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

Friday, January 29, 2010


The last few days have been extraordinary. Mom had four of her five children with her. Skype enabled her to see and speak to her fifth and youngest son, as well as all her grandkids. On Tuesday, we thought we were going to lose her very quickly. She was barely conscious and couldn't talk much. But Wednesday and Thursday, she was awake and alert and talking and I got some very special moments with her while the rest of the kids went out to eat.

She looked up at me and said, "I'm ready to go, but the good Lord isn't taking me yet, and I'm mad." I laughed and said, "For someone who took such charge of her life all the time, that must be really frustrating. But it's His time, not ours. We can't control it. We can just keep you comfortable."

"It still makes me mad," she said. We laughed. Then she couldn't fall asleep, so I began singing to her. The most peaceful, beautiful smile appeared and soon she was snoring. When she woke up, she sang along with me. Music is one of our connections.

Then, yesterday, after three days of eating nothing and only having sips of water, she was hungry and thirsty. She ate a part of a blueberry muffin (one of her faves) and some coffee. The doctor said that can happen--the fluctuation between seeming to get nearer to death, and seeming more alive. There is no way to know how long this process will take, but the time with her is so very precious.

Missing you all. Thanks so much for your loving thoughts.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friends and Family

It's astounding how family and friends come together, quickly, and easily, when there's a crisis. With one phone call to one friend, dozens of dishes were delivered to our home so when the family returns from 14 hours at the hospital, we don't have to think or worry about what to eat. Meat loaf, pasta salad, fruit salad, bagels...all here waiting.

Four out of mom's five children are here to be with her and to help handle all the details. Her youngest son is in the hospital, recovering from a stroke. It is so hard not to be able to support him because we are all dealing with mom.

I am now a huge fan of Skype. Mom was able to see her grandchildren and they could see her, on a computer screen, but it was the only way they could say goodbye to each other. For the grandkids, it was very needed. For mom, somewhere, I am sure she was aware of what was happening, but she couldn't communicate it.

She is no longer eating or drinking, so we know it won't be long for her. A priest came yesterday and did holy communion for the family. It was very moving and meant a great deal to mom, and to us.

Thank you all for your loving thoughts and wishes during this trying time.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Normally, Monday's are my weekend-wrap up blog, but today is different. Because Saturday my 54-year-old brother-in-law had a stroke. He's got weakness on his right side and we won't know what the long-term damage is for awhile. And they are doing tests to find out where the blood clot originated. We can't tell his mom (my mother-in-law) because she is so fragile right now, I'm afraid she'll have a stroke because of his stroke.

Then Sunday morning I got to mom's to visit with her and she was collapsed on her bed. Took her to the emergency room only to find out she has acute leukemia. She'll be gone in a matter of days to a month, they said. She's 89 and said she's lived a good, blessed, long life, so she's okay with it all. She's the most amazing woman I have ever known.

It's made me realize just how fragile life is. I've realized this before--when my mother went to sleep one night and was gone the next morning. Just like that (snap fingers here). Or when I took a ride on my brand new bike and 2 hours later I was in the emergency room with an ankle fractured in 3 places. Or, or, or.

So, today, more than, ever, I am determined to live each moment to the fullest. To not waste a single second. Because life is fragile and precious and unpredictable.
My blogging will be sporadic for the next week or so as we try to decide where mom should spend her last days and be with her. I won't be visiting your blogs--I'll miss you all. Be back in touch soon as I can.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Balancing needs

Yesterday I went out for the first time in almost a week. M.A. needed some things from her home and I was feeling much better, so I went. So glad I did. We got to have a long talk about her situation. Here's the deal. She has no family that can help her. And when I arrived in New Mexico, I was homeless and broken, spiritually and emotionally. She took me in--a complete stranger. The story is in my memoir, for those who are curious about the details.

There is no way I cannot step up and step in to help her. So I've agreed to be her personal health care representative so that I can communicate with her docs, make decisions if she can't, etc. I am making phone calls and researching options for what she will do when she is released from the skilled nursing facility. We still don't know the prognosis.

So for me, in addition to managing my own life, I am now managing M.A. and my mother-in-law. It's all okay. As hard as it is, it feels so right to be able to do something to help this woman who gave me the possibility to have the incredible life I now have. If writing isn't happening, so be it. If I have to let go of other things so I have the time and energy to help her, so be it.

For those who expressed concern about my taking on too much, please don't worry. I am really taking all of this into account and balancing my needs against the needs of those who are needier than me right now. I am okay.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back in the saddle again

I'm better. Not all better, but so much better. I even got out of my jammies. Maybe today I'll make it out of the house. Once the sinus pressure began to ease and my brain could function without pain, I was able to think through some things that have been swirling around in there.

I'd signed up to attend the Story Circle Network conference being held in Austin, Texas the first week in February. But as the time to go drew closer and closer, I felt less inclined to go. As I listed the pros and cons, contemplated the priorities, what's getting done, what's not, I made a decision to cancel my registration. I am sorry I won't get to meet some of the friends I've made on line in person, but it feels right not to go.

The other issue is my dear friend M.A. She is eighty-eight years old. And until two weeks ago, she was still cleaning her own house, driving, taking trips, etc. For those of you who haven't read my memoir, she is the person whose house I stayed in when I left Portland Oregon in 1994. I'd packed all my belongings in my Toyota and came to New Mexico to start my life over.

I came to call her my guardian angel, because by allowing me to stay with her without having to pay for accommodations, and by offering moral, spiritual and practical support, I found sanctuary. 

Two weeks ago, she fell. Had a concussion, but didn't know it for two days. Didn't call me, so I didn't find out till after the fact. After a week on anti-seizure meds, she fell again. This time, I was down with my upper respiratory thingie and couldn't be there for her. Now she is in a skilled nursing facility where she is to have physical therapy to help prevent future falls.

This is a fiercely independent woman. Won't ask for help. I'm not her blood relative, but we are very close. She doesn't have family here. Her daughter lives in Oregon, but even if she lived here, she wouldn't be much help. She's a brittle diabetic and has epilepsy. She's totally dependent on M.A. for financial support.

What is my role here? How much can I step in and advocate for her? What are the boundaries? My heart tells me there are none. I wouldn't have the life I now have if it weren't for her generosity and open heart. Now I need to open mine for her in whatever way I can.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Being sick is not fun!

With no energy to get up off the couch and a headache that makes reading impossible, I am stuck with the boob tube. Daytime television sucks. Even with Comcast cable stations, I can't find anything to hold my interest. I've seen most of the movies available for free and there isn't one that seems worth paying for on demand. Sigh.

I guess I was hallucinating when I thought I might get some writing done because thinking hurts--makes the pressure in my sinuses feel like they are imploding. Waa.

Okay, that's enough whining. I took 5 minutes for a pity party because that was all I could think of to write about today. I'll try to do better tomorrow, I promise. Otherwise I'll skip blogging altogether till my head stops hurting.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - down for the count

I held off the illness for as long as possible - then kaboom. By Sunday, I had a full-blown upper respiratory/sinus thingie goin' on. I don't have time to be sick. Who does? There are places to go, people to see, things on the to-do list to get done, writing that isn't happening. And forget about exercise.

But I have learned that if I am not listening to the whispers of Spirit, Spirit will find a way to get my attention. And sometimes that is getting sick. Then I have to stop.

So what is the message I'm not hearing? Give myself time to be--to get quiet and allow the writing to come. Stop filling every moment with stuff--even if it's stuff I enjoy. When I ask myself why I am not doing this, the answer comes swift and clear: You can't allow yourself to have what you want.

It seems as if everything I've wanted in this life, I fall just short of the real goal. I didn't find an agent for my memoir and ended up self-publishing. My first marriage ended in divorce and I lost custody of my child when all I'd wanted was to have a happy family--this list could grow into a nonfiction book, so I'll stop here.

The point is, I allow this negative thinking to stop me from doing what I want to do. I didn't find an agent for the memoir, so I probably won't find an agent for anything else I write and I don't think I'm willing to spend the money to self-publish again, so what's the point of writing if no one will ever read it?

Because what I know now is that I need to express myself. It is a deep-seated core need. Even if only one person, my husband, sees and hears me, I need that. I think we all do. Otherwise, what are we doing here?

So, I am committing myself to this new writing project and telling those negative voices inside my head to shut up and leave. I am taking the actions (writing) and letting go of the results (agents/publishing) until I have a completed manuscript. Then I can tackle the trying to get published issues.

What's stopping you from doing what you want to do?

P.S.Thanks to Diane for gifting me with this lovely Circle of Friends award. According to the rules, I must pass it along to five blogging friends. That is hard, since there are so many to choose from. But here goes. I hereby pass this along to:
Tabitha Bird
Jody Heglund
Patricia Stoltey

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

This weekend was a mixed bag. Had a singing gig Saturday that I didn't think I could do--started feeling sick on Thursday--sore throat, achy. Did all my usual remedies and lots of prayers and voila - was fine for the concert, but totally wasted afterwards. Got into my jammies and stayed home watching movies Saturday night. Actually, under the weather or not, I love being in my jammies watching movies.

We had a few more new cars to test drive on Sunday, and another two will be tested today (Monday). Hopefully, we can then make a decision about a new car.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Crystal for gifting me with her Blogosphere award. I am going to reserve the right to pass it along right now (She said that's okay). I'm just so grateful for all my blogosphere buddies.

How was your weekend?


Friday, January 15, 2010


When I went back to school at age 53 to complete a Bachelor's degree, it was to learn how to "tell my story." An editor I'd hired to read my memoir manuscript told me, "You have story inside you, Karen, but it's not on these pages. You just need to tell your story."

I didn't know how. I'd written journalistically for years as a public relations professional. Structurally, you do the 5 w's, who, what, where, when and why. Typically, facts, only. No opinions. No lyricism. No flowery language. And no metaphors.

My mind doesn't think metaphorically. It thinks literally. This is a problem for a writer who writes Creative Nonfiction or Fiction. But I am beginning to understand metaphor because it is working in my life. Singing has become a metaphor for what my soul is craving--self expression.

My voice was silenced as a child. My spirit crushed by childhood sexual abuse and parents who didn't know how to love. Not themselves, not each other, and certainly not me. I know now they did love me; they just didn't know how to show it.

I couldn't understand why singing has become so important in my life. As I've said before, I'm not a great, nor even a good one. I'm okay. At first it was about overcoming stage fright. I've gone from needing to stand staring at my toes so I wouldn't see anyone looking at me, to making eye contact with folks in the audience and connecting with them as I'm singing.

Then it was about hitting all the right notes at the right time, connecting with movements, and having fun. Now, it's moved beyond that to just being ME. Staying centered inside my own self. No inner critic telling me I have no business doing this--I'm not good enough. I am doing something I've always wanted to do. And I'm making people smile.

It's about me expressing me. That's the metaphor. So is my writing. So is being with others and sharing who I am. Not being pulled this way and that, trying to please so and so, so she won't get mad. Worrying what thus and such will think. Just me is enough. So when I get up to sing, if I'm not feeling good about what I'm doing, I know I'm off center. Because when I'm on, I know it doesn't matter whether what I'm doing is good. Just doing it is enough.


Thursday, January 14, 2010


When I was a marketing and public relations professional, I was a master multi-tasker. Friends tease me about my organizational abilities--planning ahead, keeping my to-do lists up-to-date, tracking details, etc. Had no problems remembering phone numbers, what was next on my agenda, planning my next move while completing the current one.

That was then. Now, however, it's a different story. My brain remembers lyrics from songs since I was 4 years old, but your phone number? Oy vay. If I don't write down something I think of that needs doing, it's gone. I start one to-do list, lose it, start another one, and before I know it, I have post it notes and slips of paper all over the house.

This past weekend, I needed to bring back my ability to multi-task. I won't bore you with the details, but we needed to accomplish five major things and the only way was to jam something in in between something else.
Part of me likes being this busy--I was getting tired of evenings in front of the boob tube, flipping channels with nothing decent to watch (unless there was a good movie). But truly, out of all the cable and premium channels we have, mostly there's nothing worth the time.

But the other part longs for more down time. I need that--unstructured, unfettered, unplanned--time to just be. To allow the creative juices to flow. I am already thinking through activities, eliminating those that can be eliminated. But I'm down to eliminating ones I enjoy. It's about which ones I enjoy most and which I can do without, despite enjoying them.

Perhaps, the lesson as I age is not to try to gain back my multi-tasking mastery, but to better focus on what's right in front of me. Be more fully present with each task, each activity.

Do you multi-task well or do you give whatever it is you are doing your complete attention?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On the Road again

Hello dear friends,
We are on the road again today. My mother-in-law's best friend of 80+ years lost her husband and we are on our way to his funeral. It is in Plainview, Texas, where hubby was raised. He and his siblings grew up alongside this family--they played together, traveled together, laughed and cried together. Lee had just celebrated his 90th birthday a few months ago. He was a survivor of Pearl Harbor. Both he and his wife were naval officers.

I won't be able to visit your blogs today but I'll catch up with y'all tomorrow. Till then,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - no time to lose

Over the weekend I saw a movie I'd missed first time around - Iris. Starring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench, it tells the story of a prolific and successful writer, Iris Murdoch, a woman to whom words mean everything. Then Alzheimer's hits and she cannot even recognize the word DOG. It was depressing as hell, but a message rang loud and clear. DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND DO IT NOW BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT IS AROUND THE CORNER. I don't mean this as a doomsday message. I simply mean we may not have as much time as we want or need and time is so very precious. I am trying my best not to waste it. Are you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up

We are in the process of researching new cars. Hubby's car is 15 years old; mine is 10. If he had his druthers, we'd keep both vehicles till they fall apart. Me, I'd like to get some resale value for mine.
Last weekend, we looked at Toyotas, Hondas, and Ford's. We came away from the experience feeling like old fogey's. We wanted good gas mileage and comfort-- heated seats, padded of course with lumbar support, and a comfy ride - no jostling around from bumpy roads for us. The winner so far--2010 Ford Taurus. My current car is also a Taurus. But it's way expensive, so this weekend we looked at Mazda's as well. The Taurus is still our number one choice. But we're learning we can negotiate. It's a blast being 60 years old and not caring what the car salesman thinks of me. I don't need his approval. I don't need him to like me. I just want the best deal I can get. When he tried to talk me into taking a car on the lot to get closer to my price, I blurted, "If I'm spending _____ f----g dollars for a car, I'm damned well going to get what I want in it!" His jaw dropped and he blushed. Didn't expect a white-haired woman to speak that way. Neither did I!

Not caring what strangers think or whether they like me is one of the most freeing things about aging. I try to be the best person I can be in every moment, but I slip. A lot. I'm human. I apologized to the young man for the language. He just shrugged.

Prior to going to the car dealer, I sang at a rehabilitation facility. One of the songs, "Put on a Happy Face" from Bye Bye Birdie, made just about everyone in the audience smile. How blessed am I to be able to spend time doing what I love and making others happy at the same time?


Friday, January 8, 2010


I have a new assignment, given me by my writing coach, Mark David Gerson. I am to keep a journal, recording moments of trusting. It has become an acknowledgement journal, shifting the focus and emphasis from a harsh inner/outer self-critic, to recognizing my strengths and honoring the weaknesses.

For someone who hated herself for most of her 60 years, it is a tectonic shift in consciousness. When I look in the mirror and get upset about a few lines around my mouth, I tell myself I earned them. If no new words appear on the page, I ask myself what I learned that day. If I get cranky and snap at someone, I apologize as soon as I realize what I've done. Shame is losing its place in my psyche. I have no time for self-recriminations or self-loathing.

My morning prayer/meditation is that my consciousness continue to awaken; that that which remains in the dark will be revealed. That I be allowed to shine my light wherever and whenever I can. That I have a light to shine is a given. We all do. We just need to learn to acknowledge and accept it. It will do the rest.

How are you letting your light shine?


Thursday, January 7, 2010


“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.” Jiminy Cricket was mistaken when he sang this song to Pinocchio, although in the fairy tale, Pinocchio’s wish to become a real boy came true. Not so in real life, however.

I can remember standing outside as a small child. When Venus first poked through the velvety blackness of the night sky, I couldn’t resist closing my eyes, crossing my fingers and silently saying, “Starlight, Star Bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, make this wish come true tonight.” My wishes were that my parents would stop fighting; that mommy would smile; that I knew what my teacher was talking about. I wished I belonged to another family. I don’t know when I first heard the term, “That’s wishful thinking,” but at some point, I learned that we don’t get what we wish for. So I stopped dreaming. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I understood it is okay to want things—but you must also understand that you might not get everything you want.


I was a pawn my parents’ used to fuel their arguments. Being an only child, I had no siblings to diffuse the negative energy directed towards me. One good thing about being the only child, however, was having my own room. It was a sanctuary of sorts in a child’s world filled with anxiety and fear. For hours I’d remain engrossed in music I played on my small victrola (a record player). My parents’ had Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Doris Day, and more, and I was singing “Witchcraft,” “Secret Love”, and “Cheek to Cheek” by the time I was seven. Patsy Cline crooning “Crazy” would drown out my parents’ loud voices in the living room. When I sang along with Patsy or the Everly Brothers, or even Elvis, I forgot everything else. At four, I began taking ballet and tap dancing lessons, one of the few bright spots in my life. But at seven, that joy went away, and all I knew was that I was a lonely little girl, hungry for love and comfort. And by the time I turned eight, I knew I’d never find that love and nurturing inside my own home.

The above is an excerpt from my memoir, "Following the Whispers." It appears in Chapter II, The Painter and it is the chapter that describes childhood sexual abuse. One of the major consequences of childhood sexual abuse is that trust is destroyed--trust in knowing your parents will protect you and keep you safe; trust in the universe; trust in adults; and most importantly, trust in self.
It's taken me 50+ years to finally begin to get a handle on trusting myself. I'm understanding that this is a lifelong issue for me. It comes in moments. It is the reason my new project is so damned difficult--because it is about trusting the process and trusting myself. Rather than beat myself up for what is not happening, I must acknowledge what is. The truth is, I may never end up with a completed manuscript. What I will end up with, however,  is the knowledge that I've moved further along my path during the journey. That is all we can ask for, in the end, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Process is Content and Content is Process

I am grateful to my writing coach, Mark David Gerson, author of "Voice of the Muse." One of the first things he told me is that process is content and content is process. As I'm moving forward with my new writing project, I am stepping into a whole new world--a world I don't have any experience with and a world I don't understand. On our recent trip to Carlsbad Caverns, we took a tour of what they called the left-hand tunnel. It is a branch of the cave that is not lit by electricity. All we had were candle-lit lanterns. The path was lined with tape and at certain points, the color of the tape changed, warning of a some sort of danger. Maybe the path steepened, or maybe there was a deep pit if you stepped over the tape. It feels like that. Mark's suggestion to incorporate the process into the writing gives me a foundation to hold me up.

With my memoir, I had hundreds of journals I'd kept since 1978, so details about incidents, events I might have overlooked, were right there. And, it is my life, after all. There was nothing to invent or create. In fact, that isn't allowed in memoir. This time, all I have is a voice asking me to tell their story. And it's a very fickle voice. It doesn't just come when I ask it to. It comes when it damn well feels like coming.

What I am clear about at this point is that this is not just about that voice. It's a part of my own spiritual journey. I thought I'd stepped into the person I've been striving to become at my book launch. But it seems there's more. I am in a process of owning my own power/strength. Writing the memoir helped me reclaim power lost in childhood. Now I need to get comfortable with that energy. What I've learnt is that there is always more. Until we are on our deathbed, there is opportunity for growth, and who knows? Maybe it doesn't stop there either.

So for now, process is content and content is process--my new mantra.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Screwing up and liking it

Each year, our folkdance community has a New Year's Eve party. It begins with a potluck followed by a Talent Show. We have quite a few talented children (singers, violin and piano players, as well a dancers). The adults are gifted as well. Me, not so much. I just love to sing. I can truthfully say I am not a great singer, or even a good singer. I'm okay. And that's truly all right with me.

This year, one of the singers in my trio (the group that performs at retirement communities) agreed to sing a duet with me at the Talent Show. She's an amazing singer and I was really looking forward to performing with her. The morning of 12/31, though, she called saying she couldn't make it--she'd thrown her back out.
I thought about how I'd feel not participating in the talent show versus singing a song I've sung a lot but never performed and hadn't practiced much at all. I decided to go for it.

Several lines into the song, I sang the wrong words. This is something that has never happened before. Lyrics are my thing. I remember the lyrics to thousands of songs. Singing off key, now that has happened before. I tried to keep going, but I was having trouble hearing the music, so I couldn't find my way back into the song. I laughed, shrugged my shoulders, and said, "I'm lost. Can't find my way back." Bowing at the waist, I said, "Thank you," and walked off the stage.

Even a few short months ago, I would have felt humiliated, mortified, and eternally embarrassed. It would have made me stop wanting to sing altogether. It would have ruined the rest of the evening. Instead, I laughed about it, but not laughing at myself. We are all human. Humans make mistakes. It's what we do.

You guys don't know me very well, so it's hard to express how monumental a shift this is for me, but trust me, it's huge. I am learning to acknowledge my successes AND my missteps without beating myself up.
As Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann would say, "And that's the truth."


Monday, January 4, 2010

Holiday Wrap-Up

Hi everyone,
It sure felt weird not writing posts daily and not visiting other blog sites (well, not much anyway--I did peek at a few here and there). But I sure needed the break.

Our Christmas was non-traditional. On Christmas Eve, we took an 88-year-old friend who'd just had cataract surgery out for dinner, then drove through Albuquerque's Old Town and other neighborhoods decorated with luminarias. For those of you who don't know (I'd never heard of this tradition until I moved to New Mexico), luminarias are small brown bags filled with sand. A candle is placed inside, and the bags are placed on lawns, along curbsides, on rooftops, etc. When all the candles are lit, it is a beautiful sight. When this is done on most houses in a neighborhood, it is magical.

Christmas morning, hubby and I took off on a five-hour drive to Carlsbad, New Mexico. That evening, we got on a small boat for an hour-long tour on the Pecos River, where those who live in the big houses that line the shore decorate with Christmas lights that are truly spectacular. Unfortunately, the only restaurant open on Christmas Day was a Chinese buffet. It wasn't bad food. Just not a normal Christmas dinner. But hey, who's normal anyway?

We spent the next day in Carlsbad Caverns, one of the wonders of the world, in my humble opinion. The elevator takes you 750 feet down into Mother Earth. There, formations of stalactites and stalagmites take your breath away. I found myself walking through the cave apologizing to Mother Earth for what we've done. It became a meditation. We took a special tour of a part of the cave that is not lit by electricity. We carried lanterns lit by a candle. At one point, the candles were extinguished. The total blackness and utter silence was difficult for some, but for me, it was an experience of complete inner peace.

New Year's Eve with our folkdance community has been our tradition for the past 8 years or so. We have a potluck dinner, a talent show, then dance our way into the New Year. At midnight, we stand in a circle, arms gathered around one another, and sing Auld Lang Sine. It is a gentle way to usher in a new time.

How did you ring in the New Year?