulting Group made a transition out of corporate life by providing specialized training to the marketing industry. She started speaking at local networking organizations like the American Business Women’s Association, as well as sales, philanthropic, and church groups. She then joined the local chapter of the National Speakers Association where she found several mentors who helped her clarify her brand, referred business to her, and made suggestions for leaving the corporate world.

With an MBA, Kelly had worked at Sprint, the American Marketing Association, and an advertising agency. She understood the corporate world. After reading The E-Myth on entrepreneurship, she branded herself as a leadership development speaker and consultant and spread the word to all her previous connections at her former jobs.

Ironically, her first client was the ad agency where she had worked! From there, she grew her speaking business. She created a Corporate Culture Assessment tool to increase her value with prospective clients and wrote two books to help her clients and give herself additional credibility.

Rita Craig, now a full-time speaker on organizational effectiveness, spent 23 years working in human resources for a Fortune 500 company, where she became the first woman to serve as a division manager. Rita found that her years serving on community boards provided a wealth of contacts for people who would hire her to speak.

Tap into your various networks and share your expertise with everyone you know. Ask current clients for referrals and continually add value through social media videos, blog posts, and electronic newsletters. Get coaching and hone your skills.

Be highly visible on social media and share your knowledge there. I write daily posts on stress, motivation, and women feeling overwhelmed, and I now have over 30,000 posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Post about what you know best. Link to articles in your field, to your own blog posts, and to your website.

Speak Full Time

If you want to be a full-time professional speaker, learn as much as you can and speak as often as possible while working for an enterprise that offers a steady paycheck. Set aside enough money for those first few lean years and transition only once you have experience, contacts, and knowledge. The sky’s the limit.

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Are You Pregnant or in Menopause?

15 women a week give birth to children after they thought they were too old to conceive

By Lori Miller Kase

Photo by Ignacio Campo for unsplash

Shortly after going off the Pill — in my late 40s — and missing a couple of periods, I called a slightly younger friend to announce that I had reached a milestone. “I think I’m in menopause,” I told her.

“Are you sure you aren’t pregnant?” she asked. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me, but her innocent question sent me into a tailspin, prompting a spike in pregnancy test sales at my local Walgreens. Because some of the early signs of menopause mimic those of pregnancy — hello missed periods and breast tenderness — I couldn’t be sure. So instead of picking up my new pack of pills every month, I stopped by for my fix of Clearblue Easy.

Even during my last few months on the Pill, the length and intensity of my period had dwindled to a mere day or two of spotting. Surely I was nearing the end of my childbearing years. As a health writer, I knew I could still get pregnant during that in-between life stage known as perimenopause. Yet I hadn’t replaced my oral contraceptives with any other birth control. Discontinuing the Pill made my monthly migraines disappear, so I had sworn off hormone-based contraceptives, and it seemed ill-timed to have an IUD inserted just as my fertility was waning. I was approaching 50 — what were my chances of getting pregnant anyway?

In fact, while pregnancy in women 50 and over is still relatively rare, the number of births in this age group has tripled since the year 2000. In 2016, an average of 15 babies were born each week to US mothers 50 and older, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And births in women aged 45-49 rose 3 percent from 2016 to 2017, despite the fact that overall birth rates in this country are declining.

50: The New 40?

When Janet Jackson gave birth to her first child at 50 last year, CNN asked, “Is 50 the new 40?”

Indeed, there has been a veritable parade of high-profile, midlife moms-to-be announcing their pregnancies in the media recently. In April, 50-year-old Tammy Duckworth made history by bringing her newborn to a vote on the Senate floor.  And former actress and model Brigitte Nielsen gave birth to her fifth child in June at age 54.

The truth is that most of the older moms sparking headlines conceived with the help of assisted reproductive technology, some with the help of donor eggs. “The chance of spontaneous pregnancy from age 45 up until the time of menopause is extremely low,” notes Pasquale Patrizio, MD, director of the Yale Fertility Center and Fertility Preservation Program. Still, he adds, “It’s not zero.”

I wasn’t pregnant, but when I reached out to women in a Facebook group called “Having Babies Over Forty,” several members confided that they’d found themselves unexpectedly pregnant in their late 40s. Experts recommend that women who don’t want to get pregnant continue on birth control until menopause, keeping in mind that certain forms of contraception are preferable in midlife.

Birth Control Picks for Perimenopausal Women

Leisa Thompson, a 46-year-old Australian mom of two college-age boys, ditched her hormonal contraceptive on the advice of doctors when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a decade ago. She met her current partner last year, but never bothered to find a new method of contraception, figuring menopause was around the corner. “I went to the doctor after missing a period, thinking I was going into menopause,” she says, “And surprise — I was pregnant with a little girl!” She gave birth to her first daughter (and her partner’s first child) in October.

Indeed, missed periods at this stage of life can send mixed messages. As women approach the end of their childbearing years, their bodies begin to produce less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, causing periods to become less regular. “But as long as women continue to ovulate, there is some chance of pregnancy,” says Andrew Kaunitz, MD, associate chairman of ob/gyn at University of Florida College of Medicine.

Healthy non-smoking women, he says, can safely stay on the Pill until menopause (or until age 55, since being on oral contraceptives may mask the onset of menopause). In fact, the Pill offers many benefits for women in this age group. “Women who continue the Pill will not experience irregular bleeding or hot flashes, and they will arrive at menopause with substantially more bone density, lowering their future risk of osteoporosis,” continues Dr. Kaunitz. Women who use the Pill long-term also reduce their risk for ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Certain conditions, however, many of which are associated with aging, preclude the use of birth control pills containing estrogen. Women with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, blood clotting disorders, heart or liver disease — as well as those who smoke — are better off using non-estrogenic contraceptives. For these women, progestin-only pills, injections, and implants, or the progestin-releasing IUD, offer the added benefit of reducing heavy menstrual bleeding and cramps while eliminating the estrogen.

Women like Thompson who have had breast cancer (and are thus not candidates for hormonal contraception) can turn to the copper IUD or barrier methods such as condoms.

Getting Pregnant at 45-plus

Though most of us midlife moms aren’t ready to trade in the empty nest for another round of motherhood, older women who want to get pregnant should take heart: Thanks to advances in reproductive technology, women ready to tackle motherhood later in life can have successful pregnancies.

As women increasingly wait longer to start families, fertility centers are seeing an influx of older patients, says Norbert Gleicher, MD, medical director and chief scientist of the Center for Human Reproduction in New York City. Gleicher estimates that in 2017, as many as 40 percent of his patients were over 45.

Still, women 45 and older who want to have children face difficult odds — a birth rate just shy of one in a thousand. The problem? Ovarian aging. Not only does the quantity of eggs in the ovaries decline dramatically over the course of a woman’s lifetime — from between 800,000 and a million at birth to maybe 1000 eggs at age 50 — but the quality of those eggs declines as well. “It’s a double whammy,” Dr. Gleicher says. “They produce fewer embryos, and these embryos are less likely to implant and cause a pregnancy.”

Even with in vitro fertilization, the likelihood of pregnancy for women 45 and over is less than 1 percent. As Dr. Patrizio puts it, “We cannot rejuvenate eggs.” In fact, many infertility centers strongly encourage women over 42 to use donor eggs — unless, of course, they froze their own eggs when they were younger. Both increase the odds significantly.

How Old is Too Old?

Whether planned or unplanned, pregnancy and childbirth in older women carries increased health risks. Older women are more prone to suffer from gestational diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia, more likely to miscarry (a 45-year-old has a 50 percent chance), and more likely to require cesarean delivery. Indeed, Thompson, who developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, concedes that being pregnant at 46 “is a lot harder than being pregnant in my 20s.”

Women are living longer and staying healthier and more fit as they age, and reproductive specialists continue to make strides in treating this population. So in spite of challenging odds, the limits of reproductive age are continually being tested. And Thompson is a testament to the fact that even midlife women can be caught unawares by pregnancy. “I was hoping to be a grandma soon — not to have my own,” she admits. “But every day my partner and I are overwhelmed by how lucky we are.”

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The Find

The Sexy Way To Never Lose Your iPhone Again

Wearable technology gets chic and practical

By Robin Bobbé

iPhone case
Robin Bobbé wears Bandolier's crossbody iPhone case. Photo by Leland Bobbé.

Last night I woke up in a sweat. No, it wasn’t menopause but a nightmare. I had lost my iPhone.

My iPhone has reinvented the way I live my complicated, fast-paced life in ways that seemed unthinkable just ten years ago. I use it to bank remotely and time my planking, to check my trains and my stock market gains, create lists or photos from an evening tryst.

Losing it is not an option!

I’m neither a trend-aholic nor a techie, but all that changed the day in 2016 when I became enamored with a nifty surprise gifty from my dear friend Nina. It was a chic iPhone crossbody case and strap from Bandolier. My hands are now free, and there is no longer a threat that I might accidentally leave my cell phone in a cab or car.

I fell in love.

Sexy and functional, the Bandolier hugs your body and cradles your iPhone with a sturdy leather case and enough fashionable straps to please the Sybil in all of us. Wake up feeling like a badass? Go for the SARAH black strap with silver punk studs. Feeling a little more demure? Try the classic iris leather EMMA. Prices range from $68-$168 at

Bandolier’s wearable iPhone case. Photo by Leland Bobbè.

Tucked neatly away into the back of the case is a small space for a credit card, subway pass, or a twenty. A video on the Bandolier site suggests this means that I no longer need a handbag. But let’s be real. I’m a grown-up, and my days of traipsing around the city with just a credit card and twenty dollar bill are long behind me. I just tote along my handbag as well.

Bandolier’s “wearable technology” was created from the magic mind of Maggie Drake, the brand’s CEO and founder who grew tired of misplacing her phone. Realizing that this happens to many of us, she created a stylish way to attach your phone to your body. Need space for lipstick or keys? Customers asked and Drake listened, creating the Bandolier Pouch. Just clip it onto your strap. I use it when running to the market. Otherwise, look out for me still lugging my handbag…and my Bandolier, of course.

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Say what?

“Sometimes, things that make me mad can be more of a launchpad for finding purpose than a passion.”

Betsy Werley, director of network expansion,

Make Your Voice Heard

The Rebel Grandma

She is a mother to 12 and a former librarian. Now she's created a powerful vehicle for Political Activism

By Katie Weisman

woman in fragile tape screaming

Photo by Morgan Basham for unsplash

Susan Rogan's list is not just another outrage blog. Stop getting angry: Read and take action.

For many, the election of President Trump became a call to action. It was a sharp reminder that American citizens can lobby their local, state, or national representatives in their own right on important issues. The problem was, and still is, that political novices don’t necessarily know what they should be doing, where they should be doing it, or what organizations align with their sociopolitical values. Susan Rogan, however, has lots of answers in her blog.

Rogan’s List is a daily action list for people who are unhappy with the current administration and want to get involved but don’t have time for research. This three-time retired librarian launched her blog because, in the days following the election, she felt she had to act against Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress and help others do the same.

“On election night, I was ‘Pantsuit Nation.’ For a week and a half I had my toenails painted blue, which is not me at all. I had my printout from Nate Silver, I was watching and watching, and checking, and watching it unfold on television,” Rogan recalls, describing how the map changed to red as the votes came in, East to West, across the US. “It was just crazy and I went to bed, which is how I handle most depressing things.”

The following morning, Rogan says she felt numb. Like many Clinton voters, she was shaken and shocked by Trump’s success. Rogan felt compelled to do something but wasn’t sure what that “something” would be. She settled on figuring out what was happening, discerning the truth, and helping inform people on what to do. She joined a few political Facebook groups and began posting several times a day. Her followers asked her to start a blog, and Rogan’s List was born.


Even though Rogan was a university-level librarian whose expertise was notably the internet and research, she had no knowledge of how to start a blog. Nonetheless, she pushed out of her comfort zone, subscribed to Blogger, and launched Rogan’s List. The blog now has 12 contributors, and Rogan is looking for more since the amount of daily news to respond to is enormous. Everyone works voluntarily, as the blog does not accept advertisements and does not generate revenue. There are 6,000 subscribers for the daily email news feed, and the blog is posted by over 100 Facebook groups. Rogan doesn’t know how many visit her site, nor does she know how many times the blog or parts of it are tweeted or retweeted.

On any given day, Rogan’s List will feature news about Congressional bill proposals or votes and initiatives by various Federal government offices. She discusses the items using supporting sources, strives to make the content brief for readers with limited time, and then offers suggestions for actions her readers can take.

On October 30th, one week before the midterm elections, Rogan’s List included posts on such key issues as gun control and voter suppression, along with last-minute things people can do to get out the vote. It also had an otherwise hidden piece of news from and revealing that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has proposed a “massive purge” of department records and those of its sub-agencies including the National Park Service and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. These records include those related to the protection of endangered species as well as “oil and gas leases, timber sales, and dams and land purchases.” Rogan’s List advocates urging members of Congress to deny Zinke’s request and make sure that such records are preserved for historical purposes in the US Archives. It also provides an email address for the public to comment against the measure.


Scores of political action websites have emerged since the 2016 election, but Rogan’s List’s vetted sources and succinct nature makes it stand out. While Rogan’s List is clearly anti-Trump, Rogan relies on sources she considers as centrist and objective as possible to underpin the research behind what she posts. She regularly refers to two bias-checking websites, and Media Bias Fact Check, to vet the validity of the content she posts and their source.

“We look for a reasoned tone rather than rage,” she says. “Daily Kos says what we want to hear, but we never use it because it doesn’t meet our standard.” One challenge for the everyday person is their lack of access to balanced political journalism from quality sources such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because of paywalls. This is where local libraries shine by offering free access to such media.

And this is where her professional career as a librarian helps. Rogan, who studied journalism as an undergraduate and earned her Master’s Degree in information science, was a full professor at Central Michigan University at age 40, the first woman librarian to attain that rank. She taught library skills classes to undergraduate and graduate students. In fact, Rogan was the first to teach the internet to students and faculty at Central Michigan’s Business School, where courses on the internet were first offered when the World Wide Web emerged.

She says that finding accurate information has been part of her life since she was a high-school debater. “There was a national topic every year, and [the debate team] had to take sides. You had to gather documentation that backed the points you want[ed] to make. We’d spend hours and hours in the library doing research the old way,” Rogan explains. “I’ve spent years teaching students how to vet sources and evaluate primary and secondary sources.”


Rogan writes her blog from a black recliner dotted with graphic flowers in her home office in Michigan. She is the proud adoptive mother of 11 children who now range in age from 21–48, and grandmother to nine. She was a librarian first at the university level but retired to spend more time at home with her kids. After realizing that being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t right for her, Rogan found a job at a community college. She took another break to manage family circumstances, and then worked at an elementary school as a paraprofessional in the library.

The issues Rogan’s List reports on often impact Rogan personally. Following a divorce and the death of one of her children, Rogan found herself in a fulfilling same-sex relationship. She and her wife celebrated their second anniversary in April, and they now have guardianship of an 11-year-old girl.

“At the beginning, when Trump was talking about getting rid of immigrants, one of my Korean-born daughters came to me and asked if [they] would have their citizenship taken away,” she recounts. “How dare you make my kids feel that way, that they don’t belong! Just breathe deeply and carry on.”

  1. Ginny Abate

    I have known Sue, for over sixteen years, and I am proud, to call her, my dearest friend.
    With Rogan’s List, Sue gives so many of us, the ability to use our voices, and let our representatives, and senators, know where we stand, on every issue, and every vote! It’s such a powerful tool. It keeps me well informed, on the most critical issues, and directs me, to the right place, to make my voice heard!
    Thanks, Sue, for all of the hard work, and endless hours, you put into Rogan’s List, every day!

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The Pro-Life Reality No One Wants to Talk About

How I loved and failed several kids in America’s foster care system

As Told to Dara Pettinelli

woman with small child
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon for Unsplash

The story below is an as-told-to account of a woman who was a foster parent for two years in the early 90s. Because the woman works at a publicly nonpartisan organization, she has asked to remain anonymous.

In my twenties, I lived in a neighborhood in Pennsylvania where there were some kids who would spend a lot of time around our house. I could tell their parents were never around so I would often wash their clothes and make them dinner. At the time, my now ex-husband was a public school teacher and I was on the school board and had worked in shelters, so we were both exposed to at-risk children. I wanted to understand more about kids in need so I spoke with a good friend of mine who was a social worker and she helped direct my husband and me toward becoming foster parents. I was a little naive about what it entailed, but at the time we had extra room in the house and had been talking about having children.

I was 27 when Jason, aged eight, became part of my family. He had an older brother (12) and a younger sister (six) who were placed in different foster homes at the time. It’s very hard to keep siblings together in the foster care system because not everyone can take on multiple kids. Each child had a different father who wasn’t around and their mother was an HIV positive drug user who walked out on the kids.

The eldest had been trying to be an adult and find food for his siblings, and eventually, someone realized they’d been abandoned and called Child Protective Services.

It wasn’t too difficult to qualify as a foster parent. We had to fill out an application, get fingerprinted, get our house inspected, undergo a background check, and be interviewed. We were able to specify the age of the kids we wanted. I remember being asked strange questions around childcare and discipline like, “Would you ever discipline your child by putting hot wax on them?” I was like, “Well, no, why would you do that?”

We were not the norm in terms of foster parents because we were professionals in the school system. There are people who don’t make a lot of money who become foster parents because the government gives you a minimal stipend for childcare costs. For most of us, the amount of money wouldn’t be worth it, but there are some people that’ll take in six or eight children. These kids will have a bed and get fed and get sent off to school but it’s not what any of us would think of as a home environment that can help those children thrive. The problem is there are so few people who are willing to be foster parents that there aren’t many options.

Two months later we got called to take an emergency case for a week. The mother was in transition and they were trying to find her housing. They didn’t tell us the child was only three and a half — we had requested school-aged children — but of course, we took him in anyway. It was heartbreaking — he was dropped off with all of his belongings in a garbage bag and clearly traumatized by all of this. There was bed-wetting and crying in the middle of the night. I swear, I must have held this child for seven days straight, he did not want to let go. Thankfully, they did find a place for his mother and that’s the best case scenario: when it’s all just a temporary emergency and the child is sent back to a healthy, loving parent or family. I know a social worker who left the profession because he saw too many children get put back into homes where they were being abused.

By the time Jason got to us, he had come out of another foster care experience. He had never attended kindergarten and had missed something like 70+ days of first grade from being moved around. He had also been bullied in school and couldn’t read. He would say things like “I’m stupid, I can’t do this,” and clearly he wasn’t. But that’s also when the lightbulb went off in my mind that being a foster parent was going to be a full-time-plus job if I was going to do it right. The amazing thing is when he did learn how to read, the kid took off like a rocket. He read everything. It was extraordinary to watch him recognize that he could do this. It was a lot of work, but so worth the effort to see him recognize his intelligence. He started to love science, he was watching PBS shows. It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

It was about three or four months after Jason first arrived when we were asked if we could take in his little sister, Kimmie. So, of course, we talked to Jason about it and he said, like a typical sibling, “you know, that’s nice but she’s a brat.” Kimmie was a fireplug, she was super energetic and athletic, but clearly had more emotional issues than her brother and that was very tough. She was six years old when she came to us and would get into fits of anger, throw things, and say “I’m ugly!” “I’m fat!” There was an enormous sense of self-hatred and rage. She was such a beautiful little girl. When she was at her best, she was amazing — funny and sweet. I think Kimmie got the worst of moving around and her mother getting sicker and sicker.

Kids in the system come to you with all these experiences that the average child doesn’t have, and you as a foster parent are not really given a whole lot of preparation. I wasn’t informed that Jason and Kimmie’s mother was HIV positive and that the kids tested negative until Jason was already in my care. I understand they were trying to do the right thing for this child and were desperate to find homes, but you can see the level of stress on the system. They didn’t know that I was already well informed about HIV and it would’ve been a non-issue.

There are so many places where the system is broken. When you look at what happens to these kids as they grow up — the older they are in foster care, the rougher it is for them. I know that there is some research about what happens in terms of criminality and ending up in prison, and mental health issues. If you get passed from foster home to foster home, you have no connection. You have no sense of self-worth if you’ve been rejected so many times.

We grew to love the children very much. Even though they’re not genetically yours, you’re with them every day and they feel like your kids. They were incredible young children clearly working through a lot of issues. Jason’s father used to call him up and promise to come visit but never did. We’d have to work through that emotional process together. The kids would tell us stories like about the time they got kicked out of an apartment because their uncle had little white bags of flour and you know it wasn’t about little white bags of flour. But we got them both into things like little league and dance classes. We took them to museums and to the shore and probably jammed in a whole lot more because we didn’t know how long they’d be with us and we wanted to give them everything we could. Seeing Kimmie’s face when we took her to the beach for the first time was just the coolest thing. The minute she could see the water she just started giggling and could not stop.

Within a year of caring for Jason and Kimmie, the social worker asked if we would be willing to adopt them. We talked to the kids, the school psychiatrist, and everyone involved to make sure they were on board and we decided that yes, we wanted to do this. We were beginning the adoption process, and three months later we got the call that the kids’ aunt, whom they hadn’t seen in three years, wanted to take them. And because she’s a blood relative she had the right to take them. So now these kids who were calling us “mom” and “dad” by that point, who had stability, were now going to a relative they hadn’t seen in three years? A six-year-old doesn’t even know who this is!

The aunt called in October, but the kids were supposed to be with us through the December holiday school break, and I asked the social worker several times to confirm that they’d definitely be staying with us because we needed to give them time to adjust to wherever they’re going. We were promised they were going to be with us, and then two or three days before the break began, we got a phone call telling us to pack them up; they’d be going with the aunt. Now we were in limbo-land as far as what was going to happen. So we packed them up and tried to talk them through it. Then midway through the break, we got another call informing us that the aunt wanted to send them back. So now you’re supposed to drop everything. They came back. They were then even more confused. I’m so grateful to the school psychologist because I went right back to him and I said, “Look, I don’t know how this is all going to end up but I really need you to talk to the kids. Keep an eye on them.” We used all of our resources to try and help the kids understand.

Kimmie really started to act up those last four to five months we had them. We’d have to leave restaurants because she’d just start screaming at the top of her lungs, “You’re not my mommy!” It was pretty horrifying and challenging. But I can’t blame her — they’re children and none of us had any control over anything.

As a foster parent, you basically have no rights. If the kids have to take a trip to the emergency room for any reason, technically you’re not allowed to sign any papers regarding their care without consent. You have to wait for a social worker to come and in our case, when Jason needed stitches, our social worker never showed up so I signed the papers anyway. Our social worker was very dedicated, but when you have hundreds of children you’re supposed to be responsible for, it’s impossible. She didn’t show up as often as she was supposed to and she told us “from everything I see, you guys are doing a great job. I just have to keep up with some of these other cases.”

Their last day with us was really hard. You try to put on a brave face for them and tell them it’s going to be ok. You ask them what they want to wear. You ask them what they want to eat. You stack all their stuff by the door. You make it all seem OK. I put on the very best face I could for them and held it together until that last moment when I dropped them off at the social center and said goodbye. I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime: I’ve lost friends, had health issues.

The day I gave those kids up … I still get emotional. It was the hardest day of my life. It never goes away. If the person they go to doesn’t want them to have contact with their foster parent, you’ll never have contact with them again. I’ve tried looking them up on Facebook but they have a fairly common last name and I also don’t want to intrude on them emotionally. I will always wonder how they turned out. I will always hope that they had a good life and the little time we had with them was a positive influence.

When I talk to my friends who are pro-lifers, I ask them: “If you care so much about these unborn children, why are you not a foster parent?” Why is there no real focus on these children once they’re born? It does kind of drive me a little nuts that you’re encouraged to rescue animals and are exposed to those commercials with the poor dogs in the cages, because the truth is there are children all over this country in those situations and there is so little conversation about it. I respect anyone who walks the talk: if you’ve adopted or you’re a foster parent and you’re doing all those things, you’re walking your talk. But I have a problem with people who take a pro-life stance and don’t connect it to the other side. It’s not enough to put clothes on a child’s back and food in their mouth. There are real psychological implications when a child isn’t cared for. Some kids get through all of it with the right kind of care, but you need really special parents and you need people who get the training and have the support behind them to do it.

I’m a pretty strong person and I’m not afraid of a challenge, but emotionally it ripped me apart not to be able to protect those kids. I cannot emotionally go through what I went through again.

There have been senators from states like Ohio and Tennessee that have brought this up at a governmental level in terms of the impact of the opioid crisis on the children, but I still don’t think there’s enough noise. There are children who need to be adopted in every state. These children are waiting for families, not wanting to be separated from their siblings. Some have real challenges, either mental or physical or both, and to not understand how they are thrown away is so deeply sad to me. I wish there were super simple solutions, but dumping more and more children into a system that I think is deeply broken is going to hurt us as a nation.

I always talk about the famous experiment of the frog and the hot water. If you put a frog in room temperature water and you turn up the temperature ever so slowly, the frog will never jump out. It will die. To me, that’s a lot of what this is. This is a huge issue that gets worse and worse and we don’t seem to talk about it enough because it’s not something we can solve in a month or year. It’s complex, and it looks expensive on the front end. The reality is these children need more attention, more focus, and a lot more love than they are being given.

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An Old Friend Reinvents: La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream

Turbocharged with new ingredients, one of the best night creams delights again

By Lesley Jane Seymour

One of the delights of being editor in chief of a major women’s magazine was the swag that poured in from happy advertisers and partners during the holidays. One of the gifts I looked forward to most was from La Prairie. Though I had access to any beauty product on the market by simply walking into the More or Marie Claire beauty closet, I loved the Skin Caviar products. I liked the way the Skin Caviar moisturizer felt going on at night, the scent, and the way my skin felt and looked when I woke up in the morning.

And I was happy when December rolled around again so I could recharge my supply.

(I know, it’s a rough life: but the truth is I also knew beauty editors who did everything they could to hold onto their jobs long enough to make it through the holiday swag season!)

This summer, I was invited to the Guggenheim museum in New York City to hear about how La Prairie had decided to reinvent its 30-year-old moisturizing cream by adding “Caviar Premier,” with new bioengineered components such as tetrapeptides, DNA proteins, nucleotides, and ceramides.

The updated version is called Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, and the sample the company gave me to try shows it’s equally luxurious and delightfully scented. Unlike other creams which require layering, this is one and done.

Since we at Covey are all about reinvention and improving with age, we relish seeing an old friend kicking it up a notch. And while at $485 for 1.7 ounces on the La Prairie site, this girlfriend is not a cheap date, she is nonetheless the same reliable, charming, glamorous bit of indulgence at the end of the day that can make you feel all your hard work at the office is worth it.

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Hot flash!

44% of women are "seeing divorce as a turning point for themselves to explore their passions and go from a state of fear to a state of determination."

—Worthy REINVENT Survey

Navigating the Sandwich

Dreams from Her Mother

Her Thanksgiving table is a riot of the damaged and discarded. Will her mom’s elegant orderly china change that?

By Mel Miskimen

Photo by Annie Spratt for Unsplash

Thanksgiving dinner never goes according to plan. Something burns. Someone makes a scene. Dinner rolls are bought but always forgotten.

That’s why I love it.

For the past eight years, I’ve been the one to host, roast, toast, mash, thicken, bake, serve, and pore over the Thanksgiving game plan. It has replaced Christmas as my favorite holiday. No gifts are given or received. No pressure to turn the house into a Disneyesque version of Charles Dickens’ London. All that’s involved is good food served hot, family, football, and a lot of wine.

I usually set the table with mismatched stoneware collected from rummage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores — pieces that have been assimilated into the fold, like so many boyfriends, girlfriends, and roommates.

Topics of conversation change faster than a tire at the Indy 500. It gets loud. Things get spilled. Dishes are dropped during debunking discussions of family lore. Gravy is dispensed from a beaker found at American Science & Surplus. Dessert is served on plates already cracked and chipped.

Everything goes into the dishwasher. Six loads last year. The final one at three in the morning, after the last Uber driver had been summoned.

But this year I’ve inherited my mother’s china. The cream-colored plates edged in a light blue and silver band with raised coral dots is not “me.” I’m not a “good dishes” kind of person, nor am I a silver tea service kind of person (also in my possession, because my sister wanted it, not for any sentimental value, but for the silver content).

My mother had lamented that she hadn’t received any place settings when she and my father were wed, back in 1950. It was almost as if she had felt they weren’t officially married because she lacked dainty cups and saucers, appetizer and dessert plates, butter plates, soup bowls, platters, sugar bowls and creamers, and salt and pepper shakers, all in a matching pattern.

After 45 years of marriage, when my father presented her with a shopping trip to Marshall Field’s to pick out her five-piece service for eight, she cried. I think it was the reason she insisted on having their kitchen redone, so her china could have its own special cabinet, the only one with beveled glass in the door.

She used it once a year, on Thanksgiving.

I detected a slight flinch on her part as knives were scraped across plates, a droop in her shoulders when no one wanted coffee from the little cups, but from heftier mugs, or when my father poured the gravy not into its designated boat but into a red plastic bowl.

Her china refused to be thrown into the dishwasher with the rest of the unwashed masses. It insisted on a sponge bath in tepid water, the stiff remains of Thanksgiving gently removed with a pliable rubber spatula. It had to be dried by hand with a special dishcloth, not one of the towels she had in the drawer she had used to wipe up muddy dog footprints from the floor. My mother would not rest until each cup was suspended on a hook, each plate safely inside the cabinet with a buffer of flannel in between.

And now that I have it, I feel an obligation to use it. I will make it work. For me. During dress rehearsal, I broke the bad news to the coffee cups, the sugar bowl, and creamer, that they won’t be appearing. I told them it wasn’t their fault, it was just that platters and serving bowls take precedent. The gravy boat already knew it would have a strong showing in a supporting role.

This might be the year when everyone will arrive (at the same time), see the tablescape, and be on their best behavior. Plates will not be used for gesturing. Bowls will stay on tablecloth terra firma. Dessert plates will not be deserted. Chips will be snacked on, not made. Cracks will appear only on the pumpkin pie, not in the family dynamic. Nothing will be shattered, burnt, undercooked or overbaked.

One can only hope.

There’s always next year.


This is the fourth installment in a series Mel Miskimen is writing for TheCovey about the drafty empty nest she shares with her husband, who is on the fast track to sainthood. Miskimen is a writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and author of Sit Stay Heal.  Her previous articles for Covey include installment  No Guns for Old MenCall Me. Maybe, and Divide and Conquer?

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Lori Miller Kase

Lori Miller Kase

Lori Miller Kase is a Connecticut-based writer who frequently covers health. Her articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of national publications, including Vogue (where she was an editor), The Atlantic, Brain,Child and the New York Times. She also teaches creative writing workshops for children, and is currently working on a YA novel.

Courtney Kealy

Courtney Kealy

Courtney Kealy covered conflicts in the Middle East for 12 years based in Beirut, Jerusalem and Baghdad. She started as a photojournalist then became a TV and Radio correspondent before returning to NYC. Her nephews Declan, 14 and Harrison, 18 are growing up beautifully but so fast, she says. Both have their mother, Cara’s sweetness and their father, Sean’s charming dry wit.


Robin Bobbé

Robin Bobbé

Robin Bobbé is the creator of The ModernAger Blog for women over 50 who are living in a modern way in a modern world. She fills her days by working as a contributing producer for an Academy Award-nominated documentary film company and auditioning after becoming a commercial print model at 60. Believing that every woman over 50 should strut their stuff she advises women on how to be a visual force on the Pivot Planet website.
Robin has been living in New York City since 1971 when the city had soul and it was super bad. She and her husband have a photography studio in Chelsea.

Snowden McFall

Snowden McFall

Snowden McFall is a professional speaker, corporate trainer, author, and entrepreneur, who has long been a strong advocate for women. She is the President of two companies, Brightwork Advertising and Training and Fired Up! Professional Speaking and has authored and co-authored 6 books, including Fired Up! How to Succeed by Making Your Dreams Come True! In 1991 she was named National Women in Business Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration and has shared her expertise on CNN, Bloomberg Small Business, and many other TV shows.



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