I've been celebrating women aging all my life.
My Grandmother, Edith Irma, brought design to new heights when, in her 80's, she rescued the tired art deco hotels along the edge of Miami Beach and brought them back to life in true art deco style now known as the thriving South Beach where all the beautiful people go! She lived to be 98.5 years young, impacting and inspiring the world around her.
I took notes...
I was 10 when I found the words worth fighting for in the equal rights for women's freedom movement. My first protest.
I was one of the first working moms, and most definitely, people had judgement and verbal abuse about my choices. Our kids turned out better than fine and today are brilliantly successful entrepreneurs, celebrating their successful marriages and our five genius grandchildren. And best of all, Barry and I just celebrated our 55 years of marriage, somehow riding the storms and the victories of every decade and threshold. Whew!
My passion for the magic that happens in the classroom still drives me and builds my bravery muscle. Crusades and causes fueled me when I fought for busing between black and white high schools. My Rock Poetry and Film Appreciation classes opened minds and hearts. I was in my glory serving for the good of our future.
For Women Only Parties was my attempt to get the ERA passed, at long last. Living in Athens, Georgia, getting the ERA passed was not a priority to most people, and men particularly were suspicious about what all these women from all walks of life that gathered at my Victorian home would be talking about...not recipes and children! Gathering women for a cause I now realize is one of my Super Powers.
Opening one of the first cookie stores in the nation was gutsy and unheard of back in the '70's... one store blossomed into13 franchises up and down the southeast coast. Then a move in 1981 that filled two U-Haul trucks headed to our Victorian Parlor on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Cookies from Home was born there on Halloween day, 1981, and grew to become an iconic, homegrown, hands-on 'from scratch' multimillion dollar, award-winning company. How 'bout that???
As one of the few women business owners in the Valley at that time who achieved that coveted benchmark of $1M, while also raising children while keeping the romance alive in a marriage, I realized I needed other women in business who were in the same struggle with juggle that I was...needing and wanting other women to support, validate, and learn from. With this intention, I was one of three other women who created the Phoenix chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners), still thriving today. Growth and inspiration can be highly contagious!
Thanks to Jerrie Uberle who created The World Academy for the Future of Women, I was invited to be a founding member chosen to write and teach a provocative Leadership class to young girls with global aspirations at Sias International University in China. I was the teacher and the student at the very same time.
Selling Cookies from Home after 30 years to a very different kind of business owner, clearly marked a new beginning for me. Now what? I chose to serve women business owners who were ready to achieve that $1M goal. I recognized and experienced her fears, goals, challenges, and dreams. My hard-earned lessons and mistakes growing Cookies from Home were priceless golden nuggets for struggling entrepreneurs to chew on. You know how I love to serve!
By now, I was bruised and weathered enough to claim myself as a seasoned coach...someone who survived and thrived. Those of us who are still standing to tell our stories of the economic trials and tribulations, discovering what it takes to build a solid stellar team and a service-driven culture, learning the hard lessons for sustainability, have much more than information...now we have wisdom, too!!
Kay McDonald, Rena Huber and I created a first-class event, THRIVE@55 Conference. We celebrated the diverse women leaders 55+ and over in our own Phoenix community. We basked in the awe of the Botanical Gardens, celebrating Dr. Gladys McGarey, Felicia Rotellini, Deborah Bateman, Sharon Lechter, and so many more. It was a splendid event based on the beauty and strength of the sunflower, still my all-time favorite flower. Along with the expert eye of Kristi Church as the photographer and the brilliant graphic design of Rachel Dahl, I had the privilege to interview each of the 15 leaders and write her words of wisdom in a most magnificent commemorative book that still lives on to inspire and ignite your own exploratory journey. Their courage just might inspire your own!
During Covid, I hungered for my next step, my next new beginning. The Modern Elder Academy called my name. I watched my visceral reaction to every mental aha! moment.
I felt seen...heard...like-minded souls searching for purpose, definition, and contribution in this next chapter of life. It was my 75th birthday then and being a Modern Elder fit me like a glove! Changing the Face of Aging is what got me up and running every morning. I am blessed to greet each new day!
This week is my 76th birthday. This next year is my year to make a TedTalk happen, to write the curriculum for workshops, and a podcast plus more speaking engagements, and one-on-one coaching that best serves this new way of living, new way of aging and the freedom it brings. I thank you for your presence along the way...your nominations to shine a light on your Modern Elders, to share the wisdom that opens your eyes and heart as you grow, to provoke your curiosity to explore, risk, and live fully in awe.
Birthdays give us perspective at every age, don't they? If you need clarity about living your life on purpose, look back throughout your life when you felt the most juice, the most inspired to ignite change not only in your own life but to impact the lives of others. Connect your dots. This is the stuff that your legacy is made of. This is your tale to tell....
Email me here: Susan@SusanLBrooks.com.
Featured Modern Elder*
JOANNE ASTOR GURMAN
Age Almost 90
We all need a Modern Elder in our life, a role model that teaches us how, an inspiration who has paved the way for doing this life, in spite of the trials and tribulations that come our way. Joanne is that Modern Elder for me. At 90, Joanne still turns heads! Her creative energy persists in all forms: interior designer, jewelry designer, fabric clothier, sculptural weaver, bronze, acrylic, Lecturer on Color, and wood artist extraordinaire. Her wit still makes me chortle from down deep. Her life is full-up.
As the sun was rising today, and because it's my birthday month, Joanne agreed to this Q&A phone call:
Can you see why Joanne is my all-time favorite Modern Elder? Who is yours? Please share the wise souls in your own life who can share their wisdom and teach all of us in the here and now! Share here.
*Chip Conley, best-selling author and speaker, hospitality entrepreneur and leading thought leader, created The Modern Elder Academy's mission "to inspire the ability to reframe a lifetime of experience and recognize one's mastery, relevance, and value in the modern workplace." The Modern Elder* is Conley's term and effort that "liberates and inspires us to embrace wisdom as a path of growing whole, not old...The Modern Elder*marries wisdom and curiosity."
Every month this newsletter will Feature the stories and wisdom of Modern Elders*. Please send in your Modern Elder* nomination. CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT
Today, I am 76 years old, and proud of it! Paul Simon, who is now in his 80's said it best years ago: us boomers are BORN AT THE RIGHT TIME!
Yes, I was born at the right time! I'm still a hippie from the 60's, I marched for civil rights for all humans, equal rights for women, waving my bra with the best. I am proud to be living and growing in a robust marriage of 55 years. I survived motherhood, and so did my now-adult children. I was an award-winning woman business owner when there were but a few of us. I've learned a whole bunch of lessons, and more importantly, I've earned my fair share of Wisdom, too. I am Pro-Age!
According to Chip Conley, one of today's leading thought leaders: "Experience is making a comeback. Wisdom never grows old." Chip created the hallmarks of the Modern Elder*: "learning to marry wisdom and experience with curiosity, cultivating a beginner's mind so that learning never ends, exemplifying a willingness to evolve both as a student and sage." Research shows that shifting our mindset about Aging can add 7.4 happy years to a person's life.
Proud to say I am a graduate of the Modern Elder Academy as well as an active participant in Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit programs. As one of the creators and hosts of the Thrive@55 event, we celebrated our female community leaders who were 55+.
As long as I'm able to have the blessings of good health and a curious mind, there's more living to do, so much more to learn, so many new ways to serve. Trailblazer that I am, and always will be, I recognize my next mission: by example and demonstration I am committed to Changing the Face of Aging: One Modern Elder* at a time!
I welcome both local and national speaking engagements as well as one-on-one coaching opportunities to delve more deeply into navigating life transitions. Email me Here.
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