Tag Archives: Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m better on the page…

Here’s a simple truth: I get nervous when I have to talk in front of people I don’t know.  Nervous, like I start to babble, get sidetracked, even stutter at times. I wasn’t like this when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. Back then I used to teach nursing courses as a sideline and I could stand in front of a group for hours on end talking about acid-base balance and the benefits of one sized catheter over another. Then, when I was the coordinator of an Alzheimer’s unit in a nursing home, I not only ran weekly seminars for the families of the residents, I went out into the community and spoke to various groups about mental health, the elderly, and nursing concerns.

I’ve always said I’ll talk to anything or anyone – even a rock.

But, now, in my 50’s, I’m not the public speaker I used to be. Part of the reason I think is because I’m alone so much. Writing is, for all intents and purposes, a solitary career. If I don’t read my dialogue aloud, sometimes I won’t hear a voice for 14 hours in a day. It’s made me a little gun-shy of speaking to a crowd. When I “speak” on the page, I can edit what I don’t like. In person, well…real life doesn’t have an edit button ou can press.

I tell you all this because I just found out something that’s made me relieved and just a little sad, as well. I submitted a proposal to RWA this year to give a lecture on a topic. I was denied. I’m sad about that because the topic is a really good, very relevant, and funny one. I’m relieved because now I don’t have to get up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk.

WHY, you ask, would I submit to do something that I obviously am not good at ( public speaking) and that I’m afraid/nervous to do?

Well, since you’ve asked ( heehee) I’ll tell you.

One of my favorite quotes is this one from Eleanor Roosevelt.

The reason I lovelovelove that quote is because of its call to empowerment. Anyone can do something that is familiar and comfortable. I get that, I really do. I’m the type of person who likes to eat the same things because they are familiar ( and I know I won’t get a sick stomach or have an allergy attack), visit the same places, wear pretty much the same style of clothing and hairstyle since the 80’s. Things that are familiar are comfortable and feel safe to me.

But doing something that you think you can’t, or don’t want to,  or won’t be able to, well…that takes courage. Gumption. Nerve. Audacity.  Fearlessness. And when you do it you get such a rush of power and a sense of personal accomplishment that you begin to wonder why you didn’t want to do it in the first place!

So, subjecting myself to the possibility I’d have to speak in public even though it terrifies me, is just one of those things I need to do to prove I can. To empower myself. To help me grow as a human.

It’s still kinda funny that I’m sad AND glad I didn’t get in, though!

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A new experience…

Every year for our birthdays, my daughter and I elect to give each other a memorable experience in lieu of a standard gift. (Full disclosure here: I still get her a gift!!) For her 25th birthday, we took a cooking class together, as an example. When my birthday rolled around this year, she asked what I wanted to do that we hadn’t done before and she gave me a few options. One of them was going to trapeze school.

I can hear you saying now, “Excuse me, WHAT?”
Yes, you heard ( or read!) correctly. I wanted to learn how to fly on a trapeze. On a bar. 30 feet above the ground. And yes, with a net under me. I’m not totally a moron or have a death wish.

Anyway….

Over this past weekend, my daughter and I went to trapeze school.

It was as terrifying as I thought it would be, but it was so much more.

My daughter gave me the option of going first. I took it. As I climbed the 25 foot ladder up to the jumping off stand, I started to run in my mind the last time I paid my life insurance policy, was it up-t0-date? Who was my beneficiary? When I got to the stand, shaking and feeling as if I was going to throw up the oatmeal I had for breakfast ( more on that later) I must have telegraphed my absolute terror to the man who was going to strap me in and basically shove me off the stand because he said, “first time?”

Jeeze. What gave me away? The fact the ladder was clanging from my shaking hands? The pallor of my face? The fact my pupils were constricted with fear?

Anyway…he was lovely, reassuring, and very strong, thankfully. I did as I was instructed: one arm out to catch the bar, one hand behind me holding onto another bar, bend my knees, breathe. ON his count, he made me switch to both hands on the bar, put ten toes over the ledge and don’t look down, just focus on the distance. Now, of course, you know when someone tells you not to look down the first thing you do is….look down!! And sweet, baby Jesus, was I high up. Like third story building high up. On the count of three, he said, “go.” And I…went.

You never know how much you value your life as when it flashes before your eyes.

From below, the main instructor was calling out instructions, the most important one? “Focus on my voice!!” I did. I straightened my legs, lifted them when told, swung them around the bar so that now I was holding on and my knees were clutching the bar. When he said, “Let go and drop backward,” another flash flew past me and I…let go and leaned backward. I think at this time I screamed “Holy, Shit!”  but since neither my daughter nor my husband was videoing me, I can’t remember for sure. I do remember thinking “I’m actually doing this and not dying!!  Then I thought, “yet!”

Next instruction? Lift back up, drop your legs and let go.

Now, upside down hanging from the backs of my thighs is a position I never in 1,000,000 years thoughts I’d ever be in. But, I was. Looking at the world from 30 feet up and upside down is…interesting. And, I will admit, a total rush. And a little nauseating…damn that oatmeal.

Okay, so after a few seconds of this experience the instructor yelled, “Put your hands back up on the bar, drop your legs, and let go.”

Okay, what? Let go? I guess  I thought they would somehow lower me back down. The thought I had to DROP never crossed my mind. He said it again. “Let go.” So, I did.

The fact that I’m here, writing this, proves I didn’t die!!!

Now, no one took video of me doing this, so when it was my daughter’s turn, of course, I had that camera all set to record. Here is her much more stylish swing through:  

And, yes, it goes just that fast!!

So after the first time, when I was letter friggin’ perfect, you’d probably think it was a piece of cake after that and that the next time I’d be even better. Yeah…not so much. You never realize how much you weigh or what terrible shape your arm muscles are in until you are trying to hang with all your weight dropping straight down and someone yells “lift you legs over the bar.” So, I was a one hit wonder with the trapeze bar. Got a perfect 10 on my first try. I should have stopped there, but you know…competition! I tried 2 more times and then that damn oatmeal got the better of me and I got really sick and we had to call it a morning.

But for a few quick hours I flew like a bird. An overweight, middle aged, not very strong bird….but one, nonetheless.

And it was friggin’ fabulous!

One of my favorite human beings is Eleanor Roosevelt. She once said, “you must do the things that terrify you.” And I did!

So, next year’s birthday experience? Sky diving sounds good, no?

When I’m not doing birthday or bucket list things, you can find me here::Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

 

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The peace found in a Library…

Author Holly Robinson  recently wrote a great blog piece about her love of public libraries. I, too, have had a life -long love affair with those wonderful buildings housing the billions of words and bits of writers’ imaginations and souls within their walls. Here’s why….

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As an only child raised in a family of elderly great aunts and grandmothers, I didn’t have an opportunity to play much with kids my age because, well, there weren’t any! It’s probably why I’m not such a great game player even at this age. While my peers were with one another enjoying a game of Mousetrap or Soul Survivor or any Milton-Bradley or Hasbro game you can remember, I was usually in the company of older people who didn’t want to play a board game, but who preferred to sit and drink and talk and fight with one another.

Yeah, I know: not a great childhood, but it was all I knew.

I was also a latchkey kid — a term I don’t think is used too widely these days. My parents both worked full time and from the age of 8 I no longer had an after school babysitter who’d watch me until my parents came home from work, usually around 7 each night. I was on my own from the time school let out at 3 until the evening, five days a week. Now, I could tell you that the temptations to be naughty and to veer toward the dark side and get into mischief were strong. But I had something that helped me fight those demons calling my name to act up and be bad: my local Library.

I would be dismissed every day from school and then walk the ten city blocks-alone-to the beautiful, brick faced, three story building overlooking New York harbor. First, I’d find  an empty table in the kid’s section and do my homework. That usually took about 10 minutes! Then, I’d explore the book racks. I was an expert at the Dewey decimal system categories by the age of 9 and to this day, still order my own books in my home library using the same clarification system.

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In that first year I read all the books in the kid’s section that were in my age group and most of the teen category as well. Nowadays this is called YA( for young adult), but back then they were all labeled as “Teen” reading. I learned all I needed to know about love, sex, hate, and teenage angst before the age of  1o. I devoured the complete works of Agatha Christie, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew. I consumed the books in the biography section, learning everything I could about women leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart and Queen Victoria. Even back then I realized I could be whatever my imagination told me I could, despite being a girl.

You may have read that last sentence and said, WHAT??!! but remember, I was raised in the sixities when girl power was still in its infancy. It would be another 10 years before Gloria Steinem came along and preached female empowerment. And  Title IX hadn’t been established yet.

Anyway…

Since I was most comfortable with older folks and not my peers, I had no trouble connecting with the librarians on a personal level, and I can tell you truthfully and without hubris, they loved me. Knowing how much I adored reading,  and the categories I loved most, the librarians would routinely pull new arrivals for me to check out first. Loved that!  Who else can boast they were spoiled by librarians?

The library became my second home, and in some ways, it was my  refuge, a steady foundation against a home life that wasn’t exactly the American Dream. Within the walls of the library, I could get lost- safely- and go exploring. Again, back before there was Internet and Google, we did research the old-fashioned way: by combing through encyclopedias and trolling through microfiche. I think part of the problem I’m so tech-NO-savvy is because I still long for those little cellophane negative film strips covered with oodles of information that were sosososo much more easy to use than a computer. But that’s just me….

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As I matured, my reading material did as well. By the time I reached my teens, the librarians were helping me find my calling in life. They knew I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor, so they introduced me to medical books and manuals routinely reserved for the medical community. Before I started Nursing school and College I was already proficient in medico-terminology, policies, and procedures. One librarian in particular guessed I like to write – how I will never know – but she would often pull books for me about craft and editing. She was the one who introduced me to the Publisher’s Weekly news magazine ( which I believe is all digital now) and would save them when they arrived each week for me to view.

These lovely, educated, warm and maternal women became my mentors, my friends, my surrogates. Most of them have probably passed on by now, but the wonderful memories I have of how they treated me, how special they made me feel, and how much they taught me, will  be with me for the rest of my life. Maya Angelou said once,

“… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Can I just get an “AMEN” for that? It’s true.

There are as many pundits these days who state “Print is Dead” as there are those who  espouse that print books will always be popular, especially if we have places to house them-namely, libraries. To this day I support my local library. In fact, tomorrow is the first day of the bi-annual book fundraising sale, of which I attend every session. All the proceeds raised go toward the library’s operating budget, since the city has had to economize and cut funding every place it can.  There will never be a danger of the library closing its doors due to lack of funds while I have breath in my body!! That is fact and I know KNOW I am not alone in my thinking.

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Show the love to your local  libraries. Donate the books you have read and don’t want to keep. Support local authors ( very subtle hint, here!). Encourage your children and the kids you know to read. Reading is the single best gift you can give your child to help her/him explore their imaginations, develop critical thinking skills, and go into the world armed with the knowledge and expertise necessary to improve the world, their lives, and those of future generations.

I love libraries so much, I have a Pinterest board just for great libraries around the world. Check it out, here.

And when I’m not at my local library, you can find me here:

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Family Saga, Friends, Life challenges, Literary characters, research, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

If you could define yourself in a song, what would it be?

Many of the writers I know personally are big into play lists. They have their favorite music streaming while they write; they even come up with individual play lists for each book they pen.

Not me. Not so much. I NEED peace and quiet when I write. The one noise I love to listen to while I’m at the laptop is the sound of the rain as it comes down outside my attic loft writing room. Rain in the ultimate white noise for me. If I’ve got music on in the background, I tend to sing along and never get anything written. I envy those writers who can compose written lines while listening to background noise. Their brains work so much better at compartmentalizing than mine does.

Having said all that, I love music – of any kind. Classical to rock; rap to hip-hop; Elvis to Eminem. When I’m not writing, I listen to my playlists on my i-Pad. My favorite song of all time is Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers. I just got distracted and listened to it 3 times while I uploaded it to this post. See? This is why I can’t listen to music while I write.

So, that’s my favorite song. But to answer the question in the title of this blog, the song that defines me is Survivor by Destiny’s Child. Although, the Gloria Gaynor I will Survive is a pretty close second. The fact I have survived many horrible things in my life and have come out in the light instead of turning to the dark side, is a testament to my faith, my determination, and  that I believe like Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

Now, the things I’ve survived in my life may not be as horrible or as life changing as many others have lived through. But they’ve been pretty brutal to me. I survived a fall out an apartment window when I was 18 months that all the doctors said should have killed me. It left with a face full of scars and a terrifying fear of heights. I lived through a childhood rife with functional poverty, ( for those not acquainted with this term, it simply means we lived a hair above the poverty line but could never qualify for any “assistance”),  a horrible adolescence filled with bullying, an eating disorder that still plagues me sometimes to the day, profound emotional abuse from someone I loved and trusted, family psych issues. I almost lost my daughter – twice!- and I’ve fought  melanoma. Again, others have gone through and come through much, much worse than all this. But this is what defines me.

So, Survivor is my  musical anthem…what’s yours?

 

 

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Taking risks

I’m featured on COFFEE TIME ROMANCE today talking about risk taking in life and writing. Here’s the link:  Drop on by and leave some of your own wisdom

http://coffeetimeromance.com/CoffeeThoughts/taking-risksin-writing-and-in-life/

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