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Proof You can Reinvent Yourself at 60

The book my grandmother wrote: Adi with the children’s story written by Carol Novis

 Can you reinvent yourself? Of course, according to myriad articles on the Internet about people who have changed careers, divorced/married and in general, taken up something new in life.

But can you reinvent yourself after age 60 or even 70? That's quite another story. Volunteering for organizations such as ESRA is wonderful, but is it possible to find a satisfying new career at an age when many people are only too happy to give up working altogether?

I'm here to tell you that yes, it can be done. I did, and so did Judy Labensohn, a psychiatric social worker/writer who is now also a hairdresser, and Anne Kleinberg, an interior designer/cookbook writer/novelist who has become a bridal guru.

When I left my job as a newspaper writer and editor after many years, I felt at a loss. Who was I now? The day someone referred to me as "Natasha's [our dog's] owner, "I realized that without a by-line, I didn't seem to have an identity of my own anymore.

Then, one Shabbat when I was walking with three of the grandchildren to synagogue, I found myself inventing a story to distract them so they would get moving and stop dragging their heels. The story was about a naughty fairy and her cat, who got into all kinds of mischief. Each time the kids visited I'd continue with the story. Every grandchild became a character in the drama. Eventually, my daughter suggested I write a children's book based on the stories. By then I'd forgotten most of them, but the children remembered everything.

The result was The Adventures of Mary Fairy (https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Mary-Fairy-Carol-Novis).

I'd never dreamed of writing fiction before, but I found that I enjoyed it. I wrote a few short stories, one of which was published, and I joined a writers' group. Recently, I've written a humorous detective novel called Long in the Sleuth about a group of old ladies who live in a Jewish retirement home and solve murders.

I may have had to wait until my mature years to make this discovery, but writing fiction has given me new purpose and interest.

Judy Labensohn ... ‘I like grey hair’

Judy Labensohn, 70, came to Israel from Cleveland, where she qualified as a psychiatric social worker. She worked for the Jerusalem Foundation before retraining as a social worker at the Hebrew University and also worked as a guide at Neot Kedumim. Writing became a serious interest and she earned an MFA in creative non-fiction from Goucher College in the US, wrote a column for The Jerusalem Post and has published both fiction and non-fiction. She also runs writing workshops. In 2013, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her work.

Last year, Judy decided to train as – of all things - a hairdresser. She explains, "I worked intensively on a memoir for four years, and I felt I needed to do something completely different – something that didn't require sitting!

"Then I discovered Tomer Reshef, a well-known stylist in Tel Aviv, who runs Tomer V'Sheli, a salon in which she practices and teaches her own particular technique of cutting hair. It involves really listening to the client to find out what she wants and then taking lots of time with the cut.

"Tomer takes six students every year, most of them in their 20s. They play loud music and talk about Tel Aviv hipsters I've never heard of. Compared to them, I feel like I've been living in a cave in the Judean desert. It couldn't be more different from anything I've done before, but I find that I really enjoy it.

"I love that hair is tactile and you can play with it. I get in a totally focused state when I'm cutting hair, just as I do when I'm writing. I don't do color, just cuts, because I like grey hair.

My aim is not to make a living out of this – I want to volunteer as a hairdresser, perhaps with abused women or prisoners. What I want is to bring out the beauty in each person." 

What a spread ... an about-to-married bride and her friends at a buffet lunch prepared by Anne Kleinberg (right)

Anne Kleinberg refuses to use the term 'reinventing', because "that implies I didn't like myself the way I was, and that's not true. I prefer to use 'transitions' and 'transformations'," she says.

After Anne's early marriage ended, she moved from Chicago to New York and eventually started a successful business specializing in the design of health care facilities.

"I had an apartment with a Central Park address, a car and even a rare Manhattan parking space. Then I had an epiphany, or you might call it a lobotomy," she jokes. "I had always felt very connected to Israel, and in 1992 I made the spontaneous decision to pack up and come here. I never looked back."

Anne quickly found a job designing hospital interiors - "Everyone figured I was from New York, so I must know what I was doing" - and soon met and married Oded. The two built a beautiful house with a pool in Caesarea.

But the Israeli working environment was a strain. "One Friday morning at 7am, I got a call from a nurse at Tel Hashomer hospital who threatened me because she didn't like the wall-color I'd chosen. That was the last straw. I'd had enough."

Then Shelley Goldman, an editor at The Jerusalem Post, asked Anne if she'd write a restaurant review. Before long Anne was writing a regular column on food and one on lifestyle. That led to another transformation: food writer and novelist. Anne wrote a cookbook called Pomegranates, which was published in English and Hebrew and which was followed by a number of other cookbooks. Then she wrote and published a novel, Menopause in Manhattan, which has sold thousands of copies.

After her marriage broke down a few years ago, Anne found herself with a beautiful Caesarea house and a need to find a way to support herself. She decided to turn her house into a "bed and breakfast"; not just a run of the mill B&B but a super-luxury one. It has been very successful; Casa Caesarea has earned a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor and has been rated the best B&B in Israel and the Middle East.

That led to Anne's next transformation. After she noticed that some of the visitors to her B&B were brides, Anne realized that pre-wedding bridal visits could be a popular niche market. And so it proved. Casa Caesarea is now also Casa Cala, at which as many as three bridal parties a week spend the day of their weddings getting ready before departing for the ceremony. As far as she knows, no other company provides this facility.

With her usual meticulous attention to detail and warm personality, Anne works hard to make sure the brides and their friends and family have a great time. From the morning of the wedding, they can enjoy the spa suite, with its massage beds, the pool, the luxury amenities and the custom-made linens, as well as the buffet lunch Anne prepares. Here, the bride can prepare in peace and luxury for her wedding, with visits from hairdresser, make-up artist and photographer who films the bridal couple against the beautiful golf course background. They also get to return after the wedding for their honeymoon. Casa Cala has even been the venue for a small wedding.

"Originally, I thought about selling the house and moving to Tel Aviv, but I love Caesarea and I love sharing my house with my guests. I'm proud that I handle all the marketing myself and have built up Casa Cala. I believe in it – I think a girl should be a princess on her wedding day and I love providing that service.

"I also believe that women can take risks and change careers at any stage. Every time I've been hurt, I've said to myself, 'Yalla, get on with your life'. Women tend to overanalyze and to worry what people think. We should have more confidence in ourselves and our power. I'm in charge of my life and it's a good feeling."

www.casacaesarea.com and www.casacala.com. 

 

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Wednesday, 17 August 2022

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