Martha Michael | Time for Women to Spring Forward

I grew up with the adage, “You can’t steer a parked car.” It’s a useful metaphor when you feel emotionally stuck and find yourself personally paralyzed instead of making decisions that give you forward momentum. 

And no one needs fuel for that purpose more than women in crisis. 

The Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley’s LifeForward Series was designed to specifically address those needs. They are monthly classes held in collaboration with Single Mothers Outreach and the Domestic Violence Center and while it’s open to everyone – male and female – the topics are targeted to give greatest benefit to single moms and victims of domestic violence or other challenging circumstances. The program is newly trying to reach out to returning veterans and veterans’ wives, as well as emancipated foster children. Men and women are invited to the workshops and the sessions are free.

Experts speak to attendees about topics from communication and anger management to parenting and taxes.

Phyllis Walker of Santa Clarita is the Zontian who has been at the helm of the LifeForward program for several years. 

“When I see personal growth in the women (and I know some of the things that happened in their past) it’s very rewarding,” Walker said. “Zonta’s mission is to empower women and one of the primary functions of these sessions is to empower women and other attendees and to help them with self-sufficiency.” 

Helping women become more self-sufficient is also a major goal for Patti Handy, who spoke at the February LifeForward session. A local mortgage advisor with American Family Funding, Handy shares much more than loan and finance tips when she gets in front of an audience. She’s also a certified executive life coach. 

“I just want to help, especially those who’ve gone through divorce or loss of a spouse,” Handy said. “I know what I went through and I know that having my tribe, if you will, support me emotionally, just being there for me, was a huge part of it. And the financial piece, because I had that background, was a huge part of why I felt I was going to make it.”

According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a woman’s household income following a divorce falls by 41 percent, on average, which is nearly double the loss a man experiences. Part of the problem for women is their tendency to pick up the caregiving aspects when there are children. It’s stressful, time-consuming and costly. Alimony and child support are often unreliable, so they need to advance their careers (if they have one) while meeting the needs of the kids. 

“It’s a huge struggle for women,” Handy said, pointing out that women from traditional situations have often left the finances to their husbands, so they have a lot to learn. “I want to empower women, inspire them, let them know that this point in their life is temporary. This is not the end of their story. It will get better.”

I attended Handy’s LifeForward workshop and went away with financial food for thought, but also sampled from a smorgasbord aimed at feeding my soul. Not to overplay the metaphor, but Handy did a good job of pointing out the parallel universes of dieting and budgeting.

She began with a worksheet for each of us to use in examining our own dreams and aspirations – both financially and otherwise. Then we had the opportunity to engage in mindful meditation together on the topic of gratitude. I liked that the workshop was more than just the nuts & bolts of money matters, because, as Handy points out, our earning, spending and investing behaviors have a lot to do with our attitudes – toward money and a lot of other things.

“We eat emotionally, we spend money emotionally – we call it retail therapy,” she said. “Typically, people spend more time planning their vacation than they do their finances.”

Takeaways from the session include:

• Work on yourself more than your job.

• The life you create will either be by design or by default.

• Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.

Women talked to Handy privately at the conclusion of the workshop, when she could offer them more personal assistance.

“When you’re in the middle of that darkness in that vulnerable, scary time, you can’t see past that. You can’t ever imagine life being good again,” she said. “Emotionally, financially, physically, you’re usually a mess, even if you’re the one who chose the divorce. If you have kids involved it’s even more, because you’re dealing with their emotions and you’re fearful and scared and sad for what they’re going to experience, so whatever help you can get is big.”

Looking forward, upcoming sessions include: 

March 16: Your Health & Wellbeing — Eat Right & Exercise/Inexpensive, Healthy Meals

April 20: Motivational Topic with certified therapeutic imagery & social emotional arts practitioner Aazam Irillian

May 18: Divorce and Family Law Issues/Sources of Child Support

If you know men or women stuck on the side of the road, so to speak, steer them toward the LifeForward workshops, because it may help them get into gear again. Visit SCVZonta.org/lifeforward/

Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.

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About the author

Martha Michael

Martha Michael

Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal and serves as editor for three local publications. She has been writing professionally for decades and is the author of “Canyon Country” by Arcadia Publishing.