Thursday, November 17, 2016

Activist


MI Right to Life oratorical contest
As a teenager raised in the Religious Right, I was passionate about politics, state and local government, and activism for the causes we supported, though I struggled with cognitive dissonance regarding the biblical role of women! 

After I married and moved to Kansas, for a host of reasons, my community involvement waned. The passion was still alive, but life was broadening my experience and my adult values were evolving. 

Midsummer last year, I decided to attend an ACLU meeting held at a local church. I was uncomfortable walking into a church building to listen to a man named after an Old Testament prophet, but was relieved to see some familiar faces around me. As the speaker talked and answered questions, I began to feel that I belonged, after all. 

A friend who witnessed my almost giddy afterglow that night said I ought to get more involved in activism--it animated me so. I took his observations to heart and weeks later, I volunteered at an abortion clinic for the first time. Turns out, that was only a beginning!

Since then, I've met so many brave and amazing people. 

I've been trusted with so many personal stories. 

     I've cried and cried. 
     I've felt fear, and even hate.
     I've been angry to my core. 
     I've given and received the best hugs.
     My compassion and courage have grown.

I've been yelled at by Christians who take down my license plate number.

I've learned how to treat myself more kindly.

My values have become crystal clear. 


Distributing condoms at Kansas State Fair




















Representing Wichita NOW
in the Wichita Pride Parade






Campaign to rally feminist votes





















Honk if you like safe sex!




















Post-election rally for equality and justice
(Wichita State University)





















Whether I'm speaking up loudly or quietly supporting people exercising their rights, whether I can measure it or not, I know my involvement makes a difference. 

I want the world my kids live in to be more fair, more equal, and more kind. I'll keep doing what I can to make that happen. 


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Moving Forward by Looking Back

"...A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them..." 
Eccl. 3:5



Last month, I revisited my hometown.

I was homesick for the fall beauty of the Great Lakes region, for the wooded trails and the beach sand, for whitefish and Cornish pasties and cherry wine.

Autumn has always been the most emotional season for me, and after so many years away, I was hungry to experience it again in Michigan. So I packed up my "magic carpet" Honda and set off on an adventure--my longest road trip yet!

Shore of Lake Michigan

My daughter rode along and we made lovely new memories without much triggering unpleasant old ones. Friends spoiled me with kindness along the way. Driving near Chicago and recognizing landmarks from my IBLP days, I felt powerful. As we got closer to my childhood home, I realized I was driving some roads for the first time. (I never owned a car when I lived at home, and Chris did most of the driving on our family trips.) 

It felt strange not to visit my parents! One of my baby sisters kindly shared her apartment with us, but this trip was for my own healing, not a family reunion. And after four years of anxious avoidance, it was healing!

Grand Traverse Wine Country

I let my senses delight in Traverse City: blazing autumn trees, indecisive rain, beach sand, chill breezes off the lake, smoothed flat stones picked from the cold water, fishy air by the marina, fuzzy scarlet sumac, squawking gulls, black swamp mud, soft and aromatic fresh pine needles, damp smells of the forest, crunching fallen leaves, fragrant ripe apples...



Every beautiful step was awash with memories good and bad. but this time, instead of feeling triggered, I felt "grounded". Aware that while my life there will always be my Part One, I am living my Part Two here in Kansas, where I choose my own roles among people who love, value, and support me. I've shed the parts of my past that no longer fit the woman I want to be and created the life I actually want.

I feel incredibly lucky to have all the things that make me happy:
A generous and loyal partner.
Enriching relationships of all kinds.
Stories. Sex. Dancing. Art.
Meaningful work: motherhood, feminism, and helping women create the lives they want.

Shedding my old "skin" 
It feels good to be alive right now.

Breathing freely.

Embracing and letting go.

Saying and doing all the things I want to say and do, and trying all sorts of fun new things!


I'm glad life has seasons that soothe us and help us heal so that we can grow and thrive once more.



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Living Poetry


Professionally he declines and falls, and as a friend he drops into poetry.
--Charles Dickens (in Our Mutual Friend)

I dropped into poetry a few weeks ago.

Replay
Coffeeshop Earl Grey.
New acquaintance, let me pay.
Did you say--? No way!
Lunchtime, can't stay.
Food trucks, bands play
While friends find, oh, so much to say.
Backyard reading...risqué!
Bell rings out the school day.
This is Daisy's birthday.
Cooking with her in the way.
More adventure--gangway!
Let's embrace it, come what may.
Mango passionfruit sorbet
Floated in chilled Chardonnay.
And the dusky curtain falls on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Peach Tart


No sooner had school started last month than I found myself backstage, helping to manage a burlesque show for Wichita's American Rose Theater! As Peach Tart, I even got to perform in one of the acts.

Photo credit: Glenn Gunnels

One evening earlier in the summer, a group of us ladies dressed up and handed out flyers for the troupe's upcoming events. I came home and told Chris that the experience was almost entirely unlike handing out gospel tracts!

Peach Tart's next adventure? A introduction to belly dancing!





Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Comfort, Connection, and Community


For years, we felt ill at ease in Wichita and frequently plotted our escape to another state...someday. This year, though, it finally feels like home. I think the biggest difference is feeling at home with myself, comfortable in my own skin. Now that I am sure of who I am and what I value, connection with the rest of my community seems to come easily.

Open mic, downtown Wichita
Just in the last month, I've helped organize a pro-choice rally, attended a meeting of the county commission, performed open-mic comedy at a bar, learned some new dance moves, presided over my first NOW meeting, registered for a burlesque workshop, listened to women of all ages share deeply personal stories, gone hiking with my family, tasted sushi for the first time, and gotten to know some new friends!

Which all means less time for writing blog posts...

But remember, you can still follow Heresy in the Heartland on Facebook! I often share articles, videos, or photos that speak to me or make me think of all of you.


Many of you are waiting for the rest of Our Courtship Story, and I do hope it gets written some day. For now, rest easy knowing that everything turns out all right. The tale doesn't have an ending: we are still making up our happily-ever-after, and it has twists I never dreamed of when I first began telling the story!

And now, my library book is calling. Revival is the first Stephen King title I've picked up, and I'm intrigued. Still waiting for it to turn spooky. Maybe my upbringing has made me immune?


XO,

Jeri


Friday, July 15, 2016

Art


This impulse to connect the dots--and to share what you've connected--is the urge that makes you an artist. If you're using words or symbols to connect the dots, whether you're a "professional artist" or not, you are an artistic force in the world. 
-Amanda Palmer 

"Graduation" 2016

I've been thinking a lot about art lately. And about artists.

In kindergarten, the teacher had us fill out autobiographical sheets. I wrote that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. At home, there was much mirth over the stick drawing I used to illustrate the page. The next year, though I enjoyed many craft projects in class, I didn't much like Mrs. Kirkpatrick, the art teacher. She seemed grumpy.

I never had an art teacher again. I figured art and I just weren't that compatible. If I was to create, I would use words.

The "Art" entry in our World Book Encyclopedia was stapled together so we wouldn't see anything corrupting. In other volumes, illustrations deemed inappropriate were covered over or cut out. Most art museums were off-limits (we might see nudity!).

Art galleries were...unsettling. Fundamentalists prefer depictions of heroism, paradise, or optimism portrayed as reality. Think GettysburgLeave It To Beaver and Thomas Kinkade. We were taught that the Impressionists were wishy-washy. Picasso was an anarchist pervert, a threat to moral society.

Yet as an adult, I found myself drawn to art.
M's school art project

I approached with caution, recognizing quickly that art is unpredictable.

Uncomfortable, even.

It could be absorbing... illuminating... breathtaking... grim.

At times incomprehensible.

A room's worth might be forgotten, while a single detail could wedge itself into my mind for months.

I explored art with Chris, with friends, and finally on my own. One morning on the way to my therapist's office, I stopped at the studio of a local artist whose work I had admired at the Wichita Art Museum. The studio was closed, but I rang the bell anyway. Marilyn Grisham answered, invited me in, told me stories, and showed me projects she was working on. When I told Chris what I'd done, I could see that he was proud and a little in awe. Art had drawn me beyond my usual anxiety and allowed me to have an adventure far outside my comfort zone.

I learned that art is as least as much what I bring to it as what the artist offers me. Art is an exchange, a relationship, a gift.
When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn't visible before.   (Amanda Palmer)
B's creation
We all know those people whose work lights up the world for us. It was easy to see art flowing out of my friends, my siblings, my heroes, the writers and musicians and artists, the people who inspire me. I read about famous artists with their communities and collaborations and felt envious.

But, slowly, I arrived at the conclusion that I, too, am an artist. Not in a commercial or professional sense, obviously. But Chris and I, indeed, our entire family, are artists.

We love to create bold new things that challenge traditional ways of thinking, please our own senses, and express our values. Sometimes with words, but also with colors and costumes and drawing and acting and building and programming.

"B.S." 2013
Most of  my art is temporary. Each time I take the hand of a dance partner, together we create something new. I draw with sidewalk chalk, decorate a cake, sculpt a snow statue, arrange cut flowers, present snacks on a platter, put on make-up. Choosing items from my closet, I pull together a look that is new for that week, that day, that occasion.

Perhaps some of the projects I'm working on will endure longer and be seen by more eyes, heard by more ears. Perhaps not. What matters is how I value what I do.

This week I am reading about art, and artists, and community and relationships and vulnerability in Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking.

I discovered Amanda partly because her husband happens to be my husband's favorite author and mostly because of her amazing feminist song in defense of pubic hair. Then I found out they have an open marriage and that she reads live bedtime stories on Twitter. And I finally picked up her book.

When the world feels too dark or too topsy-turvy, you know whose Twitter feeds I run to? Artists. Comedians. Writers. Musicians. I've decided that artists are society's shock absorbers. They feel the quakes first and most deeply so they can help the rest of us process them. Amanda has been one of those people for me lately.

So much of what Amanda writes resonates with me. I started this blog because I kept connecting dots and needed to have a place to share what I was seeing, "bleeding my heart onto the page". Even when hitting "Publish" made me quake with anxiety, it was worth it to know I was being seen.

And then you began commenting or writing to me and letting me know that you were seeing the same patterns, that my stories informed your own.


R setting glass in wet cement last week

I'm going to keep connecting dots. I can't help it! And as I find ways to share what I see, I'm going to keep doing that, too.


Steppingstone




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Abundance



Last year I became painfully aware of my scarcity mindset.

Most of my life, I'd lived in fear that there might not be enough good to go around. I might run out of Time. Money. Food. We might not get enough Sleep, or Attention, or Rain, or Sunshine. What if I found myself needing Help...Comfort...Love? I might not always have enough Sex, Health, Joy, Pleasure...

Maybe I'd reach the end of the roll and THERE WOULDN'T BE ANOTHER ONE.

For decades, "contentment" had been my mantra. I'd practiced doing without--or preparing to do without. I even got good at it.

"I have learned... to be content. I know both how to be abased... and how to abound."

The above quotation from St. Paul hung over our toilet when I was growing up. I read it, recited it, sang it to a little tune I made up. I was never too sure about those categories, so I focused on the first part.

But hand in hand with the type of "contentment" I cultivated went a reluctance to enjoy what I had. I was habitually hesitating, holding something back in case.

We spent a lot of time--and emotional energy--inhabiting a future that was bleaker than the present.

Early in our married life, Chris and I discussed the concept of Margins. We managed our anxiety by keeping a reserve, always holding back some of our finances, some of our schedule, some of our energy.

We lived conservatively. It provided a security that comforted us at the time and it helped us function, but it didn't help us live.

When I faced my obsession with scarcity head-on, I didn't like it at all. I understood why it annoyed my friends, too! I began to observe how other people chose to live and whether they were more or less happy. And realized my biggest regrets were the experiences I'd missed because I'd been too anxious to say yes.

I began to practice saying Yes more often. To myself, to my kids, to friends, to opportunities and adventures.

It certainly didn't happen all at once, but I spend much more time living in my now. Where there IS enough. Usually more than enough!

On Mother's Day, I felt like celebrating so I invited some of my favorite people to a party. My house was filled with friends, flowers, good food, wine, laughter, even a puppy! After everyone left and I was left with happy memories to savor, one word popped into my head. 



Abundance.


And just like that, I had the motto for my lifestyle this year. Being "all in". Living out to the edges. Letting myself use the whole space, fill up the schedule, spend the entire budget, try all the things, flow over the sides, be more spontaneous, and not hold back.

Long ago, Chris taught me about lagniappe, the word Louisianans use for "a little extra". I think of it now when I feel the tug of old habits and choose to enjoy my abundance instead.

We make more memories and enjoy life a little more when I remember to say "Yes!"