After transitions from attorney to stay-at-home mom to Pilates instructor, Colleen reinvented once again. She now co-hosts the podcast Hot Flashes & Cool Topics, which seeks to give a voice to women in midlife and beyond. She wants to create a series of conversations centered around topics women of a certain age can relate to, learn from, and share.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in 1967 in Toms River, New Jersey, as the fourth daughter in an Italian/English Family. My sisters and I grew up on the Jersey Shore (before MTV was around) and my family ran several amusement parks and arcades around the New Jersey area. This meant that we would pack up and stay summers in different towns depending on where the amusement parks were located. We worked as a family unit and I began working behind amusement stands by age 5. I learned how to be professional, how to have a strong work ethic, and how to be flexible at a very young age. It was not always easy; the hours were long and friendships were brief but I also grew up around amusement parks so fun was part of the mixture. My three older sisters (twins and oldest) were four and six years older so the age gap seemed much wider when we were young. They had their friends and I was often alone with my books.
My sisters were planning college around the time my mom decided to move us to South Florida. I was not a big fan of the move but in my family we did as we were told, so I went. I attended high school in Florida, where the people were very different and the temperature unnaturally hot all four seasons. I never really felt that I fit in until the last month of senior year. My original prom date had been expelled (long story) and I needed to find a date a few weeks before prom. All the seniors were spoken for so I looked to the juniors and found a cute one named Randy. Little did I know that this cute boy would still be by my side 34 years later.
Randy and I attended Boston University together, where I studied Mass Communications at the College of Communications. I loved Boston and through my studies discovered my affinity for analysis and research. I loved to people watch and analyze their behaviors, more often as a spectator than participant. Initially, I believed that my interests would lead me to a psychology PhD but as graduate school grew closer, Randy and I decided that it made more sense for both of us to attend law school. It would be three years of law school vs. a much longer graduate/PhD program and we had agreed that we would not get married until one of us was gainfully employed.
We returned to Florida, where I attended University of Miami School of Law and Randy attended Nova Southeastern School of Law. I think I knew from the beginning that I was not meant to be a lawyer. The aspects that I enjoyed were the research and writing but I disliked the litigious aspects. It seemed that we had more important things to do in life than argue over every issue. I wanted to work with legal adoptions and children’s rights. In my naive way, I thought that was my direction. It wasn’t until I learned how little attorneys in those fields were paid that my path changed again. The decisions I made were always logical, though not necessarily passionate. In my early 20s, I thought that was the right way to make decisions.
Randy and I married soon after I graduated law school. We set up house in a cute little villa that my mom owned and generously allowed us to live in the first year of marriage. I began my legal career working for a large law firm practicing eminent domain. It is a rather boring field of law but I enjoyed the work. I learned very quickly that as a female, I had to work longer and harder to earn the respect of my male colleagues and bosses. It was frustrating and infuriating when pregnancy was frowned upon and men were paid more than women with the same experience. Well, I did get pregnant and managed to work until three days before my delivery date. I was stressed, overworked, underpaid, and unhappy. When I gave birth to my first daughter, Jordyn, my world began to come into focus. It was a life-threatening delivery because I developed severe pre-eclampsia and we were not sure I would survive. That experience tends to give you a clearer perspective on your priorities.
Being a mom was both overwhelming and amazing. My second daughter, Maya, arrived two years later. I realized then just as I do today that it was my purpose to have my daughters, to bring my girls into this word. I was in awe of everything about them. When the time came to go back to work, I simply could not leave them. Thankfully, I have the most wonderful husband who understood and supported my need to stay at home. I threw myself into motherhood 150% and learned all I could about being a “great” mom. It was a lot of on-the-job training and trial and error. I don’t think I even considered that mistakes were a part of the process and you can’t do everything right.
Once Jordyn and Maya began school full time, Randy and I decided to open a law practice together. It allowed me to drop off the children in the morning, work until school pick-up time, and then switch to mom mode again. After several years, my husband was offered a great position in a different law firm. It was a pivotal point for me because I was finally able to say enough. I never enjoyed my law career and decided it was time for a change. I was 35, my girls were in school, and it was time to try to figure out what I would like to do.
My mother has always told us that change is a part of life so I don’t think I fear making a change, just the inevitable anxiety that comes with it. It can be exhilarating to start something new and throw yourself into the process. Age does not and should not play a role in that process.
When did you start to think about making a change?
This is where the first life-altering change was made. I gave up the practice of law and became fascinated with Pilates. I am not a gym-loving person so I wanted to find a healthy and efficient workout, and that was Pilates. The more I practiced it, the more I wanted to learn.
While I realized that many people thought I was crazy, it was the first time that I realized I didn’t care what anyone else thought. My husband and children were happy, I enjoyed the work, and I researched all I could about it. Once I became a Pilates instructor, I grew a strong following of clients who I am honored to still call friends today. I learned very quickly that the job of Pilates instructor was really part fitness instructor and part therapist. Many of my clients wanted to share and be heard about many things so I listened. It was often a lot of multitasking for me, but I hope that they felt heard and in better shape at the end of the hour.
When my oldest daughter became a teenager, my world shifted again as she began battling a severe eating disorder. It was as if life before the eating disorder and life after were two different worlds. My entire focus became doctors, therapists, research, and nutritionists—whatever it took to keep her alive and mentally well. It was many years before we saw a glimpse of the proverbial end of the tunnel, but it is a battle we face as a family still today. I can’t really describe what it is like for your child to descend into that darkness of anorexia and bulimia. Helplessness, abject fear, loss of control, sadness—there are just not enough words to express this illness’s complete consumption of your mental and physical health. The family suffers with it too, not just the loved one. I wish more people realized that. My daughter is doing well today and I am so proud of her strength but we will all help her fight this battle for the rest of her life.
As you can see from my so-called life story, I have always believed that I could do anything I wanted or set my mind to. Gender, social norms, and society have annoyed me but not stopped me. As I get older, it becomes clearer to me that you don’t have to make the world see you unless that is a priority to you. You can make small changes, appreciate those that love and support you, and find your path. It may be winding and ever-changing but just walk it and be a part of the journey, not simply a spectator in others’ journeys.
What is your next act?
In 2019, at the age of 52, I launched a podcast called Hot Flashes & Cool Topics with my friend and co-host Bridgett Biaggi Garratt. We also have a blog by the same name.
Why did we decide to start a podcast? The idea evolved during a lunch I was having with friends where we were discussing how many women feel invisible at our age (45-70). Bridgett and I did not agree with the social construct that as you get older, you somehow become invisible. We believe that this time between empty nesting and before grand parenting or retirement can be a time of self-discovery, travel, rediscovering relationships, and building new ones. It’s a time to look forward to, not dread, as so often people do. This stage of life seems to be ignored in the media and in global conversations and we wanted to address that.
We tackle a variety of topics and are frequently asking our listeners what they’d like to discuss. Here are a few examples:
The Invisible Woman Syndrome
Life Before the Internet
Empty Nest: Changing the Narrative
Skin Care Routines Over Forty: A Routine or an Obsession?
Upcoming episodes in 2020 will be covering Divorce Over 50, Self-Care, Caring for Elderly Parents, Nutrition, The Sandwich Generation, and much more.
If you had told me that I would be doing this at any time in my life before now, I would have thought you were crazy. I now realize that many of my past experiences and attributes merge well with this journey. I have a strong work ethic, so throwing myself into a new challenge is not overwhelming. I love research so I am passionate about learning new things and taking on new challenges. I love to listen to people and talk to them so that’s a natural. I want to spread compassion for those who have been through life’s ups and downs. It all seems to lead me to this chapter of my life.
How hard was it to take the plunge?
It was exciting but challenging. If I’d spent too much timing thinking about it (I am an over-thinker), I would have talked myself out of it. I knew nothing about social media, audiotaping, or working on podcasts. I researched, I learned, and I asked. I listened to a lot of other podcasters (no need to reinvent the wheel). I have noticed people in my genre: midlife and beyond, are much more open to sharing experiences and knowledge. Nothing like the cutthroat days of my 20s and 30s.
Bridgett and I bought some microphones, set up a small table in the media room of her house, and pressed record. We have been learning as we go. We continue to learn, grow, and develop. I love a challenge and if we make a difference for people, it’s a win/win.
How supportive were your family and friends?
My husband and children are used to me throwing myself into changes so they were excited for me. They know my nature is to learn and do all that I can when I am interested in something and this has been no different. The rest of my family and friends thought I was crazy and could not figure why I would want to do this. Luckily, I have never really cared what others beyond my immediate family think and I am always up to prove women can do anything that they want.
What challenges have you encountered?
My biggest challenge has been learning the technical side of podcasting. The microphones, editing tools, and social media presence have been out of my comfort zone. I researched online and spoke to employees at Guitar Center to find the best microphones. Bridgett researched the best audio connections. Social media was a little more challenging; we had to take each outlet one a step at a time and learn the theory behind them. I am a work in progress so far and I am fine with that. My daughters have helped me when I get lost on social media!
My next goal is to learn all I can about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The words sound like a foreign concept to me but I am determined to learn all I can. I am sure more challenges will come up as we travel this path. All we can do is try our best to learn and be present.
We can’t control how others will react to our thoughts or topics on this podcast. We have had some who say that it is crazy at our age to start a podcast, what could we have to share? Some ask why we would want to take this on and share personal information. We have been called boomers on Instagram by young people—which, for the record, I had to look up and we don’t qualify for that age bracket lol. If there is negativity from people or friends, that really says much more about them than about us and what we are doing or saying. I firmly believe that kindness and authenticity are much better character traits than negativity and self-righteousness. I hope people who listen to our show understand and appreciate our honesty.
What did you learn about yourself through this process?
I learn every time I discover something new. I love learning and changing. I am also a big homebody so a day of reading and researching is calming for me. I have learned that I love a self-chosen challenge; I don’t like being told what to do, when to do it, or how.
At this stage of life, I refuse to expend energy on peer pressure or someone else’s forced opinions. Negativity from others is not something Bridgett or I care about or choose to absorb even though it is an unfortunate inevitability in this medium. It is a definite downside of podcasting.
I think I can be this strong because my family unit is so unconditionally supportive. Also, with age comes lack of caring about others’ opinions about your own life.
Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently?
Yes, I think I would have continued my path to getting my psychology PhD instead of pursuing the law. I followed the path that made sense at the time but in retrospect, it wasn’t the right one. All other roads have led me to the present so I wouldn’t change them.
What advice do you have for women seeking reinvention in midlife?
When I was about to be an empty nester, a friend told me the way she got through it was to have something for herself to look forward to after the children leave. I apply that to any change I make. Why am I making it? What is my intention? What do I have to look forward to by making this choice?
I would also say that they don’t have to be big changes. Small steps and small changes can lead to so many wonderful things. We are way past the point of caring about failure at this stage of life, so try new things, succeed or fail, but keep moving, growing, and exploring. There is always something to be grateful for in this journey.
What advice do you have for those interested in launching a podcast? What resources do you recommend?
Just do it! You can learn at any age and any stage. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back from a challenge or passion. Failure is just a learning experience that no longer carries the weight of the world on it. A benefit of our age is a freedom from caring about the perceptions of other.
Prepare to do the work. We are not excused from hard work at this stage of life and if you really want something, you have to be willing to expend the time and energy. Make a list of what you will need and who you want to reach with your podcast. I am a big fan of legal pads and lists, old school I know but it works for me. Who will be your audience? Once you figure that out, research where that audience spends time. For example, find online magazines that speak to your podcast’s audience.
To find people to interview and possible topics, join Facebook groups and contact people you are interested in interviewing. For example, we were looking for a certain age demographic, so we looked for Facebook groups that supported the women over 50 audience.
Don’t be afraid to ask for interviews or help; the worst they can say is no. We did a “12 Every-Other-Days of Holiday Giveaways” recently and I sent emails to companies that have products that women in midlife would be interested in using. I got immediate responses from some who donated items or gift cards, heard a slow no from others, and nothing from a few. That is ok because I will support those who did respond and so will my listeners.
Learn the craft by listening to podcasts, both in and out of your niche. With podcasting, you want to listen to others to keep it fresh and come up with great ideas. We like The Most Excellent 80’s Movies, Unlocking Us, My Favorite Murder and The History Chicks. I am a big political fan so I listen to national news podcasts as well. It doesn’t really matter the genre because you can learn helpful tips from many of these podcasts and modify them for your particular niche.
When you find a podcast you love, email the organizers. They usually love to answer questions. Talk to people who went before you. No need to reinvent the wheel. You can ask them how they started, how they came up with the idea for the show, and what they did to make the idea a reality. Ask them what they suggest for you to discover your voice, how to interview your clients, and how they came up with topics. Find what you are comfortable with and practice. You can practice in your closet to get the best sound quality (something we learned from another podcaster) and tape yourself and listen back. It takes time to get used to your own voice.
Personally, my legal background comes in very handy in interviewing guests. My co-host Bridgett has done some acting so she is good with taping the YouTube episodes, like this one on Botox.
Do some research on basic equipment like microphones (ATR 2100 is our favorite) and setups to record. We use GarageBand to tape and edit, Auphonic to correct volume issues and PodBean to host our website. If you are confused, go to YouTube; they have videos on podcast hosting and preparation, from How to Start A Podcast to How to Tape Episodes. There are so many videos that are informative step-by-step explanations on how to start and maintain a podcast. PodBean also has several videos for startups.
Some people will write a script prior to taping. We like it to be more of an organic conversation, so we will create bullet points and see where they take us. We leave our research in the show notes.
We are also affiliates of certain companies like Amazon, which means if our show notes link an item we discussed on the show to the brand by the company, we may receive compensation for any purchases made through the link. These affiliate programs can be found by just searching for “affiliate programs” on sites like Amazon or Sephora.
If you choose to create a webpage, you can check out WordPress or Wix.com. We had difficulty creating our webpage and we didn’t want to spend a great deal of money on a professional web developer. In my research, I found Upwork, a freelance platform, where you can bid out jobs and get offers. We chose a young professional who met our bid to set up our website and did a great job. When you get frustrated or find a roadblock, try to remember that most likely someone else has had the same problem and found a solution. Try typing your issue into Google to start and go from there; it will usually take you to a solution.
Please remember that social media is also an important aspect of podcasts. You need to be comfortable using Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Set up separate accounts if you already have personal ones. You can start following people and asking questions before you even start your podcast. Again, YouTube is a great teacher on how to use social media.
What’s next for you?
I am excited for this new year and growing our podcast. We are still so new and have so much to learn and explore. I want to connect with other podcasts and open the conversation on this stage of life. Personally, my husband and I have scheduled some amazing travel plans in 2020. From discovering castles in Ireland with friends to traveling to the Baltic with my children, I love new experiences. Also, my oldest daughter recently go engaged so it will be planning and more planning for a 2021 wedding. I can’t wait to see what this new year brings!
Connect with Colleen Ricci Rosenblum:
Where to listen: http://hotflashescooltopics.com/where-to-listen/
I loved reading about your journey!
Thank you so much Wendy. I appreciate it.
Colleen, I loved this article and your story, so exciting!! Way to go!!!
Michele Mann, Ollie’s biggest fan
Thank you Michele. I appreciate you reading the story. Ollie misses you.
I can’t wait to listen to your podcast! Thanks for sharing your story!
I read all the posts you share about inspirational women transforming their lives after 50 — partly because I did and partly because it is motivating! I have bought books from some of your posts and after reading this one, I have now listened to podcasts. Thank you!
Thanks so much Heidi! I’m so glad you’re enjoying all these amazing women’s stories. What was your reinvention? Congrats! Stay well and safe, Helene
So glad you have discovered podcasts!
I’m so excited for your podcast! Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. Love to you.
Thank you Adelia. I appreciate it and please stay engaged as a listener. We love feedback on the show.
This was so encouraging. I just started two new websites because one was just not enough but there are so many things I want to do. Podcasting being one of them for one or more of my blogs. I am going to find your podcast and listen to it. I would love to be a guest if you are looking for voices. Keep on keeping on!
That’s so sweet Sabrina. Let us know your thoughts about the show, we really enjoy hearing back from listeners. At this time, we are all booked up with guests but please stay in touch. Thank you!