Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here on Monday and Tuesday. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair.

"ONLY ONE THING IS MORE FRIGHTENING THAN SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH, AND THAT IS NOT SPEAKING IT." Naomi Wolf

"We are called human beings, not human doings."
Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

"The way to do is to be."
Laotzu

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs..(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."
Theodore Roosevelt


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Blogger: L. Diane Wolfe

The Unseen Strength of the Self-Image

Self-image is the cornerstone of our being. It influences our lives and determines our personal worth. For many of us though, positive self-esteem seems beyond our reach.

In my book, Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK, I listed it as one of the Five Keys of success. I even cover the issue in my YA series, The Circle of Friends. A healthy self-image is essential if we are to accomplish our goals! Despite our doubts, it is possible to lift our self-esteem into the positive and experience victory in our lives.

We need to understand where a poor self-image originates. It comes from negative reinforcement and failure without trying again. Go back and read that line again. Low self-esteem doesn’t come from failure - it comes from giving up.

That is fantastic news! Why? Because we can’t always control success or failure, but we CAN control our behavior. WE determine when to quit and when to press forward. Now that we understand the truth, we can change our self-esteem by refusing to quit.

Quitting may be a hard habit to kick, though. How do we take charge and stop this downward spiral? We’ll need to change our thinking and reprogram our belief system. The following adjustments can set us on the path:

· Examine our associations. Eliminate or limit contact with negative people!
· Let go of destructive habits, both mental and physical.
· Let go of guilt and forgive - it only holds us prisoner.
· Avoid playing the victim card - take responsibility.
· Become aware of our internal voice - tame the chatterbox!
· Eliminate negative input and replace with positive.
· Energize and feed our mind and body.
· Realize everyone has challenges and rise above them instead of being destroyed.
· Speak success as if it were already real.
· Find balance in life - no one thing or person will make us happy.

When life beats us down, it is up to us to recharge and refresh. Taking thirty minutes to do something we are good at boosts our confidence. Spending time with someone we admire encourages our spirit. Success is all about taking small steps. Raising our self-esteem is no different.

The secret to enjoying a healthy self-image lies in building on our strengths. We need to determine our good qualities! The following is an excellent exercise:

· Write down all strengths, skills, and good qualities on one sheet of paper.
· Write down all weaknesses, bad points, and things we’d like to change on another sheet of paper.
· Examine both sheets side by side.
· Take the one with all the bad point and shred it to pieces! Enjoy the moment and really tear it into tiny pieces. Throw away or flush down the commode.

Guess what’s left? Only our good points! If we focus on our strengths and continue taking small steps toward our goal, our self-image will flourish and grow.

Author’s note-

Years ago, there was an introverted, insecure young woman who lacked skill, confidence, and the ability to forge proper people relationships.Today, she is a spunky, energetic, people-loving motivational speaker who chases her dream. Changing one’s self-image IS possible!!

 L. Diane Wolfe, Professional Speaker & Author http://www.spunkonastick.net/
http://www.thecircleoffriends.net/ http://www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/

THE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
BOOK V … HEATHER
BY L. DIANE WOLFE

When confidence turns to frustration…

A new beginning awaits Heather Jennings. The position at Clemson means she will finally realize her dream of coaching basketball. Heather is ready to focus on her duties, using sheer force if necessary to prove her independence.

Sadly, her triumph is hampered as her father and greatest advocate lies dying of cancer. Battling her grief, she must also deal with a sister who appears incapable of responsibility or achievement. And once basketball season begins, a talented but cocky player who resembles her in every manner challenges all that remains of Heather’s patience.

Heather’s life changes when she encounters a man capable of handling her bold and feisty attitude. Straightforward and smug, he entices her to date him, and despite his gruff nature shows a great capacity for compassion. However, the last thing Heather needs is a serious relationship with a man equally fixated on work and opposed to marriage…

Release date: March 16, 2010, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
$19.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 282 pages, Fiction/YA
ISBN 978-0-9816210-5-0 / 0-9816210-5-8

“Heather deals with real life and real situations.” 5 Stars
- Teens Read Too
“Curl up onto your favorite reading spot and journey along with Heather as she seeks the balance of family and work relationships. Be prepared to be pulled into Heather’s world and you will find yourself cheering her on and wanting to scold her at the same time. L. Diane Wolfe has created amazing characters with believable attributes and flaws; making Book V in the Circle of Friends series a true gem.”

- Donna M. McDine, Write What Inspires You Book Reviews

“Even after reading the novel, I am haunted by these characters… These characters are real to me, living breathing people that I now feel like I’ve known for years. This is the power of Wolfe’s writing.”
- The Book Pedler

Described as “encouragement personified”, Wolfe’s five-book Southern-based series portrays love and friendship overcoming all obstacles. Known as “Spunk On A Stick” to her fans, Wolfe is also a professional speaker. Originally from Oregon, she now resides in North Carolina. “With a positive attitude, any goal can be achieved!” www.thecircleoffriends.net www.spunkonastick.net

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cn7tSWQqdYc 

Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” Wolfe is a member of the National Speakers Association. “Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting”, ties all of her goal-setting and leadership seminar’s information together into one complete, enthusiastic package. Her YA series, The Circle of Friends, features morally grounded, positive stories that appeal to both teens and concerned parents. Ten years associating with a motivation training system and experience as a foster parent gave her the in-depth knowledge of relationships, personality traits and success principles. Wolfe travels extensively for media interviews and speaking engagements, maintains a dozen websites & blogs, manages an online writer’s group, and contributes to several other sites.

Links to purchase:

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Circle-Friends-Book-V-Heather/dp/0981621058/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265066454&sr=1-12
Barnes &Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Circle-of-Friends/L-Diane-Wolfe/e/9780981621050/?itm=12&usri=l++diane+wolfe
Dancing Lemur Press L.L.C. : http://www.dancinglemurpress.com/id18.html


My thanks to Diane for this fabulous guest post on self-esteem, an issue I struggled with most of my life.
Do yourselves a favor and check out her books.

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Supporting our friends - Guest Blogger Coming

EVERYONE PLEASE STAND UP AND CHEER! THE NEW FORD FUSION HYBRID ARRIVED YESTERDAY  (2 WEEKS LATE). I'll post a photo as soon as I can, but I'm so jazzed. Now I won't get lost anymore. Anyway, here's my regular post:

Dear readers, you are in for a treat. L. Diane Wolfe, a dynamic author and public speaker, is stopping by during her blog tour to talk about self-esteem, and her new YA novel, Heather. She is known in bloggydom as Spunk on a Stick and you'll soon see why. Tune in tomorrow for Diane's guest blog and be sure to check out the links to her website and books.

As for Telling the Truth Tuesday, I thought it appropriate to talk a bit about supporting each other. This truly is a wonderfully supportive community, this bloggydom world. I feel as if I know the people behind the blogs I follow, even though we've never physically met. So how can we be of service to each other besides visiting blogs and leaving comments? We can buy each others' books. We can help promote each others' books, if we're comfortable with that, which is what the guest blogging is all about. It is an opportunity for readers of this blog to become acquainted with someone I respect and admire.This time it's Diane Wolfe.

The tricky part is, how do we handle it if someone whom we don't necessarily feel comfortable promoting on our blogs asks us to do so. Has that ever happened to you? How do you deal with it?

Blessings,
Karen

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Update

Over the weekend, Lee, at Tossing it Out: http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/2010/03/200-for-me-and-challenge-for-you.html, gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award. Thanks so much, Lee.

According to the rules, I am to provide a link to the person who gave me the award (see above),  name seven things you might not know about me, and pass the award along to seven other wonderful bloggers. Gosh, I've written so much about myself during this past year, I don't know if there's anything left you guys might not know. But here goes:

1. Buddy (our dog) is my first pet ever. I've lived with other people who had pets, but they were never mine.

2. I'm one year away from being able to collect Social Security.

3. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico and don't like chile (red or green). Everyone said I'd acquire a taste for it, but nope, hasn't happened yet, and it's been 16 years.

4. I'm Jewish and Christian and Spiritual.

5. I'm a certified hypnotherapist, although I don't practice hypnotherapy.

6. I went back to school at age 52 and received a Bachelor's Degree in University Studies. I graduated Summa cum laud at age 56. It was great fun getting straight A's and being a person who could speak up in class. When I was younger I could never even raise my hand.

7. I'm dyslexic when it comes to directions. Hopeless. If I think we need to make a right turn, invariably it's left we have to go. Thank goodness my new car (which still hasn't arrived) has a voice activated GPS navigational system.

And now, here are seven bloggers who richly deserve the Beautiful Blogger award:

Diane Wolfe, Spunk on a Stick: http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/
Elizabeth Spann Craig: http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/
Elspeth Antonelli: http://elspeth-itsamystery.blogspot.com/
Joanne at: http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com/
Tamika at: http://thewriteworship.blogspot.com/
Sharon Lippincott at: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/
Debra Schubert at: http://debralschubert.blogspot.com/

I know it's time-consuming to do this award thing, so I won't be insulted if any of you choose not to pass it along. But truly, these are blogs worthy of your attention if you don't already visit them.

As for my regular weekend update, suffice it to say, Buddy (the dog) is doing much better. The antibiotic for the urinary tract infection seems to be working. The insulin also seems to have made a huge difference. He's acting much more like his old self. And hubby has agreed to take on the caregiving issues for Buddy for now. So all is well in the Walker household for the moment.

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, March 26, 2010

TGIF

This was a tough week. I am emotionally, physically and spiritually drained. I am taking today as my indulgence day. This morning I have a singing rehearsal, which I love, then lunch with a friend I haven't seen in a long time. Thank you all so much for your kind and thoughtful comments about my "bad mojo," as Helen Ginger so aptly put it. Perhaps my weekend update on Monday will have better news to report. Have a good weekend, everyone.
Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, March 25, 2010

taking responsiblity for oneself

I've worked hard on myself. The process began in 1978 when I lost custody of my only son. That was also when I began keeping a journal, which led to wanting to write, which became.... you get the idea. My memoir, "Following the Whispers," is about that journey.

One of the most important lessons I've learned is that I must take responsibility for my actions and my behavior. The last couple of days have been really hard for me. My hubby is away on a business trip and our dog, Buddy, is not doing well. It began with a disc problem in his neck (we are still unsure where that's heading) and ended with his being diagnosed with diabetes.

I spent all day Tuesday, alternately crying, feeling sorry for myself, beating myself up for my thoughts, and crying some more. I had a singing rehearsal scheduled that night. I wanted to cancel the rehearsal, but we have a gig Saturday and we needed the practice. Singing when you are an emotional basket case is not a good idea. Trying to manage a rehearsal when off center is definitely not a pretty picture. Normally impatient anyway, I tend to snap when I'm dealing with stuff.

The key Tuesday night was taking responsibility for myself. After I felt I had snapped at one of the women, I stopped, turned off the music and said, "Listen you guys, I'm really sorry. Buddy was just diagnosed with diabetes, I'm worried sick about him, about the money to take care of him, I'm alone this week and I probably shouldn't have done this tonight. My mood has nothing to do with any of you and I'm really sorry."

The love and support that came back at me was lovely. Now, sometimes, though, even if you do take resonsibility for yourself, you won't get such a positive reaction. But we can't control anyone else's behavior--only our own.

Yes, I'd like to get to the point where I can behave wonderfully in every situation, but that will most likely never happen. Until then, I need to learn to take responsibility for myself when I notice I'm not acting from my highest self. That's all any of us can really do--be the best we can be in a given moment and own up when we're not.

How do you handle it when you feel you've mis-behaved?

Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Computer glitches

I have a Toshiba laptop. I bought it because the keyboard felt most like a typewriter, with raised keys. For the most part, it's worked really well. Till Sunday, that is. We've been using the Toshiba Movie Factory software to make DVD's from videos. This time, it stopped in the middle of loading clips into the program. No matter what we did, it stopped every time.

We called Toshiba Tech Support. They told us to delete the program and install it again. We deleted the program, but then couldn't find the software on Toshiba's website to re-install. Hubby left on a business trip Monday morning, so I was left on my own to try to resolve this. I called Tech Support. They gave me a tinyurl for the software. I downloaded it. The program still doesn't show up on my computer. The videos we downloaded from our camera cannot be seen because there is no software to show them.

These are the kinds of things that make me want to pick up whatever it is that has the glitch and toss it out the freakin' window. My tolerance for repeated attempts to get tech support that is anything but supportive is zero. Now, I have had extremely good experiences with tech support from Norton, for example. When my computer got a virus a few weeks ago, they were fantastic. Expensive, but fantastic.

I'm wondering, do I call Microsoft and see if there is other software on my computer already that I can use? Windows Media Player has now stopped functioning as well, since I deleted the original movie program. And I can't restore the system - it won't restore.

I don't expect anyone to solve this dilemma for me. I just felt like whining and complaining a bit to people who have probably experienced similar issues. Oh, and by the way, I still don't have the new car. Let's commiserate...

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - I'm a horrible person

Why is it we sometimes don't tell the truth? Maybe we believe that if we tell the truth, we won't get what we want in a particular situation. Or perhaps we're afraid of what others will think of us if we tell the truth.

I almost deleted this post after a wrote it, because I'm terrified of what ya'll will think of me. But this is Telling the truth Tuesday, after all, so this is as good a place as any to do it. Here goes:

I'm a horrible person. That thought was the reason I was depressed and lethargic most of Sunday. Do you want to know why I thought I was a horrible person? Of course you do, otherwise you wouldn't be here, reading this, would you? We have a beloved dog, Buddy. He's 8 years old. He loves everyone, but especially hubby and me. He never snaps or growls at anyone or anything. He'd welcome a burglar with licks and snuggles.

Ten days ago, he started crying when he moved his head. We immediately took him to the vet. She recommended putting him on an anti-inflammatory drug before rushing to do x-rays, which are quite expensive. The meds seemed to work--Buddy stopped crying. The pills were to be given on an as needed basis, so we stopped administering them. Two days later, Buddy was crying again. Back on the pills. But then Saturday and Sunday he didn't want to eat. Here's where I convinced myself I was a bad person. I tend to immediately go to the dark side when there is the potential for something to go wrong. I started thinking, the x-rays will cost hundreds of dollars. Then, he'll need surgery, which will cost thousands of dollars. When my dad was alive and in his 80's, we questioned every procedure the docs wanted to do because, depending on the diagnosis, we most likely wouldn't do the treatments anyway, so why do the procedure.

I didn't think I was willing to spend thousands of dollars for surgery on an 8-year-old dog. And that made me feel like a horrible person. Does this mean I don't really love him? Does this mean I am selfish and greedy and don't really care? But I do love him. So what does that make me?

Yesterday, I took him to the vet again. Different doc this time. She was pretty sure after the exam that it was a disc problem. She put him on a steroid and muscle relaxer for the next two weeks. If he does better, we know it's a disc. If he doesn't, we take the next step. I don't even want to think about the next step, because then I have to face my horrible person issues.

What do you think? Is it awful to think about cost when it comes to healing a beloved pet? I will not allow him to be in pain, so if I'm not willing to do surgery, if that is what is prescribed, then I'm condemning him to death. Can I live with that? I'm terrified you're all going to think I'm so horrible, you'll stop visiting me here.
Help.......
Hubby says he tries not to think about what could happen--he just deals with what is. I'm working on it, but it isn't easy for me.  Bottom line, I'm worried about Buddy. I'm asking Spirit to help me make appropriate decisions for everyone's highest good. That's all I can think of at the moment...

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend update

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful comments on impatience. The car still hasn't arrived. It was a surprise  to hear that many of you thought I wasn't out of line for being impatient. So I heeded your advice and began calling every day. On Friday, I got someone on the phone and told them if I'd told my clients the kinds of things I was being told, I would have been out of business so darn fast. In this day and age, with the technology that is available, it is inconceivable that you cannot find out where this car is and why it hasn't been put on a rail car to Albuquerque. On Saturday, I received a phone call that a tracer had been placed with Burlington on the car. At least I know they're doing something to try to help.

Thank goodness for singing. Had a gig Saturday afternoon. Big lesson learned there as well. Each of the singers felt as if we hadn't done very well after the concert was over. We were disappointed in our individual songs, the group songs lacked energy, blah blah blah. Thankfully, I'd asked my hubby to videotape the concert and three of us went back to our house to watch it. Yes, there were glitches and slip-ups, but they DID NOT MATTER. Perhaps it wasn't our best performance of a particular song, but the vocals were just fine and the songs went over well. Because we sang from our hearts. We connected with the audience. For those of you who watch American Idol, it's what the judges say over and over. If you are in the moment, connecting with the song, the pitch issues don't matter so much. It's also true in real life as well. If we come from our heart and connect with others, our relationships are so much richer.

We are all so darned hard on ourselves, it's ridiculous. And I don't just mean my singing buddies. I mean everyone I know - and that probably includes all of you reading this blog whom I've never met in person.
Making a mistake doesn't make us imperfect. Making a mistake doesn't mean the whole whatever is bad. Making a mistake IS HUMAN. It's probably what makes us most loveable. Except we hate to appear vulnerable, don't we?

How's this for growth? One of the songs I'm singing is "To Know Him is To Love Him." It has three-part harmony and I'm singing the melody. I'm a low alto. The previous song was sung by a soprano and the pitch had been raised two 1/2 steps for her. I started singing my song and realized it was way too high. I'd forgotten to lower the pitch, not just back to normal, but I sing it two 1/2 steps lower than normal. So it was 4 steps off. As soon as I realized it, I said, "Excuse me, I'm very sorry, but I forgot to lower the song and I can't sing it this way. Is it okay if we start it over?" And I went and switched the pitch and began again.

If only we could know, in each and every moment, that we are okay. That as long as we are doing our best, we are okay. I remember in the 1970's, there was a book called "I'm okay, you're okay." I'm going to adopt that saying for now to remind myself that we're all okay.

Blessings,
karen

Friday, March 19, 2010

Impatience

I think I must be the world's most impatient person. If not the most, than very close to it. I hate hate hate waiting. Long lines make me anxious--whether they're at a store, in the car at a traffic light, or in womens' rooms in public places.

I used to get irritable. Now, not so much. Unless I've gone too long without eating and my hypoglycemia kicks in. But truly, impatience is my worst character defect. I've tried everything I can think of to change this. I chant the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I know the things I get most impatient about are things I cannot change.

Like our new car. It was due here in Albuquerque on 3/15. Today is the 19th and they can't tell me when it's going to get here. I am really trying to be patient. If the serenity prayer doesn't work, I ask if there's a lesson to be learned here. Maybe I need to dig deeper into my psyche to see what the impatience is all about. All I can figure so far is that it has something to do with being afraid I won't get what I need--whether it's food when I'm hungry, love when I'm hurting, or money to pay the bills. Hmm. These are core needs. Perhaps when next I find myself impatient, I can ask what core need isn't being met? I'll let y'all know how that works next time I'm in line.

Are you a patient person? Were you always that way? If not, what did you do to become more patient?

Till next time,
Karen

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What is Relationship?

I was trolling through my word documents, purging things I no longer need and looking for things I may have started that I want to go back and look at again. I found this. It's a letter I wrote (but never sent) to my son when he was having difficulty in a relationship. Dang, if there isn't some wonderful wisdom here, if I do say so myself. So, here are my musings on what constitutes relationship.

I know most of the time, the last thing young people want to hear advice from is parents. I know I didn’t turn to mine. My reason for writing is that I have 40 years of relationship wars behind me and have therapied up the ying yang, plus read extensively on the subject, plus thought about it a great deal, so perhaps there is some wisdom in what I want to say to you. In any case, an old Al-Anon slogan applies – take what you like and leave the rest. Hopefully some of it will help.

This is what I understand and what I’ve learned about relationships. I know it’s different for everyone, but I believe there are some universal issues that everyone faces.

No one person can meet all your needs. And at the same time, we don’t have a crystal ball to let us know whether the one we’re with is the one forever and ever. What we can do is, to the best of our ability, determine if the one we’re with meets some basic needs and criteria – things we absolutely have to have in order for the relationship to work for us – and look at things that bother us, drive us crazy, and determine if we can live with those (WITHOUT EXPECTING THE OTHER PERSON TO CHANGE THOSE THINGS). Because in my experience, people don’t change for someone else (if they do, it’s usually only temporary). People change what they want to change in themselves, if they are willing to work at it. So basically, what you see is what you get with the other person.

The things I’ve found to be the hardest issues to deal with are: money (spending vs. debting, saving, planning, budgeting;, sex (how frequent, how not); values in life; and children (whether to have, how many, how to raise, discipline, etc.). The “dating” time is the time to find out about these important issues and see how compatible you are with each other. See where you might be willing to compromise.

With all of these things, it’s so important to first be honest with yourself and then learn how to share honestly with your partner, without blaming, attacking, yelling, etc. Sometimes it might take waiting until one person is calmed down to do this.

I believe relationship, when it’s right and you are with the right person, is sanctuary. It’s who you come home to, not where you live that’s home, although creating a “home” is part of relationship. If the relationship is working, you know absolutely, without any doubt, that your partner loves you and wants you to be happy and wants what’s best for you. So if there are disagreements, the mutual goal is to find a balance that works for both. It’s a safe haven. The real world is hard. Having someone else to walk that road with makes it easier, if it’s a loving relationship.

What have you learned about relationship? Does yours serve you well, freeing you to be who you are?
It took me till I was 46 to find sanctuary with a partner. I am so very blessed. How about you?

Karen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Excitement of New Things

First of all, Happy St. Patrick's Day!
A while back, I posted about our new car search. We looked at and test drove Hondas, Mazdas, Toyotas, Hyundais...hubby at first was not interested in Hybrids. But once he discovered his employer would offer cash back for employees purchasing Hybrids, we explored them. I fell in love with the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Not only does it have all the features I was looking for, it gets 41 mpg in the city and 36+ on the highway. It was due 3/15. I'm writing this Tuesday for a Wednesday post so I hope I'll be able to tell y'all on Thursday that it's parked in our garage.

I thought I was someone that really isn't into gadgets and toys and buying things just 'cause I want them. But it turns out, that's not true. I saw my son and other young people with iphones and wanted one. I ended up with a Droid. When my sister-in-law showed up with a little netbook, I just had to have one to travel with.

Up until this point in my life, I only allowed myself the things I needed. Want was a whole different animal. It got me thinking about where pleasure comes from. There are deeply satisfying pleasures derived from spirituality--walking in nature, connecting with Spirit, intimate conversations with friends or partners. There are momentary pleasures which come from eating something yummy, or hearing a favorite song, seeing a great movie.

Where does getting something you want fit in? How much is okay? When does it cross over into greed? For me, when we decided to purchase the new car (it had been 10 years since our last new car purchase), I worked out a budget so that we would no longer just spend without thinking about it.

What about you? What do you want? Do you allow yourself to have what you want? Curious minds want to know...

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Indulgence Days

Before I begin my post on Indulgence Days, I'd like to point out a few changes on the blog appearance. With the help of blogging buddy, Sharon Lippincott, I learned how to make the blog be more like a website, with tabs at the top that open to different links. So book reviews, reader comments, biographical info (About me) and articles/essays, now can be found by clicking tabs at the top of the blog. So feel free to explore some things you might not have seen before. The articles/essays feature is new. It's on my website, but prior to this, there was no way to do that here on the blog. What do y'all think?

Indulgence Days

One of the assignments I received from my writing coach/spiritual counselor, Mark David Gerson, was to give myself a day of indulgence once a week. And to sprinkle indulgences into the other days as well. As someone who has always found it hard to be good to myself, this wasn't an easy thing to say yes to. It felt selfish, self-indulgent, and frivolous.

Well, guess what? There's nothing wrong with those things. It is perfectly okay to be good to oneself. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it should be imperative. This doesn't mean every minute of every day. That probably would be selfish. But taking some time to focus in on me and what I'm wanting and needing in a particular moment, rather than doing for everyone else, is taking steps to ensure that I stay centered. So that I can be there for others when it is needed. It's like when you're flying in an airplane and they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

On my indulgence day, I don't do anything I don't want to do. That's my only rule. Laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, those have to wait for another day. Last week, a girlfriend and I had lunch and went to a movie. I read fun things. I tried out new songs. I took a long, hot bath.

Do you indulge yourself? How often? What would an indulgence day be like for you?

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weekend-end update

Saturday was simply a great day. I have a very special friend--she's the daughter of very close friends--and I've known her since the moment she popped into this world. She slept over Friday night and we watched a double feature (17 Again, and Marley and Me). On Saturday morning, I dropped her off at a horse stable, where she is volunteering. The horses are used to work with disabled children, some with autism, some with Down's Syndrome, some with physical disabilities. S. will soon turn 13 and have a Bat Mizvah, a coming of age ritual. The community service work is part of her responsibilities in order to be Bat Mitzvahed.
After lunch, I took her to a community theater where she is in rehearsals for a play. A multi-talented young lady, S. does flamenco, sings and dances in musical theater, and is quite the dramatic actress as well.
The best part of the day was taking her clothes shopping for her Bat Mitzvah outfit. Three hours and lots of laughs later, she had a beautiful party dress.

My friendship with S. is fulfilling on so many levels. She is delightful and fun to be with. But also, the things I get to do with her are things I missed being able to do with my own child, so some very deep wounds are being healed through this relationship. And I am able to be an adult presence in her life in addition to her parents and grandparents--someone not blood-related--whom she knows loves her unconditionally.

Sunday, hubby and I hosted a gathering at our home for our friends who wanted to celebrate MIL's life. Since the funeral took place in Texas, our friends couldn't be there. Over ice cream and cookies, Mom's favorites, we shared Mom moments amidst laughter and tears.

I am moving through life differently these days, with my newfound core inner strength guiding me, and it feels like navigating quicksand. I'm managing not to sink, but to tread lightly. More to come...

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, March 12, 2010

Comments on Blogs

I'm wondering about something...how do you interpret the variation in the number of comments left on a blog post? If a particular entry gets more comments than usual, can you assume it means more people connected to it? And the flip side of that - if you get fewer comments than usual - does that mean you missed the mark?

I'm asking because the numbers fluctuate widely on this blog and I can't figure out why. Maybe it's not related to blog content at all, but just to how many visitors came that particular day and chose to leave a comment, as opposed to "lurking."

Other bloggers have written about commenting, so all I'll say here is that I try to visit the sites on my blogroll Monday through Friday, the days I post entries myself. I take the weekend off. I don't always leave a comment because I don't always feel I have something to contribute, but I might just say a word or two to let the blogger know I've been there. That I'm still paying attention. That I still care what's going on in their world.

For that is what we really want, as bloggers, isn't it? To know someone out there is listening. Aren't you?
Hello? Are you still there?

Talk to me,
Karen

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Making a Difference

All I ever wanted to do was matter to someone. As a small child, I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. I felt like an alien in my own family, thinking I must have been adopted because I was so different than my parents. As a teenager, I wanted a boy to love me. Mistakenly, I thought having sex with them would make that happen. Then, when I married and had a child, I thought, now I matter to someone. I’m a wife, a mother. But it wasn’t meant to be. At least not in those relationships.

Until very recently, I didn’t believe I mattered to anyone. That I could die tomorrow, and it wouldn’t make a difference to the people in my life. My hubby would just carry on as he did before I entered his life. He’d done just fine. My friends would just continue their other friendships without even a blip on the radar that I existed.

On my good days, which number way more than the bad ones now, I know I matter. Not because of anything I do, but because I am. But when someone actually tells you you made a difference in their life, there is nothing that comes close in terms of spiritual contentment. Last Saturday, one rather old woman took my hands in hers as I made the rounds thanking people after singing, looked into my eyes and said, “You made my day today. Thank you for coming and singing for us.”

And she didn’t mean because I sang well or that she liked the particular songs we sang. It was because I connected with them while I was singing. It was as if my heart shot out silver strings, touching their hearts. I could feel it. Not everyone will feel that kind of connection. But when someone does, and recognizes it, and then shares that recognition with me, it makes not just my day, but my world. It is what I want more than anything. To feel as if I am making a difference in peoples’ lives.

I want you all to know that the comments you leave here on this blog touch me in similar ways. Each of you is making a difference in my life. And for that I am so very grateful.

blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Friendship with Self

Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world. Eleanor Roosevelt

I will turn 61 next month. At first I was distraught--the number itself screamed "old" to me. But something shifted the night I spoke at my book launch party one year ago. An energy came in that felt as if I were stepping into the person I have been trying to become all these years--a wise woman energy which allows me to speak my truth--to myself as well as others.

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroines and this quote of hers is so wise. How can one be true friends with another if we cannot hear and listen to our own hearts and minds and soul? How can we be good listeners, one hallmark of friendship, if we don't listen to ourselves? How can we share our courage and wisdom and strength with another, if we are not in touch with it in ourselves?

This has been a lifelong lesson. I have had many "best friends" over the course of the years, and was devasted when those friendships ended. Betrayal is a theme which appeared and reappeared in my friendships.

Today, my friendships are rich, deep, and nurturing. I must work hard to not lose sight of the friendship with myself first. Am I meeting my own needs? Am I asking for what I need? Am I saying no when I have no energy or time to spare? Will that act or word hurt me or another?

Learning to tune into this wise woman energy helps keep me grounded in my truth.What is happening is that I no longer speak or act out of my emotional reactions, but rather wait for the wisdom to come through.

Instead of wanting and needing a "best friend," today I have several friendships with other women--friendships in which we share our experience, strength and hope. But I have finally become my own "best friend," and it is a friendship I can surely count on till the day I die.

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Feelings and communication

It's no wonder that no matter what we do, world peace eludes us. If two people with differing backgrounds, different personalities, differing perspectives, and different ways of communicating can't settle their differences, how can entire countries do it?

If only we could accept and acknowledge each others' differences without judgment. If only we could have empathy and understanding for a challenging point of view. If only we could realize that if someone's intentions are honorable, we needn't judge the outcome quite so severely.

When I first began my healing journey in 1978, I didn't have a clue what I was feeling, why I was feeling what I was feeling, and least of all, what to do with my feelings. When I began attending 12-step meetings (my parents weren't alcoholics, but the dysfunction in our family was similar to the dysfunction resulting from alcoholism or mental illness) one of the first things I learned was "Feelings aren't facts." Just because I feel angry because I think someone slighted me, doesn't necessarily mean that I was slighted. It's my perception.
The feeling is valid. The reaction is my choice.

What I learned to do is examine the incident by asking questions like, What did you mean by that? I look at the person's tone - sometimes what is said isn't so bad - it's how it's said that hurts. I try to come from a  place of reconciliation and collaboration. I look to take responsibility for what I say and how I say it. I am not afraid to apologize if I feel I've miscommunicated or hurt someone.

If we are afraid of what people will think of us, it hampers our ability to be truthful about our feelings and actions. If I admit I was wrong, they'll think such and such of me. I guess one of the best things that happened as a result of turning 60 is that I care less and less what people think. No, that's not true. I care. I just don't alter my words or my behavior based on what people might think. There's a big difference.

In the end, feelings and communication are all we have in terms of negotiating our way in the world. If only we could all use empathy and understanding, both for ourselves and others, in the way we do it...

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, March 8, 2010

Weekend Update

This weekend was a mixture of fun and stress. Friday afternoon, a girlfriend and I went to see "Crazy Heart." I'd been told it was depressing and not worth seeing, but I wanted to see Jeff Bridge's oscar-nominated performance. Glad I did. Not only was Bridge's acting phenomenal, I found the movie eminently believable and somewhat uplifting at the end.

Saturday brought the stress. After singing at a retirement community, while packing up the equipment, one of my trio told me I had offended her, that she wasn't going to participate at our "farewell" event, and that she wasn't going to come to our last two performances. It was a result of an email I'd sent to the old and new group about which songs we would sing at the farewell party. I'd sent suggestions, saying I wanted everyone to feel good about their songs, wanted to make sure everyone got to participate at the level they wanted to, and that this was opening up a discussion so we could figure things out together.
When I said that it wasn't my intention to hurt or offend, I was told "That's not good enough. This can't be fixed. You already sent an email to everyone."

I won't bore you with the rest of the conversation, but what do you do when someone is unwilling to try to fix a problem? Everyone is entitled to their feelings. All our feelings are valid. It's what we do with them that causes problems. This person could have called me up and said she had a problem with my suggestions. It was an easy fix. We always have choice in any given moment about how to respond/react to things.

The old me would have begged, pleaded, assumed I did something wrong and done anything to fix it. This time, I just looked at her and said, "This is your issue, it's how you are choosing you view the situation. If this is how you want things to end, fine. We're done. Good luck." And I turned and got into my car.

The other member of the trio was with me and we dissected my original email as well as the conversation that had just taken place. Truly, there is no way I did anything wrong or communicated badly in my email. How I'm feeling now is that I don't need people in my life who make assumptions about my behavior that judge me as someone who would deliberately offend or slight anyone. That's just not who I am. So, in the end, it's a blessings for both of us that this time together is over.

The new trio is coming together beautifully and I am looking forward to a blend of good singing and great energy.

How do you handle being verbally judged and attacked?

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, March 5, 2010

Honoring the path

February 20th blew by in a haze. In the midst of dealing with MIL's diagnosis and death, I missed the fact that it's been a year since my book launched. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? The older I get, the faster it seems to fly.

One of the best things I did to promote my memoir, "Following the Whispers," was to join Dani Greer's Book Blog Tour class. I don't believe it's being offered currently, but folks can join the BBT cafe on Yahoo Groups. I "met" so many wonderful people in that class, folks I now consider friends, although we've never met in person.

The class taught me a lot about social networking and blogging in paricular. When I first began, I thought I'd never make it to 100 followers, the magic number Dani said one needed to host an author on a book tour. Well, I noticed yesterday that my lil ole blog has reached that milestone. Perhaps it's time to consider a book blog tour? Is it too late?

Thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing to follow me and my musings on creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance.

Blessings,
Karen

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Childhood dreams

I don't think I really felt happy until I began fulfilling childhood dreams. As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile already know, music was a source of joy and a way for me to soothe myself, to block out the screaming matches between my parents. From the time I could walk and talk, I listened to favorite records, singing along. But it wasn't until I was in my fifties that I took that a step further.

First, I learned chords on a guitar so I could accompany myself. That parlayed into group sing-a-longs. Next, I took singing lessons, where I discovered that if I tried to sing solo, I became paralyzed with fear. Now, I am singing with a trio at retirement communities on a regular basis, both solos and group songs, and the stage fright has disappeared.

One of my childhood dreams was to be part of a girl group: The Ronettes (Be My Baby), Peter, Paul, and Mary, I didn't care which one. But the one song I've wanted to sing since the Teddy Bears made it popular is To Know Him Is to Love Him. Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris did a beautiful rendition of it in the 70s (I think), with exquisite three-part harmony.  My trio is doing that song now, with me singing melody and the other two doing high and low harmony. My heart does a happy dance inside my chest every time we sing it.

I'm not sure what it is about doing something we wanted to do as children, but I don't think we should let those dreams die. I never tried to live a dream of being a professional singer. Thank goodness, because I'm no way good enough. But doing it this way, non-professionally, with other friends who love to sing, is so soul-satisfying.

What childhood dreams did you have? What would it mean to live one out?

Blessings,
Karen

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Assimilating transitions

Monday was the first day of this new time in my life--my time. I didn't do much writing--just a wee bit of research. I'm trying to decide what century the novel takes place in, but didn't find much to help me decide.
But hey, it was something. I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself, because frankly, I'm kinda exhausted.

Tomorrow I've scheduled my "day of indulgence." This was my assignment from my writing coach, Mark David Gerson, who said, "Even God took a day off." I'm going to use the gift certificate I received for Christmas for a European facial. I've never had one. Not something I'd ever choose to do on my own.

Yesterday, after an early morning doctor appointment, I got to work. As long as I stayed centered, I did fine. Allowed myself to move through the day, shifting from one thing to another as I felt like it. If I'm meant to write these books, they will emerge, in their own time and in their own way. I just need to open myself to the process. I am doing that a bit more each day as I assimilate the changes brought about by this huge transition in my life. When nothing came for any of the three books, I wrote about how hard writing is, cursing as I went along. That led to a shift in energy and I thought and wrote about intention. Each piece has an intention. I like setting intentions rather than goals.

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Telling the truth Tuesday - Ups and Downs

Life really is a series of ups and downs. For so many years, as I soul-searched for happiness, I thought I'd eventually learn all I needed to learn and reach...what? Nirvana? Heaven? Ecstasy? What I know now is that there is no such destiny. Life is about moments. And there will be up moments and down moments. But even in the down moments, there is also up. Like the core inner strength I found while dealing with my MIL's death. Or the connections I made with my sisters-in-law. And the laughter that flowed midst the tears.

Monday was the beginning of a new time in my life. My time. There are no more parents to caretake. My son is a grown man, leading his own life. There are no grandchildren. I am in awe of what that means. Aside from daily chores and responsibilities, I get to choose how I use my time. I know I've written about this recently, but truly, it's a mind-boggling concept.

I lingered in bed after the alarm went off for hubby. Ah, there will be no guilt allowed that he still has to go to a job while I get to choose how to spend my time. And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Brookilyn. But I'll get over it.

What I want to do is write--but I want to do it in a way that is organic to me and my process. So I am just going to melt into this time of freedom that is a gift, a window of opportunity that I pray will be used wisely.

So how did my first day go? I stayed in my jammies till 9:30 am. While in my jammies, I ate breakfast, did my bloggydom responsibilities, and practiced singing. Got dressed and did my walk. So by 10:15 two of my three "commitments" were accomplished. Still had pretty much the whole day to "write." Phone rang. My sister of the heart -- we needed to catch up with one another. One hour later, it was lunch time. I had 4 hours left to "write." I think I'll keep you wondering whether I did it or not. (Shucks, I am trying to learn how to write fiction, after all).

Till tomorrow,
Blessings,
karen

Monday, March 1, 2010

Laid to Rest

I am writing this on Sunday afternoon after driving home from Plainview, Texas. We arrived there Friday evening and within 10 minutes, were hobnobbing with the extended family. There are five siblings in my hubby's family, their spouses, their children, and their children's spouses. In addition, there are numerous first cousins and all of their families. I am an only child and have one child, plus four first cousins. That's the extent of my family, so when we gather with hubby's clan, it's an intense experience for me.

I knew I hadn't begun my grieving process during the drive down--I was irritable and lost it a few times over meaningless drivel--not at my hubby--but at the slightest thing that didn't go smoothly. As soon as I recognized what was happening, the tears began to dribble.

Saturday morning, last minute details were handled and at 1:00 pm, the limousines arrived to take the family to the cemetary. It felt odd to have the burial before the memorial service, but there were good, logical reasons for that decision.

If you could say a memorial service had a theme, this one's was faith and optimism. Looking at the broad strokes of my mother-in-law, Mildred's, life, you could say it was tragic. She lost her mother when she was 5, her daddy when she was 19, and her husband when she was 45. She raised 5 children as a single parent during the 1960's and 70's and never remarried. But she would tell you she had a wonderful life and continued saying that, right through her diagnosis of acute leukemia and subsequent death.

The sister-in-law who spoke for the inlaws at the service said of Mildred that she had 10 children, not five, because she embraced all of her kids' spouses and loved us as if we were her own. She embodied what unconditional love means and that, my dear friends, is hard to replace.

My trickle of tears began to flow as her daughter began to speak, and four speakers later, they were still flowing. When "Amazing Grace" was sung, I nearly lost it, because that is the one song I sang to her over and over again during her last weeks on this Earth.

She was laid to rest next to her beloved husband. I sure do hope they are together somewhere "wonderful."

Blessings,
Karen

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