Written By Lissa Rankin
When I saw authors Kathy Kinney (of The Drew Carey Show fame) and her long time BFF Cindy Ratzlaff on television recently talking about their new book Queen of Your Own Life, I knew I had to bring them to Owning Pink. Their messages of empowerment, sisterhood, honoring and respecting the aging process, and FUN are so uber-Pink (as is the fabulous book that I couldn’t put down). Three cheers for two very deserving Queens who couldn’t be more lovely. Take a seat of your own throne, put on your crown, and let’s chat with Kathy and Cindy…
Lissa: What does it mean to be Queen of Your Own Life?
Cindy: It’s really an attitude and a state of mind. We like to think of it as a call to action for all women to claim the right to admire ourselves for who we’ve become.
Kathy: We don’t really expect women to wear a crown and an ermine robe and walk around waving a scepter at their family – although if it makes them happy we’re all for it.
Lissa: You are both what we at Owning Pink would call “Pink Goddesses,” meaning that you’re full of mojo (which we define as MOre JOy). How have you kept your mojo, and what advice might you have for others who have lost it and want it back?
Cindy: We embrace our inner Pollyanna on a daily basis. It’s baffling to us that somehow Pollyanna has become a four letter word in our society. She was the original “if life gives you lemons – make lemonade” girl.
Kathy: We realized that no one is born knowing how to be happy. That it’s a skill you have to learn. Just like the practice of faith, we actively engage in the practice of being happy. We find something everyday to be happy about.
Cindy: Sometimes it’s something as simple as I’m happy to be awake and other times I’m happy for the brilliance of life and all of the love in my life. The more happiness you find in your life the more comes your way. I’m a genetically perky person, but even I have my down days. And during those times, girlfriend power kicks in and I call Kathy for the “Queen Up” speech and she always delivers the healthy dose of attitude adjustment that I need.
Lissa: Your book is all about helping women recognize that we’re all beautiful, inside and out. Do you have any inner beauty tips you could share with us?
Cindy: We use Royal proclamations every time we look in the mirror. We’ll say something like, “You have no power over me you silly mirror. I see myself as the beautiful, intelligent, valuable woman that I am. So sayeth the Queen!”
Kathy: On the days when we’re not feeling our full beauty, we like to “act as if” until we get it back. I will walk like I’m the wisest most beautiful woman in the world and because I’ve practiced acting “as if” so often, I soon begin to feel really good about myself. The truth is often my walk can get a bit silly and I make myself laugh. Nothing is better for inner and outer beauty than a good laugh.
Lissa: Kathy, you lost your father young and labeled this a “bad” event until your “Windy Mountain Moment.” Can you tell us about that experience and how it shaped the way you view “good” and “bad” experiences in our lives?
Kathy: My father had been ill most of my life and losing him when I was fifteen was very difficult. But the social security benefits I received after his death opened up the possibilities of college to me. Don’t get me wrong. I’d still rather have my father. But that option changed the course of my life and these events made me the woman I am today. When I had my Windy Mountain Moment I realized that something positive had come from every experience in my life that I had labeled as bad. Also, that many difficult things had come from experiences that I had often labeled as good. I decided to stop labeling incidents and just live. My experience is that everything happens for a reason and it always works out for the best.
Lissa: Part of being Queen of Your Own Life means surrounding yourself with intimate friendships with women. Many women find it hard to connect with other women. Do you have any guidance for those who desire stronger friendships but don’t know how to build their Queen’s court?
Cindy: We started by looking at our current circle of acquaintances and honestly evaluating whether or not these women were or had the potential to be our closest friends. We identified, for ourselves, what core values were most important to us and then we looked for women who seemed to share those. In doing this, we were able to see that there were already some women in our lives who were supportive and only wanted the best for us. We decided to tell them how important they were in us. Our experience is that when you have the courage to name it the friendship grows stronger.
Kathy: We have a friend who is in her 60’s. She told us that she realized that most of her close friends were younger than she was and that she longed for a friend closer to her age who could share her interests with her. So she decided to look around her in her everyday life and see if there was someone that she came in contact with who might become that friend. Sure enough, in her yoga class she found someone who she enjoyed speaking with casually. After class, she said to her “I’m looking for a friend closer to my own age. Would you like to be my friend?” Her honesty, vulnerability and bravery won her a new, dear friend and the two of them enjoy each other’s company to this day. The lesson here is look around and put yourself out there. Be available to the possibility of new friendships.
Lissa: Many women struggle with growing older gracefully. When society places so much value on youth, how can we learn to embrace our inner wise sage, or as you might call it, our Queen?
Cindy: We do this by using all the steps we’ve talked about here today. We surround ourselves with uplifting, positive women. We use affirmations and we stop, pause and find something everyday to admire about ourselves and when all else fails, we act “as if” until we believe it again.
Kathy: We’re not against plastic surgery or a great under eye cream but we want women to know that our wrinkles and our grey hair tell the story of a life well lived and that a positive attitude, an adventurous spirit and a lust for lifelong learning are all extremely attractive qualities. We need to make ourselves heard with our pocketbooks as well as our voices and insist that advertisers and the world at large present women and aging in a more positive light.
Lissa: I love the story in your book about how you took all your fears to God, and one by one, God reminded you that all your worries are already handled. Can you share with us what you’ve learned about surrendering your fears?
Kathy: I love that old saying, “if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans.” In my life I gain comfort from the knowledge that I’m not in charge no matter how much I think I am. My job is to show up everyday – not ask why, be grateful and help others.
Lissa: You and your girlfriends celebrate each other with a Crowning Ceremony. Can you tell us how we can do this with our girlfriends?
Cindy: We had our own crowning ceremony on a 7-day vacation together in Prague. Every night we’d ask each other two questions, sometimes over Pilsner and Goulash and sometimes over Duck and champagne. We’d ask: “What do you want to banish from the first half of your life that no longer works for you?” And, “What do you want to keep from the first half that still serves you?”
Kathy: Ultimately we came to the conclusion that we both wanted to banish fear and low self esteem which had gotten in our way too many times. We wanted to keep our sense of humor that had gotten us through both good times and bad. But here’s the thing; the crowning ceremony is something that any woman can do, any where. You can do it alone, with a good friend or a hundred good friends. Ask yourselves those two questions and then shoot off fireworks if that makes you happy or write down your banish list and burn it. The only way to get a Crowning Ceremony wrong is to not have one at all.
Lissa: What has writing this book taught you about being Queens?
Cindy: We’ve learned that we always were Queens but that we just needed a good friend to hold up the mirror and remind us of that fact.
Kathy: I think that we are the poster women for “anything is possible.” We shouldn’t be able to write our first book at ages 56 and 57, but we did. We shouldn’t be able to turn it into a television pilot, but we did. We have the audacity to believe that anything is possible and that there is always something more.
Queen of Your Own Life authors Cindy Ratzlaff (left) Kathy Kinney (right)
Lissa: At Owning Pink, we’re all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your creativity, your spirituality, your career, your relationships, your sexuality, your physical health…How does this tie in with being Queenly?
Kathy: Creativity, spirituality, health, relationships, sexuality and career are the components of a full, rich life. We believe that when a woman views herself as a Queen, she really feels the full measure of responsibility she has for creating her realm including choosing her attitude, her support system, her actions and her goals. Being Queen isn’t necessarily easy but most of the time, it’s good to be the Queen.
Cindy: We’re definitely on the same wave-length with Owning Pink. We always strive to be our best selves and yet we take time to remind ourselves everyday that we are perfect just the way we are. We are worthy of our own admiration because we have become really good travelers and we are having an amazing adventure. We also take a moment to remind ourselves and each other that you don’t have to be 20 to have your whole life ahead of you.
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).