Monday, June 26, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 8 - Shallow


Image result for sad birthday cake image



June 26, 2017

Never invited
you to a party.  You missed
nothing but shallow.


Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – did not . . . but . . . self-doubt is creeping in?
·         Meditate – yes.  Well, technically, I was eavesdropping as I meditated.  Does that still count?
·         Walk – Walked about four blocks – took the kiddos to the park and picked them up – walked from Doc’s.
·         Eat –   cheesy shells, broccoli balls, and the evil and colorful chocolate covered sunflower seeds from TJMax

      Other goals report:
·         Bribing Mica to leave her electronic diary at home as she went to camp brought some pretty awesome crescendos from the both of us.
·         Made fashion doll stencil mermaids.  Quite exquisite.
·         I don’t have many regrets in my life, and this is not really a regret, but . . . I wish I would have been more interested in getting to learn about the lives and yearnings of some of my high school classmates.  It seems some of the classmates were so much less interested in popularity and personal importance than me and my clique.
·         Reading, not writing today. 
·         Happy Birthday to Julie Lindsay, another high school classmate with a June birthday.  I only know this because of Facebook, I admit. 

      So, really really, I mean it – Happy Birthday Julie.  And to Doreen a few days ago.  And hello Susan who is in the celebratory pictures as well.  I love seeing pictures of my high school classmates with their high school classmate friends still in their lives.  Seeing some of the people that I did not take the time to get to know better in my teens, reminds me of how shallow and exclusive my teen clique was. 

      When I see pictures on Facebook of classmates who are still friends, I see the deep joy and care shared by long time acquaintances.  Good for you.  I wish I had an active friendship that reached back to my teens.  There are a few people that I was close to back then, friends I can pick up where we left off at the last visit.  But over the years it takes longer and longer to catch each other up, and we don’t get to delving deep into feelings . . . at all. 

      I am not certain that any of the seven of the girls in my high school clique still communicate with each other (other than on Facebook) – maybe the two who are cousins.  One married my brother.  I only recall rather shallow interests and conversations . . . didn’t really dare open up about my life’s big concerns and questions.

      But hell.  All the deep stuff’s been brought to the surface by now.  And I have no idea on what schedule my peers grew up and dealt with their deep stuff.  When I think of high school, I automatically go back to making some of the same assumptions about what challenges, or lack of challenges, other classmates were dealing with.  Did they all even have stuff to deal with? Deep stuff or no, and like my own life, I am quite certain that my high school peer’s lives have expanded far beyond the hallways and social activities of our small rural school. 


      Happy day, every day, to those out there doing the work of maturing and finding your place in the world.  Stay in touch, keep sending pictures.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 7 - All Is Well

June 25, 2017

A scale is not the
only instrument that will
weigh my heaviness.

  

Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – sort of in a “who cares?” mode right now.
·         Meditate – yep.  It was hard to concentrate with the rhythmic breath of two small ones sleeping off a night of take-out, swimming, and bad TV.
·         Walk – PT exercises and a bit of time in the pool.  May try a bonafide walk tomorrow
·         Eat –   not much. Not much to say about what I ate, either.

      Other goals report:
·         Tried to learn Mica’s favorite alley cats song.
·         Early morning knitting, for a change in art form.
·         Heavy Haiku
·         A small turn at a book I’ve been working on. 
·         Happy Birthday to Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice.  Long may you serve.

      Today’s Haiku is written as I feel a bit over and under whelmed at the same time.  The details of what was and is happening are of little matter in the big picture.  The details do not matter because, no matter what they are, I have the same response.  I always feel that there is something more I could have/should have/shouldn’t have/whatever have done.  When times are challenging for anyone I am connected to (well, mostly my children, partners, co-workers – anyone I have made a commitment to) I think back to some inane or insane incident that happened when I  was a child/teen/young adult and trace it all the way to the event  of the moment.

      I am my own nemesis in my personal game of horizontal hostility.  Technically, this would be called internal oppression, where a person (or a group of people) accepts the labels and stereotypes put upon them.

      I think of all the labels I’ve been given in my life. The negative ones, which I will spare you and me in this writing, take up much more space inside me than the positive ones. 

      Besides ignoring my scale, I need to also let go of all instruments, devices, and measurements that weigh the parts of me that cannot be quantified in pounds and ounces.  I wonder how old, exactly, I will be before I can say . . . all is well; all will be well.


Julian of Norwich . . .All will be well, and all will be well.  And all manner of things, will be well.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 6 - Dilution

June 24, 2017

Haiku? Too tired.
Sometimes poetry needs to
wait for tomorrow.



Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – what’s that?.
·         Meditate – not yet.
·         Walk – PT exercises seem superfluous compared to four and a half hours in the pool.
·         Eat – not too bad. 

      Other goals report:
·         My song today was a conversation with Molly.  She wishes she would not have tried to hurt my feelings yesterday.  Never going to happen Molly. 
·         Sketched in my watercolor book as the dreamers drifted off to sleep.
·         Wrote the haiku, saying I was too tired to write haiku.
·         Six days of journeling/writing/blogging in a row. 
·         Happy Birthday to a dear, dear friend – Nathan.  So much connection built in a very short time.  The turning of the years and the miles between us – inconsequential details of friendship.


      The pool diluted my desire, no my ability, to write this evening.  Tomorrow . . . more.


I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 5 - More Days





June 23, 2017

Italian food
Pizza, pasta, tasty breads
It is exquisite.
                                                                                     ~ Victor Allen



  


Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – didn’t.  Still.
·         Meditate – hard to meditate in Victor’s room . . . unless you count gazing at his toys, his belongings, reminders of his eleven years of accumulation of his presence and being on this planet what it is . . . a grandmother’s meditation in love.
·         Walk – Did my PT exercises for my knee, and seven hours driving.
·         Eat – started with pancakes.

      Other goals report:
·         A little voice filled with melodies and laughter from Mica – aka: Mean Cat – in the Aristocats is more music than any person may be entitled to in a day.
·         Ordered a picture frame for the painting I gave Doc
·         Guest Haiku poet today – Victor Allen.
·         Writing, this.
·         Happy Birthday to Sarah Garst, former veterinarian for the beloved Allen dogs, Copper and Moe.  You charged us a paw and a tail for your services, but we did learn that cool trick to spot fleas.  Many happy returns of the day.

      Today was the quintessential grandma type day – breakfast was chocolate chips pancakes (and coffee for adults) followed by attending the theatre where seven year old Mica played “Mean Cat” in The Aristocats production put on by her summer theatre camp.

      Who is Mean Cat? You don’t remember her in the original Disney movie?  Well – Mean Cat is a compilation of four cat characters from the movie, combined into one character because there were not enough actors to fill all the alley cat roles.  And as Mica, namer of this combined character would know, if you represent four personas (catsonas?) you’re going to carry at little of the meanness of each of those cats.

      Today was also a quintessential mom day - baking pizza with Victor, grocery shopping with Mica – things I did every day with my own kiddos a couple decades ago.  I wish I would have been aware at an earlier age, at a mom of young children age, that life is a journey that every person travels.  We all have the same final destination – the final ending point.  Instead of remembering this shared conclusions, I used to hold the illusion that somehow the goals I set, large and small, were ends: when the kids are all in school . . . when we pay off this debt . . . when we get the house we . . . when I get the job . . . when the kids are all adults . . . when I don’t have to . . . .      

     Age brings clarity and satisfaction for me.  I know that when one milestone are not ends.  When one milestone is passed, another will be visible on the horizon to replace it.  I accept the reality of the present moment, maneuvering through it as peacefully and joyfully as possible.  I hold no more illusions that those shapes and shadows on the horizon are anything that I own or control.  

      My prayers, if I were to pray, would be to ask for more days of connectedness to those who give meaning to my life, more days with glimpses of untroubled memories, more days of luscious participation.  More days.

Friday, June 23, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 4 - On the Road

Image result for image driving interstate


June 22, 2017

Every mile driven -
erased for now with bedtime
stories and snuggles.



Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – didn’t.  Really didn’t think about it until now.
·         Meditate – seven hours of driving/road meditation
·         Walk – Did my PT exercises for my knee, and seven hours driving.
·         Eat – Don’t ask – I was alone in a car for seven hours!

      Other goals report:
·         Told the story of “Sarann” a Cambodian Cinderella Story to Victor and Mica.  Their pleas of “one more” after the story ended, is music to any grandmother’s ears.
·         Dreamt of future art projects for a good part of seven hour drive.
·         Wrote the Haiku at the top of this page, not my best effort, but the road really does get in your head when you are traveling for seven hours straight.
·         Writing this now
·         Happy Birthday to Kris Kristofferson.  I imagined, back in the 1970s when he was in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, that one day he might leave Rita Coolidge and take up with me.  In case that happened, I learned all the chords and lyrics in the Kris Kristofferson songbook I owned – also, some of Dylan’s songs from the aforementioned movie as well.  He left Rita, but things didn’t work out for us, mostly on account that we never met. Technically going to his concert doesn’t count as meeting – we never had a chance.  Happy 84th Birthday Kris – you’re probably a bit too old for me anyway.

      Today I arrived in Moorhead to spend time with my daughter and her family.  It is so hard to be so far away from them every day.  The many miles from my home to here settled in my mind and body during seven hours of driving and road waiting in road construction.  It takes awhile to shake the miles out of my body and mind so I can be fully present here, not worrying about the drive back.

      I am grateful for reliable vehicles, good roads, podcasts, audio books, and my acceptance of solitude and solitary travel.  The rewards of hugs, declarations of grandma love, and long narratives about how we are to spend our time together makes the journey worth every mile.


      As I write this blog, four days in, I thought I might spend more time thinking about the whole weight/weigh-in thing.  Perhaps, like so many other things at this stage of my life, I may have really ROF about weight as well.  May it be so.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 3 - Two Gypsies Quaint Goods and Reading Room

Gypsy Houses (Lori Allen 2017) -Painted at 2 Gypsies Quaint Goods and Reading Room 

June 21, 2017

A near perfect day:
Plattsmouth; painting; reminisce;
Jack Daniels; goodnight.


Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – didn’t  (was tempted, I love weighing on scales at other people’s homes)
·         Meditate – check
·         Walk – Did my PT exercises for my knee, that’s about all.
·         Eat – Little lunch from Herban Coffee Lab, crackers, cheese, and Jack for dinner

      Other goals report:
·         All the laughter today certainly must count as song
·         Painted a new watercolor (see above) at Cheryll’s store
·         Wrote the Haiku at the top of this page, right?
·         Writing this now
·         Happy Birthday to Benazir Bhutto.  She was only three years older than I, she was prime minister, first woman prime minister, of a Muslim country.  Sadly assassinated at age 54.  She lit a light, hopefully we can all do that.  Makes a day of painting feel insignificant.

      Not much else to say, except, life is good.  Well, as good as it can be in such uncertain and challenging times.  If happiness and meaning were dependent solely on what we can accomplish on our own, we’d still be living in caves.  Thank goodness for small groups of people who are parts of other small groups of people who are parts of other small groups of people . . . thank goodness those groups overlap in all the right places and times . . . like science, and sociality, and curiosity, and strategy; and dreaming; and holding tight through the difficult times. Thank goodness.  Just thank goodness.

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 2 - Summer Solstice

Image result for summer solstice
Happy Solstice

June 20, 2017

Plattsmouth is not quite
the quintessential road trip
…but Cheryll lives here.

      Daily goals report: 

·         Weigh in – didn’t
·         Meditate – check
·         Walk – not too much, but rocked my PT exercises for my knee at my PT appointment.  Amy, my PT, rocks.  She says I can walk more in a few weeks.
·         Eat – I’m visiting Cheryll.  We’re so bad. 
·         Wished high school classmate, Doreen P., happy b-day on Facebook - that counts.

      Other goals report:

·         Sang most of the way to Plattsmouth
·         Showed Cheryll my art
·         Wrote the Haiku at the top of this page, right?
·         Writing this now

      Cheryll is one of those people that becomes your closest friend once you become friends with her.  She is not afraid to show you her vulnerabilities, which match my own.  One of the things I love most about her is how she tells people the story of our first meeting. 

      She had heard of me in our professional circle.  It annoyed her when people would say, “you would just love Lori!”  When we met in Nashville, Tennessee, at a conference – she was unimpressed.  I was my usual bubbly and outgoing persona, too self-concerned with making a good impression to notice the reactions and feelings of those around me.  I took for granted that Cheryll appreciated meeting me and that we’d be colleagues. 

      Here is the part where she tells people that after meeting me, she could not stand me.  I seemed self-important and superficial.  Cheryll says she smiled politely and busied herself with other people and things.  I didn’t notice, she says.

      At the conference, later that day, Cheryll was attending a workshop presented by a musical duo called “Y’All.” They were telling their story of UU ministry and mission as a gay country/blue grass songwriters and performers.  I’m not sure why I chose that workshop, but I did.  The rooms was near packed with few seats left.  When I saw Cheryll, a stately woman with signature spiked gray hair recognizable from the back, I approached her row.  There was an open seat next to her.

      What she says about my approach varies from mine, but her version holds the truth.  I got her attention and pointed at the empty chair, then myself.  “Oh brother, not her,” she thought to herself.  But since, like me, she was a people pleaser, she put on a smile and nodded yes that the chair was open.  Her happy anticipation at hearing “Y’All” so up close and personal changed to creating a plot to get out of there as soon as she could.

      With satchels filled with books and brochures in tow, I scooched past seated people to my center spot next to Cheryll.  I gushed over the great seats and what I’d heard about “Y’All.”  I barely noticed her forced smile and few words of agreement.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be my friend?

      Next she tells that the presentation, or concert, started.  Those men were hysterical.  Such sad, but genuine stories that they’d turned into beautiful harmony and joy.  Their songs made us laugh – perhaps more than they should have.  Both Cheryll and I appreciate some great self-deprecating humor when we hear it because we are authorities on self-deprecating humor.  As we laughed our generous bellies shook in unison.  Soon, we were bobbing toward, then bouncing off, each other.  We could not contain ourselves.

      Cheryll tells that during this laugh fest, she came to believe that I could not be a terrible self-important person if I could laugh authentically at gay, self-deprecating music and jokes.  She decided maybe we could be friends.  That concert of the now defunct “Y’All” led to years of road trips, sketchy experiences, gut busting laughs, tears for shared hurts, and a love that will always be with us across the miles.

      Today is Cheryll day.  I love her.  I love those who love her.  Ditto her for me.


Footnote*

So, this group we saw, "Y'All" was comprised of James Dean Jay Byrd (L) and 
Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer (R) - both pictures.

Image result for steven cheslik demeyer
Image result for steven cheslik demeyer   Cheryll and I got to know them a bit better when she invited them to do a concert at the church she was working at in Omaha, NE.  The were debuting their new album.  

Christmastime in the Trailerpark

  The talked of the difficulties of breaking into the big times as a gay duo out of Nashville.  We heard, in 2002, that they'd quit doing music.

But now . . . . looks like Steven is doing well . . . .

11thhr_lizzie_flyerfront

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore


Image result for many newborns


June 19, 2017

Today, I take up
equal space of thirty-two
sad, fat newborn mes.

      I imagine some of you will sigh and shake your heads, perhaps shed a tear, when you read my sixty-first birthday haiku.  Go ahead and make this about you instead of me.  I’m used to that.

      I know it’s late in my life game, but I am going to re-imagine what a different life could have been like –beloved beautiful newborn to grandmother crone.  I have made a plan for each day of my 61st, technically 62nd, year on the planet.  These things I’ll do every day:

·         Not weigh myself (Except at my doctor’s office – not sure I’ll ask them to tell me what it is)
·         Meditate
·         Walk
·         Eat . . . hmmm.  Not sure what more to say
·         Wish someone . . . living or dead . . .a happy birthday

These are the things I’ll do as often as I can, at least a few times each week.
·         Write a poem or haiku
·         Art – painting or fabric
·         Sing
·         Write

So, check, check, check  . . . for all those tasks above.  For writing, I went back and wrote a Haiku that reflects the events of my birthday six and more decades ago.



June 19,1956

Should have known better
than to be born on Round Barn
game day at Center.

    This is the message that has lived in my head since the first time I heard about the day I was born.  So many emotions, none of them mine – until later.

      Happy birthday to me, I mean you (I am still not sure how to refer to myself when telling my story) ... a fat baby girl whose true identity was unknown to herself for years. 

      Sweet little baby Lora.  You with your beauty and creativity belong wherever you are.  You’ll develop great strength and strategies as you navigate the path.  May each year bring you closer to loving yourself, closer to those you cherish, fully.


      Haters – move on - or open your mind and join me on my journey.

Upper Left - closest thing to a baby pic on my computer.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I am Hagar . . .

Hagar  1875
Image result for edmonia lewis hagar
Edmonia Lewis 1844-1907
African - Native American
Artist / Sculptor / Poet

Tyehimba Jess
Tyehimba Jess - Poet / Teacher


Hagar in the Wilderness 
My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carve me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the fallen water jug,
of all the hope a vessel holds
before spilling to barren sand.
God of flesh hewn from earth
and hammered beneath a will
immaculate with the power
to bear life from the lifeless
like a well in a wasteland.
I'm made in the image of a God
that knows flight but stays me
rock still to tell a story ancient as
slavery, old as the first time
hands clasped together for mercy
and parted to find only their own
salty blessing of sweat.
I have been touched by my God
in my creation, I've known her caress
of anointing callus across my face.
I know the lyric of her pulse
across the lips... and yes,
I've kissed the fingertips
of my dark and mortal God.
She has shown me the truth
behind each chiseled blow
that's carved me into this life,
the weight any woman might bear
to stretch her mouth toward her
one true God, her own
beaten, marble song.
                                                      ~ Tyehimba Jess 2013

Last week I binge-watched The Keepers on Netflix.  Spoiler alert - the underlying them is sexual abuse.  It is an excellent murder mystery, if a bit heavy when remembering it is a true story. It brings light to the stories of sexual abuse in, again, the Catholic religion.  I'll refrain from commenting on the story other than to say, I think it's important for adults to watch.

Watching this series brought back memories for me, myself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My abuser was not a priest or clergy person, but the rampant misogyny of my father's understanding of his Christian religion factored strongly into his narrative of the abuse. I have healed, but I am not immune to triggers when similar stories come my way.  This series was a trigger for me.

As a child I came to think that the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar in the Bible's book of Genesis had something to do with what was happening to me.  In the past few years, the above poem, inspired by the marble carving of Hagar by Edmonia Lewis, has been transformative to me and my thinking about Hagar, in my thinking about my sexual abuse.

I love the idea that God is a mixed race women, hewn out of marble, each chisel strike defining a feature, an emotion, an understanding. I wish I would have known of this strong cool Hagar as a child. I may have seen myself as a strong survivor rather than an outcast, getting what I deserved for being a female. I have embraced this Hagar now. By some act of  secular grace,  I have found a proverbial cool water spring that assures my survival.

There are no words that can describe my cool water spring...I imagine if you have found a metaphorical spring that sustains you, you know that things such as this can only be described in the language of the soul, the feelings and actions that bring ecstatic connectedness with all that is sacred.

I hope that this poem and series will be the chisel blow for you that they have been for me - informing and transforming further the way I look  and the way I look at the world..  Neither poem nor documentary are reason for your tears, those belong to those who lived this, to Hagar. Instead, understand and embrace the message of this story - that absolute and solitary power and authority never serves anyone well - not children, not churches, not adults - not any one.

Image result
http://www.tubefilter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/netflix-the-keepers.jpg
The Keepers

(I learned that an earlier draft of this post was accidently posted a few days ago. That page is no longer available.  Sorry for any confusion.)













  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lassie in the Sky



Good Dog Lassie . . .

Bidden or not, she
comes to me.  I don't even
know my own peril.


When painting, I often take photos of my work in progress.  Viewing the piece as a photo allows me to see it in a way that first person observation does not permit.  Tonight, when cropping this picture to review, I was immediately drawn to the upper left corner, to the color patterns in the sky.  

There, in plain view, is my childhood dog, Lassie.  It's eerie because she appears in a painting of the the exact house I lived in as a child.  It's a farm house in southeastern South Dakota, Lake County. Lassie loved that farm and the duties required of a farm dog.  She loved herding cattle, following the tractor, fending off feral cats, chasing cars that dared to drive down our road, and all the other things farm dogs have to do.

Her life changed drastically when we moved from the farm to the city - well, to a brand tract house addition newly annexed to Sioux Falls - not quite a city.  It took her awhile to understand that her rural life was gone, that instead she'd be inside a house all day, waiting for her people to come home from school and work.  Some days she'd get to follow me or my sister or brother on our neighborhood explorations, some days she'd have to run hot laps in the back yard to expend her energy.

Lassie loved visits back to my grandparent's farm as much as us kids.  She'd leap out of the car, pay a respectful bark to my grandparents, then take off to check the outbuildings and any livestock that might be around.  At the end of our visit, she'd walk slowly, dutifully to our car, just like the rest of us. Leaving the farm never became any easier for any of us.

I'm not usually a seer or seeker of omens, good or bad. This unexpected appearance of my faithful and unconditional friend, however, comes at a time when I need it most.  I am choosing to see this as a fortunate sign. Good dog, Lassie, good girl.



"Lassie in the Sky" - © Lori Allen 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Feminist Poets


Recently I have been preparing for an upcoming Sunday Service at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames.  I said I would speak on leaving my work as their religious educator and finding my calling in the work I do now, advocacy for victims of sexual assault and abuse.  I was sure that some edgy poem would exemplify and explain all that.  Not so, unless there is some poem I have not yet found.  I am in awe of the clarity and articulation of Feminist Poets.  I know I probably share some of their experiences, but it feels vain to make such a comparison.  A safer route, it seems to me, is to go with the words of the mystics.  Here is a poem I wrote about my experience in searching the poetry of women with powerful, stern voices.




Feminist Poets

I search my personal library’s
tomes, then the internet,
for the works of Feminist Poets
that speak my truth.

I want to find words that explain
to you who do not understand –
just how powerful I am and
how real my struggle has been.

I spend hours surfing, reading,
folding the corners, bookmarking sites.
I’ll come back to these if I can’t find
anything  better.  I’ve been at this all night.

Every minute or so, my head nods, jerks back awake - 
until finally I allow a brief dream-filled sleep.
I dream of a beach late at night where I
observe a secret gathering I will never be invited to join.

Walker, Atwood, Piercy, Plath, and Angelou.
There they are, sitting around a fire with their drinks,
laughing hysterically at the small, nervous
woman just outside their formation.

“Hang on,” sniffles a frustrated Oliver.  She
licks her thumb to get better traction on her pages
and pages of notes.  She is searching for
the words she’s written to impress this powerful circle.

“I write about Nature and Spirit,
Soul and Struggle, Creation, Geese –
metaphors for everything you all write about.”
The laughter stops with her comparisons. 

Guffaws become cynical smirks. Angelou’s eyes
fix on Oliver, “You let them off the hook. . . .” 
Oliver cannot argue with that.
She drops her notes and walks away.

I wake with a start, aware that I do not deserve
to compare my life to the struggles of Feminist Poets.
I get up to open a window in my room, sit back down to
open my laptop.  I google Rumi, Hafiz, Oliver.

                                                ~ Lori Allen ©2017