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March 13, 2018
Getting a Black Belt at 60 & Launching a Podcast at 67 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 3

Getting a Black Belt at 60 & Launching a Podcast at 67 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 3

This is the third installment of the 7-week Inspiring Seniors Series.

Today, we’re covering the incredible stories of two women – Galen Pearl and C.L. Fornari.

At the age of 60, Galen got her black belt, and at age 67, C.L. launched a podcast. These are their stories.


Galen Pearl – a pen name – is a Southern girl who was transplanted to the Pacific Northwest.

Galen Pearl Headshot

She’s always had an interest in online blogging, her first blog being about 10 habits that transformed her life. Now, she keeps up regularly with a blog inspired by the Tao Te Ching and her martial arts practice.

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese text, which is fundamental for both philosophical and religious Taoism, which is the tradition of living in harmony with a focus on simplicity, spontaneity, compassion, frugality, and humility.

And these ideas string effortlessly through her personal blog titled No Way Cafe, named after the idea that this is a place to relax – ”The ‘way of no way’ is what’s on the menu,” Galen writes in her first post.

Her February 1, 2016 post closes on this thought: “I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to go to many wonderful places, and to do many exciting things, but sometimes the wisest course is to go nowhere and do nothing.”

The concepts of simplicity and harmony sometimes also meet with humor, as shown in a post one year later: “Lately, I’ve been enjoying a meditation practice called in Chinese zuo wang. Zuo means sit. Wang means forget. So the practice is literally sit forget. At my age, this is so easy to do since I forget most things anyway!”

But don’t let the concept of aging fool you – Galen is just getting started.


It had been decades since Galen has practiced martial arts, but her teenage daughter wanted to take taekwondo. “I thought it would be a fun thing to do with her, so we both started together,” she says.

With time, her daughter realized she wasn’t that interested in it, but Galen had found a new passion. She loved it, and she kept going back.

“It was hard,” she said. “The black belt test spanned two days.”

She trained almost every day for a few months just to be ready for that test. “Frankly, that level of intense training wasn’t great for my body, so after I got my black belt, I dropped back to a more reasonable level of training.”

Galen the night she got her black belt

Galen says, “I have little patience for those who just want to sit around and complain. I know some of us have legitimate limitations for a variety of reasons, but we still have a choice about our attitude and gratitude.”

After getting her black belt in taekwondo, she switched her focus to practicing kung fu. “I just wanted to learn something new,” she says.

She got up to a brown belt in kung fu, but decided she didn’t need to go through that intense training she did before in order to get the black belt. “I didn’t have anything to prove. I just wanted to train at a comfortable level and have fun.”

Today, Galen still does some kung fu, but most of her practice has shifted to tai chi. She also enjoys working with weapons – mostly with a straight sword.


Galen retired the year she got her black belt. She loved her career in law, which consisted of 10 years in practice and 20 years of teaching. “But I also love being retired,” she laughs.

“We have such an emphasis in our culture on ‘doing.’ On being productive and identifying with the work we do. That is not a global value, and I think we can learn from other cultures to value this stage in our lives.”

Today, Galen spends her time writing, practicing martial arts, enjoying family and friends, and learning new things. In fact, she’s studying Chinese now. “I also enjoy weekends at my cabin in the mountains taking walks with the dog and just sitting by the creek,” she says.

For Galen, life shouldn’t require work in order to have purpose. “If relaxing and enjoying the fruits of your labor includes some type of work, great. But we shouldn’t feel like it’s required in order for our lives to have meaning.”


“My age absolutely gives me advantages in life. This is the best time of my life. Truly.”

Sure, there are challenges, but Galen says that the perspective she has on life now only comes with her experiences. She doesn’t waste time on things she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t worry. She appreciates the miracle of every day.

“I release to the next generation the responsibility to shape the world they want to live in,” she says.


Galen’s plans for the future are… to have no plans. “I’m really not kidding,” she says. “Setting goals suggests that I know how things should be in my future. I prefer at this age to allow my life to unfold.”

That mindset allows her to experience surprises and opportunities that she might’ve missed otherwise.

Galen recalls on her blog that her martial arts teacher said his favorite weapon was the one in his hand.

She relates this little lesson to her own life, and explains, “If, for example, I want to be happy, what good does it do me to think about some ideal situation? [...] My teacher’s answer reminds me that all I have in my hand is now, this moment. It’s my favorite.”


As I worked to gather inspiring stories for this series, I asked if individuals over the age of 60 were still active – if they were taking on new hobbies or learning new things.

C.L. Fornari quickly pointed out to me that yes, even I was being a bit agist.

“You ask about people learning new things and taking up new hobbies, but what about people furthering their careers? Why just ‘hobbies’ and not skill sets that move them into new jobs?”

And she’s right. In fact, you’ll see as this series progresses that many of the individuals over age 60 aren’t retired and don’t have any plans to do so.

And C.L. is one of those individuals.


In May of 2017, C.L. Fornari launched a podcast, Plantrama, with her co-host Ellen Zachos about plants. Their target audience? Millennials.

C.L. explains that she and her co-host are completely different people.

C.L. prefers to grow her own vegetables, while Ellen prefers to forage for dinner in the wild. C.L. makes garden-based cocktails, while Ellen creates wild-crafted cocktails out of ingredients from the woods and fields. C.L. is a dog person, while Ellen is a cat person.

“What could possibly go wrong?” C.L. jokes.

You can see the difference between the two in the books they’ve published.

C.L published a book titled The Cocktail Hour Garden. The garden on the book’s cover is lavish and elegant – two delicately poured cocktails sit on a glass table.

Ellen’s book, titled The Wildcrafted Cocktail, shows a dark, frothy cocktail on a rustic table amongst scattered greens.

The Wildcrafted Cocktail

At the beginning of their first podcast episode, Ellen says, “This is Plantrama. It’s the podcast where there are no stupid questions… as long as the topic is plants.”

C.L. Fornari is on the left, and Ellen Zachos is on the right. They are recording one of their podcast episodes via Skype.

Both C.L. and Ellen have learned the technology of podcasting – they live quite a ways apart, and through trial and error, they learned to use GarageBand and DropBox to piece together their final podcast.

They both do continuing education together, and they’re very excited about the upcoming Podcast Movement convention.

“Our next ‘learning curve’ to conquer is to monetize this podcast either with sponsors or by joining it to a radio group. Onward and upward.”


For C.L, retirement isn’t really in the picture. “I have a hard time thinking that the term has any relevance to me,” she says.

Her work – writing and podcasting about all things plants – is her passion, and she’s in control of her schedule, which makes it feel like a joy, not necessarily work.

C.L. also explains that if she didn’t constantly challenge herself and learn new technology, new plants, and new sciences, her brain would become less vital: “Why would I want to give that up?”


Wisdom and experience come with age, of course, but C.L. also recognizes the negatives of being an older woman. “Older women in this country become invisible,” she says.

And in some circumstances, she sees this as an advantage, but mostly, it’s irritating.

“It’s just as annoying as glass ceilings and the sexual objectification of younger women.”


Expanding her podcast and finding a way to monetize it is on the top of her to-do list, but her overarching goal is to make Plantrama a household name across the country.

She also intends to grow the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival, which is an annual event she started four years ago along with writing another novel.

But overall, C.L. wants to put gardening and horticulture back into pop culture.

“Finally, I want to continue to cultivate a large vegetable garden so that my grandchildren will learn the pleasure of going into the front yard and asking, ‘what’s for dinner?'"

Other Posts in this Series


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