Sunday, March 31, 2013

signs of spring

Today is a cold, gloomy Easter Day in south central Pennsylvania, not conducive to Easter egg hunts or frilly spring dresses...unlike yesterday which swept in like a breath of spring, sunny and warm. It was perfect for a nice long walk around the block. This is to reassure you that better days are on the way. The earliest signs of spring are popping up everywhere...literally.

The first dandelion of the season:

"When the crop grew and bore fruit,
the weeds appeared as well."
Matthew 13: 26

The tiniest woodland flowers:
"Learn from the way the wild flowers grow."
 Matthew 6: 28
New growth everywhere:
"When you send forth your breath, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth."
Ps. 104: 30

A babbling brook:
"You made springs flow into channels
that wind among the mountains."
 Ps. 104: 10

Leaves unfolding:
"I bud forth delights like the vine,
my blossoms become fruit fair and rich."
Sirach 25: 17
And freedom, at last, for the horses across the way:
"You raise grass for the cattle
and plants for our beasts of burden."
Ps. 104: 14
All of it fresh and eager and expectant. Except, of course, for this:
"Because of this the earth shall mourn."
Jeremiah 4: 28
Just sayin'...
Wishing you a happy and hopeful Easter!


Monday, March 25, 2013

the "Empower!" book project

This past weekend I drove 250 miles to Pittsburgh to attend the "Empower!" authors' luncheon in anticipation of the release of our book in April:

It was worth every mile of the drive. It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet some of my co-authors in this project. The women who shared their stories know the real meaning of the words "breakthrough, discovery and triumph."

In her chapter, "You Are Important", Melody Firmani  writes:

"I’m not an athlete. I’m not a philosopher. I’m certainly not a genius. What I am is a woman with a song in my heart, a woman who lives life with passion. I’ve discovered how amazing life becomes when you embrace your God-given gifts and discover your life purpose. When you become driven to share with the world and serve others, you experience the true meaning of life."

And from Renee Farrow, in her chapter "From Coal Town to Uptown", comes:

"I have been blessed with kind and generous female mentors, and it is my continued wish to help mentor other young women and men. If I can make a difference in someone else’s life, if I can help another woman see that going from a small town to uptown is not only a possibility but their obligation as a 21st Century woman, then I am a true success."

Kelly Eckert writes:

"Our lives are filled with little moments of empowerment. The trick is to notice them, recognize them for what they are, and leverage them for full effect. Too often, women dismiss or diminish these moments. How many times have you said, “Oh, it’s nothing,” or “Anyone could have done it,” or “It sure took me long enough”? Every empowered step we take creates ripples—or full-blown waves—that we can ride to greater empowerment . . . or not."

Beth Caldwell, our project manager, in her chapter titled "No One Walks Down the Aisle Dreaming of Divorce", shares:

"With a baby in the house, it became harder to pretend that my marriage was “perfect.” Friends and family visited more often and I found myself making excuses for my husband’s erratic behavior, such as “He’s really tired” or “Work has been very stressful for him lately.” My bright smile and cheerful disposition were a good cover, but when our second child arrived 19 months later, it became very clear that I would not be able to take care of two babies, a home and a full-time job while shouldering the burden of the BIG LIE."

And, in my chapter, "Begin Again", I write:

"As women, we tend to devote ourselves freely and generously to the hopes, expectations and needs of the people around us, while we scoot our own needs away with a flick of the wrist. “Get lost,” we say. And they do. Perhaps, like me, you ache to change careers, or to try something new. Photography. Meditation. Tap dancing. But you put it off because something always gets in the way. Maybe you have an unpublished poem collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. Every so often, you pull it out and revise a couple of lines, but invariably you put it aside again when something more pressing comes up.   Perhaps there’s an unfinished canvas moldering in your closet because your paints have dried up. If snatches of dialogue come to you in the middle of the night, or you doodle just for the fun of it, or you like to dance when no one is watching, it may be time to surrender to your muse. Until you begin, you will never know what you can accomplish."

In this book you will find stories by women who have overcome illness, bigotry, poverty, disparagement, and self-doubt to find fulfillment and success in their lives. There is a story here for everyone.

In case you're still  a bit skeptical, here are a couple of endorsements that make the point better than I can:

"I can almost guarantee that you will see yourself in one of the stories shared by these remarkable women. That you will be touched by what they share of their own journey. And that you will be inspired to think more deeply about your life, why you are here, and what you are meant to do."--
Terri Zwierzynski, President of Solo-E


"EMPOWER is a powerful collection of stories compiled by extraordinary women who share their personal stories of living from greater purpose. This book will inspire brave and bold moves, allowing the reader to see behaviors and paradigms that have held them back. EMPOWER is filled with humor, honesty, insight and clarity. This book is bound to change your life."--
Mary Morrissey, Two Time Best Selling Author, International Speaker, President of LifeSOULutions

We're looking forward to the release of the book in April.
"Until you begin, you will never know
what you can accomplish."
What would you begin if you had someone to encourage and support you?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

announcing: the DSM-I for writers

You know the signs. You can't pull yourself away from your laptop. You're up to 937 words when you swore you'd hammer out 1000 today. You couldn't sleep if you tried, so you stay up late in order to finish. Maybe another cup of coffee will help. Perhaps a glass of wine. You feel pretty good about it when you read things over, so you celebrate a good day's work with another glass of wine and head off to bed all calm and happy.

But you can't sleep. And, first thing the next morning you delete all but 11 words of what you wrote.

"What was I thinking?" you ask yourself. "This is awful. Horrible. I'll never get it right. I quit!" It can drive you to tears.

So it goes in the bipolar world of the writer. One day is good; the next is bad. One day you get an acceptance, the next day--a rejection. You swear you've had it with writing. You're finished, done, kaput. And then the voices in your head start up again.

Perhaps it's a missing line of dialogue. A twist in the plot. The turn of a single word. Suddenly your fingers are flying across the keyboard again. And there's a smile on your face even though nobody is around to see it.

You tell yourself, "I must be crazy."

Maybe so.

This year the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) of Mental Disorders came out. This is the manual psychologists and psychiatrists use to nail your diagnosis so it can be coded for billing purposes, enabling your health care provider to earn just enough to put shoes on his/her children's feet. (I don't like using the DSM, if you get my drift.)

Unfortunately, like its predecessors, the fifth edition of the manual does not consider "Writing Disorders." And it probably should. If it did, it might look something like this:
  • Anxiety disorder: what happens in your head, chest, and gut just before you walk in to pitch your book to an agent; how you feel while waiting for your critique group to read and comment on your monthly submission

  • Depressive disorder: how it feels when you're stuck for days and nothing you write pleases you; the cumulative result of multiple rejections

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: an in-born trait that serves editors well, but results in sleep deprivation and social isolation for really good writers

  • Sleep disorder: insomnia that is the result of the obsessive-compulsive need to write late into the night

  • Eating disorder: the tendency to skip meals because of the obsessive-compulsive need to write through meals

  • Substance abuse disorder: caffeine, caffeine, caffeine...[

  • Attention Deficit Disorder: might explain why you have a drawer full of unfinished short stories, essays, poems, and a couple of novels-in-progress

Just sayin'.
"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle,
like a long bout of some painful illness.
One would never undertake such a thing
if one were not driven by some demon
whom one can neither resist nor understand."
--George Orwell--
ps.: Dear Old Man Winter,
              This winter was pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourself. It's time for you to pack up and head north. By next weekend.
              Thank you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

hope springs eternal

Don't fall for it. Don't believe it for a minute. Spring is NOT here. That's what I told myself yesterday when the sun came out and the temperature hit 60 degrees...because cold weather is already in the forecast for later this week. But today is even warmer, and the sky so blue, and the breeze so calm...I can't help myself. So, with gratitude for this whisper of things to come, I am giving myself permission to dream of spring:

"Did you hear that winter is over?"

"Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself."
“When spring came, even the false spring,
there were no problems except where to be happiest." 
Ernest Hemmingway--A Movable Feast
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” 
Margaret Atwood--Blubeard's Egg
"Spring is Christ,
raising martyred plants from their shrouds."
This week the weather is forecast to turn cold and gloomy again. But...there's hope! If you long for the arrival of spring remember this:
My daughter was born on March 28 (twenty-some years ago)...and the day she was born,
the thermometer hit 90 degrees!
"Hope springs eternal."
--Alexander Pope--
Enjoy it while you can!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

it's happening again

It's happening again.

Thirty-some years ago, when I went into practice, I loved caring for my patients. Medicine was all about delivering competent and compassionate patient care back then.

But over time, the system changed. (Don't get me started.) In order to work within this system, physicians were forced to turn their attention to the business of running a practice. Experts who knew little about the diagnosis and treatment of illness imposed rules and regulations that were intended to increase ofice efficiency and speed. Doctors submitted to the dictates of newly created HMO's. We learned to conform to a cumbersome system of diagnosis and coding that was tied to reimbursement. Insurance auditors and attorneys stalked us day in and day out. And then, the Electonic Medical Record (EMR) was born. Now-a-days doctors can barely make eye contact with their patients. Their attention is focused elsewhere, bouncing from screen to screen checking off little boxes that are meant to record their thoughts about the patient's symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. If you're a patient who has experienced this, rest assured: doctors hate it as much as you do.

Sometimes you have to look into a patient's eyes to understand why a diabetic continues to poison himself with food. To understand how a patient's headaches are connected to shame and anger that have festered out of sight since childhood. Sometimes it helps to look a patient in the eye when you have bad news to share with them.

I truly loved caring for my patients. The rest of it? Not so much.

In the same way, I love to write. The problem is that things have changed. No longer is it enough simply to write well. No longer can we count on an agent or publisher to take care of promotion, distribution and sales. Now, most of us will be set adrift to master the business side of publishing, promoting and marketing our work...something I have no expertise or interest in. Meaning...I have all that to learn.


The book I have coming out, "Empower!--Stories of Breakthrough, Triumph and Discovery"--is a compilation of stories written by women who overcame immense obstacles in their lives in order to achieve success, or fulfillment, or happiness. It is not a "how to" book, but a collection of inspirational stories that bring us hope, encouragement, and a sense of connectedness. I enjoyed writing my chapter, "Begin Again"...but now it is up to me to promote, sell, and distribute the book. Meaning, I believe, that I have to:
  • figure out what audience I should target
  • figure out how to connect with people in my target audience. My friend, Don Helin  (, author of two thrillers, "Thy Kingdom Come" and "Devil's Den", suggested I drive an hour north to join an area business group for drinks at a local bar next week.

Shy, reclusive me??
  • how to promote the book on "my web page" (ps.: I don't HAVE a web page.) and among my social media contacts
  • how to host a book launch and where to set up book signings
  • how to create a merchant account with Paypal or major credit cards, or whether to use a "Square"

Thankfully, I am surrounded by writers who have tread this path before me. Thanks, Pennwriters! I'm getting ready to dip my toe in the murky waters of the publishing industry. I just hope I don't drown.

"We learn to do something
by doing it.
There is no other way."
--John Holt--
Suggestions, comments, and recommendations are welcome!