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Busy, Smart and Strong: Midlife champions

Wherever you may be on your life journey — whether you’re college age or fully into your family and/or career — one thought eventually creeps into your mind: What will I be doing in 10, 20, 30 years?

And one day, you realize those 10, 20, 30 years have passed and there you are. Do you like the spot where you find yourself? If you’re in your 50s, retirement is looming, and you may be asking yourself what it means for you.

For three Valley ladies, it means simply turning the page to the next, most exciting chapter of life.

Three women — Susan Brooks, founder of the popular Cookies from Home store in Tempe; Kay McDonald, founder of Charity Charms, beautiful jewelry that has helped many non-profit groups; and Rena Huber, former director of the APS Academy for the Advancement of Small, Minority and Women owned Enterprises (AAAME) — got together earlier this year and started something for other Valley women who find themselves at the same stage, curiously called midlife.

That something is Thrive@55.

Huber said the movement all started six years ago on a three-week trip.

“Things in the world were changing. Small businesses collapsed. Jobs were being lost. I thought I’d done everything I could to optimize things as I turned 55,” she said. “So I looked at my weight, my friends, my career. I ended up retiring at 55 and realized I needed a women’s community who could give me a hug when I needed it — or a kick in the backside when I needed that.”

And that’s how Thrive@55 came into being.

The three women have been working hard since January to make the organization thrive. They’ve established an inspirational website and on Monday, May 5, they’re hosting the inaugural Born to Thrive Conference from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Guest speakers, which they call “thrivers,” include Deborah Bateman, executive vice president for National Bank of Arizona; Nora Hannah, CEO of the non-profit Experience Matters, which helps women explore possibilities for a “next” career; Channel 12 news anchor Lin Sue Cooney, who recently started a new business venture called Sweet-Stops; and sex relationship therapist Isa Jones, who responds to mid-life relationship questions.

Brooks, who recently sold her noted cookie company, talked about what the midlife movement means to her.

“There’s no way that I was done! We are the first generation of women in history to face a different future than generations past,” she said. “We have better health, a better quality of life, and the whole idea of having to retire is just nonexistent. Women tend to start looking for something new in their 40s. They’ve been good moms, good employees, good wives. And at this point, they have the opportunity to do even more, something new.”