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Archive for the ‘Women's Stories’ Category

International-Womens-Day-2013

Photo courtesy of http://www.levo.com.

Today is the International Day of Women, and so I thought I would mention just a few of the women who have made a major impact on my life. Of course, this is going to leave out a lot of women I know and consider important to me (that’s all the women I know, or have known over the years), and for that I apologize. However, this post would be really, really long if I named them all. 

Going back to the beginning there was my mother Sheila, a beautiful Irish woman if there ever was one, who loved life and her children with equal measure. Her faith engendered mine, and it was she who introduced me to interspirituality and showed me my path to enlightenment. And there was my grandmother, Violet, whose image of a strong, competent business woman I admired then and continue to emulate today.

With the first job I had in the corporate world my supervisor’s name was Sheryl. I did not know much about Sheryl, except that I could see she was quietly making her way in the (man’s) world of finance and big business. I admired her management style—quite different and much more effective than any of the male supervisors. Sheryl was also the first woman I knew who had breast cancer. This was back in the early ‘70’s, way before women’s issues were openly discussed in public, and her willingness to candidly share what was going on with her showed a strength and determination I remember and admire to this day. Sheryl showed me how to walk my path grace-fully.

My first real mentor was Priscilla, my advisor at Prescott College. Priscilla came to me during my darkest days, and her loving kindness sustained me through a period when I felt I had no one else. Her wisdom kept me hanging in at a time when all I wanted was to let go; her support kept me looking for a way back. And it was Priscilla’s probing insight that helped find my path again. “What will it take to make you happy?” she asked me. My search for the answer to that question has given my life purpose ever since that day. If I had to narrow my list of important people in my life down to just one, that one would be Priscilla.

Nowadays Leslie keeps me on track. Mentor, spiritual director, colleague, friend – whichever hat she’s wearing Leslie is my rock. If I am happy, she’s happy; if I am sad or angry, she is still happy! And she does her best to show me how to regain my equilibrium and get back to a state of . . . well, if not joy, at least contentment. My path is smoother and moving along a lot faster with Leslie on it with me.

So many others I could name. My mother-in-law Tee–open-mindedness and unconditional love personified. Karen, whose willingness to let me join her on her path showed me where mine lay. Jeanne, who walked with me so we could laugh and cry together for a little while. My sisters-in-law Tina and Theresa, who for me exemplify living a life of love and compassion. My sisters at One Spirit and One World, my priestess sisters, and all my many sisters who reside in my world. Historical women, contemporary women, feminists, teachers, friends, family. All those women authors whose writing guided me, uplifted me, taught me, and gave me light along the way. All the unnamed and unknown women I meet every day, whose lessons go unacknowledged but not unappreciated. They all are sisters, my friends, my mentors and teachers; they all are valued and cherished.

international-womens-dayPlease know that I know this above all else: I would not be who I am now if not for all the people in my life. But it is especially all those wonderful, supportive, lovely, and irreplaceable women I have known over the years—named or not—who have made my life richer, have taught me the meaning of living with grace and love.

This is the International Day of Women. Don’t forget the women in your life.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

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It’s been way too long since I posted, so I just had to get something on. I really enjoy putting my thoughts “out there” whether they are reflective and hopefully meaningful to others or simply for my own fun and pleasure.

New York to Dallas by J. D. Robb (Sept., 2011)

I recently read J.D. Robb’s newest Eve Dallas adventure, New York to Dallas. This was pure fun, and I try not to miss her books when they come out as she is one of my favorite authors. I have enjoyed this entire series on several levels. Of course, the stories are engaging, and they provide a few hours of escape, fantasy, and wishful thinking. But more than that, the characters come alive, the research and bad-guy profiling is thorough, and imagining our world a few years into the future is entertaining. Robb is sort of a mystery, romance, and sci fi writer all rolled into one.

Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb

Ms. Robb’s plots are also well-though out, detailed, and if not always plausible at least they are not unbelievably outlandish and even seem entirely possible in the given situations. But I think what I like best is the characters themselves, or maybe I should say the way the author develops them. There is the typical cast of characters, our heroine Eve and hero Roarke, the faithful sidekick Peabody—and in this case, the sidekick’s sidekick Ian, along with a solid cast of friends and family. All of them have been given solid personalities, and although perhaps a little too good to be true, they are the kinds of people we wish we could be and that we’d want in our lives.

I guess what I really like though, is the way Eve Dallas has matured over the years. Always a staunch pillar of justice, she pulls no punches where right and wrong are concerned. She has authority, the respect of her colleagues as both a woman and a cop, and a firm grasp on reality. Lt. Eve Dallas practically defines the word “integrity.” Eve stands for something; in her world, she stands for those who can no longer stand for themselves. She respects the humanity of the dead, no matter who they were. Good, bad, young, old, victim, criminal—when it is all said and done, Eve stands for the powerless.

Yet, the rigid views and rough edges Eve starts out with undergo a tempering process as she works her way through case after case. Eve never wavers in her commitment to the dead, but she begins to acquire a respect and appreciation for the living as well. What makes the difference for Eve is finding the perfect person to support her as she learns how to navigate the ins and outs of life as a responsible grown-up. When she meets future husband Roarke, Eve finds unexpected love. Eve already knows all about death, but it is their love, freely given and received, that enables her to discover what life is all about.

Without going into too much detail—there are after all approximately 33 novels plus short stories—Eve Dallas had a traumatic childhood.  Abused in every way possible, love-deprived, without even a name, Eve made it through the system and into the Police Academy to become the best homicide detective in New York City. Somehow she was able to hold onto her innate sense of fairness, even while chasing down some of the most depraved killers in the city and struggling through vivid, incapacitating nightmares of incest, rape, and starvation at the hands of her father. She is at once capable and efficient on the outside and yet battles fear and insecurity on the inside. Until she finds love. That’s when Eve begins to smooth off the rough edges and develop into a mature, giving, and emotionally present woman. Her story as it unfolds in the pages of the series is the tale of a woman finding her own power even as she restores it to those who can no longer claim it for themselves.

Like many of us, Eve does not feel she can either truly love or be loved. She is afraid of the vulnerability it takes to accept and return genuine love. When she finally acknowledges her love for Roarke, she has to then find the strength to believe that she is deserving of his love. Once she gets past that hurdle, she takes the next step by extending her love to those around her. It is harder to accept their love back, but she grows into it little by little. As she progresses through the books, Eve gradually acquires some stability in her life; only her nightmares remain to keep her off balance, and by the end of the latest book, she is finally coming to grips with those.

Dr. Roger Walsh

Although is sounds terribly cliché-ish to say that love conquers all, this is exactly what happens. In his book Essential Spirituality, Philosopher and psychiatrist Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D describes love as “a source of meaning for countless people, a goal for which millions live and die, and a force that shapes countries and cultures.” He goes on to add that mature love is based on sufficiency, wholeness, overflowing fullness, and joy. It is more than physical attraction and infatuation. Romantic love, when deep and true, is like a spiritual love: it “has no desire to get but only to give, no goal except to awaken itself within others, no need except to share itself.” This is the kind of love Eve Dallas discovers and grows into. And I am romantic enough to believe in it and enjoy it both in fiction and real life.

Eve and Roarke fictionally personify the power of real human beings who love unconditionally. As we watch them grow through and with each other, they model a love that all humans can aspire to; a love that is at once profound, boundless, and beneficial (Walsh). They portray love as it is meant to be: the most powerful and important of human emotions and abilities.

“Love has the power to awaken us,” says Walsh.

J.D. Robb says the same thing. That’s why I just love her books.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

References

– Robb, J.D. New York to Dallas. Penguin Group, In Death Series #33, September 2011.

Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.

– Walsh, Roger. Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind, with a foreword by The Dalai Lama. John Wiley & Sons, 1999, pages 72-75.

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It is so easy to toss out all those old clichés about change. You can change your direction, your mind, and your tune. You may have a change of heart or change of scenery. You can put your shoe on the other foot, or your boot on the other leg. You may wish to wait for a change in the wind or for the weather to change completely. Meanwhile, some of us would rather wait for a game changer, while others prefer to introduce new blood into a situation and just start with a whole new ball of wax. 

Clichés have been defined as “the metaphors and turns of phrase that have become tired through overuse” (Beckson, Karl and Arthur Ganz. Literary Terms: A Dictionary, Third Edition, Revised and Enlarged. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989). Unfortunately,  I find that my life has become a cliché.  I overuse phrases like “I need to change” or “I want to change my life.” I am simply and truly tired of hearing myself whine and complain about the same old things over and over. I can only imagine my friends are tempted to run the other way when I approach so they don’t have to listen to me, either.

Some habits and styles are simple to change and do not usually upset the equilibrium. For instance, you can change your hair style and you might get a few comments about how you look but nobody is going to really care very much. Or maybe you decide to change your eating habits—no big deal, unless you start following some weird nutritional regime such as the Baby Food Diet (in which you eat several servings of goopy pureed greens daily), the Taco Bell “drive-thru diet”, the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet, the HCG diet (where practitioners eat only about 500 calories a day and inject themselves with a hormone that is naturally produced by the placenta of a pregnant woman), or my personal favorite, the Cookie Diet, that allows followers to eat only six cookies and a healthy dinner every day for as long as it takes to meet their goals. (More information about these and other weird diets can be found at World’s Weirdest Diets by Jenna Goudreau.)

Changing a hair style or a diet is relatively easy; making a serious lifestyle change can be very difficult. “Old habits die hard” as the saying goes, and unless we make a determined effort to make a needed adjustment, it is too easy to put it off, and keep putting it off, until we forget we ever even thought about making a change in the first place.

The other night I went to bed early and woke up after an extremely lucid dream. I felt compelled to get the story down on paper before the details faded along with the images. I was unwilling to wait for morning for fear that by postponing the task I would lose the insights from the dream. I’m not going to go into the dream itself; suffice to say that it vividly highlighted an area in which I have been procrastinating for years. However, I will say that it pointed out the possibility that if I had not put off following a particular life path I might have found great personal satisfaction and a sense of professional accomplishment in certain areas. The dream reminded me it is not too late to start. Indeed, it is vitally important to my own well-being that I pay attention, for it showed me what can happen if I keep on ignoring what my true self knows.

The dream’s message reminded me of aspirations I put off and even considered abandoning all together. It also left me in a clear frame of mind to seriously re-orient the current direction of my life—to start a whole new ball of wax, so to speak. This blog is just the beginning of my life-path readjustment, and the changes I envision hopefully will have significant and positive consequences for myself as well as others.

I realize that satisfying my desire to share my thoughts engenders a responsibility to be well-informed rather than merely well-intentioned. A person’s words always have the potential to influence the attitudes of others, and therefore it is necessary for me to consider the risk of . . .

 “unintended consequences”

Altering my life also makes me aware that if I encourage change, I must also know how to balance the results that change inevitably produces. But that is a topic for another day. For now, to use another—albeit fun—cliché . . .
Th-th-th-that’s all folks!’ *

Blessings,

This Old Crone

*Porky Pig, in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons

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Mary Engelbreit

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”  Mary Engelbreit, author, illustrator, and founder of The Mary Engelbreit Studios

Change!  What a scary word. Most of us claim to want it, but so few of us seem to be able to affect it. “I want to change my life!” we cry, only to fall back into the same old habits. They are comfortable, these old habits; they lull us into a sense of security. But change happens. (Does that remind you of another, similar phrase?) It goes on around us every moment of every day.

Change is often amazing and unbelievable to our senses. I remember one October, right about this time of year on Halloween weekend, I was living in Wisconsin not too far from Lake Superior. It was very cool—even cold—but with no snow yet. Then a huge storm blew in unexpectedly, and—overnight,while nobody was watching—there were several feet of snow on the ground, and the small but deep lake where we lived froze overnight. To me, this was a mind-boggling event. To have the whole lake frozen hard enough in just a few hours for the ice fishermen to be out the next day was practically unheard of. Yet, there they were! I guess it is true that seeing is believing.

Sometimes change gives the impression of being so quick that it seems instantaneous. Have you ever watched a flower open in slow motion photography? The changes the flower undergoes as it progresses from the tiniest sprout to a mature blossom are incredible to observe. Yet, when we see a flower in our garden we can only marvel at how just this morning that bud was hardly noticeable, and this evening it is in full bloom. To our eyes, because the flower’s transformation is so gradual, it’s blooming seems almost instantaneous, while in reality, it was a measured sequence of minuscule changes that resulted in total transformation.

“Change” and “time” seem to go together. I was discussing the concept of time the other day with a young woman in the dentist’s office. She mentioned that she was thinking “It’s only Wednesday!”, while I was thinking “It’s already Wednesday!” It seems like our perception of time itself can change, depending on our particular perspective.

For instance, do you remember an occasion when you ran into someone you had not seen for a long time? I attended a family reunion recently, and nieces and nephews who were just children the last time I saw them are now grown and have children of their own! How did this happen? How could these tiny tots have turned into adults overnight? My eyes could see the growth that occurred over time, but my mind found it hard to comprehend. It seemed like time had stopped for me when those children left my sight, and resumed the moment I saw them again.

Change comes hard to many people. I think it may be because change denotes a departure from the tried and true as well as the passing of time. Change can force you out of a particular comfort level into an area of uncertainty, and when it comes upon us unexpectedly, it can be all the more shocking, difficult, and even devastating.

Yet not all change is dreadful or unwanted. Sometimes we need change to make things better, like making little additions to a recipe, or getting a new hair cut. To me, though, the changes that seems the hardest are the changes we want immediately but that of necessity take a long time, like our economic recovery, or overhauling the health care system—or losing weight.

How change affect us is, after all, a matter of how we think about it, and how we think about anything is a matter of choice. The key to accepting or implementing change is to take it slow. Take the time to apply little changes rather than quick, drastic alterations so that change does not seem so overwhelming. Personally, I try to focus only on what makes me feel good from minute to minute—impossible as that seems. This way, I am better able to handle challenges as they come along by breaking them down to one moment at a time and focusing on what is good about a changing situation instead of what is troublesome, sad, or difficult.

We are always in control of our thoughts, so this is not an unreachable goal, just sometimes a difficult one.

Blessings,

This Old Crone

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
Gail Sheehy, best-selling author of 16 books, including Passages and The Silent Passage.

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“Beauty is only skin deep,” Mama said as we sat in front of her vanity mirror. I was combing out her hair; she’d been in an accident as a young woman, hit from behind by a drunk driver and thrown through the windshield of her car. Her spine was damaged, and although fortunate to be alive, she was gradually losing the use of her hands. They were beautiful hands to me, the hands of a loving grandmother.

It’s funny how words spoken so casually can stay with a person for so long. This memory is over fifty years old, yet I remember it quite vividly as I write. I can still see my grandmother sitting there as we chatted, and feel how loved I was. A precious memory for me, because as I reflect on it now I feel safe and cherished all over again.

Even as an adolescent I realized that with those words Mama was trying to impart a kernel of wisdom to my young mind. But the thought occurs to me now that perhaps my grandmother was sharing a truth she had learned the hard way, and was trying to save me from pain she herself had experienced.

My grandmother was a pleasant-looking woman in her late fifties, and although she was beautiful to me, she would not have been what our society considered pretty. She was raised poor in rural southern Georgia by Catholic nuns, and I am fairly certain she “had to get married,” though she never spoke of it. After her children were reared Mama worked in the family businesses, and she was a talented, skillful professional woman. But this was at a time when business acumen in a female was not necessarily valued. A woman’s worth was all about what was on the outside; very little attention was paid to the inner beauty of the “gentler sex.” They, like children, were supposed to be seen and not heard. It upsets me and makes me angry to imagine that this wonderful and caring woman may have had to put up with slights and insults as a result of her looks and developing disability when she was actually a very sharp, intelligent, and beautiful woman.

So, maybe she was trying to warn me that afternoon, or perhaps she was only repeating a lesson she herself had been taught as a child. It doesn’t really matter now; it’s the memory of an enchanting moment in time that I treasure. Violet Burch Tidwell, a true crone: wise, loving and kind–and my amazing grandmother. I loved Mama dearly, and miss her mightily still today.

Happy Easter to any and all who come across this post.

Blessings,

This Old Crone

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Greetings to all — and I am here to tell you that when the Universe led me to the Crones Counsel it pointed me in the right direction! We had our first Atlanta Crones Council gathering last week and I am really pumped. I have met some great crones, and am looking forward to being part of the dynamic, powerful circle of women I know we can become.

Crop Circle

Speaking of circles, did you know that the circle is one of nature’s most common shapes, has been around since before the beginning of recorded history, and that humans have been gathering in circles for thousands of years?

The circle is an ancient form of meeting that served as the foundation for many cultures. Circles are still used around the world today, creating communities where common ground is established and embraced. By its nature, a circle resists the hierarchy and status that order our everyday lives. The circle itself is structured so that all perspectives and stories are accorded equal space and value, with each participant both receiving and contributing to the group’s collective wisdom.

Celtic Circle

Wisdom circles are revered as healing places where powerful energy is generated and circulated among the participants. C. G. Jung called circles “the archetype of wholeness and divinity.” There is a sacred dimension to a wisdom circle, whether intentionally called for a spiritual purpose or not. A circle of sisters can support us as we endeavor to bring Spirit into our lives and develop deeper relationships with ourselves, others, and the Source of all life. Within a circle we can safely explore and discern how we want to be in the world, often for the first time in our lives. A circle can empower us with the courage to heal wounds of loss, illness, abuse, and neglect. It lends us strength, allowing us to listen to and honor opposing views, reconcile differences, forgive and offer forgiveness. In a circle we may share our dreams and visions, give voice to our fears, and discover the best in ourselves.

Circles inspire both individual and collective reflection, and each circle will experience outcomes as unique as the members themselves. Although not always comfortable, circles provide spaces that are safe and supportive enough to encourage revelation and risk. What transforms a “meeting” into a “circle” is the willingness of its members to shift from informal socializing or opinionated discussion into a receptive attitude of thoughtful speaking and deep listening—from the heart, the spirit, and the soul.

I have great expectations for this crone circle experience. I intend to make friends, find role models, get to know myself on a deeper level, learn to listen with my heart, find a purpose for my life, honor my sisters with heartfelt and quiet listening, and help them in whatever other way I can. I am excited, eager, and maybe just a little apprehensive. We have such potential, such power to create something significant and mutually sustaining.

I’d be interested to know about your circle experiences.

Blessings,

This Old Crone

Sources
Women’s Leadership Circles Handbook

Wisdom Circles (http://www.wisdomcircle.org)

PeerSpirit (www.peeerspirit.com handout ©2001 Baldwin/Linnea, extracted from Calling the Circle, the First and Future Culture by Christina Baldwin, Bantam 1998)

Additional Suggested Resources for Calling a Circle:

The Millionth Circle (http://www.millionthcircle.org)

Spirit in Action (http://spiritinaction.net)

Institute for Circlework (http://www.instituteforcirclework.org)

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This past fall I attended my first National Crones Counsel in Atlanta, GA. Crones Counsel is about women of age, for women of all ages, sharing stories, enriching connections to ourselves, each other, and the world. The term crone — “wise old woman” — is used to reference, and to reclaim, the name of the wisewoman of ancient times, when the elder woman was viewed as a fount of wisdom, law, healing skills, and moral leadership; her presence and leadership were treasured at every significant tribal ceremony and each personal occasion from birth to death.

Crones Counsel Celebrating Wise Women

I found Crones Counsel by accident, following a trail from one site to another, and now I can’t even remember why I was looking. But suddenly, there I was. I looked over the entire site, and lo and behold, they were coming to Georgia! I live in the Atlanta area, and I decided right then and there that I would attend the next gathering. I wanted to meet these women and hear their stories; I needed to find out if I, too, had a story to tell.

I had a great time!!!

Crones Counsel XVIII: Weaving Albuquerque, NM Sept. 22-26, 2010

I met many extraordinary Crones (women over fifty), and one exceptional Cronette (younger women with “old souls” who wish to share their stories). Six women in particular made me feel like I had come home rather than just arrived. The first morning I met the “Three Amigas,” Marge, Barbara, and Wanda, and we immediately became four. Later I got to know Bevie and her sister Marlene, and of course Julie, one of the cronettes. I laughed all weekend; the gathering was exactly what I had been looking for and much more than I expected. I can’t wait to see them all again. In fact, I am so eager to meet some new crone friends I signed up months ago for this year’s gathering in Albuquerque, NM, September 22-26th.

“Well,” you may ask, “exactly who, or what, is a Crone?”

According to the Crones Counsel website (http://www.cronescounsel.org):

A Crone is an elder woman who has learned to walk in her own truth, in her own way, having gained her strength by acknowledging the power and wisdom of the totality of her experience.

A Crone is a woman concerned with housing, social security, pensions, healthcare, and her relationships with children, grandchildren, and siblings. A Crone is a retired woman, a soon-to-be retired woman, a widow, an empty nester who desires good health, energetic living, and independence. A Crone is a woman who is adapting constructively, often gracefully, to the process of aging. A Crone is a woman who is comfortable with her spiritual self, her intuition, and her creative power.

A Crone may be a woman of any color, race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, educational level, lifestyle, or political persuasion. She may be disabled or abled, introvert or extrovert, single, married, widowed, or partnered. She is like you and me. What does set the Crone apart, however, is her willingness to tell the truth about her life.

In that light, Crones Counsel consistently focuses on the empowerment and well-being of older women and claims the honored status of the ancient crone for contemporary women.

Since March is Women’s History Month I feel it is especially appropriate to mention one Honored Elder (women 80 and over) in particular. The first moment I spotted her in the crowd, Donna Love made a lasting impression on me as to the kind of elder woman I aspire to be. Donna is a beautiful, elegant, and articulate woman whose vitality grabs you even from a distance. Maybe that’s because she has, as she says, learned to “follow her bliss” (CroneTimes, February 2010, Volume 9, Number 1).

Donna Love

Donna published her first book as she turned eighty. She describes Tell Me a Story as a collection of forty “little stories” that had just “languished about the house.” Since then Donna has published a second book, To Make the House Complete, an autobiographical account of how, in her sixties and seventies, she got married and moved into four houses — two in Mexico, a farm in Oregon, and a beach cottage in California.

What I really like about Donna is that she is still excited about life. She continues to learn new skills and find something to celebrate in each day. Donna inspires me in many ways; I admire her tremendously, and she is one of the reasons I decided to start This Old Crone blog. You can visit Donna’s web site at http://www.donnarankinlove.vpweb.com.

To learn more about Crones Counsel I invite you to visit the Crones website. For those of you who live in the Atlanta area, we are in the process of starting an Atlanta Crones Circle. If you would like to join us, our first meeting is coming up Thursday, March 18th at the Meditating Mantis bookstore in Roswell, GA (http://www.meditatingmantis.com). You may contact me for details, or simply come to the meeting at 5:30 pm. You crones and cronettes who live in other parts of the country can check the website for local circles in your area.

I hope to meet a few new crones next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about the elders you admire most.

Blessings,

This Old Crone

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