Tag Archives: women’s journeys

The Thrill of a Second Chance

Martha Carr, author
Martha Carr, author

My fifties started with a bang.  I jumped out of a plane, following behind the person I was interviewing for a book.  As soon as I was clear of the plane I felt myself relax and one clear thought came to me, “You’ve done it now, you might as well relax.”  If I was going to hit the ground, I might as well enjoy this last minute.

I landed successfully and stood up with another clear thought: Stop doing anything that isn’t working.  There was a long list.  My entire way of thinking up to that point was to try and make sure everyone else liked me, no matter what the consequences.

By the time I turned fifty, I was more of a chameleon than a human being and I had no idea what I liked to do.

As a writer, I was all over the map.  Fortunately, it turned out I had some talent that over time became stronger.  But as soon as I was headed down one path, someone would point out how I could be getting ahead faster if only I changed direction.  Doubt would set in, and I’d let go of the plan that I had and set out again.  Frustration and resentment built as I blamed others for why I wasn’t getting ahead in my life.

However, just a few months after that skydiving trip I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given one year to live.  One month later, an unrelated cancer was found that took a good part of the skin on the lower part of my face.  Suddenly, all of the outward need to please others fell away and I was able to give myself permission to say what I was really thinking, and stick with it.

The cancer didn’t spread any further, something the doctors only have ideas about but were never able to explain.  No matter, the entire episode, which included having to learn how to walk again, transformed my way of thinking and then my life.

I started out in life being told that I was part of American royalty. I am the great-great-great-great-niece of Thomas Jefferson, named for his sister, Martha Randolph Carr and with that came a certain responsibility.

I interpreted that as a responsibility to look a certain way but had no idea what would be the most acceptable or virtuous front.  Over the years it became whoever I admired or at least saw as successful and I’d change to match their vision of me, as I saw it.  I wasn’t running my own race as much as playing a part in a lot of other people’s lives whether they even knew it or not.

2ndchanceGetting a second chance at being alive changed that and as usual, it’s reflected in my writing.  I finally started writing a thriller series, The Wallis Jones Series that focuses on a woman a lot like myself who’s doing a pretty good job of building a life until she finds out that she’s part of a legacy she can’t just leave behind.

In The Keeper, the second in the series, Wallis finds out just how deep those family ties go and realizes running away won’t work anymore.  There are a lot of people who have an idea of the right thing to do but Wallis has to find out for herself her own definitions.  It’s going to take faith in herself and those around her like her husband, Norman and her tween son, Ned to find peace again in the middle of a dangerous situation.The Keeper front cover

The legacy of finding out that our roots are legendary is not to try and appear as if everything is alright.  It turns out that my fifties gave me the gift of learning how to live up to the past by creating my own future, even if it doesn’t look a thing like anyone expected, including me.

Sharon Is Definitely Not Done Yet –Read All About It!

Sharon Willen
Sharon Willen

I must confess, when this book Not Done Yet:  A Tale of Transformation Through Transplant Surgery was first brought to my attention, I felt a bit of trepidation, the trepidation that comes from social responsibility.  After all, the writer was a neighbor, and reviewing it would be a neighborly thing to do.  I thought, “Well, what’s the harm in a short read, a quick compliment, then back to the bedroom for a short nap?”  Well, it didn’t turn out quite that way.

As sordid as the subject matter may appear on the surface (a tale of  transformation through transplant surgery), the author, Sharon Lamhut Willen, handles it in amazing fashion.  The book made me cry, but it also made me laugh:  a hard thing to do when writing about our health care system in this country on a social level and about the incredible personal angst one must feel when dealing with the imminent failure of one’s vital organ.

So many rules and regulations, so many forms to file…a forest so thick there seemed no path through it.  Yet the grace, strength, and most importantly, the spiritual faith Sharon brought to the battle won her the victory.  The ease and eloquence of her writing turned this hard distasteful journey of hers (and her husband’s) into a triumphant mission from which we can all take solace and wonder.

Not Done Yet

Sharon’s story made me revisit my own story.  It made me reflect on how I was handling my own distress, my own disease and dis-ease.  Whether it be my Parkinson’s or just my own reflections on aging itself, I thought about how best to embrace it.  What there is in this book, is validation.  With dedication and diligence, my friend and author found equanimity, and with that tranquility, reaching a near Satori experience in some of her meditations.

And in the end, she proves once again that the love you take is equal to the love you make.  And that love is the balm that eases the pain.  She documents the process in a striking way in some very dramatic circumstances.  She’s made it hard for me to give up, that’s for sure.

Sharon Willen
Sharon Willen

The book reveals a tear-filled wonder into what a truly loving couple can do even under the most dire of circumstances.  In the end, the book is a story of journey, of discovery.  It is not a journey of youthful exuberance about the world, but rather one of an older, wiser, more seasoned toughness.  We travel with the author as she leads us along the way to her entrance of grace, in spite of its ineffable way. This is a book well worth your time.  I will end by saying, I hope to go through the rest of my life with half as much dignity and grace as Sharon has.  

Here is the link to Sharon’s book:

http://www.amazon.com/Not-Done-Yet-Transformation-Transplant/dp/0991298209/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397683931&sr=1-1

And here is the link to Sharon’s website:  http://sharonwillen.com/

This is Nancy Puetz’s first contribution to our blog, and we are happy to have her!  Welcome, Nancy, and thank you for this review!

Nanci S. Puetz and her family
Nanci S. Puetz
and her family

Martin Luther King Day, My Memories

Annice, 1967
Annice, 1967

As I sat down to my computer this morning, I was going to write about a disturbing film I saw the other night but then, I realized it was MLK Day, and the film idea seemed trivial.  So, instead, I sat back and tried to remember where I was on that Thursday, April 4th, 1968 when I heard the news Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  So, when it happened, I saw it all, sitting in my living room with my family watching it on the evening news, in black and white, as reported by Walter Cronkite on CBS.  LBJ was our President and he came on TV to tell us how sad it all was for America.  My parents agreed, and so did I.

Even though I was only 15 years old, I remember a lot about what happened that day, and even that decade.  After all, I was ten years old when my President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963, and I would never forget that.  And who could ever forget MLK when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of hundreds of MLKdreamthousands of people in 1963 at the March on Washington?  And, there was music, amazing performances that day with Josephine Baker, Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.  My father was a huge fan of Mahalia Jackson.

Needless to say, growing up in Cleveland, I was aware of all the turmoil and violence of the 60’s.  In between the March on Washington, and the assassination of MLK, we had race riots in the inner city during the summer of 1966, and once again, I remember watching it all on the evening news.  And it was violent. The Governor called out the National Guard, and it looked like the city was burning down and people were getting killed and many more injured.  The violence seemed so close, yet so wrong according to everything I heard MLK preach.

And then, more violence, and I’m not even talking about all the disturbing images I saw on TV of people getting killed in Viet Nam.  I’m talking about what happened three months after MLK was gunned down, another assassin shot and killed Bobby Kennedy, (we all called him, Bobby) and once again, we sat around in our living room witnessing that murder.

As the 60s ended, and I began thinking about college, I informed my parents I wanted to go where all the action was – UCLA or Berkeley. “Are you crazy?” They absolutely refused to contribute a dime to either of those schools.  We have fine schools in Ohio, and Kent State is so close.  Seriously, I thought? It’s practically in my backyard.  I rejected it.  And then, on a warm spring day in May, I remember my friend, Terry, who was at Kent State, came running into our school telling everyone they were shooting students on campus.  He was agitated.  Our teacher yelled at him and told him to leave but he wouldn’t.  He couldn’t be telling the truth.  After all, why would anyone want to kill students?  Terry’s account of what happened was confirmed that night on the evening news.  Four Dead in Ohio.  The National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others.  And so began a new decade.

Today, when I think about MLK and all he stood for, I am grateful for his legacy of non-violence.  Progress has been made in civil rights and in human rights, but we are not finished yet.

Pursuing an Adventuresome Passion at Any Age

Katherine Esty
Katharine Esty

For those open to breaking out of stereotypes, life beyond 50 holds many decades worth of surprises and adventure.  I was 75 when one of my own greatest adventures began.

That year, I had an epiphany: more than anything, what I wanted to do at that point in my life was to write a book about Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of the micro-credit movement that is now more than 100 million people strong worldwide.  Yunus, whom I’d learned about and met while working as a consultant to UNICEF in the 1990s, was my hero.  The micro-credit movement he founded provided loans to poor people around the world, helping them start small businesses and climb out of poverty.  I wanted everyone everywhere to hear his story.

unicef2

But no sooner had I hatched the idea, I felt foolish.  “That’s ridiculous,” I heard a voice in my head say.  “You are way too old.  Writing a book like that takes years of hard work.  Be more sensible.”

A few weeks later I managed to silence the voice.  “Be quiet,” I told it.  Then I joined a writing group of women serious about writing and publishing their work that lent well-needed encouragement and momentum.

For the book to have fresh material and new insights, I realized, I’d need to interview people.  In Bangladesh.  Again that negative voice chimed in, saying “That’s impossible.  Nobody sets off for a solo trip to a chaotic place like Bangladesh at the age of 76.  What if I get sick?  What if my husband gets sick?”  Everyone I mentioned the idea to agreed.  They said it was far too dangerous, that I couldn’t go alone.  That I couldn’t leave my husband home alone for two weeks.

But I’d been to Bangladesh a number of times before while consulting for UNICEF, so it was not altogether unfamiliar territory.  It may be a country that’s difficult to negotiate, filled with choking smog, and lacking street maps, guide books and telephone books, but I knew how to take care of myself there.  I could stay at a hotel I had been to before.  With a driver, I knew, I could get around the city despite it’s endless, relentless traffic jams.  I began making my plans.

The next obstacle to surmount came not from a voice in my head, but from the practical question of how to line up some interviews with Muhammad Yunus.  I knew that he got over 1,000 emails a day — and had seen first-hand that he didn’t answer mine.  I felt stymied.  Then, in what seemed like a small miracle, I discovered that a man I know from my own hometown was working closely with Yunus through his Grameen America foundation, helping him in Bangladesh and around the world.  He agreed to meet with me, and as we sipped coffee he promised to connect me to Yunus’ assistant.  He was sure I could get some time with Yunus too.

Esty and Yunus
Esty and Yunus

So in January of 2010 I headed for Bangladesh with 4 interviews lined up with Yunus, and many others lined up with his family, bank employees and media staff.  It wasn’t easy.  The phone system had completely changed since I’d updated my address book, and I had trouble reaching many of the people on my list.  I also had no cell phone.  On top of that, Yunus was unable to make our first several appointments and I was left waiting, uncertain of whether I’d get to meet him at all.  At one point a friend from my UNICEF days invited me to have dinner with his family. He picked me up in a rickshaw pedaled by a scrawny Bangladeshi, and we lurched out precariously into the black night dodging taxis, beggars and potholes.  I felt unsafe. Luckily, it was the only time I did.

Upon returning home, I was faced with the enormous task of sifting through the tapes of my interviews and transcribing them.  Next came the even bigger job of writing the book.  But having written a couple of books in the past, it was a natural and familiar project for me, providing structure and goals that I thrive on and enjoy.  The support of my writing group was invaluable.

Finally, having decided to self-publish, I was introduced to this entirely new and also potentially daunting world.  There, too, I sought support — this time from a professional who walked me through the self-publishing process.

Twenty-Seven-Dollars-and-a-Dream-Katharine-Esty

The resulting book, Twenty-Seven Dollars and a Dream: How Muhammad Yunus Changed the World and what It Cost Him was published in November of 2013 and has been named of the “100 Best Indie Books of 2013” by Kirkus.

As I reflect on my experience – here’s what I’ve learned about following your passion at any age:

1. Challenge all the stereotypes about what older people can and cannot do.  They are only stereotypes and may not apply to you.

2. Don’t listen to the naysayers who can make you feel uncomfortable about your passion.

3.  Listen to that inner voice that tells you not to give up, and talk back to the one that tries to discourage you.

4. Finally, if you move forward, you will find it isn’t all about obstacles.  Small miracles will surprise you and help you reach your goals.

Katharine Esty, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and founder of Ibis Consulting Group, a leading international diversity and organizational development firm.  A former consultant to the United Nations Development Program and UNICEF, Katharine has spent extended periods of time in developing nations, including Bangladesh, where she conducted a series of one-on-one interviews with Muhammad Yunus while writing her new book, Twenty-Seven Dollars and a Dream: How Muhammad Yunus Changed the World and What it Cost Him.

 

The Power of NO!

Barbara Brady
Barbara Brady

A few weeks ago at the Jubilee Community Church in Asheville, George Fleming,  “The Breakthrough Coach™”, inspired the congregation with a message about when a No is necessary to lead us to a bigger Yes.

Over the years coaching clients, (including many women over fifty) have often asked for my permission to say No.  For example, a No to the belligerent boss or rancorous relative; a NO to others when you are feeling overwhelmed may be necessary to clear the way to the bigger Yes to self-care and self-love.

Many of us would love to say No more often than we do, but deny ourselves because we’re afraid of what others will think.

“I can’t say no! If I said no, it would mean I’m not a good person, I’m selfish, not a team player”, etc.  But these are limiting beliefs that keep us feeling trapped and resentful, which in the long term will cause more harm to ourselves and others.

No-Button-Buffalo-NY-thumb

Saying No also creates space for something bigger and grandeur to enter our life, for nature abhors a vacuum.  Saying No is taking a stand.  We’re drawing the line in the sand. It’s empowering.

“No, I won’t tolerate that treatment any longer”.

“No, I won’t work overtime without compensation anymore”.

“No, it’s your turn to watch the kids while I take a bubble bath”.

To start the shift to more No’s, imagine the possibilities with the Yes’s  that will surely follow.  Imagine you’ve said No to whatever situation or person you want to.  What’s your bigger Yes?  Imagine that Yes.  Speak that Yes.  Really allow yourself to feel the feeling of Yes that would be possible because of your prior No.

Make a list of everything you get to say Yes to because you said No. Things like fun activities, more R&R, new and healthier relationships; happier feelings, like freedom, peace, or empowerment; improved health, more energy, etc.

Take some time out to listen to No.  Practice.  Get to your bigger “Yes” sooner versus later.

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key. – “Already Gone” – The Eagles

 

 

Barbara’s experience includes more than 12 years coaching individuals and groups on transition issues in life and work, along with helping people release grief that can arise through loss due to any change.

She is the author of “Make the Right Move Now: Your Personal Relocation Guide”; is an abstract painter: www.barbarasabstracts.com, and interfaith minister: http://barbarasceremonies.com

Visit her website at www.mycoachbarbara.com and contact her to schedule a complimentary consultation.