Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Telling the Truth Tuesday: unexpected events

I was busy getting ready for my trip to Romania which is coming up in one week, when I received an email telling me a long time folk dance friend had died. This is a man who lived in Boulder, Colorado, but has attended our annual folk dance camp each year since I've been going (1995).
Skip always had a huge smile on his face and joy emanated from his very being. He had frequent business in Africa and was on the plane returning from his latest trip when he apparently got a blood clot and it went to his lungs and he died. In flight.

I have been unable to come to grips with this. I don't think it will be real for me until camp this year, when Skip will not be there. I have posted about other friends with life-threatening health issues and, combined with this, it has forced me to face some tough realities. Anything can happen to anyone at any time.

Does this mean we should live our lives in fear? Absolutely not. Does this mean we should be super-cautious and perhaps not fly? We might as well not drive or walk or do anything at all, right?
Wrong.

What it means for me is that I am working my new motto even harder in my mind each day. When facing death, it is time to celebrate life. And since we're all facing death at some point, it's time to celebrate. Now. Hard to do sometimes when so many around us are facing challenges. But maybe that is precisely the time to celebrate. To show them the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

This spiritual journey is not easy. But it is so much easier than if I wasn't on it at all.
How about you?
How do you handle unexpected events?
Are you celebrating life?
Blessings,
Karen

P.S. And talk about unexpected events. A really positive one happened just yesterday. I was awarded a You Rock badge from our Ninja Captain Alex http://www.alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com. His kind words made me cry because they touched my heart. Here is the award. Isn't it cool? How I wish I could really rock out with a guitar....Thanks, Alex. You're a gem.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Musings: Sugartime

My very good friend, Gene Vance, photographer extraordinaire, did a photo shoot with my singing partner, Rosie, and I for Sugartime. We wanted memories of this incredible journey we are on, singing and dancing for retired folks all over Albuquerque. Here are a few of the shots he took. I think they really capture how we feel about each other and what we do.












Thank you Gene for these great shots.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Telling the Truth Tuesday: friends and health

I don't know if it is a function of being older or what, but I have several people in my sphere that are facing life threatening health issues. It is scary and disturbing and upsetting and frustrating because it is hard to know what to do, what not to do, what to say, what not to say, whether to offer help, whether to back off, you get the idea. I know the most important thing is to be loving and compassionate and kind. And perhaps wait to see what they want and need. To those struggling, my thoughts and prayers are with you and please let me know if there is anything you need.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Musings: On becoming a novelist

      "You can't tell me anymore that you can't do it," said Mark David Gerson, my editor.
       "I can't."
       "No. Because now I know and you know you can."

That is how the review of my latest revision began last week. For those of you who don't know, I have written nonfiction for 35+ years and am now writing my first novel. When I was writing my memoir, I had to learn some fiction craft techniques like descriptions, specific, significant details, crisp dialogue, etc. But it didn't come easily and I wasn't convinced I did it very well.

I'm still not convinced how well I'm doing it, but I'm doing it. What I am coming to understand is that telling a story well has so much that must be considered that to have expected myself to be able to just push this story out, wham, bam, and have it be good was like expecting to pick up a guitar for the first time and expect to play like Eric Clapton.

Here is some of what I am learning, ever so slowly, and through my very gifted editor, who, by the way, has written many books on writing (you can find him here: http://markdavidmuse.blogspot.com):


  • Dialogue must be character driven. I can't just have a character say something to impart information to the reader if that particular character wouldn't say that.
  • Details must be significant - don't just say it's so and so's favorite soup if there isn't a good reason it is their favorite soup.
  • It isn't only necessary to describe exteriors - settings and what people look like. Readers want to know what is going on inside the characters as well. 
  • My big bugaboo is tenses - when I'm writing I don't pay attention at all, so now I have to go back and fix them all. It's not my strong suit. I may just hire a line editor for this.
  • Pay attention to your timeline. It pulls the reader out of the story if something contradicts something you've said earlier.
I could go on and on but I think I'll save for later posts. Bottom line. Writing fiction is not for sissies, to play on Bette Davis's famous line about getting older. It is a complicated, difficult process with many moving parts. If you are a novice, like me, it is very helpful to have books and in my case, the author of my favorite writing books, available as a resource to help me through it.

Blessings,
Karen


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Telling the Truth Tuesday: managing expectations

My expectations can get me into so much trouble. If I get too excited about something, I know something will happen to disappoint me. If I go the opposite direction and think negatively about something, I feel bad. Over the years, I've tried to have no expectations. Somehow that makes it easier for me to go with the flow, whichever way the flow goes. Like when I went to Greece a few years ago. The main attraction I wanted to see was the Parthenon. When we arrived, there was a strike going on and the Parthenon was closed. Couldn't see it. I was very disappointed. But it was manageable because I didn't allow myself to be overly excited about seeing it in the first place. Does that make sense?

The other thing I'm learning about expectations is that they are tied in with strong emotions. And because of my childhood, my emotions are highly charged. If I don't catch myself, which I'm learning to do more and more, I can react to every event as if it is a matter of life and death. Changing these lifelong patterns isn't easy, but it is so worthwhile. Yes, even if I spent tons of money to travel somewhere and don't get to see an important site, it is not life and death. Disappointing, yes. But not tragic.

Guess I'm becoming a grown-up.
How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Musings: Good health - don't take it for granted

When we're young we think we're invincible. It's impossible to imagine getting older and even more impossible to imagine dying. As I embody my new motto: When facing death, celebrate life (I don't have a terminal illness, but we are all facing death - we just don't know when), the challenge comes when something goes awry. Like my a-fib kicking in, or my thyroid going wonky and I gain weight through no fault of my own, or I feel lethargic and can't move myself off the couch.

Friday night I had an opportunity to take my new motto out for a test run. My heart was racing very very fast and I didn't feel well but we had  dinner plans with two other couples that was a celebration thank you for some work our friend did for us. There was no way I was going to cancel. I just decided to act as everything was fine. And you know what? Everything was. The fabulous food and good conversation and warm feelings we all had for one another made it impossible for me to focus on my heart.

I used to take my good health for granted. So many struggle with health issues - some very close to me. If you have good health, be grateful every moment of every day. And if you struggle with a health issue or too, be grateful for the health you have. I am working so hard on switching my negative feelings about my body and what is wrong with it to loving it and being grateful for all it does for me.

How about you?
Blessings
Karen

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Insecure Writers Support Group - May

It's time for Alex's brainchild again www.alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com. He created the Insecure Writers Support Group and it's going strong. It's a place here in the blogsphere where you can share your successes or struggles with the writing process and get support and encouragement from your writerly friends. See top tab on my blog for other participants.





This month I am only feeling a teensy weensy bit insecure. I am making wonderful progress on my novel. Two-thirds of it is almost done. I need to re-work the last part and that's where my insecurity comes in. The feedback I've received is that there isn't a strong emotional connection with the main character or story and of course, since I'm the writer, the emotional disconnect is with me. So I've had to spend some time trying to figure out why I am as emotionally involved with this character in this part of the story. I think I've got a handle on it it and now I just need to allow the process to work itself out by revealing to me how to fix it. I'm not worried. I know it will come.

Till next time...
Karen

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Telling the Truth Tuesday: - being honest with friends

I have a dear dear friend who is 87 years old. Over the past few years she has fallen several times, one time breaking her leg. It was a long, slow recovery. Even before that fall, she had trouble with balance. Now, even more so. Her physical therapist suggested she use a cane or a walker. She refused. Why? "Old people use those things," she said. I get it. When I turned 65 last month and become an official Medicare recipient, I said, "This can't be. Old people are on Medicare." It is a cruel joke on God's part, I think, that we get chronologically older, but don't feel old inside.

I said to my friend, "You may get mad at me for saying this, but I can't not say it. I think you should think about the consequences of not using a cane or a walker. If you fall because of your lack of balance, you could break something again and the recovery will be long and difficult once again. Versus overcoming the negative image of being an older person who must use a device to keep balance. Which is worse?"

Denial is a powerful emotion. It keeps us from having to deal with feelings we don't want to feel. Until we can no longer deny them and must face the truth. I hope my friend is able to do that and keep herself safe. I hope I am able to keep myself from denying the realities as my body ages. My goal in this next phase of my life is to accept what is with grace and dignity and continue to do the things I love for as long as I can.

How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday Musings: insomnia

Insomnia is mysterious. Why is it some nights I lay my head down on my pillow and the next thing I know it is morning. And other nights I lay my head down on the pillow and no matter how much I deep breathe, count sheep, say sleep sleep sleep sleep over and over, I am still awake at 1 am 2 am 3 am, etc. Oy vay I am so tired, no pun intended, of this. I refuse to take sleeping tablets, except when I travel. Cause when I travel I've spent so much money to get there I'm not going to let lack of sleep keep me from seeing what there is to see. But home? A doctor I know thought it has something to do with aging, but then why does it only seem to happen to aging women? No men I know have trouble sleeping, except one.

I'm lucky I don't have a paying job I have to get up for the next day. But I have had to cancel so many appointments cause I am zombie girl after a night of little sleep. Thoughts, suggestions, advice anyone? I'm getting desperate....
Blessings
Karen