Saturday, October 20, 2018

Doing My Part with Small Steps

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914) Postcard reads People stand for
different things I stand with my friend

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Go out in the woods, go out. If you don't go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.” ~  Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

One of the first feminist spirituality books I read was by Clarissa Pinkola Estes: Women who Run With the Wolves. It was a book that was flying off the shelf and several coworkers were reading it during lunch. The book attracted me, because Estes used myth and fairy tales (who doesn’t like myth and fairy tales). The book was an awakening for me. It caused me to really question who I was as a woman back in 1992.

In her essay for Estes challenges us to fix what we can in our broken world. Today I find myself feeling overwhelmed with an increasing laundry list: environment, economy, housing, food scarcity… However, Estes encourages us to do small things like: showing up for our children’s events; meal training it for a friend who is shut in; and eating meatless Mondays. Yes, she acknowledges that there are really big problems. But, we need to focus on what “I” the individual can do. One example is cleaning up the litter problem in your neighborhood. It is a daunting task to do all by yourself, but you can keep your lawn tidy. Her key message is to show up and to keep showing up.

My dad walks about three miles a day every morning. Each day he takes along a trash bag and picks up the litter along his path. He has been doing this before it became a Swedish trend called Plogging. Dad follows John Muir hiker’s creed of “leaving nothing but footprints.” My point is Dad is doing what he can on his morning walks; and he keeps showing up.

Estes discusses the importance of showing up. We are in relationship with each other. By doing what we can, our soul’s light inspires others. It is easy to show up during “golden times,” she writes. But, we are even more needed during the stormy times. Your light inspires and helps another.


A Prayer

By Clarissa Pinkola Estés, The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die

Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I keep thinking Estes is all about kindness shared.  I look on the news and see on my Facebook feed pictures of angry people and videos who care only about winning at any cost.   I have to ask myself where is compassion and empathy for another? When I have asked a person who displays this type of behavior; they are demeaning and condescending to me. I find this ends up as a no win solution. Maybe that's the point it is a no win solution. And, if I really care about the issue I need to find other ways around it that doesn't involves them. These are the small steps I need to keep showing up for.

ARTUAL: Questions to journal about:

What do I have control over?
Where can I make a difference?
Where can I make an impact and not get burnt out?
What are my values for living?
How can I stay true to my values with my beloveds?


13 Reasons Why You Should Read “Women Who Run With the Wolves” Instead by Kami Leon (Cliff notes of the book)

Pikola Estes, Clarissa (2018) We were Made for these times. The Heart of the Matter. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

#Believe prayers

"To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength." ~ Hanna Gadsby, “Nanette”

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” ~ Maya Angelou

This past week really pulled me down. However, I chose Shiloh Sophia’s call and put prayers into my art with each paint stroke (See above). I put green and copper into my year long painting. My prayers were for healing survivors, healing perpetrators, healing for those who believe and stand with survivors, and those who continue to victim blame. I prayed for a society in my lifetime that is free of unhealthy behaviors that hurt another.

I work in the field of domestic and sexual violence. The local, state and national hotlines have increased since Thursday. Survivors are calling about old wounds or new hurts. Men are calling asking: what can they do? I’ve been sharing a starting list from Men Can Stop Rape. Futures without Violence is another good resource for both prevention and intervention. They have materials for different professions and different age groups. Their Starting Strong program has a checklist parents can take to their schools to look at policy and curriculums used to prevent bullying, sexual harassment and dating violence. If you work or volunteer with a youth serving organization, Stewards of Children offers a policy checklist and an on-line prevention training for adults to hold other adults accountable.

If you’re a friend or family member of a survivor - BELIEVE!!!! Share the national hotline. They are also there to support you as a friend or a caregiver.

RAINN - National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE.

If you still don’t know how to show support to a survivor. Check out Brene Brown’s video on what is empathy.

If you are a survivor - I am sorry this has happened to you. Your pain should not be mocked or laughed at nor should you be told “if it had been me I would of….” I am sorry.

There are professionals who are trauma trained and experienced in working with survivors. To get a listing contact your local rape crisis center. There are also other forms of trauma therapy available: yoga, theater, dance, singing, and art.

The Trough
by Judy Brown:
Read by Judy Brown. 

My ARTUAL this new moon…. Putting green and copper - healing brush strokes for the world.  

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Artist Creed with Jan Phillips

Jan Phillips
“Our stories contain the answers to each others’ questions. What I cannot find in searching through the riches and rubble of my own life may become apparent to me in the witnessing of yours. It’s through our stories that we begin to name ourselves, to say who we are under all the social trappings, and to emerge from those trappings like a butterfly from a chrysalis. We are midwives, in a way, to each other’s rebirth.” ~ Jan Phillips

Women Writing for a Change is a 10 week creative writing circle. The writing circle is an open space for women to celebrate and nurture each other. Before passing a candle around to say our names into the circle, we open with a poem to inspire our evening of free writing and sharing.  This is my second year attending the Columbus circle.
Last week I was struck by Jan Phillips poem.  I believe this is what artuals do for us and to others who look, read or feel our work.

Artist’s Creed

By Jan Phillips (1994)

I believe I am worth the time it takes to create
         whatever I feel called to create.

I believe that my work is worthy of its own space
              which is worthy of the name, Sacred.

I believe that when I enter this space, I have the right
to work in silence, uninterruptedly, for as long as I choose.

I believe that the moment I open myself to the gifts of the Muse
I open myself to the Source of All Creation
         and become One with the Mother of Life Itself.

I believe that my work is joyful, useful and constantly changing,
    flowing through me like a river with no beginning and no

I believe that what it is I am called to do
             will make itself known when I have made myself ready

I believe that the time I spend creating my art
        is as precious as the time I spend giving to others.

I believe that what truly matters in the making of art
         is not what the final piece looks like or sounds like,
              not what it is worth or not worth, but what
        newness gets added to the universe in the process
           of the piece itself becoming.

 I believe that I am not alone in my attempts to create,
    and that once I begin the work, settle into the strangeness,
the words will take shape, the form find life, and the spirit take

I believe that as the Muse gives to me,
So does she deserve from me:
           faith, mindfulness and enduring commitment.

Jan Phillips website:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

ARTUAL with Allison Bechdel and exploring hurt and pain

Alison Bechdel 

“I'm not that good of a drawer. I don't know how people just draw stuff out of their head. I'm always creating schemes. If I have to draw someone sitting in a chair, I have to go find a chair, sit in it, and take a picture of myself sitting in it.” ~ Allison Bechdel 

“What would happen if we spoke the truth?” ~ Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

“The writer's business is to find the shape in unruly life and to serve her story. Not, you may note, to serve her family, or to serve the truth, but to serve the story.” ~ Alison Bechdel, Are You My Mother?

The first time I came across Alison Bechdel’s name it wasn’t for her art or writing or the popular musical: The Fun Home, but a rule associated with her name: The Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test was popularized by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her comic strip called Dykes to Watch Out For: The Rule (1985). What many people don’t know is the 10 frame strip was inspired by a conversation she had with a friend, Liz Wallace.

For those not familiar with the Bechdel Test, it has three criteria: 1) it has to have at least two women in it, who 2) talk to each other, about 3) something besides a man. Since the publication, the Test has expanded to state the two women have to have a name.

Bechdel’s 10 frame strip, shook things up. It gave people a tool for looking at the media critically. 

As an educator, I use the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media quite frequently when talking about gender stereotypes. In 2014, the Institute reviewed 120 films produced internationally from 2010 - 2013. The found only 31% of the named characters were females, and only 23% of the films had a female protagonist or co-protagonist. Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels took movie gender analysis to the next level by analyzing 2,005 commercially successful films. They found out that 82% of the films, men had two of the top speaking roles, while women had the most dialogue in on 22% of films. 

Her test was my initial framework used in my graduate work. Specifically, choosing books to review how healthy women's friendships are shown in literature. My pile of literature was small compared to the mountain of books illustrating how women tear each other down. Many of the books went to the mountain because the main character didn't have women friends or they only talked about romance. 

What the Living Do

by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some
utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the

crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the

everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the

sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in

here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the

street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday,

hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee

down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush:

This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you
called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the
winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and
more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of
myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a
cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat
that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

I keep coming back to how Alison Bechdel was inspired and that she continues to act on this type of inspiration. Much of Alison’s art is influenced by her personal life, family secrets, pain and trauma that she carries. Somehow she courageously picks up the pen and draws. These acts allow her to contemplate and heal. I believe that when she shares them with us, it also allows us a place to heal and talk about heart issues. 

How often are we inspired by a conversation with a friend or a stranger? Or are inspired to use art to heal from pain and trauma - or share our art with others to help others heal? How often do we act on the inspiration? And, what holds us back from picking up the pen or the paint brush or mixing bowl or flower seeds or the...?

Inked Interview with Alison Bechdel March 27, 2017 - Alison talks about her artwork.
Dykes to Watch Out for. Alison Bechdel (Website)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007) Alison Bechdel
Are you my mother? (2012) Alison Bechdel

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ARTUAL with Anita Hill: Making a Better World with Courage to Speak Out

Anita Hill Photo by Victoria Will/Invasion/AP See Victoria's art
"Most of us have everything we need to get through a crisis; we just have to tap into it." ~ Anita Hill

"Women who accuse men, particularly powerful men, of harassment are often confronted with the reality of the men's sense that they are more important than women, as a group." ~ Anita Hill, Speaking Truth to Power

"The real problem is that the way that power is given out in our society pits us against each other." ~ Anita Hill

Nine to Five: Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin (1980)
My local park shows movies on the big screen.  T, Z, and I joined friends to watch “9 to 5, (1980).” For those unfamiliar with the movie, the plot uses humor to expose how sexual harassment is played out at the office.   Lily Tomlin’s character had her work stolen by her boss; Jane Fonda’s character was mocked at the Xerox by the same boss; and Dolly Parton’s character, the boss looks at her as sexual candy rather than his secretary.  The three women are thrown together and plot to get even with “the boss.” The film is the 20th highest-gross paying films for comedy.

After watching the 9 to 5, I began reflecting on Tarana Burke, #metoo, and other movies during my young adult life that satirized sexual harassment:  Grease, Toosie, Sixteen Candles…. It became an enlightening moment for me; I couldn’t name any films that showed women of color experiencing sexual harassment.   I began to wonder where were the mainstream films about women of color experiencing sexual harassment?

It is 1991, ten years after the film came out, and Anita Hill becomes a national figure.  Hill accuses US Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, her boss of sexually harassing her. Most of the public criticized her behavior rather than Thomas’ behavior.  What I found most disturbing, the public stating Hill liked his behavior otherwise she would have spoken out sooner.  The public labeled her either as a liar or truth teller. 
Anita Hill Photo by Lyne Lucien/Daily Beast  See Lyne's art 

I think back to the movies.  The dominant narrative (or plot line) showed repetitively white women experiencing sexual harassment at work or at school.  Hill was a black woman presenting the public another story about sexual harassment. A story many weren’t familiar with: a black woman being sexually harassed.  Unlike the movies, fictional accounts most likely based on real life, Hill’s story was real. I continue to wonder why most of the public resisted her story.   I wonder how I, a white woman, continue to perpetuate and resist this narrative for women of color?  


Calling on All Silent Minorities
June Jordan, 1936 - 2002


Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan (2005). Copper Canyon Press.  Learn more about this poet click here or purchase her book at IndiBound


Artist Mark Bradford and Brandeis Professor Anita Hill pose in front of Bradford's painting, "Sea Monster."
Photo from  Rose Art Museum
Anita Hill rises and continues to rise.  Since 1991, Anita Hill has become a spokeswoman and champion against sexual harassment and advocating for women’s equality.  She also sits on the Rose Art Museum, MA. Hill has been having an ongoing conversation with painter Mark Bradford about race and politics and how this is related to content and form.  He is looks at the world through a micro lens and paints them onto canvas whereas she looks at world on a macro lens helps change policy at state and national levels. Each are using their own art form (painting and policy writing) to bring about awareness for reform and healing around oppression in society.

Artual Action: 

This resource can be implemented or adapted for a staff meeting or used for individual self-reflection. 

1.    Name and reflect on the movies you have seen that uses humor/satire reveal sexual harassment or sexual violence.  
2.    Are you aware of any films depicting sexual violence happening to women of color?  How is sexual violence depicted?    
3.    View Anita, the documentary or Anita Hill Testimony: Clarence Thomas Second Hearing Day 1 (1991).  Do you believe the dominate narrative at that time had an effect on the reception of Anita Hill’s testimony?  What about if it were to happen today?
4.   What are the challenges, risks and opportunities associated with using humor to shed light on oppression issues?  Is/what are the difference(s) if it is happening to a person of color?

·         Anita. (2014) Director Freida Lee Mock.  Documentary.
·         Anita Hill on the Thomas hearings, 25 years later: ‘I would do it again’(7 Apr. 2016) PBS News Hour.
·         Conversations between Mark Bradford and Anita Hill. (14 Apr, 2018) Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA  
·         The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags. (17 Oct. 2017) Sandra E. Garcia. New York Times.
·         When Black Women's Stories Of Sexual Abuse Are Excluded From The National Narrative. (3 Dec. 2017) Lulu Garcia Navarro. National Public Radio
·         The #MeToo Movement Looks Different For Women Of Color. Here Are 10 Stories. (2, Jan. 2018) Jessica Prois and Carolina Moreno. Huffington Post
·         Why few women of color in wave of accusers? ‘Stakes higher’. (18 Nov., 2017) Errin Haines Whack. AP News.
·         For African American rape victims, a culture of silence. (20 July, 2004) Gayle Pollard-Terry. Los Angeles Times.
·         Using Humor to Expose the Ridiculous. New Tactics in Human Rights
·         Sample Learning Tool on Dominant Narratives (Self Reflective or Small Group Questions) University of Michigan.