Category Archives: women

Our bodies, our lives


So much sorrow, anger, trauma, and pain has been filling a closed Facebook group of over 500 women ministers. Earlier this week a ministerial colleague posted about her rage after the rapist at Stanford was convicted of three felonies and was sentenced to merely 6 months–so as not to disrupt his life further.

The floodgates were opened by survivors of sexual assault. Within 24 hours, well over 130 women shared personal stories of rape and violation from as early as 3 years of age well into mature adulthood.

When I was told about this online conversation I read it all at once and finally commented about my own experiences. I was numb, but my eyes kept “leaking.” I didn’t feel like going to yoga but did anyway, and I wept silently through most of it (with one break just to blow my nose). For the closing Shavasan meditation I had trouble lying still and felt more tears leak out.

I needed time to process. Solitude, a walk, prayers, a comfortable bath, music. My personal story of abuse took place decades ago, when I was just a little girl, but I can remember the horror. I am one of hundreds of colleagues and millions of women all over the world who have been used for someone else’s heinous agenda. Every day, every night, every second.

Sexual violence is only one expression of trauma. Is there anyone in the world who has not been traumatized by something? Abuse, alcohol, neglect, misuse of power, and economic brutality join a long list of ways humans can hurt each other. On top of that are the ways survivors are ignored, disbelieved, and even blamed for the crimes of others.

Sharing stories of violence is not easy. Many of us spend countless hours in therapy to do just that. Could we create safe places to share deep emotions? Could we offer rituals of healing and wholeness? Our bodies, our lives, our hearts.

Blessed and Happy and Full of Love


So my earlier post was simply a link to Loco’s prescription for “surgically removing writers block” in a careful way. He started loosening up with a book he couldn’t put down; he exercised his mind by getting into a writers’ group; he chose a subject that would keep his interest and carry him forward; and he replaced the hate that was rising within him with love. He said a lot more than that but you should read it for yourself to get a fuller context:

One challenge for me has been to live and work alone in Houston for most of the week while Jon lives and works alone in Austin most of the week. I’m not complaining, just observing that my tendency has been to come back to my apartment and either work some more or slip into some mindless tv or resort to comfort food.

Time to get out of that rut!

First stop, music. I changed my schedule to put me in Austin on Monday evenings where I can rehearse with Tapestry Singers and the small ensemble Loose Threads. It’s my 10th year and we’re coming up to my 20th concert on May 5. To return to that great community of women and song is a real lift to my spirits. In the car I can listen to mp3s of our songs to help implant them into my brain. By next week I should be able to sing along with greater accuracy.

Before starting this entry, I couldn’t find a radio station that suited me this evening, so I turned on Pandora and chose the Shuffle option to add interest. Folk, jazz, classical, piano concerti, bluegrass; people like Hubert Laws on flute, Dar Williams on vocals, Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, and already I have the makings of a musical feast!

Exercise was simply a walk around my neighborhood to loosen up my body and mind. Blackbirds were coming home from work, too, and making a racket that made me smile. Neighbor Alice, frail and elderly, was walking around the complex as usual, opening the door or gate for people if she is close by. She was a librarian before retirement–talk about a world of books! If she can get out for a walk several times a day I have no excuse. I do like to walk over to Memorial Park, close to my apartment, or to Hermann Park, close to the church. A beautiful day.

Yesterday Jon was here and we watched the movie Happy. I think next time someone asks me how I am, I’ll say “happy.” Much better than the usual “busy,” don’t you think? You CAN choose happiness.

A couple of interesting things are coming up in my work. On the 16th at 10am, a Blessing of the Animals. We have invited a local shelter to bring some of their adoptable pets for blessings and some extra love. I’ve been told that one year someone brought a donkey; another time, one of those hissing cockroaches (I’m not sure I’m up for that, actually).

In April, we will have a special Coming of Age worship service for ten young people. We’re so proud of them and their work all year long! They will be writing their own statements of belief and I’m sure each credo will rival any religious doctrine. When beliefs come from the heart at a time of spiritual awakening they touch all our hearts. This Friday I’ll get to meet with them during their lock-in to start planning the service with the kids and their advisors.

Also in April there will be a memorial service I will be privileged to conduct. It’s unusual to have this much time to plan such a service, but that’s what the family requested. Two sons will be my primary collaborators.

There is a good bit of work involved in preparing for special events but the payoff is huge. Rites of passage, all three, will include blessings for those beloved with whom we share an extraordinary life. Considering all these blessings from birth to death, along with our animal companions, love and happiness fill my spirit. May you be blessed and happy and full of love!

Crystal Bridges



About five years ago Alice Walton decided to build a museum. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that much money at your disposal that you can start a museum? 😉 As the daughter of Sam Walton, she can do just about anything she wants that merely requires millions of dollars.

The good news for the rest of us is that museum is free. Sure, you can spend money at the restaurant or in the gift shop or toss in a donation, but all they ask is for your zip code. Sweet!

Anyway, Crystal Bridges is architecturally interesting, built as it is over Crystal Springs in Bentonville, Arkansas (north of Fayetteville). Its collection is American art from colonial times to the present. So a lot of North American history is left out, but it is not completely ignored. It’s a small enough collection that one day is sufficient for exploration. We spent 4-5 hours there; some people get in and out in an hour, though that seems mighty limited.

The guided tour we joined pointed out 10 different paintings (or sets of paintings) and sculpture depicting strong women. Some of these women were the subjects and some were the artists. It was interesting to notice the change in style over various periods. The iconic Rosie the Riveter, brawny and tough, contrasted with another propaganda painting of a smaller woman who was doing lathe work at a steel mill during the same period. The message was that even ordinary women could do this kind of patriotic work while so many men were at war.

After the Civil War, women artists became more visible and we haven’t looked back!

The museum is on beautiful parkland on which sculptures invite perusal along with lovely flora and fauna. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon or a day!


Women’s News: Silent Women: Why Women Don’t Speak Up


Women’s News: Silent Women: Why Women Don’t Speak Up.

Let’s change our ways!


Ever wonder what happens to your trash?


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


You can throw it away and forget about it. Maybe you’ll recycle it. You’ll see someone throw a plastic cup out the car window and wonder about her/his character. You notice trash in a park and sometimes you pick it up for disposal. You see someone going through a dumpster and recoil just a tiny bit.

Streets are pretty clean in Delhi as big cities go, but not all the trash is carried away in large trucks. However, private contractors are taking away a big source of revenue from the poorest of the poor: the waste pickers. You might have seen them going through dumpsters or picking up trash alongside roads and buildings. It’s not food they’re after, though a piece of fruit might be a bonus. They’re looking for recyclables like plastic, cardboard, clothing, fabric and metal. They are not beggars or thieves—they are simply trying to eke out a living on the margins of society.

Not exactly number one on most tourist itineraries are the dumps out on the fringes of Delhi. Shashi Dhushan Pandit is an activist who could see the exploitation of poor people. Loans of 100 rupees would be charged 10 rupees per day in interest. Temples would acquire land needed by peasants. Shashi became a well educated activist at a very basic, grassroots level.

He escorted us to Pua, an hour’s bus ride, where dozens of people, dogs, and flies live among piles of trash. There is an order here—plastics, cardboard, metal in separate piles. Bicycle carts bring in new loads for the people to pick through and sort. Since it rained the night before our visit, the ground was muddy and slippery. Not many outsiders take an interest in this work. We were met with a half dozen men who protected us from any harassment or problem. Some of them offered a hand to help us through the mud.

At the site, someone had written in chalk, in English, “WELLCOME.” Several tarps had been carefully laid out in a clearing, upon which a ring of matching chairs awaited our arrival. Shashi spoke to us with passion. We didn’t need to understand Hindi to be able to get the gist of what he said. He and his people will not give up until their needs are addressed. He and others are already educating multiple sectors of waste pickers about services available and how to practice democracy. (Like IAF/community organizing groups in the U.S.), they learn how to stand up for their rights as human beings. Another level of education is about the nature and advantages of unions. One difficulty in forming a union is that the workers must name their employer. Yet who employs them? Everyone!

The Indian government has special economic zones (aka “exploitation zones”) in which the state acquires land cheaply (often from peasant farmers) and resell it cheaply to industry. The construction of a nearby temple with mostly non-Indian money displaced 20 thousand people. A new 5-star hotel is going up next to this waste operation so the ones we met are already looking for another place to go.

A few notes help explain the pictures: Vivha teaches and her husband Manoj assists, though he also works as a waste picker and an activist. Classes are normally held outside for about 70 children, but since it rained the previous day, they used the small classroom and fewer were in attendance. There is a wide age range, from toddlers to about 12 years old. Vivha has a high school education and very few teaching materials, but she teaches reading and writing in Hindi and English (at least), about days, weeks, seasons, numbers—all the basics. I recorded one girl’s recitation when Vivha called on her. Vivha would love to offer a midday meal to the children for the nutrition, certainly, but also as an incentive for the children to come, for the parents to send them. They also need basic immunizations and check-ups.

ID cards are prepared for the workers. The color red represents labor and green represents the environment. A familiar recycling symbol appears on the back. ID cards are a step in establishing documentation as Indian citizens who may not have a birth certificate or a permanent address.

Recycling these piles of waste save the Indian government millions of rupees annually. The waste pickers get pushed further outside the city. Some of us wondered about the birth rate, but we were reminded to consider the death rate as well. With no health care or adequate nutrition mere survival is difficult at best.

Those of us who had the privilege of visiting and witnessing the very private struggles and living conditions of some hard-working people are still trying to process what we’ve seen. We’re thinking about our part in this system of exploitation and marginalization. We collected 23,000 rupees among us to assist with slates, chalk, and other educational materials for the children.

The Holdeen India Fund was established by a real estate mogul who left millions of dollars in trust funds to the UUA. He was not a Unitarian Universalist and he had never been to India, but he wanted to shelter his estate from taxes. After he died there was a long period of negotiations with his family and finally $25 million dollars was put into an endowment, the interest of which is dedicated to grassroots activism like this. Holdeen leaders look for people like Shashi who are doing the work, sit down with them and make a plan. This could include funding, training, and/or seeking additional sponsors to achieve a set of goals.

Though the caste system is no longer official policy, the people we met briefly are among the poorest of the poor. Often they come to the city from poverty in small villages and encounter culture shock. The city is so anonymous. People don’t know or care about each other the way they do in the villages. They don’t have time for each other. (Does this sound familiar in our fast-paced society?)

The waste pickers, though, have strength in numbers and have actually fought successfully against for-profit corporations. They are working for survival, not so much for profit. Sometimes authorities side with the people, the ones who clean up after everyone else, the ones who clean up after us, after me.