Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Life in My Hands – Healing Myself Healing Others

The Downside and Danger of Multitasking


Recently, I witnessed a young girl texting while riding her bike. No surprise that she slammed into the back of a car that was parked on the street. I heard the slam and the scream and ran to see if she was okay. She whimpered, got back on the bike, and rode off – texting once again.

She was fortunate that she hit a car that was not moving. But watching her behavior got me thinking about multitasking, how we oftentimes put ourselves at risk or, at least, take away from what might be an enjoyable experience, by trying to do too much at once.

When it comes to tasks, it’s become more difficult to focus on a single one rather than tackling several at the same time. It takes perseverance to stay the course on a single objective and ensure that it’s done correctly and thoroughly. It’s easier to run from one thing to the next without any real focus. Perhaps a lot of things get done, but nothing gets done really well.

Our culture’s multitasking obsession has taken us further away from the mindfulness that everyone talks about wanting these days. Something else has been lost as well: the pride of doing one thing really well. Today when I hear people bragging “look how many things I can do at once. I’m a multitasker!” I sigh. After 20 years of running at such a pace professionally, I came to understand one thing is true: The grand prize for winning a pie eating contest is more pie.

Life isn’t about how fast the next 15 things on the list can be accomplished. It’s about enjoying the process of accomplishing each of the 15 things on the list, while understanding that there is no end to the list. So revel in the process of life, which hides itself within the endless tasks.

To accomplish something requires the keen ability to ward off any fleeting thoughts that might distract from that goal. Thoughts pop in. Stop what your doing! Put  a load of laundry in! Make that grocery list while driving! (Seriously, I know someone who does this between stop lights.)

My favorite: people who exercise while also reading a magazine or talking on the phone. Walking the dog while taking phone meetings for work is a way to get many things scratched off that to do list. Yes, much is getting done, but the quality of that experience and the mindfulness, which is part of the holistic health of an individual, is absent.

There is no mindfulness or presence of mind when we are focusing on everything else but what we are doing in that moment; that is the definition of distracted. If we aren’t connected to the present moment, we aren’t tuning into our intuition, nor are we enjoying experiencing what ever it is that we are doing. Where’s the enjoyment in life if we cannot smell the roses?

While walking the dog, enjoy the experience of walking with the dog. Fully take in what it is to be in nature with a loving creature taking in the smells, feelings, and sounds of what is around us. Our colleagues deserve us fully present and engaged, as much as ourselves and our dog does, so we can connect with them after the walk.

One could ask, who benefits from this multitasking? Much got done today, but you were not present for any of it because of the constant focus on what comes next. The accomplishment came at the sacrifice of the connection to self and the moments were lost.

When we are not fully present with ourselves there could be other consequences. Lacking presence with ourselves, we may miss the early warning signs that an illness might be gaining momentum within the body. We are effectively disconnecting from ourselves. Additionally, we could be injured because off our lack of attention to what is ahead of us, like the girl I saw riding and texting. My guess is it will take something more serious to get her attention back to mindfulness.

Mindfulness can be practiced with a simple activity like wiping down the counter top. There could also be opportunities to be more productive if we just focus on doing one thing really well, honoring each activity with our full presence, seeing it through with our best effort to its completion.

When it comes to relationships in this age of technology, it’s become commonplace to see a family having dinner in a restaurant with individual members glued to their phones instead of being fully present. The ability to make face to face personal connections within the family is eroding rapidly, much less connections with those outside the family unit.  As a result, with our lack of focus and presence, are we missing critical signs of unmet emotional needs of our close ones? Not to mention important opportunities to connect or make an intervention for someone in need who may be unable to reach out and communicate their need effectively.

Multitasking once in a while is a skill. However, it should be seen as a surge technique, not as the constant if we wish to create meaningful long lasting connections. Mindful moments are where the enjoyment of life can be found, if we can simplify and slow down once in a while.

Darcy Hotchkiss is the author of Life in My Hands: Healing Myself, Healing Others.

Has Your Identity Been Hijacked on Social Media?


Our society has evolved faster in the last ten years than in the prior fifty years. While those changes can be attributed to many things, technology has had the largest impact, affecting human behavior and shaping cultures worldwide. Through our electronic devices, we can be constantly connected with people near and far. Social media is a connection multiplier, giving participants a voice to broadcast ideas and emotions to a large audience from all corners of the earth.

We have more access to real time information globally than we have ever had before. It’s possible for you to meet and connect with someone in Thailand, see details about her personal life, where she lives, works, and even what she had for dinner while never taking off your bunny slippers or leaving the couch.

Social media sites are about connecting people, networking, sharing, and socializing. All things that humans crave and love to do, so it’s no surprise that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are so popular. There are plenty of stories of people reconnecting with family and friends and, of course, finding love, using social media. Our Facebook feeds are filled with these heartwarming tales. We share them and “like” them. These positive stories make up the up side of social media. But what are the down side?

For a business, a negative social media review on a site like Yelp can be detrimental to the bottom line. A 30-second video showing a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight, was posted, went viral, and notnonly created a public relations nightmare, but affected the company’s stock. Other corporations have felt the aftershocks of scathing employee reviews on sites like Glass Door, resulting in difficulty recruiting and retaining top talent.

There’s a danger that putting too much personal information on social media creates opportunities for criminal elements to engage in social hijacking, stealing an individual’s identity. The results can be financial and personally devastating. After spending many years chasing down these scams for the Pentagon’s top brass, I realized it was like playing a virtual wack-a-mole. As soon as I could get the requests processed within the social media venue for the false accounts to be investigated and taken down, the next day several more would pop up.

Over time I realized, that this is just a new take on an old problem. Much like the old romance scams that involved getting a chain letter in the mail with requests to send money, these schemes were people hijacking a well known identity in order to convince an unsuspecting person to send money to a person in need. Typically middle aged single woman are the targets, and the perpetrator preys on the loneliness and kindness of the woman to send money for whatever cause that he or she has convinced them to buy into. And most of the time it works. Victims sent as much as $5,000 and in some cases even more. By the time they realize its a scam, it’s too late.

However, in these cases there are really two victims of these types of crimes. The person who gets swindled into wiring hard earned funds, and the person whose identity has been stolen, often with no idea that he or she has been hijacked. Typically, this person is a prominent, well enough know individual with a prominent media profile. As I have seen, general officers in the military are some of the most common targets. A family member or a friend receives a note or “friend me” request only to discover that the message came from someone pretending to be a general officer. Responding to the request often means granting access to personal information.

Here are some tips to protect your social identity and yourself from falling prey to social media scams:

  1. If you have no social identity, get one. It’s hard to steal your spot if you are already there. If you have no social presence, you are more likely to be hijacked and it will go on undetected for a longer time.
  2. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. This is just good social media hygiene all around. You wouldn’t let someone in your house off the street, don’t let them into your intimate social circle online either. If you do meet someone online and accept a friend request, be very leery of any pressure to take the conversation to another medium such as Skype. Also be suspicious if they start telling you problems and start asking for money.
  3. Stay away from third party applications. These are the apps that are imbedded into Facebook. You will be warned that you are leaving Facebook and instructed to click “yes” for permission to enter another site. These apps aren’t regulated by Facebook and they collect information from you. Once you authorize access they are running in the background and often times continue to listen and collect your data. These apps have even been known to spread malware on your personal compute which may steal your banking and credit card information. There are multiple third party apps that have been shut down for collecting credit card information on users, but not before they made off with millions.
  4. Secure your account. Are you aware of who sees what you are posting and who your friends are? This is the most frequently use reconnaissance tool of perpetrators and burglars. Three-quarters of convicted burglars said they use social media to watch the target and get details about when they are home and what they have in their home that will make a successful bounty. If you don’t want to use Facebook’s automated security tool to check your settings, than watch what information you give out. Better not to post that you’ll be in Miami on vacation for two weeks or that you just installed an expensive home entertainment system.
  5. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. It is difficult to verify someones true identity online. The danger is that people can set up an avatar and become anyone they dream up. Be smart and listen to your instincts when connecting with new people online.

Social media is the wild, wild west of the world wide web, and it’s only going to grow in popularity. It’s possible to enjoy the benefits of social media without falling victim to the dark sides of social media, if you educate yourself about the dangers and treat the security of your accounts like you treat the front door of your home.

Darcy Hotchkiss is the author of Life in My Hands – Healing Myself, Healing Others.

Top Photo from Bigstock

Darcy Hotchkiss: Life in My Hands – Healing Myself, Healing Others


Even as a teen growing up in a small town in Maine, Darcy Hotchkiss visualized herself a world traveler. But she would take many detours before she realized those dreams. Along the way, she kept a journal to document her amazing journey from high school dropout and a single mom, to a soldier in the U.S. Army and a government contractor in Kuwait and Iraq. Working for NATO in The Netherlands, she sustained a serious injury which brought on a year of physical pain and emotional turmoil. When she finally found a way to heal through alternative medicine, she was inspired to become a healer herself. “I began feeling a nudge a couple of years ago to write down my experiences, trying to make sense of things with the idea that maybe there were women that have experienced similar struggles with life, love, parental roles, understanding their path, and healing,” says Darcy. “I’ve come to a deeper level of appreciation for who I am and the different way of managing my life; it doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me.” She hopes that her book, Life in My Hands – Healing Myself, Healing Others (WAT-AGE Publishing), will resonate with readers no matter where they are in their own odysseys.

Where Darcy now finds herself is all the more remarkable considering where she started out. She learned that she was pregnant shortly after attending her junior prom and was forced to drop out of school. “In my eighth month of pregnancy, I stood behind a cash register at the local grocery store, working as many hours as possible, trying to save money while I still had the ability to work,” Darcy writes. Studying to complete her high school degree, she was terrified with the thought that she was going to be responsible for the life of another human being. She and the baby’s father were soon married, a marriage that lasted for three years. “My husband and I had completely different goals about what our lives would be, certainly a challenge to our relationship,” she writes. “I wanted a career, and to travel and see the world, while he wanted to stay on the farm, raise children, and be the softball coach and team dad.”

After the divorce, Darcy was working multiple jobs, taking college courses, and raising her daughter. “There were nights when I barely got four to five hours of sleep after I got Jordan ready for bed, finished homework, and had to be at my first job again by 6:30 a.m.,” she says. “I never had enough money to cover everything. It seemed like I just couldn’t get ahead unless I did something drastic.”


Darcy and Jordan

She knew that she wanted more for herself and for her daughter. But how would she accomplish that? With few options available, she made the difficult decision to enlist. That meant leaving her daughter in the care of her ex-husband. “I felt massively judged in the beginning for my approach to mothering,” Darcy says. “But my priority was the best interests of my daughter. At that time, her father was a better parent hands down, and I think it’s important to admit that as a woman, especially today. Gender roles and perceptions are being overridden all the time and there are many examples of the roles woman are playing now in the media, movies, and even in the military.”

Darcy soon discovered that life as a solider was, in many ways, easier than trying to keep things together as a single mom. “Everything was provided – food, clothes, lodging and direction,” she says. “I got more sleep than I did as a single mother. It was crazy! I was able to focus on my professional endeavors without wondering if I could scrape some spare change together for a hamburger at McDonalds.”

Make no mistake, though. Basic training was tough. In the book Darcy describes the grueling drills, including one that involved being confined in a chamber filled with tear gas. (Think of that scene in An Officer and a Gentleman.) While other recruits were panicking, Darcy, who had visualized the exercise many times in her mind, was calm and methodical, getting through the exercise with time to spare. That was the first time she realized the power of visualization, something that she would use many times in the future.

While in the Army, Darcy met and married another soldier. Since he had a higher rank and would often be deployed, Darcy made the decision to leave the Army. She had been working on college credits and had enough training in communications that she could land a job paying her three times what she was making in the Army. Still, because of frequent separations, the marriage didn’t last. Dealing with the trauma of facing a second divorce, Darcy began to have vivid dreams. “Dreams of traveling, working and living in the Middle East were starting to come through,” she writes. Those dreams would soon become reality when she accepted a position supporting the Army Information Technology operations as an information systems security officer on Camp Doha, Kuwait.


Darcy arrived in Kuwait a year after President George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” campaign which brought down Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein. While Kuwait was relatively safe, there were still challenges. Unlike some ex-pats, Darcy was open to learning about the people there and the culture. “I think I wanted to believe there was good in the world and the way for me to come to that was to immerse myself in another culture, befriend locals, and see what it was all about,” she says. “I met so many different types of people in the Middle East, some real characters. They made my time there great. There is so much diversity in this world. I would be hesitant to make gross generalizations on any group of people after my experiences.”

As an independent woman, Darcy often had to confront how women were treated in the Middle East. She became friends with one man named Mohammad who worked at the airport. Even though they spent some pleasant times together, she kept in mind a warning from his sister: “My brother is always angry and you should be careful with him.” When he became overbearing and controlling, Darcy made excuses for not being able to meet him. Fortunately, she was able to end the relationship on a friendly note and when Jordan visited Kuwait, Mohammed ushered her safely through the airport. Darcy made friends with another man, Waleed, but had to cut it off when he began to talk about marriage.

Darcy was certainly living her dream to travel. After celebrating the New Year in Lebanon, she took another job in Iraq, a country that was much more dangerous than Kuwait. “My assignment was working within the U.S. Embassy annex supporting the communications backbone for Multi-National Forces Iraq (MNF-I) in the area known as the International Zone,” she writes. She describes a trip in a Black Hawk helicopter  to Camp Victory in Baghdad. “Initially, I thought the pilot was giving us a guided tour of Baghdad, but really he was just trying to avoid random gunfire from some of the rooftops and keep us from getting shot down through a rough patch of the city,” she writes. Peering down, rather than seeing gunfire, she witnessed “only a beautiful afternoon with young Iraqi children playing soccer in a small patch of a lush grassy field.” At the base, Darcy had the opportunity to tour Saddam Hussein’s Al-Faw Palace. Staring at crystal chandeliers and marble work, Darcy says “I couldn’t prevent my mouth from falling open with awe.” Driving around, a solider also pointed out the small building where the former Iraqi dictator was being held.

For Darcy, there was a bonus for her stay in Iraq. In Lebanon, she had met and fell in love with Majed, who would also be working in Iraq. The two would spend one glorious holiday together in Jordan before the romance came to a tragic end, sending Darcy into a tailspin.

She retreated back to the U.S., giving herself time to grieve. She returned to Kuwait for a short time, but soon found herself accepting a position with NATO in The Hague. Her initial excitement about the assignment didn’t last. She found the city cold, damp, and isolating. Playing netball (a Dutch version of basketball without the dribbling), she sprained her ankle. Shortly after that, she developed several health problems. “I had worked so hard to get to this point in my career,” she writes. “For what? Was this all that could be expected? Loneliness, sickness, and depression? It was a difficult pill for me to swallow.”

One evening she forced herself to socialize, accepting an invitation to a birthday party. She sustained a serious fall down a flight of stairs, injuring her lower back, pelvis, and shoulder. “If you have ever been in chronic pain, you understand that it goes beyond dealing with the physical pain,” she writes. “There’s a psychological effect as well.”

After trying in vain to get treated in The Hague, a friend took her to Paris. While the doctors there were able to diagnose her injuries, a cortisone shot in her spine just made matters worse. One of the doctors suggested she try alternative forms of medicine to relieve her pain. Thus began her search for help which finally led her to Zoran Hochstatter in London, the founder of a healing modality called PureBioenergy Therapy. Darcy not only scheduled a healing session with Hochstatter, but also signed up for his training class. Zoran sported a white beard and long, white, shoulder-length hair. “He looked like a healer, but was wearing normal clothes – a T-shirt and blue jeans.” When he approached her, Darcy rattled off her long list of ailments. After saying, “Is that it?” he turned on some classic rock and went to work. Darcy recalls swaying and rocking as he waved his hands around her. “The movement was involuntary, out of my control,” she writes. When it was over, Darcy felt peaceful and calm. After a second day of therapy, she woke up realizing that for the first time she had slept a full eight hours; there was no pain in her back or her hip. Attending Zoran’s training session, she was energized with the possibility of helping others heal.

“Upon returning to Holland, it was hard to conceal my excitement about how good I was feeling,” she writes. “For the first time in almost a year I was walking upright, without a limp.” Others noticed and Darcy began to use what she had learned from Zoran. “Initially, my intent was to help others heal, but I eventually understood that each person I helped was also helping me,” she writes. “By allowing me to co-create wellness and health within others, the process took me outside of myself. It got me out of my own head by focusing on being of service to someone in need.”


Returning to the U.S., Darcy settled in Washington, D.C. and took a job at the Pentagon. Her healing work continues. She’s particularly proud about helping those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “These days I don’t get many skeptics in my healing space, but in the past I learned quickly that some people just don’t resonate with what I’m doing,” Darcy says. “I’m okay with that. I’m actually a skeptic and come from a computer engineering background, so I understand that what I’m doing goes against traditional and convention thinking. But, I never feel compelled to explain or convince anyone of what I’m doing. We are all responsible for our own health and we all can choose how to get there. Belief is a big part of a person’s healing process.”

Darcy and Jordan continue to enjoy a close relationship. “I think it was confusing and hard for my daughter in the beginning, but as she got older she understood more about why I made the choices I did and it makes sense to her,” she says. “She’s 21 years old now and always says she got the best of worlds, a stable home and an opportunity to see the world and have great experiences that otherwise would not have been possible.”

Writing Life in My Hands gave Darcy the opportunity to reflect on her journey. “I made mistakes along the way, but I learned from those mistakes and became more savvy, focused, and confident in the process,” she says. “Living with regrets about things you didn’t do or chances you didn’t take, especially out of fear of failure, are some of the most painful to live with. I have no regrets in my life. I’ve lived fully and still have many more exciting times ahead.”

Life in My Hands – Healing Myself, Healing Others
Darcy Hotchkiss
WAT-AGE Publishing

Photos courtesy of Darcy Hotchkiss