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Archive for September, 2009

Marriage and Divorce

If you have read my memoir, Becoming Alice, you will know that when I was growing up, all my parents ever seemed to do was fight. To make matters worse, my aunt and uncle had a marriage that was even more nasty than my mom and dad’s. I didn’t know what other parents did, but it I had the feeling that some of them didn’t fight.

I knew there were other kinds of marriages because my best friend’s parents were always in a good humor, smiling, and laughing at each others stories and jokes. My parents pretty much ignored each other when they were in the company of others; at least they didn’t fight. As a teenager, I swore I would never have a marriage like my parents. I’d choose to stay single before I’d go into such a relationship. Luckily, I didn’t need to make that decision.

When I fast forward the years since then, a lot has happened in the  way men and women relate to one another in our society. Women have fought for and gotten freedoms they didn’t have before. They can stand up for rights they didn’t have before. They can support themselves. If they are in a “bad” marriage they can afford to get divorced.  Today, there is no stigma attached to being divorced. They are no longer looked upon as having some sort of personal flaw.

So, now our divorce rate in California is somewhere around 55%. Imagine, more than half of all those who get married will end up being divorced. I’ve seen it happen sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes not. I know one couple very well. They came to a bumpy patch in their marriage after a few years and wanting to make it all work, they went into counselling. Each partner was made aware of what behaviors contributed to the problem and accepted the advice that was given to them. The therapy was a success. They reconciled but made no changes. They went back to to the same patterns that caused the split in the first place. They are now  divorced.

Some couples divorce and remained single the rest of their lives, perhaps not bothered by their “bad” relationship, but still not much happier than when they were married. On the other hand, I have seen couples who developed really strong antagonisms toward one another in mid-life, somehow didn’t divorce, and in later years came to accept and appreciate one another .

Then there are those who have been the luckiest of all, just as lucky as the ones who married the “right” person to begin with. They are the ones who learn a little something along the way and are able to find a partner with whom they establish a really sound relationship.

What did I learn from all that I have seen so far? I learned that love is not enough for making a marriage happy. I learned that most people don’t have the judgement as young people to know what kind of person will actually work for them as a spouse. And I learned that the best of all worlds belongs to those couples who feed their relationship with love every day of their lives.

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I went to my manicurist last Wednesday morning as is my custom every two or three weeks as my schedule will permit. This last Wednesday was not the best of my mornings as I hadn’t slept worth a _ _ _ _ the night before. I sat down, extended my hands, and went into a fugue state mentally, hoping not to fall asleep altogether. That was when the conversations at the other three manicure tables in the small room inside my beauty shop delegated to nails, roused me back to my senses.

“You’re not allowed to have any carbs on my diet,” said one deeply tanned patron. I thought she ought to be more concerned about the sun exposure on her skin than the calories she was taking in.

“Yes, you are. You can have carbs,” her manicurist answered. “You just have to measure the portions of what you eat. You can’t have more than three ounces of any rice or pasta, and only one slice of bread a day.” She stopped filing to look her patron in the eye and establish her one-ups-manship.

The blond curly-headed manicurist across the aisle said, “I’m going to do Linda’s diet. How much did you lose? Thirty-five pounds?”

“Forty-three,” Linda answered.

At that point in time I was fully awake and looked around to see that four of the six women in that small manicure room were grossly, not morbidly, but grossly obese. They had been obese for years. Only one of them had managed to lose forty-three pounds in all that time. I don’t know why none of them had thought about losing weight before.

I’ve been amazed at how many magazines in the racks by the check out counter at my grocery store, have articles about diets, low-calorie recipesd, and famous or not famous people who had lost 15 to 150 pounds … with pictures to prove it. Then there are all the ads on TV trying to sell Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, etc. as well a multitude of  excercise programs. And most of those that need this kind of help don’t bother to get it and remain obese. They are just fine being obese. They talk about losing weight, but don’t do it.

I think their self-image has nothing to do with their self-esteem. They get their self esteem from some other qualities they have that lets them feel themselves worthwhile. I remember when I was still a kid in elementary school, there was a girl, milk and honey colored skin and freckle-faced with blond wisly straight hair, who stuttered. It took her forever to push out a few words. Afterwards she would laugh, deep belly laughs, and all the other kids around her would join in. Sometimes they’d help her say what they knew she was struggling with. And I stood by, not able to understand the whole thing. You see, I could speak all right and I didn’t even look too bad, but I didn’t believe I was worth anything. My stuttering classmate knew she was cute as a button and everyone liked her for being such fun. I had not yet found anything in myself that I thought was worth anything.

What all those customers who buy into all those diets, and exercise programs, and plastic surgery proceedures don’t know is that they can save their money. Because they must find some other qualitiy within themselves, other than physical ,that they can be proud of , before they will be happy with themselves.

I wish I would have known that as a kid.

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I went on vacation for a week and only now a week later, I’m catching up, not only to the laundry and grocery shopping, but all the messages on my social networking sites on the internet. I should include writing some blogs, as well. Reviewing all my statistics which give me some idea as to whether or not I’m getting through to anybody out there … on the internet, I mean … I came upon an interesting statistic from my WordPress blog itself.

When I first started blogging, I thought I was writing a diary for myself. However, I noticed that in time a few people started reading my words. I followed up by asking “Who are you?” and “Why not come and tell me you agree with what I’ve said, or not?” Gradually a few of you did come out of the woodwork and left a comment or two. I was very excited about that. Even though it was only a few of you.

Now back from vacation and checking on my stats, I found a bunch of hits for a couple of my blogs, a big bunch. One was for the blog entitled Passion and the other was for Marketing my Memoir, Becoming Alice.  The second blog even outdid the first one. This tells me that there must be a whole lot of writers out there that are trying to figure out how to go about selling their work.

When I got into this marketing thing, the experts said that we authors should market our books but not to look like we were marketing our books. We were to get on Facebook and Twitter and talk about what we were doing and what was going on in our lives. So I read a lot of stuff from others about having to pick the kids up from school or getting together with friends for coffee. What do I care about that when I’m reading about people I don’t even know?

Then, the experts told us we should write about  why our books were wonderful and what they would get out of reading our books.  We should look like we were selling our books. So, I read a lot of tweets and messages from people who were selling not only their books, but themselves. There were editing services, publicity services, literary agent services, publishing services, etc. etc. etc. Included in this were a lot of services that had nothing to do with books; some of them shall remain nameless. My book is edited. My book is published. I’ve go all that behind me. Not interested, thank you.

I’m in a place known as “between a rock and a hard place,” between sounding inane or sounding like a hard-nosed salesman. A few days ago, someone on one of my social networking sites asked, “Are you networking or simply self-promoting?” She got a lot of answers, some of them pretty heated. If I had to answer that one, I guess I would have to say I’m somewhere in between. I’ve met, through messages back and forth, some very interesting and nice people who are out there doing the same thing I’m doing, and sharing their knowledge with me. We are all helping one another along. I’m hoping that Becoming Alice, A Memoir does well, i.e. that a lot of people read it… and like it.  Being between a rock and a hard place isn’t so bad if you’re honest about what you’re doing and can appreciate the kindness of all the other authors who are on the same page as you.

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About Anxiety in Childhood

I’ve just gotten back from a week’s vacation to the beautiful and wonderfully cool California coast. I thought about taking my computer with me, but what kind of a vacation would that have been? I did think hard about leaving it at home and wondered if I’d get withdrawel symptoms. In the end, I left it behind after having received some pressure from my husband. I only cheated once. I stopped at the only place an internet connection was possible, the local public library of the small town in which we stayed. After looking at the eighty odd e-mails I’d collected in just two days, I decided to give it up altogether.

I did take a writing pad with me however and used it to get some thoughts down about the next work I intend to undertake. I also made some notes in regard to this particular blog.

I had some thoughts about anxiety again, a subject I’d written about in a prior blog. It came to mind when I watched a TV program in my hotel room in which a puzzled parent asked the moderator how old a child had to be before he or she should be allowed to walk to school by themselves. Of course, many variables had to be considered, such as sthe maturity of the child and the degree of danger present in the particular neighborhood in which the child lives. So, the answer did not specify an age and was left for the parents to figure out themselves.

In the discussion a couple of points were made that rung true for me. One psychologist said, “Anxious parents create anxious children.” Having been a very shy and fearful child myself, as well as an anxious and insecure teenager, I have often wondered why I was like that for so long. There is no double in my mind that the fear … no, panic … that my parents and I experienced in our escape from Nazi persecution in WWII explains a great deal. However, many children of other refugees who settled in Portland, Oregon along with my family, seemed to have adjusted to their new lives in America much better than I. What I do remember is that their parents were different from mine; their parents were not as anxious and troubled as mine were in those years they assimilated into their new culture.

The other poin that was made was, “We must be careful not to squelch a child’s need for independence.” You need only to read my memoir, Becoming Alice, to see what difficulties I had to establish my own independence as an adolescent.

Much has changed in our society since I was a child. The streets are far more dangerous now than they ever were in my day … no matter which neighborhood you live in. It is such a difficut balancing act to keep your child’s anxiety at a minimum, while at the same time you encourage his independence.

I did not have either one of those feelings under control until I was almost an adult. Looking back at it all now, I feel lucky to have achieved it at all.

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As the author of the above-mentioned memoir, Becoming Alice, I have learned that it is mainly my responsibility to market my book. I didn’t know that at the start. I thought that if a publishing house was interested enough in your book to put their name on it as the publisher, and  assume the cost of editing and printing a batch of books, that they would also be more than interested in spending the money to publicize it and market it. I was wrong. Perhaps they would if you were a former president, public figure, or entertainer. Short of that they might run a few ads. But after that, the author is on his own.

I decided not to spend too much time knocking my head against a wall and went ahead and got my memoir published my a POD. That is a Publish On Demand publisher who will put your manuscript into a very presentable paperback for an affordable price. They may even make some suggestions as to how to market your book. In the end you’re back at square one, that is you, the author, are responsible for selling your book.

I’ve been at it for a while, marketing I mean, and it is a big job. I was surprised to find out that I rather enjoyed speaking to interested groups. In the process, I learned what parts of my book was most interesting to various kinds of readers. I learned a lot. And luckily, I sold quite a few books along the way.

Now I am learning that book stores aren’t doing all that well. Perhaps that is because of the recession, perhaps not. I learned that the internet is the place that many, many people like to buy their books. There are sites that will give them a lot of information about the book you are promoting, sites that write reviews about your book, sites that allow readers to post their comments about your book. Readers can do all this research before they ultimately buy your book, often at a discount, that even you as the author can’t match.

Okay, I said to myself. I’ll get myself known around the social networking sites on the internet and tell them about me, as well as my book. That’s when I learned even more about this whole business. The internet is a great people for people to learn about you. It is also a place where the wrong kind of people can learn about you. So, you end up having to be very careful about how much of yourself you make public and how much you must keep private. Now, you must learn to do a little balancing act. Give just enough to make them interested … then clam shut.

I guess the solution is to tell them if they want to know more, they can at least read about your early, developing years in the memoir Becoming Alice. The sequel to that story will remain private.

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Passion

I know people who have worked hard all their lives, been successful, have made lots of money, and/or have achieved recognition in their careers. Then the years roll by and they either choose, to or are forced to, retire. Often they are at a loss as to what to do with their time. The experts tell us we each should have something in our lives we are passionate about. It is when you are finished with your career that you finally have time to spend with that beloved thing you like to do. Of course, some people are passionate about their careers. Hopefully, they will have the good health and the opportunity to continue to pursue that interest.

Me, I have always had several passions. The first is my family. At this point so may of my loved ones are scattered all over the United States, so keeping up with them takes a lot of time, airplane flying time.

Another passion has been playing the game of tennis for the last … no I won’t tell you how many years. Actually I was pretty good at it some years back, winning some club and city tournaments. At this point in time I am grateful that I’m still able to get out on the court and have fun. Oh yes, now it is not so much about winning as it is about having fun. And watching all the bright new talents in tennis on television is the best.

Another passion of mine has been traveling to so many corners of the world and learning about other peoples and cultures. I spent almost twenty years escorting groups to exotic places that others wouldn’t travel by themselves. Anybody could go to Rome and London and Paris by themselves. But they liked company for places like Cambodia, Macchu Picchu, and Uzbekistan. I’ve been to most of Europe, but I think next time I go, I’d like to have a peek at Strasbourg, Colmar, and Brugge.

I mustn’t forget to tell you how much I love gardens, not only to visit but also to design and plant and watch it all grow. I think I fancy myself somewhat of a Monet who actually painted the gardens he created.

Lately, I’ve added to my passions. I discovered that I love to write. This love came out of nowhere when I wrote my memoir, Becoming Alice. Such fun. And to know that others seem to enjoy reading it is beyond all pleasures for me. My time is now taken up with marketing the book, but I’m still writing, this time it is this blog.

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Self-Confidence for Sale

I’m still fascinated by the subject of self confidence. Maybe that is because I didn’t have any as a kid and it took so long for me to get any. Today that subject came up again while I was watching the tennis  matches at the U.S. Open on TV.

The program was interrupted by a commercial in which the promoter, a well-dressed man with beautifully combed hair, was pitching hair replacement to bald-headed men. First, the company lined up four nice looking men looking somber and worried. Some had receding hair on the sides of the top of their heads, leaving an arrow-shaped triangle behind, holding on for dear life. Others were missing a round patch of hair at the top of their heads. They were were obviously the before shot in the advertisement.

The after picture showed the same men with a full head of hair, smilling, happy, and looking younger. It was not clear if the new found hair was a toupee or transplanted hair. I believe it was the former because of the its thickness . Most of the transplanted hair I’ve seen has been rather sparse.

The speaker ended his pictch in the commercial be telling bald-headed men that they no longer need to suffer the embarrassment of their affliction. They can easily solve their problem by visitng him in his office. He ended with, “Change the way you look, feel better about yourself, and regain your self-confidence.”

He reminded me of all the other commercials I see on TV that use that same psychology to sell their products, saying that the customer will gain self-confidence by buying their product. How about the companies who sell shampoo that imply that long, shiny, silk hair will make you look sexy.  SSuch hair will give you the confidence to get the man they want? Or the diet programs who show the fat woman before and the skinny one with a man on her arms after she’s bought the diet meals? How about the cooking programs that teach you how to put together a total gourmet meal to impress your guests with  your abilities, hence giving you self-confidence ? Need I go on?

My question is, does being skinny really get you the man you want? Does making that delicious dinner, whose recipes you copied from TV, give you the ability to make a different kind of dinner next time?  And, does having a full head of hair really get you a good job or a promotion at work? I think not.

Self-confidence is something you can’t buy. It is something that no one else can give you. You’ve got to get it all by yourself, without any crutches. When? How? When you decide you are as good as anybody else. When you know you can do a job well. When you know you are worth knowing. As soon as you see yourself that way, you will have the self-confidence in knowing that others will see those qualities in you as well.

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