Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Hero Jane Fonda

"It's never too late--never too late to start over--never too late to be happy."--Jane Fonda, My Life So Far

Since I started blogging about the women I admire, I might as well bring up Jane Fonda.  She started influencing me way back when I was a flight attendant in my early 20s. I used to work the "red eye" flights round-trip between New York City and Los Angeles.

Even though I worked all night, with the three-hour time difference in L.A., I got up just in time to attend Jane Fonda's morning work-out classes that were within walking distance from my hotel. Eveytime I went there I found myself in a class with one celebrity or another. Once I worked out right next to Marie Osmond who was doing back-to-back classes to help shed her post-baby weight.

Another time some starlet came up to me and quipped with a British accent: "You are very pretty. What do you do?"

"I'm a flight attendant. And you?" I replied.

"I'm an actress, model, singer, dancer." She emphasized each of her occupations by cocking her head from side-to-side. Actress: her head bends to the left. Model: It cocks to the right. And back and forth again.

It was all I could do to stifle a laugh because her comment was so characteristically Hollywood, so I merely mentioned that all those jobs must keep her very busy.

Anyway, back to the classes. I was so addicted to them that I bought every single one of Jane Fonda's video tapes to work out in front of my TV back in New York City. As luck would have it,  I finally got to meet Jane. I was working First Class on a  727 plane from New York City to Chicago. Passengers started boarding, when in walks Jane Fonda with her son Troy and then-husband Tom Hayden. I was the only flight attendant serving first class, so I knew this was my golden opportunity to talk to her.

Back then I prided myself for shielding celebrities in First Class from intruders in coach so they could relax. While Jane's husband and son ate regular meals, Jane special ordered a fruit plate and only drank tea. She was reading the script for the movie The Morning After. Once everyone ate, and Jane stopped reading, I sheepishly approached her and professed how much I liked working out at her exercise studios. I asked her if she had plans to open any in New York City. She said yes, that was in the works. I started gushing about all her great movies and realized I was over-doing it and excused myself.

A year or so later I watched Jane's masterful acting in The Morning After co-starring Jeff Bridges. A few years ago I read her autobiography, My Life So Far and was moved at how courageous she was to question society about the Vietnam war. I was impressed at how she foregoed a movie-star lifestyle in favor of living simply to fund projects that she believed in.

Today when I see Jane Fonda walk the red carpet, I am amazed at how fabulous she looks at 74 years old.  Her grace and elegance have gotten the attention of heart throbs like George Clooney who said she was a knock-out at the Academy Awards.

I think to myself, that's how I want to look and act when I'm in 70s. Just the other night, I watched the movie Coming Home, which earned Jane an Oscar.  I enjoyed the movie not only for Jane's acting ability but because I knew she chose to participate in the film because it reflected what she stood for. Jane Fonda may have been controversial in her lifetime, but she always acted with the utmost integrity. She was never a bystander. Jane participated in life full throttle. Her actions stood behind her words.

Even though Jane has always treated her body like a sacred temple, In 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and now joins many of us as survivors.

I was so happy to see Jane return to acting again back in 2005. When I saw Monster-in-Law I shed a tear because I thought we'd never see her in a movie again. I believe she has yet to show us some of her best work. But even if Jane Fonda never makes another movie, she continues to be a role model for me.   Be it the way she takes care of herself, the way she acts with dignity and grace or the way she uses her talent, Jane Fonda is everything I aspire to.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Norah Ephron Dies

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."--Nora Ephron, Wellesley commencement address, 1996

I discovered Nora Ephron's writing when I first read her breakout novel Heartburn, which mixed heartbreak and humor masterfully. It chronicles Ephron's messy divorce with Washington Post Watergate hot shot, Carl Bernstein. To lighten things up, she peppered this book with her favorite recipes--since she started out as a food writer. I kept that book in my pantry closet along side my other recipe books for many years just for that reason.

But it was her inspiring writing that mostly kept me holding on to Heartburn. When I learned that she was the screenwriter to one of my all-time favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally, I became a die-hard fan of Nora Ephron. I was in awe at the way she captured the complicated dance between a man and a woman as they came together or fell apart.

It didn't hurt that she got Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together on the big screen so all of us could enjoy such feel-good romantic comedies in other movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail (My dad must have watched this movie at least 20 times before he died--he loved it.)

Towards the end of her career, she went back to her roots and wrote two fabulously funny books that were collected essays on the hallmarks of aging--I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing. Once again, I could not let these books go and they are still on my book shelf. When my mother borrowed the books, I haranged her until they were safely back in my care.

I don't want to let go of Norah Ephron's books because there are so many of her sentences that I would love to emulate in my own writing--some day. But in the meantime, I have the genius of her work at my finger tips. She may be gone, but Norah Ephron will always inspire me with her edgy movie dialogue and books filled with wit and wisdom. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm Still Standing

Today started off bad because I got my car towed and it cost me $180 to get it back.  I cried and threw a pen and the cash at the receptionist at the auto service center.  I stomped out, my tires screeched and dirt flew as I got the hell out of there.

I had to make a meeting at noon. When I arrived, still steaming mad at the injustice of it all, I noticed a man at the back of the room. His face was pale white and an oxygen tube was stuck up his nose. The tube dangled along both sides of his mouth and chin like two hanging vines. His eyes were hollow. Clearly the guy was sick.

When he spoke, he told us what wrong with him. He had just gotten out of Yale-New Haven hospital that day. Apparently, his liver cancer, spread to his lungs and started suffocating him. He now must carry this oxygen tank with him wherever he goes for the rest of his life.

And the rest of his life is coming to an end quickly. He was supposed to die last year. But there he was--still standing against all odds. He told us he refused to die. Now now. He said he will die when he is good and ready. I could here stifled sobs around me as he spoke. I bowed my head and covered my brow with my hands as if I was trying to shade my eyes from the sun. In truth, I was trying to conceal my own tears.

That is when I realized that I should be so lucky to dwell on a problem as menial as getting my car towed. Here I am--a cancer survivor--and no one gave me a death sentence.  He has to wake up and face that for the rest of his days.

How dare I think, woe is me. Today I am grateful because I beat cancer.  I don't have to stare at impending death in the eye. I'm still standing and God willing I'll be standing here for a long time

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Place of Peace

I have been wrangling with depression since January because I think I should be in a better place at 55 years old. Now that I have a therapist to help clarify my thinking, I've given up on dreams of winning the lottery to solve my problems. It is dawning on me that the best way to start on the right path toward change is to stop looking at what you don't have (self-pity) and start looking at what you do have (gratitude). By doing that, you can access the positives in your life. That upbeat attitude helps energize you to get to work and do what's necessary to make change for the better.

Of late, I've been  posting videos and articles from Maria Shriver's blog. She is a perfect example of how the life she knew collapsed before her very eyes when her marriage disintegrated. Now, a year later, she is stronger, more empowered and clearly happier after going through a painful journey. That experience is the perfect template to show us all how to climb out of grief and moved into a place of peace.

Here's another nugget of wisdom I got from someone: Just do the right thing as you move through each day. If you do that, with the passage of time, life starts to get better. Access the integrity that sits in your heart as you make even the most mundane choices. Do I go to the store to buy something? Or should I walk by the river instead? Do I sit by the pool drinking a bottle of wine all afternoon? Or should I clean the house and change the kitty litter? It is your choice to do the right thing.

If you do that, at end of the day you will surely fall asleep in a place of peace.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hello Again

I am sorry that I have not posted for so long. What I am realizing over time is that spilling your guts out on a blog as if it is a diary can have negative repercussions.  I also want to refocus on the original mission of my blog, which is to give helpful advise to women who are currently battling breast cancer or survivors, like me.

It has been more than four years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. From this perspective,  I have to warn some of you that the tremendous support you got used to during your rigorous treatment, eventually goes away.

When that happens, you may suddenly feel abandoned because all the people that were there will assume not that you are well, they can "leave the camp" so to speak. You may feel let down, you may even get depressed.

That is what happened to me. The next chapter of your life could be called: "After cancer, now what?"

Suddenly, all the things that you wished for, that you hoped for in your life become bold letters of message on a blank page.


And then there's the inevitable next question: WHAT CAN I DO NOW TO MAKE THINGS CHANGE?

These questions have been dominating my mind for the past five months and they won't go away.

I decided that perhaps I should seek professional help. So I did. The questions haven't been answered yet.

But this is one good thing my therapist said that makes me feel good.

"You are a cancer survivor. You have gained skills through that experience that you will never lose." You have proven that you can fight when death knocks at your door. Do not underestimate yourself. If you can do that, you can change your life for the better."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

From Maria Shriver's Blog

Lessons From a Dragonfly: It's Never Too Late

MARCH 28, 2012

Lessons From a Dragonfly: It's Never Too Late

If you’ve ever wondered if you’re too old to reinvent your career, follow a dream, or learn how to surf, tap, fly, yodel, knit, or you-name-it, this story’s for you.
Once upon a time, (actually, last year), I was peacefully walking my dog, Lucky in the neighborhood.
But then, the voice of Edna, my Inner Critic, interrupted the calm with: “When are you going to give up that pipedream of yours? You’re not getting any younger, you know.”
Like I needed to be reminded. Here I am over fifty, starting my own business. After years of creating award-winning ad campaigns for some of the biggest brands in America, I’m creating my own brand of inspiration called Oh My Goddess.
When I was in an ad agency, there were departments full of people to help implement a creative vision. Now, it’s just Me, Myself and I. And all three of us are usually overwhelmed.
So, as I often do, I turned my fears over to a higher authority. And asked the “Universe” for a sign.
With that, I headed home to meet a copy deadline. But instead of focusing on the computer screen, I found myself staring out the window.
Right there, in my little garden, were not one, not two, but maybe a hundred of the most gorgeous red dragonflies you can imagine. I didn’t even know they came in red. Or that they traveled en masse.
What magical creatures. Chinese-red bodies. Rainbow prism wings. Whirling, twirling. Forwards, backwards. Leaping, spiraling. It was a dragonfly ballet.
I had never even seen one dragonfly in our backyard. It’s not like there’s a pond or creek here. In fact, Lucky’s water bowl is our only body of water.
I practically skipped outside to join the fetch. Bet you didn’t know that’s what a group of dragonflies is called, did you?
Soon, I found myself twirling and swirling right along with them. It was like a fetch of faeries. And quite a fetching fetch, I might add.
Just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating or anything, I called my next-door neighbor, Julie, to come over. And she was just as transfixed by the dragonfly display as I was.
Being far more logical, Julie wondered if there was a nest or something in the neighborhood. We asked around and discovered that everyone else was “fetch-free.”
Next, I googled “dragonflies.” I learned that they represent “change” in almost every culture. And are often linked with magic and mysticism.
I also discovered that dragonflies are born in the water. And they don’t develop their iridescent rainbow wings until much later in life.
Oh my goddess, that was it! On my walk, I had asked for a sign. And the dragonflies answered me.
Those magical messengers came to show me the beauty of finding your true colors later in life.
Evidently, it was a message they really wanted to hammer home since they kept coming for the next three days. The fetch arrived daily around 11AM and flew the coop by 2PM.
On the last day, I decided I really should write about this phenomenon. After that, they were off. Poof. Just like that.
I like to think they were continuing their mission, spreading light and love to someone else who needed it. Maybe that person is you?
So, if you’re thinking about spreading your wings (at any age), here are a few things I learned from the dragonflies that just might help:
Find your fetch. If you’re going to take off in a new direction, find some like-minded, supportive flying companions. Sharing ideas, resources, feelings and visions can help you soar. Avoid “bubble-bursters.” You know who I mean.
Celebrate the process. Dragonflies spend most of their lives as a lump of larvae at the bottom of a pond. They shed their skin several times before emerging in winged victory. Instead of bemoaning the past, they soar in the Now.
Leap with faith. Believe it or not, these aerial artists can maneuver forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right. Note to humans: progress doesn’t always happen in a straight line. Trust is required.
Magic happens. Dragonflies (and this story), remind us that there’s more to life than the “real world” would have us believe.
When we have the courage to show our true colors, the universe conspires to give our heart wings.
So, where will yours take you?
The dragonflies aren’t the only ones on a mission. Each month, I’ll be honoring a woman who’s changed her life or someone else’s on the Oh My Goddess Bloggess.
Email me to nominate your Goddess of Transformation.
For over 25 years, Wendi Knox has been an award-winning Execu-Woman creating advertising for brands like Honda and Acura. She’s now on a campaign to encourage women to unzip their unique gifts into the world. (Her motto: to divine self be true.) Wendi is joyfully unzipping her gifts as a writer, artist and transformational speaker through her own brand of inspiration called Oh My Goddess. To learn more about Wendi’s blog, book, videos, and creative speaking events, go to