My book is available now (Woman Enough)! In honour of that, I’m continuing to feature some women who I believe are some of the bravest and who deserve to have their stories shared. I want to celebrate women. Nothing more, nothing less. Here they are in their own words. I am humbled and grateful to have a small snapshot into their worlds.
I wouldn’t have published my book had my aunt not created the cover artwork. I also wouldn’t have transitioned well to our move to New Zealand without her continuous loving support. My aunt is someone I’ve admired for as long as I can remember. She’s always been a strong, independent, creative, positive woman role model for me in my life and when you read her responses, you’ll see why.
I love you, fellow Grace Note, and thank you for being the incredible woman you are. -Lissa
Name: Pamela G. Waller
Looking back on your life thus far, what has been your biggest accomplishment?
My ability to balance being a mother and a wife while working outside our home. Later, becoming a single mother, a woman business owner and a 60-year-old graduate student.
What’s something/a time you look back on & wish you would’ve done it differently, if any?
I wish I had focused more on my two boys as they were growing up and had been able to take the time to understand the fears and anxieties they were feeling as children and help them, more, through those times.
Has there been any significant moment in your life that has altered your path/your being/your calling?
Actually there were three moments. One, at 30, when I became a divorced woman with two young children, 6 and 3. I started working toward a profession at that time.
Second, when I started my own business, leaving the firm I’d worked for 11 years allowing me the independence to build my own business and a strong financial foundation for my future retirement.
Later, divorced again at 47 and finally a truly “single” woman, living alone for the first time in my life – without parents, brothers, roommates, husbands and children – quite an adjustment! I had to learn to be content alone (for the most part), spending my time and energy on myself instead of others and being comfortable inside my mind and body. Many women never learn, as I did, the serenity that can be achieved in being alone.
When did you begin to follow your passion for art?
While I’d not had any formal art education, I’ve had wonderful opportunities over the years, traveling the seven continents of the world, visiting art galleries and museums. When I was 45, I decided to take courses to learn more about artists and learn how to create art of my own using various media such as water colors, oils, charcoals, pencils and pastels and becoming skilled sculpting with clay.
At 58, I wanted a change that would transition me into retirement and beyond. After talking with a therapist about a career change, she observed that I liked working with people and had discovered the world of making art and asked if I had ever considered working in art therapy. Never heard of it!
Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of a two–year program to earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology: Art Therapy. I downsized my association management business to allow time and energy for getting my Master’s. Then, at age 60, I embarked upon my second career – art therapy with seniors, working in groups and with individuals, in assisted living facilities and dementia units.
What have you observed in others through using art therapy?
Seniors have unique goals. As we age, we are confronted by the loss of children, spouses and dear friends. We also become more challenged physically and mentally. Many troubled seniors suffer from a pervasive feeling of being worthless and disconnected from the world around them. In my work with long–lived people, I have found a range of character types and lifestyles and, above all, unique responses to the crises of disability, disease, reduction in one’s sense of self–worth, isolation and the approach of death.
Art therapy with seniors offers them a chance to overcome “resistance” to their view that they are “not artists”, that “my brother or sister was the artist in the family”. It provides seniors with social time and intimacy with other seniors who compliment and encourage their colleagues in their artistic endeavors and praise them for their efforts.
The elderly have stories to tell us. We work with memory, as far back as possible, to recreate our earlier lives and memories through art media, often using collage. We break through the barrier that “we aren’t artists” by working with materials that are conducive to various physical challenges.
Creativity is empowering (and not just for geniuses). I define it as our innate capacity for growth. It is the energy that allows us to think a different thought, express ourselves in novel ways. It enables us to view life as an opportunity for exploration, discovery, and an expanding sense of self… and it knows no age. My goal in choosing to work with seniors is to share with them the opportunity that I’ve had – to lose themselves in the art of play and in the process, to reaffirm their existence.
How did you come up with the cover for WOMAN ENOUGH?
Many of the subjects of my art, throughout the years, have been women. Early on, I copied from the great artists and after becoming more secure in my skills, I used my own imagination.
From my understanding of the story, the main character, “Becca”, was troubled, probably a lovely–looking young woman overcome by life’s circumstances.
I sent several versions of the cover to Lissa to see what appealed to her and we worked together making a few (but important) changes. The eyes of the “Becca” we created drew me to the cover and made me want to know more about this troubled woman. We added black drops that gave it a mysterious effect. (She also had a purple blouse, the author’s and my favorite color, but in the end, it was overlaid with black to allow for strong visuals for the title.)
What is one of your mom’s traits that you admire(d)?
My mother’s life was very much in contrast to my own. I finished college – she finished high school. She had five children – I had two. She was a full-time at-home mom, cooking three meals a day (without a dishwasher or microwave), did daily laundry (hanging sheets outside, when possible). She cleaned her own home, rose early to have alone time before the rest of us were told to get ready for school. She spent her honeymoon in Cuba but, unlike me, her only subsequent travel was limited to the U.S., the Cayman Islands and Hawaii.
What I admire most in her was her dedication to her children and home. She rarely treated herself to a night out for socializing or to a daytime shopping spree. She wasn’t a clothes shopper, although she loved shoes. I rarely saw her without self-polished nails. When she needed a new dress, she sent me to the clothing store, to shop for her and select several dresses to try at home before returning her rejects.
She was truly a woman, representative of mothers living in the decades before the 1960s. We, who became women, afterward, juggled the home front as well as our work outside the home. I have complete respect and admiration for their personal sacrifices for their families versus themselves. But I’d sworn my life would be different.
When you think of your grandmother(s), what comes to mind?
My mother was a “chip off the old block” of her mother. Grandma Clara was a second-generation German who had also dedicated herself to her five children and husband. She was a great cook and seamstress, fed me date-filled cookies and turned the scraps from her worn housedresses into clothing for my dolls. My most cherished memory of her was remembering that she was always there for me, non-judgmental and affectionate. Most memorably, when I was 18, had just graduated from high school and broken up with my first serious boyfriend because we’d be going to separate universities. I was devastated and lucky to be able to run across our small Iowa town of 6,000 people to the comforting and safe arms of Grandma Clara. She was my one and only choice for such a moment. She lived into her late 90s, but I miss her still.
Last but not least, how do you see yourself, & how do you want others to see you?
I hope that by reading this you have a pretty good understanding of who I was, who I became… what I experienced… what I regret… my decisions to never be “just” an at-home housewife and to prepare myself for what well could be a life without a partner (pretty much unheard of in the 1960s) … and to provide for a financial security that didn’t depend upon anyone else.
A self-made woman, who tried to do it all.