To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

Marian Rivman with Davida Earnold at BlogHer15
Marian Rivman with Davida Earnold at BlogHer15

I was a freshly minted blogger when I arrived at the BlogHer15 conference at the New York Hilton this past weekend. The first post, Milestone Birthdays, for my new blog Countdown to 70…and Life Beyond had hit the blogosphere just days earlier.

Looking around during the introductory Keynote, I realized that aside from the waiters who hovered near the tables, I was one of a handful of gray-haired people in the crowded ballroom. It was conceivable that I was the oldest person in the audience. What a thought!!

The impetus for my blog was my impending 70th birthday that is on September 12, 2015. Having spent my 60s caregiving for my now deceased mother, I am devoting this summer to getting my body, mind and spirit in top shape for the rest of my life. I thought it would be interesting to chronical that process, and share some of the stories of my life; a blog seemed to be the way to do it.

Mine has been a life of the road less traveled. It is my hope that sharing my stories will inspire others to live their lives to fullest which is what I’ve always tried to do with mine. Now seemed like the right time.

I wondered how the blogging community that I had self-selected to join would respond to this newbie blogger who was pushing 70. I need not have had a moment’s trepidation. Never have I been with a group of people who were friendlier, more supportive, creative or downright fun than those I met last weekend. They embraced me literally and figuratively. I could not have felt more welcome.

Marian Rivman at BlogHer15 with Juliette Acker, Camille Acker, and DeDe Brown, the clever and creative masterminds of www.thespinstersunion.com
Marian Rivman at BlogHer15 with Juliette Acker, Camille Acker, and DeDe Brown, the masterminds of www.thespinstersunion.com

Count me in!! I had found my peeps.

Bloggers, who are predominantly women, come in all shapes, sizes, religions, ethnic origins, sexual orientations and locations.They write about family, food, finances, fashion, politics, parenting, painting, travel. The list is endless.

Bloggers are a powerful force in the current media landscape. Time and again over the weekend I met women who were fierce agents of change, and I wanted to join their ranks.

What most people don’t know is how hard bloggers work. Writing a post is the least of it. Once written, it has to be marketed over a variety of social media platforms. Hours are spent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest trying to attract both followers and sponsors.

I can’t say I wasn’t warned. When I first thought of starting a blog, I met with my old friend Debbie Mitchell of Deborah Mitchel Media Associates who did her best to give me the lay of the land.

Carolyn Sonnek, WordPress and my mentor, Debbie Mitchell of Deborah Mitchell Media Associates
Carolyn Sonnek, a WordPress goddess and my mentor, Debbie Mitchell of Deborah Mitchell Media Associates at BlogHer15

However, after attending several of the workshops offered at the conference, and listening to bloggers I met, I wondered if I was cut out to be a blogger. I had just spent a decade with my life on a short leash because of my caregiving responsibilities. I was rejoicing in my new-found freedom. Did I want to tether myself again; this time to the care and feeding of a blog?? It was an opportunity to examine my priorities and boundaries.

The reception my blog and I received at BlogHer was personally empowering. I even got more comfortable having my picture taken.

MarianHeadshot
Marian Rivman  Photo: Prudential
Marian Rivman Photo: GoDaddy
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Marian Rivman  Photo: Amazon.com

After much deliberation, I’ve decided I’ll continue to blog. But, I’m going to do it on my terms, and I’ll probably break some “this is how it’s done” rules. My days won’t be spent tethered to my desk, computer, iPad or phone. Facebook is my friend, so I’ll continue to post there. I can’t promise that I’ll ever be adept at Twitter. Living my life, rather than writing or tweeting about it, is my priority.

I hope you will continue to follow me on my Countdown to 70 and my life beyond.  Marian Rivman

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This Lady Tells Her Age

In 1995, I was hired as a consultant to the Secretariat of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women. My assignment was to partner with the in-house Senior Media Advisor, Patsy Robertson.

When I first met the dignified, impeccably groomed ‘Lady’ Robertson (my nickname for this remarkable woman), I told her how excited I was that my 50th birthday would occur when we were all  in Beijing. Patsy looked directly into my eyes, put her hands on my shoulders and said, “My dear, a lady NEVER tells her age.”

She said it was acceptable for a woman to tell people when her birthday was, but it was nobody’s business how old she was going to be. I chose not to take her words to heart and continued to plan for a 50th birthday bash in Beijing. Gertrude Mongela, the Secretary-General of the Conference, heard of my plans and whispered in my ear one day that her 50th birthday was going to be the day after mine.

'Lady' Robertson and Gertrude Mongela, Secretary General of the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women, whose 50th birthday was the day after mine.
(l)’Lady’ Patsy Robertson. Senior Media Advisor and (c)Gertrude Mongela, Secretary-General of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women and (r) Marian Rivman 1995 Photo: PechterPhoto
Dancing down the steps of the Great Hall of the People the night of my 50th birthday party.
Marian Rivman on the steps of the Great Hall of the People the night of her 50th birthday party. 1995

For ‘Lady’ Robertson age was something you did not discuss. For large numbers of women AND men, age was something you lied about. Thanks to Google, that option doesn’t exist anymore. With a couple of clicks, your date of birth is available for all to see.

One’s chronological age is fast becoming just a number. Pervasive stereotypes of how one should look, act, and feel at any given age need to fall by the wayside. Baby Boomers are reinventing aging.

Medical advances will make it possible for us to live longer. We’re more aware of the importance of exercise and nutrition. We want full, meaningful and vibrant lives. That’s exactly the kind of life I intend to have as I start my Golden Years.

Me at 69. (My first Selfie)
Marian Rivman at 69. (Her first Selfie) 2015

This lady does tell her age. I’m going to be 70. It’s fun seeing the shocked expression on people’s faces and hearing their exclamations of surprise when they hear how old I am. “No way!” “You’re kidding, right?” “Really? Show me your driver’s license.” My favorite is “Shut up!!! You look younger than my mother.”

 

Camera Shy in a Selfie World

I’ve been camera shy my whole life. Whenever I saw a camera pointed in my direction, I’d do my best to get out of the shot. I marveled at people who started vogueing the minute they saw a lens.

Paradoxically, one of my jobs as a public relations consultant was to get my clients in front of the media. I would tell photographers and cameramen I didn’t want to be in any shots and stayed purposely out of camera range. When my family and friends found out I’d been with someone famous, they always asked “Did you get a picture with him/her?” Nine times out of ten the answer was no. Then they’d chide me for being an idiot for missing the opportunity. There were those times when a  photographer would pull me into a shot and take me out of my comfort zone.

In Kyoto with Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev and Raffi
A photographer insisted I HAD to have my picture taken with Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev and Raffi.

When I decided to start blogging, I realized that finding photos to go with some of my posts could be a challenge. There are whole chapters of my life that I have no visual record of because I wouldn’t let anyone take my picture. And, in many of the photos I do have, I look like a deer in a headlight.

However, there were two photographers who were exempt from my ‘Don’t shoot me’ rule. Mort and Alese Pechter were the official photographers for my client DEMA (the trade association for the scuba industry), and they traveled with me wherever I went. Given that I was the spokesperson for the association, I couldn’t shy away from their cameras. The Pechters made it painless, and luckily for me, graciously agreed to photograph events I was producing for other clients. I’m grateful for the beautiful pictures they took of me over the years.

In the Caribbean on a press trip for DEMA @PechterPhoto
In the Caribbean on a press trip for DEMA @PechterPhoto
With my client Phil Ramone who I adored @PechterPhoto
With my client, legendary music producer Phil Ramone who I adored @PechterPhoto
With Kevin Kline  @PechterPhoto
With Kevin Kline who brought his son Owen to see Raffi on Broadway @PechterPhoto

It has been many years since the Pechters shadowed me with their cameras. In those years, thanks to the global proliferation of people who have cellphones with built-in picture-taking capabilities, the world has become a minefield for the camera shy like me. There is no hiding. The time has come for me to get over my phobia. I’m going to bite the bullet and say “cheese.” This weekend will be an initiation by fire. I’m going to attend the BlogHer conference in New York. There’ll be thousands of trigger happy bloggers snapping away, and I’ll be one of them. I even bought a selfie stick.

Milestone Birthdays

On September 12, 2015, I will be 70 years old. The number astounds me. As I countdown to 70, I’ve been reflecting on other Milestone Birthdays, remembering where my life was at the time and how I’d spent the summer before each.

Twenty-One: The summer of 1966 was spent training for my assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines; I was going to teach science in an elementary school. My first ever plane ride was from New York to Boston.

There were 42 in my training group. We spent ten weeks living in dorms on the Radcliffe Quad while taking intensive language and cultural studies classes. We rented bikes that we rode around Cambridge. I felt like an Ivy League co-ed. It was a far cry from the experience I had living at home with my parents in the Bronx and walking to Hunter College.

We flew to Manila on September 12th, my 21st birthday. There were champagne toasts as we crossed the Pacific. What a way to start my life as an adult!!

Thirty: The summer of 1975 was dedicated to job-hunting; I had been unemployed for more than a year. The situation was dire; my unemployment benefits were about to expire. Reorganization of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency where I had been working as a manpower development specialist had left me jobless in a very depressed employment market.

What was particularly frustrating was that I was supposed to be a job-finding expert. While at the agency, I had found jobs for hundreds of our clients and a booklet I wrote, “Help Wanted-A Job Hunter’s Guide” had been widely distributed.

A reporter at the Daily News, who thought my unemployment was a great human-interest story, wrote a piece “Job Expert Can’t Find One” that appeared in the paper on August 7, 1975. My phone started ringing the minute the paper hit the stands. The callers weren’t employers with job offers; they were producers and reporters asking for interviews. I did dozens hoping one would lead to a job.

On September 12, 1975, my 30th birthday, I appeared on the TV show Midday Live with Bill Boggs. One of the other guests was Stanley Tannenbaum, an executive at Kenyon & Eckhardt, an advertising agency. In the green room, Stanley told me he thought I was one smart cookie who should be in his business. He offered to send my resume to all the ad agencies in the city. I landed a job as an assistant account executive at Benton & Bowles.

Forty: By the summer of 1985, my foray into the advertising industry was long behind me having left B&B after a year. The Madmen life had not been for me. After a half-hearted job search, I decided to start my own business. Quality Respondents recruited subjects for consumer research groups. A New York Times article about QR, “A ‘Central Casting’ for Consumer Research”, prompted an avalanche of people to volunteer to be subjects.

By 1982, I had recruited thousands of people for hundreds of groups. I was ready for a change. That year, I fell in love with an Israeli underwater photographer who owned a travel company that specialized in exotic scuba trips. I became his de facto public relations consultant. My efforts were so successful that after two years, the executive director of the scuba diving trade association (DEMA) asked if I would be interested in promoting the whole industry. It was goodbye Quality Respondents – hello Marian Rivman Communication Consultants (MRCC). DEMA was my first client, and I represented the association for more than eight years.

With 40 fast approaching, the summer of 1985 was spent getting myself in shape for the globe-trotting life I was starting to live. I took multiple aerobics classes and treated myself to workouts with a personal trainer. I was fit and toned at the birthday party I threw for myself.

Me at 40
Marian Rivman at 40 scuba diving in the Caribbean 1985  Photo:PechterPhoto

Fifty: I had found my calling in Public Relations. By 1995, in addition to DEMA, MRCC had represented an eclectic roster of clients including: UN agencies, programmes and world conferences; beloved children’s singer Raffi; legendary music producer Phil Ramone and global non-profits like the Amazon Conservation Team.

In the summer of 1995, I was working at the UN. This time as a communications consultant for the Secretariat of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was being held in Beijing September 4-15. Since it was pre-birthday cleanup time, before heading to the office each day, I’d go to the sports club across the street from my apartment to run on the track and workout on machines

On September 12th, 1995, I celebrated my 50th birthday in Beijing. It was an incredible start to my 50s, which were filled with interesting work, travel, and a few romances.

Beijing Birthday with Helvi Sipila, Secretary General of 1975 UN World Conference for Women
Marian Rivman’s 1995 Beijing Birthday with Helvi Sipila, Secretary General of the 1975 UN World Conference on Women

Sixty: My life was in a VERY different place as I approached my 60th birthday in the summer of 2005. My father had died in January 2004, and I had become my invalid mother’s caregiver. I had moved her to New York from Florida, and she was living in an apartment across the street from mine; she had home health aids 24/7. I was running a nursing home for one.

My pre-birthday summer cleanup included multiple yoga classes weekly, an extended juice fast, and numerous hours with a masseuse. Having stopped jogging years before due to a knee injury, I bought a pedometer and started logging 10,000 steps a day.

On September 12th, 2005 I celebrated my 60th birthday with close friends at a neighborhood restaurant. My future was cloudy; I had no idea how long my mom would live and I would be caring for her.

With my mom, Julia Rivman
Marian Rivman with her mom, Julia Rivman 2005

Seventy: It is now the summer before my 70th birthday. I am no longer a caregiver. My mother died in my arms on April 16, 2014, three months shy of her 97th birthday. My dad had died when he was 90. I have some serious longevity genes.

This summer’s birthday cleanup is a crusade to get my mind, body and spirit in condition for the rest of my life. I’m devoting full-time to the effort. My FitBit (electronic activity tracker) has become my BFF and I’m fanatical about meeting my daily goals, and it’s working. My friends are getting used to my suggesting that we take a walk instead of going out to eat. The neighborhood Equinox Sports Club is my go-to place for yoga and other classes. Trader Joe’s makes it easy to eat healthfully. I am having a blast!

My 60s were spent caregiving. It is my intention to spend the rest of my life at “full throttle.” My Bucket List still has many items that I want to check off.

I hope you will follow me as I countdown to the big 7-0 and as I start my life as a septuagenarian.