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 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

My favorite Nia mantras/slogans: 

Through Movement We Find Health  &

The Joy of Movement 


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.

Dean’s List: Random Notes in Surreal Times

“Being a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”

Anne Lamott

“… What if everyone simply wrote? What if there were no ‘being a real writer’ to aspire to? What if writing were simply about the act of writing?  If we didn’t have to worry about being published and being judged, how many more of us might write a novel just for the joy of making one? Why should we think of writing a novel as something we couldn’t try – the way an amateur carpenter might build a simple bookcase or even a picnic table? What if we didn’t have to be good at writing? What if we got to do it for sheer fun?”

Julia Cameron in The Right to Write

A word.
Selective sharing: Mantras, notes of ideas to return to and expand on later, ramblings, stream-of-conscious, from morning pages and writing classes

After moving back to SC in 2017 to be with family through a health crisis, I then stepped into the role of elder care for my mother who died in January 2020. It was the same month I quit my job with an interfaith environmental nonprofit and stepped back into public relations. I’d already been through a lot of loss, and I told friends I needed to go to an Ashram for a year. I needed solitude and quiet and to step out of the everyday hustle. Not possible, but still that’s what I needed. 

A few weeks later, shelter-in-place began in response to the pandemic. And, Friends, I have written, and I have healed. Nothing in life prepared me for the intensity of lots of time alone sorting through my mother’s belongings and what she kept of my sister’s things after her death in 2012. Like experiential, DIY, interactive therapy.

Unexpectedly, a friend retrieved my furniture and boxes stored in Austin. I’m really grateful. And, so, … let’s see … major cross-country move, health issues, elder care, death, global pandemic, relaunching a business, back in the rural area I grew up in, and pretty much fled and avoided since I left for college. 

There’s a lovely combo of prodigal daughter juju, big-city back to small town/rural area shock, more mother/daughter stuff, sister stuff, not even going into high school trauma or other family. Plus the regular mid-life crisis and pandemic. Buy my southern memoir already and give me a Netflix series deal. Trust me, I’ve got the content. 

So, as I’m emptying boxes from Austin I haven’t seen in over two years I realize I’m unpacking my own interfaith journey. Lots of candle holders, little Buddha’s, gemstones, minerals and crystals. Chimes and wind chimes. And the books – Tibetan Book of the Dead, Melody’s Earth Magic, Seat of the Soul, Animal Medicine Cards, And Bibles. So many Bibles. Mine from childhood, my mom’s, my sister’s, New International Version, King James Version, from baptism, from high school graduation. 

From Baptist to atheist back to agnostic, then dabbling with a little pagan, and a lot of spiritual stuff, and a few attempts at joining Unitarian and Unity. Love the message of A Course In Miracles. (But I am no longer a Marianne Williamson fan.) Some Abraham works for me. The content is good; I’m not sure what the source is. I could write for days about the many, many psychic readings in Los Angeles, Boulder, Austin, Columbia and Charleston. Maybe more of a dabbler than a seeker? While in the past I critiqued what I didn’t like, now I take what works for me and leave the rest behind. 

Another part of my journey in the late 90s and early 00s included interviewing people, doing research and covering events for a Body / Mind / Spirit column that I convinced both the Post and Courier (Charleston) and the Free Times (Columbia) to run monthly. And I wrote Soul Food meditations for Skirt! Magazine. I even edited a book channeled by angels when I lived in Boulder. (Now, that’s a story.) 

For the first time in decades I live where I grew up and I take country drives to clear my mind. Around almost every curve a steeple reaches high into the sky offering some hope. Add a few trips into nearby towns and the beginning of my faith journey is a driving tour: the church where I was baptized at age seven; the Christian school I attended second through sixth grade; the church where I rededicated my life at age 12; the one that needed me on their youth basketball team; the one where I was repeatedly the “sword drill” champion in Sunday evening training union; the one where people were so kind to me in high school; the ones that have been so good to my family. 

Now, my time with emergency services in Texas resurfaces as I drive by the churches. Though I was an editor and conference planner, during hurricanes I was part of the team deploying ambulances. I find myself wondering about staging locations, and the size of their kitchens. How many can they feed? How big is the gym? With spacing for covid – how many cots can it hold? Are they holding services virtually? Wearing masks? Could churches be part of the solution? (Ever hopeful. I know, I know.)

I needed faith more than ever. So on the summer solstice I restarted my own interfaith journey. I chose a theme, or intention, or mantra for summer reading, writing and spiritual practices – sacred summer.  A word. My word. For the summer. Sacred. 

My plan was to keep it simple. Like returning to the breath in meditating, I returned to the word sacred throughout the day. To notice and honor the sacred in all aspects of life through mindfulness, writing, acts of service and meditating. Am I overlooking the sacred in this moment? Am I bringing anything sacred to the moment? 

Right after choosing the mantra I got an email inviting me to the first online Nia White Belt training. Led by Nia founder Debbie Rosas. She shares the same birthday as my mother. Both Aquarians, like me. (Hey Aquarians! It is our time – the Age of Aquarius!)

I’ve danced and briefly taught Nia since the early 2000s so I’ve been thrilled to have classes on demand on and online training. But still, It had been a while, so I popped open the app on my TV. And the featured video, the first routine I saw, was SACRED. A new 20-minute version – perfect for my energy and fitness level at that moment. Okay, I’ll take that kind of synchronicity as encouragement. 

I read The Joy of Movement: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, and loved learning that scientists believe exercising, and especially group exercising, increases “molecules of hope” in the brain. The dance troupe energy of live Nia classes is really awesome. I’ve definitely felt the molecules of hope in class and after when everyone is high vibe and social in the studio lobby. 

So I wondered, how will I get the molecules of hope through zoom? In the first session, we did the 7-minute workout … and as we began the one minute of laughter – on the belly, then the back, then sitting up, then standing – at the moment we started laughing, the tech producer un-muted everyone. And the laughter of my global dance community filled my little apartment. Almost 200 dancers from all over the US and several continents. It was the most connected I’d felt in so long – laughing and crying and dancing. 

My mother and I are both known for having loud, cackling laughs and one laugh leads to another and another sacred moment. She frequently gave the advice, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” 

So much loss leads to valuing what remains and seeing the sacred in everything. Humbling. I cry in the Hamilton soundtrack “I thought I was so smart’ – for knowing how they felt for their children, and it’s also how I felt about my mother. Many times, I thought I had grief under control and had felt the most love I could. And a memory comes up – and, yeah, I thought I was so smart. 

Summer became Fall. I have friends who choose a word for the new year, but I was drawn to shift with the seasons. and I chose Focus as a mantra for Fall. Say it. Sing it. Write it. Doodle it. Refocus. Focus. And it paid off with great projects and a relaunch of my online writing classes. The Nia experience let me know I could really recreate the connection online that I had with in person classes. 

And now it is Winter. And my Winter word is Wellness. For me it is all the usual healthy stuff like better food, more water and more movement, and also writing, creating, connecting and sharing more. So, thanks for reading. 

If you’re alumni of my Write Your Life as a Woman workshops, please join our Facebook group for current and previous participants. If you’re interested in Smart Ideas for Body, Mind and Soul – please join the Dean’s List group. I’ve just reactivated both groups.

I’m wishing you Wellness and Wonder. Seems like this winter needs all the words. 

Peace, love, blessing and wonder,