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I Talked to My Mother This Week

It has been a while since our readers have heard anything from us!  Sorry!  We hope to do better in 2016. First -time grandmotherhood for Jane and a job change for Annice made things a little crazy!I  But, here we go again!  Welcome back to Oops50, which should really be called Oops60 at this point, but we are fond of the original name!  Here’s Jane’s first post for the new year.  And, please, send us your posts!

Jane
Jane

I talked to my mother the other day.  The only reason that is worth mentioning is that my mother is dead. Here is how it happened.  I was driving by myself on a fairly long road trip—the perfect circumstance for me to think too much about things that are worrying me—and I realized that I was feeling overwhelmingly sad.  I just had one of those awful, down-to-your-toes sadnesses, and the first thought that came in my head was “I wish I could talk to Mama right now.”  That thought made me even sadder because one thing I miss more than anything since her death is the ability to pick up the phone and talk to her about things—bad and good—that happen in my life.  But then, I had this thought:  ‘why not just talk to her now?’  And then I entered this very strange place where I imagined myself dialing her number (since most of my conversations with her happened over our land line and not by cell phone!), and then I had a conversation with her.

First, I apologized for not calling in so long, and then I launched right in to telling her about everything that was on my mind. And, the next thing you know, I was crying—just like the old days.  I talked and talked and cried and cried, about every last little thing that was bothering me, and as I talked and cried, I felt the muscles around my heart start to loosen up, and I could feel myself start to breathe a little easier, and I realized how much tension and worry I had been holding in.  And then—and this is the really remarkable thing about it—I felt that tremendous sense of release and relief that I used to feel when Mama would say something as basic as “I hate for you to be feeling this way, darling” or, her standard, “Get some rest, and I know you will feel better.”  It was as if Mama, from across the miles and years and clouds or whatever is between us had said, “Everything is going to be all right,” and, wonder of wonders, I believed her.  And, for the rest of the day—and even now, a few days later, I’m still feeling the effect. 

My family of origin!  Mama's in the middle, with me to her left.
My family of origin! Mama’s in the middle, with me to the left, back row.

I have to say:  I’m glad I was on a road trip when this happened and not driving down a street of my town.  No one could see me or overhear me, so they couldn’t accuse me of losing my mind and hanging out with ghosts.  But I had this urge to share this experience on the blog because I highly recommend it to those of you have a mother who has moved on to her reward:  give her a call sometime!

Becoming a Grandmother: Part Two

Aven and grandma

As some of you may have noticed, I have been absent from the blog lately. I confess I have not had the energy or the life spirit to write. I wasn’t able to put my finger on the problem until a few nights ago, when I realized that I have been suffering  from the only downside of becoming a grandmother to Aven: an inability to stop thinking about the future and about the terrible world we are passing on to those coming after us.

I can see now that I  must have adjusted somewhere along the way, without even knowing it,  to the fact that my children will, at some point, be living without me in a world full of problems–or I’ve just been so busy being a parent that I didn’t have that much time to ponder! Or I have taken comfort from the fact that I have  at least had the privilege to watch our four grow into adults, and so I know they are strong and loving people and that they will, in any case, have the good sense to hold onto the ones they love  for strength during bad times.

But Aven is so little, so fresh, so vulnerable.  I look at her, and I remember what my Uncle Jack once said about another new baby in the family:  “Even her little insides are all bright and shining.”  I look at her, and I get angry.  I can’t help but wonder why in the world things are so damn difficult for people?  Why in the world can’t we stop all this mess and create together a world that is better and safer for children?

FullSizeRender

I can’t stand to listen to the news.  I try, every now and then, thinking I can handle it, but then I hear another story about young girls being stolen off into the woods of Nigeria or about some German guy deciding to fly a plane into the ground, killing a whole class full of students coming home from an exchange program abroad, and I have to switch off the dial.

I do not know how to come to terms with things like ISIS or climate change when I consider even the possibility that such things could, at any point, become real for Aven.  It was easier before because I could think, “well, at least my friends and my sisters and even my children will all die before the polar caps melt” or “well, we’ve all survived so far with terrorists in the world, so maybe we can hold out a little longer.”

But now, Aven is here, and so the time span for my worry has lengthened.  There is this precious little creature in the world with her mama’s eyes who, at the very least, will have to hear about all the future, unimaginably terrible things that will happen–that’s if she’s lucky and doesn’t have to experience them firsthand!

Lizzie and Aven
Lizzie and Aven

 

I haven’t had much luck turning to religion for comfort, so I turn to poetry.   I keep thinking about Yeats’ poem,  “The Second Coming.”  He was writing about a totally different time in history, but he could so easily be writing about today.  I won’t say this poem is uplifting, but it is strangely comforting to me because he wrote it so long ago, and yet he expresses the way I feel lately about the world we live in, especially about all the evil currently being carried out in the name of religion!  Forgive me if I quote the whole thing, but, when I read this poem, I think to myself two things:  1) maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought, since Yeats thought the world was going to hell in a hand basket, and yet we’ve muddled along for almost 100 years since then!  and 2) “I bet Yeats was worrying about his grandchildren when he wrote it!”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
yeats

 

 

Sharon C. Jenkins: Taking Ownership of Her Life as an Authorpreneur

Sharon Jenkins
Sharon Jenkins

Literary consultant Sharon C. Jenkins has helped hundreds of authors and writers get their messages out to the masses over the years. She has performed many tasks from hosting workshops and webinars to assisting new and established authors through the intricacies of self-publishing.  Her reputation as The Master Communicator has qualified her as one of the most in-demand writing and media professionals in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

There was just one thing. Sharon is also an author and when it was time to market her own books, she found it difficult to rely on the tried and true advice she’d given to her clients. “It’s hard to switch from consultant to client. In order to practice what I preached to others, I had to change my mind about my work,” says Jenkins.

The first shift was glaring. Jenkins decided that it wasn’t enough to think like a creative, but she had to embrace what she did as a business. Recognizing that publishing required her to budget, research, strategize and execute in the same manner as traditional publishers, she began to embrace her efforts as entrepreneurial.   shiftkey

“It was amazing. The revelation that I could either be one more struggling author with a book or take ownership of my publishing and strategize was mind-blowing.”

Jenkins saw almost immediate results. Once she fully embraced herself as an entrepreneur, she also embraced the concept of being an “authorpreneur.” She studied publishing house business models as well as changed her mind about expenses, and viewed them as investments into herself, the business.

Jenkins bookIn 2014, she published Authorpreneurship: The Business Start-Up Manual for Authors as a way of evangelizing the good news of being an authorpreneur. She states, “I wanted to make it easier for others who wished to take their self-publishing efforts seriously. The manual provides both information and encouragement.”

This year Jenkins is launching another authorpreneurship book, Will the R.E.A.L. Authorpreneur Please Stand Up? A Collection of Inspirational Stories Celebrating R.E.A.L. Authorpreneurs, an anthology featuring publishing superstars. She will also be releasing a companion guide, Will the R.E.A.L. Authorpreneur Please Stand Up? 81 Tips for the R.E.A.L. Successful Authorpreneur.
Sharon C. Jenkins is a cheerleader for women seeking their second act in life. “Some of the stories in my latest book are absolutely riveting and inspirational. There are women just like me who didn’t have time or money to waste, and in some cases, they needed a lifeline. Publishing gave them that lifeline.”

To learn more about Sharon, visit her site SharonCJenkins.com.

Other People’s Money by Elizabeth Russell: Who knew philanthropy could be so deadly?

Elizabeth Russell
Elizabeth Russell

My dear friend, Jennie Liu,  just finished  a book she wanted to share with oops50.  I  asked her to interview the author, Elizabeth Russell,  and voila,  here’s that interview.

Betsey, give us a brief synopsis of Other People’s Money please.

Sure! Other People’s Money is the story of Katie Nelson, a program officer in Atlanta’s largest foundation. She really wants the foundation to fund a Latina health clinic, but meets strong opposition from the board. She begins to work closely with one particular younger board member (yes, romantic interest) to help revamp the clinic’s proposal, but then the whole clinic burns to the ground, killing a woman who was trapped inside. Everyone thinks it was a hate crime, but Katie senses something different. The more she explores, the more she realizes that many of the people she trusts are not who they seem. Eventually, she finds her own life in danger.

I wonder about your protagonist, Katie. She’s 28 and seems very much 28 to me. How did you come to creating and developing her character?

I wanted Katie to be young enough so that I could understand both where she is in her life and how she might mature as she grows. The funny thing is, I didn’t really like her in my original draft. She was too goody-goody, too much like the façade that many foundation employees put forth in public situations. I needed her to be more real, so I began to give her some flaws and more emotion. After I finished, I realized that she now behaves and thinks like I probably would have if I had been a foundation program officer at 28.

I was interested in the foundation world in which the novel is set, and I know you are a communications consultant for foundations, but how did you get the idea to start a novel?

I’ve been writing for foundations for 25 years, but always in the nonfiction/professional communications vein. It got to be kind of frustrating having to put the squeaky-clean, perfect image out there all the time when the stories behind the veils are sometimes so much more fun. I got my first taste of foundation fiction when I wrote some hypothetical ethics case studies for one of my clients, probably about 10 years ago. One reader complained that the case studies read too much like a novel, and that sparked the idea for Other People’s Money.

Russell

Had you ever had it in your mind before then to write a novel? And how did you go about actually getting it done?

I’ve always loved reading fiction, and ever since I was a girl the idea of “someday I’ll write a book” was in my head. This one took me 10 years from start to finish – a lot of coffee shop hours here and there, and sneaking time away from my paying jobs. My husband and kids cut me a lot of slack when I needed it. The process itself is rather jerky for me. A lot of time thinking, then a clump of very intense hours getting words on the page, then back to a big block of thinking. I really got serious once I turned 48, because I wanted it published before I turned 50. I worked with Mark Bloom, a fabulous editor in Asheville, to polish it up. Once that was done, I sent it to indie publishers and had a contract within 3 months.

What have you learned about the publishing world? Anything you would have done differently?

When I was shopping for agents and publishers, I told myself all I needed was an imprint and I would take care of everything else. I got exactly what I asked for. Publishing fiction nowadays seems to be all about getting someone to give you a stamp of approval and then doing all the marketing work yourself. My little indie publisher gave me much needed entry into the market, but their print-on-demand business model is not very friendly for indie bookstores. Next time around, I’d like to find a slightly bigger house that will accommodate store-based sales more easily.

Will there be more murder in your future?

Absolutely! I actually thought there might be some over the recent holidays, but then my relatives went home. But seriously, Other People’s Money is the first installment in a three-part series, and I’m working on the second book now. I know it won’t take me nearly as long the second time around, so stay tuned and visit my website and blog at elizabethrussellfiction.com for updates.

Elizabeth Russell has been telling the stories of foundation and nonprofit clients for twenty years as a marketing and communications consultant dedicated to the field of philanthropy. Her fiction is drawn from her insider’s knowledge of the good and the bad of the foundation world, and woven with a creativity that makes the field intriguing and engaging to all.

Jennie Liu is an Occupational Therapist, struggling writer, and dedicated member of a novel writing group. She is not yet fifty but has been long debating herself as to whether or not to color her fast graying hair.

A Wild Time at the Movies

Oops50 is happy to welcome a new contributor, Donna Molofsky.  Donna lives near Winston-Salem, NC with her husband Barry and dog Sally.  She is a former minister in the United Methodist church, but her life has taken many twists and turns since then.  One of her latest gigs was caring for her elderly mother who had dementia. Welcome, Donna, and thank you for this review of Wild!

Donna Molofsky
Donna Molofsky

Life makes you want to scream sometimes.

For therapy, is it better to scream or take a long hike?  Reese Witherspoon does both in the movie Wild, which is in theaters now.

She plays the role of Cheryl Strayed, a woman hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in an effort to exorcise some demons that are holding her back in life.  I immediately identified with this woman although our journeys are completely different.

For one thing, Cheryl is a woman in her twenties, and I am a few decades older.  She deals with the tragedies in her life by doing drugs, sleeping with strange men, and ruining her marriage – things I probably would not do.  But it is the nature of her life tragedies that makes this woman and her story so easy to understand.

Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

After growing up with an abusive father, Cheryl faces her mother’s death from cancer when her mother is only in her forties. Laura Dern plays the strong but fragile mom beautifully. Cheryl needed her mother more than ever, but suffered from crippling grief.  I have been working through some serious losses over the course of the last two or three years.  My mother died after a long struggle with dementia. Six months later a  close cousin committed suicide. Most recently, I lost a job that I cared about.  After these difficult times, I have had such a range of emotions – from sadness to disbelief to anger.

Witherspoon plays this role with such honesty.  At the start of her journey, she has no idea what she is doing.  Later, she exudes loneliness and suffocating fatigue.  Her burden is symbolized by the heaviness of her pack.  Some kind souls help lighten her load.  Some look and walk away.  All the while, she has to balance self-reliance with trust and asking for help when she does not want to .

As a viewer, I was so anxious for this character.  I so wanted her to make it, to reach her goal! But I was worried that she might be killed on the trail, assaulted, or bitten by a snake.  By the end of the movie, I was drained.

Witherspoon and Dern are both nominated for Academy Awards for this film.  I hope other women will get to experience this movie and scream at some of their own demons.