Expanding My Voice


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We often hear about finding our voice, our way of being heard in the world; the way we express ourselves, in our personal truth, after we mature in some fashion. Through the years I’ve been expressing myself through my writing. Writing is more comfortable for me; it comes more naturally, and I’ve received many compliments about it.


Telling My Story

In an effort to strengthen my verbal communication I have joined Toastmasters International, attending one of the many chapters available in Tucson. In a couple of days I will be giving my first speech before the members of my chapter. It’s called an Ice Breaker speech, in which I present information about myself.

Within the context of giving this speech, I will need to be mindful of long pauses, “filler” words, sounds, and coughs, body language, eye contact, and time. That’s a lot to be aware of while trying to sound natural! After I’ve spoken I will receive an evaluation so that I can learn what I need to work on. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling – one I hope to overcome and learn from so I can improve.

I’ll come back here to report on what I learned from sharing my speaking voice with others. Stay tuned!

If you think you might be interested in learning a new skill in communication, visit the Toastmasters website.


Tucson’s YWCA Uplifts Womens’ Lives


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A couple of weeks ago, as I was meeting with women from the Tucson Women’s Bloggers Meetup group at the Tucson YWCA, I asked if anyone had written a blog about them. I learned that something had been written a while back, and a “refresher” might be beneficial in highlighting the service that we receive from the YWCA.

Frances McClelland

This group of blogging women meets weekly for a time that is set aside for focusing on our writing goals, whether that be a memoir, a blog post, or technical online subjects. The Y has given us access to a computer lab, with WiFi, where we can work in general quiet, and be available to help each other with projects. We can use our laptops or any of the computers that are “live” in the lab. There is a wealth of experience and information that we share during these times.

I didn’t realize how close I already was to the YWCA in other ways, and I’m happy to share the information I’ve discovered. Like many others I’m sure, I haven’t been so aware of the YW’s mission, goals, and services here. In visiting the YWCA website to learn about its in-depth involvement in the Tucson community, I have also learned of other connections I have with the organization.

Not too long ago I became a Realtor® with Long Realty Company, and while conducting research on the YWCA I discovered that the CEO of my company  is strongly connected to the YWCA. She is Rosey Koberlein who is a YWCA Board Member and GTL’s (Greater Tucson Leadership) 2015 “Woman Of The Year”. And until I began to write this piece, I didn’t know her involvement.

In addition, during the month of March our office has been collecting clothing and accessories for women for the “Your Sister’s Closet”, an outreach of the YWCA that provides clothing for women seeking employment, but who do not have the appropriate attire. While my friend and I donated items to this cause, I didn’t know what the connection to the community was at first.

As a former social worker I strongly advocate for women’s issues, mostly through my blog posts on SwanneSong. So I’m happy to promote the services and outreach the Tucson YWCA offers to women in so many ways. There is a lot of need in the Tucson community, to uplift women, their goals, their explorations in business, and their abilities to find equality in the community.

The Tucson YWCA is located at 525 N. Bonita Avenue, in the Frances McClelland Community Center. Inside the building you will also find the The Cafe, where you can find beverages and a variety of sandwich and salad options. Here you can find the full menu.

If you would like to know more, you can learn about the programs at the YWCA here. Read about Frances McClelland here.

WASPs, Women Pilots, Part 3


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IMG_20150622_134039~3Today in the Arizona Daily Star there was an article about how the WASPs have been barred from burial in the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Active duty status for military service was granted to these women retroactively in 1977. Yet in 2014/15 the Secretary of the Army barred these women’s burial in the National Cemetery supposedly because there isn’t enough space.

Southern Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who was the first American woman to fly in combat, has introduced legislation to Congress to reverse the Secretary’s decision, and grant interment rights in Arlington National Cemetery to these women.

Co-sponsor of the bill is U. S. Rep. Susan Davis of California, who is a ranking member of the the Military Personnel subcommittee. She is quoted as saying, “They have interment rights in other national cemeteries throughout the country. That right should include Arlington National Cemetery, which has always been considered a special place of honor…These women fought, and died, in service to their country. They trained in the military style; sleeping on metal cots, marching and living under military discipline. They deserve the full honors we give our war heroes…”

According to the Arizona Daily Star article a blog post by Arlington National Cemetery officials offered, “The service of Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II is highly commendable and, while certainly worth of recognition, it does not, in itself, reach the level of Active Duty service required for interment at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Apparently the cemetery is concerned that there will not be enough space for the currently serving active duty service members and veterans. The National Cemetery has guidelines of who can be buried there, including spouses and children of service members. There are eligibility requirements. You can read these here. Being a member of an older generation, a female child of the World War II era, I find the cemetery’s motives suspicious.

There are about 100 women still living who served as WASPs. It seems they should be allowed the same honors as “veterans” who’ve served active duty, especially during a war. Those members of the military who are currently serving will have their turn at being national heroes.

I applaud Rep. McSally for her endeavor to honor these women heroes.

Please refer to my other posts about the WASPs at The Traveling Alchemist and “Aviator Women, Part 2”, September 18, 2014 at SwanneSong: Views from the Edge.


Historical Trauma and Emotional Healing


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ShameThis week I listened to an article on Arizona Highlights, a local public media network presentation, about a man who found healing and a place to belong through his efforts at recycling. He is a member of the Tohono O’odham Indian tribe located in Sells, AZ, and he works with another man – a white guy – manufacturing concrete tiles out of recycled glass that is found in the form of beer and alcohol bottles scattered all over the desert where he lives.

This man, a former alcoholic, spoke of the isolation and loneliness of his life, and the disconnection he felt from others from the time of his childhood. He spoke about the recurring traumas endured from generation to generation in tribal histories, and the personal traumas he experienced as a child. What he described has been named Historical Trauma by professionals in the mental health field. A woman named Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart is one of these professionals who described this ‘phenomenon’ for the Lakota people and who created a way to begin healing from the deep losses Native American people have carried with them.

I was a social worker for many years, and I came to understand through my work and my own personal experience that this kind of trauma, unresolved trauma and grief OVER TIME, keeps a person or a collective group from becoming a healthy entity. In my social work I researched family files of the children in my caseload, and for generation after generation some families had not been able to overcome their circumstances – alcoholism, abuse and neglect, drugs, domestic violence and foster care.

Historical trauma has not only been experienced by the indigenous people of the world. Cataclysms such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and hurricanes that cause so much loss, can bring such traumatic feelings that make it hard for a person or community to recover. I think about the indigenous cultures from North America, as well as the African slaves who were brought to America to serve economic goals of the ‘white people’.

And those ‘white people’ who left Europe for America were not unscathed either. They were living out their own traumas of famine, war, and religious persecution. And what about those who experienced the Holocaust of World War II? We are still being reminded about what happened at that time in human history. I’m also reminded of the witch hunts and the many women who were slaughtered. There were the orphan trains and child laborers. It is even going on right now in the Middle East and Africa, through inhumane treatment and murder of families, mostly women and children. No one has escaped – it is carried in genetic memory from one generation to another – not just by oral tradition or written stories. It is in our bodies!

I was in therapy for my own emotional healing for three years. I became very familiar with the grief process, first articulated by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying*. I used my understanding of the process to assist the children and families in my foster care caseloads.

FeelingsTo me, it’s when a person, or a collective community, continues to see themselves as victims that they get stuck in the process of recovering their emotional and cultural health. They repeat the stories of their unjust or unfair treatment to the point that it becomes a mantra – “poor me”. Until one can change the perspective of that trauma and come to terms with its reality, one can’t move forward in good health.

I remember when I first realized that while I needed to initially blame someone for my experiences, such as my parents, teachers, religion, etc., it was still up to me to move forward. The Biblical story of Jesus telling the crippled man to “take up your bed and walk” was the catalyst that moved me out of victimhood. I was no longer crippled – a little shaky on my feet, maybe – but I’d been healed enough to walk without a crutch, without being dependent on or expectant of others for my life.

After I left therapy I moved to a university town where I hid out for a while getting a master’s degree. During that time I had some emotional episodes for which I sought counseling. The counselor and I at one of our meetings held a ‘ceremony’ in which I became the women in my family lines. I had been working on my genealogy and was actually tracing the maternal line, beginning with my mother. At that ceremony I released the need for me to carry the generational burdens that had been limiting my life.

Some of the patterns I discovered through seven generations was a history of divorce in each generation, including my own divorce, a pattern of alcoholism through seven generations, a pattern of abandonment by the father whether intentional or circumstantial, and a pattern of un-mothered mothers. There was physical, religious and emotional abuse as well.

For me it comes down to this: each one of us has it within ourselves to become healed from our past, not just for this lifetime, but for all the generations who came before us. There is an individual process and a collective process.One very important aspect of healing, however, is having someone to witness the expressions of this grief. It is very difficult to heal by oneself. We need help.

I am grateful to those who have endeavored to bring forward into collective consciousness the possibility of collective healing. And I am grateful for the counselors who assisted me in recovering my life.

As a social worker I watched the lack of resources keep children who desperately needed therapy from getting it. Many times therapists are spread too thin for their clients and within the foster care system, funds are often non-existent. This brings me to the fact that in the United States of America there is not enough focus put on mental health and the healing of these traumas. It takes money and attention. Our country’s leaders have not recognized the need or made any attempt to address the suffering of those who are experiencing deep traumatic grief.

ThoughtsUnresolved grief keeps us tied to the past and revisiting the pain as if it was new or current. Often it is covered up by behaviors that do not serve our health or that harm others. Mourning our losses is personal and doesn’t take the same amount of time for everyone, but it is necessary for our emotional and physical health.

For further reading on this subject please check these links:
http://discoveringourstory.wisdomoftheelders.org/resources/transcending-historical-trauma                                                                           http://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/cms-assets/documents/93078-842830.historical-trauma.pdf
*This book, now 40 years old, is about the stages one goes through when faced with one’s own death. Other writers have offered other perspectives about losses and grieving not necessarily related to physical death.

For the Record


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record keeperFor a long time I have known myself to be a record keeper, as a group secretary, through documentation in my employment, genealogy, photography, journaling, and blogging. I even ‘had to have’ the Pendleton blanket “The Record Keeper” for my home.

When I first became involved in social media I was on the network known as zaadz, which later became Gaia. I joined just as my partner entered the hospital ; his sister was a member. I found comfort on that site and I began blogging there, with the handle of Traveling Alchemist. In other posts I referred to myself as “meanderer” and “wanderer”.

Su - Rave Chart-1smallA short time later I ‘bumped into’* information about a transformational guide for personal growth called Human Design. I eventually contacted a student of Human Design for a ‘reading’ of my bodygraph, or chart, that offers a graphic representation of the information about me. While the reading was incomplete I did feel that it was pretty accurate.

Over time I’ve studied and experimented with the knowledge and here is where I want to share something in particular. On my bodygraph there is a gate that relates to the I Ching hexagram, “The Wanderer”. It is Gate 56, the Gate of Stimulation, and it describes me perfectly. The love of travel is also associated with this gate, seeking stimulation, journeying, and adventure. And as most of my followers know, I have traveled a lot!

From The Definitive Book of Human Design:
Gate 56 is where ideas are gathered together, and where visual memory is recollected and verbally recounted. This is the gate of the casual historian. It is the voice of the storyteller and philosopher…An idea is not a solution, or a call to action, but rather a journey over time designed to stimulate the formation of our ideals and beliefs. Your mind translates human experience into language. Once an idea is expressed verbally, the process is complete. Your feelings influence which new ideas and experiences you seek to explore, and your recollections or stories about them are subjective and selective. What you teach us about life will include some facts, but the unique lessons will come from your interpretation of the experience tinged with emotional overtones. Your stories add colorful threads to the expanding tapestry of humanity’s progress.

The 56th gate is more fascinated with seeking than with finding. It is continually open to stimulation and experience for its own sake, but is not motivated to create those experiences…Your creativity and style of presentation becomes magical when you weave together ideas and stories from your philosophical reflections on what it means to be a human being experiencing life.. You have a gift for taking a sequence of ideas and fashioning a story out of them that can teach or entertain an audience. Unlike the voice of logic, which is focused on data and facts, (your) voice takes all of the bits and pieces of information and elaborates on them by filling in the gaps. In this way information is brought to life as a story that has the power to influence people by stimulating their imagination and emotions.

Paraphrasing, “(You) are specially equipped to share as a casual historian, truth seeker and teacher from your experience.” Sharing this information is also something that Gate 56 requires. I am doing what I was ‘designed’ to do!

i_ching_56_lu*One aspect of anyone’s design is something called “profile”. My profile is referred to as a 3/6 – related to the lines of an I Ching hexagram. Line three discovers what doesn’t work through trial and error, and bumping into things.

See information about Human Design here.

All in Good (God?) Time


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here-and-now-413092_1280As I sat at my computer this morning, pondering what I was going to do in the next moment I had a thought…

What if I didn’t do anything? It’s not a new thought, but here at the beginning of the year 2015, when many people are gearing up for a ‘new life’ and cheering us onward to be our best selves, do our best work, be more ‘this’ or ‘that’, I feel resistance to the idea.

I’ve been studying and experimenting with something called Human Design. I find that if I allow my nature to ‘take charge’ of me, I have a totally different experience. And this morning my thoughts went to a time when I was a child receiving a parent’s perception of me. I was told I was lazy, and that I wore my heart on my sleeve. I was told that my sister could work rings around me, and that I always needed to ‘hurry up’. My children’s father once told me that he couldn’t believe that I could sit so long in one place without moving.

I was raised to be a ‘producer’ – get things done, multitask, do everything, and I thought that’s just what I’m supposed to do. But time and ‘the stars’ caught up with me, and I broke the mold.

Through Human Design I learned that I was designed to take my time, wait until I was emotionally clear before making decisions, not do anything unless I was in the mood, and know that I had my own worth by just being. And the feeling of rushing was the effect of another’s need to rush, not mine.

For the last three weeks of 2014 I traveled with a partner to visit relatives and do some touring. The trip validated my knowing that I do best with one-on-one interactions, and become overwhelmed in social gatherings. When visiting the National War of the Pacific Museum (which they admit was designed to create the effect of the chaos and confusion of war) I felt overstimulated by all the information being presented in various ways, in addition to all the people who were also visiting. When walking on the street with other tourists, and sitting in crowded, busy restaurants I felt anxious, jumpy.

I know I need solitude – more than most people. As an ‘acoustically’ defined person noises, certain sounds, and busy-ness disturb me, and I find that often I need to remove myself from the environment where I experience them.

For me the world of “get busy, push yourself, do more, be more, have more” is not one I care to live in. It is bad for my health. What is good for me is to be social when I am in the mood, not when someone else thinks I need to participate in a social event. The ramifications of that are serious to me. I admit that there’s a part of me that feels I will miss something, lose out. I have learned that in order to have peace I need to remove myself from things that others totally enjoy. It’s painful, and yet I know it’s right for me. I can only participate when my body says it’s comfortable with it.

So now I wait. I wait for the moment I am to move forward. The moment comes when I am guided by my body to do so (however that works). I spent most of my life accepting what others thought I should do, have, or be, and now I don’t accept that anymore. Inspiration comes in its own time.

Imagine A Secular Calendar


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2015 calendarAs we approach the ‘holiday season’ – including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Day in our American culture – I’m wondering what would happen if we made all our national holidays (or excuses for a day or two, or week or two of vacation) secular days of remembrance instead. The only exception in my view might be Thanksgiving, for even those who do not identify with a religion or other tribal perspective have within themselves as humans the ability to be grateful for what they have.

So let’s change Christmas from a legal holiday, and put it in the same category as other religious holidays. Others who celebrate according to a religion other than Christianity don’t get their special day ‘off’. So why should a Christian holy day be any different? Besides, tradition set aside, federal and state governments are supposed to be separate from religion, right? So no Christmas holiday, okay? (Yes, I am a Grinch.)

What might a secular calendar look like?

New Year’s Day (Still an arbitrary day, but not based in religion.) – a way to mark the annual cycle of the sun, or in terms of Human Design, the day that the sun passes through the 41st Gate of the Rave I Ching hexagram – the ‘start gate’ of our DNA codon.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Honoring national heroes is a good thing, but where are the others’ memorial days? What about Chief Sitting Bull, or Harvey Milk, or Eleanor Roosevelt?

President’s Day (Remember when the calendar used to be marked with President Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays?) Now, all the Presidents can be remembered on this one day that gives certain, but not all, citizens a day off. (In Virginia where I used to live the banks got Jefferson Davis Day off.)

Memorial Day To honor those who died and/or were wounded in serving the U.S. armed forces. But let’s get rid of the glorification of war, American pride, and ‘hero worship’. Let’s remember also those who died in service to America, here and abroad, at the hands of terrorists of all kinds.

Independence Day – To remember and celebrate why we are no longer a colony of England (not another day to focus on our military ‘heroes’) As citizens and residents who have chosen to live here, this could be a celebration of our freedom and liberty to matriculate in this country mostly unimpeded, to pursue the visions we have for our lives. We all have given service to this country in one form or another. Let’s celebrate all of us!

Labor Day – A celebration of the American labor movement, dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. (Wikipedia) What are some ways that we can celebrate this day in today’s work culture? What about inequality of gender work forces? What are some of the achievements that women have made?

Veterans Day To honor those living veterans, who served in the military, in peacetime or war. How can we honor in a really positive, not morose, way the service our veterans have given to the country? From the veterans I know, a free dinner at a franchise restaurant feels more patronizing and inconvenient than an ‘attaboy’. I know a veteran who suffers from trauma from Viet Nam who has the heart, but not the wherewithal, to cook dinner in a local park for all the homeless from that same era who live in the park. He’s grateful to be alive, and I believe he feels a little guilty for it.

Thanksgiving Day (Without religious undertones, please) Gratitude is an innate human quality of feeling that doesn’t require a religious belief in order to have it.

Maybe we could create other holidays to focus on science, health, families, something new, non-traditional – create new traditions.

National Family Life Day
National Mental Health Day
Spring Equinox/Summer Solstice/Autumn Equinox/Winter Solstice – natural, science – not pagan or heathen, etc.
National First Peoples Day
National Violence Awareness Day
National Peace Day
Take a Vegetarian to Lunch Day

Instead of having just the one ‘National Black History Month’ – we could discontinue it, or we could add others – like National Women’s Herstory Month, National Hispanic History Month, National Islam History Month, National Jewish History Month, National Native American Month, National Irish-American Month, National Polish-American Month, National Japanese-American Month, National Children’s Month, and so forth. And we could get rid of Columbus Day.

Oh, yes, and my birthday – and your birthday. I’m a firm believer that each person should get his or her birthday off each year, paid leave.

And what happened to Flag Day? I just heard a wonderful piece on BBC, of all places, about our national flag and the poet who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner. When was the last time that day was acknowledged?

As you might suspect I am being somewhat facetious about all this, but I do think it’s time that we as a collective need to re-think, re-design, re-form how we honor people, places and times of our history. These people, places and times have impacted all of us, in some way, even through our ancestors. How they are honored should be with a collective vision, consideration and effort, not with a narrow focus.

Inclusiveness, not separation, is what unites people. Drawing the circle bigger to bring others into our communities with all the differences can be challenging. But separation keeps us weak and un-enriched and under-nourished. And respect for all ideologies, all paths, without creating discomfort for others; that helps, too.

A few years ago my daughter showed me a calendar that her friends created that made each day ‘special’. Things like ‘wear red day’, ‘play hopscotch day’, ‘braid your hair day’, ‘kiss a frog day’ were set onto the calendar. Even in an individual way, each one of us can create the kind of calendar and day we want to experience in our lives. We don’t need to follow the pack when it comes to how we live our yearly cycle through this world. Let’s change some things around and create new ways to honor and celebrate those things that should be honored and celebrated.

Imagine there’s no heaven, No hell
Imagine all the people, Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion, too

Imagine all the people, Living life in peace

Imagine no possessions,
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world
From John Lennon’s Imagine

Aviator Women, Part 2


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1po-Ila-Fox-PilotAs I mentioned in my post “Aviator Women” at The Traveling Alchemist, I am posting Part 2 here, as there have been other women fliers who lived and are living ‘on the edge’ as risk-takers, daredevils, and adventurers.

In general I like to fly in airplanes, especially the smaller varieties, because I can feel the physicality of it, the physics of it. I don’t fly often, and when I do it’s usually in a large airliner. So although I’m mostly removed from an intimate relationship with an aircraft, I am so impressed by the women who ventured and who are venturing into aviation to fulfill their ambitions and their destinies.

As I researched women associated with military service and military aircraft, I also learned of other women who made inroads in aviation in other ways. And these women came from all over the world, and their names and accomplishments are recorded in aviation history.

Of course, most people know about Amelia Earheart, an American aviator who disappeared while on a solo “Around the World” flight in 1937. In 1931 she became the first president of an elite group of women pilots known today as the Ninety-nines, named for the 99 charter members, many of whom came from other countries. “Although there are other female pilot organizations in various states and nations, virtually all women of achievement in aviation have been or are members of The Ninety-Nines.” (http://www.ninety-nines.org/index.cfm/about_the_organization.htm). This non-profit organization was created to support women and aviation; and according to its mission statement,

The Ninety-Nines is the international organization of women pilots that promotes advancement
of aviation through education, scholarships and of aviation through education, scholarships and
mutual support while honoring our unique history and sharing our passion for flight.”

I recommend that any woman interested in aviation check out this varied and informative web site.

Many of the Ninety-nines were also WASP, but not all of them were. These other pioneer pilots were associated with other venues, such as commercial flights, air racing, stunt flying and just flying for pleasure. Against the prevailing sexism of their era they pushed the boundaries by breaking aviation records, and pursuing their dreams in spite of setbacks.

turtle ladyWhen I was in South Padre Island, Texas last month I visited the turtle rescue center, Sea Turtle, Inc.. This center was founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher who fell in love with the sea turtles after moving to the area in the 1960s. She was instrumental in their rescue, and she became a licensed caretaker for injured and sick turtles before founding Sea Turtle Inc.

But her history includes her becoming the first licensed native Iowa woman pilot at age 25, in Iowa. She was a friend of Amelia Earheart and a member of the Ninety-nines. She was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame in 1991. She became known as The Turtle Lady and was beloved by those who also loved the turtles.

From her Iowa connection you can read about her at http://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/ila-loetscher

And here is a link to Sea Turtle Inc., about the “Beloved Turtle Hugger of Texas”. (http://www.turtles.org/turtlelady/ila.htm)

In addition, this site offers even more details about her history: The Turtle Lady Legacy

It was fascinating to me that from a spontaneous stop at a roadside museum in Sweetwater, Texas I was connected to these women, culminating with a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., which I thought was just an interesting tourist destination to learn about turtle rescue. That’s what I love about traveling; being surprised and educated and totally amazed at some of the connections I encounter.

Note: The first photo is Ila Fox Loetscher in her pilot’s gear. The second photo is a postcard from Sea Turtle, Inc.  of a portrait of  Ila done in her later years.

Followup: I was incorrect in stating that Amelia Earheart was on a solo flight when she disappeared. She was with her navigator, Fred Noonan, and they both were lost.