Cover image for Every woman has a story : many voices, many lessons, many lives : true tales
Every woman has a story : many voices, many lessons, many lives : true tales
Underhill, Daryl Ott.
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 298 pages ; 19 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1421 .E88 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ1421 .E88 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



When Daryl Ott Underhill sent out a general request for stories written by women about their lives, she had no idea the response would be so phenomenal. She heard from over 500 women of all ages and from all backgrounds. The authors wrote about a wide range of subjects, including friendship, love, turning 30, motherhood, losing parents, surviving the empty nest syndrome, and fulfilling dreams. Now readers can experience this remarkable collection of powerful and inspiring stories and share the heartbreak, joy, and wonder of what it means to be a woman in todays world. The self-published edition of this book sold out of its 4,000-copy first printing. Every Woman Has a Story will be highlighted and excerpted in the 5/99 issue of Womens Day. Just in time for Mothers Day, this book is targeted to the audience that embraced the bestsellers Chicken Soup for the Soul (Health Communications, 1993) and Girlfriends (Wildcat Canyon Press, 1995); both books inspired series. Also available as a Time Warner AudioBook.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Underhill's request that women send her stories they had written about their lives drew 500 responses. Gathered here are more than 70 pieces, organized by subject, on friendship, aging, men and love, motherhood, interaction between generations, life lessons, health, the "emptying nest," dreams, memories, independence, and "simple pleasures." Some stories will no doubt produce tears (e.g., a mother's story of caring for her son in the final months of AIDS); some laughter, or "You go, girl!" (for women who got out of destructive relationships or job situations). This is a feel-good book: somewhere between "At least my problems aren't as bad as hers" and "If she can do it, so can I." In the abstract, not an essential acquisition, but Warner plans major promotion and first serial rights have been sold to Woman's Day, so interest is likely. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

The subject matter of this originally self-published collection of unvarnished short personal stories and poems will resonate with many women. Underhill, who selected these pieces from more than 500 submissions, looked for moving expressions of a woman's joys, fears and pain. The stories cover such milestones as a chance reunion with a high school classmate, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood and coming to terms with aging. Many stories have an upbeat tone, such as Linda Dietrick's description of how she finally found a good relationship in "Falling in LoveÄAgain." Others write about overcoming adversity, as in Paula E. Buford's account of her battle against gender prejudice at an all-male conference in "Fighting Discrimination with Dignity." A few contributions also present a darker view. Lisa M. Cheater's "The Visit" provides a harrowing account of a dysfunctional family, and Kimberly Luxenberg's "Dark Side of Genius" addresses the destructive power of drugs and alcohol. Although the writing iss often mediocre, the aim of most pieces is true. Agent: Jillian Manus. Major ad/promo; first serial to Woman's Day. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One The Circle of Decades CAY RANDALL-MAY, PH.D. * * * Circles fascinate me. Our lives are full of them, from a baby's teething ring to the rims of granny's reading glasses. The circles that have changed me most were formed by people holding hands. The "circle of decades" at my friend Carol's croning ceremony will always be in my memory, like a safety ring tied to the side of a boat. In case of near drowning, I'll toss it out and use it to stay afloat until the storm subsides.     It began as a gathering of women in the rosy amber twilight of a spring evening in Tucson. We were friends whose lives were about to intertwine in a strong braid of shared experience. Our leader asked us to sum up the memories of each decade of our lives. "What was it like to be in your twenties?" I was glad I wasn't the first to speak, because it took a moment for me to reconnect with that intense, fiery, burn-the-candle-at-three-ends woman/ child of the 1960s who I had been. Sensuous and fanatically serious, I was mesmerized with dreams of impossible achievement. Memories of graduate school in Berkeley crashed like breakers on my heart as I could almost hear the distant refrain of "We shall overcome ..." It was certainly interesting to have been in my twenties in that era, but I could also remember the skimp of the miniskirt and the size-five jeans that I slithered into like a snake shedding its skin in reverse. I felt relief when those of us no longer in our twenties were asked to take a step forward, tightening the circle.     "Now, share what it was like to be in your thirties," our leader prompted. My eyes closed. Sounds of birth cries, the primal embrace of a totally trusting swaddled infant, the smell of baby powder and diapers overwhelmed me. I had discovered the most difficult and rewarding job of all, motherhood, at the age of thirty. My thirties were a time of changed priorities, deflated party balloons, struggle with budgets, and plain hard work. Would I willingly return to that time of snowsuits and runny noses, putting the Christmas tree in the playpen to keep it from the toddlers? I don't think so, but I didn't want to step forward, either.     Because the next step was the forties, and those who had experienced this decade sighed with me. How could ten short years have held such highs and lows? I wished the twilight were a little deeper so no one could see the tears creeping down my cheeks, but other faces were also glistening. My story of ending a nineteen-year marriage and remarrying a man more attuned to my heart was not unique. Many others had found the forties to be a decade of major endings and beginnings. My hard-won career as a biologist, desperately precious to me at one time, had changed into a more spiritual and philosophical path. This decade, which began in gut-stabbing sorrow, ended in joy.     Another inward step, this time not so tentative, brought us to the fifties. Eyes began to sparkle again and I heard the giggles of those relieved to have once more survived their forties. We who were privileged to stand in the fifties decade shared newly explored interests, old talents polished like jewels, and we were finding our true path and power. As each woman shared her joyful enthusiasm for inner growth, I began to wonder what the next step would bring. What would women in their sixties share? Could that decade possibly be as good as the fifties, or was it the downward side of the mountain, as I had always been led to expect. I held back as the circle squeezed closer.     One by one, the members of the inner circle shared stories of personal freedom, new loves, the joys of grandchildren, travel and adventures, punctuated with smiles and glowing glances. All this enthusiasm caught my attention like a snow cone on a June afternoon. There was something worth knowing here. The women in this circle of decades were becoming more profoundly happy as they matured. A sliver of doubt wedged in my mind that maybe it was just something about the sixties decade that was so rewarding. Surely, the seventies would be different. My doubts didn't last long.     Our leader proudly stepped forward, the only representative of the seventies, to become the heart of our circle. We raised her in our hearts like team members parading a triumphant star athlete. Her vigorous, wise-woman leadership spoke decibels louder than any words she could say. What I experienced that afternoon in the "circle of decades" helped me edit my life's script so that I look forward to the challenges and transitions ahead. The ancient ceremony of croning was conducted when a woman stopped menstruating. It was an initiation into a "wise women's club," enabling the women to hold positions of power. Cay's story was based on a croning ceremony she attended. "It was a unique opportunity for us to review our lives. This moment of honest sharing gave me the priceless gift of a new vision, a hopeful pattern for aging." Cay is a professional intuitive consultant, she lectures on various topics related to creativity and intuitive development, and she teaches a course entitled "Intuitive Heart Discovery Process." Letters to Friends JANE STEBBINS * * * I mailed 323 letters to friends last year.     And 437, the year before that.     I received four replies, not including the increasingly illegible notes from my grandfather and the token letter from my congressman.     I'd been putting this off, this spring cleaning, for about three years. And that day was the perfect day to do it: Outside, the clouds were pregnant with rain, inside, a fire cracked and popped in the woodstove.     With each name in my address book that was to be erased would go a history, a few more memories of the good times shared and the chances of ever getting the friendship back. I didn't want to let go of any of them, regardless how tenuous the hold.     I took a deep breath, flipped my pencil over, and cracked open the worn pages of the leather-bound book. A piece of paper fell to the floor, one of many with which the book was stuffed. It bore an address I wasn't sure at the time would reach permanent status in my book.     The name was familiar, as was the face; they all were. This one, from a high school chum with whom I was reunited at an impromptu party when I went home for Grandma's funeral, was crumpled up and tossed aside.     Melissa Anderson, with whom I'd shared numerous cups of coffee in college as we struggled through ornithology, was my next victim. A great writer while in college, her high-stress career on Wall Street long ago knocked me off her list of priorities.     Deb Bowie would be third. The scrawny woman with stringy hair and a shrill Massachusetts accent had pulled me out of more problems than I could count. Where she was anymore, I didn't know. I knew that at thirty-three, she had become a grandmother, having adopted her grandson as her own.     Gary and Rosemary. Cocaine, divorce, jail. Erased.     Hedwig Diehl. My other Grandma. She'd died last April; it was all I could do to erase her name from the top "Name/Address/City" line where her name had sat, in a child's block letters, for twenty-four years.     Juan Florence. Another high school buddy, ravaged by alcohol after the deaths of his parents.     The Filmores. His name got erased--death requires that. He was the minister who married us, atop a 10,350-foot mountain. He was eighty-three years old when we asked if he'd conduct the ceremony; that he would have to take a screeching ski lift to the summit didn't faze this man. "I'll be that much closer to heaven," he said.     Kristen Holland. The hardest one to erase, and one I shall never forget. I was engaged to her older brother for years before we finally called it quits. But I kept in touch with Kristen, even after she announced her homosexuality. She was disowned by her family, including the man I had once loved. I can still see her short white-blond hair whipping from side to side as she bounced all over the dance floor of our favorite bar. That woman never missed a moment of life.     The rain began to fall outside and the wind picked up.     The I 's, J 's, and K 's were left unscathed, but L was where it all fell apart.     Janet Loren. The name brought a smile to my face. We'd met on a Grateful Dead tour and traveled from California to Maine, Washington to Florida, dancing the dance that never ended to the music that never stopped. She's probably on a Phish tour, now that Jerry's gone, I thought. Sholyo Im Fi Zhami, Janet. Sholyo.     Albert Lowe. We went back to the fifth grade, when he sat across from me in Mr. Ash's class. He was the first boy--and Chinese (my mother would have died)--I felt I really loved. Eleven-year-old unrequited puppy love. The last time I saw him, we were drinking froufrou drinks and betting on the ponies.     Ann Long. She wouldn't remember me anymore, since she was struck by a car and suffered enough brain damage to keep her in a coma for months. She'd never be the same, but I'd kept her name in my book for all these years. Just in case. People come out of comas, I told myself.     Among those who survived the carnage of my eraser was Caroline Winters, my first best friend, who moved to Ireland when I was ten, and she twelve. I wrote her today, one of thirty-seven letters written while the rain pounded down outside. One last chance, for both of us.     I closed the book and tucked it away. It was a lot thinner for my efforts, a small pile of crumpled paper lay at my feet.     The names fell away in eraser crumbs, but they will be replaced by others in time.     But the memories, I hope, will linger on. Jane is a newspaper editor and freelance magazine writer. She lives in Breckenridge, Colorado, with her husband, John, and seven-year-old daughter, Erin. When I asked her what prompted her story, she said, "I was writing letters and thinking how few people write back, and how sad it is that friendships fade away." Webs SUE ESPINOSA * * * I have several friends we are all of an age changing pausing rearranging poised on a millennium edge huddled together on a cosmic window ledge. Among us--healers and crones skeptic and dry bones we live here and there each to her own lair divided by zones held together by phones. we fling out hope like colored strands of rope and catching the skeins we eat jelly beans while tying knots and sharing thoughts. It is thus that we weave wondrous webs with leaves tiny seeds and great deeds with little dreads and golden threads with bits of magic and some things tragic and in the weaving the giving and the receiving we soothe our soul connected and whole. We are wives and mothers, nurses, nuns, and daughters mud-covered star-studded blood-rivered from large to small goddesses all. But separate us one from the other we eat we weep and then we sleep burying our strength so far under it becomes as powerful as lightningless thunder. We boom and trill whine and shrill casting about consumed by doubt churning yearning with wanton disregard we discover the sacred now scarred. The power once given in trust vanquishes and eludes us. It smashes and destroys denuding our joys and lost in leaden slumber our heavy bodies lumber ugly, incomplete our spirit deplete we seek to find some rent in time a fairy, a saint a new coat of paint and then we recall the web that relates us all. And so we cast our dreams in shimmering streams undiluted surefooted woman-rooted we reconnect in every aspect. Sue is an independent-event and marketing consultant, mother of four, grandmother of two. She feels she has had the good fortune to meet and become friends with several remarkable women. "They are a source of wisdom and nourishment for me, as I am for them." Most of her friends are not in the same geographical area, and they rely on the telephone, writing, and occasional visits to nourish the friendship. Her poem was inspired by speaking with friends who were wrestling with the same issues, and realizing that she wasn't alone. Copyright © 1999 Daryl Ott Underhill. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Cay Randall-May, Ph.D.Jane StebbinsSue EspinosaJennifer FalesGail M. HicksPattie JohnsonLeslie HudginsWanda ParkerCorey SeemillerJessica Lynn MueryCarol E. BraffStephanie MorneauLori JohnsonKaren DeLuca KatchmericLinda DietrickNancy GilpatrickSandi Boritz BergerPaula HawkinsJennie M. MaloneyCarol HuttBarbara KoisMarlena ThompsonMarlynn PeronChristina KeenanDebbie OyamaDebbe AndrewsMaria A. LittleKaren M. MasulloLinda Lorenzo ModicaDeborah KetaiJeni Ioanna PassidakisErica JohnsonLisa M. CheaterKimberly LuxenbergBeth A. StablefordF. R. ModallAudrey McParlinMichelle Christiansen CruzMarilyn MatherJ. C. SummersJanice Fouks BlumLauri MaerovCeleste AllenSuzanne BarrTerri Watrous BerryJanice TatumDiana AnhaltWinifred PichardoBeckie A. MillerP. J. HillJulia C. MostellerDebi SandersKaren BraynardPaula SilverbergAnn B. SullivanKelly SollenbergerMelissa WebbVickie Elaine LeggNancy Robards ThompsonKristina Cliff-EvansZelpha Denise SmithPaula E. Buford, Th.P.Oona'o HaynesMary Anne ButlerPamela MartinV.B. RhodeIsabelle HartJoy HardingVivian Latimer CropperDeelee RolandMarilyn J. SpencerJettie M. McWilliamsSusan Stirling MeynSherri Waas Shunfenthal
Introductionp. xv
Women and Friendship
The Circle of Decadesp. 3
Letters to Friendsp. 7
Websp. 11
Coming Homep. 15
The Day After Parents' Nightp. 19
Year by Year
I'm Thirty--And That's Okayp. 25
Little Fairies of Youthp. 29
Deja Vup. 33
The Great Omelet Caperp. 37
What Scares Me Mostp. 39
Men And Love
Making Itp. 43
There's Always Sunshinep. 47
Dear Youp. 49
Fall into Springp. 51
Falling in Love--Againp. 53
A Shining Lightp. 56
Lord Help the Sisterp. 60
The Sacred Portalp. 67
Motherhoodlessp. 70
Unconditional Lovep. 74
Are You His Grandma or His Mom?p. 78
Beyond the Looking Glassp. 82
Stand Up, Mothers!p. 86
Hard Lessonsp. 89
From One Generation To Another
The Meatloaf Mirrorp. 95
And Mommy Wouldn't Helpp. 98
Simple Truthsp. 101
Revelationsp. 105
Ponderingp. 109
The Talismanp. 113
Tapestry of Selfp. 117
A Summer Walkp. 121
Life's Lessons
The Visitp. 127
Dark Side of Geniusp. 131
Focus on Mep. 136
The Road Homep. 140
A New Lease on Lifep. 146
Clouded by an Obsessionp. 149
A Time for Healing
A Fine Linep. 155
Number Threep. 158
Laughing Through the Tearsp. 162
Non Compos Mentisp. 166
Fade to Grayp. 170
The Emptying Nest
A Mother's Farewellp. 175
Go West, Young Manp. 179
Happiness Is When the Kids Are Grownp. 183
Reflections on Becoming the Mother of a Wifep. 186
My Second Chance for Happinessp. 190
Forever Youngp. 194
Follow Your Dream
Backseat Syndromep. 201
On the Insidep. 205
He Was Patientp. 208
There Are No Shadows in the Darkp. 212
Leap and the Net Will Appearp. 216
It's Never Too Late, Is It?p. 220
Taking Life Less Seriouslyp. 224
Remembering With Love
A Birthday Wishp. 231
Fragrance of Lovep. 233
Orange Blossoms in the Misty Morningp. 237
My Mother--Myselfp. 240
The Faint Fluttering of Wingsp. 243
Independent Woman
Fighting Discrimination with Dignityp. 249
Looking Back ... But Moving Onp. 253
Launchedp. 257
The Businesswomanp. 261
The Woman on Flight Number 862p. 265
The Power of Departurep. 270
Simple Pleasures
Orange Happinessp. 277
The Front Porch: Why Don't We Use It Anymore?p. 280
Sun and Waterp. 284
Yellow Rain Hatp. 288
Summer Magicp. 291
The Whole Storyp. 293
Pausesp. 296