I created Wise Woman Storytime to give elder women and sometimes elder men the voice and visibility they so deserve so that all of us young, middle age, old and older benefits from the gifts of their life experiences.
If the elders are not speaking and if no one is listening, how are our family stories being passed along? How are we building the bridges between past and present? How are we strengthening our communities, sharing our values and giving voice to what really matters to us both individually and collectively as families, communities, as a nation and even globally?
I am honored to have a guest on the show today who as a nonagenarian has a perspective that one does not hear every day. At 94 years of age, Eric Gattman still reads the NY Times daily and offers monthly current events evenings where he leads spirited discussions about the state of the world.
Having left Germany at 8 years old with his father and mother with just the clothes on their backs, Eric has seen the worst of mankind and yet lives with hope, optimism and the deepest understanding of how love can transform.
I welcome you to listen to Eric’s story and glean some of his life lessons.
Throughout our lives we go through a myriad of transitions…….we enter school, we graduate, we leave home, move, travel the world, get married, get divorced and start new jobs to name a few. All of these experiences are wrought with a complexity of feelings –great hope and possibilities on the one hand and fears and anxieties of entering into the unknown on the other.
As baby boomers age, this year alone 3.2 to 3.5 million people will be transitioning out of the work world and entering into some version of retirement.
Needless to say, there is tremendous potential for this time of life and yetthe dreams we have- whatever they may be- maybe challenged with insecurities about money, self-identity and questions like, “ Can I afford it?” “ Who am? “ “Now what do I do?????
Louise Mayer, author of Poised for Retirement; Moving from Anxiety to Zen was my guestthis week on Wise Woman Storytime. Louiseis no stranger to personal introspection. On her journey towardsfacing her own retirement, she met many of her fears and anxieties along the way. Always reflective, she looked within, interviewed others and looked at research to best inform her decisions, choices and soothe her worried self. Her inquiries not only resulted in her latest book, but provide real life, practical suggestions for anyone who will one day leave the work place.
I invite you to listen to her story.There are lessons here for all of us.
In our culture, aging, dying and death are often talked about in whispered and hushed tones and often viewed as an enemy to be defeated and overcome.
But what if we had a different paradigm……one that accepts and even embraces the end of life as a passage as sacred and blessed as the birth of child?
What if we looked to death as a great teacher informing us about living fully and reminding us about who we are, the gifts we have and the potential for a legacy that goes beyond our finite years?
My guest this week on Wise Woman Storytime, Tess Lorraine offers us a new lens and worldview that transforms conventional thinking about aging, dying and the end of life with a template for the rich possibilities that this life stage can offer.
Deeply personal, Tess’s story is a universal tale.It is what can happen within a family system as each family member comes face to face with their own attitudes, values, and belief systems as they individually and collectively care for and attend to all the needs of a dying loved one.
It is a story of how despite having end of life directives, one’s intended wishes can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and misdirected by those who love us the most.
All of us have or will eventually face the death of a loved one and certainly all of us are facing our own mortality.Do we really know what our loved ones’ end of life wishes are?Do we really know what we want? And have we clearly articulated our wishes both legally and informally?
Tess Lorraine’s story is a mirror for us all to look at our own lives, deaths and legacies.There is practical information in her story about death and dying. But, perhaps more importantly, she invites us to look into the portal of death as an avenue to become our most authentic selves in life and as we are dying so that we can ensure we give those we love and ourselves the life and death we really want.
Tess Lorraine designs seminars and retreats on “Awakening to Life and Death- an in-depth approach to exploring our choices at end of life”
Maria Culbertson, my guest this week on Wise Woman Storytime is a woman who has worn many hats throughout her life with singing and performing taking center stage. However, while performing in every possible theatrical venue and receiving accolades for her work, Maria began to experience a lack of satisfaction from her work and as she says, “felt like the soul had gone out of my singing experience.”
Around this time, Maria joined The Threshold Choir -a group of a cappella singers whose mission is to sing for and with those at the thresholds of life. Her experience with the choir not only changed Maria’s relationship to music, it changed her life.
The magic and sacredness of her singing was restored. Her passion for music was revitalized and 15 years later, her vision and purpose for her voice and song continues to deepen and flourish.
Listen to Maria’sdeeply personal story of being immersed in the music and sisterhood of this choir. Learn how being a loving presence with those on the threshold of life and death transformed, healed and opened her heart, forever connecting her to herself and others.
One of the greatest gifts for me from hosting Wise Woman Storytime on KOWS 107.3FM is that I get to meet and get to know some really wonderful women. Elaine B Holtz exemplifies this so well.
A first generation American, Elaine’s life story is an evolution from a sheltered child living in a homogenous Jewish community to a social activist who lives, works and thrives in a global society. Once the shy college student terrified of public speaking, today, Elaine hosts both a radio and TV show called Women’s Spaces interviewing politicians, fellow activists, artists, healers, writers and musicians. She is an author, a poet and currently serves Sonoma County with her service on the Community Advisory Board and the Human Rights Commision.
With a strong commitment for women’s rights, social justice, children, peace and the environment, Elaine B. Holtz is a spokesperson and visionary for those whose voices may be stifled or perhaps needs a platform to speak from. And while she says her radio show is “dedicated to ordinary women doing extraordinary things,” she is the shining light giving them the spotlight.
Somewhere Towards the Endis an honest, realistic, thoughtful and beautifully written memoir that speaks to what it’s like to be old from the perspective of the then octogenarian (close to 90 years old) author Diana Athill. Sometimes philosophical, often personal, this unsentimental, raw, candid and unapologetic, free thinking and unconventional author recounts her experiences and views about children (and not having them), sex (even after 60), relationships, death, luck, authors whom she admires, and religion.
While Somewhere Towards the End speaks to the diminishments of old age, it really is a testament to the potential gifts of these years and the opportunities and possibilities that one can experience as we grow older.
One cannot read this memoir without deep gratitude and appreciation to this feisty, cut to the chase, witty woman. Don’t expect any proselytizing or soap box wisdom. What you get is straight talk, a gutsy look at elder life and a chance to get a glimpse into the life of this remarkable, thoughtful and free thinking spirit.
I loved this book and plan to read parts of it again and share it with women of all ages. My only regret is that I more than likely won’t get to meet this now 97 year old English woman in this lifetime. And while she may not believe in reincarnation, hey, you never know…….And just in case, she does have a few other memoirs out there.
It’s November 20, 2014 and I am jazzed about my 5th show, Wise Woman Storytime on KOWS 107.3FM. Finally, I feel like I have mastered – okay – maybe mastered is a bit hyperbolic – but I really feel confident about working the boards, fading the music in and out, and getting the show recorded right from the beginning. (If you are unfamiliar with my previous radio adventures, orchestrating the myriad of electronic levers necessary for each show resulted in my not getting a couple of my shows recorded from the beginning). Today I feel confident that I can manage it all – even the phone system so I can take live calls while on the air.
And so here I am…….feeling confident, prepared and ready to have the best show ever. I have a great guest with a meaningful and important story. I am excited with my musical selections. I researched music that complemented today’s story and I included a brief overview of the historical significance of the people, the orchestra and what makes this music so special.
But, alas, sometimes there are glitches…..you know, mechanical failures that just happen. Cars don’t start, computers get viruses and household appliances stop working. Things break down, errors occur that all the planning in the world just can’t stop from happening. And wouldn’t you know, 36 minutes into the show an error sign appeared in the window of the recording device. The CD player stopped recording. Had I been more skilled, I would have immediately removed the CD and put in a new one instead of pressing the play button, which never did restart the recording Had I been more experienced, I would have backed up the show with one of those online sites that records shows……But I didn’t do this……I just didn’t know.
So it is with a very sad heart that I must tell you that the last 18 minutes of the show was not recorded. And while I cannot recreate the conversation, emotional tenor, poetry and music that aired, I am going to do my very best to fill in the gaps and give you some of the flavor of the story and the woman telling it.
My guest this week is Frieda Ferrick. Through poetry and prose, Frieda tells her story of coming to America and growing up as the youngest daughter of Holocaust survivors. Children of Holocaust survivors live in a world with a contradictory reality. There are unspoken messages and expectations that get passed down; questions needing answers yet knowing instinctively not to ask; horrific secrets to be uncovered, yet not wanting to upset one’s parents; and overprotective children who never want to create more stress and upset to their family.
Frieda describes herself and her sister Chana as “junior detectives piecing together our parents’ history one segment at a time.”
Max and Sophie Lazar suffered the indignities and abuses of the Nazi occupiers. They were rounded up and forced to live with other Jews in the cordoned off and overcrowded quarters in Lodz, Poland for years before being shipped off to concentration camps. Both Max and Sophie lost parents, siblings, cousins and in Max’s case, his first wife and children. They met in Europe after the war and immigrated to the United States in the early 1950’s with their two young children, Frieda and Chana.
Frieda grew up in a close knit group of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors who became the Lazar’s extended family. Although surrounded by love, the absence of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins left Frieda with a feeling that something was missing from her life. Books and make believe games were a source of sustenance throughout her early years.
At age 16, in the 11th grade, Frieda was encouraged to share her writings and she has been writing ever since. Her book, Stories My Family Could Not Tell is coming out this December. It is a compilation of Holocaust and family of origin poems, philosophical musings and prayers for peace,
Frieda’s story is an important one. It is a story of historical magnitude…..a story of survival amidst one of the world’s most darkest hours. It is a story of courage and resilience and perseverance to go on and to create out of the ashes of destruction and despair. It is a story about people – ordinary people who live extraordinary lives.
To Max and Sophie Lazar who lost so much and created more…….who started new lives in a foreign country learning the language and raising a family:
To Sophie shy and reticent to talk about her past, who stood up and spoke out (check out her interview) when Holocaust deniers were making outrageous claims that the Holocaust never happened:
To Bronislaw Huberman who helped 1,000 Jewish musicians escape from Nazi occupied Europe and brought them to Palestine to perform in his newly created Palestine Symphony Orchestra, now The Israeli Philharmonic..
To Frieda Ferrick, for sharing her deeply personal story of growing up the child of Holocaust survivors, her philosophical musings, her poems for peace and her deep love for her husband, sons and grandsons.
And to all of you who live your lives doing what is right and just…….
I am so proud and happy to announce that I will be hosting Wise Woman Storytime: The Radio Show for the first time on Thursday, September 18, 2014 from 12-1pm on KOWS 107.3 FM. The show was created as an antidote to a common theme I keep hearing as I talk to older women: Many aging women feel invisible and unheard. Ours is not only a youth oriented culture that does not honor, respect and revere elders, we are a society that is losing the history and stories from those who came before us. We are a culture that undermines and diminishes the value of our elders and we fail to tap into, to encourage, listen and to promote our elders legacies, insights, and gifts. This is especially true for women.
On the third, fourth and fifth Thursdays of each month a cadre of local women will be spotlighted and given a public voice to share a personal story from their lives. Each guest will be given uninterrupted time to tell her story. Afterwards, I will facilitate a discussion and the listening audience is invited and encouraged to call in and participate.
I don’t know about you, but no one taught me how to “grow up” and certainly no one is guiding me on my path to old age……. Join your sister 55+ women in a supportive community as we intentionally navigate this road to old age. Through our own awareness, we can realize and set our intentions to live a rich and vital third life stage.
At this meetup we will explore how our personal and cultural beliefs and assumptions define us as older women.
This is what I would call a nontraditional biography. The author and the subject of the book, Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi dialogue and discuss, explore and challenge one another on probably the greatest mystery of all – mortality, death and how to live fully up until that last breath. The conversations pull the reader in as Schacter-Shalomi and Davidson, both at different life stages, are personally open and honest as they share, commiserate, disagree, question, kvetch, learn and grow together. And we the readers not only become privy to this intimate conversation, we are given exercises and practices to bring us closer to embracing an understanding and acceptance of our own mortality.
Interspersed between their talks, the author weaves us through the life of Zalman Schacter. Born in Poland, he and his family escaped from Nazi occupied Europe. Finding their way to New York City, Zalman Schacter followed up on his love of the Hasidic teachings and became an orthodox Rabbi. We learn about his 4 marriages, 11 children and how he became the sperm donor for a lesbian rabbi. With an uncompromising curiosity and a deep need to understand, gain more knowledge and expand his horizons, Rabbi Schacter was unable to stay boxed into a set of constricted rules and expectations and he befriended some of the greatest thinkers and spiritual leaders of his time. Thomas Merton, the Dalai Lama and experiments with LSD with his friend Timothy Leary opened his heart and mind to the interconnectedness of all religions and spiritual practices.
What I find so rich and meaningful about The December Project is that we the readers get to witness the genuine realities- the pain, discomfort and suffering as Rebbe Zalman’s health fails. And yet intertwined within this reality is his ever present acceptance, commitment to be fully alive, his willingness to let go and his love and trust in God.
The December Project is a beautiful book for people of any faith or spiritual leaning. The magic of this biography is that as we witness Zalman Schacter-Shalomi prepare for his last day, we get to vision a better tomorrow for ourselves.