Category Archives: Carol Ziel

January 7 – Bugs in My Belfry

by Carol Ziel

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / betoszig

“I’m finally having my psychotic break,” I thought as I watched bugs dance over the oriental rug and cozy up to me on the couch. They were trailing webs behind them. Just when those began to fade, shadows swooped in: Edgar Alan Poe style, Rod Sterling style, classic devil style.

I had finally lost my mind.

I was used to losing things: keys, socks, words to a song, my way to Minnesota. But losing my mind was never an option. Psychosis would have been completely appropriate at so many other times of life, like when I was working twelve-hour overnight shifts at IHOP during bar rush. But for this to happen so early in my retirement…not fair!

Fortunately, my good angel was vigilant and kicked me in my drama queen behind. My vision cleared for a few minutes before a spider web began to weave itself over my eye. That’s when I understood that the problem was my vision, not my mental health. The real problem was that I was in all probability going blind. The dilemma was clear: Would I rather be psychotic with good vision, or blind with good mental health?

More to be revealed.

My ophthalmologist rose to the occasion. I have a vitreal detachment. Basically, the gel that supports the eye in its socket had begun to thin, causing it to detach. Once again I challenged the fates: if some part of my body had to spontaneously thin, why couldn’t it be my stomach, hips, or thighs? Or my double chin? They could have their pick of body parts, so why choose my left eye?! The fates are fickle.

Fortunately, the problem will self-correct. The gel will thicken, as I assume my thighs, hips, and stomach will. My vision will clear, banishing bugs and webs back to nature. I’ll still lose keys, socks, words to songs, and occasional directions.  However, there is an immediate silver lining. I have been forbidden to exercise for four days! That gifts me an extra four hours of reading, writing, and Netflix!

Maybe the fates know what they’re doing after all.

Carol has been an SCN member for six years and is grateful to be nurtured by such wonderful women writers. She is also a gardener, grandmother, social worker, Quaker and Goddess-centered woman who primarily writes poetry but is branching out into more essay types of writing. More to be revealed.

August 7 – GLOW

by Carol Ziel

The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – GLOW – showing now on NETFLIX

I want to be a Gorgeous Lady of Wrestling, to show up for work in a spangly sequined leotard, full of feathers, glitter, and bangles. I want to have a name like Spanish Red, Mathilda the Hun, Thunderbolt, Beastie, or Lightning. I want to be part of the drama between good and evil played out each night in the ring. I want to belong to a group of women who use the full strength of their bodies to enact that struggle—- to know the complete abandon of leaping and tumbling, flipping, bouncing, and to feel the trust each woman has in the other.

I grew up Catholic. Female wrestling was not an option. Getting married or becoming a nun was. I joined the convent. But what if the bishop, instead of requesting vocations had said: “Be strong, be wild and adventurous for the spirit. Test your physical and creative muscles to the limit because that is your true vocation.”

Of course, now that I’m 70, it’s a little late to change professions. I’m seriously overweight, have had 3 knee surgeries, and am getting ready to retire. I became a social worker instead of a wrestler, frequently fighting for justice and healing from a cubicle. For many years I was wired to a headset. My uniform was frequently navy blue, instead of feathers and glitter. The evil I most frequently battled was the bureaucracy that hired me, but then created obstacles to actually doing the job. Still, I think I did some good.

How I would have loved to tussle with a corporate figurehead in the ring: suit and tie against myself in that sequined, spangled unitard. I’d start with a Leg Drop, followed with a Knee Shot to the Ring Post. I’d use the Arm Wringer, Gorilla Press, and Glam Slam. Then the Keister Bounce, Spike Pile Driver, and Monkey Flip. I’d flip him from rope to rope and toss him like a pizza until he begged for mercy. But he’d get no mercy until I’d get his pledge, a pledge to give us the time, space and staff to be truly compassionate and effective. The grace to be more focused on the soul of our work, and not the financial gain, the imperative to put the client first, the clarity that corporate rules were to serve the well-being of the client, and not primarily the company.

That can only happen in my dreams, and now it’s time to retire. I am grateful for the trust that clients had in me when they revealed their pain, confusion, and loss. It was a privilege to be part of their lives, and I frequently believe that they have gifted me more than I have gifted them.

I will never know how I would have made it as a gorgeous lady of wrestling, but I do know that I had a splendid career as a social worker!

Carol has been an SCN member for six years and is grateful to be nurtured by such wonderful women writers. She is also a gardener, grandmother, social worker, Quaker and Goddess-centered woman who primarily writes poetry but is branching out into more essay types of writing. More to be revealed.

March 3 – Assembly Required

by Carol Ziel

Older Woman on Sofa

Image courtesy of Ambro at

I tried to brush the vanilla icing from my lip. It stuck. Or rather “they” stuck: a small colony of coarse white hairs had gathered at the corner. This burgeoning village of whiskers had joined the unicorn hair that sprung from between my eyebrows, and the straggly chinny-chin-chin hairs that could easily be braided into a ZZ TOP kind of look if left unattended. I used to hang on the sink watching my father shave. Never in my childhood fantasies did I contemplate having similar Gillette moments.

Now, even before I begin to shave, I must find my glasses. I have two pairs: not the cute little reading half glasses in funky colors from Walgreens, but serious nerd glasses–one for reading and the computer, and one for distance. Then there is my somewhat new hearing aid.

Finally, the “pad of the day.” I used to have a collection of shoes. My current collection is adult incontinence supplies. I used to buy one Victoria’s secret push up bra or matching panty each pay period. They came in glorious jewel tones. Now my undie drawer is packed with Fruit of the Loom and black sports bras. It would take more than the color black to make a sports bra sexy. And my breasts are no longer even in alignment.

The breast situation at least had an interesting story. I had to crawl my 70-year-old body through my locked truck’s back window to retrieve a key. While my breasts were wedged on the console, my butt was hanging out under a perfect blue sky, bent in an unflattering penitent position. Although I did retrieve the key, backing out was a problem of mythical proportions. Embarrassment gave me momentum. With a pop that was startlingly like a champagne cork, I flopped out. True, the key was in hand, but one breast hung further south than at the beginning of the adventure. Apparently, ligaments are not what they used to be either.

I long to jump out of bed, pulsing with the promise of the day. I miss the time when my breasts were perky and pristine, bladder snuggly in place, my eyes piercing and hearing sharp and when the only cane I owned belonged to a sexy Halloween tap dancing costume. I miss 4-inch heels and disco clubbing. I miss the time when my mail was more than AARP catalogues, Medicare supplement notices, and life insurance advertisements.

But most of all I miss a time when assembly was not required to start my day.

Carol has been an SCN member for six years and is grateful to be nurtured by such wonderful women writers. She is also a gardener, grandmother, social worker, Quaker and Goddess-centered woman who primarily writes poetry but is branching out into more essay types of writing. More to be revealed.

February 5 – Lab Rat

by Carol Ziel

Image by Charles Rondeau courtesy of

Image by Charles Rondeau courtesy of

The lab seemed innocuous enough, buried in the kind of industrial complex where Kinsey Malone would have been comfortable chasing bad guys. The bad guys I’m chasing are fifty extra pounds congregating under my chin, belly and behind. They took my body hostage while I was selling my soul to sweets and chips.  Kim Kardashian would be jealous of my derrière if it wasn’t balanced out by the equally large protuberance of my stomach .  If I could give birth, it would be equivalent to birthing a second grader. The lab is going to be my midwife. The fact that it is next to the Watering Hole dog spa doesn’t make it much friendlier, although I have developed a yearning for belly rubs. Those would be so much more pleasurable than the tortuous experience I anticipate. I am about to become a “Lab Rat”.

I have had continuous gym memberships for thirty years. Clearly automatic withdrawals from my bank account for dues have not automatically withdrawn my craving for carbs or toned my tushy. I have to get up close and personal with those metal monsters lined up like soldiers in assembly: row after row of treadmills, upright bikes, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, lat machines, thigh, leg and back machines. And the free weights. There is nothing free about those weights since I have always paid with aches and pains as varied as a roll of lifesavers, but hopefully they will save my life, or at least enable me to walk without wobbling and climb stairs without hanging onto a banister.

The first sign that I am in an alternative universe is the welcoming plaque: Metalheads Sign In. My Senior Sneaker sign up sheet is cozied up alongside of it, just as I will be cozying up next to muscle-bound, testosterone fueled titans in the weight rooms. Other missives papered the walls like the deeply inspirational No pain, no gain; If it hurts, keep working; When my body ‘shouts’ STOP, my mind ‘screams’ NEVER;  Pain is weakness leaving the body and my personal favorite You can’t flex fat so shut up and lift. It appears that what I thought was fat-flexing was fat-dimpling.

And so I’m committing my dumpling self to a relentless regimen of rigorously considering my exercise options. My daydreams of being Ms Senior America will be elaborate; they will be deliberate and specific. I will visualize a trim tummy, perfect pecs, and the legs of an exotic dancer. I will dedicate a journal for this journey. I will buy Velcro-strapped slip on gym shoes, and Lycra leggings in purple. I will buy a special alarm clock that will joyously launch me into my new morning routine. I will buy music to rev up my rhythms and distract me from the promised pain.

Or maybe I’ll just walk my dog.

Carol has been an SCN member for six years and is grateful to be nurtured by such wonderful women writers. She is also a gardener, grandmother, social worker, Quaker and Goddess-centered woman who primarily writes poetry but is branching out into more essay types of writing. More to be revealed.

March 29 – My Bosom Was Buzzing: Tales From A Reluctant Techie

by Carol Ziel

cell phone

I am a serial cell phone loser. There should be a Twelve Step group for people like me.

“Hi, my name is Caroline and I just lost another cell phone!”

They fall into the toilet, the gutter, and the Twilight Zone. I rarely find them. I’m sure that they have formed some kind of club plotting to kidnap my current one.

Usually cell phones are black, navy, or brown and blend into the ambiance of coffee stains, sofa cushions, and area rugs. They are so small–small enough to fit in my bra. I have breast-fed twice so discreetly removing a cellphone from my bra is easy peasy, and if I keep it on vibrate it gives my day an extra kick, if you know what I mean.

Occasionally I have a senior moment and don’t know where the buzzing is coming from.  Then my grandson tells me: “Babcia, your bosom is buzzing !”

This is an observation that hopefully will not arrest his development.

Last Tuesday I put it on the nightstand after work and it vaporized by morning so it was time to visit my friendly neighborhood Sprint store. If they had the same reward system as my favorite coffee cartel has it would be time for a freebie: if you lose 8 you get one free. No way.

This time my primary criteria for buying a phone was size because sometimes size does matter. I wanted the biggest phone in stock, and I got it–a 3″ by 7″ Otter iPhone; it is almost as big as my Kindle. And heavy. If I wasn’t afraid of cracking the screen I could clobber someone into his or her next lifetime.

Although my only criteria was size I should not have been surprised that its magnificent circumference hosted three hundred apps. I can now translate text messages into Spanish although I don’t know how to send them.

The Vienna Boys Choir can wake me up singing like trumpets and force me to complete a puzzle before they are silenced. I can track my Weight Watcher’s points, use Mapquest, take a selfie, check my email, and learn to crochet on You Tube. I can video, do calculations, and file memos. I have a calendar and both an analog and digital clock. I can edit slides and file my life on Life Square. I can listen to music and make movies.

But I cannot figure out how to answer my phone or check voicemail.

I have always been reluctant to get an iPhone or a smart phone as I didn’t want to be at the mercy family and friends. Instead I’m at the mercy of widgets. My acquaintances can dial on the hour but until I decode the mystery of correctly swiping the icons I may never hear their sweet voices again.

I may have successfully found a way to never lose my phone, but I may never find a way to use it either.

Carol has been a grateful member of SCN for four years. She is also a gardener grandmother, social worker, and Goddess centered woman who is delighted to learn and grow in the company of such splendid women.

March 19 – The Color of Heaven: Lessons My Grandchildren Taught Me

by Carol Ziel

There is a saying that the reason we have children is for the grandchildren that follow. I could catalogue and index all that they have taught me. Recently I was tutored on a bitter Minnesota morning.  Snow piled under the dawn sky while we piled on the couch: Matthew, Jen, Amelia, Lulu, and I. A video was plugged in and Rapunzel cavorted with her pet frog. The hero Eugene sparred with a horse.

Lately I’ve begun to suspect that beginning my morning with a half hour of Disney might serve the same purpose as my meditations. What is more sacred than the magic of imagination, the miraculous presence of good even in the darkest moments? The presence of humor, of laughter, the colors and energy of creation– especially when the going gets tough?

I begin the day reading the newspaper because I want to know about the world around me–the wars, financial drama, neighborhood politics. However, I’ve begun to wonder if I lose the perspective of magic and the possibility of miracles this way. What would happen if I began my day with the conscious expectation that good can triumph, and the confidence that magic is always around the next corner? My grandchildren and Disney teach me that it could be so.

Later we piled into the car and drove to the Sound of Music. Actually, the only song was “Doe, a deer”–otherwise known as “My favorite things”. That track was the primary song of transportation. I don’t believe the car could have moved unless it was playing.  What would happen if the sound track to my life was recognition and gratitude of my favorite things? What would happen to a world where this was the truth?

Fast track to a week later as I was driving my five-year-old grandson to school. Out of the blue he says “I think the color of heaven is orange”.

It took me several days to digest that, and come up with the logical question, “Why orange?”

Jacob shrugged his shoulders in dismay. “Because red is for fire! And orange happens when day starts and  ends! Duh!”

A couple of days later, we were already late for school, and Jacob hung back–lost in the wonder of catching snowflakes on his tongue. I’d like to say that I found magic in that moment and sacrificed timeliness so I too could catch snowflakes. However, I’m perpetually a slow learner about the important things in life.

It does make me ponder how our lives might be different if we held on to the magic of Disney and went through life with a sound track of gratitude. And how would our lives change if we reflected on truly important things, like the color of heaven? But it’s snowing now. I think I’ll go out and catch a couple of snowflakes. More to be revealed!

Carol Ziel is a grandmother, gardener, social worker, goddess-centered woman who has been a member of Story Circle Network for 3 years. It’s one of her greatest joys and challenges, and she is grateful for the support she finds there.

February 13 – First Blood

by Caroline Ziel

“I ring the bell
So we can tell
The story of her passage”.

The incantation began.

Leelee was a thirteen year old young lady who had just started her “first blood”. Night was unfolding around us and our circle of women stood in the shadows of a cold Saturday evening. We had come to honor this passage. We were eleven women. Some of us had already passed into being crones. Others were still of childbearing age. She stood in our midst and we asked her: “Are you ready? Are you really ready?”

We wanted her to know in the cells of her being that monthly bleeding wasn’t just about cramps and tampons and the need for protected sex. It was about being fertile for all of life–it was about possiblities. One by one we reminded her who she was:

“Leelee, you are creative. Leelee, you are spunky. Leelee, you are helpful and kind and caring. You paint and dance with abandon.”

We wanted her to be firmly rooted in the splendid reality of who she is so that she can blossom into all that she can be.

l rang the bell again and asked her if she was ready to move into maidenhood. She said “yes” and her grandmother walked her out to prepare her for the passage.

Later, one by one, we asked her to remember: “Your body is an altar. Remember that it is sacred. How you live your life is an act of worship. Your words have power. Bring light into a world that sometimes seems dark. Be the light in your own world.”

We then made an arc for her to pass through. Our arms stretched across her and we joined hands, remembering pieces of our own journey into maidenhood, into womanhood, into cronehood.

Later that evening we pondered the importance of having community, of being community. It’s so easy to get lost in the demands of the day and to become isolated with life’s expectations. What Leelee helped us learn that night was not only that we need to honor our passages, but that we needed to continue to extend to each other the hand of remembering. We need to hold each other in the light and remember to be the light in our own lives. We need to remind ourselves that our own lives are sacred and to find a way to renew that awareness day by day.

Caroline has been a delighted member of SCN for three years, and a member of Writing Circle 6 for all of that time. She is a gardener, grandmother, and goddess centered woman who is grateful to have the support of this circle.

September 18 – Trouble in Paradise

by Carol Ziel

He gave me an evil eye and swished his bushy tail.  Eyeball to eyeball we squared off as he raised one succulent tulip bulb to me.  He seemed to be having a “Bogart” moment, saying: “Here’s looking at you, Kid!” He chomped once and tossed the remains into the quince bush. He’d made his point about whose garden it really was.  Squirrels have nibbled on tomatoes, gnawed on corn and shredded lettuce. However, they are not the only demons in my piece of paradise.

Let’s talk birds. Last spring I planted broccoli and onion sets–several times. I’d tuck their sweet little roots in at dusk. By early morning their carcasses were laid out end to end. All they needed was a funeral dirge and some tiny caskets. Personally, I was blaming the squirrels. Although this modus operandi was more delicate, the destruction was equally devastating. I already knew what they were capable of. However, the true “perps” were exposed at dawn one day.

I was luxuriating with a steaming cup of dark roast on the deck. My feet were propped up on cushions and I was having one of those nature-bonding moments that can happen in late spring. While meditating on a sky that was as pink as if it had been smeared with strawberry jam, I was distracted by action in a raised bed. Dirt was flying like confetti on New Year’s Eve. It was a robin. I assumed it was looking for worms but this was one of those lasagna gardens with newspaper on the ground and layers of sterile organic goodies. There would be no worms.

“Do you hear me, Robin? There are no worms!”

It continued to toss seedlings. Perhaps it was only interested in an easier, softer way to dig, even though there could be no fruits for its labor.

I switched to beet and radish seeds and by the time they had stems and leaves the robin had lost interest, wizened up, or otherwise moved on. It was an excellent beet and radish year.

Spring warmed up into summer and the season became curiouser and curiouser. A Black Knight butterfly bush sprung up in the middle of my front garden lilies. Moonwalker and saw-toothed sunflowers popped up in front of the tomatoes and next to the sidewalk. Multi-branched they climbed to 16 feet. The stalks were as thick as a quarter and echoed the tale of Jack and the Bean stalk. Sturdy yellow blossoms moved with the sun as it crossed the summer sky. Two hardy tomato plants miraculously appeared in the middle of a tub of geraniums.  They just might blossom before Halloween.

I’m sure the squirrels and the birds were responsible in some way. Whether they were making deliberate amends or continuing to stake a personal claim in my garden, the result was magical. This tug of war with nature is partly why I garden. The interplay between my vision and nature’s “will” creates my personal paradise.

Carol is a sixty-four-and-a-half year old gardener, grandmother, poet and writer, goddess-centered ritual creator and social worker. She has been a member of Story Circle Network for three years and feels like she has been born again.

July 18 – Magic Mike and Me

by Carol Ziel

The Gravois Bluffs Great Escape Movie theater promised a night of raunchy male entertainment. I’m nearly sixty-five years old, haven’t dated for five years, and decided that reacquainting myself with the male anatomy was an attractive proposition. The movie was “Magic Mike” and it plunged me back into my adventurous past.  Like Alice, I fell into the rabbit hole where I found memories of my wild self.

Suffice it to say that I was a late bloomer. The shackles of Catholic training and a convent past stayed intact until my mid-twenties.  I usually looked for myself in all the wrong places–first the Peace Corps, the army, and then the USO.  However when I found strip clubs and other party places I knew I had finally come home.

I remember the first time I saw a stripper dance.  It was as if the Red Sea had parted and the scales had fallen from my eyes. I looked around and recognized my tribe in the drinkers and dancers, in the crazy colors and mist machines, and mostly in their frenetic freedom. For the first time I was truly alive feeling that I actually belonged somewhere. I stood at the bottom of that stage , gazing at the dancer with the thirst of someone who had been wandering in the desert for a lifetime. The burial clothes I was born in no longer bound me hand and foot . I emerged into my future life.

Like the character, Mike, I entered that lifestyle in innocence.  What we both saw was the wild abandon and freedom to be yourself: perfect bodies, perfectly present. No shyness or excuses for being anything but who we were. Embracing our sexuality like the sun embraces the summer sky.  Strutting our cosmic stuff.  We were butterflies exploding out of cocoons; every dance was Fourth of July.

However, like sunbursts, meteors and other blazing things we extinguished ourselves in the heat of passions.  We were both Ithacus flying too close to the sun and melting into deepest darkness.  We both found that all that glitters is not gold.

There is a paradox here. What we saw was true–the ownership of raw energy, and manifestation of exuberant sexuality was real, but that is only part of the story. The price one must pay to stoke the furnace of desire, to feed the beast of libido is heavy.  Like Alice we went through the looking-glass, but what we found eventually was a shadow life full of empty promises. We both became shadow people.

Thirty five years later I sat in a dark theater contemplating the past, I mourned for the loss of the dream, and what I lost reaching for the dream.  I have no regrets now that I am on the other side. I travel with a different tribe now, and the most “blaze” I get is gardening in July. But, I am grateful for that time and place, and what I learned. It’s part of who I am.

Carol Ziel is a sixty-four year old grandmother, gardener, mental health professional and grateful member of Story Circle Network.

May 21 – Mortality and a Dancing Queen

by Carol Ziel

Mortality is on my mind today.  The delivery guys just brought my on sale Martha Stewart fade free, stain free, blue fir wall to wall carpeting. It had a twenty-year warranty which clinched the deal. I figured that I had about the same warranty. Eventually the rug would fade around the time that I was fading, and they could carry us out together.  It wasn’t any personal morbidity that had me meditating on my numbered days. My five-year-old grandson has been telling me daily that I am getting old. He notes in wonder that my hair is getting browner. Of course he means grayer, which is a color he hasn’t mastered yet. I wish my hair was getting browner, or redder.

So I am sitting in front of the radio bemused with my accelerating aging process and the symbolism of my rug when I hear about Donna Summer’s death. A part of me dies with her. We both arrived on the scene about the same time. She was singing  “Bad Girl” when I was trying to embrace the “bad girl within”.  That was my anthem for a few years, along with “She Works Hard for the Money”, and “Disco Queen”.   This was a period of serial births and deaths.  I was constantly stretching out of my skin to embrace parts of myself that I could not even name.  My love of yoga, tofu and natural peanut butter, running, and fruit juice fasting had to die to make room for marijuana and alcohol. My farmer john overalls and Birkenstocks had to demise to make room for slinky black Danskin body suits and four-inch heals.

Eventually I found my way to a spirituality that supported the best of who I am and could be.  However, my persona as a disco queen had to die to create space for a spiritual me to grow. That was painful , too. A veritable dark night of the soul.

I am sitting on the edge of my garden as I catalogue these deaths.  I began planting it six months after I bought my house. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor–and then ovarian tumors that were presumed cancerous, two knee replacement surgeries, and many years of trauma therapy.  Each diagnosis was a mini death, and the chronic emotional and physical pain was fearsome. However each time fear seemed ready to suck me into the quicksand of despair I planted something–coreopsis, lilies, rose of Sharon, fairy roses, butterfly bushes. Sometimes they lived, sometimes they died, but nature was incredibly generous. Birds and squirrels brought seed for things I would never have thought to plant–like the monkshood that is a hummingbird magnet.

My garden teaches me about the partnership between life and death, and lets me relax into my own cycles. This is where I belong. The first fireflies of the year are blinking in front of me now, and I accept that as affirmation for a life still to be lived.

Carol is a sixty-four-year-old gardener, grandmother, social worker, Goddess centered aging woman who has been writing with SCN Circle 6 for 2 1/2 years.