“I am large.” Walt Whitman wrote, in Song of Myself. “I contain multitudes.

In the spirit of that celebrated nineteenth century poet, essayist, and journalist, we all “contain multitudes.” Here are a few of the ones I claim, in no particular order.

  • a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer & a poultry farmer
  • a Gestalt psychotherapist & a sociologist
  • a grandmother & a mother & a daughter
  • a really bad gardener & a Buddhist wannabe
  • the alpha mom to a gorgeous white shepherd
  • a tenor & a mezzo soprano
  • a swimmer & a snowshoer
  • a reader, a writer & a published author
  • a divorcee & a wife

The list goes on.

Sometimes Often, the lives we live seem in polar opposition to each other.  For example, I’ve been a failure and a success, a victim and a survivor, a stutterer and a keynote speaker, and I’m sure there are many I’m forgetting.

I can be gracious and generous, as well as opinionated and impatient.  Recognizing that, I try to embrace my “inner bitch” at least once a day.  😊 Everyone is happier when I do. I’m sure you can relate.

All have brought me to where I am today. And I’m glad.

Let’s start with the blog.

A somewhat irrelevant meme included because it always makes me smile.

MY BLOGGING MISSION has evolved over the years.

2013 to 2016: to foster curiosity in cultural differences, especially the ones that make me gasp

2017-2019: to help us chew on ideas we previously swallowed whole

2020-: to examine conflict in all its varieties

Whatever the mission, these “three Cs” have guided each post:

Curiosity, Compassion, and Courage

If you’d like to subscribe, there is a button you can click on at the top of this page.  Thank you, and welcome.

Here then, is that virtual resume these ABOUT pages have become:


I take a line from Alice Walker (There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me) to say, “There is a pen nestled in my hand writing me.”
I don’t write because I want to. I write because I have to, because when I don’t write, I find myself moving farther away from who I am, who I still can be. I also write to learn — about myself and others, to discover connections I’d have never found otherwise, to uncover truths waiting for me.

I started writing when my grandmother moved away and I wanted to respond to her weekly letters.

She wrote in large, flowing, cursive letters across both sides of the paper. I did not; I was seven.

By age twelve, I was “publishing” a science class newsletter—on a mimeograph machine. Yes, that was the era. Then there were stints as an editor and a columnist on my high school newspaper and again on my college newspaper.

Reading and writing were my refuge, for speaking was painful. I stuttered and the expectation that others would find out weighed heavily on me. For me having this “defect” exposed was more frightening than the actual interruption in my ability to speak. I lived in a state of perpetual stage fright. And I spoke as little as possible. Until I was 42.

As much as I suffered for nearly forty years, my stuttering led directly to my first published book. The co-authored textbook (with C.W. Starkweather), Stuttering, [from the Pro-Ed series on Communication Disorders] was included in Choice Magazine’s “Best Textbooks of 1997” list, the first in its field to win this award.

My second book, and first memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir, was published in 2014.

A prequel to my first memoir is in the works, telling my stuttering story from my first memory at age 6, to my “awakening” at age 42 and eventual recovery. It is also the story of resiliency, recovery, and redemption. And, though I still identify as a stutterer, my stuttering no longer rules my life. In fact, in writing this today, I realize I rarely think of it anymore.

I’ve also got two books for children: a picture book, Two Bunnies, which is still in need of pictures, and a chapter book, Grandma Goes to Kazakhstan, which will (I hope) be followed by such titles as Grandma Goes to Tahiti, Grandma Goes to Scotland and Wales, or Grandma Goes to Cuba. But I’ve accepted that there may only be Grandma Goes to Ohio.

My weekly blog, And So It Goes, takes the majority of my writing hours and is currently exploring the interface of culture, curiosity, and civility and offers a chance to take a closer look — some say to chew on what we’ve been swallowing whole — at one’s own culture and, in doing so, come to appreciate it anew or work to change it. The choice is ours.

Beginning in 2019 I began submitting articles to online and print journals. Here’s the first one to go public, an excerpt from the memoir, Cultural Differences in the Classroom, published in the cultureist.com on March 4.

Learn more


My education includes both a bachelor’s degree (from NYU, 1971) and a master’s (from Kent State University, 1983) in sociology, and four years as a teaching fellow in political science, working towards a PhD (Kent State University, 1989 – 1993).

It also includes over twenty years in various 12-Step recovery programs, certification and practice as a Gestalt psychotherapist, and a longstanding interest in the writings of Buddhist scholars and mentors. These different streams all flow into my writing and inform the therapy I do both with individuals and groups.

I married right out of college, raised two sons in a midwest Ladies Home Journal life, and became a professional fundraiser. After twenty-three years, I headed back east to a job in fundraising at the University of Pennsylvania and a new life.

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Lowry Hall, Kent State University
Lowry Hall, Kent State University


I left fundraising and the University of Pennsylvania for medical reasons, graduated as a “Certified Gestalt psychotherapist” from the Pennsylvania Gestalt Center, hung my shingle from my West Philadelphia home, and married my best friend.

For the  next five years, I saw a steady stream of clients in my home and enjoyed numerous trips around the globe as Woody and I met and worked with people who stutter and the professionals who treat them under our new 501(c)(3), the Birch Tree Foundation.

Our home was also filled with foreign students who rented rooms on the third floor and filled our house with enthusiasm for learning English as a second language. This was the life I thought would continue for another few decades, at least.

The Universe had other ideas.

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Janet Givens, First month in Zhezkazgan
Woody and me, in Kazakhstan


In 2004, with my newly retired husband leading the way, I joined the Peace Corps.

We were sent to Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, independent since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and home to Russia’s space launch site, Baikonur. Like most Americans at the time, we’d never heard of it.

I soon came to know that Kazakhstan has a

* collectivist culture (vs. my individualist one)

* majority Muslim population (vs. my Calvinist background), and

* 70-year history under Soviet rule (vs. my American capitalist foundation)

Our two years there are relived in At Home On the Kazakh Steppe, the memoir I began to write shortly after our return. It was published by Ant Press in 2014 with updated versions by Birch Tree Books in 2015 and 2016.
Learn more

Detailed map of Kazakhstan, JanetGivens.com
Detailed map of Kazakhstan


Family gathering, my front stoop. June, 2015

I share my life with C. W. (Woody) Starkweather, my friend, my spouse, my lover, my cook, and my chief Beta reader. For each of his roles, I am grateful.

I continue to write narrative non-fiction in Vermont with Sasha, my white  shepherd, at my feet, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire just out my window. I sing whenever I can, serve as a reading mentor at the local school and am looking to expand freelance writing opportunities.

Shortly after I turned 70, I opened a new psychotherapy practice, complete with a new photo, business cards, and brochure. I’ll give it two years and see if it takes off here in rural Vermont as well as it did in Philadelphia.

Janet Givens, MA, Psychotherapist

And, I continue to blog weekly. I hope you’ll join me.