I started writing essays and feature articles about being an at-home mom. Some of my articles can be found in Parenting Magazine, Bethesda Magazine, Babytalk, The Washingtonian Magazine and Washington for Women. I turned some of my ideas into children's books, which I used as a consciousness-raising platform. My adult nonfiction book on the modern American family was published in 2016. My most recent nonfiction book was released by Rowman & Littlefield in June of 2018. All of my books can be ordered on Amazon, though I am a big fan of supporting independent bookstores.
50 AFTER 50
At age 50, Maria Leonard Olsen drank her way out of her 25-year marriage. She had, against advice, put all her eggs in the motherhood basket, willfully derailing her successful law career. As teenagers, her precious children did not need her in the hands-on way they previously had. Her husband and she had grown apart because, among other things, they failed to nurture that important relationship. She was depressed and stuck.
When she turned 50, she had the distinct feeling that she was on the downward slope of her life. Actuarially speaking, she was. So when she turned 50, her gift to herself was to go on a crusade to make the most of whatever time she had left. She set out to do 50 new things that were significant, at least to her. The list spanned physical challenges, adventure travel, and lifestyle changes. Each taught her something about herself and about how she wanted to lead the next years of her life to come.
This work follows the work she did to accomplish those 50 new things and shows readers how to make their own action lists - whether it be joining a knitting club or hiking the Himalayas, every item has significance for each individual and speaks to her needs and desires. The list is the match to spark the fire that will light the years after 50. Readers will hear about Maria's adventures and the rewards of each. Accomplishing new things, learning new skills, deepening personal and spiritual relationships, and seeking out challenges will add the spice to a life that may feel repetitive, insignificant, inauthentic, or just plain boring.
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Not the Cleaver Family:
How the Typical Modern American Family Has Changed
As a biracial woman, I was frequently mistaken as the nanny of my lighter-skinned children. Assumptions have not quite caught up with America's melting pot reality. The contemporary American family has changed drastically. Same sex marriage is no longer uncommon. Couples are affirmatively choosing to have one child (a choice that may have elicited sympathy in our parent's generation), or to be child-free. Sperm banks allow women to have their own children without a partner. A mom, a dad and 2.5 children is no longer the norm.
Within 30 years, less than half of the U.S. population will be white. Laws prohibiting interracial marriage were banned in 1967 by the Supreme Court, and same-sex marriage is now legal in many states. Cultural shifts and science have allowed the typical American family to no longer resemble the Cleavers of a generation ago.
This book is based on hundreds of interviews with families across the country, and illustrates just how the normative paradigm of the American family has changed. From these stories, we can examine the scope of the changes and sometimes ignorant reactions to such changes. This book is designed to raise our collective consciousness about what the contemporary American family has become, and help educators and caring citizens remain aware of and appreciate our evolving society.
Healing for Hallie
For ages 3-15... "Healing for Hallie" is about a young girl learning the importance of sharing her feelings instead of keeping them bottled up within herself. Holding feelings inside can be like trying to hold a beach ball under water--It takes much energy and pops up in various ways. Based on the author's personal journey, it offers a helpful viewpoint to those trying to heal from life's difficulties, traumas and tragedies.
Mommy, Why's Your Skin So Brown?
For ages 3-9... "Mommy Why's Your Skin So Brown" is a mother's explanation to her bi-racial children about why her skin color is darker than theirs. It was inspired by frequent questions from strangers who assumed that the author was the nanny to her own lighter-skinned children, causing her children to wonder about the reason for these questions. This book may serve as a consciousness-raising piece for caring communities and to prevent people from letting their curiosity overwhelm their manners.
FROM THE READERS
"One of the best experiences I’ve had since moving to Denver was attending Maria Leonard Olsen’s book talk at Tattered Cover last week! I definitely have gotten some weird looks and comments as I’ve been carrying around 50 After 50 because spoiler alert- I’m nowhere close to 50 years of age. BUT I will say that much of what I’ve read so far has felt relevant to my life in some capacity and nearly every word of her book talk resonated with me. I am so grateful I could hear her speak and am truly inspired by her words and actions! I highly recommend her book #fiftyafter50"
-Christine L, Denver, CO
"Maria Leonard Olsen's book packs a lot of punch in one volume: it's a memoir, a guidebook, and a rich resource for anyone wanting to do more in life. It takes enormous courage to put yourself out there in the public sphere, especially when you take the risk of exposing a life that has been challenging in so many ways. She is as honest about her relative privilege as she is about her personal struggles and traumas, and provides many examples of how to expand your life even with limited time, money, etc. Olsen also has urgency in her voice -- for those of us near, at, or past 50, time is truly precious. Rather than limit the book to a memoir of her own experiences, she generously shares countless examples of how to take steps toward improving your life through new experiences. It's hard not to start making your own list well before you finish this book!"
"This book should be required reading for all ages. Maria shares her inspiring story of transformation with incredible honesty, humor and grace. I will be purchasing this book for 50 something friends as well as for my teenage daughter. Everyone can benefit from the wisdom contained in these pages."
-Amazon Reviewer, Denver, CO