Tag Archives: women connected round the globe

U S Air Travel circa 2015

We’re in line at the Tucson airport waiting for the gate agent to rebook us for a second time. Earlier in the day a broken fuel pump had sent us back to the gate and now, six hours later, storms around Dallas have grounded the new plane sent to rescue us. During the first hour in line I was forced to overhear one side of the cell phone conversation between a 30’s something man in a grey work out tee shirt apparently mentoring a less experienced friend. His subject – the relationship between performance reviews and annual salary increases. In between his descriptions of his own experience, he consistently repeated the phrase, “you see what I mean?” As his conversation progressed my irritation mounted at each “you see what I mean?” and I became fully occupied inhibiting my strong impulse to turn around and reassure him that I understood what he means.

Airport

This second time in line we’re behind two men, Presbyterian ministers, discussing mutual friends and the political issues of their chosen careers. Overhearing their conversation I learn they both live in Tucson and are trying to get to a two-day conference in Atlanta. In the best-case rerouting scenario they will already have missed the first day. “If God doesn’t want us to go, we’ll listen to that,” one man reassures the other, “and go home to our wives.” A woman in front of them who I had earlier overheard tell the woman next to her she was returning from a health coaching conference, chimes in, “I too am a minister and I like to say, “God has a plan and it isn’t always our plan.” At this point under the increasing weight of my stylish back pack, I’m holding on to a faint sense of gratitude that we are not air born and having to experience first hand the reported wind shears and tornado force winds taking place between here and our destination. By 9:30 pm, after retrieving our two suitcases and my husband’s golf clubs from baggage claim, we make it to the hotel to stand in their check-in line. We learn we’ll have to use our airline breakfast vouchers at the airport since the hotel’s food service won’t begin early enough for us to make our 7 am flight.

Somewhat refreshed after five hours of sleep in a real bed and a hot shower we make it back to the airport to learn that the kitchen that services all the airport restaurants is out of eggs. As I’m attempting to deal with my disappointment two slender women, perhaps refugees from the health coaching conference, distract me. One takes out a small plastic container from her purse filled with a small amount of what looks like peanut butter. She begins spreading it on a slender slice of dark bread. The other woman asks a restaurant staff person for something I can’t decipher but I laugh with the women as he presents a package of Reese’s peanut butter cups, “It’s on me if this will do,” he says with a broad smile and I wonder whether he gets the joke. Now my gratitude switches to the fact that I have brought some of my own provisions, sharing the health coach’s lack of confidence in any airport’s food offerings. As I crunch into the crisp slices of sweet red pepper, sugar snap peas, and spinach leaves I brought from Pittsburgh, I’m especially grateful that they travel better than we do.

The Anatomy of Ecstasy

When my then five-year old nephew, Adam, who was an only child discovered that he had four cousins he said, “I feel so big. I’m bigger than a Giant!”

giantimage  Preparing to return from Atlanta after spending time with a group of amazing women and meeting many others in the larger community, I felt so full of excitement that I told a friend, “I feel like I could fly home without the airplane, though I do know that wouldn’t be a good idea.” 

 My friend and teacher, Cynthia Winton-Henry knows about this. She calls it “Flaps up, Flaps down.”  To demonstrate how to navigate between our Big self and our pedestrian, Little self, she directs her students to raise their arms high and out to the side as though they were a bird or a plane. This is “flaps up.” Then she instructs her students to put their arms down by their sides, “flaps down,” in order to return to their smaller individual selves.

womanspreadingwings Some activities require us to be in our Larger self. When I spoke with a numerologist friend of mine about what I needed to do to promote my book she said, “Last year was your completion year when you finished and published your book but this year is a number one year for you, a time of new beginnings. It isn’t a time to play small.”

  I knew what she meant. This isn’t a time to lead with my insecurities. When I experience that excited/scary feeling in the pit of my stomach just before I step onto a stage – that’s the call to step into my Bigger Self. When I am in this Larger Self, all that I know is available to me, and I am open to inspiration, which in theology is described as a “divine influence. ” I know that I’m likely to be there when I’m centered in myself from deep inside, standing tall without apologies, and fully present to the environment.

Some activities take us to our Larger Self. In Atlanta, when I was with a group of women who were each in their Larger Selves, it seemed easy to be all that I am and to appreciate the wonder and amazement of each of them. During our time together it seemed that magic happened and magic has continued to happen since as the universe seems to be cooperating with our shared goals.

Atlanta group-58 One of the women sent an email to the group members and told of an experience she had while driving home. She heard a voice that didn’t sound like her own. The voice said, “Prepare to be amazed,” and it seemed to her like the matter-of-fact sounding message delivered at Cape Canaveral – “Prepare for lift off.”  Later that same day when she got home she had a chance encounter with a woman who, when she told her a bit about our weekend, offered to partner with her to achieve our desired goals in their community.

In the days since, many of us have been experiencing similarly amazing chance happenings that are likely to help us achieve our individual pieces of the desired group goal. As I reflect on this experience of communal flaps up and its aftermath in my life, I remind myself to take special care of my Little Self. Our bodies aren’t built to live perpetually in flaps up and my bodyspirit need some flaps down time in order to be prepared for more amazement.

 

A Different Kind of Gypsy

In the musical comedy theaterTravellers_Decorated_Caravan_(6136023633) the dancers are called “gypsies.” I suppose it’s because the nature of their employment involves changing jobs and moving around the country often. The first year I was in New York, I lived in 11 different places around the city, including the times I arranged to sleep on a friend’s couch.

This week I’m falling back on those learned long ago gypsy skills – moving around the world with a spirit of adventure, and practicing the spiritual discipline of extreme flexibility. I’m been in North Texas on what might be termed “a book tour.” With the help of my sister who lives north of Denton, I organized one book event in Fort Worth and two in Dallas. Sandwiched in between I attended a women’s retreat at a ranch an hour and a half northwest of Fort Worth.highways

I lived in this area of the world for over 20 years but having left eight years ago, I’d forgotten the amount of time people here spend in their cars and how carefully they plan their trips to miss the rush hours and the logjams created by road construction projects.  As a visitor it strikes me that most every roadway is being worked on, or expanded to accommodate even more traffic. Toll roads are under construction to swoop people over the top of the current roadways and make money for the state and the construction companies.

I’m now at my next stop, Atlanta GA. doing a home stay with a friend as I prepare for a Warrior Mother Performing the Book event this evening at Charis Books and More,  http://charis.indiebound.com/ the nation’ s oldest independent feminist bookstore. If you’re in the area, please join me as I help Charis celebrate their 43rd year as one of the “must see” places in the Atlanta area.charis

A Tribute to my Sisters

The boys in the Vatican are picking on the sisters again. When I read that the male officials in the Vatican were investigating an organization of 57,113 U. S. nuns, I laughed. It seems the church hierarchy has run out of important issues to focus on like preventing child sexual abuse by priests. Now they must keep busy by investigating an organization of U.S nuns for “serious theological errors.”

As a woman reared by Catholic sisters throughout 13 years of my education, I was intrigued to find out what these errors might be. While the Catholic sisters have been focused on assisting those whose lives are threatened by the effects of poverty, educating children, meeting the health and social service needs of immigrants and other disenfranchised people, and conducting parish ministries, they are being called out for “remaining silent on the right to life.”

It made me smile to think about other things the sisters don’t do, like serving as priests, bishops, or cardinals, or sitting at the tables where important theological matters are discussed. I consider myself a post-denominational Catholic, and like the universities where I am an alum, I am most grateful for what I have learned in these organizations, and for what I am able to use in my present life. I’m especially grateful to the sisters and the lessons they’ve taught me that I have finally mastered. In my younger years, I would become angry with the male leaders of the church over their disrespect and mistreatment of women.

But now I collapse into nearly hysterical laughter when I read that the U.S Bishops’ doctrinal conference offered a formal critique of theologian Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, accusing her of over-emphasizing feminine descriptions of God in her new book. The fact that I am able to laugh shows how far I’ve come. As the sisters’ taught, we must love our enemies and do good to those who would harm us. We must find compassion for those who do not know what the prophecies of First Peoples worldwide have predicted. The Divine Feminine, which has been missing from the altars of churches everywhere, is being returned to a place of prominence and respect.

“I think we scare them, “ Simone Campbell, a lawyer and executive director of  NETWORK, the sisters’ lobbying group. Perhaps the real newsflash for the boys in Rome is this; 5000 years of patriarchal rule is ending and we, the women are no longer afraid of you. The sisters have already been re-formed by their deeply spiritual good works, their brilliant educated intellects, and their relationship to God the Mother of us all, who I’m imagining, isn’t very proud of you.

To Women and the Men Who Love Them

It was 1985 and a woman college professor and I needed to move some boxes from an office we shared to the Women and Work Research and Resource Center, which we founded. I had asked my 19 year-old son to help and we three went about our business, carrying boxes, books, and stacks of folders. All the while, two male faculty members were closely observing us. Rather than pitching in to help, or moving out of the way, they stationed themselves in the doorway through which we needed to continually pass. They amused themselves by wisecracking with one another about what we women were wearing as we struggled to balance our burdens and move the objects from one office to another.

My son, who was witnessing this rude behavior, told me later, “Mom, you can’t image the raunchy comments they made about you and Margie after you passed. They acted like they were in a singles bar, trying to impress a future sex partner. What’s the matter with those guys?

Seems a strange memory to emerge on this 102st International Women’s Day, something that happened over a quarter of a century ago. But recent events and conversations in the media have reminded me that the most tried and true method of disempowering women is to relate to women as sex objects. And there are still guys who use their power to put down, and keep down, half the members of the human race

Perhaps the role we older women need to play is to remind people how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. As the African symbol, the Sankofa bird reminds us, it is often necessary to reclaim and remember our past in order to see clearly a way to put it behind us.

Celebrating this day, which is a national holiday in many countries, can take many forms. Make a donation of time and money to an organization that supports the empowerment of women, (micro-lending, scholarships, internships,) mentor a younger woman, (through your local school, or internationally through one of my favorite programs, Infinite Family ) write an email to your congressperson about what you will no longer tolerate, make sure businesses that sponsor misogyny  know they will never have you as a customer. I’ll be playing with my InterPlay troupe, dancing on behalf of all the women in the world, and the men who love them.  Happy International Women’s Day! Let me know how you are celebrating.

Mbali and Me

Mbali came into my life three years ago and we have meet for a half hour once a week, most weeks since then.  She lives in South Africa, which, according to Google is 8,272 miles, (as the crow flies), from my home in Pittsburgh. We refer to each other as “Net Buddies.” since we meet online, and were matched to talk with each other under the auspices of an organization called, Infinite Family. http://infinitefamily.org/

The organization was begun by two women who had gone to Africa to adopt babies. When they saw the extent of the need on a continent where one tenth of the people are infected with HIV and where, a whole generation is missing in many communities, they realized they could never adopt enough children to make a difference. Their vision became to use technology to bring together teens in Africa affected by HIV/AIDS with adults like me, willing to become a mentor and friend.

The adults and the teens filled out an application which included our interests. Being a grandmother of three sports-minded grandchildren, I hoped for a match with a girl who liked to dance, since, unlike sports, that is something I know quite a bit about. In the training program for adults we were told to temper our expectations since computers were new to the children and English was not their first language. But I never had trouble understanding Mbali’s English, and she far surpassed me in her abilities with the computer.

One day early on in our technological relationship, I became so distraught trying to get the sound on my computer to work I nearly give up on the whole project. But Mbali encouraged me. “It’s ok. We can just type.” And so we did. And we still do whenever my computer doesn’t recognize my headphones, or her headphones are missing, misplaced by the teenager that used them ahead of her.

When I first saw Mbali’s beautiful shimmering face, I fell in love with her. I felt immediately her respect and appreciation for the gift of my attention and interest in her. I loved having someone to share my love of dance with. And I knew what she did not, that in my country, most teens are not interested in having a relationship with an adult. It seems a rare teenager in the U.S. who even shows much respect to elders. So her relationship to me was at least as precious as mine was to her.

We came to speak of what her gifts might be, and how she might discover them, ways to avoid test anxiety and the best subjects to give a speech about for speech class. I shared my writing with her, my experiences doing InterPlay, and I taught her some InterPlay story forms. She’s met my grandkids, my husband, and our dog Clancy.

Sometimes we talk about politics; that they have a National Women’s Day holiday and we do not, why people criticize Obama so much, our mutual admiration for Nelson Mandela, and my appreciation for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which I see as a peace-building model for the entire world.

Perhaps this video mentoring program is a model for the entire world. It seems to me to have changed both our lives. Mbali and I were interviewed about our relationship and it was featured on the BBC’s OUTLOOK radio program. Take a few minutes to listen and hear Mbali’s side of the story. When you click on the link, go to the top of the page and click on Listen Now. From there scroll ahead to 18:40 minutes to Infinite Family’s part of the program. Here is the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00fvmx1#synopsis


BodySpirits Unite

There is a bodyspirit connection that extends across miles and political borders. I experienced this connection while dancing in my Zumba class the other day. I was shaking tightness and tension out of my own body, when I pictured the women demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

March 8th was International Women’s Day and demonstrations and celebrations honoring women were being held all over the world. The Egyptian women were demonstrating on behalf of women, to obtain equality and justice in their new government. According to that morning’s newspaper report, the women were encircled by male supporters who attempted to protect them. But at some point things began to go wrong.  Other men, (apparently immature boys), broke through the line and began sexually assaulting the women, grabbing their crotches and breasts. The women were silenced and retreated.

Remembering this newspaper story, I began dancing on behalf of those women. As I did the Zumba steps, moving my hips became a prayer that Egyptian women, indeed women all over the world, might be able to move theirs, unencumbered by fear and the cultural constraints in their countries. As I stomped my feet, I began sending messages of warning to those immature boys, and anyone else who believes that a free democracy in the new Egypt or anywhere else is possible without including the women.

“It took the United States 144 years to allow women to vote,” I said stomping my feet. “And we’re still working on the inequalities and vestiges of slavery.” Stomp.

“But we know that none of us is free till all of us are free.” Stomp. Stomp.

“So go back to the golden age of your own heritage when women were educated, had legal rights, and held property.” Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

“Make no mistake, the women ancestors of Egypt, and girls and women living round the world are watching.” Stomp, Stomp, Stomp.

“And we’re dancing on behalf of all women; including your sisters, wives, and mothers.”

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.