Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Gift of Life

Each year on my birthday, my mother tells me the story of the day I was born.

April 10, 1957.

She found the spring sunshine exhilarating…after dropping my father off at Weil Bros. Cotton Co. in downtown Memphis, where he was traffic manager, she drove to Seessel’s, her favorite supermarket, and purchased fresh, juicy red strawberries and cream, for a shortcake.

Then she went across the street to Julius Lewis, where she bought a snazzy pair of high-heeled red sandals to wear post-baby.

Later that afternoon, the shortcake baked, the strawberries sliced and sugared, and the cream whipped, she walked several blocks down the street to see Old Man Garavelli’s azaleas in all their red April brilliance.

One the way back home, I gave a big kick and she doubled over. Two kind and concerned ladies in a car stopped to ask if she needed help, but she waved their offer aside and continued her walk home.

That night after dinner, my father went to his accountant’s to work on his taxes. He returned home just before 10 to find my mother lying on the sofa watching the end of the Kraft Theater program on TV. A few minutes later her water broke and it was off to Methodist Hospital, where I was born at ll:47.

Thirteen more minutes and I would have shared a birthday with my mother’s twin sisters Ruth and Naomi.

I love to hear my mother tell this story because of the zest and enthusiasm that still remains in her voice. It makes me feel loved and wanted. I am grateful to my parents for the gift of life!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Be Inspired, And Inspiring

I guess we all need a little inspiration. And we can all be inspiring.

Last night I watched three reality shows: Chopped, American Idol, and From Gs to Gents, and realized why I and so many others connect with reality shows--because even though they are sometimes silly, they sometimes do portray real people living inspiring lives.

On Chopped, Chris, one of the four chefs selected to create meals out of weird ingredients, was a former boxer. He came into the competition with the mindset that he was going to win. That mindset obviously served him well in the boxing arena, and it did in the cooking arena as well.

Because he won.

Even though his meals were not as creative or edgy as the other contestants, he stayed focused, and he said over and over that he was going to win. And he was a great guy. When one of the chefs broke down and cried over being chopped, he gave her a hug. He was gracious when receiving criticism from the judges, saying only, "Thank you, Chef". Unlike other contestants who sometimes get bad attitudes.

Now...about From Gs to Gents. When I started watching this show last summer, I thought it would be really stupid. I was wrong! It's about real guys from the streets, the hood, whatever you want to call it, trying to better their lives and become "gentlemen" --and win $100,000.

In this season's opener, one of the contestants, Dirty, got stinking drunk. He was so drunk that he sat in a fire pit, threw another contestant who could not swim into the pool, and finally passed out.

The next day, he had to tell his story to Farnsworth Bentley, the host of the show. Prior to hearing Dirty's story, Bentley was inclined to throw Dirty out of the house.

Dirty's story was that when he was two months old his mother dumped him in a garbage dumpster. Fortunately someone found him, and he was in and out of foster care all his life. He admitted to having alcohol problems.

Bentley's outlook after hearing the story was, "How can I throw him out, when everyone else has thrown him out his whole life?"

Bentley told Dirty he'd get him help for his alcohol problem, and asked Dirty to apologize to the rest of the contestants and see if he could earn their respect. He did, and asked to be called Baron, his real name. "I'm not Dirty anymore," he said. He wants to experience a better life.

It was very moving. And real.

And at last, American Idol. The first three contestants in the final 12 were chosen, and all three had inspiring stories as well as being good singers.

There's Alexis, the 21-year-old single mother who is doing this to create a better life for her daughter; Danny, the church music director whose wife passed away last summer, and Michael, a roughneck on an oil rig trying to create a better life for his wife and child.

Chris. Baron. Danny. Alexis. Michael.

All are standouts in the inspiration arena. All have experienced pain, hard times, uncertainty, difficulties.

Yet they are all inspired by something greater than themselves, and that is what makes them inspiring to us.

Yet, each of us can look at our own lives and realize that we, too, are inspiring.

The inspiring things about our lives don't have to be shared with millions on television to be meaningful.

They can be shared with just one person, and they will have an impact.

What inspiration can you find in your own life today, and with whom can you share it?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gifts I Give, Gifts I've Been Given

I have been blessed to have had wonderful writing teachers throughout my 30-year career.

There was Ed Weathers, who taught me the art of freelancing; Marjorie Riehm, who introduced me to memoir writing, which is becoming my main genre, and Douglas Taylor, who taught a fabulous class at Northwest Community College in which we were allowed to say only positive things about each other's writing. My classmates, most of whom were 18-21 (I was 40+!) and I thrived and flourished in that environment.

Then there were Natalie Goldberg and Anne LaMott , whose books I devoured, and Gabrielle Rico, whose tapes I listened to in the '80s.

And in March 2007, I spent three nourishing days with Susan Wittig Albert in a workshop on using creative fiction techniques in memoir writing.

Now, many of my writing mentors come via the internet.

One is Mary Carroll Moore, who has a helpful blog titled How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book.

Mary Carroll teaches in Minnesota and New York, and since I am in neither place, I'm grateful for her blog, which features a weekly writing exercise.

This week's exercise was adapted from Natalie Goldberg's Thunder and Lightening, which I did not have but immediately ordered from

The exercise is about answering the questions, What has brought you to your knees? and What do you love with your whole heart?, then weaving the answers into your writing.

Mary Carroll puts the first question as, "What loss have you experienced?" and "What gifts have they brought?"

Since I am prone to insomnia, especially when there is a full moon, I did this part of the exercise about 1 a.m.

My losses were astounding, when I began to list them:

loss of:

my father at age 3 when my parents divorced

my stay-at-home, happy mother when she had to go to work at a job she disliked

the sense of family

two beloved cats, one when I was 8, the other when I was 11

not getting into the honor society and glee club in high school

my father's death when I was 21

deaths of both grandparents I was close to, and a great-aunt, a few years later

my broken engagement in my mid-20s.

deaths of 9 friends

Oh, God...this is not all, there is so much more!

What this made me realize is, these were tremendous losses, yet I am still here, I am happy, I am growing, I am flourishing, I am as beautiful and serene as the Japanese cedars I saw at Cheekwood on Saturday.

As for what I love with my whole heart, well...that took some thought. In fact, I did not even know how to answer that question until I began this post.

It could have been gardening, it could have been nature, it could have been being with loved ones, it is all of those things because those are the stuff of my life.

But what it really is, because it weaves all those elements together, is writing about the stuff of my life and sharing it with others.

That is what I love with my whole heart.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why I Love Money

Good Morning!

I had several ideas I wanted to blog about today, and after some reflection, decided to post about a powerful dream I had early this morning shortly before waking. (That's usually when I notice my most powerful dreams).

In the dream, which was very clear, lucid, and peaceful, I was working in a call center with many people. The pay was low and many people were struggling, including myself. However, I did not have kids or anyone depending on me as many others did, so it was not as much of a struggle for me.

Payday came, and I had $30 in cash. I decided to give $10 to a co-worker who had several children. I wanted to give the gift in secret but I was scrounging through my purse to find the money and my work friend asked me what was taking so long--she was ready to leave, since it was Friday quitting time.

So I told her what I was doing and who I was giving the gift to. She immediately said, "Why do you want to give anything to her; she has such a bad attitude!" My response was, "I used to have a bad attitude about life, too, so I understand her."

Finally I found the $10 in my purse, but when I went to give it to the woman's son, who had come to pick her up from work, the recipient wound up being a different woman, who some would call a redneck.

I offered her the gift, and she immediately said she was not worthy to receive it. I replied that I believed, knew that she was worthy and held out the $10 to her.

That was the end of the dream.

I believe this dream was me learning how to be both giver and receiver. In the dream as giver, I was an expression of spirit that was understanding and non-judgmental. I recently realized that understanding is not something we do with our heads, but with our hearts. There is no room for judgment when one is able to come from a place of love, understanding, and acceptance.

As the receiver, sometimes I feel judged or unworthy to receive the gift. This blocks the flow of spirit, which only seeks to give without reservation. If the flow is somehow blocked, spirit must move on to find another recipient that is open to receive.

Last night before bed, before I began to dream this dream, I repeated over and over to myself, "I love money." It gave me peace, even though...

Saying I love money goes against all my training, upbringing, and all the religious lessons I learned as a child and young adult.

Yet, what is money but a form of energy, and what is energy but love? The Christian Scriptures, specifically Colossians 3, tell us that "love binds everything together in perfect harmony."

If I believe love is the unifying force, which I do, and I believe love is another name for energy, which I do, and that money is a form of energy, which I do, then it's OK to love money!

In a balanced, honest way, money/love/energy flow in me and through me and out of me and enable me to co-create a more beautiful world.

Wow! Now, that's something worth waking up for.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life of Simple Beauty

Photo caption: Reproduction of Thoreau's cabin with statue of Thoreau. From Wikkipedia.

"For seen with the eye of the poet, as God sees them, all things are alive and beautiful."

This beautiful quote is by Henry David Thoreau, from his journal dated March 13, 1842.

It's appropriate in Nashville today, since beautiful, fat flakes of snow are falling, bringing peace and beauty to our world.

Thoreau is considered by many to be the first nature writer, and of course is best-known for his essay, Civil Disobedience, which influenced Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, among others.

His other great contribution to the world came through his commitment to living simply, in harmony with both nature and humans.

He lived at Massachusetts' Walden Pond for "two years, two months, and two days" and although he was criticized by his peers for allowing his mother to bring him home-cooked meals once a week, there is no doubt that Thoreau's political and nature writings have had tremendous, lasting, influence.

Through his nature observations, documented in 2 million words in 24 notebooks, Thoreau began noticing environmental and ecological patterns. His observations were not taken seriously, however, until the 1970s, more than 100 years after his death in 1862 at age 44.

He also was an early proponent of public land conversation.

Like many forward thinkers, Thoreau was criticized, especially by adventure author Robert Louis Stevenson, who considered Thoreau's simple, woodsy life to be "effeminate".

From what I have read and understood about Thoreau, he was so in harmony with himself and the world around him, particularly the natural world, that these criticisms had no effect on him.

He continued to live his life by being true to himself, and perhaps most importantly, shared what he learned with the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Experience Healing Through Remembering the Past's no secret that I am hooked on reality shows, and one of my favorites right now is VH1's Confessions of a Teen Idol.

Conceived by Scott Baio, a former teen idol himself (Happy Days, Charles in Charge), the show puts 7 former teen idols (like Christopher Adkins of The Blue Lagoon, Billy Hufsey of Fame) and places them in situations in which they have to confront their famous pasts--and the fact that they are no longer famous.

Today at lunch I watched the most recent episode, in which the 7 were taken on a Hollywood bus tour, with the twist being stops in their own famous pasts.

Several of the idols admitted that they either left their series' in a huff of ego, or in Adkins' case, were too messed up on drugs to move forward in their careers (Adkins admitted for the first time that he lost the role in Footloose because he was high when he went to talk to the producers. The role instead went to Kevin Bacon and that was the making of Bacon's career).

Adkins stated that the opportunity to talk about this on the show, and shed a tear or two, was very healing for him and empowered him to move forward in his renewed quest for fame via acting. Several other idols had similar experiences as they confronted their own pasts.

Confessions of a Teen Idol is functioning like a series of memoir in a documentary film format, and offers a key reason for writing--or filming--one's lifestory: healing.

It helps to come out of denial, open up, share with others, and experience acceptance as these 7 former idols gave to one another.

It definitely can be challenging to confront your past through memoir writing. I know, because I've done it myself.

Depending on the severity of the experience and how much emotion has been repressed, it can bring a big, dark cloud swirling around.

Often as you write, you begin to remember things that you had completely forgotten because they were so painful.

Eventually, though, if you keep breathing and keep writing, the sun does come out, you begin to forgive yourself and others, and healing takes place. The writing (which you may or may not choose to share with others) begins to have a transformative effect, and you might even begin to recognize some good in the experience.

Then it's time to write about a beautiful, new future!


Your writing may take place as a "stream of conscious"--writing anything and everything that comes to mind within a specific timeframe of 10 minutes, 20 minutes or whatever feels comfortable.

Or you may uses old photographs and other memoribilia as writing prompts, and writing about a specific event, like a parent's funeral, or breaking up with your first boyfriend or girlfriend.

You may choose to write in poetry instead of prose, and to even incorporate drawing or painting into your healing memoir.

Be free to choose your own path to healing through remembrance writing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Do I want To Teach?


I just found the coolest (for me!) blog called

It gives a writing prompt for each day, and suggests writing for one minute.

Today's prompt is: what information or skill would you like to teach others?

Mine is definitely teaching homeless kids and their families about Abraham-Hicks' emotional guidance system of how to have better-feeling thoughts in challenging times.

I read an article a few weeks ago about kids whose families lost their homes in foreclosure, and it broke my heart.

Ooops, one minute up already! That went fast.

Saturday morning I was listening to Whad'Ya Know (I had to look up the spelling of that!) with Michael Feldman, one of my favorite radio programs on NPR. (, for those not familiar with him).

He's introduced a new segment called Happy Talk, in which listeners can call in with happy news! The first caller was from Nashville, but I was unable to catch her name or what she was calling about, other than that it had to do with the Belcourt Theater and was some sort of exhibit.

I was just excited that someone from Nashville called in!

Then, this morning I was reading the Sunday paper which I did not have time to read on Sunday, and there was an article about a plein-air artist named Peggy Snow, who has a painting exhibit at the Belcourt through Jan. 22.

I feel sure it's the same person who called in!

There are several really special things about Peggy Snow: one is that she preserves "vanishing street scenes" with her paintings. She paints old buildings and houses, some of which eventually get torn down.

Peggy also exclusively paints in plein air, which means that she stows her paints, canvases, and other "painting stuff" in the back of her vehicle and is always ready to stop and paint at a moment's notice.

Which leads into what I think is the coolest thing of all about Peggy: while she is painting on the street, often in a derelict neighborhood, she interacts with passersby. Often, she meets people who know something about the house, building, or church she is painting.

And often she interacts with homeless people who respond to her work.

She says she meets people from all social stratas.

Now, this is really taking art to its ultimate limit.

I am a writer, and a beginning painter, and know that most artists (whether visual or words) require solitude. It's considered sacred and necessary.

So I think Peggy is pretty special.

My future step-son-in-law (mouthful!) is very involved in his church; he, the minister, and the other elders are becoming more "missional" as they call it.

Basically, it entails being more involved with others and interacting with them where they are.

That's what I see Peggy doing with her art--being "missional". Giving people who live marginally an unexpected gift and receiving in return.

Here's a link to a Tennessean article about Peggy:

I'm definitely inspired, and feel like I am looking at art in a completely different way. One of those seemingly small things that is fundamentally life changing.

Like the song from our special music at church Sunday, from Steve Fox: "When you change the way you look at things, things change."

Thanks, Peggy. I look forward to seeing your show at the Belcourt and hopefully seeing you on the street painting someday. Maybe you will see me writing or painting there as well!