March 29, 2007

Have you thought about the man you want to be?

Ah, Wayne. Imagine a man who spends his time and energy helping men become the men they want to be? Well, that's Wayne Levine of West Coast Men's Center and, the author of "Hold On To Your N.U.T.S. - The Relationship Manual For Men. And the guest speaker at tonight's WOW meeting. Lucky us!

We are self-sufficient, strong, independent women who really would like to have a man in our lives and so we talk about it, share the details of our coffee dates, and ask each other what would you do with this guy when he did this or that. We read self-help books, we take seminars, and we read all the women's magazines telling us how to please our guy. And we talk and talk and talk about ourselves and what we've learned and what still puzzles us and we almost never stop trying to figure it all out.
But the guys? Who do they talk to about their personal issues? Apparently no one, I hear. They can't really talk about it with their mates or girlfriends or guy friends for fear of being perceived as weak. They weren't taught how to deal with their personal issues by their fathers or father-figures. So they are just flailing around, trying their darndest to have successful relationships with women and often failing miserably, thus adding to their insecurities and promoting more self-loathing.

So Wayne is there with men's groups and men's weekend retreats to teach men to become the men they really want to be. To get them to stop whining and complaining about their women and look into themselves to figure out what they are doing that instigates or promotes the conflict. To get them to set limits, determine their own N.U.T.S (non-negotiable, unalterable terms) and stick to it, regardless of how their mate will react. To get the guy to realize that it's not about HER, it's never about her. To provide a safe place for men to say what they need to say, to learn to silence the little boy, to learn to express their feelings without defensiveness, and on and on. But I'd rather you learn it from the expert. From Wayne.

On one hand, it's almost sad to realize that the men I've loved in my life have needed such guidance and mentoring and that those relationships have failed. On the other hand, Wayne assures us that men can heal and grow and become strong men, the men with whom we can create healthy and lovingrelationships. I'm waiting for a guy like that. Right here, learning to be the best woman I can be, having fun with my girlfriends, and waiting for a great guy like that!

March 25, 2007

Somebody is trying to tell me something.

I just got back from a fun night with Rookie MacPherson's group, a dinner-speaker event. Rookie let me help her with checking in the guests and I liked that, since I have been feeling a bit unsocial lately. Not anti-social, but just not like making small talk with strangers. But having a task allowed me a good position to watch how the night unfolded and I felt a good "vibe" from the crowd and watched as people greeted those they knew and newcomers fit right in. It reminded me of the TV show Cheers, how people have a great need to feel welcome and like they "fit in." Her events just feel good, the crowd is never clique-ish, and it always seems like a nice time was had by all.

The speaker was Bruce Derman, PhD, the author of the book pictured above. I've been to a zillion seminars, heard a trillion speakers, and read two gazillion self-help books, but I always find something new in each one, even if only to remind myself of a truth I already learned. He said that there are no wrong people, no bad dates, no unsuccessful relationships, and that judgements and rejection are a part of dating. He said that we match with whoever we are ready for at that moment, that everyone plays games but that we should figure out their particular one, and that we make at least six judgements when first meeting someone. His idea is that we should ask people if this is the "real you" since we each send a representative to the date that we think the other person would like. That when we think the person we liked has changed, it is only because we didn't ask the right questions and we don't listen to what we hear. I've heard all this before, but I listened again and somehow it seemed different.

Since I stopped getting the LA times and stopped TIVOing most of the TV I used to watch, I've had a lot of time to think about who I am and who I want to be and what I want from my life. Yes, I know that my quest is to live in the moment, but there's always room for self-appraisal so I've been going through some old books in my library, curious to see if I have been reading the same wisdom over and over and over through the years. One was Courage My Love by Merle Shain, who writes about love and longing, how we spend our lives trying to capture or recapture the love of our mothers, how we didn't really get what we needed when we were little, and how we spend the rest of our lives blaming others for our not being able to fill our inner emptiness. How it's really our love, the love of ourself, that we seek and that no one else can do that for us. I know that I've seen this in the men that I've loved, how they still suffer from what their mothers did or didn't do for them, how they are still angry at the pain of their childhood, how they take out that pain on the women they love today. And, although we women seem to function better, have more friends and more activities, and seem to need a man less than men need us, we still have that same pain and longing, that need to be loved, that seeking someone else to make us whole.

Dr. Derman had the same important message as Merle Shain and I think if I go through all my books, I might hear that same message, maybe in different forms or from different slants, but still the same. Dr. Derman said that "the lover you desire is not lost, you are." Merle Shain wrote "As long as we think we have to have somebody to adore us to be somebody, we are stuck in a holding pattern, whining and waiting, impotent and injured, blaming those who have failed us, not knowing we are complicitious in keeping ourselves from becoming the person we are meant to be."

And what do I say? Thanks to everyone who tries to show me the message to love myself, to my friends who help me see my value, to those who tell me they appreciate me, and to people like Rookie who provide us a safe place to grow. To my inner critic, I say "quiet, I'm not gonna listen anymore." To the world, I say bring it on, I'm ready to live and love.

March 21, 2007

Yeah, Wayne!

It's time for another WOW meeting. I get home from work, do some last minute cleaning, take a few minutes to rest and clear my head from the day, and wait. One by one, and sometimes two by two, the ladies come into my house, bearing their delicious contributions to the dinner. What was just a quiet room becomes noisy, full of the joy of seeing one another, brimming with news to share, and with kisses and hugs for all. I'm usually the one who is most quiet, pouring wine and soda, arranging the food on the counter, giving out plates and forks, and keeping my eyes on the crowd to make sure that everyone has a seat, the new people are in the midst of it all, and everyone has fun. Oh really, I think that all just happens with these amazing women, and I love to watch it unfold.

So next week we have a man speaking. Yes, a real, live, breathing man. Usually, we've had women speaking to the group, from life coaches to our recent Tara the seductress. All with a message to share, all sharing openly and freely, all bringing something to the table to teach us, to motivate us, to get us thinking. And this time it's Wayne Levine, M.A., director of the West Coast Men's Center ( He spends his time teaching men to "be the men you want to be in your relationships and in your life." A few of us met him last year at Leon's Conversations for the first time, although I am still convinced we knew each other in a previous life. He was charming, cute, and really, really smart about men and their problems and the solutions.

Since his idea is that men can only learn from other men, what's the point of inviting Wayne to a WOW meeting? I've had my share of relationships with troubled men, guys who I just adored but who turned out to have problems and issues that made a healthy relationship impossible. I've always felt that these guys were angry at maybe their mother or their father or someone they knew earlier in their lives and that they took out that anger on me by being mean or passive-aggressive, but this is not news for the ladies. I'll bet we've all known a few like this. Men that had tantrums, men that were defensive, men that shut down, men that gave up. And I always figured that I could help them, show them what they were doing, and that they could and would find healing and then we could have that great relationship I knew they were capable of having. But after meeting Wayne, I realized that I was right about the issues these guys faced. And that felt good. But then, when he taught that only men can teach other men, I felt so relieved to know that it wasn't my failing for not "fixing" these guys, that it couldn't happen that way and I was right to let go.

So, if any of you female readers have wanted to come to a WOW meeting, this is a good one. We meet in Chatsworth, CA on Thurs at my house, so if you're interested, let me know ( We really have fun and love visitors, so don't be shy. For those of you who live far away (or are men, sorry this is for ladies only!) I'll write all about it after it happens! Until then, be extra nice to each other!

March 17, 2007

The journey is the destination.

Who said "Life is what's happening while we're busy making plans"? Geez, we worry about the future, we obsess on regrets for past actions, and we forget that we're right here, right now, and this is it. Are we ever really here?

Facing reality is probably life's biggest challenge. We can balance our checkbook and add up our financial worth, we can count the number of our friends, we can visually see our belongings, but are we ever really in the moment? What makes that so very difficult? If we really, really face who we are it might be painful, we might see things that are not so pretty, and we might not like what we see. So we keep busy, going to clubs and on dates with strangers, shopping 'til we drop, using chemicals or food to blur our senses, and find more and more ways to avoid seeing what's in front of our face. Us.

I've been reading online singles ads for years, sometimes meeting men and sometimes not, but reading them. And when I do talk to or meet some of the guys, I'm astonished at how different they are from their profiles. They may say they're funny or charming or sensitive and they turn out to be cynical or callous or mean. They even lie about the obvious, such as height, weight, and age - don't they realize that the truth is so obvious? So I think that maybe we just don't see ourselves as we really are, both our flaws and our fabulousness, that it might be just easier on our emotions to just pretend we are something we are not.

So what prompted this rant about reality? I bumped into an old boyfriend this week, someone I loved and adored and was so glad I had met. A sweet, funny, dear man who sometimes brought me great joy and sometimes I just wanted to kill him. Me, the pacifist. He looked good and seemed happy, although he did stutter a bit when trying to talk to me. I don't think love dies. I think we just keep loving someone forever, even if we grew to dislike them or if they harmed us. Maybe it's physics, that matter may change but never ceases to exist. But then I digress.

I occasionally think of him, this man with whom I had such a passionate and short-lived affair a few years ago, how I still sometimes wish it had worked out, how I still wonder how he went from such a sweet and thoughtful guy to one who would take something good that I did and turn it into something bad, like we had seen different movies in the same room on the same VCR. He was full of life and full of self-hatred, full of joy and full of pain, full of hope and full of regret. But did he really see himself as he is? Did he talk about our love affair and realize his role in its failure? Did he go on to love other women and do well or make the same mistakes? Did he heal and become more whole, able to love selflessly and fully? Did I?

How did I start this? Oh yeah, saying that life is right now, what's happening when we are thinking about something else. So how is my life today? Good, thank you. I'm enjoying the company of my women friends immensely, I'm finding pleasure in solitude, and I'm constantly finding my breath being taken away by each word uttered by my grandbabies. I'm delighted that my kind and beautiful curly-haired daughter is more wise with each day and seems to have found ways to make her life rich and full. I'm back to feeling strong at work. I'm healthy.

I want to live fully in the moment and a new and very wise friend suggested that this blog is helpful in that quest, since I must be fully present in each of my experiences in order to write about it. So why did I write this particular post. Not so sure, maybe just to remind you to try to see life for what it really is. And to see yourself as you really are. Flawed and beautiful, wise and growing more so, full of love to give away. Right now.

March 13, 2007

Music as a reminder.

Sometimes I think we don't remember what we have. And sometimes life is good enough to remind us. I went to a concert tonight, invited by my beautiful curly-haired daughter and it was wonderful. Probably not many of you have heard of Patty Griffin, but she is amazing. I'm not sure I can find the right words to actually describe her. She is this tiny woman with fabulous shoes who can belt out a song like the voice comes from God. And, if there is a God, he or she must be really happy with her. She is a singer-songwriter who speaks from her soul, music that just moves me to the point that it is almost an exhausting emotional experience to listen to her. But those, again, are just words and words really cannot describe the pleasure of being surrounded by her voice and her songs. And the joy of having this experience by invitation of my own daughter.

But back to the point. My daughter and her friends are getting close to forty years old. Many of them have never married and the married ones are still trying to have children. Surrounded by this generation so different than mine, I was sad to think that many people in our privileged society may live lifes in which their dreams are never fulfilled. And I was sad that I sometimes think of what I, myself, don't have, such as a high-paying job, the ability and time to travel whenever and wherever I want, a fancy car, a new love. But how selfish of me! I have had many great loves, have seen the Mona Lisa in person and made love in Paris, have given birth to and raised an amazing daughter, have a son-in-law I dearly love, and watched the birth of my twin grandbabies. I have a roof over my head, a dependable car, a fulfilling job, wonderful old and new friends, and the company of grandbabies twice a week. I can see, I can hear, I can walk, and I have food in my kitchen. I can't even fathom how many people have lived and died not having even one of my blessings.

So I vote that we take time every day to remember what is good in our life, that even if we are missing something now it might be something we have already had the pleasure of experiencing or something that is soon to come into our life. And ever if we never, ever have it, let's be grateful for even the smallest things we have now.

March 11, 2007

Dinner and Dancing.

OK, I went out again. Dinner and dancing. What!!! I can just hear you now, Ellen went on a date?!? Yeah, right. Not that it can't happen, but not last night. Who did I go out with? My friend Rookie MacPherson of We are new friends, lucky me, and realized over dinner (at Sizzler's - don't laugh, a great salad bar!) that we have a lot in common, both good and bad, in our personal histories. Plus, we are both the kind of people who get an idea, figure out a solution, and make it happen. She was unhappy with the available singles events, so she decided to create her own. Kinda like what happened when I invited online daters on to meet at a public event and got kicked off that site for "solitication." I was just trying to get people to meet in real life and look what happened. But Rookie is her own boss and her events are fun and successful.

OK, back to last night. After that yummy dinner, we went to the Sportsman's Lodge to listen to music and dance. What should I say about those few hours? We two ladies danced together most of the time, the music was stuff we could sing to, and the guys hanging around stared at our, um, curves and didn't ask us to dance. That about sums it up. Except for the really old guy in the red shirt who wouldn't let us sit at his table and then spent most of his time dancing with two or three ladies at a time. The other guys pretty much stood around and watched the TV (when they weren't checking out our you-know-whats). Then there was this Italian guy who bought drinks for both of us, danced with Rookie, and couldn't stop saying how sexy and beautiful she was.

And then there was Anthony. Big muscles, shaved head, tattoos everywhere. Gorgeous. Nice, polite guy, looked like someone from the 'hood, but professed his respect for women over and over. And he tried his darndest to convince us that we should take him home with us. Did I mention that he was 31-years-old? Ah, I can live with that memory for a long time.

So, is there a morale to this story? No, not really. Just that life can be fun, new women friends are a blessing, and men are visual and sometimes lack balls. And no, thank you, we didn't take Anthony up on his offer. Not that it didn't sound pretty good for a moment or two.....

March 9, 2007

The Nike Challenge.

I'm making a shift, a little shift, in my life. My theory is that one little shift in something, anything, makes everything else shift. For example, I've stopped reading the LA Times. I've been getting the LA Times delivered for maybe thirty years. I love to read it. I have a system, what I read first and where I read each section, so I'm not doing that anymore and everything feels different. I've changed the pattern and the routine, just this little bit, and my life feels different. I like that. I have a friend facing a change at work and she admits to being afraid of change, so I told her that everyone has fears. Some people let the fears stop them from doing things and others just do the things anyway. I come from a family that is almost paralyzed by fears and no one does anything different ever. And, of course, they never make mistakes, unless you consider taking no risks the biggest mistake of all. Our psyche fears change the most, I know that, but in looking back on my life I realize that the best things in my life came from when I was willing to walk thru the scariness and just do it anyway.

Oddly, I also find that I'm a little bit more alert this week. Since I'm not reading the paper on the couch while watching TV, I find that I'm watching less TV and feeling more connected with myself. There's that little shift again. So I thought I'd share some things I've learned this week during my extra time.

1) My beautiful and lovely curly-haired daughter send me this quote from Real Simple: "You can take no credit for beauty at 16. But if you are beautiful at 60, it will be your soul's own doing." Marie Stopes. First of all, that's darn sweet for my daughter to send that to me and I know it. And it's a nice reminder that age either brings sadness and remorse or beauty and joy - and that we have a choice in which way to think.

2) From Daily OM, an article called Decorating Life: We move through life instinctively, not realizing that we have an effect on every room we enter and that everything we do or say decorates our world. The clothes we wear, the words we say, the tone of our voice, all decorate life itself with our particular energy. In doing so, "we express our deeper selves, so that the adornments we add to the world make it more meaningful, more beautiful, and as welcoming as a beloved home." And here we think no one notices us! Our mere presence changes the world!

3) Again from Daily OM, in an article called Surrender: We women have learned to be independent and strong, some of us after long marriages ended and some of us during those marriages when we realized that our mate was unwilling to do his share. So now we are sometimes unwilling to allow others to help us in our times of need, thinking it will make us weak again and somehow take away our independence. "It takes wisdom and strength to surrender to our own helplessness and to accept that we, just like every other human being, have limitations. The gifts of surrender are numerous. We discover humility, gratitude, and a deepening understanding of the human experience that enables us to be that much more compassionate and surrendered in the world." So surrender makes us stronger. And more compassionate. I like that.

4) From Leon's Conversations, again I was reminded that sometimes people just want to win. They argue and bait and cajole and frame questions in ways that the respondent gets trapped, just so they can prove their point. Really, it seems like giving in and listening to another's viewpoint makes some of us fear the loss of our own reality, like if we believe that a different viewpoint might be right, our balance and security is somehow challenged. It's that fear thing again, like we don't want to give up something we hold to be true, worrying that other parts of our life will tumble and fall if we do.

5) And of course, there's sex. From Dr. Laura Berman's Passion Files, an article titled "Not in the Mood." She writes that "She doesn't want to have sex unless she feels close to him, and he doesn't give her that sense of closeness unless he's getting sex from her." A conundrum. Remember, she writes, that the number one aphrodisiac for a women "is the sense of emotional intimacy she shares with her partner." So she needs closeness to want to have sex and he uses sex to feel close. What's Dr. Berman's answer? Just have sex. I'll look forward to the time in my life, hopefully sooner rather than later, when I can try out her theory.

How did I start this post? Oh yeah, talking about fear. I am convinced that fear might be our greatest motivator. We're afraid to do something for fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being liked, fear of being liked, and on and on. So, I say, just make a little shift in your life, stop reading the paper or have your coffee on the patio instead of on the couch, take a different route to work, talk to someone you see every day but haven't met, ask out that lovely lass you have your eye on. The littlest shift in something, anything, will change everything. Maybe Nike is right - Just Do It!

March 4, 2007

Just dessert.

I hear that my writing has been less than inspiring lately. I've been sick, remember? I'm here in body, but my thinking feels kinda diluted. I'm better, off and on, and have my moments of energy and spunk again, so I think I'm on the mend. Even in my fog, I did organize a girls night out for the WOW ladies last night. We went to a local eatery and had a yummy meal (sharing salads, of course) and this dessert that has a funny name and is a huge warm cookie served in the baking dish with ice cream on top. One of us, I won't mention who, said it was better than sex. I have no comment on that, having only experienced dessert lately and not the other.....

Anyway, after dinner, we walked to the hotel next door and listened to an eight piece band (drummer, sax, trumpet, singer, keyboarder, etc) compromised of guys our age who were pretty good. Played songs we could sing to and seemed genuinely happy for the chance to make music together. We were invited by a son of a patient of mine, a rather quirky guy, 52 years old, never married, claiming to be seeking a woman under 28. Doesn't want to get married, doesn't want kids, and I've always thought he was the kinda guy who was sort of asexual, like he had no interest in that area. Quirky guy, did I say that already?

I hear that men, when they get together with their buddies, don't talk about anything personal. They might talk about movies, cars, and politics, but not how they feel. They could spend the day together and not know if the other person was dating, if he was having an emotional or spiritual crisis, or if he recently experienced a light bulb moment in life. We girls, however, talk about matters of the heart, but it's different now than even a few years ago. Before, we would talk about our dates, what weird or good things the guys did, and how we could overlook the things we didn't like because we really liked the guy. Now, we talk about how what we learned about ourselves from being with them, how we see men more realistically, and how we have grown past keeping the guy even if we knew he wasn't right for us. Now we talk about how we enjoy being single and how we won't settle for less than a really good guy and a really healthy relationship. How we now can see men as they really are, recognize the red flags, and are no longer keeping fix-er-uppers. How we really do want a great guy, but we're willing to wait.

So we ladies had a good time. Carole, who brought her friend Merle visiting from Chicago, looked young and hip. Even Heather, who didn't feel her best, joined us and looked particularly lovely. The always sparkly Lauri was especially pretty and fun and how is it that everytime we see Rachel she looks more beautiful?

So, the morale is that we ladies go through life, learning as we go, enjoying the process, and having so much fun with each other that having a man would be just dessert. And maybe more delicious that the one we shared last night.