No matter what it is, ending well matters.

Whether a much needed vacation, retirement from a meaningful career, ending a relationship, navigating a courageous conversation, saying goodbye to a parent, or the last line in your manuscript, ending well there starts right here. By now we have hopefully learned that absolute control over anything is…well..a joke. However, mindful consideration of a desired outcome can help us better order our steps from here to there.  But while we can work mightily to achieve a goal, make things go our way, craft a specific outcome, influence another person, or take all the right steps, there will always be an element of “it’s a crap shoot”. If we focus solely on exactly how we would like things to turn out, we’ve missed the deeper issue. What matters even more than how it turns out, is who we are in that moment. The essence of beginning with the end in mind can be summed up in one question: When the end of whatever “it” is comes, who do we want to be?

Examples of endings are everywhere. Some that end well, and others not so much. Whether you are an NFL fan or not, this years Super Bowl is a prime example. The Carolina Panthers, led by their talented, brash young quarterback Cam Newton, were the hands-down favorite. Expected by everyone, including themselves, to win. They didn’t.  By a long shot.  An hour after the game, Cam Newton stepped in front of the microphone as the leader of his team, to fulfill his media obligation.  Hoodie pulled low over his face, he sat in a chair, eyes down, gave short sullen answers until getting up and walking out mid-interview. Did he want to win?  Of course!  Why else would he play the game?  Had he given thought to who he wanted to be, win or lose?  Apparently not.  Compare that to last years Super Bowl when the Seattle Seahawks, led by their talented, humble young quarterback Russell Wilson, experienced an even more devastating loss.  Expected by many, including themselves to win, they didn’t. Within seconds of winning the game, with that ill-fated, still debated call…. they lost.  An hour later Russell Wilson stepped in front of the microphone as the leader of his team, to fulfill his media obligation.  Suit and tie, he stood, faced the camera, expressed appreciation for his teammates, took responsibility for the loss, and praised the winning team. Did he want to win?  Yes!  Why else would he play the game? Had he given thought to who he wanted to be win or lose?  Apparently so.

One of the greatest lessons in ending well came for me personally when my mom passed away.  Her name was Ashby, and the word that best describes who she was and how she walked through the world is ‘grace’. There was nothing Asbhy loved more than what she liked to call a “good visit”.  Whenever you showed up on her doorstep, announced or not, whatever the task at hand was set aside and replaced with a cup of tea, served in her best china.  She was short on advice and long on understanding. She loved by listening. The last week of her life we brought her back from the hospital to the home she loved and tucked her into the bed she still shared with my dad.  Every day was filled with her grace, along with a constant stream of friends and family who came by for one more good visit. They would sit on her bed and talk to her, sing to her, laugh and cry with her. No longer able to speak, she did what she did best.  She loved by listening. After she was gone, I realized that I had been given the opportunity to stand at the end of her life, and look back on my own. From that vantage point I understood that ending her life with grace wasn’t the result of some grand decision, but rather is an accumulation of choices.

As I reflect on this topic I am reminded of something Mr. Carson, the butler of Downton Abbey said.  “The business of life is the accumulation of memories.  In the end, that’s all we have.”  The way in which we end things is either the accumulation of a memory or a regret.  To gather more memories, begin with the end in mind.

What endings are on your radar screen? When the end of whatever “it” is comes, who do you want to be? What would ending well in those situations mean? Now is when ending well starts. Here is where it begins. This present moment is what you have to work with.

This blog post also appears on Trailhead Coaching & Consulting

Making small clay creations embellished with her mother’s Norwegian sayings was an outlet for Kristine’s grief after her mom’s passing. Little did she know her porcelain art would become a business, Beanpole Pottery, with orders from as far as Australia. Tell us a little about..

Source: Becoming a Potter at 61: Kristine’s Story

Harbors of Grace

June 7, 2015

Harbors of Grace

by Molly Davis


A dear friend is moving to a town in Maryland named Havre de Grace….Harbor of Grace.  It is a perfectly named town for her new home, as she is a grandmother raising one of her beloved granddaughters who, without the need for any shared details, has found in her grandmother’s love and devotion, a harbor of grace in which to live for a few short years.  As a card I recently read said, “A ship in a harbor is safe.  But that is not what ships are made for.”…..We are not meant to live in the safe waters of a harbor forever either.  But, we all have need of shelter in our storms.  Ours is to know when to seek the safety of a harbor, and when to provide that for someone else in need.

My best friend Kristine’s almost 90 year old momma, Darlene, passed away yesterday.  During the days and hours and moments before she left us, harbors of grace showed up everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Under Construction

March 23, 2015

The words you speak become the house you live in.  Hafiz

Glenwood October 2007 026

The house we built started out on a napkin in the bar at Paradise Lodge in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.  We were on our way back from dropping the last daughter off at college, and I needed a distraction to keep from thinking about our nest that was now empty.  Over a glass of wine my husband and I began to imagine a new nest.  A rustic home that we imagined would become a gathering place for those we loved.  Eight years later, what we imagined on a napkin now sits firmly grounded in  the shadow of Mt. Adams, gathering those we love as often as we can all manage.  What we imagined began as thoughts, the thoughts became the words that found our builder, who ordered the supplies that became our home.  One board at a time, nail by nail, our house was built, upon the foundation of our thoughts, imagination and words.

Read the rest of this entry »


September 30, 2014

WE Are The Life of The Party  by Molly Davis

Together around an outdoor fire, a group of us have shown up to continue our conversation about the matters that matter to each of us, and ultimately, to all of us. The good, hard, sometime exhilarating and often scary work of learning to live our own genuine lives. A lifelong process. Perhaps the process.

As we make our way through the evening, I am struck both by the commonality of our desire to be our most authentic selves and, by the uniqueness of what each person in front of the fire brings to our collective party.

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Starting from the left and moving around our little circle:

She always brings something unexpected and more than a wee bit magical. A poem, a story, a question, which is usually preceded with a few words about not being sure why this offering, for this night. But, she has obviously learned to trust that inner nudge which I’ve yet to see lead her or us astray. On the contrary, what she shares moves us both deeper and further. Because of her, we cannot stay in our boxes.

Moving clockwise.
There is a quiet knowing that radiates from her. A sense that she is one of those sacred healers, here to mend our planet and the souls that inhabit it. She brings a kind of gentle fierceness that invites us to find our own brand of strength. The question she poses causes us to ponder long after we have left the warmth of our fire behind. Her smile, which starts in her eyes, is infectious.

Another tick to the right.
She grounds us with her quiet and thoughtful presence. There is a kind of safety in the way in which she listens deeply. While slow to speak, what she says always matters, and it is obvious that it comes from a place of deep self-knowing. From her we learn that an economy of words can carry a wealth of wisdom.

Uh-oh. My turn.
(While it is always easier to illuminate the gifts of others, understanding what I bring is equally important. So here goes.)
I provide a space in which we can all show up. As ourselves. The real ones. As I listen for the message beneath the words, a question takes shape in my mind that I can ask of us all. And in searching for answers together we are able to find our own ways forward.

The empty chair to my left.
She sits in her home 100 miles away, and yet is as present in the room as the rest of us. By trusting the voice within, she knew that she needed to stay put. In saying ‘no’ to joining us, she said a powerful ‘yes” to herself. It takes courage to act on our own behalf. Her willingness to choose to honor her self encourages us to do the same.

Completing the circle.
She is the spark that keeps us gathering in front of this fire and reminds us that we aren’t meant to fend for ourselves. Often the first to talk about the “hard” of finding our way, she opens the door for the rest of us to keep it real and talk about what is below all of our fairly together surfaces. And, she is usually the first to swear… for which I am eternally grateful!

Seeing the individual amidst the collective is a reminder to bring what we have to any and every party to which life invites us. Work. Family. Friendships. Communities. The world. Each one of us brings something that no one else can. Together, we are the life of the party.

Whatever you have…. BRING IT!

Just One Thing

August 27, 2014


Just One Thing by Molly Davis

The other evening I had a small gathering of women from our little town. No agenda. Nothing special on our minds except to have some time together on a beautiful evening. As the sky grew darker, the lights still up from our daughter’s glorious outdoor wedding last month glowed above us and out into the nearby pines. Night sounds floated in on the cooling night air; cows in the distance, evening bird song, a few dogs barking and then the sweetly eerie cry of a coyote. It was a time of ease, space and grace.

I had decided to make the evening simple. No big production of food or even cleaning up. I think I swept the floor before they came…but I’m not sure. I made my favorite popcorn concoction which includes butter (lots), salt (plenty) and big flake brewers yeast (enough). That and a couple of bottles of wine and the Piano Guys on my iPad. 

We’ve all been talking about the importance of connecting and spending time with other women.

There is magic that happens when women gather.

The conversation settled into an easy rhythm, threaded together by a common theme; the importance of living authentically and fully,finding purposeful work that uses our gifts, fills us up and does a bit of good in the world. While we all are living in the midst of different chapters and circumstances, the same thoughts and questions seemed to be coursing through our veins. Somewhere along the way, one of the women read a poem she brought to share. “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, reminding us that we all have a place “…in the family of things.” We all took home a copy. And then I asked a question, “What is one thing you feel called to do right now?” No further explanation was needed, as I knew that every women on that porch had the answer within. It was a matter of trusting what she heard and bringing it out in the open to consider. After living for 60 years, if I know one thing to be true, it is that we each have an inner GPS. There are a ton of other voices, maps and directions that vie for space on our radar screens. Tuning into the one that is ours is the trick. And, it is one that even the oldest of dogs can learn. Trust me on that.

One by one we answered, each in our own time. And it was true, we all knew what that one thing was.

Make an appointment with the life coach whose name and number has been quietly waiting on her desk.

Get out those pencils she bought a month ago and start drawing.

Begin journaling to excavate the creative work that lies beneath her surface.

Keep on writing that book. Everyday.

Spend time in quietness, just listening.

Just one thing.

It is how any and everything begins.

What is just one thing you know you are called to do today?


The Busy Trap…

March 31, 2013

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The following text is a June 2012 New York Times blog post by writer-cartoonist Tim Kreider called « The ‘Busy’ Trap »:

« If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in [a hospital’s intensive care unit] or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 [grade point average] make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was [rendered obsolete] when “menu” buttons appeared on [TV remote controls], so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the [Metropolitan Museum of Art] or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy. »


by sisterarnell

I am tired down to my bones. Tired of trying to explain why I am tired. Tired of fighting all the little things that add up to a mountain and a constant uphill trudge.

This Steubenville rape case is just the last straw. If you haven’t heard the words “rape culture” by now, you must have been ignoring the whole thing, which I probably should have done, but I just couldn’t.

I’m going to soapbox here for a minute.

Rape culture is a society giving women a list of do’s and don’t’s that boil down to “make sure he rapes the other girl.”

Rape culture is a society where women are scared to go out by themselves at night.

Can we think about that for a minute? We’ve created a society where women are scared to be by themselves. Isn’t that horrifying? The ability to be alone, to be yourself, to choose to do whatever you want is limited because of fear.

I’m scared to go camping by myself. Not because of the wild animals, but because of the wild humans who are more terrifying than any bear or cougar. They will just maul you to death and then eat your corpse. It will hurt for a bit, but it will be over quickly, especially if the cougar manages to get the right bite on the back of your skull to sever the spinal column.

No, it’s the humans that do the real damage. It’s the humans that leave scars that last a lifetime. It’s the humans who play with your body and kill your soul. It’s the humans who think they have a right to your body because you chose to walk by yourself home from the library after studying for three hours for that physiology final you have tomorrow. Or because you wore your hair in a ponytail so obviously you want someone to grab you by it and throw you to the ground. Or because you walked by a construction site. Or a dorm. Or down the street in your neighborhood.

It’s the humans who say, “hey, she was drunk.” Who blame a girl, not even a woman, for “bad judgment” because getting intoxicated obviously causes boys to forcibly penetrate you repeatedly, take pictures of it, send them to their friends, laughing about what you did. It’s the humans who excuse this behavior because boys will be boys, and skill at sports washes away any “mistakes.” And then sentences you to less time in prison than you would get for pirating a DVD or possessing cocaine. What does that tell the victim? You are less important to society than a bootleg of Gigli. 

Rape is not a mistake. You don’t just fall over and end up with your penis in someone’s vagina or anus. You don’t accidentally rape someone. Rape takes intent. It’s an act of power over someone who you consider less than, non-human, the other. It’s not about sex and boys are horny and it just happens. It’s about perpetrators not thinking their victim is a person.

Stop teaching “boys are boys.” I have a son. He’s a total boy. But he’s not an asshole. Boys don’t have to be assholes. You have to teach them to be assholes. And really, when advertisements feature women selling everything, it creates a culture where the women are just objects that are for sale. The female body is something to be consumed, that is designed to be looked at, that exists to be looked at.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of a culture that thinks it is okay for you to come talk to me on the subway, and when I am not interested, I’m automatically a bitch or a lesbian. You know what? You don’t have a right to my time or attention any more than you have a right to my body. I do not exist for your ends. I am an end in and of myself and you do not own me. So if I choose to spend time with you, consider yourself lucky, and if I don’t want to spend time with you, that’s not my problem, because I do not have responsibilities to you other than to respect you as a person. And I’ll do that.

And if you bitch to your friends about how the girls never like the nice guy, because they are really selfish shallow status-obsessed bitches who always friendzone you, then you’re not really a nice guy, you’re a misogynist in nice guy clothing.* And if you think for one instant that anything a woman does entitles you to have sex with her other than her explicit consent, you are wrong. Because if you do, then I am going to walk up to you and hit you with a baseball bat. Because you didn’t say no, so that means you are consenting to it.

Unconscious means no.

Wearing a mini skirt means no.

Walking by herself means no.

Hair in a ponytail. NO.

Hair not in a ponytail. NO.

She’s had sex with you before. NO.

She’s had sex with your friends. NO.

She’s never had sex. NO.

She flirted with you. NO.

She drank alcohol. NO.

She did drugs. NO.

I mean, really. You learned no when you were a two year old. How difficult is it to get this through your mind, society? The default of “can I have sex with this woman or man” is no. NO NO NO. Just stop it.

And yes, I know people will say, that focusing on changing the behavior of the rapist is unrealistic. You know what? I don’t care. According to RAINN,almost 2/3rds and 38% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. You know what that means? You aren’t safe with your friends. We’ve created a culture that means most people are not safe ever. And nothing about the way I dress is going to change that. So stop telling me that I should spend my life expecting to be raped, because that is wrong. You create that culture by saying it. And then excusing it by blaming the victim. And then creating a culture that is so misogynistic about the treatment of victims that only 3% of rapists actually spend any time in prison.

Women are people. Men are people. Stop raping people.

And, because I’m going to assume that the people reading this are the ones who wouldn’t rape someone, though statistically, who knows, I have some advice for you too.

Stop rape culture. Stop laughing at jokes that objectify and sexualize women. Stop consuming media that sexualizes women. Stop making excuses for men being assholes. Name and shame, people. Name the behavior when you see it. Point out how this perpetuates a culture that promotes a society that makes people into victims, and victims into the cause instead of the effect. I’ve read enough social construction IR theory to know that this works if people are committed to making a change. So put it into action.

Stop rape. Stop rape culture.

Body language doesn’t lie, and the concept of shameillustrates this notion. Ask a woman to describe shame as a physical response, and the phrase “she hung her head in shame” will probably come up. It’s a revealing gesture. When you drop your head, you avert your gaze and avoid looking others in the eye. It suggests that you see yourself as inferior to your peers, unworthy, not deserving of face-to-face human contact.Shame is personal and quiet, not loud and attention-getting. If emotions had a gender, shame would be female. Girls and women seem to feel it more acutely — and more frequently — than boys and men. Perhaps that’s why shame is the least-discussed of the powerful emotions. There are tens of thousands of books on finding love, facing fear, reigniting passion, overcoming sorrow, and moving beyond regret. But there are precious few about shame — its causes, impact, and legacy — probably because it’s so uncomfortable to confront and so challenging to address. If anger blazes and love embraces, shame is slippery and repels any efforts to grab hold. Yet shame contains a little piece of nearly every emotion that drives us forward and holds us back. Bundled up in our shame is fear of being unloved, sorrow at what we’ve lost, and passion swamped by regret.Since shame is so unique to each of us, what’s shameful to one woman may not be to another. This fact makes it tough to convey stories of shame and redemption because shame is such an intimate emotion. Telling our shameful secrets isn’t as easy as it sounds. The only confessions of shame that can be universally understood are the authentic ones. The others frequently fall flat. But for those individuals who dare to uncover the deep places of pain, empathy and compassion aren’t the only reward. When light and air enter a dim space, the darkness dissipates.

Going Public With Shame

The title Dancing at the Shame Prom is a wonderful metaphor for this anthology of 27 stories on facing and overcoming shame. In their introduction, editors Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter “invite you to…a place where we wear our ugly dresses, then shed them. Where we parade our shame in public, dance it around…and take awkward pictures with it. But this time…we’re breaking up with Shame and driving off into the sunset, stronger in knowing that we are connected at the deepest, most human level.”And to their credit, Ferris and Dexter are the belles of this particular ball, contributing two of the collection’s most poignant, gut-wrenching tales. They spin and weave through their dances with shame with total honesty, revealing vulnerable childhoods and adult lives which continued to reverberate with hidden pain despite their seeming normalcy.Dexter’s “In the Name of the Father” tells the story of a girl so traumatized by her teenage mother’s attempt to erase her past and create a new identity that her former last name became an F word provoking fear and anxiety. (She depicts her early years so movingly that after reading her story you’ll never hear the name “Fisher” again without recalling the author.)

Ferris’s “Bits & Pieces for Five Hundred” takes us inside a dysfunctional marriage as seen through a child’s eyes. From her account of the dirty joke she unwittingly told her class for show-and-tell through her mother’s barrage of verbal abuses, we feel how Ferris was made small by years of shame and humiliation.

If this sounds too heavy to bear, it’s not. Both stories (like all the others) end with their authors coming to terms with their shame and finding power in letting go.

Shame in All Its Forms

More than half the stories in the anthology are standouts. These run the gamut from the horrific to the painfully familiar.”What I Know of Silence,” Brooke Elise Axtell’s agonizing tale of being raped and forced into pornography by a babysitter when she was a young girl, ends with her on a healing path as she speaks out for sexual assault survivors. Robyn Hatcher’s “Stinkin’ Shame” blends humor and yearning in a story of a shy girl driven to be the “Super Special Black Girl” thereby proving her worth. In “The Hair Manifesto,” Marianne Schnall tells how a common problem — a girl’s struggle to tame her unruly hair — ballooned into more extreme self-makeovers which included eating disorders and even a name change. Marcia G. Yerman’s “The Jump Rope Line” recounts how her extreme anxiety as a child manifested as physical symptoms, and how she battles feelings of alienation to this day.Even if their situations are remote from your own experiences, the telling brings up emotions we all share — feelings that none of us are exempt from.

Shamefully Honest

In the book Telling True Stories: A Non-Fiction Writer’s Guide, journalist Ted Conover writes, “Honesty is very important in the first person. Readers see right through a narrator who is putting on airs,” and adds, “A smart journalist always remembers that even though its first person, the subject isn’t me. It’s them. The reader roots for a humble narrator.”If this collection fails to earn five stars, it’s because of a handful of essays penned by women who — while paying lip service to shame — failed to embrace its lessons and kept the feeling at arm’s length. Their lack of humility and relatively weak narratives, not to mention their “shame” over comparatively minor indiscretions, were off-putting in the early pages of the book and almost made me lay asideShame Prom. However, these few stories were the exception rather than the rule.Those who had the courage to approach shame with humility in their voices and candor in their narratives give Shame Prom its jolt of authenticity, and two that illustrate this simple truth are Kristine Van Raden’s “Mother of the Year” and her daughter Kate Van Raden’s companion piece, “I Love Me, I Love Me Not.” Both get to the heart of one of the most compelling themes in the anthology — a mother’s sense of shame at not being able to fix her child’s life, and the feelings of inadequacy that arise from that failure. Kristine is unflinching in relating how she might have influenced her daughter’s slide into anorexia through various words and deeds. Her desire to find a simple solution in the midst of chaos and helplessness is a wish we know will not come true.

Also noteworthy in its equally unflinching approach is Jenny Rough’s “Raising a Cowbird.” Her very real reluctance at the idea of adopting a child is a viewpoint few have the courage to express, and it’s the kind of story that makes Shame Prom live up to its bold concept. No matter what you believe, Rough offers up an honest voice that resonates deeply with the reader.

“Everyone is Invited to Dance”

While a few gems are scattered throughout the beginning, the strongest entries are in the latter two-thirds of the book. Wisely, the editors chose to close out the anthology with the explosive “1329 Lynx Trail” by Samantha Dunn, a tale that reads like a storyboard for the reality TV series Hoarders. It’s a wonderful, terrible, stomach-twisting account of a mother-daughter pair locked in a conflict that we know will end disastrously. Raw in many places and often difficult to get through despite the crisp, clean prose, it nonetheless closes on a redemptive note. If Dunn could come to terms with her shame, any of us can. Her message, “You are not the only one,” echoes the invitation issued by Ferris and Dexter at the beginning: “Welcome to the Shame Prom where everyone is invited to dance.”Even if you’re a confirmed wallflower, get up out of that chair, grab your most shameful memory and hold it close before you kiss it goodbye. Ultimately, that’s what this anthology will give you the courage to do. Dancing at the Shame Prom is a long overdue invitation that no woman should turn down.

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small
Edited by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter

Paperback, 264pp. ISBN: 978-1580054164
Seal Press (September 11, 2012)

Molly and I recently had the opportunity to speak at the 2012 Women At Woodstock Conference. While it is always a privilege to do our work and teach the things we are so passionate about, one of our greatest joys comes from who we meet and what we learn from them.

This was an exceptional gathering of women. The following article was written by one.

Thank you Janet.


……this comes from a workshop that I attended during the Women at Woodstock 2012 retreat by a couple of spectacular gals from Matters that Matter.  You know that instance when you’re asked for something and you DON’T say what you really want to.  Well, that happened to me.  It’s happened in the past.  I am learning.  I am learning that you can’t always be prepared for what comes your way.  I am learning that what you think “should” happen isn’t always what does happen.  When I think of things that matter, and how I could say things when I want them to matter, I think of that workshop.

We don’t always get rehearsal time.  What happens when someone throws a curve ball our way?  Do we dodge it?  Do we get hit by it?  Do we catch it and run, or swing and hit?  Clearly this is all metaphorical, but what do you do?  Think on that for a sec; one instance where someone “hit” you with something you didn’t expect, and what you do when they do.

I know what I used to do, and I know what I try to do now.  I used to catch it and run, or in other words, absorb what was given and do whatever it takes to make the situation better, or make it go away, or eventually make it so every one involved is as happy with the results as possible.  Whoa.  That was a lot of energy.

Here’s what I try to do now.  I think on things for a bit.  Sometimes I’m annoyed at how long I think about things but that’s in my DNA:)   Then, and most importantly, I say what I truly mean.  It sounds very simple yet is extremely difficult.  It sounds tough but is actually quite rewarding.  My hope is that with an equal blend of kindness, fairness, and honesty I can say what is in my heart.  My hope is that as I age and my time on this planet gets less and less, I stand tall in my own self worth and my own value.  My hope is that as I choose my words in matters that matter, I am kind, and fair, and honest.  I have earned the right to say no, to disagree, to have an opinion.  I choose to say what I mean, and mean what I say.  Kindly.  Fairly.  Honestly.

Think on that.  And try not to be so easily offended.  Maybe when you hear words that are unsettling, it comes from someone trying to say what they mean and mean what they say.  Maybe they’re learning.  Ask them.  Did they intend to offend, or intend to be honest.  And if you’ve got this all down pat then kudos to you.  Keep up the good work and help those around you by not throwing curve balls.  Do unto others….as they say.

Again, think on it.  Doing or saying what’s in your heart is not always second nature.  We tend to do or say what we think our loved ones want us to do or say. There is the power within each of us to practice new things.  Hmmmmm…..

That’s what I mean, so I said it.  Amen.

And go forth with Peace.  It’s such a wondrous thing.


Shame is an internal, insidious experience that lives in the body. It can be one of the most devastating emotions because it often leads to isolation, which can then increase the entrenchment. Shame and bodily shame have been strongly associated with eating disorders and, in my experience, oftentimes prevents those suffering from seeking the help they so desperately need. Unknowingly, the dust of shame can sprinkle for generations to come.


Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter compiled stories of shame in their new book, Dancing at the Shame Prom (available now through This honest, vulnerable and beautiful collection recognizes the impact of shame on self-esteem, self-worth and the way we move through the world. Twenty-six courageous women shared their stories of letting go and breaking through the shame that has blanked them for too long. I can’t recommend this book enough and believe that everyone can relate to the suffocating grip of shame. I encourage you all to bump this book up to the top of your list and when you’re done, consider writing your own shame story.


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a mother, Kristine, and daughter, Kate, who shared their individual stories of going through Kate’s battle with anorexia. Below are their interviews.


Kristine Van Raden stumbled upon a bit of a miracle 15 years ago with her best friend Molly Davis. A shared idea led to an interesting project, which led to a dinner party with a slightly inebriated and highly enthusiastic publisher. Soon Kristine and Molly were interviewing strangers on street corners, produce sections of grocery stores -even on an elevator trip up the Eiffel tower- compiling a collection of letters from women around the world which became Letters to Our Daughters (Hyperion,1999). Since then, they formed Matters That Matter (LLC), offering workshops around the country, building upon the honesty and transparency of the women they have met throughout this experience. They have come to understand that we are all more alike than we are different, and that if we can get past the differences, there are common threads that connect us as human beings (taken fromDancing at the Shame Prom). Here is Kristine’s interview:


What made you decide to share your story?
It was a bit of a miracle, the way I met Amy Ferris and in the past few years, when life overwhelmed me, Amy seemed to intuitively know to reach out, call or email. She listened, empathized and was able to make me laugh at times I thought impossible. I shared with her, our family’s ordeal regarding Kate’s eating disorder. Amy never judged. Instead she shared her own pain and vulnerability. Through exposing our shameful stories with one another, we developed a safe and trusted friendship.

We had spoken of a potential project (Shame Prom) that she and Hollye Dexter had dreamed about. I wanted to do what I could to support them, initially thinking I could introduce them to women I thought might have something incredible to contribute. That’s about the time Amy asked if Kate and I might consider writing a co-op piece about life with an eating disorder.

For the first 2 years of dealing with Kate’s anorexia, we as a family made a pact to honor her request that we didn’t tell people about her struggle. She was ashamed, embarrassed and lost as how to navigate her life with this all consuming disorder. There were so many secrets, so much avoidance. In time and with great caution she started speaking about therapy, what she was learning, how she was relating to food and how anorexia effected her life.

I considered what I might have to say about Shame. I have never known the-likes-of such darkness; the shame of failing my child…the shame of not being able to make things right for her, the shame of being such an inadequate mother. I asked Kate how she would feel about me submitting a piece for consideration in an anthology about shame, exploring, from a mother’s perspective, what life with an eating disorder is like.

As we talked about it Kate started to consider her own shame…what it had been, and how it had evolved. We realized how closed we all were for so long, and how we had started to open as we all continued to heal. Kate was strong and confident enough to agree. It felt right; the time, the opportunity, the women involved. Kate and I agreed that sharing our perspectives had merit, not just for ourselves, but for those who might be struggling with similar issues. We both knew it was time to come out of the darkness and offer a little light for others.


What was the most challenging part of writing your essay?
All I did for weeks, every time I tried to write, was sob…sob and sob some more. I had worked so hard for so long, in secrecy and shame. My only priority being to protect and encourage my daughter. That often meant being strong, showing little to no emotion…doing anything it took to move her forward.

Once I got passed the avalanche of emotions, I started to get in touch with my experiences. Remembering was hard on so many levels, but remembering also helped me to realize how far we have come.

I thought I had reconciled that Kate’s anorexia was not my fault. But as I started to write, all those feelings came right back and suffocated me for a day or two. It was Kate, again, that assured me, that I was not to blame.

Exploring and expressing my shame, my failure, and my shortcomings as they relate to Kate’s suffering was both unbearable and freeing.

Did you learn anything about yourself by going through this writing process?
Oh, where do I begin? Because I loved my children with every ounce of my being, I assumed that their lives would take a certain shape, look like a particular “thing” that I had in mind. Love doesn’t create a specific outcome. Love does provide constance through life’s challenges. I have learned to let go of my expectations and I have learned to do so with so much less fear.

I think most parents live under the assumption, that at least on some levels, they are in control of their children’s lives and therefore their destinies. Trying to hold onto that premise represents constant heartache. Of course it is a parents job to love, protect, educate and nurture, but that has to all come under the umbrella of letting go…of recognizing that their lives are just that: Their lives. Just as our parents couldn’t prevent the heartache, suffering and times of agony for any of us, so it is with parents today.


I have worn out the expression, “Life is hard, gear up”, with my children. I knew it would be hard. I just never expected it to be this hard.

How has sharing your story helped you?
Kate, and therefore our family, has struggled and worked so very hard to understand and tame the eating disorder that haunts her. While we have celebrated every victory, no matter how small; pizza in a restaurant, the end of diet pills, a first date with an interesting young man, ice cream, when we finished our Shame Prom contributions, we literally screamed for joy, danced like crazy and felt more free than we had in a long time.

What did you find most helpful throughout Kate’s recovery process?
What I found most helpful was Kate’s attitude and willingness to try, fail, try, fail and try again. While she was getting educated, so were we. We read everything we could get our hands on. We sought out professionals on all levels who had experience and were willing to share information. We worked with Kate to create safe food, safe meals. She was courageous enough to teach us what she needed. We were eager to learn. Kate started individual therapy right away, as well as family therapy. With guidance and education we learned that this was no one’s fault. When we all stopped blaming ourselves treatment became much more effective.

We had the privilege and opportunity of walking along side Kate every step of the way. Were there times I wanted to run for the hills? Hell yes! But I know that our family, united in her wellness and recovery was our strongest asset.

The book that I recommend to anyone who asks is Brave Girl Eating, by Harriet Brown. Harriet tells her story in such a way that I felt like I had found my path, my voice for the first time in this agonizing process.


What did you learn about yourself through Kate’s recovery and being a loving and concerned parent?
As I mentioned, the hardest thing for me to come to grips with was that all of the love, devotion, time, investment in my child could not spare her from such devastating heartache…at that when under full attack, I couldn’t protect her from it. Raising children, we learn to solve so many crises; big ones, small ones. I think we fool ourselves into thinking that we have power over what causes them harm. I have learned that I have the extraordinary power to love my children, come what may.

Having gone through this experience, what message and/or advice would you give to parents of those struggling with eating disorders?
Trust your instincts. At the earliest sign of concern, seek help. If the help you have isn’t right, seek a different solution. This often means coming up against an angry, unwilling child. So be it! If they don’t agree to help, start the process for yourself. Get educated. Get informed.

Do you have anything else that you would like to say to your readers?
I continue to remind Kate of her progress…where she started and where she is today. A person who lives with an eating disorder loses sight of their accomplishments, because in the world we live in they may seem trivial. But like Harriet Brown so appropriately titled her book, Brave Girl Eating, everyday having to face the “enemy” and make peace with it..understand that the thing you hate is also the thing that will keep you alive, will insure your future…so so brave.


I tell people that drug and alcohol addicts can live without their vices and dependencies, but people with eating disorders cannot live without food.


Kate Van Raden is a self-taught photographer who pens both a fashion blog and poetry blog: She is also a twenty-seven year old woman who has struggled with the trials and tribulations of anorexia for the better part of five years; throughout college and modeling in New York. She is currently juggling a zoology degree, a full time job and her continued pursuit of wellness. Kate continues to attend treatment and therapy for her mental illness; making great strides towards increasing personal capabilities for love, growth and self-acceptance; all the while, passionately and vigorously committing herself to her work with endangered species. Kate lives with her three-year old hedgehog Rosebud in an apartment in Portland, Oregon (taken from Dancing at the Shame Prom). Here is Kate’s interview:


How did shame contribute to your eating disorder and/or seeking help?


We all live with shame. Some of us try to make up for the things we are ashamed of, some of try to change; and some of us try to hide these things. As a beloved partner faded from my life, I reverted to the feeling I knew best and felt most comfortable with: shame. I punished myself for failing the relationship. I loathed the things about myself that I perceived as the flaws that were unlovable. I threw myself into ‘improving.’ I thought if people couldn’t see my imperfections, that they would accept me, like me, not be disgusted by me…not leave me. The harder I worked to perfect my appearance, the more ashamed of myself I became. The harder I worked to seem perfect, the more magnified my flaws became to me. As I spiraled into Anorexia, I became increasingly engulfed in a shame that was so overpowering, I pulled further and further away from anyone who could get too close; eventually moving to the other side of the country from my entire community of family and friends. As if slinking away to a cave, in NY no one knew me and no one noticed me. The more shame I felt about WHO I was, the more I starved my body, and the more I starved my body, the more I starved my life. I won’t go into the extremes that my disorder reached (that is fairly well detailed in the book, if interested), but I began to deteriorate so quickly that it wasn’t long before I couldn’t work and felt convinced I couldn’t leave my apartment; as ashamed as I was of myself. I guess I would say that the shame of failing to achieve this perceived perfection through my resolve to be “thin,” and failing to manage my illness, made me feel ashamed. When I realized I couldn’t manage it myself, I had to come clean with my physical and mental struggles and accept help. That meant surrendering; accepting and putting on all the self-loathing and disgust I had been running from for years. I would often feeling dependent and weak, humiliated, worthless…leaving me convinced I had failed myself and the people I love. The only way I could salvage respect for myself, was to make a commitment to fight. I decided one late morning in fall, sitting in the car with my parents in our drive way…to fight.


From the time I was young I wanted my family to be proud of me…on so many levels. I’ve been blessed with a loving family and have always wanted to feel like I measured up, contributed. I have always worked hard at the challenges before me; school, college, scholarships, foreign exchange, relationships, etc. I guess you could say I am a pleaser. I wanted to please those who loved me and I wanted to feel successful in my own right.


What did you find most helpful in your recovery?
Honesty. When you are living with an eating disorder, your life becomes a lie; the lies you tell others about your health and weight, the lies your eating disorder tells you about your self-worth, your body, your perceptions, the lies you tell yourself about listening to the influence of the eating disorder…at least in my experience, giving myself the gift of honesty was the moment I saw hope. To this day, being completely honest and candid with myself and those I love is one of the most important tools I use to maintain my health. In my family, we don’t lie. We don’t let things hide in the dark anymore…we stand up and bare the horrible, terrible, unacceptable truths about ourselves, and give one another the chance to love us anyway. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. Without question, the unconditional love and support of my family kept me afloat many times when I couldn’t see my way clear to the next step. We have done it all together: family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists and hypnotists…read all the books, talked with experts, traveled to clinics, sought help and support where ever possible. I had committed to recovery, and I would NOT fail at that.


Early in my recovery, I was encouraged to attend a week-long intensive program led by Geneen Roth, author of When Food is Love. While I was the only participant suffering with anorexia, I came to understand that food is a struggle for so many. It represents how we value ourselves, how we love and care for ourselves as well as our perceived self-worth. I left with more tools, and a gentler perception of myself and my struggle. I had begun to feel less shame around my personal struggle by sharing it with others and allowing them to share theirs with me.


What made you decide to share your story?
For the first three years of my recovery, I asked my family to keep my illness secret. In earnest, for the first year that I was back in Oregon and going to day treatment 8 hours a day, I insisted that they keep even my presence in Portland a secret from all but grandmothers and siblings. I didn’t want to be “that girl.” The girl everyone pitied and watched for signs of mental illness. As I have gotten stronger and more confident about my recovery and about my self-worth in general, I have opened up a bit at a time. After almost 5 years battling my illness, I began feeling that I wanted to reach out and help someone else. I could finally understand that I really had accomplished significant progress in recovery; more than had ever been promised to me, or expected. I was ready for a next step. The next step for me meant that I would no longer live with the “shame” of hiding my eating disorder. There are still shockingly few resources for people struggling with eating disorders. As hungry as my family and I have been for knowledge and research, it has always been an ordeal to seek out new materials. For all these reasons, when The Shame Prom landed in our laps, my mother and I felt compelled to participate. I don’t mean to say that I felt no apprehension about publishing my most shameful moments alone, but I felt deep in my heart that I was being called to do so.

What was the most challenging part of writing your essay?
The most difficult part of writing my essay was being willing to look back. I have worked so hard to move past the constant sense of self-loathing; it was scary to conjure those thoughts and feelings again, relive the darkness that threatened to swallow me up. I hesitated weeks in starting my piece, purely because I felt an excitement in my body; my Anorexia, sensing an opportunity, and clambering to push me back under the tyranny of hateful self-talk. When I sat down to write, I told myself ‘Remember everything you have learned. You have earned the right to expose this ruthless disease…don’t spare one drop of blood’.

How has sharing your story helped you?
My mom and I spent months writing, reading and editing together. We laughed and sobbed over the trials and tribulations we have experienced together through this process. We sent our pieces together. When we pushed the “send” button I had an overwhelming sense of freedom. “The truth shall set you free” rang true for me in that moment. I genuinely embraced the spirit of the project and decided, “You know what; this is who I am, YES I struggle like everyone else, and I am done pretending that I don’t. I will live an authentic life and embrace the consequences.” Realizing how far I have come, from secrets kept in the dark, to truth shared in the light…I much prefer the light.

Did you learn anything about yourself by going through this writing process?
Life with an eating disorder is a devastating experience. Day after day the battle to eat, or not eat consumes every waking moment. Even today with all the skills and knowledge I have ascertained, each day there is a spirit of deprivation inside me that would like me to believe I don’t deserve to want, need, or eat food. I know this about my brain and body, and there is a constant energy management happening in order for me to resist that feeling. Stresses of life and the occasional moments of insecurity can still be all it takes to unravel my ability to resist the self-flagellation. I felt for so long that I was an eating disorder…that it defined me and left me void of those parts of myself I once recognized as good and capable. Writing my story allowed me to see the difference between the eating disorder and ‘me.’ I am not my eating disorder. Anorexia and Kate Van Raden have different values, different perceptions, different experiences and different desires. I am so much more than some illness; and now that I am aware and informed, I can be more compassionate to other people’s struggles. I value the place I have chosen in the world, and can now accept the love that has always been available to me. I have a future that resonates with hope.

Are you still modeling? If so, how is that experience for you today?
Hell NO! I only began modeling because I was already ill and thin enough to make some money doing it. There was not one thing about that career that made me feel validated or beautiful. People are always surprised to hear that, but then I explain to them:
Imagine, if you go to a casting, you know they are looking for a model of your ‘type’. So you walk into a room of 200 girls who look eerily like you, but slightly taller, or thinner, or with fuller lips and better skin. A casting director looks at you once and says ‘Turn. Oh god no, her thighs are too thick for the pants. And her eyebrows are terrible. That mole splits her lip line…no no no, we can’t use this. NEXT!”


Living to please an industry that not only demands perfection, but seeks to annihilate diversity (in order to sell us all their image of what every person is supposed to be) was never something I could resolve with my personal values. I believe that beauty, real beauty, includes the entire range of shapes, colors and sizes…that is the spice of life!

How do you keep yourself healthy today?
I am still in regular therapy with someone I have a great deal of respect for. I look for opportunities to get more insight and more education whenever possible; be that a course in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), mindful meditation or a new book about neuroplasticity. I try to be transparent with my family when I am struggling and welcome their support and guidance. But mostly, I now thoughtfully greet myself each morning with love. I take opportunities throughout my day to feel appreciation for my body; all I have put it through and how faithfully it continues to let me play, learn, feel pleasure, love, and yes, eat. When you are constantly making the choice to offer yourself this kind of compassion, the things about eating that can be hard, get easier.

Having gone through this experience, what message and/or advice would you give to anyone struggling with food, weight and body image?
First, you are not alone. You may think the things you have felt and done throughout your experience are more awful, more disgusting, more shameful than anyone can imagine…so pick one person you love and trust most in the world and test that theory out on them. You must give someone the opportunity to know (and yes, I understand, possibly reject) the real authentic you, in order to feel that ‘authentic you’ authentically accepted, warts and all. I would venture to guess that those who love you will pleasantly surprise you with the depth of their compassion and understanding. Of course, there will be people on the path who don’t understand and cannot offer that compassion…but in my personal experience, those are the people who are probably not meant to walk your path with you. I have come to understand that the longer an eating disorder is in place, the harder it is to move beyond it. The sooner one can release the shame about this particular struggle, the shorter the climb is out of the darkness. I know now that just like anyone else, I am worthy of a life filled with peace, self-acceptance, love and kindness. So I encourage anyone who lives under the presumption that they are unworthy of these things, to make it their business to defy that thinking. Start by testing it. Allow some space in the iron clad will of your eating disorder, for some doubt. That cruel voice, she could be wrong (mine is a ‘she’).

Do you have anything else that you would like to say to your readers?
You are beautiful. There is no one on this planet who can replace YOU. You have as much right to have flaws as anyone else on this planet. You have the right to accept those flaws and not feel shame because of that. While it is wonderful to choose a path towards being the best human being possible, it should be a choice made out of self-love and not self-loathing; so be aware of how you talk to yourself and what is motivating your choices.


I am living with an eating disorder. I am not an eating disorder. I am an individual with strengths and weaknesses and I am going to spend the rest of my life celebrating those strengths, learning about those weaknesses and giving myself the gift of peace.


I want to express my deep gratitude to both Kristine and Kate for continuing their courageous contributions to the issues of shame and eating disorders. Without a doubt, your stories have already helped many. Thank you both!


And to Amy and Hollye, for embarking on such an important project, for giving these 26 women voices to express what has felt inexpressible and for inspiring countless others to begin their own journey.



Aging in America isn’t always easy, especially when we’re bombarded with messages trying to convince us that youth equals beauty. ‘Old’ is something we should avoid at all costs, they seem to tell us, and if we don’t . . . well, maybe it’s time to just step aside.

It’s enough to make women run for the hills, or to the nearest plastic surgeon.

That’s not what I chose to do after turning 50. Instead, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, interviewed experts on just about everything, followed the programs and advice, and wrote The Best of Everything After 50. As I inch my way toward 56, I feel way better now than I did a decade ago, ready to take on whatever is next.

But, that’s only part of the story.

While I was trying to figure it all out, I erroneously imagined I was the only one who was scared and confused by aging. But, little by little as I started talking about it, doing interviews, writing, and connecting with other women on social media, it soon became apparent that I was not alone. We all — with very few exceptions — have many of the same concerns and the more we reach out to each other, I discovered, the more empowered we become. Sure, I learned a great deal from the amazing experts I interviewed. But it’s the real women in my life (some I’ve never even met) who continue to sustain me with their support, encouragement and wisdom.

According to Ann Baker, founder of Women at Woodstock, that makes me an official crone.

Huh? Isn’t that an insulting term for older women? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary called a crone an ugly, withered (and usually wicked) old woman. I was mystified why this lovely woman on the other end of the phone — whom I’d never even met — would call me that with such glee in her voice. Ann quickly explained that women across the country have been embracing the concept of the crone as a ‘wise woman’ and the movement is growing.

The crone, according to legend, is part of a sacred trio — Maiden, Mother, Crone – and because she is the oldest, the crone is also the wisest.

Furthermore, Ann told me, there’s a ritual called the croning where women, usually those who are at least 50 and have gone through menopause (but women of any age can celebrate their croniness!), claim their cronehood very often by throwing a party and inviting all their girlfriends to join in the fun. Or, it can be a more solemn, serious affair. Women all over the country are embracing the concept of the crone in a positive way. It’s all about the act of becoming a wise woman and accepting your rightful place in the world, but it’s also about sharing your knowledge and wisdom with other women of all ages.

Ann had her own croning ceremony to celebrate her 50th birthday, even though she didn’t have any idea what “croning” really meant. She invited women friends to a rented cabin in the country for a weekend, asking each to bring a favorite photo, CD, or DVD. They listened to the music each had brought while cooking together, hiking, and talking. Oh yes . . . there was A LOT of talking going on, especially focusing on what they all still hoped to achieve in the future.

The experience was so incredible she decided to create an annual event for all women over 50, where we could come together, and celebrate who we are now. A few years later, Women at Woodstock was born, an event she hopes to host every year.

I’m proud to say that I was one of the first crones Ann invited to speak at this first Women at Woodstock event, which takes place October 7th through 10th. Click here for the details. Other women who will be croning right along side me include the first editor of Ms. Magazine and best-selling author Suzanne Braun Levine, Robin Plaskoff Horton, founder of Urban Gardens, writer Amy Ferris, cosmetic entrepreneur and former model Cindy Joseph, and many other amazing, accomplished women, uh … crones.

While I didn’t have a croning ceremony when I turned 50 (not complaining: it was a trip to Rome with my husband and two daughters), I’ve been croning ever since. I rely on the solid network of women I’ve built these last few years and every encounter I have with them — face-to-face or virtually — makes us all more powerful.

Celebrating and reveling in your aging self is nothing short of revolutionary. Yes, our society may be tiptoeing into this new way of engaging with post-50 women, but change is most definitely in the air. The cynical side of me thinks marketers see the immense opportunities that the post-50 demographic represents. We are, after all, a large and quickly growing group with lots of disposable income, especially compared to other age groups.

The idealist in me believes that we — those over 50 — have finally gotten our message across, and it’s this:

Embrace your age, engage with life, take control of your future, and live. Care for your body, exercise your mind, be a part of the world, stay connected with people who are supportive, and you’ll discover a secret that many women over 50 who are doing these things already know: If you feel good, you look good. And if you feel and look good, age will be the furthest thing from your mind.

So . . . are you ready to embrace your inner crone?


Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:


 There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?


Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu


 Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.


 Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle


about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!

“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle


 Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.


Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.


Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.


 Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” 
Joseph Campbell


 Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer


Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
 Franklin D. Roosevelt


Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.


I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.


This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another,  attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.


Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.


March 29, 2012


We’ve all had them.

“You said, that I meant, but you did, and then I wasn’t, you’re wrong and I can’t.”

Sometimes, regardless of how sure we are that every rock has been over-turned, every possible outcome discussed and contemplated; roadmaps explored, compass readings, GPS and lining up the stars… we find ourselves surprised when we get to the end of the road with another person and well, they aren’t there. Not standing next to you, not a few steps behind. They flat out aren’t there. So you wait and wait for them to catch up and while you are waiting you notice a wiggly thing way off in the distance, and I’ll be go to hell…there they are, about a bazillion feet off track on a road that you never knew existed.

So as you stand there on your deserted road realizing that all the preparation you did obviously wasn’t enough because you and your companion still ended up on separate paths; you have a couple of choices to consider… (I DO love choices). #1 you could pleasantly wave good-bye to that poor schmuck and just keep heading for your destination. #2 you could start making your way through the prickly brush in the hopes that when they see you coming in their direction, they will do the same and meet you somewhere in the middle. Or #3 you go back to the beginning of the trip, the place you both started and plan and re-plan again in the hopes that this time you will travel more efficiently together.

We base our decisions on how important the outcome/destination is; how much we care about and respect our traveling companion(s); and how we want to feel about ourselves at the end of the trip.

Oh one last point…Money Ruins Everything! Be sure your travel plans include an air tight budget.  “you pay for the gas, I’ll buy the beer and Cheetos…DEAL.”

She Said…

December 19, 2011

She said she couldn’t do it. She said that she would rather die than leave her home. She said that she was so lonely she just couldn’t imagine facing another day. She said that if we took her car away she would just buy a new one. She said that, that dent in the front of her car was not her fault because she didn’t remember hitting anything. She said that she was not as old as all the old people in the dining room. She said that she was afraid she couldn’t keep up. She said she didn’t want to live like this. She said she wanted to see my father one last time. She said she hadn’t slept in nights. She said she slept like a baby. She said she still couldn’t find the bathroom. She said she learned to Wii bowl. She said she missed her own kitchen. She said the food was really good. She said the Girl Scouts who came to carol were adorable. She said she couldn’t wait for baby Eloise to come visit. She said she made a new friend. She said she thought this might turn out all right. She said thank you.