Friday, June 8, 2012

Eleanor Roosevelt, Liz, and Me

Last Sunday my husband and I toured Val- Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt, in Hyde Park, NY. While waiting for the tour to begin, I perused the quotes posted on the walls in the visitor’s center and was struck by one. It actually made me stop in my tracks and read it again, slowly. The wise words that Mrs. Roosevelt uttered sang out to me.  Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, `It can't be done.'”
I believe Mrs. Roosevelt said these words in reference to peace in the Middle East when she visited Israel in the early fifties. She certainly had more of a global meaning to her phrase, but to me the words were very personal. Being in the midst of querying agents, searching for one to represent me with my novel, FLOURISH, I took her words to heart.  I’ve always lived with a positive attitude, instilled in me by my mother who, by the way, was a huge fan of Eleanor Roosevelt. So yes, Mrs. Roosevelt, and yes Mom, It can be done! 

 Aside from myself, Mrs. Roosevelt’s quote also made me think of Liz, the protagonist in FLOURISH. Sorry, but I guess my mind is stuck in my story. My characters won’t leave me alone. From the very beginning of the novel, Liz is determined to show her ex-husband that he is wrong. That she can get the vineyard harvested. That she can get the grapes made into wine. That she won’t have to sell her land and go back to Daddy. That it can be done! Even when she’s struggling to pay her mortgage, her grit and determination to succeed keep her going. Here’s an excerpt from a chapter when Liz, one more time, won’t give up. In it, you’re briefly introduced to Michael, the new man in her life.  But, that’s another story…


    Liz threw the afghan over the back of the couch.  “Enough daydreaming,” she said scolding herself. “Michael’s arms can’t help me tonight. I’ve got to figure something out.”  Her balance sheets were as unsteady as a toddler taking his first steps, and she had to come up with a solution to keep her business going. She got up, walked through the kitchen, grabbed a piece of cheese and went into her bedroom. 

“Okay, Liz,” she said climbing into bed, “you need a plan and you need it now!”  As she lay in bed staring up at the bare white ceiling, her mind explored every possibility about how she would pay her mortgage. She wasn’t about to ask Matt Woods. Even though she was hanging on by a slender thread and knew she could lose everything, Liz didn’t want to depend on her friend’s generosity again. I’ll do this myself, she vowed. I will not fail now. Unable to drown her anxieties in sleep, she devised a plan.

 The following morning, after a quick breakfast of coffee and toast, with a Winston as a chaser in the attempt to calm her nerves, Liz went into the office and began rummaging through her file cabinet. She compiled a stack of papers, put them in a folder and then went to shower and get ready.

She took her time getting dressed, making sure her skirt, sweater and boots matched. Today was especially important. She’d made a decision. After applying some blush and mascara, she stepped back from the mirror to take a critical look. A slight smile played on her lips. I look good - smart and professional, though I could stand to lose some weight.  She shrugged her shoulders.  So, what else is new?  Grabbing her coat from the hook she slipped it on and buttoned it up against the frigid February air. She picked up her pocketbook and warm gloves, tucked the leather bag that held the folder in the crook of her arm, and made her way out to the car.

While driving down the country road into Bangor, she kept repeating her mantra. “I can do this. Think positive and things will work out.”

            She pulled her car up in front of First Valley Bank, shut the engine off and swung her legs out the door. Smoothing out her coat, she stood straight and tall and turned. With a determined stride she walked across the sidewalk, pulled the door open and strode up to the first teller’s window.


No, Liz doesn’t rob the bank. This isn’t a mystery or thriller. But, I do hope I have you wondering what she’s got up her sleeve.
When Liz parked her car and strolled into the bank, she stood straight and tall, all 5'4" of her. Her shoulders were back,  not rolled forward and hunched over and her belly was pulled in. She had the appearance of a determined, confident woman - just what she needed to accomplish her task at the bank. So, take a fitness tip from Liz: hold your belly in! Yes, from the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night - hold your belly in. Engage those abdominals. You'll not only look  more confident and slimmer, you'll be using your muscles to support your spine and your back will feel better. Your posture will be better. Hold those bellies in softly, though - not like iron. You do have to be able to breathe!

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