There’s a saying about how a woman is like a tea bag – she doesn’t know how strong she is until she gets into hot water. I recently attended a tea party with a dozen really strong middle-aged women. We sat in a friend’s garden sipping tea from her mother’s ornate tea set. We all used to work for the same corporation and as our lives have evolved most of us are still jumping in and out of hot water when we should be lolling around on the patio receiving a massage from a bodybuilder named Thor.Linda was recently widowed after her husband died unexpectedly. Determined to take care of herself, she closed up their Arizona home and drove by herself back to Idaho. She arrived at 1:30 in the morning, only to discover she didn’t have the key to open the door. “It was always HIS job to do that!” she explained. Exhausted after the 13-hour drive, she did what any resourceful woman would do. She took a hammer and broke down the door. “It felt great!” she said. “I got rid of a lot of pain.”Sue described how she was petitioning the court for guardianship of her teenage granddaughter. “We were all set to enjoy our retirement,” she said. “Now we have a teenager in the house.” After listening to the circumstances, we agreed that we would take the same actions if faced with a similar situation. Molly announced that she was resigning from her job. After working for 34 years, she was planning her retirement. We toasted her with vanilla tea and poppyseed cake. A few women described the challenges of caring for a sick parent. We traded suggestions, anecdotes, and recommended care facilities. One woman was eagerly anticipating the birth of her first grandchild. The other grandmothers in the group all chimed in on the wonders of being a grandmother. Of course, we all pulled out photographs and declared that the world would be a better place because of our perfect progeny.Another woman told about being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. We encouraged her to take care of herself and then we arm-wrestled her to remove the cookies from her reach.For over twenty years, we’ve shared the highs and lows of our interesting and varied lives. Sometimes it takes a cozy tea party in an elegant garden to renew our spirits before returning to the real world for the next challenge. As we left the party, we all vowed to carry a hammer, just in case we had to bust down a door.