As promised, we have a great week ahead at As the Pages Turn. Maggie Rose Crane, author of the self-help book for baby boomer women, Amazing Grays: A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50 (Regardless of your hair color!), will be here with us to talk about her new book!
Today, we’ll be interviewing her to find out more about Maggie, the author behind the book. On Wednesday, we’ll have a wonderful guest post from her and she’ll be available to answer questions. On Thursday, we’ll have a fantastic review that I know she’s just waiting for!
Thank you for visiting us today, Maggie. I know you are on a virtual book tour and it seems you’ve been answering the same familiar questions. I’d like to do something a little different. I’d like to explore the author behind the book. First, I’d love to have you share a little about your lifestyle. Are you married? Do you have kids? What part of the country do you call home?
I, too, enjoy getting to know an author’s story. It’s interesting to see what brings a person to this point in their lives, and perhaps find ways that our histories might intersect. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, lived and worked in Chicago for many years, and moved to California in the early 80s. I have been married to the same wonderful man for 23 years, whom I met here in California. I have one daughter from a previous marriage, 2 stepsons and now, 2 beautiful grandchildren. I love the southern California lifestyle – relaxed, casual, lots of time outdoors and warm and wonderful neighbors. (Did I mention no snow!)?
Backing up a few years, can you tell us about your childhood?
I was the oldest of 6 children with parents who both worked blue-collar jobs. My father was a bit of a drinker, so there was a fair amount of abuse suffered by all. As the oldest, a lot of the household responsibilities and chores fell on my shoulders. I guess I coped by pulling inward and insulating myself from the chaos around me. I would often retreat to our neighborhood Catholic Church and bury myself in a pew amongst the adults. Here I took solace in the music, incense and melodic incantations of the mass. I seems I was a seeker from an early age.
I’m not sure where it came from, but I was motivated to make something of myself. I was determined not to be like my father and not to take root where I was planted. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, travel the world and seek a life outside the city I was born in. You could say I’m a living example of the notion that what doesn’t kill you – makes you stronger.
I hated my teenage years. Too many hormones flying around and I sometimes felt no one understood me or cared. What was it like growing up as a teenager for you?
As I said, I created a rich life outside of my family. I was pretty much invisible at home. I was very active in junior high and high school. I played sports, was a champion high jumper and eventually became a varsity cheerleader. I also had some good friends who included me in their family activities.
The fact that I even went to college is something of a miracle. My parents never encouraged me to pursue higher education. Days before my high school graduation, one of the counselors caught me in the hallway and asked which school I would be attending after graduation. I told her I wasn’t planning on going to college. Looking me in the eye, she said something that changed the trajectory of my life. “What a waste” she whispered.
It took me by surprise… and it stuck with me. If she thought I was college material, maybe I should look into it! And I did. Unfortunately I suffered a bad case of mono immediately after graduation and was hospitalized for 6 weeks. After I recovered I made a beeline to register for classes at City College, and later transferred to the University. Through a bit of a long and circuitous route, I eventually received my BS in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.
It really made me aware that you never know how something you say may impact another person’s life – so be kind and be truthful.
I left home to get married. When you left home for the first time, when was it and why did you leave?
I left home to attend City College, but I only moved across town to be closer to school. I lived with my grandmother, which turned out to be a wonderful experience. She grew up in Poland, and immigrated to America at 16. During our time together I grew to appreciate her journey and the strength she had to muster to make a new life for her self. We became very close – and her love and support inspired me to appreciate the opportunities I had and make the most of myself.
My first job was picking turnip greens off a conveyor belt at a food packing plant! What was your first job?
Besides the occasional babysitting and waitressing jobs in high school, my first “real” job with a steady paycheck was that of a “stewardess” for American Airlines. After just 2 years of college I had an itch to get out of my hometown – I wanted to see the world! It was a great job, and I kept it long enough to help me finish college a few years later. The 747 airplanes were brand new at the time, and had a downstairs galley. I bid this position and flew M-W-F turnarounds from Chicago to the west coast and back so that I could study between meal services while on route. On Tues and Thurs I would attend my college classes from 8am-8pm. I also took the summers off and spent 2-3 months traveling around Europe. During spring break, I would use my miles to fly to Arizona or someplace warm to write my term papers and study for exams. It was a great job!
When did life suddenly make sense to you?
There was a pivotal moment and I remember it like it was yesterday. As a college student I was riding the elevator as I went from English Lit to American History class. The doors opened and in walked a disheveled looking girl, crumpled clothes, greasy face, papers sticking out of her book, and reeking of Ambush cologne. From my position at the back of the elevator I began to judge her mercilessly. Suddenly I heard a faint buzzing and it was as if time stood still. From nowhere in particular I heard a voice say, “You are the same”. I was flooded with a rush of love and compassion so deep I was dumbfounded. I “saw” that she and I were not separate. As I judged her – I judged myself. It was a moment of clarity. I had always believed in a Divine presence that connected us all, but this was a concrete experience of it. From then on – I knew that “everything is all right.” I now understand that I am an integral part of life, as are we all, and not separate from it. Sometimes, I can still tap into the profound love I felt back then. My intention is to be able to live it. I write about this experience in more detail in Amazing Grays.
Of the three stages of life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood – which can you look back and reflect and say, “This is the real Maggie Rose Crane!”?
I spent so many of my younger years trying to be the person I thought I was “supposed” to be that I rarely got to be the person I really am. It wasn’t until I reached midlife and began to rub shoulders with my mortality that I decided that I’d better embrace my authenticity NOW – as there were no guarantees I’d even have a “later”.
Allowing my hair to go gray was another pivotal decision. On the day my hairstylist cut off all my brunette hair to reveal a short, sassy silver hairdo – I began to feel lighter, freer, more ME. The artificially colored hair represented the person I had tried to be. Now, my silver hair reflected the authentic me – no pretense, no pretending. It translated into a deeper appreciation of how important it was to live my life from a place of authenticity and joy. My first 50 may have been all about putting myself on the back burner and tending to the needs of others. This next 50 is about putting myself back at the top of my list!
Today, we all need places to go to reflect and touch base with our Inner Self. Where do you go?
I head to my meditation cushion on a daily basis to “practice” living in the moment. It calms and centers me – and reminds me to carry that mindset into my daily life. I also take occasional silent retreats at a monastery to recharge and refocus – as day-to-day living can so easily pull one off Center. Through my practice I’ve come to appreciate that the noisy chatter of self-hate inside my head is not “who I am”. I’ve learned that the past is just a memory, the future a dream and the only way to avoid missing the life I have is to live it mindfully in the now. That’s why I practice.
Finally, what advice can you give everyone on how they can live life to its fullest?
By choosing to live mindfully, every moment is rich with experience. Stop indulging the compulsion to regret the past and fantasize about the future. We’ve all had the experience of living mindlessly. It’s that feeling of wondering where the years went, how did we get here, even not remembering what we had for dinner last night!
To get good at anything, we have to practice. I recommend we each find some way to practice mindfulness – meditation, centering prayer, yoga, tai chi, Qigong. Pick one and stick with it, no matter what your inner voices tell you. By living each moment as it happens, your life will feel fuller, longer and richer – no matter how the years add up.
Thank you Dorothy for this opportunity to share a bit of my own story. Readers can learn more at www.maggiecrane.com. If they decide to purchase “Amazing Grays” from this site they will receive an autographed copy, free shipping and a bookmark with a wonderful quote affirming the amazing woman we’ve become.
Thank you, Maggie! Everyone, stay tuned, because Maggie will be back on Wednesday with a wonderful guest post and answer any questions you may have!