Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I can't even.

Last night Molly went to bed at her usual 10PM bedtime.  This morning it occurred to me that she didn't know who won the election.  I rushed down to talk with her before her bus came, wanting her to know before she learned in a harsher way.  Here's the first few sentences of our conversation:
Me:  Hey.  Do you know who won the election last night?
M:  Hillary Clinton?
Me:  No.  Trump won the election.
Molly turned her head away from me and just looked out the door for a long time.  Finally she turned back to me, eyes brimming with tears.
M:  What's going to happen to me?

Just like when I meet with survivors who ask the "what's going to happen" questions and I can not give them certainty-filled answers, I kept my tears in and reassured her that she was an amazing and strong person with lots of people who love her and who will always support her and make sure she is okay.  And, like when working with survivors, I pray that that answer I have offered has more elements of truth than of raw hope and magical thinking braided together.

For the last three and a half decades I have been parenting Molly, two of those decades as a single parent.  My resources and energy are waning.  From experience I know that her programs are vulnerable because she and her peers rely on tired and resource-exhausted people like me to advocate for them.

I can't even . . . 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Even I Have a Trump Story . . . .

As some of you know, I am a sexual assault advocate.  I work with women who have been sexually assaulted.  In the past few months with increased media coverage about sexual assault perpetrators, and now with Donald Trump stirring the memories of so many women, it seems our agency has had an increase in volume of reporting and requests for assistance.  The media coverage of these events, and perhaps our outreach efforts, have emboldened survivors to come forward, to seek healing, validation, and resolution for the experiences they've suffered.

With each new client I talk to, I appreciate a foretaste of the world to come.  Victims, especially women, are fed up with being subjected to these violent acts.  We are not willing to be quiet or accept blame for crimes perpetrated on us any more.  I feel keeping my story to myself is a bit selfish in light of the brave souls who have come out with their stories.  As my blog title hints, even an advocate, now living in Iowa, has a story related to current events.  The story's long, it's real, and it feels great to finally share it.

Since June 2015, when Donald Trump rode down the escalator of Trump Tower flanked by paid actors to announce his candidacy for POTUS, my mind has been on its own personal adventure.  The memory of a visit to New York City in 1986 gets continually mixed with involuntary hysteria at the thought of Trump being elected to be the leader of our amazing democracy.

When I caught a glimpse of that escalator, my mind immediately went to a winter's day in early 1986. I was a young mom at the time, traveling with my husband to New York City for business.  We were accompanied by an older couple, I believe from Aberdeen, SD.  Terry, my ex, was working for Farmland Industries (now defunct) at the time as a regional sales manager.  A chemical company based in New Jersey invited him and one of his key clients to NYC, with their wives, for a night on the town, a Broadway musical, and a day of shopping for the missuses while the men talked business in New Jersey.

We went directly from JFK International Airport to Times Square where we were met by our hosts. Our luggage went to the hotel and we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant, then hiked on down to the St. James Theatre to see Jerry's Girls. I was grateful for the head's up that we would not have time to change, so I traveled in my most NYC night on the town outfit, in contrast to my husband and our other South Dakota traveling partners. Drinks after, and then a limo ride to the hotel sealed a glamorous evening.

The next morning, the men were up and out of the hotel by 8am, while Mrs. Aberdeen and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel near the Meadowlands.  A limo came and picked us up at 10 AM for the drive into the city.  Mrs. Aberdeen would grab my hand and point to something out the window as we drove in . . . the bridge, the river, the skyline, the homeless people . . . new and different things than what we witnessed back at home on the plains.

We were dropped off at Trump Tower.  The driver told us we could spend the whole day there with all the shops and restaurants.  He was clearly impressed with the building and the developer, Donald Trump.  I'd heard of him before, I think.  Mrs. Aberdeen and I were more about walking around the city that boutique shopping.  We promised to be in front of Trump Tower at exactly 4PM so we could be picked up by our driver early enough to beat the worst of rush hour back to New Jersey.  We had a 7PM dinner engagement back at the hotel, and the driver wanted us to have plenty of time to change into the glorious new clothing we'd be purchasing at Trump Tower.

Mrs. Aberdeen and I were polite South Dakota women.  We did not correct the driver's assumption about our shopping.  We did not tell him that our husbands would leave us if we ever spent $50 on a single article of clothing.  Instead we wished him a good day and promised we would be right here in this spot at 4PM.

The day was fun.  We were tourists, not shoppers.  We did drink a cup of coffee in the Trump Tower atrium as we looked at walking maps and made a plan for a 3 hour walking tour and lunch.  We made it back in time for another cup of coffee, and some browsing the Trump Tower shops.  At 3:45PM we headed to the spot.  4PM came, then 4:30, then 5:00.  This was before cell phones, but I did have a business card for the limo service.  Mrs. Aberdeen did not want me to leave her alone on 5th Avenue - what if the limo came and left without me?  - what if some New Yorker abducted her in my absence?

Finally, at 5:15, I told her we either needed to flag a taxi to take us back to the hotel or I needed to go find a pay phone and call the limo service.  We had no idea the cost of a taxi, so in I went to call the limo service.  I followed the restroom/pay phone signs through the orangy pink marble halls.  There was a single pay phone and it was open - and I had one quarter.  I called the limo service and explained what was happening.  I was put on hold while they looked into it.  In a few seconds, the call was dropped and I was listening to the screeching sound of a and line disconnection.

A young women (in my mind she was Swedish) was waiting behind me.  I knew I didn't have another quarter.  In a blast I blurted out that I was disconnected.  Do you have a quarter for two dimes and a nickel, I asked her?  Four quarters for a dollar?  I was hoping for some mercy.  Instead, she pointed to the coffee counter and said, "Over there (imagine Bridgette Nielsen saying it).  Now, step aside."  She reached in and took the receiver from me and I, well, stepped aside.

I ran to the counter and got some change, cognizant of the time that was wasting away.  I ran back to the corner with the pay phone, only to find the beautiful tall woman still on the phone.  She was explaining that she knew this was the third time her credit card had been lost or stolen, but she was telling the truth.  I listened to the details of what happened this time, thinking it was a bit sketchy, but smiling all the same, hoping my pleasantness would hurry her call along.

My heart fell as she said, "Of course I'll hold.  As long as necessary.  Just fix this."  I started to do this shuffle that allowed me to keep my place in the imaginary phone cue that might form if I went looking for another pay phone.  I was beginning to sweat, then cry.  I was wiping away tears, trying to find another phone, while imagining that if I ran quickly to the end of the hall I could even see around the corner to monitor if the limo had arrived.  I literally did not know what to do, so I danced the dance of the fearful tourist.

One time as I was bending around the corner to see if I could see the limo, I saw a line of four to five men in black suits, white shirts, and ties coming toward me.  Well, maybe not toward me, but coming into the building.  I did not recognize anyone, of course, but they did remind me of my husband, making me feel they may be some sort of resource for me.

I sort of stepped in front of them. "Do you know how I can reach the ABC Limo company?" I asked as I waved the business card in my hand. They stopped, surprised as I was by my question and action. The one on the end closest to me sort of held out his arm, I thought to brush me aside.  Instead, he broke away from the line stood next to me with his hand on the small of my back, reading the business card over my shoulder.  The rest of the men stepped out of the stream of pedestrians and watched us.

"Whoa.  This beautiful lady needs a limo?" asked the man with his hand on my back.  I blurted out my story - 4PM, waiting, friend outside, it all sounded like gibberish, even to me.  "We need to call them," the man said.  As he talked he took the limo business card and my quarters in his free hand, while moving the hand on the small of my back, quickly, down to my butt for a quick squeeze.  "Let's find the phone," he said as his hand went back up to my back to turn me.  As we walked his hand went back my butt, squeezing, squeezing.

Everything else in this most public part of  Trump Tower disappeared in my mind for a moment. Then, I felt every person in the atrium looking at me, disgusted.  I went back and forth between those two thoughts as he grabbed and squeezed.

When we went back around the corner toward the phone he was looking at me and smiling, "How's New York treating you?  Have you found some fun.  You look like you know how to have fun."  I kept walking, smiling and saying I was finding fun, allowing the groping to continue.  When we got to the phone, the beautiful woman turned and looked at us and told us to fuck off.

He laughed, so did I.  As we stood waiting for the phone, about two feet away from the woman who was talking on the phone and just down the hall from his friends or colleagues, he alternated between groping my ass and rubbing my back.  He leaned over and nuzzled my neck, making sickening sounds that may have been actual words.  "Um, nice. Oh. Um."

After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than a minute, he was done.  He moved his hand from my ass, picked up my hand and said "Here." He placed the card and quarters back in my hand. "You call them when she's done."  He gave my butt one last, hard squeeze and walked away.

I just stood there.  I didn't watch him leave.  I imagined him and his buddies laughing at me and my easiness.  I didn't notice the beautiful woman hang up the phone, but all of a sudden she was walking past me muttering something about assholes.  I think she was talking about the credit card company, but it could have been me, or the perp.

I walked to the phone and picked up the receiver.  My hands were shaking so badly that I dropped the first quarter on the floor.  Though I do not know this to be true, I imagined the men still looking at me and laughing.  The thought made my eyes fill with tears.  I had to blink to read the phone number on the card. My  whole body was shaking violently.

I managed to make the call and connected with the limo company. The woman on the other end kept yelling that she could hardly hear me.  When she heard Trump Tower, she became immediately apologetic and said the limo had run into traffic, but he was there now, waiting for me.

I hung up, made my way outside, still visibly shaking.  There was the limo, complete with happy driver waving me over to the big black car at the curb.  It was sleeting now. "Get in quick!" he called to me as he noticed me shaking.  "It's warm in here."  As he held the door for me and I passed into the limo he asked, "Did you see Mr. Trump?  He just went in before you came out.  God bless that man, the best man in New York City."

"No," I was able to manage.  "I didn't see him."  

I don't remember the ride back to the hotel.  All I could think about was how stupid I was to approach those men.  I imagined them talking about me long after I'd been groped.  I did not see this as a sexual assault or harassment. Instead, I blamed myself for my slutty boldness which was met by just deserts.

I must have said I wasn't feeling well in the limo, for when we arrived at the hotel, Mrs. Aberdeen told me to take my time and lie down, even skip dinner if I needed to take care of myself.  She also requested that I call her room and tell her if I was not going to dinner, she'd leave the men to themselves if so.

I was "fine" by dinner.  I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what happened to me.  I kept blaming myself for thinking I could ask some important men for help.  What did I think would happen?  What was I expecting them to do?  As I turned this in my head, I began to think of is as a sort of cheating on my husband.  He'd be furious, maybe leave me, if I told him what I did.

I had no idea who the person was that groped me in  Trump Tower.

More than a year later I was getting the mail when our weekly Newsweek magazine arrived.  As I took the folded magazine out of the mailbox and opened it to reveal the cover, I felt my heart leap into my throat, burning my lungs and restricting my breathing as it ascended.  In that same moment, trickles of sweat began pouring from my armpits to my elbows and down the crevice between my breasts.  A wave of nausea flooded my gut and the empty space where my heart used to reside. Tears welled up in my eyes. I stood by the mailbox, across the street from our house, trying to slow my breathing, trying to not throw up.  Finally, I folded the magazine again and walked back across the street.

For the next couple days, I would pick up the magazine and look at Donald Trump on the cover.  This was the groper.  I did not throw the magazine away as I did not want to have a conversation with Terry about where the magazine was, if it was delivered or not, etc.  Eventually, I flattened it out and placed other mail for Terry on top of it, just the like I piled up his mail every week as he traveled.

A couple weeks later, when I was certain Terry was done reading it, I took the magazine from his bathroom and threw it in the trash.  I was ready with excuses of why it was thrown out instead of saved in the pile with the rest in case he asked about it.

Over the years I told myself this was too bizarre to be true.  Like a few other dysfunctional experiences, I've wondered if this really happened or not.  I found a neat compartment somewhere in deep in my mind, labeled "Unbelievable," for the memory to reside in for 30  years.

As each story comes out about Trump, and as his talk of what he is permitted to do because of his status is played in loops on the news, my story becomes real again. I can not say with any certainty that is was Donald Trump who groped me.  All I know is that his picture, or perhaps the memories of Trump Tower that his picture conjured, triggered me to remember that incident and re-traumatize me in the process.

I had not thought of that incident or the magazine until I saw Trump ride down the elevator in Trump Tower.  This time I did not panic or feel nauseated, but I did have a weird reaction.  I laughed uncontrollably.  Laughed until I cried.  Then I started googling.  I found pictures of the inside and outside of Trump Tower, I found info on Jerry's Girls on Broadway.

Finally, I found some real evidence that I could hold in my hand.  I got out my old journals and a bracelet I purchased in a small jewelry shop across the street from Trump Tower.  I did not find an account of the trip to New York City in my journal other than an entry in December 1985 that said, "Going to NYC in a couple week with TA and Wheatgrower's pres & wife.  Going to see Jerry's Girls on Broadway.  Never heard of it. Want to see Cats."   There were no entries again until May of 1986.

I don't feel that the person who groped me in 1986 is the Donald Trump of today.  The man I remember was slim and handsome.  He moved with a smooth stealthiness that allowed him to transition from standing next to me to groping my ass before I knew what was happening. He did not spew racist, misogynistic, or fearful words into my ear. Arrogant as he was back then, he was smooth and polished in the interaction I had with him. Unlike Trump, he seemed relevant.

I don't know what else to say or feel except, I know why women don't tell about sexual assault and harassment.  I know why they don't speak up or fight or scream out.  Sexual assault or harassment hits you like a lightening bolt on a sunny day.  You don't expect it and it takes you awhile to understand what it was.  Then, you internalize the blame and shame, feeling you have no evidence, no logical explanation, no language to tell what happened.

So, sue away Mr. Trump.  I can not identify the 1986 face of my assailant today, but I am now able to recognize an ass grab as sexual assault.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Polyamory Worked for Me One Time . . .

Full Body Moon - Copyright October 2016 - $85  (24x12) Watercolor on gesso wood frame.

worked for me one time. The Moon,
you, me . . . now you've left.

Whenever I think I've dealt with all the emotions there possibly are to deal with, something comes up. Bidden or not, words come together to express what what I am dreaming, what I am painting.

When I was a young mom I connected with an amazing group of women of all ages who gathered every month on the night of the full moon.  As the night of the full moon drew near, we'd plan time, place, and who would perform a small ritual, who would build the fire.  These gatherings took place in parks, fields, along creek banks and lake shores, in back yards, and once, during a January blizzard, in my family room in front of a gentle fire.

While my partner at the time was first puzzled and concerned about this pagan activity, he grew to appreciate how I grew more confident in myself, my body, my place in the world. He also appreciated and looked forward to my coming home and sharing a bit of the night's rituals with him, opening a passion in both of us.  Sometimes we'd lie in bed after making love, looking at the moon if we could see it, sharing a gratitude for the fullness of our and our children's lives.

The landscape in the painting shows the harsh sensuality of that relationship.  During a particularly difficult patch in our marriage, I came home on a full moon, and we fell seamlessly into this comforting ritual.  I was reminded, just as I'd been the prior month and so many months before, that things were okay in spite of the arguments and tears.

Only this one time, the last time, instead of lying in each other's arms and assuring each other we, and our children, were all right, would always be alright, he said, "let's not talk tonight."  Soon his breath turned to snoring and I made my way to another room to get some sleep.

I awoke in the darkness of pre-dawn to him sitting on the bed I was sleeping in.  He was crying.  I began to apologize, told him I'd come back into our bed.  He just sobbed and said, "no, no, no." Finally, he took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders.  "I need to move out," he whispered. "I have an apartment. I move in December 1st.  Don't tell the kids." Then he stood up and walked back to our bedroom and shut the door.

Yes, a harsh, sensual landscape.  But notice in the painting . . . out of all the harshness of the landscape, cities have popped up.  In the arable patches I sometimes didn't even know were there, new and lucrative ways of being, grew up to express a different way of being.

Apart now for nineteen years, I can't help but wonder how he spends his full moons . . . .

Friday, October 14, 2016

We've Reached the End of White Christian America . . . about time.

The Church Community I Grew Up In - 1880s - South Dakota

Sometimes a post just begs for an edit, or more aptly for this one, a total do over.  I stand by everything I said in the original post - sometimes it just takes me three times as many words and examples to say what I could say in a few.  So here goes . . .

White Christianity was the hub of the spoke that dehumanized me as a child.  Sure - I loved the music, what little healthy community there was, and the introduction to the thought that there was something larger than myself that I was connected to.  Problem was, I figured out, so too were the perps that used Christianity to justify and blame me for what was done to me.

While it may have been a fluke of the particular church I attended, I had other churches where  misogynistic ideas about women, the sinfulness of homosexuals, the otherness of people who did not look like us, and the admonishment of people who were living with loss, violence, or trauma as deserving of horrid fates, was upheld and reinforced by clergy and leaders alike.

Debased as I was, I felt so lucky to have been born a Christian, a white Christian. Missionaries would come and speak to our Sunday school.  We gladly gave them our coins so they could continue their work.  These self-sacrificing people would relay their tearful tales of finding brown people, that's what they called them, in Africa and Asia who had never heard of Christ! They'd dab their eyes with their lace and linen kerchiefs as they showed slide after slide, black and white photos of indigenous people in far off places . . . . dressed in our Sunday attire: dresses, suits, hats, gloves, and purses. I thought this odd, as usually the missionaries were donning pieces of the garb they talked these converts out of.

I identified closely with the people in the slides, shared their "deer in the headlights" startled expression listening to the missionaries talk.  I was happy these souls in the pictures would be in heaven one day, but I wondered if us white folks from South Dakota would accept them any better than we were accepting the indigenous people right here in our own state? I had doubts about whether we could actually live the song: red or yellow, black or white, they are precious in his sight.   I liked the idea of all people equal in value, equal in preciousness, but conversations I overheard the adults having as they stood outside the church, smoking and visiting, each Sunday morning informed me otherwise.

Now that I am adult I understand the complexities of relationships and cultural norms and practises. I have healed from most of the perverted experiences of growing up white Christian.  I know some white Christian communities are doing better jobs with gender equality, acceptance of same sex marriage, misogyny, the environment, and social programs. That does not mean they will not continue to lose their relevancy at mach speed.

Until white Christians see themselves as equals to and not superior over all other people on the planet, they will continue to decline - and they should.

Sometimes I write little plays in my mind.  There's one that comes back every so often where Jesus H. Christ comes back to earth.  He's the parent who had to step out for awhile and left his teenage kids in charge of the house and each other while he was out. "Be nice to each other, no fighting, help each other, don't hurt anyone," he calls down as he ascends to another dimensional plane.

Now here he is, 2000 years later, gob smacked when seeing what the teens-turned-adults have done.  He keeps muttering, "In my name?  My name's on that?  You threatened them in my name?" as each child representing the varied systems they call Christianity - Protestant, Catholic, Fundamental, etc. - explain and try to justify what happened to the world they were left to care for. No one offers an apology or admits guilt.  They stomp off to continue doing their own thing when Jesus H. Christ "doesn't understand" them.  The closing scene is JHC reading cease and desist letters from his children's attorneys who accuse him of infringing on their ability to run their business as usual since his return.  They demand he call his new gospel of unconditional love and compassion something other than Christianity.

The name of this playlet is "Jesus Wept."

"The Atlantic" - end of White Christianity

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Children of The Big Bang

Earth Bodies - 1 (Copyright Lori Allen 2016)

Fifteen billion years ago, we were there.
You and I. Our sisters, brothers, lovers,
others, all there.

We were wild, hot, and brilliant.
We could not contain ourselves.  For over
ten billion years we allowed our young,
spinning, fluid and fuming bodies to
gyrate and convulse.

We exhausted ourselves.  We allowed
ourselves to slow down, cool down, and dream
about the future.  We chose partners who
supported our dreams, mostly.

My partners and I named our dreams
"Earth."  I have been involved in cycle
after cycle of molding the shared dreams
of Earth, though I can not recall who or
what I was before this cycle.

When I look to the horizon of this dream
named Earth, I recognize you all.
If I stand or sit quietly and match
my heartbeat to the pulse of Earth, I
understand, again, that we are the same.
I can not feel where I end, where you all,
my fellow dreamers, begin.

I marvel when I see all we have created,
are still creating.  I am proud of the
terra firma, the oceans, the rooted
things, the rocks.

I am amused, and annoyed, that in
my current cycle, I only understand
the language of those exactly like me.

Humanness is such a limited way of
being.  Every day we ask, "why am I here?"
"What is the meaning of life?" (When what
we mean is, "what is the meaning of
THIS life?")

In the blink of a humanoid eye,
as the cosmos says, this life will be past
and all question will be answered, again.

I long for my next cycle.
What, who will I be?  Bacteria? Plant?
Element? Artist? Stone Cutter? Healer?
Who will you be?
Surely, we will remember one another.

In whatever form our next cycle finds us,
let's connect. We can get a coffee, or a
bite of sulfur.  No, wait, let's get my favorite
- a shot of stardust with a lightning chaser.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Children of Perseus, Tears of St. Laurence . . . . a Meteorlogical Work of Art

Photo Credit -

Perseus was a minor Greek god who was the son of Danae and Zeus, grandson of King Acrisius of Argo.  He first saw Andromeda when she was chained to a rock as a punishment for her mother, Cassiopia.  Perseus rescued Andromeda, they married, had seven sons and two daughters.  Their children are called Perseids, or coming from Persues.  That is where the Perseid meteors get their name, as they appear to be coming out of the Persues constellation, right next to the Andromeda constellation.

I mentioned that Perseus' maternal grandfather was King Acrisius of Argo because this reminds me of another person from a similar sounding land, Aragon, who also has connections  to the Perseid meteor shower.

In about 225 C.E. a lad named Laurence was born in Spain, in the region of Aragon.  As a young man, he encountered a Greek man, the future Pope Sixtus II. The men became great friends and decided to travel to Rome to further their studies.  Sixtus eventually became pope, ordained Laurence, and appointed him one of the first seven deacons of the Christian church.

Laurence, even though he was very young, was trusted with the church treasury and distributing alms to the poor.  In August 258, Roman Emperor Valerian issued an order that all Christians should be denounced and killed, their possessions and land confiscated and turned over to the imperial treasury. Of course, this meant that all religious officials, pope and deacons, should be executed and the church's treasury delivered to the emperor.

After killing all the others, Laurence was apprehended, and he was ordered to give over the entirety of the treasury.  He convinced the soldiers that he needed three days to gather everything for delivery. During these days, he distributed the entire church wealth to paupers, disabled, widows, children, and anyone who was in need. He appeared before the emperor and his soldiers three days later, an entourage of those he'd helped following him.

"These are the riches of the church," he said and he pointed to the people around him.  "It is all the church has ever held that is of value."  Of course, soon after the meeting, there is violence that includes roasting on a gridiron until dead, martyrdom, and eventual sainthood for St. Laurence. Today, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, the church that was built over his tomb, still stands outside the Vatican walls.

By the forth century, many Christians knew St. Laurence's story, leading to a strong and widespread devotion to him, especially by the poor and afflicted.  When the Perseids meteor shower would appear on or near his feast day of August 10, the descending sparks became known as "The Tears of St. Laurence."

As I watched the scant golden threads of the meteors in the early morning hours today, I thought of these two pieces of lore.  I appreciate that modern astronomy has allowed the myths and metaphors to name this meteorological event - a marriage of art and science.

I long to find my own mix of art, science, and the ordinary experiences of every day that will allow me to move through life with the creativity and grandeur of Greek mythology and the caring and hubris of a champion such as St. Laurence.

Now - I'm off for a nap.  Not sure if I'm catching up on last night's short sleep or planning ahead to get up mid-sleep tonight to try and sew together more stories and memories from the golden Perseid threads, er tears . . . . .

St Laurence and his gridiron.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Who We Really Are

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with 
the darkness of other people.  C.G.Jung

"The Dark Knight Sigmund Freud" by Evgeny Parfenov

As I was walking down the sidewalk today, two young men burst out of a building and cut in front of me.  I was close enough to hear their conversation clearly until their steps outpaced mine, leaving me to wonder what  in the world the context of their words came from:

    1:  I mean, all this shit is serious.  And I used to act like that.  I mean, not on purpose or anything.  I just did what my friends and crap were doing.

    2:  You've been awakened. (A few steps in silence.)  But hold on to, you know, remember all the shit you did.

    1:  Yeah.  I know.  (Again, a few steps in silence.)  Wait.  What?

    2:  You know.  Remember what it was like to plan shit, do shit.  That's how you'll know what's going on, what people are going to try to do.  That's how I got good at it.

    1: Yeah.  Like a super conscience.  

Awakened.  Super conscience.  Immediately my mind went to Freud and Jung and all the things they tried to explain to the world through the lens of their experiences and understanding.  I am making an assumption when I say I don't think Freud or Jung were on the mind of the speakers I overheard.  I did find it interesting that all these years later, we are all still trying to make sense of how we live in the world, how we should live in the world.  

Today's blog post is more about other people's thoughts and expressions on life than mine.  It's a showcase of sorts for Freud, Jung, and an amazing artist named Andrew Myers, whose work I saw a few years ago.  Love, hate, or indifference for Freud and Jung?  Fine.  I, too, get weary of trying to decode and translate how their wisdom might be processed and understood in my mind, then transformed to feelings and actions that inform my life in today's world.

But, the artists?  They are too important not to pay attention to.  Their messages of awe and wonder are not so difficult for the heart and soul to understand and translate for our minds.

As for the two young men I over heard . . . I do hope they were pondering how to navigate maturing into responsible adults, you know, embracing their "super conscience."  

As for you, my readers, I hope the short film below will allow you to look into, rather than outside, your own self to know who you are, to awaken.  And, I hope you will love, or at least accept, the full recipe of who you really are.  Click on the link Self-Portrait for a serving of awe and wonder.

Self-Portrait  Andrew Myers 
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are. C.G. Jung

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Earth is Our Mother . . . .but Who is Your Father?

The Earth and Her Lovers - Air, Fire, and Water

She gazed upon her
children, admiring each
lover’s finest traits.

It is not secret that I love to paint metaphors and hidden meaning into my paintings. I especially love to give humanness to non-human entities.  Who knew that after many days of pondering old and, perhaps, new relationships . . . I would find myself imagining the Earth as a strong feminist spirit whose love and passion and playfulness with ALL the elements is what gave rise to the evolution of humans.  

So, if the Earth is your mother, who do you think (or maybe you know for certain) your father is?  I, personally, have had the DNA testing that proves my paternity, and I know who many of my full brothers and sisters are.

But I love all the rest of my half-siblings equally.  There is room for us all in our mother's house. We must work hard not to wash over, blow away, or burn up one an other's lives.  Mmmmwha! Let's all get together at mom's one day soon!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Taught by My Dreams . . . or, RB is Really Me!

A looong time ago, I visited a therapist who felt that our lives could be healed by understanding
After the Storm
ourselves in relation to the people and entities that visit us in our dreams.  Bruce, the therapist, encouraged me to look at my dreams (okay, they were actually nightmares) subjectively rather than objectively.*  Working with Bruce actually gave me the first glimpse of the most important lesson I'd eventually learn.

In the past two weeks, I've had a dream that has included a person from my past, I'll call him RB.  The relationship with RB was professional and appropriate, but personally I admired him for his confidence in assuming that his opinion was as valid as anyone else. (I still struggle with that a bit.)  RB was in a role that called for him to support me in my position, and he did so assiduously.  Unlike all my previous chairpersons, he listened to a situation, asked clarifying questions, then moved the committee away from superfluous conversations once the matter was understood.  He would then communicate to the board what our committee needed or planned to do. He also defined for the board what would happen if those needs or plans were not supported by the larger body we were working with.  He was open to clarification from the board, could change his mind if that change still supported our committee's work, dismissed it if the information and clarification treated our committee's work as less than any other shared goals of the organization.  He was dependable, took responsibility for his actions.

For example . . . when I'd begun my work with this organization where RB would become my committee chair, two classrooms were not provided heat or cooling. The furnaces/air conditioners that serviced this area were not working.  Prior to my arrival, the previous director worked with the committee to communicate to parents that their children needed boots, winter jackets, scarves, gloves, OR light weight summer clothes when attending class.  The boards lack of action was not questioned or re-visited, so the committee accepted sub par treatment for the program.  The unfair and disingenuous solution served to treat some members of the community as less than.  I accepted this situation as policy when I arrived - with occasional changes on the coldest days.

I would combine the children from these classrooms with children in rooms that were appropriately heated and cooled, but this was causing problems for the volunteer teachers.  When RB came to his first meeting as committee chair and heard of this long-time quandary, he was shocked.  "Does the board know the furnaces need repair?"  Yes.  I mention it in every monthly report to the board. "What are the parent's response to the situation."  They accept it.  "What have we tried to remedy this?"  The committee offered to use our budget to fix the furnaces rather than use it for supplies, curriculum, etc., but then the board just lowered our budget because we found extra funds. "Okay.  I'll take next steps."  He wrote a few quick notes on the legal pad in front of him and we moved on to the next agenda item.

The next day RB copied me on a letter he sent to the board president and the minister:  Dear BP & PP,  It has come to my attention as committee chair that classrooms 5 & 6 in the lower level, south hallway are completely void of heating or cooling.  As our committee is not responsible for overall building maintenance, we will be suspending  programming for Grades ** and ** until such time the heating and cooling is restored in their classrooms to the same level of comfort enjoyed in the rest of the spaces. We will instruct families before next Sunday that their children should attend services until further notice.   Please direct all communication of this matter back to me.  Sincerely yours, RB

As I read the letter, I had an aha moment - quit being so nice!  Set some boundaries!  I was a bit embarrassed, but none the less delighted, that RB had swooped in with such a simply stated and implemented solution.  It probably goes without saying that monies were found and the furnaces were repaired before the next scheduled classes occurred.
My Tent Home

Back to last night's (and last week's) dream.  In it, I am camping, which is what I was doing when I first had the dream.  There is a storm, also true last week.  My tent is taking water on through the floor.  Every time I try to put a tarp or tape over the leaks, I get poked by something sharp.  Whatever this is pokes a hole in the tape or tarp as I apply them to the floor.  The sharp pokes make my knees, hands, and fingers bleed and now blood and water are making a small, swirling stream in my tent. I feel that this tortuous exercise is how I will spend the last few moments of my life.

Behind me a hear the zipper of my tent.  In one effortless motion, RB opens the zipper, steps in the tent, then closes the zipper with his arm stretched out behind him.  He bends over to see the swirling water and blood and asks, "Do you know what's causing this?"  I tell him that I know there is something sharp making the holes in the floor and causing the bleeding, but I don't know what the sharp things are. "How long have they been under the tent?"  As I pause to think, it occurs to me that this tent has always had sharp pokes that need to be avoided.  Now, during the storm I am trying to cover them over as water pours through the holes the sharp objects have made.  Usually, I step softly, avoiding being poked.

"I see," says RB as I explain everything.  He turns around and unzips the tent, holding the flap open. "You step out and I'll fix this." I think he's crazy to suggest that I go out in the storm . . . until I peek past him and see the sun rising and beautiful day dawning outside the tent.  Without asking how this can be, I step out of the tent, followed by RB. "Go wash up," he instructs me. I walk toward the tenter's shower house, still puzzled by the weather, or lack there of.  As I glance past my shoulder back at RB to see him grabbing my tent by the poles that crisscross the top and lifting it up.

As I walk past a row of tents on my way to the shower house I can hear chaos and see motion in other tents as I pass them. I understand that they, too, are dealing with a storm something like the one that I was just in.  There are weird things that happen, odd interactions as the dream progresses, but the summary of the dream finds me returning to my campsite to find RB in my tent putting things in order - sleep mat, lanterns, books.  I'm reminded of the Bedouin tents that are lavishly decorated with pillows, carpets, and beautifully colored scarves. I step into the tent tentatively, waiting to feel a sharp poke underfoot. Nothing.
Unknown dangers lurk . . . .
There is still a bit of a storm in the tent, evidenced by a gust of wind that turns pages on a book and makes the colorful scarves dance.  I hear a faint clap of thunder rattling in a corner of the tent. I look at RB as if to ask, "how did you do that?" I recognize this as my tent, but there have been some extra amenities added, including a door on the opposite side of the door I just entered.  RB guides me to the new door, unzips it and holds the door with one hand as he gently guides me out with the other.  When I'm standing safely outside, he lets the door drop and goes back to his decorating and tidying anything that gets blown over or askew.

Outside I see the space, vegetation flattened, where my tent had been before RB moved it. I can see little glimmers of the sharp, poky things popping up through and under the flattened plants.  I know exactly why I got injured.  I feel tears welling up as I begin to understand that all the sharp objects are things that represent pain from past encounters -  a shard of of a wedding ring, a pane from a home no longer mine, contracts, letters, fabric from that 1980s matching couch and love seat - things that are both my responsibility and things that I did nothing to earn.  There is an artsy looking stake in the middle of the square that holds this note:  This space is not suitable for tents.  Responsible parties must please remove the sharp and dangerous materials or build a 12 x 10 foot wood platform over them so others can safely use this space.  Thank you.  RB

As my gaze focused past that square, I could see other previously inhabited tent spaces with flattened vegetation and notes staked in the middle of glimmering, probably sharp shards of one sort or another. There were also a smattering of tents on platforms and the ground as far as I could see along the shore and into the woods.

I returned to the tent to watch RB closing the zipper on the other entrance as he stepped out.  By the time I unzipped the door he'd left through to beg him to stay and talk with me, he was at another of the stormy tents that I'd passed down the path.  He unzipped a door part way and as he ducked to enter, he was shot in the arm.  I screamed in horror and he looked over at me.  "This one is for you when you're ready," he called to me through his cupped hands, blood dripping from his upper arm off his elbow.  He re-zipped the tent, marking it with his blood like the the angel of Passover.  Then he turned and walked toward the next tent. In one sweeping motion, he simultaneously brushed the blood from his arm and healed the gunshot wound.  I watched him enter another tent, it's interior storm revealed as he unzipped the door and disappeared inside.  Then I woke up.

Simple lesson learned from this dream?  I think RB is a part of me.  It is the part of myself that knows it is not my responsibility to put up with the sharp, probably dangerous, objects that frighten and harm me.  The tent is a metaphor for me. When I allow the shards to remain in the space I am, internally I become a storm.

When I am a storm, I am distracted.  I focus on where the immediate pain and damage that I think I don't control.  Instead of calming myself, stepping out of the tent for a moment, so I can see what is causing the pain, I stay in that pain and fear trying to fix each little poke.  I am going to try to post more notes when I begin to feel those shard minefields, when the storms begin growing within.  I will be clear and concise in notifying people who have left shards in my life that I am moving to a safer place.

Now my dilemma is discerning if I am brave enough to go back to sleep and face what is in the tent that RB assigned to me after he was shot . . . .
Full Moon after the Storm

*Objective dream interpretation = mom is mom, old man is old man, dog is dog, tree is tree, monster is monster, etc. It is what it is.  
 *Subjective dream interpretation = all beings, maybe even objects, are a representation of some part of the dreamer. Universal symbols are gifts/messages from the collective consciousness to be used to see dream expediences in cultural and geographical perspectives.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Airbnb - When you can't travel, travel comes to you.

My guests come from all over the world - and, the next state over.  Checking my guest requests is a bit like finding a message is a bottle - you can never predict who is asking to book and what the reason might be they have chosen Ames, Iowa as their destination.  I eagerly open the message, then open my Airbnb account to ]get a better look at who this individual is that wants to come and stay with me in my 1960's Luxury Condo.

Tonight as I was trying to determine if I could host one more traveler this summer, I had an ephiphany. Some of you may have read my post on this blog from December 2014, "Prairie Anchor." In that post I speak of the reality of my life as the guardian of a disabled daughter.  I lament that the travel I so long for is unlikely in my life.  As well as being anchored to wherever Molly is, I am also anchored here because of the vast resources I've had to use to support her to accomplish the most healthy and holistic life she can have.

About the same time I opened the metaphorical door of acceptance to the realities of a rather stationary life, I also opened my literal door to Airbnb.  After sixteen months of being a host, I've entertained over 25 people.   I've had visitors from 12 countries, or about 5% of the countries in the world, and from 11 states, roughly 20% of the US states.  

Travelers from near and far remind me that Iowa is an interesting and glorious place, even through their lens of living in the exotic locale they come from.  I can not argue with the wonder they feel for our rolling hills, our crops, our snow, our sweltering heat, our parks, our flora, our neighbors, our architechture.  

If the opportunity presents itself, I ask my guest what a typical day is like for them back home.  Some tell me about their day as if I was their assistant in charge of scheduling,  Others give me glimpes of the beauty and joy they find in the nature around them, the people they love, and the work they feel passionate about.  The later allow mw to travel vicariouly to their part of the world.  Sometimes language is a bit of challenge . . . which makes the exprience all the more rich.

Almost all of them bring at least one concern with them.  It may be the presentation they have to give at a conference; they wonder if Ames will be a good fit for them for their studies; they worry about if they'll know when their elderly parents can no longer live independently here in this community; they hope to say something caring and reasonable to help their daughter break up with her abusive (in their opinion) boyfriend; they want the children they've been alientaed from for years to know their side of the story.

Some have left early - the hope that this time their family would acknowledge their partner (and their sexuality) didn't happen; an attempt to reconnect with a high school girlfriend didn't work out; they met their true love and moved into their hotel for the rest of the conference.  Some stayed longer - the loved one they came to partner through hospice hung on longer than my 14 night maximum, and I made an exception; the specimens they were studying didn't grow out as fast as expected.

With every departure there are equal parts disappointment and relief.  I wonder if I'll ever get to see them again, to hear the next chapters in their stories.  But, ah!  I get my place back to myself.

I've put a small world map up in my guest room with pins in every country and state the guests come from.  I also have a guest book where more of the guests share a paragraph or two.

Now, instead of bringing out travel journals and pictures of my travels, I walk into my guest room and page through the guest book or put a new pin in the map.  For now - this is my travel experience. I still have not given up on Paris with the family, or a month in India . . . .


Monday, April 25, 2016

Sustained by a Small Group - Lunch Ladies

"If your tummy's talking . . . you better start walking.  To Stomping Grounds, that is.  It's Wednesday, after all." 
                            ~ D.K.

The quote above is the kind of email invitation a group of women in Ames, Iowa have come to expect each Wednesday morning.  For the past several years - 5?  7?  10? - Deb Kline has kept her commitment to be at Stomping Grounds cafe at 11:30 AM on Wednesdays.  She has eaten by herself and with as many as twelve other women and any number of people in between in living out this commitment.

It's easy to see why this group of diverse women - diverse in age, economics, education, interests - keeps coming back together each week.  When we arrive, we are greeted with the embracing gazes and sincere smiles from the group that has already assembled.  Along with these non-verbal greetings, the day's soup selection is transmitted amidst the stacatto "you're here!" or "you made it!" or a resounding cheer if you've been away for a really long time.

This group is not like the intentional small groups we think of around learning, or service, or exercise, or therapy, or religion.  It is impossible for you to come into the Lunch Lady group as a consumer expecting a provider or broker to guide your experience in the group.  Those looking for something concrete - like a solution to global warming or income inequality, terrorism, or the true author of the complete Shakespearean works - only attend a time or two.

Some people show up to the Lunch Lady group every year or so to see if we've changed.  Sometimes they are mistaken and think we have changed and become relevant to what they seek. But truly, it is they who have changed .  We do not hold their earlier confusion against them.

We have nothing to offer anyone other than an opportunity to reveal a part of themselves to the rest of the group; people who have no more authority or expertise than their own mirror.

Our conversations may seem cliche` or superficial - our parents, our children, our partners, politics, self-deprecating stories about run-ins with authority or incredulity.  If you listen closely you will hear the codes and innuendos in the stories we share.  You will learn that these stories are invitations and affirmations.  We invite each other to deeper conversastions outside the group where we can meet one on one to mentor and guide others if we choose.

Though a certain bawdiness is present most weeks, we know when to be quiet and listen to someone who needs to talk.  We know how to hold a heaviness. What is shared in our group does not leave our group, unless we specifically ask that our stories go out.

This group has lasted so long because it's easy to belong to. There is no preparation, no homework, no follow-up with other groups. No annual reports, no budgets, and no critique from the parent organization. In my time, no one has made a grand exit from the group, cascading complaints or criticisms of the leaders, the mission or the vision. To do so, would be to complain of and criticize oneself.

There are other small groups that are more formally structured.  They are usually extensions of churches, institutions, organiztions, or causes.  Those groups require much time, structure, support and resources from their parent organizations to be successful.  They have to have clearly communicated guidelines to make them open, welcoming, and purpose driven.  These groups have little in common with the Lunch Ladies, save a regular time and day for meeting. Do not confuse one group with the other - you will end up hating them both if you are not clear about what they are and are not.  

If you are comfortable with entropy, anarchy, and fits of laughter - I would encourage you to start a group that will foster authentic and diverse connections like those of the Lunch Ladies.  We are not a franchise, and only some of us call our group the Lunch Ladies, so, copy our model and name at will. Just follow these ten easy steps:

  1. Announce a time and place where you will always be present and invite others to join you if and when they can.  Do not apologize that you have chosen a time when "everyone" can not meet, as no such time exists.
  2. Show up.
  3. When someone suggests a theme, or lesson, or mission for your group - take a deep breath, look them in the eye and say, "that sounds like a great idea . . . . for your new group."  Then look around the table and ask, "am I right?"  Distract the the person who brought up the topic by telling them about a dream you had recently . . . or what outrageous demand your mother made on your time last week . . . or about your run in with the parking enforcement officer. . .
  4. When someone suggests a change in time or place for the group - see #3.
  5. Listen more than you talk.
  6. Always assume best intentions, don't take the conversation personally.
  7. Don't judge.
  8. Be kind whenever possible (it is always possible).
  9. Expect people to want to spend time with you outside the group to get to know you better.  It is okay to decline any requests from any group member.  It is also okay to accept requests for further connections.
  10. Repeat #2 as often as possible.

Deb - Founder of the Lunch Ladies

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Wall at Carcassonne

Carcassonne, France  (Photo Courtesy of UNESCO World Heritage Sites)

I have been to Carcassonne, France - twice.  Within the modern city of Carcassonne is the old, original city.  When inside, it's easy to imagine and romanticize about the lives of the tradespeople who lived in community there.  While there was probably a greedy and demanding householder to be served, surely there were opportunities to gather in the taverns and shops, to make music and art and love.

The first time I was content with the knowledge that I didn't know anything about where to enter or what was inside those majestic walls.  I knew I'd have to pay close attention to signs and follow their directions to make my way inside those city walls.  As drove closer and closer, I was filled with anticipation, and confidence, that a way in would become clear to me.  That happened.

The second time I went, I took for granted that I'd been there before, that I'd know what to do to get myself in.  As I drove toward the small town of Carcassonne, I could see the old city still standing guard over it's newer namesake.  But something happened that I think about every now and again as a metaphor for what happens in my life sometimes.

On the second trip to Carcassone, I began to get anxious.  From a few miles away, I could see the old city clearly, but I could not see any place in the wall that looked like an entrance.  Was I on the right road?  Would it lead to the parking lot?  (Yes, the old fortress city has a modern parking lot, complete with yellow painted stripes to indicate parking spaces.)  Every time there was an option to take a different road, I slowed down, I considered turning in a different direction for a moment, then sped on by.

Eventually, as my friends back in St. Chinian assured me it would, the road I was on led directly to the parking lot.  I pulled in, took my parking ticket to be validated at a restaurant or shop inside, and started walking toward the wall. But soon, again, I felt filled with anxiety.  Were was the entrance to the city?  It was weekday morning in March with no tourists in sight.  I started walking to my left, then to my right, then back to the left again.

Eventually, I found that the way in, was straight ahead.  As soon as I got closer, I remembered that you could not actually see the gate from the parking lot below until you got closer to the bridge you had to cross to get in.  I took a deep breath and went across the bridge, into an environment that was filled with gaiety and plenty of attention paid to a solitary traveler in the off season.  

I found familiar shops and tasty treats.  I took the tour of the cathedral and became temporary best friends with the tour guide - she appreciated my attempt to speak French as opposed to the couple who were the only other people on the tour.  They looked upon the darkness of the rooms and decor with disgust and kept commenting about SAD. (Seasonal Affectual Disorder).  The only thing they wanted more than the tour to end, was to spray a generous dose of Tilex on the damp, musty stones. I know because I heard them say that.

I spent most of the day knitting inside a little restaurant with the yummy hand spun yard I'd purchased in one of the shops.  The wait staff oohed and ahhed and encouraged me as they kept offering more and more and more coffee, more chocolate and pastries.  I smiled as I crossed the bridge to leave late in the day.  How silly of me to be so anxious when what I was seeking was always right in front of me.  I'd feared the wall.  It took approaching a little closer to find and opening and what was contained within.

Today, even though I am in Ames, Iowa, living my normal life, I feel as if I am driving to Carcassonne that second time.  Today I felt the enormity of that wall before me that seems to keep me on the outside, while I long for what is found on the inside.  I feel I am in the parking lot, searching left - bam!  Then right - bash! Then back to the left - ouch!

Rather than finding my courage and setting straight toward the wall with resolve, today I panicked.  I stood there before the wall and cried out, well, perhaps lashed out.  Why don't things go the way I want them to?  I yelled at a poor bystander.  

Tell me more about your questions, she invited.  Oh, I did tell her.  Plenty.  As I was explaining exactly what my problem and her problem and everyone other person's problem was, I began to hear myself. In sharing my tirade, I was getting no nearer the wall.  And . . . I was keeping the person who'd come out to see if she could assist, I kept her from being inside the wall.  

I was able to calm myself.  To shed some tears in release.  I appreciate the companionship of the listener who stood by me before she was beckoned back inside to that safe and welcoming place. I could have gone with her, but I felt that my tantrum-ous energy might spill over into the Utopian environment that I do hope to visit again soon.

Tonight I'm sad that I stood outside the wall wailing today when what I wanted was to be inside. But I'll not make myself feel worse by going over every action and word that was so out of sync with what I seek, what I try to offer for others who look for safety and peace inside the walls I help build.  Instead, I'll make myself a small fire of deep breaths, poetry, and hot tea to warm me as I drift off to sleep out here in the parking lot of Carcassonne.  

Tomorrow, after a lengthy spot of meditation - with new light and new resolve - I'll go find the bridge that leads back inside to that wonderful old city.  If things go as I hope, after being renewed inside the walls of Carcassonne, I'll leave with the renewal of  joy and strength to help others find their way inside the protective cities they seek.  I'll take my turn encouraging, inviting as my guide invited me, tell me more about your questions. . . .

Monday, January 18, 2016

Midwest Winter Writer

I've been meaning to get back to the book I am working on.  On such cold, short days, writing inside a warm home seems like appropriate work.   Each time I open the file, though, I am annoyed.

Annoyed that I have somehow added a shaded border to the right side of each page in the document.
Annoyed that this whole process much more isolating and longer than anticipated.
Annoyed that scenarios I see in my mind need so many words to convey them to the pages in the book. (She wept when he turned away from her. vs. The rhythm of his rejection and her tears seemed connected by a biological process.  Each night she tried to climb into their bed as gently as she could, picking up the sheets as if they were made of tissue.  She'd hold her breath as she executed the single motion of lifting the sheets, sliding her body - with bulbous baby belly - softly onto a small slice of bed, and bringing the sheets down again without effecting him.  But he always knew when she arrived.  And he always performed his matching ritual.  "Don't get to close," he'd instruct her as if this was the first time they'd shared a bed. Then, a moment later when he had turned his back to her, taking more than his share of the sheet wrapped around his shoulders, he'd release the words that contained his personal amino acid sulfoxide. "And don't let your stomach touch my back." Those words physically moved through the air, spontaniously rearranging to form a chemical that attacked her eyes and released her tears.  Whether she stayed lying on her back or rolled gently to her side determined whether her tears rolled down silently into her ears, or if they would make a small patting sound that only she could hear as they dripped directly onto her pillow.)
Annoyed that poetry arrives when prose was expected.

Photo by Brenda Brock, NWS, Des Mones, IA

Minus five degrees,
at five-thirty PM.
This kind of weather 
thaws the souls of
people I've lived with.

Some of those people
. . . . were me.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Religion of Meeting You

religion | noun | re li gion | \ri `li-jen\ |
an interest, belief, or activity that is very important to a person or group

The Religion of Meeting You

No longer will I limit myself to _______ religion,
to tangible operators like interests, beliefs, or action.
I no longer choose one day a week to gather for hymns and
readings that affirm me and like-minded, like acting congregants.

No more creeds, principles, by-laws, or mission and vision
statements.  No more trying to brand or promote the Truth.
No more bring a friend Sunday, or spreading the good news.
No more sacred texts, holy covenants, or zombie ressurections.

Today my religion becomes the religion of meeting you.
We meet where we find one another, as helper or helped.
I am allowed to meet you where you are, in my religion.  I do
not have to inform you on what we agree or disagree.

I do not have to invite you to label yourself as I label myself -
progressive, liberal, socialist, survivor, environmentalist,
depressive, poser, liar, truth teller, pilgrim, healer, teacher,
feminist of the second or third wave, depending.

Now, let me stand beside you so I may know that you are real.
Then, tell me what you need and I will not judge.
                                                                                             ~ Lori Allen