Reinvention Rebels

Reinventing My 80s: How I Thrive at 89 - Curiosity, Community & Connection with Elaine Battles

April 21, 2022 Wendy Battles/Elaine Battles Season 3 Episode 8
Reinvention Rebels
Reinventing My 80s: How I Thrive at 89 - Curiosity, Community & Connection with Elaine Battles
Show Notes Transcript

What if your 80s included ample amounts of art appreciation, community involvement, and pursuing those things that light you up?

What if being 89 meant vibrant living, memoir writing, and inspiring others about what's possible?

This is the story of my very special guest, my mom, Elaine. ❤️

In addition to mom, I also call her an almost-90 phenom.

She is quite the Reinvention Rebel.

She's excited about life and new possibilities.

She's not afraid to carve a new path.

She's taken cool classes like memoir writing to curate and leave behind our family history.

She's a patron of the arts, stimulating her mind with new ideas and experiences.

She's reinvented herself many times in many different ways over the years. And she's got some wonderful, sage words to share including:

✳️ Why role models are key to her development and her ongoing reinvention journey
✳️ How we can reinvent ourselves throughout our life, no matter our age
✳️ Why reinvention can happen in both big and small ways
✳️ How her curiosity has expanded her life to see new possibilities
✳️ Why you shouldn't be afraid to take chances
✳️ How she's leaned into her interests to support her many reinventions

And so many more stories of self-discovery, resilience, and family history.

I couldn't help but soak up our family stories, learning some new things along the way. We laughed, tried not to cry, and delighted in this shared mother-daughter experience. A precious conversation I'm honored to have had and will always cherish. 🥰

Sit back, lean in, and take a listen to this special episode about what's possible when we lean into curiosity and approach life with a sense of wonder and appreciation.

Mom reminds me that there are endless possibilities to find joy, practice self-love and lean into our abundant gifts and talents.

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Wendy: What's one thing that someone who's dipping their toe in, not sure where to start-- what's one thing they could do?

Elaine: Well, first of all, you have to know yourself and what your interests are. And so, once you define what your interests are, then going out and looking for opportunities, not to wait for them to come to you. You have to really be proactive and pursue those, because it can be really fulfilling in all ways in your life. I would say, “Don't be afraid to take chances. It's maybe something that's a little bit challenging, but rise to the challenge because it gets so much out there.” There's so many ways in which you can be involved. You start small and then, yes, grow from there, really.

[Reinvention Rebels intro]

Wendy: Welcome to Reinvention Rebels, stories of brave and unapologetic women. 50 to 90 years young, who have boldly reimagined life on their own terms, to find new purpose and possibilities. I'm your host, Wendy Battles. Ready for a dose of inspiration? Let's get to it.


Hey, everyone. It’s Wendy, host of the Reinvention Rebels Podcast. Welcome to another episode. I am so glad you're here. If this is your first time listening, I'm so glad you've tuned in. If you are a regular, well, welcome back. As many of you know, this is the place to come if you're looking for inspiration to fuel your reinvention journey. I have the pleasure and honor of sharing stories of really extraordinary women, 50 to 90 years young, who have reinvented themselves in the most interesting, brave, bold, and unapologetic ways. You are in for a treat. I do want to mention that if you haven't caught up on some of the recent episodes, there are two that I think you're really going to love. 

One is a recent episode I did on the idea that reinventing ourselves is a team sport. It's something that involves not just you, but all the other players that help you be the star and figure out your reinvention path. And also, another fantastic episode was with the amazing Lea Lane. 79-year young Lea Lane, who started her podcast when she hit 79 during the pandemic. She's a travel writer and is truly inspiring. So, I want to encourage you to listen to both those episodes and, of course, all of them. I do want to say that you're in for a really special treat today. I have been saying since I started the podcast in 2020 that I wanted to have my mom on as a guest. She is an amazing Reinvention Rebel. She has reinvented herself many times in different ways as she'll share with us. I finally, however, convinced her that she should come on. 


I'm really excited about our conversation. I'll tell you that my mom, at 89 years young, is very spry, she's active, she's involved in different things, and has created a really interesting textured life. She's a very curious person and she's interested in many different things. I think as an observer, as her daughter that that's been part of her longevity and her desire to lead a really full, interesting life. I do love the fact that she just lives down the road from me, like 10 minutes, which is great because I get to see her regularly. So, this is my mom, Elaine Battles, 89-year young, Elaine Battles. Hey, mom.

Elaine: Hi, Wendy. 

Wendy: How are you? 

Elaine: I'm great. I've been looking forward to this. And so, now, we're doing we're doing it. 

Wendy: We are doing it.

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: We are doing it. I'm really proud of us. 

Elaine: Well, I really just respect so much the work that you're doing and bringing forth these stories about amazing women. I feel humbled to be [laughs] considered one of them.

Wendy: Oh, you are. You reinvented yourself many different times in different ways, and certainly as you've aged, which I think we all do. And so, I am really excited to talk to you about that. And also for the audience to really get to know, who’s Wendy's mom? 


Wendy: "Who is Elaine Battles and how did she get to be so fierce? Maybe that's where Wendy gets it from." 


Wendy: So, it's really a joy to be able to have this conversation, and sit here with you, and just talk a little bit about you. 

Elaine: Okay. 


Wendy: Awesome. Maybe we can begin by you telling everyone a little bit about yourself, maybe your background, where you grew up, and how that helped shape who you grew in to be as an adult?

Elaine: All right. Well, certainly, I was born in Georgia and grew up in Albany, Georgia. My mother and my grandmother were really my role models. I didn't realize it at the time.

Wendy: Yeah.

Elaine: We take it for granted, you're a child, and you just go about what you're doing. 

Wendy: Right.

Elaine: But my grandmother was a registered nurse, which was really rare in the sense that there were women who of color, who were maybe practical nurses, but there weren't a whole lot of registered nurses. She grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and there actually was a school of nursing. She was among the early graduates from that school. She went from being a nurse at the local hospital, Phoebe Putney, I think it was called. 

Wendy: [chuckles] 

Elaine: And actually had a room at the hospital and was the head nurse of the color wards. 

Wendy: I know.

Elaine: Of course, then I would see her in that setting, as well as when she would come to her home on her days off.

Wendy: Yeah. What a legacy. That's so interesting. What a role model-

Elaine: Yes.

Wendy: -to see that. 

Elaine: That was my first role model. And then, my mother was also my role model. She was born in Savannah, Georgia, but moved with an aunt and uncle and grandmother up to Massachusetts, and then to Philadelphia. All of her formal education through high school was in some really good public schools, Germantown High School in Philadelphia.

Wendy: [chuckles] 

Elaine: And then she went back south to college, to one of the historically black colleges. She went to Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. That was where she met my father, who was from Valdosta, Georgia. And so that's how I came about.


Wendy: It's the whole Georgia connection.

Elaine: Yes. And actually, through the years, I really saw how engaged she was in the community. After starting out as a school teacher, she went back to school and got a master's in social work. We moved to Philadelphia. But then we were no sooner in Philadelphia. Then she decided that she thought I should go to boarding school. That was because she was concerned about when she was working full time, what would happen when I was out of school, here we are in a large city as opposed to a small community of Albany, Georgia. And so, I went off to, what they call finishing school. [laughs] 

Wendy: Which I have to say, that alone is amazing, because I can't imagine back then in the 40s, a lot of families, especially black families saying, “I need to send my daughter to boarding school.” It might be, “I need to find a babysitter for her after school.”


Wendy: That is just unusual. 

Elaine: Yeah. Well, I think the thing is this. Palmer, where I ended up going was the finishing school for blacks. There were many finishing schools in New England and places. But, of course, blacks weren't welcomed there necessarily. And Charlotte Hawkins Brown, the president of the school started the school. It drew kids from all over the country. They were maybe ordinary people, but most of them were parents who were professionals. So, you had doctors and lawyers, and you had school teachers, and all kinds of-- It was quite an interesting mixture. As I said, they came from all over the country. It was a small enough school that you got to know everybody. It started with seventh grade. When I went, I was entering eighth grade and through 12 and it was, motto[?] was the correct thing to do to send where.


Wendy: Oh, it seems like a lot of people today could use that, doesn’t it?


Elaine: I think it was certainly the academics were important and stressed but it was also the cultural things. Almost everyone was involved in some way in music, in drama. There were people of note who came to campus.

Wendy: Like Nat King Cole.

Elaine: Yes.

Wendy: [laughs] Right?

Elaine: Nat King Cole married the president of a college. The president was Charlotte Hawkins Brown. She had a niece and her niece was Natalie Cole's mother. But anyways, she was in the entertainment arts and she met Nat King Cole and they got married. I remember that after their honeymoon, they came to campus. Oh, boy-- [laughs]

Wendy: That was exciting. 

Elaine: That was really exciting. I even have a picture of them. 

Wendy: Really?

Elaine: Yes, on the campus. Anyways, it was that kind of thing, though. But it brought poets in, it brought singers, professional singers. And so, this was the kind of thing that we were exposed to over those years. And, of course, the manners. Almost everyone on the campus was involved in music in some way. So, you had an orchestra, you had the Sedalia singers, and they even went to town hall in New York City to perform. So, it was just a really, really rich environment.

Wendy: Yeah. So, where were you in the music part? What were you doing? 


Wendy: I don't think you actually ever told me about that.


Elaine: Well, of course, like many kids, I took music lessons. I thought I was very good. By contrast, my mother could just sit down at the piano and play. 

Wendy: I remember that.

Elaine: She even served as the pianist at one of the churches in Albany when I was growing up. Even as an adult, when she would come to visit when we had a piano, she could sit down and just pick up something and start to play. 

Wendy: I remember how she would do that.

Elaine: Yeah.

Wendy: It was amazing.

Elaine: Yeah, of course, I didn't have that kind of skill. [laughs] 

Wendy: I didn’t know. I've missed the ultimate generation. 

Elaine: Yeah. But at one point, when I was at Palmer, I told my mother, “Mother, I wanted to learn to play the violin.” And so, she bought her violin for me, and I had a few lessons, and then that was really nothing either. [laughs] So, yeah. 

Wendy: So funny. I had no idea about that. I didn't even know that you played the violin or at least attempted to. [laughs] 

Elaine: I tried to play then. I attempted to play the violin. 

Wendy: I love it. What's the thing that you learned from all of these experiences, this rich culture and the things you were exposed to that really helped you as an adult?

Elaine: Well, the thing is, I think, I had a certain comfort level, because I had a certain amount of self-confidence about my abilities and a comfort level with meeting people that I hadn't known before. I guess, the thing is, your father was thrust into the business world in the early days when there were a few blacks there.

Wendy: When you say the early days, what years are you talking about? 

Elaine: Well, I graduated from college in 1954. We got married my senior year. He went off and had to do two years of service. He came back and then really started looking for a job. Now, realize that he had gone to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, which was far ahead of its time. And then he had for graduate school, the opportunity to go to University of Chicago or to go to Harvard, and he chose Harvard Business School, which was really rare. I think it's a two-year program and there were five blacks, males involved or enrolled rather at the Harvard Business School. It was both of us were on the leading edge in some respects. Of course, then after graduation, he had a number of different jobs and a number of them with some major corporations in the country. 

Wendy: I think it's so interesting, too, that in this time, during the Civil Rights era, where there was so much unrest and people fighting for rights that, I think, there's so many different stories that we can hear.

Elaine: Right.

Wendy: There's the story of so much strife and struggle, and really trying to change society.

Elaine: Exactly. 

Wendy: And then it's really interesting to hear stories like this, because I think we don't always hear these other stories. 

Elaine: Mm-hmm.

Wendy: We hear a lot of the same narrative about all the things we had to do to try to change things. But I think it's really interesting to hear that he actually was in the corporate world, and that he had this advanced degree, and that he was getting job offers. 

Elaine: Yeah, it wasn't always that easy, though. 

Wendy: I know it wasn't.

Elaine: Because even though he had Harvard Business School on his resume, when he came back from the service and he started applying for jobs. He would send the resume and of course, they'd be very excited. They'd see Harvard Business School on that. 

Wendy: Of course, yeah. 

Elaine: And then he would go for the interview and then they would see that he-- [crosstalk]  

Wendy: He was black.

Elaine: He was black.

Wendy: Yeah. That's not what they were expecting. 

Elaine: Exactly. 

Wendy: I know that is not what these people were expecting.

Elaine: Exactly. Because I can think of, in one particular case, he was interviewing with Otis Elevator. I think when he arrived, their mouth just dropped open. They didn't know how to react. And then also there was that period where they wanted corporation wanted to be able to say, well, they were liberal minded and so they'd do an interview with you. But that didn't necessarily end up in a job.

Wendy: Right. 

Elaine: Yeah. 

Wendy: Which is something we still hear today. 

Elaine: Oh, absolutely.

Wendy: Right. 

Elaine: Absolutely. 

Wendy: People want to make it look like they're all about diversity, equity inclusion, but they aren't necessarily.

Elaine: Exactly.

Wendy: Yeah.

Elaine: Yeah. So that was how we got started. I guess, to direct you, we didn't even know where we were going to end up. 

Wendy: Yeah. 

Elaine: Yeah.

Wendy: Right. Which I guess is how life is. It's such a mystery. 

Elaine: It is, indeed. 

Wendy: We step out and think we're going in a certain direction, and sometimes, we shift directions or things unfold. 

Elaine: That's true. That’s very true. 

Wendy: Differently than we expect. I'm really curious about how you reinvented yourself through all of these different experiences. Can you share with us a time when you reinvented yourself and something you learned from that? 

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: There are probably are a lot. The reality is, I think, we've all reinvented ourselves many different times in many different ways over our lifetimes.

Elaine: Right. 

Wendy: In 89 years, well, you've had plenty of opportunities.


Elaine: That's true. We've moved a lot, of course, because your dad worked for some major corporations starting with IBM, that means I've been moved. 


Elaine: And so, we moved around to different places. He worked in New York City for IBM and then got transferred to Westchester County. We went upstate to [unintelligible [00:19:10] to New York. While he was there, I actually worked for the welfare department as a caseworker. That was an experience in itself. 

Wendy: [crosstalk] -nice. 

Elaine: [laughs] Then the next thing we know that we were being moved back to Westchester County. At that point, we had skipped your brother, Curtis, Jr. It was the living in Yorktown Heights in Westchester County and starting school there, coming next thing we know, your father had felt that he had had enough with IBM, he was ready to move on for some different kinds of experiences. Many people were saying, “Boy, that's such a good job. Why would you even consider leaving IBM?”

Wendy: Yeah. 

Elaine: But, of course, he was interested in growing in his career. And he felt that he had probably gone as far as he could go with them. And then an opportunity came up with the Xerox Corporation, which in those days was up in Rochester, New York. So, we ended up moving to Rochester. Yes, because we had a lot of interests other than just what we were going to do workwise. We'd end up going to concerts and taking advantage of all the many different things that the city had to offer. I even did a stint as a substitute school teacher. 


Elaine: And in those days, we had sort of written ahead to find out what might be a possibility for me as well. And so, by the time I arrived, they were already looking for me as a substitute teacher. And so, that was how my career got started doing substitute teaching. Of course, every place that we went, we were very fortunate, because we were in communities that had a lot of culture, so that there was the symphony, and there was theater, and many things going on. So, that was just a really good outlet for me, in terms of growing my interest.


Wendy: Ready for more inspiration like what we're talking about today on this episode of the Reinvention Rebels Podcast? You can get it easily. Pop over to and sign up for my news and notes. I share inspiration, motivation, and all kinds of possibilities about how you can reinvent yourself at any age or any stage. Come join us. 


It also sounds like because you moved so many times that you were doing a lot of mini-reinventions just going from one place to the other and starting over.

Elaine: Right. 

Wendy: It's almost something you got to be pro at, I bet, like a professional mover.


Elaine: Well, that's true. The other thing I thought about not too long ago was the fact that each time we move, somebody was paying for our moves. [laughs] 

Wendy: And what a difference that makes, doesn't it?

Elaine: Yeah. [chuckles] The other thing, too, is that by working for major corporations, when you went into the communities, there was always a team that was lined up to help you find housing and all of those kinds of things that contribute to quality of life. And so, we would go, there'd be a realtor lined up to show us around, and what kind of housing was available to us. We'd never really landed up in a ghetto kind of community, simply because you had the major corporation that was behind it and all of their resources. Even to the point of financial assistance, if needed. So, our moving was a different kind of entry than just the ordinary person, who has moved from one city to another looking for some kind of job or something of that. We had so many resources that were there to support us.

Wendy: That's really wonderful. I think that that doesn't happen for so many people, that they don't have necessarily that access to those kinds of resources that help you figure out where you might live. Or, I think that often, certainly, for so many people of color, as we know historically, we've been limited in where we could live. 

Elaine: Exactly.

Wendy: So, we didn't have access to some of the places where we have the chance to end up or other communities like that.

Elaine: Right. I think the other thing, too, is that as we moved, and by now, we had down both, your brother and you, where we had to find schools and that kind of thing for you. It just seemed natural that there was somebody, the corporation that was moving you was making sure that all of those things were in place that you had a realtor, we were looking at the right school districts. In many cases, both you and Skipper, among the few.

Wendy: Oh, yeah.

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: We could do whole show about being the only one, but we won't go down that path today.


Wendy: Because that was traumatizing, but okay.

Elaine: [laughs] I look back on it and think how well, though, the two of you adjusted to those situations.

Wendy: Yeah. And I think because that's just how my whole life has been really.

Elaine: Yeah. 

Wendy: Growing up, being the only one, like you said one of the few in New Jersey. And then we moved to Minnesota, where it's really not that diverse. 


Wendy: If you're in Minneapolis, but we didn't live in Minneapolis. So, that felt even less diverse than where we lived in New Jersey. And so, it's been interesting.

Elaine: It has been. But I think we also moved out to communities that had so much to offer in terms of exposure to the arts and community organizations, because I tended to get involved as a volunteer many times when we moved. So, that really contributed to your growth and enrichment as well. 

Wendy: Yeah. It did. And you were called scout leader, you are a den mother. 

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: You did a lot of other volunteering. 

Elaine: Yeah. Well, those were interesting years. The elementary school that you attended had a girl scout troop. And another mother and I decided that we were going to be co-leaders. And so that summer, we got all the training to be the girl scout [chuckles] leaders of the troop. And then, the other mother went back to work full time. And so, here I was with this troop. Fortunately, some parents stepped up and assisted with all of the activities.

Wendy: Unfortunately, it wasn't you being the den mother for all those little boys by yourself.

Elaine: [laughs] Well, yeah, I had been a den mother-

Wendy: [laughs] 

Elaine: [crosstalk] -growing up as well. And that in itself was an experience. 

Wendy: I know it was. 

Elaine: Yeah. [laughs] 

Wendy: Al that energy. 

Elaine: I did it with another mother and we would have the den meetings and she would say, oh, my goodness, the day before she started thinking about that. This was when we lived in Rochester, New York. [laughs] Power base we turned into den for the boys and then we had a boy scout who would come to supervise, to engage them in the activities. [laughs] He would lose control and the two mothers would have to straight things out.


Wendy: And only the way a mother can.

Elaine: Yes. 

Wendy: [crosstalk] -mother look in that town.


Wendy: I love it. You've had lots of different experiences, where you've reinvented yourself. 

Elaine: Yes. 

Wendy: Throughout your life. I'm interested in-- as you've aged, so, now, you're 89. I can't believe you're almost 90. It's amazing. 

Elaine: Neither, can I.


Wendy: I'm like, “Wow," you're so spry. I love it. I hope that I'm like that, too.

Elaine: Well, I'm sure you will be. You already are engaged in community in many ways.

Wendy: Yeah. When I retire to Portugal, I plan to have a very vibrant retirement doing all kinds of really cool things. I want to know about this idea of aging. I know that in our society, older women often are marginalized or not seen as vital or having a lot to contribute. Yet, of course, through all these interviews, I know, and I've heard such amazing stories of women who are doing incredible things, big and small, all kinds of different things. I'm curious about your experience in your 70s and 80s, because I think of that as a reinvention and that you've reinvented being single and vibrant, and doing all kinds of things. How have you done that? How would you say you reinvented yourself as you've aged in this timeframe?

Elaine: Well, I've always had an interest in the communities where I've lived, reaching out and you getting involved. The other thing is, I have a certain amount of curiosity, I guess. When I move to a community, I really look at two things. I look at what culturally it has to offer. I'm very happy when I get to a place where there are museums, where there are concerts. And I have to back up and say, in the many years when I became a professional fundraiser, I've lived in places where there were universities and that in itself is an enrichment. 

Wendy: Yeah, it is.

Elaine: Because not only were you interacting and raising money for that institution, but they just offered a wealth of opportunities to engage in cultural things, to meet some really interesting people because of the alumni that you're interacted with. It was just great exposure and feeding on your growth. Well, now, of course, we are here in New Haven and there’s Yale. When I first moved to Connecticut back from California, I was up in West Hartford. I did go to University of Hartford concerts and things of that sort, the museum there and all of that. But somehow or other, I found myself coming to New Haven very frequently. [laughs] Well, of course, you were here. 

Wendy: Right.

Elaine: But also, Yale is here. I can guess go to the Yale Art Gallery, which I do very frequently. British Museum, there's Beinecke, they have scholars who are coming in, they have interesting exhibits. It's just a wealth going to the concerts and all of that that I enjoy. So, it really fits my interest quite well.

Wendy: It really does. I think that keeps you so active-

Elaine: Absolutely.

Wendy: -and vibrant by being engaged. I know that sometimes people retire and they sit around, they don't have a lot to do. But you have so many different interests. I think that that's part of what keeps us feeling healthy- 

Elaine: Yes, that's true.

Wendy: -and wanting to get out and do things. 

Elaine: Yeah. 

Wendy: And you also strike me as someone who hasn't been afraid to do things by yourself.

Elaine: Oh, no, no. [laughs] 

Wendy: I think that's a big deal. Even sometimes when we're younger, you go to a restaurant and they say, “Just one?” 


Wendy: I think that as we age, men tend to die sooner, a lot of women are single for lots of different reasons.

Elaine: Right. 

Wendy: And some women who might be listening, might be thinking, “Oh, I wish I could get out more," or, "I wish I could feel more comfortable doing that on my own.” Obviously, you have a lot of friends, but how did you find comfort also in doing things on your own?

Elaine: Well, I guess, I like myself.


Wendy: Which is the start of everything, really.

Elaine: [laughs] Yeah. I do have a lot of interests. I guess have grown from that, because I'm willing to go into a new community and find out what it has to offer. I guess, I have a certain amount of curiosity and I have a broad range of interests. That's just developed over the years. I think back on my days at Palmer when I was in high school, and then, I transitioned to having been away at boarding school and not wanting to go away to boarding school for college. I actually lived at home and went to Drexel in Philadelphia. And of course, they had a great deal of interest on culture, because I was in the school of home economics. [laughs] But I took advantage of many of the things that Philadelphia had to offer. 

I can remember going to Philadelphia orchestra concerts when I lived in Philadelphia. I can remember going to some jazz clubs. I just over the years developed a whole lot of interests. And I guess, my mother was my role model, because she was very involved in the community and outreach, even though she had full time job. She was truly a professional mother. [laughs] She wasn't a great about the house thing, but she thrived on being involved in the community. So, that was my role model. So, I think I just followed in her footsteps in that regard.

Wendy: I love that. I love that sense of empowerment that you have.

Elaine: Yes. And the years that we spent in Ridgewood, I was very involved with the YWCA. That was where women then had leadership roles. I went from helping them establish a daycare center or a childcare center to becoming president of the board. It just took off from there. Then as we moved about the country over the years, I would get out into the community and get involved. It just seemed a natural.

Wendy: Yeah, and you still were doing this in the community. You're still going to all kinds of events and museums, and cultural things as you talked about. But even in your 80s, you've been on boards- 

Elaine: Oh, yeah.


Wendy: -in New Haven. I've gotten you involved in boards I'm on, like Common Ground.

Elaine: [laughs] Right. Yeah. Well, I think there are several things about my experience in the years that I've been here, is that I was then doing some consulting, because I now had was a certified fundraiser over the years, worked for a number of major universities around the country. When I came here, I was doing some consulting, working with nonprofit organizations. And so, those are all of the things that put me out there and making connections. I can remember, I met Sharon [unintelligible [00:37:34] a luncheon that CCA was having. 

Wendy: And CCA is Christian Community Action.

Elaine: Christian Community Action, I had been a consultant for them. Sharon and I sat across the table from each other. We just talked about, she said, “Tell me something about yourself.” Next thing I knew, she was calling me [chuckles] I was involved with that organization. 

Wendy: Yeah. And then you were on the board of the Women and Girls Fund. 

Elaine: Yes. 

Wendy: It's interesting, because I think there's this theme also in many of the different things you've done in different eras of female empowerment of the YWCA- 

Elaine: Yeah.

Wendy: -and all the leaders there, up through, of course, New Haven and some of your board involvement. I really love that because I think anything we can do to empower girls, especially but women generally is always important. 

Elaine: Yeah. Well, I think it was a two-way street, because I was getting a great deal out of guests having that exposure in the community maybe giving something back. Yeah, so, it's been very rewarding.

Wendy: You also mentioned something earlier that really struck me and you said, “I'm really curious person."

Elaine: [chuckles] 

Wendy: And you really are. I talk about curiosity, like I did an episode, I think, back in, I don't know, last season about curiosity. What I call “one of my three Cs, one of the key ingredients that I see that Reinvention Rebels have that they are curious, that they're interested in the world around them, that they like to try new things, that they like to meet new people. I think that also is so key to reinventing ourselves, no matter how old we are. Whether we're younger and doing it, or we're in our 50s, or we're 89, it doesn't really matter. But I think that curious nature is something that makes everything richer- 

Elaine: True.

Wendy: -when we're interested in the world around us. 

Elaine: Right. 

Wendy: Because I think that helps us see new possibilities, no matter what age we are.

Elaine: That's true. That's very true. Yeah. Well, yeah, it's interesting because one of my jobs as a consultant was with Christian Community Action. I shared an office with someone else who was consulting with them, working with many of the women in the community. It turned out that this was one of the first people that I met when I moved to New Haven. Her name was Robin Latta[?], and we shared an office, and we became great friends. Over the years, we did so many things together. We would go to concerts, we would go when the Arts & Ideas Festival was in town and do things, we went to museums, we go down to New Britain or up to New Britain. 


Elaine: And we would go to the New Britain for American Art, and we would look at the exhibits, and then we would have lunch, and then we'd look some more, and then we come home. And then on another occasion, we went to Philadelphia to the museum. And so, we went to see the glass house.

Wendy: I remember that.

Elaine: Yes. We just bonded. She was much younger than I am, but it was a wonderful friendship. Then the public library offered a workshop for seniors. They had a special grant to do memoir writing. And so, I signed up for that. Had never done anything like that before. I never considered myself a writer really. I just got so inspired by that. And so, when it was over, I wanted to continue to do this thinking about you and Skip, and the fact that I wanted to leave them some family history. 

Well, [chuckles] next thing that I know, I took a course in creative writing. I focused on memoir writing during that period. The person who was doing the class, leading the group, and I became good friends. Now, I am continuing to do memoir writing. I write and then she is then editing what I'm writing. So, that's something else that is keeping me busy, engaged these days.

Wendy: It really is. And the stories are wonderful. I've learned so much. I mean, just how you and dad met, and different experiences you had growing up. It's just been really, really interesting. It really is a treasure to leave that for us and be able to read these stories. And now, you can take all those little stories you've written and put them into those places that will find a book. 

Elaine: Yes. 

Wendy: And so, I'm waiting for my book. 


Wendy: I'm waiting for my coffee table book. 

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: People are going to be like, “Wow." Everyone's going to want to read it. I love it. There's so many different things that you have done and are doing, and that speak to how we can always reinvent ourselves in big ways and small ways. It doesn't have to be moving to another country or something huge. It can be something that can be equally profound writing your memoirs, learning a new skill, putting into practice. And I also think that, that helps us staying on to just using our brains in that way. The reading, the writing, all those things are really helpful, I think, in staying vibrant the way that you have, and I love that.

Elaine: Yeah. Well, I think the other thing, too, is that your father and I, we were divorced after almost 35 years of being married, I already had interests, and life goes on. [laughs] 

Wendy: Right. Yeah, and I think that's true, because I know for some women that have been in long term marriages and end in divorce or their spouse passes away that don't have a lot of interests or maybe have not forge their own path. It's much harder to figure out who am I and where do I begin? 

Elaine: Exactly.

Wendy: How do I reimagine my life? And I think that had that advantage of already having this vibrant life that you continued.

Elaine: Yeah. I think also, it really all goes back to my mother being a role model in the sense that, because after she and my father were divorced, she just went on with her life. 

Wendy: Yeah. 

Elaine: And so, that was certainly a strong role model. Looking at my grandmother, and the age in which she became a registered nurse, and all the things while she wasn't as engaged in the overall community, she still was engaged with her career as a nurse and being an example for others who would come after her. Yeah, I had my role models right there on an everyday basis. As I said, as a kid growing up, didn't recognize that. But certainly now, in retrospect, they were. 

Wendy: Yeah, they were. I love it. As we're wrapping up, I want to ask you, what advice that you would share with women who want to reinvent themselves that are older 60, 70, 80 and above, but they're not sure where to start? What's one suggestion that you have? What's one thing that someone who's dipping their toe in, not sure where to start, what's one thing they could do?

Elaine: Well, first of all, you have to know yourself and what your interests are. And so, once you define what your interests are, then going out and looking for opportunities, not to wait for them to come to you. You have to really be proactive and pursue those, because it can be really fulfilling in all ways in your life. I would say don't be afraid to take chances, maybe something that's a little bit challenging, but rise to the challenge, because there's just so much out there. There's so many ways in which you can be involved. You start small and then just grow from there, really.

Wendy: Exactly. I love that advice. Just start small, get out there.

Elaine: Try different things. Not be afraid to try something new. 

Wendy: Right.

Elaine: Yeah.

Wendy: I also think we can always have do-overs. I always say that if something doesn't work out the way we intend or hope it will, that's okay. Maybe it's there to lead us in another direction. 

Elaine: Exactly. 

Wendy: Like that we hadn't expected or anticipated. 

Elaine: Yeah.

Wendy: That might be that thing then that really lights you up.

Elaine: That's true. 

Wendy: So, finding those things. I love it. This has been so amazing to have a conversation with you, mom.

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: I love this. I love you so much.

Elaine: Well, I love you, too. It's just been so special to see you grow up and the woman that you've become. I am just so proud of you. And, yeah, it's just really, really special.

Wendy: Aw, don’t make me cry.


Wendy: Well, thank you. I know that so many people will be really inspired by our conversation and all the amazing things that you've done. You are such a great role model for me. 

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: I think the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because I've embraced that same community-minded, probably at a fault being too involved. 


Wendy: As you know. 

Elaine: Yes. And you also managed to involve me many times. 

Wendy: I have.

Elaine: Because I think back to Common Ground High School and when you were on the board, and when they were going to expand and build a new building and all that, you got me involved in that. 

Wendy: Yeah, I know. It doesn't stop. 


Wendy: So, thank you. Thank you for joining me, thank you for gracing me with your presence, and thank you for being an amazing mom.

Elaine: Well, thank you, and just so fortunate to be here, and see you grow up and how involved you are, and really fine young woman that you are. 

Wendy: Thank you, although at 57, I guess, I'm not so young, but I'll take that. 

Elaine: [laughs] 

Wendy: I'll take that, mom. Thank you. 

Elaine: Yes.

Wendy: Love you.

Elaine: Love you, too.


Wendy: Did you love this episode as much as I did, producing it with my amazing mom? So much inspiration that she shared about her own journey and what is possible as we age. If you loved this episode, I'm going to encourage you to leave me a brief review on either Apple Podcasts or Podchaser, because your review makes it easier for people interested in inspiration and reinvention to find our indie podcast. I'd love it, and the details are in the show notes. 

By the way, I'm really excited about the upcoming episode with the amazing Ellen Feldman Ornato, who has such a juicy reinvention story to share with us. I hope you'll tune in. See you soon.


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