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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up - Gratitude

My weekend wrap up is all about gratitude. For the first time in years, my limbs are healthy. I can walk 20 minutes a day without anything hurting. When I dance, my right knee (the one I had arthroscopic surgery on a few years ago) aches, but it's bearable. I need to get into the habit of icing it. So, at 60, I'm grateful for my body and the fact that's it's carried my soul inside it for so long; that it allows me to do the things I want to do.

When I was a little girl, singing consoled me in a household fraught with anger and tension. I would close the door to my room, put on my 45's and sing. It was the one constant in my life, blocking out things that were upsetting. As young as four years old, I'd discovered singing made me happy.

When I was 50, I got a guitar and learned to play chords. Our folkdance community frequently has gatherings where we end up singing. At 57, I started taking singing lessons and began performing with a group at retirement communities. Saturday, we sang at a nursing home. It was stressful and intense getting ready for that performance, but when one resident said, "You made my day," it made it all worth while. So I'm grateful for my singing buddies, my vocal chords, and those who love music as I do.

Exhausted after the gig, my hubby and I went out for Vietnamese food, my absolute favorite ethnic cuisine (along with Thai, Italian, Mediterranean) well, I guess I like everything. But the spring rolls at Vietnamese 2000 are the best. with fresh mint, cilantro, vermacelli, shrimp and pork, served with a luscious peanut sauce. Then we went folkdancing, where I sat most of the night and folk-gabbed. I'm so grateful for the genuine "community" we have at dancing.

Sunday was mostly rest. I'm grateful for down-time.

What are you grateful for?

Friday, August 28, 2009

What are you reading?

I am a voracious reader. Always have been. It's a bit frustrating right now because I don't have as much time as I once had to read as much as I'd like. There is a stack of unread books on my dresser in the bedroom as well as on the end table next to the couch. And I just ordered a bunch of books from Amazon because it was about time I started reading books my new blogging buddies have written!

I'm currently in the midst of "Queen of the Road," by Doreen Orion. It is a hilarious romp. Orion takes the reader with her and her husband on his midlife crisis dream trip of traveling the US in a converted bus. They are both psychiatrists. Need I say more?

My reading tastes are quite eclectic, ranging from Eckart Tolle, the Dali Lama, Carolyn Myss, Jody Piccoult, Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, well, you get the idea.

What are you reading these days?


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Planning a Vacation

My hubby and I were supposed to go to South America in April to celebrate my 60th birthday (it was to include Machu Picchu--one of my top 5 must-sees). Alas, I needed surgery on my shoulder, so we had to cancel. The airlines gave us a credit, which we had to use by October. After searching to see where Continental went that we wanted to go, we settled on Scotland and Ireland. We leave on 9/26.

At first we planned to book a hotel the first night in Edinburg and the last nite in Shannon and let the rest of the trip unfold. But after talking to friends who have been there, I began to feel uncomfortable about driving. You see, I can't navigate--hopelessly dyslexic with directions. When we rented a car in England, my unfazable hubby was quite a bit fazed. The wheel was on the wrong side of the car, as was the clutch. The car was on the wrong side of the road. And I kept riding up curbs because I couldn't judge. And don't ask me about roundabouts. Who can figure out where to go from a circle?

So when we discovered we could hire drivers, it was a no-brainer, except it costs a bit more. We've bitten the bullet, so to speak, and hired drivers for both Ireland and Scotland, so now, hopefully, we shall have a stress-free vacation. At least as far as the driving is concerned.
All we had to do was provide a list of places we want to see and they did the rest. Kind of like the old Greyhound bus ads, "and leave the driving to us."

This will be the first vacation in quite a few years that I'm not either severely overweight or injured (once it was a broken ankle, once it was a sprained ankle, once it was my shoulder...) oops, bite my tongue, knock wood, throw salt over my shoulder. I'm getting excited...

How do you plan your vacations? Do you find the planning fun or is it difficult?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Powerful Way to Add Zip to Your Stories

A Powerful Way to Add Zip to Your Stories
By Sharon Lippincott

“What is the single most effective thing you can do to add zip to your stories?”

This question recently came up in a lifestory writing class I teach. My answer was simple.

“Dialogue!” I firmly declared. “It’s a powerful way to show your characters instead of telling about them. It adds variety and zest, and gets readers involved in the action.”

Many writers avoid dialogue altogether or tiptoe around it, using it sparingly and with great caution. Some believe the myth that you have to be born with a gift or ear for it. Others are uncertain about the technicalities. I have good news. The myth is false. While it is true that richly colorful dialogue does come more easily to some than others, it is a skill. With a little research on technique and lots of practice it can be learned like other skills.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for memoir writers is the fear of a memory slip that puts the wrong words in someone else’s mouth.

“How on earth can I possibly remember what Aunt Jessie actually said on a specific day when I was seven? That was fifty-eight years ago.” one woman asked. “Nobody would believe me.”

In four words: don’t worry about it. Make it up. Write what you think she probably said. The reasoning behind this advice is three-fold:

1. If you don’t recall the exact words, nobody else will either.
2. If you write dialogue with confidence and conviction, expressing the truth of the occasion to the best of your recollection, the power of your personal truth will overshadow reader doubts.
3. Memoir is about what you remember, and your memories are what shape your life and who you are far more than “what really happened.” Things like dates and places can be verified, but the literal transcript of a conversation is not one of them. Research shows that within hours, memory begins to fade.
4. This is your story. Claim it and defend it. If others disagree with what you’ve written, gently suggest they write their own versions.

So much for the Truth in Memoir objections. Now, grab your favorite pen or keyboard and get those fingers moving. Write a story that involves some interaction and fill it with dialogue. Use slang, colloquialisms, and all the other things we generally edit out of narrative, but do skip the uhms and ers. Write it real, write it true to the characters as you remember them, and immortalize them on the page. If you want to continue to polish your skills, Google around. Answers abound. Join a writing group, in your hometown or on the web. And closely study the way your favorite authors use dialogue. Your stories will soon be bursting at the seams with zip and vitality.

Sharon Lippincott is passionate about all forms of life writing, especially memoir and journaling. She has been teaching lifestory writing in southwestern Pennsylvania for ten years and teaches a series of teleclasses on Description, Dialogue, and Wordcraft through the National Association of Memoir (NAMW) writers. Her book, THE HEART AND CRAFT OF LIFESTORY WRITING has helped thousands create a written legacy of their lives.

Sharon will be teaching a class on writing dialogue for NAMW: "How to Write Dynamic Dialogue": Wednesday, August 26. Sign-up link: http://snurl.com/qm5s9
You can also find Sharon at her website: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Telling the Truth Tuesday

I'm a teensy weensy bit discouraged. Perhaps it's only fatigue. But I woke up this morning not really feeling like doing anything I'm supposed to do or that I normally look forward to doing. Perhaps it's that my car wouldn't start yesterday and I have to deal with that first thing this morning. Or that the refrigerator died last week and we had to get a new one and I'm wondering what mechanical thing is going to go wrong next? Monsoon season may have finally arrived in Albuquerque, and although we desperately need the rain, the dreariness affects my mood.

The good news is, as I said, it's just a teeny bit, not depression and despair, like it used to be. So, in my tradition of telling the truth on Tuesday, I'm just sayin' I don't feel quite up to snuff. But I also know this too shall pass!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Weekend Wrap up has been preempted

When my book first came out in February of this year, Sharon Lippincott was the first person I "met" on the internet to respond favorably by agreeing to write a review. I can't believe my luck in connecting with Sharon. She has been teaching lifewriting for ten years. Her book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory writing, has helped thousands create their own memoirs, and she is a loving and giving mentor to other writers. It is my honor to introduce you to Sharon and her work. She will be writing a guest blog right here this coming Wednesday, 8/26, so please stop by and learn how to add zip to your stories.

Many thanks and a big hug to ComfortWriter for this Kreativ Blog award. As with other awards, there are rules! Here they are:1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. (see below)5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

7 interesting things about me:

1. I read Deepak Chopra, the Dali Lama, Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Gilbert, Eckart Tolle, a variety of spiritual writings, John Grisham, well, you get the idea-eclectic tastes to say the least.
2. At 50, I taught myself to play chords on the guitar so I could accompany myself singing.
3. I am afraid of being outdoors; I feel much safer inside, but I love being in nature. Once I get there, I'm fine, but getting me there can be difficult.
4. I have gained and lost 40 or so pounds about a dozen times in my life.
5. I still believe I must have been adopted--I am so different from either of my parents.
6. I get restless and bored very easily--probably why I have moved so many times in my life.
7. I compare myself to other women constantly, which feeds my negativity. But I'm working on it!

Since I've recently given awards to most of the bloggers I know, I'm not going to pass this along to 7 bloggers. Please accept my apologies for that. There are so many great bloggers out there.
Here are just a few that I know for sure are extremely worthy:
Galen Kindley
Patricia Stoltey
Marvin Wilson
Nancy Sharpe

Friday, August 21, 2009

Childhood abuse and self-confidence

When you grow up knowing you are loved and treasured, it provides a firm foundation for a healthy self-esteem and the roots for self-confidence to grow. When you grow up in an abusive environment, however, that foundation is flawed, sometimes even non-existent. And the roots for self-confidence have never even been planted.

So how can someone who grew up without these basic needs that every single child on Earth should receive, build self-esteem and self-confidence? It has been a lifelong journey for me. I went to therapy for the first time during my first marriage, which sadly began deteriorating on the wedding night. Yes, folks, you read that right. You'll have to read my memoir to learn more.
It was couples therapy and unfortunately, didn't help our marriage survive.

At the same time, though, I began individual counseling. There the process of unraveling my issues began. I'd never told anyone prior to this that I'd been sexually abused at seven. My parents never made a big deal out of it so I thought it didn't matter.

Over the years, I began reading self-help books, attended consciousness raising groups in the 70s, tried every kind of therapy known to man, went to seminars, and wrote in journals, the latter probably being the most helpful tool of all.

When you feel flawed, when you deep down in your guts believe there is something wrong with you, that you are different from everyone else, and that if people really got to know you, they'll discover the horrible you that you believe you are, building self-esteem is like what I imagine building the pyramids or the Taj Mahal or other great structures is like. One piece at a time.

The first step is recognizing that you have issues that other kids, other adolescents, other young adults don't seem to have. The second step is accepting that these issues are affecting your ability to function at the highest level possible,i.e. feeling happy, productive, successful. The third step is finding ways to overcome those issues by paying attention to the negative messages playing inside your head and discovering ways to root them out.

These days, I'm pretty lucky. Out of a 24-hour day, only minutes of negativity plague me. Most of the time, I catch the thoughts before they root inside my soul and take hold. I can tell when that happens because my energy sags, I get cranky and irritable, I don't feel like doing the things I love to do, I don't write, and so on. It's much harder to rid myself of these feelings once they've moved in.

So pay attention to your thoughts. They provide a wealth of information about the state of your psyche and your soul and can shift paradigms in a nanosecond.

Happy weekend everyone,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Work of a Writer

Before you read this post, please stop by Helen Ginger today. I've written about finding the "golden thread" in memoir writing.

Blogging is work. Make no mistake about it. If you are a writer and you are serious about marketing your work, blogging is a big part of a successful strategy.

I didn't realize this when I first began blogging; I just listened to the PR person I'd hired through the publisher to set one up. I'd always written in a journal, so I thought, this should be easy. But I soon realized that journaling is not blogging is not articles is not essays. They are all different animals and need different care and feeding.

Personal journals are great for keeping track of your thoughts and feelings, recording events, even jotting down ideas, although I found my ideas can get lost in my journal. I need to keep a separate to-do list for the ideas. Then I need to separate my to-do list into personal list versus business list. But I divurge...

Blogging, in my humble opinion, is not the same as journaling in one key way. In a journal, I could write "I hate so and so and wish she would.." and no one would see it, so it wouldn't matter. I can work out my feelings in my journal. The blog, however, is not for working out feelings. It is for sharing information, insights, thought processes with a resolution, and so on.

In the beginning, I didn't have a clue what to blog about. Then it hit me. If I'm trying to build a readership base of people who might be interested in my book and any insights or wisdom I might have gained over the years, then my topics need to focus on those kinds of things.

Articles, on the other hand, are targeted pieces about one particular subject, such as those you read in newspapers and magazines. They usually have quotes from people you've interviewed and include facts and figures to back up your statements. Your personal opinions would not be appropriate.

Personal essays are where you can bring everything into one piece. You may include a bit of journal-style writing in an essay as a way to introduce a topic you are struggling with, because a personal essay is an exploration of something. It needs to come to a conclusion, but not necessarily a resolution to the conflict.

I have learned so much from blogging and from reading the blogs of others. In the beginning, I resented the time I was spending, but now I relish it. It is the work of a writer in this technological day and age, in addition to works in progress (commonly referred to as wips). Unfortunately, I spend so much time blogging and reading blogs, my wips are not even blips on radar yet.

Till tomorrow,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A book review

Hi all,
Just a quick note to ask you to stop by:
http://womensmemoirs.com/2009/08/book-review-of-following-the-whispers-by-karen-walker/comment-page-1/#comment-2240 and read a review of my memoir, "Following the Whispers." Kendra and Matilda teach memoir-writing and marketing, so their words have special meaning for me.

Awards Day

One of the nicest, most helpful people I've met since learning about internet marketing is Helen Ginger, hostess of Straightfromhel blogsite. Not only is she a tremendous resource to other writers, she is a gifted writer herself. She recently won a One Lovely Blog award and was kind enough to pass it along to me.

In a most honored tradition, I now pass it along to....drumroll, please, Jody Hedlund, http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/. Her blogs are always thought-provoking, thoughtful and inspirational. If you haven't already done so, please visit both Helen and Jody. You won't be disappointed.

I'd also like to thank Elizabeth Spann Craig http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/ for giving me a Humane blogging award. She is one of the best writers I've encountered on the web and is doing it while raising children and maintaining a household. I admire her so much. Thanks, Elizabeth.

L. Diane Wolf http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/awarded me with the Superior Scribbler Award! Thanks so much, Diane! It's an honor to be in such great company.

Here are the rules for Passing on the Superior Scribbler Award: (which according to rule #5 I am required to post here):
  1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

  2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.

  4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

  5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

A second drum roll, please....I hereby select:

Alexis Grant, whose blog is a tremendous resource for memoir writers.
Jane Kennedy, whose blog is fun and a joy to visit.
Sharon Lippincott, whose blog is one of the first I visited when my book was published and who has been a huge support. She is a gifted teacher of life writing.
Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler for all the work they do to help memoir writers.
Debra Schubert, my newest blog buddy for her creativity and humor


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Telling the Truth Tuesday: Self-Respect

A friend told me that if I allow a person into my life who hasn’t treated me well, I am dis-respecting myself. It made me think about self-respect and when I tried to define it, I couldn’t. I truly do not know what self-respect looks, feels, or sounds like.

How many times are we supposed to give someone the benefit of the doubt? How many times are we supposed to look away when someone says or does something that chips away at our self-esteem? Or if we do try to stand up for ourselves and we get slammed each time, how many times are we to pick ourselves up and try again? How many chances do we give the people in our lives?

I have spent a lifetime overcoming the affects of early childhood sexual and emotional abuse. My spirit was shattered at a very young age and continued to be battered and bruised in one abusive relationship after another. It is only now, at 60 years old, that I feel whole and complete. But it is a fragile state of being for me. Even the other night, when I attended a lecture and asked a question at the end, I doubted myself. The speaker said she hated my question and I felt humiliated and ashamed and embarrassed. I was quite tired and went home with a bad taste in my mouth, but when I woke up the next morning, I realized her response was a poor reflection on her; there was nothing inappropriate or wrong about my question. It was a question that appears on their “common questions” fact sheet.

A recent experience with a teacher is still plaguing me, and it frustrates me no end that I can't seem to let go. I ended the relationship, both the teaching one and the friendship that had evolved. But I still have her voice inside my head at various times. Her comments made me feel flawed and any confidence I'd built up in the area of the teaching is kinda damaged. I’ve since hired another teacher and am hearing quite different comments from her. But I realized tonight that the reason I can't let the relationship go is because I seem to have internalized the negative comments.

That is my unfinished business. I'd thought it was a need to get together, to find a way to bring closure in a good way, without the negativity and nastiness we ended up with. But tonight
at the session with my new teacher, I ended up in tears because I kept hearing the negative stuff in my head that had been drummed into me over the last three years.

So now I need to ask myself, what is self-respect and how will I best be respecting myself in this situation? Self respect means:
Setting appropriate personal boundaries and pushing back when someone oversteps them
Speaking up for myself when someone mis-treats me
Living according to my own values and upholding those values, even if it means upsetting someone else
Acting according to my beliefs and feelings in a way that does no harm to anyone or anything else
It is not being a doormat. Saying or doing anything to please the other person or to get them to like or love me. Here is where I’m guilty in this teacher relationship. I wanted her approval. I wanted her love. I wanted her to see that I am a loving, talented person. So I gave and did and gave and did and got moments of what I wanted. It’s called the people-pleasing disease. And what it’s taught me to reflect upon is to question my intentions and motives when I offer myself or my services or my help to someone. Am I looking for something in return? Am I doing it out of the kindness of my heart or expecting a certain result? If it isn’t a pure act of giving, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it.

As human beings, I don’t think we want to think badly of others. We want to believe the best about them. I struggled with this issue vis-à-vis my own parents. Who wants to think their parents don’t really love them or that our parents don't really want the best for us? But sometimes parents are flawed. I came to believe and understand that my parents did, indeed, love me. They just didn't know how to show it.

We’re all flawed to some degree. And if someone is flawed, but doesn’t see that they are flawed, they will always think they are right and that it is okay to treat you however they’ve been treating you. And that is a person with whom it doesn’t make sense to try to reconcile, because they will not admit or take responsibility for their part in the flawed relationship. I am the other side of that coin. It is way too easy for me to take blame for things that are not my fault. I've gotten better over the years, with that, though.

So, looking at my points re what constitutes self-respect, as they apply to my relationship with my former teacher, what I can see is:

I didn’t uphold personal boundaries. I didn’t speak up when I felt belittled or put down. The few times that I tried, we ended up in a huge disagreement and I invariably apologized or made nice in order to maintain the relationship.

My belief is that you don’t stay in a relationship in which you don’t feel good about yourself. If you start to doubt yourself and your abilities, something is not right. Then you must determine whether that something can be changed. If you are with someone who is able to look at themselves and their behavior and is willing to work on change, you are in luck. You don’t have to leave the relationship. But if not, you have a decision to make.

I chose to stay in this relationship because for a long time, the benefits outweighed the negatives. Once that shifted the other way, I needed to get out and did. But I’m realizing that the damage done to my psyche by staying may not have been worth the benefits I received. Now I need to find a way to release the messages I've internalized.

I welcome any thoughts from my wonderful blogger friends about self-respect, giving people chances, forgiveness, and being kind to yourself. What I need to do in order to respect myself is honor my decision to leave this relationship. Trust that it came from my higher self. Pay attention when I hear her negative messages inside my head and push that voice out of my spirit. Honor the good that was received from her and let go of the rest. But to invite her presence back into my life may not make any sense, even though there was no reconciliation between the two of us. Perhaps I need to let this serve as my reconciliation with myself to be more respectful of my spirit and my emotions and my being in the future.



Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

You asked for photos, so I'm going to let the attached pictures tell the story of our wonderful weekend in the Pecos Wildnerness. This is the beginning of Cave Creek Trail, one of the many spectacular trails available in this area.

This is a view from the hiking trail of just a small piece of the
heaven that is Pecos Wildnerss.

Made it to the caves. Happy that I am in good enough shape
to do so. Two years ago, I only made it as far as the waterfall.

Glimpses of nature along the trail. This is the waterfall before you get to the caves.

A bluebell - one of the many wildflowers in the mountains of Pecos.

My "Rocky" dance. Made the 5+ mile hike with no trouble whatsoever. I'm 60 and fit and fabulous!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Pecos Wilderness

My husband's dad built a log cabin in the Pecos Wilderness (located in northern New Mexico) in the 1950s with several men from other families in Plainview, Texas, where they all lived. The Walker family has been visiting that cabin ever since.

To understand the beauty of Pecos, you have to know a bit about New Mexico. It is high desert country. Dry, mostly brown, lots of cactus, Pinon and Juniper trees, sagebrush--well, you get the idea. But in Pecos, there are Pine trees, Evergreens, running streams (that actually have water in them). It is lush and lovely.

The Plainview cabin is in the town of Cowles, which consists of a country grocery store. The road which leads to the cabin is closed in winter because it doesn't get plowed. The cabin itself has a living room, with a large stone fireplace and two futon couches/beds. They must be hung on hooks from the ceiling so the mice can't get at them. There is a kitchen, one bedroom, and a bathroom with a stall shower.

The best thing about the cabin is the porch which streches across the front of the cabin. Hummingbird feeders attract many species of those delightful creatures (see Galen Kindleys blog today. It is especially nice when it rains. Happiness is sitting on that porch with my guitar and good friends, singing, drinking a bit of wine, and eating cheese and crackers. This is after a day of hiking one of the many incredible trails in the area. One leads to caves. Another to the top of a mountain with 360 degree views of the area. It's called Hamilton Mesa.

We're heading to Pecos today for the weekend. We haven't been there in two years. My hubby misses it terribly. He is truly at home in the woods, unlike this native New Yorker, who loves the woods once I get there, but getting me there is like tugging a reluctant elephant on a leash. Looking forward to nature, hiking, good company, mah jong games, singing, and good eats.

Wishing everyone a happy weekend. Till next time,

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Let me say, first of all, that I don't think of myself as a political person. I am deeply concerned about the issues facing this country, but I am not an activist or a pacifist. Frankly, the problems overwhelm me because it seems that solutions are elusive and impossible to find.

Last night I attended an event in which three young women talked about peace in the middle east. One was from the occupied territory in the west bank – a Palestinian. Another was a Palestinian Arab living in Israel. The third was a Jewish girl from Israel.
All three attended an intensive, three-week camp through an organization called Creativity for Peace. Their mission is to “nurture understanding and leadership in Palestinian and Israeli adolescent girls and women so that they aspire to and take on significant roles in their families, communities and countries that advance peaceful coexistence. The girls sleep, eat, and play, and most importantly, dialogue with one another about their pain, grief, and anger.

Watching and listening to these girls share about that experience and how they came to love and respect one another was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had. It gave me hope that if the younger generation is learning how to do things differently, perhaps the world can heal.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shifting Paradigms

Last night, after a 14-hour day, I flipped on the TV and found "Baby Boom," a film from 1988 starring Diane Keaton. For those who haven't seen it, Keaton plays a high-powered female executive making six figures, completely driven by her career. Suddenly she inherits a baby from distant relatives in England. One night of tending the sick baby bonds them and she makes a snap decision to keep the child rather than give her up for adoption.

The scene I tuned in on was her boss telling her that it wasn't possible to have it all. That men were luckier--they had wives to handle their lives so they could focus on career. That sacrifices have to me made to be successful. Indeed, the Keaton character ends up being taken off a huge account that she brought into the firm and put on a lower profile one. She chooses to leave the company.

It made me think that it has been 40 years since I came of age in the 1960's, the heart and soul of the womens' movement. Back then, women were just beginning to come to the work force at the same time they were being moms. Growing up, my mother was one of two I knew who worked outside the home. Nowadays, it is much more the norm.

I think the reason this triggered a need to write is my new blogger buddy, Elizabeth Spann Craig. She writes at home while raising two children. Yesterday, she blogged about writing at the roller skating rink, disco music blaring and all. I admire her so much for so many reasons. I know sacrifices are probably being made in her family, but she is finding a way to do what she needs to do for herself (successfully, I might add) and raise her children.

It makes my heart happy that so much progress has been made since I was a young woman. I know there is still a glass ceiling. I know that women still don't earn equal pay for equal work. But the fact that women can have fulfilling careers and be moms at the same time and make that work for all concerned, is a paradigm shift of monumental proportion.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Telling the Truth Tuesday

Do you ever agree to do something, then wish you hadn't? This could be akin to learning to say no, but it has a different feel to it. Saying no right away means you are very clear this is not something you want to do. There is no doubt, or even if you do have mixed feelings, saying no is still the right thing to do.

But what about when you've committed, either to yourself or to someone else. Let's say you agree to help a friend move. You set aside a few hours, or a day--whatever. Then, in the midst of everything, you find your energy lagging, or your mind is on the ten million other things on your to do list. You might even get cranky. Or you promise yourself you are going to exercise no matter what, but the day flies by and you do all sorts of other things on your to-do list and exercise doesn't happen. What are you to do?

This happened to me this weekend. I think, with hindsight, I over-committed myself by giving both Saturday and Sunday. My hubby and I were in the midst of figuring out computer issues in our household--whether to purchase a new one, get the old one fixed, etc. Then we had software problems, trying to download software from a computer with Windows XP onto a computer with Windows Vista, ay yay yay. We couldn't complete one thing without having to leave to help our friend. By the time we got home, we were tired and cranky. By 9:00 pm, we had the software issue resolved.

The whole episode got me thinking about commitments and when it is okay to break them and when it is important to honor them. I have always been someone who tries to do what she says she's going to do when I said I would do it. And that makes me feel good about me. But as I get older, I'm beginning to think it's okay to say, ya know, I said I'd so such and such, but I don't really think I can. I'm sorry.

How do you all handle commitments and over-booking yourselves?


Monday, August 10, 2009

Pool People

I decided to begin my foray into personal essays with one I wrote a few years ago while rehabilitating a fractured ankle. When I re-read it, I still liked it. Hope you do too.

July 2006 - Monday

There are perhaps twenty of them scattered in the water--two men, the rest women. I keep my head down as I enter the pool for the first time, unsure of my footing. The water feels delicious, not quite like a hot tub, closer to bathtub temperature and my muscles let go just a little just by dunking in up to my shoulders. It is five minutes before the exercise class is to begin and I find an empty space towards the middle of the pool and wait.
The women are in groups of two or three in the middle where the water is four feet deep and they babble as they bounce around from one foot to the other in an effort to warm up their muscles. The men are in the deep end of the pool where the water level is five feet. They do not stand together and do not talk.
“Good morning everyone, I am Zach. Let’s get started.”
Zach is young, perhaps twenty-five, and tall with jet black hair, dark brown eyes and a swimmer’s physique. At 57, I’m perhaps the youngest person in the water. Most of the women have varying shades of gray/white hair; some obviously dye their hair red or brown; and some are just beginning to gray. But no one, except Zach and me, is under 60. Zach is very cute and charming and I think eye candy--not too shabby while I attempt to get my body back in shape after seven months of inertia.
Zach stands on the deck of the pool, shouting instructions so he can be heard over the conversational hums still taking place.
“All right, let’s take this into a jog, opposite arm, opposite leg. That’s it. Keep it up. Keep it up,” Zach shouts, while I hear behind me, “She’s a drifter.”
Hmm, there’s a homeless woman here. That’s odd. How can she afford the $30 per month fee, I wonder.
Wow, that lady just about whammed me in the head. Where did she come from? And I realize what they meant by drifter. This one woman drifts all over.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Could you move over a little?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t seem to stay in one spot.”
By now Zach has worked up a sweat. “All right ladies,” he’s obviously playing to his predominant audience, “are you ready for our first sprint of the day? Ready – go, that’s right, that’s it, keep it up, keep it up and five, four, three, two, one.”
I struggle to keep up with the class. I’m here because I broke my ankle back in January and am just now able to walk on it. However, it still swells and still hurts so the physical therapist suggested water aerobics and she was right. I feel invincible in the water. Walk, jump, bounce, hop on one foot. On land, however, I am severely limited in my mobility. The pool opens up a whole new world and a window into old age.

The following Monday

“Good morning, my name is Kendra.”
Oh God, she looks even younger than Zach. I turn to SK, the only person I have spoken to since I started coming several weeks ago.
“What do you think, she’s twenty or what?” I ask.
SK just sniffs. She and I had gone for coffee after class last Wednesday, so I knew she was just a few years older than me.
“Gosh, this water feels so damned good,” said SK. “You know, my blood sugar has come down some twenty points since I started coming here.”
“It’s helping me, too,” I said. “My ankle feels stronger already.”
“All right everyone, let’s get started,” said Kendra. “Take a deep breath, in…and out…in…and out…in…and out…now…”
Suddenly there’s a disturbance behind me. “I’m going to kick you if you stand there,” said red-haired lady.
“That’s too close to me, please move over,” said brown-haired lady.
I turn around and a gentleman has dared to stand in the middle of the women rather than at the far end of the pool. Undeterred, he shifts around until he finds a space large enough to accommodate him and begins marching in place with the rest of us. Now I know what the dirty looks have been about if I dared to stand in someone’s spot.
“My, they’re territorial, aren’t they?” I said to SK at the end of the class.
“Yes. I particularly love the ones who stand in the shallow end so they won’t get their hair or face wet,” she said.
I look over my shoulder and sure enough, there are half a dozen women fully made up, not a hair out of place. Never quite sure whether I fit in or not in any group, I am convinced I don’t belong here. Except it’s working—my muscles, which have atrophied from seven months of disuse—are getting stronger. My ankle hurts less and less. And most importantly, I am not re-injuring myself by doing something too strenuous. Plus, I love splashing around in the water for 50 minutes. It certainly doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s simply fun.


I’ve learned to get to the pool fifteen minutes prior to class. I love having the pool to myself for a few minutes; plus I can stake out a good spot. Oh no, it’s the drifter. I’d better be vigilant so I don’t get smacked. Things are calm. The men are where they belong, in the deep end of the pool. The ladies are babbling away, discussing grandchildren and how it isn’t easy until they reach 25, same as it was with their own children. I’m not a grandmother yet, although I certainly could be—my son is 33—but unmarried and unattached at the moment. These women are a feisty bunch. They speak out if the water’s too cold or the class doesn’t start on time or they can’t hear the instructor. One woman has to be lowered into the pool on the chair lift. Another sidles up to the pool steps in her walker, where a pool aide assists her into the water. Someone else is on oxygen; the long tube allowing her to participate in the class. SK is working out to lose weight so that her diabetes is under control. And I—well, I’m there to rehabilitate my ankle. But if you want to know the truth, I’m growing pretty fond of the pool people. I just might stick around even when I can dance and hike again.

August, 2009
Sadly, the pool closed last year, so I lost touch with the pool people. But they sure were a memorable bunch.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Failure Follow-up

Just had to post this as a follow up to my post on fear of failure/fear of success.

Purposeful Blogs

I've been thinking about blogging and how to improve this blog site. My original intention was to create a presence online so that people could find me (and thus, my book). I began blogging in February, when the memoir was published. I'm still trying to get the hang of it. Many of my blogger friends are fellow writers and their blogs provide writing tips, advice, resources, etc. I guess content should depend on who the target audience is. For me, writers are only one part of the audience I'd like to reach. I'd like to reach readers as well. People on a similar journey - one in which we are seeking to improve ourselves and our lives as best we can. That is not to say that writers aren't on this kind of journey as well. Many of us are.

Perhaps the best way to reach those folks is to write about my life, which I've been doing. But the writing has been more journal-writing than essay writing. I'm going to try to switch the emphasis in future posts. That means there will probably be fewer posts each week, because essay writing is a whole different animal. It's not stream of consciousness. It begins with one idea and you let that idea go where it wants to go, without a conclusion in mind when you begin. But, like all good essays, it should have a beginning, middle, and end. So watch for more purposeful blogs from now on. Till then,


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fear of Failure

One of my favorite quotes about failure comes from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I grew up with a mother who seemed to be jealous of me. As a very small child I was quite precocious and loved being the center of attention. Whether it was singing, dancing, drawing, writing stories, roller skating, I was filled with joy and wanted to share it. All of that got shut down when a stranger molested me at seven and the discord between my parents, as well as their inadequate parenting skills, altered the trajectory of my life.

After that, I lived in the dark, afraid of my own feelings, afraid to go outside and play, afraid to open up to others, afraid to live. Like a chameleon, I shaped my opinions and actions according to who I was with, becoming the person I thought others wanted me to be. Completely out of touch with who I really was, my life was empty, devoid of passion and light. I wasn't aware of a fear of failing. And it wasn't until I began a spiritual journey in 1978 and started reading self-help books, that I had an inkling about my issues and started to heal.

It wasn't fear of failure that kept me from doing what I wanted to do.It was fear of success. How I work around that fear is letting my light shine. I had to learn to give myself permission to be successful. Sometimes it comes in the strangest ways. I was playing a game with two 10-year-olds and an eight-year old. I won. My immediate response was, "I'm sorry." All three girls looked at me like I was an alien and said, "What are you apologizing for?" I told them my mother had said it wasn't nice to win - it would make others feel bad. Now I know winning is okay. Gloating is not.

Allowing our light to shine is a gift, not only to ourselves, but to others as well. These days, my life is filled with activities that made my light shine as a child. I folkdance once a week, sing every day, write as often as possible, and laugh and giggle with friends. My prayer every morning is to be allowed to stand in God's light and for my awareness and sharing of that experience to keep expanding.

My mother meant well. I know it was not her intention to hurt me or to suppress my talents or gifts. But that is what happened. To blame her is a waste of time and energy. Failure isn't possible when you are living your life doing the best you can in any given moment. It can only happen if we don't even try.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

skin bump

I have a small bump on my cheek. It's been there for a couple of months. I didn't think anything of it at first--just kept hoping it would disappear. A few weeks ago I was at my family doc for something and asked him about it. He said it was some name I can't pronounce or spell and that I needed to go to a dermatologist. It could turn cancerous.

I am not someone who has ever been afraid of getting cancer. I don't live in fear of getting diseases, or that some disaster will occur. But I am nervous about this. I see the doctor today at 12:15. I've had more than my share of health issues: gall bladder surgery in 1973, fibroid tumors followed by a hysterectomy in 2001, ankle surgery in 2005, knee surgery in 2007, shoulder surgery in 2009, to name a few. I'm trying hard not to feel sorry for myself, but handling another health issue while still rehabbing my shoulder just doesn't seem fair. But hey, who ever said life is fair?

Sorry for the little whine here. I'll be more positive tomorrow - promise!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Folkdance Camp

International folkdance is a recreational activity found in cities and villages literally all over the world. Many countries have cultural dances and performing groups in traditional costumes who travel the world. In Sweden, for example, the national dance is called Hambo. Greece has Hasapikos. Our recreational groups knows and does dances from: Israel, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Sweden, Armenia, Russia, Servia, Turkey, Africa, to name a few.

The 26th annual New Mexico Folkdance camp took place in Socorro, New Mexico, on the campus of New Mexico Tech University. We brought Shmulik Govari to teach us Israeli dances, and Sonja Dion and Cristian Floresceau teaching dances from Romania. It is the first camp I have attended (and I've been going since 1995) where I loved each and every dance from both countries.

Camp began Wednesday night with a welcome dinner for the camp committee and teachers. There is a brew pub in Socorro with excellent food and beer. Great way to start camp. That evening, we stuffed registration packets. Campers began arriving Thursday morning at 10 am. After lunch, the first workshop began, followed by an ice cream social hosted by our children's program. Then a second workshop. After a short break, it was time to decorate for the first night's party. Parties have themes and this year, it was Around the World in 80 Days, The Four Seasons, and Santa Fe Style. Most campers wear costumes for the parties, which adds to the festivities. Parties go from 8 to 11 pm. So day one, 5 hours of dancing; days two and three, 10 hours of dancing, and Sunday morning, two hours of review.

As if dancing weren't enough, both teachers do a cultural presentation. There is a swimming pool, and Friday and Saturday night, a group of us gathered in the lounge from 11 pm to 1 am, to sing.

Eight years ago, one of the parents began a tradition of putting on a kids' play. It happened again this year, and it is so amazing to see how the plays grow in sophistication and enjoyment for the audience as the children grow older and their talents blossom.

It is difficult to convey what camp feels like. Try to imagine being away from everything, with people who feel like family (good family--the kind where everyone loves and gets along with everyone else), sharing meals, stories, laughter, tears, helping with other people's kids. It is an intense four days and there is always such a letdown when camp is over.

Last night was my first full night of sleep in four days. I am still tired, but feel human again. The great personal news for me is that I was able to participate at a much higher level than ever before because of my weight loss and the fact that I have been walking regularly.

However wonderful camp was, though,it is always nice to come home.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Story Circle Network

Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler host the website: http://www.womensmemoirs.com. They are also members of Story Circle Network and offer editing services there as well as through their own website. They were kind enough to interview me about memoir writing. The link for that interview is below. Hope you have a chance to check it out. It might have some good tips for you lifewriters out there.



Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

It's Sunday, 4:30 pm. I'm semi-comatose. Just got home from folkdance camp and four nights of less than stellar sleep. Last night, if I got two hours, I'm lucky. I will post more tomorrow after a hopefully good night's sleep. Till then,