teach

Why I teach the way I do by Tammy L Coia

Why I teach the way I do. I have been known as the memoir coach for well over ten years. I have probably taught hundreds of women through my workshops and retreats.
TLC Writing Retreats is a niche writing retreat company designed for women who want to take time out from their daily routines to examine their lives and experiences, to write them down, and share them in a safe and comfortable environment.
Each writing retreat is held in a beautiful and congenial environment, with a blend of privacy and camaraderie customized for each participant. The week is a concoction of private time, coaching, social interaction, and interesting local excursions.
TLC Writing Retreats is geared for women who are open to reinventing themselves by contemplating their experiences and using them as the foundation of change. Sometimes a writer needs a quiet place and permission to write. I bring a wholesome and nurturing approach to coaching, and I give my students the freedom and security to write what they imagine.
TLC was started by myself and Linda George Brown in 2014 to answer a need that we each felt. We both are prolific writers and eager to arrange our lives so we could write in natural settings that could stimulate creativity. I have been a writing coach for many years and have developed a sympathetic and effective approach to mentoring writers and potential writers.
The ideal retreat participant is a thoughtful woman who has stories to tell. She would like to write down the stories, either for herself or to share, but she needs guidance or permission or both. And she would like to spend a week in a beautiful place with a group of thoughtful women who similarly are at crossroads in their lives.
There are many types and sizes of writing retreats. Currently, TLC occupies a niche that provides a safe place for women to write about their lives, to receive guidance and feedback from insightful coaches, and to share their life’s wisdom in a convivial atmosphere.
Writers have many needs. Aspiring writers need instruction on how to begin and permission to start. Seasoned writers need critical feedback and time to hone their craft. All writers need to find their own voice, and to learn structure and flow.
As I have worked with many women of all ages I began to see that when we took women out of their environment, their comfort zone, they began to write to the heart of their stories. They wrote deeper and clearer when they attended a retreat.
Our Solution:
Retreat, Write and Reinvent! TLC Writing Retreats are week-long sabbaticals where women take time from their daily lives to reflect, discuss, listen, relax, and write. We create refuges from the problems of the outside world to give select women the means and opportunity to explore their inner lives, and to document their experiences in writing. We foster the creative spirit with open hearts and proven techniques. For many past participants, this week long writing retreat opens a floodgate of inspiration which begins a lifetime of creative fulfillment.
Writing retreats, classes, and coaches come in many shapes and sizes. Some are geared to large groups, some to one-on-one, and all varieties in-between. There are similarities to all the approaches; whether it is in a classroom, online, or in a nature setting it needs to feel safe and there needs to be feedback from a respected instructor or coach. TLC Writing Retreats is unique because of what I bring to each retreat. I bring my personal brand of caring and inspiration to everything I do. I have created my current life purposefully, and my students are fortunate that I am willing to share my wisdom and my creative spirit with my students along the way. I have a gift for lighting the creative fire in the women who work with me. I am, at once, a force for change and a calming influence on those who spend time with me.
But don’t just take my word for it, come experience what so many others are talking about. You deserve to treat yourself to some TLC today!
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A Family Saga

The Stone Wall by Linda George Brown

The family were all forced to work in the fields.  Row after row of onions, Bermuda onions is what they were called when they were sold in the states, but in Bermuda, they were just onions.  Not much else would grow in the sandy soil of this little island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  It was grueling work, bending over for most of the day was back breaking work.

Irene and her sisters worked alongside their father in the fields.  He was tall, big boned and good natured, a hard worker, just the opposite of her mother.  Melissa was petite, with a sharp nose, thin and long, and a pointy little chin, her hair worn in a bun every day of her life.  She was not a kind nor humorous woman, she had a hard and guarded disposition. She was a woman with a large family and a garden to keep up as well as a pastel colored, tile roofed cottage sitting atop a small knoll surrounded by bougainvillea and roses tucked up close to the stucco walls.

When her father suggested that it might keep the rabbits out if they built a stone wall surrounding their property Irene was the one he turned to for help.  He designed the wall and made a plan to gather the rocks and mix the mortar but with no son to pass on this knowledge to he’d taken a good look at each of his daughters and it became obvious to him that his best bet was Irene.  She was strong in body and character and he hoped that would translate to a strong back and arms to carry those rocks up from the small valley below.  They took it slowly and chose their stones carefully.  He taught Irene to drive the tractor and they together would load up the rocks on the platform and she would throw the tractor in gear and slowly, carefully drag those rocks, load by load up the hill to their small farm.

Irene would do just about anything to get away from her mother, or her sisters, who for some reason all shunned her.  She knew she was different but could never imagine the reason why.  He knew but he chose to turn a blind eye to the differences and concentrate on all the ways she could help him.  Irene was a sweet girl, she always had a smile on her face and kindness in her heart.  He kept her close to his side when he could.

They together worked day after day building that stone wall to keep out the rabbits and maybe to keep the family secret within.  It was her circumstances that had to be hidden, the circumstances of her birth, not her character nor her heart.  At a different time or place she could have been proud of her mixed heritage, of her dark skin, her curly hair, but here on this little palm treed, flowering island filled with lily white Englishmen and their Victorian prudish wives…she stood for all that was dark and ugly in the world to her own mother and all that saw her.

Friendship

I Push, She Pulls, A Story Of Friendship by Linda George Brown

I Push, She Pulls, A Story of Friendship

I throw back the covers and check the phone

“r u up?” She texts

“7:30?” I respond

“k” The time is set.

I dress in the dark

And pull the front door closed behind me.

Gurgling water from the fountain,

Billowing bougainvillea about

I look up to check the wind in the palms

Zipping up in the morning chill.

Manicured mini gardens nestled among the palm groves,

Robbins’ egg blue sky,

Rustling palms swaying in the breeze

We walk in the cool of the morning before the desert heat sets in.

Meeting at the corner before our husbands are even awake

We walk through the dewy grass to our favorite pool.

We find a guarded place to perch

Putting our feet up to relax

And marvel at the beauty.

I tell her about my newest idea or story line

She says she lives vicariously through me.

We see the world in a funny way

I am 60, she is 62 and yet we like to feel as if we are both 16.

We don’t gossip, we don’t bitch

We share, ponder, question, accept.

We make the most of it.

We rebel,

We shouldn’t, but because we can, we do.

We walk the long way most days

Finding the beauty spots,

Pockets of nature, if only for a few steps.

We explore new areas, pools, walkways, ponds

Noticing unexplained odors and then investigating

Knowing enough how to sneak, peak and stay silent

Never wearing a nylon jacket that swishes.

We have something like 32 pools in our gated community

We hop from one to another

As if we are on a mission

Taking every decision seriously.

We are aware of Bentleys, the others are so commonplace.

Yellow being my favorite color, two here that I am aware of

Not important, just pretty, a coveted car.

We try to walk each morning

More for the fun of it than the commitment

Though that’s prevalent as well.

She has long legs

I am strong

She adjusts to my pace

I push us

And at times she pulls.

We are very different,

We are so the same.

We walk the empty streets of our neighborhood

But need more

More adventure

More danger.

Two days a week we hike

In the desert of sand, rock and thistle

We climb, carefully,

Noting the beauty along the way

Brown beauty

Rugged terrain.

So different than the safe consistency of our regulated country club

Everyone eager to live by others’ standards.

I have found something I will actually miss when we are gone from here.

The walks ‘inside’ jumping from pool to pool doing our walk/rest regime

And our hikes in the desert, always pushing past our comfort zone

Staying young as long as we can.

Rebelling, scheming, always with a subplot of doing detective work

For the good of the general population.

Like a magnet we are pulled to the next pool

Finding just the right spot to nest for a bit,

Open our hearts to each other

Share, forgive, ponder, regroup.

‘Onward, shall we?’

Not for long do we dawdle, an hour and a half walk

3 or 4 stops, some just for a minute or two

One stop usually for about 10 mutes to hear the brook breaking over the well placed rocks,

To watch the crane hunting for her breakfast, standing more still than a statue

We follow a scent to the source,

Pull u turns in the street for a moment to enjoy a pretty yard,

We share our early mornings with joy

The first one up texts the other r u up?

The return text has a suggested time of departure

Teeth brushed,

Walking shoes donned,

Tissue stuffed in my bra just in case,

iPhone in my pocket

Sunglasses on

I tiptoe out of the house

Out the front door to the street, not letting the gate slam behind me.

For everyone is still sleeping but the two of us out on a morning adventure.

Before the cleaners circulate from one pool to the next we try to find solace in the early morn

We alight, share the joy and retreat to our own worlds

We are there for each other when needed.

This is something we share.

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Stepping Stones of Life

Stepping Stones by Tammy L Coia

 

Stepping Stones

As seen in the Huffington Post

Today I sit in my villa just steps from the Sea of Cortez in the beautiful land of Baja. It was just a few weeks ago that my youngest son got married. As he walked me down the aisle my mind raced back to the many memories, the stepping stones of his life that brought him to this moment.

My son, Kevin was the baby of 4. He would never know what it was like to be an only child, instead he was instantly doted on and loved by 3 older siblings. Although his firsts weren’t as well documented as his oldest brother’s they are still very firmly etched in my mind.

How did this little boy that I loved and adored now become this handsome young man standing at the altar waiting for his bride to stand by his side?

The sun was shining brightly as I looked at my son’s face as Sydnee appeared coming down the steps walked by her father. I saw the look of love on his face as his eyes welled up with emotions.

It was as if overnight my little boy became a man.

I look at the two of them with their young lives ahead of them and feel a sense of gratitude that they have found each other.

They each grew up in the same city and but didn’t meet until they became adults. As I have gotten to know Sydnee over the last few years of their dating I knew she would be the perfect match for my son.

The stepping stones of life, some of the rocks are solid and firm, those are the ones we cling to and cherish. Yet, not all of the stones are like that. Many of the stones are covered with moss and slippery that if we are not careful will cause us to fall.

We are not all guaranteed a path with smooth gentle rocks to walk upon, instead we are given a path with a variety of rocks. Rocks that will test our fortitude and our gratitude. It is in these stepping stones that we first learned to walk, then run.

Each step we take leads us into more of this beautiful life.

Again as I look over the Sea of Cortez I see the path my life has taken, one that I would have never guessed I would be living here alone in another country, and I see these two young people embarking on their path.
As the two become one I know that together they will walk the path, carefully holding each other’s hands each step of the way.

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Play House

Life Is Not Fair by Linda George Brown

 

Life Is Not Fair

The day I first understood prejudice

Standing at the window of my second floor bedroom one early evening facing the busy street below all I could see was my reflection.  My green sweater seemed too green to me even at 7 years old.  The collar folded over and there was an oversized green plastic button just below my chin.  The sweater was too big for me but my mom said I’d grow into it.

I stood there looking at my reflection wondering why.  Why was I different?  Alone, at 7, wondering of the ways of the world, it was all too confusing for me to understand at the time.  Not knowing this would be one of the main themes that would run through my life, not knowing how to put a word to it, I was still  very aware of the concept.  Prejudice was a word I’d never heard before.

It wasn’t until 7th grade when prejudice was a word on our spelling list for the week that I new it existed.  Our teacher told us it was a word that we would not be learning nor speaking.  The only other word that fell in this category was illegitimate.  In the late 60s I lived in a segregated town on the Jersey shore.  It was during a time when prejudice and illegitimacy was a wound too close to the bone to open in a classroom setting.

But the first time I realized prejudice existed was when I was 7 standing at the window of my bedroom.

I was in the third grade.  I’d been playing at a girlfriends house around the corner in her backyard where she had her own playhouse.  Her Mom called to her to come inside and a few minutes later she emerged with a scowl on her face.  She said I had to go home because her family were going to the club.

“What’s the club?” I asked her.

“Oh, we go there to swim.  Maybe you can go with your family.”

“Can I go with you?”

“I asked my mom but she said you have to be Jewish to go to this club.”

I asked my Mom if we could go to the club when I got home .  She explained to me that we weren’t Jewish and we wouldn’t be welcome.  She didn’t mention that we’d just filed for bankruptcy and we couldn’t go anywhere anymore, no less a country club.

“Why aren’t we Jewish? And can we become Jewish?”  I asked with hope in my heart.

Her answer was “No, and we’ll never be Jewish and that’s ok.”

I just wanted to go to the club, whatever that meant.

As I stood there looking at my reflection I thought of another oddity that had happened.  I now lived in a brown two story house that was near Stuyvesant Avenue in Maplewood, NJ.  We now heard busses and trucks rumbling down the busy streets as well as horns blowing and red lights and people everywhere.  The houses were all lined up close to each other on the street where we lived.

Until a month ago we’d been living out in the country on Miller Lane across from rolling hills of horse land and apple orchards.  Then we went bankrupt.  I didn’t know what bankruptcy meant but I knew we no longer lived in the country.  I knw taht now I was wearing an ugly green sweater that was too big for me with a big plastic button.  Until then I’d been wearing pretty dresses and Mary Janes with turn over ankle socks trimmed with lace.

Walking home from my new school I hooked up with a group of girls who dropped me off at my house each afternoon.

“Mom? Can I go home with those girls that walk me home?”

“No, honey, it’s not safe for you to go across the busy street.”

“Mom.  I’ll be fine, those girls are older than me and they’ll make sure I’m safe.”

“Linda, I said, no.

Finally, she explained to me that the girls were black and they didn’t live in a nice place and it was not safe for me to go with them.   I worried that if it was unsafe for me then how about them?  Was it not also unsafe for them?  The answer was still no.

So, at 7 years old, I stood alone at my window.  Looking at my reflection wondering why I couldn’t be black and why we couldn’t be Jewish.  Why was the world not fair?  Why had my life changed so completely and so profoundly without explanation or logic?

These are concepts too complex for a 7 year old but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t profoundly affected by our circumstances.  I know now that even had it been explained to me more clearly I still would not have understood, I would have fought it.  Prejudice has no place in my heart nor my life and I remember the evening I first understood this.  Life is not fair no matter how you look at it.  12keiths-dutch-colonial-photo-300

devoted daughter

The Story of a Daughters Love; Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down by Linda George Brown

The story of a daughters love.

The receptionist buzzed to give me a heads up that my dad was on his way in.  My office was just off the lobby in the purchasing department so I stood up from my desk and peeked out the window and yup, there he was.  His old baby blue Mercedes was pulling up to the red painted curb right at the front door where he always parks.

I met him at the glass double doors in the lobby and quietly said, “Dad, what are you doing here?”   Trying to be patient with him but he’d been warned many times that it wasn’t ok to visit me at my office.  I’d already missed so much work during mom’s long illness.  I needed to get back to normal now that she was gone, but he is so lonely and doesn’t know what to do with himself.

“Mom’s in the car.”  He said sheepishly.

“What do you mean ‘Mom’s in the car’?”  I retorted with hands and shoulders held up in exasperation, keeping my voice down but wanting to be firm with him.

“She’s in the car.”  He’s actually scuffing the toe of his sneaker and looking down with his hands in his pockets, knowing he is in trouble.

“Where in the car?”  I said with a parental tone to my voice.

“Up front, with me, where she always sits.”  A bit of pride and a mischievous hint to his voice.

“Dad!  I told you Ron would pick her up.  Why did you do it?”  I wined.

“I just couldn’t leave her there.”  He said.

“So, now what?” By this time my frustration was no longer veiled. But it was more than that…

His only answer to me was “Give me your keys and I’ll put her in your car.”

“That is exactly why I’d asked Ron to pick her up so I wouldn’t be in this position, Dad. Fine.”  With a heavy sigh, I turned, walked back into my office and got my keys to hand to him.   A kiss on the cheek and he was off.  I never wanted to be alone with the ashes, it gave me the creeps just thinking about it.

After a very long battle with bone cancer and almost a year and a half in the hospital her body finally gave up.  Before she died, she told me that my Dad would drive me crazy and that I’d have to be firm with him or he’d show up daily at my office.  As much as my heart ached for him feeling alone, I had to work, I had responsibilities.  I had a life.

Later that afternoon I walked out to the parking lot, jumped in my little white BMW with the red leather seats and started it up to back out when I remembered, Mom!  Where did he put her?  I looked in the front seat and the back seat then jumped out and opened the trunk and there she was amidst all my other stuff.

I unfolded the small paper bag and peeked inside.  There was a brown plastic box a bit smaller than a shoe box inside and gingerly I slid open the top and found a clear plastic zip lock bag filled with the white, grey and beige bone chips and ash.

“Hi, Mom.” I said softly.  I both missed her horribly and was also happy it was over, her long and painful death.  I held her in my arms having to make a decision.  I left her there in the trunk.

I slid the top back on to her temporary home and put it back in the brown paper bag, folded the top of the bag down and laid it carefully on its side.  Seeing the ashes immediately brought tears to my eyes, I swallowed the lump in my throat, looked around the parking lot, hesitated, taking a deep breath, swallowed my tears and slammed the trunk closed, got back in the car and drove home to be mom to my own kids.

I left her there.  For almost a year I left her in my trunk.  I showed her to anyone interested in seeing what ashes look like.

In all the years they were married my Dad had never left her alone.    He’d drive her to work most mornings, then pick her up for lunch and again at 5 o’clock…there he was waiting for her.  She wanted more for me…she wanted me to have freedom of decision, freedom of time.

I left her in the trunk so that she could go to lunch with me everyday.  So she could vicariously enjoy a more pampered life.  I left her there so she was always with me.

She’d worked every day of her life since she had been 14 years old and ended up being the matriarch of our family.  The one everyone turned to for a mature and sensible solution to family drama and trauma.  A working mother of three. She carried the weight of caring for her parents, siblings and extended family as well as her own.  They weren’t an easy group, none of them, none of us, and my mom was the sane one, the one that caused my cousins to mention to me that I had a great mother, even my cousins from my Dad’s side.

Even at work, she was the go to office lady.  She was the business manager at a large Italian owned car dealership in both New Jersey and California.  The typical language used in dealerships stopped at her door.  She ran a very tight ship and was respected by all.

She raised me to expect more from life and I got it. Many months later our interior designer was telling me that her son Christopher was starting a new business.  He loved luxury cars but of course couldn’t  afford one so he thought of starting a car detailing business.

I liked Chris and loved a clean car so I called him to make arrangements for him to take me on as a customer.  He came on time, came to my office and got my keys, drove the car to his house where he did his work in his own garage.  A few hours later he returned it sparkling clean, I paid him and off he went to his next job.

As I left at 5 that afternoon, I thought I’d check his work.  The exterior was sparkling, the interior looked great,  and then I opened the trunk.  Spotless!  Perfect job, I was so happy with his work.  Half way home it hit me.  “Mom!”  I screamed.  I drove directly to Chris’ house but no one was home.  This was long before cell phones so you could never reach anyone when you really needed them.

My mind went to horrible places.  What if he’d thrown the brown paper bag away thinking it was trash?  Now she’s sitting in the bottom of a trash can or worse.  Could I live with myself if she ended up at the dump?  Oh, my god, my heart was racing, I was crying, and at the same time I realized that she and I would have laughed till we cried at this story.

I drove home and for the next hour I continued to call Chris over and over and I called his mom, Pam, at the office and at home.  I couldn’t live with myself  if Mom ended up at the dump. I couldn’t live with myself.   I had to get her back.

Finally, Chris called and it turned out that he had put everything that was in my trunk into a box and had only forgotten to put the box back in my trunk.  I couldn’t tell him why it was so important, why I was so freaked.  He was too young to even imagine what could have been in that bag that he’d moved.

That night Chris brought over the box of my belongings from my trunk  and that’s where she stayed for safe keeping. I could rest easy, she was home.

A month later we were up in Ron’s brothers prop plane.  I held the clear plastic bag tightly in my hand, holding some back to keep and share with my father.  Ron popped the window open for me as we flew over Natural Bridges Park in Santa Cruz, my Mom’s favorite place, where the Monarch’s visit every October on a layover on their annual journey.  Most of the ashes flew into the crashing waves yet still I screamed, sputtered, shook and cried as some of the ashes flew into my face.  When we got home that evening I needed to find a permanent home for what was left of her.

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, Ron had brought home a beautiful hand painted ginger jar.  I took a velvet bag with a draw string meant for a bottle of good Scotch and placed the clear plastic bag of ashes that I’d saved inside.  Dad had decided that it was just too odd for him to keep the ashes.

A year and a half after my mom had died we moved to Singapore for Ron’s job and I found the perfect place for Mom.  Yes, we brought her with us…she’d never had a passport and had never traveled.

We had a beautiful flat in a high rise with Italian red marble floors and 5,000 sf to fill and make homey.  We bought an antique Persian rug during the embargo era and placed a very large glass table atop.  Her ginger jar sat in the middle of the table so that she could enjoy the rug and the view.

Now she resides in a cabinet in my dining room at our home in the desert of Southern California.

I learned that never did I need to savor those ashes in order to be reminded of her.  She lives on in my heart and I see her qualities of confidence and wit reflected in my granddaughters eyes.

 

a daughters love

My Mothers’ Urn