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.
As older women, we have a lifetime of experiences with many rich lessons learned. As older women, in a youth oriented world, our voices are often not heard; our life lessons go unspoken. As older women, we are often not honored or given the reverence we so deserve.
AND WE ARE CHANGING THIS PARADIGM – ONE STORY CIRCLE AT A TIME!
Join a group of sister elders who are embracing and sharing their many years of lessons learned through storytelling circles. All you have to do is show up and tell your story. If you don’t think you have a story, are feeling too shy to tell one or just don’t want to share one, come listen and support those who do……And just in case…….there will be a brief presentation on Tips for Storytelling.
The storytelling theme this month is Turning Points.
Hope to see you.
When: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 9:30am
Where: Coffee Catz
6761 Sebastopol Avenue
Sebastopol, CA 95472
If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com or 510-301-1706
$5-$10 offering appreciated (no one turned away for lack of funds)
The Village Movement, sometimes called Staying Put or Aging in Community is a grassroots social movement reshaping and changing the thumbprint for senior living. The goal is to help elders who so desire, to remain in their homes as they grow into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The simple idea behind this concept is to create self-governing, community based organizations within already established communities to provide the necessary resources and people to make this possible.
This new concept for adult living is so important because the population of senior citizens is the fastest growing demographic worldwide. There are now more Americans 65 and older than at any other time in history. Currently, there are approximately 40 million people over 65 (2010 Census) and by 2030 it is estimated that that number will increase to over 70 million. 2040 will see that 40 million doubled to 80 million. Currently,1 in 8 Americans is over 65. By 2030, that will change to 1 in 4. The cost of senior living options and health care are becoming increasingly prohibitive and the simple truth is that 88% of people 65 and older want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Staying Put, Aging in Community and creating Villages is not only what seniors want, it is far less expensive for those who do not need comprehensive assistance. It is a cost effective solution to maintaining independent and quality of life choices for those who can and want to remain in their own homes.
This new concept in senior living was born In 2001 when a group of neighbors in the Beacon Hill area of Boston got together to discuss how to remain in their homes in their beloved community rather than have to move to retirement or assisted living environments. And since then, this concept has taken off. Today, there are 120 urban, suburban and rural Villages in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. There are 100 more in development. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” And these trailblazers are doing just this.
So what exactly is this Village? Each Village is unique unto itself. The overriding principle is to help seniors remain in their homes with as much independence as possible by building a network of local support and services within the community. Villages are localized and grassroots driven. Memberships are required to support the services and yearly fees can range from $50 – $1000 per year. They are run by volunteers and salaried staff whose responsibility is to coordinate access to affordable services. Some of the services may be free. Others may be eligible for negotiated discounts with authorized participating local merchants and businesses. Each Village is designed around the needs of the individual community and may include all aspects of life: social needs, intellectual stimulation, physical well being. personal care and home maintenance. Here are some examples of the services provided:
Grocery shopping & delivery
House repair & home maintenance
Home health and personal care
Organized cultural events
Current events discussion groups
The Village Movement is a wonderful example of how todays elders are changing the paradigm of how and where one gets to grow old. Want to get involved? Want to get your community involved? Want to start your own village? I do……..Here are some resources…….
From Age-ing to Sage-ing written by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller presents a new vision for growing older……one that looks at old age as the natural and meaningful next step in our life cycle- the journey to the full completion of life – not a dead end as we travel the latter years of life’s road.
Challenging cultural norms and beliefs that see old age as a time of deterioration and decline, this paradigm redefines the third stage of life as one that can be active and spiritual, contemplative and practical and purposeful and realistic. What is required is to do the inner work – through contemplative practices that allow us to look back, reflect, explore the lessons learned, harvest the gifts, make peace with the mistakes, understand the challenges – we ultimately see the vast panorama of our lives and from this, the wisdom flows.
Elderhood, besides being a time of deep personal reflection and introspection carries much responsibility. Following in the footsteps of many indigenous cultures where elders are revered for their great wisdom and honored for their contributions to the society, Rabbi Schacter calls upon elders to not only tap into their wisdom, as a form of personal growth, but to take the lessons learned, the life long skills and to share it with others through mentoring, volunteering, becoming a steward of the earth and creating a lasting legacy that lives beyond our years.
The strength of this book is that it is very real, honest and practical It addresses the realities of growing older while offering a multitude of choices and options to live an old age that allows for a deeper and more profound experience of life and an acceptance and preparation for death. And yes, Rabbi Schacter takes death out of the closet. Instead of denial, he views dying “as a unique opportunity for spiritual awakening.” He articulates the importance of being fully prepared for the experience of ones death. He explores spiritual beliefs about a life after death. He even provides exercises in the preparation for death.
And it is through stories, personal accounts, extensive research, exercises and practices, the authors offer the reader a road map into what Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls “an elderhood that is the anticipated fulfillment of life.” Age-ing to Sage-ing is a beautifully written and most important book that redefines what it means to grow old, be old and how to live fully, with meaning until we draw our last breath. In a culture that glorifies youth and demeans the elderly, the teachings of Rabbi Schacter-Shalomi offer a new way of living and being alive.