My Book Rating System

I rate book with DNF – ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ stars based on each of the following:

1. Readability
– Well written?
– Strong chapter beginnings and endings
– Well developed characters
– Page turner?

2. Engagement
– Was I fully engaged? Did I lose myself in the read?
– Was it hard to put down?

3. Emotional Investment
– Was I emotionally invested in the characters? 🥺😱😳😡😳😝🤗

4. Originality 💡
– Was there something new, unique and exciting about it?

5. Insightful/Enlightening?

Overall:

Note: Books that I do not finish: I had a lot of issues with the book, characters and plot. I disliked it so much that I didn’t even want to rate it 1 star.

Book Review: Pale by Edward Farmer

Edward Farmer’s engrossing debut, Pale, begins in 1966 in the burning heat of Mississippi, when Bernice, whose husband left with all their savings and didn’t return, accepts her brothers invitation to join him in working on a cotton plantation.

She is slowly immersed into a household full of secrets, deception, revenge, and downright cruelty, which revolves around two young brothers who come to work on the plantation. One becomes a pawn to enact revenge, and the other is mistreated, lied to, and trapped by the choices of others. 

As the story slowly unfolds, we see that for some, there is a perceived thin line between servant and slave, and how revengeful choices can define and change lives through generations.

People who like novels set in the south, will love the author’s rich descriptions of rural Mississippi, including the cotton fields, jacaranda, cicadas, and pestering summer heat. What a great debut!

Thanks to #NetGalley for the ARC! https://www.netgalley.com/book/176864/review/625966

Book Review: The Missing American

Kwei Quartey’s newest novel, The Missing American, opens with a sniper assassination of a Ghanaian presidential candidate, and then we are introduced to Emma Djan, whose dreams of a promising career in the Ghana Police Service are dashed when she tearfully refuses an offer of a position in Homicide in return for sex.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police who relieves her of her duties, suspects “something happened,” and refers her to the owner of a detective agency where she is immediately hired.

Her first case is that of a missing American named Gordon Tilson, a lonely widower who has fallen in love with a Ghanaian beauty named Helen, whom he meets on the internet. Excitedly, he decides to go to Accra to see what destiny holds for the two of them. To his dismay, he soon finds out there is no Helen, and he has been scammed out of thousands of dollars. Then Gordon goes missing. 

Now Emma needs to solve this case for the client, Derek Tilson, and prove to her new boss that he made a good decision in hiring her as a private detective.  However, there are those who will not only thwart her efforts, but kill to keep their secrets.

The novel takes the reader deep into internet scams, fetish priests and corruption, while also offering a look into Ghana’s food, people and culture. This is not a fast-paced crime novel, but is deliberate, and the pieces all tie together at the end. 

I liked Emma and was glad to see that even with a new job where it was extremely important that she prove herself, she still made regular time to volunteer for a very special cause.

Crime fiction readers will enjoy the novel and be treated to the cultural rhythms of Ghana. I look forward to The Second Emma Djan Investigation.

Retiring From a Profession, Not Life….. With No Regrets.

Happy New Year!

For many, January marks the beginning of retirement and right now it feels like being on vacation. There are no more commuting hassles, meetings or deadlines to worry about, and plenty of time to work out or stop by the local coffee shop and read the print or electronic edition of their favorite news source. However, for some, the newness soon wears off, and the joy of unstructured time becomes a burden. Some begin to question their sense of purpose, self worth, and the strength of their financial portfolio.

However, there are those who embrace retirement with a strong sense of purpose, hobbies, and a lifestyle plan.

Meet Cindy Manley-Fields.

In May, 2018, I ran into Cindy while working on a project at UC Berkeley. Cindy and I met in junior high school in Southern California, then both of us moved north and ended up again at the same junior high and high schools in Oakland, California.

Cindy was beaming with excitement at having less than a week before she retired from UC Berkeley as a Student Academic Advisor.

I asked her  “How do you feel about retiring, and what now?”

Here is what Cindy had to say:

I believe attitude makes all the difference in the world.

Your conversation can be about getting old, hurting joints, and negative self talk or you can see it as new opportunities, and finding your voice; knowing what you like and dislike, and being able to express it without worrying about what others think of you or how they will react.  It’s called being grown.

I love being grown!  I can speak out and be who I am because I am all that! I have paid my dues, and now get to enjoy the fruit of my labor.  I always joke with folks, saying “I am a Queen and I love this Queen!” People sometimes look at me funny, but I don’t care, because I love myself and I love all of me!  When you love yourself, you are good to yourself, you are happy, and you thrive.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a 60 year old, I see Cindy, I see this vibrant woman who loves life, who loves doing things, staying busy and still learning every day.  I find conversations with my “gurls” exciting… a lot of “remember this and remember that.” Its all awe!
We know we are changing, because of the physical changes happening to our bodies, but we don’t let them change our spirit or our hearts.

Cindy5

A few months ago, I got together with a group of women from middle school, and it was so refreshing to hear about everyone’s journeys and struggles.  Our conversations went from family, marriages, divorces, infidelity, sex, and kids. Nothing was off limits!  We learned about each of us and how we have grown over the years.  Everyone was 59 or 60, and they all looked good and it appeared life was good.  That is all we can ask for.

Each part of our life is a journey… its like two roads not taken.  We never know what it has in store for us.  We pray for all sunshine,  but there is rain, which makes us grow stronger.  Each stages of life presents it’s own challenges.   My life changed drastically when I was in my early 20’s. My mother died when I was 23, and my dad remarried within 2 months of her death.  What I knew as a close knit family disappeared for a while. For the first time in my life,  I felt lost and alone, because my mother was the nucleus of the family and she was gone. I was also madly in love with my first love, who around the same time dumped me for someone else. Hard times, but it made me the strong black woman I am today. You never know your strengths until you are challenged.

In my 30’s I got married and had 2 children.  I married a man who had a large family, so I was back into family, and my immediate family started mending.  As I look back, I realize family and close friends are my joy.   My 40’s were filled with kids growing up, and lots of family events…. all good!

In my 50’s, my marriage was challenged, and it was then that I learned to love myself just the way I am. I think as women, we play so many roles that we discount how we feel and what is important to us because we are people-pleasers.  So here are my important learnings:

  • Don’t take things too seriously, and remember this too shall pass.
  • Don’t compromise who you are.   Love yourself the way you are, and treat yourself with kindness and love…. others will treat you the same.
  • Learn to forgive because it’s for you.
  • Enjoy your family and friends; spend time with them.

In 1981 I began working at UC Berkeley right out of college as the Equipment Manager for Womens Athletics (4 years,) then moved to the College of Engineering (1985), Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, where I was a Software Distribution Manger for 7 years, and then moved into Undergraduate Student Academic Advising for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) and most recently for Bioengineering.  When I was in college I figured I wanted to be a PE Teacher or a counselor, yet I have been an academic adviser for over 20 years, with well over 1,000 students graduated.  It’s a job I have really enjoyed, and loved the fact that I was helping students navigate their way through college.

Cindy3 (2)

Planning for retirement is a must.  I started attending retirement classes at UC  when I was 45, 55 and completed my last class the fall semester before I knew I was going to retire. It helped me understand how social security works, and what kinds of benefits I would have once retired.  I also met with a financial planner at 55 to see if I was on track and if there was anything else I needed to do.

Deciding to work at UC Berkeley has paid off financially because I am able to retire with a pension.  For years everyone around me was making money, but in the end my glory is being able to retire and bring home about 90% of my salary which means I truly get to retire and do what I want.

I noticed when my husband retired he went through a depression, and seemed lost because I think his identity was tied to his job. 

 It’s really important to think about what would you like to do and set a goal for yourself.  I am retiring from my profession but not life.  I plan continue staying busy with photography, jewelry making, shopping and scrapbooking. For over ten years, I have been meeting with with a group of ladies once a month for scrapbooking, and that will continue. Its always a lot of fun! 

My passion is photography.
I always have a camera on me so I will be going on “field trips” to photograph and tell stories through my eyes. I also want to take water aerobic classes in the morning, possibly get an AA or BA degree in photography, take jewelry making classes, travel, and spend some quality time with my husband.  Perhaps in a few years I will teach some of my craft skills.  

I don’t want to be tied down to an obligation, I want to be able to be free to do things spontaneously-its called living.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Cindy is now retired, and I will be checking back with her in a few months to get an update on how the retired life is going.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about how you are embracing your retirement; whether you are still in the planning stages or are living the retired life now!

Faites-en une belle journée!



50, Unemployed, ‘Faking Normal’ A chat about resilience and second acts with author Elizabeth White

Fifty-Five Unemployed and Faking Normal

After successful and gratifying careers in pharmaceutical sales, professional speaking, teaching, and curriculum sales and training, I found myself in a job I hated.  Hate is a strong word, and I rarely use it, but it truly describes how I felt about working in student finance for a for-profit provider of technical education training.  I had planned to retire in January, 2020, and was counting the months before I could say “bye bye!” Then in December of 2016, I was let go.

Fully aware of the challenges of finding another full time job at age 58, and quite frankly, not wanting to continue working full time, I decided to enter my second act by going into a “soft retirement” or “semi-retirement.”   My goal was to find projects that were stimulating, gratifying and short-term.   It has taken a few years, but I have found some wonderful clients, and very interesting projects that provide me with a sense of purpose.

While perusing Flipboard, I came upon this free, 20-minute podcast:  55, Unemployed, and Faking Normal , which I recommend for anyone over 50 who has found themselves unemployed.  The author of Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life talks with Next Avenue’s Work & Purpose channel editor Richard Eisenberg about “getting off your throne,” resilience circles and the “new normal” of work. You can also listen to the eight previous episodes.

Please let me know if you have found value in this article, and share any additional tips or strategies.

Have a productive day!

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Dinner with a Few Fabulous Friends!

ba55a18c-51a4-45fa-a108-2bf7f0594d56-1Social media has been great for reconnecting with longtime friends, and I recently had an awesome time having dinner with three friends I have known since junior high school.  Yes, I said junior high school! Meet (left to right) Naa (Diane) Green, Suzanne Finnamore Luckenbach, and Deanna Alexich.

What a joy to see Suzanne and Deanna, whom I haven’t seen since our graduation day in 1976 at Skyline High School in Oakland, CA, and Naa, whom I reconnected with about  eight years ago, after losing touch beyond high school.  As friends on Facebook, we all have shared tidbits of our lives;  marriages, divorces, children, careers, special causes, etc.  But nothing takes the place of getting together in person over a great meal and adult beverages!

We met at Kincaid’s, which is in the Jack London Square area of Oakland, CA.  Upon arriving, we hugged and squealed like high school students.  After sharing compliments of how awesome we all looked, I turned around and apologized to the diners sitting next to us, saying, “Hope we aren’t being too loud!  We haven’t seen each other since  high school!”  They smiled at us, and replied “Wow, that’s fabulous!”

One of the  most  poignant moments was when Deanna said she had something for us and presented each of us with a gorgeous white gardenia, which we promptly pinned to our hair. I turned to Naa, and saw tears beginning to well in her eyes.  Taking her cue from jazz vocalist Billie Holiday, Naa wore a fresh white gardenia pinned to her hair almost every day, and it became her hallmark from junior high school through high school.  This was a great memorable moment, and the gardenia now symbolizes this special group of ladies who have touched each other’s lives in remarkable ways.

Next, I gifted each of the ladies with a custom hand fan.  Now any woman over 50 knows the importance of always having a hand fan available; especially in the warm summer months.


One thing became abundantly clear as we were reminiscing and sharing tidbits about our joys, triumphs, challenges and accomplishments… these ladies are true inspirations of boldness, eloquence and sass!  I will be profiling each of these incredible ladies, so stay tuned!

I would love to hear your stories of reconnecting with old friends, so please share.
Also follow me to be further inspired by audacious women over 50!

 

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5/30/2018 is the Last Day to Submit Nominations for 2018 L’Oreal Women of Worth!

5/30/2018 is the Last Day to Submit Nominations for 2018 L’Oreal Women of Worth!

Women of Worth - Each year, LOreal Paris recognizes 10 women who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities.Do you know someone who is making a beautiful difference? How about a woman over 50? If so, L’Oreal wants to hear from you! Sign up today and nominate your Woman of Worth. Each Honoree will be awarded $10,000 to support her individual cause.

Here are a few of last year’s honorees.

“Being a Women of Worth is an opportunity to build a platform of hope for the three million mothers and children impacted by incarceration to show them how to keep moving forward in life, without letting their past define them.”

DEBORAH JIANG-STEIN
2017 WOMEN OF WORTH HONOREE

“Being a Women of Worth honoree validates my journey to renew their hope – and it now gives me an even stronger platform to nourish the minds, bodies and souls of my community.”

CHAROLETTE TIDWELL
2017 WOMEN OF WORTH HONOREE

 

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Submit the nomination form online.

All online nominations must be received by 11:59 PM EDT
on May 31, 2018 to be eligible.

~ Photos and Quotes taken from L’Oreal of Paris Women of Worth

 

“An Exultant Aha!”

WINSLOW HOMER, SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW, 1872.

While recently perusing through Flipboard, a picture of a young lady in The Paris Review caught my eye.  She was laying in a hammock and reading a book.  “How very relaxing!” I thought, as I envisioned myself also lying in a hammock on a warm summer day and enjoying a great read.  I sighed; feeling thankful that since I was no longer working full-time, I could actually enjoy this bit of peaceful solitude any day of the week. What a joy!  Then I read the title of the article.

I Have Wasted My Life

How could anyone envision relaxing in solitude as a waste of life!   Was the writer at a life-low when even something as peaceful as this would bring on words of despair or defeat?  Or was this a play on words?  I sure couldn’t figure it out, but decided to read on…

Over my head I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine, behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up like golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Now I am really puzzled. How could a beautiful butterfly, and a field of sunlight bring about such despair? I will admit that horse dropping did elicit an “ewww,” but let’s continue.

The author goes on…

“I imagined the defeat was that he was just describing a butterfly, a wizened horse turd, a this, a that. I thought he was ashamed of his aimlessness and that he was valiantly articulating his failure.”

I starting thinking what this might look like for a 50+ woman.  When would solitude look like loneliness?  Would an unmarried woman feel this way?  How about one who has remained in a bad marriage? Or a woman who is beleaguered by the constant demands of the job and family, and can’t find a place or time for quiet solitude or reflection?  Would any of them think they have wasted their life?   I sure hope not, but instead hope it is seen as a way to recharge our batteries, a time for reflection… creativity!

While I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself, I will give you a hint:

You just may find you experience “an exhultant aha!”

And if you liked what you read, why not pick up Patricia Hampl’s new book:

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Now, I am off to find a place of relaxation and solitude and a good book!
Et toi?

I’d love to hear what you thought about the article!  Just scroll down to leave a reply.

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Au revoir,

Lisa