Fascinating Authors

Fascinating Authors Interviews: Diane Gage Lofgren & Margaret Bhola

Diane Gage Lofgren is the author of nine books and scores of magazine articles on personal and business relationships and is passionate about maintaining and growing her female friendships! She is the Chief Communication Officer for a national health care organization.

Margaret Bhola is a health advocate, consultant and National Marketing Director for NSA with an extensive background in health education, business, sales and marketing and human relations.

Learn more at http://womeniwanttogrowoldwith.com.

About the Book:

In this enjoyable and informative book, authors Lofgren and Bhola challenge women to list the top three friends they’d call if their lives suddenly fell apart, thereby pointing out that many women may not have the friends they want when they need them the most. Each author had her own profound experience that awakened her to the importance of female friends. Together they spent three years interviewing women about how they build and nurture their friendship circles, and exploring how and why friends contribute so richly to our lives. Their findings and stories will help women realize that friendships are as important to well-being as good health and sound finances—and should never be left to chance. In fact, according to studies: When women hang out with friends, their bodies release the hormone oxytocin, which combats stress and creates calm. Having friends reduces the risk of physical health issues and allows us to more easily recover after the death of a partner. And, women with friends are 26 percent less likely to develop dementia. Knowing the importance of friendship, however, may not always drive women to make or nurture friendships, even though doing so would ensure they have a safety net of women they can rely on when life is good or when all hell breaks loose. But who doesn’t fear being alone or lonely when they move, divorce, change jobs, retire, face an empty nest, or suffer the loss of a partner or dear friend? That’s why the authors encourage women to be intentional about nurturing a safety net of friends to fill unspeakable voids, provide certainty in uncertain times, and offer a safeguard of love and support. Packed with fun and inspiring stories and suggestions, the book covers everything from ways to keep virtual friendships alive to getting over and moving beyond friendship irritants and breakdowns. Women I Want to Grow Old With will guide and inspire women of all ages to breathe new life and excitement into our relationships by seeing female friends as “intention holders”—women who encircle us with love and support. These are women we love to laugh with and occasionally stir up trouble with! They serve as thought partners, voices of reason, and devil’s advocates. They let us down and, once in a while, infuriate us. We forgive and so do they. These “women we keep on speed dial” literally and figuratively stand by our sides, cheering us on or helping us carry our burdens as we cross yet another finish line. And if we’re lucky enough, no matter our age, we’ll find women we want to grow old with!

Authors’ Questions & Answers:

Q. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?

A. Margaret:

Being a leader all of my life, I had a defining moment in my fifties when I found myself suddenly dismissed from a leadership group I was very active and passionate in. Despite the surprise of the incident, none of the group stepped up or objected. Shocked, disappointed and alone, I began to wonder if I had any “real” friends.

Yes, I have had lots of women who were my friends and loved me. But, especially in that moment, I couldn’t identify the women friends I knew would be at my side no matter what, as I grew older.

I was also moving toward my next decade of birthdays, my “sixties”. Getting “old” and getting old “friendless” was terrifying. So I began to correct the situation by actively meeting with female friends, engaging in the kind of conversations that only women can engage in and at some point I’d get so moved in our exchange, closeness and authenticity that I’d point blank ask “ Let’s be friends and grow old together. Do you want to be one of the women I grow old with?” Thus I began collecting my group of “women I wanted to grow old with”. One day I asked that question of my co-author, Diane Gage Lofgren, and she gave a resounding “Yes”. A few minutes later she suggested that I write a book with that name. With her offering to write the book with me, the message of hope and intentional friendship began its journey.

B. Diane:

Helping women understand that it takes intentionality to have women friends who will “be there for you no matter what.” It’s easy to put off doing things with friends or to not invest the time and energy to make new friends. But if we don’t, as we say in our book, we will not have the friends we need when we need them the most. Inspiring female readers to do one thing that will make a difference in their friendship future will be worth the time, energy, and determination it took to write this book. We know that many women outlive their male partners and that chances are one day we will be alone again. Women friends can’t replace a lost love or children who live miles away, but they do fill our lives with understanding, compassion, purpose, passion, love and hope – but only if we let them! I hope this book jolts women into examining how they are or are not making friendships a priority in their lives – and allow them to see that friends are as vital to their well-being as investing in their financial future and overall health!

Q. How long did the book take you from start to finish?

A. Four years

Q. What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?

A. Margaret: The biggest challenge for me, and remains so, is the effort to get the message out through social media. Literally every woman Diane and I have ever shared the title and book with has been moved, excited and asking for more information. Since I have a goal of getting our story out to women globally, there is a need to engage in as many media outlets as possible to take the “conversation for intentional female friendships” viral.

B. Diane: At first, Margaret and I had to learn each other’s style of writing and working. We also had profound personal experiences about the value of friendship that made this topic resonate deeply within us. But writing a book long-distance while both in leadership positions in different fields was not easy. We had to “find” time to work on the book. We squeezed it in on weekends and early mornings. We did it while keeping commitments to our jobs and family. We wrote wherever we were. I’ll never forget the time I was at a business meeting in Hawaii and had 4:30 am call to work on the book – sitting on pillows in the bathtub so I could keep my commitment to Margaret yet not wake my husband who had joined me on the trip.

Q. Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?

A. We wrote from experience, from the feedback of women we interviewed globally, and from research about how female friendships attribute to female health and longevity.

Q. What surprised you the most about this process?

A. Margaret: What surprised me the most about this project was the metamorphosis of my friendship with Diane. We literally got to the point that we could finish each other’s sentences and the excitement of partnership and friendship with a purpose was the ultimate reward. We have extended so much compassion, intimacy, and generosity toward each other in our friendship. The love we experience for each other is the special love that can only be present in friendship with another woman. This is even more special because we are also in a work relationship, and I treasure what the two of us have created and continue to create on this “daring adventure”.

Diane: The personal growth that I’ve experienced has been an unexpected and welcomed outcome of writing this book. Margaret and I learned to give each other grace during this four-year process. We provided each other latitude and extended forgiveness – for example when one of us couldn’t meet when we said we could, when we had a family or work event that prevented us from reviewing something at a particular time, or when we just had met our limit for the day and couldn’t think straight any longer. Through this process, I have also grown to be a better writer because of the melding of our styles. This is an infinitely better book than had I written it alone – and I believe Margaret feels likewise.

Margaret and Diane: We have also had unfaltering support from our female friends. They showed up for friendship salons when we first had the idea for the book and wanted to ensure it resonated with other women. They offered to host us as speakers at events. And those who write and edit went out of their way to review and proof our manuscript with little notice. Recently, one friend worked two straight days to proof our E-book and another got up at 3 am to meet our deadline!

Q. Did you have any notable experiences when writing your book?

A. Margaret: There were too many notable experiences to even keep track of. One blessed experience was to be able to interview my two daughters and sister. Being able to engage with them about intentional female friendships brought an even deeper intimacy and fun to our already close relationships. Women, we interviewed and engaged with, poured out their “Amens,” hearts and stories as we shared our book title and goal for intentional female friendship to be a song that’s sung by women across the world. Numerous women shared the impact our speaking and Powerpoint presentation had on their view of female friendship and the actions they took with their women friends after being “real” with themselves about their own excuses in sustaining and building friendships.

B. Diane: Our book talks about the importance of “showing up” in our friends lives, especially for important milestones. It discusses the value of rituals and get-aways with friends. Practicing what I preach and know to be true, I flew from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego for the baptism of my great Goddaughter, drove from my home up to the Delta with my Sheltie to spend the night with a friend of 30 years and see her and her husband’s new home; and invited six women, including a friend from fifth grade, and other friends for 25-plus years who helped me run a PR agency for a girls’ weekend on my boat (my home) so that Deb could use us as a focus group for a new retreat on joy that she’s developed. We laughed, shared great memories, watched movies, went out for a boat ride on the bay, and treated ourselves to chair massages while on the water. It was indulgent and totally fun – and it reminded us why we will always be in each other’s lives.

Q. What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?

A. Margaret: Health, Peace of Mind and FUN as they take their friendship portfolio to a new level.

B. Diane: Determination to make friendship happen! To mindfully look at their circle of friends and to know where they want to shore it up and where they may need to put in a little extra effort to earn the infinite rewards that female friendships have to offer.

Q. What other projects are you currently working on?

A. Margaret: I am working on a global project to end childhood diseases in the next 20 years. I am building a team of dynamic supporters who will challenge our existing health systems, the quality of our food and the damaging toxins that our everyday life.

B. Diane: I lead Brand Communication for a health care system and oversee an innovation center in Washington, DC, to bring thought leaders together to share and imagine the future of health care. On a personal note, my husband and I are making a full-length feature film to debut in 2013.

Q. Is writing your sole career? If not, what else do you do?

A. Margaret: I have my own franchise with a global company and leader in providing quality produce sources for families and individuals who would rather engage in and focus on prevention of disease than treating disease or hunting for cures of disease.

B. Diane: I am the Chief Communication Officer for a national health care company. I serve on the national leadership team and oversee a team of brand communication professionals who tell our story in amazing ways.

Q. When can we look forward to your next book?

A: Not scheduled at this time but sure one is coming!

Book Excerpt from Women I Want to Grow Old With

Here is an excerpt from our book Women I Want to Grow Old With. This book is designed to forward our friendships, wherever they are and wherever they are not. Please enjoy these insights and discoveries. We hope you’ll buy a copy for yourself and your friends!

Most women spend time investing in their financial future. If we put that same level of attention into investing in our female friends, we’ll protect ourselves in a different but equally powerful way. Even if today our life is filled with family, work, and pastimes, tomorrow may be suddenly different. We must make time for friends. Our health depends on it.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
This book was born out of need and desire. Both of us, the authors, had deep personal experiences that made us realize how much we wanted and needed girlfriends in our lives, now and in the future.

“When my father died, after sixty years of marriage, my mother literally had no friends left. Although she boldly tried to make friends at age eighty, women in their seventies acted as though she were too old for them, and married women were afraid she’d ‘steal’ their husbands. Though she had her family, I believe not having friends whom she could share with and lean on added to her overwhelming sense of loneliness and contributed to her passing two years later.

“I also saw my younger sister become a widow at age forty-three. Because my older sister and I lived in different cities, she leaned on a few supportive friends to literally be by her side. The woman who has become her best friend is also a widow. It’s not that they focus on their loss, but when my sister brings up a concern—like dreaming about her late husband even though she’s happily remarried—her friend eases her fears by letting her know she has had the same experience. It doesn’t make it any easier, but my sister doesn’t feel so alone. She has someone who completely gets her.”

“Approaching my sixtieth birthday served as a defining moment for me. Thinking about how and with whom I wanted to spend the next decades of my life made me question ‘Do I have any real friends?’ and ‘What is a real friend?’ That, combined with the whole idea of getting older, had me wondering if I would someday be old and friendless. I knew I wanted friends who were committed to being with me, whether I was in the same trench with them or not. I started purposefully asking women I knew and liked to join me for coffee. If, in our conversations, I experienced mutual admiration and connection, I would say, ‘Let’s be friends,’ and ask them point blank, ‘Do you want to be one of the women I grow old with?’”

Women need friends when they need them—not tomorrow, not next week, but today. We can’t just fill that need on demand, like hot water from the tap. We must continually add to our relationship reservoir. But, too often, we don’t think about friendship as something to constantly nourish and grow. We just take it for granted. Or we rely on outdated friend-making or friend-keeping skills and habits. We may also be naive, not thinking about what the future might hold. Most women outlive male partners by at least five years, according to sources such as the Harvard University Gazette and WebMD.
Friends literally sustain and protect us. Shouldn’t we remove the blinders and address our feelings and behaviors around friendship? Friendship is within our control to create and nurture. Being intentional in creating, sustaining, and expanding our friendship circles can safeguard our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Remember, we have a say in the matter.

GOTCHA! Moment: Create a Blueprint of Your Circle of Friends
Imagine your friendships as a circle of support, helping you not be or feel alone as you move through life. Take a moment to create a visual representation of your current circle of friends. It’s okay if the circle is small or unpopulated for now. This powerful tool will get you in touch with the reality of your existing friendships, It will also support you in expanding your friendship circle.

  • Imagine yourself in the middle of concentric circles. See your closest friends in the innermost circle next to you. These are your most intimate friends with whom you can share your deepest fears, concerns, and joys. You can turn to them at any time.
  • Place your other friends and acquaintances in the remaining circles based on what roles they play in your life. You might name your circles: Intention Holders, Exercise Friends, Work Friends, Book Club Friends, Parents of Kids’ Friends, Vacation Friends, and New Friends. A woman may be in more than one circle. Perhaps New Friends is your outermost circle.
  • Have fun with this concept. Put your friends’ names on sticky notes (so you can move them later if you want to), and place them in the appropriate circle. Or cut out paper dolls and name them, use snapshots of your gal pals, or find pictures of women in magazines that resemble your friends, and arrange them in the circles. A circle mobile or collage can be fun too. Design your circle on an electronic tablet or social media site. Be creative with whatever expression excites you most. Designing a physical representation of your existing circle of friends allows you to see what support system you have in place today. With this clearer picture, you may now see areas in which you might want to strengthen your safety net.
  • Evaluate the amount of energy and time you’re spending with the friends in each circle. Ask yourself: “Are there any changes I want to make? Any shifts in where I spend my time? Anyone I’d like to draw into my inner circle who’s not already there?”
  • Take a hard look at any friendships that may have become exhausting, difficult, or draining. Decide how you want to manage these relationships to free up time and energy for more fulfilling and rewarding ones.
  • We’ll come back to this concept throughout the book, so keep your Friendship Circle at the ready! Our goal is to help you create a close circle of friends inside of which you will Grow Old Together With Courage, Health and Attitude

GOTCHA! Throughout the book, we’ll provide examples of women who are doing just that.

© Fascinating Authors 2013
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