Welcome to Marianne, a new contributor to our blog!!!
Hello, I am a mom to an incredibly compassionate nine year old. I had my daughter at 44 years old. She is the love of my life! I love to write, paint, and bake vegan treats. But my true love lies in animal rescue and teaching compassion for animals to children.
Compassion is not the same as sympathy, empathy or altruism, although each plays a part. The compassionate person feels the suffering of another and takes positive steps to alleviate that suffering. During his talks, the Dalai Lama emphasizes how important it is for children to experience compassion from their parents or caregivers, from birth.
True compassion is being highly attuned to your children’s needs and accepting them for the unique people they are. From birth, compassion is something that can be taught and developed. And the earlier, the better!
Model Compassion: Show compassion towards your child and towards others. From the start, every child needs to feel loved and secure in order to thrive. Their needs have to be respected, if we expect them to respect others. Security comes from knowing that they can count on their parents or caregivers. It comes from knowing that they will be listened to, taken seriously and protected. We must love our children unconditionally and recognize them as the unique beings they are. Children must also learn to be responsible for their own actions. However, parents and caregivers are very influential in determining how a child acts. Children watch carefully how their parents and other adults treat each other. By modeling compassion towards others, you are teaching them what you value.
This is also true with how we treat our pets and other animals. Your children have watched you closely from birth and are so attuned to your feelings, that they can look at your face and know instantly what you are feeling! Never yell at your pets, call them names or hit them. Most people who have pets know this and love them and treat them as part of the family. Your children will learn how to treat your family’s pets with compassion and love, if you model that behavior for them. Show them the correct way to speak to a pet, gently pet them and care for their needs. Show them by doing. All animal lovers know how to treat a pet, most likely because they grew up in a loving home, with parents who modeled compassionate behavior towards animals. Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children compassion.
My nine year old daughter with our dog, ChiChi and volunteering at the Bucks County S.P.C.A
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
What a treat for oops50 to have Glenis Redmond (poet – teaching artist – imagination activist) write a post for us. We’ve been secretly waiting for Glenis to turn 50, and before we knew it, she turned 51.
Who’s counting? Obviously the world is and everyday it speaks with many mouths and many television and internet eyes that reflect the many ways that I will never measure up.
When I am out of sync with myself and not aligned to my own stars, I take this projection personally. I listen to the critique and the opinions of the vapid. I down the chatter like greasy fast food. The poison enters my bloodstream and spreads so I don’t know where I begin and the toxicity ends.
This is when I fall prey to counting the ways that I don’t measure up: the number of crow’s feet around my eyes, the pounds on the scale, the dollars I have or do not have in the bank and my lovers or lack thereof.
I know better than to succumb to this useless counting of what is wrong, but I always adopt a myopic vision that is destructive to my spiritual and creative being. When I am in my holistic mindset I only count what’s right. So here is my list of what I know to be true on turning fifty-one.
Drinking tea makes me a better woman. The power is in the sipping of: Egyptian Mint, Ginger or Green Tea. The healing is in the slowing down to savor the moment. When I take time to drink a cup of tea at home or in my hotel room before I start my day of work. This mark indicates that I am on my mark. This ritual fills my gauge to full.
Fortunately and unfortunately I am not always on my mark. I don’t always stop to drink tea. I rush and get ahead of myself, because I am both a Dreamer & a Doer
The doer sometimes dominates the dreamer-poet.
The pros? I get things done.
Check the map and my odometer that teeters close to 350,000-miles.
I have performed and facilitated poetry workshops in every state except Alaska, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Idaho.
Travel does not always allow for my roots to sink deep.
I yearn for deepness:
South Carolina, my birthplace
I am from South Carolina, but not totally of South Carolina.
My family’s military trek made sure of that.
This makes me a seeker. I cross over man-made boundaries on the regular. Traveling is part of my vibration. I am served and fed well by crossing regional and cultural boundaries.
Collecting both rocks and stories ground me.
I always come back to my roots: South Carolina
The cons of my traveling? My mind races too. I rarely slow down.
My body is having its say by forcing me to slow down.
I have Adrenal Fatigue bordering on Adrenal Failure.
I do not sleep. I do not rest.
I often feel like a stranger.
North Carolina is where I gained my poetic wings.
There’s no Tiger or Tarheel in me. Ironically, orange and Carolina blue are my two favorite colors.
I wish I cared who was in the playoffs. I just don’t.
I was a cheerleader in high school and I did not care then about the sport on the field or court, I just loved being with the crowd: dancing and cutting flips feeling the high vibrations of people’s spirits.
I’m still a cheerleader. I’m an imagination activist. I help people to unlock their imaginations. We talk of what matters. Then, I tell them to write.
I found that when I was twelve what mattered to me:
I find solace and comradeship in good books – stories of overcoming. People who have traveled to their inner space and written about it: Zora Neal Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Wangari Maathai and many more — generally stories of women. I study on how they have traveled this rugged terrain.
There’s struggle to being a woman.
I overcome those obstacles daily. What woman doesn’t?
I was born a feminist – womanist, yet I’m a lover of men unapologetically. I do not see the two as mutually exclusive. I love being a woman.
My mom is my best friend. Politically and religiously we are of two different ilks, but we have similar cores: Love! She is my touchstone.
My mama bought me an orange bike with turquoise rims for my 51st She gets me if not left of centered views. She says, “ride Glenis.”
The color orange in all its incarnations gives me life.
I’m a pacifist at all cost, yet I do not suffer fools lightly. I get this from my dad: Johnny C. Redmond
I am a weeper, but a warrior.
I was born into poverty.
I stand for the underdog. I was the underdog.
I still sometimes have an impoverished mindset.
Therefore, but by the grace of God go I.
I am not defined by my challenges.
My spirit radiates all colors.
I’m a traveler
Places I want to travel: Cameroon, Nigeria, Bahia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English countryside.
I’m Afro-Carolinian. I love to dance: tribal, interpretative and funk.
It is my prayer – the way I talk with God.
I love to walk. I work out my worries with each step.
I don’t consider myself old, just an old soul.
YOLO rolls off the tongue (You Only Live Once) not mine, because I have been here before many times. I recognize lands and people from other eras.
I was an old soul when I was born, therefore turning fifty-one does not faze me. Yes, getting older has its challenges, but also being a person diagnosed with fibromyalgia at twenty-nine years does, too. Everyday I get out of bed is a challenge, yet it is also a victory.
My daughters, Amber and Celeste, are the most precious metal of my inner circle. They make the bright ring in my life glow with pride and joy. Now my grandson has joined this golden lineage. Oh yeah, I write poems. Here is my latest poem for my grandson. Julian teaches me everyday how to meditate on goodness and not on the standards by which the world measures me and finds me lacking. He has been here before and he is wise. I listen. Like tea, love makes me a better woman. Here is the poem I wrote for my grandson.
Grandma Waterfall for Julian Josiah Priester
My status has been upgraded
from mom to grandma–
who knew the heart morphed
I should have known the moment,
when my heart shape shifted,
when I gave birth to twins
two decades and five years ago:
from stream into raging river,
from the weakest trickle into a force of nature.
There’s no parent handbook
that foretold of the more I would become.
I looked into my inner pond
and I could see I had become more alive with giving.
I wanted to stay on earth
with the territory of my heart expanded –
pushing west with poetry and purpose:
the frontier of becoming mama
packing lunches and endless carpools
to school and soccer,
tucking babies into bed
and growing girls into beautiful women –
artists people with pen and brush
ready to right the world.
Now, to you the first son of our family
you have made me grand
the only royalty I will ever know:
a grand waterfall unable to contain what I hold.
A treasure : Julian Josiah
10 fingers: starlit
10 two toes: eager squiggles
cheeks: squishy pockets
earned you the nickname: The chipmunk gnome.
Your eyes: lit with the deepest shine, déjà vu remembrance.
Your birth weight: 9 lbs. 3 oz.
You’ll carry what’s been passed on: the walk of the ancestors.
This legacy also a burden,
but your legs will be sturdy
and worthy of the task
like Yusef Komunyakaa writes:
You were born
to wear out at least
one hundred angels.
Like Maya Angelou penned
You come as one but stand as ten thousand.
You will carry this load with wisdom
and an undeterred stride.
Julian, all is possible with you.
Unflinchingly I will sing
of the more I want to give you
what John Lennon dreamed
imagine there’s not countries
it is not hard to do
nothing to kill or die for…
Imagine all the people living life as one.
Julian I am a dreamer
it is all that have: the gift of my imagination.
Pour into these waters little boy
brother, son and grandson of the Universe
flow into this world
with dreams better
than the one I/WE are
handing to you.
I am here as Grandma Waterfall
also an eagle watching over you
with the lesson of water ever ready
gently guiding you to find your own flow
from black boy to black man
like Langston Hughes wrote,
I hope you’ll dream a world
where love will bless the earth,
because you are part of that blessing
lighting the world with the brilliance
of what you came to do.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing Glenis in person, catch her at TEDxGreenville or visit her blog.
A week ago, on December 9th, my world changed. My own first baby, Lizzie, now 27 years old, delivered her first baby into the world, and I became a grandmother, just like that. I guess it’s not really fair to describe it that way. After all, Lizzie had to go through nearly 27 hours of increasing misery to get to that point! But in retrospect, the change certainly feels that sudden and that startling. Aven Marie Bowman, weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce, was born at 10:02 p.m. last Tuesday, and nothing has been the same since.
I’m learning that it’s really true that when you are a grandmother, you don’t have to take on all the day-to-day worry about that baby the way you do when you become a parent. You get to hold a baby and love the baby and even change a diaper when you feel like it, but, to quote an old joke, then you can “give the baby back” is true! It’s harder than you think to make your mind relax into that truth. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have to figure out what that baby is wearing each day, how many times she’s eating, if she’s having as many wet diapers as she should, or if her umbilical cord is falling off correctly. Old habits die hard! But Lizzie is happy as a clam to do those jobs, so I can relax. All I have to do is hold Aven when Lizzie hands her off to me and rub her little soft head and kiss her little neck and breath in her incredible milky smell and make little silly clucking noises. It’s sort of like having the best baby doll I could ever imagine, one that not only opens its eyes but also sneezes and yawns in the cutest way anyone could ever imagine.
I”m also learning that I don’t need any other entertainment when Aven is around. Our daughter and her husband, Janson, are temporarily living with us while they look for their next residence, so we get to see this little creature every day and watch her changes, such as her going from being mostly a sleeping/nursing wonder to someone starting to open her eyes more and look around at the world. And I’m grateful and privileged to be able to witness our daughter becoming a new mother. I am awed at how patient and calm she is. I was never that patient with my first newborn. I was scared to death, and my anxiety came out in frustration and tears and all kinds of great behaviors. Sure, Lizzie has an advantage over most new mothers from her years of experience and knowledge gained working in child care, but there is something else, something bigger, going on here. Lizzie has taken on the mantle of motherhood as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. When she has to make a decision about something to do with the baby, she just naturally chooses what’s right for the baby, instead of what might seem better for anyone else, including herself. And she’s putting up with the discomfort (a nice word for it) and fatigue involved in learning to breastfeed without any serious complaints. She’s getting very little sleep because she’s waking with the baby at night, but she doesn’t whine (as her mama did). She’s just moving along, taking care of that baby, walking the walk.
She is my hero.
And it’s also great to see Janson becoming a father. He was great in the delivery room, exhibiting all the right support and compassion and protectiveness to his wife, just as any mother-in-law could hope. And he’s been working right along Lizzie since then. He has a very natural-looking football hold for Aven!
I don’t mean that I’m surprised by any of this. I just feel honored to be able to see it up close and personal!
I hope I can make just as smooth a transition into grandmotherhood! One hard part is turning off my advice-giver! It’s hard not to feel like I have a duty to step in and guide my daughter and son-in-law each step of the way. It’s hard to stop being a mother and become a grandmother. Grandfather Tom, who is by nature extremely protective of newborns, is also having difficulty with that one! We both want to give Lizzie and Janson several “helpful” hints on an hourly basis! It’s good to remind ourselves that Aven is not our baby. She’s our grandbaby! Hallelujah! We can relax!
And here’s the other, unexpected hard part about becoming a grandmother: now I have another generation to worry about getting grown safely, without bad things happening to them. Aven has made it even more painful to think about things like global warming or the terrorism or wars or plagues. And when the global stuff is not in my head, I’m obsessing about things like her breathing or her future happiness or, worst of all, how old I will be when Aven is 20, 30, etc. It’s that etcetera part that does me in. It’s weird: in some ways, the thought of my own, inevitable death has become a lot easier to bear with Aven in the world, but in other ways, it is now ten times harder.
Enough gloom and down! Right now I’m celebrating Aven and her wonderful little head and precious feet and long, beautiful fingers and lovely eyelashes. And she has already taught me something: boy, am I ready to make the shift from mother into grandmother! I’m so glad someone else is having to nurse that baby, change that diaper, put that car seat in the car for the millionth time. There’s a reason people have babies when they’re young. I’m glad to pass the torch. And, at least in this first iteration, some things have already made this life-changing transition seem natural and easy: 1) It’s clear that Lizzie and Janson will be–are!–great parents and 2) I already love Aven. In fact, I fell madly in love with her at first sight, the moment she came into the world. So now, Tom and I need to sit back, be incredibly thankful and grateful, and enjoy the ride.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is another picture of the world’s cutest baby, this one napping with her over-the-moon grandmama! Merry, merry Christmas to all of you!!!