Celebrating one year of Revel

An education in womanhood

Men go gray, and they’re viewed as older and wiser. We women age and we fade into the background, made to feel that our lived experience is less valuable.

Alexa and I are often asked why we started a community for women over 50, when we’re in our mid-thirties. The answer is simple: we want things to be different by the time we’re old enough to be Revel members. Any one of the transitions of midlife — menopause, the empty nest, retirement — can be isolating and destabilizing. The Revel online platform offers social connections through local member-hosted outings, as well as through Revel-sponsored events such as our “How She Revels” speaker series. Our event mix is meant to reflect the diverse interests of our members. While these differences create a unique and vibrant community, our members are united in the belief that each one of us is worthy of having a voice, of being seen, and of feeling as though we matter.

Revel turns one year old this month. The first Revel event took place on July 13, 2019 in a backyard garden of a member’s home in Oakland. One week later, a member on the Peninsula organized a hike in Edgewood Park. Among those who attended were Lauren (now our Head of Community) and Suzie (now our Community Lead in San Francisco). I remember how Suzie, who lived in SF, asked the group if anyone was willing to carpool and that Lauren offered a ride. They arrived at the hike fast friends — the first of many friendships that would come to exist because Revel exists.

In the early days, each time a new member signed up, we drove to her local coffee shop to treat her to a welcome coffee. We covered the entire Bay Area, from Alameda to San Rafael to Mountain View, and it sometimes felt that we spent more of our days on the road than in the “office” (the unpacked living room of the house I’d newly rented). But those coffee chats were invaluable. Though we were building Revel to be of service to our members, we were the ones receiving the education. From Stephanie and Barbara and Loraine and Kelley, among so many others, we woke up to the realities of womanhood.

One year later, Revel is a thriving community of thousands of women 50+ from across the country. We’ve been featured in TechCrunch and named one of the 10 Most Innovative Social Media Companies by Fast Company. Covid-19 has forced our community to connect and engage in new ways. We’ve had virtual guests including Madison Reed Founder & CEO Amy Errett and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Interim Legal Director Kate Kendall. We’ve had virtual book discussions with authors Amy Brizendine, Cassie Chambers, and James Nestor. And most importantly, in everyday Revel events, our members can now engage with women who are joining Revel virtually from all across the country.

Behind the scenes, though we started as two women in our thirties, our team is now made up of women and men aged early twenties to mid-sixties, all working together in pursuit of something we believe in. Each day we’re sharing knowledge, humor and passion across generations, which only further propels creativity and inspiration for the product we’re building.

This is only the beginning and may our education in womanhood continue! We welcome you to join us for the ride: www.hellorevel.com/join.

4 Easy Ways to Get Involved with Revel

We’re excited to see our Revel membership growing – and to have the input of new and established members on making this a truly inclusive community designed for and by women 50 and over. There are lots of opportunities to share your ideas and inspiration, invite new friends, and get connected. Below, four easy ways to get involved with Revel. Join us!

  1. First Sundays. The first Sunday of every month, Revel members gather in different locations – East Bay, San Francisco, Marin, South Bay, and the Peninsula – to connect over coffee and talk about topics of interest. It’s a time to get to know other Revel members and to discover commonalities in a warm and welcoming environment. Fran Goodman, who lives in South Bay, says of her First Sundays experience: “We were all at various stages, with different life experiences, kids, and ages. When you talk to other members, you may not have the exact same experiences, but you’re learning from one another.” Kelley Nayo-Jahi hosts First Sunday gatherings in the East Bay and says they are a place for deeper conversations. “We talked about things we were celebrating, thing we were looking forward to, and anything that was a challenge,” she says. 
  2. Event Brainstorming with Revel’s Head of Community. A low-key way to share your ideas for future Revel events and gatherings is to hop on a half hour Event Brainstorming phone call with Revel Head of Community Lauren Beller on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 12-12:30pm. A transplant to San Francisco from New York City, Lauren has embraced West Coast living and all the social opportunities offered by Revel. “We choose what we are involved with [at Revel] and we have the power to build this community,” she says. Lauren will give you input on your ideas and talk about the ways Revel can help bring them to fruition, through purchasing group tickets, finding a location, and providing outreach to members. 
  3. Current and New Member Coffee. Gather with Revel members over a cup of coffee or tea at Revel member Stephanie O’Dell’s house in San Rafael on Thursday, Feb. 13, 10:30am-12pm. Stephanie is the 57-year-old founder of the fabulous site, Celebrate the Gray, offering styling and inspiration for women 50 and over, and 50+ models for brands like Athleta and Stitch Fix. She has taken on the role of Marin Community Lead along with Renata Jabuka, and says she was drawn to Revel because it provides the “girlfriend environment” that so many women crave. These intimate gatherings are a great place to introduce other women in your life to Revel!
  4. Revel Forums. Revel just launched a way for members to connect virtually called Revel Forums. Discover members in your area, reach out to members with common interests, and strategize together on upcoming event ideas. And keep us posted on how the forums are working at [email protected] – we look forward to your feedback!

Donna West: Helping Women Document their Stories

Donna West has a mission – she wants every woman to tell her story. “Let’s get women’s stories documented,” she says. “Everyone is valuable and unique.”

Donna is leading a new writing collaboration group for Revel beginning on Sun., Feb. 9, in which she will help other Revel members “go deep and find treasures.” She’ll talk about the importance of journaling, how to overcome writer’s block, and lead Revel members through writing exercises that will help them to open up. While the focus will not be on writing for an audience, Donna says she’s happy to help members find an outlet for their writing – including on one of her blogs – if they are interested. She runs a travel blog, Fun Tour Guru, as well as a business blog called Hidden Silicon Valley.

Donna admits that she loves history – of both people and places – and she loves to find ways to tell stories of the past and help others to do the same. That’s led her to uncovering the forgotten history of her community of Santa Clara, California, which 50 years ago had a bustling eight-block downtown with local shops and a movie theater that the City Council opted to demolish in a failed attempt at urban renewal. Now, Donna is part of a group of committed residents called “Reclaiming Our Downtown” that is working to bring the downtown back. As part of that volunteer work, she’s helped residents trace their own genealogy through historical documents.

She’s also been exploring her own family history, which included a trip to Germany where she found her immigrant grandmother’s home. “I want to document her story,” Donna says, adding, “I know there are other people who are interested in discovering their own family history, but they don’t take the time to dig into it.” It was this realization that made Donna decide to lead a writing group for Revel, to give members the space and time to start the storytelling process. 

And she’s working with a nonprofit called Talk to History to get the stories of seniors shared with younger generations. The idea is to expose kids to older generations, give kids an opportunity to ask questions about aging, and serve as a point of connection. “We want to connect kids to seniors, to turn them into junior reporters,” says Donna, “and also to record stories and embrace new preferred terminology like ‘elders.’” Donna’s background is working with tech companies, specifically in the semiconductor space, and she’s now transitioned to working as a consultant helping startups and nonprofits after creating her tourism business 20 years ago. Ultimately, she says, “I just want to inspire people to write things down.”

Real Talk about Love and Aging with Author and Activist Barbara Rose Brooker

As far as author Barbara Rose Brooker is concerned, the fight for age equality has hardly begun. “I’m 83 and I’m not age appropriate,” declares Brooker, who is embarking on a book tour in February for the launch of her latest novel, “Love, Sometimes” about a 68-year-old woman fighting sexism and ageism in Hollywood amid a controversial love affair. Revel members are invited to see Brooker’s stop at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Feb. 19.

Brooker wrote the book after experiencing her own confrontations with ageism in the film industry as she pitched her earlier novel, “The Viagra Diaries,” to industry executives. In every meeting, she said, they wanted to change her protagonist from a 70-year-old woman to a 20-something. Now, after many frustrating early attempts, a TV series based on the book as it’s written is finally in the works.

“I was angry,” Brooker says. “With this new novel, I wanted to bring the theme of ageism into the story.”

She refers to ageism as “the new designer drug” and as an anti-ageism crusader, she calls it out at every turn. It is in the fashion industry, of course, and the publishing industry, and tech startups. It is found in nearly every workplace.  Worst of all, says Brooker, is that so many women have internalized ageism, turning against themselves. “Women in their 30s and 40s are mutilating themselves to fit into this anti-aging appearance,” Brooker says, adding: “The anti-aging movement is so deep, it might take another generation to undo it.”

She’s been drawing attention to the dangers and pervasiveness of ageism for years. In 2011, she founded the first Age March in Los Angeles and San Francisco, to celebrate aging in a public way. Marchers held up signs declaring their ages. The last march was held in 2018. She has written columns for JWeekly and the Huffington Post, runs writing workshops for people 50 and over, and has appeared on the “Today Show.” But Brooker says little has changed other than a more widespread recognition that ageism exists.

She says she’s encountered ageism at every stage in her life and career. When she was newly divorced at age 30 and went back to college. When she pursued a master’s degree in her 40s and published her first novel at 50. “I was told I was too old at every stage,” Brooker says.

The pervasiveness of ageism has only driven her to be more outspoken and defiant. She’s teaching others by example that it is possible to pursue your dreams at any age and encouraging women in particular to stop focusing on the number and start living.

“When we worry about aging, we’re not exploring other things about our inner lives and creativity,” Brooker says.

She embraces frank sex talk in her fiction, and encourages women to follow their passions. “I’m not a senior, I’m not an elder, I’m a person,” Brooker says. She adds that she’s frustrated by the slow progress of the anti-ageism movement, but she’s resilient. “I’m on the path of my dreams,” she says, “and I’m going to say what I think.”

Finding Spiritual Connection in the Great Outdoors with Elizabeth Allison, PhD

Playing outside as a child, says Elizabeth Allison, PhD, associate professor of ecology and religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), canoeing, and exploring in the woods, is where she first encountered God. “I also went to church, and I was told that God was inside that building,” she says. “But I never had that experience.”

Investigating that conundrum became the subject of Allison’s life’s work. She discovered during her graduate studies at Yale, where she combined a master’s in forestry and divinity, that “a lot of people find spirituality in wild places.” The great environmental writers all explore this connection, including John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson. It has also been a persistent theme in certain religious traditions, as well, most notably Buddhism, particularly as practiced in Bhutan, which has been central to Allison’s research. In Bhutan, two-thirds of the nation remains under forest cover due to religious beliefs around spirits and deities in the natural environment.

“It ultimately goes back to how we understand ourselves as human beings on earth,” Allison says. “Especially now in a time of such ecological change – we must think about our relationship to non-human nature.”

The rise in awareness of impending environmental crisis has brought many more college students to pursue a greater understanding and awareness of the intersection between religion and spirituality. In the years since Allison first pursued two seemingly divergent graduate degrees, Yale has made the joint degree in religion and ecology official, and other universities, including the University of Florida and Sewanee University, have followed suit.

At CIIS, Allison founded and chairs a graduate program in Ecology, Spirituality and Religion which incorporates unconventional teaching methods including guided meditations adapted from Allison’s yoga classes which she says “help to build personal resilience in the face of climate change.”

College students are drawn to seek meaning, she says, and to confront climate issues, but she noted that courses like “Ecology in the Time of Planetary Crisis” are full of terrible trends that can be overwhelming.

“People go into a fight-or-flight mode,” she says. “I’ve found that doing guided meditation helps me to stay present, to feel grief but not get stuck.”

On Jan. 23, Allison is giving a talk on ecology and spirituality at CIIS which Revel members are invited to attend. She will discuss the historical connections linking spirituality and ecology; different cultural approaches to engaging with ecology through religious traditions; and end with how we can draw upon these teachings in our own lives. “We can learn to build internal resilience through spiritual practice so that we don’t come to despair,” Allison says.

Oakland Yoga Studio Fosters Inclusive Yoga Practice for Every Age

Each yoga studio has its own character, something about it that speaks to the particular community who chooses to practice there. For Mountain Yoga, a neighborhood yoga studio in the Oakland Hills, one of its primary distinguishing characteristics is inclusiveness. 

“There was a time when yoga was quite exclusive,” says Ann Dyer, the 61-year-old owner and director of Mountain Yoga. “If you didn’t know, you didn’t deserve to know.” 

When she assumed ownership of the studio, she knew she wanted to foster a much different sort of community. “I wanted a welcoming, comfortable place for all backgrounds and ages – especially people new to yoga,” Ann says. “A large part of our culture is open-arms inclusivity. We do everything we can to make everyone comfortable, because everyone can benefit from yoga.” 

Revel members will convene at Mountain Yoga on Jan. 12 for a “Yoga for Everyone” class. 

Mountain Yoga has been particularly tuned in to the benefits of yoga for health and wellness over 50, with a program called “booming” aimed at “yoga and inspiration for the third third of life.” 

“Aging doesn’t look like it once did,” Ann says. “All our assumptions around aging are coming into question. Baby boomers are a very dynamic, energized generation and yoga is a way for people to stay vital physically and intellectually.” 

Ann has a strong background in the arts as both a professional dancer and vocalist, and that has lent a more artistic, holistic approach to the studio. Programs highlight the “spirit in motion,” bringing in world-renowned figures each month to lead workshops in Hawaiian dance and Sufism, as well as chanting and sound, and the yoga of writing. 

“They are all designed to transform people into states of more love and connection,” Ann says. 

She says afternoon yoga classes for participants 50 and over are some of the studio’s most popular, and Mountain Yoga offers a series of classes aimed at healing and strength for particular areas of the body – including necks, hearts, bones, and backs – with Dr. Baxter Bell, a local family medical practitioner, yoga teacher, and co-author of the book “Yoga for Healthy Aging.” 

Yoga can be practiced throughout one’s life, adapted to each stage, says Ann. She can help guide students of all ages, because she’s made these adaptations to her own yoga practice. 

“As I was approaching menopause, for instance, I had to radically change my yoga practice to help address the issues of heat that can come from that time-life transition,” she says. “Then, when I got a little bit older, I had some issues with joint pain. Yoga can help alleviate all of the various challenges that come with the different stages of our lives.”  

You may need to warm up a bit more, says Ann, but it doesn’t mean that students need to be relegated to Gentle Yoga class as they age. “It just means your body behaves differently,” she says. “You can still do a strong practice. What’s most important is that you do the right practice to support your well-being and your life — whatever stage of life you are in.”

Reflecting on Revel, and a Fabulous Year Ahead

Revel is only half a year old heading into 2020, but it has already become a force of women who are sharing their passions, forming new connections, and enjoying a host of new experiences with other women. The platform continues to grow  – adding regional groups and leaders; trips, talks, and gatherings; and new opportunities for members to converse through the website itself. 

Happy New Year to all our fabulous Revel women!  We hope to see you at our first New Year’s Soiree at Allbirds in San Francisco on Jan. 8 or our Welcome 2020 Dinner Party at Gwen’s home in Menlo Park on Jan. 23!

Here, some reflections from Revel members on why the community resonates with them:

  • “With Revel, women are willing to be gracious, and generous with helping other women. They are learning about each other.” – Fran G.
  • “I love community. I love my home city of Oakland. And I love exploring things.” – Kelley N-J.
  • “The kind of women I want to hang out with are those who want to empower other women to shine.” – Amy C.
  • “Everyone I’ve met through Revel is like-minded. They are intelligent, active, and artistic.” – Heidi P.
  • “There’s an opportunity to start over again and develop a new social circle.” – Leslie A.
  • “Connecting with like-minded women heals the soul.” – Cynthia N.
  • “We choose what we are involved with and we have the power to build this community.” – Lauren B.
  • “One of the great things about Revel is the diversity of women from all different walks of life.” – Loraine K.
  • “It reinvigorates you as a person – who do I want to be now? It’s an opportunity to rediscover ourselves.” – Stephanie O.
  • “I love that it’s building on vibrancy after 50.” – Renata J.

Renata Jabuka: Exploring New Interests, Embracing Style

Renata Jabuka had retired from a long career in healthcare and entrepreneurship and was looking for a new focus. She never imagined it might be modeling. But she saw an article about Stephanie O’Dell’s organization, Celebrate the Gray, and gave her a call. Celebrate the Gray is presenting a new vision of vibrant, beautiful women over 50, offering everything from personal style consultation and “closet audits,” to models-for-hire for companies to authentically represent women 50 and over. 

“I was just thinking about improving my style and organizing” when she reached out, said Renata, laughing, “but she took my photos and put them on the site.” She hasn’t yet been called for a modeling job, but she’s open to it. 

Soon after, Stephanie also introduced Renata to Revel, and she was immediately drawn to the concept of women over 50 connecting across various interests and backgrounds. “I like that Revel is not directed at one particular thing – it opens up the opportunity to meet women and do different things, from professional networking to wine tastings,” says Renata. “And I love that it’s building on vibrancy after 50.”

Renata and Stephanie are now co-chairs of Revel’s Marin County chapter and hosted a Holiday Style event at Renata’s home on Dec. 18. The event brought 18 members together to talk, eat, and get to know one another. “A lot of events are bigger – going to museums, or on longer hikes,” Renata says. “But if you don’t know one another, it can be intimidating.” The night included a sign-up sheet for women to recommend future Revel events. 

For many years, Renata worked in the dental industry in executive roles in sales management and sales training. Five years ago, she left (and “got rid of the ugly fashion,” she says) to cofound a startup focused on cybersecurity and data. That startup was then purchased by a larger healthcare company, prompting Renata to ask herself: “What will I do now, besides Pilates?” 

Revel has proven a perfect outlet. Renata says she’s excited about this stage of her life, and excited to meet other women who share her enthusiasm. “I love this new chapter of my life,” she says. “A lot of women are at the end of their careers, or post-divorce, they find themselves in a whole new place, whether reinventing themselves, or just plateauing. I want to be part of a movement that puts women out there in a really positive way. That lets women discover their interests and use their skills in new and different ways.”

Discovering Japanese New Year Culinary Delights with Lucy Seligman

Lucy Seligman’s favorite holiday is Japanese New Year or Shogatsu. Families who celebrate do so with a traditional noodle dish called Toshikoshi Soba, or New Year Soba, that has become one of Lucy’s trademark dishes. The long buckwheat noodles are considered good luck and are supposed to be the last food to touch your lips on New Year’s Eve. 

Lucy Seligman with her new cookbook, “The Wonderful World of Osechi: Japanese New Year’s Recipes

Lucy fell in love with Japanese cooking when she spent a summer abroad in Japan at the age of 15. She later spent her junior year in college living and studying in Japan, majored in Japanese & Japanese Culture at the University of Southern California, and, as an adult, lived for 13 years in Japan, including in Tokyo and Nagoya, where she had a career as a restaurant critic and ran a cooking school. 

Soba is just one of the specialty dishes the Japanese enjoy between Dec. 31 and Jan. 3. “It’s the one time of the year that rice is not made,” Lucy says, noting that during Japanese New Year cooks instead use mochi, or Japanese pounded rice cakes. “The idea is to have everything prepared during the last days of the year to give housewives a break from the kitchen,” Lucy says. Mochi can be bought fresh (during this time period) or freeze dried. It is then toasted or grilled and used in everything from soups to desserts. 

She just released a cookbook focused on Japanese New Year’s cooking called The Wonderful World of Osechi: Japanese New Year’s Recipes and recently hosted a sold-out cooking event for Revel members (a second class is scheduled for Jan. 25). Women who attended the class made Ozoni – a soup with mochi – which is served during the New Year celebration. Each region and even each household serves their own particular and beloved Ozoni. 

One member remarked after the class: “I loved the dishes, and the house smelled so heavenly, with the broths and all the great ingredients.”

In addition to teaching, Lucy maintains a blog dedicated to “savoring Japan’s culinary treasures” at thanksforthemeal.net. There, she shares details about Japanese culture and her own life experiences along with accessible recipes and photos, from Japanese-style hors d’oeuvres, known as o-tsumami – like fried wontons, steamed clams, and grilled mushrooms – to Japanese foods that work for a Keto diet, from miso soup to edamame. The blog name also has special cultural meaning. It comes from a phrase – gochisosama, or “thanks for the meal” – said at the end of every Japanese meal and meant to convey a diner’s appreciation. 

When she’s not cooking, Lucy works as a Zen life coach and hypnotherapist, and hopes to expand the classes she offers to Revel members to reflect her many talents. The group has been a great find, she says, as “it’s hard to meet new women over 50 in the Bay Area.” Now, hosting cooking classes, she has an opportunity to share her culinary skills and cultural insights – and make new friends while she’s doing it.

Working Together: Amy Edmondson on the Importance of Psychological Safety

Harvard professor, author, and business consultant Amy Edmondson says there is a reason employees don’t speak up when they discover a problem, or have an idea for how processes could be improved. Their workplaces lack psychological safety – a culture free from fear of humiliation or retribution. As more businesses and organizations look to improve their culture and strengthen accountability, they are turning to Edmondson for advice.

HBS Professor Amy Edmondson

“We intuitively recognize that it’s important people feel able to speak up,” Edmondson says. “But I think the MeToo movement and the growing recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion have made us realize we’re really far from where we need to be.”  Add to this the general anxiety around the political moment we inhabit, and it’s a recipe for defensiveness, suspicion, and general uneasiness in the workplace – all of which hampers innovation and growth. 

“So many boundaries around public behavior have been destroyed,” says Edmondson, author of several books including, most recently, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth

Fear around speaking up at work can particularly affect older women in the workplace who may already suffer from feeling invisible. “It’s a lived experience for many of us,” says Edmondson, who is 60. “Older men are respected, and older women are not noticed. What does psychological safety mean if no one wants to listen?” she asks. 

While she primarily focuses on the role of leadership in creating a culture where ideas and feedback are welcomed, she does provide some small steps employees can take as well in her book. Chief among them is asking colleagues good questions – contributing directly to a culture of asking and listening in a safe way. “Giving someone a small platform – a moment of interest and respect – is an incredibly valuable gift,” Edmondson says. 

When working with companies and organizations, Edmondson compares herself to an architect. She guides leadership on steps they can take to create psychological safety, which include framing work as a learning problem – making it clear that employee input is needed; acknowledging their own fallibility; and modeling curiosity by asking a lot of questions. 

An ideal workplace functions like a laboratory, Edmondson says. “I like to help design journeys where people work together on a key priority. As if they are working in a lab.” In other words, recognizing that work is a process of shared discovery, and valuing diversity of thought and experience as necessary to reach more innovative conclusions. Research has shown that diversity in both background and experience contributes to greater profits and market growth. But, Edmondson says, in many companies, “we act as if only the white males at the head of the company have something to say.” 

So who’s doing it well? She points to successful clothing brand Eileen Fisher, whose CEO’s advice on how to be successful in business boils down to: “be a don’t knower.” Fisher maintains an openness in her leadership style, inviting information and advice that has allowed her to grow her company into a multimillion-dollar brand. 

“As a boss, you will suffocate voice and input if you act like a know-it-all,” says Edmondson.