Tag Archives: women

Fierce at 50

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Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!

February 22-26 (full with wait list)
June 7-11
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October 18-22

       To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

I’m taking a break in the Haven Winter Blog series today to reflect on passion, power, age, and to shine a light on a new friend…

Today is the launch of #TheFierce50, a movement dedicated to women 50 and over who are thriving, creating and celebrating where they are in life.  I was selected along with a fierce group of women including Lee WoodruffKathy Kahler and Denise Austin to be among #TheFierce50. We each were paired with a fellow #Fierce50 blogger and given the honor to write about her. I was thrilled to be paired with Katheen Baty, one seriously fierce woman.  After we got off the phone (3 hours!), I wrote this piece.  Click here to read more about The Fierce50 Movement.

I turned fifty last year.  Some people say fifty is the new thirty.  What I know about being fifty, is that I have accumulated enough life experience to know some things, and to learn from them, and to find my true purpose because of them.  Unfortunately, most of the things that have brought me to this confluence of self, had to do with pain.  Is pain really gain?  Is it true that what doesn’t kill you actually makes you stronger?  I would like to think that we’d be stronger from a long walk in the woods, or lunch with a good friend, or floating on our back in the Caribbean.  But while those moments help me to be present, or to process the past and imagine the future…they’re not what has helped me find my way.  It’s the hard stuff that has.  It’s standing in the places where I feel recycled and spat out and spent, and sometimes bashed bloody from hitting walls I somehow haven’t learned don’t have doorways, that have shaken me awake to the basics of self-sustainability.

Is there a cure for this?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s passion.  Maybe it’s knowing what you love and what brings you into true delight and thirst for life…and mining that no matter what’s going on in your life.  For me, that passion has been writing.  It is what holds me together and always has.  I have said many times, “Don’t wait for the rug to get ripped out from underneath you to find your passions.  When I went through re-invention 101, I’m glad that my passions were in a row, even if my ducks weren’t.”  That’s when I wrote my way through a brutal time of my life and my career as a published author took flight, and that’s when I started my Haven Writing Retreats.  At Haven, I teach people to find their voice, their passion, their sustainability through writing, in whatever form they choose—journals, essays, books etc.  But there are other ways.

A woman who knows perhaps more about this than any of us want to, is the remarkable Kathleen Baty who for eight years underwent brutal stalking until she was finally kidnapped at gunpoint.  Did she let it take her down?  No way.  Instead she learned every possible aspect of personal safety to stay alive, worked with Law Enforcement because there were no laws at that time making stalking a crime, and eventually testified at the state and federal level to pass the Anti Stalking Laws.  Talk about turning pain into passion!

But she didn’t stop there.  She started her company, SafetyChick Enterprises, LLC in order to  change the way personal safety and crime prevention was embraced by women. Instead of marketing to fear, the SafetyChick Brand promotes strength, courage and common sense. She wants women to CARE about their safety, not run from it. She wrote two books, “A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do” (Rodale) and “College Safety 101″ (Chronicle Books)  and believes that  “Caring about your personal safety is the GREATEST Gift you can give yourself. IT is NOT about being paranoid.  It’s about being SMART and making SMART personal safety choices.  Personal Safety is Personal.  It’s what makes YOU feel comfortable at the time.  Making the decision to CARE about your personal safety translates into every aspect of your life. It makes you a better mother, friend, coworker, whatever, because you are living with purpose.”

What if, then, as young women and men, we fastened this lesson to our hearts:  Being passionate for our safety first is our bottom line non-negotiable.  Maybe then, pain wouldn’t have to be gain.  And walls would become doors, and pain would become passion and possibility.  And I’d like to think that a little writing along the way helps…

#thefierce50 

 

 

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Create Community– You Don’t Have to Do it Alone!

Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015 "I write in a solitude born out of community." -Terry Tempest Williams

Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015

as seen on Women Writers, Women’s Books

“I write in a solitude born out of community”—Terry Tempest Williams

I am home from leading a five day writing retreat in the woods of Montana where hundreds of people have come in the last three years to dig deeper into their creative self-expression on the page. That is my invitation to them. That is my only promise: we will dig deeply and I will keep it a loving, safe, and nurturing community. My call: Find your voice. Set it free. You do not have to be a writer to come to a Haven Retreat. Only a seeker. Come.

Look into these faces, these eyes, these smiles. These were strangers on a Wednesday, who journeyed to Montana from hundreds…thousands of miles in every direction.

This photograph was taken on Saturday night, three days later. This is what can happen when people gather to create in community, held safely by someone who knows what it is to use writing as a practice, a prayer, a meditation, a way of life, and sometimes a way to life.

I will keep doing this work until I answer the question I have asked my entire adult life: Do I have to do this alone? Is there anyone out there who cares? Is there anyone out there who can help me?

Be careful if you want to go on a writing retreat. I designed the retreat that I would want to go on, so Haven offers no “easy” way to get published, no bullet points to follow for success, no slick method to find your voice, no guru to worship. No gift shop, no 5-step DVD.

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Haven offers community, support, inspiration, and a place to take yourself apart a bit and weave yourself back together, new…through heart language. It is the most important work, outside of what I have birthed in my children and my own written stories, that I have ever done.

I didn’t know about writing retreats when I claimed my life as a writer in 1988, fresh out of college. I thought I had to do it alone. I didn’t trust community to understand my yearning, my craving, to make sense of this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called life. I didn’t trust community to give me permission to look into the dark corners and shine a light on an otherwise dim place.

My writing was for me. Alone. And I couldn’t understand why the product wasn’t landing in people’s hearts. I longed to be published and to every sinking sun I begged: Please let me be published to wide acclaim.

And then one day, after years of struggle, writing book after book, story after story, essay after essay, and always a journal nearby, I asked myself why. Why? Why this pain from something I was devoting my life to? At that time, I had learned my craft well enough to land an excellent New York agent who had gained the attention of some major publishing houses. There was hope that my words would land in readers’ laps to a significant degree. But things kept breaking down in the end, and I was bereft.

So I looked into a blank page, as was my practice, my most safe and dangerous place, and asked m

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yself: Why do I write? This is what came out:I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch black corner to provide relief for myself and others. It floored me. Relief? Service? Not just Sense? That changed everything.

If I was writing to help, I needed a new perspective. And that perspective felt spacious. Expansive. Full of possibility. I had already cultivated a hunger for my seeking spirit on the page. In-so-doing, maybe it was possible to help others do the same just by relating with my raw real journey. And THAT’S when I got published. Well-published.

New York Times best-selling author published. Suddenly I was on major media, driving around in limos, going to the book signings of my dreams. It was powerful, but nothing in comparison to the act of creating. And I got it: What we must long for…is our voice. Our craft. Our way of seeing…and what our stories want to say. It was the best news I could imagine because we can control that! I couldn’t wait to get back home and back to my writing.

The poet Rilke says, “Go to the limits of your longing.” That longing, for me, is in the creation, not the product. It’s in the process. The work. We can control the work. That’s it. Success and failure are myths. That is the greatest relief I’ve known and why it occurred to me one day to lead writing retreats. If I am an authority on anything, it’s how to do the work. How to cultivate your own unique voice and become hungry for it.

To show up for it every day and find out what it has to say. We are so caught up in the supposed-to-be and the should and the perfection of it all that we forget what this writing thing is all about: it’s in the ability to give ourselves permission to put our hearts in our hands. To see where we are in our own way, and truly feel our flow. To go where it’s natural, not forced. To have it be easy. How about that? Easy? Breathe into the groundlessness of that and live there for a moment. Feels good, doesn’t it.

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A woman on my last retreat took that breath one morning, sun streaming in through the Montana winter skies, and said it so perfectly: “There is a way to use my head if I let it follow my heart.” She looked around the room and smiled at each of us. Born out of community, yes. And held by sacred solitude.

Please, if you hunger for your voice, if you need permission to speak it, if you value the transformational tool that is the written word, consider giving yourself the unstoppable experience of writing in community.

The next Haven Retreat is at the incredible Ranch at Rock Creek

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April 29th-May 3rd

For more info, email:  Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com


 

 

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I’d love to speak in your neck of the woods!

Sooo…some shameless self-promotion:  if your business, school, social group, club, library etc. is looking for a speaker who is all about empowerment…pick me!  Here’s the scoop:   http://www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/laura-munson

LAURA MUNSON

A writer for over 20 years, Laura Munson is the author of theNew York Times and international best-selling memoir, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Passionate about “finding the intersection of heart and mind and craft on the page,” Munson shares a story that explores marital crisis and imparts a message of empowerment, the importance of living in the present, and the necessity of claiming responsibility for one’s own happiness – no matter what is going on in life.

It all began when Munson penned an essay, “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear,” for the “Modern Love” column of The New York Times in 2009. Stunned by the firestorm reaction she received, Munson emerged as the face behind an essay that ignited dinner talk, office chat, and book groups around the globe. A short version of a memoir she had written during a rough time in her marriage, the essay touched people with its powerful honesty. And they wanted more. After having written for two decades, having completed 14 novels, and having endured countless rejections, Munson had a book deal within 48 hours.  Her memoir has been published in nine countries.

Munson’s work has appeared in the New York Times ”Modern Love” column, the New York Times Magazine ”Lives” column, O. MagazineWoman’s DayRedbook, Good Housekeeping, More magazine, Shambhala Sun, The Sun, and Big Sky Journal, as well as on HuffingtonPost.com and through many other media outlets. She has been on two national book tours with appearances on Good Morning America, The Early Show, London’s This Morning, Australia’s Sunrise, various NPR stations, and many other television and radio shows, including Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Hay House radio program.

TOPICS

How to Turn Crisis Into Personal Freedom

How to Get What You Want by Getting Out of Your Own Way

The Power of Story in Times of Crisis

Please call 800.225.4575 or contact The American Program Bureau for more information on this speaker’s speech topics.

REQUEST MORE INFO

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 Laura Munson
Questions about booking?
617.614.1600
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More Magazine’s FANTASTIC Reinvention Convention

I’m going to be using adjectives that I try not to over use:  Fantastic, amazing, spectacular, inspiring, fabulous.  I try to save them for when it really counts.  This is one of those times.  Simply put, MORE MAGAZINE’S REINVENTION CONVENTION was one of the most fantastic, amazing, spectacular, inspiring, fabulous events I’ve experienced.  DON’T MISS THE NEXT ONE. Check out the speakers.  All I can say is wow.  Thank you, More, for trusting me to be one of your messengers.  And now a word from the fantastic, amazing, spectacular, inspiring, fabulous Lee Woodruff…  (who also happens to be my friend and one of my book’s biggest champions.)

You gotta love an MC who talks about her dirty underwear!  Literally.  Being on the road as a travelling author, clean underwear is not just a luxury, but a small miracle. Her book PERFECTLY IMPERFECT is a MUST READ! 

 Lee Woodruff at the Reinvention Convention, posted with vodpod

In LA Live-- next to the American Idol finals...tempting...Ever have a day that feels like magic?  Where everybody’s smiling and shaking hands and being kind to each other and thrilled to be exactly where they are?  And there are supermodels and movie stars and TV celebrities and fabulously successful women all around you just being themselves– being normal (whatever that means)– being someone you could sit with in your pj’s and share a pizza and your current crush and maybe have a thumb war…only you’re doing it all grown up in great clothes and an hour of hair and make-up?  Well, I got to have a day like that a few weeks ago and I am still under its spell. Thank you MORE MAGAZINE for putting together such an INSPIRING day. We use the word inspiring a lot in our current society. You could have written the definition. And thank you for inviting me to speak. And for making it barely impossible for me to feel good after applying my own make-up and doing my own hair.

The fabulous Rita Wilson was in the front row-- what an honor! More Magazine’s executive editor, the intuitive and insightful Judy Coyne moderates while Mel Robbins (author, radio celebrity, and life coach), and I cover the topic Getting What You Want by Getting Out of Your Own Way. The fabulous Rita Wilson was in the front row, center. What an honor! (More on Rita in my next blog post.)

Judy Coyne moderates!

I felt like I was living Katie Perry’s lyrics, baby you’re a firework sharing the stage with Mel Robbins. I thought I had a lot of energy! Her book STOP SAYING YOU’RE FINE will change the way you think and relate with the world. 


Remind me not to pose with a super model again.

Christy Turlington Burns is not only beautiful on the outside, but inside too. She has learned the hard way that beauty cannot guard you against health issues, and has taken her birth hemorrhage experience to the screen in her directorial debut: NO WOMAN NO CRY. I was in tears. We think about the babies, but who thinks about the mothers? 

 Sold out book signing! Thanks to all of you who braved that line!

My friend Lee Woodruff behind the scenes.  This is what a Green Room looks like, by the way. They’re never green.
 
For more information on this spectacular convention: 
Stacey Gualandi captures the spirit of the day in her wonderful article for The Woman’s Eye
Here’s a link to our radio interview. Look under News, Radio. It’s the last link.

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Hip Boutique Now Online!


As much as I love our local boutiques here in our small Montana town and support them whenever I can…tis true that I also rely on the internet for shopping.  Jonathan Franzen says that no good novel is currently being written on a computer attached to the internet and he’s right.  I’ll be in the thick of a scene in my current novel in progress, and suddenly I’m fact checking online, and suddenly I’m buying boots.  I recently had to unplug my main computer for just this reason.  Too many temptations.  The fab women’s boutique CHILL is one of them.  I learned about it via a mutual friend on Facebook, but to my dismay, it was where so many of the fab boutiques are– thousands of miles east.  I am thrilled that CHILL has decided to start a website and to share their great products with all of us who live far away from their store front.  And I’m thrilled to welcome them as a new advertiser at THESE HERE HILLS.

For those of you entrepreneurs out there who want to start a business, but need a little nudge in the way of inspiration, here is their story:

By Wendy Yellin Hill

My sister-in-law, Jayme Yellin, and I opened “chill” on April 1, 2008.  We envisioned a hip boutique in the suburbs featuring out-of-the-ordinary merchandise at a great price.  Neither of us had any experience in retail.  In fact, we were both attorneys prior to having children.  But we felt that our town lacked, and needed, a retail store that embraced an urban vibe, and carried the latest trends from New York and beyond. In the beginning our lack of experience was actually a blessing, as we were not constrained by what we were “supposed” to do. We trusted our instincts and taste, and went with our gut feelings: if we liked it, we bought it for the store. If we didn’t, we passed.  To this day, we continue with that very personal vision.  Our store is a reflection of who we are, and how we like to dress, decorate, and live.  The jewelry in our store ranges from bracelets and necklaces that were purchased on a recent trip to Istanbul, to trendy pieces from our New York City vendors, to handmade items from a local jewelry designer who is just starting out. We carry clothing from Billabong, the surf company; the Malibu and Paris-based I Can 2; cotton tops from Nusantara; as well as other local and LA-based companies. Our housewares are from Belgium, Turkey, Bali and Germany.  We carry toys and children’s accessories from the UK, and scarves from Thailand.  We also strive to purchase products that have been made in America, or are free trade. Our customers range in age from 5 to 75 as there is something for everyone at chill.  We have built up a loyal clientele; people who shop with us tell us how much they enjoy the experience, and love the fact that every time they come in, there is something new to see and buy.  They also love that we have made it a point to sell beautiful items at reasonable prices.  And while we are a tiny 300 square foot store, we are very big on customer service and satisfaction, and make everyone who comes through our door feel welcomed, cared for, and appreciated.  We are the general store for hip people. And we are thrilled to be coming to the internet.

Wendy Hill
co-owner
chill
westwood, ma

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The Hefner Effect

In the third of a five-part series on love and relationships, Tom Matlack and author Laura Munson debate the question: Why do young women and older men get along so well?

MUNSON: I was raised by an “old man.” My father was 50 and gray when I was born. He used words like “davenport,” “filling station,” and “ice box.” His mother was born in the 1800s and she lived in a nursing home in her last years, where we visited her every night. My father would pass by the rooms and look in and say, “That man used to be the CEO of Sears and Roebuck. It’s hell to get old.” But I noticed that those old men loved me. In fact, as my father aged, his friends would occupy my dance card, as it were, at a multi-generational gathering. And I obliged. I wasn’t scared of their liver spots, canes, and quivering voices. I knew that it was hell to get old, and I was happy to walk arm-in-arm with them through the door, or to get them a plate of food so they wouldn’t have to get up off the “davenport.”

And let’s be honest—I knew that I was “giving an old guy a thrill.” I’d heard it in those exact words from plenty of them. They thanked me for things boys my age often missed: simple things like my smile, my thin ankles—and they meant it. As an adult, I wonder why that is. Is it that men never outgrow their need to feel important to a woman, and their own wives and contemporary lady friends have long soured on stoking their egos? Maybe so.

But why would a young girl oblige? What’s in it for her? I think it’s because I knew there was no threat of sex. No threat for a jealous episode with a girlfriend. I knew I didn’t have to prove myself. They liked my ankles and my smile and that was enough. It was a win-win. I watched that win-win all the way to my father’s deathbed, where he flirted with the nurses. I forgave him for it and so did they. Maybe it’s one of life’s secret agreements.

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MATLACK: I concede that true love is ageless, and that an outsider can never know what happens behind closed doors in a marriage. I would never comment on the success or failure of any particular couple, but the societal phenomenon of old guys and young women is worth talking about.

I sometimes think that marriage is like a boxing match. When the sparring partners are well matched, it goes on and on, with blood and guts on the canvas and beauty emerging from the violence of the engagement. When older men marry younger women, the partners have given up on the idea of going head-to-head with their peer in age and in power. The male and female roles are exaggerated into some kind of daddy-daughter dynamic that is somehow more comfortable than trying to slug it out with someone your own age.

When they give in to the Woody Allen “the-heart-wants-what-the-heart-wants” gravitational pull, both parties make a concession.

A younger woman embodies vitality and beauty—and the guy’s power, defined in its rawest form, becomes the central aphrodisiac. Everyone knows where they stand.

I can’t help but be saddened when I see this pattern over and over again among my friends and in the newspapers, because at bottom it points to our collective obsession with superficialities. We worship material wealth and youth. And boobs.

Money and power or teenage-model good looks don’t make anyone happy in the long term—contrary to the consistent message of popular culture.

At the extreme, both the old man and the young woman are stooping to a commercial transaction—prostituting themselves. She’s selling youth, beauty, and sex, and he’s buying it. Whether you’re sleeping with a guy for $100 or $100 million, it’s all the same. Both sides of the trade miss out on something more genuine than sex, and the kids miss out on having a dad—since most of these guys will be in retirement homes (or dead) by the time their children make it to college.

But maybe I am just being a prude. New research shows that this whole thing is about the survival of the race. The practice of older men chasing younger women may contribute to human longevity and the survival of the species.

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MUNSON: I find it interesting that when I read the question, I didn’t read the phrase “get along so well” as having to do with sex or marriage. I thought about it in terms of dynamic. I don’t have any friends who have fit into that societal stereotype, wherein the old man marries the young hot girl with the “boobs.” I think of that scenario as a myth some people might give in to, and I’m not that interested in it. I think we would do better as a society to start shifting away from these myths. I don’t even believe in the male “midlife crisis.” But I do believe that it’s sold to men, from the time they’re kids, that the prize is youth in women and wealth in men. And I do believe in the power of that lie. Let’s tell ourselves a different story, shall we?

Matlack:  Natasha Vargas-Cooper writes in her recent Atlantic article “Hard Core”:  “One of the most punishing realities women face when they reach sexual maturity is that their maturity is (at least to many men) unsexy.”

Yes, I think old men asking young women to dance is one thing– it’s cute and harmless– but that isn’t what’s really going on most of the time.  There is a sexual component.  There are countless old guys married to young women, and many more older men masturbating to images of young women on the web.  I don’t pretend to completely understand it, but I viscerally believe it is a sell out to true love and goodness on both sides.

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Read others in this series: “Great Sex or Fighting Fair?“ and “Looks and Longterm Fidelity.”

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Tom Matlack is the founder of the Good Men Project and one amazingly inspiring guy.  Check out what he has created!

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—Photo by Gizmo2469/photobucket

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Modern Love Strikes Again! Check out Kelly Valen!

As many of you know, the Modern Love column launched my career.  I am weekly inspired by it, and I want to share with you my new writer friend, sister in words, and high-road kind of a gal, Kelly Valen. 
You will be hearing a lot about her, if my instincts are right.  She is holding up a mirror to human behavior, asking the question: why can women be so brutal to one another.  Her book grew out of a Modern Love essay published a few years ago

that really hit a nerve.

Some of you may recall this piece I posted a few months ago about receiving an unexpected apology, years later, from a college friend. I think that we can hold the space for those apologies, without holding on with entitlement or bitterness. There is much freedom in that!

Check out Kelly Valen’s new book, The Twisted Sisterhood (Random House, Oct. 26). It’s getting great buzz and is sure to change the way girls and women think about their friendships. Get the scoop at www.kellyvalen.com and pre-order NOW through any online retailer.

Kelly Valen’s official site at www.kellyvalen.com

A smart, savvy, breakthrough look at the compelling, complex bonds that divide — and can ultimately unite — women of all ages and every culture.”
—Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of New York Times bestselling memoir Crazy Love, editor of Mommy Wars, and former Washington Post columnist
“If you think you are alone in nursing a clique-inspired emotional wound, are wary of certain types of women, or are worried about your own daughter’s peer-group, you need to read this validating and important book. Kelly Valen’s research shows that many of us have been hurt deeply by a girlfriend and we often carry the lingering pain throughout our lives. In sharing the poignant voices of women from her study, Valen shows us that we are certainly not alone and points a way toward civility, kindness and true sisterhood.”
—Rosalind Wiseman, internationally known educator and author of Queen Bees and Wannabees.
“Kelly Valen has written a smart, sweeping book about the ways women relate and given us all something to think about.”
—Kelly Corrigan, bestselling author of The Middle Place and Lift
“This is a brave and deep book. Kelly Valen shares her own painful experience of exclusion and humiliation at the hands of “friends,” as well as the details of incidents she’s gathered in her research – the looks, gestures, gossip, and confrontations – that have wounded other hearts. Yet she shows us that it is the caring side of sisterhood that gives our relationships the power to hurt. She rightfully suggests that we understand and monitor our own behavior and potential to wound as much as we scrutinize how we’re treated.”
— Cheryl Dellasega, PhD, author of Surviving Ophelia, Girl Wars, and other books for girls and women; Founder, Club and Camp Ophelia

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