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Archive for August, 2009

Making It Better

I keep doing flashbacks to my last speaking engagement and the one theme that seems to  be of repeated interest, along with some others, is how a person can change their personality so dramatically. I’ve bounced some ideas around in my head and shall share them with you in this blog.

To begin, I think people change all their lives. If you are in mid-life now, are you the same person you were when you were a young adult? If you are even older, are you the same person you were as either a yound adult or a mature adult? I know I’m not. At least, I hope not. I like to think that the experience of living has matured me to the point that I accept some of life’s trevails a bit better and accept things as they are, without beating myself up about changing them.

In my presentation I keep being asked how I was able to leave behind the frightened, insecure, and anxious child/adolescence that I was and “became the Alice” that I seem to be today. Hopefully they mean that I no longer suffer those characteristics. I don’t.

I think the first thing that anyone who is living in a stressful or painful situation must do is to identify what that is. Who or what is causing it? Decide if you can change the person responsible for your problems, or change the situation that is responsible for your problems. Decide what course of action you can take. Decide what consequences your actions would engender. Decide if you are able to, or willing to, handle them. Consider what the future would hold for you if you took no action.

And if you finally make your decision to the take action that would make a change for the positive in your life, are you prepared to fail? I think you must consider how you would handle such a failure and what you would do to keep on the road to bettering your life.

Take for example a person who is an alcoholic whose life is in shambles. That person can remain in a downward spiral, or make the decision to take some action, any action of their choice (there are so many venues to help addicts today) to make a change. Of course there may be setbacks, but that person has already taken the road to making his/her life better.

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I spoke to a group of about 35 to 40 men and women last night about my memoir, Becoming Alice. Surprisingly, there were a number of attendents who had read my book. In fact they had read the first edition of my book. And there were a couple of people who had heard me speak before. So, it was quite a challenge to chose what to say, not wanting to bore any one of those who already knew the story and who already had delved into some of the factors that came into play behind the actual happenings.

Of course, they were familiar with the personalities of the characters in the story and some of the cultural background that explained some of their behaviors. I had to speak about some of the underlying currents that run under the surface between family members, the currents that explain the kind of relationships they have between one another. 

In doing so, I was reminded of one of my mother’s favorite sayings, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” She meant, of course, that children will eventually end up being like their parents. My thought was, “or will they?” I had found a great deal to talk about in my presentation.

Take the case of my father and my brother. I must say that to look at them, you would find many similarities. If you were to see them from the back as they walk down the street, you wouldn’t be able to know which was the father and which was the son. They have the identical gait, a sort of hitch in one leg as they move forward. Also, they clasp their hands behind their backs, European style, when they walk. I could name many more mannerisms that are similar. But what kind of men are they? My father was strong, demanding, rigid, uncompromising. My brother was dependant, easy going, changeable, malleable. How did this apple get carried so far away from the tree?

My  two daughters are complete opposites. My daughter’s sons, my grandsons, are complete opposites. Siblings  can be introverts and extroverts,  leaders and followers, liberals and conservatives, etc. even when they stem from the same gene pool. It’s been my experience that people from the same family are more likely to be different from one another, than similar.

Who ever came up with that saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?”

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I’ve been invited to speak to the Sisterhood at Temple Adat Elohim Monday night, Aug.24th. I especially enjoy the question and answer period that takes place after my address. That is how I have learned what is most meaningful to those that are interested in reading, or have read, Becoming Alice. I shall share all that with you in my next blog.

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I hope you remember that famous scene in the movie “On the Waterfront” where that talented actor, Marlon Brando,  said, “I Coulda Been Somebody…” Actually, you can still see that scene on You Tube. That movie was popular many, many years ago and it got me to thinking of the place I was in at that time.

I was old enough to read the newspaper, particularly the back pages of the Oregonian where they had an expert teach you how to play certain bridge hands. I didn’t have three other people to play bridge with, but the game appealed to me and I wanted nothing more than to be able to play with my older brother and his friends. You obviously have guessed that it was a time when I started to be interested in boys in general.

It was on those back pages that I remember finding a column written by an expert psychologist that was geared to helping people fell better about themselves. And the advice that has stuck in my memory ever since then, was an advice this person repeated over and over: If you want someone else to really like you, be sure to compliment them in any way you can. Tell them they look good. Tell them you like what they are wearing. Tell them they are smart. Tell them they are the best cook, gardner, piano player, tennis player, etc. etc. that you know. And you will be surprised how much they will like you for it. For whatever reason I was not able to do that then or at any other point in my life.

However, I, like Marlon Brando, wanted to be somebody. When I think about it, I believe everybody wants that for themselves in one way or another.

Many years have passed since them and I’ve really made peace with the fact that I am who I am. But something happened last week that made me think about that wonderful line, ” I could been somebody.” I’ll tell you what happened.

I was at getting a manicure last Wednesday morning, my mind wandering as each diget received special care. There are three manicure tables in the area I was in, one next to my manicurist and the other behind me. No one was speaking except the cuustomer at the table behind me. She was talking about her television going black last week and, not being able to replace it right away, she read two books instead. She said she enjoyed the books so very much that she was glad she didn’t have the TV working.

Someone asked her what she read. She answered, “‘The Zoo Keepers Wife’ and ‘Becoming Alice.’ I especially liked ‘Becoming Alice.'” The three manicurists all laughed and spoke in unison when they pointed to me, saying, “This is the author of ‘Becoming Alice.'”

Somehow, for a fleeting moment, I felt like “I was somebody.” 

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My interview with Don McCauley for The Authors Show will air Monday, August 24th and can be heard all day by going to http://www.theauthorsshow.com.

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Julie & Julia & Me

I went to see the movie Julie & Julia a couple of days ago. I’d heard that Meryl Streep acted the part of Julia Child so exactly that one could hardly tell the difference between the two of them. Meryl’s body movements, her voice and elocution, and even the visual of her were absolutely identical to that famous world renowned master chef of French cuisine. She even gained an enormous amount of weight in order to look more like Julia.

But that’s not why I’m writing this blog. I’m writing to tell you how much I related to that cute young thing, Julie, played by Amy Adams. You might ask how that is possible when I, who am nowhere near as cute, and am even more distant from Amy Adams in age.  Well, for one thing, I remember myself as a young bride trying to follow some of Julia Child’s recipes and failing miserably, just as Julie did at first. I only mastered some of the more simple recipes. I eventually gave up on most of the others because we all became aware of the negative health effects of using salt and cream and butter in our diet. A point was made in the movie of Julia’s love of butter in her cooking.

Mostly I identified with Julie as she posted a blog at her computer daily. Daily! I am trying to do that also, but just like my attempts at French cuisine, I fail to accomplish that as well. I am up to twice a week now and on rare occasion, three times a week. If only I weren’t all over the place doing my social networking, I might be able to do better. Julie wasn’t networking.

The movie was right on though as we see Julie blogging away and feeling like no one was reading her stuff. I think I myself even wrote a blog about Tallking to Myself. And then she received her first comment and got as excited as I did when I received mine. Of course, she went on to receive a flood of comments and I can still count mine on the fingers of my hand. What I don’t understand is that my statistics tell me that so far my 53 blogs have gotten 483 views. Who are you guys? Why don’t you just tweet me a few words to say hello?

By the way, Julie & Julia is a fun movie. You should go see it and then come home, go to your computer, and tell me what you thought of it in the form of a comment.

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 I have this life that revolves around books. I learn not only about what is written inside the books, but also what is going on in everybody’s life, every day that effects what kind of books they buy.  I do quite a lot of interviews on radio and I found out that a high percentage of authors that are interviewed have written books about “self esteem.” Okay, that means there are are lot of readers who have a need to buy books on that subject. I wondered why.

Then, I got involved with the tagging option on Amazon.com. It’s purpose is to let people know what each individual book on amazon is all about. In my case, namely my memoir Becoming Alice, I listed the tags  WWII, teen, adversity, etc. Lastely I added self-esteem because of my own struggle with my self-image as an adolescent.  I got more hits on the tag “self-esteem” than any other tag. Obviously, I was not the only kid in the world with that problem. Even more interesting is the fact that there are still so many adults who struggle with that issue.

How about all the people in our society who get divorced at some point in their lives? It seems to be in the 50%-60% range right now. I imagine that they, whether they are the ones to ask for the divorce or the ones to be rejected, must have some issues with self-esteem. The fact that they are divorcing is evidence that they feel some failure on their part at the art of marriage, hence some lack of self-esteem.

Or, how about all those people who have lost their jobs in this economy and aren’t able to get work? Are they always able to blame the economy, or do they sometimes have to take responsibility for shortcomings of their own that contributed to their predicament? Again, a hit on their self-esteem. There are so many ways things that can make us feel inadequate, and therefore force us to lose confidence in ourselves.

No wonder, books on self-esteem are so popular.

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