This is a story I never wanted to tell.
For the first four years after I founded WomanSage, the nonprofit for women at midlife, the talk was positive. About jobs, about retirement dreams, about a secure future.
Today, the story has changed.
Behind the numbers, behind the ups and downs of stocks and bonds, are lives twisted and torn by an economy that's savaging a generation of women over 45.
"About to be homeless," says one note I received. "I have a terrible job and my husband is gone ..."
"I have not been working due to a layoff," says another.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December. I also lost my job. I am single and therefore, the only one making my mortgage payments is me," says a third.
The words are written by women applying for scholarships to attend the WomanSage "Own Your Power" Conference on Saturday at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa, Calif.
WomanSage has 100 $50 scholarships available for this conference, which reduces the individual cost to attend the daylong event to $75.
This conference touches on life transitions, with keynote speeches by author Gail Sheehy and Oprah's wellness guru, Kathy Freston. It also features more than 30 other speakers on everything from ways to finance retirement to dating after 50, motivational midlife messages to selling your goods on eBay. There's even a session from Frederick's of Hollywood on "Does That Bra Fit?"
But the women asking for scholarships are eager to participate in a new program WomanSage is launching at this conference - "Re-Invent Yourself! Workplace Solutions for Women 45-Plus."
Re-Invent Yourself! will be the only program nationally that offers answers as well as motivation and support for midlife women seeking to change careers, identify work skills, find employment or start their own small business.
"A woman wakes up one morning to find out the job she's held for 15 years is gone and she is a casualty of corporate downsizing," says Regina M. Campbell, a WomanSage board member.
"The firm calls it a 'RIF - Reduction in Force' but for midlife women, it can be an 'RID - Reduction in Dreams.' "
Campbell, an elder-law attorney with the Newport Beach, Calif., firm of Legate, Law and Campbell, originally proposed Re-Invent Yourself! as a new program.
The program brings together universities, colleges, corporate leaders, small business owners, mature professional women and government agencies. The result is a team approach to help women build and repair self-esteem, find funds for school or business start-ups, change careers or identify workplace skills.
There will be three panels at the Saturday conference, Campbell says. The first panel will deal with career change, the second with business start-up and the third brings together human resources leaders in the county to talk about 2009's job market.
In addition, a Re-Invent Yourself! Center will be open all day, offering one-on-one counseling opportunities, she says. Bring your resume. Job placement firms will be there.
"And we will introduce our 'Re-Invent Yourself!' Web site with job postings, information on everything from resume writing to business planning, and even volunteer options in the community," Campbell says.
The group will continue to meet monthly, offering women an opportunity to network and find social support, as well as gain information.
I'm not eager to tell the story of a tumbling economy and its impact on midlife women.
I am inspired by the people eager to offer time and money to provide some solutions.
Do you need a Re-Invent Yourself! moment? A chance to "Own Your Power"?
To learn more about the conference, go to www.womansage.org. To apply for a scholarship, send your name, address, telephone and e-mail plus a brief statement of why you believe you are eligible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
None of us needs to face this future alone.