If you are a woman approaching or maybe already in the throes of midlife there are two women online that will no doubt have already grabbed your attention as they did mine. Jo and Ann, are the founders of the one-stop-shop for all things menopausal www.hotflush.info and I am delighted to feature them as my next Fabulous Females.
The internet is awash with advice about the menopause, but Jo and Ann add their own inimitable sense of humour to an area many midlife women are scared to acknowledge let alone discuss out loud. Their mission is to break down those barriers and in their own words “put colour to a grey subject” and let’s be honest ladies (and husbands) there is no doubt that it needs it.
I discovered their site whilst recovering from my op and was instantly enamoured by their sense of bonhomie. It is after all just another life passage and it doesn’t all have to be bad.
Their site is stylish. Big tick! It is funny and it is positive. They share discoveries and experiences using blogs and vlogs, accompanied by tongue in cheek song titles of 60s and 70s that link directly to the reader’s Spotify accounts.
Neither Ann nor Jo claim to be medical experts. They talk from first-hand experience but in a bid to offer the best advice they have spoken to the experts and share what they have to say on what women can do to help themselves.
There is no other modern menopausal movement that encompasses all that is good, bad, ugly and funny about this mother of all transitions. Believe me, I know. Here is what they have to say about being a Fabulous Female and I hope by the end you will, like me, be encouraged to join them. Over to the Hot Flush ladies….
- Who is or was your role model?
Jo: I’m not sure that I’ve got a specific role model. I love people for who they are, what and how they do things and generally because they’re marvelous, impressive or both.
Ann: My mum. She taught me to pursue what makes me happy. She’s 87 and still doing yoga and playing golf. She’s up-right and agile, she’s amazing. I wasn’t great at school, my biggest love was art. I really wanted to leave my comprehensive after my ‘O’ levels (or lack of!). She knew I loved art and managed, in a very un-pushy way, to persuade me to stay on at 6th form to get my Art ‘A’ level, knowing that would allow me a place on an Art Foundation Course. She knew that was where I would blossom. She was right. I’d be a supermarket checkout girl otherwise. She taught me that going for your dream was not an impossible task, if you really want something you’ve got to be prepared to work hard at it. You can’t make someone do what they don’t want to do, but you can help them find a way to achieve their dreams with a little gentle persuasion and support.
- What motivates you?
Jo: Knowing that if I put my mind to something, I can do it. I can be naturally risk averse but as I get older, calmer and more secure in my own skin, I’m happier to take risks.
Ann: Me, I’m very self-driven, you have to be when you’re freelance. If I have an idea in my head I have to act on it immediately, otherwise another idea, or task will take over.
- What are the values you hold dearest in life?
Jo: Family, empathy, friendship and gratitude.
Ann: Love, honesty, respect, friendship, support. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
Jo: Creating Hot Flush with Ann has been a steep learning curve and I learn something every day. There’s menopause specific research to keep on top off, content to be planned and written or possibly filmed, scheduled and posted. Then there’s business development, making contacts, planning collaborations and the list goes on. I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome it yet, as each day brings new demands but I love it. Seeing how far we’ve come since we started with some Post It notes on Ann’s kitchen table shows that somehow we’ve overcome a lot of hurdles to get to where we are but there’s plenty more to be done.
Ann: Learning about IT and Social media. I went out of my way to avoid it for years. If you can’t beat it, join it. Setting up Hot Flush has been a massive learning curve; embracing Instagram, Facebook, learning how to film, edit publish and post on YouTube and on our website. OMG, I can’t begin to tell you all the new things I’ve learnt in my fifties, every day has a new challenge, quite often frustrating ones!
- What is your proudest moment?
Jo: I am a mum of 3, so have 3 equally proud moments. In fourth place, launching the website with Ann, in so many ways it was just like birthing a baby!
Ann: There have been so many. Most relate to my family but, most recently, I would say publishing Hot Flush and all the positive feedback we have received about it. An idea is only an idea until people can visualise it and appreciate it and of course I was so proud to hear Jo on Woman’s Hour, only three months after we got the site up and running.
- What motto do you live by?
Jo: Now more than ever, Carpe diem! Hitting my fifties has been in many ways a reality check. I’m happy, healthy and lucky, I’d like to stay that way but who knows what the ageing process has in store for me? My kids are now young adults so I feel free to put myself first and that feels quite liberating!
Ann: Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward, I am doing a lot of this at the moment. Plus, ‘Live life to the full’.
- What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Jo: Sometimes there was a bit of drift but in the absence of a plan, I’d like to tell myself that it all works out pretty well!
Ann: I would tell myself that anything is possible if you want it hard enough, it’s yours for the taking. Your life is what you make it. Don’t live by what “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” been. Never be ashamed to ask for help. Seize every moment.
- Who gave you the best advice and what was it?
Jo: My husband’s encouragement when I talked to him about setting up the website! He told me to ‘stop talking about it and just do it’ and he was right, sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do!
Ann: Spectrum Ted (I’ve no idea what his real name was?) a tutor on my Foundation Course. He saw my creative potential and unlocked the door to design for me. He told me I should take a degree in fashion at Kingston university and gave me a positive push in a direction I hadn’t considered. I thrived there and finally found my self-confidence, I was so proud to get a 1st. It was such a brilliant stepping stone to a life in the design industry working for Conran Design Group, Laura Ashley and Mulberry. I had the most amazing opportunities to travel the world and be paid to do it – it’s not all about gap years.
- How would your friends describe you?
Jo: A cheerful chatterbox, occasionally a bit blunt, always up for a laugh and hopefully reliable.
Ann: Oddly many have said I seem so calm, which is far from how I feel most often (that’s friends, my family would never describe me as calm!). When it comes to work: proactive, give me a task, I’m on it, I avoid procrastination, except when it comes to doing my VAT!
- What makes you laugh out loud?
Jo: A bad pun, my kids and our puppy, Peggy. Becoming a dog owner has been as big a surprise to me, as to anyone who knows me, but if laughter is the best therapy, she’s an instinctive therapist.
Ann: My dad, he’s 90 and such a brilliant story teller, he has me in stitches. Also hearing my two sons laughing together, they have the most infectious laughter (inherited from my dad), I just have to hear them all laughing and that gets me going.
- What would your autobiography be called?
Jo: ‘I Haven’t Got There Yet, Part 1’. Life’s been a series of fabulous mini adventures but I really believe that there’s a lot more to come. I’m leaving the door open for ‘I Got There, Part 2’.
Ann: ‘A Blessed Life’. A friend once told me I had this and I can honestly say she’s absolutely right. I was fortunate to find my soul mate and husband when we were twenty. Thirty five years on, he’s still the love of my life. He’s my rock.
- What does being a modern midlife woman mean to you?
Jo: Embracing change, new ideas and challenges whilst keeping all the plates spinning.
Ann: Never being too old to reinvent yourself, I’m on my third reinvention now, fourth if I count taking a career break to be a stay at home mum. Never be afraid that it’s too late to start something new.
- What would be your desert island essential?
Jo: I thought about asking for a tool but a solar-powered radio would be much more useful. I’d hate being cut off from what’s happening in the world and from people, so the radio would sustain me and maybe keep me company as I scour the island for shelter and food. If it only picked up BBC Radio 4 and Radio 6 I’d be happy.
Ann: Our Hot Flush Spotify @_hotflush playlist, as long as I have something to play it on! I love dancing to banging tunes so that’s always guaranteed to make me happy.
- What makes you feel fabulous?
Jo: Clichéd, but that just showered and hair washed feeling on a sunny morning with the day stretching ahead.
Ann: Without a doubt, Chanel No.5 Paris, La Crème Corps (Check on Google, it’s not for dead people!) I was given this as a present twenty odd years ago and it’s been my little luxury ever since. I really feel extra special every time I put it on. I love the smell, it’s less in your face than perfume.
- In your own words, a fabulous female is….
Jo: ..a woman who’s clever, compassionate, funny and likes to let her hair down.
Ann: .. someone whose personality effortlessly shines; she has the ability to make those around her feel fabulous too. I’ve been lucky to know so many, (hi to all you fabulous girlfriends out there) my sister being the main one.
If you are new to Hot Flush and would like to find out more, including details of Jo and Ann’s forthcoming expert Menopause event in London on 23rd June you can do so here:
Business : Hot Flush
Twitter : @_hotflush
Editor’s Note: All my Fabulous Females receive a personal invitation from me to be featured.