Writing prompt: Start each sentence with I’m grateful and see what “auto populates” for you. Tips: look around your physical space. Start with A and go to Z.

Today I’m grateful for fresh starts, the first day of a new month, and shopping for the perfect (for me) calendar planner for 2023. I’m grateful for the joy of decluttering – out with the old to make space for the new, or just make more space. 

I’m grateful for my writing practice – to meet myself on the page with no rules other than to keep the pen moving. For me, writing is always the answer, no matter the question. The power of pen on paper is so strong that I often avoid it or procrastinate, knowing writing shines the light on truth, my truth, even when I’m not ready to look at it. 

I’m grateful when reminders to write show up unexpectedly. Recently it was this podcast: Cultivating Inner Strength – A Conversation with Tara Brach and Lori Deschene. They cover the benefits of writing by hand and much more. Lori is the founder of TinyBuddha.com, and her latest book is Tiny Buddha’s Inner Strength Journal: Creative Prompts and Challenges to Help You Get Through Anything. And, discovered on IG from adrienne maree brown and Sonya Renee Taylor: Journal of Radical Permission: A Daily Guide for Following Your Soul’s Calling.

I’m grateful for my favorite pens and journals with faint dots instead of lines. I’m grateful for technology making it possible for me to sit at my kitchen table and write by hand, then read aloud to my tablet, using voice typing in a google doc, so that later I can open the document in my computer at my desk for revising and editing. 

I’m grateful for my writing workshops and the women I’ve met – many keep in touch and some are my very close friends now. Twenty-five years ago, Christine Castenada, who only knew me from my local columns in Charleston, SC, called to say she was moving and needed someone to take over her memoir writing classes for Elderhostel (now Road Scholar). I was 29 and didn’t think I was qualified or that I would like it. I tried to connect her to others in town, but no one was a fit. She invited me to her office for what I thought would be a conversation between writers. Instead she opened the door with a file box in her arms and said, “Here, I’ll get the other one.” Twenty-five years later, I’m still not sure how I was suddenly driving home with a decade of her notes and lesson plans in two boxes, and commitment to lead three weeks of classes. But I do clearly remember her saying she was tired of it and moving into storytelling, ending with “You can have it all. It’s your turn.” 

I’m grateful to have learned that when the universe calls – pick up the phone! (It was 1997. We still had landline phones.) I’m grateful for how the classes naturally grew into Write Your Life as a Woman workshops. I’m grateful I loved leading workshops – holding space for women to connect with others and go deep in conversation with themselves. 

I’m grateful for a sunny, warm November day, and Goldie, my rescue dog, stretched out on the floor, dramatically lit by a sunbeam, waiting for me to take her on a walk.

And, as always, I’m grateful to have written. 

Dean’s List: Random, Very Aquarian

January 23, 2021

Happy Birthday to my Mom, Dorothy Margaret Spearman! I love my mom’s maiden name. I’m starting my birthday month of celebration this week because I’m barely past dealing with the one-year mark of her passing, and today is her birthday. Monday is my sister’s birthday, who we lost to brain cancer in 2012. My birthday is January 29. The last month was not really the usual, new year, birthday month, so I’m rescheduling for now until February 28. In support of my stepped up writing and leading Write Your Life a a Woman + The Artist’s Way online classes, expect TL;DR, stream-of-consciousness; rambling, sappy posts, and gratitude lists, TA-DA lists, and more fun!

My Mom’s favorite saying was, “I’m just going to be happy. No one can steal my joy.” 

And, I am being loved and supported during all of this and politics and the pandemic by friends and loved ones, old and new, near and far, known in real life and met and bonded with online. Feeling very grateful! Thanks, y’all!

I’m also committed to organizing, scanning, etc., a ton of family photos this winter. That project has been started, shifted, rethought, and packed away, a few times. I’m riding the wave of the great energy shift with the new Administration and getting stuff done! 

Also, happy birthday to Debbie Rosas, one of the founders of Nia – my favorite movement / dance practice. I am a longtime student and sometimes teacher. Right now, I am dipping my toe back in their new online training offerings. If you have not tried Nia, check out the NiaTV.fit app. There is a free trial. I’ll be sharing more of my practice here and on my social feeds. And if you know Nia and ever thought about doing the belt trainings and/or teaching – I strongly, enthusiastically recommend it. I’m always glad to answer questions, too, and you can read more at NiaNow.com.

My favorite Nia mantras/slogans: 

Through Movement We Find Health  &

The Joy of Movement 

Visit NiaNow.com

How cool that these two women who encouraged me to dance through life share a birthday! 

My Mom drove me to lots of dance lessons, and paid for more when I was old enough to drive. She also made us all matching square dance outfits – for the whole family – and got us all to the dances. Through the years she nagged me whenever I was not dancing regularly, always throwing in a little southern mother guilt of “… all that time and money and effort we spent on your dance classes, just going to waste. And you know you need it.” 

Headed to my living room dance floor now to do the latest Nia routine that will be shared with the public soon. Stay tuned!

More about Write Your Life as a Woman +The Artist’s Way

I’m still being brave and doing a quick video! Thanks for the positive feedback from the first one! And this is my new Youtube page so Subscribes, Likes, and Comments are appreciated!Room for more in the series beginning Jan.5th (12-2pm ET or 7-9pm ET, and there is potentially another group forming for folks who can’t do Tuesdays. Message me if you’re interested.Thanks! – Dean

New Year’s Eve Memories

Raoul was my dentist, but also instantly become my friend at my first appointment when he said, “I love your writing.” As a local columnist known to be a feminist activist, it was not something I heard a lot from men in Charleston, South Carolina in the late 90s. What a surprise to find a dentist who took the role of arts patron to the next level and had fun doing it. Raoul supported the arts by attending art events, but also by constantly promoting the arts as part of his daily routine. He never spent money on advertising for his dental practice. Instead he invested in a killer sound system and an incredible collection of independent music and jazz. His office’s walls were a revolving art gallery for local artists. While playing fabulous music he relayed the details of the artists’ bios and ticket info for upcoming shows of musicians and actors while pulling teeth and filling cavities.

I always think of him on New Year’s Eve and rowdy nights he would have loved – the whole city partying and fun people joining and leaving our party. It’s been years since he died in a car wreck. And, even though I knew him in another city, I miss him in the odd way that, in other years, would lead me to forget for a buzzed moment he’s gone, and I would expect him to burst in to join the party.

“Raoul is cool,” was the recommendation from my intern at the film production company where I worked. But cool had no value to me when talking about dentists. I was looking for gentle and generous with N2O to get me through some dental challenges. Raoul was that, too. He’d crank up the gas, take my music request and close the door, leaving me alone to chill. The patient rooms were cozy and private in a gorgeous 1800s house in downtown Charleston. He’d come back a few minutes later and say in a goofy, announcer-like voice, “You know that Dean. The only kind of pain she likes is champagne.” If I laughed, I was “under” enough for him to work. He always gave me champagne for my birthday.

In spite of how cool Raoul was, I still wasn’t the best patient. Between my having no tolerance for pain, being really claustrophobic, and going through an angst-ridden-writer phase, I was amazed our friendship survived our patient/dentist experiences. At one particularly grumpy appointment he told me his plans for a fun afternoon. I rolled my eyes at his schedule – he didn’t work on Wednesday afternoons and took off Fridays. I said with obvious jealousy, “Nice life.” He said quietly and kindly, “Yep, I made it that way. That’s the cool thing about your life.  You get to do whatever you want to with it.”

His statement was a gentle nudge, just when I needed it. And I appreciated that he knew me well enough to tell me in a way I could truly hear it. Another kind act he did was to always leave me a voice mail rambling about what he loved about my new column every month. I admired his marvelous attention to the joyful details of life: beautiful art, great music, wonderful conversation, and always looking for a way to make a party just a little better.

On New Year’s Eve 1999 in Charleston, a group of friends gathered at his office for champagne before walking with flasks in our pockets and purses to the harbor to see the fireworks. The pineapple drop (the S.C. symbol of friendship) was beside a parking lot, almost a block from the water with police tape keeping the crowd a safe distance from the water’s edge. Our group stood against the tape, wanting to be closer to the water, the harbor – the beautiful, magical point where the locals like to say the East Cooper and West Ashley Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean. I remember this moment so clearly years later: Raoul looking around at the cops who were distracted by the descending pineapple, then simply lifting the yellow tape and smiling. And with no need for words, just a simple gesture from our fearless leader, our party ran across the dark lot towards the water’s edge. The fireworks exploded in the sky and fell towards the water where the gorgeous bursts of color doubled in the reflection, and the crowd followed us.

Every New Year’s Eve I’m farther away from that magical night, and I raised my glass with my usual champagne toast, “May all your pain be champagne!” And I thankfully toasted this memory – the firework’s pink, white and yellow glow lighting Raoul’s smiling face after he’s just led another crowd to more fun. Not just a toast, but a loud crowd’s cheers rolling over the harbor as we welcomed a new year, a new century, a new millennium bound to be marvelous –  because we would make it that way.