About Kathleen Vestal Logan
From shy child to public speaker—what a journey my life has been! A short story might tell you just how far I’ve come. As a junior in college, I was taking an English literature class. Abysmally shy, I always sat in the back of a room, trying not to be noticed, but one day, Dr. Greenberg called on me. “Miss Vestal, what role did Polonius play in Shakespeare’s Hamlet?”
I knew the answer because I’d just written a paper on Polonius. As required, I stood up, instantly gripped by fear. The entire class of about thirty turned around and I froze in place, paralyzed, unable to utter a single word at the sight of all those faces focused on me. After standing there for what seemed like an hour, Dr. Greenberg took pity on me and called on someone else. I slunk down in my chair, humiliated. Clearly, I had a lot to learn. Now I am an author, and speaker. How did that happen? How did I move from the back of the room to the front and even develop the courage to write for publication? There was no magic moment or event; it was a steady progression from shyness to confidence that only now can I understand. By looking backwards, I can identify some key elements of the process.
As a little girl, writing was a refuge for me, a safe place to think and feel and work out issues; it also helped me do well in school despite not participating in class discussions. Later, starting my professional career as an elementary school teacher got me accustomed to making lesson plans and standing in front of a room and I liked working with children. But adults? That was a different challenge.
Because I married a U.S. Navy officer in 1971 (I should mention that I stopped teaching after three years and joined the navy where I met my husband-to-be), I constantly dealt with frequent moves and long deployments. For my master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, I chose to study the emotional aspects of military deployments on wives for my thesis as I wanted to do something with practical value. After completing the degree, I wrote an article “The Emotional Cycle of Deployment” which was published in Naval Institute Proceedings in 1987. Doing the research required that I meet with many navy wives’ groups; then, once the article was published, I was invited to speak to many more groups, which often included husbands, as well. Having a positive impact on people’s ability to cope productively with separations propelled me past my fears. The article continues to be used throughout the military services and has been translated into several foreign language. It’s very satisfying to have created something of lasting value to people.
Teaching college classes for St. Leo College expanded my knowledge base. I taught Marriage and Family (my favorite), Principles and Practices of Counseling, Introduction to Psychology, and Social Psychology. With every class, my focus was on making the academic content relevant to real life. I wanted students to benefit on a personal level from what they were learning.
My next big boost came in 1990 when I was hired by a local hospital to be Coordinator of their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which, when I left, had contracts with eighty local businesses. While my co-workers did the one-on-one counseling that was available through EAP, I went to companies all over town to do workshops on topics like stress, change, team building, communication, conflict resolution, and anger. Talk about mind-expanding! After saying “yes” to whatever topic was requested, I’d scurry back to my office, do the necessary research, and prepare a lesson plan adapted to their workplace needs. My early decision was: “I cannot expect people to change their behavior if I’m not willing to learn and change mine.” I paid attention to what I was teaching. And so I grew, year after year.
As long as I had a lesson plan, I could talk to any group. But extemporaneous speaking? It still made me uncomfortable, so I joined a Toastmasters club years ago. It has helped me hone my speaking skills and also be more self-asssured when faced with impromptu speaking situations.
As my confidence increased, so did my desire to write. In 2006, my friend, Dr. Betsy Smith, and I decided to write a book. Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life that Matters after Fifty was published in 2010. Joining The Transition Network (TTN), a national organization for women over fifty, seemed like a natural choice to help promote the book and its message. When TTN’s first online newsletter arrived, it invited authors to contribute a column monthly, which I have done ever since.
Also in 2010, a friend introduced me to Deb Tracy who owns Angel’s Garden Gift Shop here in Pensacola, Florida. She welcomed the opportunity to bring women into her shop by marketing my book, so we started collaborating. The first session, of course, was about Second Blooming, but it soon worked out that Deb and I would choose a topic, such as Body Image, then I’d prepare an outline for the group discussion. We would put notices in the local papers, essentially inviting any interested women to come. Typically, about twenty showed up. After a brief social time, we would sit in a circle to have a thoughtful, in-depth conversation. Eventually, many of those conversations became the basis for TTN columns; as you read Women’s Wisdom, picture women like you gathered together to listen, share, and learn. The response has been so positive that Deb and I have hosted about thirty such discussions over the years and marketing long ago ceased to be our motivation. In many ways, these discussions inspired me to write Women’s Wisdom: Pass It On! because the sharing of information and collective wisdom has been so beneficial to all of us.
With Women’s Wisdom, I hope to promote such discussions and sharing across several generations because we can learn a great deal from each other. Also, most groups we met with suggested that Betsy and I drop the “after fifty” past of the Second Blooming for Women title because “it’s a good book for all women.” Younger women asked for a book which would prepare them for the future, too. My hope is that Women’s Wisdom: Pass It On! partially fulfills that request.
My life continues to be a journey and, as you can tell, I had much to learn along the way. I often find myself wondering, Why didn’t anybody tell me this years ago? as I share my thoughts and experiences by writing articles, trusting that the information can make women feel less alone, more supported, and more capable.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance, inspired the title of Women’s Wisdom by saying, “Women are artists of the everyday. We are keepers of the sacred truth. We must cherish this wisdom and pass it on to those we love.” And so I offer this book as a way of sharing some knowledge with the hope that it will benefit you as it has me. After all, collectively, we are keepers of the wisdom, so let’s pass it on!