Failing Saved Me

“You don’t know what you are.”
From The Iron Trail by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Iron Trial

Finding my realm hasn’t been easy.

For one thing, I was born into the wrong tribe. Folks who told me that singing and acting were fine as hobbies, but in order to survive, I had to get a real job. BTW, the ‘real job’ was first female President of the United States. (Oh I wish I were kidding about this.)

In addition, my family’s insistence that I’d never make it as a pop star or actress fueled my already strong stubbornness. There was no doubt in my mind that they were wrong. (I’d even planned my Grammy speech. In it I told parents to support their kids’ dreams, instead of imposing their own dreams upon their children.)

So I moved to LA, expecting success to come in short order.

Anny Live

Singing Gonna Get Mine, a ditty I wrote about capital punishment. Just your typical pop song fare. 🙂

I was so busy fighting to make my dream a reality that I refused to see the red flags all around me.

My band told me to stop telling stories on stage, stop trying to provoke conversations or take listeners on an emotional journey and “just sing.”  I never felt comfortable with any of the industry types I met, and don’t get me started on the hideousness of acting auditions.

Sure, I’d traded flat land for mountains, and pines for palm trees, but instead of swimming with birds of a different feather, now I was swimming with sharks. (Great Kevin Spacey flick about the movie biz by the way.)

Ironically, it was failure that allowed me to really see myself for the first time. (Purple swan that I am.) To realize that I had to pick up my bed and leave again.  So I did.

It took a ‘dark night of the soul’ that lasted two years before I accepted that I was a writer. Then a few more years before I found my realm: kidlit.

I’m still stunned at how much I enjoy myself at industry events, or see myself in my fellow writers! Shocked at the encouragement I get to tell intelligent stories with a message. No one wants me to be younger, or dumber. I can just be me!

I learned the hard way that intention works as long as it’s not accompanied by rigid expectation, that you can point your ship towards the shore, but you have to be flexible about how you get there.

Sometimes failing is the best thing that can happen to you.

What has failure taught you? Please share your stories with me by replying to this post, or comment on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

Purple-Swan


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Do You Keep The Promises You Make To Yourself?

I’ve never been great at the physical plane. Though I’d been blessed with a low-maintenance body, I resented having to take time out to eat or sleep, and avoided sports like the plague. (I managed to come down with a fever every year on Field Day. An all-day track and field competition at my elementary school, and my version of hell.)

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That’s me on the right at 8 yrs old. Stylish wasn’t I?

In 6th grade I read Kurt Vonnegut’s story titled Unready to Wear. That’s where I discovered my hero, Dr. Ellis Konigswasser, the answer to my whines.

Dr. K is sick of having to tend to his body’s needs all the time, so he steps out of it!  His mind spirit just floats in space. When he wants to do something physical, he just rents a body. Brilliant!

Problem was I couldn’t step out of my body, nor could I find the good doctor to help me.

Once my body became higher maintenance, as most bodies do, I got angry. Then I opted for denial.  My ‘old’ body will come back, I insisted.  This is just a phase. NOT!

Once I finally accepted that I’d changed, I made all sorts of promises to myself. . . to eat ‘better,’ to exercise, to do whatever it took to get back to my former glory.

And I broke every one of those promises for a long time.

To put this in context, I’m maniacal about keeping promises to others! I never use the ‘p’ word unless I know, short of an act of God or emergency, that I can keep my promise.  Yet I had no trouble letting myself down time after time. Why?

I’m still not sure, but I think it was due to a lack of self-acceptance. I think I was still channeling Dr. Konigswasser. Still resenting being human because of the needs/frailties that come with it. As the Buddhists say, “What we resist persists.”

That being written, I’m a few years into changing the way I eat.  I’m not perfect at it, and I suspect that even if I were, I still couldn’t capture my ‘former’ self. But I can be a healthier version of Anny, and protect against certain future changes.

Turns out acceptance is powerful mojo.  The more I succeed at my realistic goals, the more empowered I feel, which allows me to keep more promises to myself than ever before. This includes getting back in to the gym after decades of avoiding it. Don’t applaud yet, it’s only been a few weeks.  However, I do like water aerobics! Who knew?

WaterAerobics

Do you keep the promises you make to yourself? If so, what’s your secret? If not, what do you think is holding you back?

Let me know by replying to this post, or put your answers in the comments on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

Feel free to forward this letter on to anyone you think might enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

PurpleTreadmill

Wish my gym had one of these!


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Coming Out of My Cocoon

Butterflies leaving their cocoons
 
I’m preparing to leave my cocoon. . .my creative cocoon that is.
 
See first photo below.
 
I’m excited and scared.
 
Excited because I want to share my work with you. I want it to strengthen our connection and inspire us to go on a journey together. One that I hope leaves us with a new thought, or feeling, or point of view.
 
Scared because sharing means opening myself up to judgment, including rejection. Sharing means putting my dream of being a published author whose work touches many to the test.
 
Last time I left my creative cocoon as a singer/songwriter, I learned some valuable lessons. Thought it’d be useful for all of us caterpillars, soon-to-be-butterflies, to hear them.
 
1) Once you let your work go, people will put their own spin on it. For example, I wrote a song about a woman dying of lethal injection as a way to condemn capital punishment. (Gonna Get Mine) To my utter shock and horror, some folks decided that my song glorified suicide. WTF, I thought. (If you’re curious, you can find the lyric for the song  here.)
 
At first I wanted to explain my message. “No, you’re wrong. It’s about this.” Then I realized that part of making art is allowing others to do what they will with it. Even if it means their interpretation results in them not liking what you’ve done. (It sucks when this happens, but it’s part of the deal.)
 
2) Commit to ignoring both the positive as well as the negative reviews. You can’t free yourself from others’ opinions unless you let go of ALL of them. (This is once your work is out there and can’t be changed. I encourage you to allow a trusted group of friends/colleagues to critique your work to help ready it for submission, or its launch into the world. I wouldn’t dare leave my cocoon without my peeps feedback!)
 
3) This is the one truth I resisted for quite a while–no matter what you do, if you don’t have luck, you won’t make a living doing what you love. Unfortunately luck can’t be controlled, dammit! Prepare all you can because luck thrives on preparedness, but ultimately your fate is not in your hands.
 
So wish me luck as I spread my wings and fly over to some publishers and agents, to see who will give my graphic novel a home.
 
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED BY PUTTING A PIECE OF YOURSELF OR YOUR WORK ON THE LINE? SHARE WITH US by posting your story here or on my author Facebook page.
 
PLEASE FORWARD THIS LETTER TO ANYONE YOU THINK WOULD ENJOY IT.
 
Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Monarch Butterfly wings
PurpleMonarchWings

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There’s Power and $$$ in Numbers

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Original-9-WTA

Forty-five years ago 9 women were paid $1 to sign on to the renegade Virginia Slims Tennis Tour. (Seven Americans — Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Peaches Barkowitz, Kristy Pigeon and Billie Jean KIng. They were joined by two Australians — Kerry Melville Reid and Judy Tegart Dalton.)

The U.S. tennis association threatened to expel them from the sport, possibly ending their careers.  (The two Australians that signed on were told their careers were over.)
What inspired them to put their dream careers on the line?  EQUALITY.

At the time male tennis players could make a living playing professional tennis, but women couldn’t because they were paid significantly less prize money than the men, and not being offered endorsement deals. Part of the reason for this inequality was the prevailing belief that playing sports was unladylike, and therefore girls weren’t supposed to pursue sports as a career.

The Original 9 rejected this idea saying that they wanted any girl born any place in the world, if she was good enough, to have an opportunity to compete, be recognized for her accomplishments and make a living playing professional tennis.”

Because they had the courage of their convictions, our girls not only play sports and get paid for it, but are encouraged to do so.

But one Original 9 didn’t stop at tennis. Billie Jean King founded Women’s Sports Magazine and Women’s Sports Foundation to champion all female athletes in their quest to be recognized and paid for their achievements.

Billie Jean’s extra efforts, combined with her historic win against Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes, made her the poster girl for the gender equality movement.  So much so, that Life magazine named her one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.  She was the only female athlete on the list, and one of only four athletes total. (Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali were the others).

Her notoriety netted her endorsements, which paid her lots of money for the time, but the other 8 of the Original 9 didn’t receive the same attention or financial reward. 

Billie Jean wants to correct that.  In a recent piece she wrote for the NY Times she points out that successful tennis players like Serena Williams stand not only on her shoulders, but on the 8 other pairs of shoulders as well.

She points out that until others raised their voices with her, change didn’t happen.  That we girls can move mountains, but only when we come together–risk together, help each other.

Too often we girls turn on each other, be it bullying about our appearances, working moms vs stay-at-home moms, or female bosses being threatened by up and coming underlings.  We forget that we’re stronger as a group, not at each others’ throats.  After all, succeeding together is in our DNA.  A lion could take out one or two of us when we were home in the cave defending our children, but it lost when we all banded together to defeat it.

Never give up, Never surrender, and always have each others’ backs.  That’s how we can Empower Girls Of All Ages!

Are you part of a group that’s changed the world around you in some way? Tell me about it either in reply to this letter, or post it on my author FB page.

PurpleTennis Racquet

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: Billie Jean King Tennis Center

Destination of the Fortnight: Billie Jean King Tennis Center

Change the story


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EMPOWER YOUR ‘SELF’ TO CREATE A BETTER ADVENTURE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

I admire my buddy Lorraine Watson.  She walked away from the safe tech world when she realized her life was not of her own making.

Her discomfort pushed her to discover, and then embrace, her own unique light.

Turns out that Lorraine’s being enjoys leading others along a similar path of self-discovery.  In that spirit, she launched a company called FOLLOW YOUR LIGHT.

But years before that, her being leaked out in creative ways that she didn’t always recognize at the time.  Take this example: When she used to regularly babysit her nephew, Lorraine would take him to a local tourist spot called Heritage Park, which depicted early 20th century life.

Every time they went, Lorraine encouraged her nephew to let his intuition, his inner voice, chart their path through the park.  The result was a different adventure, a different story, on every visit. 

I suspect her nephew retained much more of what he learned because his inner compass dictated when and how he picked up the information. As an added bonus, the adventures were much more fun for all of them.

For Lorraine it became a truth that she now shares with others: Following your own inner light guides you to make the best decisions for yourself.

In addition, it reminds her to “Let go of control, and fall into collaboration.”  in this case collaboration with your own being, or the beings of those around you.

Imagine what your next adventure could be like if you let your inner self, or your kids’ intuition, guide you instead of what a guidebook or museum map tells you to do? Perhaps you allow your kids to set the schedule for a Sat or Sun. family day, or allow them to do their homework in whatever order speaks to them that night?

On our next visit to the Art Institute or the Museum of Science and Industry, I’m gonna ask Madu to lead me around.  Can’t wait to see where we go!

Can you suggest other ways we can encourage our kids, and ourselves, to follow our inner compass to create amazing adventures?

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Maple Leaves

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Maple Leaves

HeritageParkCalgary

Destination of the Fortnight: Heritage Park, Calgary, Canada

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One Giant Leap For Womankind

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

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My little face was glued to the TV screen during Armstrong’s moon walk.  I told my mother that we’d all be vacationing on the moon by the year 2000–I was sure of it!
Unfortunately due to money, we’re still not vacationing at the Sea of Tranquility Spa.  But thanks to Nancy Grace Roman, The Mother of Hubble, as in telescope, we can visit lands light years away from the moon on our computer screens.

(Orion Nebula as seen through Hubble)
Yes it was a woman, Nancy Roman (b.1925),  who convinced Congress et al that searching the heavens was worth the cost.

Dr. Roman obtained a a Ph.D in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949, a time when women were raised to get married, have babies, and leave the outside world, not to mention the galaxy,  to men.

She recalls a time in high school when she needed permission to take algebra instead of Latin.  Her guidance counselor, a woman, sneered at her and said: ‘What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?’ That was the sort of reception that I got most of the way.”

Undeterred, she not only became an astronomer, but she became the first ever, read male or female, Chief of Astronomy in the Office of Space Science at NASA. In her role, she successfully managed numerous astronomy-based projects including the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Roman didn’t just break the glass ceiling, she zoomed out  into galaxies far, far away. She credits her scientist father for answering her questions and never questioning why his little girl loved science, and her mother, who took her out at night and showed her the beauty of the stars.

In addition she says the secret to making it in a male-dominated field was her ability to “remain open to change and new opportunities.” 

Today, Dr. Roman, who retired from NASA in ’79, has a new passion, inspiring girls to set aside their inhibitions and reach for the stars, just as she did. “I like to tell students that the jobs I took after my Ph.D. were not in existence only a few years before. New opportunities can open up for you in this ever changing field.”

And I would add that whatever your trajectory, plotting your destination, but being open to HOW you get there is key!  (I’ve learned the hard way that tunnel vision usually yanks you off course.)
Describe the path you took to reach one of your stars/dreams.  Reply to this email or post it on Anny Writes

PURPLE PASSION OF THE FORTNIGHT: MAGELLANIC CLOUD

PURPLE PASSION OF THE FORTNIGHT: MAGELLANIC CLOUD

DESTINATION OF THE FORTNIGHT: HUBBLE CONTROL ROOM, GREENBELT, MD

DESTINATION OF THE FORTNIGHT: HUBBLE CONTROL ROOM, GREENBELT, MD

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YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY, BUT NOT FAR ENOUGH!

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” Virgina Slims ad 1968 praising the success of the Feminist Movement.

But we haven’t come far enough!

Yesterday was #EqualPayDay.  It stuns me that in the 21st century women still aren’t paid the same as men for the same work!  What’s going on?
Is it because girls/women are just as likely to turn on each other as they are to support each other, and as long as we are divided, we can’t conquer?

If we look at our girls, we can see that being mean to each other starts at a pretty young age. Girls hassle each other about all sorts of things like their changing bodies, how they wear their hair, their clothes. 

I wish I could blame puberty for all of the friction between us, but as we get older, many of us still don’t stick together, even when it’s in our best interest. (For ex. Phyllis Schlafly led the successful charge against the Equal Rights Amendment.)

I’ve wondered why we seem to be our own worst enemy.  Here’s my theory: we are steeped in a male-dominated society that consciously or unconsciously devalues us.  You get hit over the head enough times with the message that you aren’t worthy because you’re a female, and self-loathing is born. And if you’re not valuable because you’re a girl, then all the other girls around you aren’t valuable either. So Mothers devalue their own daughters, and the legacy passes from generation to generation like a virus.

I’m not interested in debating how we got here, what matters is how we change this situation asap!

I suggest we focus on passing down new messages to our girls  that not only empower them, but drive them to empower each other. How do we do this? 

In my roles as stepmother, aunt, and daughter here’s some of what I’m doing…embrace my body, faults and all so my girls will embrace theirs, (Hubby and I continue to rave about Madu’s curly hair for ex, which she’s finally loving herself), encourage my girls to pursue their dreams be it as a social worker, E.R. doc, or NASA scientist, tell them marriage and family is a choice not a foregone conclusion, remind them that if a boy isn’t nice to them they should move onto the next, (as opposed to my upbringing where I was told if a boy likes you he hits you, which may be true, but sets you up for bad choices later).

In my quest to empower myself and other women, I vote for female politicians who represent my interests, i.e. women’s issues that men tend to ignore, I support groups that empower girls like Girls, Inc and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and I attempt to view all women with acceptance and compassion, not judgement.

I’m sure I could be doing even more.  What are you doing to empower yourself and your girls?

PURPLE PASSION OF THE FORTNIGHT

PURPLE PASSION OF THE FORTNIGHT

ReykjavikEnlightened

Reykjavik, Iceland Enlightened, (get it?) country that boasts the world’s first democratically elected female President!

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Are You Man Enough To Be A Girl Scout Leader?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Since the goal of these letters is to inspire and empower girls of all ages, I assumed that I’d only feature girls & women in my correspondence.  I was wrong.

Meet Hank Harris, a 92 yr old WW II Vet who’s been a girl scout troop leader for many decades. 

Hank has always loved scouting.  Unable to join the scouts as a boy due to a lack of dough, he formed his own group, The Boy Ranger Scouts.  The Ranger Scouts focused on learning outdoor skills from a local man who volunteered to teach them.

Fast forward a couple of decades to the time when Hank’s daughter, Jill, was old enough to join the girl scouts. He and his wife, Carolyn, started a troop in North Carolina and never looked back.  Over the years he’s taught hundreds of girls how to pitch a tent, bait a fish hook, or start a fire. 

But Hank taught his girls much more than how to cook breakfast over an open fire.  He gave them confidence and self-respect–traits that can be hard to come by for girls that age, and something many never acquire.

His contribution to the girl scouts in his area has been so huge, that they named a lake at one of their camps Lake Harris, in honor of Hank and his wife.

So my hat’s off to you, Hank!  Thanks for reminding me that men can inspire and empower girls too.

Click here to find a girl scout troop in your area.  And check out another woman who’s empowered many, Girl Scout founder  Juliette Gordon Low.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Girl Scout cookie oven..thin mints here I come!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Girl Scout cookie oven..thin mints here I come!

Destination of the Fortnight: Lighthouses on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Destination of the Fortnight: Lighthouses on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

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Valentine’s Day Equals Hearts, Flowers, and Empowerment

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Valentine’s Day is about love of all kinds, but there’s more to this date than hearts and flowers.
On February 14, 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women’s Voters while at the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association(NAWSA) in Chicago.Mrs. Catt, who was president of NAWSA, called the League a “mighty political experiment,” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. The League, which still exists today, represented Catt’s acknowledgment that the 72-year-old battle over an American woman’s right to vote had finally come to an end.

Carrie’s struggle for an equal voice started much earlier.  She was the only female in the 1880 graduating class of Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm in Ames (now Iowa State University). She managed to graduate at the top of her class despite holding down three jobs while there.  (Wonder how many of her male counterparts had three jobs?!) She went on to become one of the first female school superintendents in the nation.

In addition, she became one of the leading suffragists in the world. She initially succeeded Ms. Anthony as president of NAWSA in 1900, but it wasn’t until she returned to the post in 1915 that she was able to achieve her lifelong goal–to give women an equal voice in government.

In 1916, Catt unveiled her “Winning Plan.” She’d campaign for the vote on both state and federal levels, and would  compromise, if she had to, for partial suffrage in the states resisting change. Her strategy worked. 

By 1918, President Woodrow Wilson was finally convinced. On August 26, 1920, one hundred and forty-four years after the U.S. declared independence, the Nineteenth Amendment officially granted all women in the United States the right to vote.

So the next time you’re chomping down on your Valentine’s chocolate, remember Carrie, and that one woman can make a difference, while a whole lotta women can change the world!

P.S. If you’re wondering what to get me for Valentine’s Day in 2016, vote in the first female President of the U.S.!  Carrie will be cheering from the stands.
HAPPY BELATED VALENTINE’S DAY!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Destination of the Fortnight: U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

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A Rejected Princess Rises Again: Hypatia

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

After  I wrote a report on Hypatia of Alexandria (350/70-415 BC) the first known female mathematician, (she was also a philosopher, physicist and astronomer),  thought I might be connected to her in some way.  Maybe I was her in another life.  Though once I saw how much trouble I had with algebra in eighth grade, I knew better.

The first time I read Hypatia’s story the belief was that she was killed because she was a pagan intellectual woman who didn’t allow the church to control her.

Recently, due to a fantastic website called Rejected Princesses, I’ve learned there are many versions of Hypatia’s tale.  The most accurate seems to be that she was caught in the middle of a war between a secular Christian, Orestes who ran Alexandria, and the Christian bishop Cyril, who defied him. Because Orestes relied on Hypatia for guidance, someone in Cyril’s camp concocted a rumor that Hypatia was prolonging the conflict by giving Orestes bad advice.

The best idea Cyril’s folks had was to murder Hypatia.  The shame of it all is that because she was vilified before her death, none of her work seems to exist.

But here are the reasons I love Hypatia and why she can still inspire us today:

1) She’s a great reminder that girls can be good at math.  Sometimes I forget that.
2) She stayed true to herself, even though I bet it wasn’t easy to do so.  Her brilliance, coupled with her strong belief in doing it her way, inspired the men around her to seek out her advice and view her as a leader. This in a time when women were still considered eye candy and the actual property of their husbands.
3) She chose to share her gifts with those around her.  By becoming head of an academy, similar to a Harvard or Yale today, she equipped her students with the knowledge and heart they needed to go out and change the world. And that’s what they did.  So many of today’s discoveries sit on the foundation Hypatia helped build.

Whenever I feel like being different is stopping me from achieving something I want, I’m going to remember that being different was what enabled Hypatia to change the world.

How can Hypatia inspire you?

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: The Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt

Destination of the Fortnight: The Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt

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