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on April 21, 2013
When I saw Carol Orsborn's website, Fierce with Age, I thought I might have found a kindred spirit in the author. When I read this book, Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn, I knew for sure. Carol Orsborn is on to something that I, at age 59, am really hungry for. I want to know how to feel valuable, powerful and at peace in the second half of my life, while still fully functioning in a society that demeans, caricatures, and negates older people.

Carol, who is a good writer, describes a story arc that begins with everything falling apart. She is unwanted and then fired from her job in a world that worships youth. She tries to fight aging by staying in the ring with the younger people, but it gives her no real sense of security. She keeps coming up with ideas for holding back time, only to fail over and over again. Telling of her disappointments, Carol does a good job of layering the blows, one atop the other until we are reeling with her. When everything has been tried, every avenue exhausted, what the hell do we do next? Lie down and die? But we're old, not dead! How do we navigate this new country?

Nearly immobilized with discouragement, Carol struggles with the questions I've wrangled with: So now what, at this age? Who am I without the accouterments of my earlier life? My job, my youth, my expertise in a particular field? If I'm not running the race, do I even have value?

One night, in the middle of a furious electrical storm, she stands on her balcony, screaming and shaking her fist at God, daring Him to kill her now.

And He tells her to get over herself.

From this point, Carol begins to glimpse another, more powerful reality. A gigantic paradigm shift later, the unfurling of which she describes in the second half of the book, Carol is once again back on top, no longer burdened by but rather fierce with age. And we're fierce right along with her.

Carol is very skillful in using metaphor to describe her journey. Particularly satisfying is her change of heart regarding the story of Moses, wherein she finally understands that God was saying, "It's okay to get old. I love you just as you are. So should you."

The only problem I had with the book was the spiritual, God aspect. It's not like Carol misled me. God is in the title. Since I am not a believer, however, some points left me a bit frustrated until I got a brainstorm and began replacing the term "conscious growth" with God, and it worked fine! Here's an example:

Carol: To stop "doing" my personality and leave space for God requires...

Lynne: To stop "doing" my personality and leave space for conscious growth requires...

At some point on our nation's timeline, I believe people our age will stop trying to be young and start seeking and finding the intrinsic value of age. It takes courage, though, because so much of it is beyond our control. Carol makes the point that we have to develop the ability to be at peace with that, and with the strength of maturity, we ought to be able to.

The reward is freedom to become our true selves, unbound by the constraints of society as currently drawn. As Carol says, "The one thing that is up to you is whether you will make getting old a tragedy, or embark upon it as another of life's great adventures."
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on May 3, 2013
In her latest book, a memoir titled "Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn," Carol Orsborn records the ups and downs of a tumultuous year she spent facing, busting and ultimately triumphing over the stereotypes of aging.

The year begins with a cross-country move: Orsborn's husband Dan lands a year-long project in New York City that is too good to pass up. So they reluctantly leave the comfort of their Los Angeles Canyon home for a Brooklyn apartment near Central Park.

We all know that the transition itself is bound to be a challenge - experts tell us a cross-country moving is high up there on the list of life's most stressful experiences.

But Orsborn finds the transition to life in New York even more disconcerting than she'd anticipated.

Once settled in their lovely new apartment, she realizes that worse than losing her former home, she's lost her identity -- and even her ability to pray.

As she attempts to settle into life in New York City, she finds herself in what she calls "the wild space beyond midlife." And the worst part of the transition is that she's forced to come to terms with growing old.

As she says, it was if, "One moment, I'd been a smart, spiritual woman at the peak of her game. The next moment...I had forgotten everything I'd learned over the course of my life.

"Shockingly out of control, I could not get things to go back the way they were, complete a grieving process, or martial my internal and external resources to greet a life threatening diagnosis. Rather, I had entered no less than a new, prolonged life stage: one that our entire society either denies, reviles, or sentimentalizes in order to trivialize. In short, I had become old."

As the year unfolds, she begins writing about her daily experiences, and those diary writings form the basis for this book -- a tell-all tale of the state of her soul during this year of upheaval.

Traveling along with Carol and her squirrel-crazed dog, Lucky, the reader sees how the loss of her former life forces her to learn a lot about herself, the aging process and how society treats our older citizens.

But lucky for us, Carol Orsborn is not just any Boomer woman. She is both a Boomer generation marketing expert and a veteran journalist and author of 21 books, who today runs Fierce with Age, an online digest of Boomer wisdom, inspiration and spirituality, and blogs regularly for Huffington Post, NPR's Next Avenue and others. carol orsborn

Which means that her diary writings aren't just the ramblings of any troubled and displaced "oldster." They are eminently readable. In fact, the book a "must read" for all of us who hope to live a long and satisfying life.

After all, as much as we Boomers like to tell ourselves things like "sixty is the new forty," the fact is, our choices now boil down to this: give up and die, or enter into a fresh life stage - specifically, learn to grow old.

Having now "crossed the divide" into that new life stage, Orsborn alerts readers to the fact that our initiation into old age will bring with it the hallmarks of all the previous life stages combined: the high anticipation, the celebration, and the bold, outright terror.

Thankfully, she also reports that "Whether we are aware of it or not, one of the most important things I have learned is that God is with us through it all. Sometimes God whispers, sometimes God shouts, and sometimes God is silent. The key is to recognize that you are in a transition into a new stage of life, and that the one thing that is up to you is whether you will make getting old a tragedy, or embark upon it as another of life's great adventures. "

Buckle up, Boomers! We're in for a bumpy ride as we transition into old age. But Orsborn assures us that we need not be ashamed or depleted by this journey. We should instead be both curious, and excited.
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on April 4, 2013
Through lyrically written pages of her memoir, Fierce with Age, Dr. Carol Orsborn conveys today's vital challenge for the Baby Boomer generation: to understand and accept aging and all the ramifications. This book is a poignant invitation for Boomers to "try on" the liberating possibilities of aging, freed from denial and dodging. Through Orsborn's lucid spiritual lens, coupled with the sophisticated nuances of a Boomer generation marketing expert, readers witness wisdom, wit and wrath of a well-considered journey. Her memoir shares insightful stories, reflections and advice that can help Boomers discard illusions and illegitimacies of youth obsession, revealing instead the intellectual, emotional and spiritual paths toward acceptance of the aging process, fiercely.
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on April 4, 2013
Sue Girdler here. Before I read a non-fiction book, I skip through the book looking for passages that engage me. When I find something that stops me in my tracks, I then read the book. Well I found more than one passage that truly engaged me and stopped me in my tracks. Carol has a very unusual take on some things that I'm sure, if you're even a little bit like me, will rock you back on your heels and have you exclaiming... "I never thought of it like that", or "Thank goodness someone else thinks that's OK!!" Anyway, I'll leave you to discover the delights, insights and revelations of Carol's wonderful book. And I'd love to meet her little dog. Thanks Carol for the heartfelt stories, for your candor and for the love you have for others in sharing your experience and insight. Sue
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on August 30, 2013
Although this book contains numerous bits of wisdom and helpful advice for those moving into the later years of their life, I found the author's ebullient style and (to my mind) what seemed like a rather simplistic approach to spirituality rather off-putting. In the first 30 pages, we are told four times that she has written twenty books, that she is or has been "an accomplished author, scholar and businesswoman", "a smart, spiritual woman", "a poster girl for my generation", and that she "looked good for her age". This may all be true, but tends to be a tad alienating for those of us who have not had such a stellar career and persona. Possibly it sits better with American readers than it does with some other cultures.
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on April 4, 2013
Carol Orsborn has been writing for and about Boomers for some time. Fierce with Age depicts her own difficult struggle with coming to terms with own aging. A woman with a Ph.D. and a career, she finds herself at loose ends when her recent career position is sidelined and she and her husband move to New York City for his new position. She looks in the mirror and finds herself old, fading into the background of life. And she doesn't like it. Her despair and her feelings of uselessness fill her journal pages. Only when she and Lucky, her dog, take their daily trip to the park does she feel alive and useful. Many will identify with her struggle to find meaning in the second half of life. Unlike many other fine authors on the positive aspects of aging, Orsborn writes of her personal journey. She dwells in her dark despair until a seed of possibility sprouts and grows.

Only after months of unhappiness does she realize that she had identified with what she did, and not who she was. It is then that she begins her inner search for her identity. And it is spring in Brooklyn. Even while she is down, Orsborn observes herself and can portray the humor in her situation with her fine, lively sometimes ironic writing. Orsborn wonders how her tale of aging will be received. "But with age, is it possible for truth tellers to become too undiluted for human consumption?"

And then there is revelation. "Becoming whole comes about not from an adding on, but rather, from a stripping away. We are to let go of the parts of ourselves we've assembled out of leftovers and scotch tape, having covered over our authentic selves with roles and responses..."

Orsborn ends her book with the eleven spiritual truths of aging, as well as an interesting question and answer segment.

by Judith Helburn
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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on April 4, 2013
Full disclosure: author Carol Orsborn is a friend of mine. That's one of the reasons she asked me for a cover blurb for her book. Beyond the cover blurb, though, I want to speak from my heart about how very much I enjoyed and was moved by her book.

The topics Carol touches on resonate with me on so many levels - fear of no longer being who I am, fear of being dismissed, fear of falling on ice, foolishness at taking so seriously things which I know in my head don't really matter, but which I haven't yet been able to wrap my heart around and commit to.

Beyond that, she is such a phenomenally good writer. Wow - every word such a perfect conveyance of picture or mood or thought, the cadence so rhythmic and aligned with the content - just...Wow. Compared to Carol, I (an author myself) am utterly wordless.

What an accomplishment. I am so proud to know Carol. (Also insanely envious of her talents!)
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on April 4, 2013
Carol's memoir during the first year after stepping out from behind her business card in her new book, "Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn," are full of raw emotions and experiences that are sure to bolster others navigating that difficult transitional year. She bravely reveals the internal conflicts that rage within after leaving behind the patterns and identity tied up with the working world for the "wild space beyond...". I believe, all who reach that transitional place in life can benefit from her insights and experiences as she learns a new way of being with the world. I highly recommend Carol's book to those going through transitions of their own. There is hope to be found between the covers of her book and nuggets of wisdom that can be taken away on your very own personal journey.
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I expected a more substantive book from someone who's got a PhD (from Vanderbilt, no less) and a track record as a successful author, consultant and business owner. The book seems to be a series of free-associating essays about Carol and her life right after she lost her job. The best part of the book comes in the few stories she shares about her interactions with others, such as the man who seems to be flirting but then crushes her with, "You remind me of my mother."

The worst sections of the book relate to Carol's spirituality. Her references to God and prayers seem especially jarring when compared to her more thoughtful book, Return From Exile. In that book she wrote about returning to graduate school to study religion. She spent a lot of time struggling with her Jewish identity. In this book there's no reference to those themes and in fact she seems to have picked up an eclectic, independent freestyle religion. The "11 Spiritual Truths About Aging" seem simplistic and even a little silly.

I rather liked the story of Maggie, who seems to be inventing herself adventurously in her sixties, but I couldn't help wondering about Carol's other friends. Her experiences - lunching with an editor, visiting a spa - were amusing but definitely downers. HEr husband Dan seems almost too good to be true.

We get a little too much information about Carol's struggles with money and health. Given her impressive background (she reminds us several times that she's an author of 20 best-selling books) I'd have expected her to have accumulated substantial investments; instead she tells us that they can afford to retire only with very careful planning.

On pages 63-64 she actually lists the drugs she is taking in her early sixties: a bisphosphonate, a statin, and a supplement to stave off eye disease. That's way too much information and Carol seems to suggest that taking these drugs is an inevitable part of aging. I would encourage anyone taking the first two drugs to pick up a copy of Barbara Roberts's book, The Truth About Statins and also Gilbert Welch's book, Overdiagnosis.

Lucky does seem to be an adorable dog (I hope he was adopted, not purchased). He's a typical ... well, dog! He chases squirrels, distracts his owner and makes friends with everyone.

Carol's own solutions don't seem generalizable. She finds solace in her unique form of spirituality and relationship with God, which will not be helpful to aging nonbelievers. She and her husband (who's now also jobless) decide to leave New York and return to the West Coast. She talks about finding freedom and finding herself, yet her answers seem vague - more about "making do" than about taking charge.
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on May 9, 2013
With compassion and wisdom, Dr. Carol Orsborn takes the reader along on her journey from doubt to discovery. All the while, her spiritual lens and wicked humor manage to soften the blow of the aging process. And in the end, this lyrically written memoir provides not only a good read but a guide to self acceptance.
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