Revolution

I carry the revolution
wherever I go

she’s with me
urging me on
to choose the good
over the simple
to choose the many
over the one

She urges me on in song
and prayer
and in the big yellow moon
in a sky of slate
and in the wind
of resistance
she begs me to look out
and then in
and then out again

Who needs you,
pilgrim soul
she asks
who needs you?

And though my wandering
is sometimes only in
a space called cyber
I know, through the revolution,
there is someone who needs me.

With gratitude for those
who show up
in person and in pixels
and remind me
again and again and again, again
that justice for all
is a lofty and necessary goal.

In the Middle

hereinthemiddleToday is the day! Release day for an anthology of essays written by some really thoughtful writers and compiled by excellent editors. Here in the Middle is a collection of stories about what has sometimes been called the “Sandwich generation.” But it isn’t really about a generation, it’s about a time in life when mothers and fathers find themselves involved deeply in the lives of their children and their parents.

This is a first for me, to have a piece I’ve written be included in an anthology, and I am thrilled that the first piece is this particular piece in this particular anthology. My story is from a time nearly nine years ago, when my children were still all at home here in Northwest Indiana, while my parents were battling my father’s cancer in Southern California.

momdadweddingIn looking through pictures at my mother’s house last summer when we moved her to a new home in a new state, I found this photo of my folks as they were “going away” on their wedding day. I love this photo for so many reasons, but mostly it shows these two as they set out in the world as a couple, a force to be reckoned with for more than 50 years.

But I also love the dress my mom is wearing. She kept it always and my sister and I would love to look at their wedding photos and then go steal a look at the dress. Alas, we outgrew that dress well before any time when it would have been appropriate for us to wear it, like, for real. So, instead, at their 50th wedding anniversary party, we hung that dress and her wedding gown from the curtain rods at my sisters house. I remember with a little embarrassed joy about how I fussed with that dress to pin the skirt out so everyone could see just how much fabric hung on that small but mighty frame.

My mom just left my home on Tuesday after spending Thanksgiving with me and my family. We are in a much different time now than the time I wrote about in Here in the Middle. And so are my husband and I in our journey with our now grown daughters.

I invite you to buy this book. My essay is only one of many that reflect the wide variety of voices from people who are here in the middle with us all. Wherever you are on your journey through life, I’m sure the honest writing about life’s full measure will be familiar to you in some form or another.

Find the book, here, on Amazon.

#hereinthemiddle

Ain’t Gonna F*ck Around No More

Fair Warning on language and on the habit of chaning song lyrics. And just about everything else–if you aren’t offended by parts of or the entirety of this post, I’ll feel I have missed the mark. You have been warned.

This morning, the tune of a song was rattling around in my head. But the words came out of my mouth like this: “ain’t gonna fuck around no more.” Sometimes I think God whispers. Sometimes I think she just lets go of her everlovin’ shit. Today, she reminded me that it might be way past time for me to do the same.

I’ve been angry for the past week and a half. When I wasn’t curled up like a fetal ball of jangled nerves on the couch or the bed, I was wishing I had something to kick. Sometimes it came out in Facebook posts that were less than kind. Sometimes it came out in just stuffing it all back down. But mostly it came out in not being able to face the world—because I get to choose not to.

Friends were checking on me and I wouldn’t have any of it … and then the thing that pulled me back into the world is the thing that usually does, I had to attend to something for my daughter. I was lucky in that when I went to see one daughter, I ended up seeing all three. And then I got an invite to a friend’s house. And then I pulled myself to church and then to a discussion about being neighborly in one of the most racially segregated regions in the country. And, on Monday, I had lunch with another friend.

This morning, I realized how I was segregating myself from the people who voted differently than me. The posts I was sharing were putting people I love at arms length and the phone calls I was answering (or not) were doing the same.

I gathered my like-minded friends close, and decided I was too hurt and angry with the others for their votes to even look at them or their Facebook posts, let alone talk with them in a civil way.

And maybe that’s what I needed, but it was horseshit.

I ain’t gonna fuck around no more. There’s no time for reaping more division by hiding from people who think differently—and it ain’t gonna change no hearts, either.

I love people who voted for the other candidate. I love them. Full stop. I love them.

And so, I have to find a way to talk with them and be part of their life so that we aren’t adding to the pain this country is already in. And I realize I’m the one that has to do that. I’m the one that built those walls (to coin a phrase).

I love my friends who voted for an unqualified candidate with no real policies and rhetoric that inflamed people to reclaim the worst of our actions as Americans. And I don’t automatically think it is because they are racist that they did so. And yet, …

I also love my friends and people I don’t even know who are now at even greater risk of being harmed or killed because of the color of their skin or their faith, of being deported or having loved ones deported (please don’t respond that they should have come here legally and it wouldn’t be a problem, because that will completely challenge my ability to be near you and love you at the same time—I’m still very tender even if I ain’t gonna fuck around no more), or having their marriages annulled.

My friends who are anything other than white, heterosexual and Christian are terrified, and their needs are my first priority. Simply put, they need me. They need me to use my identity as a married, heterosexual, cis-gender white woman with a wicked vocabulary to make sure that their rights are protected as much as mine, as much as yours. And they need me to talk to you, to keep you at the table so that maybe you can begin to see them in the whole of their humanity.

I was following a car down 49 the other day that had a bumper sticker that read “Respect Life” with a picture of a perfect pink baby being cradled in perfect pink hands. I couldn’t help but wonder at every stop light what that would mean if next to the words “Respect Life” was a woman in a hijab, or a Mexican migrant worker, or Trayvon Martin, or Matthew Shepard, or, or, or …

“Respect Life” is a great slogan for us all to adopt, but it needs to figure in to all of our policies, not just those for perfect pink babies.

So here’s what I’m going to do with my new philosphy: I’m going to try to listen to you from a point of trying to understand rather than to try and convince you. And I’m going to ask you to do the same. And I’m going to tell you if I think something you just said is harmful to other people. I’m going to ask you to picture that the life you have lived is not available to a lot of people, even if you have had trials and tribulations of your own. I’m not trying to suggest I’m smarter than you nor more enlightened, but I am going to remind you that my philosphy (besides the ain’t gonna fuck around) about government is “people first.”

You know I’m no Christian, right? Still, the thoughts that have permeated my mind most, besides they aforementioned, are the following:

“Fear not!” and “Do unto others.”

Both are hard right now, but will become easier and easier once I truly stop fucking around.

Have a blessed day, y’all. Be kind to yourselves and to others and maybe, just maybe, we won’t be fighting this civil war for the next two hundred years.

Love,

Tina

A Prayer for The Work

14449834_10209314972942714_1611560989051837028_nLet me not become my disappointment

Let me use my disappointment
to continue the work for justice
let it sit within me and urge me on
But help me fight becoming a
walking billboard for despair

Let me not become my anger

Let me feel my anger fully
and use it to combat injustice
and keep me going until all are free
but help me use it, not become it
so the world sees me, the person,
who seeks to uplift and be uplifted

Let me not become my disagreement
And let me never again say or accept
“Let’s agree to disagree”

Help me remember the person
behind the disagreement is human, too.
Hurts, too. Has been wounded by
a system that shields the work it has done
to keep us disagreeing, turning us away
from the help we offer each other.

Let me embody my joy even
in the face of work unending,
in the face of greed and disconnect
in the face of sorrow, anger, and, yes,
disappointment

Let me embody wonder
so that when I hear someone
who says things that jangle my
every justice-seeking nerve
I find the reserve to ask, with true interest,
“Tell me why you said that?”

Let me embody love
Because there are people out there
who need it.
Let it be the root of the work, but
remember, it, alone, is not the work.

Let me wake each day
with the purpose of forwarding justice
with anger, joy, disappointment, and love.
Let me learn over and over and over again
that love is what we are sent for:
reparation, re-membering, and realigning
from our original sin: that of forgetting
we are all in this, together.

When I die

When I die
I hope my hands
are reaching out

touching the face of a beloved,
accepting the grace of a loving god,
offering peace and love to the world

Whether my nails are trimmed,
or the skin on my hand resembles shed snakeskin,
or if my rings are resting the bedside table

It matters only that my hands are
stretching up and out
away from the me I know
and toward all I love and leave
and all I’m heading to

Where my hands point
I know my soul
will follow
in life as well as in death.

I’m here

Note: updated on 12/8/2016 to widen the scope of those most affected under the new world order selected just one month ago.

I spent yesterday in one of two states: one was sleep, the other was mindfully removing and replacing the caulk around my bathtub.

Oh, and there was a smattering of human interaction because people who are loving and kind kept reaching out to me but all I wanted was to be alone and either blissfully asleep, or doing something that required my hands and head to be engaged.

But I didn’t want to talk about it. Didn’t want to engage in social media, didn’t even want to text or talk on the phone. But I did. Briefly. When forced by love.

All of this is to say that I did my own work yesterday. And probably will again today, while I strip the lacquer off a table, go to the drug store, return a tool to a big box store, and prepare to drive down to Bloomington where I will briefly see all of my daughters and my two grand-cats.

This morning, I was drawn to the Facebooks, where I read a piece by Alice Walker that reminded me to move, to act, to be with the people who will be most affected because they have been most affected for centuries.

Many of the people I know were using the word “mourning” yesterday, but as I sat in the bathtub scraping old caulk, it came to me that that was not how I wanted to identify my reclusive mood.

I am not mourning the selection of one candidate over another right now. I am cultivating my resilience, and pulling myself together for what is next. And what is next, for me, is to support my friends and family most affected by the results of this campaign season: those who are immigrants, refugees, non-Christian, Black, Latinx, survivors of sexual assault, people with disabilities both visible and invisible. You know, the people who are “othered” every day for their gender identities or the very private reality of who they love.

And, more personally, I am cultivating my resilience in the face of living my life as a woman in America right now.

I am cultivating my resilience in the face of all the work that has been done and all the knowledge that has been gained in the fields of race, gender, and post-colonialism that has been ridiculed as “political correctness” by people who, generally, have not cultivated any understanding of how the world is experienced by people who do not look, love, learn, or speak like them.

I’m grateful to Alice Walker’s presence on Facebook this morning. She reminded me of when my own awakening began, in college, when I first read The Color Purple. I’m listening to a podcast series on Harry Potter as Sacred Text and yesterday I was reminded that The Color Purple was my first Sacred Text. And it reminded me of a study I read about recently that indicated that people who read literary fiction are more apt to cultivate empathy than those who do not. And it makes sense, because this kind of fiction is written with truth at its core—to capture real people and real emotions in a fictional space. It makes the real and interior lives of “others” present to those of us who live insularly.

I honestly don’t know what is going to happen out in the real world. I am fearful for my friends who don’t look like me or my husband and I’m fearful for my daughters because of the dangerous behaviors exemplified by the president-elect that have and will continue to embolden similar behavior in the public square.

One thing I’m not going to do is demonize all who elected this man. I can’t. There are too many people who voted for too many reasons—some of those reasons are worn on their (white) sleeves, but most are deeply hidden in hearts that beat from fear and sorrow, too.

So here we are.

Here I am. Out of the bathtub.

Please call me when you need me. I’m here.

97-100. Autumn in Four Parts

I.

The pumpkins are out
by the potted mums
and the electric leaf blower sings
its intermittent and whiny dirge.
I think it dreams of becoming the wind.

II.

feathersinskyThe tall grass has shrunk to half it’s height
on the brightest summery days.
What’s left are plumes of straw-colored feathers,
like the tails of wild horses on the plains
where they would have ridden like the wind.

III.

The summer stretches on with these golden days
even while the leaves, done in and dusty,
caught by the wind, skitter over cement
landing in the mulch under a surprising late-blooming
rosebud, starkly pink so near to the pumpkins.

IV.

We begin to nestle in, even though the day was warm,
having turned our clocks back and our blankets out.
We let loose a windy sigh, then pause and breathe in again,
cool air expands in our lungs and it feels like hope and comfort,
we wrap our sweaters tighter and utter small words of thanks
for the reminder of the sweet richness of Autumn
who brings harvests and death, in a full-circle pageant.

96. The Redbud Tree

redbudI wandered outside to say farewell
to the Redbud, as autumn has come
to lay waste to her once
fancy dress, debuted in
spring, a lacy pattern of pinks
and purples connected
to each other by branches,
thick and thin, long and short

She was brazen then, the
Spring redbud,
all fresh and colorful

and then she matured
and began to wear a cloak
covering more and more
in green, heart-shaped leaves
that offered comfort not only to
her branches, but the foliage below
and passersby of the two-
and four-legged variety.

But now her coat is
a threadbare yellow,
lacy from decay,
her leaves dancing brilliantly,
lit up from the sun on a strangely
sunny November day.

I came out to say goodbye to her
and thank her for her company
through this long and taxing year
but then it all seemed silly
as I realized she will never die,

She is the Phoenix
full of flame and feathers
and a reminder that
that which lives
must also die
and sometimes die
over and over
and over, once more
with the gift of renewal
through season or spirit

And like the Phoenix,
the redbud leaves
flash brightest at death
calling us to soldier on
into the long night of winter
awaiting our own renewal,
well fed from the harvest
and ready for sleep.

95. What I finally figured out

Here’s what I finally figured out:

The perfect purse does not exist
when what you really want
is not to carry one at all

It wasn’t your fingernails that
were mal-shaped, but your idea
of what they should look like

That not all people were designed
for business wear, especially when
business wear is not designed for all people

and that, at night or early morning,
if you distance yourself from the voices
of others telling you what you should want

you can hear your soul cry out for God
(or the universe, whatever, nothing)
and, if you are still and receptive,

you might get a cry right back
full of love and understanding
that you feel hugged by goodness

and that seems like enough to have figured out,
finally, at this point in my life

94. My Soul

Partial lyrics of a hymn
come to me in the quiet

“oh my soul, my soul”

I wonder who else is
launching that lament
into this night’s sky?

Syrian orphans?
Indigenous Water Protectors?
Black mothers?
People of faith (or not)
made victim of an election cycle
designed, it seems, to tear
us all from each other.

Oh my soul, my soul

It cries for you
for reconnection to hearts
that beat in wonder, in beauty,
and in love.

Oh, my soul, your soul