MFCH Table Talks: My reinvention tale – what’s yours?

by Sharon Santoni

woman in white shirt smiling with dog

Over all the years that I have written this blog (10 now, to be exact!), one of the most frequently occurring subjects I focus on is reinvention. When I meet any readers – either on our tours, or when I’m at a book-signing event – it is the thing that I’m asked about most often.

Think back to your own mother, or your grandmother. Unless she was a particularly unusual lady, it is unlikely that in her later years she set out to reinvent herself. Society expected her to “grow old gracefully,” to be a doting mother and grandmother, and to continue to keep a clean and tidy home.

She may have painted, or sewn, or gardened, or played bridge and all of those are wonderful things. But I’m willing to bet that if at retirement age, she announced she was going to pack her bags and travel the world alone (or write a book, or create a new business) that her friends and family would have been most surprised. But today, women can do all those things, and more.

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My own reinvention tale started when the youngest of my four children was 13 years old, and I was feeling pretty redundant. I had been a hands-on Mum for 20 years, but now nobody needed me to help them with their homework, or read them bedtime stories, or take them on outings. I was bored. At midnight, on New Year’s Eve 2009, I raised my glass of champagne and proclaimed to any one who was listening (and they were very few), that 2010 would be the year I’d reinvent myself.

country house covered in foliage

The home that started it all

I was 50 years old when I made that promise. Two months later, when I started my blog, I had turned 51. Which means that this year, as I celebrate ten years of My French Country Home, I am 61. If someone had whispered in my ear on that New Year’s Eve – “Be careful, you’ll end up working full-time, you’ll have a little team and a magazine and lead tours, and a have a French subscription box shipped all around the world!” – I would most certainly have laughed out loud and served myself another glass of champagne. What’s the saying? … Be careful what you wish for… ?

People often ask me “how did you know that your blog would be read?”or “how did you know that your subscription box would have any clients? or “how did you know that your magazine would find a readership?”

The simple answer is “I didn’t.”

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 Getting creative each day is what keeps me sane and happy.  Up until I started my MFCH endeavours, my creativity had been channelled into my home, my family and my garden. I hadn’t never tried my hand at photography, had very little experience in writing, and absolutely knew nothing about computers or how to publish a blog.

But none of that ended up mattering. I figured out how to create and publish a blog via Blogspot. It cost me nothing at all and was a huge and amusing learning curve. I was very lucky to find a readership for the blog quite quickly.  A bunch of generous, kind women (and men!) who were patient with my beginner’s mistakes, and then one thing led to another.

two magazines on a table with flowers and champagne

My French Country Home Magazine

So my unexpected reinvention has taken shape in the forms of this website, the box, the magazine and the tours.  It has allowed me to meet some truly fascinating, dynamic and creative people, and it has taken me all over France and far beyond. I count my blessings every day.

But this is just my story. I would love to know about your story, your ambitions and your longing or need for reinvention.

What is your creative path? Does anyone else know that you are looking for the next step? How do you see yourself in 10 years time? Do you feel that that at the current stage in your life – whatever that may be – you could be doing something more? Then I say to you, just do it.

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And by the way, I’d also say start before you are ready. If you try to have an absolutely complete checklist before beginning, then you’ll be stuck in the planning stages forever. Don’t worry, things will work themselves out. I thought it would be fun to take this conversation one step further.

This coming Saturday, May 16th at 6pm French time / 4:00 PM GMT / 12:00 PM EST / 9:00 AM PST, I’ll be going Live on Instagram to talk more about my reinvention experience and to answer any questions you all may have.

white french gift box with magnolia

My Stylish French Box

I am really looking forward to chatting with you, especially since the MFCH Retreat that we had programmed for April is now postponed to the fall due to COVID-19. I am so sorry not to be able to meet the ladies who had this on their calendars; however, I am looking forward to meeting you all in the fall, and, in the meantime, I hope that you’ll tune in on Saturday!

Set an alarm on your phone and get ready to stop by and join me with a coffee (or something stronger – depending on your time zone!). This Q&A session will be a first for me, and I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say.

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To help us prep for Saturday, please leave your questions and comments below, or send me an email HERE. I’ll do my very best to get around to everyone when we chat. I can’t wait to hear from you all, and I hope you’ll be able to make it! If you can’t, I’ll be adding it to this post afterwards as part of my podcast, “MFCH Table Talks,” so be sure to check back.

Update: Did you miss my Reinvention IG Live? Now you can access it via my podcast – click below to listen!

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If you’re interested in hearing more about my story, check out my interview “From Avocation to Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” on Authority Magazine!

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35 comments

Kate Dickerson May 14, 2020 - 2:53 pm

I can’t wait for your live Insta on Saturday! You are one of my heroines. I just love what you’re doing.

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:03 pm

Well thank you Kate!

x

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Marie D. Kromer May 14, 2020 - 3:12 pm

Bonjour Sharon! This is a deep question if you feel comfortable answering it. Did you experience anxiety, self doubt, and/or depression when you were shifting into your new season in life.? If you did, how did you manage it and how did you press on with your new dreams! Any tips would be greatly appreciated. You are very calming and inspirational! Sincerely, Marie Kromer

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:04 pm

HI Marie, thank you for your question, you’re right that is pretty personal, but I’ll try to address that on Saturday 🙂

x

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Marie Kromer May 16, 2020 - 11:19 pm

Thank you Sharon. I really enjoyed your Live Stream today. I even took notes as you went along. You are so graceful and inspirational. I hope you that enjoy your weekend! Marie (teawmarie).

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Christine May 14, 2020 - 4:51 pm

Where does your motivation and energy come from ? I have always enjoyed puttering in my yard and gardens , by find it more laborious now that I am 67 .
I love being able to decorate my home , but my funds are more limited (retired , now widowed for a year) . I’ve had to learn to “scale back” and choose what is most important .
Any advice ?
Your blog continues to be a bright spot for me . It is such a pleasure when I receive your emails .
Thank you so much for bringing beauty to my life !

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:04 pm

Great question Christine! Merci 🙂

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Kimberley DeBastos May 14, 2020 - 4:56 pm

How did you define your audience while sharing your journey/reinvention? There are so many blogs and you seem to have found your perfect community of followers.

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:46 pm

Thank you Kimberley 🙂 I’ll be happy to talk about that

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Virginia Kinzer May 14, 2020 - 5:44 pm

Bonjour Sharon! I have so enjoyed discovering MFCH and all the riches it offers, blogs, books, magazines, tours, etc. of keen interest to me is your lovely garden surrounding your beautiful home. Many of your plant species are common to my area. Do you do all of your own gardening? Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. ❤️

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:49 pm

Hi Virginia, thank you ! My garden is my therapy 🙂 I do a lot of the gardening, and for the heavy stuff I have a wonderful gardener who helps me three or four days each month

See you Saturday
x

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Lisa Kilday May 14, 2020 - 5:47 pm

Found you this past year and have so enjoyed everything MFCH ! I am 57 and looking for reinvention! Our last of 3 children is a sophomore in college and I am excited about this next season of my/our (husband) life. There are so many things that peak my interest, so am not sure where to begin. My first loves are my family, then traveling and then cooking, gardening, trying my hand at “maybe refinishing a piece of furniture”, re-grouting my kitchen, sorting thru 27 years of children’s photos, etc. Plenty to keep me busy, but still would love to find something else to give or a new life purpose for myself. Looking forward to this Saturday! Thank you so much 🙂

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:54 pm

Thank you Lisa. I hope you find some inspiration in our Live on Saturday. As I said I don’t have all the answers, but maybe by listening to the Q&A you’ll find some new ideas 🙂

x

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Catherine May 14, 2020 - 6:15 pm

Bonjour Sharon,
How did you hone in on your passion? It seems the greatest challenge when one has many interests.
Thank you for taking the time to share your journey; I truly enjoy learning about it.

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 7:56 pm

Thank you Catherine, I’d love to answer that question

Look forward to ‘seeing’ you on Saturday 🙂

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Diane May 14, 2020 - 7:41 pm

I believe I have followed you for
most of your ten years. You are a true inspiration and I’m looking forward to hearing even more about your wonderful reinvention story on Sat. I’ll be having coffee with you on CA time!

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 8:52 pm

Thank you Diane, it’s incredibly flattering that you have been reading me for such a long time 🙂
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Brenda Brokaw May 14, 2020 - 8:04 pm

Bonjour Sharon, I so enjoy receiving and reading your wonderful magazine. I have recently downsized to be closer to my daughter’s family and three grandchildren and at 73 years old, I am taking on the project of turning my humble ranch house into my French Country Bastide!!!

I love all things French and have many photos from my journeys to France that, along with your magazine, are inspiring me as I work on this project.

As I am looking at colors, floors, doors, windows, etc. in photos of French houses,
I am trying to sort out the finish on brick/ stone floors, and perhaps it is just an aged patina but it is very subtle and beautiful and it seems there must be a way to get this finish?

Thank you for giving me any information you may have or any suggestions as I proceed. I will hope to see you on Saturday and I most excited to hear all suggestions and comments!

Thank you for inspiring all of us who love all things French!!

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 9:01 pm

Hi Brenda, Thank you for your kind words 🙂 Hope you enjoy the live on Saturday

x

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Susan Nefzger May 14, 2020 - 9:05 pm

Truly truly must have creativity and beauty in each day!

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sharon santoni May 14, 2020 - 11:15 pm

Absolutely !!

X

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Billie Moffitt May 14, 2020 - 9:09 pm

Hello Sharon, I just read your article “Avocation to Vocation…” You are so grounded and genuine (which was confirmed when I met you on last September’s Antique Tour) and that’s what makes you so readable and relatable. You present your interests with such straight-forward, honest enthusiasm. There’s no pretense that we’re learning from or listening to an authority–just someone who genuinely enjoys and enjoys sharing. And one thing I think sets you apart from many other bloggers, you’re not trying to impress with your life and accomplishments, but rather draw the focus to others who impress and inspire you. With great respect for what you do, Billie

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sharon santoni May 14, 2020 - 11:18 pm

Hi Billie. Thank you so much for your very kind comment. I am beyond flattered. It’s true that I love to share and it’s true that I’m amazed by those around me.

Hope you manage to tune in on Saturday 🙂

xx

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Danyel May 14, 2020 - 9:47 pm

Sharon, I fell in love with your blog/ Facebook/ Book, and now boxes over the past few years. I work in a very “technical” job, but I have done it to put food on the table and take care of family needs. Next year I turn 50, and I am really hoping to launch a new career in photography, and possibly writing/publishing photo essays about historic places in both the US and abroad. Can you talk about the publishing process. How did you make the right connections in publishing? Your book is so beautiful, but I’m sure that is pretty expensive to have made. Merci Beaucoup! Danyel

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Sharon Santoni May 14, 2020 - 10:07 pm

Thank you Danyel, I’ll certainly tell you how my publishing experience came to be. Thank you for your kind comment
🙂
x

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Bernadette M. Petrotta May 15, 2020 - 1:38 am

I just found you and already bought your beautiful book, My French Country Home. I love it! I teach étiquette so you can see I love anything French! Then again, I still take ballet and I am 63! So again, I love anything French. Lastly, I am taking French lessons! What was I thinking?? But I, too, am enjoying retirement. I just wrote another étiquette book. Thank you for your blog. I will be subscribing to your magazine and of course shopping on your website.

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Sharon Santoni May 15, 2020 - 12:04 pm

Wow Bernadette! You are impressive 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful comment that I am sure will inspire many other people today.

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Tricia May 16, 2020 - 3:31 pm

Hi Sharon. I have followed you from your very early days and I often have talked about you as an example of creative reinvention and blog monetisation. I am full of admiration of what you have achieved and you seem like a thoroughly lovely person too.
My initial reason for following was because you lived in France. I lived there for 8 years, while working as a journalist, and I love all things French. That was in the 90s. Now I am 66 and retired. I have as much energy as before but fear blogs are no longer much read because they have been overtaken by other media, especially Instagram. What are your views on this? Any ideas on cutting new routes through?
Secondly, do you think that now much can be achieved without hefty initial monetary investment? I think your business has grown organically and beautifully but I can think of some other wonderful achievers in your field who have also had lucky recourse to lots of money to help their ‘brand’ grow. Any ideas on this?
Looking forward very much to hearing you later!!

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Gail May 15, 2020 - 8:24 pm

Hi Sharon: I live in NJ, and recently came across your wonderful blog. I’m looking forward to the Live tomorrow- I’ll have my coffee and croissant ready on the patio! Are you fluent in French, (I’m working on it), and do you get to the beach’s much/for inspiration?! Best, Gail

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LYNETTE MCMILLON May 15, 2020 - 9:13 pm

Hello Sharon. Thank You for your vision and exquisite execution of it! As well as Sharing the beautiful material, talented artists and resources you make available to your readership. How was the transition of envisioning , exploring and laying out your plan and strategy for your reinvention? What methods were most beneficial for you? I was a Care Giver for my parents, grandparents and a friend and now they have transitioned and passed away. I have to transform the vision of my life without them. I am living in gratitude daily, working and want to move to joy filled living which I think you fundamentally express so easily! I am transitioning towards a goal of living a better Life Style. I enjoy all of your books, blogs and magazines. I am planning to attend one of the Tours!

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Barbara Somervaille May 16, 2020 - 1:52 am

Hello Sharon – I look forward to your Instagram live but hope you can save it for later viewing as I think it will be 2am here in Australia! I’d love to hear what books you enjoyed through your learning curve as you found your voice and confidence. I am sure the positive feedback from your readers really helped you grow as well as encouragement from supportive family and lovely friends. Kindred spirit friends are so important to affirm us as we learn to stretch our wings! It can be quite lonely forging a new path with a business idea without a team at first. I’d love to hear your perspective.

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Kim May 16, 2020 - 6:29 am

Hi Sharon you are so inspiring and fabulous that you’re in a new stage of your life. I too began a different path at the age of 44 to establish Little French Heart after i came to a major crossroad in my life. I took my young daughter, aged five, alone to the French Alps to ski, to feel empowered, fresh, and to thing. It was here that I discovered the beautiful toy stores of France. All the while back in Sydney I had been pouring my heart and my writings out on a mummy blog. I merged the two to create the first dedicated French toy store in Sydney. It’s not been easy but I’ve learnt a lot and in all, have found a very steady sense of wellbeing; like you, this is why i did it 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement, creativity and beauty. Kim x

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Pamela May 16, 2020 - 3:59 pm

Sharon, thank you so much for planning this virtual sharing ~ the act of joining together in this way provides a much needed forum and support that is sorely lacking for many of us. Your thoughts and wisdom are treasured!
My question may be the same that you have heard over time and revolves around the difficulty in having a valid voice in a society that ignores women of our stage in life. I’m drawn ( obsessed really!) with designing with flowers and long for a venue to express myself and would love to hear you speak further about following our creative muses. Much gratitude to you for feeding us beauty as you do in so many ways!

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Janet McAndrew May 18, 2020 - 6:57 pm

Unfortunately I couldn’t tune in on Saturday since I was at work. I’mwhat They call an essential worker. I work in catering and our company re-evented itself to provide casseroles and groceries for our client instead of parties/gatherings. This has been quite a year for us.
I’ve been a follower of your almost from the beginning (2010-11) and have enjoyed your blog tremendously.
Around that time at age 51, I became redundant at a large computer company and was let go. I had a choice of either finding a job in my old profession or moving in a new direction. I choose the new direction, cooking. I had always been interested in cooking, learning new recipes and methods of cooking. Why not doing it for a living. Did some schooling and ended up at a local catering company. Been there ever since and enjoying myself, more than I ever did in my office job. After we retire, which is soon, we plan to travel. But for now, we are staying put and getting on with our lives as best we can. We’re interested in what would be considered the new normal.
Hope you and your family are well and happy.
Janer

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Karen Mary May 27, 2020 - 2:05 pm

I’m so sorry to have missed the chat! Is there a transcript or replay by any chance? I’m 65 and just started a blog (hopefully a movement :)) called CaretoKeep.com. There’s so so much to learn, and I’m struggling with how to get traffic. But I’m determined and happy to have new creative work in my life. (I still work full-time as a freelance writer, too.) Thanks for your lovely work!

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